Anti-Lincoln Convention Opens in Cleveland, Ohio

May 31, 1864

At Cosmopolitan Hall in Cleveland there is a convention of about 350 anti-Administration Radicals from 15 states calling themselves Radical Democracy. The convention nominated John C. Fremont for President and John Cochrane for vice president.   The call for the convention had stated:

The imbecile and vacillating policy of the present Administration in the conduct of the war, being just weak enough to waste its men and means to provoke the enemy, but not strong enough to conquer the rebellion – and its treachery to justice, freedom and genuine democratic principles in its plan of reconstruction, whereby the honor and dignity of the nation have been sacrificed to conciliate the still-existing and arrogant slave power, and to further the ends of unscrupulous partisan ambition – call in thunder tones upon the lovers of justice and their country to come to the rescue of the imperiled nationality and the cause of impartial and universal freedom threatened with betrayal and overthrow.

The way to victory and salvation is plain. Justice must be throned in the seats of national legislation, and guide the executive will. The things demanded, and which we ask you to join us to render sure, are the immediate extinction of slavery throughout the whole United States by Congressional action, the absolute equality of all men before the law without regard to race or color, and such a plan of reconstruction as shall conform entirely to the policy of freedom for all, placing the political power alone in the hands of the loyal, and execution with vigor the law for confiscating the property of the rebels.

Historian Wayne C. Temple wrote: “When a group of dissatisfied Republicans gathered at Cleveland, Ohio, on May 31, 1864, to pick John C. Fremont for their Presidential candidate, a warm political friend informed the President that only about four hundred persons attended this opposition convention. Immediately, Lincoln picked up his Bible and turned to I Samuel 22:2 and read: ‘And every one that was in distress, and every one that was in debt, and every one that was discontented, gathered themselves unto him; and he became a captain over them; and there were with him about four hundred men.’ Historian William Ernest Smith wrote in The Francis Preston Blair Family in Politics: “The Cleveland convention met with a motley crowd of four or five hundred delegates present. Fremont had been too much interested in promoting a project for a Pacific railroad to pay much attention to the nominated by acclamation by the vociferous Germans, Radicals, and War Democrats. Wendell Phillips and Frederick Douglas, a negro, were the conspicuous orators at the convention. After deserting Gratz Brown for the erratic General John Cochrane of New York for Vice-President, they adopted a platform in which they demanded abolition, a one-term presidency, free speech and free press, and the division of rebel property among Union soldiers and sailors. Fremont promptly accepted the nomination and all of the platform except the part which provided for the confiscation of rebel property.”

In Washington, there is a cabinet meeting but Navy Secretary Gideon Welles declared that “[n]o special Matters” were discussed. The “Sunday School Celebration,” paraded past the White House. The Washington Evening Star reports, “President Lincoln was cheered by the children, and he, being at one of the front windows, acknowledged the compliment with a bow.” White House aide Edward Duffield Neill writes that “four or five thousand Sunday School children, with banner and bands of music[,] marched by the President’s House, while he stood at the window and received their hearty cheers with smiles.”

President Lincoln writes a memo about Army Colonel Thomas Worthington: “Today I verbally told Colonel Worthington that I did not think him fit for a Colonel; and now, upon his urgent request, I put it in writing.”

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President Lincoln Memorializes Deceased Congressman Lovejoy

May 30, 1864

President Lincoln writes John H. Bryant regarding a memorial for deceased Illinois Congressman Owen Lovejoy: “Many of you have known Lovejoy longer than I have, and are better able than I to do his memory complete justice. My personal acquaintance with him commenced only about ten years ago, since when it has been quite intimate; and every step in it has been one of increasing respect and esteem, ending, with his life, in no less than affection on my part. It can be truly said of him that while he was personally ambitious, he bravely endured the obscurity which the unpopularity of his principles imposed, and never accepted official honors, until those honors were ready to admit his principles with him. 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. Let him have the marble monument, along with the well-assured and more enduring one in the hearts of those who love liberty, unselfishly, for all men.”

President Lincoln writes Maryland Governor Thomas H. Hicks regarding his son: “This little gentleman has seen me, and now carries my respects back to his good father, Gov Hicks..” The governor, who had lost a foot to amputation, had written the president: “Will you allow my little boy (son) to see and shake hands with you before he leaves for Home at 3 oclock. he is quite anxious to see you. I shall be glad for my man to go with him as he is small. I sit at yr door in carriage until I hear your determination. wish I could climb the stair way as formerly, and see yr Honor myself.”

White House aide William O. Stoddard writes in an anonymous newspaper dispatch: “The past week has been a variable one, but on the whole not unfavorable to military operations. Both armies have been straining every nerve, and watching each other’s every movement with the sleepless eyes of men who know that blunders now on either side might bring the msot fatal consequences.”

Published in: on May 30, 2014 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Political Certainty Matches Military Uncertainty at the White House

May 29, 1864

Presidential aide John G. Nicolay writes home: “If any doubt remained before, about the certainty of Mr. Lincoln’s renomination, it has been pretty well dispelled by t he action of the State Conventions of New York, Ohio, and Illinois during the past week, all of which have elected delegates favorable to him, and passed resolutions recommending his renomination. I suppose a similar unanimity has not occurred during the whole history of the country.”

A. T. Stone, a former Confederate now giving pro-Union speeches, writes the President to request a military commission: I hope I shall not be considered presumptious in addressing you a private letter. As you have doubtless heard something of me, and of my lectures, through the Newspapers, I shall say but little in regard to my personal history. I was unfortunately a resident of Louisiana, at the breaking out of this Rebellion. I was a quiet, unpretending citizen, just entering upon the practice of the law, and not altogether unknown to the literary world, having been for some years an occasional contributor to the “Louisville Journal,” “Memphis Appeal,” “National Intelligencer,” and other publications of less pretensions. The “Cotton Field,” was from my pen, also that Poem which first appeared in the “National Intelligencer,” and which was so extensively published, entitled “The Pin-Oak,” the great tree of the South. During the canvass of 1860, I took the stump in Louisiana for John Bell; you are of course aware that no one was permitted, there, to support Abraham Lincoln. I am personally acquainted with Davis, Benjamin, Judge Perkins, and a host of the leaders of this Rebellion. I have also an extensive, and somewhat intimate, acquaintance, with many of the leading citizens in the welthy districts of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Arkansas. And I know very well who were union men, and who were not — who went in under a pressure of circumstances, and who were altogether voluntary actors — in short, I can vouch for the political status of thousands many of whom it would be advisable for the government to know. And it is quite possible, from the peculiar position I have occupied both during, and prior to, the Rebellion, that I am in possession of more information in regard to the feelings, interests, and condition of the Rebels than almost any person who has been so unfortunate as to be caught among them, and yet so fortunate as to escape.

Since the Capture of Vicksburg, at which time I was released from the Rebel Army, I have had the honor to address face to face, more than fifty thousand of my fellow-citizens, in Northern Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Southern Wisconsin. I have spoken nearly one hundred and fifty times, in all sorts of places, from “Bryan Hall,” Chicago, where I lectured on the 23 & 25th of Jany last, down to a country School house, and upon each and every occasion have I endeavored to give the people a correct idea of the animus of this infamous slaveholder’s Rebellion; and upon each and every occasion have I attempted not only to defend the Administration, but I have strennously and persistently advocated the re-nomination of that man for whom I was not permitted to raise my voice in 1860, for President of the United States. I deserve no credit for this, for I have a feeling in this matter, and it came from the heart — but I may say, and I can bring you thousands of testimonials to prove that I never spoke but I brought forth repeated, spontaneous, overwhelming expressions from my audience in favor of keeping Abraham Lincoln where he is until the Rebels acknowledge him their president. For eight months have I done this; and sir, I know the feelings of the people well — and I know you will be nominated, and elected, in spite of Fremont, the Copperheads, and the Devil! I do not presume that I have changed one man’s opinions, but I have kept the subject before them. For six weeks prior to the Republican Convention of Wisconsin, I believe the first that was held, to appoint the delegates to the Baltimore convention, I spoke in almost every considerable town in the State, with what effect the friends of the cause can testify. For this I claim nothing — when the proper time comes my friends will ask that I be permitted to fight the Rebels where I can be of service.

I have been told that I can be of more service to my country as a public speaker during the coming canvass than in any other possible way — but as I do not desire to make a money speculation out of my “Experiences,” and as I am unable to remain in the field, having already spent some hundreds of dollars of money borrowed from my friends in Ohio, I am anxious to enter the service. I shall, as soon as I am able, visit Washington for that purpose. Understanding the Negro, well — and knowing if taken by the Rebels I can hope for no quarters — I prefer a command in a negro Regt. I hope I may be permitted to say without egotism — that I doubt not a board of military examiners will pronounce my military and literary qualifications superior to nine tenths of the colonels now in the army. I have made military matters a study for years — even before the war.

You will excuse me for saying so much about myself — but as I intend to visit Washington during the month of June or July I have written this rather as an introduction than otherwise.

From South Carolina, Laura Towne sends a letter to President Lincoln from Don Carlos Rutter, a freed black slave: “My name is Don Carlos, and I hope my letter will find you and your family in perfect health.”

Will you please to be so kind Sir, as to tell me about my little bit of land. I am afraid to put on it a stable, or cornhouse, and such like, for fear it will be taken away from me again. Will you please to be so kind as to tell me whether the land will be sold from under us or no, or whether it will be sold to us at all. I should like to buy the very spot where I live. It aint but six acres, and I have got cotton planted on it, and very fine cotton too; and potatoes and corn coming on very pretty. If we colored people have land I know we shall do very well — there is no fear of that. Some of use have as much as three acres of corn, besides ground-nuts, potatoes, peas, and I don’t know what else myself. If the land can only be sold, we can buy it all, for every house has its cotton planted, and doing well, and planted only for ourselves– We should like to know how much we shall have to pay for it — if it is sold–

I am pretty well struck in age Sir, for I waited upon Mrs. Alston that was Theodosia Burr, daughter of Aaron Burr, and I remember well when she was taken by pirates, — but I can maintain myself and my family well on this land. My son got sick on the Wabash (Flagship at Hilton Head) and he will never get well, for he has a cough that will kill him at last. He cannot do much work, but I can maintain him. I had rather work for myself and raise my own cotton than work for a gentleman for wages, for if I could sell my cotton for only .20 cts a pound it would pay me.

What ever you say I am willing to do, and I will attend to whatever you tell me.

He added: “After the Government Superintendent gave me leave to pick one of the new houses I pitch upon the one I live in. Then I fill up the holes in the garden, and in the house, I lath it & fill in with moss till it is comfortable in the winter. I did a heap of work on it, and now it would hurt my heart too much to see another man have it. I should not like it at all.

Laura Towne added: “The letter above was dictated to me by a Freedman on St. Helena Island who is a refugee from Edisto, and who was formerly confidential servant in the Alston family. He can read & write, but is too old to do it with ease. He, with others of the Freedmen, often expresses a wish to speak to Massa Linkum, feeling sure that he will listen to their plea for land & do what is best for them. At Carlos desire, I took down from his own lips the words he was restless to speak to the President, intending to hand the letter to him at the Sanitary Fair, but I refrained from so doing that business might not be thrust in upon pleasure–

I have given my promise to Carlos that I will do my best to let his “own word” reach the ear in which he has unbounded trust & hope, and therefore I forward this letter to Washington, begging no one to prevent its reaching its destination.

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

President Lincoln Seeks to Placate Kentucky Governor Thomas Bramlette

May 28, 1864

After meeting with Kentucky Governor Thomas Bramlette, President Lincoln writes Secretary of War Edwin M. 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 her 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 embarrassments, disorders, and provocations.

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

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Handshakes and Autographs Requested from President Lincoln

May 27, 1864

Augustus N. Dickens, the brother of novelist Charles Dickens, writes President Lincoln: “Forgive my intrusion upon your time, when our common Country demands your deepest thought,–

Many years ago my brother Charles Dickens, wrote a book, the title of it, was, “American Notes” –: therein he took occasion to remark that slavery was the curse of the country, — Under God that curse is being removed by you,–

Now comes the favor I have to ask of you, your signature, which will be cherished by me & my family for ever,– An Englishman by birth & education, but one of America’ s adopted sons, — without any axe requiring grinding at present, I shall keep your name, written by yourself, as a lasting momento of goodness of heart, honesty of purpose, & patriotic devotion to the cause of God & Humanity

Michigan Congressman John F. Driggs asks President Lincoln to shake hands with some visitors from Connecticut.

Kentucky editor Albert Hodges writes President Lincoln regarding state politics: “Our Convention, which assembled in Louisville the day before yesterday, was attended by Delegates from 58 counties. There were about twenty one or twenty two counties, in which public meetings were had been held, and delegates appointed, that were not represented. The great mass of the truly loyal men of Kentucky are laboring men — many of them without negroes to assist them — consequently, could not leave their farms and workshops at this particular season of the year to attend a convention, without considerable pecuniary loss to men of that class. However, we had an exceedingly interesting and harmonious meeting, and one too that will make itself felt in the coming canvass.

It was exceedingly gratifying to me, in my conversations with the Delegates, to find that you are preferred to any other living man by all the truly loyal men in Kentucky. I was of opinion that the Convention should endorse you by resolution; but there were some few who thought, for prudential reasons, that such preference ought not to be expressed by resolutions, when it was known that every Delegate present was for you, as well as every Delegate to the Baltimore Convention. Under the circumstances, those of us who were for the passage of such a resolution yielded to the wishes of the few in order to perfect harmony in our action.

From the men who composed the Guthrie-Prentice Convention,2 I am satisfied we shall have a tremendous struggle in Kentucky for supremacy. They are mostly the wealthy slaveholders of Kentucky — they are struggling for the continuance of Slavery in the State, and nothing which every appliance of wealth can effect, will be left undone by them to carry this State against you– Still, I trust in the justice of our cause and the approval of a kind Providence, to give us the victory over those who would enslave their fellow men in all time to come.

The principle apprehension I have in regard to the contest in this State, is the one alluded to by Dr. Breckinridge in his speech before the Convention — a fusion of the pro-slavery Union men and the Wickliffe4 party. My own impression is that but few of the out-and-out Rebels in our State will vote in a contest between you and McClellan; and I am not sure that a majority of them would not prefer your election to that of McClellan. If McClellan be the nominee of the Chicago Convention against you, I know of some few of the most intelligent ones among us who will certainly cast their votes for you. Those who communicate with me upon the subject, however, will not permit me to communicate it to others. Some few of them are out spoken, and jocularly remark, that when confiscation day comes, they will have a clean record for loyalty — some many of them not having a dollar’s worth of property upon the face of the earth to confiscate, either in land, negroes, or any thing else.

Be assured of one thing however, that whatever men can accomplish in old Kentucky, in the great, and as I honestly believe, good cause in which we are engaged, will be accomplished. Nothing shall be left undone that can be done, to restore our whole country to that moral status when human slavery shall no longer be known among us.

I feel highly honored and complimented by our Convention in being selected as a Delegate to the Baltimore Convention. Although now in my sixty first year, it is the first time I ever was selected to visit a National Convention, and I am the more gratified, if my life and health be spared me, that I shall have the privilege of casting that first vote in a National Convention for Abraham Lincoln

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

Pay of Negro Chaplain Discussed with Attorney General and Senator Charles Sumner

May 26, 1864

Attorney General Edward Bates writes in his diary:“On the 26th. of May happening to meet Mr. [Charles] S.[umner] at the President’s, he asked me if I had heard what was thought at the North, about my recent opinion upon the pay of black chaplains in the army. I said, no, I have not seen in the news papers, any mention of the Opinion (which was true). He then had praised me very highly, for that opinion and the one on Citizenship – I answered, ‘Perhaps Mr. Garrison mistakes me for an Abolitionist.’ And then I told him that a learned friend (German) at St Louis (I did not tell him that it was Dr. Chs. L. Bernays) had written me that the Radicals of Mo., would never forgive me for proving that negro[e] had some rights by law, whereas they insist that all the rights of negro[e]s are derived from their bounty!”

Presidential aide John G. Nicolay wrote New York Tribune editor Horace Greeley: “The following telegram appeared in the New York Tribune of yesterday, under the date of ‘May 24′:

The subject of arbitrary arrests was incidentally discussed in Cabinet council to-day. Mr. Chase manfully denounced them. The suppression of the New York papers and extradition of Areguelles were both condemned by him as devoid of policy and wanting law. The defence of those measures was more irritable than logical and assured.

1. The Cabinet councils of the President being private and confidential, the correspondent could have learned this incident from no one but Mr. Chase.

2. It is impossible that an official so sagacious and discreet at Mr. Chase should have made to any newspaper correspondent such a statement in regard to himself and his colleagues in the Government.

3. We have, therefore, no hesitation in pronouncing this statement unauthorized and unfounded.

4. The subject named was not discussed in the Cabinet on Tuesday.

5. Mr. Chase was not in Cabinet council on that day.

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

President Lincoln Seeks to Aid Congressional Ally

May 25, 1864

President Lincoln writes Chicago Congressman Isaac N. Arnold: “In regard to the order of General Burnside suspending the Chicago Times now nearly a year ago, I can only say I was embarrassed with the question between what was due to the Military service on the one hand, and the Liberty of the Press on the other, and I believe it was the despatch of Senator Trumbull and yourself, added to the proceedings of the meeting which it brought me, that turned the scale in favor of my revoking the order. I am far from certain to-day that the revocation was not right; and I am very sure the small part you took in it, is just ground to disparage your judgment, much less to impugn your motives. I take it that your devotion to the Union and the Administration can not be questioned by any sincere man.”

Facing a challenge for renomination Arnold had written President Lincoln: `My friends . . . write to me, that in the canvass now going on in my district for Congress, the principal charges used against me, are: First that I am responsible for the revocation of the order of Genl. Burnside suppressing the Chicago Times, & that You are indifferent or more than indifferent about my re-election….I am desirous in case of your re-election (which for the sake of the country may God grant) of remaining in congress….

If you would address a note . . . stating how far I was responsible for the Burnside order, & whether I had been a faithful friend, I am sure it would be discreetly used, would probably secure my election, & be ever gratefully remembered.

President Lincoln write General George G. Meade: “Mr. J. C. Swift wishes a pass from me to follow your army to pick up rags and cast-off clothing. I will give it to him if you say so, otherwise not.”

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

Quiet Day at the White House

May 24, 1864

Nothing especial at the Cabinet,” writes Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles in his diary. “The condition and position of the armies canvassed. Chase was not present. He seldom attends of late.”

Presidential aide John Hay writes in his diary that Secretary of State William H. “Seward and [former Secretary of War Simon] Cameron spent evening with President. Seward has prepared the answer to Winter Davis’ guerilla Resn. and it will go up tomorrow. It seems perfectly satisfactory to the Prest. & Nicolay. I think it will subject the Admn. to a good deal of rancorous and foolish attack at this time. Davis’ Resn. though expressing the feelings of almost every American citizen was introduced from the worst motives; still these motives can not be gracefully explained by our government to France.”

Despatches from [Charles] Dana & [Ulysses] Grant show them making fine time. Warren has been behaving finely at the crossing of the North Anna. Things look better than it was rumoured with [Benjamin F.] Butler.”

President Lincoln writes Ohio Governor John Brough: “Yours to Sec. of War asking for something cheering. We have nothing bad from any where. I have just seen a despatch of Grant, of 11 P.M. May 23, on the North Anna, and partly accross it, which ends as follows: `Every thing looks exceedingly favorable for us.’ We have nothing later from him.”

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

Action on Forged Proclamation

May 23, 1864

Navy Secretary Gideon Welles writes in his diary: “The author of the forged proclamation has been detected. His name is [Joseph] Howard, and he has been long connected with the New York press, but especially with the Times. [Howard was city editor of the Brooklyn Eagle.]   If I am not mistaken, he has been one of the my assailants and a defamer of the Department. He is of a pestiferous class of reckless sensation-writers for an unscrupulous set of journalists who misinform the public mind. Scarcely one of them has regard for truth, and nearly all make use of their positions to subserve self, mercenary ends. This forger and falsifier Howard is a specimen of the miserable tribe.

The seizure of the office of the World and Journal of Commerce for publishing this forger was hasty, rash, inconsiderate, and wrong, and cannot be defended. They are mischievous and pernicious, working assiduously against the Union and the Government and giving countenance and encouragement to the Rebellion, but were in this instance the dupes, perhaps the willing dupes, of a knave and wretch. The at of suspending these journals, and the whole arbitrary and oppressive proceedings, had its origin with the Secretary of State. Stanton, I have no doubt, was willing to act on Seward’s promptings, and the President, in deference to Seward, yielded to it.

These things are to be regretted. They weaken the Administration and strengthen its enemies. Yet the Administration ought not to be concerned for the misdeeds of one, or at most two, of its members. They would not be if the President was less influenced by them.

Robert S. Harper writes in Lincoln and the Press “Manton Marble spent his time during his enforced idleness in writing a letter to President Lincoln, several columns long, which he published in The World. While the Journal of Commerce merely sobbed on the public shoulder, Marble addressed Lincoln in terms of cold anger, studded with personal insult. He accepted full blame for publishing the fake proclamation but said, ‘No newspaper in the country but would have been deceived as we were.’

“‘That proclamation was a forgery,’ wrote Marble, ‘written by a person who, ever since your departure from Springfield for Washington in 1861, has enjoyed private as well as public opportunities for learning to counterfeit the peculiarities of your speech and style, and whose service for years as a city editor of the New York Times and the New York Tribune acquainted him with the entire newspaper machinery of the city, and enabled him to insert his clever forgery into the regular channels by which we receive news.’

“He charged that the troops occupying The World office damaged the property and stole some of the equipment, then said:

Not until today has The World been free to speak. But to those who have ears to hear, its absence has been eloquent than its columns could ever be….Had the Tribune and the Times published the forgery…would you, Sir, have suppressed the Tribune and the Times as you suppressed The World and the Journal of Commerce? You know you would not. If not, why not? Is there a different law for your opponents and for your supporters? Can you, whose eyes discern equality under every complexion, be blinded by the hue of partisanship?


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

Quiet Day at the White House as Republican National Convention Approaches

May 22, 1864

Presidential aide John Hay writes in his diary: “I said to the President today that I thought [Benjamin F.] Butler was the only man in the Army to whom power would be dangerous. McClellan was too timid & vacillating to usurp. Grant was too sound and cool headed & too unselfish; Banks is also. Fremont would be dangerous if had more ability & energy.

“‘Yes,’ said the Ancient, ‘he is like Jim Jett’s brother. Jim used to say that his brother was the biggest scoundrel that ever lived, but in the infinite mercy of Providence he was also the biggest fool.”

Presidential aide John G. Nicolay writes his fiancee: “In less than three weeks the Baltimore Convention will have decided who is to be the next President. The indications are all that Mr. Lincoln will be re-nominated with scarcely a dissenting voice….”

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