Discussions Held about Texas and Mississippi River

July 31, 1863

Grant aide John Rawlins reports to Cabinet on capture of Vicksburg.  Navy Secretary Gideon Welles writes in his diary: “Seward wished me to meet him and the President at the War Department to consider the subject of the immediate occupation of some portion of Texas.  My letters of the 9th and 23d ult. and conversation since have awakened attention to the necessity of some decisive action…”  Welles wrote: “I met at the President’s, and was introduced by him to, Colonel Rawlins of General Grant’s staff.  He arrived yesterday with the official report of the taking of Vicksburg and capture of Pemberton’s army.  Was much pleased with him, his frank, intelligent, and interesting description of men and account of army operations.  his interview with the President and Cabinet was of nearly two hours’ duration, and all, I think, were entertained by him.  His honest, unpretending, and unassuming manners pleased me; the absence of pretension, and I may say the unpolished and unrefined deportment, of this earnest and sincere man, patriot, and soldier pleased me more than that of almost any officer whom I have met.  He was never at West Point and has had few educational advantages, yet he is a soldier, and has a mind which has served his general and his country well.  He is a sincere and earnest friend of Grant, who has evidently sent him here for a purpose.

It was a the intention of the President last fall that General McClernand, an old neighbor and friend of his, should have been associated with Admiral Porter in active operations before Vicksburg.  It was expressed and earnest wish of Porter to have a citizen general, and he made it a special point to be relieved from associations with a West-Pointer; all West-Pointers, he said, were egotistical and assuming and never wiling to consider and treat naval officers as equals.  The President thought the opportunity a good one to bring forward his friend McClernand, in whom he has confidence and who is a volunteer officer of ability, and possesses, moreover, a good deal of political influence in Illinois.  Stanton and Halleck entered into his views, for Grant was not a special favorite with either.  He had also, like Hooker, the reputation of indulging too freely in whiskey to be always safe and reliable.

Rawlins now comes from Vicksburg with statements in regard to McClernand which show him an impracticable and unfit man,–that he has not been subordinate and intelligent, but has been an embarrassment, and, instead of directing or assisting in, has been really an obstruction to, army movements and operations.  In Rawlins’s statements there is undoubtedly prejudice, but with such appearance of candor, and earnest and intelligent conviction, that there can be hardly a doubt McClernand is in fault, and Rawlins has been sent here by Grant in order to enlist the President rather than bring dispatches.  In this, I think, he has succeeded, thought the President feels kindly towards McClernand.  Grant evidently hates him, and Rawlins is imbued with the feelings of his chief.

Grant may have been trying to do damage control regarding General John McClernand. Kenneth P. Williams wrote in Lincoln Finds a General, “Grant’s reply was carried to Washington by Rawlins, with reports of the campaign, as well as rolls and paroles of prisoners.  The ending of Grant’s letter rivaled that of Lincoln’s: I would be pleased if you could give Colonel Rawlins an interview, and I know in asking this you will feel relieved when I tell you he has not a favor to ask for himself or any other living being.  Even in my position it is a great luxury to meet a gentleman who has no ax to grind, and I can appreciate it is infinitely more so in yours.”

President Lincoln writes General Stephen Hurlbut, a political friend from Illinois who had recently asked to resign in a letter delivered by Assistant Secretary of War Charles Dana: “Your letter by Mr. Dana was duly received. I now learn that your resignation has reached the War Department. I also learn that an active command has been assigned you by Gen. Grant. The Secretary of War and Gen. Halleck are very partial to you, as you know I also am. We all wish you to re-consider the question of resigning; not that we would wish to retain you greatly against your wish and interest, but that your decision may be at least a very well considered one.

I understand that Senator Sebastian [2] of Arkansas thinks of offering to resume his place in the Senate. Of course the Senate, and not I, would decide whether to admit or reject him. Still I should feel great interest in the question. It may be so presented as to be one of the very greatest national importance; and it may be otherwise so presented, as to be of no more than temporary personal consequence to him.

The emancipation proclamation applies to Arkansas. I think it is valid in law, and will be so held by the courts. I think I shall not retract or repudiate it. Those who shall have tasted actual freedom I believe can never be slaves, or quasi slaves again. For the rest, I believe some plan, substantially being gradual emancipation, would be better for both white and black. The Missouri plan, recently adopted, I do not object to on account of the time for ending the institution; but I am sorry the beginning should have been postponed for seven years, leaving all that time to agitate for the repeal of the whole thing. It should begin at once, giving at least the new-born, a vested interest in freedom, which could not be taken away. If Senator Sebastian could come with something of this sort from Arkansas, I at least should take great interest in his case; and I believe a single individual will have scarcely done the world so great a service. See him, if you can, and read this to him; but charge him to not make it public for the present. Write me again

John Hays writes in his diary regarding an apprenticeship system to replace slavery: “I had a considerable talk with the President this evening on the subject.  It deeply interests him now.  He considers it the greatest question every presented to practical statesmanship.

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Published in: on July 31, 2013 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

President Considers Texas Expedition

July 30, 1863

President Lincoln writes Francis P. Blair, Sr., father of Postmaster General Montgomery Blair: “Yours of to-day with inclosure is received.  Yesterday I commenced trying to get up an expedition for Texas.  I shall do the best I can.  Meantime I would like to know who is the great man Alexander, that talks so oracularly about ‘if the president keeps his word’ and Banks not having ‘capacity to run an omnibus on Broadway.’  How has this Alexander’s immense light been obscured hitherto?”

Halleck biographer Curt Anders writes: “General Meade replied twice [to Halleck].  On July 30 he began a long review of the situation and his possible courses of action with a confession: ‘The impression of the President is correct. I have been acting under the belief, from your telegrams, that it was his and your wish that I should pursue Lee and bring him to a general engagement, if practicable….’”

President Lincoln issues an “Order of Retaliation”: “It is the duty of every government to give protection to its citizens, of whatever class, color, or condition, and especially to those who are duly organized as soldiers in the public service.  The law of nations and the usages and customs of war as carried on by civilized powers, permit no distinction as to color in the treatment of prisoners of war as public enemies.  To sell or enslave any captured person, on account of his color, and for no offence against the laws of war, is a relapse into barbarism and a crime against the civilization of the age.

The government of the United States will give the same protection to all its soldiers, and if the enemy shall sell or enslave anyone because of his color, the offense shall be punished by retaliation upon the enemy’s prisoners in our possession.

It is therefore ordered that for every soldiers of the United States killed in violation of the laws of war, a rebel soldier shall be executed; and for every one enslaved by the enemy or sold into slavery, a rebel soldier shall be placed at hard labor on the public works and continued at such labor until the other shall be released and received the treatment due a prisoner of war.

The next day, presidential aide John Hay writes in his diary that President Lincoln “was troubled know how to retaliate in kind for selling into slavery and concluded to make it imprisonment at hard labor.”

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

Cautiously, President Lincoln Continues to Prod for Action

July 29, 1863

President Lincoln writes General-in-chief Henry W. Halleck regarding his continuing concern about the dilatory nature of General George Meade’s pursuit of Confederate General Robert E. Lee: “Seeing Gen. Meade despatch of yesterday to yourself, causes, me to fear that he supposes the government here is demanding of him to bring on a general engagement with Lee as soon as possible.  I am claiming no such thing of him.  In fact, my judgment is against it, which judgments, of course, I will yield if yours and his are the contrary.

If he could not safely engage Lee at Williamsport, it seems absurd to suppose he can safely engage him now, when he has scarcely more than two thirds of the force he had at Williamsport, while it must be, that Lee has been re-inforced.  True, I desired Gen. Meade to pursue Lee across the Potomac, hoping, as has been proved true, that he would thereby clear the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, and get some advantages by harrassing him on his retreat.

These being past, I am unwilling he should now get into a general engagements on the impression that we here are pressing him; and i shall be glad for you to so inform him, unless your own judgment is against it.”

Halleck writes Meade: “I take this method of writing you a few words which I could not well communicate in any other way.”

Your fight at Gettysburg met with the universal approbation of all military men here.  You handled your troops in that battle as well, if not better, than any general handled his army during the war.  You brought all your forces into action at the right time and place, which no commander of the Army of the Potomac has done before.

You may well be proud of that battle.  The President’s order, or proclamation, of July 4, showed how much be appreciated your success.

And now a few words in regard to subsequent events.  You should not have been surprised or vexed at the President’s disappointment at the escape of Lee’s army.  He had examined into all the details of sending you re-enforcements, to satisfy himself that every man who could possibly be spared from other places had been sent to your army.  He thought that Lee’s defeat was so certain that he felt no little impatience at his unexpected escape.

I have no doubt, general, that you felt the disappointment as keenly as any one else. Such things sometimes occur to us without any fault of our own. Take it altogether, your short campaign has proved confidence of the Government and the gratitude of the country.

I need not assure you, general, that I have lost noe of the confidence which I felt in you when I recommended you for the command.

President Lincoln writes Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton: “Can we not renew the effort to organize a force to go to Western Texas? Please consult with the General-in-Chief on the subject. If the Governor of New-Jersey shall furnish any new regiments, might not they be put into such an expedition. Please think of it. I believe no local object is now more desirable.”

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

President Helps Young Confederate Captain

July 28, 1863

President Lincoln writes Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton: “A young son of the Senator [Albert] Brown of Mississippi, not yet twenty, as I understand, was wounded, and made a prisoner at Gettysburg. His mother is sister [of] Mrs P. R. Fendall, of this city. Mr Fendall, on behalf of himself and family, asks that he and they may have charge of the boy, to cure him up, being responsible [for] his person and good behavior. Would it not be rather a grateful and graceful thing to let them have him?”

President Lincoln writes his wife Mary: “Bob went to Fort-Monroe & only got back to-day.  Will start to you at 11. AM to-morrow.”

Presidential aide John Hay write colleague John G. Nincolay: “Yours of the 19th is just received.  I return you the envelope as a dreadful warning.  You remember by the new law letters to the President must be prepaid.  Tremble, & provide yourself with gum-backs!”  Hay adds: “There is no news & I see no present prospect of any.”

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

President Lincoln Would Like to Give Hooker a Corps to Command

July 27, 1863

President Lincoln wrote General George G. Meade, commander of the Army of the Potomac: “I have not thrown Gen. Hooker away; and therefore I would like to know whether, it would be agreeable to you, all things considered, for him to take a corps under you, if he himself is willing to do so.  Write me, in perfect freedom, with the assurance that I will not subject you to any embarrassment, by making your letter, or its contents, known to any one.  I wish to know your wishes before I decide whether to break the subject to him.  Do not lean a hair’s breadth against your own feelings, or your judgment of the public service, on the idea of gratifying me.”

President Lincoln writes General Ambrose Burnside: “Let me explain. In Gen. Grant’s first despatch after the fall of Vicksburg, he said, among other things, he would send the Ninth Corps to you. Thinking it would be pleasant to you, I asked the Secretary of War to telegraph you the news. For some reason, never mentioned to us by Gen. Grant, they have not been sent, though we have seen out-side intimations that they took part in the expedition against Jackson. Gen. Grant is a copious worker, and fighter, but a very meagre writer, or telegrapher. No doubt he changed his purpose in regard to the Ninth Corps, for some sufficient reason, but has forgotten to notify us of it.”

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

President Lincoln Discusses Louisiana Reconstruction

July 26, 1863

Navy Secretary Gideon Welles writes in his diary: “I went this noon (Sunday) to the President with Dahlgren’s dispatches; told him that the force under Gillmore was insufficient for the work assigned him; that it ought not now to fail; that it ought not to have been begun unless it was understood his force was to have been increased; that such was his expectation, and I wished to know if it could not be done.  It would be unwise to wait until Gillmore was crushed and repelled, and to then try and regain lost ground, which seemed to be the policy of General Halleck; instead of remaining inactive till Gillmore, exhausted, cried for help, his wants should be anticipated.

The President agreed with me fully, but said he knew not where the troops could come from, unless from the Army of the Potomac, but if they were going to fight they would want all their men.  I asked if he really believed Meade was going to have a battle.  He looked at me earnestly for a moment and said:  ‘Well, to be candid, I have no faith that Meade will attack Lee; nothing looks like it to me.  I believe he can never have another as good opportunity as that which he trifled away.  Everything since has dragged with him.  NO, I don’t believe he is going to fight.’

‘Why, then,’ I asked, ‘not send a few regiments to Charleston?  Gillmore ought to be reinforced with ten thousand men.  We intend to send additional seamen and marines.’  ‘Well,’ said the President, “I will see Halleck.  I think we should strain a point.  May I say to him that you are going to strengthen Dahlgren?’  ‘Yes,’ I replied.  ‘But it would be better that you should say you ordered it, and that you also ordered the necessary army increase.  Let us all do our best.’

Our interview was in the library, and was earnest and cordial.

Building Commissioner Benjamin Brown French writes in his diary that Sunday  “was a very hot day.  I was at the President’s at 10 A.M. by appointment with my friend J.Q.A. Fellows of New Orleans, and a Mr. May, a young planter from near that City.  They came to see what could be done to reorganize the civil government of Louisiana on the basis of Free labor.  The President received them in a most friendly and cordial manner, and we conversed at least an hour, and our interview ended very hopefully, with an appointment for another next Monday or Tuesday.  From the President’s we went to the Treasury and had a very pleasant interview with Secy. Chase on the same subject….”

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

Draft and Trade Concerns President Lincoln

July 25, 1863

President Lincoln writes to Navy Secretary Gideon Welles: “Certain matters have come to my notice, and considered by me, which induce me to believe, that it will conduce to the public interest for you to add to the general instruction given to our Naval Commanders, in relation to contraband trade, propositions substantially as follows, to wit:

‘1st. You will avoid the reality, and far as possible, the appearance, of using any neutral port, to watch neutral vessels, and then to dart out and seize them on their departure.

Note–Complaint is made that this has been practice at the Port of St. Thomas, which practice, if it exist, is disapproved, and must cease.

‘2nd.  You will not, in any case, detain the crew of a captured neutral vessel, or any other subject, of a neutral power on board such vessel, as prisoners of war, or otherwise, except the small number necessary as witnesses in the prize court.

‘Note–The practice here forbidden is also charged to exist, which, if true, is disapproved, and must cease.’

My dear Sir, it is not intended to be insinuated that you have been remiss in the performance of the arduous and responsible duties of your Department, which I take pleasure in affirming has, in your hands, been conducted with admirable success.  Yet while your subordinates are, almost of necessity, brought into angry collision with the subjects of foreign States, the representatives of those States and yourself do not come into immediate contact, for the purpose of keeping the peace, in spite of such collisions.  At that point there is an ultimate, and heavy responsibility upon me.

What I propose is in strict accordance with international law, and is therefore unobjectionable; while if it do no other good, it is will contribute to sustain a considerable portion of the present British Ministry in their places, who, if placed, are sure to be replaced by others more unfavorable to us.

President Lincoln writes New Jersey Governor Joel Parker: “ I have taken time, and considered and discussed the subject with the Secretary of War, and Provost-Marshall General, in order, if possible, to make you a more favorable answer than I finally find myself able to do. It is a vital point with us to not have a special stipulation with the Governor of any one State, because it would breed trouble in many, if not all other states; and my idea was, when I wrote you, as it still is, to get a point of time, to which we could wait, on the reason that we were not ready ourselves to proceed, and which might enable you to raise the quota of your state, in whole, or in large part, without the draft. The points of time you fix, are much further off than I had hoped. We might have got along in the way I have indicated for twenty, or possibly thirty days. As it stands, the best I can say is, that every volunteer you will present us within thirty days from this date, fit and ready to be mustered into the United States service, on the usual terms, shall be, pro-tanto – – an abatement of your quota of the draft. That quota I can now state at eight thousand, seven hundred and eighty three, (8783). No draft from New Jersey, other than for the above quota, will be made before an additional draft, common to the States, shall be required; and I may add, that if we get well through with this draft, I entertain a strong hope that any further one may never be needed. This expression of hope, however, must not be construed into a promise.”  He added: “As to conducting the draft by Townships. I find it would require such a waste of labor already done, and such an additional amount of it, and such a loss of time, as to make it, I fear, inadmissible.”

Presidential aide John Hay writes in his diary: “I rode out to Soldiers Home with the Tycoon President tonight.  Bob [Lincoln] was down the river with Seward.”  Earlier, Hay had meet with writer-officer Charles Halpine: “He tells me that Seymour is in a terrible state of nervous excitement [about New York draft problems].  That there is absolute danger of the loss of his wits.  He is tormented both by the terrible reminiscence of the riots & by the constant assertions of the Pres that he is concerned in a conspiracy of which the outbreak was a mismanaged portion.”

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

Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles Complains About Secretary of State William H. Seward’s Behavior

July 24, 1863

A jealous Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles complains about Secretary of State William H. Seward’s behavior: “This being Cabinet day, Mr. Seward spent an hour with the President, and when the rest came in, he immediately withdrew.  Some inquiry was made in regard to army movements and Meade in particular, but no definite information was communicated.  Meade is watching the enemy as fast as he can since he let them slip and get away from him.”

President Lincoln writes Postmaster General Montgomery Blair: “Yesterday little indorsements of mine went to you in two cases of Post-Masterships sought for widows whose husbands have fallen in the battles of this war. These cases occurring on the same day, brought me to reflect more attentively than I had before done, as to what is fairly due from us here, in the dispensing of patronage, towards the men who, by fighting our battles, bear the chief burthen of saving our country. My conclusion is that, other claims and qualifications being equal, they have the better right; and this is especially applicable to the disabled soldier, and the deceased soldier’s family.”  One of those endorsements was probably that of the widow of Lieutenant Colonel Melancthon Smith, whose post as Rockford, Illinois postmaster had been filled by his wife during his military service and before his death at Vicksburg.

President Lincoln writes General Ambrose Burnside: ‘What, if anything further do you hear from John Morgan?”  Burnside reported on the Confederate raider who had invaded Ohio:   “One report places him with[in] ten miles of Cadiz Junction & the other between Antrim & Hendricsburg Shackleford close after him & we will try to have forces in his front whichever report is correct.”

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

President Lincoln Responds to Aggravation of Missouri Governor

July 23, 1863

President Lincoln writes Missouri Governor Hamilton R. Gamble about the continuing military-political problems of his state – and the argumentative nature of its politicians: “My Private Secretary has just brought me a letter saying it is a very ‘cross one from you, about mine to Gen. Schfield, recently published in the Democrat.  As I am trying to preserve my own temper, by avoiding irritants, so far as practicable, I have declined to read the cross letter.  I think fit to say, however, that when I wrote the letter to Gen. Schofield, I was totally unconscious of any malice, or disrespect towards you, or of using any expression which should offend you, if seen by you.  I have not seen the document in the Democrat, and therefore can not say whether it is a correct copy.”  Gamble had written: “Your letter to Major General Schofield of the 27th of May was published in the newspapers of this city on the 27th of June last and but for my engagements in the State Convention in aiding in the passage of an ordinance of emancipation, and other pressing official duties I would sooner have attended to that most extraordinary publication.

‘As a paper written by the President…concerning the Governor of a loyal state is a most remarkable production and its publication is a most wanton and unmerited insult…I have borne in silence the attacks…by newspaper writers, but when the President…in an official communication undertakes to characterise me, the Governor of a loyal state, as the head of a faction in that state, an answer is demanded…

‘I take leave to say…that the language of your letter…is in my judgment unbecoming your position…But there is your accusation…this further wrong, that the charge is not true…

‘I have earnestly desired that the military might be restrained from all wanton violence and cruelty…When my views of the policy necessary to the restoration of peace and civil government have been disregarded, I have caused the facts to be made known to you in order that you might apply the remedy…If making to you the proper representation of facts constituted me the head of a faction then I have been such; but if I was performing a simple duty to you, upon whom rests the ultimate responsibility for the government of the military, then my conduct was necessary for the country, and just to you, furnished no ground for your attack upon me…

‘Mr. President, I have disapproved of acts of your administration, but I have carefully abstained from denouncing you…and this because there is nothing of a ‘faction’ spirit in me…

‘You can then judge sir how grossly offensive the language your letter is, when you say ‘as’ (that is, because) ‘I could not remove Gov Gamble I had to remove General Curtis’ distinctly intimating that you would have removed me if you could…

President Lincoln writes General Robert C. Schenck, Union commander in Missouri, “Returning to the Executive Room yesterday, I was mortified to find you were gone, leaving no word of explanation. I went down stairs, as I understood, on a perfect understanding with you that you would remain till my return. I got this impression distinctly from “Edward” [2] whom I believe you know. Possibly I misunderstood him. I had been very unwell in the morning, and had scarcely tasted food during the day, till the time you saw me go down. I beg you will not believe I have treated you with intentional discourtesy.”  Two days later, Schenck responded: ““I did not for a moment suppose there was any discourtesy intended me. But I left your ante-room without waiting longer, because I was hurried by the approach of the hour when I was to take a little dinner with a friend, & get ready for the train by which I was to return to Baltimore. I left this explanation with Edward, who seems to have failed a little in making either of us clearly understood by the other.  I do want to see you for a few minutes; I will call the next time I can find leisure to go over.”

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

President Sick but Maintains Correspondence

July 22, 1863

President Lincoln is sick for much of the day.  On July 23, he writes General Robert Schenck, commander of Union forces in Maryland: “Returning to the Executive Room yesterday, I was mortified to find you were gone, leaving no word of explanation. I went down stairs, as I understood, on a perfect understanding with you that you would remain till my return. I got this impression distinctly from “Edward”  whom I believe you know. Possibly I misunderstood him. I had been very unwell in the morning, and had scarcely tasted food during the day, till the time you saw me go down. I beg you will not believe I have treated you with intentional discourtesy.”

California journalist Noah Brooks writes: “The President says that the changes and promotions in the Army of the Potomac cost him more anxiety than the campaigns.  He also says — and he ought to know — that the ratio of men to Generals in that army, is now just 800 men to each General.  this is partly owing to the fact that many of the regiments are such only in name — their ranks having been decimated, and the remnants are being consolidated ore recruited.”

President Lincoln writes General Oliver O. Howard: “Your letter of the 18th. is received.  I was deeply mortified by the escape of Lee across the Potomac, because the substantial destruction was perfectly easy – believed that Gen. Meade and his noble army had expended all the skill, and toil, and blood, up to the ripe harvest, and then let the crop go to waste.  Perhaps my mortification was heightened because I had always believed–making my belief a hobby possibly–that the main rebel army going North to the Potomac, could never return, if well attended to; and because I was so greatly flattered in this belief, by the operations at Gettysburg.  A few days having passed, I am now profoundly grateful for what was done, without criticism for what was not done.  Gen. Meade has my confidence as a brave and skillful officer, and a true man.

President Lincoln writes Agriculture Commissioner Isaac Newton: “I know not what the law is as to compensation of the Chief Chemest for the Agricultural Department; but I certainly think $2500, per year, is, on general principles, a moderate compensation for the services of one having Dr. Wetherill’s high scientific reputation.”

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