President Reverses a General’s Order

April 30, 1863

President Lincoln writes General David Hunter, commander of Union forces in the Southeast: “This morning I was presented an order of yours dismissing from the service, subject to my approval, a Captain Schaadt, of one of the Pennsylvania regiments. Disloyalty, without any statement of the evidence supposed to have proved it, is assigned as the cause of the dismissal; and he represents at home, as I am told, that the sole evidence was his refusal to sanction a resolution (indorsing the emancipation proclamation I believe); and our friends assure me that this statement is doing the Union cause great harm in his neighborhood and county, especially as he is a man of character, did good service in raising troops for us last fall, and still declares for the Union & his wish to fight for it. On this state of case I wrote a special indorsement on the order, which I suppose he will present to you; and I write this merely to assure you that no censure is intended upon you; but that it is hoped that you will inquire into the case more minutely, and that if there be no evidence, but his refusal to sanction the resolution, you will restore him.”

Published in: on April 30, 2013 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

White House Attracts Cranks and Prophets

April 29, 1863

Presidential secretary John G. Nicolay writes home: “Very queer characters occasionally call on me here.  That you may be reassured in the prospect of a speedy crushing out of the rebellion, I must inform you of a new leader and agency about to take part in the contest.

The other morning my doorkeeper brought in a plain-looking but also very rational-looking man, ordinarily dressed, appearing, perhaps more than anything else to be a farmer.  I asked him to be seated, after which he at once, without circumlocution and in a very matter-of-fact and business-like way stated the object of his call.

‘I come here, said he, ‘about the business of the war we are in.  I am commissioned from On High to take the matter in hand and end it.  I have consulted with the Governor of ‘York state,’ and he has promised to raise as many men of the militia of that State as I need.  But as I didn’t want to proceed without authority I came on here to see Gen. Halleck.  I have had an interview him, and he told me he could not give me any men or assistance, that nobody but the President had any authority to act in the case.  I have therefore come to see the President to obtain his consent to begin the work.  Although no power is competent to stop or impede my progress, I desire to act with the approval of the authorities.  I shall take only two thousand  men, and shall go South, and get Jeff Davis and the other leaders of the rebellion and bring them here to be put in the lunatic asylum, — because they are plainly crazy, and if it is of no use to be fighting with crazy men.”

In reply I assured him that the President was so engaged that it would be impossible for him to gain the desired interview – that the President would give him no men, nor authority of any kind – and that whatever he did in the matter he must do on his own responsibility.  He appeared to be satisfied that I properly represented the President, and went away saying that he should write at once to the Governor of ‘York Sate{‘] to raise and organize his force for him, and proceed with his work.

“All this transpired with as much gravity and method as if it had been a little conference about any matter of routine business, and an observer would have thought that I was as crazy as the man himself, from the perfectly serious and natural manner in which both he and I talked the matter over.  Lunatics and visionaries are here so frequently that they cease to be strange phenomena to us, and I find the best way to dispose of them is to discuss and decide their mad projects as deliberately and seriously as any other matter of business.”

President Lincoln writes New Jersey Governor  W. A. Newell: “I have some trouble about Provost-Marshal in your first district. Please procure Hon. Mr. Starr to come with you and see me; or, come to an agreement with him, and telegraph me the result.”

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President Lincoln Concerned with Military Affairs

April 28, 1863

President Lincoln writes General Joseph Hooker, commander of the Army of the Potomac: “The maps, newspapers, and letter of yesterday are just received, for all which I thank you. While I am anxious, please do not suppose I am impatient, or waste a moment’s thought on me, to your own hindrance, or discomfort.”

Navy Secretary Gideon Welles writes in his diary: “Nothing at Cabinet, Seward and Chase absent.  The President engaged in selecting provost-marshals.”  He added

Sumner called this evening at the Department.  Was much discomfited with an interview which he had last evening with the President.  The latter was just filing a paper as Sumner went in.  After a few moments Sumner took two slips from the pocket, – one cut from the Boston Transcript, the other from the Chicago Tribune, each taking strong ground against surrendering the Peterhoff mail.  The President, after reading them, opened the paper he had just filed and read to Sumner his letter addressed to the Secretary of State and the Secretary of the Navy.  He told Sumner he had received the replies and just concluded reading mine.  After some comments on them he said to Sumner, ‘I will not show these papers to you now; perhaps I never shall.’  A conversation then took place which greatly mortified and chagrined Sumner, who declares the President is very ignorant or very deceptive.  The President, he says, is horrified, or appeared to be, with the idea of a war with England, which he assumed depended on this question.  He was confident we should have with England if we presumed to open their mail bags, or break their seals or locks.  They would not submit to it, and we were in no condition to plunge into a foreign war on a subject of a little importance in comparison with the terrible consequences which must follow our act.  Of this idea of a war with England, Sumner could not dispossess him by argument, or by showing its absurdity.  Whether it was real or affected ignorance, Sumner was not satisfied.

I have no doubts of the President’s sincerity, and so told Sumner. But he has been imposed upon, humbugged, by a man in whom he confides.  His confidence has been abused; he does not – frankly confesses he does not–comprehend the principles involved nor the question itself.  Seward does not intend he shall comprehend it.  While attempting to look into it, the Secretary of State is daily, and almost hourly, wailing in his ears the calamities of a war with England which he is striving to prevent.  The President is thus led away from the real question, and will probably decide it, not on its merits, but on the false issue, raised by the man who is the author of the difficulty.

Pennsylvania Governor Andrew Curtin writes Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton: “An express messenger from Morgantown, by express train from Uniontown, arrived here at 2 o’clock this morning, with intelligence that 4,000 rebel cavalry were within 2 miles of Morgantown at 2 o’clock yesterday, coming into Pennsylvania. The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, between Grafton and Cumberland, is torn up.”  President Lincoln replies: “I do not think the people of Pennsylvania should be uneasy about an invasion. Doubtless a small force of the enemy is flourishing about in the Northern part of Virginia on the “Scew-horn” principle, on purpose to divert us in another quarter. I believe it is nothing more. We think we have adequate forces close after them.

Journalist Noah Brooks , a close friend of the First Family, writes: “Mrs. Lincoln proposes a visit to the White Mountains this Summer, her eldest son Robert being her escort.  The President will take no excursion of any sort unless his health should give way under the terrible pressure of his duties.”

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

President Lincoln Concerned about Movements of the Army of the Potomac

April 27, 1863

President telegraphs General Joseph Hooker: “How does it look now?”  Hooker responds: “I fully appreciate the anxiety weighing upon you mind, and hasten to relieve you from so much of it as lies in my power.  You know that nothing would give me more pleasure than to keep you fully advised of every movement and every intended movement made and to be made by this Army, as is my duty to do.  But the country is so full of traitors, and there are so many whose desire it is to see this Army meet with no success, that it almost makes me tremble to disclose a thing concerning it to anyone except yourself.  Not that there are not many as true to the cause as yourself, but all have friends and there are not many as true to the cause as yourself; but all have friends and their fidelity I am not so sure of.  The following is what I have done and what I propose to do.  The 11th 12th & 5th Crops marched this morning, with what I propose to do. The 11th 12th & 5th Crops marched this morning, with instructions to take posts at Kelley’s Ford at 4 P.M. tomorrow.  The Ford being still deep for Artillery, a Ponton train will be in readiness to be thrown across the river, in season I hope, for one or two Corps to cross before morning and take the route to cross the Rapidan at Germania hills and the other Crops to cross at Ely’s Ford about the same night from Kelly’s Ford.  The corps march light, with their pack trains of small ammunition, leaving their wagon trains to be crossed on a more direct line when they become opened.

Simultaneous with this the 6th, 1st & 3rd Crops will cross in the vicinity of Franklin’s crossing and make honest demonstrations on the Telegraph and Bowling Green roads, where the main Rebel bodies behind their defences are posted. keeping them in their places, and if they should detach heavy forces to attack the troops coming down the river, to storm and carry those works and man will cross with his cavalry to carry out the instructions, a copy of which has already been furnished you.  This is an outline, you will be able to fill up the plan.  The object in crossing high up the river is to come down in rear of the enemy holding strong positions at the U.S. and Banks Fords, and so strongly fortified that they can only be carried with great loss of life if at all, from a front attack.  They are held, as you will see by the accompanying map, by a small force, but the crossings are rendered formidable by the character of the defences.

The only element which gives me apprehension with regard to the success of this plan is the weather.  How much will depend upon it.  The details will readily suggest themselves to you.

After crossing the Rapidan I can hear from the column descending the rivers, by the troops now at Bank’s Ford, where I shall throw over two bridges as soon as the development of the battle will permit.

I write in great haste as I leave for Kelley’s Ford tomorrow morning and am busy in making the necessary preparations.

I send you the Richmond papers last received.  The remarkable feature in them is that they write from Fredericksburg that in their opinion we are quitting this line.’

            Navy Secretary Gideon Welles writes in his diary regarding the Peterhoff case: “The President was alone when I called on him with the document, which looked formidable, filling thirty-one pages of foolscap. He was pleased and interested, not all discouraged by my paper; said he should read every word of it, that he wanted to understand the question, etc.  He told me Seward had sent in his answer this morning, but it was in some respects not satisfactory, particularly as regarded the Adela.  He had sent for Hunter, who, however, did not understand readily the case, or what was wanted.”

Mysteriously, President Lincoln writes Assistant Secretary of War Peter Watson: “I  have attentively considered the matter of the “Republican” in regard to which you called on me the other day; and the result is that I prefer to make no change, unless it shall again give just cause of offence, in which case I will at once withdraw the patronage it is enjoying at my hand. I believe it will not offend again; and if not, it is better to let the past go by quietly.”

Kansas and Missouri politics often trouble President Lincoln.  He writes Kansas Senator James Lane: “The Governor of Kansas is here, asking that Lieut. Col. J. M. Williams, of a colored regiment there, shall be removed; and also complaining of the military interference of Gen. Blunt in the late election at Leavenworth. I do not know how, if at all, you are connected with these things; but I wish your assistance to so shape things that the Governor of Kansas may be treated with the consideration that is extended to Governors of other States. We are not forcing a Regimental officer upon any other governor, against his protest. Can not this matter be somehow adjusted?”  On the envelope, the president writes: “To go by Telegraph”  bears Lincoln’s further endorsement “Not sent because Gov. Carney thought it best not be.’”

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

President Lincoln Concerned with Charleston Campaign

April 26, 1863

Trying to update himself on the stalled Union campaign to capture Charleston, South Carolina, President Lincoln goes to the  Navy Bureau of Ordnance.  He confers with Rear Admiral John Dahlgren.

Published in: on April 26, 2013 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

President Lincoln Dismisses Weather Crank

April 25, 1863

Francis L. Capen writes President Lincoln, pressing the government to use his alleged meteorological skills and guarantees “to furnish Meteorological information that will save many a serious sacrifice.” On his attached card, he writes: “Thousands of lives & millions of dollars may be saved by the application of Science to War. Francis L. Capen. Certified Practical Meteorologist & Expert in Computing the Changes of the Weather.” The letter requests a favorable reference to the War Department and concludes, “I will guarantee

Three days later, President Lincoln writes on the letter: “It seems to me Mr. Capen knows nothing about the weather, in advance. He told me three days ago that it would not rain again till the 30th. of April or 1st. of May. It is raining now & has been for ten hours. I can not spare any more time to Mr. Capen.”

President Lincoln tries to clarify the author  of Tennessee War Governor Andrew Johnson: “Gov. Johnson thinks it would be well to have the within added to his letter of instruction. If the Secretary of War sees no objection, I see none.

“In fine he is hereby [As a general instruction to guide your administration you are] authorized to exercise any and all [such] powers [as may be] necessary and proper to carry into full and fair effect the 4th. Section of the 4th. Article of the Constitution of the United States which declares `The United States shall guarantee to every state in this Union a republican form of Government, and further all [whatever] power necessary [may be necessary] in restoring to the people of Tennessee their civil and political rights under the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Tennessee and the laws made in pursuance thereof.”

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

Differences between Secretaries of State and Navy

April 24, 1863

After a morning cabinet meeting, Navy Secretary Gideon Welles reflected on his continuing differences with Secretary of State William H. Seward:  “Little of importance at the Cabinet-meeting.  Seward left early.  He seemed uneasy, and I thought was apprehensive I might bring up the subject of the Peterhoff mails.  It suits him better to have interviews with the President alone than with a full Cabinet, especially on points where he knows himself wrong.”

General Grant issues General Orders No. 100 which granted blacks specific protection under standard practices of war.

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President Lincoln at Alleged Seance

Mary Todd Lincoln was very interested in spiritualism and repeatedly attended seances at the White House and elsewhere.  On this date, President Lincoln also allegedly attends.

Regarding the application of the Emancipation Proclamation, President Lincoln writes to former Congressman Joseph Segar: “My recollection is that Accomac and Northampton counties (Eastern Shore of Va.) were not exempted from a Proclamation issued some short while after the adjournment of Congress; that some time after the issuing of the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, in September, and before the issuing of the final one on January 1st. 1863, you called on me and requested that “Eastern Shore of Va” might be exempted from both the Summer Proclamation, & the final emancipation Proclamation. I told you that the non-exemption of it from the former, was a mere omission, which would be corrected; and that it should also be exempted from the final emancipation Proclamation. The preliminary Emancipation Proclamation does not define what is included, or excluded; but only gives notice that this will be done in the final one. Both yourself and Gen. Dix, at different times, (Gen. Dix in writing) called my attention to the fact that I had omitted to exempt the “Eastern Shore of Virginia” from the first proclamation; and this was all that was needed to have me correct it. Without being reminded by either him or yourself, I do not think I should have omitted to exempt it from the final Emancipation Proclamation; but at all events, you did not allow me to forget it. Supposing it was your duty to your constituents to attend to these matters, I think you acted with entire good faith and fidelity to them.”

On April 21, General William Rosecrans wrote President Lincoln `Thrice has notice directly come to me that some complaint has been lodged in the minds of persons high in authority or in records in the War office against the working of my army policy or that there was a conflict of authority between the civil & military each time I have stated that I know of none & asked for the specification that I might remedy the evil No reply has been given No information of what this all means. Can There be anything wrong I want to know it & appeal to you to please order the complaints to be communicated to me fully. If the Fox is unearthed I will promise to skin him or pay for his hide.”

President Lincoln responds: “Your despatch of the 21st. received. I really can not say that I have heard any complaints of you. I have heard complaint of a Police corps at Nashville; but your name was not mentioned in connection with it so far as I remember. It may be that by inference, you are connected with it; but my attention has never been drawn to it in that light.”

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

President Lincoln Invites Senator Sumner to Escort Mrs. Lincoln to Opera

April 22, 1863

President Lincoln writes Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner, a frequent social guest of Mrs. Lincoln at the White House: “Mrs. L. is embarrassed a little. She would be pleased to have your company again this evening, at the Opera, but she fears she may be taxing you. I have undertaken to clear up the little difficulty. If, for any reason, it will tax you, decline, without any hesitation; but if it will not, consider yourself already invited, and drop me a note.”

President Lincoln writes to Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles and Secretary of State William H. Seward regarding the handling of captured mail at sea: “It is now a practical question for this government, whether a government mail of a neutral, power, found on board a vessel captured by a bel[l]igerent power, on charge of breach of blockade, shall be forwarded to it’s designated destination, without opening; or shall be placed in custody of the prize court, to be in the discretion of the court, opened and searched for evidence to be used on the trial of the prize case. I will thank each of you to furnish me

First, a list of all cases wherein such question has been passed upon, either by a diplomatic, or a judicial decision.

Secondly, all cases wherein mails, under such circumstances, have been without special decision, either forwarded unopened; or detained, and opened, in search of evidence.

I wish these lists to embrace as well the reported cases in the books generally, as the cases pertaining to the present war in the United States.

Thirdly, a statement, and brief argument, of what would be the dangers and evils, of forwarding such mails unopened.

Fourthly, a statement and brief argument, of what would be the dangers and evils of detaining and opening such mails, and using the contents, if pertinent, as evidence.

And lastly, any general remarks that may occur to you, or either of you.

Navy Secretary Gideon Welles writes in his diary of his response: “Received the President’s letter and interrogatories concerning the mail.  The evening papers state that the mail of the Peterhoff has been given up by District Attorney Delafield Smith, who applied to the court under direction  of the Secretary of State, ‘approved’ by the President.  It is a great error, which has its origin in the meddlesome disposition and loose and inconsiderate action of Mr. Seward, who had meddlesomely committed himself.  Having in a weak moment conceded away an incontestable national right, he has sought to extricate himself, not by retracing his steps, but by involving the President, who confides in him and over whom he has, at times, an unfortunate influence.  The interference with the judiciary, which has admiralty jurisdiction, is improper, and the President is one of the very last men who would himself intrude on the rights or prerogatives of any other Department of the Government, one of the last also to yield a national right.”

President Lincoln catches up on a number of small military matters in his correspondence.  As he prepares to put together his list of appointments to West Point, President Lincoln reaches out to administration members for their recommendations.

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

Cabinet Meets at the White House

April 21, 1863

Navy Secretary Gideon Welles write in his diary: “Have another dispatch from Du Pont in answer to one I went him on the 11th enjoining upon him to continue to menace Charleston, that the Rebel troops on that station might be detained for the present to defend place.  In some respects this dispatch is not worthy of Du Pont.  He says he never advised the attack worthy of Du Pont.  He says he never advised the attack and complains of a telegram from the President more than of the dispatch from the Department. If he never advised the attack, he certainly never discouraged it, and, until since that attack, I had supposed no man in the country was more earnest on the subject than he.  How have I been thus mistaken?  It has been his great study for many months, the subject of his visit, of his conversation, his correspondence.  When Du Pont was here last fall, Dahlgren sought, as a special favor, the privilege of take command, under Du Pont, of the attack on Charleston,–to Du Pont claimed the right to perform this great work in which the whole country took so deep an interest.  His correspondence since has been of this tenor, wanting more ironclads and reinforcements.  Once there were indications of faltering last winter, and I promptly told him it was not required of him to go forward against his judgement.  NO doubtful expression has since been heard.  His third dispatch since the battle brings me the first intelligence he has thought proper to communicate of an adverse character.”

Only some light matters came before the Cabinet. Chase and Blair were absent.   The President requested Seward and myself to remain.  As soon as the others left, he said his object was to get the right of the question in relation to the size of foreign mails.  There had evidently been interview between him and Seward since I read my letter to him on Saturday, and he had also seen Seward’s reply. But he was not satisfied.  The subject was novel to him.

Welles writes: “The President thought that perhaps the Executive had some rights on this subject but was not certain what they were, what the practice had been, what was the law, national or international.  The Trent case he did not consider analogous in several respects.  I had said in reply to Seward that the Trent was not a blockade-runner, but a regular mail packet, had a semi-official character, with a government officer on board in charge of the mails.  The President said he wished to know the usage,–whether the public official seals or mail-bags of a neutral power were ever violated.  Seward said certainly not.  I maintained that the question had never been raised in regard to a captured legal prize–not a doubt expressed–and the very fact that Stuart had applied to him for mail exemption was evidence that he so understood the subject.  Where was the necessity of this arrangement, or treaty, if that were not the usage?  The case was plain.  Our only present difficulty grew out of the unfortunate letter of the 31st of October,–the more unfortunate from the fact that it had been communicated to the British Government as the policy of our Government, while never, by any word or letter have they ever admitted it was their policy.  It is not the policy of our Government, nor is it the law of our country.  Our naval commanders know of no such policy, no such usage, no such law; they have never been so instructed, nor have our district attorneys.  The President, although he had affixed his name to the word ‘approved’ in Seward’s late letter, and although he neither admitted nor controverted the statement that the letter of the 31st of October was with his knowledge and approval, was a god deal ‘obfuscated’ in regard to the merits of the question, and the proceedings of Seward, who appeared to be greatly alarmed lest we should offend England, but was nevertheless unwilling to commit himself without father examination.  He said, after frankly declaring his ignorance and that he had no recollection of the question until recently called to his notice, that he would address us interrogatories.  Mr. Seward declared, under some excitement and alarm, there was not time; that Lord Lyons was importunate in his demands, claiming that the arrangement should be fulfilled in good faith.  I replied that Lord Lyons, nor the British Government, had no claim whatever except the concession made by him (Seward) in his letter of the 31st of October, while there was no concession or equivalent from England.”

President Lincoln writes the king of Denmark: “I have received the letter which Your Majesty was pleased to address to me on the 12th. ultimo, announcing the marriage of Her Royal Highness the Princess Alexandra Caroline Mary Charlotte Louisa Julia, of Denmark, with His Royal Highness Albert Edward Prince of Wales. I participate in the satisfaction which this happy event has afforded to Your Majesty, and to Your Majesty’s Royal House and offer to you my sincere congratulations upon the occasion.”

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