President Lincoln Confined to Bed with Variloid

November 20, 1863

President Lincoln fell ill on the return from Gettysburg the previous day.  He  begins three weeks of bed rest for variloid. John Waugh wrote in Reelecting Lincoln: “The White House wasn’t put under quarantine, but it was turned into a minor smallpox hospital.  And the malady hung on longer than expected, nearly three weeks, with fever and severe headaches, and some unproductive days in and out of bed.  He was up and down, carrying a light workload, attended by his family physician, Robert King Stone.”

Michigan Senator Zachariah Chandler writes President Lincoln about more conservative Republicans seeking to influence his Annual Message to Congress.  President Lincoln reads the letter to colleagues: “Thurlow Weed and Gov Morgan & other distinguished Republicans are here [Washington] urging the President to take bold conservative ground in his message.’  I have been upon the stump more than two months this fall & have certainly talked to more than 200,000 people…& have yet to meet the first Republican or real War Democrat who stands by Thurlough Weed or Mr [Montgomery] Blair.  All denounce them….”   President Lincoln reads the letter to John Hay.   Hay describes the letter as “blackguarding Seward Weed Blair & entreating him [Lincoln] to stand firm and other trash which lunatics of that sort think is earnest and radical.”  In his reply, Lincoln writes: “Your letter of the 15th. marked ‘private’ was received to-day.  I have seen Gov. Morgan and Thurlow Weed, separately, but not together, within the last ten days; but neither of them mentioned the forthcoming message, or said anything, so far as I can remember, which brought the thought of the Message to my mind.

I am very glad the elections this autumn have gone favorably, and that I have not, by native depravity, or under evil influences, done anything bad enough to prevent the good result.

I hope to ‘stand firm’ enough to not go backward, and yet not go forward fast enough to wreck the country’s cause.

Former Senator Edward Everett, who gave the main speech at the dedication of the Gettysburg cemetery on November 19, writes President Lincoln: “Not wishing to intrude upon your privacy, when you must be much engaged, I beg leave, in this way, to thank you very sincerely for your guest thoughtfulness for my daughter’s accommodation on the Platform yesterday, & much kindness otherwise to me & mine at Gettysburg.

“Permit me also to express my great admiration of the thoughts expressed by you, with such eloquent simplicity & appropriateness, at the consecration of the cemetery.  I should be glad, if I could flatter myself that I came as near to the central idea of the occasion, in two hours, as you did in two minutes.  My son who parted from me at Baltimore & my daughter, concur in this sentiment…”

“I hope your anxiety for your child was relieved on your arrival.”

President Lincoln responds to Everett: “Your kind note of to-day is received.  In our respective parts yesterday, you could not have been excused to make a short address, nor a long one.  I am pleased to know that, in your judgment, the little I did say was not entirely a failure.  Of course I knew Mr. Everett would not fail; and yet, while the whole discourse was eminently satisfactory, and will be of great value, there were passages in it which transcended my expectation.  The point made against the theory of the general government being only an agency, whose principals are the States, was new to me, and, as I think, is one of the best arguments for the national supremacy. The tribute to our noble women for their angel-ministering to the suffering soldiers, surpasses, in its way, as do the subjects of it, whatever has gone before.”  He concludes: “Our sick boy, for whom you kindly inquire, we hope is past the worst.”

Lincoln talks to  Anna S. King about husband’s pending execution.  President Lincoln writes General George C. Meade: “An intelligent woman [in] deep distress, called this morning, saying her husband, a Lieutenant in the A.P. was to be shot next Monday for desertion; and putting a letter in my hand, upon which I relied for particulars, she left without mentioning a name, or other particular by which to identify the case.  On opening the letter I found it equally vague, having nothing to identify by, except her own signature, which seems to be ‘Mrs. Anna S. King’  I could not again find her.  If you have a case which you shall think is probably the one intended, please apply my despatch of this morning to it.”

President Lincoln seeks to pacify former Congressman John Crisfield regarding election day actions by the army.  He writes General Robert C. Schenck, Union commander in Maryland: “Major General Schenck will put on trial before a Military commission, Capt. Moore, mentioned within for having transcended General Order No. 53, in arresting the Judges of election, and for having hindered Arthur Crisfield, from voting, notwithstanding his willingness to take the oath in said order prescribed. Let Hon. John W. Crisfield be notified of time and place, and witnesses named by him as well as by Capt. Moore, be examined. Let time and place be reasonably convenient to witnesses, and full record kept & preserved.”

Presidential aide John Hay writes about the visit of Indiana Congressman Schuyler Colfax to the White House: “He is very sanguine about the Speakership: in fact almost absolutely certain about it.  He was talking to the President this evening about the matter Nicolay & I being present.  He says there is some fear that Gen Etheridge may attempt some outrageous swindle for the purpose of throwing out the Maryland votes by Gov. Bradford’s aid. But does not think it will succeed.

He then related an interview between himself and Montgomery Blair.  He had heard Blair was against him & so said he “I went to see Blair about it.  He said he was against me.  I said I was glad to know where he stood: that I remembered two years ago when Frank was a candidate, when I could have been elected I declined in Frank’s favor and worked for him that M. B. Then assured me that I should have their lifelong gratitude: that if this was a specimen of it I would give them a receipt in full.  He said matters had changed since then – that I was now running as Chase candidate.  I said I was not running as Presidential candidate at all: that the Presidential question should not be mixed up with the current questions of the day.  That I did not call on him except to ascertain his position and to tell him he was free from that debt of lifelong gratitude.  Now what I would not say to him, I will say to you, Mr. President.

“Don’t say anything to me you do not wish to say’ said the President.

Said Schuyler ‘I wish only to say that wherever I have been this summer I have seen the evidences of a very powerful popular feeling in your favor and that I think it will continue unless you do something to check it in your message or public utterances or acts this winter.

After a while Nicolay & I left them & they talked for an hour or so longer.  Colfax came out and talked freely for a while.  H does not fully commit himself but he talks fairly enough and I think will be all right in the coming fight.

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

President Lincoln Delivers Gettysburg Address

November 19, 1863

Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg

Early morning showers turned into brilliant sunshine.  Commissioner of Buildings Benjamin Brown French wrote“As soon as the dignitaries who occupied the stand, numbering perhaps 250, were seated, Hon. Edward Everett & Rev. Thos. H. Stockton appeared[,] escorted by a Committee of Governors of States, and being seated, one of the bands struck up and performed a solemn piece of music in admirable style.  That over, Mr. Stockton made one of the most impressive and eloquent prayers I ever heard.  The Band then played, with great effect, Old Hundred.  Mr. Everett then arose, and without notes of any kind, pronounced an oration.  He occupied two full hours in the delivery, and it was one of the greatest, most eloquent, elegant, and appropriate orations to which I ever listened.  I stood at his very side, through it, and I think the oratory could not be surpassed by mortal man….

“Mr. Everett was listened to with breathless silence by all that immense crowd, and he had his audience in tears many times during his masterly effort….

“As soon as the hymn was sung, Marshal Lamon introduced the President of the United States, who, in a few brief, but most appropriate words, dedicated the cemetery.  Abraham Lincoln is the idolof the American people at this moment.  Anyone who saw & heard as I did, the hurricane of applause that met his every movement at Gettysburg would know that he lived in every heart. It was no cold, faint, shadow of a kind reception – it was a tumultuous outpouring of exultation, from true and loving hearts, at the sight of a man whom everyone knew to be honest and true and sincere in every act of his life, and every pulsation of his heart.  It was the spontaneous outburst of heartfelt confidence in their own President.

Witness George D. Gitt (then a self-described “boy of fifteen, intent upon being as close to Lincoln as was physically possible without being on top of the platform, had concealed myself earlier in the day among the huge store boxes that formed the foundations of the structure; and during the delivery of the address I stood with my heart in my mouth, literally at the feet of my hero.)  remembered: “When Edward Everett finished speaking. Lincoln slowly took his hand from his chin, bent slightly forward, and very deliberately drew from an inner pocket of his coat a few flimsy pieces of paper.  These he shuffled from hand to hand until the particular sheet he was seeking appeared.  Leaning back in the chair again, but without recrossing his legs, he intently studied what he had written on that sheet.  The posture was characteristic, and some sculptor has long since given it permanency in bronze.  Tucking away the papers, he arose, and very slowly stepped to the front of the platform.  The flutter and motion of the crowd ceased the moment the president was on his feet.  Such was the quiet that his footfalls, I remember very distinctly, woke echoes, and with the creaking of the boards, ti was as if someone were walking through the hallways of an empty house.

The crack through which for a moment or two I had glanced at Edward Everett I now found to be of no use, for Lincoln had stationed himself just a little in front of it, and only his coat tails were visible.  An instant later, to my great relief, he stepped back a pace or two and again I could lookup into that sad face with its furrowed brow.  The brooding eyes now glowed with a stranger light such as is sometimes provoked by a fever.  Then Lincoln began to speak.  Word followed word so slowly that the value of each syllable was unduly magnified.  ‘Fourscore and seven years ago our forefathers brought forth upon this continent a new nation’  — here there was a decided pause; this pause I well remember because I held my breath, wondering what had happened to cause it — ‘conceived in liberty’ — another pause and more high emphasis, this time on the word ‘liberty’ — ‘and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.’

Beginning with the next sentence he spoke more rapidly, but somewhere near the middle of the address he slowed again to the tempo of the opening words.

Now the group of Negroes off to one side, that had been wailing ‘Amens’ in an undertone, lifted their voices higher and higher as the simple eloquence of Lincoln moved them.  A number of them were weeping; others with closed eyes repeated phrases of the address.  The dep resonant voice continued: ‘…whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated can long endure.’  These words were spoken very slowly indeed.  With the next sentence he quickened his delivery, and when he came to ‘gave his last ful measure of devotion,’ tears trickled down his cheeks, and I could not help some welling up in my own eyes.

Then he cleared his throat.  With a large white handkerchief, which he drew from the inner pocket of his coat and allowed to dangle for a moment from his right hand, he brushed away the tears and mopped his brow, and for the first time, as I remember, shifted his feet.  During the final phrases of the address I was thrilled as I had not been by all the previous sentences.  It was certainly not what he said that made me feel so, but the way and manner of his saying it.”

With the address finished, the assemblage stood motionless and silent.  The heads were bowed as were those of the Negroes, who now, with a long and solemn ‘Amen,’ were the only ones to disturb the stillness.  The extreme brevity of the address together with its abrupt close had so astonished the hearers that they stood transfixed.  Had not Lincoln turned and moved toward his chair, the audience would very likely have remained voiceless for several moments more.  Finally there came applause and a calling, ‘Yes!  Yes!  Government for the people!’  It was as if the blue Ridge Mountains to the west were echoing Lincoln’s concluding and keynote thought.

Edward Everett was the first to approach the President and shake hands with him.  He said with feeling that Lincoln’s few eloquent words had been written upon the memory of man and would endure, while his own were only for the moment.  The others of importance who had been seated well forward on the platform, now surrounded the President.  Noticing that some of the Christ Church choir members were trying to approach him, he waved aside the notables and began to shake hands with the singers.

Among them was a girl of fifteen, several years younger than any of the others, Louisa Vandersloot.  He had heard her high, clear soprano voice; he motioned her toward him.  Leaning over two of the older choristers, he extended his long arm and, as he puts it, ‘his great, warm, all-enveloping hand took hold of my little one and almost crushed it.’  That evening, during a reception, the President again singled out this girl and once more crushed her tender fingers with his great hand.  She is now a woman of almost my age — Mrs. M.O. Smith; and frequently we exchange reminiscences of the Day of the Dedication.  She, just as I, fairly felt his kindliness and greatness of soul and ‘tingled all over’ when he held her close to him.

In his brief Gettysburg Address, which aide John Hay described as delivered “in a firm free way, with more grace than is his wont” President Lincoln stated: “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived, and so dedicated, can long endure.  We are met on a great battlefield of that war.  We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives, that that nation might live.  It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But in a larger sense, we can not dedicate–we can not consecrate–we can not hallow–this ground.  The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.  It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.  It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us–that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion–that we here highly resolve that these dead not have died in vain–that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom–and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Helen Nicolay, daughter of presidential secretary John G. Nicolay, wrote: “Newspapers stated that Mr. Lincoln read from a manuscript in his hand.  My father sat only a few feet away, and his distinct recollection was that the President held the manuscript but did not read from it, his deliver by being far more than a mechanical reading of written words. My father’s recollection is borne out by the fact the speech as taken down in shorthand by the Associated Press and printed next morning in the newspapers does not follow exactly the written words.  My father thought it most likely that, during the ride to the grounds and the deliver of Mr. Everett’s oration, Mr. Lincoln fashioned the phrases anew in his silent thought and had them ready when he rose to speak.”   Benjamin Brown French wrote: ““After the President had concluded, the Gettysburg Choir sung a Dirge, accompanied by the Band, in excellent style, and with great effect.

“Doct. Baugher, President of the College, then pronounced the benediction, and the Marshals formed and escorted the President back to his lodgings, where he arrived about 3 P.M. After dinner, the Marshals assembled on foot & escorted the President to the Presbyterian Church where an address was delivered by the Lt. Gov. of Ohio.    I should have said that for about an hour after the return of the President to Mr. Wills’s, he received all who chose to call on him, and there were thousands who took him by the hand.  At ½ past 6 he left in a special train for this City, and arrived home about midnight.  That evening, and the succeeding morning[,] a vast multitude left Gettysburg.

Washington Marshall Ward Hill Lamon recalled: “After its delivery on the day of commemoration, he expressed deep regret that he had not prepared it with greater care.  He said to me on the stand, immediately after concluding the speech: ‘Lamon, that speech won’t scour!  It is a flat failure, and the people are disappointed.’  (the word ‘scour’ he often used in expressing his positive conviction that a thing lacked merit, or would not stand the test of close criticism or the wear of time.)  He seemed deeply concerned about what the people might think of his address; more deeply, in fact, than I had ever seen him on any public occasion.  His frank and regretful condemnation of his effort, and more especially his manner of expressing that regret, struck me as somewhat remarkable; and my own impression was deepened by fact that the orator of the day, Mr. Everett, and Secretary Seward both coincided with Mr. Lincoln in his unfavorable view of its merits.

Lamon added: “As a matter of fact, the silence during the delivery of the speech, and the lack of hearty demonstration of approval immediately after its close, were taken by Mr. Lincoln as certain proof that it was not well received.  In that opinion we all shared.  If any person then present saw, or thought he saw, the marvelous beauties of that wonderful speech, as intelligent in all lands now see and acknowledge the, his superabundant caution closed his lips and stayed his pen.  Mr. Lincoln said to me after our return to Washington, ‘I tell you, Hill, that speech feel on the audience like a wet blanket.  I am distressed about it.  I ought to have prepared it with more care.’  Such continued to be his opinion of that most wonderful of all his platform addresses up to the time of his death.”

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

Presidential Party Leaves Washington for Gettysburg

November 18, 1863

Although Tad Lincoln is sick, President Lincoln departs Washington with his two secretaries, Secretary of State William h. Seward, Secretary of the Interior John Palmer Usher, and Postmaster General Montgomery Blair – along with presidential secretaries John G. Nicolay and John Hay.

General James B. Fry writes: “I was designated by the Secretary of War as a sort of special escort to a company the President from Washington to Gettysburg upon the occasion of the first anniversary of the battle at that place.  At the appointed time I found the President’s carriage at the door to take him to the station; but he was not ready.  When he appeared it was rather late, and I remarked that he had no time to lose in going to the train. ‘Well,’ said he, ‘I fell about that as the convict in one of our Illinois towns felt when he was going to the gallows.   As he passed along the road in the custody of the sheriff, the people, eager to see the execution, kept crowding and pushing past him. At last he called out, ‘Boys! you needn’t be in such a hurry to get ahead, for there won’t be any fun till I get there.’

It has been said, I believe, that Lincoln wrote in the car en route to Gettysburg the celebrated speech which he delivered upon that historic battle-ground.  I am quite sure that is an error.  I have no recollection of seeing him writing or even reading his speech during the journey.  In fact, there was hardly any opportunity for him to read or write.

Presidential aide John Hay writes in his diary of the president’s journey from Washington to Gettysburg: “We started from Washington to go to the Consecration of the Soldiers’ Cemetery at Gettysburg.  On our train were the President Seward Usher & Blair: Niclay & Myself: Mercier & Admiral Reynaud; Bertinatti & Capt. Isola & Lt. Martinez & Cora: Mrs. Wise: Wayne McVeagh: McDougal of Canada and one or two others.  We had a pleasant sort of a trip.  At Baltimore Scenck’s staff joined us.

“Just before we arrived at Gettysburg the President got into a little talk with McVeagh about Missouri affairs.  McV. talked radicalism until he learned that he was talking recklessly.  The President disavowed any knowledge of the Edwards case, said that Bates said to him, as indeed he said to me, that Edwards was inefficient and must be removed for that reason.

At Gettysburg the President went to Mr. Wills who expected him and our party broke like a drop of quicksilver spilt.  McVeagh young Stanton & I foraged around for a while – walked out to the College got a chafing dish of oysters then some supper and finally loafing around to the Court House where Lamon was holding a meeting Marshals, we found Forney and went around to his place Mr. Fahnestocks and drank a little whiskey with him.  He had been drinking a good deal during the day and was getting to feel a little ugly and dangerous.  He was particularly bitter on Montgomery Blair. McVeagh was telling him that he pitched into the President coming up and told him some truths.  He said the President got a good deal of that from time to time and needed it.

He says “Hay you are a fortunate man.  You have kept yourself aloof from your office.  I know an old fellow now seventy who was Private Secretary to Madison.  He has lived ever since on its recollection.  He thought there was something solemn and memorable in it.  Hay has laughed through his term.”

“He talked very strangely referring to the affectionate and loyal support which he and Curtin had given to the President in Pennsylvania: with references from himself and others to the favors that had been shown the Cameron party whom they regard as their natural enemies.  Forney seems identified fully now with the Curtin interest, though when Curtin was nominated he called him a heavy weight to carry and said that Cameron’s foolish attack nominated him.

“We went out after a while following the music to hear the serenades.  The Prsident appeared at the door said half a dozen words meaning nothing & went in.  Seward who was staying around the corner at Harper’s was called out and spoke so indistinctly that I did not hear a word of what he was saying.  Forney and McVeagh were still growlinnnng about Blair.

“We went back to Forney’s room having picked up Nicolay and drank more whiskey.  Nicolay sung his little song of the ‘Three Thieves’ and we then sung John Brown.  At last we proposed that Forney should make a speech and two or three started out Shannon and Behan and Nicolay to get a band to serenade him.  I staid with him.  So did Stanton and McVeagh.  He still growled quietly and I thought he was going to do something imprudent.  He said if I speak, I will speak my mind.  The music sounded in the street and the fuglers came rushing up imploring him to come down.  He smiled quietly told them to keep cool and asked ‘are the recorder there.’  ‘I suppose so of course’ shouted the fugler. ‘Ascertain’ said the imperturbable Forney.  ‘Hay, we’ll take a drink.’  They shouted and begged him to come down The thing would be a failure – it would be his fault &c.  ‘Are the recorders congenial?’  He calmly insisted on knowing.  Somebody commended prudence He said sternly ‘I am always prudent.’  I walked down stairs with him.

“And very much of this.

The crowd was large and clamorous.  The fuglers stood by the door in an agony.  The reporters squatted at a little stand in the entry.  Forney stood on the Threshold, John Young & I by him.  The crowd shouted as the door opened.  Forney said: ‘My friends, these are the first hearty cheers I have heard tonight.  You gave no such cheers to your President down the street.  Do you know what you owe to that Great man?  You owe your country – you owe your name as American citizens.’”

“He went on blackguarding the crowd for their apathy & then diverged to his own record saying he had ben for Lincoln in his heart in 1860 – that open advocacy was not as effectual as the course he took – dividing the most corrupt organization that ever existed – the proslavery Dem. Party.  He dwelt at length on this question and then went back to the eulogy of the President that great, wonderful mysterious inexplicable man: who holds in his single hands the reins of the republic: who keep his own counsels: who does his own purpose in his own way no matter what temporizing minister in his cabinet sets himself up in opposition to the progress of the age.

“After him Wayne McVeagh made a most touching and beautiful speech of five minutes and Judge Shannon of Pittsburgh spoke effectively and acceptably to the people.

‘That speech must not be written out yet’ says Young.  He will see further about it, when he gets sober,’ as we went up stairs.  We sang John Brown and went home.

In his remarks to the crowd, President Lincoln writes: “I appear before you, fellow-citizens, merely to thank you for this compliment.  The inference is a very fair one that you would hear me for a little while at least, were I to commence to make a speech.  I do not appear before you for the purpose of doing so, and for several substantial reasons.  The most substantial of these is that I have no speech to make.  [Laughter.]  In my position it is somewhat important that I should not say any foolish things.

A VOICE – If you can help it.

MR. LINCOLN – It very often happens that only way to help it is to say nothing at all.  [Laughter.]  Believing that is my present condition this evening, I must beg of you to excuse me from addressing you further.

Benjamin Brown French, federal commissioner of buildings, recalled: “In the evening the President came into Mr. Harper’s and spent an hour.  That evening there was a large influx of visitors, and the president & Mr. Seward were serenaded and made brief speeches.”

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

President Lincoln Prepares for Trip to Gettysburg

November 17, 1863

President Lincoln reviews the train schedule for the trip to Gettysburg.   The first one calls for an all-Friday schedule, leaving early in the morning.  President Lincoln writes Secretary of War Stanton: “I do not like this arrangement. I do not wish to so go that by the slightest accident we fail entirely, and, at the best, the whole to be a mere breathless running of the gauntlet.”  The schedule is changed for the Lincoln Party to leave on Thursday, the day before the event.  President Lincoln writes Secretary of State William H. Seward: “I expected to see you here at Cabinet meeting, and to say something about going to Gettysburg. There will be a train to take and return us. The time for starting is not yet fixed; but when it shall be.”    Meanwhile, President Lincoln reviews 2,500 soldiers  from Invalid Corps on Pennsylvania Avenue.

At night, President reviews layout of Gettysburg National Cemetery at Gettysburg with its designer,  William Saunders.  By then, Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address is Half-Prepared.   President Lincoln invites Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase to go on the trip: “I expected to see you here at Cabinet meeting, and to say something about going to Gettysburg. There will be a train to take and return us. The time for starting is not yet fixed; but when it shall be, I will notify you.”

In other railroad news, President Lincoln sets the eastern terminus of the transcontinental railroad.  He decrees: “In pursuance of the fourteenth Section of the act of congress, entitled “An act to aid in the construction of a Railroad and Telegraph Line from the Missouri river to the Pacific ocean, and to secure to the Government the use of the same for postal, military, and other purposes” Approved July 1, 1862, I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, do hereby fix so much of the Western boundary of the State of Iowa as lies between the North and South boundaries of the United States Township, within which the City of Omaha is situated, as the point from which the line of railroad and telegraph in that section mentioned, shall be constructed.”

The choice was controversial.  Historian Elmo Richardson, biographer of John Palmer Usher, wrote: “In November, Usher “was called to the White House to witness the selection of the official eastern terminus of the Union Pacific.  Also present was Thomas C. Durant, vice president of the Nebraska branch, who favored the choice of the mouth of the Platte River, just south of Omaha.  The Harlan faction, which still had Lincoln’s confidence in railroad matters, urged the adoption of this point as the terminus.  Usher, however, did not agree.  Convinced by the argument of Fremont and others, he believed that the best point would be the unction of the Kansas and Missouri rivers.  Because the law of 1862 would have to be modified to permit choosing this, and because such modification would be subject to the opposition of Harlan’s partisans, Usher did not urge the adoption of the alternate point during this meeting.  After jokingly hesitating over the fact that he owned lots in Omaha, Lincoln fixed the terminus at the Nebraska site.”

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

President Lincoln Worries about Union Garrison at Knoxville, Tennessee

November 16, 1863

Concerned about Knoxville, President Lincoln telegraphs General Ambrose Burnside: “What is the news?” Burnside responds:

Longstreet crossed the Tennessee River on Saturday at Huff’s Ferry six miles below Loudon with about 15,000 men. We have resisted the advance steadily repulsing every attack, holding on, till our position was turned by superior numbers, and then retiring in good order.

He attacked us yesterday about eleven o’clock at Campbell’s Station and heavy fighting has been going on all day, in which we have held our own and inflicted serious loss on the enemy.

No fighting since dark. We commenced retiring, and the most of the command is now within the lines of Knoxville.

Among the President’s visitors are some Italian naval officers, visitors from Canada, and

Connecticut Senator Lafayette S. Foster.  President nominates New Yorker Richard Busteed  him to be judge in northern Alabama.

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

Marshal Ward Hill Lamon tells President Lincoln about the Program for the Dedication of the Gettysburg National Cemetery

November 15, 1863

Journalist Noah Brooks recalled: ““On the Sunday before he went to Gettysburg, Lincoln invited me to go to Gardner’s photography gallery where he was to sit for his picture.  He took along a two-page supplement of the ‘Boston Journal’ in which was printed Mr Everett’s Gettysburg oration which E. had sent him.  In the carriage, on Lincoln’s showing me the speech, occurred the conversation which Major Lambert quotes.  When he came back from Gettysburg, Lincoln told me that he made several changes in the manuscript of his own address after he got to Gettysburg, and others ‘as he went along’ while delivering it on the field.  But all of these changes did not appear in the fac-simile afterwards produced under Lincoln’s own supervision.  The explanation of this [is] sufficiently obvious.  Lincoln, who did not appear to think very highly of his own speech, could not remember just what changes he did make while he read it on the field.”  Brooks memory of the date was probably off by a week.”

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

President Lincoln Rejects Requests from General William Rosecrans

November 14, 1863

President Lincoln writes General William Rosecrans, formerly commander of Union forces at the Battle of Chickamauga: “I have received and considered your despatch of yesterday. Of the Reports you mention I have not the means of seeing any except your own. Besides this the publication might be improper in view of the Court of Inquiry which has been ordered. With every disposition, not merely to do justice, but to oblige you, I feel constrained to say I think the publication better not be made now.”

President Lincoln meets with Pennsylvania Governor Andrew Curtin about appointments.

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

President Lincoln Meets with California Politicians

November 13, 1863

A group of political leaders, led by California Senator John Conness visit President Lincoln to present him with a cane owned by the late California senator David Colbert Broderick, who had been killed in a duel in 1859.   According to the Cincinnati Gazette, “The President then accepted the cane, and, with much emotion, replied that he never personally knew the Senator’s friend, Mr. Broderick, but he had always heard him spoken of as one sincerely devoted to the cause of human rights. Testimony to this point of his character had been borne by those whom he had not intimately known, as also by those with whom he was personally and intimately acquainted, and, with all of them, the testimony had been uniform. The memento which was presented him by Senator Conness was of that class of things, the highest honor that could be conferred upon him. If, in the position he had been placed, he had done anything that entitled him to the honor the Senator had assigned him, it was a proud reflection that his acts were of such a character as to merit the affiliation of the friends of a man like David C. Broderick. Whether remaining in this world or looking down upon the earth from the spirit land, to be remembered by such a man as David C. Broderick was a fact he would remember through all the years of his life. The proudest ambition he could desire was to do something for the elevation of the condition of his fellow-man. In conclusion, he returned his sincere thanks for the part the Senator bore in this presentation, and to the memory of his great friend.”

President Lincoln learns that the Missouri legislature has elected  B. Gratz Brown, a Radical Republican, and John B. Henderson, a conservative, as the state’s U.S. senators.  The president and Senator Henderson will get along well and Henderson will introduce emancipation legislation in early 1864. Senator Brown, however, would be a continuing thorn in Lincoln’s side.

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

President Lincoln Attends Wedding of Kate Chase and William Sprague

November 12, 1863

The daughter of the secretary of the treasury married the young senator from Rhode Island as Salmon P. Chase’s home.  A few days later, journalist Noah Brooks wrote: “The whirl of dust of the bridal cortege, which went from secretary Chase’s to the railroad depot last night, has subsided — but not so the gentle flow and ebb of small talk which so grand an event as the marriage of Senator Sprague and Miss Kate Chase has created.  Who was there and who was not there; how the bride looked in her white velvet dress, real point lace veil and orange flowers; how the President went in solitary state and a white cravat and things; how Mrs. Lincoln did not go because she is yet in black wear and had an opportune chill betimes; how the President stayed two hours and a half ‘to take the cuss off’ the meagerness of the Presidential party…”

Presidential aide John Hay writes in his diary: “A very brilliant looking party.  Kate looked tired out and languid especially at the close of the evening when I went into the bridal chamber to say Goodnight.  She had lost all her old severity & formal stiffness of manner, & seemed to think she had arrived….The President came for a few minutes.”  A few days later, White House aide William O. Stoddard writes in an anonymous newspaper dispatch:”The social event of the past week was the wedding of Senator Sprague and Miss Chase.  Never did anything go off more neatly.  The ‘tableau,’ as they call it, at the marriage itself was charming; and the dress reception in the evening, and the informal one next day, were entirely pleasant.  Th presents were magnificent – silver, pearls, diamonds, &c., to the tune of a hundred thousand or so.”

“Lines of carriages filled the street outside the house, where a large crowd had gathered to see the dignitaries. ‘They were very good-natured, as large crowds generally are…As one [carriage] after the other discharged their inmates, some spicy and good-natured remarks were passed by the eager crowd in attendance,” wrote Alice Hunt Sokoloff in Kate Chase for the Defense.  “Among the five hundred guests at the reception were many who had come to see Kate sacrifice herself, as they thought, on the altar of her father’s ambition, and her own, convinced as they were that she was throwing herself away on a man she did not love for the sake of his money and what it could do to advance her father’s career.  Kate knew the ugly whispers about her marriage, the continuing stream of anonymous letters would have accomplished that if nothing else.”

President Lincoln writes Superintendent of Printing John D. Defrees: “Mr. Defrees — Please see this girl who works in your office, and find out about her brother, and come and tell me.”  Another document stated: “A poor girl in the employment of the Government printing-office had a brother impressed into the rebel service, and was taken prisoner by our forces. He desired to take the oath of allegiance, and to be liberated. She sought an interview with the President, who wrote the note, asking me to inquire into the facts, which I did, and the young man was liberated on the President’s order.”

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

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. . . .

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