Congress Opens without Complications from House Clerk Emerson Etheridge

December 7, 1863

After the 1862 elections, the Republican majority in the House of Representatives had been much reduced.  Emerson Etheridge, the clerk of the House, had been scheming to invalidate the election certificates of enough Republicans to give Democrats control of the House.  President Lincoln had been working for a month to block Etheridge’s efforts. Presidential aide John Hay writes “we went up expecting a taste of a scrimmage but were disappointed.  Etheridge was very quiet and reasonable.  He left off a large number of names but entertained the motion to put them on the rolls when it was made, contrary to the protest of J.C. Allen of Illinois.  Everything went on properly then.  The vote was taken showing 20 majority on the side of the Government, Odell and Stuart and Morrison and a few others of whom better things were expected voting wrong.  When this was over [Elihu B.] Washburne nominated Colfax for Speaker and a round of applause burst from the galleries.  Pendleton nominated Cox and a shower of hisses came from the critics above. A singular contrast with the voices of the celestials a few years ago.”  He added: “Colfax was elected & made a neat speech and we went home.”

Presidential aide John G. Nicolay writes: “The President this evening read me a telegram from [General John] Foster saying that Sherman had reached and joined Burnside at Knoxville that [Confederate General James] Longstreet was in full retreat up the valley into Va. – that he Foster would obey orders received and vigorously follow up the pursuit &c.

“‘Now’ said the President, ‘if this Army of the Potomac was good for anything – if the officers had anything in them – if the army had any legs, they could move thirty thousand men down to Lynchburg and catch Longstreet.  Can anybody doubt, if Grant were here in command that he would catch him?  There is not oa man in the whole Union who would for a moment doubt it.  But I do not think it would do to bring Grant away from the West.  I talked with Gen. Halleck this morning about the matter, and his opinion was the same.[‘] [‘]But you know, Mr. President,[‘] said the General, [‘]how hard we have tried to get this army to move towards the enemy and we cannot succeed.’

–‘This’ said the Prest. (referring to Sherman’s junction with Burnside, and Longstreets retreat) [‘]is one of the most important gains of the war – the difference between Burnside saved and Burnside lost is one of the greatest advantages of the war – it secures us East Tennessee.’

White House aide William O. Stoddard writes in an anonymous newspaper dispatch: “It is a glorious day this, with a sunlight as brilliant as June; the air clear, bracing, full of electricity and life, yet cold enough to make the blazing logs in the fireplaceyonder decidedly agreeable.”

President Lincoln issues an unusual press release on the recent Union victories in Tennessee: “Reliable information being received that the insurgent force is retreating from East Tennessee, under circumstances rendering it probable that the Union forces can not hereafter be dislodged from that important position; and esteeming this to be of high national consequence, I recommend that all loyal people do, on receipt of this, informally assemble at their places of worship and tender special homage and gratitude to Almighty God, for this great advancement of the national cause.”  The president, however, is impatient with efforts to pursue General James Longstreet.  He tells aide John G. Nicolay: “”Now if this Army of the Potomac was any good . . . if the Army had any legs, they could move 30,000 men down to Lynchburg and catch Longstreet. Can anybody doubt, if Grant were here in command that he would catch him?”

Mrs. Lincoln is still out of town.  President Lincoln writes her: “ “All doing well. Tad confidently expects you to-night. When will you come?” Mrs. Lincoln responds that she will come the next day.

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Published in: on December 7, 2013 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

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