Ulysses S. Grant’s Field Glasses
“… the sound of … artillery and musketry was heard incessantly,” wrote Grant, who watched from his command post at Orchard Knob. Grant squatted and wrote dispatches while balancing his order book on one knee, sending messages to reinforce Hooker … One British journalist recorded his peerless tranquility, ‘there he stood…looking through his double field glasses … this famous commander…” (From “Grant,” by Ron Chernow).
Those “double field glasses,” used in the Battle of Missionary Ridge, the Battle of the Wilderness, and at Appomattox, are in the Washington County Historical Society’s collection.
Wars force people and technology beyond their limits. Binoculars and human runners were the “field-of-battle” means of communication during the Civil War. But there was also a magical, new way of communicating. On Oct. 24, 1861, Abraham Lincoln received the first intercontinental telegraph. The technology was quickly put to use for war. Ulysses S. Grant had with him a personal telegrapher, and, when he was the general of the entire Northern force, he could keep in almost instantaneous communication with his generals throughout the South. This let Grant see in an entirely new way and execute a plan coordinating all his far-flung forces.
These field glasses were donated to the Washington County Historical Society by the McIllvaine Family.
Rod Weiss is a volunteer for the Washington County Historical Society.