General McClellan and President Lincoln Exchange Telegrams

October 26, 1862

Presidential assistant John G. Nicolay writes fellow aide John Hay: “Nothing new of importance.  The treadmill goes round as usual.  The President keeps poking sharp sticks under little Mac’s ribs, and has screwed up his courage to the point of beginning to cross the [Potomac] river today.”  General George B. McClellan writes his wife: “I moved a respectable number of troops across the Potomac today — the beginning of the general movement, which will however require several days to accomplish — for the cavalry is still terribly off.  I was mad as a ‘march hare’ yesterday at a telegram received from the Presdt asking what my ‘cavalry had done since the battle of Antietam to fatigue anything’ — it was one of those dirty little flings that I can’t get used to when they are not merited.”

President Lincoln follows up to his inquiry regarding the health of horses in the Army of the Potomac: “Yours in reply to mine about horses received. Of course you know the facts better than I, still two considerations remain. Stuart’s cavalry outmarched ours, having certainly done more marked service on the Peninsula, and everywhere since. Secondly, will not a movement of our army be a relief to the cavalry, compelling the enemy to concentrate, instead of “foraging” in squads everywhere?”  He added: “I am so rejoiced to learn from your despatch to Gen. Halleck, that you begin crossing the river this morning.”

President Lincoln was also perturbed by military inaction in Kentucky. Presidential aide Nicolay writes his finance: “The President is subjected to all sorts of annoyances.  Going into his room this morning to announce the Secretary of War, I found a little party of Quakers holding a prayer-meeting around him, and he was compelled to bear the infliction until the ‘spirit’ moved them to stop.  Isn’t it strange that so many and such intelligent people often have so little common sense.”

About this date, English Quaker Eliza P. Gurney, conducts a prayer meeting at the White House.  Historian Wayne C. Temple observed in that she “was an English Quaker, a writer on religious matters and a philanthropist.  She ended the audience by kneeling and praying for God to guide Abraham Lincoln.”  Lincoln writes Gurney: “I am glad of this interview, and glad to know that I have your sympathy and prayers. We are indeed going through a great trial—a fiery trial. In the very responsible position in which I happen to be placed, being a humble instrument in the hands of our Heavenly Father, as I am, and as we all are, to work out his great purposes, I have desired that all my works and acts may be according to his will, and that it might be so, I have sought his aid—but if after endeavoring to do my best in the light which he affords me, I find my efforts fail, I must believe that for some purpose unknown to me, He wills it otherwise If I had had my way, this war would never have been commenced; If I had been allowed my way this war would have been ended before this, but we find it still continues; and we must believe that He permits it for some wise purpose of his own, mysterious and unknown to us; and though with our limited understandings we may not be able to comprehend it, yet we cannot but believe, that he who made the world still governs it.”

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

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