Complaints About Union Officers Beset President Lincoln

December 3, 1862

Longtime Lincoln friend Jesse K. Dubois, the Illinois state auditor and a former Springfield neighbor, writes using some imaginative spelling about the political preferences of Union generals in the West: “I do not clearly know that I should write this letter or that you will ever read it after it is written. But my gr[e]at respect for you, and love of my country and undying devotion to the cause impels me. I have mixed a great deal with our army in the West and in constant communication with them every day makes me, I think, a good judge of their how things work and are working. I will say that I am perfectly amazed at the result of our Elections and do not know what to make of them ex[c]epting that they bode no good to the country. And I also know that the rebels in Tennessee are as exultant over them as the Chicago Times and say openly that if they can sustain themselves this winter the Northern people will compel this Administration to abandon the contest. Gov Johnson Mr Fowler the Comptroller of Tennessee and all our best friends there are greatly alarmed at the future. It is a remarkable fact that for months past, the only road to favor at Army Head Quarters in Tennessee has been through contemptious expressions in reference to the Republican party. It has been known that to be a Democrat was the method of securing Respect, and I am not sure that it is any or yet changed. With Democrats at the head of the army and all Departments of the army with almost all the promotions from that party as will appear by looking at the list, you will not be surprised when I tell you, that the young men of the volunteer service are rapidly passing over and nearly all the regular army are there already and what is still more painful is that nearly all the Republican officers are thorgherly dissatisfied with the Administration. Still the army are in earnest in the purpose of putting down the rebellion but that earnestness will cease unless you root out those whose sincerity is questioned. And if the Republicans in the army who beyond all doubt make up 2/3 of the rank and file are to be openly talked to and talked of as the authors of a war which they are incapable of managing and are to be informed by men, with stars on their shoulders placed there by you, that only Democrats can bring this war to a close self respect will compel even them to quit the service; and compel them to say with sorrow that they did not suppose that when they exerted themselves for the Republican party in 1860 that its candidate when elected would make opposition to himself the foundation of the strongest claims to his favor.

Let me assure you that to my knowledge there is not a Major General in the army of the army of the Cumberland and nearly so in the army of the Tennessee that desires the success of your administration. I am not authorised to say that there is one (that is Major Genl, for I would say it flatly of some of your Bigerdiers) who sympathises with the rebellion But you are simply intrusting your policy and the control of an army composed in a good measure of your political friends to the management of your political enemies. This may be wise but it is not that kind of wisdom employed by Democratic leaders which has consolidated that party and made it able to sustain the Treason of half its members and a much larger proportion of its leaders I know you will excuse this long complaint when I assure you as I do that I have no personal feelings or grievances in the matter I have not asked any thing of you which has been denied I have not asked to be promoted in civil or military nor do I propose doing so But it mortifies me that you have so organised the army that there is hardly an officer of high rank that speaks of you or your policy with respect. Perhaps it is too late to repair what I conceive to be a fatal evil and perhaps there may be wisdom in a system that I conceive to be the height of unwisdom And that your policy may be a wise one which I trust in God may be. I understand that the armies have great confidence in both Genl Rosecrans and Grant and I somehow feel the greater confidence that the policy of delays and [loses?] and comities has ceased. I trust I shall not be disappointed in my feelings. Since writing the above I have received a letter from Genl Palmer1 at Nashville, from which I make this extract, “I have a command which is perfectly satisfactory to me a Division of nine good regiments  from Illinois and two from Michigan but as a commentary on Republican policy both Brigade commanders belong to the Democracy”

President Lincoln receives another letter – from General Carl Schurz, an active German-American Republican politician –  complaining about the lack of promotions for German-American and Polish-American officers in the Union Army: “I see by the papers that you have made a large number of promotions in the army. Some time ago Gen. [Ambrose] Burnside addressed a letter to Gen. [Franz] Sigel as well as the other commanders of corps, requesting him to send in a list of the Brigadier Generals and Colonels he wished to have promoted. Gen. Sigel informed me that he did so, and his list contains the names of some Colonels who for a long time have been in command of Brigades and served with great distinction. These men, especially the two I took the liberty of recommending to you some time ago, Cols. Schimmelfennig1 and Krzyzanowski, are among the best officers we have and really deserve promotion. I have some reason to doubt whether Gen. Sigels paper has ever been sent up to you and whether it ever will be unless you call for it; at least so far our Corps has always been entirely overlooked as far as promotions are concerned. I would most respectfully entreat you to do justice to deserving men, whatever prejudice my exist against Gen. Sigel and his Corps in other quarters.

At the same time I would respectfully bring to your notice the name of Col. Halbert E. Paine of the 4th Wisconsin, the oldest Wisconsin-Col. now in the service. His claims for a Brigadiership were strongly urged many months ago and warmly supported by Gen. Dix, under whose orders Col. Paine then was. Col. Paine has been in command of a Brigade for a long time and is now with his command in the vicinity of Vicksburg.

Finally, let me again call your attention to the propriety of the operation with the combined corps of Gens Sigel and Slocum under the command of the former, which I took the liberty of proposing to you last night. I learned to day that there are more than 60,000 men within the fortifications. Our situation is desperate. Something must be done to command success. It would seem to be an unjustifiable waste of forces, to let 30 or 40,000 men, ready for active operations, stand idle, while the fate of the Government may depend upon this campaign. For once, let the personal prejudices, which may be at work to put an able general and good troops upon the shelf and to frustrate a promising plan, be overruled. Try us! for you must try something. Try us, and I am confident, we shall not disappoint your expectations. I advised you, to dismiss every unsuccessful general without delay. Try us fairly, and we claim no exemption from this rule.

In Washington, President Lincoln spends part of his day making recommendations to the secretary of War for the appointment of paymasters.

Published in: on December 3, 2012 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

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