President Lincoln Denies Resignation Request of General Ambrose Burnside

September 11, 1863

President Lincoln writes General Ambrose E. Burnside regarding military developments in Tennessee and his resignation: “Yours received.  A thousand thanks for the late successes you have given us. We can not allow you to resign until things shall be a little more settled in East Tennessee.  If then, purely on your own account, you wish to resign, we will not further refuse you.”  Burnside had written Lincoln: “You will remember that I some time ago told you that I wished to retire to private life. The rebellion now seems pretty well checked & the work I am doing can no doubt be as well or better performed by some one else so that I can now conscientiously ask to be allowed to resign if you think the good of service will permit. I shall be here tomorrow & will be glad to get an answer I look upon East Tennessee as one of the most loyal sections of the U.S.”

Navy Secretary Gideon Welles attends his first Cabinet meeting in more than a week.  He writes in his diary: “ I left Washington on the 31st utt. on an official visit to the several navy yards. Have a good report of affairs during my absence. Met the members of the Cabinet with the exception of Stanton at the regular meeting. All glad to see me,—none more so than the President, who cordially and earnestly greeted me. I have been less absent than any other member and was therefore perhaps more missed.”

President Lincoln writes Vice President Hannibal Hamlin: “Your letter of Aug. 22nd., to be presented by your son Cyrus is on my table; but I have not seen him, or know of his being here recently.”  In his letter, Hamlin had written regarding military conditions in Louisiana: “This note will be handed you by my son Cyrus who is command of the 3d Reg. of Colored troops in La, Genl Ullmanns Brigade

He goes to Washington to submit to you and the Secy of War the difficulties and embarrassment under which the Brig has suffered and is now suffering.– I trust you will see that such remedies are applied as will remove the evils complained of and render the service more efficient. It is reported that Genl Dwight Andrews is urged or will be urged upon you for promotion to Maj. Genl. Now I submit to your candid judgment, if a Maj Genl is made in that department, if justice does not indicate Genl Ullmann2 as the man –  He went there when all was in dout and uncertainty as to what would come out of colered men for soldiers – There was a cloud over the whole movement –  It is now a grand success, or will be if put in charge of those who have a heart in the matter. Now will you consider these matters fully, and if a Maj Genl is made for that Dept. may not Genl Ullmanns name meet your approval.

President Lincoln writes to Andrew Johnson, military governor of Tennessee, to press for immediate emancipation in Tennessee,   In his diary, presidential aide John Hay observes: “Today the President wrote a letter to Andrew Johnson telling him now is the time to reorganize the loyal government of Tennessee. But it must be so done that the friends and not the enemies of the Union should be in the ascendant.  That the toil of liberating Tennessee would be purposeless and futile if the struggle ended by putting Gov Johnson down & Gov Harris up.  This must not be.”   Lincoln writes:: “All Tennessee is now clear of armed insurrectionists.  You need not to be reminded that it is the nick of time for re-inaugerating a loyal State government.  Not a moment should be lost.  You, and the co-operating friends there, can better judge of the ways and means, than can be judged by any here.  I only offer a few suggestions.  The re-inaugeration must not be such as to give control of the State, and it’s representation in Congress, to the enemies of the Union, driving it’s friends there into political exile.  The whole struggle for Tennessee will have been profitless to both State and Nation, if it so ends that Gov. Johnson is put down, and Gov. Harris is put up.  It must not be so.  You must have it otherwise.  Let the reconstruction be the work of such men only as can be trusted for the union.  Exclude all others, and trust that your government, so organized, will be recognized here, as being the one of republican form, to be guarranteed to the state, and to be protected against invasion and domestic violence.

It is something on the question of time, to remember that it can not be known who is next to occupy the position I now hold, nor what he will do.

I see that you have declared in favor of emancipation in Tennessee, for which, may God bless you.  Get emancipation into your new State government–Constitution–and there will be no such word as fail for your case.

The raising of colored troops I think will greatly help every way.

Hay writes of President Lincoln: “Arming negroes he thinks will be advantageous in every way.”  He notes “the President cannot tell who will be the next occupant of his place or what he will do .  Present action is therefore important.”  Hay writes colleague John G. Nicolay that he sent for another presidential aide William O. “Stoddard, (who had been giving the Northern watering places for the last two months a model of high breeding and unquestionable deportment) I left for a few days at Long Branch and two or three more at Providence.  I was at the commencement at Brown University and made a small chunk of a talk.  I only staid a little over a week and came back feeling heartier.”   He added:

We are [quietly] jolly over the magnificent news from all round the board.  [General William] Rosecrans won a great and bloodless victory at Chattanooga which he had no business to win.  The day that the enemy ran he sent a mutinous message to [General Henry W.]  Halleck complaining of the very things that have secured us the victories, and foreshadowing only danger and defeat.  You may talk as you please of the Abolition Cabal directly affairs from Washington: some well meaning newspapers advise the President to keep his fingers out of the military pie: and all that sort of thing.  The truth is, if he did, the pie would be a sorry mess.  The old man sits here and wields like a backwoods Jupiter the bolts of war and the machinery of government with a hand equally steady & equally firm.

His last letter is a great thing.  Some hideously bad rhetoric – some indecorums that are infamous – yet the whole letter takes its solid place in history, as a great utterance of a great man.  The whole Cabinet could not have tinkered up a letter which could have been compared with it.  He can snake a sophism out of its hole, better than all the trained logicians of all schools.

I do not know whether the nation is worthy of him for another term.  I know the people want him.  There is not mistaking that fact.  But politicians are strong yet & he is not their ‘kind of a cat.’  I hope God wont see fit to scourge us for our sins by any one of the two or three most prominent candidates on the ground.

Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase writes in his diary: “Called on the President immediately after breakfast to obtain his approval of the revised Regulations of Trade.  He referred me to the Secretary of War, wishing that the Secretary’s order to officers to observe the Regulations, should precede his approval.  Going then to the War Office, I obtained Mr. Stanton’s order, and at the Navy Department obtained that of Secretary Welles.” He added:

After [Gustavus] Fox left, the President mentioned, the resignation of General Burnside, received yesterday.– He said he was not willing to accept it at present, at any rate, as Burnside was now doing very well, and was very loyal and true-hearted.  He proposed to say to him that he could not be spared at present, but that after awhile, should success still attend us and his private affairs should make his retirement necessary, his resignation would be accepted.  Gen. Halleck them spoke briefly of affairs in and near Tennessee.  He thought Rosecrans should advance so as to hold the mountains between him and Atlanta, but not attempt to advance on Atlanta until the movements of the rebels were more fully developed.  That Burnside should also hold the country towards the eastern limits of Tennessee, but not attempt a further advance till more certain intelligence concerning the enemy and their designs….

After Stanton and Halleck had left, I explained briefly the Trade Regulations to the President, who said: ‘You understand these things: I do not,’ and signed the approval.

Presidential aide John Hay writes colleague John G. Nicolay: “Washington is as dull here as an obsolete almanac.  The weather is not so bad as it was.  The nights are growing cool.  But there is nobody here except us old stagers who cant get away. We have some comfortable dinners and some quiet little orgies on whiskey & cheese in my room.”

Published in: on September 11, 2013 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

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