Louisiana Reconstruction Occupies President Lincoln

November 5, 1863

After meeting with former Louisiana Congressman Benjamin F. Flanders, President Lincoln writes General Nathaniel Banks to express his disappointment about the progress of reconstruction in Louisiana: “Three months ago to-day I wrote you about Louisiana affairs, stating on the word of Gov. [George] Shepley, as I understood him, that Mr. Durant was taking a registry of citizens, preparatory to the election of a constitutional convention for that State.  I sent a copy of the letter to Mr. Durant; and I now have his letter, written two months after, acknowledging receipt, and saying he is not taking such registry; and he does not let me know that he personally is expecting to do so.  Mr. Flanders, to whom I also sent a copy, is now here, and he says nothing has yet been done.  This disappoints me bitterly; yet I do not throw blame on you or on them.  I do however, urge both you and them, to lose no more time.  Gov. Shepley has special instructions from the War Department.  I wish him–these gentlemen and others co-operating–without waiting for more territory, to go to work and give me a tangible nucleus which the remainder of the State may rally around as fast as it can, and which I can at once recognize and sustain as the true State government.  And in that work I wish you, and all under your command, to give them a hearty sympathy and support.  The instruction to Gov. Shepley bases the movement (and rightfully too) upon the loyal element.  Time is important.  There is danger, even now, that the adverse element seeks insidiously to pre-occupy the ground.  If a few professedly loyal men shall draw the disloyal about them, and colorably set up a State government, repudiating the emancipation proclamation, and re-establishing slavery, I can not recognize or sustain their work.  I should fall powerless in the attempt.  This government, in such an attitude, would be a house divided against itself.  I have said, and say again, that if a new State government, acting in  harmony with this government, and consistently with general freedom, shall think best to adopt a reasonable temporary arrangement, in relation to the landless and homeless freed people, I do not object; but my word is out to be for and not against them on the question of their permanent freedom.  I do not insist upon such temporary arrangement, but only say such would not be objectionable to me. “

Thomas Webster of Supervisory Committee for Recruiting Colored Regiments in Philadelphia complains to President Lincoln about pay for black soldiers: .

“This memorial on behalf of the Supervisory Committee for recruiting Colored Regiments in the State of Pennsylvania respectfully represent

That notwithstanding the inequality of pay and bounty, the Colored people of the free states have heretofore responded to the call for volunteers with an alacrity and to an extent which clearly provide that they are not deficient in military spirit and patriotism.  And it is believed by those who have the best opportunity for forming correct opinions on the subject, that the national forces would be very largely increased from this portion of our population, if the same protection and encouragement were extended to them as to others.

“The courage, discipline and general good behaviour of the colored troops, as already displayed, have enlisted in their behalf a favorable sentiment throughout the country; and justice, as well as mere policy, would seem to require that, in the matter of pay and bounty they should be placed on a more equal footing.

“It is believed that there is no insuperable objections to such a course in existing laws, liberally construed, and your memorialists cannot doubt the disposition of the Government to extend to this class of its brave defenders every proper measure of protection and reward.

“By the terms of your Proclamation of the Seventeenth day of October 1863 calling for three hundred thousand more volunteers to serve for three years, it appears to be doubtful whether colored troops are to b e included in its provisions.  Your memorialists would therefore respectfully bring this subject to your attention, and request such a further order in regard to the acceptance and compensation of colored volunteers, as their willingness and ability to aid in the suppression of a wicked rebellion, renders just and proper.

“It is not doubted that under suitable encouragement, many regiments of colored troops can be raised in this and adjoining States.  And your Excellency may rest assured of the readiness of the people of this community to cooperate in this and all other measures the Government may adopt for the purposes of reinforcing our armies now in the field, bringing their needful operations to a prosperous end, and thus closing forever the fountains of sedition and civil war.

Presidential secretary John G. Nicolay returns to White House duty after a trip to Colorado.  The other principal Lincoln aide, John Hay, rides with President Lincoln to Georgetown Heights in the afternoon.  Nearby in Oak Hill Cemetery was the grave of Lincoln’s son Willie.

Published in: on November 5, 2013 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

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