Washington Worries about Leadership of General Hooker

June 20, 1863

Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles writes in his diary: “Sumner’s opinion and estimate of men does not agree with Chase’s.  Sumner expresses an absolute want of confident in [Army of the Potomac Commander Joseph] Hooker; says he knows him to be a blasphemous wretch; that after crossing the Rappahannock and reaching Centerville, Hooker exultingly exclaimed, ‘The enemy is in my power, and God Almighty cannot deprive me of them.’  I have heard before of this, but not so direct and positive.  The sudden paralysis that followed, when the army in the midst of a successful career was suddenly check and commenced its retreat, has never been explained. Whiskey is said by Sumner to have done the work.  The President said if Hooker had been killed by the shot which knocked over the pillar that stunned him, we should been successful.”

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

President Lincoln Meets with Louisiana Delegation about Reconstruction

June 19, 1863

Three Louisiana conservatives – E. E. Malhiot, Bradish Johnson, and Thomas Cottman –  write President Lincoln regarding reconstruction of that state: “The undersigned, a committee appointed by the Planters of the State of Louisiana, respectfully represent, that they have been delegated to seek of the General Government a full recognition of all the rights of the State, as they existed previous to the passage of an act of secession, upon the principle of the existence of the State Constitution unimpaired, and no legal act having transpired that could in any way deprive them of the advantages conferred by that Constitution. Under this constitution the State wishes to return to its full allegiance, in the enjoyment of all rights and privileges exercised by the other states under the Federal Constitution. With the view of accomplishing the desired object, we farther request that your Excellency will as Commander-in-chief of the Army of the United States direct the military Governor of Louisiana to order an election in conformity with the constitution and laws of the State, on the first Monday of November next, for all State and Federal Officers.

President Lincoln responds to them: “Since receiving the letter, reliable information has reached me that a respectable portion of the Louisiana people desire to amend their State constitution, and contemplate holding a convention for that object. This fact alone, as it seems to me, is a sufficient reason why the general government should not give the committal you seek, to the existing State constitution. I may add that, while I do not perceive how such committal could facilitate our military operations in Louisiana, I really apprehend it might be so used as to embarrass them.”  He notess: “As to an election to be held next November, there is abundant time, without any order, or proclamation from me just now. The people of Louisiana shall not lack an oppertunity of a fair election for both Federal and State officers, by want of anything within my power to give them.” President Lincoln adds: “If the military force of the rebellion were already out of the way, so that the people of Louisiana could now practically enter upon the enjoyment of their rights under the present State and National Constitutions, your request would stand before me in a different aspect.

Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles writes in his diary that Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. “Chase informs me that he has just returned from a visit to Hooker’s headquarters, at or near Fairfax Court-House. The troops, he says, are in good spirits and excellent condition, as is Hooker himself. He commends Hooker as in every respect all that we could wish. His (Chase’s) tone towards Halleck is much altered since our last conversation. All of which is encouraging. But Chase’s estimate and judgment of men fluctuates as he has intercourse with them and they are friendly and communicative or otherwise.”  Most administration officials, however, are losing faith in Hooker.

In a letter to the Chicago Tribune, presidential aide John G. Nicolay responds to a Tribune letter that “we are told the President said to Senator Sumner recently that he had not seen a copy of the Chicago Tribune for four months. Now as it is mailed regularly we wish to know whether it is received at the White House.  If it miscarries we will have that corrected.  If he does not want it – declines to read it – we will discontinue sending it.  Please answer.  Yours Respectfully, Tribune Company.”  Nicolay responds:

“The Chicago Tribune is received very regularly, opened and kept with other papers on the newspaper table in my office; it is very regularly examined by myself, and especially sought after by the Western men who happen here.

‘That so from desiring to place the Tribune under ban in the Executive Mansion the President requests me to say that he will be very glad to receive it here so long as in your kindness you may please to send it.

“And to this much from him let me add a word on my own responsibility.  Excepting the Washington City Dailies, in which he carefully reads the telegraphic dispatches, the President rarely ever looks at any papers simply for want of leisure to do so.  In this the Tribune fares as well as, and no worse than all others.  Still I think that during the two years of his stay here, he would have been attracted to your journal more frequently as to an old and familiar friend, if it had not in that time contained so much which he had a right to expect it would at least have left unsaid.’”

“I can assure you of what you ought to be able to guess – that the President’s task here is no child’s play.  If you imagine that any man could attempt its performance, and escape adverse criticism, you have read history in vain, and studied human nature without profit.  But it was not to be expected that those of the President’s friends, who knew him long and intimately – who understood his integrity and his devotion to the country and the cuase entrusted to his charge – would at least abstain from judging him in the blindness of haste and condemning him in the bitterness of ill-temper?  It does seem to me that this much was due to generosity and charity for the fiery trial which he is called upon to pass through here, if not to political or personal friendship.

“Let me repeat that these are exclusively my own thoughts and not the President’s and even I would not have written them, if I could, without misconstruction have otherwise answered the implication in your note to which you specifically requested a reply.

“Let me add that I desire to continue reading the Tribune – reserving only the prvilege of finding as much fault with it as it finds with the Administration, which I know is unselfishly endeavoring to do its whole duty in the crisis.”

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

President Lincoln Regrets Convention Defeat of Ohio Governor David Todd

June 18, 1863

After John Brough defeats incumbent Ohio Governor David Tod for the Republican gubernatorial nomination. President Lincoln writes Tod: “Yours received. I deeply regret that you were not re-nominated—not that I have ought against Mr. Brough. On the contrary, like yourself, I say, hurrah, for him.”  Tod telegraphed Lincoln: “The opponents of the administration will attempt to attribute my defeat to the advocacy of the leading measures of your administration. Do not for a moment believe it. Personal considerations alone was the cause of my defeat. No man in Ohio will do more to secure the triumphant election of the ticket nominated than I will”

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

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.”

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

Leadership Vacuum in Army of the Potomac

June 16, 1863

Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles writes in his diary about the lack of military leadership for Union forces: “The President yesterday issued a proclamation calling for 100,000 volunteers to be raised in Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio, and West Virginia.  This call is made from outside pressure, and intelligence receive chiefly from Pennsylvania and not from the War Department or Headquarters.  Tom A. Scott, late Assistant Secretary of War, came on expressly from Pennsylvania, sent by Curtin, and initiated the proceeding.

Halleck sits, and smokes, and swears, and scratches his arm and [indecipherable], but exhibits little military capacity or intelligence; is obfusticated, muddy, uncertain, stupid as to what is doing or to be done.

Neither Seward nor Stanton nor Blair nor usher was at the Cabinet-meeting.  The two last are not in Washington.  At such a time all should be here and the meeting full and frequent for general consultation and general purposes.

Scarcely a word or army movements.  Chase attempted to make inquiries; asked whether a demonstration could not be made on Richmond, but the President gave it no countenance.  No suggestions ever come from Halleck.

President Lincoln sends two communications to General Joseph Hooker.  In the first, he write: “Your despatches of last night and this morning are just received. I shall have General Halleck to answer them carefully. Meanwhile, I can only say that, as I understand, Heintzelman commands here in this District; that what troops, or very nearly what number, are at Harper’s Ferry I do not know, though I do know that Tyler is in command there. Your idea to send your cavalry to this side of the river may be right—probably is; still, it pains me a little that it looks like defensive merely, and seems to abandon the fair chance now presented of breaking the enemy’s long and necessarily slim line, stretched now from the Rappahannock to Pennsylvania.”

The second letter Lincoln sends with Admiral John Dahlgren: “Your despatch of 11:30 A.M. to-day is just received. 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. Surely you do not mean to understand that I am withholding my confidence from you when I happen to express an opinion (certainly never discourteously) differing from one of your own.

I believe Halleck is dissatisfied with you to this extent only, that he knows that you write and telegraph (“report,” as he calls it) to me. I think he is wrong to find fault with this; but I do not think he withholds any support from you on account of it. 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.

I believe you are aware that since you took command of the army I have not believed you had any chance to effect anything till now. As it looks to me, Lee’s now returning toward Harper’s Ferry gives you back the chance that I thought McClellan lost last fall. Quite possibly I was wrong both then and now; but, in the great responsibility resting upon me, I cannot be entirely silent. Now, all I ask is that you will be in such mood that we can get into our action the best cordial judgment of yourself and General Halleck, with my poor mite added, if indeed he and you shall think it entitled to any consideration at all. Yours as ever,

President Lincoln pretends a lack of concern regarding the Confederate invasion of Maryland in a letter to his wife, who is in Philadelphia.  “It is a matter of choice with yourself whether you come home. There is no reason why you should not, that did not exist when you went away. As bearing on the question of your coming home, I do not think the raid into Pennsylvania amounts to anything at all.”

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

Military and Patronage Problems Plague President

June 15, 1863

Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles writes in his diary: “Met [Montgomery] Blair at the depot. Told him of the conversation I had last evening with the President and the appearance of things at the War Department. It affected him greatly.  He has never had confidence in either Stanton, Halleck, or Hooker. He fairly groaned that the President should continue to trust them and defer to them, when the magnitude of the questions is considered. “Strange, strange,” he exclaimed, “that the President, who has sterling ability, should give himself over so completely to Stanton and Seward.”

Something of a panic pervades the city. Singular rumors reach us of Rebel advances into Maryland. It is said they have reached Hagerstown, and some of them have penetrated as far as Chambersburg in Pennsylvania. These reports are doubtless exaggerations, but I can get nothing satisfactory from the War Department of the Rebel movements, or of our own. There is trouble, confusion, uncertainty, where there should be calm intelligence.

I have a panic telegraph from Governor Curtin, who is excitable and easily alarmed, entreating that guns and gunners may be sent from the navy yard at Philadelphia to Harrisburg without delay. We have not a gunner that we can spare. Commodore Stribling can spare men, temporarily, from the navy yard.

I went again, at a late hour, to the War Department, but could get no facts or intelligence from the Secretary, who either does not know or dislikes to disclose the position and condition of the army. He did not know that the Rebels had reached Hagerstown; did not know but some of them had; quite as likely to be in Philadelphia as Harrisburg. Ridiculed Curtin’s fears. Thought it would be well, however, to send such guns and men as could be spared to allay his apprehension. I could not get a word concerning General Milroy and his command, — whether safe or captured, retreating or maintaining his position. All was vague, opaque, thick darkness. I really think Stanton is no better posted than myself, and from what Stanton says am afraid Hooker does not comprehend Lee’s intentions nor know how to counteract them. Halleck has no activity; never exhibits sagacity or foresight, though he can record and criticize the past. It looks to me as if Lee was putting forth his whole energy and force in one great and desperate struggle which shall be decisive; that he means to strike a blow that will be severely felt, and of serious consequences, and thus bring the War to a close. But all is conjecture.

President Lincoln writes General Joseph Hooker: “The facts are now known here that Winchester and Martinsburg were both besieged yesterday; the troops from Martinsburg have got into Harper’s Ferry without loss; those from Winchester, are also in, having lost, in killed, wounded and missing, about one third of their number. Of course the enemy holds both places; and I think the report is authentic that he is crossing the Potomac at Williamsburg. We have not heard of his yet appearing at Harper’s Ferry, or on the river anywhere below. I would like to hear from you.”  Curt Anders, biographer of General Henry W. Halleck,  noted that in two messages (both to Lincoln) on June 15, Hooker seemed nigh-incoherent:

* ‘Your telegram…seems to disclose the intentions of the enemy to make an invasion, and, if so, it is not in my power to prevent it. I can, however, make an effort to check him….On so short reflection, I am not prepared to say this is the wisest move, nor do I know that my opinion on this subject is wanted.

*  “[Lee] has more to accomplish, but with more hazard, by striking an easterly direction after crossing [the Potomac] than a northerly one….It is an act of desperation on his part, no matter in what force he moves….I do not know that my opinion as to the duty of this army in the case is wanted; if it should be, you know that I will be happy to give it.’

            Journalist Noah Brooks writes: “Perhaps the even of the week is the reply of the President to the Albany Democrats.  It is a grand documents, strong, plain, simple, without one sparkle of tinsel ornament, yet dignified as becomes the ruler of a great people when the nation is listening to what he says.  It should be printed in every Northern paper, and read by every citizen.  It will go far to free the minds of many from unpleasant fears and doubts, and the angry thoughts so carefully instilled and cherished by the race of demagogues whose doom the President foretells.  It is well that he has spoken, and all the nation should hear what he said.”

President Lincoln writes  Edward L. Baker, co-owner of the Illinois State Journal about the problems involving Illinois patronage and the conduct of Ninian Edwards and W.H. Bailhache, also co-owner of the Journal.  Baker himself was married to Mary Todd Lincoln’s niece, daughter of Ninian Edwards: “Not to exceed two hours after you left me I received a letter from Springfield, renewing the pressure upon me in the matter we talked of; and, in fact, leaving me no alternative but to make some change there. I can say but little beyond what I then said to you. The appeal to me in behalf of Mr. Edwards and Mr. Bailhasche, for a hearing, does not meet the case. No formal charges are preferred against them, so far as I know; nor do I expect any will be made; or, if made, will be substantiated. I certainly do not suppose Mr. Edwards has, at this time of his life, given up his old habits, and turned dishonest; and while I have not known Mr. Bailhasche so long, I have no more affermative reason to suspect him. The trouble with me is of a different character. Sprinfield is my home, and there, more than elsewhere, are my life-long friends. These, for now nearly two years, have been harrassing me because of Mr. E. & Mr. B. I think Mr. E. & Mr. B. without dishonesty on the other hand, could have saved me from this, if they had cared to do so. They have seemed to think that if they could keep their official record dryly correct, to say the least, it was not any difference how much they might provoke my friends, and harrass me. If this is too strong a statement of the case, still the result has been the same to me; and, as a misfortune merely, I think I have already borne a fair share of it.”

President Lincoln writes his wife in Philadelphia: “Tolerably well. Have not rode out much yet, but have at last got new tires on the carriage wheels, & perhaps, shall ride out soon.”

President Lincoln issues a proclamation calling for 100,000 militia to meet the Confederate invasion: “Whereas the armed insurrectionary combinations now existing in several of the States are threatening to make inroads into the States of Maryland, Western Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio, requiring immediately an additional military force for the service of the United States;

Now, therefore, I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States and Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy thereof and of the Militia of the several States when called into actual service, do, hereby, call into the service of the United States, one hundred thousand militia from the States following, namely—from the State of Maryland ten thousand, from the State of Pennsylvania, fifty thousand, from the State of Ohio, thirty thousand, from the State of West Virginia, ten thousand, to be mustered into the service of the United States forthwith and to serve for the period of six months from the date of such muster into said service, unless sooner discharged; to be mustered in as infantry, artillery and cavalry, in proportions which will be made known through the War Department, which Department will also designate the several places of rendezvous. These militia to be organized according to the rules and regulations of the volunteer service and such orders as may hereafter be issued. The States aforesaid will be respectively credited under the enrolment act for the militia services rendered under this proclamation.

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

President Confers on Military Situation in Virginia

June 14, 1863

“Sunday, June 14, was one of the bad days.  It started with word from Pleasanton that Negroes had seen Ewell with one of the outsize corps of Confederate infantry, bound for the Shenandoah, two days before,” wrote historian Fletcher Pratt. “As the day wore on, the rumors became so thick that Mr. Secretary Welles went over to the War Department to find out what was going on.  He found the President there, and Halleck, smoking a cigar.  Stanton fussed in and out, his jaw set like a snapping turtle’s; and there was a telegram from General R.H. Milroy, who had a garrison at Winchester in the valley, relayed through from Baltimore, the direct wires being out.  A ‘mighty raid’ was in progress, Milroy thought, into Pennsylvania; he could hold out where he was for five days, a remark which caused Lincoln to say sadly that probably Milroy would soon be captured.  ‘It is Harpers Ferry over again.’”

President Lincoln writes General Joseph Hooker: “So far as we can make out here, the enemy have Milroy surrounded at Winchester, and Tyler at Martinsburg. If they could hold out a few days, could you help them? If the head of Lee’s army is at Martinsburg and the tail of it on the Plank road between Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville, the animal must be very slim somewhere. Could you not break him?”  At almost midnight, President Lincoln telegraphs Hooker a second time: “Yours of 11.30 just received. You have nearly all the elements for forming an opinion whether Winchester is surrounded that I have. I really fear—almost believe, it is. No communication has been had with it during the day, either at Martinsburg, or Harper’s Ferry. At 7 P.M., we also lost communication with Martinsburg.

The enemy had also appeared there some hours before. At 9. PM. Harper’s Ferry said the enemy was reported at Berryville & Smithfield. If I could know that Longstreet and Ewell moved in that direction so long ago as you stated in your last, then I should feel sure that Winchester is strongly invested. It is quite certain that a considerable force of the enemy is thereabout; and I fear it is an overwhelming one, compared with Milroys. I am unable to give any more certain opinion.

Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles writes in his diary: “Scary rumors abroad of army operations and a threatened movement of Lee upon Pennsylvania. No doubt there has been a change. I fear our friends are in difficulties. Went to the War Department this evening. Found the President and General Halleck with Secretary of War in the room of the telegraphic operator. Stanton was uneasy, said it would be better to go into another room. The President and myself went into the Secretary’s office; the other two remained. The President said quietly to me he was feeling very bad; that he found Milroy and his command were captured, or would be. He (Milroy) has written that he can hold out five days, but at the end of five days he will be in no better condition, for he can’t be relieved. “It is,” said the President, “Harper’s Ferry over again.”

I inquired why Milroy did not fall back, — if he had not been apprised by Hooker, or from here, what Lee was doing, etc. I added, if Lee’s army was moving, Hooker would take advantage and sever his forces, perhaps take his rear guard. The President said it would seem so, but that our folks appeared to know but little how things are, and showed no evidence that they ever availed themselves of any advantage.

How fully the President is informed, and whether he is made acquainted with the actual state of things is uncertain. He depends on the War Department, which, I think, is not informed and is in confusion. From neither of the others did I get a word. Stanton came once or twice into the room, where we were, in a fussy way. Halleck did not move from his chair where he sat with bis cigar, the door being open between the two rooms. From some expressions which were dropped from H., I suspect poor Milroy is to be made the scapegoat, and blamed for the stupid blunders, neglects, and mistakes of those who should have warned and advised him.

I do not learn that any members of the Cabinet are informed of army movements. The President is kept in ignorance and defers to the General-in-Chief, though not pleased that he is not fully advised of matters as they occur. There is a modest distrust of himself, of which advantage is taken. For a week, movements have been going on of which he has known none, or very few, of the details.

I came away from the War Department painfully impressed. After recent events, Hooker cannot have the confidence which is essential to success, and all-important to the commander in the field. Halleck does not grow upon me as a military man of power and strength; has little aptitude, skill, or active energy. In this state of things, the able Rebel general is moving a powerful army, and has no one to confront him on whose ability and power the country relies. There was confidence in McClellan’s ability to organize, to defend, and to repel, though he was worthless in attack, but there is no such feeling towards Hooker. He has not grown in public estimation since placed in command. If he is intemperate, as is reported, God help us! The President, who was the first person to intimate this failing to me, has a personal liking for Hooker, and clings to him when others give way.

The letter to Erastus Corning and others is published and well received.

President Lincoln writes Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase: “Your note of this morning is received. You will co-operate by the revenue cutters under your direction with the navy in arresting rebel depredations on American commerce and transportation and in capturing rebels engaged therein.”

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

Music Returns to White House

June 13, 1863

Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles writes in his diary: “We had music from the Marine Band to-day in Lafayette Square. The people are greatly pleased.  Had word just after five this P.M. that three vessels were yesterday captured by a pirate-craft off Cape Henry and burnt.  Sent Fox at once with orders to telegraph to New York and Philadelphia, etc., for every vessel in condition to proceed to se without delay in search of this wolf that is prowling so near us.  If necessary the Tuscarora must sail forthwith and not wait for Admiral Foote.”

President Lincoln wrote King Leopold of the Belgians: “I have received through the minister of the United States accredited to Your Majesty, the award in the case of the claim of certain citizens of the United States upon the Government of the Republic of Chili, which by agreement between this Government and the Government of that Republic, was submitted to Your Majesty’s arbitrament, a trust was accepted by Your Majesty. The confidence in Your Majesty’s uprightness, impartiality and intelligence which led the parties interested to seek from Your Majesty a decision of the long pending controversy adverted to will, it is believed, be regarded by all the parties interested, as justified by the result. In this respect, I can speak with perfect assurance, at least on the part of this Government. I cannot omit to add an expression of my thanks for the pains which Your Majesty must have taken to reach a correct conclusion in so arduos a business, and my belief that Your Majesty’s success in this instance will not be regarded as an unimportant proof of the wisdem which has characterized Your Majestys illustrious reign.”

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

President Responds to Congressman Corning and Albany Democrats

June 12, 1863

Most of President Lincoln’s day is concerned with military matters.  In a followup note to General-in-Chief Henry W. Halleck, President Lincoln writes: The within comes in answer to a proposition of mine to visit Gen. Hooker on tomorrow night (Saturday).  I have thought perhaps Gen. Halleck better see it.   General Hooker had written:: “If I am not very much mistaken I shall be constrained to move my Army on to the Alexandria and Orange Rail Road before that time. I have three (3) corps near there at this time. I presume that Gen Halleck showed you my dispatch of this morning. Also please see copy of my dispatch to Gen Dix of today.”

Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles writes in his diary: “The interference of Members of Congress in the petty appointments and employment of laborers in the navy yards is annoying and pernicious. The public interest is not regarded by the Members, but they crowd partisan favorites for mechanical positions in place of good mechanics and workmen, and when I refuse to entertain their propositions, they take offense. I can’t help it if they do. I will not prostitute my trust to their schemes and selfish personal partisanship.”

But the most memorable of the day is his release of a public letter to Albany Democrats led by Congressman  Erastus Corning, who have protested his handling of civil liberties and the case of Congressman Clement Vallandigham, who has been exiled to the Confederacy.  It is a major state paper on which the president has been working for some weeks:

Your letter of May 19th. inclosing the resolutions of a public meeting held at Albany, N.Y. on the 16th. of the same month, was received several days ago.

The resolutions, as I understand them, are resolvable into two propositions—first, the expression of a purpose to sustain the cause of the Union, to secure peace through victory, and to support the administration in every constitutional, and lawful measure to suppress the rebellion; and secondly, a declaration of censure upon the administration for supposed unconstitutional action such as the making of military arrests.

And, from the two propositions a third is deduced, which is, that the gentlemen composing the meeting are resolved on doing their part to maintain our common government and country, despite the folly or wickedness, as they may conceive, of any administration. This position is eminently patriotic, and as such, I thank the meeting, and congratulate the nation for it. My own purpose is the same; so that the meeting and myself have a common object, and can have no difference, except in the choice of means or measures, for effecting that object.

And here I ought to close this paper, and would close it, if there were no apprehension that more injurious consequences, than any merely personal to myself, might follow the censures systematically cast upon me for doing what, in my view of duty, I could not forbear. The resolutions promise to support me in every constitutional and lawful measure to suppress the rebellion; and I have not knowingly employed, nor shall knowingly employ, any other. But the meeting, by their resolutions, assert and argue, that certain military arrests and proceedings following them for which I am ultimately responsible, are unconstitutional. I think they are not. The resolutions quote from the constitution, the definition of treason; and also the limiting safe-guards and guarrantees therein provided for the citizen, on trials for treason, and on his being held to answer for capital or otherwise infamous crimes, and, in criminal prossecutions, his right to a speedy and public trial by an impartial jury. They proceed to resolve “That these safe-guards of the rights of the citizen against the pretentions of arbitrary power, were intended more especially for his protection in times of civil commotion.” And, apparently, to demonstrate the proposition, the resolutions proceed “They were secured substantially to the English people, after years of protracted civil war, and were adopted into our constitution at the close of the revolution.” Would not the demonstration have been better, if it could have been truly said that these safe-guards had been adopted, and applied during the civil wars and during our revolution, instead of after the one, and at the close of the other. I too am devotedly for them after civil war, and before civil war, and at all times “except when, in cases of Rebellion or Invasion, the public Safety may require” their suspension. The resolutions proceed to tell us that these safe-guards “have stood the test of seventysix years of trial, under our republican system, under circumstances which show that while they constitute the foundation of all free government, they are the elements of the enduring stability of the Republic.” No one denies that they have so stood the test up to the beginning of the present rebellion if we except a certain matter [occurrence] at New-Orleans hereafter to be mentioned; nor does any one question that they will stand the same test much longer after the rebellion closes. But these provisions of the constitution have no application to the case we have in hand, because the arrests complained of were not made for treason—that is, not for the treason defined in the constitution, and upon the conviction of which, the punishment is death—- nor yet were they made to hold persons to answer for any capital, or otherwise infamous crimes; nor were the proceedings following, in any constitutional or legal sense, “criminal prossecutions.” The arrests were made on totally different grounds, and the proceedings following, accorded with the grounds of the arrests. Let us consider the real case with which we are dealing, and apply to it the parts of the constitution plainly made for such cases.

Prior to my instalation here it had been inculcated that any State had a lawful right to secede from the national Union; and that it would be expedient to exercise the right, whenever the devotees of the doctrine should fail to elect a President to their own liking. I was elected contrary to their liking; and accordingly, so far as it was legally possible, they had taken seven states out of the Union, had seized many of the United States Forts, and had fired upon the United States’ Flag, all before I was inaugerated; and, of course, before I had done any official act whatever. The rebellion, thus began soon ran into the present civil war;  and, in certain respects, it began on very unequal terms between the parties. The insurgents had been preparing for it more than thirty years, while the government had taken no steps to resist them. The former had carefully considered all the means which could be turned to their account. It undoubtedly was a well pondered reliance with them that in their own unrestricted effort to destroy Union, constitution, and law, all together, the government would, in great degree, be restrained by the same constitution and law, from arresting their progress. Their sympathizers pervaded all departments of the government, and nearly all communities of the people. From this material, under cover of “Liberty of speech” “Liberty of the press” and “Habeas corpus” they hoped to keep on foot amongst us a most efficient corps of spies, informers, supplyers, and aiders and abettors of their cause in a thousand ways. They knew that in times such as they were inaugerating, by the constitution itself, the “Habeas corpus” might be suspended; but they also knew they had friends who would make a question as to who was to suspend it; meanwhile their spies and others might remain at large to help on their cause. Or if, as has happened, the executive should suspend the writ, without ruinous waste of time, instances of arresting innocent persons might occur, as are always likely to occur in such cases; and then a clamor  could be raised in regard to this, which might be, at least, of some service to the insurgent cause. It needed no very keen perception to discover this part of the enemies’ programme, so soon as by open hostilities their machinery was fairly put in motion. Yet, thoroughly imbued with a reverence for the guarranteed rights of individuals, I was slow to adopt the strong measures, which by degrees I have been forced to regard as being within the exceptions of the constitution, and as indispensable to the public Safety. Nothing is better known to history than that courts of justice are utterly incompetent to such cases. Civil courts are organized chiefly for trials of individuals, or, at most, a few individuals acting in concert; and this in quiet times, and on charges of crimes well defined in the law. Even in times of peace, bands of horse-thieves and robbers frequently grow too numerous and powerful for the ordinary courts of justice. But what comparison, in numbers, have such bands ever borne to the insurgent sympathizers even in many of the loyal states? Again, a jury too frequently have at least one member, more ready to hang the panel than to hang the traitor. And yet again, he who dissuades one man from volunteering, or induces one soldier to desert, weakens the Union cause as much as he who kills a union soldier in battle. Yet this dissuasion, or inducement, may be so conducted as to be no defined crime of which any civil court would take cognizance.

Ours is a case of Rebellion—so called by the resolutions before me—in fact, a clear, flagrant, and gigantic case of Rebellion; and the provision of the constitution that “The previlege of the writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in cases of Rebellion or Invasion, the public Safety may require it” is the provision which specially applies to our present case. This provision plainly attests the understanding of those who made the constitution that ordinary courts of justice are inadequate to “cases of Rebellion”—attests their purpose that in such cases, men  may be held in custody whom the courts acting on ordinary rules, would discharge. Habeas Corpus, does not discharge men who are proved to be guilty of defined crime; and its suspension is allowed by the constitution on purpose that, men may be arrested and held, who can not be proved to be guilty of defined crime, “when, in cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.” This is precisely our present case—a case of Rebellion, wherein the public Safety does require the suspension. Indeed, arrests by process of courts, and arrests in cases of rebellion, do not proceed altogether upon the same basis. The former is directed at the small per centage of ordinary and continuous perpetration of crime; while the latter is directed at sudden and extensive uprisings against the government, which, at most, will succeed or fail, in no great length of time. In the latter case, arrests are made, not so much for what has been done, as for what probably would be done. The latter is more for the preventive, and less for the vindictive, than the former. In such cases the purposes of men are much more easily understood, than in cases of ordinary crime. The man who stands by and says nothing, when the peril of his government is discussed, can not be misunderstood. If not hindered, he is sure to help the enemy. Much more, if he talks ambiguously—talks for his country with “buts” and “ifs” and “ands.” Of how little value the constitutional provision I have quoted will be rendered, if arrests shall never be made until defined crimes shall have been committed, may be illustrated by a few notable examples. Gen. John C. Breckienridge, Gen. Robert E. Lee, Gen. Joseph E. Johnston, Gen. John B. Magruder, Gen. William B. Preston, Gen. Simon B. Buckner, and Comodore [Franklin] Buchanan, now occupying the very highest places in the rebel war service, were all within the power of the government since the rebellion began, and were nearly as well known to be traitors then as now. Unquestionably if we had seized and held them, the insurgent cause would be much weaker. But no one of them had then committed any crime defined in the law. Every one of them if arrested would have been discharged on Habeas Corpus, were the writ allowed to operate. In view of these and similar cases, I think the time not unlikely to come when I shall be blamed for having made too few arrests rather than too many.

By the third resolution the meeting indicate their opinion that military arrests may be constitutional in localities where rebellion actually exists; but that such arrests are unconstitutional in localities where rebellion, or insurrection, does not actually exist. They insist that such arrests shall not be made “outside of the lines of necessary military occupation, and the scenes of insurrection” In asmuch, however, as the constitution itself makes no such distinction, I am unable to believe that there is any such constitutional distinction. I concede that the class of arrests complained of, can be constitutional only when, in cases of Rebellion or Invasion, the public Safety may require them; and I insist that in such cases, they are constitutional wherever the public safety does require them—as well in places to which they may prevent the rebellion extending, as in those where it may be already prevailing—as well where they may restrain mischievous interference with the raising and supplying of armies, to suppress the rebellion, as where the rebellion may actually be—as well where they may restrain the enticing men out of the army, as where they would prevent mutiny in the army—equally constitutional at all places where they will conduce to the public Safety, as against the dangers of Rebellion or Invasion.

Take the particular case mentioned by the meeting. They assert [It is asserted]  in substance that Mr. Vallandigham was by a military commander, seized and tried “for no other reason than words addressed to a public meeting, in criticism of the course of the administration, and in condemnation of the military orders of that general” Now, if there be no mistake about this—if this assertion is the truth and the whole truth—if there was no other reason for the arrest, then I concede that the arrest was wrong. But the arrest, as I understand, was made for a very different reason. Mr. Vallandigham avows his hostility to the war on the part of the Union; and his arrest was made because he was laboring, with some effect, to prevent the raising of troops, to encourage desertions from the army, and to leave the rebellion without an adequate military force to suppress it. He was not arrested because he was damaging the political prospects of the administration, or the personal interests of the commanding general; but because he was damaging the army, upon the existence, and vigor of which, the life of the nation depends. He was warring upon the military; and this gave the military constitutional jurisdiction to lay hands upon him. If Mr. Vallandigham was not damaging the military power of the country, then his arrest was made on mistake of fact, which I would be glad to correct, on reasonably satisfactory evidence.

I understand the meeting, whose resolutions I am considering, to be in favor of suppressing the rebellion by military force—by armies. Long experience has shown that armies can not be maintained unless desertion shall be punished by the severe penalty of death. The case requires, and the law and the constitution, sanction this punishment. Must I shoot a simple-minded soldier boy who deserts, while I must not touch a hair of a wiley agitator who induces him to desert? This is none the less injurious when effected by getting a father, or brother, or friend, into a public meeting, and there working upon his feeling, till he is persuaded to write the soldier boy, that he is fighting in a bad cause, for a wicked administration of a contemptable government, too weak to arrest and punish him if he shall desert. I think that in such a case, to silence the agitator, and save the boy, is not only constitutional, but, withal, a great mercy.

If I be wrong on this question of constitutional power, my error lies in believing that certain proceedings are constitutional when, in cases of rebellion or Invasion, the public Safety requires them, which would not be constitutional when, in absence of rebellion or invasion, the public Safety does not require them—in other words, that the constitution is not in it’s application in all respects the same, in cases of Rebellion or invasion, involving the public Safety, as it is in times of profound peace and public security. The constitution itself makes the distinction; and I can no more be persuaded that the government can constitutionally take no strong measure in time of rebellion, because it can be shown that the same could not be lawfully taken in time of peace, than I can be persuaded that a particular drug is not good medicine for a sick man, because it can be shown to not be good food for a well one. Nor am I able to appreciate the danger, apprehended by the meeting, that the American people will, by means of military arrests during the rebellion, lose the right of public discussion, the liberty of speech and the press, the law of evidence, trial by jury, and Habeas corpus, throughout the indefinite peaceful future which I trust lies before them, any more than I am able to believe that a man could contract so strong an appetite for emetics during temporary illness,  as to persist in feeding upon them through the remainder of his healthful life.

In giving the resolutions that earnest consideration which you request of me, I can not overlook the fact that the meeting speak as “Democrats.” Nor can I, with full respect for their known intelligence, and the fairly presumed deliberation with which they prepared their resolutions, be permitted to suppose that this occurred by accident, or in any way other than that they preferred to designate themselves “democrats” rather than “American citizens.” In this time of national peril I would have preferred to meet you upon a level one step higher than any party platform; because I am sure that from such more elevated position, we could do better battle for the country we all love, than we possibly can from those lower ones, where from the force of habit, the prejudices of the past, and selfish hopes of the future, we are sure to expend much of our ingenuity and strength, in finding fault with, and aiming blows at each other. But since you have denied me this, I will yet be thankful, for the country’s sake, that not all democrats have done so. He on whose discretionary judgment Mr. Vallandigham was arrested and tried, is a democrat, having no old party affinity with me; and the judge who rejected the constitutional view expressed in these resolutions, by refusing to discharge Mr. V. on Habeas Corpus, is a democrat of better days than these, having received his judicial mantle at the hands of President Jackson. And still more, of all those democrats who are nobly exposing their lives and shedding their blood on the battle-field, I have learned that many approve the course taken with Mr. V. while I have not heard of a single one condemning it. I can not assert that there are none such.

And the name of President Jackson recalls a bit [an instance] of pertinent history. After the battle of New-Orleans, and while the fact that the treaty of peace had been concluded, was well known in the city, but before official knowledge of it had arrived, Gen. Jackson still maintained martial, or military law. Now, that it could be said the war was over, the clamor against martial law, which had existed from the first, grew more furious. Among other things a Mr. Louiallier  published a denunciatory newspaper article. Gen. Jackson arrested him. A lawyer by the name of Morel procured the U.S. Judge Hall to order a writ of Habeas Corpus to release Mr. Louiallier. Gen. Jackson arrested both the lawyer and the judge. A Mr. Hollander  ventured to say of some part of the matter that “it was a dirty trick.” Gen. Jackson arrested him. When the officer undertook to serve the writ of Habeas Corpus, Gen. Jackson took it from him, and sent him away with a copy. Holding the judge in custody a few days, the general sent him beyond the limits of his encampment, and set him at liberty, with an order to remain till the ratification of peace should be regularly announced, or until the British should have left the Southern coast. A day or two more elapsed, the ratification of the treaty of peace was regularly announced, and the judge and others were fully liberated. A few days more, and the judge called Gen. Jackson into court and fined him a thousand dollars, for having arrested him and the others named. The general paid the fine, and there the matter rested for nearly thirty years, when congress refunded principal and interest. The late Senator Douglas, then in the House of Representatives, took a leading part in the debate, in which the constitutional question was much discussed. I am not prepared to say whom the Journals would show to have voted for the measure.

It may be remarked: First, that we had the same constitution then, as now. Secondly, that we then had a case of Invasion, and that now we have a case of Rebellion, and: Thirdly, that the permanent right of the people to public discussion, the liberty of speech and the press, the trial by jury, the law of evidence, and the Habeas Corpus, suffered no detriment whatever by that conduct of Gen. Jackson, or it’s subsequent approval by the American congress.

And yet, let me say that in my own discretion, I do not know whether I would have ordered the arrest of Mr. V. While I can not shift the responsibility from myself, I hold that, as a general rule, the commander in the field is the better judge of the necessity in any particular case. Of course I must practice a general directory and revisory power in the matter.

One of the resolutions expresses the opinion of the meeting that arbitrary arrests will have the effect to divide and distract those who should be united in suppressing the rebellion; and I am specifically called on to discharge Mr. Vallandigham. I regard this as, at least, a fair appeal to me, on the expediency of exercising a constitutional power which I think exists. In response to such appeal I have to say it gave me pain when I learned that Mr. V. had been arrested,—that is, I was pained that there should have seemed to be a necessity for arresting him—and that it will afford me great pleasure to discharge him so soon as I can, by any means, believe the public safety will not suffer by it. I further say, that as the war progress, it appears to me, opinion, and action, which were in great confusion at first, take shape, and fall into more regular channels; so that the necessity for arbitrary [strong]  dealing with them gradually decreases. I have every reason to desire that it would cease altogether; and far from the least is my regard for the opinions and wishes of those who, like the meeting at Albany, declare their purpose to sustain the government in every constitutional and lawful measure to suppress the rebellion. Still,  I must continue to do so much as may seem to be required by the public safety.

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

President Congratulates Costa Rican President

June 11, 1863

President Lincoln writes Costa Rican President Jesus Jimenez: “I have received the letter which you addressed to me on the 8th. ultimo, informing me of your Excellency’s elevation to the Presidency of the Republic by the free suffrages of your fellow-citizens and offering to me assurances of your desire to cultivate the relations established between our respective Governments.

I congratulate your Excellency upon this token of the confidence of the People of Costa Rica in your sagacity and statesmanship, and feel satisfied that the trust conferred upon you will be discharged for the best interests of that Republic. It shall be my constant endeavor so to conduct the relations between our respective countries as to strengthen the good understanding which now happily subsists.

I pray your Excellency to accept the assurances of my earnest wishes for your personal happiness and for the prosperity of Costa Rica.

President Lincoln writes his wife, who is in Philadelphia with their son Tad: “Your three despatches received. I am very well; and am glad to know that you & `Tad’ are so.”

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