Cabinet Meeting Focuses on Trading in Confederacy and Parole of Prisoners

February 28, 1862

“Sec: [Salmon P.] Chase, in C. C. broached the subject of licence to trade in seceded Territory, under the act of Congress, and it seemed agreed that Chase’s plan was good – beginning in the interior to see how the plan will work, before trying [it] on the seaboard,” wrote Attorney General Edward Bates.  “Mr. [William H.] Seward and Mr. [Montgomery Blair thought that we were bound in honor to stand by the proposition, once made, to discharge future prisoners on parol[e], and Mr. Stanton seemed inclined the same way. l insisted that we were under no obligation of honor, justice or even delicacy – that the proposition was wrong in itself and ought never to have been made, and that the negotiation being broken off by the absurd claim of Cobb, we ought not to renew it.  Exchange prisoners actually taken, to be sure, but there is no propriety in binding ourselves before hand, to discharge future prisoners we may take, in excess of our men in the hands of the enemy.  We expect to take many, and hope that they will take but few.  We may have urgent occasion to keep some particular prisoners for future judgment.  And when we have prisoners that we do not want to keep, we may, indulging a politic generosity, discharge them on our terms.  Mr. Chase took the same grounds, substantially – Messrs. [Gideon] Welles and [Caleb B.]Smith assented, but said nothing in particular – and the Prest evidently concurred with us, having no faith that they wd. keep their parol[e].”

President Lincoln met with General George B. McClellan regarding the president’s disappointment in the recent Harper’s Ferry Operation.

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Published in: on February 28, 2012 at 12:01 pm  Leave a Comment  

President Lincoln’s Frustration with McClellan Boils Over

February 27, 1862

Philadelphia Congressman William D. Kelley was meeting with President Lincoln when Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton arrived at the White House around 7 PM.  As Kelley recalled the meeting, President Lincoln was hopeful that the Army of the Potomac would finally move against Confederates in Virginia by crossing the Potomac at Harper’s Ferry.  By the time that General Randolph Marcy arrived, the President was so disgusted with General George B. McClellan that he said:  “The general impression is daily gaining ground that the General does not intend to do anything.”  Kelley reported:

The President, under the inspiration received on the preceding night, hoped anxiously for further news. His confidence in the success of the movement was unabated; he felt that the enemy had already been surprised, and that—at least in confidential official circles—he might say that McClellan had occupied important positions in Virginia, and that troops enough to resist any force that could be thrown against him were already en route for Harper’s Ferry, where a pontoon bridge, that would carry them all in brigades, had already been thrown. But as the shadows lengthened those who knew him well could not fail to notice indications of unusual anxiety. He paced the floor of the Executive Chamber; he was restless, and not as he had been through the earlier hours of the day, ready to greet visitors with a smile and cheering word. It was evident that his confidence was fading, and that he was under the influence of misgivings lest his General had again deluded him and disappointed the country. A few favorable words from McClellan would have restored his wonted equanimity, but they did not come; but soon after dark Mr. Stanton came from the War Department and handed him a dispatch he had just received from the General. It was dated Sandy Hook, 3:30 P.M., and read as follows:
“The lift-lock is too small to permit the canal-boats to enter the river, so that it is impossible to construct the permanent bridge as I intended. I shall probably be obliged to fall back upon the safe and slow plan of merely covering the reconstruction of the railroad. This will be done at once, but will be tedious. I cannot, as things now are, be sure of my supplies for the force necessary to seize Winchester, which is probably reinforced from Manassas. The wiser plan is to rebuild the railroad bridge as rapidly as possible, and then act according to the state of affairs.”‘
It will be observed that this dispatch contained no intimation that the orders for the advance of troops to sustain those who had been posted in Virginia against the alleged threatened advance from Manassas had been countermanded.
Before leaving the Department Stanton had replied as follows:
“If the lift-lock is not big enough, why cannot it be made big enough? Please answer immediately.”
The reply to which was as follows, and bore date 10:30 P.M.:
“It can be enlarged, but entire masonry must be destroyed and rebuilt, and new gates made—an operation impossible in the present stage of water, and requiring many weeks at any time. The railroad bridge can be rebuilt many weeks before this could be done.”‘
This failure, and the ridiculous excuse for it—that the engineers had neglected to ascertain the width of the lock through which the boats they were concentrating were to pass,—gave rise to a popular fear that the sacrifices and scandals of Ball’s Bluff [the previous October] were to be repeated on a grander scale near Harper’s Ferry, and at one o’clock on the 28th Stanton telegraphed:
“What do you propose to do with the troops that have crossed the Potomac?”
To which McClellan replied:
“I propose to occupy Charlestown and Bunker Hill, so as to cover the rebuilding of the railway, while I throw over the supplies necessary for an advance in force. I have just men enough to accomplish this. I could not at present supply more.”
At 9:30 P.M. of the same day the President received a telegram in which McClellan asserted that he knew he “had acted wisely, and that the President would cheerfully agree with him when he explained “; but the kernel of the message is found in this passage:
“It is impossible for many days to more than supply the troops now here and at Charlestown. We could not supply and move to Winchester for many days, and had I moved more troops here they would have been at a loss for food on the Virginia side.”‘
Here was a ” change of base.” The difficulty had suddenly been found to be with the commissariat, and matters could not be expedited because the Union Army, with the use of the canal and railroad, could not be subsisted in sufficient force to repel a possible enemy, who, should he be found, could be subsisted by wagon trains hauling for many miles over peculiarly bad roads.
Mr. Stanton could, when greatly irritated, find relief in the use of forcible expletives, but it was not so with the great-hearted, patient, long-suffering President, with whom it was my privilege to converse briefly on the night of the 27th. He was more restless than I had ever seen him, and I think more dejected, though he had not yet been advised of the countermanding by McClellan of all orders for the forwarding of troops. His position was pitiable. He knew that the army was aware that Scott had recommended McClellan’s advancement and approved his ability; that he (McClellan) had placed his confidential friends in every important command of the Army of the Potomac; and that, whether true or false, the country had been made to believe that the rank and file of the army so worshipped their “Little Commander” that to displace him might produce consequences which he was not willing to risk; yet this was a measure he must now contemplate. In conversation with trusted friends he said that he was now compelled to doubt whether McClellan had ever considered a plan with a view to its execution; that he did not believe he had; and that it was evident he would not execute movements directed by his superiors. Now, with extreme gravity and emphasis, he added, the time has. come when such a plan for a movement toward Richmond must be adopted and be promptly executed by McClellan or his successor. The next day he requested an early interview with the General and, whether by accident or arrangement I do not know, Senators Ben Wade and Andrew Johnson were present when it was held. They were thenceforth unreserved in their denunciation of the General as “treacherous” or “incompetent,” and of the puerility of his explanations. It was probably due to the unrestrained expression of their indignation that the public so soon learned that the President had a practicable plan of campaign which would be enforced.

Presidential aide John G. Nicolay also described the president’s frustration with military operations in the East: “This evening, 7 P.M. the Sec. of War came in, and after locking the door read the President two dispatches from the Gen.  The first one reported that the bridge (pontoon, at Harper’s Ferry)  had been  thrown in splendid style by Capt [James C. Duane] & Lieuts [Orville E. Babcock, Chauncey B. Reese,] & [Charles E. Cross] whom he recommended for brevets.  That a portion of the troops had crossed – that although it was raining; the troops were in splendid spirits and apparently  ready to fight anything.  The President seemed highly pleased at this.  ‘The next is not so good,’ remarked the Sec. War.  It ran to the effect that the ‘lift lock’ had turned out to be too narrow to admit the passage of the canal boats through to the river (as one of the facilities and precautions, arrangements had been made to build a permanent bridge of canal-boats across the Potomac, and a large number of canal-boats across the Potomac, and a large number of canal-boats had been fathered for that purpose.)  That in consequence of this, he had changed the plan and had determined merely to protect the building of the bridges and the opening of the road.  (Leaving the obvious inference that he proposed to abandon the movement on Winchester.  In fact he so stated [because] the impossibility of building the permanent bridge as he had expected would delay him so that Winchester would be reinforced from Manassas, &c.).

‘What does this mean?’ asked the President.
‘It means,’ said the Sec. War, ‘that it is a d—d fizzle.  It means that he doesn’t intend to do anything.’
The President was much cast down and dejected at the news of the failure of the enterprise,  ‘Why could he not have known whether his arrangements were practicable?’ &c. &c.
The Secretary of State came in and the three had a long conference.
Afterwards Gen. Marcy [McClellan’s father-in-law] came in for whom the Prest had sent earlier in the evening, and the President had a long and sharp talk with him.  ‘Why in the ______ nation, General Marcy,’ said he excitedly, ‘couldn’t the Gen. have known whether a boat would go through that lock, before spending a million dollars getting them there?  I am no engineer, but it seems to me that if I wished to know whether a boat would go through a hole, or a lock, common sense would teach me to go and measure it.  I am almost despairing at these results.  Everything seems to fail.  The general impression is daily gaining ground that the General does not intend to do anything. By a failure like this we lose all the prestige we gained by the capture of Ft Donelson.  I am grievously disappointed – grievously disappointed and almost in despair.’ &c.
[Note from Nicolay’s daughter Helen Nicolay This is almost the only time in all my father’s notes that he mentioned seeing the President shaken out of his unusual calm.]
Gen. Marcy endeavored to palliate the failure – said that no doubt the Gen. would be able to explain the cause – that other operations would go on, etc., and that he was satisfied–plenty of activity in movements, &c.
‘I will not detain you any further now, Gen.’ said the President; and though the  Gen. (Marcy) showed a disposition to talk on, the President repeated the dismissal and Gen. M.  took up his hat and went away.
“About midnight to-night came a dispatch from Halleck stating that Genl. Pope was moving on New Madrid with 10,000 men.  [That] he had heard nothing definite from the Tennessee or Cumberland as yet.

Published in: on February 27, 2012 at 12:01 pm  Leave a Comment  

President Lincoln Takes Over Telegraph Lines

February 26, 1862

Congress grants President Lincoln authority to operate all telegraph lines.  The New York Times reported: “The Secretary of War has issued an order announcing: 1. That from and after to-day, the President takes military possession of all telegraph lines; 2. All telegrams relating to military operations, excepting those from the Department and the Generals commanding, are prohibited transmission; 3. Journals publishing military news, unauthorized, are to be punished; 4. Appoints a military supervisor of messages, and a military superintendent of telegraph offices: 5. This order not to interfere wit the ordinary operations of said companies.”  The President develops the habit of regularly visiting the War Department next door to the White House to read the latest war news in the Telegraph Office, which also functioned as a sanctuary from the demands he faced when back in the White House.

The President’s son Tad is better.

Published in: on February 26, 2012 at 12:01 pm  Leave a Comment  

Mrs. Lincoln’s Sister Arrives at the White House

February 25, 1862

The death of Willie Lincoln was having a devastating impact on Mrs. Lincoln; her sister Elizabeth Edwards had been summoned from Springfield, Illinois  “Breakfasted at the Presidents — then came to Senate,” wrote Illinois Senator Orville H. Browning.  “After dinner returned to the Presidents and remained all night At 6-7 & 9 PM went in Prests carriage to Rail Road depot to meet Mrs. [Elizabeth] Edwards of Springfield, Illinois — She was on the 9 Oclock train.”

President Lincoln signed the Legal Tender legislation authorizing the printing of greenbacks as currency.    Lincoln also  met with the Committee on the Conduct of the War.  The congressional committee, dominated by Republican Radicals, wanted the army broken up into corps.   They got no commitment, but Lincoln would eventually embrace the idea and order its implementation.  As historian Hans Trefousse wrote, Lincoln “was a master of the art of making use of the radicals’ zeal to spur on reluctant conservatives.”

Presidential aide John Hay tried to downplay rifts within the Lincoln Administration. Writing in an anonymous newspaper article, Hay contended: “The authority of the President and of the Council of Administration is, and ought to be absolute in determining the general plan of campaign and policy of war.  General McClellan himself, who adds to great military skill a clear and accurate perception of war to Government, has always plainly enunciated and governed his action by this principle.  There can be nothing more absurd than the senseless clamor of exultation raised by the crack-brained fanatics in Congress, and out of it, at the supposed discovery they had made of the decline of McClellan’s power and influence.  The assumption of power by the President and War Department proceeded from no diminishing of confidence in General McClellan.  They were the result of clearly recognized views of the President, and were in entire harmony with the ideas of McClellan.  Whatever the indiscreet friends or the silly opposers of the Generals may say, it is true that no relations now exist, or have existed between the President and McClellan but those of the most cordial and even affectionate nature.   There not only is no misunderstanding, but there can be none between men whose relative positions are so clearly defined and understood by each, and between whom there is so much of mutual confidence and esteem.”

Published in: on February 25, 2012 at 12:01 pm  Leave a Comment  

Funeral held for Willie Lincoln

February 24, 1862

It was a rainy, windy morning in Washington, but the weather cleared in the afternoon.  At 2 PM, a funeral for the president’s son was conducted by Dr. Phineas Gurley, pastor of the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church that the Lincolns attended. “The funeral is a very solemn affair, but it cannot be permitted to interfere overmuch with work.  The burden is increased rather than laid aside,” remembered presidential aide William O. Stoddard.  Benjamin Brown French, Commissioner of Public Buildings wrote that “as soon I had eaten breakfast, I went to the President’s.  I found everything properly arranged for the funeral. The body of little Willie lay in the green room, in the lower shell of a metallic coffin, clothed in the habiliments of life, and covered with beautiful flowers.”  Willie’s body was dressed in his everyday clothes.  Mirrors on the first floor of the White House were rimmed with black cloth.  French wrote:

After looking about the house for a while I walked up into the President’s office and read.  He came up after I had been there about ½ an hour and appeared quite calm and composed.  He talked about his family and about the war.  The servant came in and told him ‘Tad’ desired to see him.  He left immediately for his son’s room.  Gov. Seward came in, and soon after the President returned.  I was sent for to go down and see someone about further preparation & did so.  I did not see Mrs. Lincoln at all.  About noon, The President, Mrs. Lincoln & Robert came down and visited the lost & loved one for the last time, together.  They desired that there should be no spectator of their last sad moments in that house with their dead child & brother.  They remained nearly ½ an hour.  While they were thus engaged there came one of the heaviest storms of rain & wind that has visited this city for years, and the terrible storm without seemed almost in unison with the storm of grief within, for Mrs. Lincoln, I was told, was terribly affected at her loss and almost refused to be comforted.  At two o’clock al were assembled in the East Room.  The President & Robert, all the Cabinet officers; Gen. McClellan; the entire Illinois delegation in Congress; Vice President and Mrs. Hamlin, and a large attendance of persons in official positions, and citizens.  Doctors P.D. Gurley & John C. Smith, conducted the services with great solemnity and propriety and then, followed by a procession in carriages about ½ a mile long, the body was borne to Oak Hill cemetery in Georgetown and temporarily deposited in the tomb of the Chapel, finally to be removed to Illinois.  I returned to the President’s, and then home…

“After the services the body was taken to the cemetery at Georgetown to be deposited in Mr Carroll’s vault, and left, for the time being, in the little chapel in the cemetary,” wrote Illinois Senator Orville H. Browning in his diary. “The President, his son Robert, Senator Trumbull & myself rode out in the Presidents carriage.  After return from Cemetery I brought Emma Home to Mrs Carters to dinner — Found Mrs Col Symington of Pittsburgh there.   After tea I returned to the Presidents and Mrs B & I sat up with Tad till after 2 O’clock in the morning.”  Willie’s body would remain in the Oak Hill cemetery until 1865 when it was disinterred and sent back to Illinois along with President Lincoln’s corpse.

Published in: on February 24, 2012 at 12:01 pm  Leave a Comment  

Preparations for Willie Lincoln’s Funeral

February 23, 1862

“On Sunday [February 23] Senator Browning of Illinois called and told me it was the desire of the President & Mrs. Lincoln that I should take the entire charge of the funeral arrangements at the White House on the succeeding day, which I promised to do,” reported Commissioner of Buildings Benjamin Brown French.

Orville H. Browning himself reported that he “took Emma to the Presidents with me where she remained all day & night.  In P.M. took the Presidents Carriage and drove out to Georgetown with Mr Carroll to examine his vault which he had offered for the use of the Presidents Son, who is to be deposited there tomorrow.”

Published in: on February 23, 2012 at 12:01 pm  Leave a Comment  

Slavetrader Gordon’s Execution Remembered

February 22, 1862

“Yesterday at noon was hanged Gordon, convicted of piracy as a slave-trader,” wrote New York lawyer George Templeton Strong of slave trader Nathan Gordon, who had tried to commit suicide before his execution. “ ‘Vere dignum et justum est, dignum et salutare.’  Served him right, and our unprecedented execution of justice on a criminal of this particular class and at this particular time will do us good abroad, perhaps with the pharisaical shop-keepers and bagmen of England itself.  Immense efforts were made to get the man pardoned or his punishment commuted.  Lincoln told me of them last January.  he deserves credit for his firmness.  The Executive has no harder duty, ordinarily, than the denial of mercy and grace asked by wives and friends and philanthropes.  Gordon, poor wretch, made a very pitiful exit.  He went to the gibbet half-dead with a dose of strychnine swallowed with suicidal intent and more than half-drunk with brandy.  The doctors drenched him with stimulants and thus kept life in his body for the law to extinguish in due form.”

“At night I returned to the Presidents and again sat up part of the night with his little son,” wrote Senator Orville H. Browning in his diary.  General George B. McClellan wrote President Lincoln regarding the death of his son Willie: “I have not felt authorized to intrude upon you personally in the midst of the deep distress I know you feel in the sad calamity that has befallen you & your family — yet I cannot refrain from expression to you the since & deep sympathy I feel for you.

You have been a kind true friend to me in the midst of the great cares & difficulties by which we have been surrounded during the past few months — your confidence has upheld when I should otherwise have felt weak.  I wish now only to assure you & your family that I have felt the deepest sympathy in your affliction.
I am pushing to prompt completion the measures of which we have spoken, & I beg that you will not allow military affairs to give you one moment’s trouble — but that you will rest assured that nothing shall be left undone to follow up the successes that have been such an auspicious commencement of our new campaign.

Concern for Lincoln’s youngest son Tad continued; the wife of Navy Secretary Gideon Welles, helped nurse him.

Published in: on February 22, 2012 at 12:01 pm  Leave a Comment  

President Lincoln Discusses New Orleans Expedition

February 21 1862

After the death of Willie Lincoln, concern continued over the health of Tad Lincoln. “The Presidents youngest Son is very ill, and they would not consent for Mrs Browning to leave them this morning,” wrote Illinois Senator Orville Browning. “ I remained till 12 Oclock — then came to the Capitol leaving Mrs Browning there   Returned at night and sat up part of night.”  Mrs. Lincoln was inconsolably distraught and Mrs. Browning’s presence was needed to comfort her and nurse Tad.

“The Executive Mansion is in mourning in consequence of the death of the President’s second son ‘Willie,’ a bright little boy of about twelve years, which happened yesterday afternoon,” wrote presidential aide John G. Nicolay.  “He had been very low for a number of days so that his death was not altogether unexpected….”  Another Lincoln aide, William O. Stoddard, wrote: “So, little Willie is dead!  An awful blow to Lincoln!  He was fonder of that boy than he was of anything else.  I remember, away back in Springfield, I’ve seen him – well – I don’t want to say any more – it’s an awful blow to the old man.  Good morning.  I guess I’ll go.  And an old Illinois neighbor walks out, with his head bowed.”

Stoddard wrote: “The President at work in his room to-day?  Why, the coffin is in the house!  So it is; the casket is here, waiting to receive its treasure, while the general now crossing the hall goes into the bereaved father’s office to carry to him the information that the army cannot move, and that the plan of the winter campaign is frustrated by the mud.”

While the First Family grieved, concern about the conduct of the war continued.  Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton wrote General Henry W. Halleck: “Your plan of organization has been transmitted to me by Mr. Scott and strikes me very favorably, but on account of the domestic affliction of the President I have not yet been able to submit it to him.  The brilliant results of the energetic action in the West fills [sic] the Nation with joy.”  President Lincoln has a long conversation with General Benjamin F. Butler about the expedition to capture New Orleans on which Butler is about to embark.  As Butler recalled his meeting at the White House:

“There was understood to be some feeling between General McClellan and the President because McClellan did not move, his excuse being all the while the small number of his troops and the great excess of those of the enemy.  McClellan, however, held everything with a high, strong hand, and what he wanted he had.  The Committee on the Conduct of the War were known to be very much opposed to him, as he certainly was to them.  This fact is now known, but at that time it was only conjectured.  A short time after it became known that I had give my testimony before the committee, General McClellan asked me if I had any objection to telling him what the substance of my testimony was.  I told him that I had not the slightest objection.  I Did not know at that time what his testimony had been, and certainly not what his estimate was, for while in Washington I had been very busy about my own affairs.  He appeared very much surprised at my testimony.  He questioned me as to the source of my knowledge.  I told him that of personal knowledge I knew nothing of course, but I sketched to him how I made up my calculations.  He said that I must be wrong, that he knew that there were a great many more troops than that.  I answered squarely: ‘Well, your knowledge of course ought to be vastly superior to the best verified calculations upon which I have come to my opinion.”
I handed him my analysis of the number of troops which had been in the battle of Bull Run, which number had been substantially verified by actual reports, and then added my further calculations upon the same basis, and made in two different ways, to show that those rebel troops could not have been much more than doubled within the succeeding six moths.  My conclusion was that there were not more than sixty-five thousand effective troops opposite Washington.
The rebel general, Joe Johnston, moved his movement from Washington against them, and Johnston’s report as published in the “War Correspondence” now shows  that I was not five thousand out of the way, not reckoning the small force that was below Alexandria.  But I did not include the “Quaker” guns, i.e. the wooden ones, that were mounted in the rebel intrenchments near Centralville, and McClellan’s bureau of information had evidently included in their estimate the number of men required to man these.  I thought as we parted that General McClellan did not seem quite as cordial as when we met.
When I saw Mr. Lincoln, as I did within less than two days, he put to me the same question as to the number of troops.  I told him that if he would take it without asking my reasons for it I would be glad to tell him, but if he required me to go over the reasons, I must get the paper containing my calculations, or a copy of it.  He said that was not worth while.  I briefly sketched the reasons, and in answer to his questions I replied, in a very emphatic manner, that I felt as certain of my estimate within a few thousand as I could of anything in the world.
“Assuming that you had one hundred thousand effective men in Washington,” he said, “and were permitted to move over the river to attack, would you do it?”
“Certainly I would, Mr. President, and if it was of any use I would ask for the privilege.  But you have abler commanders than I, Mr. President, and what I want is to go off with my command to New Orleans.”
“I won’t say, General, whether I will let you go or not.”
I then began to plead a little and said: “Why not let me go?  You have got enough troops here, and I am only to have some regiments from Baltimore.”
“I agree with you,”he answered, “as to the number of troops we have got here; that is not the reason for your detention.”
I at once pressed for the reason why I was not permitted to go, and thereupon I found that an order had been issued by General McClellan to disembark my troops at Fortress Monroe, and to return them to Baltimore.
I immediately began to look the matter up.  I telegraphed to Fortress Monroe, and was told that no such order had come there.  Adjutant-General Thomas told me that such order certainly had been issued and forwarded by General [John A.] Dix to General Wool, at Fortress Monroe.  I applied to General Dix, and he said that he had sent such an order forward.  Looking farther, I found that one of General Dix’s staff officers had put it in his coat pocket and forgotten it, — a most inconceivable thing. 
I determined to bring the matter to a focus at once.  I went to General McClellan told him about the order and asked him to revoke it.
“Why are you so anxious about this expedition?” he said to me.
“Because I think I can do a great deal for good for the country.  Besides, I want to get away from Washington: I am sick for the intrigues and cross purposes that I find here.  Mr. Lincoln and Mr. Stanton seem to me to be about the only persons who are in dead earnest for a vigorous prosecution of the war.”
“A,” said he, “and what evidence have you of that?”
“What both say and how they say it,— although I do not put too much confidence in what any man says.  The President asked me how many troops I believed there were on the other side of the river, and I gave him the number as I gave it to you.”
“What did he say to that?”
“He asked me how certain I felt, and I told him I felt very certain.  He asked me whether I felt so certain that I would be willing to lead an army of one hundred thousand troops from Washington to make an attack on the rebels in Virginia.”
“What did you say to that?”
“I said I did not desire to have anything to do with the Army of the Potomac; that I wanted to get away from here, and I then renewed my application to him to give me my order to go to New Orleans.”
“He did not give you the order?”
“No; he told me he did not know yet whether he would or not.  I said to him in substance that I hoped he didn’t detain me because it was a necessity to have around Washington the few troops that I should take away from Baltimore.  He said that was not the reason, that regarding the number of troops opposed to us across the river he believed nearly as I did.  He told me that I might call any day after to-morrow, being the 22d of February and a made to-morrow.’  He said: ‘Well, General Butler, I think you had better call on me the day after to-morrow, and we will see what will come out of this.’”
I looked General McClellan in the eye and said: “General, shall I call on you before or after I call on the President?”
“Better come before,” said he.
I went to my hotel, and after listening to an address in the House, I spent the next day in packing up my effects, not many, because I had come to the conclusion that I was going somewhere.  I also notified two of the gentlemen of my staff who came with me, and two more who were in Washington, that I wanted them ready to go with me at a day’s notice.
On the morrow I took a carriage and drove to the headquarters of the army shortly before ten o’clock. I was admitted to the general’s presence, and he met me very cordially, and handed me a sealed envelope.
“Therein,” said he, “you will find your instructions about your expedition to New Orleans, and you may go as soon as you can get ready to so do.”
“I thank you very much, General,” said I, “for the relief you have given me in letting me go away from here.  I will endeavor by my actions to do you and the army all the credit I can.”
I called on the Secretary of War, and found the President with him.  I stated to them the facts.  Mr. Stanton was overjoyed.  The President did not appear at all elated, but shook hands with me with a far-off, pensive look.
“I shall need some funds undoubtedly,” I said to Mr. Stanton.  “Please ascertain how much and send to me by the quartermaster and commissary, who will follow me and bring whatever it is supposed I will need.”
“Why not take your requisition yourself?”
“In the first place, I do not want any charge of the money.  In the second place, Mr. Stanton, to be honest with you, my orders cannot be countermanded after I get to sea, for I am going to take New Orleans or you will never see me again.”
“Well,” said he in the presence of Mr. Lincoln, “you take New Orleans and you shall be lieutenant-general.”
I bowed and left.
I stayed in Washington long enough to have a little bird sing to me that General McClellan’s father-in-law and chief of staff, R.B. Marcy, had said: “I guess we have found a hole to bury this Yankee elephant in.”

Published in: on February 21, 2012 at 12:01 pm  Leave a Comment  

President’s Son Willie Dies

February 20, 1862

About 5 P.M., the Lincoln’s beloved son Willie succumbed to typhoid after an illness of more than two weeks. Attorney General Edward Bates write: “A fine boy of 11 yrs., too much idolized by his parents.”   The president considered Willie to be the son who most emulated and resembled him.

“The same routine to-day – the President very much worn and exhausted,” wrote presidential aide John G. Nicolay. “At about five o’clock this afternoon I was lying half asleep on the sofa in my office when his entrance roused me.   ‘Well, Nicolay,’ said he, choking with emotion, ‘my boy is gone — he is actually gone!’ and, bursting into tears, turned and went into his own office.”  Nicolay wrote that Illinois Senator Orville H. “Browning came in soon after, bringing some enrolled bills from the Senate, to whom I told the news of Willie’s death.  He went and saw Mrs. Lincoln and promised at once to bring Mrs. Browning,” who had only arrived in Washington two days earlier.   The Brownings had known the Lincolns for about 25 years.  Nicolay wrote: “Later I went to see the Prest, who had lain down to quiet T[ad], and asked him if should charge Browning with the direction of the funeral. ‘Consult with Browning,’ said he.”

Published in: on February 20, 2012 at 12:01 pm  Leave a Comment  

President Lincoln Declines to Intervene; Slavetrader Hanged

February 19, 1862

Slavetrader Nathaniel Gordon was hanged in New York.   According to Attorney General Edward Bates, a firm proponent of Gordon’s execution,  “Recd. From the Prest. a package – letter from Judge Dean and some other Docs – urging the commutation of Gordon’s sentence.  I ansd him hastily, but decidedly – advising him to decline to interpose any farther, to stop the course of law, in the case of Nathaniel Gordon.”

New York political boss Thurlow Weed visits the White House after getting a telegram from a presidential aide the previous day.  Weed went to Washington were he dined with Secretary of State William H. Seward.   According to historian Glyndon Van Deusen, “Lincoln explained that there was urgent need for $15,000 and that this money could not be taken from any available appropriation.   Could Weed raise the amount?”   Weed could and did, but he never found out the reason the money was needed.”

Published in: on February 19, 2012 at 12:01 pm  Leave a Comment