President Concerned with Confederate Prisoners

December 24, 1863

Attorney General Edward Bates writes in his diary: “I was out today, for the first time this week.  Called on the President.  He has written to O.D. Filley in answer to the application of some of our best men to relieve Revd. Dr. McPheeters from Provost Martial [sic] Dick’s decree of silence (order not to preach).  The Prest had no idea that the Provost had assumed to ‘run the church.’  I hope the letter will be sufficient{.]

Edwin. C. Claybrook, of 9 Va. Reb[el]Cav[alr]y. Is a prisoner of war, at Point Lookout.  He is a youth [of] 18 or 20 son of Col [ ] Claybrook of North[umberlan]d. C[ount]y. Va. – The Prest, being abt. to send for young Linder of Ill: at my instance, ordered up young Claybrook also, with the view, in both cases, to release them, if they will only accept the boon, on any reasonable terms.

“The Prest: is anxious to gratify Linder, the father, who is his old friend; and I am very desirous to make a New Year’s gift of Claybrook, ot his father and family.

“Shewed the President, Mr. Gibson’s telegram requesting the appointment of Jno. Bozeman Kerr, as Deputy Sol[i]c.[itor][of the] Ct. of Claims. I think it will be done, tho’ the Prest said that Senator Harris had proposed a man for the place, he also said that, for a long time, he had wished he had something to give Mr. Kerr.

President Lincoln writes General Nathaniel P. Banks regarding reconstruction in Louisiana: “Yours of the 6th. Inst. has been received, and fully considered.  I deeply regret to have said or done anything which could give you pain or uneasiness.  I have all the while intended you to be master, as well in regard to re-organizing a State government for Louisiana, as in regard to the military matters of the Department; and hence my letters on reconstruction have nearly if not quite all been addressed to you.  My error has been that it did not occur to me that Gov. Shepley or any one else would set up a claim to act independently of you; and hence I said nothing expressly upon the point.  Language has not been guarded at a point where no danger was thought of.  I now tell you that in every dispute, with whomsoever, you are master.  Gov. Shepley was appointed to assist Commander of the Department, and not to thwart him, or act independently of him.  Instructions have been given directly to him, merely to spare you detail labor, and not to supersede your authority.  This, in it’s liability to be misconstrued, it now seems was an error in us.  But it is past.  I now distinctly tell you that you are master of all, and that I wish you to take the case as you find it, and give us a free-state re-organization of Louisiana, in the shortest possible time.  What I say here is to have a reasonable construction.  I do not mean that you are to withdraw from Texas, or abandon any other military measure which you may deem important.  Nor do I mean that you are to throw away available work already done for reconstruction; or that war is to be made upon Gov. Shepley, or upon anyone else, unless it be found that they will not co-operate with you, in which case, and in all cases, you are master while you remain in command of the Department.

General Banks had written on December 6, 1863: “From the first I have regarded reorganization of government here as of the highest importance, and I have never failed to advocate every where the earliest development of this interest by congressional elections and by initiatory measures for state, organization…In the initial reconstruction, the basis should be that of a free state beyond the possibility of failure.  Having secured this other states, will easily follow…So strong has been my conviction on this subject that I requested Governor Boutwell to press upon your attention my views–when I returned from the Teche Country in October…I addressed to you a lengthy letter, and also wrote to Governor Shepley, and to Mr. Durant, Attorney General and other gentlemen, urging the completion of this duty by the quickest methods: but I found most of these gentlemen so interested in topics, that seemed to me disconnected with the general subject, and so slightly disposed to encourage my participation in the affair that I retained the letter I had written, and turned my attention, not unwillingly, to matters more likely to be accomplished, though not more important.  The restoration of our Flag in Texas from Ringold Barracks on the Rio Grande to the Brasos on the coast, rewarded my change of purpose.

…Had the organization of a free state in Louisiana been committed to me under general instructions only, it would have been complete before this day.  It can be effected now in sixty days–let me say, even in thirty days, if necessary…But it should be undertaken only by those who have authority to act: who know what to do, who have no personal interests in addition or superior to the creation of a FREE STATE, and who can harmonize the action of individuals without the sacrifice of public interest.  I do not suppose i have the qualifications for this duty; certain I am that I have not the authority.  How then can I be held responsible for the failure to satisfy your expectations?

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Published in: on December 24, 2013 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

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