Hooker and Lincoln Discuss Military Strategy by Telegraph

June 10, 1863

President Lincoln writes General Joseph Hooker: “Your long despatch of to-day is just received. If left to me, I would not go South of the Rappahannock, upon Lee’s moving North of it. If you had Richmond invested to-day, you would not be able to take it in twenty days; meanwhile, your communications, and with them, your army would be ruined. I think Lee’s Army, and not Richmond, is your true objective point. If he comes towards the Upper Potomac, follow on his flank, and on the inside track, shortening your lines, whilst he lengthens his. Fight him when oppertunity offers. If he stays where he is, fret him, and fret him.”  President Lincoln was consistent in believing that the objective of the Army of the Potomac was engaging the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, not the Confederate capital.

Published in: on June 10, 2013 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

President Wants His Son’s Revolver Taken Away

June 9, 1863

President Lincoln writes New Hampshire Senator  John P. Hale: “I believe it was upon your recommendation that B. B. Bunker was appointed Attorney for Nevada Territory. I am pressed to remove him on the ground that he does not attend to the office, nor, in fact, pass much time in the territory. Do you wish to say anything on the subject?”

President Lincoln writes his wife  Mary Lincoln, who is in Philadelphia with their youngest son: “Think you better put `Tad’s’ pistol away. I had an ugly dream about him.”  Tad was fascinated with all things military.

President Lincoln writes General Joseph Hooker: “I am told there are fifty incendiary shells here at the Arsenal made to fit the 100 pdr. Parrott Gun now with you. If this be true, would you like to have the Shells sent to you?”

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

Missouri and Music Occupy President Lincoln’s Attention

June 8, 1863

For a year because of mourning for Willie Lincoln by the Lincoln family, regular Marine Band performances at the White House had been cancelled.  Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles writes in his diary: “Spoke to the President regarding weekly performance of the Marine Band.  It has been customary for them to play in the public grounds south of the Mansion once a week in summer, for many years.  Last year it was intermitted, because Mrs. Lincoln objected in consequence of the death of her son.  There was grumbling and discontent, and there will be more this year if the public are denied the privilege for private reasons.  The public will not sympathize in sorrows which are obtrusive and assigned as a reason for depriving them of enjoyments to which they have been accustomed, and it is a mistake to persist in it.  When I introduced the subject to-day, the President said Mrs. L. would not consent, certainly not until after the 4th of July.  I stated the case pretty frankly, although the subject is delicate, and suggested that the band could play in Lafayette Square.  Seward and Usher, who were present, advised that course.  The President told me to do what I thought best.”

Lincoln wrote General Samuel R. Curtis, who had been replaced as Missouri’s military commander, regarding the military and political situation in Missouri: “I have scarcely supposed it possible that you would entirely understand my feelings and motives in making the late change of commander for the Department of the Missouri. I inclose you a copy of a letter which I recently addressed to Gen. Schofield, & which will explain the matter in part. It became almost a matter of personal self-defence to somehow break up the state of things in Missouri. I did not mean to cast any censure upon you, nor to indorse any of the charges made against you by others. With me the presumption is still in your favor that you are honest, capable, faithful, and patriotic.”

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Mississippi Military Situation Concerns President Lincoln

June 7, 1863

Historian Kenneth P. Williams wrote regarding the situation in the Mississippi River valley: “The next day Grant telegraphed to Lincoln: ‘I send by mail letter from General Banks, of June 4.  I am in communication with him.  He has Port Hudson closely invested.’  The President’s specific question went unanswered; he could decide for himself when Bank’s letter came whether that general had done all he could to cooperate against Vicksburg.  Grant would not appraise a fellow department commander if he could avoid it.  But while Grant was giving the president the means of deciding as to Banks, and Halleck was telegraphing to Hurlbut, ‘Please keep me advised on the progress of re-enforcements to General Grant,’ General Blair took it upon himself to give advice and pass judgment on Banks.  To his brother, the Postmaster General, he sent the dispatch: ‘Tell the President to re-enforce this army, as there is great peril.  General Banks declines to co-operate with General Grant.’”

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Concern Over Leadership of the Army of the Potomac

June 6, 1863

Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles writes in his diary: “Am unhappy over our affairs. The Army of the Potomac is doing but little; I do not learn that much is expected or intended. The failure at Chancellorsville has never been satisfactorily explained. Perhaps it cannot be. Some of the officers say if there had been no whiskey in the army after crossing the Rappahannock we should have had complete success. But the President and Halleck are silent on this subject.

How far Halleck is sustaining Grant at Vicksburg I do not learn. He seems heavy and uncertain in regard to matters there. A further failure at V. will find no justification. To-day he talks of withdrawing a portion of the small force at Port Royal. I am not, however, as anxious as some for an immediate demonstration on Charleston. There are, I think, strong reasons for deferring action for a time, unless the army is confident of success by approaches on Morris Island. Halleck is confident the place can be so taken. But while he expresses this belief, he is not earnest in carrying it into effect. He has suddenly broken out with zeal for Vicksburg, and is ready to withdraw most of the small force at Port Royal and send it to the Mississippi. Before they could reach Grant, the fate of Vicksburg will be decided. If such a movement is necessary now, it was weeks ago, while we were in consultation for army work in South Carolina and Georgia.

Halleck inspires no zeal in the army or among our soldiers. Stanton is actually hated by many officers, and is more intimate with certain extreme partisans in Congress — the Committee on the Conduct of War and others — than with the Executive Administration and military men. The Irish element is dissatisfied with the service, and there is an unconquerable prejudice on the part of many whites against black soldiers. But all our increased military strength now comes from the negroes. Partyism is stronger with many in the Free States than patriotism. Every coward and niggardly miser opposes the War. The former from fear, lest he should be drafted; the latter to avoid taxes.

President Lincoln writes an anonymous letter to the Editor of the Washington Chronicle: “In your issue of this morning, you have an article on the “Chicago Times.” Being an Illinoisian, I happen to know that much of the article is incorrect. As I remember, upon the repeal of the Missouri Compromise, the democratic newspapers at Chicago went over to the opposition. Thereupon the Times was established by the friends of the administration, Senator Douglas being the most prominent in establishing it. A man by the name of James Sheahan, from this city, was it’s first, and only editor, nearly if not quite all the remainder of the Senator’s life. On the political separation between Mr. Buchanan and Senator Douglas, the Times adhered to the Senator, and was the ablest paper in his support through his senatorial contest with Mr. Lincoln. Since the last Presidential election certainly, perhaps since Senator Douglas’ death, Mr. Sheahan left the Times; and the Times since then, has been identical with the Times before then, in little more than the name.  The writer hereof is not well enough posted to say but that your article in other respects is correct.”

Published in: on June 6, 2013 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Lincoln Administration Works on Military Strategy for Army of the Potomac

June 5, 1863

President Lincoln prepared a state paper to reply to a petition from Albany Congressman Erastus Corning and others.  Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles writes in his diary: “The President read to-day a paper which he had prepared in reply to Erastus Corning and others.  It has vigor and ability and with some corrections will be a strong paper.”

President Lincoln writes General Joseph Hooker, commander of Army of the Potomac: “Yours of to-day was received an hour ago. So much of professional military skill is requisite to answer it, that I have turned the task over to Gen. Halleck. He promises to perform it with his utmost care. I have but one idea which I think worth suggesting to you, and that is in case you find Lee coming to the North of the Rappahannock, I would by no means cross to the South of it. If he should leave a rear force at Fredericksburg, tempting you to fall upon it, it would fight in intrenchments, and have you at disadvantage, and so, man for man, worst you at that point, while his main force would in some way be getting an advantage of you Northward. In one word, I would not take any risk of being entangled upon the river, like an ox jumped half over a fence, and liable to be torn by dogs, front and rear, without a fair chance to gore one way or kick the other. If Lee would come to my side of the river, I would keep on the same side & fight him, or act on the defence, according as might be my estimate of his strength relatively to my own. But these are mere suggestions which I desire to be controlled by the judgment of yourself and Gen. Halleck.”

Yesterday morning appearances indicated that during the night the Enemy had broken up a few of his camps and abandoned them. These changes were observed on the right of his line in the vicinity of Hamilton Crossing. So far as I was enabled to judge from all my means of information it was impossible for me to determine satisfactorily whether this movement had been merely a change of camps—the Enemy had moved in the direction of Richmond, or up the river, but taken in connection with the fact that some deserters came in from the divisions of [John B.] Hood and [George] Pickett I conclude that those divisions had been brought to the front from their late positions at Gordonsville and Taylorville and that this could be for no other purpose but to enable the Enemy to move up the river with a view to the execution of a movement similar to that of Lee’s last year. He must either have it in mind to cross the Upper Potomac or to throw his army between mine and Washington. In case I am correct in my conjecture, to accomplish either he must have been greatly reinforced and, if making this movement, the fair presumption is that he has been by the troops from Charleston

Of this I have no evidence farther than that furnished me by Gen Dix that they had come to Richmond

This morning some more of their camps have disappeared. Their picket line along the river is preserved and as strong as ever. Gen Buford with three divisions of Cavalry and ten pieces of Artillery is on the Alexandria and Orange Rail Road and yesterday was along the river beyond Sulphur Springs and reports no Enemy. As I am liable to be called on to make a movement with the utmost promptitude I desire that I may be informed as early as practicable of the views of the Government concerning this Army. Under instructions from the Maj Genl Com’d’g the army dated Jany 31st. I am instructed to keep in view always the importance of covering Washington and Harpers Ferry either directly or by so operating as to be able to punish any force of the Enemy sent against them.

In the event the Enemy should move, as I almost anticipate he will the head of his column will probably be headed towards the Potomac via Gordonsville or Culpepper while the rear will rest on Fredericksburg. After giving the subject my best reflections I am of opinion that it is my duty to pitch into his rear although in so doing the head of his column may reach Warrenton before I can return. Will it be within the spirit of my instructions to do so? In view of these contemplated movements of the Enemy I cannot too forcibly impress upon the mind of His Excellency The President the necessity of having one commander for all of the troops whose operations can have influence on those of Lee’s army. Under the present system all independent commanders are in ignorance of the movements of the others at least such is my situation.

I trust that I may not be considered in the way to this arrangement as it is a position I do not desire and only suggest it as I feel the necessity for concerted as well as vigorous action. It is necessary for me to say this much that my motive may not be misunderstood. . . .”

Late in the afternoon, Halleck writes Hooker: “The President has directed me to reply to your telegram to him of 10 a.m. to-day.  My instructions of January 31, which were then shown to the President, left you entirely free to act as circumstances, in your judgment, might require, with the simple injunction to keep in view the safety of Washington and Harper’s Ferry.  In regard to the contingency which you suppose may arise of General Lee’s leaving a part of his forces in Fredericksburg, while, with the head of his column, he moves by Gordonsville or Culpeper toward the Potomac, it seems to me that such an operation would give you great advantages upon his flank to cut him in two, and fight his divided forces. Would it not be more advantageous to fight his movable column first, instead of first attacking his intrenchments, with your own forces separated by the Rappahannock? Moreover, you are aware that the troops under General Heintzelman are much less than the number recommended . . . for the defenses of Washington. Neither this capital nor Harper’s Ferry could long hold out against a large force. They must depend for their security very much upon the co-operation of your army. It would, therefore, seem perilous to permit Lee’s main force to move upon the Potomac while your army is attacking an intrenched position on the other side of the Rappahannock. Of course your movements must depend in a great measure upon those made by Lee. There is another contingency not altogether improbable—that Lee will seek to hold you in check with his main force, while a strong force will be detached for a raid into Maryland and Pennsylvania. The main force of the enemy in North Carolina have probably come north, but I think all available troops in South Carolina and Georgia have been sent to re-enforce Johnston in Mississippi. Such is the information here.”

Published in: on June 5, 2013 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

President Lincoln Revokes Suspension of Chicago Times

June 4, 1863

President Lincoln writes Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton regarding closure of the Chicago Times by General Ambrose Burnside: “I have received additional dispatches which, with former ones, induce me to believe we should revoke or suspend the order suspending the Chicago Times, and if you concur in opinion, please have it done.”  Burnside had ordered  suppressing the circulation of Chicago Times.  Historian Robert Harper wrote in Lincoln and the Press: “All members of the President’s Cabinet regretted Burnside’s action On the very day Burnside issued the suppression order (June 1), Secretary of War Stanton was writing to him tht Lincoln was displeased with General Hascall’s actions in Indiana.  Just then Stanton got word that he Times had been suppressed.  After talking it over with the President, Stanton added a postscript to say Lincoln thought the General should revoke the order, that suppression would do more harm than good, and he asked to be consulted on all newspaper questions.”  Not everyone was happy with the president overruling Burnside: “Joseph Medill and his Chicago Tribune, unwavering supporters of the Union, were indignant.  The Tribune declared the President’s action in revoking the suspension was as ‘unexpected’ as Burnside’s had been.”

President Lincoln also ordered General Joseph Hooker: ‘Let execution of sentences in the cases of Daily, Margraff, and Harrington, be respited till further order from me, they remaining in close custody meanwhile.”

President and Mrs. Lincoln later listen to recitation of Shakespeare at a private Washington residence.

Published in: on June 4, 2013 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Confederate Invasion of Maryland

June 3, 1863

General Robert E. Lee begins Confederate invasion of Maryland – leading to problems of military strategy and military command. “As he pursued Lee, a steady conflict developed between Hooker and Halleck, Hooker wanted complete control of troops in neighboring departments, but Halleck instructed only the department commanders to cooperate with Hooker,” wrote historian Bruce Tap.  “Army of the Potomac chief of staff Daniel Butterfield complained to Salmon Chase that Lincoln and Halleck overestimated the numbers in the Army of the Potomac, which was losing men every day because of the expiration of enlistment terms.  At the same time, Butterfield claimed that Lee was being substantially reenforced.  When Halleck denied Hooker’s request to command the troops stationed at Harpers Ferry, Hooker requested to be relieved of command.”

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Possible Command Change for Army of the Potomac Discussed

June 2, 1863

General John F.  Reynolds visits the White House to deny interest in replacing General Joseph Hooker as commander of the Army of the Potomac.   Historian Freeman Cleaves writes in Meade of Gettysburg writes: “Rumor… had it that Reynolds would receive the command.  But going straight to the White House, he advised the President that he neither wanted the command nor would accept it unless given free rein.  Not so much his taciturn self with Lincoln, Reynolds talked rather freely concerning Hooker.  Appearing unmoved, Lincoln, however, said he was not disposed to throw away a gun because it missed fire, but ‘would pick the lock and try it again,’ Nevertheless,  Reynolds had scored.  By taking the initiative and going to Lincoln, he would avoid the possibility of any peremptory order assigning him to an unsought and unwanted command.”

Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles writes in his diary: “Chase, Blair, Bates, and myself were at the Cabinet-meeting.  Seward was absent, but his son was present.  So also was Judge Otto, Assistant Secretary of the Interior.  Stanton, though absent, sent no representative.  He condemns the practice of allowing assistants to be present in Cabinet council, a practice which was introduced by Seward, and says he will never submit or discuss any important question, when an assistant is present.  I think this is the general feeling and the practice of all.

There was some discussion of affairs at Vicksburg.  The importance of capturing that stronghold and opening the navigation of the river is appreciated by all, and confidence is expressed in Grant, but it seems that not enough was doing.  The President said Halleck declares he can furnish no additional troops.  As yet I have seen nothing to admire in the military management of General Halleck, whose mind is heavy and, if employed at all, is apparently engaged on something else than the public matter in hand.  At this time when the resources of the nation should be called out and activity pervade all military operations, he sits back in his chair, doing comparatively nothing.  It worries the President, yet he relies upon Halleck and apparently no one else in the War Department.  No one more fully realizes the magnitude of the occasion, and the vast consequences involved, than the President; he wishes all to be done that can be done, but yet in army operations will not move or do except by the consent of the dull, stolid, inefficient, and incompetent General-in-Chief.”

Stanton does not attend one half of the Cabinet-meetings.  When he comes, he communicates little of importance.  Not infrequently he has a private conference with the President in the corner of the room, or with Seward in the library.  Chase, Blair and Bates have each expressed their mortification and chagrin that things were so conducted.  To-day, as we came away, Blair joined me, and said he knew not what we were coming to; that he had tried to have things different.

Journalist Noah Brooks visits the White House.  He subsequently writes: “On the night of June 2d, just before leaving for South Carolina, your correspondent had a conversation with the President, in which I expressed some natural anxiety that a rebel raid might occur soon, and that activity in this vicinity might come up in my absence.  The President said that all indications were that there would be nothing of the sort, and that an advance by the rebels could not possibly take place so as to put them on this side of the Rappahannock, unless Hooker was very much mistaken, and was to be again out-generaled.  Hooker was mistaken, and was out-generaled. In the course of his somewhat blundering programme, after the army of Lee was across the Potomac, he ordered the evacuation of Harper’s Ferry, as that point was of no special importance to us so long as the rebels had other channels of retreat and communication, and French’s force was needed in the field.  Halleck protested against this action and notified French that he was not subject to Hooker’s orders, at which Hooker asked to be relieved.  One of Meade’s first orders was the evacuation of Harper’s Ferry, and no interference was made with him, it is a fair supposition that the objection of Halleck was only a subterfuge to get rid of Hooker.  General Hooker has the popular sympathy in his misfortunes, for he is unquestionably brave, high-spirited and gallant, but the public also believe that he was not the man for the emergency, and Meade assumes his difficult role in the face of the enemy with a great sigh of relief from the people.”

President Lincoln writes General Ulysses S. Grant, who is commanding a Union attack on Vicksburg, Mississippi.  He is anxious that Grant be supported by General Nathaniel Banks, the Union commander in Louisiana: “Are you in communication with Gen. Banks? Is he coming towards you, or going further off? Is there, or has there been anything to hinder his coming directly to you by water from Alexandria?”

President Lincoln responds to members of the Presbyterian General Assembly regarding their support for Administration policies: “It has been my happiness to receive testimonies of a similar nature, from I believe, all denominations of Christians. They are all loyal, but perhaps not in the same degree, or in the same numbers; but I think they all claim to be loyal. This to me is most gratifying, because from the beginning I saw that the issues of our great struggle depended on the Divine interposition and favor. If we had that, all would be well. The proportions of this rebellion were not for a long time understood. I saw that it involved the greatest difficulties, and would call forth all the powers of the whole country. The end is not yet.

The point made in your paper is well taken as to “the Government” and the “administration” in whose hands are those interests. I fully appreciate its correctness and justice. In my administration I might have committed some errors. It would be, indeed, remarkable if I had not. I have acted according to my best judgment in every case. The views expressed by the Committee accord with my own; and on this principle ”the Government” is to be supported though the administration may not in every case wisely act.  As a pilot, I have used my best exertions to keep afloat our ship of State, and shall be glad to resign my trust at the appointed time to another pilot more skillful and successful than I may prove. In every case, and at all hazards, the Government must be perpetuated.  Relying, as I do, upon the Almighty Power, and encouraged as I am by these resolutions which you have just read, with the support which I receive from Christian men, I shall not hesitate to use all the means at my control to secure the termination of this rebellion, and will hope for success.

I sincerely thank you for this interview, this pleasant mode of presentation, and the General Assembly for their patriotic support in these resolutions.

Published in: on June 2, 2013 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

President Lincoln Works on Presidential Pardons

June 1, 1863

Presidential aide John G. Nicolay writes Adjutant General Joseph Holt: “If you can come immediately this morning the President will endeavor to work a while on the Court Martial cases.”   President writes Attorney General Edward Bates: “As the Judge, Jury, Marshal, District Attorney & Post-Master General, join in asking a pardon in this case, I have concluded to grant it. The Attorney General will please make it out & send it to me.”  The sentence involved West Virginian Jacob Varner who had been charged with robbing the mails.”  Regarding the case of Thomas Lewis, charged with bribing a federal detective, Lincoln writes: “I can not interfere in this case.

President Lincoln follows up on a recent proposal from New Yorkers to raise regiments of black soldiers to be commanded by General John C. Fremont.  The president meets with and then writes Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner: “In relation to the matter spoken of Saturday morning, and this morning, towit, the raising of colored troops in the North, with the understanding that they shall be commanded by Gen. Fremont, I have to say:

That while it is very objectionable, as a general rule, to have troops raised on any special terms, such as to serve only under a particular commander, or only at a particular place or places, yet I would forego the objection in this case, upon a fair prospect that a large force of this sort could thereby be the more rapidly raised.”

That being raised, say to the number of ten thousand, I would very cheerfully send them to the field under Gen. Fremont, assigning him a Department, made or to be made, with such white force also as I might be able to put in.

That with the best wishes towards Gen. Fremont, I can not now give him a Department, because I have not spare troops to furnish a new Department; and I have not, as I think, justifiable ground to relieve the present commander of any old one.

In the raising of the colored troops, the same consent of Governors would have to be obtained as in case of white troops, and the government would make the same provision for them during organization, as for white troops.

It would not be a point with me whether Gen. Fremont should take charge of the organization, or take charge of the force only after the organization.

If you think fit to communicate this to Gen. Fremont you are at liberty to do so.

Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles writes in his diary: “Gave the President this A.M. a list of applicants for appointment to the Naval Academy.  A great crowd in attendance; I therefore left the list for him to examine and deferred action until another interview.”

Published in: on June 1, 2013 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment