President Lincoln Returns to Work in Washington

April 11, 1863

After a week with the Army of the Potomac, President Lincoln gets back to work in his second floor office in the White House.  Sometime during his extended visit, President Lincoln wrote a memorandum about General Joseph Hooker’s military plans: “My opinion is, that just now, with the enemy directly ahead of us, there is no eligible route for us into Richmond; and consequently a question of preference between the Rappahannock route, prime object is the enemies’ army in front of u, and is not with, or about, Richmond–at all, unless it be incidental to the main object.”

What then?  The two armies are face to face with a narrow river between them.  Our communications are shorter and safer than are those of the enemy.  For this reason, we can, with equal powers fret him more than he can us.  I do not think that by raids towards Washington he can derange the Army of the Potomac at all.  He has no distant operations which can call any of the Army of the Potomac away; we have such operations which may call him away, at least in part.  While he remains in tact, I do not think we should take the disadvantage of attacking him in his entrenchments; but we should continually harrass and menace him, so that he shall have no leisure, nor safety in sending away detachments.  If he weakens himself, then pitch into him.

In the morning President Lincoln meets with Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase, Secretary of State William H. Seward, War Secretary Edwin M. Stanton, and  Navy Secretary Gideon Welles along with General-in-Chief Henry W. Halleck.  Welles writes in his diary that  Seward is in great trouble about the mail of the Peterhoff, a captured blockade-runner.  Wants the mail given up.  Says the instructions which he prepared insured the inviolability and security of the mails.  I told him he had no authority to prepare such instructions, that the law was paramount, and that anything which he proposed in opposition to and disregarding he law as not observed.

General Carl Schurz, a prominent German-American politician,  requests that his division be sent west. President Lincoln responds: “I can not comply with your request to take your Division from the Army of the Potomac. Gen. Hooker does not wish it done. I do not myself see a good reason why it should be done. The Division will do itself, and it’s officers, more honor; and the country more service, where it is. Besides these general reasons, as I understand, the Army of the Potomac will move, before these proposed changes could be conveniently made. I always wish to oblige you, but I can not in this case.”

About this time, President Lincoln handles a letter from Illinois political colleague William Kellogg, who had written on April 8: “At one time, I was indiscreet enough to indicate to your Excellency, a desire for an appointment to an office, for which, I was vain enough to believe I was qualified but form the position now offered, I am forced to conclude, that your Excellency held a decidedly different opinion from my own on that subject, or that my political status was such that the administration would suffer by my appointment to an office of the grade of those held by Peck, Wilmot, Olin, Fisher, Swett, Gurley and Carter and many other recent appointees.”  President Lincoln writes: “I understand my friend Kellogg is ill-natured – therefore I do not read his letter.”

Published in: on April 11, 2013 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

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