Sick President Works on Annual Message to Congress

November 30, 1863

From his bed, President Lincoln composes his Third Annual Message to Congress. Attorney General Edward Bates writes in his diary: “The President has been sick ever since Thursday – I saw him, Saturday, and he was then a little better.  Today, Monday, he is still improving, as I hear.”

White House aide William O. Stoddard writes in an anonymous newspaper dispatch: “This week will witness the arrival of most of the members of the two Houses of Congress.  Some of them are here already, and are busy with the organization.  Some men predict an exciting time over it, but the majority seem to think that Colfax, or some other good man, will be quietly chosen Speaker; a new Clerk will be made in place of Emerson Etheridge, and the business of the session will be industriously entered upon.”  Stoddard added: “The President’s Message, and the various budgets of the Cabinet, all promise to be of unusual interest, and their respective authors are busy upon.  The President has been ill for several days, one of our Washington on dits is that a great part of the Message has been written by him in bed.”

Published in: on November 30, 2013 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Another Day in President Lincoln’s Recuperation

November 29, 1863

The New York Herald reports: “President Lincoln is much better to-day, and will be able to resume his office duties to-morrow or next day.”

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President Lincoln’s Condition Improves

November 28, 1863

The Washington Star reports: “The President is reported to be much better this morning. The Washington Chronicle reports: “The President’s youngest son, who has been sick for some time past with scarlatina, was much better yesterday.” President Lincoln is given medical report on conditions at Richmond’s Libby Prison,

Meanwhile, President Lincoln has been working on his annual message to Congress.  Presidential aide John Hay writes: “The Secretary of State [William H. Seward]  came in this morning and gave me his contribution to the President’s Message, relating exclusively to foreign affairs.

He then said he had a matter to submit, which was strictly confidential.  ‘I saw a great while ago that the President was being urged to do many things which were to redound to the benefit of other men, he taking the responsibility and the risk.  I preferred to leave to these men the attitude they coveted, of running before and shouting for the coming events; I preferred to stay behind, to do with and for the President what seemed best, to share with him the criticism and the risk and to leave the glory to him and to leave the glory to him and to God.

Among other measures to unite good men and to divide the opposition was the Loyal League Association of the country.  I saw very early that they would be valuable in bringing over to our side the honest War Democrats and I therefore encouraged them as far as possible with my influence and my money.  Soon I discovered a wheel within this enterprise – a secret Know Nothing Masonic order with signs and pass words.  They asked me for money.  They sent to me from California for charters.  Not to make trouble I complied with all requests.  You will see for what purpose this machine is being used.’  Here he handed me a scrap of paper on which was scrawled in Thurlow Weed’s handwriting ‘Loyal Leagues, into which Odd Fellows and Know Nothings rush, are fixing to control delegate appointments for Mr. Chase.’  Seward, still scribbling said ‘If you want to be cheated, join a secret society.  They are all swindles.  If I have an idiosyncrasy, it is a hatred of Secrets.  The Consul at London tells me that he has received trustworthy information of an alliance between France and the Rebels: but his sources of information being secret he cannot give hi8s authority.  I answer asking him what right he has to have a secret from the President, concerning public affairs, and directing him to lay his information, whatever it may be fore the American Minister at London.

He handed me a paper upon which he had copied this extract.  ‘The more I reflect, the less I am inclined to trust the Pa proposition.  The public men of that state are queer.’

I am to give both to the Presdt.

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President’s Illness Worsens

November 27, 1863

The New York Herald reports that President Lincoln’s doctor, Dr. Robert Stone, prohibits him from talking to visitors or cabinet members.

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

“Bilious” President Lincoln Still Confined to Bed on Thanksgiving Day

November 26, 1863

“The President quite unwell,” writes presidential aide John Hay in his diary.  Thanksgiving Day to which Grant’s despatches this morning give glorious significance.  I heard a sermon from Dr. Hall in which he argued that our national troubles originated from a spirit of anarc[h]y – that the affliction will not have been in vain if the war begets reverence for law.” Hay writes colleague John G. Nicolay: “The newspapers of this morning have told you all you wwant to know & so I send no telegram.  The news is glorious.  Nature was against us, but we won in her spite.  Had not the rapid current and drift swept away Hookers pontoons he would have utterly destroyed them.

Grant will immediately send a column to relieve Burnside & if possible destroy Longstreet.

The President is sick in bed.  Bilious.

President Lincoln meets Irish-borne writer Charles G. Halpine, who writes as “Private Miles O’Reilly.” Halpine had served in the army since 1861 – including stints as an aide to General Henry W. Halleck and General David Hunter.

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

President Lincoln Cheered by Chattanooga News

November 25, 1863

President Lincoln writes General Ulysses S. Grant about the Battle of Chattanooga: “Your despatches as to fighting on Monday & Tuesday are here.  Well done.  Many thanks to all. Remember Burnside.”  Still ill, Lincoln expects war news in evening but goes to bed.  Over the previous two days, Grant had sent two telegrams to General Henry W. Halleck.  In the first wire in November 23, Grant wrote: “General Thomas’ troops attacked the enemy’s left at 2 p.m. to-day, carried the first line of riflepits running over the knoll, 1,200 yards in front of Fort Wood, and low ridge to the right of it, taking about 200 prisoners, besides killed and wounded. Our loss small. The troops moved under fire with all the precision of veterans on parade. Thomas’ troops will intrench themselves, and hold their position until daylight, when Sherman will join the attack from the mouth of the Chic[k]amauga, and a decisive battle will be fought.”

On November 24, Grant wrote: “The fight to-day progressed favorably. Sherman carried the end of Missionary Ridge, and his right is now at the tunnel, and left on Chicamauga Creek. Troops from Lookout Valley carried the point of the mountain, and now hold the eastern slope and point high up. I cannot yet tell the amount of casualties, but our loss is not heavy. Hooker reports 2,000 prisoners taken, besides which a small number have fallen into our hands from Missionary Ridge.”

President writes: “During the temporary absence of the Secretary of War [Edwin M. Stanton] his duties will be performed by Assistant Secretary P H Watson.”

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

President Lincoln Follows Battles in Knoxville and Chattanooga

November 24, 1863

Although bedridden, President Lincoln remains concerned about military operations at Knoxville and Chatttanooga in Tennessee.  He writes Secretary of State William H. Seward: “A despatch from Foster at Cincinnati received half an hour ago, contains one from Wilcox, at Cumberland Gap without date, saying ‘fighting going on at Knoxville today.’ The want of date makes the time of fighting uncertain, but I rather think it means yesterday the 23rd.”

An editorial in the Philadelphia News favors President Lincoln’s renomination.   “A very remarkable editorial appeared this morning in the Baltimore American under the title ‘Shall the Gulf States be allowed to retain a remnant of slavery?’ writes John Hay in his diary.  “I took it in to the President to show it to him.  He said he did not entirely agree with that view.  He thinks that the enormous influx of slave population into the Gulf states does not strengthen slavery in them.  He says, ‘It creates in those states a vast preponderance of the population of a servile and oppresed class.  It fearfully imperils the lives and safety of the ruling class.  Now, the slaves are quiet, choosing to wait for the deliverance they hope from us, rather than endager their lives by a frantic struggle for freedom.  The society of the Southern states is now constituted on a basis entirely military.  It would be easier now than formerly, to repress a rising of unarmed and uneducated slaves.  But if they should succeed in secession the Gulf states would be more endangered than ever.  The slaves, despairing of liberty through us would take the matter into their own hands, and no longer opposed by the government of the United States they would succeed.  When the Democrats of Tennessee continually asserted in their canvass of 56that Fremont’s election would free the negroes, though they did not believe it themselves, their slaves did: and as soon as the news of Fremont’s defeat came to the plantations the disappointment of the slaves flashed into insurrection.”

Presidential aide John Hay writes John G. Nicolay, who is still on leave: “Where is your umbrella?  I cant find it.  It is raining like the Devil, whose reign you know is infernal…..There is no news from the Army.  When any comes I will shove it along.”

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

The Union Army Under Siege at Chattanooga

November 23, 1863

The Union army at Chattanooga is under siege by Confederate forces. Presidential aide John Hay writes in his diary: “Got news tonight of Grant’s advance on the enemy at Chattanooga & Thomas success.  The President who had been a little despondent abt Grant took heart again.”

President Lincoln accepts resignation of General Robert Schenck, the commander in Maryland who had been elected to Congress.

President Lincoln writes Secretary of State William H. Seward: “Two despatches since I saw you—one not quite so late on firing as we had before, but giving the points that Burnside thinks he can hold the place, that he is not closely invested, and that he forages across the river. The other brings the firing up to 11. A.M. yesterday, being 23. hours later than we had before.”

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Diplomatic Assignments & General Burnside Concern Ailing President

November 22, 1863

Still sick with variloid, President Lincoln meets with longtime Illinois Republican ally Norman B. Judd, minister to Prussia.  Judd wants to resign.

In evening Secretary of State William H. Seward reads to President dispatch from Gen. Cassius M. Clay (resigned), minister to Russia, on American politics, European diplomacy, and naval improvements of century.  Seward tells presidential aide John Hay: “One half the world are continually busying themselves for the purpose of accomplishing Proclamations & Declarations of War &c which they leave to the other half to carry on out.  Purposes can usually better be accomplished without proclamations.  And failures are less signal when not preceded by sounding promises.  The slave states seem inclined to save us any further trouble in that.”  Seward added: “The slave states seem inclined to save us any further trouble in that way.  Their best men are making up their minds that the thing is dead.  Bramlette has written an admirable letter in answer to some slave holders who ask him how he a proslavery man can support a war whose result will be the abolition of slavery.  He tells them the war must be prosecuted no matter what the result: that it will probably be the destruction of slavery & he will not fight against it nor greatly care to see the institution ended.”

The Presided added, as another cheering incident from Kentucky, that Jerry Boyle had asked for permission to enlist three thousand negroes for teamsters paying them wages and promising them freedom.

The President is very anxious about Burnside.

President Lincoln writes Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton: “The within is in behalf of the family of [J. H.] Southern, who killed the Lieutenant and fled. It is represented that the family are substantially imprisoned in their house by our soldiers, & are on starvation. I submit that perhaps some attention better be given to the case.”

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

President Lincoln has “something I can give everybody”

November 21, 1863

President Lincoln, sick with mild case of smallpox, quips: ‘Now I have something I can give everybody.”   Although bedridden, President Lincoln confers with Indiana Congressman Schuyler Colfax, who is seeking to be elected House Speaker when the new Congress meets.  It is the second time in two days that they have met.  They talk about the 1864 presidential race.  Aide John Hay, Letters and Diary.

Illinois Congressman Elihu B. Washburne, who is also considering a race for House speaker,  writes: “‘Old Abe’ has a well developed case of variloid.  I was with him an hour and a half the other day and we went over many things.  He did what he said he had done to no other person outside of his cabinet, he read me his message.  The Madam was very gracious when I saw her….”

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