September 4, 1863 – Major General Ulysses S. Grant suffered a serious riding accident while witnesses claimed he was drunk.
Grant headed down the Mississippi River on the 2nd to confer with Major General Nathaniel P. Banks, commanding the Federal Army of the Gulf, at New Orleans. Two days later, Banks honored Grant with a large military review at Carrollton that featured Major General E.O.C. Ord’s Federals marching past with the names of Grant’s recent victories inscribed on their banners. Grant, Banks, and other high-ranking officers next attended a lavish dinner in New Orleans that featured “music, wine, choruses, etc.”
After the festivities, the officers left and Grant mounted an unfamiliar and stubborn horse. As Grant rode ahead of the others, the horse reared and bolted at the sound of a nearby locomotive whistle. The animal collided with an oncoming carriage and fell, knocking Grant to the ground. The horse returned to his feet uninjured, but Grant suffered a dislocated hip and a possible fractured skull.
Unconscious, Grant was taken to the St. Charles Hotel, where he awoke to doctors tending to him. Rumors quickly spread that Grant had been drunk; these were corroborated by Banks and Major General William B. Franklin. In constant pain from the hip injury, Grant stayed in bed for a week.
Grant returned to Vicksburg on the 16th, but he had to be carried aboard a steamer because he still could not walk or sit upright. Nine days later, Grant finally began moving around on crutches, and on the 28th, he reported to General-in-Chief Henry W. Halleck that he was “ready for the field.” Fortunately for the Federal high command, the major operations taking place at that time were all outside Grant’s department.
Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 322; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 2: Fredericksburg to Meridian (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011), p. 773-74, 780; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 346; Korn, Jerry, The Fight for Chattanooga: Chickamauga to Missionary Ridge (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 86, 88; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 404-05