President Lincoln Deals with Affairs of State and Friends

December 11, 1862

President Lincoln looks for a promotion for the son and nephew of two old Kentucky friends:   “John Speed named within [2d Lt. John Speed, son of James Speed], is a son of a particular friend of mine.”   John Speed was the nephew of Lincoln’s longtime friend, Joshua F. Speed, with whom he had roomed at Speed’s general store in Springfield in the 1830s.  Late in the day, Mr.  Lincoln goes for a carriage ride.   He sends a note to the Senate: “I transmit to the Senate for its consideration with a view to ratification, a Treaty between the United States and the Republic of Liberia, signed at London by the Plenipotentiaries of the parties, on the twenty-first of October, last.”

President Lincoln sends Congress a report on his handling of the Indian uprising in Minnesota the previous summer: “In compliance with your resolution of December 5th, 1862, requesting the President `to furnish the Senate with all information in his possession touching the late Indian barbarities in the State of Minnesota, and also the evidence in his possession upon which some of the principal actors and head men were tried and condemned to death,’ I have the honor to state, that on receipt of said resolution I transmitted the same to the Secretary of the Interior, accompanied by a note, a copy of which is herewith inclosed, marked ‘A.,’ and in response to which I received, through that Department, a letter of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, a copy of which is herewith inclosed, marked `B.’

I further state, that on the 8th. day of November last I received a long telegraphic dispatch from Major General Pope, at St. Paul, Minnesota, simply announcing the names of the persons sentence to be hanged. I immediately telegraphed to have transcripts of the records in all the cases forwarded to me, which transcripts, however, did not reach me until two or three days before the present meeting of Congress. Meantime I received, through telegraphic dispatches and otherwise, appeals in behalf of the condemned, appeals for their execution, and expressions of opinion as to proper policy in regard to them, and to the Indians generally in that vicinity, none of which, as I understand, falls within the scope of your inquiry. After the arrival of the transcripts of records, but before I had sufficient opportunity to examine them, I received a joint letter from one of the Senators and two of the Representatives from Minnesota, which contains some statements of fact not found in the records of the trials, and for which reason I herewith transmit a copy, marked “C.” I also, for the same reason, inclose a printed memorial of the citizens of St Paul, addressed to me, and forwarded with the letter aforesaid.

Anxious to not act with so much clemency as to encourage another outbreak on the one hand, nor with so much severity as to be real cruelty on the other, I caused a careful examination of the records of trials to be made, in view of first ordering the execution of such as had been proved guilty of violating females. Contrary to my expectations, only two of this class were found. I then directed a further examination, and a classification of all who were proven to have participated in massacres, as distinguished from participation in battles. This class numbered forty, and included the two convicted of female violation. One of the number is strongly recommended by the Commission which tried them, for commutation to ten years’ imprisonment. [I have ordered the other thirty-nine to be executed on Friday, the 19th. instant. The order was dispatched from here on Monday, the 8th. instant, by a messenger to General Sibley; and a copy of which order is herewith transmitted, marked ‘D.’

Meanwhile, the Union Army of the Potomac under General Ambrose Burnside masses near Fredericksburg, Virginia.  General George B. McClellan, former commander of the Army of the Potomac,  writes a friend regarding his reputation and strategy during the spring and summer: “Your very kind letter of the 4th has at last reached me, the envelope opened and the letter evidently read by some of the Government officials.  I only hope that they were as well satisfied with the contents as I was.  I thank you most sincerely for the kind judgment you — an old soldier — express of the last battles fought by the Army of the Potomac under my command. I am ready to stake all, upon my opinion, that the true line of operations against Richmond is by the Peninsula and that the greatest military blunder of the war was made when I was withdrawn from there.

McDowell could and ought to have joined me at Hanover Court-house and the result would have been the capture of Richmond. It was perfectly practicable and possible to reinforce me up to the time I abandoned the line of the James River.  I believe that you are entirely right in your surmises that Mr. Lincoln and Mr. Stanton are the ‘high officials who originated the idea of withdrawing the Army from James River.  I will not venture upon criticism now, for I feel that this letter will, in all probability, be read by others than yourself before it reaches you.  I will only say, that I think you are entirely correct in the judgement you pass upon ‘Officials.’  I hope that the one you mention is simply an ‘ass’ but I fear he is a ‘knave’ as well.  Permit me to express my high appreciation of the commendation you bestow upon the final operations of the Maryland Campaign.  I do believe that something more was deserved that the reward of being placed upon the shelf.  I accept however the case as it stands.  I am not now disposed to complain, but I am confident that, before long, the time will come when the whole truth will be known.

With my warmest thanks for your kind feeling and sympathy.

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

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