Washington Preoccupied with Confederate Invasion of Maryland and Pennsylvania

June 30, 1863

Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles writes in his diary: “The President did not join us to-day in Cabinet.  He was with the Secretary of War and General Halleck, and sent word there would be no meeting.  This is wrong, but I know no remedy.  At such a time as this, it would seem there should be free and constant intercourse and interchange of views, and a combined effort.  The Government should not be carried on in the War or State Departments exclusively, nor ought there to be an attempt of that kind.”  Welles, who is often upset that the cabinet meetings do not get proper respect, writes:

I understand from Chase that the President and Stanton are anxious that Dix should make a demonstration on Richmond, but Halleck does not respond favorably, — whether because he has not confidence in Dix, or himself, or from any cause, I do not know. This move on Richmond is cherished by Chase, and with a bold, dashing, energetic, and able general might be effective, but I agree with the President that Dix is not the man for such a movement. Probably the best thing that can now be done, is to bring all who can be spared from garrison duty to the assistance of General Meade.

Lee and his army are well advanced into Pennsylvania, and they should not be permitted to fall back and recross the Potomac. Halleck is bent on driving them back, not on intercepting their retreat; is full of zeal to drive them out of Pennsylvania. I don’t want them to leave the State, except as prisoners. Meade will, I trust, keep closer to them than some others have done. I understand his first order was for the troops at Harper’s Ferry to join him, which was granted. Hooker asked this, but it was denied him by the War Department and General Halleck.

Blair is much dissatisfied. He came from the Executive Mansion with me to the Navy Department and wrote a letter to the President, urging that Dix’s command should be immediately brought up. Says Halleck is good for nothing and knows nothing. I proposed that we should both walk over to the War Department, but he declined; said he would not go where Stanton could insult him, that he disliked at all times to go to the War Department, had not been there for a long period, although the Government of which he is a member is in these days carried on, almost, in the War Department.

We have no positive information that the Rebels have crossed the Susquehanna, though we have rumors to that effect. There is no doubt the bridge at Columbia, one and a half miles long, has been burnt, and, it seems, by our own people. The officer who ordered it must have been imbued with Halleck’s tactics. I wish the Rebel army had got across before the bridge was burnt. But Halleck’s prayers and efforts, especially his prayers, are to keep the Rebels back, — drive them back across the “frontiers” instead of intercepting, capturing, and annihilating them. This movement of Lee and the Rebel forces into Pennsylvania is to me incomprehensible, nor do I get any light from military men or others in regard to it. Should they cross the Susquehanna, as our General-in-Chief and Governor Curtin fear, they will never recross it without being first captured. This they know, unless deceived by their sympathizing friends in the North, as in 1861; therefore I do not believe they will attempt it.

I have talked over this campaign with Stanton this evening, but I get nothing from him definite or satisfactory of fact or speculation, and I come to the conclusion that he is bewildered, that he gets no light from his military subordinates and advisers, and that he really has no information or opinion as to the Rebel destination or purpose.

Presidential aide John G. Nicolay writes home:”Stirring times seem to be upon us again.  It appears pretty evident that Lee has taken the most of army into Maryland and Pennsylvania, with perhaps the design of taking Baltimore or Washington – his object not being as yet sufficiently developed to say with any certainty what it is.”   President Lincoln writes General Darius N. Couch in Harrisburg: “I judge by absence of news that the enemy is not crossing, or pressing up to the Susquehannah.  Please tell me what you know of his movements.”  Couch had earlier telegraphed the President: “Part of the rebel force has left the Vicinity of Carlisle with fifty pieces of artillery, and massed towards Shippensburg. This looks like concentrating a portion of their troops down the Cumberland valley. Eight thousand of their men left York and went towards Carlisle this morning”  Couch wrote again later: “The rebel infantry force left Carlisle early this morning, on the Baltimore pike. Cavalry still on this side of that town. Early, with 8,000, left York this morning; went westerly or northwesterly. Rebels at York and Carlisle yesterday a good deal agitated about some news they had received. I telegraphed news to General Meade, care of the Secretary of War.”

Lincoln writes editor Alexander K. McClure, a prominent Republican official in southern Pennsylvania: “Do we gain anything by opening one leak to stop another? Do we gain any thing by quieting one clamor, merely to open another, and probably a larger one?”   A panicky McClure had written: “Have been twenty-four hours hoping to hasten the organization of troops. It seems impossible to do so to an extent at all commensurate with the emergency. Our people are paralyzed for want of confidence and leadership, and, unless they can be inspired with hope, we shall fail to do anything worthy of our State or Government. I am fully persuaded that to call McClellan to a command here would be the best thing that could be done. He could rally troops from Pennsylvania, and I am well assured that New York and New Jersey would also respond to his call with great alacrity. With his efficiency in organizing men, and the confidence he would inspire, early and effective relief might be afforded us, and great service rendered to the Army of the Potomac.

Unless we are in some way rescued from the hopelessness now prevailing, we shall have practically an inefficient conscription, and be powerless to help either ourselves or the National Government.

After free consultation with trusted friends of the Administration, I hesitate not to urge that McClellan be called here. He can render us and you the best service, and in the present crisis no other consideration should prevail. Without military success we can have no political success, no matter who commands. In this request I reflect what seems to be an imperative necessity rather than any preference of my own.

President Lincoln telegraphs New Jersey Governor Joel Parker: “Your despatch of yesterday received. I really think the attitude of the enemies’ army in Pennsylvania, presents us the best opportunity we have had since the war began. I think you will not see the foe in New-Jersey. I beg you to be assured that no one out of my position can know so well as if he were in it, the difficulties and involvements of replacing Gen. McClellan in command – and this aside from any imputations upon him.  Please accept my sincere thanks for what you have done, and are doing to get troops forward.” Governor Parker had  telegraphed on June 29: “The people of New Jersey are apprehensive that the invasion of the enemy may extend to her soil. We think that the enemy should be driven from Pennsylvania. There is now certainly great apathy under such fearful circumstances. That apathy should be removed. The people of New Jersey want McClellan at the head of the Army of the Potomac. If that cannot be done, then we ask that he may be put at the head of the New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania troops now in Pennsylvania, defending these Middle States from invasion. If either appointment be made, the people would rise en masse.”

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

Washington Worries and Waits for Battle in Pennsylvania

June 29, 1863

“Great apprehension prevails,” writes Navy Secretary Gideon Welles as Union and Confederate troops move toward southern Pennsylvania.  “The change of commanders is thus far well received. No regret is expressed that Hooker has been relieved. This is because of the rumor of his habits, the reputation that he is intemperate, for his military reputation is higher than that of his successor. Meade has not so much character as such a command requires. He is, however, kindly favored; will be well supported, have the best wishes of all, but does not inspire immediate confidence. A little time may improve this, and give him name and fame.”

Meanwhile, President Lincoln responds to Ohio Democratic politicians protesting his handling of former Ohio Congressman Clement Valandigham: “The resolutions of the Ohio Democratic State convention which you present me, together with your introductory and closing remarks, being in position and argument, mainly the same as the resolutions of the Democratic meeting at Albany, New-York, I refer you to my response to the latter, as meeting most of the points in the former. This response you evidently used in preparing your remarks, and I desire no more than that it be used with accuracy. In a single reading of your remarks I only discovered one inaccuracy in matter which I suppose you took from that paper. It is when you say “The undersigned are unable to agree with you in the opinion you have expressed that the constitution is different in time of insurrection or invasion from what it is in time of peace & public security.” A recurrence to the paper will show you that I have not expressed the opinion you suppose. I expressed the opinion that the constitution is different, in its application in cases of Rebellion or Invasion, involving the Public Safety, from what it is in times of profound peace and public security; and this opinion I adhere to, simply because, by the constitution itself, things may be done in the one case which may not be done in the other.”

I dislike to waste a word on a merely personal point; but I must respectfully assure you that you will find yourselves at fault should you ever seek for evidence to prove your assumption that I “opposed, in discussions before the people, the policy of the Mexican war.”

You say “Expunge from the constitution this limitation upon the power of congress to suspend the writ of Habeas corpus, and yet the other guarranties of personal liberty would remain unchanged” Doub[t]less if this clause of the constitution, improperly called, as I think, a limitation upon the power of congress, were expunged, the other guarranties would remain the same; but the question is, not how those guarranties would stand, with that clause out of the constitution, but how they stand with that clause remaining in it—in cases of Rebellion or Invasion, involving the public Safety. If the liberty could be indulged, of expunging that clause letter & spirit, I really think the constitutional argument would be with you. My general view on this question was stated in the Albany response, and hence I do not state it now. I only add that, as seems to me, the benefit of the writ of Habeas corpus, is the great means through which the guarranties of personal liberty are conserved, and made available in the last resort; and coroborative of this view, is the fact that Mr. V. in the very case in question, under the advice of able lawyers, saw not where else to go but to the Habeas Corpus. But by the constitution the benefit of the writ of Habeas corpus itself may be suspended when in cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.

You ask, in substance, whether I really claim that I may override all the guarrantied rights of individuals, on the plea of conserving the public safety—when I may choose to say the public safety requires it. This question, divested of the phraseology calculated to represent me as struggling for an arbitrary personal prerogative, is either simply a question who shall decide, or an affirmation that nobody shall decide, what the public safety does require, in cases of Rebellion or Invasion. The constitution contemplates the question as likely to occur for decision, but it does not expressly declare who is to decide it. By necessary implication, when Rebellion or Invasion comes, the decision is to be made, from time to time; and I think the man whom, for the time, the people have, under the constitution, made the commander-in-chief, of their Army and Navy, is the man who holds the power, and bears the responsibility of making it. If he uses the power justly, the same people will probably justify him; if he abuses it, he is in their hands, to be dealt with by all the modes they have reserved to themselves in the constitution.

The earnestness with which you insist that persons can only, in times of rebellion, be lawfully dealt with, in accordance with the rules for criminal trials and punishments in times of peace, induces me to add a word to what I said on that point, in the Albany response. You claim that men may, if they choose, embarrass those whose duty it is, to combat a giant rebellion, and then be dealt with in turn, only as if there was no rebellion. The constitution itself rejects this view. The military arrests and detentions, which have been made, including those of Mr. V. which are not different in principle from the others, have been for prevention, and not for punishment — as injunctions to stay injury, as proceedings to keep the peace—and hence, like proceedings in such cases, and for like reasons, they have not been accompanied with indictments, or trials by juries, nor, in a single case by any punishment whatever, beyond what is purely incidental to the prevention. The original sentence of imprisonment in Mr. V.’s case, was to prevent injury to the Military service only, and the modification of it was made as a less disagreeable mode to him, of securing the same prevention.

I am unable to perceive an insult to Ohio in the case of Mr. V. Quite surely nothing of the sort was or is intended. I was wholly unaware that Mr. V. was at the time of his arrest a candidate for the democratic nomination for Governor until so informed by your reading to me the resolutions of the convention. I am grateful to the State of Ohio for many things, especially for the brave soldiers and officers she has given in the present national trial, to the armies of the Union.

You claim, as I understand, that according to my own position in the Albany response, Mr. V. should be released; and this because, as you claim, he has not damaged the military service, by discouraging enlistments, encouraging desertions, or otherwise; and that if he had, he should have been turned over to the civil authorities under recent acts of congress. I certainly do not know that Mr. V. has specifically, and by direct language, advised against enlistments, and in favor of desertion, and resistance to drafting. We all know that combinations, armed in some instances, to resist the arrest of deserters, began several months ago; that more recently the like has appeared in resistance to the enrolment preparatory to a draft; and that quite a number of assassinations have occurred from the same animus. These had to be met by military force, and this again has led to bloodshed and death. And now under a sense of responsibility more weighty and enduring than any which is merely official, I solemnly declare my belief that this hindrance, of the military, including maiming and murder, is due to the course in which Mr. V. has been engaged, in a greater degree than to any other cause; and is due to him personally, in a greater degree than to any other one man. These things have been notorious, known to all, and of course known to Mr. V. Perhaps I would not be wrong to say they originated with his special friends and adhereants. With perfect knowledge of them, he has frequently, if not constantly made speeches, in congress, and before popular assemblies; and if it can be shown that, with these things staring him, in the face, he has ever uttered a word of rebuke, or counsel against them, it will be a fact greatly in his favor with me, and one of which, as yet I, am totally ignorant. When it is known that that [sic] the whole burthen of his speeches has been to stir up men against the prossecution of the war, and that in the midst of resistance to it, he has not been known, in any instance, to counsel against such resistance, it is next to impossible to repel the inference that he has counselled directly in favor of it. With all this before their eyes the convention you represent have nominated Mr. V. for Governor of Ohio; and both they and you, have declared the purpose to sustain the national Union by all constitutional means. But, of course, they and you, in common, reserve to yourselves to decide what are constitutional means; and, unlike the Albany meeting, you omit to state, or intimate, that in your opinion, an army is a constitutional means of saving the Union against a rebellion; or even to intimate that you are conscious of an existing rebellion being in progress with the avowed object of destroying that very Union. At the same time your nominee for Governor, in whose behalf you appeal, is known to you, and to the world, to declare against the use of an army to suppress the rebellion. Your own attitude, therefore, encourages desertion, resistance to the draft and the like, because it teaches those who incline to desert, and to escape the draft, to believe it is your purpose to protect them, and to hope that you will become strong enough to do so. After a short personal intercourse with you gentlemen of the committee, I can not say I think you desire this effect to follow your attitude; but I assure you that both friends and enemies of the Union look upon it in this light. It is a substantial hope, and by consequence, a real strength to the enemy. If it is a false hope, and one which you would willingly dispel, I will make the way exceedingly easy. I send you duplicates of this letter, in order that you, or a majority of you, may if you choose, indorse your names upon one of them, and return it thus indorsed to me, with the understanding that those signing, are thereby committed to the following propositions, and to nothing else.

1. That there is now a rebellion in the United States, the object and tendency of which is to destroy the national Union; and that in your opinion, an army and navy are constitutional means for suppressing that rebellion.

2. That no one of you will do any thing which in his own judgment, will tend to hinder the increase, or favor the decrease, or lessen the efficiency of the army or navy, while engaged in the effort to suppress that rebellion; and,

3. That each of you will, in his sphere, do all he can to have the officers, soldiers, and seamen of the army and navy, while engaged in the effort to suppress the rebellion, paid, fed, clad, and otherwise well provided and supported.

And with the further understanding that upon receiving the letter and names thus indorsed, I will cause them to be published, which publication shall be within itself, a revocation of the order in relation to Mr. V.

It will not escape observation that I consent to the release of Mr. V. upon terms, not embracing any pledge from him, or from others as to what he will, or will not do. I do this because he is not present to speak for himself, or to authorize others to speak for him; and because I should expect that on his returning, he would not put himself practically in antagonism with the position of his friends. But I do it chiefly because I thereby prevail on other influential gentlemen of Ohio to so define their position, as to be of immense value to the Army – thus more than compensating for the consequences of any mistake in allowing Mr. V. to return; and so that, on the whole, the public safety will not have suffered by it. Still, in regard to Mr. V. and all others, I must hereafter as heretofore, do so much as the public safety may seem to require.

President Lincoln writes former Congressman William Kellogg, who had been defeated for reelection in 1862, about his request for a cotton permit: “I have received, and read, your pencil note. I think you do not know how embarrassing your request is. Few things are so troublesome to the government as the fierceness with which the profits of trading in cotten are sought. The temptation is so great that nearly every body wishes to be in it; and when in, the question of profit controls all, regardless of whether the cotten seller is loyal or rebel, or whether he is paid in corn-meal or gun-powder. The officers of the army, in numerous instances, are believed to connive and share the profits, and thus the army itself is diverted from fighting the rebels to speculating in cotten; and steam-boats and wagons in the pay of the government, are set to gathering and carrying cotten, and the soldiers to loading cotten-trains and guarding them.”

The matter deeply affects the Treasury and War Departments, and has been discussed again and again in the cabinet. What can, and what can not be done, has, for the time been settled, and it seems to me I can not safely break over it. I know it is thought that one case is not much, but how can I favor one and deny another. One case can not be kept a secret. The authority given would be utterly ineffectual until it is shown; and when shown, every body knows of it. The administration would do for you as much as for any other man; and I personally would do some more than for most others; but really I can not involve myself and the Government as this would do.

President Lincoln writes General Robert H. Milroy, who complains about his removal from command: “Your letters to Mr. Blair and to myself, are handed to me by him. I have never doubted your courage and devotion to the cause. But you have just lost a Division, and prima facie the fault is upon you; and while that remains unchanged, for me to put you in command again, is to justly subject me to the charge of having put you there on purpose to have you lose another. If I knew facts sufficient to satisfy me that you were not in fault, or error, the case would be different. But the facts I do know, while they are not at all conclusive, and I hope they may never prove so, tend the other way.”

First, I have scarcely seen anything from you at any time, that did not contain imputations against your superiors, and a chafing against acting the part they had assigned you. You have constantly urged the idea that you were persecuted because you did not come from West-Point, and you repeat it in these letters. This, my dear general, is I fear, the rock on which you have split.

In the Winchester case, you were under General Schenck, and he under Gen. Halleck. I know by Gen. Hallecks order-book, that he, on the 11th. of June advised Gen. Schenck to call you in from Winchester to Harper’s Ferry; and I have been told, but do not know, that Gen. Schenck gave you the order accordingly, on the same day – and I have been told, but do not know, that on receiving it, instead of obeying it, you sent by mail a written protest against obeying it, which did not reach him until you were actually beleagered at Winchester. I say I do not know this. You hate West-Point generally, and General Halleck particularly; but I do know that it is not his fault that you were at Winchester on the 13th. 14th. and morning of the 15th.—the days of your disaster. If Gen. Schenck gave the order on the 11th. as Gen. Halleck advised, it was an easy matter for you to have been off at least on the 12th. The case is inevitably between Gen. Schenck & you. Neither Gen. Halleck, nor any one else, so far as I know, required you to stay and fight 60,000, with 6,000, as you insinuate. I know Gen. Halleck, through Gen. Schenck required you to get away, & that in abundant time for you to have done it. Gen. Schenck is not a West-Pointer & has no prejudice against you on that score.

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

George G. Meade Appointed Commander of Army of Potomac

June 28, 1863

Just three days before the upcoming Battle of Gettysburg, the commander of the Army of the Potomac, Joseph Hooker, is relieved of command.  Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles writes in his diary: “The President convened the Cabinet at 10 A.M. and submitted his reply to the Vallandigham committee.  Save giving too much notoriety and consequence to a graceless traitor who loves notoriety and office, and making the factious party men who are using him for the meanest purposes that could influence men in such a crisis conspicuous, the letter is well enough, and well conceived.

After disposing of this subject, the President drew from his pocket a telegram from General Hooker asking to be relieved.  The President said he had, for several days as the conflict became imminent, observed in Hooker the same failings that were witnessed in McClellan after the Battle of Antietam,–a want of alacrity to obey, and a greedy call for more troops which could not, and ought not to be taken from other points.  He would,  said the President, strip Washington bare, had demanded the force at Harper’s Ferry, which Halleck said could not be complied with; he (Halleck) was opposed to abandoning our position at Harper’s Ferry.  Hooker had taken umbrage at the refusal, or at all events had thought it best to give up the command.

Some discussion followed in regard to a successor. The names of Meade, Sedgwick, and Couch were introduced.  I soon saw this review of names was merely a feeler to get an expression of Opinion–a committal–or to make it appear that all were consulted.  It shortly became obvious, however, that the matter had already been settled, and the President finally remarked he supposed General Halleck had issued the orders.  He asked Stanton if it was not ordered to Baltimore and Meade to succeed him.  We were consulted after the fact.

Welles adds: “Chase was disturbed more than he cared should appear. Seward and Stanton were obviously cognizant of what had been ordered before the meeting of the Cabinet took place, — had been consulted. Perhaps they had advised proceedings, but, doubtful of results, wished the rest to confirm their act. Blair and Bates were not present with us.

Instead of being disturbed, like Chase, I experienced a feeling of relief, and only regretted that Hooker, who I think has good parts, but is said to be intemperate at times, had not been relieved immediately after the Battle of Chancellorsville. No explanation has ever been made of the sudden paralysis which befell the army at that time. It was then reported, by those who should have known, that it was liquor. I apprehend from what has been told me it was the principal cause. It was so intimated, but not distinctly asserted, in Cabinet.

Nothing has been communicated by the War Department, directly, but there has been an obvious dislike of Hooker, and no denial or refutation of the prevalent rumors. I have once or twice made inquiries of Stan ton, but could get no satisfactory reply of any kind. . . . The War Department has been aware of these accusations, but has taken no pains to disprove or deny them, — perhaps because they could not be, perhaps because the War Department did not want to. The President has been partial to Hooker in all this time and has manifested no disposition to give him up, except a casual remark at the last Cabinet-meeting.

Whether the refusal to give him the troops at Harper’s Ferry was intended to drive him to abandon the command of the army, or is in pursuance of any intention on the part of Halleck to control army movements, and to overrule the general in the field, is not apparent. The President has been drawn into the measure, as he was into withholding McDowell from McClellan, by being made to believe it was necessary for the security of Washington. In that instance, Stanton was the moving spirit, Seward assenting. It is much the same now, only Halleck is the forward spirit, prompted perhaps by Stanton.

Of Meade I know very little. He is not great. His brother officers speak well of him, but he is considered rather a “smooth bore ” than a rifle. It is unfortunate that a change could not have been made earlier.

Chase immediately interested himself for the future of Hooker. Made a special request that he should be sent to Fortress Monroe to take charge of a demonstration upon Richmond via James River. The President did not give much attention to the suggestion. I inquired what was done, or doing, with Dix’s command, — whether that con

Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles writes in his diary: The President has been partial to Hooker in all this time and has manifested no disposition to give him up, except a casual remark at the last Cabinet-meeting.”   General James A. Hardie, chief of staff to Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton, was detailed to deliver the news to both the deposed Hooker and the incoming Meade.  He awakened a very reluctant Meade around three in the morning.  At first, he thought he was being placed under military arrest.  Snappish under the best of circumstances, Meade demands to know why General John Reynolds had not received the appointment of command. Historian Charles F. Benjamin wrote that “Meade was asleep, and when awakened was confounded by the sight of an officer from the War Department standing over him. He afterward said that, in his semi-stupor, his first thought was that he was to be taken to Washington in arrest, though no reason occurred to him why he should be. When he realized the state of affairs he became much agitated, protesting against being placed in command of an army that was looking toward Reynolds as the successor, if Hooker should be displaced; referring to the personal friendship between Reynolds and himself, which would make the President’s order an instrument of injustice to both; urging the heaviness of the responsibility so suddenly placed upon him in presence of the enemy and when he was totally ignorant of the positions and dispositions of the army he was to take in charge; and strenuously objecting to the requirement that he should go to Hooker’s Headquarters to take over the command without being sent for by the commanding general, as McClellan had sent for Burnside6 and Burnside for Hooker.  Meade proposed to Hardie that he should telegraph to Stanton to be relieved from taking the command, but Hardie told him that in the council it had been assumed that he would wish to be excused, that he would prefer Reynolds first and anybody else but himself afterward, and that he might even deem it too late to displace Hooker; but that, notwithstanding, it had been determined that Hooker should be relieved, and by Meade alone, and that it should be done immediately upon Hardie’s arrival. It was a mental relief to the stern Secretary of War, when General Meade’s spontaneous utterances were reported to him, to note that he had uttered no protest against Hooker’s being relieved of the command, even in what might almost be called the presence of the enemy. This silence on the part of a man so regardless of himself, so regardful of others, Mr. Stanton accepted as being, in itself, his complete vindication.

After taking General Hardie’s opinion, as a professional soldier, that he had no lawful discretion to vary from the orders given, horses and an escort were ordered out and the party proceeded to general headquarters, some miles distant.7 Hardie undertook to break the news to Hooker, who did not need to be told anything after seeing who his visitors were. It was a bitter moment to all, for Hooker had construed favorably the delay in responding to his tender of resignation, and could not wholly mask the revulsion of feeling. General Butterfield, the chief of staff, between whom and General Meade much coldness existed, was called in, and the four officers set themselves earnestly to work to do the state some service by honestly transferring the command and all that could help to make it available for good. During the interview Meade unguardedly expressed himself as shocked at the scattered condition of the army, and Hooker retorted with feeling. Tension was somewhat eased by Meade’s insisting upon being regarded as a guest at headquarters while General Hooker was present, and by his requesting General Butterfield, upon public grounds, not to exercise his privilege of withdrawing with his chief; but Hooker’s chagrin and Meade’s overstrung nerves made the lengthy but indispensable conference rather trying to the whole party.

After conferring with General Daniel Butterfield, Hooker’s chief of staff,  about the positioning of troops, Meade telegraphs General-in-chief Henry W.  Halleck

The order placing me in command of this army is received.  As a soldier I obey it and to the utmost of my ability will execute it.  Totally unexpected as it has been, and, in ignorance of the exact condition of the troops and position of the enemy, I can only now say that it appears to me I must move toward the Susquehanna, keeping Washington and Baltimore well covered…If the enemy is checked in his attempt to cross…or if he turns toward Baltimore, [I intend] to give him battle.  I would say that I trust every available man that can be spared will be sent me, as from all accounts the enemy is in strong force.  So soon as I can post myself up I will communicate more in detail.

President Lincoln responds to a telegram from former Secretary of War Simon Cameron asking that military uniforms be provided to state militiamen called up to defend Pennsylvania – even though uniforms are normally restricted to U.S. soldiers: “I think the Secretary of War better let them have the clothes.”

President writes to General Darius N. Couch in Harrisburg: “hat news now? What are the enemy firing at four miles from your works?”  Couch replies: “They have not up to this time made any show of attack in force. They are burning bridges on the Northern Central road. I may have lost 400 men in the vicinity of York and Gettysburg. Probably 15,000 men within a short distance of my front.”

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

Conflict Between Generals Hooker and Halleck Comes to a Head

June 27, 1863

As a major confrontation between Union and Confederate armies approaches, General Joseph Hooker telegraphs Lincoln regarding his deteriorating relationship with General-in-chief Henry W. Halleck : “You have long been aware, Mr. President, that I have not enjoyed the confidence of the major-general commanding the army, and I can assure you so long as this continues we may look in vain for success…”  President Lincoln replied: “When you say I have long been aware that you do not enjoy the confidence of the major-general commanding, you state the case much too strongly.  You do not lack his confidence in any degree to do you any harm.  On seeing him, after telegraphing you this morning, I found him more nearly agreeing with you than I was myself.  If you and he would use the same frankness to one another, and to me, that I use to both of you, there would be no difficulty.  I need and must have the professional skill of both, and yet these suspicions tend to deprive me of both….”

Hooker wires Halleck: “My original instructions require me to cover Harper’s Ferry and Washington.  I have now imposed on me, in addition, an enemy in my front of more than my number.  I beg to be understood, respectfully, but firmly, that I am unable to comply with this condition with the means of my disposal, and earnestly request that I may at once bet relieved from the position I occupy.”

Meanwhile, preparations were made to replace Hooker as commander of the Army of the Potomac.  Historian Freeman Cleaves wrote: “According to one account, Lincoln appeared at the War Office looking rather gloomy and not disposed to make conversation.  After a few perfunctory remarks the Secretary took up the matter at hand.  He did not feel, he said, that Hooker would be equal to the present emergency, but he could find no fault with the record and ability of General Meade.  Lincoln on his part felt that Meade would fight well in Pennsylvania ‘on his own dunghill,’ and thus it was decided to act.”

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

Cabinet Discusses Military and Vallangdigham Problems

June 26, 1863

Navy Secretary Gideon Welles writes in his diary: “Rumors are rife concerning the army. If Hooker has generalship in him, this is his opportunity. He can scarcely fail of a triumph. The President in a single remark to-day betrayed doubts of Hooker, to whom he is quite partial. “We cannot help beating them, if we have the man. How much depends in military matters on one master mind! Hooker may commit the same fault as McClellan and lose his chance. We shall soon see, but it appears to me he can’t help but win.”

A pretty full discussion of Vallandigham’s case and of the committee from Ohio which is here, ostensibly in his behalf, but really to make factious party strength. Blair is for letting them return, — turning him loose,—says he will damage his own friends. The President would have no objections but for the effect it might have in relaxing army discipline, and disgusting the patriotic sentiment and feeling of the country, which holds V. in abhorrence.

President Lincoln reviews a number of pardon cases with Adjutant General Joseph Holt:   Among the notes he writes on the case of Private Andrew Brower, charged with mutiny: “Sentence commuted to imprisonment at hard labor during the remainder of the war, in some military prison.”  In the case of Private John H. Clark, charged with desertion, he writes: “Sentence commuted to loss of six months pay in accordance with the recommendation of Maj. Genl. Rosecrans.”

Colonel John D. Van Buren, son of former President Martin Van Buren,  recalled meeting with President Lincoln at the Soldiers Home that night: “It was a bright night and about nine o’clock when were turned from the highway into the winding roads of the Soldiers’ Home. We saw gleaming amid the shrubbery in all directions the bayonets of the soldiers who guarded the President’s residence. There were at that time many fears expressed that a cavalry raid would be made for the purpose of capturing the President.

We drew up in front of a cottage before which a sentry was walking to and fro. To him the Major gave some password, and we alighted with renewed trepidation, for the aspect of the house indicated retirement for the night. The Major rang the bell, and after a while the door was opened by a man-servant, whom the Major peremptorily directed to inform the President that some gentlemen, specially empowered by Governor Seymour of New York, desired to see him. The servant hesitated, but the Major’s manner was so urgent that we were admitted to a dimly lighted hall, and ushered thence into a dark parlor, where the servant lighted a chandelier and departed with our cards.

During our drive Colonel Van Buren and I had recognized the fact that the indomitable Major had primed himself thoroughly with his favorite whisky, as evidenced by his constant stroking of his heavy beard, a trick that denoted alcoholic repletion.

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 figure 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, heelless slippers. It was very evident that he had got up from his bed or had been very nearly ready to get into it when we were announced, and had hastily put on some clothing and those slippers that made the flip-flop sounds on the stairs.

It was the face that, in every line, told the story of anxiety and weariness.  The drooping eyelids, looking almost swollen; the dark bags beneath the eyes; the deep marks about the large and expressive mouth; the flaccid muscles of the jaws, were all so majestically pitiful that I could almost have fallen on my knees and begged pardon for my part in the cruel presumption and impudence that had thus invaded his repose.  As we were severally introduced, the President shook hands with us, and then took his seat on a haircloth-covered sofa beside the Major, while we others sat on chairs in front of him.  Colonel Van Buren, in fitting words, conveyed the message from Governor Seymour…. check.

The merely formal talk being over, something was said about the critical condition of military matters, and the President observed that he had no fears about the safety of Washington, and was certain that the attempted invasion of the Northern States would be arrested.  He said the latest intelligence from the Army of the Potomac was favorable, but gave no details, and it was not until the next day that we learned that General Meade had succeeded General Hooker.

A little pause in the conversation ensued.  The gaunt figure of the President had gradually slid lower on the slippery sofa, and this long legs were stretched out in front,t he loose slippers half-fallen from his feet, while the drowsy eyelids had almost closed over his eyes, and his jaded features had taken on the suggestion of relaxation in sleep.

Deeply moved by the President’s evident fatigue, and by his cordial treatment of us in spite of our presumptuous call, Colonel Van Buren and I were about rising to make our adieux when, to our dismay, the Major slapped the President on his knee and said:

‘Mr. President, tell us one of your good stories.’

If the floor had opened and dropped me out of sight, I should have been happy.

The President drew himself up, and turning his back as far as possible upon the Major, with great dignity addressed the rest of us, saying: ‘I believe I have the popular reputation of being a story-teller, but I do not deserve the name in its general sense; for it is not the story itself, but its purpose, or effect, that interests me.  I often avoid a long and useless discussion by others or a laborious explanation of my own part by a short story that illustrates my point of view.  So, too, the sharpness of refusal or the edge of a rebuke may be blunted by an appropriate story, so as to save wounded feeling, and yet serve the purpose.  No, I am not simply a story-teller, but the story-telling as an emollient saves me much friction and distress.’  These are almost his exact words, of which I made a record that very night.”

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

Ohio Delegation Petitions President Lincoln

June 25, 1863

President Lincoln meets with a group of Ohio Democrats who protest Administration handling of civil liberties and the case of former Ohio Congressman Clement Vallandigham.

President Lincoln waits several days before writing a detailed response.

President Lincoln writes Secretary of the Treasury  Salmon P. Chase regarding former Illinois Congressman William Kellogg, which has been lobbying for a cotton trading permit:

“Hon. William Kellogg will tell you plainly what he wants; and I wish him obliged so far as you can consistently do it. Please strain a point for him, if you do not have to strain it too far.

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

War Worries Washington and President

June 24, 1863

President Lincoln writes General Darius N. Couch in Harrisburg: “Have you any reports of the enemy moving into Pennsylvania? and if any, what?”

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

President Lincoln Meets with General Joseph Hooker

June 23, 1863

Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles writes in his diary: “Neither Seward nor Stanton was at the Cabinet-meeting.  Mr. Bates has left for Missouri.  The President was with General Hooker at the War Department when we met, but soon came in.  His countenance was sad and careworn, and impressed me painfully.  Nothing of special interest was submitted.  The accustomed rumor in regard to impending military operations continues.”

“On June 23, the day Robert E. Lee dispatched his fateful orders to Stuart, Joe Hooker made a trip to Washington, less than twenty miles east of his Fairfax headquarters,” wrote historian Richard Wheeler.  “At the War Department the general met with Lincoln, Stanton, and Halleck.  Lincoln was in one of his sadder mods, and Hooker himself was a troubled man, still scratching for definite information on Lee’s intentions, still harboring the false belief that his own army was outnumbered, and still hoping to be allowed to move upon Richmond.” Wheeler added: “Hooker lingered in the city long enough to get drunk; and he was drunk, it was said, while attending to the army’s business at Fairfax next day.  He wired the War Department that he was reacting to the situation as best he could…”

In a note to Adjutant General Joseph Holt, President Lincoln writes of the projected execution of Vermont soldier James G. Lyon for cowardice: “Sentence commuted to imprisonment at hard labor during the war.”

President Lincoln writes Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton regarding Philadelphia Congressman William D. Kelley, a strong administration supporter: “You remember that Hon. W.D. Kelley and others are engaged in raising or trying to raise some colored regiments in Philadelphia. The bearer of this, Wilton M. Herpert [Milton L. Hupert?], is a friend of Judge Kelley as appears by the letter of the latter. He is a private in the 112th Penn. and has been disappointed in a reasonable expectation of one of the smaller offices. He now wants to be a Lieutenant in one of the colored regiments. If Judge Kelley will say in writing he wishes to so have him, I am willing for him to be discharged from his present position and be so appointed. If you approve, so endorse and let him carry this letter to Kelley.”

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

President Wrestles with Emancipation in Missouri

June 22, 1863

President Lincoln writes General John M. Schofield, military commander of Missouri: “Your despatch, asking in substance, whether, in case Missouri shall adopt gradual emancipation, the general government will protect slave owners in that species of property during the short time it shall be permitted by the State to exist within it, has been received. Desirous as I am, that emancipation shall be adopted by Missouri, and believing as I do, that gradual can be made better than immediate for both black and white, except when military necessity changes the case, my impulse is to say that such protection would be given. I can not know exactly what shape an act of emancipation may take. If the period from the initiation to the final end, should be comparatively short, and the act should prevent persons being sold, during that period, into more lasting slavery, the whole would be easier. I do not wish to pledge the general government to the affirmative support of even temporary slavery, beyond what can be fairly claimed under the constitution. I suppose, however, this is not desired; but that it is desired for the Military force of the United States, while in Missouri, to not be used in subverting the temporarily reserved legal rights in slaves during the progress of emancipation. This I would desire also. I have very earnestly urged the slave-states to adopt emancipation; and it ought to be, and is an object with me not to overthrow, or thwart what any of them may in good faith do, to that end.  You are therefore authorized to act in the spirit of this letter, in conjunction with what may appear to be the military necessities of your Department.”

President Lincoln writes Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton: “Do you not remember the french officer, Col. Duffie, whom we saw at Gen. McDowell’s Head Quarters near Fredericksburg, last May a year ago? I rem[em]ber he was then well spoken of. On the night of the 17th. Ist. he was surrounded by Stuart’s cavalry near Millersburg, and cut his way out with proportionate heavy loss to his then small command. Please see and hear him. I think you have strong recommendations on file in his behalf.”

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

Invasion Fright in Washington

June 21, 1863

Presidential aide John G. Nicolay writes home: “Pennsylvania and Maryland have had another ‘invasion’ fright, and not without some reason, though I believe it is truning out to be only a raid.  Lee’s army has moved up towards Harper’s Ferry, though precisely where, or for what purpose, I think is not yet definitively settled.  Hooker is on the alert, has moved his forces so as to keep within reach of him, ready to attack or defend as may become judicious.”

President Lincoln writes General Joseph Hooker: “Operator at Leesburg just now tells us that firing commenced about 7 this morning in direction from here of Aldie’s Gap and Middleburg; has continued all day, and has receded from him, and is apparently now about White Plains; was very heavy this morning, but lighter now.”

President Lincoln telegraphs Genera John M. Schofield, military commander of Missouri: “I write you to-day in answer to your despatch of yesterday. If you can not await the arrival by mail, telegraph me again.”  The previous day, General Schofield had written: “The action of the Missouri state convention upon the question of Emancipation will depend very much upon whether they can be assured that the action will be sustained by the General Government & the people protected in their slave property during the short time that slavery is permitted to exist. Am I authorized in any manner directly or indirectly to pledge such support & protection? This question is of such vital importance to the peace of Missouri that I deem it my duty to lay it before your Excellency.”

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