Lincoln Administration Regroups After Defeat at Second Bull Run

August 31, 1862

Before leaving Soldiers Cottage for the White House, President Lincoln tells aide John Hay: “Well John we are whipped again, I am afraid. The enemy reinforced on [General John] Pope and drove back his left wing and he has retired to Centerville  where he says he will be able to hold his men. I dont like that expression. I dont like to hear him admit that his men need holding.”

Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles writes in his diary that Interior Secretary Caleb “Smith left whilst we were conversing after this detailed narrative, and Stanton, dropping his voice, though no one was present, said he understood from Chase that I declined to sign the protest which he had drawn up against McClellan’s continuance in command, and asked if I did not think we ought to get rid of him.  I told him I might not differ with him on that point, especially after what I had heard in addition to what I had previously know, but that I disliked the method and manner of proceeding, that it appeared to me an unwise and injudicious proceeding, and was discourteous and disrespectful to the President, were there nothing else.  Stanton said, with some excitement, he know of no particularly obligations he was under to the President, who had called him to a difficult position and imposed upon him labors and responsibilities which no man could carry, and which were greatly increased by fastening upon him a commander who was constantly striving to embarrass him in his administration of the Department.  He could not and would not submit to a continuance of this state of things.  I admitted they were bad, severe on him, and he could and had stated his case strongly, but I could not from facts within my own knowledge inform them, nor did I like the manner in which it was proposed to bring about a dismissal.  He said among other things General Pope telegraphed to McClellan for supplies; the latter informed P. they were at Alexandria, and if P. would send an escort he could have them.  A general fighting, on the field of battle, to send to a general in the rear and in repose an escort!

General George B. McClellan telegraphs Henry W. Halleck: “The occasion is grave & demands grave measure.  The question is the salvation of the country.”

I learned that our loss yesterday amounted to (15,000) fifteen thousand — we cannot afford such losses without an object.  It is my deliberate opinion that the interests of the nation demand that Pope should fall back tonight if possible and not one moment is to be lost.

I will use all the Cavalry I have to watch our right.  Pleas answer at once.  I feel confident that you can rely upon the information I give you — I shall be up all night & ready to obey any orders to you give me.

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

Cabinet Pushes to Dismiss General McClellan

August 30, 1862

Pressure begins to build to remove General George  McClellan as the Second Battle of Bull Run continues.   Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton and Secretary of Treasury Salmon P. Chase meet to produce document for cabinet to present to the president calling for McClellan’s dismissal.  Chase writes in his diary of meetings with Stanton and Attorney General Edward Bates: “Judge Bates called, and we conversed in regard to Genl. McClellan– he concurring in our judgment.  Afterwards I went to the War Department where Watson showed ma a paper expressing it.  I suggested modifications.  Afterwards saw Stanton.  He approved the modifications, and we both signed the paper.  I then took it to Secy. Welles, who concurred in judgment but thought the paper not exactly right and did not sign it.  Returned the paper to Stanton.”

Historian Marvin R. Cain wrote of Attorney General Edward Bates: “Although he opposed McClellan, his willingness to endorse the Chase-Stanton petition to bring about the General’s relief reflected in part his anxiety over the situation in Missouri.  After he read the Chasse-Stanton document, he agreed to sign it, provided he was permitted to alter any of the statements.  Chase consented, for he needed signatures.  Bates therefore prepared his version, which was a concise and brief request for McClellan’s relief in the best interests of the country.  He, Chase, Stanton, and Smith then signed it.  When Welles saw the memorandum the second time, he again refused to sign and expressed surprise at Bate’s action.  He mistakenly concluded that Stanton and Chase had exerted great pressure on the Attorney General.”

Stanton and Chase meet with opposition by Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles who feels such written pressure was inappropriate.  A second version was written by Attorney General Bates but Welles again refused to sign the next day.  Welles would write in his diary on Sunday: “Yesterday, Saturday, P.M., when about leaving the Department, Chase called on me with a protest addressed to the President, signed by himself and Stanton, against continuing McClellan in command and demanding his immediate dismissal.  Certain grave offenses were enumerated.  Chase said that Smith had seen and would sign it in turn, but as my name preceded his in order, he desired mine to appear in its place.  I told him I was not prepared to sign the document; that I preferred a different method of meeting the question; that if asked by the President, and even if not asked, I was prepared to express my opinion, which, as he knew, had long been averse to McClellan’s dilatory course, and was much aggravated from what I had recently learned at the War Department; that I did not choose to denounce McC. for incapacity, or to pronounce him a traitor, as declared in this paper, but I would say, and perhaps it was my duty to say, that I believed his removal from command was demanded by public sentiment and the best interest of the country.

Chase said that was not sufficient, that the time had arrived when the Cabinet must act with energy and promptitude, for either the Government or McClellan must go down.  He then proceeded to expose certain acts, some of which were partially known to me, and others, more startling, which were new to me.  I said to C. that he and Stanton were familiar with facts of which I was ignorant, and there might therefore be propriety in their stating what they knew, though in a different way,– facts which I could not indorse because I had no knowledge of them.  I proposed as a preferable course that there should be a general consultation with the President.  He objected to this until the document was signed, which, he said, should be done at once.

This method of getting signatures without an interchange of views with those who are associated in council was repugnant to my ideas of duty and right.  When I asked if the Attorney-General and Postmaster-General had seen the paper or been consulted, he replied not yet, their turn had not come.  I informed C. that I should desire to advise with them in so important a matter; that I was disinclined to sign the paper; did not like the proceeding; that I could not, though I wished McClellan removed after I had heard, and should have no hesitation in saying so at the proper time and place and in what I considered the right way.  While we were talking, Blair came in.  After Chase left me, he returned to make a special request that I would make no allusion concerning the paper to Blair or any one else.

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

Second Battle of Bull Run Commences

August 29, 1862

As both Union and Confederate forces maneuvered for position around Manassas, Virginia, President Lincoln struggled to figure out what was going on.  Presidential aide John Hay writes of a conversation with President Lincoln regarding General George B. McClellan: “We talked about the state of things by Bull Run and Pope’s prospect.  The President was very outspoken in regard to McClellan’s present conduct.  He said it really seemed to him that McC. wanted Pope defeated.  He mentioned to me a despatch of McC in which he proposed, as one plan of action, to “leave Pope to get out of his own scrape, and devote ourselves to securing Washington.”  He spoke also of McC’s dreadful cowardice in the matter of Chain Bridge, which he had ordered blown up the night before, but which order had been countermanded; and also of his incomprehensible interference with Franklin’s corps which he recalled once, and then when they had been sent ahead by Halleck’s sharp injunction to push them ahead to push them ahead till they whipped something or got whipped themselves.  The President seemed to think him a little crazy.  Envy, jealousy, and spite are probably a batter explanation of his present conduct.  He is constantly sending despatches to the President and Halleck asking what is his real position and command.  He acts as chief alarmist and grand marplot of the Army.”

General McClellan writes to Abraham Lincoln: “The last news I received from the direction of Manassas was from stragglers to the effect that the enemy were evacuating Centreville & retiring towards Thorofare gap.  This by no means reliable.  I am clear that one of two courses should be adopted — 1st To concentrate all our available forces to open communication with Pope — 2nd To leave Pope to get out of his scrape & at once use all our means to make the Capital perfectly safe.  No middle course will now answer.  Tell me what you wish me to do & I will do all in my power to accomplish it.  I wish to know what my orders & authority are — I ask for nothing, but will obey whatever orders you give.”  He added: “I only ask a prompt decision that I may at once give the necessary orders.  It will not do to delay longer.”

The disorder within General John Pope’s command was blamed on McClellan and his subordinates.   Historian Bruce Tap wrote: “General Herman Haupt, an associate of John Covode, provided disturbing evidence of lukewarm patriotism from Second Bull Run.  Charged with operating the Orange and Alexandria Railroad, Haupt had authority from Halleck to arrest anyone who interfered with it.  According to Haupt, many officers close to McClellan wasted two or three days trying to arrange railroad transportation when they could have marched to Poe’s aid in a day.”       The leaders of the dump-McClellan movement in Washington were Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton and Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase.

Chase writes in his diary: “The Secretary of War called on me in reference to Genl. McClellan.  He has long believed, and so have I, that Genl. McClellan ought not to be trusted with the command of any army of the Union; and the vents of the last few days have greatly strengthened our judgment.– We called on Judge Bates, who was not at home.– Called on Genl. Halleck, and remonstrated against Gen. McClellan commanding.– Secy. wrote and presented to Genl. H. a call for a report touching McC’s disobedience of orders and consequent delay of support to Army of Va. Genl. H. promised answer tomorrow morning.”

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

As Military Disaster Looms, Generals Seek to Protect their Personal Flanks

August 28, 1862

President Lincoln meets with military advisors – Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton and Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase in the morning and with General-in-chief Henry W. Halleck later.  Halleck was technically in charge of military operations, but he was quickly losing his grasp of the confusing situation – as was General John Pope operating near the site of the First Battle of Bull Run that had taken place 13 months earlier.

Peter Cozzens, biographer of General Pope, wrote: “That morning – probably as McClellan steamed back to Alexandria, satisfied that he and Halleck were in accord – Secretary of War handed Halleck a written query that read like a death sentence for the culpable, whomever he proved to be.  He wanted Halleck to tell him four things: On what data had he first ordered McClellan to quit the James River?  Was that order obeyed promptly?  Had Franklin been ordered to move to Pope’s relief?  If so, had such orders been obeyed?”  Cozzens continued in General John Pope: “Halleck set aside his duties to write a lengthy response and clear himself of any blame.  He assured the secretary he had done all he could both to prod McClellan from the Peninsula and to get Franklin started for the front.”

General McClellan sees less necessity to defend himself.  He writes his wife: “I have a great deal of hard work before me now will do my best to perform it.  I find Halleck well disposed, he has had much to contend against.  I shall keep as clear as possible of the Presdt & Cabinet — endeavor to do what must be done with Halleck alone — so I shall get on better.  Pope is in a bad way — his communications with Wash cut off & I have not yet the force at hand to relieve him.  He has nearly all the troops of my army that have arrived.   I hope to hear better news when I reach Alexdra.”  He telegraphs Halleck: “The great object is to collect the whole Army in Washington ready to defend the works & act upon the flank of any force crossing the upper Potomac.  If Pope makes this movement steps must be taken at once to build Pontoon Bridges over the Occoquan.”

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

Optimism and Pessimism Mix in Washington

August 27, 1862

President Lincoln struggles to get a handle on military operations in northern Virginia through telegrams to Generals Herman Haupt, Ambrose Burnside and George B. McClellan.  To the latter he writes: “What news from the front?”  To Burnside he writes: “Do you hear any thing from [General John] Pope?”

Despite limited optimism in Washington, the seeds of defeat have been sown.  General McClellan had been hanging back, waiting for military disaster to require his recall to power.  He writes his wife: “Our affairs here now much tangled up & I opine that in a day or two your old husband will be called upon to unsnarl them.  In the mean time I shall be very patient — do to the best of my ability whatever I am called upon to do & wait my time.  I hope to have my part of the work pretty well straightened out today — in that case I shall move up to Wash this evening.”  Peter Cozzens, biographer of Pope, wrote how McClellan’s prophecy was playing out in Washington: “That evening, Charles Francis Adams Jr….shared drinks with McClellan’s staff; nearly every officer in Washington eventually found his way to Willard’s.  What Adams heard was most sobering – and a good reflection of McClellan’s thinking.  “I am ashamed at what I hear of Pope,’ he told his father.  ‘[McClellan’s staff] say that he is a humbug and is sure to come to grief.  He has got himself into such a position that he will be crushed and Washington lost, unless McClellan saves him.  He may come out with colors flying, for he is a lucky man, but he does, he is a dangerous one, and I am advised not to connect my fortunes with his.’”

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War Clouds Gather as General Pope Stumbles

August 26, 1862

At a morning meeting, the Lincoln cabinet is “decidedly more hopeful than for some time past.” according to the Boston Advertiser.  President Lincoln trudges repeatedly from the White House to the nearby War Department to read telegrams from the war front in Virginia.

Peter Cozzens wrote in General John Pope: “August 26 was the watershed of the short life of the Army of Virginia.  Until that date, Pope handled the army commendably.   He countered Lee’s every move and from each fashioned opportunities of his own.  But Jackson’s flank march bewildered him.  For the next five days, Pope planned his actions on the basis of where Jackson and Longstreet had been, or where he hoped they would be, rather than where solid information placed them.”

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President Addresses Royal Spanish Births

August 25, 1862

Diplomacy requires the President to send two notes to Queen Isabella of Spain on births in the royal family: “I have received the letter which Your Majesty was pleased to address to me on the 28th. of May, last, announcing that the Duchess of Montpensier, Your Majesty’s beloved sister, had on the 12th. of the same month safely given birth to an Infante, upon whom, in sacred baptism, had been bestowed the names of Felipe Ramon Maria.”  In the other letter he wrote: “Great and Good Friend: I have received the letter which Your Majesty was pleased to address to me on the 18th. ultimo, announcing the birth of an Infanta upon whom had been bestowed in sacred baptism the names of Maria de la Paz Juana Amalia Adalberta Francisca de Paula Juana Bautista Isabel Francisca de Asis.”  Lincoln closed both letters: “I participate in the satisfaction afforded by this happy event, and offer to Your Majesty my sincere congratulations upon the occasion.

Black soldierswere officially accepted into the Southern Department of the Union Army under an order by Secretary Stanton to General Rufus Saxton.  Thaddeus Stevens biographer Ralph Korngold wrote of the Pennsylvania congressman: “In the meantime Stevens had made inquiries, and on August 25, 1862, wrote to Secretary [Salmon P.] Chase that the region was ‘so-unhealthy as to be wholly uninhabitable.’  He added this criticism of the President: “How unexpectedly the Pres’t is applying our appropriation for a purpose never intended by Congress.  I moved the appropriation of a half a million for general colonization purposes, but never thought new and independent colonies were to be planted – I intended it to aid in sending to Haiti, Liberia, and other places the liberated Dist. of Columbia slaves.’”

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

Emancipation and Colonization Considered as Important Battle Looms

August 24, 1862

The command structure is confused as Union forces move north to confront Confederate forces under General Robert E. Lee.     Union General George B. McClellan telegraphs General Henry W. Halleck: “Until I know what my command & position are to be, & whether you still intend to place me in the command indicated in your first letter to me, & orally through Genl Burnside at the Chickahominy I cannot decide where I can be of most use.”

At the White House, President Lincoln meets with Orestes A. Brownson, a prominent New England intellectual and editor of  Brownson’s Review.  The two men  talk about emancipation proclamation which Lincoln is contemplating  and colonization which Lincoln thinks is necessary to quell northern apprehension.   To accelerate colonization efforts, Lincoln names Kansas Senator Samuel Pomeroy as commissioner of colonization.  It would prove a poor choice.

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

War Clouds Gather While Patronage Appointments Proceed

August 23, 1862

Across the North, many Republicans are concerned with patronage appointments in the Treasury.  At the White House, President Lincoln must deal with one supplicant, Mrs. Gabriel R. Paul directly. “To-day, Mrs. Major Paul, of the Regular Army calls and urges the appointment of her husband as a Brig– Genl.  She is a saucy woman and I am afraid she will keep tormenting till I may have to do it,” writes the president, who will eventually appoint her husband as a brigadier general the next month.

New York Republican boss Thurlow Weed writes his friend, Secretary of State William H. Seward about President Lincoln’s response to New York Tribune Horace Greeley: “I take heart and hope from the Presidents Letter to Greely [sic]. It clear[s[ the atmosphere, and gives ground to stand on.  The ultras were undermining. They were getting the Administration into false position.   But it is all right now.”

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

Emancipation Preoccupies President

August 22, 1862

President Lincoln announces to Cabinet that he has drafted Emancipation Proclamation P

Historian Allan Nevins wrote that “on August 22, in the most historic of Cabinet meetings, he made the momentous announcement that he had drafted an emancipation proclamation.  Seward and Welles were of course prepared, but the others were taken aback.  The apparent suddenness of the step bewildered one or two, and its boldness startled others.   Even Stanton had never proposed going as far as a general emancipation in rebellious territory.  He and Welles rallied to the defense of emancipation in rebellious territory.  He and Welles rallied to the defense of the proposal.  Chase promised to give the measure cordial support, but as he was fearful of slave insurrections, he thought that emancipation could be accomplished more safely by directing the commanders of departments to proclaim it as soon as feasible, and allowing generals in the field to arm and organize slaves.  Montgomery Blair, coming in late, gave a response characteristic of his political-minded family: he apprehended that the proclamation would have a bad effect on the fall elections.”

Lincoln also responds to New York Tribune editor Horace Greeley’ “Prayer of Twenty Millions” editorial  in an open letter – which he sends first to the National Intelligencer in Washington  for publication.  The president appears to dismiss pressure for emancipation even as he himself is planning it:“I have just read yours of the 19th, addressed to myself through the New York Tribune. If there be in it any statements, or assumptions of fact, which I may know to be erroneous, I do not now and here controvert them. If there be in it any inferences which I may believe to be falsely drawn, I do not now and here argue against them. If there be perceptible in it an impatient and dictatorial tone, I waive it in deference to an old friend whose heart I have always supposed to be right.”  Lincoln proceeds to emphasize “union” as the preeminent goal of the Civil War:

As to the policy I “seem to be pursuing,” as you say, I have not meant to leave any one in doubt.

I would save the Union. I would save it the shortest way under the Constitution. The sooner the national authority can be restored the nearer the Union will be “the Union as it was.” If there be those who would not save the Union unless they could at the same time save slavery, I do not agree with them. If there be those who would not save the Union unless they could at the same time destroy slavery, I do not agree with them. My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would also do that. What I do about slavery and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save th ise Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union. I shall do less whenever I shall believe what I am doing hurts the cause, and I shall do more whenever I shall believe doing more will help the cause. I shall try to correct errors when shown to be errors; and I shall adopt new views so fast as they shall appear to be true views.

I have here stated my purpose according to my view of official duty; and I intend no modification of my oft-expressed personal wish that all men every where could be free.

Historian Robert S. Harper wrote:  “Lincoln’s motive in choosing the National Intelligencer to carry his answer to Greeley raises an interesting question.  Edited by the distinguished William W. Seaton, it was one of Lincoln’s favorite newspapers from early manhood, but with all its former nationalism it was only lukewarm to the Lincoln administration and made no secret of its sympathy for the slavery system.  Lincoln might have chosen it to tease Greeley.”

From Falmouth, Virginia, General Ambrose Burnside reports to President Lincoln that General Fitz John “Porter is here with nearly all of his corps The remainder will probably be here by twelve oclock today– [John] Reynolds with Penna Reserves is well on his way up to Pope and I am shoving Porters Corps as rapidly as possible to Pope. A large portion of the Reserve Artillery has arrived and a proper proportion will move with each body of troops. All quiet in our front A messenger from Reno this moment arrived states that the Enemy is massing large bodies of troops at Kellys ford and at 6.30 AM heavy firing was heard in direction of Pope You may rely on my pushing troops rapidly as possible.”

General George B. McClellan writes: “Franklin ought to have been off nearly by this time, but he & Smith have so little energy that I fear they will be very slow about it.  They have disappointed me terribly — I do not at all doubt Franklin’s loyalty now, but his efficiency is very little — I am very sorry that it has turned out so….There sending for me to go to Washn only indicates a temporary alarm — if they are at all reassured you will see that they will soon get rid of me.  I shall be only too happy to get back to quiet life again.”

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