President Lincoln Reassigns Troops

March 31, 1862

President Lincoln telegraphed General McClellan regarding a troop decision he had made “This morning I felt constrained to order [General Louis] Blenker’s Division to [Major General John C.] Fremont; and I write this to assure you that I did so with great pain, understanding that you would wish it otherwise. If you could know the full pressure of the case, I am confident you would justify it—even beyond a mere acknowledgement that the Commander-in-chief, may order what he pleases.” General McClellan responded to the president: “Your note in regard to Genl Blenker’s Division has reached me just as I am on the point of leaving for Alexandria.

I need not say that I regret the loss of Blenker’s Division first because they are excellent troops —  second — because I know they are warmly attached to me.
I fully appreciate, however, the circumstances of the case, hasten to assure you that I cheerfully acquiesce in your decision without any mental reservation.
Recognizing implicitly as I ever do the plentitude of your power as Commander in Chief, I cannot but regard the tone of your note as in the highest degree complimentary to me, & as adding one more to the many proofs of personal regard you have so often honored me with.
I shall do my best to use all the more activity to make up for the loss of this Division, & beg again to assure you that I will ever do my very best to carry out your views & support your interests in the same frank spirit you have always shown towards me.

Published in: on March 31, 2012 at 12:01 pm  Leave a Comment  

General McClellan Makes Final Visit to Washington

March 30, 1862

Preparing to leave his headquarters near the White House for the Peninsular Campaign east of Richmond, General George B. McClellan pays an evening visit to President Lincoln.  McClellan’s headquarters in previous months had been only a brief walk from the Executive Mansion, but he often let Lincoln come to him rather than visiting the White House.  Sometimes, McClellan had rudely ignored the commander-in-chief.  But the “Little Napoleon” now better understood his vulnerability to presidential or congressional displeasure.

Published in: on March 30, 2012 at 12:01 pm  Leave a Comment  

President Thinking About Home State

March 29, 1862

On a snowy afternoon in Washington, one of the president’s aides, John G. Nicolay, left Washington to return home to Illinois.  Although the president’s assistants would occasionally leave the city during the Civil War for personal time and family visits, President Lincoln himself never would.  The President’s mind was on Illinois as well.  He wrote Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton regarding one of his original presidential boosters: “Sir: I really wish Jesse W. Fell, of Illinois, to be appointed a Paymaster in the Regular Army, at farthest, as early as the 1st. of July 1862.  I wish nothing to interfere with this; and I have so written as much as two months ago, I think.”

Published in: on March 29, 2012 at 12:01 pm  Leave a Comment  

President Cruises the Potomac

March 28, 1862

As he often did, President Lincoln drove to the Navy Yard in southeast Washington where Navy officer John Dahlgren was the commandant.  To the annoyance of Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles, Dahlgren had become a friend and confidant of the president.  Lincoln enjoyed watching the testing of naval weapons – which occasionally put Lincoln’s life in danger.  Today, they went out on the Potomac for a short cruise.

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President Lincoln Acknowledges Sioux Disaffection in Minnesota

March 27, 1862

Weeks earlier Episcopal Bishop Benjamin Whipple wrote the President Lincoln about  “the sad condition of the Indians of this State, who are my heathen wards. . . . I ask only justice for a wronged and neglected race. . . . The United States has virtually left the Indian without protection. . . . The first thing needed is honesty. . . . The second. . . is to frame instructions so that the Indian shall be the ward of the Government.”  President Lincoln replied that “I have commended the matter of which it treats to the special attention of the Secretary of the Interior.”   In the summer of 1862, the Sioux in Minnesota, frustrated with their treatment, launched a full-scale revolt.

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Cabinet Meets to Discuss Military Situation

March 26, 1862

Usually, the Cabinet met in the President’s office in the second floor of the White House (now the “Lincoln Bedroom”).  Military maps, a favorite of the President Lincoln, were always close to the large table in the middle of the room around which they met.  Today, however, the Cabinet met in the office of Secretary Edwin M. Stanton in the War Department – just yards west of the White House.   Stanton’s office was less crowded than the second floor of the White House, where there were usually visitors seeking a meeting with President Lincoln.  Furthermore, the War Department’s telegraph office – where military news arrived – was located next to Stanton’s office.

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

The Vice President Visits the President

March 25, 1862

Vice President Hannibal Hamlin makes a rare visit to the White House.  Hamlin’s constitutional duties were limited to presiding over the Senate.  A Senator from Maine before the Civil War, Hamlin had not even met his presidential running mate until after they were both elected in November 1860.  President Lincoln had a cordial but not close relationship with Hamlin, who did not even attend Cabinet meetings.

On this day, Hamlin was seeking appointment as a brigade surgeon for his nephew, Dr. Augustus C. Hamlin.  Lincoln transmitted the request to Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton and the appointment was made.

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President Lincoln Seeks to Build Support for Compensated Emancipation

March 24, 1862

Indiana Congressman Schulyler Colfax, himself an Indiana newspaper editor, visited the White House to bring him a letter from influential New York Tribune editor Horace Greeley supporting Lincoln’s proposal earlier in the month for compensated emancipation in border States.  In response, Lincoln wrote Greeley: Your very kind letter of the 16th. to Mr. Colfax, has been shown me by him.  I am grateful for the generous sentiments and purposes expressed towards the administration.  Of course I am anxious to see the policy proposed in the late special message, go forward; but you have advocated it from the first, so that I need to say little to you on the subject.  If I were to suggest anything it would be that as the North are already for the measure, we should urge it persuasively, and not menacingly, upon the South.  I am little uneasy about the abolishment of slavery in this District, not but I would be glad to see it abolished, but as to the time and manner of doing it.  If some one or more of the border-states would move fast, should greatly prefer it; but if this can not be in a reasonable time, I would like the bill to have the three main features–gradual–compensation–and vote of the people–I do not talk to members of congress on the subject, except when they ask me.  I am not prepared to make any suggestion about confiscation.  I may drop you a line hereafter.”

Greeley was outspoken in support of emancipation but he was also erratic in his attitude toward the Lincoln administration.  Lincoln handled him gingerly – as he did Colfax, who would become speaker of the House of Representatives by the end of the year.

The Congressional Committee on the Conduct of the War meets with Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton to complain about General George B. McClellan’s conservatism and Democratic links.  Historian Bruce Tap wrote:  “Stanton expressed dismay, conceding that McClellan was surrounded by disloyal sub ordinates but that Lincoln seemed to have newfound confidence in him.  The situation seemed to be at an impasse.”

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

President Lincoln Appoints Diplomat Carl Schurz as General

March 23, 1862

Wisconsin Republican leader had fought relentlessly in the spring of 1861 for a diplomatic appointment.  Having served briefly as American minister in Spain, Schurz clearly wanted to get back to the center of political and military efforts.  Having made a speech in New York in support of President Lincoln earlier in the month, he now obtained Lincoln’s appointment as a brigadier general.  He would receive that commission on April 15.

Commissioner of Public Buildings Benjamin Brown French visits the White House.  He writes: “Yesterday the monotony was a little broken by a visit early in the morning to the President’s, when I had quite a long, and quite a satisfactory interview with the President & Mrs. Lincoln, it being the first time I have seen either since poor Willie was buried.  The President looks & appears careworn.  Mrs. L. looks distressed & pale, but as if she would in time get over her sad bereavement.  She feels it very much and wept bitterly yesterday while talking of her loss.”

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

Little is Known of this Day in the Life of President Lincoln

March 22, 1862

Only one letter was written by President Lincoln regarding a minor patronage matter.  Much of what is known about President Lincoln’s activities comes from the diaries of colleagues like Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase, Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles, and Attorney General Edward Bates, but there were no meetings that day at the White House for them to report.  Neither did Lincoln aides John G. Nicolay, John Hay or William O. Stoddard write newspaper articles, diary entries, or letters that can be used to reconstruct his activities.  Without letters or newspaper articles, it is hard to know what the President was doing.

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