Not having this law or other statutes here, I cannot examine the subject now, nor would I want to without consultation with the Secretary of War. On our return to Washington I have no doubt but that the relations between the Secretary and yourself can be made pleasant, and the duties of each be so clearly defined as to leave no doubt where the authority of one leaves off and the other commences.
My own views, when commanding the army, were that orders to the army should go through the general. No changes should be made, however, either of the location of troops or officers, without the knowledge of the Secretary of War.
In peace, the general commanded them without reporting to the Secretary farther than he chose the specific orders he gave from time to time, but subjected himself to orders from the Secretary, the latter deriving his authority to give orders from the President. As Congress has the right, however, to make rules and regalations for the government of the army, rules made by them whether they are as they should be or not, will have to govern. As before stated, I have not examined the recent law.
OMAHA, NEBRASKA, September 2,1870.
General U. S. GRANT, Washington, D. C.
DEAR GENERAL: I have received your most acceptable letter of August 18th, and assure you that I am perfectly willing to abide by any decision you may make. We had a most enthusiastic meeting at Des Moines, and General Bellknap gave us a fine, finished address. I have concluded to go over to San Francisco to attend the annual celebration of the Pioneers, to be held on the 9th instant; from there I will make a short tour, aiming to get back to St. Louis by the 1st of October, and so on to Washington without unnecessary delay.
Conscious of the heavy burdens already on you, I should refrain from adding one ounce to your load of care, but it seems to me now is the time to fix clearly and plainly the field of duty for the Secretary of War and the commanding general of the army, so that we may escape the unpleasant controversy that gave so much scandal in General Scott's time, and leave to our successors a clear field.
No matter what the result, I promise to submit to whatever decision you may make. I also feel certain that General Belknap thinks he is simply executing the law as it now stands, but I am equally certain that he does not interpret the law reviving the grade of general, and that fixing the "peace establishment" of 1868, as I construe them.