Maryland Recruiting of Black Slaves Causes Controversy

October 21, 1863

In a meeting with Maryland slaveowners upset about Union recruiting of slaves along the Patuxent River, “the President asserted, first, that he did not know by what authority the force in question had been sent there, and accordingly he directed Mr. Watson (Acting Secretary of War in the absence of Mr. Stanton on a visit to the army) to communicate with Gen. Schenck upon that point,” reported the National Republican.  “He then added, in substance, that he thought that negroes might be recruited in Maryland by consent of masters, as they had been in the Army of the Cumberland, but he did not wish to effect the object in any rude or ungentlemanly manner. The President said he had promised Governor Bradford, Mr. Reverdy Johnson, and others that the enlistment of negroes should not take place under ninety days. He thought he would order the withdrawal of the negro troops now upon the Patuxent.”

President Lincoln writes General Robert C. Schenck regarding Schenck’s recruiting practices in Maryland: “A delegation is here saying that our armed colored troops are at many if not all the landings on the Patuxent river, and by their presence, with arms in their hands, are frightening quiet people, and producing great confusion.  Have they been sent there by any order?  and if so, for what reason?”  In a second letter, Lincoln writes:  “Please come over here.  The fact of one of our officers being killed on the Patuxent, is a specimen of what I would avoid.  It seems to me we could send white men to recruit better than to send negroes, and thus inaugerate homicides on punctillio.  Please come over.”

Presidential aide John Hay writes in his diary: Alabama planter William Crawford  “Bibb came in this morning with a couple of very intelligent East Tennesseans.  They talked in a very friendly way with the President.  I never saw him more at ease than he is with those rare patriots of the border.  He is of them really.  They stood up before a map of the Mountain Country and talked war for a good while.  They were urging upon the President the importance of a raid through Georgia and North Carolina to cut the Weldon line of a railway which will at once isolate the Army of Virginia.”

They were full of admiration for the President’s way of doing things, and especially for that farsighted military instinct which caused him to recommend last year and urge ineffectually upon Congress the building of a railroad from Louisville to Knoxville and Chattanooga.”

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

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