President Lincoln Invited to Gettysburg Ceremonies

November 2, 1863

President Lincoln meets with General Robert C. Schenck and two congressman – James A. Garfield of Ohio  and William Kelley of Pennsylvania about elections in Maryland to be held on November 4.

President Lincoln is invited to give brief remarks at the dedication of the Gettysburg National Cemetery on November 19.  Former Massachusetts Senator Edward Everett is to be the main speaker.  The invitation to Lincoln reads: “The Several States having soldiers in the Army of the Potomac, who were killed at the battle of Gettysburg, or have since died at various hospitals which were established int eh vicinity, have procured grounds on a prominent part of the field for a cemetery, and are having the dead removed to them and properly buried.  These grounds will be consecrated and set apart to this sacred purpose, by appropriate ceremonies, on Thursday, the 19th inst.  Hon. Edward Everett will deliver the oration.  I am authorized by the governors of the different States to invite you to be present and participate in these ceremonies, which will be very imposing and solemnly impressive.  It is the desire that after the oration, you, as Chief Executive of the Nation, formally set apart these grounds to their sacred use by a few appropriate remarks.  It will be a source of great gratification to the many widows and orphans that have been made almost friendless by the great battle here, to have you here personally; and it will kindle anew in the breasts of the comrades of these brave dead, who are now in tented field or nobly meeting the foe in the front, a confidence that they who sleep in death on the battlefield are not forgotten by those highest in authority; and they will feel that, should their fate be the same, their remains will not be uncared for.   We hope you will be able to be present to perform this last solemn act to the soldier-dead on this battlefield.”

President Lincoln, always interested in military technology, writes a memo about testing of “Diller’s Powder brought to the United States by an old Springfield friend, Isaac R. Diller, who had been consul at Bremen, Germany: “I select you to make the test of the new gun-powder, according to the foregoing documents.  Having expended some five thousand dollars to be prepared for making the test, it is desired that it be most carefully and thoroughly made, and answers thereupon given to all the following questions, and any others which may occur to you as pertinent.

Does this powder contain salpetre or sulphur?

Does it bear any relation to gun-cotten?

Can the ingredients for making it always be obtained in sufficient quantity in the United States?

Is it’s manufacture simple, requiring no complicated apparatus, and is attended with less danger than the manufacture of ordinary gun-powder?

Do atmospheric changes, whether of moisture or heat, injure the powder?

Will it explode with as little or less pressure than ordinary gun-powder?

Will it ignite under 300 . Celsius?

Will it ignite by a spark, or percussion-cap, like common gun-powder?

Are seven parts of it, in weight, as effective in smooth bored guns as nineparts of common gun-power?

In one part of it, in weight, as effective in rifled guns, as two parts of common power?

Will it, or the ingredients of it, deteriorate in store?

Will it heat a gun less than common powder? and in what proportion?

Does it give a weaker report?

Does it make less smoke?

Does it foul a gun less?

Is it less liable to burst or damage a gun?

In proportion to effect produced, is it cheaper than common gun-powder?

Has it any fault or faults not stated, or suggested in and by the answers to the foregoing questions?  and if so, what?

President Lincoln writes Postmaster General Montgomery Blair about whether his brother Frank Blair Jr. should take his seat in Congress from Missouri or continue in military service.  Should Frank not be elected speaker, Lincoln suggests he retain his commission:  “Some days ago I understood you to say that your brother, Gen. Frank Blair, desires to be guided by my wishes as to whether he will occupy his seat in congress or remain in the field.  My wish, then, is compounded of what I believe will be best for the country, and best for him.  And it is, that he will come here, put his military commission in my hands, take his seat, go into caucus with our friends, abide the nominations, help elect the nominees, and thus aid to organize a House of Representatives which will really support the government in the war.  If the result shall be the election of himself as Speaker, let him serve in that position; if not, let him re-take his commission, and return to the Army.  For the country this will heal a dangerous schism; for him, it will relieve from a dangerous position.  By a misunderstanding, as I think, he is in danger of being permanently separated from those with whom only he can ever have a real sympathy–the sincere opponents of slavery.  It will be a mistake if he shall allow the provocations offered him by insincere time-servers, to drive him out of the house of his own building.  He is young yet.  He has abundant talent–quite enough to occupy all his time, without devoting any to temper.  He is rising in military skill and usefulness.  His recent appointment to the command of a corps, by one so competent to judge as Gen. Sherman, proves this.  In that line he can serve both the country and himself more profitably than he could as a member of congress on the floor.  The foregoing is what I would say, if Frank Blair were my brother instead of yours.”

President Lincoln responds to an apology from Shakespearean actor James H. Hackett regarding a previous letter to Hackett that Hackett had released to the public – engendering widespread criticism of the president’s ideas about Shakespeare: “Yours of Oct. 22nd. is received, as also was, in due course, that of Oct. 3rd.  I look forward with pleasure to the fulfillment of the promise made in the former.

Give yourself no uneasiness on the subject mentioned in that of the 22nd.

My note to you I certainly did not expect to see in print; yet I have not been much shocked by the newspaper comments upon it.  Those comments constitute a fair specimen of what has occurred to me through life.  I have endured a great deal of ridicule without much malice; and have received a great deal of kindness, not quite free from ridicule.  I am used to it.

Presidential aide John Hay writes in his diary that Philadelphia Congressman William “Kelley says he has no part in any Presidential intrigue: that he would prefer Abraham Lincoln for his own successor to any one that he would be grieved if by the course of the Government itself he should be forced into an attitude of seeming hostility.

I came up and told Presdt. The wrong and injurious impressions Kelley had & he asked to see Kelley.  I found him closeted with Garfield & Whitelaw Reid, who seemed a little disgruntled at my abrupt requisition.  He came up with me talking in his effusive and intensely egotistic way about the canvass he had been making & speaking most bitterly of Blairs Rockville Speech.  He went in and talked an hour with the President.

After him came Schenck and the President fixed up a letter to Bradford about Schenck’s election order, in which while he guaranteed to all loyal people the right of voting for whom they pleased he strongly intimates that the loyalty of the candidates is not a sufficient safeguard – that men elected by disloyal votes are not wholly to be trusted.

I saw Sam: Wilkeson today.  He tells me he assisted at a somewhat formal conference of political people yesterday and the unanimous conclusion was that the Union nominee for the next Presidency must be Abraham Lincoln.  And that as a necessary condition of reelection a reorganization of the cabinet must be made.  The feeling of the country on this matter demands.  He laid his finger mysteriously on his lips and flitted like an elderly owl into the Treasury Department.

The President says Butler has been tendered Foster’s Department while Foster goest o relieve Burnside, who resigns.  It is not yet known whether Butler will accept.

General John Schofield had to be replaced in Missouri because of political dissension there.  President Lincoln tells John Hay that “he had thought, when the trouble and row of this election in Missouri is over, and the matter will not be misconstrued, of sending to Missouri and Schofield into the field.  He says that it was because of Grant’s opposition that Rosecrans is not in the Army of the Cumberland: when it was decided to place Grant in command of the whole Military division, two sets of orders were made out, one contemplating Rosecrans’ retention of the command of his own army & the other his relief.  Grant was to determine that question for himself.  He said at once that he preferred Rosecrans should be relieved – that he (R) never would obey orders.  This consideration of course involves a doubt as to whether Rosecrans should be placed in command of a district from which Grant ust to a certain extent derive supplies & reinforcements, on occasion.”

That night, writes Hay, “Schenck sent for copies of the correspondence between the Presdt. and Bradford.  The President came into his room with the despatch in his hands, clad in an overcoat pure & simple reaching to his knees & sleepily fumbled for the papers in his desk till he found them & travelled back to bed.  I took the letters to the telegraph office & sent them off about midnight.”  President Lincoln writes Maryland Governor Augustus W. Bradford regarding plans for security by General Robert C. Schenck at the upcoming state elections: “Yours of the 31st ult. was received yesterday about noon, and since then I have been giving most earnest attention to the subject matter of it.  At my call Gen. Schenck has attended; and he assures me it is almost certain that violence will be used at some of the voting places on election day, unless prevented by his provost-guards.  He says that at some of those places Union voters will not attend at all, or run a ticket unless they have some assurance of protection.  This makes the Missouri case, of my action in regard to which, you express your approval.  The remaining point of your letter is a protest against any person offering to vote being put to any test not found in the laws of Maryland.  This brings us to a difference between Missouri and Maryland.  With the same reason in both States, Missouri has, by law, provided a test for the voter, with reference to the present rebellion, while Maryland has not.  For example, Gen. [Isaac R.] Tremble, captured fighting us at Gettysburg is, without recanting his treason, a legal voter by the laws of Maryland.  Even Gen. Schenck’s order, admits him to vote, if he recants upon oath.  I think that is cheap enough.  My order in Missouri, which approve, and Gen. Schenck’s order here, reach precisely the same end.  Each assures the right of voting to all loyal men; and whether a man is loyal, each allows that man to fix by his own oath.  Your suggestion that nearly all the candidates are loyal, I do not think quite meets the case.  In this struggle for the nation’s life.  I can not so confidently rely on those whose elections may have depended upon disloyal votes.  Such men, when elected, may prove true, but such votes are given them in the expectation that they will prove false.

Nor do I think that to keep the peace at the polls, and to prevent the persistently disloyal from voting, constitutes just cause of offence to Maryland.  I think she has her own example for it.  If I mistake not, it is precisely what Gen. Dix did when your Excellency was elected Governor.

I revoke the first of the three propositions in Gen. Schenck’s general order No. 53; not that it is wrong in principle, but because the military being, of necessity, exclusive judges as to who shall be arrested, the provision is too liable to abuse.  For the revoked part I substitute the following:

‘That all Provost Marshals, and other Military officers, do prevent all disturbance and violence at or about the polls, whether offered by such persons as above described, or by any other person, or persons whomsoever’

The other two propositions of the order I allow to stand.

Gen. Schenck is fully determined, and has my strict orders besides, that all loyal men may vote, and vote for whom they please.

Late that night, Schenck telegraphs President Lincoln: “Governor Bradford has issued this evening such a proclamation in regard to my order in relation to elections that I deem it absolutely essential to have your correspondence with him here immediately Will you please have telegraphed to me or send by special messenger tonight full copies of his letters & your reply.”

General Benjamin F. Butler had been waiting for months for a new assignment after he was removed a year earlier as the Union commander in New Orleans. Today, he receives orders: ‘You have been assigned to command at Fort Monroe.  The Secretary of War directs you to repair there immediately.’

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