President Lincoln Reviews Court Martial Cases

February 9, 1864

President Lincoln meets to review pending military justice cases with Judge Advocate

Joseph Holt.  Artist Francis B. Carpenter observes the meeting “with Mr. Lincoln in his study. The morning was devoted to the Judge-Advocate-General, who had a large number of court-martial cases to submit to tho President. Never had I realized what it was to have power, as on this occasion. As case after case was presented to Mr. Lincoln, one stroke of his pen confirmed or commuted the sentence of death. In several instances Judge Holt referred to extenuating circumstances, — extreme youth, previous good conduct, or recommendations to mercy. Every excuse of this kind, having a foundation in fact, was instantly seized upon by the President, who, taking the document containing the sentence, would write upon the back of it the lightest penalty consistent with any degree of justice. As he added the date to one of these papers, he remarked casually, varying the subject of conversation, “Does your mind, Judge Holt, associate events with dates? Every time this morning that I have had occasion to write the day of the month, the thought has come up, ‘This was General Harrison’s birthday.'” One of the cases brought forward at this time I recollect distinctly. The man’s name was Burroughs; he had been a notorious spy; convicted and sentenced to death, a strong effort had been made in his behalf by powerful friends. It was an aggravated case, but an impression had evidently been made upon the President by the strength and pertinacity of the appeal. As Judge Holt opened the record, he stated that a short time previous Burroughs had attempted to escape from confinement, and was shot dead in the act by the sentinel on guard. With an expression of relief, Mr. Lincoln rejoined, ‘I ought to be obliged to him for taking his fate into his own hands; he has saved me a deal of trouble.’

Carpenter recalled: “When the clock struck twelve, Mr. Lincoln drew back from the table, and with a stretch of his long arms, remarked, ‘I guess we will go no farther with these cases to-day; I am a little tired, and the Cabinet will be coming in soon.” “I believe, by the by,” he added, “that I have not yet had my breakfast, — this business has been so absorbing that it has crowded everything else out of my mind.’ And so ended the work of one morning; simple in its detail, but pregnant with hope and joy, darkness and death, to many human beings.”  After the Cabinet meeting, President Lincoln went to have his photograph taken by Mathew Brady:

At three o’clock the President was to accompany me, by appointment, to Brady’s photographic galleries on Pennsylvania Avenue. The carriage had been ordered, and Mrs. Lincoln, who was to accompany us, had come down at the appointed hour, dressed for the ride, when one of those vexations, incident to all households, occurred. Neither carriage or coachman was to be seen. The President and myself stood upon the threshold of the door under the portico, awaiting the result of the inquiry for the coachman, when a letter was put into his hand. While he was reading this, people were passing, as is customary, up and down the. promenade, which leads through the grounds to the War Department, crossing, of course, the portico. My attention was attracted to an approaching party, apparently a countryman, plainly dressed, with his wife and two little boys, who had evidently been straying about, looking at the places of public interest in the city. As they reached the portico, the father, who was in advance, caught sight of the tall figure of Mr. Lincoln, absorbed in his letter. His wife and the little boys were ascending the steps. The man stopped suddenly, put out his hand with a ‘hush’ to his family, and, after a moment’s gaze, he bent down and whispered to them, — ‘There is the President!’ Then leaving them, he slowly made a half circuit around Mr. Lincoln, watching him intently all the while. At this point, having finished his letter, the President turned to me, and said: “Well, we will not wait any longer for the carriage; it won’t hurt you and me to walk down.” The countryman here approached very diffidently, and asked if he might be allowed to take the President by the hand; after which, “Would he extend the same privilege to his wife and little boys?” Mr. Lincoln good-naturedly approached the latter, who had remained where they were stopped, and, reaching down, said a kind word to the bashful little fellows, who shrank close up to their mother, and did not reply. This simple act filled the father’s cup full. “The Lord is with you, Mr. President,” he said reverently; and then, hesitating a moment, he added, with strong emphasis, “and the people too, sir; and the people too!”

The walk, of a mile or more, was made very agreeable and interesting to me by a variety of stories, of which Mr. Lincoln’s mind was so prolific. Something was said soon after we started about the penalty which attached to high positions in a democratic government — the tribute these filling them were compelled to pay to the public. “Great men,” said Mr. Lincoln, “have various estimates. When Daniel Webster made his tour through the West years ago, he visited Springfield among other places, where great preparation had been made to receive him. As the procession was going through the town, a barefooted little darkey boy. pulled the sleeve of a man named T., and asked, “’ What the folks were all doing down the street?’ ‘Why, Jack,’ was the’ reply, ‘the biggest man in the world is coming.’ Now, there lived in Springfield a man by the name of G., — a very corpulent man. Jack darted off down the street, but presently returned, with a very disappointed air. ‘Well, did you see him?’ inquired T. ‘Yes,’ returned Jack; ‘ but laws — he ain’t half as big as old G.'”

Shortly afterward, he spoke of Mr. [Thomas] Ewing, who was in both President Harrison’s and President Taylor’s cabinet. “Those men,” said he, “were, you know, when elected, both of advanced years, — sages. Ewing had received, in some way, the nickname of ‘ Old Solitude.’ Soon after the formation of Taylor’s cabinet, Webster and Ewing happened to meet at an evening party. As they approached each other, Webster, who was in fine spirits, uttered, in his deepest bass tones, the well known lines, —

“O Solitude, where are the charms

That sages have seen in thy face?”

President Lincoln holds his regular Tuesday night reception – with the not-so-regular appearance of oldest son Robert Todd Lincoln.

Published in: on February 9, 2014 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

The Pomeroy Circular is Distributed in Support of Chase Candidacy

February 8, 1864

A second anti-Lincoln letter is circulated by supporters of Secretary of Treasury Salmon P. Chase.  Historian William Frank Zornow wrote in  Lincoln & the Party Divided: “Miscalculating the effect of their first pamphlet on the American public, Chase’s manager prepared a second circular, dated February 8, for distribution.  Since this document bore the signature of Senator Samuel Pomeroy, it has gone down in history as the ‘Pomeroy Circular,’ although that gentleman was not its author.  As in the case of the first document it was franked out by several prominent Unconditional congressmen.  This second pamphlet was allegedly distributed in response to the circular sent out in January by Simeon Draper’s committee.  The Pomeroy Circular was marked ‘strictly private,’ but as is frequently the case with such things, it soon appeared in the public journals and on February 22 it was given to the people generally over the wires of the Associated Press.”

President Lincoln meets with Wisconsin Senator James R. Doolittle, later writing Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton: “I saw Doolittle and made your views known to him. He is altogether tractable on the question and thinks there is no danger of precipitate action.

President Lincoln writes Arkansas’s recently elected Governor Isaac Murphy: “My order to Gen. [Frederick] Steele about an election was made in ignorance of the action your convention had taken or would take. A subsequent letter directs Gen. Steele to aid you on your own plan, and not to thwart or hinder you. Show this to him.”

At night, President and Mrs. Lincoln attend a performance of “Sea of Ice” at the Washington Theatre.

Published in: on February 8, 2014 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

President Lincoln’s Brother-in-law Wants to Know When War Will End

February 7, 1864

Clark Smith, a Springfield merchant married to Mrs. Lincoln’s sister Ann, writes a curious letter to President Lincoln from New York.   Smith wants a little advance notice about the end of the Civil War: “As I have never lived through a civil war; I feel completely lost in a commercial point of view; I thought I would trouble you with a letter for which I do hope you will take the trouble to read; and also pardon me for the liberty I have taken; and what ever your decision may be in referance to this letter you can rely on one thing that it will kept strictly confidential and sacred”

my object in writing to you now is not for office place or position; but but simply to ask a very small favor of you; which if granted should never be the means of mortifying or embarrassing you in any way whatever; while I have been sadly afflicted to the very fullest in looseing three of my dear Children which was a very great blow to me; which you are capable of feeling for those afflicted; I have been prospered beyond my expectations; not in fat contracts of of the Goverment; but my steady persevereance and attention to my business no one can ever accuse me or my Children of owening Shoddy property; I have made for the benefit of the little remnant of my Family that has been left me over a Hundred Thousand dollars; I commenced in the world like you did a poor Boy without Friends money or influance; and gradually and gradually worked my way untill now I would not take a cent less than $125.000.– for my little propperty it all consist in Three Store Houses and ten Acres of land in Springfield and a part of old Jim Barrett Farm and my stock, of Goods at my diferant stores

I now I want to save that for my wife and little Children that has been spared me and the Children that I have taken to raise You are probbably not aware of the Sad affliction we have had since you left Springfield in the loss of our dear little Boy Lincoln who died last March

If you could at the proper time give me a little notice or a hint that things was likely to be brought to a close in our troubles; you would confer; and place me under everlasting obligations to you

I do not want or desire to know any of the Secrets of the administration; but simply a hint that it would be a good time for me to get my house in order; I have bought my Partners Interest in all of our business and paid him his money; I am selling at my diferant Stores a half million goods annually for Cash; and a hint of 60 days or even 30 days would enable me to close out my stocks for money so that I would not loose any money; thus enableing me to escape without loss; If I should mention or even intimate any confidence that you might repose in me; dont you see that it would thwart in my plans so you need not fear that for a moment.

Published in: on February 7, 2014 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Republican Presidential Race Begins as President Lincoln Contemplates His Mortality

February 6, 1864

President Lincoln visits Illinois Congressman Owen  Lovejoy who is dying of cancer.  “This war is eating my life out,” President Lincoln tells Lovejoy, one of his strongest supporters in the House.  “I have a strong impression that I shall not live to see the end.”

President Lincoln meets during the afternoon with painter Francis B. Carpenter who intends to immortalize the  first reading of Emancipation Proclamation.  Carpenter recalled: “The appointed hour found me at the well-remembered door of the official chamber, — that door watched daily, with so many conflicting emotions of hope and fear, by the anxious throng regularly gathered there. The President had preceded me, and was already deep in Acts of Congress, with which the writing-desk was strewed, awaiting his signature. He received me pleasantly, giving me a seat near his own arm-chair; and after having read Mr. Lovejoy’s note, he took off his spectacles, and said, “Well, Mr. C , we will turn you in loose here, and try to give you a good chance to work out your idea.” Then, without paying much attention to the enthusiastic expression of my ambitious desire and purpose, he proceeded to give me a detailed account of the history and issue of the great proclamation.:

President Lincoln rebuffs former Illinois Senator Orville H. Browning who approaches him on behalf of a client: “At night went to see the President on behalf of Mrs Fitz, a loyal widow of Mississippi owning a cotton plantation there, and from whom the U S Army had taken all her slaves amounting to 47, and 10,000 bushels of corn — She is now a refugee in St Louis, reduced to indigence.  She asks no compensation for her slaves, but wishes the government to give her a sufficient number of negroes out of those accumulated upon its hands to work her farm the ensuing season, and enable her to raise a crop of cotton, she to pay them out of the proceeds the same wages which the government pays those it employs.  I made the proposition to the President thinking it reasonable and just, and worthy at least of being considered.  He became very much excited, and did not discuss the proposition at all, but said with great vehemence he had rather take a rope and hang himself than to do it.  That there were a great many poor women who had never had any property at all who were suffering as much as Mrs Fitz — that her condition was a necessary consequence of the rebellion, and that the government could not make good the losses occasioned by rebels.  I reminded him that she was loyal, and that her property had been taken from her by her own government, and was now being used by it, and I thought it a case eminently proper for some sort of remuneration, and her demand reasonable, and certainly entitled to respectful consideration.  He replied that she had lost no property — that her slaves were free when they were taken, and that she was entitled to no compensation.

I called his attention to the fact that a portion of her slaves, at least, had been taken in 1862, before his proclamation, and put upon our gun boats, when he replied in a very excited manner that he had rather throw up, than to do what was asked, and would not do anything about it.  I left him in no very good humor.

U.S. Marshal Ward Hill Lamon writes President Lincoln from New York City about the so-called Pomeroy Circular supporting Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase’s presidential candidacy. : “I am not sure when I can leave here for home having some important business in this city– Mr. H. G. Fant — (Banker in Washington City) who is here (& by the way an earnest, and enthusiastic friend of yours recd this morning from Washington City under the Frank of Mr. [James] Ashley M. C. of Ohio a most scurrilous and abusive pamphlet about you, your administration & the succession– I have not read it. Fant just told me of it and has handed it to [Leonard] Swett who leaves for Washington to night– He will show it to you and it will speak for itself–

I find the people here as elsewhere for you — your only opponents & enemies, being among your own office holders & the Democracy. I have met very many democrats, who boldly declare themselves for you, — among them Judge [Onias] Skinner of Illinois.

Published in: on February 6, 2014 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

President Lincoln Reviews Loyalty Oath

February 5, 1864

President Lincoln writes to Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton: “Submitted to the Sec. of War.  On principle I dislike an oath which requires a man to swear he has not done wrong.  It rejects the Christian principle of forgiveness on terms of repentance.  I think it is enough if the man does not wrong hereafter.”

Thomas S. Bacon writes President Lincoln from New Orleans regarding upcoming elections being organized by General Nathaniel Banks: “As a thorough-going Union man of Louisiana, not unknown to your Excellency, having conversed with you several times upon the affairs of our State and especially last October in company with Judge Hiestand and C. W. Horner Esq. — I desire to enter my protest against the measures now used by the military authority here in regard to the pending election, and to declare that in my opinion that election will have no more weight with the people of the State but produce future confusion and danger instead of the contrary. I belong to none of the associations, clubs parties or cliques which are at war here. I have no personal entanglement or interest — no animosities or interests attachments to gratify. I speak only from serious conviction and concern.

There is no real liberty of discussion about our own local affairs among real Union men. Can there be a real election without that liberty? There is a general impression that the military authority will permit only such open expression of opinion either by the press or in public meetings as suits its own views. There is a like impression that the Commanding General is interested and is using much indirect pressure to secure the election of persons objectionable to our best Union men, — persons of no weight of character. There So far as I and others can comprehend his letter of Jan. 29th, it turns our Registry of voters into a nullity and opens the door wide to fraudulent votes — to the over powering the voice of the loyal people of Louisiana by that of strangers.

Published in: on February 5, 2014 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

President Lincoln Provides Copy of Gettysburg Address to Benefit Soldiers

February 4, 1864

President Lincoln responds to former Massachusetts Senator Edward Everett, who requests a copy of the brief Gettysburg Address that Lincoln had delivered on November 19.  Everett had delivered the main address that day but been very impressed with Lincoln’s much shorter effort.  Lincoln writes: “Yours of Jan. 30 was received four days ago; and since then the address mentioned has arrived. Thank you for it. I send herewith the manuscript of my remarks at Gettysburg, which, with my note to you of Nov. 20th. you are at liberty to use for the benefit of our soldiers as you have requested.”

President Lincoln writes the Senate: “In compliance with the Resolution of the Senate of the 26th ultimo, requesting `a copy of all the correspondence between the authorities of the United States and the Rebel authorities on the exchange of prisoners, and the different propositions connected with that subject,’ I transmit herewith a report from the Secretary of War, and the papers with which it is accompanied.”

Published in: on February 4, 2014 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

President Lincoln Witnesses Weapon Tests

February 3, 1864

President Lincoln accompanies former Illinois Senator Orville H. Browning to the Washington Arsenal to observe trials of Absterdam shell.   Browning writes in his diary: “When the court adjourned Dickson & Zane had a carriage in waiting for me to go to the Arsenal to witness a trial of the Absterdam projectile, which, by appointment with the President I had agreed to do.  Met the Preisdnt and Genl Ramsay at the Arsenal.  The wind was very high, but the trial, as far as it progressed, was most satisfactory.   Firing under supervision of Majr Benton of the Arsenal.   After firing about a dozen shots, postpone further proceedings for a good day.  Talked with President on further proceedings for a good day. Talked with President on behalf of E L Baker of Springfield, about the contract of E S Fowler & Co; also about discharge of son of Dr. Alf Baker, a boy of 16 who had been decoyed into enlisting — President promised to discharge him.”

Navy Secretary Gideon Welles writes in his diary:”“Had a brief talk to-day with [Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P.] Chase on financial matters.  He seems embarrassed how to proceed,but, being fertile in resources, listening to others still more fertile, and having resorted to expedients in one instance, he will probably experience little difficulty in finding another.  There will, however, come a day of reckoning, and the nation will have to pay for all these expedients.  In departing from the specie standard and making irredeemable paper its equivalent, I think a great error was committed.  By inflating the currency, loans have been more easily taken, but the artificial prices are ruinous.  I do not gather from Chase that he has any system or fixed principles to govern him in his management of the Treasury.  He craves even beyond most others a victory, for the success of our arms inspires capitalists with confidence.  He inquired about Charleston; regretted that Farragut had not been ordered there.  I asked what F. could do beyond Dahlgren at that point.  Well, he said, he knew not that he could do more, but he was brave and had a name which inspired confidence.  I admitted the had a reputation which Dahlgren had not, but no one had questioned D.’s courage or capacity and the President favored him.  The moral effect of taking Charleston was not to be questioned; beyond that I knew not anything could be gained.  The port was closed.

The conversation turned upon army and naval operations.  He lamented the President’s want of energy and force, which he said paralyzed everything.  His weakness was crushing us.  I did not respond to this distinct feeler, and the conversation changed..

Almost daily we have some indications of Presidential aspirations and incipient operations for the campaign.  The President does not conceal the interest he takes, and yet I perceive nothing unfair or intrusive.  He is sometimes, but not often, deceived by heartless intriguers who impose him.  Some appointments have been secured by mischievous men, which would never had been made had he know the facts.  In some respects he is singular man and not fully understood.  He has great sagacity and shrewdness, but sometimes his assertion or management is astray.  When he relies on his own right intentions and good common sense, he is strongest.  So in regard to friends whom he distrusts, and mercenary opponents, in some of whom he confides.  A great and almost inexcusable error for a man in his position.”

Published in: on February 3, 2014 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

President Lincoln Attends Second Anniversary Meeting of U.S. Christian Commission

February 2, 1864

Of the Cabinet session at the White House, Navy Secretary Gideon Welles wrote in his diary: “But little of importance was done at the Cabinet-meeting.  Several subjects discussed. Seward was embarrassed about the Dominican question.  To move either way threatened difficulty.  On one side Spain, on the other side the negro.”  Lincoln said: “I am not disposed to take any new trouble, just at this time, and shall neither go for Spain nor the negro in this matter, but shall take to the woods.’”

President and Mrs. Lincoln attend second anniversary meeting of U.S. Christian Commission in the Hall of the House of Representatives –  at which Vice President Hannibal Hamlin presides and speaks.  “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” is sung a second time at President Lincoln’s request.

President Lincoln writes Kamehameha V, King of the Hawaiian Islands: “Great and Good Friend: I have read with feelings of profound sorrow your Majesty’s letter of the 5th. December last announcing the death on the 30th. of the preceding month, of His Majesty, your Brother, Kamehameha IV, and conveying also the pleasing intelligence of your Majesty’s constitutional succession to the Throne of the Hawaiian Kingdom.”

Published in: on February 2, 2014 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Haiti Colonization Project Abandoned

February 1, 1864

President Lincoln has decided to abandon the colonization scheme on an island off Haiti. He writes to Edwin M. Stanton: “You are directed to have a transport (either a steam or sailing vessel as may be deemed proper by the Quartermaster-General) sent to the colored colony established by the United States at the island of Vache, on the coast of San Domingo, to bring back to this country such of the colonists there as desire to return.  You will have the transport furnished with suitable supplies for that purpose, and detail an officer of the Quartermaster’s Department who, under special instructions to be given, shall have charge of the business.  The colonists will be brought to Washington, unless otherwise hereafter directed, and be employed and provided for at the camps for colored persons around that city.  Those only will be brought from the island who desire to return, and their effects will be brought with them.”

Admiral John Dahlgren visits Mr. Lincoln’s office with his son, Ulric, a Union army officer.  President Lincoln kept them waiting for five hours.  Less than two weeks later, a Union cavalry officer, Judson Kilpatrick, also visited President Lincoln and Edwin Stanton.   He apparently convinced them to authorize a cavalry raid of Richmond with the intention of liberating Union prisoners held there.  Ulric volunteered for the raid and was killed on March 2, 1863 when it failed miserably.   On his body were found extensive memos about the raid, including references to killing Confederate President Jefferson Davis as one of the raid’s objectives.   The objective was quickly disowned by Union leaders and labeled a forgery, particularly by Admiral Dahlgren.  However, the authenticity of the captured documents was widely believed in the South and spurred discussion of similar plans — such as the one which John Wilkes Booth later employed to assassinate Mr. Lincoln.

White House aide William O. Stoddard writes in an anonymous newspaper dispatch: “Socially, the capital has been very gay for a number of days, but the season for entertainments of any considerable size is mostly at an end.  Mr. Fernando Wood, of New-York, gave a grand party the other evening, which, to the surprise of some, was largely attended by Republicans and Abolitionists of the most ultra stripe.”

Published in: on February 1, 2014 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment