With the collapse of the Confederacy in April 1865, the Lincoln administration was able to turn their full attention to helping Mexican President Benito Juarez fight the French. The assassination of Abraham Lincoln complicated matters as new President Andrew Johnson was unskilled in foreign affairs and deferred to Secretary of State William Seward, who did not want to risk war with France.
Union Army commander Ulysses Grant, however, was more sympathetic to Juarez’s cause. Although a hero of the Mexican war, he would later describe it as was “one of the most unjust ever waged by a stronger against a weaker nation”. On his own authority, Grant ordered 50,000 battle hardened troops to the Texas border under the command of triumphant cavalryman Phil Sheridan. In this May 23, 1865 manuscript from the Shrine’s collections, Grant directs General George Thomas in Nashville to send 5000 cavalrymen to the Mississippi River for transport to Sheridan. Perhaps more importantly, Grant and Sheridan arranged for 30,000 repeating rifles to be “lost” directly on the Mexican border, where they fell into the hands of Juarez’s men.