President Lincoln Told of Red River Expedition Failure

May 9, 1864

Navy Secretary Gideon Welles writes in his diary: “I took [Gwinn H.] Heap [clerk to Rear-Admiral David Dixon Porter] with me to the President and had him tell his own story [about Red River expedition]. It was less full and denunciatory than to me, but it seemed to convince the President, who I have thought was over-partial to Banks, and I have thought that Seward contributed to that feeling. The President, after hearing Heap, said he had rather cousined up to Banks, but for some time past had begun to think he was erring in so doing. He repeated two verses from Moore, commencing

‘Oh, ever thus, from childhood’s hour,

I’ve seen my fondest hopes decay,’ etc.

It would do to retain him in military command at such obvious sacrifice of the public interest.

Presidential aide John Hay writes in his diary: “The President thinks very highly of what Grant has done. He was talking about it today with me and said ‘How near we have been to this thing before and failed. I believe that if any other General had been at the Head of that army it would have now been on this side of the Rapidan. It is the dogged pertinacity of Grant that wins.’ It is said that Meade observed to Grant that the enemy seemed inclined to make a Kilkenny cat fight of the affair,& Grant answered, ‘Our cat has the longest tail.’”


In response to a serenade at the White House, President Lincoln said (under misapprehension that the Army of the Potomac had recently won a victory): “I am very much obliged to you for the compliment of this call, though I apprehend it is owing more to the good news received to-day from the army than to a desire to see me. I am, indeed, very grateful to the brave men who have been struggling with the enemy in the field, to their noble commanders who have directed them, and especially to our Maker. Our commanders are following up their victories resolutely and successfully. I think, without knowing the particulars of the plans of Gen. Grant, that what has been accomplished is of more importance than at first appears. I believe I know, (and am especially grateful to know) that Gen. Grant has not been jostled in his purposes; that he has made all his points, and to-day he is on his line as he purposed before he moved his armies. I will volunteer to say that I am very glad at what has happened; but there is a great deal still to be done. While we are grateful to all the brave men and officers for the events of the past few days, we should, above all, be very grateful to Almighty God, who gives us victory.

There is enough yet before us requiring all loyal men and patriots to perform their share of the labor and follow the example of the modest General at the head of our armies, and sink all personal considerations for the sake of the country. I commend you to keep yourselves in the same tranquil mood that is characteristic of that brave and loyal man. I have said more than I expected when I came before you; repeating my thanks for this call, I bid you good-bye.

President Lincoln issues a call for thanksgiving “To the Friends of Union and Liberty”:

“Enough is known of Army operations within the last five days to claim our especial gratitude to God; while what remains undone demands our most sincere prayers to, and reliance upon, Him, without whom, all human effort is vain. I recommend that all patriots, at their homes, in their places of public worship, and wherever they may be, unite in common thanksgiving and prayer to Almighty God.”

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

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