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  

Gettysburg Battle Discussed at White House

October 20, 1863

Navy Secretary Gideon Welles writes in his diary: “I met General Sickles at the President’s to-day.  When I went in, the President was asking if Hancock did not select the battle-ground at Gettysburg.  Sickles said he did not, but that General Howard and perhaps himself, were more entitled to that credit than any others.  He then detailed particulars, making himself, however, much more conspicuous than Howard, who was really used as a set-off.  The narrative was, in effect, that General Howard had taken possession of the heights and occupied on Wednesday, the 1st.  He, Sickles, arrived later, between five and six P.M., and liked the position.  General Meade arrived on the ground soon after, and was for abandoning the position and falling back.  A council was called; Meade was earnest; Sickles left, but wrote Meade his decided opinion in favor of maintaining the position, which was finally agreed to against Meade’s judgment.”

Of the Cabinet meeting, Welles writes: “There was little of interest to-day at the Cabinet. Seward, Chase, and Stanton were absent.  Stanton, I am told, has gone to Tennessee.”

President Lincoln tells Attorney General Edward Bates that he “no friends in Missouri.”

Published in: on October 20, 2013 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

President Lincoln Decides to Replace General William Rosecrans

October 19, 1863

In the wake of the Union defeat at Chicakamauga, President Lincoln decides to replace General William Rosecrans with General George Thomas as commander of Union forces in eastern Tennessee.   Thomas had been the hero of the Battle of Chickamauga in mid-September.   President Lincoln tells John Hay “this morning that Rosecrans was to be removed from command of the army of Chattanooga.  Thoms is to take his original army and Grant to command the whole force, including Hooker’s and Burnside’s reinforcements.  He says Rosecrans has seemed tl lose spirit and nerve since the battle of Chic[k]amauga.  I told him that I believe Thomas would fail in attack, like Meade and others.  The vis inertia which prevents these fellows from running when attacked will prevent them from moving in the initiative.” He added: “Today I induced the President to sign a letter I wrote to Col. Rowland approving his proposed National Rifle Corps.  I think Rowland himself rather a humbug but his idea is a good one.”

President Lincoln writes Missouri Governor Hamilton R. Gamble, who is consistently upset with Administration policy in his state: “Yours of the 1st. Inst. was duly received; and I have delayed so long to answer it, because of other pressing duties; because it did not appear to me that the domestic violence you apprehend, was very imminent; and because, if it were so imminent, my direction to Gen. Schofield embraces very nearly the extent of my power to repress it.  Being instructed to repress all violence, of course he will, so far as in his power, repress any which may be offered to the State government.

At the beginning of our present troubles, the regularly installed State officers of Missouri, taking sides with the rebelion, were forced to give way to the provision State government, at the head of which you stand and which was placed in authority, as I understood, by the unanamous action and acquiesence, of the Union people of the State.  I have seen no occasion to make a distinction against that provisional government because of it’s not having been chosen and inaugurated in the usual way.  Nor have I seen any cause to suspect it of unfaithfulness to the Union.  So far as I have yet considered, I am as ready, on a proper case made, to give the State the constitutional protection against invasion and domestic violence, under the provisional government, as I would be if it were under a government installed in the ordinary manner.  I have not thought of making a distinction.

In your proclamation of the 12th Inst. you state the proposition substantially, that no objection ocan be made to any change in the State government, which the people may desire to make, so far as the end can be effected by means conforming to the constitution and laws through the expression of the popular will; but that such change should not be effected by violence.  I concur in this; and, I may add, that it makes precisely the distinction I wish to keep in view.  In the absence of such violence, or imminent danger thereof, it is not proper for the national executive to interfere; and I am unwilling, by any formal, action, to show an appearance of belief that there is such imminent danger, before I really believe there is.  I might thereby to some extent bear false witness.

You tell me ‘a party has sprung up in Missouri, which openly and loudly proclaims the purpose to overturn the provisional government by violence.’  Does the party so proclaim, or is it only that, some members of the party so proclaim?  If I mistake not, the party alluded to recently held a State convention, and adopted resolutions.  Did they, therein declare violence against the provisional State government?  No party can be justly held responsible for what individual members of it may say or do.

Nothing in this letter is written with reference to any State which may have maintained within it, no State government professedly loyal to the United States.

White House aide William O. Stoddard writes in an anonymous newspaper dispatch: “The late Elections have demonstrated that the masses of the people have full confidence in the honesty and wisdom of the Executive….The verdict given is eminently satisfactory, and must have sent a thrill of pleasure to the heart of our good President.  The people are evidently with him.”

Published in: on October 19, 2013 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Presidential aide John Hay Writes About his Meeting with former Ohio Governor William Dennison

October 18, 1863

Republican presidential politics is getting nasty.  Presidential aide John Hay writes about his meeting with former Ohio Governor William Dennison and his report to President Lincoln: “I gave him my impression of the unmanly conduct of Mr. C[hase]. in trying to cut under in the way he is doing, instancing what Denison of N.Y. had related.  He said it was very bad taste, but that he had determined to shut his eyes to all these performances: that Chase made a good secretary and that he would keep him where is.  “If he becomes Prest all right.  I hope we may never had a worse man.  I have all along clearly seen his plan of strengthening himself.  Whenever he sees that an important matter is troubling me, if I am compelled to decide it in a way to give offense to a man of some influence he always ranges himself in opposition to me and persuades the victim that he has been hardly dealt by and that he (C.) would have arranged it very differently.  It was so with Gen. Fremont–with Genl Hunter when I annulled his hasty proclamation — with Gen. Butler when he was recalled from New Orleans–with these Missouri people when they called the other day.  I am entirely indifferent as to his success or failure in these schemes, so long as he does his duty as the head of the Treasury Department.”

He talked of the Missouri matter and read to me the letter he had written Drake for the committee.  As it will probably be published I forbear synopsis.  His attitude is perfectly just and frank, courteous but immoveable.  He will not be bullied even by his friends.  He tries to reason with those infuriated people.  The world will hear him if they do not .  He read to me a letter which he has today written to Governor Gamble, who it seems, is anxious to have the Presdt. Espouse his side of the quarrel and to recognize him as the State Government and use the Federal authority to crush out the Radicals, who, he says, meditate Revolution and civil war in Missouri.  The President answering says he will be at all times ready to extend to Missouri the protection guaranteed by the Constitution against domestic domestic violence, whenever he (the Pres.) Shall see cause to suspect such violence as imminent.  He does not so regard it at present.  He thinks the instructions given to Genl Schofield cover the case.

We got into this vein of talk through my telling him what Joe Gillespie says and what I myself observed, of the tendency of public opinion in the West, almost universally in favor of the Radicals as against the Conservatives in Missouri.

Talking of the military Situation he says Lee probably came up the other day thinking our army weaker than it is and finding his mistake from the fight at Bristow is holding off at present. Rosecrans is all right though somewhat bothered about his supplies.

Tonight as I came from Dinner President said a despatch had just come in from Meade, in which he says that the enemy has disappeared from in front of him but that he does not know where is – that he has probably gone in the direction of the Rappahannock.”

Published in: on October 18, 2013 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

President Lincoln Issues Call for 300,000 Volunteers

October 17, 1863

President Lincoln releases a proclamation that declares: “Whereas, The term of service of a part of the Volunteer forces of the United States will expire during the coming year, and whereas, in addition to the men raised by the present draft, it is deemed expedient to call out three hundred thousand volunteers to serve for three years or the war, not however exceeding three years.

Now, therefore, I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States and Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy thereof, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into actual service, do issue this my Proclamation, calling upon the Governors of the different States to raise and have enlisted into the United States service, for the various companies and Regiments in the field from their respective States, their quotas of three hundred thousand men.

I further proclaim, that all volunteers thus called out and duly enlisted, shall receive advance pay, premium and bounty as heretofore communicated to the Governors of States by the War Department through the Provost Marshal General’s Office by special letters.

I further proclaim, that all volunteers received under this call, as well as all others not heretofore credited, shall be duly credited on and deducted from the quotas established for the next draft.

I further proclaim, that if any State shall fail to raise the quota assigned to it by the War Department under this call, then a draft for the deficiency in said quota shall be made on said State or on the Districts of said State for their due proportion of said quota; and the said draft shall commence on the fifth day of January, 1864.

And I further proclaim, that nothing in this Proclamation shall interfere with existing orders, or those which may be issued for the present draft in the States where it is now in progress or where it has not yet commenced.

The quotas of the States and districts will be assigned by the War Department, through the Provost Marshal General’s office, due regard being had for the men heretofore furnished whether by volunteering or drafting, and the recruiting will be conducted in accordance with such instructions as have been or may be issued by that Department.

In issuing this Proclamation, I address myself not only to the Governors of the several States, but also to the good and loyal people thereof, invoking them to lend their willing, cheerful and effective aid to the measures thus adopted, with a view to reinforce our victorious armies now in the field and bring our needful military operations to a prosperous end, thus closing forever the fountains of sedition and civil war.

President Lincoln writes Major General John Foster: “It would be useless for Mrs. Dr. Wright to come here.  The subject is a very painful one, but the case is settled.”  The husband had been already scheduled for execution.

Responding to two Knoxville residents who insisted on the maintenance of Union troops in their area: You do not estimate the holding of East Tennessee more highly than I do. There is no absolute purpose of withdrawing our forces from it; and only a contingent one to withdraw them temporarily, for the purpose of not losing the position permanently. I am in great hope of not finding it necessary to withdraw them at all—particularly if you raise new troops rapidly for us there.”

President Lincoln goes to Grover’s Theater to watch performance of Macbeth.   The proceeds go to the U.S. Sanitary Commission.  The president is accompanied by Mrs. Lincoln and  presidential aide William O. Stoddard.  The performance stars Charlotte Cushman, whom Mr. Lincoln met earlier in the week.

Published in: on October 17, 2013 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

President Appoints General Ulysses Grant to Command all Western Armies

October 16, 1863

After the regular Friday Cabinet Meeting Navy Secretary Gideon Welles writes in his diary:The President read to the Cabinet his letter to the Missouri radicals, and also a letter to General [John] Schofield.  Both exhibit tact, shrewdness, and good sense, on a difficult and troublesome subject.  There is no cause for dissension among the friends of the Administration in Missouri, and the President does not commit himself to either faction in this controversy, but, like some of us, has little respect for the wild vagaries of the radical portion.

The President also read a confidential dispatch to General Meade, urging him not to lose the opportunity to bring on a battle, assuring him that all the honors of a victory should be exclusively his (Meade’s), while in case of a defeat he (the President) would take the entire responsibility.  This is tasking Meade beyond his ability.  If the President could tell him how and when to fight, his orders would be faithfully carried out, but the President is overtasking Meade’s capability and powers.  Where is Halleck, General-in-Chief, who should, if he has the capacity, attend to these things, and if he has not should be got out of the way.”

Attorney General Edward Bates writes in diary: “At C.C. the Prest  read to us his answer to the Radical delegation of Kansas and Mo. Altho’ too long, and not phrased in the pointed language I could wish, still, it denies every thing they ask, and is a flat rebuff.

He also read his letter to Genl Schofield, which, tho’ in some of its parts, lacking in precision and speciality, still, with a good understanding between the Gov and the Genl, all our legal and legitimate ends may be easily accomplished.

In the course of the conversation, I drew the Prest’s attention to Gov Gamble’s last letter – I said it was a formal demand, under the constitution, upon this government, to protect the State Govt. against local insurrection, wch. Was the simple duty of this govt. to do &c.  The Prest admitted the duty, but he did not know that there was any such insurrection &c.  I answered, substantially, that the Gov’s demand was the only evidence required by the constitution.  The President then said, that certainly he wd. Protect the Govt. of Mo., just as he wd. the Govt. of Pa., neither more nor less.

President Lincoln is impatient with inaction by General George Meade, commanding the Union Army of the Potomac in northern Virginia.  He writes General-in-chief Henry W. Halleck: “I do not believe Lee can have over sixty thousand effective men. Longstreet’s corps would not be sent away, to bring an equal force back upon the same road; and there is no other direction for them to have come from. Doubtless, in making the present movement Lee gathered in all available scraps, and added them to Hills & Ewell’s corps; but that is all. And he made the movement in the belief that four corps had left Gen. Meade; and Gen. Meade’s apparantly avoiding a collision with him has confirmed him in that belief. If Gen. Meade can now attack him on a field no worse than equal for us, and will do so with all the skill and courage, which he, his officers and men possess, the honor will be his if he succeeds, and the blame may be mine if he fails.”

Lincoln also wrote Pennsylvania Republican leader Wayne McVeigh about the military situation in Virginia: “The enemy some days ago made a movement, apparantly to turn Gen. Meades right. This led to a manoevering of the two armies, and to pretty heavy skirmishing on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. We have frequent despatches from Gen. Meade, and up to ten o’clock last night, nothing had happened giving either side any marked advantage. Our army reported to be in excellent condition. The telegraph is open to Gen. Meade’s camp this morning, but we have not troubled him for a despatch.”  President Lincoln writes General-in-chief Henry W. Halleck: “I do not believe Lee can have over sixty thousand effective men. Longstreet’s corps would not be sent away, to bring an equal force back upon the same road; and there is no other direction for them to have come from. Doubtless, in making the present movement Lee gathered in all available scraps, and added them to Hills & Ewell’s corps; but that is all. And he made the movement in the belief that four corps had left Gen. Meade; and Gen. Meade’s apparantly avoiding a collision with him has confirmed him in that belief. If Gen. Meade can now attack him on a field no worse than equal for us, and will do so with all the skill and courage, which he, his officers and men possess, the honor will be his if he succeeds, and the blame may be mine if he fails.”

President Lincoln writes railroad promoter Thomas C. Durant: “I remember receiving nothing from you of the 10th, and I do not comprehend your dispatch of to-day.  In fact I do not remember, if I ever knew who you are, and I have very little conception as to what you are telegraphing about.”

President Lincoln wrote Thomas W. Sweeney, an internal revenue assessor, at the Hotel Continental in Philadelphia: “Tad is teasing to have you forward his pistol to him.”

Published in: on October 16, 2013 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

President Lincoln Issues Passes for Step-Mother-in-law

October 15, 1863

President Lincoln sends a pass for Mary Lincoln’s step-mother to go to Alabama to bring the recently widowed Emilie Helm back home to Kentucky: “Allow Mrs. Robert S. Todd, widow, to go south and bring her daughter, Mrs Genl B. Hardin Helm, with her children, North in Kentucky.”  President and Mrs. Lincoln were very fond of Emile and her husband, General Benjamin Hardin Helm who had been killed at the Battle of Chickamauga.

President Lincoln is also concerned about his own reelection a year hence.  As he works in the telegraph office of the War Department, he calculates the likely state-by-state presidential results and predicts the race will be close.

President Lincoln writes Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton: “This lady, Abigail C. Berea, had a husband and three sons in the war, and has been a nurse herself, without pay, during nearly the whole war. Her husband was killed at Gettysburg, and one of her sons also has died in the service. One other son she is willing to leave in the service where he still is, but the youngest, James H. Benjamin, private in Co. K. 104 N.Y. vols. and who is in poor health, she asks to have discharged. Let it be done.”

Published in: on October 15, 2013 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Pennsylvania and Ohio Election Results Cheer President

October 14, 1863

President Lincoln writes to New York Republican Thurlow Weed: “I have been brought to fear recently that somehow, by commission or omission, I have caused you some degree of pain.  I have never entertained an unkind feeling or a disparaging thought towards you; and if I have said or done anything which has been construed into such unkindness or disparagement, it has been misconstrued.  I am sure if we could meet we would not part with any unpleasant impression on either side.” In response Weed wrote on October 18: ‘Amid your great and constant responsibilities I regret that you should have been annoyed by an small grief of mine.

‘It is not, however, pleasant to be misunderstood.  I certainly was pained to learn that you regarded my controversy with the N.Y. Tribune as a personal quarrel with Mr. Greeley, in which both were damaging our cause.

‘If, a year or more since, when ultra Abolition was rampant, I had not throttled it, rescuing Republican organizations from its Incendiary influences, the North would have been fatally divided, and your power to serve the Country as fatally paralized.  But if, by this time, your experience of the ‘Horse Leech’ exactions of that spirit is either profitable or pleasant, I must have erred ir. endeavoring to ‘cut its claws, and draw its teeth.’

‘My ‘quarrels’ are in no sense personal.  I am without personal objects on interests.  I have done something in my day towards Electing Presidents and Governors, none of whom have found me an expensive Partizan.  Possible some Gnetlement in Power may have derived advantage and found relief in a Friend, without ‘Axess’ of any kind to ‘Grind.’

‘I have confided unwaveringly, in your Integrity and Patriotism, from the begining of this Rebellion, the certainty and magnitude of which I foresaw; and I have earnestly and faithfully laboured to uphold your Administration.

‘But I am consuming too much of your time.  Dismiss me from your thoughts, or if you remember me at all, remember that I do not desert those in power who are faithful to their Country, or permit personal griefs, real or imaginary, to interfere with the discharge of any duty.  If you will carry our Country safely through its great Trial–and I know you will if you can – I will serve, honor and bless you – with all my strength and whole heart, as long as LIfe is given to me.’

Published in: on October 14, 2013 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

President Lincoln anxious about Virginia Front and Pennsylvania Politics

October 13, 1863

“No news from the front.  President read this noon a dispatch from Meade, written last night, in which he says if the Rebels do not attack him to-day, he will attack them.  I doubt it.  He cannot do much on the offensive except under orders.  As second in command or in any capacity under an intelligent superior, I think Meade would do well.  He will never have another such opportunity to do the Rebels harm as when he supinely let Lee and his army cross the Potomac and escape unmolested,” writes Navy Secretary Gideon Welles in his diary. “The elections in Ohio and Pennsylvania absorb attention.  The President says he feels nervous.  No doubts have troubled me.”

Historian Frank Klement wrote ,“Lincoln need not have worried.  Vallandigham went down to defeat by 100,000 votes.  Brough received a 61,742 majority on the home front and a 40,000 majority of the soldier vote.”  Ohio Governor David Tod , who had been defeated by Brough for renomination, telegraphed: “God be praised.  Our majority on the home  vote cannot be less than 30,000.  Advise Sec’y Stanton.”

Published in: on October 13, 2013 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

President Remains Focused on East Tennessee

October 12, 1863

President Lincoln writes General William Rosecrans: “As I understand, [Ambrose] Burnside is menaced from the East, and so can not go to you without surrendering East Tennessee.  I now think the enemy will not attack Chattanooga; and I think you have to look out for his making a concentrated drive at Burnside.  You and Burnside now have him by the throat, and he must break your hold, or perish.  I therefore think you better to try to hold the river up to Kingston, leaving Burnside to what is above there.  Sherman is coming to you, though gaps in the telegraph prevent our knowing how far he is advanced.  He and Hooker will so support you on the West & North-West, as to enable you too look East & North East.  This is not an order.  Gen. Halleck will give his views.”

President Lincoln writes a Boston woman, Mrs. Alice C. Smith: “Dear Madame, I shall have to acknowledge very briefly your letter informing me of the prosperity of your little boy whom you so kindly named after me.  You may rest assured that my little namesake has my best wishes that he may grow to be a good man and a good citizen.”

John G. Nicolay telegraphs President Lincoln:“Please delay any opinion as to [Colorado Territorial] Governor [John] Evans until you hear from me”

Published in: on October 12, 2013 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment