Generals Hooker and Hunter Haunt President Lincoln

June 17, 1863

Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles writes in his diary: “I went forthwith to the War Department to ascertain whether there was really any such alarming necessity, for it seemed to me, from all I had been able to learn, that it was a panic invocation.  Found the President and Stanton at the War Department, jubilant over intelligence just received that no Rebels had reached Carlisle, as had been reported, and it was believed they had not even entered Pennsylvanian.  Stanton threw off his serve, and sneered and laughed at Felton’s call for a gunboat.  Soon a messenger came in from General Schenck, who declares no Rebels have crossed the Potomac, that the stragglers and baggage-trains of Milroy had run away in affright, and squads of them, on different parallel roads, had alarmed each other, and each fled in terror with all speed to Harrisburg.  This alone was asserted to the basis of the great panic which had alarmed Pennsylvania and the country.

The President was relieved and in excellent spirits.  Stanton was apparently feeling well, but I could not assure myself he was wholly relived of the load which had been hanging upon him.  The special messenger brought a letter to Stanton, which he read, but was evidently unwilling to communicate its contents, even to the President, who asked about it.  Stanton wrote a few lines, which he gave to the officer, who left. General Meigs came in about his time, and I was sorry to hear Stanton communicate an exaggerated account of Milroy’s disaster, who, he said, had not seen a fight or even an enemy.  Meigs indignantly denied the statement, and said Milroy himself had communicated the fact that he had fought a battle and escaped.  While he (Meigs) did not consider Milroy a great general, or a man of very great ability, he believed him to be truthful and brave, and if General Schenck’s messenger said there had been no fight he disbelieved him.  Stanton insisted that was what the officer (whom I think he called Payson) said.  I told him I did not so understand the officer.  The subject was them dropped; but the conversation gave me uneasiness.  Why should the Secretary of War wish to misrepresent and belittle Milroy?  Why exaggerate the false rumor and try to give currency to, if he did not originate, the false statement that there was no fight and a panic fight?

The President was in excellent humor.  He said this flight would be a capital joke for Orpheus Kerr to get hold of.  He could give scope to his imagination over the terror of broken squads of panic-stricken teamsters, frightened at each other and alarming all Pennsylvania. Meigs, with great simplicity, inquired who this person (Orpheus read those papers?  They are in two volumes; any one who had not read them must be a heathen.’  He said he had enjoyed them greatly, except when they attempted to play their wit on him, which did not strike him as very successful, but rather disgusted him.  ‘Now the hits that are given to you, Mr. Welles, or to Chase, I can enjoy, but I dare say they may have disgusted you while I was laughing at them.  So vice versa as regards myself.’  He then spoke of a poem by this Orpheus C. Kerr which mythologically described McClellan as a monkey fighting a serpent representing the Rebellion, but the joke was the monkey continually called for ‘more tail,’ ‘more tail,’  which Jupiter gave him, etc., etc.

Miller, author of Lincoln’s Abolitionist General, write that General David  Hunter “traveled to New York about the Arago, arriving on 17 June 1863, and went on directly to Washington to see the president.  He apologized to Lincoln for not being in uniform, ‘saying it was the first time in my life I had ever been ashamed of it.  I said to him that he had always been to me personally, and that I felt very grateful for it, but that he had allowed his subordinates to treat me with all kinds of disrespect and injustice.’  In a letter to Halpine — temporarily in New York without army assignment — Hunter described the three-hour meeting, outlining with the help of his letter book outrages such as McClellan’s corrections of his conduct in Kansas.  Halleck’s responses over the Foster matter, and Lincoln-imposed restrictions on hunter’s plans to move into the interior from Port Royal.   Hunter made an attempt to reconstruct the conversation in which Lincoln explained why Hunter had been relieved of his duties.   The gist of it was that Greeley had said ‘he had found a man who would ‘do the job’‘ and recommended that the president call for Gilmore.  Hunter’s temporary replacement was done only so that Gilmore could have freedom to do what he thought was needed to reduce Charleston, and moving Hunter north was a way to avoid an awkward situation over dates of rank and precedence among generals.   The discussion continued about the war in general, and no doubt hunter told the president, as he did Halpine, that ‘that vagabond Greeley’ was probably happy because ’he has put a copper head [peace Democrat] General in command of the Department of the South instead of a vile abolitionists.”  Hunter asked President Lincoln for permission to publish documents about his role in South Carolina,, but the request is denied.

            President Lincoln writes General Joseph Hooker: “Mr. Eckert, Superintendent in the Telegraph Office, assures me that he has sent, and will send you everything, that comes to the office.”

President Lincoln writes a memorandum regarding Israel D. Andrews: “Mr. Israel D. Andrews appeals to me, saying he is suffering injury by something I have said of him. I  really know very little of Mr. Andrews.  As well as I can remember, I was called on by one or two persons, asking me to give him, or aid him in getting some public employment; and, as a reason for declining I stated that I had a very unfavorable opinion of him, chiefly because I had been informed that, in connection with some former service of his to the government, he had presented an enormous, and unjustifiable claim, which I understood he was still pressing the government to pay. I certainly did not pretend to know anything of the matter personally; and I say now, I do not personally know anything which should detract from Mr. Andrews’ character.”

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