President Meets with and Lectures Missouri Delegation

September 30, 1863

President Lincoln meets for hours in the morning with the “Committee of Seventy” from Missouri who want the dismissal of General John Schofield and Governor Hamilton Gamble.  The meeting reflected a wider split in the Lincoln administration between conservatives such as  Attorney General Edward Bates and Postmaster General Montgomery Blair and radicals like Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase.  Bates writes in his diary: “Today, the Jacobin Delegation of Mo. And Kansas had its audience of the Prest.  I saw him afterwards in a good humor.  Some of them he said, were not as bad he supposed – He really thought some of them were…pretty good men, if they only knew how!  Of course, they did not get Schofield’s head.”  Journalist Walter B. Stevens wrote that President Lincoln “bore the appearance of being much depressed, as if the who matter at issue in the conference which was impending was of great anxiety and trouble to him,’ says one of the Missourians who sat awaiting the president’s coming.”

Presidential aide John Hay writes: “The Missourians spent rather more than two hours with the President this morning.  They discharged their speech at him which Drake read as pompously as if it were full of matter instead of wind, and then had desultory talk for a great while.  The President never appeared to better advantage in the world.  Though He knows how immense is the danger to himself from the unreasoning anger of that committee, he never cringed to them for an instant.  He stood where he thought he was right and crushed them with his candid logic.  I was with those people all the while til today.  They trifled with a great cause unpardonably.  The personal character of the men, too ill sustained their attitude.  They are gone and I suppose have virtually failed.”

Walter Stevens wrote:  “At 9 o’clock in the morning of the last day of September, 1863, President Lincoln, accompanied by one of his secretaries, came into the great east room of the White House and sat down.

‘He bore the appearance of being much depressed, as if the who matter at issue in the conference which was impending was of great anxiety and trouble to him,’ says one of the Missourians who sat awaiting the president’s coming.

“There were seventy ‘Radical Union men of Missouri’‘ they had accepted that designation.  They had been chosen at mass convention in Jefferson city — ‘the largest mass convention ever held in the state,’ their credentials said.  That convention had unqualifiedly indorsed the emancipation proclamation and the employment of negro troops.  It had declared its loyalty to the general government.  It had appointed these seventy Missourians, from fifty-seven counties, to proceed to Washington and ‘to procure a change in the governmental policy in reference to Missouri.

‘This action by Missouri meant more than a local movement.  It was the precipitation of a crisis at Washington.  It was the voice of the radical anti-slavery element of the whole country speaking through Missouri, demanding that the government commit itself to the policy of the abolition of slavery and to the policy of the use of negro troops against the confederate armies.  It was the uprising of the element which thought the administration at Washington had been too mild.  President Lincoln understood that the coming of the Missourians meant more than their local appeal.  The Missourians understood, too, the importance of their mission.  On the way to Washington the seventy had stopped in city after city, had been given enthusiastic reception by the antislavery leaders; they had been encouraged to make their appeal for a new policy in Missouri insistent and to stand on the platform that the border states must now wipe out slavery of loyal owners.

Hence it was that immediately upon their arrival in Washington the seventy Missourians coming from a slave state put into their address to the president such an avowal as this:

We rejoice that in your proclamation of January 1, 1863, you laid the mighty hand of the nation upon that gigantic enemy of American liberty and we and our constituents honor you for that wise and noble act.  We and they hold that that proclamation did, in law, by its own force, liberate every slave in the region it covered; that it is irrevocable, and that from the moment of its issue the American people stood in an impregnable position before the world and the rebellion received its death blow.  If you, Mr. President, felt that duty to your country demanded that you should unshackle the slaves of the rebel states in an hour, we see no earthly reason why the people of Missouri should not, from the same sense of duty, strike down with equal suddenness the traitorous and parricidal institution in their midst.

According to aide John Hay, the president says: “I suppose the committee now before me is the culmination of a movement inaugurated by a Convention held in Missouri last month, and is intended to give utterance to their well considered views on public affairs in that state.  The purpose of this delegation has been widely published and their progress to the city everywhere noticed.  It is not therefore to be expected that I shall reply hurriedly to your address.  It  would not be consistent either with a proper respect for you, or a fair consideration of the subject involved to give you a hasty answer.  I will take your address, carefully consider it and read it at my earliest convenience.  I shall consider it, without partiality for or prejudice against any man or party; no painful memories of the past and no hopes for the future, personal to myself shall hamper my judgment.”

President Lincoln defends Schofield against their vague attacks: “I am sorry you have not been more specific in the statements you have seen fit to make about Gen. Schofield.  I had heard in advance of your coming that apart of your mission was to protest against his administration & I thought I should hear some definite statements of grievances instead of vague denunciations which are so easy to make and yet so unsatisfactory.  But I have been disappointed.  If you could tell me what Gen[.] Schofield has done that he should not have done, or what omitted that he should have done, your case would be plain.  You have on the contrary only accused him vaguely of sympathy with your enemies.  I cannot act on vague impressions.  Show me that he has disobeyed orders: show me that he has done something wrong & I will take your request for his removal into serious consideration.  He has never protested against an order – never neglected a duty with which he has been entrusted so far as I know.  When Gen. Grant was struggling in Mississippi and needed reinforcement no man was so active and efficient in sending him troops as Gen. Schofield.  I know nothing to his disadvantage.  I am not personally acquainted with him.  I have with him no personal relations.  If you allege a definite wrongdoing & having clearly made your point, prove it, I shall remove him.”

Kansas Senator James Lane presses the point: “Do you think it is sufficient cause for the removal of a General, that he has lost the entire confidence of the people.”  President Lincoln suggested not if the causes were unjust, but Lane pressed forward: “General Schofield has lost that confidence.”  There were murmurs of approval from the delegation but President Lincoln said: “I am in possession of facts that convince me that Gen[.] Schofield has not lost the confidence of the entire people of Missouri.”  The delegates suggested that he had lost the confidence of “All loyal people.”  Again Lane pressed: “There are no parties and no factions in Kansas – All our people demand his removal.”  He added: “The massacre of Lawrence, is in the opinion of th people of Kansas, solely due to the embicility [sic] of Gen. Schofield.”

President Lincoln again demurrs: “As to that, it seems to me that is a thing which could be done by any one making up his mind to the consequences, and could no more be guarded against than assassination.  If I make up my mind to kill you for instance, I can do it and [three?] hundred gentleman [sic] could not prevent it.  They could avenge but could not save you.”  Delegation members then pressed various points – incoherently and ineptly in the view of Hay.  “In every instance, a question or two from the President pricked the balloon of loud talk and collapsed it around the rears of the delegate to his no small disgust and surprise.  The baffled patriot would retreat to a sofa & think the matter over again or would stand in his place and quietly listen in a bewildered manner to the talk and discomfiture of another.”

One delegate suggests: “We are your friends and the Conservatives are not.” President Lincoln replied: ”These so called Conservatives will avoid, as a general thing, votes, or any action, which will in any way interfere with or imperil, the success of their party.  For instance they will vote for supplies, and such other measures as are absolutely necessary to sustain the Government.  They will do this selfishly.  They do not wish that the Government should fall, for they expect to obtain possession of it.  At the same time their support will not be hearty: their votes are not equal to those of the real friends to the Administration.  They do not give so much strength.  They are not worth so much.  My Radical friends will therefore see that I understand and appreciate their position.  Still you appear to come before me as my friends if I agree with you, but not otherwise.  I do not here speak of mere personal friendship, as between man and man, – when I speak of my friends I mean those who are friendly to my measures, to the policy of the government.

I am well aware that by many, by some even among this delegation, – I shall not name them, – I have been in public speeches and in printed documents charged with ‘tyranny’ and willfulness, with a disposition to make my own personal will supreme.  I do not intend to be a tyrant.  At all events I shall take care that in my own eyes I do not become one.  I shall always try and preserve one friend within me, whoever else fails me, to tell me that I have not been a tyrant, and that I have acted right.  I have no right to act the tyrant to mere political opponents.  If a man votes for supplies of men and money; encourages enlistments; discourages desertions; does all in his power to carry to the war on to a successful issue, – I have no right to question him for his abstract political opinions.  I must make a dividing line, some where, between those who are the opponents of the Government and those who only oppose peculiar features of my administration while they sustain the Government.”

Mr. Lincoln advocated gradual emancipation.  He complained to the delegation: “My friends in Missouri last winter did me a great unkindness.  I had relied upon my Radical friends as my mainstay in the management of affairs in that state and they disappointed me.  I had recommended Gradual Emancipation, and Congress had endorsed that course.  The Radicals in Congress voted for it.  The Missouri delegation in Congress went for it, – went, as I thought, right.  I had the highest hope that at last Missouri was on the right track.  But I was disappointed by the immediate emancipation movements It endangers the success of the whole advance toward freedom.  But you say that the gradual emancipation men were insincere;  – that they intended soon to repeal this action; that their course and their professions are purely fraudulent.  Now I do not think that a majority of the gradual Emancipationists are insincere.  Large bodies of men cannot play the hypocrite.  I announced my own opinion freely at the time.  I was in favor of gradual emancipation.  I still am so.  You must not call yourselves my friends, if you are only so while I agree with you.  According to that, if you differ with me you are not my friends.”

At the end of the meeting, according to Clarke, “Mr. Drake stepped forward and, addressing the president, who was standing, said, with deliberation and emphasis.  ‘The hour has come when we can no longer trespass upon your attention.  Having submitted to you in a formal way a statement of our grievances, we will take leave of you, asking the privilege that each member of the delegation may take you by the hand.  But, in taking leave of you, Mr. President, let me say to you many of these gentlemen return to a border state filled with disloyal sentiment.  If upon their return there the military policies of your administration shall subject them to risk of life in the defense of the government and their blood shall be shed — let me tell you, Mr. President, that their blood shall be upon your garments and not upon ours.’” Clarke reported that the President responded “[w]ith great emotion.  Tears trickled down his face, as we filed by shaking his hand. “

In their notes of the meeting, John Hay and William O. Stoddard concluded: “In the main ignorant and well meaning, they chose for their spokesman Drake who is  neither ignorant nor well meaning, who covered the marrow of what they wanted to say in a purposeless mass of unprofitable verbiage which they accepted because it sounded well, and the President will reject because it is nothing but sound.  He is a man whom only the facts of the toughest kind can move and Drake attacked him with tropes & periods which might have had weight in a Sophomore Debating Club.  And so the great Western Delegation from which good people hoped so much for freedom, discharged their little rocket, and went home with no good thing to show for coming – a little angry and a good deal bewildered – not clearly seeing why they have failed – as the President seemed so fair and their cause so good.”

Clarke was more upbeat in his remembrance: “We did not receive specific promises, but I think we felt much better toward the close than we had felt in the first hour.  The president spoke generally of his purposes rather than with reference to conditions in Missouri.  Toward the close of the conference he went on to speak of his great office, of its burdens, of its responsibilities and duties.  Among other things he said that in the administration of the government he wanted to be the president of the whole people and of no section.  He thought we, possibly, failed to comprehend the enormous stress that rested upon him.  ‘It is my ambition and desire,’ he said with considerable feeling, ‘to so administer the affairs of the government while I remain president that if at the end I shall have lost every other friend on earth I shall at least have one friend remaining and that one shall be down inside me.’”

Two months later, John Hay wrote in his diary that President Lincoln told him: “I talked to these people in this way when they came to me this fall.  I saw that their attack on Gamble was malicious.  They moved against him by flank attacks from different sides of the same question.  They accused him of enlisting rebel soldiers among the enrolled militia: and of exempting all the rebels and forcing Union men to do the duty: all this in the blindness of passion.  I told them they were endangering the election of Senator: that I thought their duty was to elect Henderson and Gratz Brown; and nothing has happened in our politics which has pleased me more than that incident.”1

One Missouri delegate, Enos Clarke, recalled: “The address was the result of several meetings we held after we reached Washington.  We were there nearly a week.  Arriving on Saturday, we did not have our conference at the White House until Wednesday.  Every day we met in Willard’s Hall, on F street, and considered the address.  Mr. Drake would read over a few paragraphs, and we would discuss them.  At the close of the meeting Mr. Drake would say, ‘I will call you together to-morrow to further consider this matter.”  Clarke later answered questions about the conclave:

WHO WAS THE AUTHOR OF THE ADDRESS, MR. CLARKE?

“There was no special greeting.  We went to the White House a few minutes before 9, in accordance with the appointment which had been made, and took seats in the east room.  Promptly at 9 the president came in, unattended save by one of his secretaries.  He did not shake hands, but sat down in such a position that he faced us.  He seemed a great, ungainly, almost uncouth man.  He walked with a kind of ambling gait.  His face bore the look of depression, of deep anxiety.  Mr. Drake steped forward as soon as the president had taken his seat and began to read the address.  He had a deep, sonorous vice and he read slowly and in a most impressive manner.  The reading occupied half an hour.  At the conclusion Mr. Drake said this statement of our grievances had been prepared and signed by all of those present.

DID THE PRESIDENT SEEM TO BE MUCH AFFECTED BY THE READING?

…at the conclusion [Mr. Lincoln] began to discuss the address in a manner that was very disappointing to us. He took up one phase after another and talked about them without showing much interest.  In fact, he seemed inclined to treat many of the matters contained in the paper as of little importance. The things which we had felt to be so serious Mr. Lincoln treated as really unworthy of much consideration.  This was the tone in which he talked at first.  He minimized what seemed to us most important.

DID HE INDULGE IN ANY STORY TELLING OR HUMOROUS COMMENT?

No. There was nothing that seemed like levity at that stage of the conference.  On the contrary the president was almost impatient, as if he wished to get through with something disagreeable.  When he had expressed the opinion that things were not so serious as we thought he began to ask questions, many of them.  He elicited answers from different members of the delegation.  He started argument, parrying some of the opinions expressed by us and advancing opinions contrary to the conclusions of the Committee of Seventy.  This treatment of our grievances was carried so far that most of us felt a sense of deep chagrin.  But after continuing in this line for some time the president’s whole manner underwent change.  It seemed as if he had been intent upon drawing us out.  When satisfied that he fully understood us and had measured the strength of our purpose, the depth of our feeling, he took up the address as if anew.  He handled the various grievances in a most serious manner.  He gave us the impression that he was disposed to regard them with as much concern as we did.  After a while the conversation became colloquial between the president and the members of the delegation — more informal and more sympathetic.  The change of tone made us feel that were going to get consideration.

WHAT INSIRED THAT ASSERTION IN THE ADDRESS THAT THE PRESIDENT HAD SPOKEN OF THE TROUBLE IN MISSOURI AS A ‘FACTIONAL QUARREL’?

It was based on a letter President Lincoln had written to Gen. Schofield some time previously.  A copy of that letter was before us when we drew up the address. Apparently, for the purose of informing Gen. Schofield of his view of affairs in Missouri, Mr. Lincoln had written to him in this way: ‘I did not relieve Gen. Curtis because of my full conviction that he had done wrong by commission or omission.  I did it because of a voncition in my mind that the Union men of Missouri, constituting, when united, a vast majority of the whole people, have entered into a pestilent factional quarrel among themselves. Gen. Curtis, perhaps not of choice, being the head of one faction and Gov. Gamble that of the other.  After months of labor to reconcile the difficulty, it seemed to grow worse and worse until I felt it my duty to break it up somehow, and, as I could not remove Gov. Gamble, I had to remove gen. Curtis.’  This letter had found its way to the public and was made the basis of what our address said by way of vindication of the Radical Union men.

DID THE PRESIDENT MAKE ANY REFERENCE TO THAT PART OF THE ADDRESS ABOUT THE ‘FACTIONAL QUARREL’?

Yes, he did.  And it was bout the only thing he said it had a touch of humor in that long conversation.  In the course of his reply to us he took up that grievance.  ‘Why,’ he said, ‘you are a long way behind the times in complaining of what I said upon that point.  Gov. Gamble was ahead of you.  There came to me some time ago a letter complaining because I had said that he was a party to a factional quarrel, and I answered that letter without reading it.  Well, I’ll tell you. My private secretary told me such a letter had been received and I saw down and wrote to Gov. Gamble in about these words: I understand that a letter has been received from you complaining that I said you were a party to a factional quarrel in Missouri.  I have not read that letter, and, what is more, I never will.’  With that Mr. Lincoln dismissed our grievance about having been called parties to a factional quarrel.  He left us to draw our inference from what he said, as he had left Gov. Gamble to construe the letter without help.

DID THE CONFERENCE PROGRESS TO SATISFACTORY CONCLUSIONS AFTER THE PRESIDENT’S MANNER CHANGED?

We did not receive specific promises, but I think we felt much better toward the close than we had felt in the first hour.  The president spoke generally of his purposes rather than with reference to conditions in Missouri.  Toward the close of the conference he went on to speak of his great office, of its burdens, of its responsibilities and duties.  Among other things he said that in the administration of the government he wanted to be the president of the whole people and of no section.  He thought we, possibly, failed to comprehend the enormous stress that rested upon him.  ‘It is my ambition and desire,’ he said with considerable feeling, ‘to so administer the affairs of the government while I remain president that if at the end I shall have lost every other friend on earth I shall at least have one friend remaining and that one shall be down inside me.’

HOW LONG DID THE CONFERENCE CONTINUE

Three hours.  It was nearly noon when the president said what I have just quoted.  That seemed to be the signal to end the conference.  Mr. Drake stepped forward and, addressing the president, who was standing, said, with deliberation and emphasis.  ‘The hour has come when we can no longer trespass upon your attention.  Having submitted to you in a formal way a statement of our grievances, we will take leave of you, asking the privilege that each member of the delegation may take you by the hand.  But, in taking leave of you, Mr. President, let me say to you many of these gentlemen return to a border state filled with disloyal sentiment.  If upon their return there the military policies of your administration shall subject them to risk of life in the defense of the government and their blood shall be shed — le me tell you, Mr. President, that their blood shall be upon your garments and not upon ours.’

HOW DID THE PRESIDENT RECEIVE THAT?

With great emotion.  Tears trickled down his face, as we filed by shaking his hand.

President Lincoln writes General John M. Schofield, commander of the Union Army in Missouri: “Governor Gamble having authorized Colonel Moss, [3] of Liberty, Mo., to arm the men in Platte and Clinton counties, he has armed mostly the returned Rebel soldiers and men under bonds. Moss’ men are now driving the Union men out of Missouri. Over one hundred families crossed the river to-day. Many of the wives of our Union soldiers have been compelled to leave. Four or five Union men have been murdered by Colonel Moss’ men. Please look to this; and if true, in whole or part put a stop to it.”  Schofield responded “that the report from Leavenworth . . . is a gross misrepresentation and exaggeration. A few men who claim to be loyal, but who have been engaged in murder, robbery, and arson, have been driven out….It is a base attempt of my enemies to influence your action.”


1  Michael Burlingame and John R. Turner Ettlinger, editors, Inside Lincoln’s White House: The Complete Civil War Diary of John Hay, p. 124. (December 10, 1863).

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President Lincoln Responds to Sons of Temperance

September 29, 1863

The Lincoln Administration cabinet meets but with low attendance according to Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase:  “Neither Mr. Seward nor Mr. Stanton were present.  They seemed, reasonably enough, to have given up attendance on these meetings of the Heads of Departments as useless; and, for ought I [Chase] see I may as well follow their example.”

Later, President Lincoln addresses delegation of Sons of Temperance in East Room of Executive Mansion.

As a matter of course, it will not be possible for me to make a response coextensive with the address which you have presented to me. If I were better known than I am, you would not need to be told that in the advocacy of the cause of temperance you have a friend and sympathizer in me.

When I was a young man, long ago, before the Sons of Temperance as an organization, had an existence, I in an humble way, made temperance speeches, [applause] and I think I may say that to this day I have never, by my example, belied what I then said. [Loud applause.]

In regard to the suggestions which you make for the purpose of the advancement of the cause of temperance in the army, I cannot make particular responses to them at this time. To prevent intemperance in the army is even a part of the articles of war. It is part of the law of the land—and was so, I presume, long ago—to dismiss officers for drunkenness. I am not sure that consistently with the public service, more can be done than has been done. All, therefore, that I can promise you is, (if you will be pleased to furnish me with a copy of your address) to have it submitted to the proper Department [2] and have it considered, whether it contains any suggestions which will improve the cause of temperance and repress the cause of drunkenness in the army any better than it is already done. I can promise no more than that.

I think that the reasonable men of the world have long since agreed that intemperance is one of the greatest, if not the very greatest of all evils amongst mankind. That is not a matter of dispute, I believe. That the disease exists, and that it is a very great one is agreed upon by all.

The mode of cure is one about which there may be differences of opinion. You have suggested that in an army—our army—drunkenness is a great evil, and one which, while it exists to a very great extent, we cannot expect to overcome so entirely as to leave [have?] such successes in our arms as we might have without it. This undoubtedly is true, and while it is, perhaps, rather a bad source to derive comfort from, nevertheless, in a hard struggle, I do not know but what it is some consolation to be aware that there is some intemperance on the other side, too, and that they have no right to beat us in physical combat on that ground. [Laughter and applause.]

But I have already said more than I expected to be able to say when I began, and if you please to hand me a copy of your address it shall be considered. I thank you very heartily, gentlemen, for this call, and for bringing with you these very many pretty ladies.

The Radical delegation from Missouri requests an interview to push for removal of General John Schofield as the Union commander in Missouri.  Schofield had threatened with arrest   Presidential aide John Hay wrote in his diary: “I Had a little talk with the Presdt. today about the Missourians.  He says that they come he supposes to demand principally the removal of Schofield – and if they can show that Schofield has done anything wrong & has interfered to their disadvantage with State politics – or has so acted as to damage the cause of the Union and good order their case is made.  But on the contrary he (A.L.) thinks that it will be found that Schofield is a firm competent energetic and eminently fair man, and that he has incurred their ill will by refusing to take sides with them in their local politics; that he (A.L.) does not think it in the province of a military commander to interfere with the local politics or to influence elections actively in one way or another.”

I told him the impression derived from talking with people from there was that there were two great parties in Missouri, the Secession sympathizing Democrats & the Radicals – that the Union Conservatives were too small to reckon – that the Radicals would carry the State and it would be well not to alienate them if it could be avoided, especially as their principles were in fact ours and their objects substantially the same as ours.  He seemed fully to recognize this and other things in the same strain.

He suddenly said, These people will come here claiming to be my best friends, but let me show you a letter from Joe Hay.  He showed me one from Uncle Joe, saying that Drake had recently in a speech a[t] LaGrange denounced him for a tyrannical interference with the convention through his agent Schofield, referring of course to the letter he wrote Schofield in June in reply to S’s telegram earnestly soliciting from him some statement of his views, in favor of gradual emancipation and promising that the power of the general government would not be used against the slaveowners for the time being provided they adopted an ordinance of Emancipation – stating at the same time that he hoped the time of consummation would be short and a provision be made against sales into permanent slavery in the meantime.  He said after rereading his own letter, ‘I believe that to be right & I will stand by it.”

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Union Troops to Relieve East Tennessee

September 28, 1863

Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase writes in his diary regarding transfer of troops to General Rosecrans: “Thus in five days the men who, as the President was ready to bet, could not be got to Washington, would be already past that point on their way to Rosecrans, while their advance had reached the Ohio River.”

Navy Secretary Gideon Welles writes in his diary: “The President read to Seward and myself a detailed confidential dispatch from Chattanooga very derogatory to [Generals] Crittenden and McCook, who wilted when every energy and resource should have been put forth, disappointed from the battle-field, returned to Chattanooga, and – went to sleep.  The officers who did their duty are dissatisfied.  We had their statements last week, which this confidential dispatch confirms.  It makes some, but not a very satisfactory, excuse for Rosecrans, in whom the President has clearly lost confidence.  He said he was urged to change all the officers, but thought he should limit his acts to Crittenden and McCook; said it would not do to send one of our generals from the East.  I expressed a doubt if he had any one suitable for that command or the equal of Thomas, if a change was to be made.  There was no one in the army who, from what I had seen and know of him, was os fitted for that command as General Thomas.  Rosecrans had stood well with the country until this time, but Thomas was a capable general, had undoubted merit, and was a favorite with the men.  Seward thought the whole three – Rosecrans, Crittenden, and McCook – should be removed.”

President Lincoln writes General Ambrose E. Burnside to try to bridge disagreements between Union commanders: “You can perhaps communicate with Gen. Rosecrans more rapidly by sending telegrams to him at Chattanooga.  Think of it.  I send a like despatch to him.”  In another telegram wrote: “We are sending you two small corps, one under General Howard, and one under General Slocum, and the whole under General Hooker. Unfortunately the relations between Generals Hooker and Slocum are not such as to promise good, if their present relative positions remain.  Therefore let me beg, — almost enjoin upon you — that on their reaching you, you will make a transposition by which Gen. Slocum with his corps, may pass from under the command of Gen. Hooker, and Gen. Hooker, in turn, receive some other equal force. It is important for this to be done, though we could not well arrange it here.”

Presidential aide John Hay writes in his diary: “The Missouri Radicals are here, staying at Willard’s.  They are making up their case with a great deal of care and have not yet waited upon the President Hawkins Taylor is very anxious for the President to meet them on a friendly basis.  He says he had been in Missouri the past season & knows the state of affairs: that these people are really the President’s friends: that the Conservatives are only waiting a favorable opportunity to pronounce against him: that these radicals will certainly carry the state in the next election: and that to use their own expression ‘It is for the President to decide whether he will ride in their wagon or not.’  I had previously been a good deal impressed with the fact that the Blairs were not the safest guides about Missouri matters, and that the surest reliance could be placed on men who were passionately devoted to the principle which the Republican party represents and upholds.  The ‘Mo Repn’ devoted to the interest of the Conservatives in Missouri and of the Copperheads in Illinois, seems to me a significant indication of the ultimate tendencies of those people.  In that sense I have spoken to the President several times & have urged others to speak to him.  He gets the greater part of his information from the Blairs & the Bates people who do not seem to me entirely impartial.  Noble fellows they are though I have no sympathy with the radical abuse of them.  They stood by Freedom in a dark hour and cannot be excommunicated now by any eleventh hour converts.

President Lincoln writes military manufacturer Horatio Ames: “If you will, on or before the first day of March 1864, within the state of Connecticut, or at any point nearer this city, produce fifteen guns, each of capacity to carry a missile of at least one hundred pounds weight, and notify me thereof, I will cause some person or persons to examine and test said guns; and if, upon such examination and test, it shall be the opinion of such person or persons, that said guns, or any of them, are, on the whole better guns, than any of like calibre heretofore, or now, in use in the United States, I will on account of the United States, accept said guns, or so many thereof as shall be so favorably reported on, and advise that you be paid for all so accepted, at the rate of Eighty five cents per pound, avoirdupois weight, of said guns so accepted; it being understood that I have no public money at my control, with which I could make such payment absolutely.

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President Arranges for Relief of Union Troops in Tennessee

September 27, 1863

Presidential aide John Hay writes that General Slocum and Secretary of State William H. Seward visit President Lincoln at the White House: “The result of the visit, a request by the President to Genl Rosecrans urging him to take Slocum from Hooker’s force and give Hooker some corresponding force.  Slocum does not seem to me a very large man.  He seems peevish, irritable, fretful.  Hooker says he is all that on account of his digestive apparatus being out of repair.  Hooker does not speak unkindly of him; while he never mentions Hook but to attack him.”

Later, Hay “rode out to the Soldiers Home with Hooker.  The President, who has been spending the evening at the War Dept. Arranging some plan by which Burnside may be allowed to continue his occupation and protection of East Tennessee, went out at 9 oclock & Hooker who wanted to take leave went out afterwards, picking me up on the street.  He does not specially approve of the campaign down there.  He thinks we might force them to fight at disadvantage, instead of allowing them to continually choose the battleground.   Does not think much can be made by lengthening Rosecrans’ line indefinitely into Georgia.  Atlanta is a good thin on account of its railroads & store houses & factories.  But a long line weakens an army by constant details while the enemy falling back gradually keeps his army intact till the itinerary equalizes the opposing forces.”

Hooker goes in the morning. I hope they will give him a fair show.  Slocum’s hostility is very regrettable.  Hooker is a fine fellow.  The President says “Whenever trouble arises I can always rely upon Hooker’s magnanimity.’  The President this morning asked him to write to him.  I told him if he did not wish to write to the President he might write to me.  I wish I was able to go with him.  But Nicolay is in the mountains getting beef on his bones and I am a prisoner here.  With Rosecrans, Sherman, Burnside & Hooker, they will have a magnificent army there is a few days & some great fighting if Bragg does not run.  Deserters say A. P. Hill is coming.  I don’t believe that.

Rather maddingly, General Ambrose Burnside demanded specific instructions about what was expected of him: “Does the President’s order requiring me to move with my force intend the evacuation of that portion of East Tennessee held by me, or do you desire sufficient force left here to hold the line of the railroad? . . . .

You . . . speak of my delay. I have made no delay. I was ordered to move into East Tennessee. . . . I was then ordered to hold the railroad to the crossing of the Holston River, and the gaps of the mountains leading into North Carolina, and to recruit all the men possible. . . . I made dispositions to carry out these orders which necessarily scattered my forces. . . . Had we commenced moving to General Rosecrans by detail down the north side of the Tennessee River, as we were directed, the cavalry . . . of the enemy would have destroyed our trains and prevented any possibility of an effective junction with Rosecrans. . . . If I can be allowed to move down the south side of the river, keeping a force between the enemy and our depots here . . . I feel quite sure we can do Rosecrans some good. . . . In order to satisfy you of our disposition to aid General Rosecrans, if you desire the evacuation of East Tennessee, we can do it at once, but I must say that I think the move would be very unwise.

President Lincoln telegraphs General Ambrose E. Burnside, even more insistently, to support General William Rosecrans: “Your despatch just received. My order to you meant simply that you should save Rosecrans from being crushed out, believing if he lost his position, you could not hold East Tennessee in any event; and that if he held his position, East Tennessee was substantially safe in any event. This despatch is in no sense an order. Gen. Halleck will answer you fully.”

Halleck wrote Burnside during the evening: ”The substance of all telegrams from the President and from me is, you must go to General Rosecrans’ assistance, with all your available force, by such route as, under the advices given you from here and such information as you can get, you may deem most practicable.  The orders are very plain, and you cannot mistake their purport.  It only remains for your to execute them.  General Rosecrans is holding Chattanooga and waiting reenforcements from you.  East Tennessee must be held at all hazards, if possible.   The President has just shown me his telegram, which is added, and in which I fully concur.”

It was suggested to you, not ordered, that you should move to Rosecrans on the North side of the river, because it was believed the enemy would not permit you to join him if you should move on the South side. Hold your present positions, and send Rosecrans what you can spare, in the quickest and safest way. In the mean time, hold the remainder as nearly in readiness to go to him as you can consistently with the duty it is to perform while it remains. East Tennesse can be no more than temporarily lost, so long as Chattanooga is firmly held..”

In the morning, according to John Hay, Hawkins Taylor had a talk with [President Lincoln regarding conflicting Missouri factions]….& came out very much disheartened.  He thinks there is no hope of an agreement.”

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

Radical Delegation from Missouri Demands Changes

September 26, 1863

Missouri continues to be a hotbed of discontent between feuding Union factions.  The Radicals have sent a “Committee of Seventy” to Washington to meet with President Lincoln.   Attorney General Edward Bates writes in his diary: “Last night we recd. Letters from Broadhead and Rollins on the subject of the Radical Delegation.  This morning called on the Prest, gave him the letters and had a free and pointed conversation – i.e. he said he wd. not remove Schofield, unless something new and unexpected shd. Be made out agst him.”

Journalist Noah Brooks, a Lincoln confidant, writes of the upcoming 1864 presidential election: “Almost everybody would like to be President, and there are but few persons who realize any of the difficulties which surround a just administration of the duties of the Executive office.  The other day a delegation from Baltimore called upon the President by appointment to consider the case of a certain citizen of Baltimore whom it was proposed to appoint to a responsible office in that city.  The delegation filed proudly in, formed a semi-circle in front of the President, and the spokesman stepped out and read a neat address to the effect that, while they had the most implicit faith in the honesty and patriotism of the President, etc., they were ready to affirm that the person proposed to be placed in office was a consummate rascal and notoriously in sympathy, in not in correspondence, with the rebels.  The speaker concluded and stepped back, and the President replied by complimenting them on their appearance and professions of loyalty, but said he was at a loss what to do with ____, as a delegation twice as large, just as respectable in appearance and no less ardent in professions of loyalty, had called upon him four days before, ready to swear, every one of them, that —- was one of the most honest and loyal men in Baltimore.  ‘Now,’ said the President, we cannot afford to call a Court of inquiry in this case, and so, as a lawyer, I shall be obliged to decide that the weight of testimony, two to one, is in favor of the client’s loyalty, and as you do not offer even any attempt to prove the truth of your suspicions, I shall be compelled to ignore them for the present.’  The delegation bade the President good morning and left.’”

President Lincoln writes Henry M. Naglee: “A curious coincidence occured in the relieving of Gen Negley [Naglee] — towit, that the Secretarys order relieving him, and Gen. Foster’s request to have him relieved were simultaneous, & independent of each other. I do not know what Foster’s reason was; but I understand Stantons to be that Negley was disinclined to raise colored troops, and he, S, wanted some one there who would take to it more heartily.”

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

Union Military Situation in Chattanooga and Knoxville Devils President

September 25, 1863

Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase describes the plan being made for the transfer of 15,000 troops from Virginia to Tennessee by railroad: “By telegram after we separated last night, the Secretary of War called the officers of the Baltimore and Ohio, the Philadelphia and Baltimore, and the Pennsylvania Central Railroads to Washington.  They were in conference with him the greater part of the day.  The movement of the troops was arranged.  It was found that the number would exceed 15,000, but no doubt was expressed that the movement would [and] could be accomplished promptly,  though not quite as soon as Stanton had anticipated.  In the evening I found myself quite unwell.

President Lincoln is clearly frustrated when he telegraphs General Ambrose Burnside: “Yours of the 23rd. is just received, and it makes me doubt whether I am awake or dreaming. I have been struggling for ten days, first through Gen. Halleck, and then directly, to get you to go to assist Gen. Rosecrans in an extremity, and you have repeatedly declared you would do it, and yet you steadily move the contrary way. On the 19th. you telegraph once from Knoxville, and twice from Greenville, acknowledging receipt of order, and saying you will hurry support to Rosecrans. On the 20th. you telegraph again from Knoxville, saying you will do all you can, and are hurrying troops to Rosecrans. On the 21st. you telegraph from Morristown, saying you will hurry support to Rosecrans; and now your despatch of the 23rd. comes in from Carter’s Station, still farther away from Rosecrans, still saying you will assist him, but giving no account of any progress made towards assisting him

You came in upon the Tennessee River at Kingston, Loudon, and Knoxville; and what bridges or the want of them upon the Holston, can have to do in getting the troops towards Rosecrans at Chattanooga is incomprehensible. They were already many miles nearer Chattanooga than any part of the Holston river is, and on the right side of it. If they are now on the wrong side of it, they can only have got so by going from the direction of Chattanooga, and that too, since you have assured us you would move to Chattanooga; while it would seem too, that they could re-cross the Holston, by whatever means they crossed it going East.

Presidential aide John Hay write colleague John G. Nicolay: “I have nothing in the world to tell you.  The town is miserably dry.”

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

Union Troops to be Shipped West to Rescue Chattanooga

September 24, 1863

Union troops in Chattanooga are besieged after the Battle of Chickamauga. President Lincoln wires General  William S. Rosecrans: “Last night we received the rebel accounts, through Richmond papers, of your late battle. They give Major Genl. Hood, as mortally wounded,  and Brigaders Preston Smith, Woolford, Walthall, Helm, of Ky, and Deshler killed; and Major Generals Preston, Cleburne and Greeg,  and Brig. Generals Benning, Adams, Bunn, Brown, and John Helm, wounded.  By confusion, the two Helms may be the same man, and Bunn and Brown may be the same man. With Burnside, Sherman, and from elsewhere, we shall get to you, from forty to sixty thousand additional men.”

In the middle of the night, Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton wires Assistant Secretary of War Charles A. Dana: ‘We have arranged to send fifteen thousand [twenty-three thousand] infantry under Hooker, and will have them in Nashville in five or six days, with orders to go immediately to wherever Rosecrans want them.’  A few minutes later he ordered Hooker by wire to seize and use all the railways he might need and to command all the ‘officers thereof’ to help and obey.”  Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase writes in his diary: “Stanton.–I propose then to send 30,000 from the Army of the Potomac.  There is no reason to expect that General Meade will attack Lee, although greatly superior in force; and his great numbers where they are, are useless.  In five days 30,00 could be put with Rosecrans.”  He added: “The President.–I will be that if the order is given tonight, the troops could not be got to Washington in five days.

The assistance of Stanton biographer Frank A. Flower wrote in Edwin McMasters Stanton: “At breakfast time President Garrett arrived in the War Office, followed before noon by T.A. Scott and S.M. Felton, from whom the amount of rolling stock instantly available was learned.  Stanton had not yet slept nor eaten, and Townsend, the adjutant-general, was trotting about with a half-eaten sandwich in one hand and a bundle of Stanton’s orders to be sent immediately in the other.”

Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase writes in his diary : “Having gone home last evening very weary, was called up from my bed about midnight by a messenger from the War Department, who said I was wanted there immediately. The summons really alarmed me. I felt sure that disaster had befallen us; that the army of Rosecrans had been attacked before his defenses were completed, and had been compelled to surrender, or had been defeated with great loss in another bloody battle, and its remains driven across the Tennessee. Great was my relief when reaching the War Department, and asking, ‘More bad news?’ Stanton replied, ‘No; what there is favorable.’ He then handed me a telegram from [General James] Garfield to myself, which stated that Rosecrans could hold out ten days where he was, but earnestly urged reinforcements. Other telegrams from Rosecrans and Dana gave encouraging expectations that he could hold out still longer time. Both also urged reinforcements. After a littlo while the President and Mr. Seward also came in. General Hal leek was already there. Mr. Stanton then opened the conference by inquiring of General Halleck what reinforcements Burnside could add to Rosecrans, and in what time. Halleck replied, twenty thousand men in ten days, if uninterrupted. The President then said, ‘Before ten days Burnside will put in enough to hold the place, (Chattanooga).

“Stanton to Halleck—How many in eight days?

“Halleck—12,000.

“The President—After Burnside begins to arrive the pinch will be over.

“Stanton—Unless the enemy, anticipating reinforcements, attacks promptly. (To Halleck)—When will Sherman’s reach Rosecrans?

“Halleck—In about ten days, if already moved from Vicksburg. His route will be to Memphis, thence to Corinth and Decatur, and a march of a hundred or a hundred and fifty miles on the north side of the Tennessee river. Boats have already gone down from Cairo, and every available man ordered forward, say from twenty to twentyfive thousand.

“Stanton—Are any more available elsewhere?

“Halleck—A few in Kentucky; I don’t know how many; all were ordered to Burnside.

“Stanton—I propose to send 30,000 from the Army of the Potomac. There is no reason to expect that General Meade will attack Lee, although greatly superior in force; and his great numbers, where they are, are useless. In five days 30,000 could be put with Rosecrans.

“The President—I will bet that if the order is given to-night the troops could not be got to Washington in five days.

“Stanton—On such a subject I don’t feel inclined to bet; but the matter has been carefully investigated, and it is certain that 30,000 bales of cotton could be sent in that time, by taking possession of the railroads and excluding all other business, and I do not see why 30,000 men can not be sent as well. But if 30,000 can’t be sent, let 20,000 go.

“Much conversation followed, the President and Halleck evidently disinclined to weaken Meade’s force, whilst Seward and myself were decided in recommending the reinforcement of Rosecrans. It was at length agreed that Halleck should telegraph to Meade in the morning, and if an immediate advance was not certain, the Eleventh and Twelfth Corps, supposed to make about 13,000 men, should be sent westward at once, under Hooker, with Butterfield as his chief-of-staff.”

Most surviving telegrams from President Lincoln to his wife are relatively brief.  But today, President Lincoln chooses to present a relatively detailed picture of the war to his wife in New York: “We now have a tolerably accurate summing up of the late battle between Rosecrans and Bragg. The result is that we are worsted, if at all, only in the fact that we, after the main fighting was over, yielded the ground, thus leaving considerable of our artillery and wounded to fall into the enemies’ hands, for which we got nothing in turn. We lost, in general officers, one killed, and three or four wounded, all Brigadiers; while according to rebel accounts, which we have, they lost six killed, and eight wounded. Of the killed, one Major Genl. and five Brigadiers, including your brother-in-law, Helm;  and of the wounded, three Major Generals, and five Brigadiers. This list may be reduced two in number, by correction of confusion in names. At 11/40 A.M. yesterday Gen. Rosecrans telegraph[ed] from Chattanooga ‘We hold this point, and I can not be dislodged, except by very superior numbers, and after a great battle’’ A despatch leaving there after night yesterday says, ‘No fight to-day.’”

President Lincoln writes to Pennsylvania Governor Andrew G. Curtin: “The Secretary of War tells me the claims for draft expences of last year, have been paid, except a few of questionable fairness; and that the appropriation, the amount of which I think he says was fixed by yourself, has been almost entirely expended. The reasonable requests you speak of we are complying with as nearly as we can. “

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

War Council Assembles Late at Night at the War Department

September 23, 1863

President Lincoln writes General William S. Rosecrans in Chattanooga: “Below is Bragg’s despatch, as found [in] the Richmond papers. You see he does not claim so many prisoners or captured guns, as you were inclined to concede. He also confesses to heavy loss. An exchanged General of ours leaving Richmond yesterday says two of Longstreets Divisions, & his entire Artillery, and two of Picketts brigades, and Wies’ CHECK legion, have gone to Tennessee. He mentions no other.”

News from Tennessee prompts an unusual late-night summons for President Lincoln to come to the War Department from the Soldiers Home. They came together to discus the practicability of reinforcing Rosecrans from Meade.   At night, writes presidential aide John Hay: “I found on my table some interesting despatches from the Rebel papers which I thought the President would like to read.  Among other things chronicling the death of B. Hardin Helms Mrs. L’s brother in law who spent some time with the family here and was made a paymaster by the President.  I took them over to the War Department to give them to an orderly to carry to the President.  I found there the Sec. Of War who was just starting to the Solders’ Home to request the President to come to the Department to attend a council to be held there that night rendered expedient, as he said, by recent despatches from Chattanooga.”

While I was in the room they were endeavoring to decipher an intricate message from Rosecrans giving reasons for the failure of the battle.  The Secy. says “‘I know the reasons well enough.  Rosecrans ran away from his fighting men and did not stop for thirteen miles.  No, they need not shuffle it off on the McCook.  He is not much of a soldier.  I was never in favor of him for a major-general.  But he is not accountable for this business.  He and Crittenden made pretty good time away from the fight to Chattanooga, but Rosecrans beat them both.’

I went out to the Soldiers Home, through a splendid moonlight, & found the President abed.  I delivered my message to him, as he dressed himself & he was considerably disturbed.  I assured him as far as I could that it meant nothing serious, but he thought otherwise, as it was the first time Stanton had ever sent for hm.  When he got in however we found a despatch from Rosecrans stating that he could hold Chattanooga against double his number: could not be taken until after a great battle: his stampede evidently over.

They came together to discuss the practicability of reinforcing Rosecrans from Meade. Present A Lincoln, Halleck, Stanton, Seward, Chase, Watson & Hardie: and for a while McCallum.  It was resolved to do it.  The 11th and 12th Corps were selected for the purpose, Hooker to be placed in command of both.  Finished the evening with a supper by Stanton at 1 o’clock where few ate.”

Stanton told the Cabinet: “‘I propose to send 30,00 men from the Army of the Potomac.  There is no reason to expect that General Meade will attack Lee, although greatly superior in force, and his great numbers a re, where they are, useless.  In five days 30,000 men could be put with Rosecrans.”  Lincoln was skeptical: ‘I will bet that if the order is given tonight the troops could not be got to Washington in five days.’  Stanton responded:

On such a subject I don’t care to bet, but the matter has been carefully investigated, and it is certain that 30,000 bales of cotton could be sent in that time; and by taking possession of the railroads and excluding all other business, I do not see why 30,000 men cannot be sent as well.  But if 30,000 can’t be sent, let 20,000 go.’

Ultimately, Stanton’s will and determination prevailed and orders were made to transfer 20,000 men to the Tennessee front. Historian Frank A. Flowers wrote in Edwin McMasters Stanton, “Having thus conquered opposition and sent an orderly with Lincoln back to the Soldiers’ Home, he did not retire, but began setting the machinery of his thrilling plan of rescue in motion.  While waiting for the messengers to bring Lincoln and the cabinet members, he had telegraphed to John W. Garrett, Thomas A Scott, and S. M. Felton, the railway managers, to come to Washington as soon as possible, and asked for essential information from the several railway superintendents south of the Ohio River…”

President Lincoln writes Robert A. Maxwell regarding the heroic actions of General George Thomas at the Battle of Chickamauga: “I hasten to say that in the State of information we have here, nothing could be more ungraceous than to indulge any suspicion towards Gen.Thomas. It is doubtful whether his heroism and skill exhibited last Sunday afternoon, has ever been surpassed in the world.”

Presidential aide John Hay writes Hiram Barney: “The President directs me to thank you for your kind favor of the 2ast of September and to say that it will give him pleasure to sit to Mr Elliott at any time which may be convenient to him.  He is unable to name any period which will be more convenient than another.”

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

Fate of Chattanooga Pondered

September 22, 1863

President Lincoln telegraphs General William S. Rosecrans, commanding beleaguered troops in Chattanooga: “We have not a word here as to the whereabouts or condition of your Army, up to a later point than Sunset Sunday the 20th. Your despatches to me of 9. A.M. and to Gen. Halleck of 2. PM. yesterday tell us nothing later on those points. Please relieve my anxiety as to the position & condition of your army up to the latest moment.”

President Lincoln telegraphs his wife in New York: “Did you receive my despatch of yesterday?  Mrs. Cuthbert did not correctly understand me.  I directed her to tell you to use your own pleasure whether to stay or come; and I did not say it is sickly & that you should on no account come.  So far as I see or know, it was never healthier, and I really wish to see you. Answer this on receipt.”

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

Mary Lincoln’s Brother-in-Law is Killed

September 21, 1863

Confederate General Benjamin Helms, husband of Mary Lincoln’s favorite half-sister,  is dies – killed at the Battle of Chickamauga.   When he received the news, President Lincoln said of his brother-in-law: “I feel as David did of old when was told of the death of Absalom.  ‘Would to God that I had died for thee!  Oh, Absalom, my son, my son.’”

General William S. Rosecrans reports to President Lincoln on the Battle of Chickamauga: “After two days of the severest fighting I ever witnessed our right and centre were beaten; The left held its position until Sunset. Our loss is heavy and our troops worn down. The Enemy recieved heavy reinforcements Saturday night. Every man of ours was in action Sunday & all but one Brigade on Saturday Our wounded large compared with the killed– We took prisoners from two divisions of Longstreet2 We have no certainty of holding our position here.– If Burnside3 could come immediately it would be well, otherwise he may not be able to join us unless he comes on west side of river

President Lincoln wrote directly to. Rosecrans to encourage him: “Be of good cheer. We have unabated confidence in you, and in your soldiers and officers. In the main you must be the judge as to what is to be done. If I were to suggest, I would say, save your army, by taking strong positions, until Burnside joins you, when I hope you can turn the tide. I think you had better send a courier to Burnside to hurry him up. We can not reach him by Telegraph. We suppose some force is going to you from Corinth, but for want of communication, we do not know how they are getting along. We shall do our utmost to assist you. Send us your present posting.”  John Hay recalls that “morning he [Lincoln] came into my bedroom before I was up, & sitting down on my bed said ‘Well Rosecrans has been whipped, as I feared.  I have feared it for several days.  I believe I feel trouble in the air before it comes.  Rosecrans says we have met with a serious disaster – extent not ascertained.  Burnside instead of obeying the orders which were given him on the 14th and going to Rosecrans has gone up on foolish affair to Jonesboro to capture a party of guerillas who are there.”

White House aide William O. Stoddard writes in an anonymous newspaper dispatch of Rosecrans: “That brave and able general….finds that the rebel leaders are concentrating a large force in his front, for the evident purpose of checking his further advance, or, if possible, of compelling him to some retrograde movement.”  Stoddard writes of Washington: “The various churches are beginning to recover their scattered congregations, and the educational institutions, so long closed by the presence of war at our doors, are beginning to re-open, and call once more for their inmates.”

Navy Secretary Gideon Welles writes in his diary: “A battle was fought on Saturday near Chattanooga and resumed yesterday.  Am apprehensive our troops have suffered and perhaps are in danger.  As yet the news is not sufficiently definite.

The President came to me this afternoon with the latest news.  He was feeling badly.  Tells me a dispatch was sent to him at the Soldiers’ Home shortly after he got asleep, and so disturbed him that he had no more rest, but arose and came to the city and passed the remainder of the night awake and watchful.  He has a telegram this P.M. which he brings me that is more encouraging.  Our men stood well their ground and fought like Union heroes for their country and cause.  We conclude the Rebels have concentrated a large force to overpower Rosecrans and recapture Chattanooga.  While this has been doing, Halleck has frittered away time and dispersed our forces.  Most of Grant’s effective force appears to have been sent across the Mississippi, where a large force is not needed.  Burnside is in northeastern Tennessee, two hundred miles away from Chattanooga.  While our men are thus scattered, a large division from Lee’s army in our front has been sent under Longstreet to Bragg; and Hill’s and Ewell’s corps, it is reported, are there also.  I trust this account is exaggerated, though the President gives it credence.  I do not learn, nor can I ascertain, that General Halleck was apprised of, or even suspected, what was being done; certainly he has made no preparation.  The President is, I perceive, not satisfied, but yet he does not censure or complain.  Better, perhaps, if he did.

I expressed surprise to the President at the management and his forbearance, and it touched him. I asked what Meade was doing with his immense army and Lee’s skeleton and depleted show in front.  He said he could not learn that Meade was doing anything, or wanted to do anything.  ‘It is,’ said he, ‘the same old story of this Army of the Potomac.  Imbecility, inefficiency–don’t want to do – is defending the Capital.  I inquired of Meade,’ said he, ‘what force was in front.  Meade replied he thought there were 40,000 infantry.  I replied he might have said 50,000, and if Lee with 50,000 could defend their capital against our 90,000,–and if defense is all our armies are to do, – we might, I thought, detach 50,000 from his command, and thus leave him with 40,000 to defend us.  O,’ groaned the President, ‘it is terrible, terrible, this weakness, this indifference of our Potomac generals, with such armies of good and brave men.’

‘Why,’ said I, ‘not rid yourself of Meade, who may be a good man and a good officer but is not a great general, has not breadth or strength, certainly is not the man for the position he occupies?  The escape of Lee with his army across the Potomac has distressed me almost beyond any occurrence of the War.  And the impression made upon me in the personal interview shortly after was not what I wished, had inspired no confidence, though he is faithful and will obey order; but he can’t originate.’

The President assented to all I said, but ‘What can I do,’ he asked, ‘with such generals as we have?  Who among them is any better than Meade?  To sweep away the whole of them from the chief command and substitute a new man would cause a shock, and be likely to lead combinations and troubles greater than we now have.  I see all the difficulties as you do.  They oppress me.’

Alluding to the failures of the generals, particularly those who commanded the armies of the Potomac, he thought the selections, if unfortunate, were not imputable entirely to him.  The Generals-in-Chief and the Secretary of War should, he said, know the men better than he.  The Navy Department had given him no trouble in this respect; perhaps naval training was more uniform and equal than the military.  I thought not; said we had our troubles, but they were less conspicuous.  In the selection of Farragut and Porter, I thought we had been particularly fortunate; and Du Pont had merit also.  He thought there had not been, take it all in all, so good an appointment in either branch of the service as Farragut, whom he did not know or recollect when I gave him command.  Du Pont he classed, and has often, with McClellan, but Porter he considers a busy schemer, bold but not of high qualities as a chief.  For some reason he has not so high an appreciation of Porter as I think he deserves, but no man surpasses Farragut in his estimation.

In returning to Secretary Seward a dispatch of Minister Dayton at Paris, in relation to the predatory Rebel Florida, asking one or more fast steamers to intercept that vessel, which is now at Brest, I took a different view from the two gentlemen.  To blockade Brest would require not less than five vessels.  If we could spare five such vessels, whence would they get supply of fuel, etc?  England and France allow only sufficient to take the vessels home; and for three months thereafter our vessels receiving supplies are excluded from their ports.  As England and France have recognized the Rebels, who have no commerce, no navy, no nationality, as the equals of the United States, with whom they have treaties, and professedly, amicable relations, I deem it best under the circumstances to abstain from proceedings, I deem it best under the circumstances to abstain from proceedings which would be likely to complicate and embroil us, and would leave those countries to develop the policy which shall govern themselves and nations in the future.  They must abide the consequences.

President Lincoln sent two telegrams to General Ambrose E. Burnside.  In the first, he wrote: “Go to Rosecrans with your force, without a moment delay.”   A little later, Lincoln re-emphasized urgency: “If you are to do any good to Rosecrans it will not do to waste time with Jonesboro. It is already too late to do the most good that might have been done, but I hope it will still do some good. Please do not lose a moment.

President Lincoln writes General-in-Chief Henry W. Halleck: “I think it very important for Gen. Rosecrans to hold his position, at or about Chattanooga, because, if held from that place to Cleveland, both inclusive, it keeps all Tennessee clear of the enemy, and also breaks one of his most important Railroad lines. To prevent these consequences, is so vital to his cause, that he can not give up the effort to dislodge us from the position, thus bringing him to us, and saving us the labor, expence, and hazard of going further to find him; and also giving us the advantage of choosing our own ground, and preparing it, to fight him upon. The details must of course be left to Gen. Rosecrans, while we must furnish him the means to the utmost of our ability. If you concur, I think he would better be informed, that we are not pushing him beyond this position; and that, in fact, our judgment is rather against his going beyond it. If he can only maintain this position, without more, the rebellion can only eke out a short and feeble existence, as an animal sometimes may with a thorn in its vitals.”  That night, Rosecrans responds: “`We have just concluded a terrific days fighting and have another in prospect for tomorrow. The Enemy attempted to turn our left, but his design was anticipated and a sufficient force placed there to render his attempt abortive. The battle ground was densely wooded and its surface irregular and difficult. We could make but little use of our artillery. The number of our killed is inconsiderable, that of our wounded very heavy. The enemy was greatly our superior in number. Among our prisoners are men from some thirty regiments. We have taken ten cannon and lost seven. The Army is in excellent condition and spirits and by the blessing of Providence the defeat of the Enemy will be total tomorrow.”

President Lincoln telegraphed his wife, staying at the Fifth Avenue Hotel in New-York City: “The air is so clear and cool, and apparantly healthy, that I would be glad for you to come. Nothing very particular, but I would be glad [to] see you and Tad.”

Published in: on September 21, 2013 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment