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At any given time, Grant’s staff while he was supreme commander of the armies consisted of thirteen officers only, and was not larger than that of some division commanders. The chief of staff was Brigadier-general John A. Rawlins. There were four senior aides-de-camp, one of whom was Brigadier-general Horace Porter. Grant had two military secretaries, Adam Badeau being the most noteworthy. There were four assistant adjutant-generals, the most famous being Ely Parker, a full-blooded Indian and grand nephew of the great Chief Red Jacket. Another was George K. Leet. The 1866 book “Grant and His Campaigns” says this about Leet: “Major George K. Leet, assistant adjutant-general of volunteers...entered the service as a private in the Chicago Mercantile Battery, and served with it in General Sherman’s expedition against Vicksburg, in the battle of Arkansas Post, and the battles and siege of Vicksburg. In August following the fall of Vicksburg, he was detached from his company as clerk at General Grant’s headquarters; and in October next thereafter, on General Grant’s recommendation, was appointed captain and assistant adjutant-general, and was with him in the campaign and battles of Chattanooga. On General Grant’s appointment to the command of all the armies, Leet was assigned to duty in Washington, in charge of office headquarters there. He was promoted to a majority in the adjutant-general’s department. As a private, he was a splendid soldier; as an officer, prompt and efficient in the performance of his duty — a courteous gentleman and man of sense. He possesses the respect and confidence of all who know him.” So Leet was Grant’s man at the War Department in the final year of the war, and he was eventually promoted to Lt. Colonel. Leet remained in service to Grant after war’s end, and when Grant became President, Leet secured a position at the Customs House in New York, where for a time his superior was Chester A. Arthur.
All through the end of 1863, Union leaders vented their unhappiness with General George G. Meade as commander of the Army of the Potomac. Out in the West, U.S. Grant had taken Vicksburg in July and in late November beaten Confederate forces in the Chattanooga campaign. He seemed the obvious man to win the war and a bill was introduced into Congress to create a new senior rank to allow for one general to have overall command of all Union forces, under the assumption that man must be Grant. But President Lincoln did not know Grant. So in early 1864, Lincoln called Grant’s greatest booster, Cong. Elihu Washburne, into a conference and asked him:?“All I know of Grant I have got from you. I have never seen him. Who else besides you knows anything about Grant”. Washburne referred Lincoln to J. Russell Jones, a mutual friend of the General and the President, and assured him that Grant’s sole desire was to win the war, and that he had no political ambitions. The bill passed Congress in late February; Lincoln had meanwhile decided upon Grant and signed it on February 29, 1864. Now Grant had the job and made immediate plans to come East.
On March 8, 1864, Grant arrived in Washington. That evening he was the honored guest at a reception at the White House and was received as a hero. It was there Grant met the President for the first time. The next day Grant visited Lincoln’s office and received his commission as Lieutenant General; and on March 12, he was appointed General in Chief of all U.S. armies. He first visited the Army of the Potomac on March 10, 1864.
In the few days available to him between learning of his appointment and leaving for Washington, Grant selected the few staff members he would take East and finished his other preparations. In line with his own promotion, did Grant request the President to make appropriate presidential promotions for these staff members??Clearly so, as a number of their biographies show promotions dating March 1864. Leet was one of these. Document Signed as President, folio on vellum, Washington, March 8, 1864, the very day Grant arrived in Washington, with the striking graphic eagle, flags and military accoutrements, and the blue seal still intact. The document appoints “George K. Leet...Assistant Adjutant General of Volunteers with the rank of Captain in the service of the United States: to rank as such from the Third day of October 1863...” The document is countersigned by Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton and is in superb condition, with the vellum fresh and white.
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