President Lincoln Deals with Crises in Minnesota and Kentucky

November 20, 1862

In response to a complaint by Kentucky  editor George P. Robertson, President Lincoln drafts a sarcastic response which he doe not send: “Your despatch of yesterday is just received. I believe you are acquainted with the American Classics, (if there be such) and probably remember a speech of Patrick Henry, in which he represented a certain character in the, revolutionary times, as totally disregarding all questions of country, and “hoarsely bawling, beef! beef!! beef!!!.’” Lincoln added: “Do you not know that I may as well surrender this contest, directly, as to make any order, the obvious purpose of which would be to return fugitive slaves?”

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

Kentucky Heats Up Over Emancipation

November 19, 1862

A situation continues to evolve in Kentucky regarding the protection of fugitive slaves by U.S. Army Captain William R. Utley.  Lincoln chronicler Lowell H. Harrison wrote: “Judge Robertson had Utley indicted in a Lexington court for violation of Kentucky laws concerning fugitive slaves.  Then on November 19, 1862, Robertson telegraphed an appeal to President Lincoln.”   Robertson wrote:   “The Conduct of a few of the officers of the army in forcibly detaining the Slaves of Union Kentuckians may provoke a conflict between Citizens & Soldiers; . . . we desire you to say as we believe you will that military force will not be permitted for the detention any more than for the restoration of such property & especially in resistance & contempt of the loyal process of a Civil tribunal.”

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President Lincoln Seeks to Jump Start Elections in Arkansas

November 18, 1862

President Lincoln seeks to begin reconstruction of Arkansas by sending William M. McPherson  to Arkansas to hold speedy elections for  Congress, ‘and perhaps a legislature, State officers, and United States Senators.’” President Lincoln writes Arkansas military authorities: “Mr. William M. McPherson goes to Arkansas, 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 law & 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 22d. 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.”

Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner, a fervent abolitionist,  writes British statesman john Bright regarding emancipation and foreign policy: “There is this consolation even in our disasters, that they have brought the Presdt to a true policy.  A wise, courageous & humane statesman, with proper forecast might from the beginning have directed this whole war to the suppression of Slavery, & have ended it by this time.  I cannot doubt this.  But with Lincoln as Presdt, & Seward as Secretary this was impossible.  Another agency was necessary & Providence has interposed delay & disaster, which have done for us more than argt. or persuasion.  How many dreary interviews I have had with the Presdt where the future seemed so dark!  As for S. he has neither wisdom or courage.  He fraternizes with Thurlow Weed, who is only a politician, & whose influence from the election of Lincoln has been disastrous.  He did not understand the crisis.  His diagnosis was utterly wrong, & his nostrums ever since have been injurious.  He & Seward set themselves against Emancipation, & they both began with Compromise; & with the idea that by some patch-work this great question could be avoided.”

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

Fugitive Slave Case in Kentucky Becomes National Crisis

November 17, 1862

Army Captain William R. Utley of Wisconsin writes former Governor  Alexander Randall regarding Utley’s refusal to return a fugitive slave to his owner, editor George Roberson: “I am in a devil of a scrape, and appeal to you for assistence. I have to a verry limited extent carried out the laws of Congress and the Proclimation of the President. All Ky. is in a blaze. I am ahead yet, but they have taken a new dodge on me, they have got me indicted at Lexington under the Laws of Kentucky.”  Captain Utley also wrote a long letter of explanation to President Lincoln regarding his interpretation of the draft Emancipation Proclamation:

Permit me respectfully to appeal to you, and I do so fully confident of being heard, for your protection and that of Generals sustaining me in an effort to support the Constitution, laws of Congress and the proclamation of the President, against the fierce and malignant opposition of the slave power of Kentucky.

When at our quiet and peaceful homes in Wisconsin and pursuing the usual honorable callings of life, your appeal for 600,000 men to defend the country and the Constitution, both of which were threatened by rebels in arms against the government, sounded in our ears. We immediately laid down our implements of husbandry, took up the sword, bade adieu to our homes and hastened to the rescue.

For a long time, without tents, but scantily supplied with conveyances, and enduring the various hardships and privasions of military life and of army marches, fully realized only by those who have experienced them, and though passing through a country abounding with the necessaries and even with the luxuries of life, presenting their allurements to the soldier’s appetite, committing no depradations upon the rights of citizens, we penetrated the state of Kentucky, the devastating hords of rebels fleeing before us till they are driven beyond the boundaries of the State.

As a compensation for these sacrafices, hardships and exposures, for which Kentucky more directly receives the benefits, I now find myself indited for man-stealing, by a Kentucky court, and hunted by her officers as a fellon for her penitentiary.

The facts in the case are few, simple, and easily stated.

From the time the Regiment entered the state, a continued and constantly increasing pressure has been brought to bear upon it, to force it into the service of the slave power and to involve it in the reproach of returning fugatives from oppression to their fetters and chains. In some instances orders have been obtained from commanding generals to the regiment demanding the rendition of such fugatives. Such orders, I considered unorthorised recognizing you alone as authority in these matters, and, on that ground, I have refused to obey them.3

On Friday last, Judge Robinson4 of Lexington, representing himself as a Union man of whose counsels in the affairs of the government you have seen fit to avail yourself, come into my lines, and claimed and demanded as his property, a Negro boy found in the regiment. How, when, where, or by what means the boy came into the lines, or by whom he was claimed as property, I had previously no knowledge. It then appeared that he crept in, cold, bare-foot and hungry in the midst of a dreary snow storm. I refused to recognise his claims, to lead the boy, as he requested, beyond my lines, or to forbid the soldiers from interfereing should he attempt to do so. He was not, however, forbidden to take him, though, perhaps, he should have been. The boy refused to go with him and claimed protection from the power of one whose cruel treatment, as he asserted, had already made him a dwarf instead of a man.

For the course taken in this case, I am now indited for man-stealing and hunted as a fellon. To you, I now appeal for that protection which can come from no other human e hand, for simply standing by the Constitution, obeying the laws of Congress and honoring the Proclamation of the President of the United States issued on the 23d day of September last.

I also respectfully ask that Gen. Beard, now in command of this Brigade, may not be suffered to lose his command or to suffer in any other way or manner, on account of the honorable, patriotic and, as I judge, Constitutional support given me in my position.

All these difficulties are occasioned by the self-styled Union men of Kentucky. Judge Robinson declared the President’s Proclamation of the 23d of Sept, to be unconstitutional, to have no bearing on Kentucky and that the State would never submit to it. He also declared it the policy and purpose of commanders of the army in Kentucky to ignore and render it a dead letter.

The 22d Regiment of Wisconsin Volunteers, which I have the honor to command, is not made up of a set of home-sick boys. These men are possed of intelligence and did not enter the service of their country, anticipating no hardships. They do not complain of sacrifices. They are not easily intimmidated. They manifest a noble determination to stand or fall — to live or die with their country. But they are capable of weighing questions involved, and of feeling the force of principles at issue. They do claim the right of remaining men. They do most solemnly and earnestly protest against being degraded to the low, base and inhuman work of sending or returning guiltless fellow-men to cruel bondage. By them, such an institution as slavery is unknown– They recognize only two classes of men — loyalists and rebels–

Your prompt action, in the case, will be anxiously, but hopefully anticipated. Involved in it, is a principal of vital interest to the country; and important consequences may follow your decision. Whether soldiers from free states, in the service of the General Government, are to be subject to the civil authorities and the slave-codes of slave-holding states, is a question in which loyalty itself cannot be uninterested.

President Lincoln gets a lot of unsolicited advice.  He replies to one cranky and incoherent resident of Philadelphia: “Your despatch of to-day received. I do not at all understand it.”

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Presidential Lincoln Firm on Emancipation

November 16, 1862

Illinois Judge David Davis, a longtime friend,  discusses with President Lincoln military and emancipation issues.  Davis reported: ‘Mr. Lincoln’s whole soul is absorbed in his plan of remunerative emancipation and he thinks if Congress don’t fail him, that the problem is solved.  He believes that if Congress will pass a law authorizing the issuance of bonds for the payment of emancipated negroes in the border States that Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky and Mo. Will accept the terms.  He takes great encouragement from the vote in Mo.’  Historian Allan Nevins noted that  “Davis found Lincoln weary, careworn, and heavily burdened with preparations for the imminent Congressional session.  ‘It is a good thing he is fond of anecdotes and telling them,’ commented Davis for it relieves his spirits very much.”

A few days later, President Lincoln wrote Illinois District Court Judge Samuel Treat, another longtime friend,  regarding his plans for a special army command along the Mississippi River to be commanded by Illinois politician John McClernand: “Your very patriotic and judicious letter, addressed to Judge Davis, in relation to the Mississippi, has been left with me by him for perusal. You do not estimate the value of the object you press, more highly than it is estimated here. It is now the object of particular attention. It has not been neglected, as you seem to think, because the West was divided into different military Departments. The cause is much deeper. The country will not allow us to send our whole Western force down the Mississippi, while the enemy sacks Louisville and Cincinnati. Possibly it would be better if the country would allow this, but it will not. I confidently believed, last September that we could end the war by allowing the enemy to go to Harrisburg and Philadelphia, only that we could not keep down mutiny, and utter demoralization among the Pennsylvanians. And this, though very unhandy sometimes, is not at all strange. I presume if an army was starting to-day for New-Orleans.”

President Lincoln also met with New York Republican leader Hiram Barney, who subsequently wrote him: “Allow me to beg you to remember our conversation when I had the honor to call upon you a few days since, in connection with the enclosed circular which has just been received (regarding dismissal of Democrats).  My judgment is that the subject of removals for political causes be kept in abeyance.”

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

President Avoids Injury in an Ordnance Experiment

November 15, 1862

As he often did, President Lincoln visits the Navy Yard – today accompanied by Secretary of State William H. Seward and Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase and the yard’s commandant, John Dahgren. The president takes a personal interest in new military equipment and expects to witness the successful test of the new Hyde rocket.  According to Robert V. Bruce, “Hyde’s rocket carried a war head with an adjustable time fuse, instead of the fixed and inaccessible fuse of the Hale rocket; and its tangential vents were at the center of gravity, rather than the head.”

Lincoln chronicler David von Drehle wrote: “What the presidential party expected to see and hear was a whoosh, a red glare, a burst in the air, and a rain of shrapnel on the gray surface of the Anacostia River.  What they actually saw, after the fuse was set and everyone took a step back from the tue, was ‘a blast and puff of fire’ as the rocket detonated without launching.”  The president and the two cabinet members were lucky to escape unscathed.

Responding to pressure from a New York group that met with him a few days earlier, President Lincoln ordered better observance of the Sabbath: “The President, Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy, desires and enjoins the orderly observance of the Sabbath by the officers and men in the military and naval service.  The importance for man and beast of the prescribed weekly rest, the scared rights of Christian soldiers and sailors, a becoming deference to the best sentiment of a Christian people, and a due regard for the Divine will, demand that Sunday labor in the Army and Navy be reduced to the measure of strict necessity.

The discipline and character of the national forces should not suffer, nor the cause they defend be imperiled, by the profanation of the day or name of the Most High.  ‘At this time of public distress’–adopting the words of Washington in 1776–‘men may find enough to do in the service of God and their country without abandoning themselves to vice and immorality.’  The first General Order issued by the Father of his Country after the Declaration of Independence, indicates the spirit in which our institutions were founded and should ever be defended: “The General hopes and trusts that every officer and man endeavor to live and act as becomes a Christian soldier defending the dearest rights and liberties of his country.’

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

President Lincoln Confers with General Halleck

November 14, 1862

General Henry W. Halleck meets with President Lincoln regarding troop movements in both the western and eastern theaters.  President Lincoln writes the military governor of Tennessee, Andrew Johnson: “ Your despatch of the 4th. about returning troops from Western Virginia to Tennessee, is just received, and I have been to Gen. Halleck with it. He says an order has already been made by which those troops have already moved, or soon will move, to Tennessee.”  Apparently, at the same meeting, president Lincoln approves the military plan of General Ambrose Burnside in northern Virginia.   Halleck biographer Curt Anders wrote that “on several occasions Halleck and Lincoln had deliberately avoided approving or disapproving Burnside’s proposals.  General Halleck made this clear in a report he prepared on November 15, 1863:

General Burnside proposed to give up [the] pursuit of Lee’s army toward Richmond, and to move down the north side of the Rappahannock to Falmouth, and establish a new base of supplies at Aquia Creek or Belle Plain.  This proposed change of base was not approved by me, and in a personal interview at Warrenton I strongly urged him to retain his present base, and continue his march toward Richmond in the manner pointed out in the President’s letter of October 13 to General McClellan.

General Burnside did not fully concur in the President’s views, but finally consented to so modify his plan as to cross his army by the fords of the Upper Rappahannock, and then move down and seize the the heights south of Fredericksburg, while a small force was to be sent north of the river to enable General Haupt to reopen the railroad and to rebuild the bridges, the materials for which were nearly ready in Alexandria.  I, however, refused to give any official approval of this deviation from the President’s instructions until his assent was obtained.

On my return to Washington, on the 13th, I submitted to him this proposed change in the plan of campaign, and on its receiving his assent, rather than approval, I telegraphed, on the 14th, authority to General Burnside to adopt it.  I here refer, not to General Burnside’s written plan to go to Falmouth, but to that of crossing the Rappahannock above its junction with the Rapidan.

It has been inferred from the testimony of General Burnside before the Congressional Committee on the Conduct of the War, that his plan of marching his whole army on the north of the Rappannock, from Warrenton to Falmouth, had been approved by the authorities in Washington, and that he expected, on his arrival there, to find supplies and pontoons, with gunboats to cover his crossing.  In the first place, that plan was never approved, nor was he ever authorized to adopt it.  In the second place, he could not possibly have expected supplies and pontoons to be landed at points then occupied in force by the enemy…..

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Attorney General Ordered to Enforce Confiscation Act

November 13, 1862

President Lincoln instructs Attorney General Edward Bates to enforce the Second Confiscation Act passed the previous summer.  According to biographer Marvin R. Cain, Bates “had known Lincoln’s intention days in advance, so he had prepared a rough draft of an implementing order.  A few days later, he casually wrote to Lincoln’s secretary John Nicolay for a copy of the official directive, though he was well aware of its contents.”

“When the Chief Executive’s official notification came, Bates was at home ill, attended by an anxious Julia.  He summoned Coffey, and the two held a long afternoon conference to discuss a tentative directive Bates had drawn up.  Together they also went over each section of the legislative measure, noting that Congress had failed to provide for implementation or court procedures.  A few more hours was all that was needed to complete the directive, which Coffey immediately relayed to attorneys located at key points.  District attorneys were to assume supervisory control over United States marshals who were ordered to carry out the actual confiscation.  The attorneys were to make certain that the property seized belonged to the persons arrested, prosecuted, and found guilty of specific offenses listed in the act.  In litigation over prizes and revenues, legal officers were to act only ascertaining all the facts involved. Nowhere in the directive did Bates discuss the act’s constitutionality or whether it represented an enactment by one belligerent against another.  He emphasized only the restricted mechanics of enforcement and carefully construed them to be of a civil, not a military, nature.”

President Lincoln discusses with Navy Captain John Dahlgren promotion of his son, Army  Captain Ulric Dahlgren.

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General Ambrose Burnside is Completing His Plans for a Major New Offensive

November 12, 1862

General Ambrose Burnside is completing his plans for a major new offensive at Fredericksburg, which required the use of pontoons.  Historian Bruce Tap: “When Burnside had met with [General Henry W.] Halleck at Warrenton on November 12, shortly after taking command, he had outlined his plans to him and received presidential approval for them a few days later.  But when Burnside’s chief engineer telegraphed Col. Daniel Woodbury, commander of the engineer telegraphed Col. Daniel Woodbury, commander of the engineering brigade and responsible for the pontoon movements, Woodbury had not yet heard of the order.  Since Burnside had to familiarize himself with a new command, it was not unreasonable for him to assume that Halleck would attend to the details — but Halleck had not.  When the pontoons did begin to move toward Falmouth, their arrival was delayed by bad weather, allowing Lee to concentrate his forces at Fredericksburg and removing any element of surprise Burnside might have gained.”

About this time, Lincoln also heard criticism from Pennsylvania congressmen about his impact on the recent elections.  “Republican attitudes toward these reverses were aired in a meeting between Lincoln and three party members,” wrote historian Bruce Tap. “Shortly after the election, Lincoln met with Pennsylvania congressmen William Kelley, Edward McPherson, and James K. Moorhead to discuss the election results.  Kelley, who had overcome numerous obstacles to recapture his seat, credited his victory to his willingness to support a vigorous war and his persistent calls for McClellan’s removal.  When Lincoln asked McPherson, who had lost a safe district, the cause of his defeat, McPherson talked around the issue until Kelley told Lincoln, ‘My colleague is not treating you frankly.’  When Lincoln assured McPherson he wanted frankness, McPherson said he had lost because the incompetent McClellan had been retained in command.  Turning to Moorhead, Lincoln said, ‘And what word do you bring?…You, at any rate were not defeated.’  Moorhead indicated that his victory was unrelated to the Lincoln’s actions and that Pittsburgh Republicans were upset with the president.  Moorhead had overhead one say that ‘he would be glad to hear some morning that you had been found hanging from the post of a lamp at the door of the White House.’”

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

President Lincoln Deals with Books and Bodyguard

November 11, 1862

President Lincoln did not much like being surrounded by bodyguards, but he liked – as did his son – the unit from Pennsylvania assigned to guard him at the White House and Soldiers’ Cottage.   Lincoln confers with General Samuel P. Heintzelman, a Pennsylvania native, regarding the bodyguard.  Lincoln had become close to the commander of Company K, David Derickson.

The New York Tribune Assistant Editor William Fry writes President Lincoln to  protest the sale of books to from a South Carolina college: “I have just had placed in my hands a pamphlet of 95 pages entitled — Government Sale Catalogue of an immense collection of library books in all departments of Literature, Arts, Sciences; including every many important & scarce works &c &c to be sold at auction Nov. 17, in New York” etc.– This collection, is understood to belong to a college or literary institution of Beaufort, South-Carolina, and it strikes me, that it is carrying the war beyond Africa, to strike at benign learning and Science after this fashion. I fear it will be viewed as an act of injustice & bad taste should this sale take place — supposing I have been rightly informed as to the place & circumstance of the seizure. I beg, therefore, Mr. President, to call your kind attention to the subject, in the hope that the sale may be arrested, and the ‘immense collection’ preserved, if possible, for restitution when the Union is restored, if ever.”

Published in: on November 11, 2012 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment