President Lincoln Presides over Grand Review of the Army of the Potomac

April 8, 1863

President Lincoln conducts a grand review of four corps of the Army of the Potomac.   He first rode the length of the assembled troops and then the troops would march in front of him and the army’s leadership.  Journalist Noah Brooks writes: “The 8th was a great gala day in the camp of the army, as one that day there was a grand review of the infantry and artillery of four corps of the Army of the Potomac, namely: The Fifth under Major General Meade; the Second, under Major General Couch; the Third, under Major General Sedgwick; and the sixth, under Major General Sickles….The day was brightening, and the weather a bit more emollient than heretofore, and the ground was dryer.  After the usual Presidential salute and cavalcade through the lines, the troops were set in motion, and commenced passing by the usual headquarters in solid columns, by regiments and brigades.  It was a splendid sight to witness these sixty thousand men all in martial array, with colors flying, drums, beating and bayonets gleaming in the struggling sunlight, as they wound over hills and rolling ground, coming from miles away, their arms shining in the distance and their bayonets bristling like a forest on the horizon as they disappeared far away.”

The review lasted five hours and a half, during which time there was not the slightest interruption, but all moved on like clock work, the solid and soldierly columns moving by in perfect order, and retiring from the field in double quick time.  The general appearance of the men was first-rate, being admirable for drill, discipline and neatness, and each man bearing a cheerful and confident look which was encouraging to note.  If these brave fellows do not fight well under their beloved commander, General Hooker, it will be for occult reasons, beyond the ken of man.  The President was highly gratified at the appearance of the men, and many a serried rank turned eyes involuntarily as it passed by their Chief Commander and Magistrate, who sat bareheaded in the wind in reverence in the presence of the tattered flags of the army and the gallant men who bore them.  I noticed that the President touched his hat in a return salute to the officers, but uncovered to the men in the ranks…

Historian John Hennesey wrote: “Many [soldiers] were struck by Lincoln’s appearance.  ‘He looks just like his pictures look only if possible more cadaverous and emaciated,’ decided on New Yorker.  Another man wrote, ‘Poor man, I pity him, and almost wonder at his being alive…..The gigantic work upon his hands, and the task upon his physical frame must be very great.’  One soldier, a longtime critic of Lincoln, noted that the president had clearly sacrificed himself for the cause – an observation shared by many, and one that, perhaps more than anything else, elevated Lincoln’s standing with the army.  The soldier-critic told his vehemently Democratic hometown newspaper that the president showed ‘unmistakably the signs of vast care and responsibility’ and that he seemed ‘a score of years older today than he did’ when he had passed through Rochester at the beginning of the war.  ‘What a tempest of duties, a terrible ordeal of mind and body’ he had endured.  Another man wrote that Lincoln was ‘a solemn sight.’

Journalist Noah Brooks writes: “The original intention of the President had been to stop with the army only one day, but he found that the visit was pleasant to the men and an agreeable respite from labor to him, and he prolonged his stay until he should be able to see all of the different corps of the army.  When we first went down we began to receive the first intelligence of our operations before Charleston by the Richmond papers, brought form the rebel pickets across the Rappahannock, and the President appeared anxious and, if possible, more careworn than ever, though he has never had any faith in an attack upon Charleston by sea forces alone; but after a few days the weather grew bright and warm, and the news appeared no worse, and he rallied his spirits somewhat, and the jaunting about appeared to rest him physically, though he said quaintly that nothing could touch the tired spot within, which was all tired.  He always speaks, by the way, of this war as ‘this great trouble,’ just as a father might speak of a great domestic calamity, and he never says ‘the Confederates,’ or ‘the Confederates States,’ but always ‘the rebels,’ and ‘the rebel States.’”  President Lincoln writes Navy Secretary Gideon Welles: “I have Richmond papers of the 7th. They contain nothing of interest to us except a despatch as follows— ‘ Charleston, April 5— Important movements are taking place here; but for military reasons no particulars can yet be telegraphed.’”

In South Carolina, presidential aide John G. Nicolay arrives at General David Hunter’s headquarters on a fact-finding mission.

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Published in: on April 8, 2013 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

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