President Concerned with Upcoming Battle at Fredericksburg

December 12, 1862

Early in the morning, President Lincoln goes to the telegraph office in the nearby War Department to learn of maneuveurs along the Rappahonick River near Frederckisburg.   He sends aide John G. Nicolay to meet with General Ambrose Burnside, commanding Union forces.  He wrote General Burnside: “Please treat him kindly, while I am sure he will avoid giving you trouble.”   Nicolay would write that he “only stayed long enough to ride through two or three of the principal streets and get off and drink a cup of coffee with some of the officers who were lunching in one of the houses.”  About this time, General in Chief Henry W. Halleck advised President Lincoln that neither he nor Halleck could second guess Burnside’s strategy and tactics as the battle approached: “I hold that a General in command of an army in the field is the best judge of existing conditions.”

During the day, President Lincoln meets with Philadelphia editor John W. Forney and in the evening he meets with Illinois Senator Orville H. Browning, who writes in his diary:

“Went to the Presidents at 6 P.M. and had a talk with him.  Among other things he said there was never an army in the world, so far as he could learn, of which so small a per centage could be got into battle as ours — That 80 pr cent was what was usual, but that we could never get to exceed 60.  That when he visited the army after the battles of South Mountain and Antietam he made a count of the troops, and there were only 93,000 present when the muster rolls showed there should be 180,00.   Whilst I was with him Cassius M Clay & some other gentlemen sent in their cards.  He was much annoyed — said to me he did not wish to see them, and finally told the servant to tell them he was engaged and could not see them to-night.

I asked him what he though of Clay.  He answered that he had a great deal of conceit and very little sense, and that he did not know what to do with him, for he could not give him a command — he was not fit for it.

He had asked to be permitted to come home from Russia to take part in the war, and as he wanted to some place to put Cameron to get him out of the War Department he consented, and appointed Clay a Majr Genl hoping the war would be over before he got home.  That when he came he was dissatisfied and wanted to go back, and was not willing to take a command unless he could control every thing — conduct the war on his own plan, and run the entire machine of Government — That could not be allowed, and he was now urging to be sent back to Russia.   What embarrassed him was that he had given him his promise to send him back if Cameron resigned.

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

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