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.”

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

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