President Lincoln Tries to Do Favors for Friends

January 31, 1863

President Lincoln uses Saturday’s respite to promote the interests of friends.  He writes Quartermaster General Montgomery Meigs regarding a Springfield attorney: “The bearer of this, Mr. James C. Conkling, is successor to Mr. Thomas H. Campbell, now deceased, as agent to adjust accounts with this government for the State of Illinois. He has ample business qualifications, is entirely trustworthy; and with all is my personal friend of long standing. Please see & hear him.”

President Lincoln writes Commissary General Joseph P. Taylor: “Please see the bearer, Edward D. Baker, who is a son of my old friend Col. Baker, who fell at Ball’s Bluff. He is now a first Lieut. in the 4th. U.S. Cavalry, and has been serving as Adjutant of the Regiment. He was in the battles of Perryville, and Murfreesboro. He now wishes to be a Commissary with the rank of Captain, and if you can inform me that he can be made such consistently with the rules of the service, I will oblige him.”

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Cabinet Meets but Discusses Little

January 30, 1863

Navy Secretary Gideon Welles writes: “But little at the Cabinet. Chase is quite dejected, and manifested some rather suppressed irritation towards Blair and Seward as he sat beside me. Neither of them saw it; I was glad they did not. Blair says [dismissed general]  Fitz John Porter is disliked by the army with the exception of [General George b.] McClellan, but is his special confidant. The President seemed to know this, but the disaffection as stated by Blair was more general than he supposed.”

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President Lincoln Concerned About Thurlow Weed

January 29, 1863

President Lincoln writes New York Republican boss Thurlow Weed: “Your valedictory to the patrons of the Albany Evening Journal brings me a good deal of uneasiness. What does it mean?”  A few days later, Weed responds: ““I retired from an apprehension that I was doing more harm than good. I could not remain without remonstrance against a Spirit by which you are persecuted, and which I know will end our Union and Government. It is impossible, just now, to resist Fanaticism — a Fanaticism which divides the North and deprives you of the support essential, vital in-deed, to the Life of the Republic. Its constant cry is: `Give! Give!’ and the more you give the more it demands.”

They accuse me of `opposing the Administration.’ I answered that falsehood yesterday, and sent Mr. Nicolay a Paper. I have labored to shield the Administration from their persecution.

The New York Republican Party was often fractured.  Weed’s resignation was seen as a political ploy by Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles who had written in his diary the previous night: “I always distrust him. He is strong and cunning; has a vigorous but not an ingenuous mind. Being a lifelong partisan, he cannot abandon party even for the country’s welfare, though he may strive to have them assimilate. It grieved him that so many of his old party opponents should have been invited to the Cabinet and identified with the Administration. The President quietly laughs at Weed’s intrigues to exclude Chase and myself. This was in the interest of Seward, his alter ego.”

I remember that Seward on one occasion remarked in Cabinet, “Weed is Seward, and Seward is Weed; each approves what the other says and does.” It was not a pleasant remark to some of us, and Chase said he did not recognize the identity; while he would yield a point as a matter of favor to Mr. Seward, he would not to Weed. His ostensible reason for abandoning the field of active politics at this time and leaving the Journal is because he cannot act with his friends and support the Administration. There is intrigue, insincerity, and scheming in all this. I have no confidence in him, and he doubtless knows it. The organization of the New York Legislature has been finally accomplished. If Weed does not go for Seward for the Senate,—which is at the bottom of this movement,—he will prop Morgan. King, their best man, is to be sacrificed. I do not think Weed is moving for the Senatorship for himself, yet it is so charged. He has professedly left his old friends, but it is to carry as many as possible with him into a new combination, where he and Seward will have Dix, whom they have captured and whom they are using while D. supposes they are earnest for him.

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President Considers Future of New Orleans Command

January 28, 1863

As General Joseph Hooker takes command of the Armhy of the Potomac, President Lincoln turns his attention elsewhere.  President Lincoln orders General Benjamin F. Butler to come to Washington to meet with him: “Please come here immediately. Telegraph me about what time you will arrive.”  Butler was without a command assignment after having been replaced as commander at New Orleans. Butler responds from Boston: “Telegram received, will leave thursday morning. Be in Washington friday morning.”  Although President Lincoln anticipated sending Butler back to New Orleans, he decided not to take that action and leaves another Massachusetts general, Nathaniel Banks, in that job.

President Lincoln writes Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton regarding a request from his old friend Joshua F. Speed: “Mr. Speed tells me you wish to appoint him to some agency about the Goose-Creek Salt works; and he wishes to decline it, & that William P. Thomason may be appointed. I personally know Mr. Thomason to be an honest & very competent man, & fully in sympathy with the administration. I think he should be appointed.”

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Lincoln Writes to Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton Regarding John B. Gordon

January 27, 1863

Lincoln writes to Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton regarding John B. Gordon, whom U.S. Commissioner of Indian Affairs William P. Dole recommends for a “Military Storekeeper” position. Lincoln notes, “If there be a vacancy, let him have it, unless by some paper on file, I am committed for it to some one else.”

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President Appoints Joseph Hooker as Commander of the Army of the Potomac

January 26, 1863

President Lincoln sends a paternal letter of advice to boastful and blustering General Joseph Hooker, newly named commander of the Army of the Potomac.

I have placed you at the head of the Army of the Potomac.  Of course I have done this upon what appear to me to be sufficient reasons.  And yet I think it best for you to know that there are some things in regard to which, I am not quite satisfied with you.  I believe you to be a brave and a skilful soldier, which, of course, I like.  I also believe you do not mix politics with your profession, in which you are right.  You have confidence in yourself, which is a valuable, if not an indispensable quality.  You are ambitious, which, within reasonable bounds, does good rather than harm.  But I think that during Gen. Burnside’s command of the Army, you have taken counsel of your ambition, and thwarted him as much as you could, in which you did a great wrong to the country, and to a most meritorious and honorable brother officer.  I have heard, in such way as to believe it, of your recently saying that both the Army and the Government needed a Dictator.  Of course it was not for this, but in spite of it, that I have given you the command.  Only those generals who gain successes, can set up dictators.  What I now ask of you is military success, and I will risk the dictatorship.  The government will support you to the utmost of it’s ability, which is neither more nor less than it has done and will do all  commanders.  I much fear that the spirit which you have aided to infuse into the Army, of criticising their Commander, and withholding confidence from him, will now turn upon you.  I shall assist you as far as I can, to put down.  Neither you, nor Napoleon, if he were alive again, could get any good out of any army, which such a spirit prevails in it.

And now, beware of rashness.  Beware of rashness, but with energy, and sleepless vigilance, go forward, and give us victories.

Illinois Senator Orville H. Browning discusses with President Lincoln his decision to have General Hooker replace General Ambrose Burnside as commander of the Army of the Potomac: “Burnside has resigned the command of the army of the Potomac and been succeeded by Hooker.   There was a rumor in the Senate today that genl Sumner and Franklin refused to fight under him Hooker, and that they had both been arrested.  I was uneasy about it, and after dinner, just as night went to the Presidents to learn the facts.  He told me that on Saturday Burnside was here, and informed him that various causes had contributed to lose him the confidence of the army, and that he was satisfied the service would suffer by it if he continued longer in command, and he desired to relinquish it, which he did.   That the President did not know what better to do than tp appoint Hooker, altho he was not satisfied with his conduct — for he was one of those who had thwarted Burnside — but he appointed him, and knowing that Sumner and Franklin did not wish to be under his command, and would not probably cooperate heartily with him, he had simply relieved them of the commands, but that they had not bee arrested.   I remarked that from all I could learn from such men and officers of the army as I had seen Genl McClelland possessed their confidence to a greater extent than any other man, and I thought they would fight under him better than under any other Genl we had.   He said McClelland stood very high with all educated military men, but the fact was he would not fight

I expressed the apprehension from the difficulty to be encountered in recruiting our army.  We must keep it up to the maximum allowed by law to enable us to succeed — that i feared we could not now raise soldiers by enlistment, and we were so divided, and party spirit was so rancorous that an attempt to draft would probably be made the occasion of resistance to the government.  He replied that the rebel army was diminishing as fast as ours — I answered that they were united as one man, and we were fatally divided — that their government, call it what they would, was an absolute despotism to which every one yielded unquestioning obedience, and that they could put their whole force in the field — but we were and must be dependent on the will of the people, and unless we could, in some way, regain their confidence, I feared the democrats would soon begin to clamour for compromise, and even make an effort to carry the Western states off with the South.   To this he said that whenever they proposed either the people would leave them, and they would be effectually broken down &c.

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General Burnside Replaced as Commander of the Army of the Potomac

January 25, 1863

President Lincoln meets at the White House at 10 A.M. with General-in-Chief Henry W. Halleck and General Ambrose Burnside, commander of the Army of the Potomac who has clear lost confidence in his subordinates and they in him.  According to Halleck’s subsequent letter to General William  Franklin: “…General Burnside had an interview with the President in the night or very early in the morning, I was sent for while at breakfast.  When I arrived at the President’s room, he informed the Secretary and myself that General Burnside had proposed the dismissal and relieving of several high officers, and if his order was not approved, he wished to resign.  The President announced his decision to relieve General Burnside and put General Hooker in command.  He asked no opinion or advice either from the Secretary or myself, and none whatever was offered by either of us.  General Burnside afterward came in, and the matter of accepting his resignation was discussed.  I strongly urged him to withdraw it, which he finally consented to do.”

Burnside was prevailed upon to accept a new command rather than resign completely. Burnside biographer William Marvel wrote: “After breakfast …Lincoln called Stanton and Halleck into his office and told them he had decided to replace Burnside with Hooker.   When Burnside arrived at ten, the president broke the news to him.   For all his dislike and distrust of hooker, Burnside accepted the decision with overall relief.   Assuming the resignation of his commission had been accepted, he asked if he might not go directly home.  Not at all, they told him; they wanted him to take command of a new, expanded department consisting of North and South Carolina.  Burnside had learned that his old friend John G. Foster had graciously asked for Burnside to come back and resume command at Newbern, but Burnside did not want to take Forster’s assignment away.  Besides, he argued, David Hunter had only recently been appointed head of the Department of South Carolina, and he was senior to Burnside.”

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Discussion of Future Command of the Army of the Potomac

January 24, 1863

General Ambrose Burnside essentially gave President Lincoln an ultimatum – either his subordinates were dismissed or he should be replaced. Burnside biographer William Marvel wrote: “It was about seven o’clock in the morning when their steamer docked at Washington, Burnside went directly to the White House, saw Lincoln, and told him he could not continue in command unless Order Number 8 met with approval.  ‘I think you are right,’ the president said, and asked the general to return after he had had a chance to speak with Halleck and Stanton.  Burnside joined his rested comrades at Willard’s, said a premature goodbye to Mr. [Henry] Raymond, and returned to Falmouth with the secretary and Robert.  He may have napped an hour on the boat that afternoon.  By midnight the three of them reached Washington again.  Burnside went at once to the president, who sent him to Willard’s for some sleep after arranging a ten o’clock interview with Halleck.”

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Leadership Crisis in the Army of the Potomac

January 23, 1863

General Ambrose Burnside proposes  General Orders No. 8 in which many of his top generals were to be dismissed: :

I. General Joseph Hooker, major-general of volunteers and brigadier general U.S. Army, having been guilty of unjust and unnecessary criticisms of the actions of his superior officers, and of the authorities, and having, by the general tone of his conversation, endeavored to create distrust in the minds of officers who have associated with him, and having, by omissions and otherwise, made reports and statements which were calculated to create incorrect impressions, and for habitually speaking is disparaging terms of other officers, is hereby dismissed the service of the United States as a man unfit to hold an important commission during a crisis like the present, when so much patience, charity, consideration and patriotism are due from every soldier in the field.  This order is issued subject to the approval of the President of the United States.

II. Brig. Gen. W.T. H. Brooks, commanding First Division, Sixth Army Corps, for complaining of the policy of the Government, and for using language tending to demoralize his command, is, subject to the approval of the President, dismissed from the military service of the United States.

III.  Brig. Gen. John Newton, commanding Third Division, Sixth Army Corps, and Brig. Gen. John Cochrane, commanding First Brigade, Third Division, Sixth Army Corps, for going to the President of the Untied States with criticisms upon the plans of their commanding officer, are, subject to the approval of the President, dismissed from the military service of the United States.

IV. It being evident that the following-named officers can be of no further service to this army, they are hereby relieved from duty, and will report, in person, without delay, to the Adjutant-General, U.S. Army; Maj. Gen. W. B. Franklin, commanding left grand division; Maj. Gen. W.F. Smith, commanding Sixth Corps; Brig. Gen. Samuel D. Sturgis, commanding Second Division, Ninth Corps; Brig. Gen. Edward Ferrero, commanding Second Brigade, Second Division, Third Division, Sixth Corps; Lieut. Col. J.H. Taylor, assistant adjutant-general, right grand division.”

Burnside biographer William Marvel wrote that what the general did “was prepare for Lincoln’s consideration those very orders Halleck had implied would be forthcoming if he requested them.  At least in the case of the dismissals, courts-martial would have been in order, and eight senior subordinates constituted a significant element of opposition, so Lincoln would of course be shocked.  In fact it seems Burnside hoped to shock him — to propose technically difficult terms — but those terms would have been necessary for him to continue in command.  If the president wanted him to remain, the removal of those men was a reasonable expectation.

At the president’s request, Burnside heads for Washington.

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President Deals with Problem Generals

January 22, 1863

President Lincoln tries to pacify General John A. McClernand, an influential Illinois War Democrat who is upset with his dismissal from command: “Yours of the 7th, was received yesterday.  I need not recite, because you remember the contents.  The charges, in their nature, are such that I must know as much about the facts involved, as you can.  I have too man family controversies, (so to speak) already on my hands, to voluntarily, or so long as I can avoid it, Take up another.  You are now doing well–well for the country, and well for yourself–much better than you could possibly be, if engaged in open war with Gen. Halleck.  Allow me to beg, that for your sake, for my sake, & for the country’s sake, you give your whole attention to the better work.”  The president added: “Your success upon the Arkansas, was both brilliant and valuable, and is fully appreciated by the country and governments.

President Lincoln writes another Illinois general, Stephen Hurlbut  who wants to come to Washington: “Yours of the 17th. to Mr. [E.B.] Washburne has been shown me. As your friend, which you know I am, I would advise you not to come to Washington, if you could safely come without leave. You now stand well with the Sec. of War, and with Gen. Halleck, and it would lessen you with both for you to make your appearance here. I advise you by all means to dismiss the thought of coming here.”

Published in: on January 22, 2013 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment