General McClellan Ordered to Move Against Confederates

October 21, 1862

General-in-Chief Henry W. Halleck confers with President Lincoln about the Army of the Potomac.  Halleck telegraphs the army’s commander, General George B. McClellan, that the president “directs me to say that he has no change to make in his order of the 6th instant. If you have not been and are not now in condition to obey it, you will be able to show such want of ability. The President does not expect impossibilities, but he is very anxious that all this good weather should not be wasted in inactivity. Telegraph when you will move, and on what lines you propose.” The president jots down notes based on a report by the Adjutant General’s office:

Grand total 231,997- Of them

Fit for duty 144,662

Ab[sent]. with leave, 66,808.

General McClellan writes President Lincoln: “Since the receipt of the President’s order to move on the enemy I have been making every exertion to get this Army supplied with clothing absolutely necessary for marching.  This I am happy to say is now nearly accomplished.  I have also during the same time repeatedly urged upon you the importance of supplying Cavalry and Artillery horses to replace those broken down by hard service, and steps have been taken to insure a prompt delivery.  Our Cavalry even when well supplied with horses is much inferior in numbers to that of the enemy, but in efficiency has proved itself superior.  So forcibly has this been impressed upon our old Cavalry Regts by repeated successes that the men are fully persuaded that they are equal to twice their number of rebel Cavalry.”

Exclusive of the Cavalry force now engaged in picketing the river, I have not at present over about one thousand (1000) horses for service.  Officers have been sent in various directions to purchase horses, & I expect them soon.  Without more Cavalry horses our communications from the moment we march would be at the march of the large Cavalry forces of the enemy forces of the enemy, and it would not be possible for us to cover our flanks properly or to obtain the necessary information of the position & movements of the enemy in such a way as to insure success.  My experience has shown the necessity of a large & efficient Cavalry force.  Under the foregoing circumstances I beg leave to ask whether the President desires me to march on the enemy at once, or to await the reception of the new horses, every possible step having been taken to insure their prompt arrival.

President Lincoln write to Ulysses S. Grant and Tennessee Governor Andrew Johnson:

Major General Grant, Governor Johnson, & all having military, naval, and civil authority under the United States within the State of Tennessee.

The bearer of this, Thomas R. Smith, a citizen of Tennessee, goes to that state, seeking to have such of the people thereof as desire to avoid the unsatisfactory prospect before them, and to have peace again upon the old terms under the constitution of the United States, to manifest such desire by elections of members to the Congress of the United States particularly, and perhaps a legislature, State officers, and a United States’ Senator, friendly to their object.

I shall be glad for you and each of you to aid him, & all others acting for this object, as much as possible. In all available ways give the people a chance to express their wishes at these elections. Follow law, and forms of law as far as convenient; but at all events get the expression of the largest number of the people possible. All see how such action will connect with, and affect the proclamation of Sept. 22nd. Of course the men elected should be gentlemen of character, willing to swear support to the constitution as of old, & known to be above reasonable suspicion of duplicity.

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

President Lincoln Stymied by Army Inaction

October 20, 1862

Presidential aide John G. Nicolay writes: “We still have no exciting or startling changes here.  Everything goes on in its usual quiet way: the fine dry weather of the autumn is daily passing, and I discover no sign of life in the Army of the Potomac which gives me hope of adequate energy and activity.  The President is anxious that it should move and fight, and I still hope that even if [General George B.] McClelland refuses or neglect to take the responsibility, the President himself will give the order to ‘forward, march!’…

President continues tentative steps toward the reconstruction of Louisiana.  He issues an “Executive Order Establishing A Provisional Court in Louisiana”

The insurrection which has for some time prevailed in several of the State of this Union, including Louisiana, having temporarily subverted and swept away the civil institutions of that State, including the judiciary and the judicial authorities of the Union, so that it has become necessary to hold the State in military occupation, and it being indispensably necessary that there shall be some judicial tribunal existing there capable of administering justice, I have therefore thought it proper to appoint, and I do hereby constitute, a provisional court, which shall be a court of record, for the State of Louisiana, and I do hereby appoint Charles A. Peabody, of New York, to be a provisional judge to hold said court, with authority to hear, try, and determine all causes, civil and criminal, including causes in law, equity, revenue, and admiralty, and particularly all such powers and jurisdiction as belong to the district and circuit courts of the United States, conforming his proceedings so far as possible to the course of proceedings and practice which has been customary in the courts of the United States and Louisiana, his judgment to be final and conclusive. And I do hereby authorize and empower the said judge to make and establish such rules and regulations as may be necessary for the exercise of his jurisdiction, and empower the said judge to appoint a prosecuting attorney, marshal, and clerk of the said court, who shall perform the functions of attorney, marshal, and clerk according to such proceedings and practice as before-mentioned and such rules and regulations as may be made and established by said judge. These appointments are to continue during the pleasure of the President, not extending beyond the military occupation of the city of New Orleans or the restoration of the civil authority in that city and in the State of Louisiana. These officers shall be paid out of the contingent fund of the War Department compensation as follows: The judge, at the rate of $3500 per annum; the prosecuting attorney, including the fees, at the rate of $3000 per annum; the marshal, including the fees, at the rate of $3000 per annum, and the clerk, including the fees, at the rate of $2500 per annum; such compensations to be certified by the Secretary of War. A copy of this order, certified by the Secretary of War and delivered to such judge, shall be deemed and held to be a sufficient commission.

President Lincoln agrees to a plan by former Democratic Congressman John A. McClernand to raise additional troops in the Midwest for use in the Mississippi Valley.  The president writes: “This order, though marked confidential, may be shown by Gen. McClernand, to Governors, and even others, when, in his discretion, he believes so doing to be indispensable to the progress of the expedition. I add that I feel deep interest in the success of the expedition, and desire it to be pushed forward with all possible despatch, consistently with the other parts of the military service.”  The order by Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton stated:

“Ordered. That Major General McClernand be, and he is directed to proceed to the States of Indiana, Illinois and Iowa, to organize the troops remaining in those States and to be raised by volunteering or draft, and forward them with all despatch to Memphis, Cairo, or such other points as may hereafter be designated by the General-in-Chief—to the end, that when a sufficient force, not required by the operations of General Grant’s command, shall be raised, an expedition may be organized under General McClernand’s command against Vicksburg and to clear the Mississippi river and open navigation to New Orleans.

“The forces so organized will remain subject to the designation of the General-in-Chief, and be employed according to such exigencies as the service, in his judgment, may require.

McClernand’s appointment was viewed antagonistically by General-in-Chief Henry W. Halleck and other West Point-trained officers who viewed the Illinois political general with military disdain.

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

Iowa Republican Reports on Favorable Elections

October 19, 1862

“Our election is over and we have the State — and all six of the members of Congress,” writes Iowa Republican Francis H. Springer in a letter that finds its way to President Lincoln.  “The canvas on the republican side has dragged, not because of the emancipating proclamation of the president, but because of the lamentable want of vigor and energy in the conduct of the war. All sensible loyal men heartily approve of the proclamation, and bless our worthy president for it again and again — but these same people out here in the North West on whom the burdens of the war have fallen more heavily than on the people of any other section of the loyal portion of the country, are heart-sick at the manner in which the war has been conducted– They are fast losing all heart, and all hope– Within the last year the loyal states have lost hundreds of thousands of their sons and hundreds of millions of their means — and with the exception of the proclamation are apparently no nearer the end than when we were then. And with such generals in command as Grant, Buell, Halleck and McClellan, what good will the proclamation do? Oh, if Mr Lincoln could see as his best friends see, and seeing, would himself be the commander in chief, and would tolerate no treasonable inactivity on the part of his subordinates — in other words would discard, dismiss (is the better word) from the service — the generals I have named — and place live men in their places — such as Banks in Hallecks, Hooker in McClellan’s, and give Rosecrans the command of the West and South-west — he could end the rebellion in 90 days.”

Unfortunately for President Lincoln, most elections in the fall of 1862 would not be so favorable to Republicans.

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

President Lincoln Responds to Plight of Soldiers

October 18, 1862

President Lincoln had a special place in his heart for wounded soldiers.  He writes Surgeon General  William A. Hammond: “A Baltimore Committee call on me this morning saying that City is full of straggling soldiers half sick, half well, who profess to have been turned from the hospitals with no definite directions where to go. Is this true? Are men turned from the hospitals without knowing where to go.”  Hammond responded, in effect blaming the soldiers for the problems:

I am sure there is no blame to be attached to the Military Authorities in Baltimore. I have however referred your communication to Surg Simpson the Medical Director for report.

The orders of this Bureau are that all soldiers fit for duty shall be turned over to the Military Authorities and I have heard of no instances in which this has not been done.

The fault lies probably with the men themselves who neglected to obey their orders.

Published in: on October 18, 2012 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Judge David Davis Appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court

October 17, 1862

After months of pressure from Illinois friends, President Lincoln appoints an old colleague to the U.S. Supreme Court, writing Attorney General Edward Bates: “Please make out and send me a commission for David Davis of Illinois, as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, for the eighth judicial circuit.”  Bates had already written Lincoln that a recess appointment to the court was legal.   Lincoln writes Davis, who had engineered Lincoln’s presidential nomination at the 1860 Republican National Convention: “I send you the enclosed commission which I hope you will accept. I would like to see you on private business this fall.”

Cabinet meeting focuses on trade through Norfolk, Virginia. “General [John A.] Dix has,” wrote Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles, “made some headway.  Stanton wanted to transfer the whole subject of permits for army supplies and intercourse to General Dix.  Chase thought there should be leave granted for return cargoes also.  I requested, if there was to be a modification of the blockade, that it should be distinctly understood and announced to what extent.”

General George B. McClellan writes President Lincoln: “Your letter of the 13th inst reached me yesterday morning by the hands of Col Perkins.”

I had sent out strong reconnaissances early in the morning in the direction of Charlestown Leetown etc, & as sharp artillery firing was heard I felt it incumbent to go to the front.  I did not leave Charlestown until dark so that I have been unable to give to your Excellency’s letter that full & respectful consideration which it merits at my hands.

I do not wish to detain Col Perkins beyond this morning’s train, I therefore think it best to send him back with this simple acknowledgment of the receipt of your Excellency’s letter.  I am not wedded to any particular plan of operations — I hope to have today reliable information as to the position of the enemy, whom I still believe to be between Bunker Hill and Winchester.  I promise you that I will give to your views the fullest and most unprejudiced consideration, & that it is my intention to advance the moment my men are shod & my cavalry are sufficiently remounted to be serviceable.

Your Excellency may be assured that I will not adopt a course which differs at all from your views without first fully explaining my reasons & giving you time to issue such instructions as may seem best to you.

General McClellan also writes General-in-chief Henry W. Halleck: “ As the draft is now in progress in some of the States I beg to recall to your attention the necessity of filing up the old regiments at the earliest possible moment, and to urge that the first results of the draft be at once applied towards accomplishing this object, which will so greatly and so rapidly increase the efficiency of this Army.”

P.T. Barnum puts on entertainment at the White House featuring so-called “small man in the world,” George Morrison Nutt, aka “Commodore Nutt,”

Published in: on October 17, 2012 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Army Officers Captured at the Battle of Shiloh visit White House

October 16, 1862

Presidential aide John G. Nicolay writes: “Gen. Prentiss and quite a number of officers who were taken prisoner at Shiloh, have reached this city and called on the President today.  Prentiss looks well, but reports that he has received very bad treatment at the hands of the rebels.  He is very bitterly incensed against them, and says we can hardly have an idea how our Western prisoners have suffered in their captivity.”

Regarding William H. Channing, President Lincoln writes that “To-day, Mr. [Daniel R.] Goodloe calls with Rev. Mr. Channing of the Unitarian Church here, (now used as a hospital) to be Chaplain there, or elsewhere here. I believe him entirely worthy, but I have not now an appointment to make.”  With a month, Rev. Channing would receive a chaplain’s appointment and serve until the end of the war.

President Lincoln responds to Governor Francis H. Peirpont of the vestigial government of Virginia: “Your despatch of to-day received. I am very sorry to have offended you.”  Because he had little power in relation to army authorities in Virginia, Peirpont was often offended. “I appointed the Collector, as I thought, on your written recommendation; and the Assessor also with your testimony of worthiness, although I knew you preferred a different man. I will examine to-morrow whether I am mistaken in this.”   Governor Peirpoint had complained: “I am totally at a loss to understand the influences brought to bear on your mind in the appointment of collector & assessor of this district Union men must sink in despair if all their counsels are unheeded.”  Later in the month President Lincoln would write Peirpont: “When you come to Washington, I shall be pleased to show you the record upon which we acted. Nevertheless answer this, distinctly saying you wish Ross and Ritcher, or any other two you do really want, and they shall be appointed.”

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

Lincoln is Visited by F. S. Asta Buruaga

October 15, 1862

President Lincoln is visited by F. S. Asta Buruaga, chargé d’Affairs of Chile, and Secretary of State William H. Seward, visits President. Seward to Lincoln.

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

Tad Gets Permission for a Gun

October 14, 1862

President Lincoln writes Captain John A. Dahlgren, the commandant of the Navy Yard in Washington: “Capt. Dahlgren may let ‘Tad’’ have a little gun that he can not hurt himself with.”   Dahlgren apparently gives Tad a miniature cannon.

President Lincoln issues an “Order to Remove Bakeries from the Capitol” in order to return the Capitol to its legislative purposes and its reconstruction to continue: “Whereas by a provision of the civil appropriation act approved July 11, 1862, which provision is in the words following towit: For the purpose of enabling the commissioner of public buildings and grounds to remove the army bakery from the basement floor of the Capitol, and to repair the damage caused by said bakery, the sum of eight thousand dollars, or so much thereof as may be necessary,” is appropriated, and the intention of congress is manifested, that said commissioner shall remove said bakery and repair said damage; and whereas said commissioner represents to me that he apprehends some collision or difficulty with the military authorities in attempting to execute his duty in this respect,

It is therefore ordered that the military authorities, and all other United States authorities in any way connected with the matter, forbear to hinder, and give all reasonable co-operation to the said commissioner, in the performance of said duty.

President Lincoln also concerns himself with the reconstruction of Louisiana: “Major General Butler, Governor Shepley, & and [sic] all having military and naval authority under the United States within the S[t]ate of Louisiana.

The bearer of this, Hon. John E. Bouligny, a citizen of Louisiana, goes to that State seeking to have such of the people thereof as desire to avoid the unsatisfactory prospect before them, and to have peace again upon the old terms under the constitution of the United States, to manifest such desire by elections of members to the Congress of the United States particularly, and perhaps a legislature, State officers, and United States Senators friendly to their object. I shall be glad for you and each of you, to aid him and all others acting for this object, as much as possible. In all available ways give the people a chance to express their wishes at these elections. Follow forms of law as far as convenient, but at all events get the expression of the largest number of the people possible. All see how such action will connect with, and affect the proclamation of September 22nd. Of course the men elected should be gentlemen of character, willing to swear support to the constitution, as of old, and known to be above reasonable suspicion of duplicity.

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

President Lincoln and Vice President Hamlin Confer

October 13, 1862

In the evening, President Lincoln and Vice President Hannibal Hamlin confer at the Soldiers Home.   President Lincoln is losing patience with the inaction of the Army of the Potomac.  He writes General George B. McClellan: You remember my speaking to you of what I called your over-cautiousness. Are you not over-cautious when you assume that you can not do what the enemy is constantly doing?  Should you not claim to be at least his equal in prowess, and act upon the claim?”

As I understand, you telegraph Gen. Halleck that you can not subsist your army at Winchester unless the Railroad from Harper’s Ferry to that point be put in working order. But the enemy does now subsist his army at Winchester at a distance nearly twice as great from railroad transportation as you would have to do without the railroad last named. He now wagons from Culpepper C.H. which is just about twice as far as you would have to do from Harper’s Ferry. He is certainly not more than half as well provided with wagons as you are. I certainly should be pleased for you to have the advantage of the Railroad from Harper’s Ferry to Winchester, but it wastes all the remainder of autumn to give it to you; and, in fact ignores the question of time, which can not, and must not be ignored.

Again, one of the standard maxims of war, as you know, is “to operate upon the enemy’s communications as much as possible without exposing your own.” You seem to act as if this applies against you, but can not apply in your favor. Change positions with the enemy, and think you not he would break your communication with Richmond within the next twentyfour hours? You dread his going into Pennsylvania. But if he does so in full force, he gives up his communications to you absolutely, and you have nothing to do but to follow, and ruin him; if he does so with less than full force, fall upon, and beat what is left behind all the easier.

Exclusive of the water line, you are now nearer Richmond than the enemy is by the route that you can, and he must take. Why can you not reach there before him, unless you admit that he is more than your equal on a march. His route is the arc of a circle, while yours is the chord. The roads are as good on yours as on his.

You know I desired, but did not order, you to cross the Potomac below, instead of above the Shenandoah and Blue Ridge.  My idea was that this would at once menace the enemies’ communications, which I would seize if he would permit.  If he should move Northward I would follow him closely, holding his communications.  If he should prevent our seizing his communications, and move towards Richmond, I would press closely to him, fight him if a favorable opportunity should present, and, at least, try to beat him to Richmond on the inside track.  I say “try”; if we never try, we shall never succeed. If he make a stand at Winchester, moving neither North or South, I would fight him there, on the idea that if we can not beat him when he bears the wastage of coming to us, we never can when we bear the wastage of going to him. This proposition is a simple truth, and is too important to be lost sight of for a moment. In coming to us, he tenders us an advantage which we should not waive. We should not so operate as to merely drive him away. As we must beat him somewhere, or fail finally, we can do it, if at all, easier near to us, than far away. If we can not beat the enemy where he now is, we never can, he again being within the entrenchments of Richmond.

Recurring to the idea of going to Richmond on the inside track, the facility of supplying from the side away from the enemy is remarkable—as it were, by the different spokes of a wheel extending from the hub towards the rim—and this whether you move directly by the chord, or on the inside arc, hugging the Blue Ridge more closely. The chord-line, as you see, carries you by Aldie, Hay-Market, and Fredericksburg; and you see how turn-pikes, railroads, and finally, the Potomac by Acquia Creek, meet you at all points from Washington. The same, only the lines lengthened a little, if you press closer to the Blue Ridge part of the way. The gaps through the Blue Ridge I understand to be about the following distances from Harper’s Ferry, towit: Vestal’s five miles; Gregorie’s, thirteen, Snicker’s eighteen, Ashby’s, twenty-eight, Mannassas, thirty-eight, Chester fortyfive, and Thornton’s fiftythree. I should think it preferable to take the route nearest the enemy, disabling him to make an important move without your knowledge, and compelling him to keep his forces together, for dread of you. The gaps would enable you to attack if you should wish. For a great part of the way, you would be practically between the enemy and both Washington and Richmond, enabling us to spare you the greatest number of troops from here. When at length, running for Richmond ahead of him enables him to move this way; if he does so, turn and attack him in rear. But I think he should be engaged long before such point is reached. It is all easy if our troops march as well as the enemy; and it is unmanly to say they can not do it.

This letter is in no sense an order.

Presidential aide John G. Nicolay writes his fiancee: “The crowd still continues here as usual, and leaves me but little time for anything but to listen to their importunities and requests, and to invent and plead excuses and explanations for their disappointments.  It is very irksome, very.”

“Nothing of interest has transpired here during the week past.  Buells fight in Kentucky is still enveloped in much doubt and anxiety.  Stuarts rebel cavalry have made another astonishing dash into Pennsylvania, and made a complete circuit around McClellan’s army, escaping again into Virginia unhurt.  It is little thing, accomplishing not much actual harm, and yet infinitely vexatious and mischievous.  The President has well-nigh lost his temper over it.  I wish he would sometime get angry enough to dismiss about half the officers in the army– I think the remaining half would do more work and do it better by the example.”

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

Information on Kentucky Reaches White House

October 12, 1862

President Lincoln writes General Jeremiah T. Boyle regarding Union forces in Kentucky: “We are very anxious to hear from Gen. Buell’s Army. We have had nothing since day-before yesterday. Have you any-thing?”  Boyle responds: “Your dispatches received. Have no reliable information since 10th instant.  Battle was fought on Wednesday by two divisions of McCook’s corps, and most of rebel force, under [William J.] Hardee and [Leonidas] Polk, [Braxton] Bragg commanding the whole. We lost Generals [James S.] Jackson and [William R.] Terrill, Colonel [George] Webster, Lieutenant-Colonel [George P.] Jouett, Major [William P.] Campbell.”

Under pressure from individuals like Attorney General Edward Bates, a Missouri resident, President Lincoln writes General Samuel Curtis in Missouri: “Would the completion of the railroad some distance further in the direction of Springfield, Mo, be of any military advantage to you?”

Army intelligence chief Allan Pinkerton reported to George B. McClellan that presidential aide John G. “Nicolay intimated that the President was much gratified at his visit to you and had since then repeatedly expressed his confidence in you and his lack of confidence in Halleck, and from what Nicolay said I have no doubt but that after you give the Rebels one more good battle you will be called here to the command of the whole Army.”

Published in: on October 12, 2012 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment