President Lincoln Explains His Treatment of His Confederate Sister-in-Law

April 29, 1864

Navy Secretary Gideon Welles writes in his diary: “The President to-day related to two or three of us the circumstances connected with his giving a pass to the half-sister of his wife, Mrs. White. He gave the details with frankness, and without disguise. I will not go into them all, though they do him credit on a subject of scandal and abuse. The papers have assailed him for giving a pass to Mrs. White to carry merchandise. Briefly, Mrs. W. called at the White House and sent in her card to Mrs. Lincoln, her sister, who declined to receive or see her. Mrs. W. two or three times repeated these applications to Mrs. L. and the President, with the same result. The President sent a pass, such as in some cases he has given, for her to proceed South. She sent it back with a request that she might take trunks without being examined. The President refused. She then showed her pass and talked ‘secesh’ at the hotel, and made application through Mallory first and then Brutus Clay. The President refused the former and told Brutus that if Mrs. W. did not leave forthwith she might expect to find herself within twenty-four hours in the Old Capitol Prison.”

Chief-of-staff Henry W. Halleck writes General-in-chief Ulysses S. Grant: “I fully agree with you, that after General Banks’ long delay it will hardly be possible to get his troops east of the Mississippi [in] time to be of any use in the spring campaign. Moreover, to withdraw any of his forces at the present time might lead to serious disaster and to be a virtual closing of the navigation of the Mississippi River.

I submitted your telegram of 10.30 a.m. to the Secretary of War, who was of opinion that before asking the President for an order I should obtain your views in regard to the extent of the proposed division, the officer to command it &c., and that I should write to you confidentially on the subject. ….

I think the President will consent to the order if you insist upon General Banks’ removal as a military necessity, but he will do so very reluctantly, as it would give offense to many of his friends, and would probably be opposed by a portion of his Cabinet. Moreover, what could be done with Banks? He has many political friends who probably demand for him a command equal to the one he now has.

Before submitting the matter to President, the Secretary of War wishes to have in definite form precisely they order you wish issued.”

Published in: on April 29, 2014 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

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