President Lincoln Petitioned for West Point Appointment

February 18, 1863

President Lincoln writes a memo regarding the request from Chicago Congressman Isaac N. Arnold regarding an appointment to West Point: “To-day, Hon. I. N. Arnold calls with Col. Tucker, of Chicago, and asks that his son, Henry Russell Tucker, 16 next July, be sent to West-Point. Col. T. has just lost his only other son in battle, & has himself been in charge of Camp Douglas.”

Meanwhile, the alliance between Republicans and War Democrats was continuing to deteriorate.  Historian Bruce Tap wrote: “On February 18 [Congressman Julian] delivered one of the most blistering philippics of the war, castigating Democratic opposition to Republican war measures as part of a giant proslavery conspiracy.  Blaming every military disaster on Democratic generals and principles, Julian dealt at length with the failures of George McClellan….Proslavery officers in the Army of the Potomac had forced the president o modify Fremont’s emancipation proclamation early in the struggles. Even though the policy eventually had been adopted, Democrats, Julian reasoned, who held four-fifths of the positions in the army, prevented Fremont’s return to an active command and kept many antislavery generals relegated to insignificant positions.  The president must change his policy and dismiss every advocate of slavery who occupied a public position.  Encouraging Lincoln to make war in earnest, Julian concluded with an appeal that every weapon necessary to put down the rebellion be used.”

President Lincoln writes Secretary of the State William H. Seward: “I have two not very important matters, upon which I wish to consult the Cabinet. Please convene them, say at 10 A.M. tomorrow.”

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

New York Politics and Proposals Concern President Lincoln

February 17, 1863

The regular Tuesday Cabinet meet is held at the White House where communications from Congressman Fernando Wood, a former New York mayor, is the subject of discussion: “The President read to the Cabinet a correspondence between himself and Fernando Wood.  The latter wrote the President on the 8th of December last that he had good reason to believe the South desired a restoration of the Union, etc. The President replied on the 12th of December that he had no confidence in the impression, but that he would receive kindly any proposition.  Wood’s letter was confidential; the President made his so.  All was well enough, perhaps, in form and manner if such a correspondence was to take place.  Wood is a Representative and his letter was brought to the President Opdyke.  Mayor Opdyke and ex-Mayor Wood are on opposite extremes of parties,–so opposite that each is, if not antagonistic, not very friendly inclined to the President.  Wood now telegraphs the President that the time has arrived when the correspondence should be published.  It is a piece of political machinery intended for certain party purposes.”

President Lincoln meets in the evening with a committee of New York Citizens headed by W. H. Tyler who bring resolutions to establish “armed free labor colonies” in Florida with former black slaves.

Illinois politician William Pitt Kellogg carries a communication to the White House: “I arrived [in Washington] in the early part of the evening, went directly to the White House, and was received by Mr. Lincoln in the library.  I handed him the sealed letter [from General Grant] referred to.  I was with him but a short time, but during that time he fired questions at me with the rapidity of a gatlin [Gatling] gun.  I left late that night, and a few days reached the point when I started.”

President Lincoln writes General William Rosecrans: “In no other way does the enemy give us so much trouble, at so little expence to himself, as by the raids of rapidly moving small bodies of troops (largely, if not wholly, mounted) harrassing, and discouraging loyal residents, supplying themselves with provisions, clothing, horses, and the like, surprising and capturing small detachments of our forces, and breaking our communications. And this will increase just in proportion as his larger armies shall weaken, and wane. [2] Nor can these raids be successfully met by even larger forces of our own, of the same kind, acting merely on the defensive. I think we should organize proper forces, and make counter-raids. We should not capture so much of supplies from them, as they have done from us; but it would trouble them more to repair railroads and bridges than it does us. What think you of trying to get up such a corps in your army? Could you do it without any, or many additional troops (which we have not to give you) provided we furnish horses, suitable arms, and other appointments? Please consider this, not as an order, but as a suggestion.”

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President Lincoln Holds Meetings on Charleston

February 16, 1863

The impending capture of Charleston continues to preoccupy President Lincoln who consults with Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles about sending Assistant Secretary of the Navy Gustavus V. Fox to Charleston to consult with Admiral Samuel F. Du Pont.

President Lincoln writes Secretary of the War Edwin M. Stanton and Secretary of Navy Gideon Welles: “Gentlemen Please appoint an officer from each of your Departments, for the purpose of testing the incendiary shell, & incendiary fluid, of A. Berney, and reporting to me whether it would be proper to introduce the shell, or the fluid, in some other form, one or both, into the Military or Naval service of the United States.”

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President Lincoln Discusses Charleston Strategy

February 15, 1863

In a meeting at the White House, President Lincoln discusses military strategy to recapture Charleston with Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton, Assistant Secretary of the Navy Gustavus V. Fox, General-in-Chief Henry W. Halleck, and General John G. Foster.  As Fox later writes: “ Foster related carefully, everything of interest, and developed his plan for the attack upon Charleston viz: the Iron Clads to protect him upon Morris Island whilst he erected batteries to reduce Sumpter; such an idea was so insignificant and so characteristic of the Army, that I could not help expressing myself to that effect.  Foster said you and he had measured across the upper end of James Island and that it was too wide to be covered by guns from the iron clads, assuming that they could get to Charleston, and that there were 19,000 men upon the Island with 3 months provisions.  I then asked Gen Halleck, what would be the result of the Iron Clads reaching a position off the city.  He replied the entire evacuation of James Island.  I repeated the question to him Cullum and Foster all Engineers, afterwards at Gen Halleck’s office and he and Cullum both said it would be all up with them if we could pass the forts. I then said to Foster why attack the forts?  He finally acknowledge that if we could get to the city it would be no use.  The idea of a siege Meets with such disfavor that the president wished me to go down and see you.  But though I consented yesterday it seems impossible to leave at this time.  The Nahant leaves to-day or tomorrow, and is the only Iron Clad we can add without creating a delay that the Government and country seem to be very impatient of.  Finances, politics, foreign relations, all seem to ask for Charleston before Congress time, my dear Admiral, we only say do it, but I beg of you not to take these soldiers too closely into your counsels in a purely naval matter.  The two Rodgers are worth the whole of them. It seems to me very clear that our course is to go in and demand a surrender of the Forts or the alternative of destruction to their city.  If the obstructions prevent this, it will be time enough to assist the Army in laying siege.  I believe you will do what is best in the most superb manner and you will be successful.

Later, President Lincoln entertains General Benjamin F. Butler at a private dinner.  Lincoln seeking to find a role for Butler, who had been dismissed as the governor of New Orleans the previous fall.

Attorney General Edward Bates writes in his diary that Postmaster General Montgomery Blair: “ For some time back Mr. B. has been very assiduous in his Court to the Prest., and I heard that he is making, sub rosa, fair weather with the democrats, trying to smooth the way to make Genl. Butler Secy of War.  We are now at the middle of Mr. L[incoln]’s term, and most administio]ns., even in good times, wane towards the latter end,[.] Mr. B. probably thinks it good policy to have strong friends on both sides.”  He adds: ““It is hard game to play, and I doubt whether Mr. Bl. Has skill to keep his balance even.

Published in: on February 15, 2013 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

President Lincoln Discusses Weaponry and Military Affairs

February 14, 1863

President Lincoln holds two conferences regarding Charleston with Navy officer John Dahlgren.  The second one includes Assistant Secretary of the Navy Gustavus V. Fox and General-in-Chief Henry W. Halleck.  The use and arming of Union ironclads is a continuing concern.

In the afternoon, the regular Saturday reception at the White House goes on for two hours and is heavily attended – leaving Mrs. Lincoln in a very good mood.

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Lincolns Host Mr. & Mrs. Charles Stratton for Reception and Overnight Stay

February 13, 1863

President Lincoln and Secretary of War Stanton travel together to Fort Dekalb across the Potomac to witness a test of a weapon detonation apparatus.

President Lincoln writes Congress regarding Indian unrest: “I herewith communicate to the House of Representatives, in answer to their resolution of the 18th of December last, a report from the Secretary of the Interior, containing all the information in the possession of the department respecting the causes of the recent outbreaks of the Indian tribes in the north-west, which has not heretofore been transmitted to Congress.

At night, Mrs. Lincoln hosts a White House reception for recently-married Charles and Livinia Stratton, better known as General and Mrs. Tom Thumb.  Historian Stanley Kimmel wrote that Stratton “was twenty-four years old, thirty-two inches high, and weight twenty-one pounds. She was four years younger, of the same height, and eight pounds heavier. Only a few [days] before, the ‘distinguished Lilliputians’ had been married in New York City, and P.T. Barnum, super-showman of the day who had the ‘General’ under contract, had lost no time in publicizing the vent and arrange to have the couple presented to chiefs of republics and royal sovereigns.”  Stratton was in Washington to visit his brother, a Union soldier.   Robert Todd Lincoln disdained to attend the reception.

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President Lincoln Intervenes in Irish Brigade

February 12, 1863

President Lincoln writes General-in-Chief Henry W.  Halleck: “Gen. [Thomas W.] Meagher, now with me, says the Irish Brigade has had no promotion; and that Col. Robert Nugent &; Col. Patrick Kelly, both of that Brigade have fairly earned promotion. They both hold commissions as Captains in the regular army. Please examine their records with reference to the question of promoting one or both of them.”   Meagher had been an Irish nationalist before his arrest and deportation to Australia.   He was instrumental in the formation and recruitment for the “Irish Brigade” of Irish-Americans.

President Lincoln writes General William Rosecrans who had written the previous day: “The enemy will direct all its operations to intercept our connection. To prevent this it is absolutely necessary to patrol the rivers. Information in possession of the commanding General and post Commanders must be promptly acted upon. It is, therefore, absolutely necessary to have the gunboats which co-operate in that work directed to report to, and receive instructions from, the general commanding, or, in his absence, the commanders along the river districts. The officers commanding gunboats express a willingness to co-operate with the department, but in order to make their aid effective and prompt, such arrangements should be made.” President Lincoln writes Rosecrans: “Your despatch about ‘River Patrolling’  received. I have called the Sec. of Navy, Sec. of War, and General-in-Chief, together and submitted it to them, who promise to do their very best in the case. I can not take it into my own hands without producing inextracable confusion.”

Assistant Secretary of the Navy Gustavus V. Fox writes Admiral Samuel F. DuPont about plans to capture Charleston, South Carolina: “The President sent for me to-day and read Foster’s despatch of the 2d stating that the Navy would be ready for the attack in about two weeks.  We are very anxious but shall not press you.  The President remarked to me several times ‘I should be very anxious about this job if you did not feel so sure of your people being successful.”

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President Lincoln appoints General Benjamin F. Butler to Inspect the Mississippi River

February 11, 1863

Long preoccupied with finding a new assignment for General Benjamin F. Butler, who had been relieved of his command of New Orleans late in 1862, President Lincoln: “Major General Butler, bearer of this, visits the Mississippi River, and localities thereon, at my request, for observation. The Military and Naval Commanders, whom he may meet, will please facilitate his passage from point to point, and make him as comfortable as possible during his stay with them respectively. I will thank them also to impart to him such information as they may possess, and he may seek, not inconsistent with the military service.”  The president had considered returning Butler to his previous command but decided against it.

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President Lincoln Tries to Answer Complaints and Requests

February 10, 1863

President Lincoln writes President Lincoln: “In answer to the resolution of the Senate of yesterday, requesting information touching the visit of Mr. Mercier to Richmond, in April last, I transmit a report from the Secretary of State, to whom the resolution was referred.”  The report read in part: ““Since the fourth of March, 1861, no communication, direct or indirect, formal or informal, has been held by this government, or by the Secretary of State, with the insurgents, their orders, or abettors. No passport has been granted to any foreign minister to pass the military lines except by the President’s direction, and each of such ministers who has received such passport has, on his return, waited upon the President as well as the Secretary of State, and given them such account, unasked, as he thought proper of the incidents of his journey.”

President Lincoln writes Generals  David Hunter and A.C. Smith along with W.E. Wording and W.H. Brisbane: “You are hereby authorized and directed agreeably to an Act of Congress, approved on the 6th. day of February inst. to select for Government use, for war, military, naval revenue, charitable, Educational or police purposes, such tracts, parcels or lots of land, within the State of South Carolina, from the lands which may have been or which may hereafter be offered for sale by the Direct Tax Commissioners in said State, appointed under an Act of Congress, approved June 7th. 1862. as may seem to you necessary and proper for the purposes aforesaid. And I do direct and order that either of the two persons first named, together with two of the three persons last named, shall constitute a quorum for the purpose of making such selections; and in case of the absence of the two persons first named, the last named three persons, or the major part of them, are authorized to make the selections, as hereinbefore directed. And you are hereby authorized and empowered to execute and perform the duties herein specified, according to Law. You will report your proceedings to the Secretary of the Treasury.”

President Lincoln orders a pardon for Henry Williams of Baltimore convicted of manslaughter.

President Lincoln is trying to pacify General Benjamin F. Butler, for whom he had not yet found a command assignment: “To-day Gen. B. F. Butler calls and asks that Philip Read of Mass (Dracut) may be sent to West-Point. Is now just past 17.”

Published in: on February 10, 2013 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

President Works on Administrative Details

February 9, 1863

Among the relatively unimportant tasks in which Prsident Lincoln engages is a recommendation for an old Illinois friend from Matton, Illinois: “I personally know John W. True; and think him both competent and worthy to be an Additional Paymaster.”  In another note, he semi-endorses the transfer request for General Speed S. Fry, which Kentucky public officials have sought.   Several months later, General Fry would be named to command the Easter District of Kentucky: “I know nothing as to whether the transfer sought, is admissable. I have a very strong impression, however that Gen. Frye is a worthy gentleman and meritorious officer.”

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