Military Matters, Large and Small, Concern President

August 21, 1862 

General Ambrose Burnside responds to President Lincoln’s request for information on the status of transfer of Union troops from near Richmond to near Washington: “Telegram received1 two brigades of Porters corps arrived with Tylers heavy artillery of over forty (40) pieces. A large number of steamers in sight below Acquia. Will telegraph what troops are on board as soon as I learn. Over six thousand (6000) troops were landed yesterday and I hope double that will be landed today All that I cant land here at once I will send to Alexandria.”

President Lincoln writes Secretary of War Gideon Welles: “Under the authority vested in me by the Act approved July 14, 1862. I have “selected the following candidates from the Sons of officers or soldiers who distinguished themselves in the service of the United States” &c. for admission into the Naval Academy as Midshipmen:

1 H. Livingston Mansfield.

2 James McB. Stembel,

3 Wm H. Emory,

4 R. M. Cutts,

5 Morris A. Mackenzie,

6 George Mansfield Totten, and

7 Henry W. Wessells,

Confederate War Department authorizes Generals David Hunter and John Phelps to be held, if captured, for execution for their role in authorizing recruitment of black Union troops.

Published in: on August 21, 2012 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

New York Tribune Editor Publishes Open Letter to President Lincoln

August 20, 1862

New York Tribune Editor Horace Greeley publishes open letter to President Lincoln entitled “The Prayer of Twenty Millions” urging emancipation.  Prior to that letter, President Lincoln  met with James Gillmore who had met with Greeley:

‘I infer from the recent tone of the Tribune that you are not always able to keep Brother Greeley in the traces,’ said Lincoln.

No, Gilmore admitted, he wasn’t.  But he said that Greeley’s new managing editor, Sidney H. Gay, with whom he had been dealing, had at least ‘softened Mr. Greeley’s wrath on several occasions.’

‘What is he so wrathy about?’ asked the President — according to Gilmore’s account.

‘The slow progress of the war — what he regards as the useless destruction of life and property, and especially your neglect to make a direct attack upon slavery,’ said Gilmore.  ‘On this last point I am told by Mr. gay that he is now meditating an appeal to the country, which will force you to take a decided position.’

‘Why does he not come here and have a talk with me?’ asked the President.

Gilmore answered that Greeley refused to come and had said that he didn’t want to have Abraham Lincoln presuming to act as advisory editor of the New York Tribune.  Would it be all right for Gilmore himself to run up to New York and tell Greeley about the forthcoming Emancipation Proclamation, in order to head off a Tribune storm?

At first the President was reluctant. He said he feared Greeley’s ‘passion for news.’  He may also have feared that Greeley, if told the full story of this all-important document, might blackmail the White House into issuing it at once. Yet finally he agreed to let Gilmore go.

Gilmore started at once for New York.  When he arrived next morning he picked up a copy of the day’s Tribune.  There he found splashed across its editorial page. Under the startling heading, ‘The Prayer of Twenty Millions,’ a lengthy open letter addressed by Horace Greeley to President Lincoln, and beginning….

Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles writes in his diary: “Had a conversation with the President in relation to W.D. Porter, who was the efficient officer that attacked and destroyed the Rebel armored ram Arkansas. Porter is a bold, brave man, but reckless in many respects, and popular, perhaps not without reason, in the service.  He has been earnest and vigorous on the Mississippi, and made himself.  The Advisory Board under the late law omitted to recommend him for promotion.  It was one of the few omissions that I regretted, for whatever the infirmities of the man I recognize his merits as an officer.

His courage in destroying the Arkansas was manifest.  Both the flag officers were delinquent in the matter of that vessel at Vicksburg, and I so wrote each of them.  Admiral Farragut cannot conceal his joy that she is destroyed, but is not ready to do full justice to Porter.

I canvassed the whole question,– the law, the proceedings, the difficulties, the man, the officer, the responsibility of promoting him and of my advising it,– yet I felt it a duty, if service rendered in battle and under fire were to govern.  The President conversed with me most fully, and said, ‘I am so satisfied that you are right generally, and in this case particularly, that I say to you, Go ahead, give Porter as you propose a Commodores’s appointment, and I will stand by you, come what may.’

New York City Congressman Fernando Wood, a former mayor who once favored secession of the city, writes President Lincoln: “The ultra radical, abolitionists of this state persistently represent me as hostile to your administration, and as in sympathy with the states in rebellion against the government I sincerely hope these allegations (false in every respect) will have no influence upon your generous mind.  They originated with the Tribune of this city and are continued by its coworkers in destruction. You cannot have forgotten my very early tender of services to you and your autographic reply, and I ask you to rely upon my support in your efforts to maintain the integrity of the union.”

Published in: on August 20, 2012 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Colonization on President’s Agenda

August 19, 1862

President Lincoln continues to deal with Treasury Department appointments for new revenue agents – especially in New York and Pennsylvania.  Typically, New York Senator Ira Harris wrote President Lincoln: “I regret that I could not have seen you again before I left town but I am obliged to go this afternoon – I have seen the list of appointments under the tax law prepared by the Secretary of the Treasury for the State of New York – They are with one or two exceptions entirely satisfactory.”

Ambrose W. Thompson writes President Lincoln to push action on his Chiriqui Improvement Company to colonize freed slaves in the Panama section of Colombia: “There is an absolute necessity that colonization, if intended to be made, should be commenced without further delay — or it will result badly. The rainy season begins there about the 15th November – If emigrants are not there and some houses erected before the rains set in, they will be too much discouraged to do anything. The rainy season is also the time for planting & producing.  There are enough of colonists as I am informed, ready and anxious to go – immediately or as soon as a vessel can be made ready – Will you see me tomorrow or this evening & see if we can arrange matters?”  On September 11, President Lincoln approved a contract with Thompson’s company although there was evident that Thompson vastly oversold the advantages of Panama for colonization.

Published in: on August 19, 2012 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Dinner at the White House

Monday, August 18, 1862

In addition to handling military appointments, President Lincoln arranges to dine with four Union officers recently released from Confederate custody along with General Halleck and Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton.

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Colonization Discussion Continues

August 17, 1862

J. R. S. Van Vleet, associate editor of National Republican, writes President Lincoln regarding Edward M.  Thomas, president of the Anglo African Institute for the Encouragement of Industry and Art : “The bearer of this note…was Chairman of the delegation of colored men who waited upon your Excellency, a few days ago. Mr. Thomas is an intelligent & highly respectable man, and as a mark of the estimation in which he is held by the men of color in all parts of the country, you will see that he has been selected as President of an important Institution recently established.

Mr. Thomas believes he can be of great service in forwarding your great scheme of colonization, by confering with the leading men of his color in the Northern cities, and for that purpose he desires to go, together with one of t he other members of the delegation.

The previous day, Thomas himself had written President Lincoln seeking an interview.

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President Deals with Lemons and Oranges

August 16, 1862

President Lincoln and his wife take particular concern about the welfare of Union soldiers in Washington’s many army hospitals: He writes the New York collector of customs, Hiram Barney: “Mrs. L. has $1000.00 for the benefit of the hospitals; and she will be obliged, and send the pay, if you will be so good as to select and send her two hundred dollars worth of good lemmons [sic], and one hundred dollars worth of good oranges.”

Published in: on August 16, 2012 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Senator Charles Sumner Provides Insight into President Lincoln’s Policies

August 5, 1862

Senator Charles Sumner was one of the foremost advocates of emancipation in Congress and a frequent lobbyist for emancipation at the White House.  Sumner writes to an English friend: “After a few days in Washington, to see the Presdt & cabinet, I have come home –  glad of a little rest, but find new cares here.  Our session has been very busy; I doubt if any legislative body ever acted on so many important questions.  You who follow our [fortunes?] so kindly, doubtless know what has been done for freedom –  for reform generally, &, also in the way of organizing our forces & providing means.  There have been differences of opinion on questions of policy –  especially on Slavery.  This was to be expected.  But the Bill of Confiscation & Liberation, which was at last passed, under pressure from our reverses at Richmond, is a practical Act of Emancipation.  It was only in this respect that I [valued] it.  The Western men were earnest for reaching the property of the rebels.  To this I was indifferent except so far as it was necessary to break up the strongholds of slavery.

“I wish that the Cabinet was more harmonious, & that the Presdt. had less vis inertia.  He is hard to move.  He is honest but inexperienced.  Thus far he has been influenced by the Border States.  I urged him on the 4th July to put forth an edict of Emancipation, telling him he could make the day more sacred & historic than ever.  He replied –  “I would do it if I were not afraid that half the officers would fling down their arms & three more States would rise.”  He is plainly mistaken about the officers & I think also with regard to the States.  In the cabinet, Chase, who enjoys & deserve public confidence more than any other member, also the Secy of War & Secy of the Navy, are for this policy.– The last for call for 300,000 men is recd. by the people with enthusiasm, because it seems to shew a purpose to push the war vigorously.

There is no thought in the cabinet or the Presdt. of abandoning the contest.  Of this be sure It will be pushed to the full extent of all the resources of the Republic including, of course, the slaves.  Strange, it seems to me, that I, who so sincerely accept the principles of Peace, should be mixed up in this terrible war.  But I see no way except to go forward; nor do I see any way in which England can get cotton speedily except through our success.  England ought to help us with her benedictions; for she is interested next to ourselves.  But her adverse sympathies help us off the good day.  All here are grateful to you, for yr strong & noble words.  God bless you!  I say with all my heart.

Published in: on August 15, 2012 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

President Discusses Patronage and Cabinet Appointments

August 15, 1862

After meeting at the White House about personnel matters in Connecticut, Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles writes of the way that President Lincoln chose his cabinet after consultation with Vice President-elect Hannibal Hamlin:  “The President said he had a slight acquaintance with Mr. H. himself.  Had met him in Illinois and knew him as a friend of mine.  Had met him in Illinois and knew him as a friend of mine.  Had received letters from him expressing regard for me, and one signed jointly by H. and Senator Dixon.  But these gentlemen did not originate his action in relation to my appointment.  ‘The truth is,’ said he,– ‘and I may as well state the facts to you, for others know them,– on the day of the Presidential election, the operator of the telegraph in Springfield placed his instrument at my disposal.  I was there without leaving, after the returns began to come in, until we had enough to satisfy us how the election had gone.  This was about two in the morning of Wednesday.  I went home, but not to get much sleep, for I then felt, as I never had before, the responsibility that was upon me.  I began at once to feel that I needed support,– others to share with me the burden.  This was on Wednesday morning, and before the sun went down I had made up my Cabinet.  It was almost the same that I finally appointed.  One or two changes were made, and the particular position of one or two was unsettled.  My mind was fixed on Mr. Welles as the member from New England on that Wednesday.  Some other names passed through my thought, and some persons were afterwards pressed upon me, but the man and the place were fixed in my mind then, as it now is.  My choice was confirmed by Mr. H., by Senator Dixon, Preston King, Vice-President Hamlin, Governor Morgan, and others, but the selection was my own, and not theirs, and Mr. H. is under a mistake in what he says.’”

Published in: on August 15, 2012 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Delegation of Black Leaders Visits President Lincoln

August 14, 1862

Preparing for issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation, President Lincoln asked a number of African-American leaders to meet with him at the White House.   He clearly wanted to send a message to white northerners as much as he wanted to send a message to free blacks about potential colonization.  The New York Tribune reported that the members of the group “were introduced by the Rev. J. Mitchell, Commissioner of Emigration. E. M. Thomas, the Chairman, remarked that they were there by invitation to hear what the Executive had to say to them. Having all been seated, the President, after a few preliminary observations, informed them that a sum of money had been appropriated by Congress, and placed at his disposition for the purpose of aiding the colonization in some country of the people, or a portion of them, of African descent, thereby making it his duty, as it had for a long time been his inclination, to favor that cause; and why, he asked, should the people of your race be colonized, and where? Why should they leave this country? This is, perhaps, the first question for proper consideration. You and we are different races. We have between us a broader difference than exists between almost any other two races. Whether it is right or wrong I need not discuss, but this physical difference is a great disadvantage to us both, as I think your race suffer very greatly, many of them by living among us, while ours suffer from your presence. In a word we suffer on each side. If this is admitted, it affords a reason at least why we should be separated. You here are freemen I suppose.

A VOICE: Yes, sir.

The President – Perhaps you have long been free, or all your lives. Your race are suffering, in my judgment, the greatest wrong inflicted on any people. But even when you cease to be slaves, you are yet far removed from being placed on an equality with the white race. You are cut off from many of the advantages which the other race enjoy. The aspiration of men is to enjoy equality with the best when free, but on this broad continent, not a single man of your race is made the equal of a single man of ours. Go where you are treated the best, and the ban is still upon you.

I do not propose to discuss this, but to present it as a fact with which we have to deal. I cannot alter it if I would. It is a fact, about which we all think and feel alike, I and you. We look to our condition, owing to the existence of the two races on this continent. I need not recount to you the effects upon white men, growing out of the institution of Slavery. I believe in its general evil effects on the white race. See our present condition– the country engaged in war!—our white men cutting one another’s throats, none knowing how far it will extend; and then consider what we know to be the truth. But for your race among us there could not be war, although many men engaged on either side do not care for you one way or the other. Nevertheless, I repeat, without the institution of Slavery and the colored race as a basis, the war could not have an existence.

It is better for us both, therefore, to be separated. I know that there are free men among you, who even if they could better their condition are not as much inclined to go out of the country as those, who being slaves could obtain their freedom on this condition. I suppose one of the principal difficulties in the way of colonization is that the free colored man cannot see that his comfort would be advanced by it. You may believe you can live in Washington or elsewhere in the United States the remainder of your life [as easily], perhaps more so than you can in any foreign country, and hence you may come to the conclusion that you have nothing to do with the idea of going to a foreign country. This is (I speak in no unkind sense) an extremely selfish view of the case.

But you ought to do something to help those who are not so fortunate as yourselves. There is an unwillingness on the part of our people, harsh as it may be, for you free colored people to remain with us. Now, if you could give a start to white people, you would open a wide door for many to be made free. If we deal with those who are not free at the beginning, and whose intellects are clouded by Slavery, we have very poor materials to start with. If intelligent colored men, such as are before me, would move in this matter, much might be accomplished. It is exceedingly important that we have men at the beginning capable of thinking as white men, and not those who have been systematically oppressed.

There is much to encourage you. For the sake of your race you should sacrifice something of your present comfort for the purpose of being as grand in that respect as the white people. It is a cheering thought throughout life that something can be done to ameliorate the condition of those who have been subject to the hard usage of the world. It is difficult to make a man miserable while he feels he is worthy of himself, and claims kindred to the great God who made him. In the American Revolutionary war sacrifices were made by men engaged in it; but they were cheered by the future. Gen. Washington himself endured greater physical hardships than if he had remained a British subject. Yet he was a happy man, because he was engaged in benefiting his race—something for the children of his neighbors, having none of his own.

The colony of Liberia has been in existence a long time. In a certain sense it is a success. The old President of Liberia, Roberts, has just been with me—the first time I ever saw him. He says they have within the bounds of that colony between 300,000 and 400,000 people, or more than in some of our old States, such as Rhode Island or Delaware, or in some of our newer States, and less than in some of our larger ones. They are not all American colonists, or their descendants. Something less than 12,000 have been sent thither from this country. Many of the original settlers have died, yet, like people elsewhere, their offspring outnumber those deceased.

The question is if the colored people are persuaded to go anywhere, why not there? One reason for an unwillingness to do so is that some of you would rather remain within reach of the country of your nativity. I do not know how much attachment you may have toward our race. It does not strike me that you have the greatest reason to love them. But still you are attached to them at all events.

The place I am thinking about having for a colony is in Central America. It is nearer to us than Liberia — not much more than one-fourth as far as Liberia, and within seven days’ run by steamers. Unlike Liberia it is on a great line of travel—it is a highway. The country is a very excellent one for any people, and with great natural resources and advantages, and especially because of the similarity of climate with your native land—thus being suited to your physical condition.

The particular place I have in view is to be a great highway from the Atlantic or Caribbean Sea to the Pacific Ocean, and this particular place has all the advantages for a colony. On both sides there are harbors among the finest in the world. Again, there is evidence of very rich coal mines. A certain amount of coal is valuable in any country, and there may be more than enough for the wants of the country. Why I attach so much importance to coal is, it will afford an opportunity to the inhabitants for immediate employment till they get ready to settle permanently in their homes.

If you take colonists where there is no good landing, there is a bad show; and so where there is nothing to cultivate, and of which to make a farm. But if something is started so that you can get your daily bread as soon as you reach there, it is a great advantage. Coal land is the best thing I know of with which to commence an enterprise.

To return, you have been talked to upon this subject, and told that a speculation is intended by gentlemen, who have an interest in the country, including the coal mines. We have been mistaken all our lives if we do not know whites as well as blacks look to their self-interest. Unless among those deficient of intellect everybody you trade with makes something. You meet with these things here as elsewhere.

If such persons have what will be an advantage to them, the question is whether it cannot be made of advantage to you. You are intelligent, and know that success does not as much depend on external help as on self-reliance. Much, therefore, depends upon yourselves. As to the coal mines, I think I see the means available for your self-reliance.

I shall, if I get a sufficient number of you engaged, have provisions made that you shall not be wronged. If you will engage in the enterprise I will spend some of the money intrusted to me. I am not sure you will succeed. The Government may lose the money, but we cannot succeed unless we try; but we think, with care, we can succeed.

The political affairs in Central America are not in quite as satisfactory condition as I wish. There are contending factions in that quarter; but it is true all the factions are agreed alike on the subject of colonization, and want it, and are more generous than we are here. To your colored race they have no objection. Besides, I would endeavor to have you made equals, and have the best assurance that you should be the equals of the best.

The practical thing I want to ascertain is whether I can get a number of able-bodied men, with their wives and children, who are willing to go, when I present evidence of encouragement and protection. Could I get a hundred tolerably intelligent men, with their wives and children, to “cut their own fodder,” so to speak? Can I have fifty? If I could find twenty-five able-bodied men, with a mixture of women and children, good things in the family relation, I think I could make a successful commencement.

I want you to let me know whether this can be done or not. This is the practical part of my wish to see you. These are subjects of very great importance, worthy of a month’s study, [instead] of a speech delivered in an hour. I ask you then to consider seriously not pertaining to yourselves merely, nor for your race, and ours, for the present time, but as one of the things, if successfully managed, for the good of mankind—not confined to the present generation, but as

‘From age to age descends the lay,

To millions yet to be,

Till far its echoes roll away,

Into eternity.”

The above is merely given as the substance of the President’s remarks.

The Chairman of the delegation briefly replied that “they would hold a consultation and in a short time give an answer.” The President said: ‘Take your full time—no hurry at all.’”

Juan Napoleon Zerman, a former admiral in the Mexican and Turkish navies, writes President Lincoln: “In the month of March you appointed me Brigadier General in May the Senate confirmed that appointment, but the intrigue of foreign politicians caused a reconsideration which was Decided against me. Know with the draft you need good offecers therefor Excellence I hope you will employ a man who has forty years of experience in the military career and who is disposed to sacrifice his life for our cause and whose Services will be satisfactory to your opinion.”

Published in: on August 14, 2012 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Lincoln Meets with Delaware Leaders

August 13, 1862

As a small slaveholding Border State, Delaware did not often consume the President’s attention – except in the winter of 1861-1862 when president Lincoln sought to promote compensated emancipation of slaves in the states.  Today, a delegation of state leaders meets at the White House to discuss the state’s contribution to military affairs.  The next day, Congressman George P. Fisher, a Unionist, writes President Lincoln a followup to the White House meeting:

You requested our delegation from Delaware, that before leaving this city, they should submit to you in writing the desires of our friends in that state respecting the calls for troops. All of them except myself have left; but before leaving they desired me to express to you our views, which are as follows.

1st That the time for drafting may be extended till the 15th day of September.

2d That the 3d Delaware Regiment (now in the field) which was over and above the quota which we were called upon to furnish, prior to the recent calls might be set down to the credit of the state, as part of the quota required of her under the calls for 30 0,000 additional volunteers.

3d That Col: Grimshaw may have till the 15th day of September to fill up the 4th Delaware Regiment and that it also be credited as above.

4th That the battery of artillery now just made up by Capt Ben. Shields also be so credited.

5th That the Battalion of Cavalry, for the raising of which an order was yesterday issued to N. B. Knight Esq, when raised may be credited as above if necessary to make up the quota of additional volunteers; or if not so necessary then that it be set off against an equal number of militia called for under the recent order.

6th That none of the troops now being organized or hereafter to be raised shall be removed from the State of Delaware until after the election to be held on the 4th day of Novr next.

Let them be placed in a camp of instruction under Genl Lockwood3 who is now a brigadier with only or less than one Regiment of Maryland Home Guards under him stationed at Eastville Virginia; or if the new levies shall be removed from the state that they and the three Regts. now in the field may be allowed to return home to vote.

7th That the drafting be made under the Marshall of the district & not by Comrs. &c appointed by the Governor.

8th That the officers of the Vols. & Militia all be appointed by the War Dept. & not by the Governor.

I deem it my duty to say that with the present programme we do but waste our strength in Delaware by offering opposition to the Disunionists in Delaware at the approaching election. We have but 16,000 voters in the state all told; and of these we have sent already 2,000 men into the field if not more. The present arrangement will diminish our strength from 500 to 1000 votes. Two years ago I had only a plurality of 247 votes while the majority against me was more than 400– You may very readily see how slim will be our chances to carry the election in favor of the administration, if, in addition to the loss of voters already sustained by enlistments we now be turned over to our opponents to finish the work against us by fraudulent drafting, which we know must be the case if it be conducted by our Governor.

I feel free to add, that although I confidently expect every vote in our nominating state convention to be cast for me on Tuesday next, as at present advised I shall feel it my duty to myself to decline a canvass, in which the administration we have done all in our power to sustain shall turn us over to the fury of our enemies.

President Lincoln was not pleased by Fisher’s letter.  He would write on August 16: “I was painfully surprised by your letter, handed me by the P. M. G.; because the Secretary of War, who saw you after I did, had assured me, that you and accompanying friends, were fully satisfied with what he had undertaken to do – Since receiving your letter, I have seen him again, and he again assures me that such was his understanding–. I went over your eight points with him to see which he accepted, and which he rejected.”  Lincoln closed the letter by writing: “I do hope you will not indulge a thought which will admit of your saying the Administration turns you over to the fury of your enemies.  You certainly I know I wish your success as much as you can wish it yourself.”

Published in: on August 13, 2012 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment