President Lincoln Mocks Requirements for Military Appointments

November 11, 1863

President Lincoln writes Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton: “I personally wish Jacob R. Freese, of New-Jersey to be appointed a Colonel for a colored regiment – and this regardless of whether he can tell the exact shade of Julius Caesar’s hair.”

Postmaster General Montgomery Blair forwards a letter from Congressman John M. Crisfield complaining about military interference in the recent elections. President Lincoln responds: “Mr. Crisfield’s letter which you inclose, is received. Let Mr. S. procure the sworn statement of the election judges at any voting place, as to what may be deemed the misconduct of any military officer, and present it to me, and I will call any such officer to account who shall by such statement appear to have violated, or transcended his orders.”  Ironically, the controversial Union commander for Maryland, Robert C. Schenck, had recently been elected to Congress from Ohio and will shortly be vacating his post.”  Crisfield wrote:

Order No 53 of Gen. Schenck is already known to you. In obedience to that order, large bodies of troops were moved into this Congressional District on Monday last; and between that and Wednesday morning, the day of the election, they were distributed to all the voting places, where they remained during the day, watching and interfering with the election.

In my own County, (Somerset), some two or three hundred cavalry, fully armed, with carbines, swords, & pistols, and well mounted, were marched through various parts of the County on Tuesday; and at the hour of opening the polls on Wednesday morning, they were found at each voting place, in squads, numbering from 5 to 30 each. They at once took control of the election, and had it all their own way. . . . in the Union districts, where I was supposed to be strong, their control was exercised in the most absolute way. In one Election District, (Tangier), the officer pulled from his pocket a yellow, or Cresswell [John A. J. Creswell] ticket, and said that no other was to be voted there . . . and every man approaching the polls, with any other ticket, was turned back by an armed force. . . . In . . . other districts . . . the same thing was done . . . many persons who offered to take the oath prescribed by Order No. 53, and were legally qualified voters, were turned down. . . . In . . . Hungary Neck, the officer in command at the opening of the Polls, ordered every ticket to be examined, before it was put into the box; and if it had my name on it, the voter was required to take the oath before the ballot could go in. . . . The consequence was, not over 50 pr. ct. of the vote of the District was cast….In this election District (Princess Anne) the polls were surrounded by the cavalry dismounted, and armed as stated; and each voter was obliged to come up, one at a time, through files of soldiers, to the box, where stood the commanding officer, (Capt [Charles C.] Moore 3rd Md. Cavalry) challenging each as he came up, and requiring oath to be administered to him, before the vote was received. One vote was so received; when the next came up, who happened to be my son, the Captain challenged him, and before the oath was put to him, commenced a series of questions as to his loyalty, and political opinions, the means of suppressing the rebellion, his willingness to give up all his property to put down the rebellion, &c. and when he had got through, he turned to the judges, and ordered the oath to be administered. At this point the judges said, `we do not approve of this mode of conducting the election—, we must adhere to the laws of the state; and if we are not permitted to do so, we submit to arrest.’ (The Capt had previously told them that unless they obeyed his orders, he would arrest them), and thereupon he did arrest them, and sent them off, under guard, to Gen. Schenck’s Head-Quarters, and the election was broken up. The judges were on the bench just 12 minutes, and had taken but one vote. They proceeded to Salisbury, under guard, to take the train for Baltimore, and while waiting for that purpose, were put into the Guard House. After remaining there awhile, by the interference of Gen Lockwood, as was understood, they were released and reached home at one o’clock, on the following morning. . . . Capt. Moore said he had orders for his act but he did not exhibit them, as far as I know. I was an eye witness to this scene. . . .

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Published in: on November 11, 2013 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

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