Quiet Sunday at the White House

May 31, 1863

Responding to an inquiry from General Robert C. Schenck, commander of Maryland,  President Lincoln writes: “I esteem [former] Gov. Francis Thomas [Md.], as an able, and very true man.”

Published in: on May 31, 2013 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

President Lincoln Meets with New York Delegation

May 30, 1863

Indiana Governor Oliver Morton writes Lincoln a four-page letter protesting that Burnside’s General Order No. 38, April 13, 1863, for violation of which Vallandigham had been arrested, had increased the extent and intensity of Democratic opposition to the war. Morton urged that, if military rule were needed for the Northwest, it should be instituted from the highest authority and not from department commanders, and expressed the opinion that state governments, aided by the federal government, should handle such problems. His state legislature, controlled by Democrats, had refused to appropriate funds for administration of the state.”

The Missouri military-political situation continues to cause cabinet problems. Attorney General Edward Bates, a Missouri resident writes in his diary: “The appointment of Gen [John] Schofield to succeed Gen Curtis has produced great excitement among the jacobins in Mo. and some among their radical sympathisers and supporters at the north.  But, a little patient firmness, prudence, and steady conduct, with the People at home, and active, aggressive war upon the armed enemy, will make all right.

“It was the only course that could save Mo. from Social war and utter anarchy.  The Radicals seemed to have come to the conclusion that Mr. Lincoln’s plan of emancipation was all wrong, too slow and cost too much money; and that the best way to abolitionize Mo. was by violence and fraud – And [if] the state were thrown into anarchy, all the better. It would depopulate the State, by death and banishment.  And they could settle it anew, getting improved lands, for nothing!

“These devilish designs, I trust, will all be frustrated by the appointment of Schofield, and the expected harmony between him and Gamble. The capture of Vicksburg and the opening of the Miss. Will secure the peaceful result.”

President Lincoln responds to a New York delegation proposing to raise new regiments of black troops to be commanded by General John C. Fremont, who is without a military assignment: “The President declared that he would gladly receive into the service not ten thousand but ten times ten thousand colored troops; expressed his determination to protect all who enlisted, and said that he looked to them for essential service in finishing the war. He believed that the command of them afforded scope for the highest ambition, and he would with all his heart offer it to Gen. Fremont.

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

President Lincoln Declines to Replace General Burnside

May 29, 1863

President Lincoln writes eight Springfield Republican officials: “Gentlemen Agree among yourselves upon any two of your own number, one of whom to be Quarter-Master, and the other to be Commissary, to serve at Springfield, Illinois, and send me their names, and I will appoint them.” They had complained about the performance of Lincoln’s brother-in-law, Ninian Edwards, as commissary.   George R. Weber was later appointed to replace Edwards.

Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton accompanied President Lincoln to the Washington Navy Yard to observe weapons testing.

President Lincoln writes General Ambrose E. Burnside, commanding in Ohio: “Your despatch of to-day received. When I shall wish to supersede you I will let you know. All the cabinet regretted the necessity of arresting, for instance, Vallandigham, some perhaps, doubting, that there was a real necessity for it—but, being done, all were for seeing you through with it.”   He is responding to the sensitive complaint from Burnside: ““A messenger from Govr. [Oliver] Morton came to me this morning in reference to the arrest, by the military authorities of a citizen of Indiana. I understood from him that my action . . . was not approved by a single member of your Cabinet.”  Burnside took this vote as a lack of confidence in him: “I should be glad to be relieved if the interest of the public service requires it, but at the same time I am willing to remain & assume the responsibility of carrying out the policy which has been inaugurated if it is approved.”

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

President Lincoln Sends Preliminary Response to Congressman Corning

May 28, 1863

President Lincoln writes General William S. Rosecrans, the Union commander in Tennessee after a discussion with J.R. Gilmore: “I would not push you to any rashness; but I am very anxious that you do your utmost, short of rashness, to keep Bragg from getting off to help Johnston against Grant.”  President Lincoln also writes General Rosecrans rejected the proposed peace commission of Army chaplain James Jaquess: “I have but a slight personal acquaintance with Col. Jaquess, though I know him very well by character. Such a mission as he proposes I think promises good, if it were free from difficulties, which I fear it can not be. First, he can not go with any government authority whatever. This is absolute and imperative. Secondly, if he goes without authority, he takes a great deal of personal risk—he may be condemned, and executed as a spy. If, for any reason, you think fit to give Col. Jaquess a Furlough, and any authority from me, for that object, is necessary, you hereby have it for any length of time you see fit.”

President Lincoln sends a brief response to a letter sent by Albany Congressman  Erastus Corning and other Democratic leaders objected to the arrest and banishment of former Ohio Congressman Clement Vallandigham earlier in the month: “The letter of yourself & others dated the 19th. and inclosing the resolutions of a public meeting held at Albany on the 16th. was received night before last. I shall give the resolutions the consideration you ask, and shall try to find time, and make a respectful response.”   President Lincoln is preparing a major response to their criticisms.

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

President Works on Pardons

May 27, 1863

The president has been dealing with pardons. He writes Connecticut Governor William A. Buckingham: “The execution of Warren Whitmarch is hereby respited or suspended, until further order from me, he to be held in safe custody meanwhile. On receiving this, notify me.”  President Lincoln writes General Robert C. Schenck: “Let the execution of William B. Compton be respited or suspended till further order from me, holding him in safe custody meanwhile. On receiving this, notify me.”

President Lincoln also deals with a patronage vacancy opened up at the Treasury Department by the death of the father-in-law of the late Senator Stephen A. Douglas.  Lincoln writes Secretary Salmon P. Chase: “The office of second comptroller is vacant by the death of Mr. Cutts. Of course I wish your concurrence whenever I shall fill it. I believe the only applicants—whose papers are now before me—are Augustin Chester, late of Connecticut, now of Chicago, and John M. Broadhead, of this city. I herewith inclose their papers to you. I believe they are both competent and worthy gentlemen.”

Responding to the continuing crisis in Missouri, President Lincoln writes General  John M. Schofield, whose appointment to replace General Samuel Curtis, has generated considerable opposition. President Lincoln urges Schofield to take a middle course between the competing political factions in the border state: “Having relieved Gen. Curtis and assigned you to the command of the Department of the Missouri – I think it may be of some advantage for me to state to you why I did it. I did not relieve Gen. Curtis because of any full conviction that he had done wrong by commission or omission. I did it because of a conviction in my mind that the Union men of Missouri, constituting, when united, a vast majority of the whole people, have entered into a pestilent factional quarrel among themselves, Gen. Curtis, perhaps not of choice, being the head of one faction, and Gov. Gamble that of the other. After months of labor to reconcile the difficulty, it seemed to grow worse and worse until I felt it my duty to break it up some how; and as I could not remove Gov. Gamble, I had to remove Gen. Curtis. Now that you are in the position, I wish you to undo nothing merely because Gen. Curtis or Gov. Gamble did it; but to exercise your own judgment, and do right for the public interest. Let your military measures be strong enough to repel the invader and keep the peace, and not so strong as to unnecessarily harrass and persecute the people. It is a difficult role, and so much greater will be the honor if you perform it well. If both factions, or neither, shall abuse you, you will probably be about right. Beware of being assailed by one, and praised by the other.”

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

Cabinet Meeting at White House

May 26, 1863

Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles writes in his diary regarding today’s cabinet meeting at which the release of a spy is discussed: “There was a sharp controversy between Chase and Blair on the subject of the Fugitive Slave Law, as attempted to be executed on one Hall here in the district.  Both were earnest, Blair for executing the law, Chase for permitting the man to enter the service of the United States instead of being remanded into slavery.  The President said this was one of those questions that always embarrassed him. It reminded him of a man in Illinois who was in debt and terribly annoyed by a pressing creditor, until finally the debtor assumed to be crazy whenever the creditor broached the subject.  ‘I,’ said the President, ‘have on more than one occasion, in this room, when beset by extremists on this question, been compelled to appear to be very mad.  I think,’ he continued, ‘none of you will ever dispose of this subject without getting made.’”

President Lincoln writes Chicago Congressman Isaac N. Arnold: “Your letter advising me to dismiss Gen. Halleck is received. If the public believe, as you say, that he has driven Fremont, Butler, and Sigel from the service, they believe what I know to be false; so that if I were to yield to it, it would only be to be instantly beset by some other demand based on another falsehood equally gross. You know yourself that Fremont was relieved at his own request, before Halleck could have had any thing to do with it— went out near the end of June, while Halleck only came in near the end of July. I know equally well that no wish of Halleck’s had any thing to do with the removal of Butler or Sigel. Sigel, like Fremont, was relieved at his own request, pressed upon me almost constantly for six months, and upon complaints that could have been made as justly by almost any corps commander in the army, and more justly by some. So much for the way they got out. Now a word as to their not getting back. In the early Spring, Gen. Fremont sought active service again; and, as it seemed to me, sought it in a very good, and reasonable spirit. But he holds the highest rank in the Army, except McClellan, so that I could not well offer him a subordinate command. Was I to displace Hooker, or Hunter, or Rosecrans, or Grant, or Banks? If not, what was I to do? And similar to this, is the case of both the others. One month after Gen. Butler’s return, I offered him a position in which I thought and still think, he could have done himself the highest credit, and the country the greatest service, but he declined it.  When Gen. Sigel was relieved, at his own request as I have said, of course I had to put another in command of his corps. Can I instantly thrust that other out to put him in again?

And now my good friend, let me turn your eyes upon another point. Whether Gen. Grant shall or shall not consummate the capture of Vicksburg, his campaign from the beginning of this month up to the twenty second day of it, is one of the most brilliant in the world. His corps commanders, & Division commanders, in part, are McClernand, McPherson,  Sherman, Steele, Hovey,  Blair, & Logan. And yet taking Gen. Grant & these seven of his generals, and you can scarcely name one of them that has not been constantly denounced and opposed by the same men who are now so anxious to get Halleck out, and Fremont & Butler & Sigel in. I believe no one of them went through the Senate easily, and certainly one failed to get through at all.  I am compelled to take a more impartial and unprejudiced view of things. Without claiming to be your superior, which I do not, my position enables me to understand my duty in all these matters better than you possibly can, and I hope you do not yet doubt my integrity.

Colonel Silas W. Burt, aide to Governor Horatio Seymour,  delivers a dispatch from Seymour to President Lincoln at the Soldiers’ Home, where President Lincoln normally spends nights during the summer: “After the servant returned and announced that the President would receive us, we sat for some time in painful silence.  At length we heard slow, shuffling steps come down the carpeted stairs, and the President entered the room as we respectfully rose from our seats.  That pathetic figures has ever remained indelible in my memory.  His tall form was bowed, his hair disheveled; he wore no necktie or collar, and his large feet were partly incased in very loose, heel-less slippers.  It was very evident that he had got up from his bed or had been very nearly ready to get into it when were announced, and had hastily put on some clothing and those slippers that made the flip-flap sounds on the stairs.”

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

Congressman Vallandigham Transferred to Confederacy

May 25, 1863

Navy Secretary Gideon Welles writes in his diary: “Am anxious in relation to the South Atlantic Squadron and feel daily the necessity of selecting a new commander. Du Pont is determined Charleston shall not be captured by the Navy, and that the Navy shall not attempt it; thinks it dangerous for the vessels to remain in Charleston Harbor, and prefers to occupy his palace ship, the Wabash, at Port Royal to roughing it in a smaller vessel off the port. His prize money would doubtless be greater without any risk. All officers under him are becoming affected by his feelings, adopt his tone, think inactivity best, — that the ironclads are mere batteries, not naval vessels, and that outside blockade is the true and only policy. Du Pont feels that he is strong in the Navy, strong in Congress, and strong in the country, and not without reason. There is not a more accomplished or shrewder gentleman in the service. Since Barron and others left, no officer has gathered a formidable clique in the Navy. He has studied with some effect to create one for himself, and has in his personal interest a number of excellent officers who I had hoped would not be inveigled. Good officers have warned me against him as a shrewd intriguer, but I have hoped to get along with him, for I valued his general intelligence, critical abilities, and advice. But I perceive that in all things he never forgets Du Pont. His success at Port Royal has made him feel that he is indispensable to the service. The modern changes in naval warfare and in naval vessels are repugnant to him; and to the turret vessels he has a declared aversion. He has been active in schemes to retire officers; he is now at work to retire ironclads and impair confidence in them. As yet he professes respect and high regard for me personally, but he is not an admirer of the President, and has got greatly out with Fox, who has been his too partial friend. An attack is, however, to be made on the Department by opposing its policy and condemning its vessels. This will raise a party to attack and a party to defend. The monitors are to be pronounced failures, and the Department, which introduced, adopted, and patronized them, is to be held responsible, and not Du Pont, for the abortive attempt to reach Charleston. Drayton, who is his best friend, says to me in confidence that Du Pont has been too long confined on shipboard, that his system, mentally and physically, is affected, and I have no doubt thinks, but does not say, he ought to be relieved for his own good as well as that of the service. Du Pont is proud and will not willingly relinquish his command, although he has in a half-defiant way said if his course was not approved I must find another.

Former Ohio Congressman Clement Vallandigham is transferred from Union to Confederate authorities.  Historian William Marvel in his biography of General Ambrose Burnside wrote: ““An effort to have Vallandigham released on a writ of habeas corpus failed, but before Burnside could send him to the chosen prison — Fort Warren, in Boston harbor — President Lincoln decided it would be better to banish him into the Confederacy. It was a brilliant ploy, for while it removed Vallandigham fro the area where he might do much harm, it also denied him the degree of martyrdom Fort Warren might have afforded; at the same time, it effectively associated the dissident’s cause with that of the enemy.  Burnside objected, however, with a logical argument of his own; the court had rejected the alternative of expulsion for some reason known only to its members, and presidential interference might be viewed either as tampering with a legitimate court or as recognition that the court was not legal.  Lincoln nevertheless insisted upon the political expedient of exile.  Burnside accordingly transferred the prisoner to Rosecrans’s army, at Murfreesborough, Tennessee.  On the morning of May 25, Mr. Vallandigham stood on the Shelbyville Turnpike and presented himself to an Alabama cavalry officer.”

President Lincoln writes to Judge Advocate Joseph Holt: Please send me the record, if you have it, of the conviction of John R. Syles, of Ky, as a Spy.”  His execution is ordered suspended.

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

President Lincoln Visits Three Washington Hospitals

May 24, 1863

Accompanied by Wisconsin Senator James R. Doolittle, of Wisconsin, President Lincoln visits soldiers in three military hospital around the nation’s capital, according to the New York Herald.  “The President expressed his gratification at the excellent condition of the hospitals and the comfortable condition of the patients. He shook hands with over one thousand soldiers, nearly all of whom were able to stand up. The soldiers seemed highly delighted as the President grasped them by the hand.”

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

President Lincoln Between Battles

May 23, 1863

Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles writes in his diary: “Met the President, Stanton, and Halleck at the War Department.  Fox was with me.  Neither Du Pont nor General Hunter has answer the President’s dispatch to them a month since.  Halleck does not favor an attack on Charleston unless by the Navy.  The army will second, so far as it can.  Fox, who commanded the first military expedition to Sumter, is for a renewed attack, and wants the Navy to take the brunt.  Stanton wants the matter prosecuted. I have very little confidence in success under the present admiral. It is evident that Du Pont is against doing anything, — that he is demoralizing others, and doing no good in that direction. If anything is to be done, we must have a new commander. Du Pont has talents and capability, but we are to have the benefit of neither at Charleston. The old army infirmity of this war, dilatory action, affects Du Pont. Commendation and encouragement, instead of stimulating him, have raised the mountain of difficulty higher daily. He is nursing Du Pont, whose fame he fears may suffer, and has sought sympathy by imparting his fears and doubts to his subordinates, until all are impressed with his apprehensions. The capture of Charleston by such a chief is an impossibility, whatever may be accomplished by another. This being the case, I have doubts of renewing the attack immediately, notwithstanding the zeal of Stanton and Fox. I certainly would not without some change of officers.

Having no faith, the commander can accomplish no work. In the struggle of war, there must sometimes be risks to accomplish results, but it is clear we can expect no great risks from Du Pont at Charleston. The difficulties increase daily [as] his imagination dwells on the subject. Under any circumstances we shall be likely to have trouble with him. He has remarkable address, is courtly, the head of a formidable clique, the most formidable in the Navy, loves intrigue, is Jesuitical, and I have reason to believe is not always frank and sincere. It was finally concluded to delay proceedings until the arrival of General Gillmore, who should be put in possession of our views.

President Lincoln writes Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton: “In order to construct the Illinois Central Railroad, a large grant of land was made by the United States to the State of Illinois, which land was again given to the Railroad Company by the State, in certain provisions of the Charter. By the U.S. grant, certain previleges were attempted to be secured from the contemplated Railroad to the U.S., and by the charter certain per centage of the income of the road was to be from time to time paid to the State of Illinois. At the beginning of the present war the Railroad did certain carrying for the U.S. for which it claims pay; and, as I understand, the U.S. claims that at least part of this the road was bound to do without pay. Though attempts have been made to settle the matter, it remains unsettled; meanwhile the Road refuses to pay the per-centage to the State. This delay is working badly; and I understand the delay exists because of there being no definite decision whether the U.S. will settle it’s own account with the Railroad, or will allow the State to settle it, & account to the State for it. If I had the leisure which I have not, I believe I could settle it; but prima facie it appears to me we better settle the account ourselves, because that will save us all question as to whether the State deals fairly with us in the settlement of our account with a third party – the R.R.”  He added: “I wish you would see Mr. Butler, late our State Treasurer, and see if something definite can not be done in the case.”

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

President Looks Forward to Defeat of the Devil

May 22, 1863

In brief comments to the “One-Legged Brigade” from St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, “The President complimented the Chaplain, and said there was no need of a speech from him, as the men upon their crutches were orators; their very appearance spoke louder than tongues. As their Chaplain had alluded to the work he was at present very busy about, viz. in cleaning the devil out of Washington, the President hoped that when we could present that famous adversary at the White House on his stumps, and therefore somewhat incapable of further rebellion against constituted and divine authority, that we would let him know. Whereupon the Chaplain informed the President that he would send him word when the funeral of that arch rebel and great secessionist was to take place.”

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