President Confers with General Lew Wallace Regarding Maryland Emancipation

March 31, 1864

President Lincoln writes Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton regarding Governor Lew Wallace, whom had been summoned from his headquarters in Baltimore: “Gen. Wallace has been with me; and I think he is getting along with the matter we wished to see him for, very satisfactorily. It is a great point, which he seems to be effecting, to get Gov. [August W. Bradford ] & Hon. H. W. D[avis] together. I have told him to be fair, but to give the benefit of all doubts to the emancipationists. Please confer with him, and add any suggestion that may occur to you.”

President Lincoln also writes Stanton regarding a health transfer: “I sincerely wish that something satisfactory to Lt. Col. [Walter] Scates—an old personal friend & most worthy gentleman—may be done for him.”

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Presidential Aide Investigates New York Political Situation

March 30, 1864

From New York, presidential aide John G. Nicolay writes back to President Lincoln about New York politics: “Mr. Weed was here at the Astor House on my arrival last Saturday morning, and I gave him the note you sent him.”

He read it over, carefully once or twice and then said he did not quite understand it.  He had written a letter to Judge [David] Davis which the Judge had probably show you, but in that he had said nothing about Custom House matters.

He said that all the solicitude he had was in your behalf.  You had told him in January last that you thought you would make a change in the Collectorship here, but that thus far it had not been done.  He had told you he himself had no personal preference as to the particular man who is to be his [the present Collector’s] successor.  He did not think Mr. Barney a bad man but thought him a weak one.  His four deputies are constantly intriguing against you.  Andrews is doing the same.  Changes are constantly being made among the subordinates in the Custom House, and men turned out, for no other reason than that they take active part in primary meetings &c. in behalf of your re-nomination.

His only solicitude he said, was for yourself.  He thought that if you were not strong enough to hold the Union men together through the next Presidential election, when it must necessarily undergo a great strain, the country was in the utmost danger of going to ruin.

His desire was to strengthen you as much as possible, and that you should strengthen yourself. You were being weakened by the impression in the popular mind that you hold with much tenacity to men once in office, although they prove themselves unworthy.  This feeling among your friends also raises the question, as to whether, if re-elected, you would change your Cabinet.  The present Cabinet is notoriously weak and inharmonious — no Cabinet at all — gives the President no support.  Welles is a cipher, Bates a fogy, and Blair at best a dangerous friend.

Something was needed to reassure the public mind and to strengthen yourself.  Chase and Fremont, while they might not succeed in making themselves successful rivals, might yet form and lead dangerous factions.  Chase was not formidable as a candidate in the field, but by the shrewd dodge of withdrawal is likely to turn up again with more strength than ever.

He had received a letter from Judge Davis, in which the Judge wrote him that he had read his (Weed’s) letter to you, but that you did not seem ready to act in the appointment of a new Collector, and that he (the Judge) thought it was because of your apprehension that you would be merely getting out of ‘one muss into another.’

A change in the Custom House was imperatively needed because one whose bureau in it had been engaged in treasonably aiding the rebellion.

The ambition of his life had been, not to get office for himself, but to assist in putting good men in the right places.  If he was good for anything, it was an outsider to give valuable suggestions to an administration that would give him its confidence.  He feared he did not have your entire confidence — that you only regarded him with a certain degree of leniency…as being not quite so great a rascal as his enemies charged him with being.

The above are substantially the points of quite a long conversation.  This morning I had another interview with Mr. Weed.  He had just received Governor Morgan’s letter informing him of the nomination of Hoogboom to fill McElrath’s place and seemed quite disheartened and disappointed. He said he did not know what to say.  He had assured your friends here that when in your own good time you became ready to make changes, the new appointments would be from among your friends; but that this promotion of one of your most active and malignant enemies left him quite powerless.  He had not yet told any one, but knew it would be received with general indigation, &c &c.

I shall remain here a day or two longer.

Nicolay writes President Lincoln:“I called on Gen Schurz on my arrival here last Saturday, and have also sen him twice since.  I found him very cordial, very friendly towards yourself, quite reasonable in his own wishes and requests, and liberal in his appreciation of the troubles and difficulties with which you have to contend.  According to his own statements there is evidently a serious misapprehension, or misunderstanding about his alleged order interrupting the transportation of troops last fall, which at least deserves investigation before permanent blame is attached to him.  I have promised to look into the matter for him when I return to Washington.  I enclose his memorandum on the subject.”

“He also sends a letter on general matters, noting some few points about which we talked, and which I will explain more fully when I return.

“He is under impression that the German movement for Fremont is earnest and will be pretty strong, and that they seriously intend to run him as a third candidate – that Pomeroy, Brown & Co have transferred their strength from the Chase movement to this, and are bent upon defeating you at all events.

The Union State Convention at Milwaukee, Wisconsin endorses reelection of President Lincoln

President Lincoln writes Congressman William Windom, head of the House Indian Affairs Committee: “Hon. Mr. Windom, please see & hear Rev. Bishop [Henry B.] Whipple, about Indians. He has much information on the subject.”

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Tuesday Cabinet Meeting Addresses Trade Issues

March 29, 1864

“Not long at Cabinet-meeting, Chase still feels that he did not make a good case in the matter of the Princeton,” wrote Navy Secretary Gideon Welles in his diary.  “He inquired with assumed nonchalance how I got on with Lee and Butler in the matter of permits.  I told him the whole subject of trade belonged to the Treasury, and I gave myself no further concent about it than to stop abuse through naval officers. He denied that he had anything to do with matters of trade within the Rebel lines. I replied that General Butler gave permits for trade and quoted the trade regulations for his authority, and when I referred the matter to him for explanation, he had taken no exception. Chase seemed stumped. Said the regulations had not been officially promulgated. I told him that I knew not whether they were or not, but if they had been I asked if they authorized the proposed trade. He said they did not.” Sec. Welles brings a group of rear admirals, including Hiram Paulding, commanding Navy Yard at New York, C.H. Davis, S.H. Stringham and Francis Gregory to introduce them to President.”

President Lincoln wires General George Meade  that there is “no need for court of inquiry regarding publication of accounts discrediting Meade’s operations at Gettysburg.”

Historian R. Steven Jones wrote in The Right Hand of Command: Use & Disuse of Personal Staffs in the Civil War: “An exchange between Grant and Abraham Lincoln on March 29, 1864, shows just how adamant Grant was that his new staffers be well qualified.  Lincoln had recommended a friend, a Captain Kinney, for a position on Grant’s staff.  Grant, mistakenly calling the man Kennedy, refused.  ‘I would be glad to accommodate Capt. Kennedy but in the selection of my staff I do not want any one whom I do not personally know to be qualified for the position assigned them.’”

Former Secretary of War Simon Cameron writes President Lincoln regarding presidential politics and hints about his recent meeting with General Benjamin F. Butler: “I had a letter this morning from a very intelligent politician, of much influence, in N. York, urging me to consent to a postponement of the convention till Sept. Some time ago, a committee called on me to urge the same matter.

These things and others that have come to my view, convince me that it will be vigorously urged and that if it is not vigorously resisted, it will succeed.

In connection with this, it is well known that Mr. Seward1 has never ceased to think he will succeed you, and that his faithful manager hopes to carry him into the Presidency next March, by his skill, aided perhaps by the millions made in N. York, by army & navy contracts.

Another, and I think a wiser party, look to the election of Gnl. Dix. The least failure this summer, some now think, will ensure your defeat, by bringing forward a negative man, with a cultivated character such as Dix has acquired by avoiding all responsibility, & always obtaining with every party in power, a high position.

I am against all postponements, as I presume you are, but I look upon this moment as being so formidable that I should like to have a full & free conversation with you, concerning it & the campaign.– There are many points which would probably enable me to do some service, — & as I am in the contest, with no wish saving your success — and with little business to interfere, I desire to guard against all surprizes.– You are always so much employed when I am in Washington, that I have hesitated to occupy your time, — and but, if you will drop me a line saying when I can come to your house, with the chance of an hours uninterrupted talk, I will obey it.

I come from Ft. Monroe yesterday after spending three days there, during which time, I had much pleasant conversation with Gnl. Butler – part of which I would like to communicate to you.

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President Lincoln Seeks to Soothe Butler and Kentucky

March 28, 1864

President Lincoln was solicitous of the opinions and feelings of General Benjamin F. Butler, who had friends among radical Republicans.  Former Secretary of War Simon Cameron reports to Lincoln after his meetings with Butler at Fort Monroe about Republican politics.   “Many radicals besides Wade, Stevens, Greeley, and Phillips also liked Butler.  They liked his style.  They liked it that he didn’t hesitate ‘to take advanced steps,’ as Lincoln did.  They expected he would be ‘a vigorous ruler,’ not afraid to hurt rebels, as Lincoln seemed to be.  Butler wouldn’t be afraid to ‘hang traitors, confiscate their property, do justice to loyal men, and retaliate the wrongs even of negroes.’” wrote Lincoln chronicler John Waugh in Reelecting Lincoln. “Cameron liked Butler — indeed, they were two of a kind.  What they talked about at Fort Monroe is a matter of some speculation and considerable skepticism, even to this day.  The two would later say that Cameron had come at the president’s behest to offer Butler the vice presidency on the Union Party ticket, which Butler, with an eye on the bigger prize, refused.”

William Frank Zornow writes in Lincoln & the Party Divided that “late in March Butler hurried to Washington to see Lincoln.  What the purpose of this flying visit was can only be guessed.  It is known only that Butler saw Lincoln and Seward, both of whom were very gracious to him.  Whether they discussed the coming election or merely the military situation is unrecorded, but the conversation must have been important, for Butler would not tell even his wife what had transpired in the executive offices.”

President Lincoln meets with Kentucky Governor Thomas Bramlette about troop quotas. Historian Lowell H. Harrison wrote in Lincoln of Kentucky wrote: “Bramlette, Archibald Dixon, and editor A.G. Hodges went to Washington to repeat their protests [against enrollment of black troops] and see what concessions, if any, the president would make.  The results of their conference with Lincoln were contained in a March 28, 1864, letter from Lincoln to Secretary of War Stanton:

The Governor of Kentucky is here, and desires to have the following points definitely fixed:

1. That the quotas of troops furnished, and to be furnished by Kentucky, may be adjusted upon the basis as actually reduced by able bodied men of hers having gone into the rebel service; and that she be required to furnish no more than her just quotas upon fair adjustment on such basis.

2. That to whatever extent the enlistment, and drafting, one or both, of colored troops may be found necessary within the State, it may be conducted within the law of Congress; and, as far as practicable, free from colateral embarrasments, disorders, and provocations.

3. I think these requests of the Governor are reasonable; and I shall be obliged, if you will give him a full hearing, and do the best you can to effect these objects.

General Carl Schurz writes President Lincoln from New York: “I have had two conversations with Mr. Nicolay which gave me a clearer insight into the “unpleasant difficulties” that would have attended my visit to Washington.1 He told me of some bad feeling against me on the part of Mr. Stanton and Gen. Halleck2 on account of something that happened when the 11th Corps was transferred from Virginia to Tennessee.3 It seems they made you believe that I left my command, went to Philadelphia to visit my family and tried to stop the railroad-trains containing my troops for my personal convenience, thereby endangering the success of the whole operation. If this were true I ought to have been cashiered at once, for such an act or attempt would have been one of the gravest offenses a military commander can be guilty of. It is due to you and to myself that I should give you the true facts. I have placed them into Mr. Nicolay’s hands in the shape of a memorandum. All the statements contained therein can, if necessary, be substantiated by the strongest kind of evidence. It will become clear to you, that, for what I did do on that occasion, I had rather deserved praise than censure, as I, with the exception perhaps of Gen. Howard,4 was in fact the only general officer in the Corps, who did not leave his command for a single moment and who faithfully did his duty to its full extent without the least regard to his personal convenience.

The unscrupulous manner in which a story like that is circulated, strengthens a suspicion I have entertained for some time, that some people are making it their business to discredit me in every possible way. I am sure you are not the only man to whom this story has been told, and the story would have gone on uncontradicted had not this accident brought it to my notice

I most respectfully suggest, that instead of going around this unpleasant difficulty, it would have been far better, if you had invited me to Washington for the purpose of clearing it up. I am almost sure there are more such things of the same character, and the only favor I ask of you is, not that you should undertake my defense, but that you should give me an opportunity to do it myself. I know my conduct to be clear of reproach from the beginning, and I only want to have a chance at those, who undertake to say or insinuate that it is not so. I have suffered so much annoyance of this kind that I am by this time obliged to kick up against it.

I have sometimes been called one of your pets. The favors I have received from you impose upon me the duty, not only to act on all occasions in such a manner as to show, that these favors were not thrown away, but also to do all I can to clear myself of imputations which may unjustly be thrown against me. This I owe to you no less than to myself.

Of the manner in which Hooker5 endeavors to sting me the document I placed into Mr. Nicolays hands may serve as a specimen. I might produce other cases no less wanton and malignant. I may have occasion to ask you to direct the Judge Advocate General to order the papers in the Court of Inquiry-case up to Washington for revision, and then I would most urgently entreat you to grant my request.6 I wish to show these gentlemen that they cannot with safety do just all they please.

I ask for no favors. On the contrary, from sincere devotion to the cause and to you, I am willing and ready to do all I can, to expose myself to whatever difficulties my course will have to encounter, and to sacrifice my official position and all else whenever it may be desirable without asking or expecting anything in return except that measure of justice and consideration I would be entitled to under all circumstances.

Mary Todd Lincoln writes Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner: “Words, are scarcely an atonement, for the inadvertent manner, in which I addressed you on yesterday, therefore, I pray you, accept this little peace offering, for your table, a few fresh flowers, brought up, by the gardener.”

Kansan Peter McConnell writes President Lincoln: “I should be pleased to Present to your son a small Rocky Mountain Pony — as I am aware that he lost his favorite Pony at the late fire of your stables,1 and the Pony I wish to present, is one well adapted to the use of your son. Hoping that this present will be acceptable.”

Published in: on March 28, 2014 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

President Lincoln Meets with Generals Ulysses S. Grant and Henry W. Halleck

March 27, 1864

At night, President Lincoln went to the nearby War Department to conf with Generals Ulysses S. Grant Henry Halleck along with Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton.      Former Illinois Senator Orville H. Browning writes in his diary: “In the evening went to the Presidents, wishing to see him, and having no other time.  He had just gone to the War Department to hold a consultation, Genl Grant being here.  I went to his room, and waited and hour & half but he not returning I left a note for him about the appointment of Ebenezer Moore Esq as Secy of Montano, & came home.”

Attorney General Edward Bates writes of yesterday’s meeting with key Republican leaders: “The President tells me that he made an arrangement with Gov [Thomas] Bramlette that seemed to be satisfactory all around.”

Published in: on March 27, 2014 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

President Lincoln Meets with Kentucky Officials

March 26, 1864

President Lincoln talks about black army enlistment in Kentucky with three top officials – Governor Thomas  Bramlette of Kentucky, former Sen. Archibald Dixon, and Albert G. Hodges, editor of Frankfort Commonwealth.   Historian Robert S. Harper wrote in Lincoln and the Press: ““The President granted a long interview to them and remarked at the close he was apprehensive that ‘Kentuckians felt unkindly toward him, in consequence of not properly understanding the difficulties by which he was surrounded in his efforts to put down this rebellion.”  Harper added: “Hodges agreed with him that he was ‘greatly misunderstood’ by many persons in Kentucky.  He suggested to Lincoln that he ‘write out the remarks’ he had just made to Bramlette and Dixon for publication in the Frankfort Commonwealth.”

Attorney General Edward Bates writes: “This morning, Gov Bramlette, ex senator Dixon, and Mr. Hodges (of the Frankfort Commonwealth) of Ky: called on me at my office.  I introduced them to the President, with whom I believe they made arrangement for a special audience.  The Governor’s mission here is to have a better understanding with the Genl. Govt., about negro enlistments in Ky.  The Govr. Says that the draft will not be opposed, if conducted in a simple and honest way – i.e enlist the man march them off, without making it a pretence to insult, and rob, and dominate every neighborhood – as in Maryland!”

Navy Secretary Gideon Welles: “I went early this A.m. to the President on the subject of procuring a transfer of seamen from the Army to the Navy. After reading the papers he said he would take the matter in hand, and before I left the room he rang for his man Edward and told him to go for the Secretary of War, but, stopping him before he got to the door, directed him to call the Secretary of State first. In this whole matter of procuring seamen for the Navy there has been a sorry display of the prejudices of  some of the military authorities. Halleck appears to dislike the Navy more than he loves his country.”

President Lincoln issues an Amnesty Proclamation.

Whereas, it has become necessary to define the cases in which insurgent enemies are entitled to the benefits of the proclamation of the President of the United States, which was made on the eighth day of December, 1863, and the manner in which they shall proceed to avail themselves of those benefits:

And whereas, the objects of that proclamation were to suppress the insurrection and to restore the authority of the United States, and whereas the amnesty therein proposed by the President was offered with reference to these objects alone:

Now, therefore, I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, do hereby proclaim and declare that the said proclamation does not apply to the cases of persons who, at the time when they seek to obtain the benefits thereof by taking the oath thereby prescribed are in military, naval or civil confinement or custody, or under bonds or on parole of the civil, military or naval authorities or agents of the United States as prisoners of war or persons detained for offences of any kind, either before or after conviction, and that, on the contrary, it does apply only to those persons who being yet at large and free from any arrest, confinement or duress, shall voluntarily come forward and take the said oath with the purpose of restoring peace and establishing the national authority. Prisoners excluded from the amnesty offered in the said proclamation may apply to the President for clemency like all other offenders, and their applications will receive due consideration.

I do farther declare and proclaim that the oath prescribed in the aforesaid proclamation of the 8th. of December, 1863, may be taken and subscribed before any commissioned officer, civil, military or naval, in the service of the United States, or any civil or military officer of a State or Territory not in insurrection, who, by the laws thereof, may be qualified for administering oaths. All officers who receive such oaths are hereby authorized to give certificates thereon to the persons respectively by whom they are made. And such officers are hereby required to transmit the original records of such oaths at as early a day as may be convenient to the Department of State, where they will be deposited and remain in the archives of the Government. The Secretary of State will keep a register thereof, and will on application, in proper cases, issue certificates of such records in the customary form of official certificates.

Published in: on March 26, 2014 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Cabinet Discusses Recruitment of Seamen for Navy

March 25, 1864

On a rainy, windy day in Washington, the Cabinet meets at the White House.  Secretary of War Gideon Welles writes: “At Cabinet to-day, I brought up the subject of a scarcity of seamen. The President seemed concerned, and I have no doubt was. Stanton was more unconcerned than I wished, but did not object to my suggestions. I had commenced, but not completed, a letter to the President urging the importance and necessity of an immediate transfer of 12,000 men to the Navy. The army has by bounties got thousands of sailors and seamen who are experts. This letter I finished and had copied after my return. On reading it to Fox it stirred him up, and the prospect is certainly most unpromising.

Chase, who sat beside me when I first made mention of the difficulty we were experiencing from the effects of the enrollment act and the policy pursued by the War Department, remarked that nothing could be expected where there were no Cabinet consultations and no concerted action. Stanton and the President were in private consultation at the time in a corner of the room. This is no unfrequent occurrence between the two at our meetings, and is certainly inconsiderate and in exceeding bad taste. Chase was, I saw, annoyed and irritated.

Mr. Bates and others soon left. Usher sat quietly and intent, not listening perhaps to catch a word, but U. has great curiosity.

President Lincoln writes Commissioner of Buildings Benjamin B. French: “I understand a Bill is before Congress, by your instigation, for taking your office from the control of the Department of the Interior, and considerably enlarging the powers and patronage of your office.  The proposed change may be right for aught I know; and it certainly is right for aught I know; and it certainly is right for Congress to do as it thinks proper in the case.  What I wish to say is that if the change is made, I do not think I can allow you to retain the office; because that would be encouraging officers to be consistently intriguing, to the detriment of the public interest, in order to profit themselves.”

President Lincoln writes New York State Republican boss Thurlow Weed and sends it via aide John G. Nicolay to deliver personally: “I have been both pained and surprised recently at learning that you are wounded because a suggestion of yours as to the mode of conducting our national difficulty, has not been followed – pained, because I very much wish you to have no unpleasant feeling proceeding from me, and surprised, because my impression is that I have seen you, since the last Message issued, apparantly feeling very cheerful and happy.”

At night, Illinois Republican Congressman Owen Lovejoy dies in Brooklyn after a year-long bout with cancer.  “Lincoln grieved quietly at yet another ruinous loss.  Lovejoy had been a radical he could always count on in the crunch, and he was gone,” wrote Lincoln chronicler John Waugh.  “The president was to say of his longtime friend that ‘throughout my heavy and perplexing responsibilities here, to the day of his death, it would scarcely wrong any other to say he was my most generous friend.’”

Published in: on March 25, 2014 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

President Lincoln Confers with General-in-Chief Ulysses S. Grant

March 24, 1864

Presidential aide John Hay returns to Washington after several months away on presidential business in the South: “I Arrived at Washington this morning finding [John G.] Nicolay in be at 7 oclock in the morning.  We talked over matters for a little while & I got some ideas of the situation from him.

After breakfast I talked with the President. There was no special necessity of presenting my papers as I found he thoroughly understood the state of affairs in Florida and did not seem in the least annoyed by the newspaper falsehoods about the matter.  Gen. Halleck, I learn has continually given out that the expedition was the Presidents & not his {Halleck’s).  So Fox tells me.  The President said he has not seen [General Quincy] Gillmores letters to Halleck but said he had learned from Stanton that they had nothing to bear out Halleck’s assertion.  I suppose Halleck is badly bilious about Grant.   Grant the prest. Says is Commander in Chief & Halleck is now nothing but a staff officer.  In fact says the President ‘when McClellan seemed incompetent to the work of handling an army & we sent for Halleck to take command he stipulated that it should be with the full power and responsibility of Commander in Chief.  He ran it on that basis till Pope’s defeat; but ever sine that event, He has shrunk from responsibility whenever it was possible.”

Hay writes that he spent the “evening talking with Secretary Chase.  He seems deeply interest just now in negro [voting], believing it to be the best thing for the slave sates& the surest safeguard against a rebel reaction after the war.  I mentioned my plan fo r a convention in Florida which he heartily approved.”

President Lincoln meanwhile spends the evening with General Ulysses S. Grant discussing military strategy.

Published in: on March 24, 2014 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

President Lincoln Refuses to Allow General Schurz to Pursue Politics While General

March 23, 1864

President Lincoln writes General Carl Schurz, refusing to allow him to both engage in politics and war: “The letter, of which the above is a copy, was sent to you, before Mr. Willmann saw me; and now yours of the 19th. tells me you did not receive it.

I do not wish to be more specific about the difficulty of your coming to Washington.  I think you can easily conjecture it.  I perceive no objection to your making a political speech when you are where one is to be made; but quite surely speaking in the North, and fighting in the South, at the same time, are not possible.  Nor could I be justified to detail any officer to the political campaign during it’s continuance, and then return him to the Army.

Schurz has written President Lincoln on March 13: “Under the present circumstances I do not want to appear to feel bound by any favor from anybody.  If I can take an active part in the political contest consistently, with my position in the army, I shall be glad…expecting nothing for myself but to resume my old position…after the election.  If a political activity be deemed inconsistent with my military position, I shall then have to make my choice…I wish to assure you here emphatically, that in neither case I would make any demands on the administration…

About this and several other matters of a political nature.  I desired to have a conservation with you.  At a time like this I would not consider it out of place to volunteering advice and opinion about a few points of some importance…It is somewhat difficult for me to understand why I do not receive this permission in reply to my letter..

…For your information  I send you a copy of my argument before the Court of Inquiry which I had printed for my own private use…I would be completely satisfied with the command of a respectable division in some other Dept., Gen. Siegel’s for instance,…and that, in case the 11th Corps is taken from under Gen. Hooker, I shall be quite content with the command I now have…

President Lincoln writes Congressman Robert Schenck, formerly a general with whom he had clashed about an incident at the previous night’s reception: “After the company left last evening, Mrs. L. made known to me a little matter which has annoyed me ever since . . . I beg to assure you that a programme was brought to me, exactly as I carried it out; and that I had not the slightest suspicion of a mistake. I am aware this is no great matter, not going beyond a little temporary embarrassment to any but myself; still I feel that this explanation is due all round, which I am sure you will believe is the truth, and nothing but the truth.”  A more serious problem is presented by Senators Benjamin F. Wade and Zachariah Chandler, Radical Republicans who travel to the White House to seek the dismissal of General George Meade as commander of the Army of the Potomac.”

Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase continues to be in political limbo.  Secretary of the Treasury Gideon Welles writes in his diary: “I have to-day a lame and not very commendable letter from Chase, yet nothing very bad.  He wants the courage and candor to admit his errors.”

Published in: on March 23, 2014 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Slavery is something “no man desires for himself”

March 22, 1864

“I never knew a man who wished to be himself a slave,” President Lincoln writes.  “Consider if you know any good thing, that no man desires for himself.”

Snow storm hits Washington.  Cabinet meeting at the White House was somewhat acrimonious.  Navy Secretary Gideon Welles writes: “At the Cabinet-meeting Chase manifested a little disturbance of mind at my letter respecting the Ann Hamilton and the Princeton, sent in reply to his somewhat arrogant letter to me. Seward asked him if he had any gold to sell. He said no, if S. wanted to make money he had better get a permit from General Butler to carry in military supplies, and then persuade me to let the vessel pass the blockade. He then made a wholly perverted statement; confounded the two cases; said he never looked behind the military permit, which was sufficient for the Treasury. “But,” said I, “General Butler explicitly states that this trading permit to a Baltimorean to trade in North Carolina was based on your 52, 53, and 55 trade regulations, and I should like to know if they will bear that construction.” “Ah,” said he, “the permit was before the regulations were promulgated.” “No,” I replied, “they were distinctly and particularly cited as his authority.”

Chase did not pursue the subject, but tried to pass it off as a joke. His jokes are always clumsy; he is destitute of wit. It was obvious that he was nettled and felt himself in the wrong.”

Attorney General Edward Bates writes: “My support of Mr. L.[incoln] is not grounded upon an affirmative approval of all that is done in his name.  There are many things done, especially under the Departments of Treasury and war, which I do not approve   In fact, I often remonstrate against them.  But he is immeasurably preferable to his opponents – Our only chance of a return to law and order – our only means to keep down the reckless, revolutionary spirit of the Radicals.”  He added: “I hold terms with the extreme Radicals, but denounce them openly – and in that we are even.”

I know very little of what is going on in politics and electioneering.  As I am not identified with any extreme party, nobody approaches me, to make interest, nor thinks it worth while (or perhaps safe) to tell me what he is aiming at.

I take no part in schemes of electioneering.  But in my own quiet way by letters to friends, and by the inculcation of principles, in my opinion and other public documents – I give Mr. Lincoln the best support I can; and I believe that, in some quarters, it is not without effect.

Historian Brooks D. Simpson wrote in Ulysses S. Grant: Triumph Over Adversity, 1822-1865:“The Grants returned to Washington on the evening of March 22 after Julia had spent a day shopping in Philadelphia – she wanted to make sure that she wore clothes suitable for the wife of the lieutenant general.  In some respects she had a better idea than did her husband of what awaited them….. Grant’s stay in Washington was brief.  After directing Halleck to provide for the transfer east of Philip H. Sheridan to head the Army of the Potomac’s cavalry, the commanding general headed back to Culpeper, Virginia, where he had established headquarters.”

At night, the Lincolns host a well-attended reception at the White House.  Benjamin Brown French, federal commissioner of buildings, writes in his diary: “I went to the President’s in the toughest snowstorm of the winter.  Snow when I started, about 4 inches deep, and it was falling fast.  Had to walk through the Capitol & to the west gate, & my feet were perfectly wet when I got into the car, and most frozen when I got to the President’s.  Fortunately I had a pair of dress boots there, so I borrowed a pair of stockings of Mr. Nicolay, and got through the evening very nicely.  The reception was very handsome, though not large, Mrs. Lincoln was as amiable as possible, and Abraham as full of fun and story as ever I saw him.  The evening really passed off most pleasantly…”

Published in: on March 22, 2014 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment