Union Meeting at the Capitol

March 31, 1863

A Union meeting is held at the Capitol.  President Lincoln, though appearing tired,  attends with Secretary of State William H.  Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase, and Postmaster General Montgomery Blair.  Washington Chronicle reports:  “The greatest popular demonstration ever known in Washington.”  Jane Swisshelm reported on President Lincoln for the St. Cloud Democrat: “He is very tall and very pale. He walked quickly forward, bowed and took his seat. He was dressed in a plain suit of black which had a worn look; and I could see no sign of watch chain, white bosom or color. But all men have some vanity, and during the evening, I noticed he wore on his breast, an immense jewel, the value of which I can form no estimate. This was the head of a little fellow ‘Tad’ Lincoln, about seven years old, who came with him and for a while sat quietly beside him in one of the great chairs, but who soon grew restless and weary under the long drawn out speeches of the men in the desk, and who would wander from one Member of the Cabinet to another, leaning on and whispering to him, no doubt asking when that man was going to quit and let them go home; and then would come back to father, come around, whisper in his ear, then climb on his knee and nestle his head down on his bosom. As the long bony hand spread out over the dark hair, and the thin face above rest the sharp chin upon it, it was a pleasant sight. The head of a great and powerful nation, without a badge of distinction, sitting quietly in the audience getting bored or applauding like the rest of us; soothing with loving care the little restless creature so much dearer than all the power he wields – a power greater than that exercised by any other human being on earth.”

President Lincoln also meets with General Joseph Hooker, commander of the Army of the Potomac.  Historian John J. Hennesey wrote: “Hooker took full note of the transformation of his army and, true to his nature, he was eager to show it off.  He traveled to Washington in late March and boasted of having the ‘finest army on this planet,’ a force he could march ‘straight to New Orleans’ if he so chose.  While in Washington, Hooker invited Lincoln to come to Stafford to review his reconstituted army.   (‘Hooker has considerable liking for that sort of thing when he can make it pay,’ noted one of the army’s officers).  The visit, Hooker knew, would be an excellent chance, not just for Lincoln to see the army for the first time in six months, but also for the army to take stock of its revitalized self and the leader of the nation it served.”

Navy Secretary Gideon Welles writes of the Cabinet meeting in the morning: “With some effort, though with indifferent health, I have drawn up a communication to Mr. Seward on the subject of letters of marque.  But after the council to-day he read a dispatch from Mr. [Charles Francis] Adams, communicating two letters from Earl Russell, which are insolent, contemptuous and mean aggression not war.  It is pretty evident that a devastating and villainous war is to be waged on our commerce by the connivance of the English Government, which will, and is intended to, sweep our commerce from the ocean.”

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President Lincoln Declares National Fast Day

March 30, 1863

President Lincoln declared: “Whereas, the Senate of the United States, devoutly recognizing the Supreme Authority and just Government of Almighty God, in all the affairs of men and of nations, has, by a resolution, requested the President to designate and set apart a day for National prayer and humiliation.”

And whereas it is the duty of nations as well as of men, to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgressions, in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord:

And insomuch as we know that, by His divine law, nations like individuals are subject to punishments and chastisements in this world, may we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war, which now desolates the land, may be but a punishment, inflicted upon us, for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole People?  We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven.  We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity.  We have grown in numbers, wealth and power, as no other nation has ever grown.  But we have forgotten God.  We have the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own.  Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us!

It behooves us then, to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.

Now, therefore, in compliance with the request, and fully concurring in the views of the Senate, I do, by this my proclamation, designate and set apart Thursday, the 30th. day of April, 1863, as a day of national humiliation, fasting and prayer.  And I do hereby request all the People to abstain, on that day, from their ordinary secular pursuits, and to unite, at their several places of public worship and their respective homes, in keeping the day holy to the Lord, and devoted to the humble discharge of the religious duties proper to the solemn occasion.

All this being done, in sincerity and truth, let us then rest humbling in the hope authorized by the Divine teachings, that the united cry of the Nation will be heard on high, and answered with blessings, no less than the pardon of our national sins, and the restoration of our now divided and suffering Country, to its former happy condition of unity and peace.

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President Lincoln Promotes Raising Black Troops in Louisiana

March 29. 1863

President Lincoln goes to the Navy Department offices, west of the White House, where he has a meeting with Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles and Assistant Secretary of the Navy Gustavus V. Fox.

President Lincoln writes General Nathaniel P. Banks, the New Orleans commander regarding the recruitment of black troops: “Hon. Daniel Ullmann, with a commission of Brigadier General, and two or three hundred other gentlemen as officers, goes to your department and reports to you, for the purpose of raising a colored brigade.  To now avail ourselves of this element of force, is very important, if not indispensable.  I therefore will thank you to help Gen. Ullmann forward with his undertaking, as much, and as rapidly, as you can; and also to carry the general object beyond his particular organization if you find it practicable.  The necessity of this is palpable if, as I understand, you are now unable to effect anything with your present force; and which force is soon to be greatly diminished by the expiration of terms of service, as well as by ordinary causes.  I shall be very glad if you will take hold of the matter in earnest.”

New York attorney George Templeton Strong writes in his diary: “Story of Senator Dixon calling on the President and suggesting a parallel between secession and that first rebellion of which Milton sang.  Very funny interview.  Abe Lincoln didn’t know much about Paradise Lose and sent out for a copy, looked through its first books under the Senator’s guidance, and was struck by the coincidences between the utterances of Satan and those of Jefferson Davis, whom by-the-by he generally designates as ‘that t’other fellow.’  Dixon mentioned the old joke about the Scotch professor who was asked what his views were about the fall of the Angels and replied, ‘Aweel, there’s much to be said on both sides.’  ‘Yes,’ said Uncle Abraham,’I always thought the Devil was some to blame!'”

Published in: on March 29, 2013 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

White House Receptions Cancelled

March 28, 1863

“Mrs. Lincoln has no reception today – cause unexplained — nevertheless I am glad, as I supposed the last one was to take place and that it would be a large one, &U I should be well tired out,” writes  Benjamin Brown French.  The Washington Chronicle reports: “There will be no more Saturday afternoon receptions at the Executive Mansion during the remainder of the season.”

General Nathaniel Banks, commander at New Orleans, write President Lincoln: “Colonel S. B. Holabird Chief Quarter Master of this Department visits Washington upon official business and I have requested him to call upon you to give you such information as you may desire of affairs in this department. He is an officer of large experience and of undoubted integrity and intelligence upon whose statements implicit reliance can be placed. He knows well the condition of the country, the character of the People, and the prospects of the future so far as this section of the country is concerned. I commend him to your favorable consideration.”

Published in: on March 28, 2013 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Indian Chiefs Meet with President Lincoln

March 27, 1863

President Lincoln hosts Native American chiefs in the White House. “ There were nine chiefs of different nations I believe, and two squaws. As I do not wish to write out a description of the scene I will cut a slip from the National Intelligencer giving an account of it.   The Chronicle contains a full account with the speeches, but it is too long to put in here,” writes Benjamin Brown French, commissioner of buildings, in his diary.  “The Intelligencer has omitted the interesting fact that after the President took his leave, the Indians were all conducted to the Conservatory, where a photographist was in waiting and they were photographed in groups.  If the first group comes out well the face of the Com. Of Public Buildings will appear looking over the shoulder of Miss Kate Chase.”   President Lincoln tells the chiefs:

“You have all spoken of the strange sights you see here, among your pale-faced brethern; the very great number of people that you see; the big wigwams; the difference between our people and your own.  But you have seen but a very small part of the pale-faced people.  You may wonder when I tell you that there are people here in this wigwam, now looking at you, who have come from other countries a great deal off than you have come.

“We pale-faced people think that this world is a great, round ball, and we have people here of the pale-faced family who have come almost from the other side of it to represent their nations here and conduct their friendly intercourse with us, as you now come from your part of the round ball.”

Here a globe was introduced, and the President, laying his hand upon it, said:

“One of our learned men will now explain to you our notions about this great ball, and show you where you live.”

The report continued: “Professor [Joseph] Henry [of the Smithsonian]  then gave the delegation a detailed and interesting explanation of the formation of the earth, showing how much of it was waster and how much was land; and pointing out the countries with which we had intercourse.  He also showed them the position of Washington and that of their own country, from which they had come.

The President then said:

“We have people now present from all parts of the globe–here, and here, and here.  There is a great difference between this pale-faced people and their red brethern, both as to numbers and the way in which they live.  We know not whether your own situation is best for your race, but this is what has made the difference in our way of living.

“The pale-faced people are numerous and prosperous because they cultivate the earth, produce bread, and depend upon the products of the earth rather than wild game for a subsistence.

“This is the chief reason of the difference; but there is another.  Although we are now engaged in a great war between one another, we are not, as a race, so much disposed to fight and kill one another as our red brethern.

“You have asked for my advice.  I really am not capable of advising you whether, in the providence of the Great Spirit, who is the great Father of us all, it is best for  you to maintain the habits and customs of your race, or adopt a new mode of life.

“I can only say that I can see no way in which your race is to become as numerous and prosperous as the white race except by living as they do, by the cultivation of the earth.

“It is the object of this Government to be on terms of peace with you, and with all our red brethern.  We constantly endeavor to be so.  We make treaties with you, and will try to observe them; and if our children should sometimes behave badly, and violate these treaties, it is against our wish.

“You know it is not always possible for any father to have his children do precisely as he wishes them to do.

“In regard to being sent back to your own country, we have an officer, the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, who will take charge of that matter, and make the necessary arrangements.”

The President’s remarks were received with frequent marks of applause and approbation. ‘Ugh,’ ‘Aha’ sounded along the line as the interpreter proceeded and their countenance gave evident tokens of satisfaction.”

Published in: on March 27, 2013 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

President Lincoln Urges Black Recruitment in Tennessee

March 26, 1863

President Lincoln writes Tennessee Military Governor Andrew Johnson: “I am told you have at least thought of raising a negro military force.  In my opinion the country now needs no specific thing so much as some man of your ability, and position, to go to this work.  When I speak of your position, I mean that of an eminent citizen of a slave-state, and himself a slave-holder.  The colored population is the great available and yet unavailed of, force for restoring the Union.  The bare sight of fifty thousand armed and drilled black soldiers on the banks of the Mississippi, would end the rebellion at once.  And who doubts that we can present that sight, if we but take hold in earnest?  If you have been thinking of it please do not dismiss the thought.”

West Virginia votes for gradual emancipation and a new constitution.

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Secretary of War Edwin Stanton Works with President Lincoln

March 25, 1863

Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton writes President Lincoln: “I will report in relation to the Kentucky funds this evening. An examination of the disbursements must first be made to ascertain how much is available.”  Stanton places Lorenzo Thomas, whom Stanton never liked, in charge of black recruitment in the West.  General Stephen Hurlbut reports to President Lincoln: “Two divisions of General Shermans command are in Steele’s Bayou above Haines Bluff. Two divisions in Yazoo pass near Greenwood– Water runs freely into Lake Providence but Bayou Macon is encumbered with trees. at About nine hundred 900 Square miles of Upper Louisiana under water– Canal at Vicksburg deep enough but not wide enough. Enemy are repairing Mobile and Ohio Railroad and will run to Tupelo by next week This road is strongly guarded. All indications point to a speedy abandonment of Vicksburg and concentration on Gen Rosecrans with a diversion on my left. Enemy’s cavalry in front of Corinth are being strongly reinforced, this I think is a cover unless Van Dorn is driven across the Tennessee when we may have something to do. The troops of this command are in fine order and ready for what may turn up.”

President Lincoln’s attends a performance of Hamlet at Grover’s Theater.

Published in: on March 25, 2013 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

President Lincoln Invited to Hamlet

March 24, 1863

Leonard Grover, proprietor of Grover’s Theater, writes President Lincoln: “It would afford me very great gratification if your Excellency would avail himself of the enclosed certificate for Wednesday night. The play for that evening is Hamlet in the rendition of which character Mr E. L. Davenport probably has no living equal. He will be admirably sustained by Mr Jas Wallack Jr and the remaining members of the Combination.

If your Excellency will permit Mr. Nicolay to acquaint me with your purpose, it will confer a favor.

No public announcement will be made. It is purely to be the instrument to confer a pleasure to meritorious Artist and true Union lover — and at the same time I hope, to minister in some slight degree to your Excellency’s gratification, that this offer is made by

Your Excellency’s humble Servt.

President Lincoln attends the following night.

Published in: on March 24, 2013 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

President Lincoln Seeks Understanding with New York Governor

March 23, 1863

President Lincoln seeks an accommodation with New York Governor Horatio Seymour, a Democrat elected the previous November: “Dear Sir: You and I are substantially strangers; and I write this chiefly that we may become better acquainted.  I, for the time being, am at the head of a nation which is in great peril; and you are at the head of the greatest State of that nation.  As to maintaining the nation’s life, and integrity, I assume, and believe, there can not be a difference of purpose between you and me.  If we should differ as to the means, it is important such difference should be as small as possible–that it should not be enhanced by unjust suspicions on one side or the other.  In the performance of my duty, the co-operation of your State, as that of others, is needed–in fact, is indispensable.  This alone is a sufficient reason why I should wish to be at a good understanding with you.  Please write me at lest as long a letter as this–of course, saying in it, just what you think fit.”

President Lincoln writes Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase: “Mr. [Alexander[ Williamson, writer of the within was our “Willie’s” teacher; and I would be really glad for him to be obliged.”  Williamson was later appointed to a Treasury Department at a salary of $1200 per year.

Published in: on March 23, 2013 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Western Patronage Concerns President Lincoln

March 21, 1863

President Lincoln writes Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase: “Will the Secretary of the Treasury do me the favor to hear my old friend Dr. Henry briefly, about Victor Smith.”

Journalist Noah Brooks: “When I last alluded to the unpleasant state of things which is likely to result in some radical changes in official positions in the above named institutions, the papers in the case and the new slate of Secretary Chase had been submitted to the President for his review.  Since that [time] a very unexpected change of programmed has occurred…The California delegation, seeing that nothing more could be done than to submit to the somewhat arbitrary ruling of Chase in the premises, left Washington and were stopping in New York for a few days before leaving for California, when the President discovered what had occurred.  He was at  once greatly exercised at what he considered to be an  unfair and ungenerous treatment of the California Congressmen by the Secretary, and he directed that they be recalled to the Capital, if possible, informing them that their preferences in the matter should unfair and ungenerous treatment of the California Congressmen by the Secretary, and he directed that they be recalled to the Capital, if possible, informing them that their preferences in the matter should be regarded.  Low and Sargent returned to Washington a day or two since, Phelps having sailed for California in the meantime.  The President expressed his regret at the hasty and somewhat arbitrary action which had deprived them of any opportunity of having a voice in the selection of the new appointees for the Federal positions to be made vacant by dismissal, and then asked them to submit names for Executive action….”

President Lincoln receives a series of telegrams from Missouri asking for the reinstatement of General Samuel R. Curtis as the state’s military commander.

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