President Lincoln Arrives to Review Army of the Potomac

April 5, 1863

After inclement weather delayed their arrival by water at Acquia Creek, President Lincoln and his party finally dock in the morning and prepare to travel by train to the headquarters of General Joseph Hooker, commander of the Army of the Potomac.  Journalist Noah Brooks, who accompanied the presidential party,  reported: “It was a rare chance for a daring rebel raid upon our little steamer had the enemy only know that the President of the United States, unattended by any escort and unarmed, was on board the ‘Carrie Martin,’ which rode peacefully at anchor all night in the lonely roadstead.  And it was a scene which was peculiarly characteristic of American simplicity in the somewhat dingy but comfortable cabin of the steamer on that stormy night, where the Chief Magistrate of this mighty nation was seated familiarly chatting with his undistinguished party, telling stories, or discussing matters military and political, in just such a free and easy way as might be expected of a President who was out on a trip of relaxation from care and toil.  There was no insignia of royalty or pomp, not even a liveried servant at the door, but just such plain republican manners and style as becomes a President of a republic, were to be seen.  And though the rebels might have gobbled up the entire party without firing a shot, nobody seemed to think that it was worth while to mount guard to prevent so dire a calamity; and nothing of the kind occurring, we arrived safely at Acquia creek next morning, the snow still falling.

…When our party started for the special train in waiting, there was a tremendous cheer from the assembled crowd, who gave another parting peal as the rude freight car, decorated with flags, moved off with the President and suite.  The day was disagreeable and chilly, though the snowing had ceased, and the face of the country, denuded of trees, hilly, and white with snow, was uninviting and cheerless.  All along the line of the road are camps more or less distant from the track, and the inmates appeared to be comfortably housed from the weather by embankments about their log huts, covered with canvass shelter-tents.  We stopped at Falmouth Station, which is the terminus of the railroad, and is five miles below or east of the old town of Falmouth.  The station is an important one, and, of course, is now doing a big business in the way of receiving and distributing supplies for the Grand Army.  Several carriages and an escort of lancers awaited the President and his party, the honors being done by General Hooker’s Chief of Staff – Major General Butterfield.  We reached headquarters after a long drive over a fearfully muddy road, the ‘sacred soil’ red and clayey, being almost fathomless in depth, and made more moist by the newly fallen snow.

Brooks wrote: “The various staff officers and aides have their tents on either side of what forms a street, at the head of which is the wall tent of General Hooker, which at the time of our visit was flanked by a couple of similar tents put up for the President and his party, who were provided with the luxury of a rough board floor, stoves and camp-made bedsteads, and real sheets.  The quarters were comfortable, and the President and Mrs. Lincoln enjoyed the sharp contrast with the White House hugely, while ‘Tod,’ [Tad] the juvenile Lincoln, had made the acquaintance of nearly every tent before the first day was done.  The headquarters has every convenience for army use, as there are here a printing office, telegraph office, topographer, stenographer, artists, bakery, not to mention various mechanical shops and their appurtenances.  The printing establishment is in wall tent, and has a much work as it can do printing blanks, army orders, etc.  There were nine hands employed in the establishment, detached from various regiments, and representing New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and Minnesota.”

Snowy weather stymied the presidential party from reviewing troops as planned.  “The 5th was so unpleasant that nothing was done further than to receive the officers of Hooker’s staff by the President, who shook hands and had a pleasant word with each one,” wrote Brooks.   Historian John Hennesey wrote: “The president and Mary Todd simply relaxed, receiving pleasantly a stead procession of officers. The band of the 33d Massachusetts arrived during the late afternoon and ‘discoursed excellent music’ into the evening hours.  Tad, meanwhile, romped freely, making ‘the acquaintance of nearly every tent before the first day was done.’”

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

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