President Contemplates Recruiting More Troops

June 30, 1862 

General George B. McClellan, operating near Richmond, telegraphs Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton: “Another day of desperate fighting.  We are hard pressed by superior numbers.  I fear I shall be forced to abandon my material to save my men under cover of the Gun Boats.  You must send us very large reinforcements by way of Fort Monroe and they must come very promptly.  My Army has behaved superbly and have done all that men could do.  If none of us escape we shall at least have done honor to the country.  I shall do my best to save the Army.  Send more Gun Boats.”

President Lincoln never liked to be far away from his maps of the military campaigns underway. Senator Orville H. Browning writes:  “After breakfast went to the Presidents and had a brief talk with him about affairs before Richmond…..In the evening went out to Soldiers Home with Mr & Mrs Dorman of Florida.  The President got home soon after we reached there.  He asked me to sit down with him on the stone steps of the portico – then took from his pocket a map of Virginia and pointed out to me the situation of the army before Richmond, and gave me all the news he had from there.  He then took from his pocket a copy of Hallack’s poems, and read to me about a dozen stanzas concluding the poem of Fanny.  The song at the end of the poem he read with great pathos, pausing to comment upon them, and laughed immoderately at the ludicrous conclusion

President Lincoln approves a draft proclamation to recruit 150,000 soldiers prepared by Secretary of State William Seward for a conference of state governors.  The call reads: “The capture of New Orleans, Norfolk, and Corinth by the national forces has enabled the insurgents to concentrate a large force at and about Richmond, which place we must take with the least possible delay; in fact, there will soon be no formidable insurgent force except at Richmond, which place we must take with the least possible delay; in fact, there will soon be no formidable insurgent force except at Richmond.  With so large an army there, the enemy can threaten us on the Potomac and elsewhere.  Until we have re-established the national authority, all these places must be held, and we must keep a respectable force in front of Washington.  But this, from the diminished strength of our Army by sickness and casualties, renders an addition to it necessary in order to close the struggle which has been prosecuted for the last three months with energy and success.  Rather than hazard the misapprehension of our military condition and of groundless alarm by a call for troops by proclamation, I have deemed it best to address you in this form.  To accomplish the object stated we require without delay 150,000 men, including those recently called for by the Secretary of War.  Thus re-enforced, our gallant Army will be enabled to realize the hopes and expectations of the Government and the people.

President Lincoln writes Union General Henry W. Halleck regarding a proposed transfer of troops from the western to the eastern military theaters: “Would be very glad of twenty five thousand Infantry – no artillery, or cavalry – but please do not send a man if it endangers any place you deem important to hold, or if it forces you to give up, or weaken, or delay the expedition against Chattanooga.  To take and hold the Rail-road at, or East of, Cleveland in East Tennessee, I think fully as important as the taking and holding of Richmond.”

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Published in: on June 30, 2012 at 12:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

President Lincoln Meets With Journalist Returned from the War Front

June 29, 1862

Union and Confederate armies continue to confront each other in the Seven Days’ Battles outside Richmond.  President Lincoln interviews Baltimore American editor Charles C. Fulton.  Historian Robert S. Harper wrote: “In June of 1862, Fulton obtained a special pass from the War Department to observe the army in Virginia.  On a four-day tour of the front, he covered the action at the White House, the fighting before Richmond and made a general survey on the Peninsula.  The information he gathered was eagerly awaited by President Lincoln, and a special train was sent to return Fulton to Washington.   After reporting to the President, Fulton went home to Baltimore.” Fulton wrote up his account and filed it with the Associated Press. Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton ordered Fulton arrested.

Presidential aide John G. Nicolay writes: “The city here is almost wild with rumors and suspense.  The news has been so completely kept from the public that up to this morning no one had a serious suspicion of what was going on.  This morning, however several persons reached the city who left Fortress Monroe yesterday, and of course brought with them all the rumors prevailing there.  These have been caught up here with great avidity and repeated wit their usual additions and embellishments.  Some enterprising newsgatherer has collated these, sifted an intelligent report out of them as nearly as he could, and posted it up on the bulletin board at the Hotel.  I think it makes the story much better for us than it really is.”

Published in: on June 29, 2012 at 12:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

President Lincoln Tells General McClellan to “Save Your Army”

June 28, 1862

President Lincoln writes West Point Cadet Quentin Campbell regarding his unhappiness at the U.S. Military Academy. : “Your good mother tells me you are feeling very badly in your new situation.  Allow me to assure you it is a perfect certainty that you will, very soon, feel better – quite happy – if you only stick to the resolution you have taken to procure a military education.  I am older than you, have felt badly myself, and know, what I tell you is true.  Adhere to your purpose and you will soon feel as well as you ever did.  On the contrary, if you falter, and give up, you will lose the power of keeping any resolution, and will regret it all your life.  Take the advice of a friend, who, though he never saw you, deeply sympathizes with you, and stick to your purpose.

President Lincoln also responds to a plaintive, belligerent and insubordinate telegram from General George McClellan to Secretary of War Edwin H. Stanton regarding McClellan’s reverses in the middle of the Seven Days’ Battles: “I now know the full history of the day.  On this side of the river (the right bank) we repulsed several strong attacks.  On the left bank our men did all that men could do, all that soldiers could accomplish, but they were overwhelmed by vastly superior numbers, even after I brought my last reserves into action.  The loss on both sides is terrible.  I believe it will prove to be the most desperate battle of the war.

The sad remnants of my men behave as men.  Those battalions who fought most bravely and suffered most are still in the best order.  My regulars were superb, and I count upon what are left to turn another battle, in company with their gallant comrades of the volunteers.  Had I 20,000 or even 10,000 fresh troops to use to-morrow I could take Richmond, but I have not a man in reserve, and shall be glad to cover my retreat and save the material and personnel of the army.
If we have lost the day we have yet preserved our honor, and no one need blush for the Army of the Potomac.  I have lost this battle because my force was too small.
I again repeat that I am not responsible for this, and I say it with the earnestness of a general who feels in his heart the loss of every brave man who has been needlessly sacrificed to-day.  I still hope to retrieve our fortunes, but to do this the Government must view the matter in the same earnest light that I do.  You must send me very large re-enforcements; and send them at once.  I shall draw back to this side of Chickahominy, and think I can withdraw all our material.  Please understand that in this battle we have lost nothing but men, and those the best we have.
In addition to what I have already said, I only wish to say to the President that I think he is wrong in regarding me as ungenerous when I said that my force was too weak.  I merely intimated a truth which to-day has been too plainly proved.  If, at this instant, I could dispose of 10,000 fresh men, I could gain a victory to-morrow.  I know that a few thousand more men would have changed this battle from a defeat to a victory.  As it is, the Government must not and cannot hold me responsible for the result.
I feel too earnestly to-night.  I have seen too many dead and wounded comrades to feel otherwise than that the Government has not sustained this army.  IF you do not so now the game is lost.
If I save this army now, I tell you plainly that I owe no thanks to you or to any other persons in Washington.
You have done your best to sacrifice this army.

The last two sentences of McClellan’s telegram were not forwarded by Col. Edward S. Sanford.  Writing the history of the War Department’s telegraph office from his own knowledge and experience, David Homer Bates later explained: “Such insubordinate, and might fairly be held to be treasonable. When it reached the War Department, Major Johnson sent for Sanford, who at once said that the charge made by McClellan was false, and that he, as military supervisor of telegrams, would not allow it to go before the Secretary of War.  He therefore directed the despatch to be recopied, omitting the last paragraph, and the copy, so revised, was delivered to Stanton.  McClellan’s biographer, William C. Prime, referring to this incident, charges Stanton with having received  McClellan’s scathing condemnation without denial or comment; but neither Stanton nor Lincoln ever knew that Sanford had suppressed an important part of an official despatch, or, at least, not until after the event.

President Lincoln writes McClellan: “Save your Army at all events.  Will send re-inforcements as fast as we can.  Of course they can not reach you to-day, to-morrow, or next day.  I have not said you were ungenerous for saying you needed re-inforcement.  I thought you were ungenerous in assuming that I did not send them as fast as I could.  I feel any misfortune to you and your Army quite as keenly as you feel it yourself.  If you have had a drawn battle, or a repulse, it is the price we pay for the enemy not being in Washington.  We protected Washington, and the enemy concentrated on you; had we stripped Washington, he would have been upon us before the troops sent could have got to you.  Less than a week ago you notified us that reinforcements were leaving Richmond to come in front of us.  It is the nature of the case, and neither you or the government that is to blame.  Please tell at once the present condition and aspect of things.”  He added a postscript: “Gen. Pope thinks if you fall back, it would be much better toward York River, than towards the James.  As Pope now has charge of the Capital, please confer with him through the telegraph.”

Published in: on June 28, 2012 at 12:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

General John C. Frémont Relieved of Command by President

June 27, 1862

General George B. McClellan offers excuses in a letter to Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton: “ I regret my great inferiority in numbers but feel that I am in no way responsible for it as I have not failed to represent repeatedly the necessity of reinforcements, that this was the decisive point, & that all the available means of the Govt should be concentrated here.  I will do all that a General can do with the splendid Army I have the honor to command & if it is destroyed by overwhelming numbers can at least die with it & share its fate.”

But if the result of the action which will probably occur tomorrow or within a short time is a disaster the responsibility cannot be thrown on my shoulders — it must rest where it belongs.

McClellan adds: “In addition to what I have already said I only wish to say to the Presdt that I think he is wrong, in regarding me as ungenerous when I said that my force was too weak.  I merely reiterated a truth which today has been too plainly proved.  I should have gained this battle with (10,00) tn thousand fresh men.  If at this instant I could dispose of (10,00) ten thousand fresh men I could gain the victory tomorrow.

I know that a few thousand men more would have changed this battle from a defeat to a victory — as it is the Govt must not & cannot hold me responsible for the result.

I feel too earnestly tonight — I have seen too many dead & wounded comrades to feel otherwise than that the Govt has not sustained this Army.  I you do not do so now the game is lost.

If I save this Army now I tell you plainly that I owe no thanks to you or any other persons in Washington — you have done your best to sacrifice this Army.

Although the Seven Days’ Battles are underway outside Richmond, aide John G. Nicolay writes: “So far the week has been pretty quiet, excepting of course the President’s sudden visit to West Point, which set a thousand rumors to buzzing as if a beehive had been overturned. – The Cabinet was to break up and be reformed.  The generals were to be removed and new war movements were to be organized.  You have no idea how rapidly rumors are originated and spread here…notwithstanding the fact that they are daily served with the most extraordinary Muchausens.  My own impression is that the President merely desired and went to hold a conference with General Scott about military matters, and that no immediate avalanches or earthquakes are to be produced thereby.  That eventually results will follow I have no doubt.”

Published in: on June 27, 2012 at 12:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

President Reorganizes Three Virginia Commands under General John Pope

June 26, 1862

Fed up with trying to coordinate the actions of three generals in the Shenandoah Valley – John C. Frémont, Nathaniel Banks, and Irvin McDowell  – President Lincoln orders the formation of the Army of Virginia under General John Pope:

1…..The forces under Major Generals Fremont, Banks and McDowell, including the troops now under Brigadier General Sturgis at Washington, shall be consolidated and form one army, to be called the Army of Virginia.
2…..The command of the Army of Virginia is specially assigned to Major General John Pope as commanding General.  The troops of the Mountain Department, heretofore under command of General Fremont shall constitute the first army corps, under the command of General Fremont; the troops of the Shenandoah Department, now under General Banks, shall constitute the second army corps, and be commanded by him; the troops under the command of General McDowell, except those within the fortifications and city of Washington, shall form the third army corps and be under his command.
3….The Army of Virginia shall operate in such manner as, while protecting western Virginia and the National Capitol from danger or insult, it shall in the speediest manner attack and overcome the rebel forces under Jackson and Ewell, threaten the enemy in the direction of Charlottesville, and render the most effective aid to relieve General McClellan and capture Richmond.
4…..When the Army of the Potomac and the Army of Virginia shall be in position to communicate and directly cooperate at, or before Richmond, the chief command while so operating together shall be governed, as, in like cases, by the rules and Articles of War.

Pope biographer Peter Cozzens wrote that “Although there was much in Pope’s military record to recommend him for the command, President Lincoln, at the insistence of Stanton and Chase, had chosen Pope more for political purposes than for his battlefield abilities.  Weary of McClellan’s demands for more troops, suspicious of his conservative, Democratic politics, and exasperated with his kid-glove treatment of Southern non-combatants, Stanton and Chase wanted a general who would fight their war — a hard, relentless contest, unsparing of the Southern populace, especially in Virginia.  Chase argued for Pope primarily on policy grounds, with a bit of old-fashioned patronage thrown in .  But Stanton wanted Pope in the East specifically to humiliate McClellan, whom he detested personally and actually believed a traitor.”

President Lincoln writes General George B. McClellan, who consistently overestimates the size of the Confederate forces: “Your three dispatches of yesterday in relation to the affair, ending with the statement that you completely succeeded in making your point, are very gratifying.  The later one of 6:15 p.m., suggesting the probability of your being overwhelmed by 200,000, and taking of where the responsibility will belong, pains me very much.  I give you all I can, and act on the presumption that you will do the best you can with what you have, while you continue, ungenerously I think, to assume that I could give you more if I would.  I have omitted and shall omit no opportunity to send you reenforcements whenever I possibly can.”

Published in: on June 26, 2012 at 12:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

President Returns from Visit to New York

June 25, 1862

Stopping in Jersey City late in the morning on the way home from West Point, President Lincoln says: “When birds and animals are looked at through a fog they are seen to disadvantage, and so it might be with you if I were to attempt to tell you why I went to see Gen. Scott.  I can only say that my visit to West Point did not have the importance which has been attached to it; but it conceived [concerned matters that you understand quite as well as if I were to tell you all about them.  Now, I can only remark that it had nothing whatever to do with making or unmaking any General in the country.  [Laughter and applause.]  The Secretary of War, you know, holds a pretty tight rein on the Press, so that they shall not tell more than they ought to, and I’m afraid that if I blab too much he might draw a tight rein on me.”  After returning to Washington in the early evening, President Lincoln apparently went directly to his summer cottage at the Soldiers Home in Northeast Washington.

General George B. McClellan writes Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton: “I regret my great inferiority in numbers but feel that I am in no way responsible for it as I have not failed to represent repeatedly the necessity of reinforcements, that this was the decisive point, & that all the available means of the Govt should be concentrated here.  I will do all that a General can do with the splendid Army I have the honor to command & if it is destroyed by overwhelming numbers can at least die with it & share its fate.

But if the result of the action which will probably occur tomorrow or within a short time is a disaster the responsibility cannot be thrown on my shoulders — it must rest where it belongs.

McClellan adds: “In addition to what I have already said I only wish to say to the Presdt that I think he is wrong, in regarding me as ungenerous when I said that my force was too weak.  I merely reiterated a truth which today has been too plainly proved.  I should have gained this battle with (10,00) tn thousand fresh men.  If at this instant I could dispose of (10,00) ten thousand fresh men I could gain the victory tomorrow.”

I know that a few thousand men more would have changed this battle from a defeat to a victory — as it is the Govt must not & cannot hold me responsible for the result.
I feel too earnestly tonight — I have seen too many dead & wounded comrades to feel otherwise than that the Govt has not sustained this Army.  I you do not do so now the game is lost.
If I save this Army now I tell you plainly that I owe no thanks to you or any other persons in Washington — you have done your best to sacrifice this Army.

Published in: on June 25, 2012 at 12:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

President Lincoln Visits with General Winfield Scott at West Point

June 24, 1862

In a rare departure from Washington during the Civil War,  President Lincoln and General John Pope arrive at West Point to discuss the disposition of General Irvin McDowell’s corps – whether it should be sent to reenforce General George B. McClellan or was more important as a defensive barrier against an attack on Washington.    He arrives in West Point at 3 AM and is up and at breakfast at 7:30 AM.   Most of the morning is spent in consultations.  Later, he tours West Point and a cannon factory.

As a result of the visit, General Scott writes a memorandum for President Lincoln: “The President having stated to me, orally, the present numbers & positions of our forces in front of the rebel armies, south & South west of the Potomack, has done me honor to ask my views, in writing, as to the further dispositions now to be made, of the former, & particularly of the army under [Gen. Irvin] McDowell, towards the suppression of the rebellion.

Premising that, altho’ the statements of the President were quite full & most distinct & lucid — yet from my distance from the scenes of operation, & not having, recently, followed them up, with closeness — many details are still wanted to give professional value to my suggestions — I shall, nevertheless, with great deference, proceed to offer such as most readily occur me — each of which has ben anticipated by the President.
I consider the numbers & positions of [Gen. John C.] Fremont & [Gen. Nathaniel] banks, adequate to the protection of Washington against any force the enemy can bring by the way of the Upper Potomack, & the troops, at Manassas junction, with the garrisons of the forts on the Potomack & of Washington, equally adequate to its protection on the South.
The force at Fredericksburg seems entirely of position, & it cannot be called up, directly & in time, by McClellan, from the want of railroad-transportation, or an adequate supply train, moved by animals.  If, however, there be a sufficient number of vessels at hand, that force might reach the head of York river, by water, in time to aid in the operations against Richmond, or in the very improbable case of disaster, there, to serve as a valuable reinforcement to McClellan.
The defeat of the reels, at Richmond, or their forced retreat, thence, combined with our previous victories, would be virtual end of the rebellion, & soon restore entire Virginia to the Union.
The remaining important points to be occupied by us, are — Mobile, Charleston, Chattanooga.  These must soon come into our hands.
McDowell’s force, at Manassas, might be ordered Richmond, by the Potomack & York rivers, & be replaced, at Manassas, by [Gen. Rufus] King’s brigade, if there be adequate transports at, or near Alexandria.

Published in: on June 24, 2012 at 12:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

President Lincoln Leaves Washington for New York

June 23, 1862

President Lincoln quietly leaves by train for New York, where he expects to meet with General Winfield Scott regarding military strategy.  Before he leaves, accompanied by General John Pope, Lincolns sends a veto message to Senate regarding monetary policy: “The bill which has passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, entitled ‘An act to repeal that part of an act of Congress which prohibits the circulation of bank notes of a less denomination than five dollars in the District of Columbia,’ has received my attentive consideration, and I now return it to the Senate, in which it originated, with the following objections:

1. The bill proposes to repeal the existing legislation, prohibiting the circulation of bank notes of a less denomination than five dollars within the District of Columbia, without permitting the issuing of such bills by banks not now legally authorized to issue them. In my judgment, it will be found impracticable, in the present condition of the currency, to make such a discrimination. The banks have generally suspended specie payments; and a legal sanction given to the circulation of the irredeemable notes of one class of them will almost certainly be so extended, in practical operation, as to include those of all classes, whether authorized or unauthorized. If this view be correct, the currency of the District, should this act become a law, will certainly and greatly deteriorate, to the serious injury of honest trade and honest labor.

2. This bill seems to contemplate no end which cannot be otherwise more certainly and beneficially attained.  During the existing war it is peculiarly the duty of the national government to secure to the people a sound circulating medium.  This duty has been, under existing circumstances, satisfactorily performed, in part at least, by authorizing the issue of United States notes, receivable for all government dues except customs, and made a legal tender for all debts, public and private except interest on public debt.  The small note currency during the present suspension, can be fully accomplishing by authorizing the issue, as part of any new emission of the United States notes made necessary by the circumstances of the country, of notes of a similar character, but of less denomination than five dollars.  Such an issue would answer all the beneficial purposes of the bill; would save a considerable amount to the treasury in interest; would greatly facilitate payments, to soldiers and other creditors, of small sums; and would furnish to the people a currency as safe as their own government.

Entertaining these objections to the bill, I feel myself constrained to withhold from it my approval, and return it for the further consideration and action of Congress.

Published in: on June 23, 2012 at 12:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

Quiet Sunday As President Lincoln Contemplates Military and Family Affairs

June 22, 1862

President Lincoln attends New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in the morning.  Illinois Senator Orville H. Browning writes: “At Dr Gurley’s Church in the morning.  After Church, the President asked me to get into his carriage and go with him over to the White House, which I did.   He then took me into the Library and showed me some memoranda of important events, inauguration of Gov Yates, inauguration of the President, dates of battles, deaths of distinguished persons &c made by his little son Willie, and which he had just found.  Also showed me a diagram given him by Cuthbert Bullitt of Vicksburg showing how it might be isolated by cutting across above it where the peninsula in which the Town stands is said to be only a half mile wide — Also called my attention to the maps showing the position of the Town and River.   Mrs Lincoln then took me home in her carriage.”

Presidential aide John G. Nicolay writes that Sunday “passed away again without our usual Sunday news, although I half way expected we would have some.  This morning we get a report by way of the Richmond papers that a battle was fought a week ago today near Charleston S.C., about five thousand being engaged on each side.   There seemed to be no decisive result on the night of the battle, although the rebel dispatches indicate that we had gained the advantage and that the fight was expected to be renewed the next day.”

General George B. McClellan continues to believe that Lincoln Administration officials are conspiring against him.  He writes his wife: “By an arrival from Washn today (allen) I learn that Stanton & Chase have fallen out; that McDowell has deserted his friend C & taken to S!!  That Seward & Blair stand firmly by me — that Honest A has again fallen into the hands of my enemies & is no longer a cordial friend of mine!  Chase is evidently desirous of coming over to my side!  Alas poor country that should have such rulers.  I tremble for my country when I think of these things, but still can trust that God in his infinite wisdom will not punish us as we deserve, but will in his own good time bring order out of chaos & restore peace to his unhappy country.  His will be done — whatever it may be.  I am as anxious as any human being can be to finish this war, yet when I see such insane folly behind me I feel that the final salvation of the country demands the utmost prudence on my part & that I must not run the slightest risk of disaster, for if anything happened to this army our cause would be lost.  I feel too that I must not unnecessarily risk my life — for the fate of my army depends upon me & they all know of it.”

Published in: on June 22, 2012 at 12:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

President Lincoln Encourages General McClellan

June 21, 1862

President Lincoln writes General George B. McClellan: “Your despatch of yesterday, 2 P.M. was received this morning.  If it would not divert too much of your time, and attention from the Army under your immediate command, I would be glad to have your views as to present state of Military affairs throughout the whole country – as you say you would be glad to give them.  I would rather it should be by letter, than by Telegraph, because of the better chance of secrecy.  As to number and position of the troops, not under your command, in Virginia and elsewhere, even if I could do it with accuracy, which I can not, I would rather no transmit either by telegraph or letter, because of the chances of it’s reaching the enemy.”  He added: “I would be very glad to talk with you, but you can not leave your camp, and I can not well leave here.

Published in: on June 21, 2012 at 12:00 pm  Leave a Comment