Louisiana Policy Preoccupies President Lincoln

July 31, 1862

President Lincoln confronts dissent regarding Union policy in Louisiana.  He writes New York banker August Belmont, a prominent Democrat a memorable letter outlining his policy and philosophy that will guide reconstruction: “You send to Mr. [Thurlow] W[eed] an extract from a letter written at New Orleans the 9th instant, which is shown to me.  You do not give the writer’s name; but plainly he is a man of ability and probably of some note.  He says: ‘The time has arrived when Mr. Lincoln must take a decisive course.  Trying to please everybody, he will satisfy nobody.  A vacillating policy in matters of importance is the very worst.  Now is the time, if ever, for honest men, who love their country to rally to its support.  Why will not the North say officially that it wishes for the restoration of the Union as it was?’

And so, it seems, this is the point on which the writer thinks I have no policy.  Why will he not read and understand what I have said?

The substance of the very declaration he desires is in the inaugural, in each of the two regular messages to Congress, and in many, if not all, the minor documents issued by the Executive since the inauguration.

Broken eggs cannot be mended; but Louisiana has nothing to do now but to take her place in the Union as it was, barring the already broken eggs.  The sooner she does so, the smaller will be the amount of that which will be past mending.  This government cannot much longer play a game in which it stakes all, and its enemies stake nothing.  Those enemies must understand that they cannot experiment for ten years trying to destroy the government, and if they fail still come back into the Union unhurt.  If they expect in any contingency to ever have the Union as it was, I join with the writer in saying, ‘Now is the time.’

How much better if would have been for the writer to have gone at this, the protection of the army at New Orleans, than to have sat down in a closet writing complaining letters northward!

Belmont, who had been a strong supporter of Democratic Senator Stephen A. Douglas,  would respond on August 10: “I have the honor to acknwledge the receipt of your esteemed favor. Its contents bear the stamp of that statesmanship and patriotism which I now to have guided all your actions in the trials which this wicked rebellion has brought upon our once so happy country.

I share entirely your views with regard not only to the duty, but also the policy of the revolted States to return to their allegiance without allowing their unequal struggle against the power of the United States to increase in violence and exasperation, as it reasonably must.  Still I think that we might, perhaps, find means to remove the difficulties which the miseries of civil war and the terrorism conjured up by the leaders of the rebellion, have placed in the way of conservative men, who otherwise would most gladly return to the Union.

The words conquestand subjugation have been used to good efect by our opponents.  They are words repugnant to the American ear, and while the rebel leaders can keep up to their misguided folowers the idea that the North means conquest and subjugation, I fear there is very little hope for any Union demonstration in the revolted States, however great the dissatisfaction against the Richmond government might be.

My own conviction has always been, that sooner or later we would have to come to a national convention for the reconstruction of one government over all the States.  I cannot see by what other means, even after a complete defeat of the rebel armies, a restoration of the Union can be effected.

My impression is, that such a solution would at the proper time, be acceptable to the majority of the Southern people, and I sent to Mr. Weed the letter which procured me the honor of receiving your note, for the very reason that I saw in it an indication of the writer’s desire for reconstruction of the Union.  He is a very wealthy and influential planter, and I have every reason to believe that a large number of his class share his views.

A few weeks ago, and previous to the receipt of that letter, I had written to Mr. Weed, giving him my candid views on our present situation and the means which I thought the government ought to adopt.  I do not know whether he communicated to you my letter, but as you have been kind enough to evince a flattering confidence to the earnestment of my intentions, which must plead for the shortcoming of my judgment, I take the liberty of inclosing you herewith a copy of my letter to Mr. Weed, hoping that you may deem it worthy of your perusal.

The present moment may, perhaps, not be a propitious one for carrying on a negotiation in the manner in which I suggest.  As soon, however, as we shall again have a large army in the field, such as we are sure to have under your energetic measures for recruiting, then I hope that you may find in your wisdom the means of opening negotiations with our misguided fellow citizens of the South.

They must become convinced that we are fighting only for the Union, and that we cannot, in our own self-defence, as a nation, admit any other solution but the Union.  I am certain that ere long reason must prevail over sectional passion, provided that your strong hand will equally crush the secessionists of the South and the fanatical disorganizers of the North, who are dangerous to the country and its institutions.

Published in: on July 31, 2012 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

New Military Structure Leaves Command Unclear

July 30, 1862

General George B. McClellan’s command position is  becoming questionable with the appointment of Henry W. Halleck as general-in-chief and the appointment of John Pople as commander of Army of Virginia.  McClellan sees a conspiracy in Washington to replace him. writes a friend, New York lawyer Samuel Barlow: “The command was for two days persistently pressed upon a General Officer, who happened to be a true friend of mine, & declined the offer.  I know that the rascals will get rid of me as soon as they dare — they all know my opinion of them.  They are aware that I have seen through their villainous schemes, 7 that if I succeed my foot will be on their necks.”  McClellan complains:

I get no reinforcements & no information — until Halleck came I had no word from Washington, since he left I have received nothing.  I know nothing, absolutely nothing as to the plans & intentions of the Govt — but I have strong reason to believe that they literally have no plans, but are halting in a wretched state of indecision — trembling at the storm they themselves have conjured & not knowing how to quiet it.

The command of the Union armies was becoming complicated.  Historian John Sears wrote: ”Henry Halleck was a pedant and a military bureaucrat, but he was not an easy man to fool, and when he arrived back in Washington to find [a] dispatch of McClellan’s waiting for him, he threw up his hands.  Just come from the West himself, he knew very well the whereabouts of the Confederacy’s western forces, and McClellan’s absurd (and repeated) attempts to put them by the thousands in front of him at Richmond must have amazed him.  It was now all too clear to him, Halleck told his wife, that General McClellan ‘does not understand strategy and should never plan a campaign,’ and he made up his mind to follow his first instinct and withdraw the Army of the Potomac from the Peninsula.  On July 30 he telegraphed to begin evacuating the sick from Harrison’s Landing, and on August 3 he made it official: General McClellan was immediately to bring his army north to unite it with Pope’s and open a new campaign.”

The next day, General McClellan writes his wife Mary Ellen: “I commenced turning over a new leaf today — that is neither writing or telegraphing to Washn & have about determined to draw back into my shell until the oracle deigns to speak.  I have said all I well can — I have told them about all I think & know — have pointed out to them what I regard as the genl effects of the course I fear they are likely to adopt — words can no further go — by saying more & repeating what has already said I should only render myself ridiculous & a bore — so I will be silent & if they send me the order I dread (that of withdrawing this army) I will make one last desperate appeal before obeying it & then let matters take their course — confident that I have honestly endeavored to do the best I could, altho’ I may not have done as well as others could.   There is a great consolation in feeling that one has tried to do right, & not been actuated by selfish motives — of the last I know that I am free, & would say so were I even on my death bed…

I told you the result of the interview with Halleck — thus far practically nothing — not a word have I heard from Wash since his return there.  I shall not write or telegraph another word until I hear from them, unless something of great importance occurs.  I shall stand on what is left of my dignity now!!…

Published in: on July 30, 2012 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

A Quiet Day at the White House

July 29, 1862

Congress is out of session.  Most congressmen have left town    No battles to report as Union troops outside prepare for new military initiative in northern Virginia and a reorganization of the forces there with the army on the peninsula commanded by General George B. McClellan to be withdrawn.  Confederate spy Belle Boyd is arrested in Virginia.

Published in: on July 29, 2012 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

President Lincoln Considers Reployment and Recruitment of Troops

July 28, 1862

At the War Department in the morning, President Lincoln L meets with Halleck and Burnside, recently returned from meeting with General George B. McClellan.  Congressman George W. Julian recalled: “Just before leaving Washington I called on the President again, and told him I was going to take the stump, and to tell the people that he would cooperate with Congress in vigorously carrying out the measures we had inaugurated for the purpose of crushing the rebellion, and that now the quickest and hardest blows were to be dealt.  He told me I was authorized to say so, but said that more than half the popular clamor against the management of the war was unwarranted; and when I referred to the movements of General McClellan he made no committal in any way.”

President Lincoln writes Union governors: “It would be of great service here for us to know, as fully as you can tell, what progress is made, and making, in recruiting for old regiments in your State.  Also, about what day the first new regiment can move from you–what, the second, what the third, and so on.  This information is important to us in making calculations.  Please give it as promptly, and accurately as you can.”

Published in: on July 28, 2012 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

President Lincoln Preparing Statements Regarding New Orleans

July 27, 1862

Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase writes in his diary: “A telegram from Genl. Morgan this morning apprised me of his resignation, and of his wish that I would secure its promptly acceptance.  I went, therefore, to the War Department, wishing to oblige him, and also to secure Garfield’s appointment in his place…

From the War Department I went to the President’s to whom I spoke of the resignation of Morgan and of substituting Garfield, which seemed to please him.  Spoke also of the financial importance of getting rid of McClellan; and expressed the hope that Halleck would approve his project of sending Mitchell to the Mississippi.  On these points he said nothing.  I then spoke of Jones, the Sculptor, and of the fitness of giving him some Consulate in Italy, which he liked the idea of.  He read me a statement (very good) which he was preparing in reply to a letter from [Thomas J. Durant] in New-Orleans, forwarded by Bullitt.”

General George B. McClellan writes his wife: “You ask me whether I advised the Presdt to appoint Halleck — the letter of which I sent you a copy is all that ever passed on the subject, either directly or indirectly — not another word than is there written.  We never conversed on the subject — I was never informed of his views or intentions, & even now have not been officially informed of the appt.  I only know it through the newspapers.  I an all these things the Presdt & those around him have acted so as to make the matter as offensive as possible — he has not shown the slightest gentlemanly or friendly feeling & I cannot regard him as in any respect my friend — I am confident that he would relieve me tomorrow if he dare do so.  His cowardice alone prevents it.  I can never regard him with other feelings than those of thorough contempt — for his mind, heart & morality.  I can assure you that my regard for the A of P is the only feelings that induces me to remain in the service…”

Published in: on July 27, 2012 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

President Lincoln Concerned with Louisiana and Mississippi River

July 26, 1862

Senator Orville H. Browning, one of the most important sources of the record of the lincoln White House, prepares to return to Illinois.  He writes: “Went in the morning to the President and closed my business with him and took leave of him.  I read him a letter I had received from Bullitt of New Orleans complaining of Genl Phelps Administration of affairs and saying that all the union sentiment there was crushed out

He told me he had one from Reverdy Johnson to the same effect, and read me his reply to it.  He said the people there were making false pretences — that there was but little union sentiment — that they wanted the government to protect them, their property, and institutions whilst they sympathized with and aided treason and rebellion — that it should not be done.  If they were tired of Genl Phelps administration they knew how to get rid of it by returning to their allegiance and submitting to the authority of the government, and if they did not do so, and he could send any heavier scourge upon them than Genl Phelps they had better be looking out for it.  I had with me a letter from Wm M. Thayer author of the Bobbin boy asking me for anecdotes of the President that he might prepare a similar biography of him.  I read him a portion of the letter and he asked me leave it with him which I did.

President Lincoln meet with General George F. Shepley, military governor of Louisiana.   Afterwards, he replies to a letter from Maryland politician Reverdy Johnson, that Shepley had delivered: “My Dear Sir.  Yours of the 16th. by the hand of Governor Shepley is received.  It seems the Union feeling, in Louisiana is being crushed out by the course of General Phelps.  Please pardon me for believing that is a false pretense.  The people of Louisiana – all intelligent people every where – know full well, that I never had a wish to touch the foundations of their society, or any right of theirs.  With perfect knowledge of this, they forced a necessity upon me to send armies among them, and it is their own fault, not mine, that they are annoyed by the presence of General Phelps.  They also know the remedy – know how to be cured of General Phelps.  Remove the necessity of his presence.  And might it not be well for them to consider whether they have not already had time enough to do this?  If they can conceive of anything worse than General Phelps, within my power, would they not better be looking out for it?  They very well know the way to avert this is simply to take their place in the Union upon the old terms.  If they will not do this, should they not receive harder blows rather than lighter ones?

You are ready to say I apply to friends what is due only to enemies.  I distrust the wisdom if the sincerity of friends, who would hold my hands while my enemies stab me.  This appeal of professed friends has paralyzed me more in this struggle than any other one thing.  You remember telling me the day after Baltimore mob in April 1861, that it would crush all Union feeling in Maryland for me to attempt bringing troops over Maryland soil to Washington.  I brought the troops notwithstanding, and yet there was Union feeling enough left to elect a Legislature the next autumn which in turn elected a very excellent Union U.S. Senator!

I am a patient man – always willing to forgive on the Christian terms of repentance; and also to give ample time for repentance.  Still I must save this government if possible.  What I cannot do, of course, I will not do; but it may as well be understood, once for all, that I shall not surrender this game leaving any available card unplayed.

President Lincoln also wrote New Orleans attorney Cuthbert Bullitt, who would later be appointed by Lincoln as collector of customs at new Orleans in response to a letter that Bullitt had delivered to Lincoln: “The copy of a letter addressed to yourself by Mr. Thomas J. Durant, has been shown to me.  The writer appears to be an able, a dispassionate, and an entirely sincerely man.  The first part of the letter is devoted to an effort to show that the Secession Ordinance in Louisiana was adopted against the will of a majority of the people.  This is probably true; and in that fact may be found some instruction.  Why did they allow the Ordinance to go into effect?  Why did they not assert themselves?  Why stand passive and allow themselves to be trodden down by a minority?  Why did they not hold popular meetings, and have a convention of their own, to express and enforce the true sentiment of the state?  If preorganization was against them then, why not do this now, that the United States Army is present to protect them?  The paralysis–the dea palsy–of the government in this whole struggle is, that this class of men will do nothing for themselves, except demanding that the government shall not strike its open enemies, lest they be struck by accident!

Mr Durant complains that in various ways the relation of master and slave is disturbed by the present of our Army; and he considers it particularly vexatious that this, in part, is done under cover of an act of Congress, while constitutional guaranties are suspended on the plea of military necessity.  The truth is, that what is done, and omitted, about slaves, is done and omitted on the same military necessity.  It is a military necessity to have men and money; and we can get neither, in sufficient numbers, or amounts, if we keep from, or drive from, our lines, slaves coming to them.  Mr. Durant cannot be ignorant of the pressure in this direction; nor of my efforts to hold it within bounds till he, and such as he shall have time to help themselves.

I am not posted to speak understandingly on all the police regulations of which Mr. Durant complains.  If experience shows any one of them to be wrong, let them to be set right.  I think I can perceive, in the freedom of trade, which Mr. Durant urges, that he would relieve both friends and enemies from the pressure of the blockade.  By this he would serve the enemy more effectively than the enemy is able to serve himself.  I do not say or believe that to serve the enemy is the purpose of Mr. Durant; or that he is conscious of any purpose of Mr. Durant; or that he is conscious of any purpose, other than national and patriotic ones.  Still, if there were a class of men who, having no choice of sides in the contest, were anxious only to have quiet and comfort for themselves while it rages, and to fall in with the victorious side at the end of it, without loss to themselves, their advice as to the mode of conducting the contest would be precisely such as his is.  He speaks of no duty–apparently thinks of none–resting upon Union men.  He even thinks it injurious to the Union cause that they should be restrained in trade and passage without taking sides.  They are to touch neither a sail nor a pump, but to be merely passengers, –dead-heads at that–to be carried snug and dry, throughout the storm, and safely landed right side up.  Nay, more; even a mutineer is to go untouched les these sacred passengers receive an accidental wound.

Of course the rebellion will never be suppressed in Louisiana, if the professed Union men there will neither help to do it, nor permit the government to do it without their help.

Now, I think the true remedy is very different from what is suggested by Mr. Durant.  It does not lie in rounding the rough angles of the war, but in removing the necessity for the war.  The people of Louisiana who wish protection to person and property, have but to reach forth their hands and take it.  Let them, in good faith, reinaugurate the national authority, and set up a State Government conforming thereto under the constitution.  They know how to do it, and can have the protection of the Army while doing it.  The Army will be withdrawn so soon as such State government can dispense with its presence, and the people of the State can then upon the old Constitutional terms, govern themselves to their own liking.  This is very simple and easy.

If they will not do this, if they prefer to hazard all for the sake of destroying the government, it is for them to consider whether it is probable I will surrender the government save them from losing all.  If they decline what I suggest, you scarcely need to ask what I will do.  What would you do in my position?  Would you drop the war where it is?  Or, would you prosecute it in future, with elder-stalk squirts, charged with rose water?  Would you deal lighter blows rather than heavier ones?  Would you give up the contest, leaving any available means unapplied.

I am in boastful mood.  I shall not do more than I can, and I shall do all I can to save the government, which is my sworn duty as well as my personal inclination.  I shall do nothing in malice.  What I deal with is too vast for malicious dealing.

George B. McClellan continues to press the possibility of taking Richmond if he can only receive reinforcements.  He writes General  Henry W. Halleck: Can you not possibly draw 15,000 or 20,000 men from the West to reinforce me temporarily?  They can return the moment we gain Richmond.  Please give weight to this suggestion — I am sure it merits it.”

Published in: on July 26, 2012 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

President Lincoln Worries about the Mississippi; Acts Against Insurrection

July 25, 1862

President Lincoln goes to War Department in the morning to discuss the military situation along the Mississippi River and how to open it to Union transportation.  When he arrives at his office on the second floor of the White House, Lincoln tells the two dozen people waiting for him: “You all want to see me on business; it is a matter of no importance to me whether I spend my time with half a dozen or with the whole of you, but it is of importance to you. Therefore, when you come in, please don’t stay long

Illinois Orville H. Browning writes that he “went to the Presidents and sat in his room til near 12 O’clock, but he was at the War Department and did not return whilst I remained   In the evening Mrs Browning and I rode out to the Soldiers Home to take leave of the President and his family as we intend to start home on Monday   We took Lieut De Krafft of the Navy and Mrs. Watts of Santafe with us.”

“The President told me that Genl Halleck had gone to the army at James River, and was to have supreme command of the entire army — that he was satisfied McClellan would not fight and that he had told Halleck so, and that he could keep him in command or not as he pleased.  That if by magic he could reinforce McClellan with 100,000 men to day he would be in an ecstacy over it, thank him for it, and tell him that he would go to Richmond tomorrow, but that when tomorrow came he would telegraph that he had certain information that the enemy had 400,000 men, and that he could not advance without reinforcements.

In speaking of our foreign relations he said England wanted us to permit her to get $50,000,000 worth of Cotton from the South and that the matter was being considered, but that we could not let the cotton out without letting its value in, and in this way we would never succeed in crippling them much in their resources.

The President issues a “Proclamation of the Act to Suppress Insurrection: “In pursuance of the sixth section of the act of Congress entitled ‘An act to suppress insurrection, and to punish treason and rebellion, to seize and confiscate property of rebels, and for other purposes,’  Approved July 17, 1862; and which act, and the Joint Resolution explanatory, thereof, are herewith published; I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the Untied States, do hereby proclaim to, and warn all persons within the contemplation of said sixth section to cease participating in, aiding, countenancing, or abetting the existing rebellion, or any rebellion, against the government of the United States, and to return to their proper allegiance to the United States, on pain of the forfeitures and seizures, as within, and by said sixth section provided.”

Published in: on July 25, 2012 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

President Lincoln Focuses on the Use of Former Slaves to Win the War

July 24, 1862

New General-in-Chief Henry W. Halleck heads off to meet with General George B. McClellan, commander of the Army of the Potomac.  President Lincoln is focused farther west.  Illinois Orville H. Browning writes that he “went to the Presidents and had an interview with him.  He took a map and pointed out the Counties on each side of the River from Memphis down, showing me that blacks averaged 75 or 80 to 20 whites – Spoke of the importance of having the Mississippi opened, and said, ‘I will tell you – I am determined to open it, and, if necessary will take all these negroes to open it, and keep it open’.  At this moment Mr Seward came in, whereupon I rose to leave, but he requested me to remain saying he had rather I was present than not.  He then said to the President that he wished to send Nicolay the Presidents private Secy to England with despatches to Mr Adams relative to Mexican and South American affairs.  The President assented and it was agreed he should go.  I asked Mr Seward if there was any danger of intervention in our affairs by England and France.  He said there was unless volunteering went on rapidly, and our army was greatly increased.  During the morning I told the President I wished to give him a piece of advice, – That there were many persons, and many cliques who thought they understood how public affairs should be managed better than he did and who would seek to control him, and force their opinions upon him as his rule of conduct – that the views of such would be various and conflicting – that he had, at the same time, a more comprehensive and more minute view of the entire field of public affairs than any other person could have – and that he should hear all suggestions and get all the fats that he could, and then do himself justice – make up his mind calmly deliberately, and conscientiously what was proper to be done, and adhere firmly to his own opinions, and neither to be bullied or cajoled out of them. He answered that he had done so to a greater extent than was generally supposed – that when he made up his mind to send supplies to Fort Sumter he was sustained by only two members of his cabinet Blair and Chase, and that when he determined to give the rebels at Charleston notice of his purpose the entire cabinet was against him, tho they all now admitted that he was right.”

Published in: on July 24, 2012 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

New Army Commander Reaches Washington

July 23, 1862

The new military leadership team gathered at the White House after new General-in-Chief Henry W. Halleck arrived from his former command along the Mississippi River.  Historian Curt Anders,“Once the [train] cars reached Washington on July 23, 1862, Old Brains soon found himself in a conference with Abraham Lincoln: Edwin Stanton; and, later, Major Generals John Pope and Ambrose Burnside.”  Further south, General George B. McClellan writes New York attorney Samuel L. M. Barlow: “I will briefly reply to both [recent letters] at once.  I have not been in any manner consulted as to Halleck’s appointment & it is intended as ‘a slap in the face.’  I do not think it best to reply to the lies of such a fellow as Chandler — he is beneath my notice, & if the people are so foolish as to believe aught he says I am content to lose their favor & to wait for history to do me justice.  I am in my own satisfied that I will be relieved from the command of this Army, & shall then leave the service.

I am weary, very weary, of submitting to the whims of such ‘things’ as those now over me — I have suffered as much for my country as most men have endured, & shall be inexpressibly happy to be free once more…

From a remark in your last letter I infer that you think that Burnside’s troops are under my control — they are not, he having been withdrawn from my control by the order of the Presdt — I have several times asked for him but cannot get him.

I have not received 10,00 fresh troops since I reached this place — have had none for a long time, am receiving none, & see no chance of getting any except Burnside’s.  When the Presdt was here he asked for no explanations, expressed no dissatisfaction — treated me with no confidence, & did not ask my opinion except in three questions —

1st . ‘How many troops have you left?’

2nd. ‘How many did you lose in the late actions?’

3rd. ‘Can you move this Army still further in retreat?

Published in: on July 23, 2012 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Cabinet Meeting at White House Discusses Emancipation

July 22, 1862

A Cabinet meeting at the White House discussed a proposed emancipation proclamation drafted by President Lincoln.  Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase writes: “This morning, I called on the President with a letter received some times since  from Col. Key, in which he stated that he had reason to believe that if Genl. McClellan found he could not otherwise sustain himself in Virginia, he would declare the liberation of the slaves; and that the President would not dare to interfere with the Order.  I urged upon the President the importance of an immediate change in the command of the Army of the Potomac, representing the necessity of having a General in that command who would cordially and efficiently cooperate with the movement of Pope and others; and urging a change before the arrival of Genl. Halleck, in view of the extreme delicacy of his position is this respect.  Genl. McClellan being his senior Major-General.  I said that I did not regard Genl. McClellan as loyal to the Administration, although I did not question his general loyalty to the country.

I also urged Genl. McClellan’s removal upon financial grounds. I told him that, if such a change in the command was made as would insure action to the army and give it power in the ratio of its strength, and if such measures were adopted in respect slavery as would inspire the country with confidence that no measure would be left untried which promised a speedy and successful result, I would insure that, within ten days, the Bonds of the U.S. – except the 5-20s – would be so far above par that conversions into the latter stock would take place rapidly and furnish the necessary means for carrying on the Government.  If this was not done, it seemed to me impossible to meet necessary expenses.  Already there were $10,000,000 of unpaid Requisitions, and this amount must constantly increase.

The President came to no conclusion, but said he would confer with Gen. Halleck on all these matters.  I left him, promising to return to Cabinet, when the subject of the Orders discussed yesterday would be resumed.

Went to Cabinet at the appointed hour.  It was unanimously agreed that the Order in respect to Colonization should be dropped; and the others were adopted unanimously, except that I wished North Carolina included among the States named in the first order.

The question of arming slaves was then brought up and I advocated it warmly.  The President was unwilling to adopt this measure, but proposed to issue a Proclamation, on the basis of the Confiscation Bill, calling upon the States to return to their allegiance – warning the rebels the provisions of the Act would have full force at the expiration of sixty days – adding, on his own part, a declaration of his intention to renew, at the next session of Congress, his recommendation of compensation to States adopting the gradual abolishment of slaver y– and proclaiming the emancipation of all slaves within States remaining in insurrection on the first of January, 1863.

I said that I should give to such a measure my cordial support, but I should prefer that no new expression on the subject of compensation should be made, and I thought that the measure of Emancipation could be much better and more quietly accomplished by allowing Generals to organize and arm the salves (thus avoiding depredation and massacre on the one hand, and support to the insurrection on the other) and by directing the Commanders of Departments to proclaim emancipation within their Districts as soon as practicable; but I regarded this as so much better than inaction on the subject, that I should give it my entire support.

The President determined to publish the first three Orders forthwith, and to leave the other for some further consideration.  The impression left upon my mind by the whole discussion was, that while the President thought that the organization, equipment and arming of negroes, like other soldiers, would be productive of more evil than good, he was not unwilling that Commanders should, at their discretion, arm, for purely defensive purposes, slaves coming within their lines.

Mr. Stanton brought forward a proposition to draft 50,000 men.  Mr. Seward proposed that the number should be 100,000.  The President directed that, whatever number were drafted, should be a part of the 300,000 already called for.  No decision was reached, however.

The issue of the proclamation split the cabinet.  Historian John Niven wrote that Secretary of War Edwin M. “Stanton, who urged the immediate promulgation of this order, was startled at its scope. ‘The measure goes beyond anything I have recommended,’ he jotted down hastily on a piece of note paper.  Attorney General Bates, whose inveterate conservatism sometimes took unusual turns, was the only Cabinet member who supported Stanton.  Welles remained silent.  Chase favored arming the Negroes, but he thought emancipation could be accomplished more efficiently, more quietly, and more safely by delegating it to the various theater commanders.  Seward surprised everyone by vehemently opposing the issuance of any proclamation at that time.

President Lincoln writes Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton: “I think it will be better to do nothing now which can be construed into a demand for troops in addition to the three hundred thousand for which we have recently called.  We do not need more, nor, indeed, so many, if we could have the smaller number very soon.  It is a very important consideration, too, that one recruit into an old regiment is nearly or quite equal in value to two in a  new one.  We can scarcely afford to forego any plan within our power, which may facilitate the filling of the old regiments with recruits.  If, on consideration you are of opinion that this object can be advanced, by causing the Militia of the several states to be enrolled, and by drafts therefrom, you are at liberty to take the proper steps, and do so, provided that any number of recruits so obtained from any state within the next three months, shall, if practicable, be an abatement, of the quota of volunteers from such state under the recent call.

While emancipation was discussed in Washington, new military fronts began to form in northern Virginia.  General George B. McClellan writes his wife: “I see that the [John] Pope bubble is likely to be suddenly collapsed — Stonewall Jackson is after him, & the paltry young man who wanted to teach me the art of war will in less than a week either be in full retreat or badly whipped.  He will begin to learn the value of ‘entrenchments, lines of communication & of retreat, bases of supply etc’ — they will learn bye & bye.”

Published in: on July 22, 2012 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment