President Lincoln Approves the Controversial Dismissal of General Fitz-John Porter

January 21, 1863

President Lincoln approves the controversial dismissal of General Fitz-John Porter from the army following a military investigation of his actions the previous summer: “The foregoing proceedings, findings, and sentence in the foregoing case of Major-General Fitz-John Porter, are approved and confirmed; and it is ordered that the said Fitz-John Porter be, and he hereby is, cashiered and dismissed from the service of the United States as a Major General of Volunteers, and as Colonel and Brevet Brigadier in Regular Service of the United States, and forever disqualified from holding any office of trust or profit under the Government of the United States.

General Henry W. Halleck writes General Ulysses S. Grant: “It may be proper to give you some explanation of the revocation of your order expelling all Jews from your department.  The President has no objection to your expelling traitors and Jew peddlers, which, I suppose, was the subject of your order; but, as it in terms proscribed an entire religious class, some of whom are fighting in our ranks, the President deemed it necessary to revoke it.”

Published in: on January 21, 2013 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Cabinet Meeting discusses gauge for Transcontinental Railroad

January 20, 1863

Under the legislation authorizing the transcontinental railroad, President Lincoln is charged with decided on the gauge of the railroad track.   At the regular cabinet meeting as snowy weather closes in on the capital, President Lincolns requests opinions the options: a five-foot gauge or a standard gauge of four feet, eight and a half inches.  The decision President Lincoln makes the next day in favor of the five-foot gauge will eventually be overturned by Congress – which institutes the standard gauge in use in the eastern half of the country.

On the another railroad matter, President Lincoln wrote Missourian Samuel Glover: “Yours of January 12th. stating the distressed condition of the people in South-West Missouri, and urging the completion of the Railroad to Springfield, is just received. Of course I deplore the distress of the people in that section & elsewhere. Nor is the thought of extending the railroad, new to me. But the military necessity for it, is not so patent, but that Congress would try to restrain me in some way, were I to attempt it.”

Published in: on January 20, 2013 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

President Lincoln Stands Firm on Emancipation

January 19, 1863

President Lincoln responds to an “address” from the “Workingmen of Manchester” supporting his position on emancipation.  They had written: “We joyfully honor you, as the President, and the Congress with you, for the many decisive steps towards practically exemplifying your belief in the words of your great founders, `All men are created free and equal.’   Lincoln acknowledges that the Civil War has been hard on English workers because of the blockade of southern cotton that had closed British textile mills.

When I came, on the fourth day of March, 1861, through a free and constitutional election, to preside in the government of the United States, the country was found at the verge of civil war.  Whatever might have been the cause, or whosoever the fault, one duty paramount to all others was before me, namely, to maintain and preserve at once the Constitution and the integrity of the federal republic.  A conscientious purpose to perform this duty is a key to all the measures of administration which have been, and to all which will hereafter be pursued.  Under our form of government, and my official oath, I could not depart from this purpose if I would.  It is not always in the power of governments to enlarge or restrict the scope of moral results which follow the policies that they may deem it necessary for the public safety, from time to time, to adopt.

I have understood well that duty of self-preservation rests solely with the American people.  But I have at the same time been aware that favor or disfavor of foreign nations might have a material influence in enlarging and prolonging the struggle with disloyal men in which the country is engaged.  A fair examination of history has seemed to authorize a belief that the past action and influences of the United States were generally regarded as having been beneficient towards mankind.  I have therefore reckoned upon the forbearance of nations.  Circumstances, to some of which you kindly allude, induced me especially to expect that if justice and good faith should be practiced by the United States, they would encounter no hostile influence on the part of Great Britain.  It is now a pleasant duty to acknowledge the demonstration you have given of your desire that a spirit of peace and amity towards this country may prevail in the councils of your Queen, who is respected and esteemed in your own country only more than she is by the kindred nation which has its home on this side of the Atlantic.

I know and deeply deplore the sufferings which the workingmen at Manchester and in all Europe are called to endure in this crisis. It has been often and studiously represented that the attempt to overthrow this government, which was built upon the foundation of human rights, and to substitute for it one which should rest exclusively on the basis of human slavery, was likely to obtain the favor of Europe.  Through the actions of our disloyal citizens the workingmen of Europe have been subjected to a severe trial, for the purpose of forcing their sanction to that attempt.  Under these circumstances, I cannot but regard your decisive utterance upon the question as an instance of sublime Christina heroism which has not been surpassed in any age or in any country.  It is, indeed, an energetic and reinspiring assurance of the inherent power of truth and of ultimate and universal triumph of justice, humanity, and freedom.  I do not doubt that the sentiments you have expressed will be sustained by your great nation, and, on the other hand, I have no hesitation in assuring you that they will excite admiration, esteem, and the most reciprocal feelings of friendship among the American people.  I hail this interchange of sentiment, therefore, as an augury that, whatever else may happen, whatever misfortune may befall your country or my own, the peace and friendship which now exist between the two nations will be, as it shall be my desire to make the, perpetual.

Judge David Davis relates to Illinois Senator Orville H. Browning the President’s firmness regarding emancipation: “In conversation with Judge Davis of the Supreme Court this morning he told me that he had a conversation with the President yesterday in which he represented to him the alarming condition of things, and urged upon him to reconstruct his cabinet, and change his [emancipation] policy, as the only means of saving the Country.  The President told him that this proclamation in regard to slavery was a fixed thing — that he intended to adhere to it, and whether he changed his cabinet must be determined by future events.”

Mrs Lincoln takes the Davis family for a carriage ride.  According to Davis biographer Willard King, she “took them to the White House to hear a poem read by a ‘famous elocutionist.’  Again they saw the President, who chatted with them pleasantly and appeared in Sarah Adam’s words, ‘much like other mortals, except that he is a little homelier than most men.’”


Journalist Noah Brooks writes: “Monday morning, bright and early, Congress was greeted with a message, informing that honorable body that he [Lincoln] had signed the joint resolution authorizing the issuance of $100,000,000 of legal tender notes for the payment of the army and navy, and at the same time giving his views on the financial question at some length.  It must be confessed that the message partook somewhat of the character of a lecture, but the turmoil, buzzing and fretting of Congress was unnecessary and undignified.  To the astonishment of these Congressmen, who have been wrangling and spouting for weeks over the Revenue bill, the President is actually found to have an opinion and a mind of his own.  Remarkable impudence and unparalleled boldness!  The President has dared to disturb the windy lucubrations of Congress, and tell them what he thinks is right and fit in such a deplorable fix as the present.  Instantly the House was up in arms, and a motion to refer to a Special Committee was lost, the House adjourning without making and disposition of it.  Representatives grumbled and swore, and Senators were indignant, and being so lectured would not even print the message.  Senator Wilson fumed and said that the President took occasion to ring in a speech every time he sent the most trivial message to the Senate, etc., etc.  But the people are pleased, for they are in the main (except the bank interest) in favor of the views of Secretary Chase, which the President indorses, and public confidence is accordingly reassured, and the popular pleased with the independence of the President, who has brought up Congress with a round turn to a sense of its duty.”

Published in: on January 19, 2013 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Judge David Pressures President to Reverse Emancipation

January 18, 1863

In the morning, President Lincoln attend Foundry Methodist Episcopal Church.  He contributes 5150 to the Parent Society and is  named  ‘Life Director of the Parent Society”

Later, President Lincoln meets with Supreme Court Justice David Davis regarding reaction to  emancipation in Illinois.  Davis biographer Willard King wrote: “In January 1863, the legislature of Illinois, under Democratic domination, proposed resolutions demanding an immediate cessation of the war unless the Emancipation Proclamation were withdrawn.  Test votes showed that such resolutions would be passed.  Davis went at once to the White House and told Lincoln that, to save the country, he must change his policy regarding slavery – the Emancipation Proclamation had made suppression of the rebellion impossible.  The Judge also told the President that he must reconstruct his cabinet to eliminate Chase and Blair.  Lincoln replied that his policy regarding slavery was fixed – that he meant to adhere to it, and that whether he changed his cabinet must be determined by future events.  Lincoln’s treatment of Davis after this interview displays once again the President skill in handling men.  Just at this time Sarah had brought her young cousin, Sarah Adams, to Washington for a visit.  A letter of the younger Sarah indicates that the Lincolns suffered some distress from the Judge’s blunt demand for the recall of Emancipation.  But they exerted themselves, nevertheless, to be gracious to him and Mrs. Davis.  ‘Sunday morning we went with cousin Sarah to Church, while Judge Davis went to see Mr. Lincoln.  (This was the occasion when the Judge told the President that he would lose the war unless he withdrew his Proclamation.)  ‘In the evening Mr. Davis went to the White House with us.  We were ushered into the private parlor, and saw Uncle Abe who was suffering with a sick head-ache.’  Sarah Adam, of course, knew nothing of what the Judge had said to the President that morning.  ‘His wife excused herself on plea of sickness, but said she would take us to ride next day!’

Published in: on January 18, 2013 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

President Lincoln Meets with New York Tribune Editor Greeley

January 17, 1863

President Lincoln had a prickly relationship with Horace Greeley, the influential and erratic editor of the New York Tribune who pushed alternatively for war, emancipation and peace.  In the morning, Mr. Lincoln meets with Greeley regarding the state of the union.  Illinois Senator Orville Browning writes in his diary: “With Capt James M Rice at the Presidents in the morning — Found the President closeted with Greely — Waited till he left, and had an interview.   At night called to see Judge and Mrs [David]  Davis, and talk with the Judge about public affairs.

President Lincoln sends a message to Congress to regarding additional military pay while expressing misgivings regarding inflationary pressures that may result: “I have signed the Joint Resolution to provide for the immediate payment of the army and navy of the United States, passed by the House of Representatives on the 14th, and by the Senate on the 15th instant.”

The Joint Resolution is a simple authority, amounting however, under existing circumstances, to a direction to the Secretary of the Treasury to make an additional issue of one hundred millions of dollars in United States notes if so much money is needed for the payment of the army and navy.

My approval is given in order that every possible facility may be afforded for the prompt discharge of all arrears of pay due to our soldiers and our sailors.

While giving this approval, however, I think it my duty to express my sincere regret that it has been found necessary to authorize so large an additional issue of United States notes, when this circulation, and that of the suspended banks together have become already so redundant as to increase prices beyond real values, thereby augmenting the cost of living to the injury of labor, and the cost of supplies to the injury of the whole country.

It seems very plain that continued issues of United States notes, without any check to the issues of suspended banks, and without adequate provision for the raising of money by loans, and for funding the issues so as to keep them within due limits, must soon produce disastrous consequences.  And this matter appears to me so important that I feel bound to avail myself of this occasion to ask the special attention of Congress to it.

That Congress has power to regulate the currency of the country, can hardly admit of doubt; and that a judicious measure to prevent the deterioration of this currency, by a reasonable taxation of bank circulation or otherwise is needed, seems equally clear.  Independently of this general consideration, it would be unjust to the people at large, to exempt banks, enjoying the special privilege of circulation, from their just proportion of the public burdens.

In order to raise money by way of loans most easily and cheaply, it is clearly necessary to give every possible support to the public credit.  To that end, a uniform currency, in which taxes, subscriptions to loans, and all other ordinary public dues, as well as all private dues may be paid, is almost, if quite indispensable.  Such a currency can be furnished by banking associations, organized under a general act of Congress, as suggested in my message at the beginning of the present session.  The securing of this circulation, by the pledge of United States bonds, as therein suggested, would still further facilitate loans, by increasing the present and causing a future demand for such bonds.

In view of the actual financial embarrassments of the government, and of the greater embarrassments sure to come, if the necessary means of relief be not afforded, I feel that I should not perform my duty by a simple announcement of my approval of the Joint Resolution which proposes relief only by increasing circulation, without expressing my earnest desire that measures, such in substance as those I have just referred to, may receive the early sanction of Congress.

By such measure, in my opinion, will payment be most certainly secured, not only to the army and navy, but to all honest creditors of the government, and satisfactory provision made for future demands on the treasury.

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General McClernand Complains to Lincoln about Mississippi River Command

January 16, 1862

Dismissed from his command on the Mississippi River, General John McClernand, a politicial general from Illinois, reaches out to President Lincoln for redress, sending along a copy of a letter to General Ulysses S. Grant.  McClernand complained to Lincoln: : “I believe my success here is gall and wormwood to the clique of West-Pointers who have been persecuting me for months–

How can you expect success, when men controlling the military destinies of the country, are more chagrined at the success of your volunteer officers than the very enemy beaten by the latter in battle?

Something must be done to take the hand of oppression off citizens soldiers, whose zeal for their country, has prompted them to take up arms, or all will be lost–

Do not let me be clandestinely sacrificed, or what is worse, dishonored without a hearing. The very moment you think I am an impediment to the public service, upon the slightest intimation of it, my resignation will be forwarded– Until then, you may count upon my best endeavors, at whatever peril, to sustain the sacred cause for which we are contending–

In addition to the reasons set forth in the copy of the despatch enclosed, for the Arkansas river expedition, I might assign the order of the Secretary of war, endorsed by you, to open the Mississippi river–

The Mississippi river being the only channel of communication, and that being infested by guerillas, how can Genl Grant, at a distance of four hundred miles, intelligently command the army with me?– He can not do it– It should be an independent command, as both you and the Secretary of war, as I believe, originally intended–

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President Beset by Military and Civilian Demands

January 15, 1862

President Lincoln makes one of his periodic trips to the Washington Navy Yard to test weapons – this time “Captain Diller’s gunpowder.”  Secretary of the Interior John Palmer Usher seeks the removal of convicted prisoner from the Washington jail and asks President Lincoln to sign an order to that effect.   Indiana Governor Oliver Morton writes the President to protest the appointment of a major general in the army.   Another general writes via Secretary of State William H. Seward to volunteer to lead an all-black Union army of “contrabands.

General  Samuel Curtis responds to President Lincoln regarding problems in Missouri: “In my interview with Governor Gamble, and in reference to persons charging him with selfish and ambitious motives, and doubts as to his fidelity, the Governor expressed his regrets, and evinced generous sentiments of loyalty. . . . I think with you that Governor Gamble is loyal, and I do not see any occasion for us to differ, except it may be as to some measures. . . . He goes for you and our country and some of your measures. I go for all. . . . There may be frauds, such as you name, but I doubt it. No assessment committee could commit such a fraud as you name with impunity. . . . On matters concerning the degree and direction of force against rebels, I am appealed to as the supposed head of military power in this vicinity. On complaints of too much severity, the Governor and Your Excellency are appealed to, and we do not, therefore, . . . always see both sides. As to banishments, the Governor goes further than I. . . . As to the cases named by Mr. Rollins, I will examine, and write to him. They must stand on their own merits, not on his; but I shall have due deference to his opinion as to the safety of the release. As I intimated in a former letter, I only fear some conflict with the Governor in regard to Enrolled Militia and regular volunteers. I command the volunteers, but the Enrolled Militia, it is claimed, can only be commanded by the Governor. . . .”

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President Lincoln Seeks to Find Posts for Black Soldiers

January 14, 1862

Following up on his conversation with Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton and Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles the previous Saturday, President Lincoln writes General John A. Dix using “contrabands” as soldiers at two Virginia military installations –  Yorktown and Fort Monroe: “The proclamation has been issued.  We were not succeeding–at best, were progressing too slowly–without it.  Now, that we have it, and bear all the disadvantage of it, (as we do bear some in certain quarters) we must also take some benefit from it, if practicable.  I therefore will thank you for your well considered opinion whether Fortress-Monroe, and York-Town, one or both, could not, in whole or in part, be garrisoned by colored troops, leaving the white forces now necessary at those places, to be employed elsewhere.”

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President Lincoln Seeks to Redress Grievances

January 13, 1862

“At night went to the Presidents with Mr. Robert Bushnell, who had been dismissed from the Naval School, to try and get him reappointed,” recalled Senator Orville H. Browning.  “ He reached here Monday morning with letters from his father soliciting my aid.  I procured an order from the President for his reappointment to enter the class on the first of October.’

President Lincoln wrote Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton: “Dr. Thomas Sim, has been dismissed from the service for being in this City contrary to a general order. His afflicted wife assures me he had a pass from Gen. Sickles, commander of his Division, for 48 hours, and that within the 48 hours he was refused the 15 days absence he asked, and reported to Gen. Sickles, who extended his time so as to take the Dr. with him, and that he reached the army in less than twelve additional hours, to the original 48, allowed him. Please see the lady.”

President Lincoln ordered Attorney General Edward Bates to prepare a pardon for Robert B. Nay, a chief detective under General Benjamin F.  Butler in New Orleans who had been convicted by fraud.

Worries continue about the Union expedition to capture Vicksburg on the Mississippi River.   Navy Secretary Gideon Welles writes: “Accounts from Vicksburg are unfavorable and vague. I fear there has been mismanagement, but we must wait official reports. It is said that Sherman has been superseded by [General john] McClernand. I know not how this is. At the commencement of this campaign, as early as last September, it was understood that McClernand was to have command of the army which was to go down the river and cooperate with our naval commander, [David Dixon] Porter. The President had confidence in him, and designated the appointment, which was acceptable to Porter, who had a particular dislike of West-Pointers. For this I cared but little, because it was confessedly without knowledge of the officers individually and their merits, a close and a sweeping condemnation of all, — partly, I think, because he did not know them, and feared he should be compelled to play a subordinate part with them, while with a civilian general he would have superiority. For three months, while Porter has been organizing the Squadron, nothing has been heard of McClernand until since the attack on Vicksburg, and now it is merely to tell us he has abandoned the place and withdrawn his forces.”

Published in: on January 13, 2013 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

President Suggests Promotion for German-Americans

January 12, 1863

“I intended proposing to you this morning, and forgot it, that Schurz and Stahl should both be Maj. Genls. Schurz to take Sigel’s old corps, and Stahl to command Cavalry,” wrote President Lincoln to Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton.  “They, together with Sigel, are our sincere friends; and while so much may seem rather large, any thing less is too small. I think it better be done.”

President Lincoln wrote Judge-Advocate General Joseph Holt: “The Judge-Advocate-General is instructed to revise the proceedings of the court-martial in the case of Maj.-Gen. Fitz John Porter, and to report fully upon any legal questions that may have arisen in them, and upon the bearing of the testimony in reference to the charges and specifications exhibited against the accused and upon which he was tried.”

The failure of General John McClernand’s military operation around Vicksburg disturbs the Lincoln Administration.  Historian Kenneth P. Williams wrote: ““Because of a shortage of boats the dispatch to McClernand was not sent until the 13th,, but at 3:30 P.M. of the 11th this telegram went to [General Henry W.] Halleck: ‘General McClernand has fallen back to White River, and gone on a wild-goose chase to the Post of Arkansas.  I am ready to re-enforce, but must await further information before knowing what to do.”  Williams added: ““Swift indeed was the reaction in Washington, and the next day Halleck telegraphed to Grant: ‘You are hereby authorized to relieve General McClernand from command of the expedition against Vicksburg, giving it to the next in rank or taking it yourself.’”  McClernand had never been liked by West Pointers like Halleck, Ulysses S. Grant and William T.  Sherman so his replacement would not be lamented.

Published in: on January 12, 2013 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment