President Lincoln Considers Replacement for Attorney General Edward Bates

November 30, 1864

Attorney General Edward Bates writes: “I resigned my office of Atty Genl. [of the] U.S. to take effect No 30, 1864, having served just 3 years and 3/4. Some months before[,] I made known to the President my wish to retire as soon as he should be reelected and thus, out of doubt and danger, endorsed by the nation. I remained about the office for two days longer – closing up my private affairs and in pleasant intercourse with the subordinates – all of whom seem to regret my departure, as all of them have done their best to oblige me. I part with them all with regret, and in great kindness.”

Judge Advocate Joseph Holt writes President Lincoln: “I have, with your permission, held under consideration until this moment, the offer of the office of Attorney General of the U. States, so kindly made to me a few days since.1 The result is that after the most careful reflection, I have not been able to overcome the embarrassments referred to in our last interview, & which then disinclined me to accept, as they must now determine me respectfully to decline the appointment, tendered in terms, at once so generous & so full of encouragement– In view of all the circumstances, I am satisfied that I can serve you better in the position which I now hold at your hands, than in the more elevated one to which I have been invited. I have reached this conclusion with extreme reluctance & regret, but having reached it, & with decided convictions, no other course is open to me than that which has been taken.”

I beg you to be assured that I am & shall ever be most grateful for this distinguished token of your confidence & good will. In it I cannot fail to find renewed incentives to the faithful & zealous performance of the duties of the public duties with which you have already charged me.

After convalescence from illness, presidential secretary John G. Nicolay returns to work at the White House.

Published in: on November 30, 2014 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

President Lincoln Inquires About the Cost of Horse Feed

November 29, 1864

President Lincoln writes U.S. Marshal Ward H. Lamon: “Will Col Lamon please say, what at present prices, the feed for two horses & two ponies, would cost, per month.”

Journalist Noah Brooks writes: “People who visit the White House usually have a free range over the East Room and one or two of the adjoining parlors; accordingly, relic-hunters…have acquired the practice of cutting out and carrying off bits of rich carpet, damask hangings, and even large pieces of fringe, cords, tassels, gilt scrollwork, and the covering of damask sofas. A few weeks ago an army officer was caught in company with two ladies who had his penknife and were cutting out a square of red brocade from one of the East Room chairs while he stood guard. The ladies were let off and the officer was sent to the Old Capitol Prison. Yesterday, a man in the garb of a private soldier was caught skinning off the damask cover of a sofa. He was sent to the guardhouse. Well might an astonished Dutchman say, ‘Mine Gott, vat a peoples!”’”

President Lincoln writes nine northern governors the same identical letter: “May I renew my request for the exact aggregate vote of your State cast at the late election? My object fails if I do not receive it before Congress meets.”

President Lincoln writes General Alvin P. Hovey: “Whenever John B. Castleman shall be tried, if convicted and sentenced, suspend execution until further order from me, and send me the record.”

Published in: on November 29, 2014 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

President Lincoln Gets and Invitation and a Request

November 28, 1864

Former New York Mayor George Opdyke writes President Lincoln: “A public meeting of citizens will be held at Cooper Institute on Thursday Evening next, the 3rd December, in response to your call on the Nation for additional volunteers. We beg leave, on behalf of the Committee of Arrangements, to invite you to be present and to Encourage by your voice the active efforts of the loyal men of this City in support of the Union Cause. We need scarcely say that your compliance will afford the highest gratification to the people of this city.”   The President declines to attend.

Illinois State Auditor Jesse K. Dubois writes President Lincoln about his son, a cavalry lieutenant: “Lieut W A Dubois my son telegraphs me from Wilmington Delaware that he has resigned and desires me to aid him in having his resignation accepted. Under all the circumstances (without my going into any reasons, why I think we have been hardly dealt with) I wish you would have his Resignation promptly accepted unless you know some better reason than I can possibly see at this distance, Do this for me, and let the young man come home as I know he is not able in health to be on duty away from careful nursing I should like to be in Washington this winter to see how the Elephants are working” William Dubois had written directly to presidential aide John G. Nicolay the previous day requesting that his resignation be immediately approved on grounds of his poor health.

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New York Times Reports on Recent Hotel Fire Plot

November 27, 1864

Little going on at the White House, but the New York Times reports: “The diabolical plot to burn the City of New-York, published yesterday morning, proves to be far more extensive than was at first supposed. It has already proved to the entire satisfaction of the authorities, that the affair was planned by the rebels and has been in preparation for a long time past, the men selected to perform the work were sent to this City at various times and under various pretexts, and arriving here they formed themselves into a regularly organized band, had their various officers, including a treasurer, whom they could always find, and who was always ready to supply them with the money necessary to carry out their infernal work, and they proceeded deliberately to mature their plans for one of the most fiendish and inhuman acts known in modern times.”

The plan was excellently well conceived, and evidently prepared with great care, and had it been executed with one-half the ability with which it was drawn up, no human power could have saved this city from utter destruction. It was evidently the intention of the conspirators to fire the city, at a given moment, at a great many different points, each as far remote from the other as possible, except through Broadway, and this thoroughfare they wished to see in a complete blaze, from one end to the other. To do this, they commenced at the St. James Hotel, corner of Broadway and Twenty-Fifth-street, next the Fifth-avenue Hotel, extending from Twenty-third to Twenty-fourth-street, then (missing the New-York Hotel, which it seems was not included in their list) The Lafarge House and Winter Garden Theatre, just below Amity-street; next followed the St. Nicholas, Metropolitan, Howard, Belmont, and others. In all thirteen of our principle hotels. About the same time several hay barges along the river were set on fire, and attempts were made to fire Barnum’s Museum and other public buildings. Had all these hotels, hay barges, theatres, &c., been set on fire at the same moment, and each fire well kindled, the Fire Department would not have been strong enough to extinguish them all, and during the confusion the fire would probably have gained so great a headway that before assistance could have been obtained, the best portion of the city would have been laid in ashes. But fortunately, thanks to the Police, Fire Department, and the bungling manner in which the plan was executed by the conspirators, it proved a complete and miserable failure.

Published in: on November 27, 2014 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Judge Joseph Holt Declines Attorney Generalship

November 26, 1864

President Lincoln offers Judge Advocate Joseph Holt the post of Attorney General being vacated by Edward Bates.   Holt will decline it: Navy Secretary Gideon Welles writes in his diary: ‘The place of Attorney-general has been tendered to Holt, who declines it, preferring his present position. This I think an error; that is, no man should decline a place of such responsibility in times like these when the country is so unanimous in his favor. Whiting, Solicitor of the War Department and patent lawyer, is sorely disappointed.”

President Lincoln and Secretary of War Edwin M. Staton meet regarding the return of General Nathaniel Banks back to Louisiana. President Lincoln writes Banks, who has been delaying his return to Louisiana: “I had a full conference this morning with the Secretary of War in relation to yourself. The conclusion is that it will be best for all if you proceed to New-Orleans, and act there in obedience to your order; and, in doing which, having continued, say, one month, if it shall then, as now, be your wish to resign, your resignation will be accepted. Please take this course.”

Navy Secretary Gideon Welles writes in his diary:“I called on the President Saturday, the 26th, as I had promised him I would the day before, with my abstract for the message, intending to have a full, free talk with him on the subjects that were under review the day previous. But Mr. Bates was there with his resignation, and evidently anxious to have a private interview with the President.

The question of Chief Justice has excited much remark and caused quite a movement with many. Mr. Chase is expected it, and he has many strong friend who are urging him. But I have not much idea that the President will appoint him, nor is it advisable he should. I had called on the President on the 23d, and had some conversation, after dispatching a little business, in regard to this appointment of Chief Justice. He said there was a great pressure and a good many talked of, but that he had not prepared his message and did not intend to take up the subject of judge before the session commenced.

‘There is,’ said he, ‘a tremendous pressure just now for Evarts of New York, who, I suppose, is a good lawyer?’ This he put inquiringly. I stated that he stood among the foremost at the New York bar; perhaps no one was more prominent as a lawyer. ‘But that,’ I remarked, ‘is not all. Our Chief Justice must have a judicial mind, be upright, of strict integrity, not too pliant; should be a statesman and a politician.’ By politician I did not mean a partisan. [I said] that is appeared to me the occasion should be improved to place at the head of the court a man, not a partisan, but one who was impressed with the principles and doctrines which had brought this Administration into power; that it would conduce to the public welfare and his own comfort to have harmony between himself and the judicial department, and that it was all-important that he should have a judge who would be a correct and faithful expositor of the principles of his administration and policy after his administration shall have closed. I stated that among the candidates who had been named, Mr. Montgomery Blair, it appeared to me, best conformed to these requirements; that the President knew the man, his ability, his truthfulness, honesty, and courage.

The President at different points expressed his concurrence in my views, and spoke kindly and complimentarily of Mr. Blair, but did not in any commit himself, nor did I expect or suppose he would.

In the morning, President Lincoln receives gift of elkhorn chair from its maker, Seth Kinman, California hunter.”

Published in: on November 26, 2014 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

President Lincoln Reads Draft Message to Cabinet

November 25, 1864

Navy Secretary Gideon Welles writes in his diary: “For some weeks I have ben unable to note down occurrences daily. On the evening of the election, the 8th, I went to the War Department about nine o’clock by invitation of the President. Took Fox with me, who was a little reluctant to go lest he should meet Stanton, who had for some days been ill. The Department was locked, but were guided to the south door. The President was already there, and some returns from different quarters had been received. He detailed particulars of each telegram which had been received. Hay soon joined us and, after a little time, General Eaton. Mr. Eckert, the operator, had a fine supper prepared, of which we partook soon after 10. It was evident shortly after the election had gone pretty much one way. Some doubts about New Jersey and Delaware. We remained until past one in the morning and left. All was well.

The President on two or three occasions in Cabinet-meeting alluded to his message. It seemed to dwell heavy on his mind,–more than I have witnessed on any former occasion. On Friday, the 25th, he read to us what he had prepared. There was nothing very striking, and he evidently labors in getting it up. The subject of Reconstruction and how it should be effected is the most important theme. He says he cannot treat with Jeff Davis and the Jeff Davis government, which is all very well, but whom will he treat with, or how commence the work? All expressed themselves very much gratified with the documents and his views. I suggested whether it would not be well to invite back no only the people but the States to their obligations and duties. We are one country. I would not recognize what is called the Confederate government, for that is a usurpation, but the States are entities and may be recognized and treated with. Stanton, who was present for the first time for six weeks, after each had expressed his views, and, indeed, after some other topic had been taken up and disposed of, made some very pertinent and in the main proper and well-timed remarks, advising the President to make no new demonstration or offer, to bring forward his former policy and maintain it, to hold open the doors of conciliation and invite the people to return to their duty. He would appeal to them to do so, and ask them whether it would not have been better for them and for all, had they a year since accepted his offer.

Each of the members of the Cabinet were requested to prepare a brief statement of the affairs of their respective Departments. Seward had already handed in much of his. I told the President I would hand him my brief the next day.

At this meeting on the 25th, Mr. Usher made some allusion to the gold that was forthcoming in the Territories. The President interrupted him, saying he had been giving that matter a good deal of attention and he was opposed to any excitement on the subject. He proposed that the gold should remain in the mountains until the War was over, for it would now only add to the currency and we had already too much currency. It would be better to stop than to increase it.

It cannot be otherwise than that the country will become impoverished with such pervading the government. There will be devastation and ruin, if not corrected, before us. Fessenden is of the old Whig school of folly on finance and currency; is resorting to flimsy expedients, instead of honest, hard truth. God is truth; irredeemable paper and flimsy expedients are not.

Presidential aide John Hay writes to George B. Smith, who had sent a beef to the president on hopes that it would be consumed for Thanksgiving: “The President directs me to acknowledge the receipt of a Choice piece of Roasting Beef and the very kind letter by which it was accompanied, and to tender you his thanks for both.”   Hay writes Charles S. Spencer, president of the Lincoln and Johnson Central Campaign Club of New York City who had requested a toast for a banquet: “I regret that the President was literally crowded out of the opportunity of writing you an note for yr. Banquet. He fully intended to do so himself & for that reasons I did not prepare a letter for him. But the crush here just now is beyond endurance.”

Published in: on November 25, 2014 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Attorney General Edward Bates Resigns

November 24, 1864

Attorney General Edward Bates sends President Lincoln his resignation, as expected.

Bates writes President Lincoln: “For some months past, you have been aware of my desire to withdraw form the active labors & constant care of the office which I hold by your favor.

Heretofore, it has not been compatible with my ideas of duty to the public & fidelity to you, to leave my post of service for any private consideration, however urgent. Then, the fate of the nation hung, in doubt & gloom. Even your own fate, as identified with the nation, was a source of much anxiety. Now, on the contrary, the affairs of the Government display a brighter aspect; and to you, as head & leader of the Government, all the honor & good fortune that we hoped for, has come. And it seems to me, under these altered circumstances, that the time has come, when I may, without dereliction of duty, ask leave to retire to private life.

In tendering the resignation of my office of Attorney General of the United States (which I now do) I gladly seize the occasion to repeat the expression of my gratitude , not only for your good opinion which led to my appointment, but in which we have been associated in the public service. The memory of that kindness & personal favor, I shall bear with me into private life, and hope to retain it in my heart, as long as I live.

Pray let my resignation take effect on the last day of November.

With heartfelt respect I remain your friend & servant.”

When General W. T. Sherman, November 12th, 1864, severed all communication with the North and started for Savannah with his magnificent army of sixty thousand men, there was much anxiety for a month as to his whereabouts. President Lincoln, in response to an inquiry, said: ‘I know what hole Sherman went in at, but I don’t know what hole he’ll come out at.”

Colonel [Alexander K.] McClure had been in consultation with the President one day, about two weeks after Sherman’s disappearance and in this connection related this incident:

‘I was leaving the room, and just as I reached the door the President turned around, and, with a merry twinkling of the eye, inquired, ‘McClure, wouldn’t you like to hear something from Sherman?

‘The inquiry electrified me at the instant, as it seemed to imply that Lincoln had some information on the subject. I immediately answered, ‘Yes, most of all, I should like to hear from Sherman.’

‘To this President Lincoln answered, with a hearty laugh: ‘Well, I’ll be hanged if I wouldn’t myself.’

Former Illinois Senator Orville H. Browning writes: “Thanksgiving day — Genl [James W.] Singleton called this morning. Told me he had just come from Canada where he had had an interview with Clay & Tucker, the Rebel Commissioners, and was here to see the President in regard to negotiations for peace — that the aforesaid reels were anxious for peace upon the basis of the union, and though the people of the seceded states would return if an amnesty was offered, and slavery let alone.

I said I though the President would make the abolition of slavery a condition precedent to any settlement. He replied that he knew he would not — that he had a long interview with him before the election — that the President showed him all the correspondence between himself and Greely preceding ‘To whom it may concern,’ and said that ‘To whom it may concern’ put him in a false position — that he did not mean to make the abolition of slavery a condition, and that after the election he would be willing to grant peace with an amnesty, and restoration of the union, leaving slavery to abide the decisions of judicial tribunals — and that now the election was over he was again to see him upon the subject, and would let me know the result of the interview.

He also showed me a letter from Judge Peck to himself giving an account of a conversation he had had with the President as ‘go between’ for Singleton.

Singleton took much credit to himself for the defeat of Genl McClellan — saying that McClellans election would have been followed by a continuance of the war, and that the President had assured him that slavery should not stand in the way of a settlement.

Published in: on November 24, 2014 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

President Lincoln Meets with General-in-chief Ulysses S. Grant

November 23, 1864

President Lincoln and Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton meet with General-in-Chief Ulysses S. Grant and his staff. Brooks D. Simpson wrote in Ulysses S. Grant: Triumph Over Adversity, 1822-1865: “Even away from City Point there was no rest for the commanding general. At Washington he countered an effort to replace Stanton with Butler; he also met with Alabama unionist J.J. Giers, who had some ideas about rousing opposition to Confederate authorities there; at Burlington he prodded Sheridan to take advantage of any changes on his front and kept a careful eye on enenmy movements to make sure there was no concentration against Sherman’s column. With the election over, he urged that several generals who had long annoyed him be mustered out of service, including Franz Sigel, John McClernand, and James Ledlie of Crater infamy; and that others, notably William S. Rosecrans, be relieved of command. Nor would he consider returning Nathaniel Banks to field command in Louisiana – and this time Lincoln heeded his wishes.”

Published in: on November 23, 2014 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

President Lincoln Confers with Kentucky Leaders

November 22, 1864

Kentucky editor A.G. Hodges and General Samuel G. Suddarth confer with President Lincoln about politics in Kentucky. After the meeting, President Lincoln writes Kentucky Governor Thomas Bramlette: “Yours of to-day received. It seems that Lt. Gov. Jacobs & Col. Wolford are stationary now. Gen. Sudarth & Mr. Hodges are here & the Secretary of War, and myself are trying to devise means of pacification and harmony for Kentucky, which we hope to effect soon, now that the passion-exciting subject of the election is past.”

Suddarth recalled: “On yesterday we went to Gen Adams’ office — found him, got him to go with us to the ‘White House.’ We got there and after being announced as Envoys Extraordinary and Ministers Plenipotentiary from the State and Commonwealth of Ky. To his Excellency the President of the U.S. ‘Some gentlemen from Ky. Who desire to see Mr. President on business.’ We Stopped in the ‘East Room.’ And in a few minutes were conducted up to the Presidents Sanctorm, or business room, where to our surprise and gratification all further formality was laid aside. Mr. Lincoln shook us cordially by the hand and received us in so natural and unostentatious a manner, and with that kind of unaffected, plain, and unostentatious a manner, and with that kind of unaffected, plain and native urbanity, as to dispel all embarrassment, and cause us to feel entirely easy.“His conversational powers are fine — and his custom of interspersing his conversations with incidents, anecdotes and witticisms are well calculated to impress his hearers with the kind heartedness of the man. And they are adroitly and delicately mingled in the thread of his discourse that one hardly notices the digression. His language is good though not select, yet very strong pointed and forcible, though never harsh. His sentences exceedingly short though full and complete. Whatever may be said of some of his political notions, history will record him as one of the most remarkable men of modern times. He is dignified in his manners and address, without austerity. Self poysed and clear in his perceptions.”

We had rather a long chat with him (from a half to three quarters of an hour) on various matters connected with his administration and the position of Ky. &c &c &c In speaking of a certain politician (not a Kentuckian) he said ‘Mr. —- is a d—d rascal’ and then added ‘God knows I do not know when I have sworn before.’ On the subject of our claims he referred us to the War Deptmt. And added that if we get tangled with the officers there, to come back to him & he would untangle the matter. He then gave us a card of introduction to the Sec. Of War. We went then and had an audience with Sec. Stanton. And though we expected to meet with that crusty, harsh, military sort of reception, that is usual in approaching the head quarters of some of our upstart brigadiers, were agreeably surprised to find him pleasant, courteous & communicative — taking pains to give us all necessary information how to proceed with our business…”

Mary Lincoln’s cousin, Elizabeth Todd Grimsley writes President Lincoln about the job of postmaster of Springfield – a job for which she had applied nearly four years earlier: “It is generally supposed there is to be a change in the Post-Office here, and again I am an applicant for it, and write thus early to you, hoping you have not committed yourself to any one before you hear my arrangements. I write unreservedly to you, feeling and believing you will be willing to give me the office if you can consistently, and feeling also, that arrangements can be made which will be satisfactory not only to yourself but to the Republican friends.

Your objection before was, that a Post-Mistress in a place the size of Springfield would produce dis-satisfaction, whereupon I immediately gave up all effort as you will remember. Perhaps your views on the subject have changed, and if so I should be very glad if you would so assist me, but if not, I could make an arrangement with some one of our good, reliable Republican friends, whereby I could receive benefit, and yet the office be given to him. I could get the names of hundreds of warm friends who would be happy to help me in either way, if you should think necessary so to do. I feel secure in saying, most of the leading Republicans would give me their countenance and names.

I thought of suggesting Father’s name, but know that would again raise the cry about the Todd family and therefore rather prefer not embarrassing you in that way.

Dear Mr Lincoln, you know my necessities, and I think, I know your disposition to assist me, so will not press the subject further upon you,

With much love to Mary and the boys, and in full hope of a favorable answer to my application I am truly

Much as President Lincoln loved “Cousin Lizzie,” he did not respond favorably to her request.

Carlos Pierce writes to Abraham Lincoln regarding “General Grant,” an ox that had been donated to the National Sailors’ Fair in Mr Lincoln’s name: “I have disposed of your contribution for the national Sailors fair realizing over thirty-three hundred dollars which sum stands accredited your name & should be invested in the Cornerstone of the new building which I trust will be laid by your hands.”

Published in: on November 22, 2014 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

President Lincoln Congratulates Revolutionary War Veteran

November 21, 1864

President Lincoln writes a Massachusetts veteran of the Revolutionary War, 105-year-old John Phillips, who had voted for President Lincoln’s reelection: “I have heard of the incident at the polls in your town, in which you bore so honored a part, and I take the liberty of writing to you to express my personal gratitude for the compliment paid me by the suffrage of a citizen so venerable.

The example of such devotion to civic duties in one whose days have already extended an average life time beyond the Psalmist’s limit, cannot but be valuable and fruitful. It is not for myself only, but for the country which you have in your sphere served so long and so well, that I thank you. Your friend and Servant

President Lincoln sends a letter to a Boston mother who supposedly had lost several sons in the war.   There are serious doubts about whether President Lincoln or aide John Hay actually wrote the letter to Mrs. Lydia Bixby: “I have been shown in the files of the War Department a statement of the Adjutant General of Massachusetts, that you are the mother of five sons who have died gloriously on the field of battle.

I feel how weak and fruitless must be any words of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering to you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the Republic they died to save.

I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours, to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of Freedom.

The information provided to the White House was incorrect. Mrs. Bixby had actually only lost two sons. And one was a Confederate sympathizer.

President Lincoln writes former Georgia Congressman Augustus R. Wright: “Admitting that your cotton was destroyed by the Federal Army, I do not suppose any-thing could be done for you now. Congress has appropriated no money for that class of claims, and will not, I expect, while the active war lasts.”

Published in: on November 21, 2014 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment