Pilot Rights and Peace Missions Concern President

May 21, 1863

Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles writes in his diary: “Had an early call from the President, who brought a communication from Tassara to Seward, complaining of violation of neutral rights by a small pilot-boat, having a gun mounted amidships and believed to be an American vessel, which was annoying Spanish and other neutral vessels off the coast of Cuba.  The President expressed doubts whether it was one of our vessels, but I told him I was inclined to believe it was, and that I had last week written Mr. Seward concerning the same craft in answer to Lord Lyons, who complained of outrage on the British schooner Drea, but I had also written Admiral Bailey on the subject.  I read my letter to the President. He spoke of an unpleasant rumor concerning Grant, but on canvassing the subject we concluded it must be groundless, originating probably in the fact that he does not retain but has evacuated Jackson, after destroying the enemy’s stores.”

President Lincoln writes General William S. Rosecrans regarding an Illinois chaplain who wants to talk about a peace mission to Richmond: “For certain reasons it is thought best for Rev. Dr. [James] Jaques[s] not to come here. Present my respects to him, and ask him to write me fully on the subject he has in contemplation.”   Rosecrans had written Lincoln “The Rev. Dr Jaques Col of Seventy third (73) Illinois, a man of high character & great influence in the Methodist Church has proposed a mission to the South which in my judgment is worthy of being laid before you. Will you authorize me to send him to Washington for that purpose.”

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

Discussions of Cabinet Shakeup and Black Soldiers Continue

May 20, 1863

Journalist Noah Brooks, a regular visitor to the White House,  writes that Secretary of State William H. Seward is under attack from Radical Republicans: “The President is exceeding loth to give up his wise and conservative counsels, and retains him against the wishes of a respectably large fraction of his own party friends, merely because he believes that to his far-seeing and astute judgment the Administration has owed more than one deliverance from a very tight place.  Moreover, Seward’s policy has always been of a character to avoid all things which might result in a divided North, and though it may have been too emollient at times, it has resulted in retaining to the Administration its cohesive strength, when it would have driven off its friends by following the more arbitrary and rash measures of Stanton.”

Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner, often an adversary to Seward on foreign policy, writes President Lincoln,: “I have been horror-struck by the menace of Slavery to our colored troops & of death to the gentlemen who command them, should they fall into the hands of the rebel enemy.”

It seems to me that the time has come, when it should be declared to the world, by Presidential Proclamation, in the most solemn form possible, that these officers & soldiers of the U. States will be protected by the Govt. according to the laws of war, & that not one of them shall suffer without a retaliation, which shall be complete; not vindictive but conservative.

Such a Proclamation would give encouragement to the army; it would gratify the country, & it would teach foreign nations the difference between a barbarous foe & the upholders of Human Liberty.  Besides, it would be intrinsically an act of justice.

President Lincoln tries to calm General William S. Rosecrans regarding his handling of the case of Colonel David R. Haggard, who had been absent from duty because of ill health: “Yours of yesterday in relation to Col. Haggard is received. I am anxious that you shall not misunderstand me. In no case have I intended to censure you, or to question your ability. In Col. Haggard’s case I meant no more than to suggest that possibly you might have been mistaken, in a point that could be corrected. I frequently make mistakes myself, in the many things I am compelled to do hastily.”

Published in: on May 20, 2013 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Cabinet Discusses Disposition of Congressman Vallandigham

May 19, 1863

President Lincoln decides to send Ohio Congressman Clement Vallandigham south to the Confederacy rather than north to Fort Warren in Boston.  Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles writes in his diary of today’s cabinet meeting: “The case of Vallandigham, recently arrested by General Burnside, tried by court martial, convicted of something, and sentenced to Fort Warren, was before the Cabinet.  It was an error on the part of Burnside. All regretted the arrest, but, having been made, every one wished he had been sent over the lines to the Rebels with whom he sympathizes. Until the subject is legitimately before us, and there is a necessity to act, there is no disposition to meddle with the case.

The New York Tribune of to-day has a communication on the Peterhoff mail question. It is neither so good nor so bad as it might have been. Am sorry to see it just at this time, and uncertain as to the author. Faxon names one of the correspondents of the Tribune, but while he may have forwarded the article he could not have written it.

Governor Sprague and Miss Kate Chase called this evening.  I have been skeptical as to a match, but this means something.  She is beautiful, or, more properly perhaps, interesting and impressive.  He is rich and holds the position of Senator.  Few young men have such advantages as he, and Miss Kate has talents and ambitions sufficient for both.’”

Decades later, Supreme Court Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist wrote: “After this dicussion, Lincoln changed Vallandigham’s sentence from imprisonment for the duration of the war to banishment ‘beyond the Union lines’ into the Confederacy.  Over Burnside’s protest, the sentence was carried out and the prisoner was turned over to General William Rosecrans, with instructions to deliver him to the Confederates in Tennessee. “ Historian David Long “The importance of Vallandigham’s banishment was twofold.  First, it allowed rebel officials, who were already considering covert activities against the North, to confer with a prominent politician sympathetic to their cause.  Second, it caused an outpouring of support for Vallandigham across the loyal states, including most Regular Democrats, many of whom had objected to his tactics and tone before his arrest.”

Published in: on May 19, 2013 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Lincoln’s Concerns Range from Republican to Monarchy

May 18, 1863

Journalist Noah Brooks writes: “The morning is magnificent, and the air is alive with the songs of birds.  There is hardly a soldier to be seen, except the warm and indolent-looking patrols, who saunter along their posts in the warm sunshine as if they were only ‘playing soldier.”

The National Republican, owned by Simon Hanscom,  had been selected to print official government notices, but its bills had not been paid.  President Lincoln writes Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton: “You will greatly oblige me, because it will be a matter of personal relief to me, if you will allow Hanscom’s (the Republican’s) accounts to be settled and paid.

President Lincoln writes England’s Queen Victoria: “I have received the letter which Your Majesty addressed to me on the 31st. day of March last, announcing the pleasing intelligence of the Marriage on the 10th. of that month of Your Majesty’s dearly beloved son His Royal Highness Albert Edward Prince of Wales, Duke of Saxony, Prince of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha &c. &c. with Her Royal Highness the Princess Alexandra Caroline Maria Charlotte Louisa Julia, eldest Daughter of His Royal Highness the Prince Christian of Denmark. Feeling a lively interest in whatever concerns the Welfare and happiness of Your Majesty’s illustrious House, I pray Your Majesty to receive my cordial congratulations on this auspicious event, and my fervent Wishes that it may signally promote your own happiness and that of the Prince your son and his young spouse: And so I recommend Your Majesty and Your Majesty’s Royal Family to the protection of the Almighty.”

Published in: on May 18, 2013 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

President Lincoln Confers about Military Affairs

May 17, 1863

For the second day in a row, President Lincoln visits the Washington Navy Yard, where he confers with the commandant, Rear Admiral John Dahlgren at Navy Yard.   When President Lincoln returns to the White House, Dahlgren, a close military advisor, goes with him.

Arriving the White House, President Lincoln confers with Massachusetts Congressman George S. Boutwell about the Union position around Vicksburg, Mississippi.

Published in: on May 17, 2013 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Infighting Among Cabinet, Congress and Generals

May 16, 1863

Attorney General Edward Bates writes in his diary:  “There are growing signs of a general distrust of each oither [sic] among leading men and politicians.  Each one, statesman, or General, is secretly working, either to advance his ambition, or to secure something to retire upon.

At present, abolition seems to be the strongest rallying point, and men who don’t [sic] care a fig about it, have become all of a sudden, very zealous in that cause – Seward and Stanton are as hot as Chase.  And even Adjt. Genl L. Thomas, has become a very zealous proselyte – He is out on the Missi.[ssippi] straining his little powers in the effort to organize black battalions, but thus far, with little success, tho’ the raw material is abundant, all around him.

“There is now no mutual confidence among the membes of the Govt. – and really no such thing as a C.C.  The more ambitious members, who seek to control – Seward – Chase – Stanton – never  start their projects in C.C. but try first to commit the Prest., and then, if possible, secure the apparent consent of the members.  Often, the doubtful measure is put into operation before the majority of us know that is proposed.

‘This was especially so in case of the prize ships Labuan and Peterhoff.  In those cases, the Sec of State gave pointed instructions to Dist: Atty at N.Y. without consulting me – and as soon as I found it out (but after much of the mischief was

done) I, without consulting any one, gave instructions flatly to the contrary.

In the morning, President Lincoln, Secretary of State William H. Seward, and Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton take boat trip on Potomac River from the Washington Navy Yard.   Their goal is to inspect army troop transports.

Published in: on May 16, 2013 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Missouri Frustrates President Lincoln

May 15, 1863

The political-military situation and squabbling continues in Missouri.  President Lincoln writes some Missouri officials objecting to appointment of General John Schofield to replace General Samuel Curtis as the state’s military commander: “It is very painful to me that you in Missouri can not, or will not, settle your factional quarrel among yourselves. I have been tormented with it beyond endurance for months, by both sides. Neither side pays the least respect to my appeals to your reason. I am now compelled to take hold of the case.”  The officials had written: “The Telegraph reports the probable appointment of Gen Schofield to command this Dept. We a committee last Monday by the largest meeting of Union people ever held in St Louis pray to suspend that appointment until you hear from us”

Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles writes in his diary: “The President called on me this morning with the basis of a dispatch which Lord Lyons proposed to send home.  He had submitted it to Mr. Seward, who handed it to the President, and he brought it to me.  The President read it to me, and when he concluded, I remarked the whole question of the mails belonged properly to the courts and I thought unless we proposed some new treaty arrangement it would be best the subject should continue with the courts as law and usage-directed.  ‘But,’ he inquired, ‘have the courts ever opened the mails of a neutral government?’  I replied, ‘Always, when the captured vessels on which mails were found were considered good prize.’  ‘Why, then,’ said he, ‘do you not furnish me with the fact?  It is what I want, but you furnish me with no report  that any neutral has ever been me with no report that any neutral has ever been searched.’  I said I was not aware that the right had ever been questioned.  The courts made no reports to me whether they opened or did not open mail.  The courts are independent of the Departments, to which they are not amenable.  In the mails was often the best and only evidence that could insure condemnation.  [I said] that I should as soon have expected as inquiry whether evidence was taken, witnesses sworn, and the cargoes examined as whether mails were examined.  ‘But if mails ever are examined,’ said he, ‘the fact must be known and recorded.  What vessels,’ he asked, ‘have we captured, where we have examined the mails?’  ‘All, doubtless, that have had mails on board,’ I replied.  Probably most of them were not intrusted with mails.  ‘What,’ asked he, ‘was the first vessel taken?’  ‘I do not recollect the name, a small blockade-runner, I think; I presume she had no mail.  If she had, I have no doubt the court searched it and examined all letters and papers.’  He was extremely anxious to ascertain if I recollected, or knew that any captured mail had been searched.  I told him I remembered no specific mention, doubted if the courts ever reported no specific mention, doubted if the courts ever reported to the Navy Department.  Foreign governments, knowing of the blockade, would not be likely to make up mails for the ports blockaded.  The Peterhoff had a mail ostensibly for Matamoras, which was her destination, but with a cargo and mails which we knew were intended for the Rebels, though the proof might be difficult since the mail had been given up.  I sent for Watkins, who has charge of prize matters, to know if there was any record or mention of mails in any of the papers sent the Navy Department, but he could not call to mind anything conclusive.  Some mention was made of mails or dispatches in the mail on board the Bermuda, which we captured, but it was incidental.  Perhaps the facts might be got from the district attorneys, though he thought, as I did, that but few regular mails were given to blockade-runners.  The President said he would frame a letter to the district attorneys, and in the afternoon, he brought in a form to be sent to the attorneys in Philadelphia, New York, and Boston.”

Published in: on May 15, 2013 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Correspondence Regarding Army of the Potomac Concerns President Lincoln

May 14, 1863

President Lincoln responds to a letter the previous day from General Joseph Hooker:

“My movements have been a little delayed by the withdrawal of many of the two-years’ and nine-months’ regiments, and those whose time is not already up it will be expedient to leave on this side of the river. This reduction imposes upon me the necessity of partial reorganization. My marching force of infantry is cut down to about 80,000, while I have artillery for an army of more than double that number. It has always been out of proportion, considering the character of the country we have to campaign in, and I shall be more efficient by leaving at least one-half of it in depot. In addition, Stoneman’s cavalry returned to camp day before yesterday, and will require a day or two more to be in readiness to resume operations.

I know that you are impatient, and I know that I am, but my impatience must not be indulged at the expense of dearest interests.

I am informed that the bulk of Longstreet’s force is in Richmond. With the facilities at hand, he can readily transfer it to Lee’s army, and no doubt will do so if Lee should fight and fall back, as he will try to do.

The enemy’s camps are reported to me as being more numerous than before our last movement, but of this I have no positive information. They probably have about the same number of troops as before the last battle, but with these and Longstreet’s they are much my superior, besides having the advantage of acting on the defensive, which, in this country, can scarcely be estimated.

President Lincoln writes General Hooker regarding military strategy in northern Virginia: “When I wrote you on the 7th. I had an impression that possibly, by an early movement, you could get some advantage from the supposed facts that the enemies communications were disturbed and that he was somewhat deranged in position. That idea has now passed away, the enemy having re-established his communications, regained his positions and actually received re-inforcements. It does not now appear probable to me that you can gain any thing by an early renewal of the attempt to cross the Rappahannock. I therefore shall not complain, if you do no more, for a time, than to keep the enemy at bay, and out of other mischief, by menaces and occasional cavalry raids, if practicable; and to put your own army in good condition again. Still, if in your own clear judgment, you can renew the attack successfully, I do not mean to restrain you. Bearing upon this last point, I must tell you I have some painful intimations that some of your corps and Division Commanders are not giving you their entire confidence. This would be ruinous, if true; and you should therefore, first of all, ascertain the real facts beyond all possibility of doubt.”

Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles writes in his diary: “I wrote, two or three weeks since, a letter to Admiral Du Pont of affairs at Charleston and his reports, but have delayed sending it, partly in hopes I should have something suggestive and encouraging, partly because Fox requested me to wait, in the belief we should have additional information. Du Pont is morbidly sensitive, and to vindicate himself wants to publish every defect and weakness of the ironclads and to disparage them, regardless of its effect in inspiring the Rebels to resist them, and impairing the confidence of our own men in their invulnerability. I have tried to be kind and frank in my letter, but shall very likely give offense.

Had a little conversation to-day with Chase and Bates on two or three matters, but the principal subject was Earl Russell’s speech.

President Lincoln writes William C. Bryant, editor of the New York Post regarding the future of a key German-American general: “Yours requesting that Gen. [Franz] Sigel may be again assigned to command, is received. Allow me to briefly explain. I kept Gen. Sigel in command for several months, he requesting to resign, or to be relieved. At length, at his urgent & repeated solicitation, he was relieved. Now it is inconvenient to assign him a command without relieving or dismissing some other officer, who is not asking, and perhaps would object, to being so disposed of. This is one of a class of cases; and you perceive how embarrassing they are.”

In the evening, General Joseph Hooker, commander of the Army of the Potomac, visits the president at the White House.

Published in: on May 14, 2013 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

President Lincoln Wrestles with Vallandigham Problem

May 13, 1863

President Lincoln decides not to suspend habeas corpus in Ohio because he doubts U.S. judges to sustain the action.  The problem related to the May 5 arrest and subsequent trial of former Democratic Congressman Clement Vallandigham in Ohio by General Ambrose Burnside.  Five days earlier, Burnside had written President Lincoln: “Your dispatch just rec’d. I thank you for your kind assurance of support & beg to say that every possible effort will be made on my part to sustain the Govt of the United States in its fullest authority.”

President Lincoln writes Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase regarding the son of Elias H. Merryman, a friend of Lincoln’s, involved in the problems with the customs office at Port Townsend, Washington Territory : “I understand there are, or have been, some charges against Lieutenant Merryman, of which I know nothing. I only wish to say, he was raised from childhood in the town where I lived, and I remember nothing against him as boy or man.”  Lincoln adds regarding the man who played an important role in an aborted duel two decades earlier: “His father, now dead, was a very intimate acquaintance and friend of mine.”

President Lincoln writes Dr.Anson G. Henry, a longtime Illinois friend now residing in Oregon regarding changes to the customs office in the state of Washington: “Governor Chase’s feelings were hurt by my action in his absence. Smith is removed, but Gov. Chase wishes to name his successor, and asks a day or two to make the designation.:

Upon the death of the president of Peru, President Lincoln wrote Pedro Diez Canseco, second vice president of Peru: “I have been deeply touched by the announcement, contained in the letter which you addressed to me under date of the eleventh ultimo, of the decease of the Most Excellent President of the Republic of Peru, the Grand Marshal, Don Miguel San Roman.”

Regarding the interests of the Spanish American Republics with no common concern, I have not failed to observe the incidents of the brief administration of the Grand Marshal, Senor San Roman, with admiration and respect, and to anticipate for the Republic a most prosperous and brilliant future in the developmement [sic] of his wise and sagacious policy.

I offer to your Excellency and to the Peruvian Nation my sincere sympathy and condolence in this painful event.

As your Excellency has entered upon the duties of the Presidency, ad interim, under Constitutional sanction, prescribing to yourself such a course as must invite the approval and cooperation of other Powers, I cannot but believe that the Supreme Ruler of the Universe will guide the counsels of Your Excellency to a happy issue.

Published in: on May 13, 2013 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Government Current on Accounts

May 12, 1863

After a cabinet meeting at the White House, Attorney General Edward Bates writes in his diary: “On leaving C.C. the P. M. G. staid behind.  And I [have] notice[d] the same thing, several times lately.  He seeks as often as possible, to be alone with the President.

“Coming for C.C. – Mr. Chase remarked to me ‘There is not an unpaid requisition in my Department.’

“That is an extraordinary state of things: the Treasury, it seems, for the first time during the war – is full.”

President Lincoln writes New York Governor Horatio Seymour, a Democrat with whom he is trying to get along, about the offer of services of Dr. John Swinburne: “Dr. Swinburne and Mr. Gillett are here having been refused, as they say, by the War Department, permission to go to the Army of the Potomac. They now appeal to me, saying you wish them to go. I suppose they have been excluded by a rule which experience has induced the Department to deem proper; still they shall have leave to go, if you say you desire it. Please answer.”

Published in: on May 12, 2013 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment