President Meets with Army of the Potomac Commander

November 26, 1862

Historian William Marvel wrote: “Concerned about the army’s hesitation, Lincoln made arrangements to meet his general aboard the steamer Baltimore November 26, in the middle of Aquia Creek.  Burnside’s secretary went aboard the boat with him, but no one witnessed his conclave with the president.   Burnside complained of the witnessed his conclave with the president.  Burnside complained of the missing pontoons, a few of which began to appear only now, after [Confederate General James] Longstreet’s entire corps had occupied the opposite bank.  Lincoln had a plan to put a corps or more of reinforcement ashore at Port Royal, well downstream, and a similar force of new troops on the north bank of the Paunkey River, backed by gunboats.  These two could converge at or behind Fredericksburg while Burnside attacked head-on.  It was not bad strategy, as it could prevent Lee from falling back on Richmond while forcing him to abandon his lines at Fredericksburg.  Still, Burnside feared it would take too long to gather and deploy the other columns, which would put the campaign too far into winter; Halleck wanted Burnside to attack as soon as possible, or so he implied. Lincoln responded that he, as president, was in charge of such decisions, rather than Halleck.”

President Lincoln wrote Kentucky editor George P. Robertson: “A few days since I had a despatch from you which I did not answer.  If I were to be wounded personally, I think I would not shun it.  But it is the life of the nation.  I now understand the trouble is with Col. Utley; that he has five slaves in his camp, four of whom belong to the rebels, and one belonging to you.  If this be true, convey yours to Col. Utley, so that he can make him free, and I will pay you any sum not exceeding five hundred dollars.”  Lincoln scholar Roy P. Basler wrote: “On December 1, Robertson replied in a manner conclusively demonstrating Lincoln’s wisdom in withholding his first letter of November 20.  Robertson refused to acknowledge, as might any patriot concerned chiefly with preserving the constitutional rights of all loyal Kentuckians, that his personal affairs were the real issue.  His letter put the case thus:

In my late telegram to you I did not allude to either my boy Adam, or to Col. Utley, or to his case.  Divining your information, as you must have done, from some other source, you have been misinformed, and…misconceived the motive of my dispatch….I had put Col. Utley in the position which I preferred, and I neither intended nor desired to seek any …intervention in…my own case…The citation in my civil suit against him having been served, I can certainly obtain a judgement for $10000, and perhaps more…My object in that suit was far from mercenary — it was solely to try the question whether the civil or the military power is Constitutionally supreme in Kentucky…’

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

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