Quiet White House Contemplates Eastern Tennessee

August 31, 1863

“The White House is deserted, save by our faithful and untiring Chief Magistrate, whol, alone of all our public men, is always at his post.  He looks less careworn and emaciated than in the spring, as if, living only for his country,, he found his vigor keeping pace with the returning health of the nation,” write White House aide William O. Stoddard in an anonymous newspaer dispatch.  “There are rumors that he is about to address to his fellow-citizens another of those homely but powerful appeals which have more than one been almost equal to battles won.

“In August, 1863, while Rosecrans was engaged in the preliminary movements leading up to the battle of Chickamauga, and after the fighting was known to be in progress, Lincoln, as at other critical periods, remained in the telegraph office, sometimes for hours, waiting for the latest news respecting what was then felt to be one of the most serious crises of the war,” reported telegraph operator Homer Bates.  “For three or four days the tension was very great, the President, Secretary Stanton and General Halleck conferring together almost constantly. Prior to this period, Rosecrans seems to have reached the conclusion that he did not possess the full confidence of the Administration, and in fact he did not, but he fancied the situation was worse than it really was, this impression being deepened by Halleck’s censorious letters.”

President Lincoln writes Major General William Rosecrans: “Yours of the 22nd. was received yesterday. When I wrote you before, I did [not] intend, nor do I now, to engage in an argument with you on military questions. You had informed me you were impressed, through Gen. Halleck, that I was dissatisfied with you; and I could not bluntly deny that I was, without unjustly implicating him. I therefore concluded to tell you the plain truth, being satisfied the matter would thus appear much smaller than it would if seen by mere glimpses. I repeat that my appreciation of you has not abated. I can never forget, whilst I remember anything, that about the end of last year, and beginning of this, you gave us a hard earned victory which, had there been a defeat instead, the nation could scarcely have lived over. Neither can I forget the check you so opportunely gave to a dangerous sentiment which was spreading in the North.”  Rosecrans had written: ““Thanking you for your kindness may I ask you when impulsive men suppose me querrulous to believe I am only straight forward and in earnest and that you may always rely upon my using my utmost efforts to do what is best for our country and the lives and honor of the soldiers of my command.”

President Lincoln amends his address to be read at the Springfield rally.  He writes James C. Conkling: “In my letter of the 26th. insert between the sentence ending “since the issue of the emancipation proclamation, as before” and the next, commencing “You say you will not fight &c” what follows below my signature hereto-.”

I know as fully as one can know the opinions of others, that some of the commanders of our armies in the field who have given us our most important successes, believe the emancipation policy, and the use of colored troops, constitute the heaviest blow yet dealt to the rebellion; and that, at least one of those important successes, could not have been achieved when it was, but for the aid of black soldiers. Among the commanders holding these views are some who have never had any affinity with what is called abolitionism, or with republican party politics;  but who hold them purely as military opinions. I submit these opinions as being entitled to some weight against the objections, often urged, that emancipation; and arming the blacks, are unwise as military measures, and were not adopted as such, in good faith.

Kansas-Missouri problems are on the president’s mind.  He writes General-in-chief Henry W. Halleck: “It is not improbable that retaliation for the recent great outrage at Lawrence, in Kansas, may extend to indiscriminate slaughter on the Missouri border, unless averted by very judicious action. I shall be obliged if the general-in-chief can make any suggestions to General Schofield upon the subject.”

Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase writes in his diary: “After I returned to the Department, Mr. Stanton came in and I suggested to him to propose to the President the revocation of the Proclamation exceptions in Virginia in connection with the suspension or revocation of the Northampton tax order.  He seemed disinclined to connect the two, but was disposed to insist on the tax.  We discussed the question briefly and left it unsettled.  I represented to him the great importance of prompt and vigorous military action, that tomorrow the amount of suspended military requisitions, including the pay of the whole army for July and August would approach 35,000,000$, and that unless the war could be pushed more vigorously and greater certainty of early and successful termination there was cause for serious apprehension of financial embarrassment.  He replied that the delay of Gen. Rosecrans was the principal cause of difficulty; that he commanded a full third of all the effective force of the country, and did nothing comparatively with it.  That in a week’s time he could if he would penetrate those portions of Georgia and Alabama in which the negroes had been taken by their masters, and where the gathering of large bodies of negro troops would be easy. He said that he had represented these things to the President, but so far without much effect.”

Chase writes that  Mr. Wright “expressed his conviction that I would be the nominee in ’64, and that it was his wish to promote that result.  I replied that nothing could be more uncertain than the currents of popular sentiment; that I was by no means anxious that they should turn towards me, and that if they did, and the result should be such as he predicted, it must be without any pledges from me in relation to appointments, for no man could honorably take charge of the administration under any other obligations than those of duty, and exercise its powers for the best good of the whole country in conformity with the principles upon which, and in general with the aid of the best men by whom, he had been elected.”

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