Military and Emancipation Issues Concern President Lincoln

June 20, 1862

President Lincoln telegraphs General George B. McClellan: “We have, this morning, sent you a despatch of Gen. [Franz] Sigel corroborative of the proposition that [Stonewall] Jackson is being re-inforced from Richmond.  This may be reality, and yet may only be contrivance for deception; and to determine which, is perplexing.  If we knew it were not true, we could send you some more force, but as the case stands, we do not think we safely can.  Still we will watch the signs, and do so if possible.”

McClellan continues to be distressed by military and civilian concerns.  He responds to  President Lincoln: “Your Excellency’s dispatch of 11 am received also that of Genl Sigel.  I have no doubt that Jackson has been reinforced from here.  There is reason to believe that Genl R S Ripley has recently joined Lee’s Army with a Brigade or Division from Charleston.  Troops have arrived recently from Goldsboro.

There is not the slightest reason to suppose that the enemy intends evacuating Richmond; he is daily increasing his defenses.
I find him everywhere in force & every reconnaissance costs many lives.
Yet I am obliged to feel my way foot by foot at whatever cost — so great are the difficulties of the country.  By tomorrow night the defensive works covering our position on this side of the Chickahominy should be completed.  I am forced to this by my inferiority in numbers so that I may bring the greatest possible numbers into action & secure the Army against the consequences of unforeseen disaster.  I would be glad to have permission to lay before your Excellency by letter or telegram my views as to the present state of military affairs throughout the whole country.  In the mean time I would be pleased to learn the dispositions as to numbers & position of the troops not under my command in Virginia and elsewhere.

According to a newspaper report published the next day in the New York Tribune, President Lincoln responds to a group of Quaker leaders visiting the White House and pressing for emancipation:

The President said that, as he had not been furnished with a copy of the memorial in advance, he could not be expected to make any extended remarks.  It was a relief to be assured that the deputation were not applicants for office, for his chief trouble was from that class of persons.  The next most troublesome subject was Slavery.  He agreed with the memorialists, that Slavery was wrong, but in regard to the ways and means of its removal, his views probably differed from theirs.  The quotation in the memorial, from his Springfield speech, was incomplete.  It should have embraced another sentence, in which he indicated his views as to the effect upon Slavery itself of the resistance to its extension.
The sentiments contained in that passage were deliberately uttered, and he held them now.  If a decree of emancipation could abolish Slavery, John Brown would have done the work effectually.  Such a decree surely could not be more binding upon the South than the Constitution, and that cannot be enforced in that part of the country now.  Would a proclamation of freedom be any more effective?
Mr. [Oliver] Johnson replied as follows:
“True, Mr. President, the Constitution cannot now be enforced at the South, but you do not on that account intermit the effort to enforce it, and the memorialists are solemnly convinced that the abolition of Slavery is indispensable to your success.”
The President further said that he felt the magnitude of the task before him, and hoped to be rightly directed in the very trying circumstances by which he was surrounded.
Wm. Barnard addressed the President in a few words, expressing sympathy for him in all his embarrassments, and an earnest desire that he might, under divine guidance, be led to free the slaves and thus save the nation from destruction.  In that case, nations yet unborn would rise up to call him blessed and, better still, he would secure the blessing of God.
The President responded very impressively, saying that he was deeply sensible of his need of Divine assistance.  He had sometime thought that perhaps he might be an instrument in God’s hand of accomplishing a great work and he certainly was not unwilling to be.  Perhaps, however, God’s way of accomplishing the end which the memorialists have in view may be different from theirs.  It would be his earnest endeavor, with a firm reliance upon the Divine arm, and seeking light from above, to do his duty in the place to which he had been called.

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Published in: on June 20, 2012 at 12:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

President Lincoln Signs Legislation Abolishing Slavery in Territories

June 19, 1862

The pressure to act on emancipation has been building – as President Lincoln struggles to balance emancipationist opinion in the North with status quo opinion in the Border States.  Historian Allen C. Guelzo wrote that President Lincoln “could not forever hold off [Generals] Hunter and Fremont and Grant from taking the steps they needed to take for victory; either they would act or he would act, and once they did he would have to support them and the ball would be rolling toward a general emancipation whether the border states liked it or not.  He also could not hold off the impatient Radicals of his own party.  Illinois’s congressional odd-fellows, Isaac Arnold, the renegade Democrat, and Owen Lovejoy, the evangelical Radical, put up a bill to abolish slavery in the territories which finally passed the House on June 19th, over more tears and anguish from the border-staters.”   Sometime during this period, President Lincoln has a conversation regarding slavery with Missouri Senator John B. Henderson.  It was later reported by journalist Walter B. Stevens:

“Mr. Lincoln hesitated, not because he hadn’t made up his mind, but because he wanted to protect the loyal slaveholders of the border States as far as he could.  His idea was that a plan to pay for these slaves could be put in operation, and then he would by proclamation strike off the shackles of all whose owners were engaged in rebellion.  While he was trying to get this programme going he sent often for Gen. Henderson to come to the White House to discus the White House to discuss the details, and to urge more rapid action.  It was on the occasion of one of these talks that Mr. Lincoln told the sorry which Gen. Henderson called to mind a few evenings since.
“As I went in,’ said the General, ‘I noticed that the President was looking troubled.  He was sitting in one of his favorite attitudes – in a rocking chair, with one leg thrown over the arm.   I knew that he suffered terribly from headaches, and I said to him:
‘No,’ said he, ‘ it isn’t a headache this time.  Chandler has just been here to talk again about emancipation; and he came on the heels of Wade and Sumner, who were here on the same errand.  I like those three men, but they bother me nearly to death.  They put me in the situation of a boy I remember when I was going to school.’
General Henderson says the President’s face brightened, and he knew a story was coming.  Mr. Lincoln leaned forward and clasped his hands around the knee of the leg resting on the arm of the chair.  Then he proceeded with the story:
“‘The text book was the Old Bible.  There was a rather dull little fellow in the class who didn’t know very much, and we were reading the account of the three Hebrews cast into the fiery furnace.  The little fellow was called on to read, and he stumbled along until he came to the names of the three Hebrews — Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.  He couldn’t do anything with them.  The teacher pronounced them over slowly and told the boy to try.  The boy tried and missed.  This provoked the teacher, and he slapped the little fellow, who cried vigorously.  Then he attempted again, but he couldn’t get the names.  ‘Well,’ said the teacher impatiently, ‘never mind the names.  Skip them and go on.’  The poor boy drew his shirt sleeve across his eyes two or three times, snuffed his nose and started on to read.  He went on bravely a little way and then he suddenly stopped, dropped the book in front of him, looked in despair at the teacher, and burst out crying.  ‘What the matter now?’ shouted the teacher, and burst out of patience.  ‘He –  he –  here’s them same –  fellers agin,’ sobbed the boy.
“‘That is just my fix to-day, Henderson.  Those same three [damned] fellows have been here again with their everlasting emancipation talk.”
“He stopped a few moments to enjoy the story, and then becoming serious, continued:
“‘But Sumner and Wade are right about it, I know it, and you know it too.  I’ve got to do something, and it can’t be put off much longer.   We can’t get through this terrible war with slavery existing.  You’ve got sense enough to know that.  Why can’t you make the Border States members see it?  Why don’t you turn in and take pay for your slaves from the Government?   Then all your people can give their hearty support to the Union.   We can go ahead with emancipation of slaves in the other States by proclamation and end the trouble.’
“Gen. Henderson says that as early as May, in 1862, Mr. Lincoln told him of his intention to issue the emancipation proclamation.  The action was not taken until six months later, and then the proclamation was made to take effect January, 1863.  The President held out as long as he could in the hope that he might be able to carry out his border States policy.
“The introduction of the bill to pay for the slaves of loyal owners in Missouri was the result of Mr. Lincoln’s earnest support of this plan.  This was the first of the bills.  It was followed by others for Kentucky, Maryland and other border States which had slaveholders.
“‘I do not remember,’ the General says, ‘whether Mr. Lincoln drafted the bill or whether I got it up, but the inspiration came from him.  I did all in my power to press it.  The proposition went through both House and Senate.  But it was passed in somewhat different forms.  The Senate increased the amount, and this difference had to be adjusted in conference.  There was a good majority for the Missouri bill in both branches of Congress, and there was not much trouble about compromising the difference of opinion on the amount to be appropriated,, but the session was almost at and end, and a small minority in the House was able by filibustering and obstructing to prevent the final action there.  If the bill could have been got before the House in its finished form it would have passed as easily as it did in the Senate.’
“President Lincoln watched the progress of th legislation with a great deal of interest and did all he could to further it. He could not understand why the border State members should not be for it.
“‘And I could not either,’ says the General; ‘it was perfectly plain to me that slavery had got to go.  Here was a voluntary offer on the part of the Government to compensate the loyal men in the border States for the loss of their property.  I talked with the members from Missouri and from Kentucky and with the others who were most interested, but I couldn’t make them see it as I did.  They had exaggerated ideas of the results which would ensue from a free negro population.  They took the position that slavery must not be touched, and it was their determined opposition to the end that defeated the bill to give the Missouri slaveholders $20,000,000 for their slaves.  If the Missouri bill had gone through the others would have followed undoubtedly and the loyal slaveholders in all of the border States would have received pay for their slaves.’
“Gen. Henderson was asked if he remember what the compensation would have amounted to in the case of the Missouri slaveholders.
“‘Yes,’ he replied, ‘I recollect quite distinctly the calculation I made at the time.  I found that the amount which the Government would have turned over to Missouri under the terms of the bill finally agreed upon would have paid the loyal owners in my State $300 for each slave – man, woman or child.  That I considered a pretty good price, for, while we were legislating, the emancipation proclamation had gone into effect, and it was very evident to my mind that slavery was doomed, even among those slaveholders who had remained loyal.’”

Published in: on June 19, 2012 at 12:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

President Discusses Emancipation

June 18, 1862

Illinois Senator Orville H. Browning writes: “Before I was up this morning the President sent his carriage for me to out to Soldiers Home to breakfast with him.  I called by Willard’s Hotel and took out the great New York Merchant A T Stewart, and Judge Hilton of New York.   We were out there until 10 ½ A.M. and then drove in with the President, and his little son Tom, who came to see, and play with Emma.   The conversation at the Presidents was chiefly on public affairs.  Mr Stewart is very earnest in his support of the Union cause, and urged that McClelland should be superceded and Gel Pope given the command of the Army of the Potomac.  He had no confidence in McClellan   During the conversation the President stated, what he on several previous occasions communicated to me, that his opinion always had been that the great fight should have been at Manassas — that he would entrench at York Town, and we would have the same difficulties to encounter there — that McClellan was opposed to fighting at Manassas, and he, the President, then called a Council of twelve generals, and submitted his proposition for fight at Manassas to them, and that eight of them decided against him, and four concurred with him, of whom Heintzelman was one.  The majority being so great against him he yielded, but subsequent events had satisfied him he was right.”

            Vice President Hannibal Hamlin was not a close confidant of the president, but as he later recalled, he visits President Lincoln this day prior to leaving Washington for the summer.   Lincoln essentially orders Hamlin to stay as he wants to talk to him that night at the Soldiers Cottage in northeast Washington where Lincoln stayed on warm summer nights.   “Well, Mr. President, if you have any commands for me, of course I will stay,” Hamlin tells Lincoln.    ‘I want you to go with me to the Soldiers’ Home tonight.  I have something to show you,” says the President.

After a horseback ride escorted by a cavalry escort and dinner together, the president and vice president meet in the library of the Soldiers’ Home.   Although historians have disputed his account, Hamlin recalls that Lincoln reads him a draft of the Emancipation Proclamation that would be issued in September.   “Hamlin, you have often urged me to issue a proclamation of emancipation.  I am about to do it.  I have it here, and you will be the first person to see it,” Lincoln reportedly tells the vice president.  He then reads the document, requesting Hamlin to suggest changes – two of which the President reportedly agrees to.  Lincoln “was much moved at the step he was taking,’ Hamlin later remembers.

President Lincoln writes General George B. McClellan: “Yours of last night just received, and for which I thank you.  If large re-inforcements are going from Richmond to Jackson, it proves one of two things, either that they are very strong at Richmond, or do not mean to defend the place desperately.  On reflection, I do not see how re-inforcements from Richmond to Jackson could be in Gordon’sville as reported by the Frenchman.  It induces a doubt whether the Frenchman & your deserters have not all been sent to deceive.”

President Lincoln writes McClellan: “Yours of to-day making it probable that Jackson has been reinforced by about ten thousand from Richmond, is corroborated by a despatch from Gen. King at Frederick’sburg, saying a Frenchman just arrived from Richmond by way of Gordons’ville, met ten to fifteen thousand passing through the latter place to join Jackson.”

If this is true, it is as good as a reinforcement to you of an equal force.  I could better dispose of things if I could know about what day you can attack Richmond, and would be glad to be informed, if you think you can inform me with safety.

McClellan telegraphs Abraham Lincoln: “I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your dispatch of today.  Our army is well over the Chickahominy except the very considerable forces necessary to protect our flanks and communications.  Our whole line of pickets in front runs within six miles of Richmond.  The rebel line runs within musket range of ours.  Each has heavy supports at hand.  A general engagement may take place any hour.  Any advance by us involves a battle more or less decisive.  The enemy exhibit at every point a readiness to meet us.  They certainly have great numbers and extensive works.  If ten or fifteen thousand men have left Richmond to reinforce Jackson it illustrates their strength and confidence.  After tomorrow we shall fight the rebel army as soon as Providence will permit.  We shall await only a favorable condition of the earth and sky & the completion of some necessary preliminaries.”

Published in: on June 18, 2012 at 12:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

President Worries… But Has Confidence in the “goodness and wisdom” of Providence

June 17, 1862

About this time, Iowa Congressman James F. Wilson visited the White House where he found President Lincoln “profoundly disturbed and greatly depressed, as were all about him. Every person was anxious for news from the army, though each feared its, coming; for it was expected to herald disaster.” Wilson later recalled:

To our question: “Mr. President, have you any news from the army?” he sadly replied: “Not one word; we can get no communication with it. I do not know that we have an army; it may have been destroyed or captured, though I cannot so believe, for it was a splendid army. But the most I can do now is to hope that serious disaster has not befallen it.”
This led to a somewhat protracted conversation relative to the general condition of our affairs. It was useless to talk about the Army of the Potomac; for we knew nothing concerning its condition or position at that moment. The conversation therefore took a wide range and touched upon the subject of slavery, about which much was said. The proposition was advanced that the nation should take immediate and resolute ground for its utter extinction from the limits of the republic. The emancipation proclamation of the President was heartily commended; but it was insisted that the proclamation did not meet the full requirements of the case, and could not be made to answer the demands of the aroused moral sense of the nation, and that, therefore, the President, Congress, and the loyal States should act together for the extermination of slavery.
The President did not participate in this conversation. He was an attentive listener, but gave no sign of approval or disapproval of the views which were expressed. At length one of the active participants remarked:
“Slavery must be stricken down wherever it exists in this country. It is right that it should be. It is a crime against justice and humanity. We have tolerated it too long. It brought this war upon us. I believe that Providence is not unmindful of the struggle in which this nation is engaged. If we do not do right I believe God will let us go our own way to our ruin. But, if we do right, I believe He will lead us safely out of this wilderness, crown our arms with victory, and restore our now dissevered Union.”
I observed President Lincoln closely while this earnest opinion and expression of religions faith was being uttered. I saw that it affected him deeply, and anticipated, from the play of his features and the sparkle of his eyes, that he would not let the occasion pass without making some definite response to it.  I was not mistaken.  Mr. Lincoln had been sitting in his chair, in a kind of weary and despondent attitude while the conversation progressed. At the conclusion of the remarks I have quoted, he at once arose and stood at his extreme height. Pausing a moment, his right arm outstretched towards the gentleman who had just ceased speaking, his face aglow like the face of a prophet, Mr. Lincoln gave deliberate and emphatic utterance to the religious faith which sustained him-in the great trial to which he and the country were subjected. He said:
“My faith is greater than yours.  I not only believe that Providence is not unmindful of the struggle in which this nation is engaged, that if we do not do right, God will let us go our own way to ruin; and that if we do right, He will lead us safely out of this wilderness, crown our arms with victory and restore our dissevered Union, as you have expressed your belief,; but I also believe He will compel us to do right, in order that He may do these things, not so much because we desire them as that they accord with His plans of dealing with this nation, in the midst of which He means to establish justice.  I think He means that we shall do more than we have yet done in the furtherance of His plans and He will open the way for our doing it.  I have felt His hand upon me in great trials and submitted to His guidance, and I trust that as He shall farther open the way, I will be ready to walk therein, relying on His help and trusting in His goodness and wisdom.’”

Illinois Senator Orville H. Browning writes: “At Presidents in the morning to see about exchange of prisoners, Buckner for Prentiss &c.   The President is most favorably inclined and the chief difficulty seems to be the objection of the Kentuckians to the exchange of Buckner.”

Published in: on June 17, 2012 at 12:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

President Lincoln Sets Straight General Frémont

June 16, 1862

President Lincoln writes General John C. Frémont: “Your despatch of yesterday reminding me of a supposed understanding that I would furnish you a corps of thirty five thousand men, and asking of me ‘the fulfillment of this understanding’ is received.  I am ready to come to a fair settlement of accounts with you on the fulfillment of understandings.

Early in March last, when I assigned you to the command of the Mountain Department, I did tell you I would give you all the force I could, and that I hoped to make it reach thirty five thousand.  You, at the same time told me that, within a reasonable time, you would seize the Railroad at, or East of, Knoxville, Tenn. if you could.  There was then in the Department a force supposed to be twentyfive thousand – the exact number as well known to you as to me.  After looking about two or three days you called and distinctly told me that if I would add the Blecker [Blencker] Division to the force already in the Department, you would undertake the job.  The B [Blenker] division contained ten thousand; and at the expense of great dissatisfaction to Gen. McClellan.  I took it from his army, and gave it to you.  My promise was literally fulfilled.  I had given you all I could, and I had given you very nearly if not quite thirtyfive thousand.
Now for yours.  On the 23rd. of May, largely over two months afterwards, you were at Franklin Va, not within three hundred miles of Knoxville, nor within eighty miles of any part of the Railroad East of it–and not moving forward, but telegraphing here that you could not move for lack of everything.  Now, do not misunderstand me.  I do not say you have not done all you could.  I presume you met unexpected difficulties; and I beg you to believe that as surely as you have done your best, so have I.  I have not the power now to fill up your corps to thirtyfive thousand.  I am not demanding of you to do the work of thirtyfive thousand.  I am only asking of you to stand cautiously on the defensive, get your force in order, and give such protection as you can to the valley of the Shenandoah, and to Western Virginia.  Have you received the order?  and will you act upon them?

Published in: on June 16, 2012 at 12:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

President Lincoln Concerned with Confederate Movements in Virginia

June 15, 1862

President Lincoln continued to deal with the demands of General John C. Frémont for assistance in the Shenandoah Valley: “We have no indefinite power of sending re-inforcements; so that we are compelled rather to consider the proper disposal of forces we have than of those we could wish to have.  We may be able to send you some dribs by degrees, but I do not believe we can do more.  As you alone beat Jackson last Sunday I argue that you are stronger than he is to-day, unless he has been re-enforced; and that he cannot have been materially re-enforced, because such re-enforcement could only have come from Richmond, and he is much more likely to go to Richmond that Richmond is to come to him.  Neither is very likely.  I think Jackson’s game – his assigned work – now is to magnify the accounts of his numbers and reports of his movements, and thus by constant alarms keep three or four times as many of our troops away from Richmond as his own force amounts to.  Thus he helps his friends at Richmond three or four times as much as if he were there.  Our game is not to allow this.  Accordingly, by the order of the 8th, I directed you to halt at Harrisonburg, rest your force, and get it well in hand, the objects being to guard against Jackson’s returning by the same route to the Upper Potomac, over which you have just drive him out, and at the same time give some protection against a raid into West Virginia.  Already I have given you discretion to occupy Mount Jackson instead, if, on full consideration, you think best. I do not believe Jackson will attack you, but certainly he cannot attack you by surprise; and if he comes upon you in superior force you by surprise; and if he comes upon you in superior force you have but to notify us, fall back cautiously, and Banks will join you in due time.  But while we know not whether Jackson will move at all, or by what route, we cannot safely put you and Banks both on the Strasburg line, and leave no force on the Front Royal line, the very line upon which he prosecuted his late raid.  The true policy is to place one of you on one line and the other on the other, in such positions that you can united on either once you actually find Jackson moving upon it.  And this is precisely what we are doing.  This protects that part of our frontier, so to speak, and liberates McDowell to go to the assistance of McClellan.  I have arranged this, and am very unwilling to have it deranged.  While you have only asked for Sigel I have spoken only of Banks, and this because Sigel’s force is now the principal part of Bank’s force.”  President Lincoln added: “About transferring General [Robert C.] Schenck’s command, the purchase of supplies, and the promotion and appointment of officers mentioned in your letter, I will consult with the Secretary of War to-morrow.”

President Lincoln writes General George B. McClellan, outside Richmond: “The night between your two late battles of Saturday and Sunday, I went earnestly to work to find a way of putting Gen. [John] Wool’s force under your control without wounding any one’s feelings.  But after all, Gen. [John A.] Dix was a little hurt at being taken from an independent command and put in a dependent one.  I could not help this without giving up the principal object of the move.  So soon as you can, (which I do not expect is yet,) I wish you to give me the benefit of your suggestions as to how an independent command can be given him without detriment.”  The rest of the letter shows that Lincoln is as concerned about protecting Washington as he is about sending reenforcements to McClellan:

The Secretary of War has turned over to me your despatch about sending [Irvin] McDowell to you by water, instead of by land.  I now fear he can not get to you either way in time.  Shields’ Division has got so terribly out of shape, out at elbows, and out at toes, that it will require a long time to get it in again.  I expect to see McDowell within a day or two, when I will again talk with him about the mode of moving.
McCall’s Division has nearly or quite reached you by now.  This, with what you get from Gen. Wool’s old command, and the new regiments sent you, must give you an increase since the late battles of over twenty thousand.  Doubtless the battles and other causes have decreased you half as much in the same time; but then the enemy have lost as many in the same way.
I believe I would come and see you, were it not that I fear my presence might divert you and the army from more important matters.

The White House has become less hectic.  Presidential aide John G. Nicolay writes: “Mrs. Lincoln moved out to the ‘Soldiers Home,’ about a mile and a half from the city this past week, so that John and I are left almost alone in the house here.  The President comes in every day at ten and goes out again at four.  I am very glad of the change for several reasons, particularly that it gives us more time to ourselves, the crowd only coming when they know the President to be about.”

Published in: on June 15, 2012 at 12:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

President Does Justice

June 14, 1862

President Lincoln directs Attorney General Edward Bates to remit a $20 fine levied against Washington restaurant owner Herman Kirchner for sending brandy to wounded soldier in a neighboring house.  As usual, the president advises Bates to act if he believes the president has legal power to act.

Published in: on June 14, 2012 at 12:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

Summer Comes to Washington

June 13, 1862

Summer clearly has arrived in Washington.  Illinois Senator Orville H. Browning writes: “At night went to Presidents — but the family had moved out to soldiers Home, and I did not see him.”  During the summer months, President Lincoln generally stayed at the Soldiers Home in Northeast Washington at night to avoid the humidity and heat at the White House.

President Lincoln writes General John C. Frémont regarding military operations in the Shenandoah Valley: “We can not afford to keep your force, and Banks, and McDowell’s, engaged in keeping Jackson South of Strasburg and Front-Royal.  You fought Jackson alone, and worsted him.  He can have no substantial reinforcement, so long as a battle is pending at Richmond.  Surely you and Banks in supporting distance are capable of keeping him from returning to Winchester.  But if Sigel be sent forward to you, and McDowell (as he must) be put to other work.  Jackson will break through at Front Royal again.  He is already on the right side of the Shenandoah to do it, and on the wrong side of it to attack you.  The orders already sent you and Banks place you and him in proper positions for the work assigned you.  Jackson can not move his whole force on either of you, before the other can learn of it, and go to his assistance.  He can not divide his force, sending part against each of you because he will be too weak for either.  Please do as I directed in order of the 8th. and my despatch of yesterday, the 12th. and neither you nor Banks will be overwhelmed by Jackson.  By proper scouts-look-outs, and beacons of smokes by day, and fires by night, you can always have timely notice of the enemies approach.  I know not as to you, but by some, this has been too much neglected.”

Lord Richard Lyons, the British Minister to Washington, visits with President Lincoln prior to leaving on a vacation.  Historian Gordon H. Warren wrote of Lyons: “The minister had flaws, but he was not incompetent and he was at least as qualified as his recent predecessors…. Unfortunately for relations between the two countries, Lyons’s dispatches produced deep unrest and a sense of impending disaster within the London cabinet.”

Published in: on June 13, 2012 at 12:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

President Lincoln Starts Reconstruction of New Orleans

June 12, 1862

Increasingly during the summer of 1862, issues regarding Louisiana preoccupy President Lincoln as he began to consider the problems of reconstruction.  With the capture of New Orleans, Lincoln needed to begin to restore federal control over the area.   Illinois Senator Orville H. Browning writes: “At 9 O’clock this morning went with Reverdy Johnson to the President to ask the appointment of Cuthbert Bullitt as collector of Customs at New Orleans.  The President had twice before told me he thought he should appoint him.  He said to us this morning that he would send for Secy [Salmon P.}Chase, and ask whether there was any reason why the appointment should not be made immediately – If there was not he would make the appointment at once.”

President Lincoln wrote General John C. Fremont regarding military conditions in the Shenandoah Valley: “Accounts which we do not credit, represent that Jackson is largely reinforced, and is turning upon you.  Stand well on your guard, get your forces well in hand, and keep us well and frequently advised; and if you find yourself really pressed by a superior force of the enemy, fall back cautiously towards, or to, Winchester, according to circumstances; and we will in, due time, have Gen. Banks in position to sustain you. Do not fallback of Harrisonburg, unless upon tolerably clear necessity.  We understand Jackson is on the other side of the Shenandoah from you, and hence can not, in any event, press you into any necessity of precipitate withdrawal.”

General George B. McClellan, operating near Rich;mond,  remained preoccupied with getting additional troops from General McDowell’s command transferred to him by water: McClellan telegraphed Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton: “In your telegram respecting reinforcements you inform me that Genl McDowell with the residue of his command will proceed overland to join me before Richmond.  I beg leave to suggest that the destruction of the RR bridges by flood & fire cannot probably be remedied in under 4 weeks, that an attempt to employ wagon transportation must involve great delay and may be found very difficult of accomplishment.  An extension of my right wing to meet him may involve serious hazard to my flank and my line of communications and may not suffice to rescue him from any peril in which a strong movement of the enemy may involve him.  I would advise that his forces be sent by water.  Even a portion thus sent would by reason of greater expedition and security and less complications of my movements probably be more servicable in the operations before Richmond.  The roads throughout the region between the Rappahannock and the James can not be relied upon and may become execrable even should they be in their best condition.  The junction of his force with the extension of my right flank can not be made without derangement of my plans and if my recent experience in moving troops be indicative of the difficulties incident of McDowell’s march the exigencies of my present position will not admit of delay.  I have ordered back all the transports used in bringing McCall’s Division, that they may be ready for service if you deem it best to employ water transportation.  I have to day moved my Head Quarters across the Chickahominy to a central position so that I can readily reach any point of attack or advance.  The enemy are massing their troops near our front, throwing up earthworks on all the approaches to Richmond and giving every indication of fight.”

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

President Lincoln Busy with Military and Fugitive Slave Issues

June 11, 1862      

The military situation in Virginia remains confused.  Union General George B. McClellan writes Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton: “I wish it to be distinctly understood that whenever the weather permits I will attack with whatever force I may have, although a larger force would enable me to gain much more decisive results.  I would be glad to have McCall’s Infantry sent forward by water at once without waiting for his Artillery & Cavalry.”

President Lincoln and Secretary of War Stanton try to stiffen the resolve of generals operating in the Shenandoah Valley.  They consistently overstate the resources available to Confederate General Stonewall Jackson.   Union General John C. Frémont writes President Lincoln: “Will you allow me to halt at Mount Jackson instead of Harrisonburg, which is not a line of defense, and exposes me to be cut off. . . . My troops are very much distressed for want of supplies.”   In response, President Lincoln writes Fremont: “Accounts which we do not credit, represent that Jackson is largely reinforced, and is turning upon you. Stand well on your guard, get your forces well in hand, and keep us well and frequently advised; and if you find yourself really pressed by a superior force of the enemy, fall back cautiously towards, or to, Winchester, according to circumstances; and we will in, due time, have Gen. Banks in position to sustain you.  Do not fall back of Harrisonburg, unless upon tolerably clear necessity. We understand Jackson is on the other side of the Shenandoah from you, and hence can not, in any event, press you into any necessity of a precipitate withdrawal.”

Jurisdiction over fugitive slaves apprehended in the District of Columbia had been split between U.S. Marshall Ward Hill Lamon and General James Wadsworth.  Lamon, a southern-born friend of Lincoln, was apt to support the rights of slaveowners.  New Yorker Wadsworth, an ardent opponent of slavery, was inclined to support the rights of the fugitives.  The two men clashed bitterly.  Illinois Senator Orville H. Browning writes: “At night went to the Presidents at his request, to meet Marshall Lamon & Genl Wadsworth, the military Governor of the District, and try to devise some mode to prevent collisions between the civil and military authorities in the execution of the fugitive slave law.  I proposed that Lamon should be permitted to execute all the writs which came to his hands, give Genl Wadsworth notice of arrest, reporting to him every day, holding each slave twenty-four hours after such report & notice — that if in the opinion of the Genl any of the slaves so arrested, belonged to rebels, and were entitled to military protection, all such should be given up by the Marshall to him — All others were to be proceeded with under the fugitive slave laws.  Both gentlemen agreed to the proposition, and the President approved it.

“I was much pleased with Genl Wadsworth.  He is a calm, sensible, just and reasonable man, intent upon doing his duty in a sensible and reasonable manner, with no tincture of fanaticism about him, but firm in his hostility to slavery and rebellion. I then went with the President down to the parlor and spent the evening with a few friends, and partook of a collation of strawberries.

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