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.