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  

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