President Lincoln spends day near Fort Monroe with Secretaries Stanton and Chase

May 7, 1862

President Lincoln has traveled to the war front.  Now he wants action.  He writes to Flag officer Louis Goldsborough: “Major General McClellan telegraphs that he has ascertained by a reconnaisance that the battery at Jamestown at Jamestown [sic] has been abandoned, and he again requests that gunboats may be sent up the James River.  If you have tolerable confidence that you can successfully contend with the Merrimac without the help of the Galena and two accompanying gunboats send the Galenana [sic] and two gunboats up the James River at once. Please report your action on her to me at once. I shall be found either at Gen Wools Head Quarters or on board the Miami.”

But President Lincoln was also something of a military tourist. Historian William E. Barringer wrote: that Lincoln “spent May 7 visiting the soldiers in General John Wool’s garrison, and then paid a special visit to the USS Monitor, the new ironclad that had electrified the country in its dramatic battle with the Confederate behemoth ironclad CSS Virginia just two months before. The president inspected every nook of the ship, talked with the officers, and then asked that all the seamen be mustered on the deck.  Holding in his hand a hat that still showed mourning on the deck.  Holding in his hand a hat still showed mourning crepe for Willie, he walked slowly past the line of sailors, looking at each man.  When he had finished and was leaving the vessel, they gave him three cheers.”  In the afternoon, the presidential party on horseback visited the ruins of Hampton Roads and then watched a military parade.  Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase wrote that “first, the cavalry regiments, well mounted and well equipped; then regiment after regiment of infantry, looking handsomely also.  It was inspiring to see them marching by, so orderly and so strong.  When they passed we rode on, but already on regiment was draw up in line, and the colonel and his troops were made glad by the President, who rode along their line alone, uncovered, and inspiring a great enthusiasm.  It is delightful…to observe everywhere the warm affection felt and expressed for the President.”

Historian Baringer wrote: “Evening brought the council of war back into session.  What was to be done now? The fabled Merrimac, it seemed clear, would stay on the defensive.  Hence the naval show of the day was judged a success, and the way was open for an assault on the rebel shore.  The planners decided that on Thursday morning a place called Sewall’s Point would be attacked with the ‘whole available naval force’; then land troops would invade and march south and west against Norfolk.  New assault orders were written for the army.”

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Published in: on May 7, 2012 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

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