President and Mrs. Lincoln hold a Saturday Reception

February 7, 1863

The unusual quiet of the White House is broken by an afternoon reception hosted by Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln.   Such receptions had been suspended the previous February when the Lincoln’s beloved Willie fell ill and died.  Mrs. Lincoln in particular had been in mourning since then.   Many important Washington residents attend this reception since regular evening receptions at the White House had not yet resumed.

Published in: on February 7, 2013 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

President Occupies Himself with Governmental Trivia

February 6, 1863

Cabinet meeting held , but according to Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles, “Nothing of special importance at the Cabinet. Seward was absent, and I therefore called on him respecting his circular dispatch concerning the blockade at Galveston. His chief clerk, Mr. Hunter, was coy and shy. Neither he nor Mr. Seward were certain it had been sent. Some dispatches had not been sent. Seward said he had made all the alterations, but the clerk had not done his errand properly, did not tell him I objected, etc., etc.  The Department seemed in confusion. Hunter watched Seward closely and could recollect only what Seward recollected. When I touched on the principles involved, I found Seward inexcusably ignorant of the subject of blockade. He admitted he had not looked into the books, had not studied the subject, had relied on Hunter. Hunter said he had very little knowledge and no practical experience on these matters except what took place during the Mexican blockade. Made Seward send for Wheaton; read to him a few passages. He seemed perplexed, but thought his circular dispatch as modified could do little harm. I am apprehensive that he has, in his ostentatious, self-assuming way, committed himself in conversation, and knows not how to get out of the difficulty. He says Fox told him the blockade was raised at Galveston. It is one of those cases where the Secretary of State has written a hasty letter without proper inquiry or knowledge of facts, and my fears are that he has made unwarranted admissions. After firing off his gun, he learns his mistake, — has “gone off half-cocked.”

President Lincoln is concerned with issues like the request of U.S. Representative James K. Moorhead to get an appointment of Charles Heintzelman to West Point.   Naval officer John Dahlgren, a close friend of President Lincoln, observes in his diary: “I observe that the President never tells a joke now.”

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President Lincoln Attempts to Pacify General Franz Sigel

February 5, 1863

President Lincoln wrote General Franz Sigel to soften an earlier communication in he had communicated that he had “given General Sigel as good a command as he can, and desires him to do the best he can with it.”   Sigel had complained about a reduction in the size of his command.   Lincoln now writes: “Gen. Schurz thinks I was a little cross in my late note to you.  If I was, I ask pardon.  If do get up a little temper I have no sufficient time to keep it up.”  He added: “I believe I will not now issue any new order in relation to the matter in question; but I will be obliged, if Gen. Hooker consistently can, and will give an increased Cavalry command to Gen. [Julius] Stah[e]l.  You may show Gen. Hooker this letter if you choose.”

Lincoln also sought a job for the son of his Illinois friend, Edward D. Baker, who had died at the Battle of Balls’ Bluff in October 1861: “I would like to give the son of my old friend, Col. Baker one of the places or vacancies created by this act, Will the Com. Genl. please arrange it for me?”

President Lincoln writes the Senate in regard to agreements with the Peruvian government: “I submit to the Senate for consideration with a view to ratification a “Convention between the United States of America and the Republic of Peru, providing for the reference to the King of Belgium of the claims arising out of the capture and confiscation of the ships Lizzie Thompson and Georgiana” – signed at Lima on the 20th, December, 1862.”

General and Mrs. Randolph Marcy, parents of General George B. McClellan’s wife Ellen, visit the Lincolns.

Published in: on February 5, 2013 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

President Lincoln Concerned about Racial Relations in Baltimore

February 4, 1863

President Lincoln wrote General Robert Schenck, the commander in Maryland, “I hear of some difficulty in the streets of Baltimore yesterday.  What is the amount of it?”  A report

suggested the reasons for President Lincoln’s concerns: “’The practical feeling of white soldiers toward negroes is seen in the fact that yesterday morning a lot of one hundred and fifty convalescents from Philadelphia, in charge of a guard of ten men, armed at the Solders’ Rest, and at once showed their antipathy to the colored people by assaulting the contrabands employed about the quarters…The Baltimore papers state that in coming through that city they attacked every colored person coming in their way, assaulted the police who endeavored to protect them.”

President Lincoln writes Congress: “In compliance with the resolution of the House of Representatives on the 5th. December last, requesting information upon the present condition of Mexico, I transmit a report from the Secretary of State, and the papers by which it was accompanied.”

Washington is increasingly concerned about the naval campaign to recapture Charleston, South Carolina.  Navy Secretary Gideon Welles writes in his diary: “We have the whole world agog with an account of an onset on our fleet before Charleston. The Mercedita is reported to have been surprised and sunk, and other vessels damaged. But the great hullabaloo is over a report that the whole blockading fleet ran away, — the foreign consuls at Charleston went out and could see none of the vessels, —and the blockade is by the Rebels declared raised. Seward called on me in great trepidation with these tidings. Told him most of the stuff was unworthy of a moment’s consideration. Not unlikely the Mercedita may have been surprised and sunk, as she is of light draft and was probably close in. If there had been other vessels captured or sunk, we should have had their names. It looked to me as if the budget was made up for the European market by the foreign consuls, who are in fact Rebel agents, and I asked why their exequaturs were not annulled.”

Published in: on February 4, 2013 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Ways to Stem Army Desertions Discussed by Lincoln Cabinet

February 3, 1863

At regular Tuesday Cabinet meeting, there is a discussion of whether an army deserter should be executed as a way to discourage desertion.

Responding to a visit by former Mississippi Senator Henry Foote, President Lincoln

writes: “To-day Senator Foote calls and asks that William H. Hodges, of Mass. 17 next June, and nephew of Mrs. Foote, may be sent to West-Point. He says the boy is a fine scholar, and of uncommonly fine physical development.”

Ellen Ewing Sherman, wife of General William T. Sherman, writes President Lincoln.  This time, instead of making about her husband, she writes about her brother: “It has been a long time since I addressed you, but when I had that honor I beleive you knew me to be sincere. Subsequent events very soon proved my husband’s sanity ability and honor. On the grounds of all that I, personally, have endured for the great cause, during the long absence and perilous duties of my husband, in bearing alone, the cares and sorrows of my young family; and still more, on the grounds of my unwavering devotion to the Administration, and to you, Mr. Lincoln, as its head, I now presume to ask you for a favor and to add that I shall be warmly grateful to you for it.  It is simply the promotion to the rank of Brig. General of my brother Col. Charles Ewing. At my earnest persuasion my brother Thomas Ewing Jr. will present to you his claims with reasons that explain why his name has not been sent to you long since by Gen’l. Sherman. He will also hand you a copy of a letter from Gen’l [John]Schofield the original of which has been sent by mistake to my brother Charles at Savannah. I am confident you will grant my request but I will reserve to myself the pleasure of writing you a letter of thanks when you have conferred the honor.”   The Ewings were a prominent Ohio political family.

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President Lincoln Writes London Workers

February 2, 1863

President Lincoln responded to a letter from London workingmen regarding emancipation: “We have watched with the warmest interest the steady advance of your policy along the path of emancipation; and on the eve of the day on which your proclamation of freedom takes effect, we pray God to strengthen your hands, to confirm your noble purpose, and to hasten the restoration of that lawful authority which engages, in peace or war, by compensation or by force of arms, to realize the glorious principle on which your Constitution is founded—the brotherhood, freedom and equality of all men.”  President Lincoln wrote in response:

I have received the new year’s address which you have sent me with a sincere appreciation of the exalted and humane sentiments by which it was inspired.

As those sentiments are manifestly the enduring support of the free institutions of England, so I am sure also that they constitute the only reliable basis for free institutions throughout the world.

The resources, advantages, and powers of the American people are very great, and they have, consequently, succeeded to equally great responsibilities.  It seems to have devolved upon them to test whether a government, established on the principles of human freedom, can be maintained against an effort to build one upon the exclusive foundation of human bondage.

They will rejoice with me in the new evidences which your proceedings furnish, that the magnamity they are exhibiting is justly estimated by the true friends of freedom and humanity in foreign countries.

Accept my best wishes for your individual welfare, and for the welfare and unhappiness of the whole British people.

Wisconsin Senator James  Doolittle visits the White House to press for a constituent to be appointed to West Point.  President Lincoln wrote: “To-day Senator Doolittle, Mrs. Spaulding, and Col. Root, call and ask that Eliphalet Nott Chester, of Buffalo N.Y. 17 the 18th. of next July, be sent to West-Point.  Two of his brothers have served in this war, (one of them still in the service) and he, as a private, has been through the battles of South-Mountain, Antietam, and Fredericksburg. Col. Root is his Col., and gives the strongest testimony, both as to his general worthiness, and his particular talent for Military matters.”

Published in: on February 2, 2013 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

President Lincoln Declines to Meet Governor Oliver Morton

February 1, 1863

President Lincoln responded to a note from Indiana Governor Oliver P. Morton requesting to meet him in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania about Copperhead Democrats: “I think it would not do for me to meet you at Harrisburg.  It would be known, and would be misconstrued a thousand ways.  Of course if the whole truth could be told and accepted as the truth, it would do no harm, but that is impossible.”

New York Republican boss Thurlow Weed writes President Lincoln to explain why left the editorship of the Albany Evening Journal and to complain about his ongoing feud with New York Tribune editor Horace Greeley: “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 indeed, to the Life of the Republic. It 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.

There is crazy “method” in Greeley’s Abolitionism. He has the Presidency on his Brain. He ran “Maine Law into the ground” expecting to make himself Governor. His Ambition is mere Lunacy, but, unfortunately, I fear he possesses the power to ruin our Country. If I could be heard by the same, and the same number, of readers, I should hope to open their eyes.

This State was ours, in November, by 25,000 majority, with Morgan, and 50,000 with Dix, but he, and his like, would have an Abolition issue for Governor, that they might secure a Legislature in favor of Greeley or Field, for U. S. Senator.

Published in: on February 1, 2013 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment