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.

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

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