Resignation of Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase is Accepted; Washington Shocked

June 30, 1864

President Lincoln accepts the resignation of Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase: “Your resignation of the office of Secretary of the Treasury, sent me yesterday, is accepted. Of all I have said in commendation of your ability and fidelity, I have nothing to unsay; and yet you and I have reached a point of mutual embarrassment in our official relation which it seems can not be overcome, or longer sustained, consistently with public service.”   President Lincoln later nominates another Ohioan, former Governor David Tod, to replace Chase, but Tod declines.

Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase is himself taken aback. He writes in his diary: “While we were talking [at the Capitol] a Messenger came in to summon Mr. [William P.] Fessenden to the Senate. The Messenger said something privately and he came back to me saying ‘Have you resigned. I am called to the Senate and told that the President has sent in the nomination of your successor.[‘] I told him I had tendered my resignation but had not been informed till now of its acceptance. He expressed his surprise and disappointment and we parted–He to the Senate and I to the Department. There I found a letter from the President accepting my resignation, and putting the acceptance on the ground of the difference between us indicating a degree of embarrassment in our official relations which could not be continued or sustained consistently with the public service. I had found a good deal of embarrassment from him but what he had found from me I could not imagine, unless it has been created by my unwillingness to have offices distributed as spoils or benefits with more regard to the claims of divisions, factions, cliques and individuals, than to fitness of selection. He had never given me the active and earnest support I was entitled to and even now Congress was about to adjourn without passing sufficient tax bills, though making appropriations with lavish profusion, and he was notwithstanding my appeals taking no pains to assure a different result.

Among those who called during the day was Mr. Hooper who related a conversation with the President some days ago, in which the President expressed regret that our relations were not more free from embarrassment, saying that when I came to see him he left awkward and that I seemed constrained. At the same time expressed his esteem for me and said that he had intended in case of vacancy in the Chief Justiceship to tender it to me and would now did a vacancy exist. This he said, he remarked, to show his real sentiments toward me; for he remembered that no very long after we took charge of the Administration I had remarked one day that I preferred judicial to administrative office and would rather, if I could be Chief Justice of the United States than hold any other position that could be given me. Mr. Hooper said that he thought this was said to him in order to be repeated to me and that he had sought an opportunity of doing so but had not found one. I said it was quite possible had any such expressions of good will reached me I might, before the present difficulty arose, have gone to him and had a frank understanding which would have prevented it: but I did not now see how I could change my position.

Indeed if such were the real feelings of Mr. Lincoln he would hardly have refused a personal interview when I asked it or have required me to consult local politics in choice of an officer, whose character and qualifications were so vitally important to the Department. Beside I did not see how I could carry on the Department without more means than Congress was likely to supply and amid the embarrassments created by factious hostility within and both factious and party hostility without the Department.

So my official life closes….

Presidential aide John Hay writes in his diary about the president’s response to Chase’s resignation before and after he sent the nomination of Senator William P. Fessenden to the Senate as his choice to replace Chase: “This morning, the President sent for me saying, ‘When does the Senate meet today?’

‘Eleven o’clock.’

‘I wish you to be there when they meet. It is a big fish. Mr Chase has resigned & have accepted his resignation. I thought I could not stand it any longer.

‘Is it about the Field matter?’

‘Yes.’

‘Who is to be his successor?’

‘Dave Tod. He is my friend, with a big head full of brains.’

‘Has he the skill ad experience necessary for such a place?’

‘He made a good Governor, and has made a fortune for himself. I am willing to trust him.’

I arrived at the Senate door while the Chaplain was praying. When he ceased I delivered the message and went back to the Executive Mansion. In an hour the excitement rolled up our way. Mr Hooper came in, much excited. He feared the effect on our finances. He says it is not about the Field matter because Cisco has withdrawn his resignation. Ashmun looks at it cooly, does not think the bottom has fallen out. Washburne does. I never knew a man more stampeded. He says it is a great disaster; at this time ruinous; this time of military unsuccess, financial weakness. Congressional hesitation on question of conscription & imminent famine in the West. Chittenden came over to say that there was a movement for a general resignation in the Department; that he would stay until Tod came and got things started, although intending for some time past to resign as soon as possible.

In the afternoon I talked over the matter with the President. He said Chase was perfectly unyielding in this whole matter of Field’s appointment: that Morgan objected so earnestly to Field that he could not appoint him without embarrassment & so told the secretary, requesting him to agree to the appointment of Gregory Blatchford or Hillhouse or some other good man that would not be obnoxious to the Senators: the Secretary still insisted, but added that possibly Mr Cisco would withdraw his resignation: the President answered that he could not appoint Mr Field but wd wait   Mr Cisco’s action. Yesterday evening a letter came from the Secretary announcing first the intelligence that Mr. Cisco had withdrawn his resignation. This was most welcome news to the President. He thought the whole matter was happily disposed of. Without waiting to read further he put the letters in his pocket & went at his other work. Several hours later, wishing to write a congratulatory word to the Secretary, he took the papers from his pocket, and found his bitter disappointment the resignation of the Secretary. H made up his mind to accept it. It meant, “You have been acting very badly. Unless you say you are sorry, & ask me to stay & agree that I shall be absolute and that you shall have nothing, no matter how you beg for it, I will go.” The President thought one or the other must resign. Mr Chase elected to do so.

Hay noted that later the Senate Finance Committee, headed by Senator Fessenden, came to the White House to discuss the Treasury changes. Hay writes: “The Finance Committee, to whom was referred the nomination of Tod, came down in a body to talk to the President. He says, “Fessenden was frightened. Conness was mad, Sherman thought we could not have gotten on together much longer anyhow. Cowan & Van Winkle did not seem to care anything about it.” They not only protested against any changed but objected to Tod as too little known and experienced for the place. The President told them that he had not much personal acquaintance with Tod; had nominated him on account of the high opinion he had formed of him while Governor of Ohio: but that the Senate had the duty & responsibility of considering & passing upon the question of fitness, in which they must be entirely untrammelled. He could not in justice to himself or Tod withdraw the nomination.”

Navy Secretary Gideon Welles writes in his diary: “All were surprised to-day with the resignation of Secretary Chase and the nomination of Governor David Tod as his successor. I knew nothing of it till the fact was told me by Senator Doolittle, who came to see and advise with me, supposing I knew something of the circumstances. But I was wholly ignorant. Chase had not thought proper to consult me as to his resignation, nor had the President as to his action upon it. or the selection. My first impression was that he had consulted Seward and perhaps Blair. I learn, however, he advised with none of his Cabinet, but acted from his own impulses. I have doubts of Tod’s ability for this position, though he has good common sense and was trained in the right school, being a hard-money man. Not having seen the President since this movement took place, I do not comprehend his policy. It can hardly be his intention to reverse the action of Chase entirely without consulting those who are associated with him in the Government. And yet the selection of Tod indicates that, if there be any system in the movement. The President has given but little attention to finance and the currency, but yet he can hardly be ignorant of the fact that Chase and Tod are opposites. The selection of Tod is a move in the right direction if he has made the subject a sufficient study to wield the vast machine. On this point I have my doubts. His nomination will disturb the ‘Bubbles,’ — the paper-money men,–and the question was not acted upon but referred tot he Finance Committee, who have been with the Senate. I have no doubt their astonishment at the obtrusion of a hard-money man upon then was made manifest.

Blair and Bates both called at my house this evening and gave me to understand they were as much taken by surprise as myself. Mr. Bates says he knows nothing of T. Blair expresses more apprehensions even than myself, who have my doubts.

The retirement of Chase, so far as I hear opinions express,–and they are generally freely given–appears to give relief rather than otherwise, which surprises me. I had thought it might create a shock for a brief period, though I did not fear that it would be lasting. I look upon it as a blessing. The country could not go on a great while longer under his management, which has been one of expedients and of no fixed principles, or profound and correct financial knowledge.

It is given out that a disagreement between himself and the President in relation to the appointment of Assistant Treasurer at New York as the cause of his leaving. I think likely that was the cause of his leaving. I think likely that was the occasion of his tendering his resignation, and I have little doubt he was greatly surprised that it was accepted. He may not admit this, but it is none the less true, I apprehend. Yet there were some circumstances to favor his going,–there is a financial gulf ahead.

Attorney General Edward Bates writes in his diary: “Today about noon, I was surprised to hear that Mr. Chase, Secy. of the Treasury had resigned, and that David Tod, ex Govr. Of Ohio, was nominated to fill the vacancy. Of course, the town is full of rumors of the cause and motive of Mr. C[hase]’s resignation – One is that he and the Prest disagree as to who shall be Sub-treasurer at New York – Another is that Mr. C.[hase] hopes for the nomination by the Democratic convention to meet at Chicago, and that Fremont and his friends will waive the nomination at Cleveland, in his favor – and yet another (and [t]he most pro[ba]ble) is that his present position is very irksome, in many respects,

1. His social and political relations do not seem to be cordial with the other ministers, except perhaps Staunton [sic].

2. His scheme of finance is pretty well played out – and seems now to be generally considered a puffing machine that must soon burst by inflation – for gold is at 240 and still rising.

“I have not conversed with many; but as far as my information goes, there seems to be a vague feeling of relief from a burden, and a hope of better things.

“I should not be a bit surprised, if Stanton soon followed Chase. In that I see no public misfortune, for I think it hardly possible that the War Office could be worse administered.

“I fancy that I see in this movement another effort of the Radicals to bolt the Baltimore nomination – If they could find a feasible candidate I’m sure they would do it[.]

Mr. Lincoln, I hope, will find out, in time the danger of leaning upon that broken reed.

President Lincoln arranges for the temporary administration of the Treasury Department: “There being a vacancy in the office of Secretary of the Treasury occasioned by the resignation of the Hon Salmon P. Chase and its acceptance, George Harrington Esq Assistant Secretary is authorized to perform all and singular the duties of Secretary of the Treasury until a successor to Mr Chase shall be commissioned and qualified, or until further order.”

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

Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase Pushes Lincoln Too Far

June 29, 1864

Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase writes President Lincoln on June 29: “I have just received your note and have read it with great attention. I was not aware of the extent of the embarrassment to which you refer. In recommendations for office I have sincerely sought to get the best men for the places to be filled without reference to any other classification than supporters and opponents of your administration. Of the latter I have recommended none; among the former I have desired to know no distinction except degrees of fitness.

The withdrawal of Mr. Cisco’s resignation, which I enclose, relieves the present difficulty; but I cannot help feeling that my position here is not altogether agreeable to you; and it is certainly too full of embarrassment and difficulty and painful responsibility to allow in me the least desire to retain it.

I think it my duty therefore to enclose to you my resignation. I shall regard it as a real relief if you think proper to accept it; and will most cheerfully tender to my successor any aid he may find useful in entering upon his duties.

Navy Secretary Gideon Welles writes in his diary: “Nothing from the army. We hear that the pirate Alabama is at Cherbourg. Is she to remain there to be repaired? Seward tells me he knows one of the French armed vessels recently sold is for Sweden, and he has little doubt both are; that the French government is not deceitful in this matter.

Congress is getting restive and discontented with the financial management. The papers speak of the appointment of Field, Assistant Secretary, to be Assistant Treasurer at New York, in the place of Cisco. I doubt if any one but Chase would think of him for the place, and Chase, as usual, does not know the reason. But Field has talents and Chase takes him from association. Morgan prefers Hillhouse, and Seward wants Blatchford.

Former Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase writes in his diary: “Last evening I received Mr. Ciscos reply to my telegram consenting to withdraw his resignation. This morning I received the Presidents reply to my note. He says he did not accede to personal interview because useless-complains of the difficulties occasioned by his retention of Mr. Barney and the appointment of Judge Hogeboom, both considered as of the radical side and says he cannot go further in that direction by the appointment of Mr. Field[;] desires appt. made acceptable to Gov Morgan and those who think as he does. Will await Mr. Cisco’s action. I replied that I made no general distinction in appointments except friend and opponents of his administration and among the former none except degrees of fitness–that Mr. Cisco’s reply relieved the present difficulty; but as I could not help feeling that my position here was not agreeable to him and there was nothing in my office making me wish to retain it. I enclosed my resignation and should feel really relieved by its acceptance. I added that I would give my successor all the aid I could for his entrance upon the duties of the office. With this note I enclosed my resignation.”

Presidential aide John G. Nicolay writes to John Hay from St. Joseph, Missouri: ““During my few days’ sojourn here, I have been looking a little into ‘the situation.’

If Missouri be not ‘governed too much,’ it is at least governed by too many different and conflicting authorities. For instance: Gen. C.B. Fisk in command of this District, comprising all the Counties of the State lying in command of this District, comprising all the Counties of the State lying north of the Missouri River, exercising all the usual functions and authority of a District Commander. But his is not the only military authority in the District. There is an addition, a system of military provost marshals (not those appointed under the enrol[l]ment law) but appointed the orders of Gen. Rosecrans, and governed, regulated, and instructed by Col. [John P.] Sanderson, of Gen. Rosecrans staff, who is the Provost Marshal General, of that system. This military district commanded by Gen. Fisk, is subdivided into nine subdistricts, each of which has a provost marshal, appointed nominally by Rosecrans, but really by Sanderson, to whom they report, and under whose direction they gather information, make arrests, issue order and do various acts, all independently of, and in many instances without the knowledge of Gen. Fisk the District Commander.

‘This is still not all. Under existing laws and orders, the Governor of Missouri controls certain organizations of State Militia, and again independently of the other military authorities of the State. That is: he may at his own option call and put certain militia into service, or being in service, he may relieve it from service, and disband it, he alone being the judge of necessity of doing either Using this District then, as an illustration, there are three distinct sources of military authority here, all independent of each other, viz

1 The District Commander

2 Sanderson’s Provost Marshals

3. The Governor as Com. in Chief of the State Militia

“It is easy to see that perpetual confusion and conflict of authority, and especially conflict of policy grows of this things, and I have no doubt that many of Missouri troubles grow solely out of this confusion.

One of the most serious of the late affairs in this district, grew directly out of this independent police system of Sanderson’s.

“A detective or scout named Truman went to Sanderson and Rosecrans, and professed to be able to ferret outa great conspiracy which had for its object the capture of Hannibal, Quincy and other points by guerrillas. They believed him, and sent him up here with directions to detail a squad of soldiers to go with him, under his orders, who were to disguise themselves as guerrillas, and thus spy out and punish the plotters. Truman however seems to have been a very bad character, illiterate, intemperate, immoral, and subsequently criminal. Gen. Fisk suspected him from the first, and soon becoming convinced after he had started on his scout that his suspicions were true, ordered him to report himself to Sanderson at St. Louis. Truman however, instead of obeying the order, telegraphed to Sanderson and Rosecrans, asking permission to ‘stay in the field a week longer,’ saying it was a ‘military necessity.’ Sanderson and Rosecrans answered his telegram and told him to ‘go ahead.’ He went ahead and a few days summarily shot and hung seven men, whom he took from their houses and farms, and who were not at the time in arms or engaged in over acts of treason. This occurred to Chariton county. Of course it produced a reign of terror there. everybody took to the brush, and since that time, thirteen Union men have been murdered in retaliation. Altogether it was a most terrible affair. Truman was promptly arrested, and is now in confinement here for trial.

“The Governor’s independent action in Militia matters is a great source of difficulty to the District Commander here. In counties where the force is very much needed, the Governor has neglected to commission the officers which have been chosen, while in others he has relieved and disbanded the militia already serving. Since I have been here, one company in Rails Co. and another in Pike Co have been thus relieved from duty, the first notice the District Commander had of it, being the petitions and protests of the Union men there, not to be left unprotected at the mercy of the bush-whackers. Of course politics has much to do with all these local movements and changes. In this district as elsewhere in the State, the feuds are bitter and unrelenting and the language and acts of men intemperate and rash. I do not pretend to say who is right or who is wrong; the point I make is, that the division and conflict of authority as it now exists, is powerless for good and potent for mischief.

“Gen. Fisk, the District Commander here, whom the President personally knows is, I am convinced, an able, prudent, and sagacious officer. His policy has been to conciliate – to induce men to cease wrangling and fighting, and to promote peace and quiet, by laboring together for the re-establishment of courts, schools, churches, and engaging in philanthropic enterprises, and pursuing the cultivation of their farms – so that the whole military power of the district could be used to put down the actual bushwhackers and guerrillas. To his appeals in this behalf he has met most encouraging responses from the people of the District; but his pacific efforts have been in a measure prevented and neutralized by the disadvantageous division and conflict of authority under which he has been compelled to labor.

Nicolay writes Hay: “Confidential! Please lay the enclosed before the President, if he can find time to read it.

“Sanderson’s Chariton Co. Affair has a very bad look about it now – I don’t know how it may develop itself on the trial. Both he and Rosey [Gen. Rosecrans] seem to have been miserably duped by the man Truman. Gen. Fisk seems to think that Sanderson is in a state of chronic stampede, while Gov. Hall curses him black and blue. I doubt whether he is the proper man for inquisitor-general for this State. This affair greatly shakes my faith in the truth of his Val[landigham] conspiracy. There is suspicion among some here that Sanderson runs too much of the machine in this State, while Rosey idles away valuable time inventing coal oil lamps.

“I think Genl Fisk is a quiet shrewd and able man, who manages affairs here as well as is possible under his embarrassments. But with Sanderson on one flank, Gov. Hall on the other, the bushwhackers in front and his paw-paw militia in the rear, he has a hard row to hoe. He asked yesterday to be relieved from duty here. For his own sake I could wish him to succeed in this, but for the sake of the service I think he ought to stay. I doubt whether any one else could so well do his work. So far as I can learn he satisfies the people, which is a great thing in itself.

“He has been very kind to me here, and should he come to Washington during my absence, please give whatever facilities and assistance you can, on my behalf.

President Lincoln writes his wife: “All well. Tom is moving things out [apparently to the Soldiers Cottage for the summer.]”

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

President Lincoln Rejects Pressure from Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase

June 28, 1864

A dispute over the appointment of a successor to Assistant Secretary of the Treasury John Cisco blows.   New York State was a political hot-house and promised to be key in the 1864 presidential election. President Lincoln had insisted that the Treasury appointment be approved by New York Senator Edwin D. Morgan, but Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase declined to reach an agreement with Morgan.

President Lincoln today rejects the proposed nomination of Maunsell Field as the Treasury’s top official in New York City. He writes Chase: “Yours inclosing a blank nomination for Maunsell B. Field to be Assistant Treasurer at New-York was received yesterday. I can not, without much embarrassment, make this appointment, principally because of Senator Morgan’s very firm opposition to it. Senator Harris has not spoken to me on the subject, though I understand he is not averse to the appointment of Mr. Field; nor yet to any one of the three named by Senator Morgan, rather preferring, of them, however, Mr. Hillhouse. Gov Morgan tells me he has mentioned the three names to you, towit, R. M. Blatchford, Dudley S. Gregory, and Thomas Hillhouse. It will really oblige me if you will make choice among these three, or any other man that Senators Morgan and Harris will be satisfied with, and send me a nomination for him

Chase responds: “I shall be glad to have a conversation with you on the subject of the appointment of Mr. Cisco’s successor at any time & place convenient to you.” President Lincoln later writes Chase: “When I received your note this forenoon suggesting a verbal conversation in relation to the appointment of a successor to Mr. Cisco, I hesitated because the difficulty does not, in the main part, lie within the range of a conversation between you and me. As the proverb goes, no man knows so well where the shoe pinches as he who wears it. I do not think Mr. Field a very proper man for the place, but I would trust your judgment, and forego this, were the greater difficulty out of the way. Much as I personally like Mr. Barney, it has been a great burden to me to retain him in his place, Barney, it has been a great burden to me to retain him in his place, when nearly all our friends in New-York, were directly or indirectly urging his removal. Then the appointment of Judge Hogeboom to be genera Appraiser, brought me to and has ever since kept me at, the verge of open revolt. Now, the appointment of Mr. Field, would precipitate me in it, unless Senator Morgan and those feeling as he does, could be brought to concur in it. Strained as I already am at this point I do not think I can make this appointment in the direction of still great strain.” Lincoln adds: “The testimonials of Mr. Field, with your accompanying notes, were duly received, and I am now waiting to see your answer from Mr. Cisco.”

Chase replied: “I have telegraphed Mr. Cisco begging him to withdraw his resignation and served at least another quarter. If he declines to do so I must repeat that, in my judgment, the public interests require the appointment of Mr. Field. One of the gentlemen named by Senator Morgan is over seventy & the other, I think over sixty years old, and neither has any practical knowledge of the duties of the office. They are both estimable gentlemen and were the times  peaceful & the business of the office comparatively small & regular, I should gladly acquiesce in the appointment of either. But my duty to you & to the country does not permit it now. I have already after conference with Senator Morgan offered, with his concurrence, my recommendation to your consideration to three gentlemen, each admirably qualified, but each has declined. I now recommend Mr. Field because among those who will take the place I think him best qualified and only for that reason. But, this, especially in these times, should be a controlling reason…”

Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase writes in his diary: “At the Department received a note from the President, saying that Senator Morgan strongly opposed the nomination of Mr. Field in place of Mr. Cisco–replied asking an interview, but received no answer. He may not wish one or what is more probably allows himself to forget the request. He asks the nomination of R.S. Blatchford or Dudley S. Gregory, neither of whom, I fear, is the proper man to take charge of the office at this critical juncture; though either would be entirely acceptable to me personally. I fear Senator Morgan desires to make a political engine of the office, and loses sight in this desire of the necessities of the service.” Chase writes:

“Telegraphed Mr. Cisco urging him to withdraw resignation and serve at least another quarter; and wrote to President what I had done and why I could not honestly, in duty to him or the country, recommend at this time either of the names he had suggested.

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

New York Patronage Positions Preoccupy President Lincoln

June 27, 1864

President Lincoln formally accepts his Union presidential nomination. He responds to the delegation from the National Union Convention that had informed him of his nomination for president: “Your letter of the 14th. Inst. formally notifying me that I have been nominated by the convention you represent for the President of the United States for four years from the fourth of March next has been received. The nomination is gratefully accepted, as the resolutions of the convention, called the platform, are heartily approved.

While the resolution in regard to the supplanting of republican government upon the Western continent is fully concurred in, there might be misunderstanding were I not to say that the position of the government, relation to the action of France in Mexico, as assumed through the State Department, and approved and indorsed by the convention, among the measures and acts of the Executive, will be faithfully maintained, so long as the state of facts shall leave that position pertinent and applicable.

I am especially gratified that the soldier and the seaman were not forgotten by the convention, as they forever must and will be remembered by the grateful country for whose salvation they devote their lives.

Thanking you for the kind and complimentary terms in which you have communicated the nomination and other proceedings of the convention, I subscribe myself

Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase attempted to appoint Field assistant United States Treasurer in New York in June 1864. According to historian Ernest A. McKay in The Civil War and New York City, Field was “a man of high social standing with literary interests who was coauthor of a romantic novel. Chase opponents charged that Field was not respected by either politicians or financiers. Field, however, was hardly a novice in the financial world. He had served as an assistant to Cisco for many years and was now assistant secretary of the treasury. Nonetheless, Senator Morgan objected to his appointment and offered three well-regarded New Yorkers, R. M. Blatchford, Dudley S. Gregory, and Thomas Hillhouse, for consideration. Chase believed one of these men might be suitable in peacetime but not under the pressures of war. One man, he told Lincoln, was over seventy and another over sixty. Chase ignored Morgan and presented Field’s name to the president.”

Chase writes in his diary: “Called on Senator [Edwin] Morgan to consult about Asst. Treasurer at New York – told him I had concluded to recommend Mr. Field. He thought I had better name Mr. Gregory or Mr. Blatchford. I replied that either gentleman would be entirely acceptable to me personally but I thought the public interest would on the whole be best consulted by the appointment of Mr. F. He said that Mr. [Charles] Jones of Brooklyn Chairman of the Union Committee had brought a list of clerks and officers under Mr. Cisco and that there were but some half dozen Union men among them–all the rest being democrats I replied that I thought the statement erroneous and that on fair enquiry it would be found that of the persons called democrats the largest proportion are of the same class with Andrew Johnson–but I would think the matter all over and decide today. At the Dept. Mr. Freeman Clarke called and I talked the matter over with him. He seemed to prefer Mr. Field. I told him if he would take it, I would send his name to the President at once. He said his health would not allow him to do so and even if it would he could not on other grounds. I asked him to confer with the Senators and report, telling him I must decide today. Having waited to hear from him till about four and having in the meantime conferred fully with Mr. Field, whom I found even a more decided supporter of the Admn. than Johnson was at the time of his nomination, I went to the Capitol to see him. He was neither in the House nor Senate and I then sent to the Department thinking that in the meantime he might have gone thither. The Messenger returned reporting that he had not been there and I at once sent Mr. Fields name to the President, about [?] half past four.” Chase adds:

I have repeatedly assured the Committee and the President that we cannot even sustain the existing or even somewhat reduced rate of expenditure without a revenue from taxes and duties of $400,000,000. In a recent letter upon the assumption, admitted to be improbable that Expenditure might be reduced to 750,000,000 I fixed the amount with which we might get along at one half or 375,000,000. I mean to send the bill for the additional taxes to Congress and the President and insist on it.

Another New York City patronage position is also giving President Lincoln difficulty. Historian Charles Brown wrote in William Bryant “Smarting under the Evening Post’s attacks against the administration, although the Navy Department had fared better than most other departments, [Secretary of the Navy Gideon] Welles was somewhat put out by Bryant’s letter, delivered to him by representative M.F. Odell of Brooklyn, a friend of Henderson and like him a prominent member of the Methodist church. ‘Of course Mr. H. stimulated Mr. B. to write these letters, and, having got them, sends them through his religious associate,’ Welles wrote in his diary on June 27. He mentioned that former governor Edwin D. Morgan believed both Bryant and Godwin were ‘participants in the plunder of Henderson’ but expressed doubts about Bryant, ‘who is feeling very badly, and thinks there is a conspiracy in which Seward and Thurlow Weed are chiefs.’   Welles could and should easily have disregarded Morgan’s opinion, since as governor he had been linked with Weed in the Evening Post’s assaults on the flagrantly corrupt legislature of 1869-1860.

After conferring with Welles about Navy Agent Isaac Henderson,, President Lincoln writes New York Evening Post Editor William Bryant: “Yours of the 25th. has just been handed me by the Secretary of the Navy. The tone of the letter, rather than any direct statement in it, impresses me as a complaint that Mr. Henderson should have been removed from office, and arrested; coupled with the single suggestion that he be restored, if he shall establish his innocence. I know absolutely nothing of the case except as follows—Monday last Mr. Welles came to me with the letter of dismissal already written, saying he thought proper to show it to me before sending it. I asked him the charges, which he stated in a general way. With as much emphasis as I could I said `Are you entirely certain of his guilt’ He answered that he was, to which I replied `Then send the letter.’ Whether Mr. Henderson was a supporter of my second nomination I neither knew, or enquired, or even thought of. I shall be very glad indeed if he shall, as you anticipate, establish his innocence; or, to state it more strongly and properly, `if the government shall fail to establish his guilt.’ I believe however, the man who made the affidavit was of as spotless reputation as Mr. Henderson, until he was arrested on what his friends insist was outrageously insufficient evidence. I know the entire city government of Washington, with many other respectable citizens, appealed to me in his behalf, as a greatly injured gentleman.

Then, President Lincoln hoisted Bryant on his own petard: “While the subject is up may I ask whether the Evening Post has not assailed me for supposed too lenient dealing with persons charged of fraud & crime? and that in cases of which the Post could know but little of the facts? I shall certainly deal as leniently with Mr. Henderson as I have felt it my duty to deal with others, notwithstanding any newspaper assaults.”

Attorney General Edward Bates writes in his diary:“The President returned, night before last, from his visit to the army in Va. He is perceptably [sic] disappointed at the small measure of our success, in that region; but encouraged by Grant’s persistent confidence. He visited personally, appositions about Petersburg and Bermuda Hundred.”

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

Calm Before the Political Storm in Washington

June 26, 1864

Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase, a former Ohio governor, has been stirring up a hornet’s nest regarding patronage in New York – which will culminate later in the week. Meanwhile, another former Ohio Governor William Dennison writes President Lincoln to seek redress for an army officer who had been dismissed as an assistant quartermaster: “I have had a conversation with Capt [Francis] Hurtt, who will present this note, in relation to his trial of which he spoke to you yesterday– He has explained to me the situation of his case as far as he understands it, and given me the reasons why he is anxious for an early & as he hopes a favorable decision–I write for the purpose of respectfully asking that the case may be early disposed of & of expressing the hope that the decision may be favorable to the Capt– He has already suffered very much from the prosecution, as you can readily appreciate.”

Former Illinois Senator Orville H. Browning writes in his diary: “During the past week, the President visited Grants army, and returned only a day or two ago — He told me last night that Grant said, when he left him, that ‘you Mr President, need be under no apprehension.   You will never hear of me farther from Richmond than now, till I have take it. I am just as sure of going into Richmond as I am of any future event. It may take a long summer day, but I will go in.’   The President added that Grant told him that in the Wilderness he had completely routed Lee, but did not know it at the time — and that had he known it, he could have ruined him, and ended the campaign.”

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

Treasury Problems Erupting; President Watches Rockets

June 25, 1864

Conflict between President Lincoln and Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase is coming to a head. Navy Secretary Gideon Welles writes in his diary: “I am daily more dissatisfied with the Treasury management. Everything is growing worse. Chase, though a man of mark, has not the sagacity, knowledge, taste, or ability of a financier. Has expedients, and will break down the government. There is no one to check him. The President has surrendered the finances to his management entirely. Other members of the Cabinet are not consulted. Any dissent from, or doubts even, of his measures is considered as a declaration of hostility and an embarrassment of his administration. I believe I am the only one who has expressed opinions that questioned his policy, and that expression was mild and kindly uttered. Blair said about as much and both [he and I] were lectured by Chase. But he knew not then, nor does he know now, the elementary principles of finance and currency. Congress surrenders to his capricious and superficial qualities as pliantly as the President and the Cabinet. If they do not legalize his projects, the Treasury is to be closed, and under a threat, or something approaching a threat, his schemes are sanctioned, and laws are made to carry them into effect; but woe awaits the country in consequence.”

Attorney General Edward Bates writes in his diary:“In conversation with the Prest., I told him that I had not yet learned that the Secy. Of War had issued the promised order, revoking Genl. [Lew] Wallace’s confiscation orders, at Baltimore — I only knew that no public steps were taken to enforce them. He said yes, it had been issued — Stanton read him the letter to Wallace, and he (the P[resident] approved it; and he saw Gen. W[allace’]s telegram, acknowled[d]ging the rec[e]ipt of it[.]

“And so, it seems, that genl. W.[allace] ostentatiously publishes his orders, assuming very broad jurisdiction, and now, silently abstains from executing them — saying nothing about the revoking order! And thus the Government lies under the odium of assuming the power, without the spirit to enforce it.”

President Lincoln visits the Washington Navy Yard. Former Illinois Senator Orville H. Browning writes in his diary: “At night went with the President and assistant Secy Fox to the Navy Yard to witness the throwing of Rockets and signals from 6 & 12 pound guns – Went in Presidents carriage and returned at 10 O’clock at night.”

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

President Inquires about Bounty Pay for Black Soldiers

June 24, 1864

Navy Secretary Gideon Welles writes in his diary about the regular Friday Cabinet meeting. “The President was in very good spirits at the Cabinet. His journey has done him good, physically, and strengthened him mentally and inspired confidence in the General and army. Chase was not at the Cabinet-meeting. I know not if he is at home. But he latterly makes it a point not to attend. No one was more prompt and punctual than himself until about a year since. As the Presidential contest approached he has ceased in a great measure to come to the meetings. Stanton is but little better.   If he comes, it is to whisper to the President, or take the dispatches or the papers from his pocket and go into a corner with the President. When has no specialty of his own, he withdraws after some five or ten minutes.

Mr. Seward generally attends the Cabinet-meetings, but the question and matters of his Department he seldom brings forward. These he discusses with the President alone. Some of them he communicates to me, because it is indispensable that I should be informed, but the other members are generally excluded.

Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton, clearly upset with the Attorney General’s office, wrote the previous day to President Lincoln to get help clarifying questions about bounty payments for black soldiers. Stanton had written: “I have the honor to submit for your consideration a copy of a letter addressed by this Department to the Attorney General on the 17th instant, and a paper returned from the Attorney General’s Office, purporting to be a reply, but having no signature. It is of great importance that the points submitted by me for the determination of the Attorney General, pursuant to the Act of Congress, should be speedily decided; and I would therefore respectfully ask that, inasmuch as the efforts of this Department have failed, you would procure from the Attorney General a determination of the question submitted in my letter, in order that the Department may proceed to make payment to the colored troops without delay, in accordance with such determination.

President Lincoln writes Attorney General Edward Bates regarding pay for black soldiers: “By authority of the Constitution, and moved thereto by the fourth section of the act of Congress entitled ‘An act making appropriations for the support of the Army for the year ending the thirtieth of June, Eighteen hundred and sixty five, and for other purposes.’ approved, June 15th 1864. I require your opinion in writing as to what pay, bounty, and clothing are allowed by law to persons of color who were free on the 19th. day of April, 1861, and who have been enlisted and mustered into the military service of the United States between the month of December, 18628 and the 16th. of June 1864.

Please answer as you would do, on my requirement, if the Act of June 15th. 18614 had not been passed; and I will so use your opinion as to satisfy that act.

Three weeks later, Bates responded: ‘By your communication of the 24th ultimo you require my opinion in writing as to what amounts of pay, bounty, and clothing are allowed by law to persons of color who were free on the 19th day of April, 1861, and who have been enlisted and mustered into the military service…between…December, 1862, and the 16th of June, 1864. I suppose that whatever doubt may exist…has mainly its origin in the …provisions of the act of July 17, 1862, chapter 201…The twelfth section of that statute provides: ‘That the President be…authorized to receive into the service of the United States, for the purpose of constructing intrenchments or performing camp service, or any other labor, or any military or naval service for which they may be found competent, persons of African descent…’ The fifteenth section…enacts that ‘person…who, under this law, shall be employed, shall receive $10 per month and one ration, $3 of which monthly pay may be in clothing.’ The first and main question, therefore, is whether the persons of color referred to in your letter…are…employed under the statute of July 17, 1862…If they are not thus employed, their compensation should not be governed…by…the fifteenth section of that statute…

‘Now, I think that it is clear…that those persons of color who have voluntarily enlisted and have been mustered into our military service…who have done and are doing in the field and in garrison the duty and service of soldiers of the United States, are not persons…employed under the statute to which I have referred…

‘I give it to you unhesitatingly as my opinion that the same pay, bounty, and clothing are allowed by law to the persons of color referred to in your communication…as are by the laws existing at the time of the enlistments of said persons, authorized and provided for an allowed to other soldiers in the volunteer services of the United States of like arms of the service….

 

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

Presidential Party Returns to Washington

June 23, 1864

Accompanied by Assistant Secretary of the Navy Gustavus Fox and Rear Admiral William Lee, President Lincoln returns to Washington from a meeting with General Ulysses S. Grant at City Point, Virginia. . Presidential aide John Hay writes in his diary: “The President arrived today from the front, sunburnt and fagged but still refreshed and cheered. He found the army in fine health good position and good spirits; Grant quietly confident: he says quoting the Richmond papers, it may be a long summer’s day before he does his work but that he is as sure of doing it as he is of anything in the world. Sheridan is now on a raid, the purpose of which is to sever the connection at junction of the Lynchburg & Danville R.R.’s at Burke’s. While the Army is swinging around to the south of Petersburg and taking possession of the roads in that direction.”

President Lincoln is sent an unusual request by General Alvin P. Hovey, who wants to leave the Union Army: “I have just received a letter from my old personal friend Hon Schuyler Colfax, in which he informs me, that you will decline to accept my resignation– I trust this is not so– I have never asked you for promotion, and now after fighting for nearly three years in the front, I simply ask, that you will not drive me to extremes, and that you will grant me, the poor privilege of retiring to private life– If left to my own choice, I should have stated no reasons for my resignation, but being compelled to do so by Gen Orders, I preferred stating the blunt truth, to covering the same, under some hypocritical pretexts–

Whether right or wrong, I am now unfit to command– I could not go back to my little Brigade (called a Division) without deep humiliation– I think I have served my Country– In the battles of Shiloh, Port Gibson, Champion Hills, Big Black, Vicksburgh, Jackson, Dalton, Reseca, Altoona mountains, besides many expeditions in Arkansas, and Mississippi The troops under my command have borne a conspicuous and honorable part, and I can proudly boast, for them, that on no occassion, were they ever compelled to give back before the foe– I have probably, been nearly if not quite One hundred days under fire, and the only claim I now have to make, is one, that I regard as my legal right, that is, the privilege of retiring from the service, when I believe that my honor demands it–

My motherless children, now demand my care, but I do not wish to parade my family affairs before the World–

Although General Hovey writes, “I trust Mr President that you will not hesitate to grant my request– With heartfelt prayers for the success of our Government, under your administration,” his request is apparently not granted.

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

President Lincoln and General Ulysses Grant Travel Up James River

June 22, 1864

President Lincoln “slept aboard the boat which had brought him to City Point,” recalled Union Army Captain Horace Porter, an aide to General Ulysses S. Grant. “He had expressed to General Grant a desire to go up the James the next day, to see that portion of our lines and visit the flagship of Admiral Lee, who commanded the gunboats. All arrangements were made for the trip, and the President’s boat started up the river about eight o’clock the next morning, stopping at Bermuda Hundred to take on General Butler. Admiral Lee came aboard from his flag-ship, and the party proceeded up the river as far as it was safe to ascend. Mr. Lincoln was in excellent spirits, and listened with great eagerness to the descriptions of the works, which could be seen from the river, and the objects for which they had been constructed. When his attention was called to some particularly strong positions which had been seized and fortified, he remarked to Butler: “When Grant once gets possession of a place, he holds on to it as if he had inherited it.” Orders had been sent to have the pontoon-bridge at Deep Bottom opened for the passage of the President’s boat, so that he could proceed some distance beyond that point. His whole conversation during his visit showed the deep anxiety he felt and the weight of responsibility which was resting upon him. His face would light up for a time while telling an anecdote illustrating a subject under discussion, and afterward his features would relax and show the deep lines which had been graven upon them by the mental strain to which he had been subjected for nearly four years. The National Republican Convention had renominated him for the Presidency just two weeks before, and some reference was made to it and to the number of men who composed the Electoral College. He remarked: “Among all our colleges, the Electoral College is the only one where they choose their own masters.” He did not show any disposition to dwell upon the subject, or upon the approaching political campaign. His mind seemed completely absorbed in the operations of the armies. Several times, when contemplated battles were spoken of, he said: “I cannot pretend to advise, but I do sincerely hope that all may be accomplished with as little bloodshed as possible.”

Soon after his return to City Point the President started back to Washington. His visit to the army had been a memorable event. General Grant and he had had so much delightful intercourse that they parted from each other with unfeigned regret, and both felt that their acquaintance had already ripened into a genuine friendship. General Grant, having decided that it would be inexpedient to attempt to carry the works at Petersburg by assault, now began to take measures looking to the investment of that place by leaving a portion of his forces to defend our works, while he moved out with the other portion against the railroads, with the design of cutting off Lee’s communications in that direction. Wright’s entire corps had been sent back from Butler’s front to the Army of the Potomac, and Martindale’s command had been returned to Butler, so that Meade’s and Butler’s armies were again complete. Meade’s corps were disposed as follows, from right to left of the line: Burnside, Warren, Birney (Hancock’s), Wright.

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

President Lincoln Confers with General Ulysses Grant

June 21, 1864

President Lincoln arrives at City Point after travelling overnight from Washington by steamer. Grant aide Horace Porter wrote in Campaigning with Grant: “On Tuesday, June 21, a white river-steamer arrived at the wharf, bringing President Lincoln, who had embraced this opportunity to visit for the first time the armies under General Grant’s immediate command. As the boat neared the shore, the general and several of us who were with him at the time walked down to the wharf, in order that the general-in-chief might meet his distinguished visitor and extend a greeting to him as soon as the boat made the landing. As our party stepped aboard, the President came down from the upper deck, where he had been standing, to the after-gangway, and reaching out his long, angular arm, he wrung General Grant’s hand vigorously, and held it in his for some time, while he uttered in rapid words his congratulations and expressions of appreciation of the great task which had been accomplished since he and the general had parted in Washington. The group then went into the after-cabin. General Grant said: “ hope you are very well, Mr. President.” “ Yes, I am in very good health,” Mr. Lincoln replied; “but I don’t feel very comfortable after my trip last night on the bay. It was rough, and I was considerably shaken up. My stomach has not yet entirely recovered from the effects.” An officer of the party now saw that an opportunity had arisen to make this scene the supreme moment of his life, in giving him a chance to soothe the digestive organs of the Chief Magistrate of the nation. He said: “Try a glass of champagne, Mr. President. That is always a certain cure for seasickness.” Mr. Lincoln looked at him for a moment, his face lighting up with a smile, and then remarked: “No, my friend; I have seen too many fellows seasick ashore from drinking that very stuff.” This was a knockdown for the officer, and in the laugh at his expense Mr. Lincoln and the general both joined heartily. General Grant now said: “I know it would be a great satisfaction for the troops to have an opportunity of seeing you, Mr. President; and I am sure your presence among them would have a very gratifying effect. I can furnish you a good horse, and will be most happy to escort you to points of interest along the line.» Mr. Lincoln replied: “Why, yes; I had fully intended to go out and take a look at the brave fellows who have fought their way down to Petersburg in this wonderful campaign, and I am ready to start at any time.”

General Grant presented to Mr. Lincoln the officers of the staff who were present, and he had for each one a cordial greeting and a pleasant word. There was a kindliness in his tone and a hearty manner of expression which went far to captivate all who met him. The President soon stepped ashore, and after sitting awhile at headquarters mounted the large bay horse ” Cincinnati,” while the general rode with him on “Jeff Davis.” Three of us of the staff accompanied them, and the scenes encountered in visiting both Butler’s and Meade’s commands were most interesting. Mr. Lincoln wore a very high black silk hat and black trousers and frockcoat. Like most men who had been brought up in the West, he had good command of a horse, but it must be acknowledged that in appearance he was not a very dashing rider. On this occasion, by the time he had reached the troops he was completely covered with dust, and the black color of his clothes had changed to Confederate gray. As he had no straps, his trousers gradually worked up above his ankles, and gave him the appearance of a country farmer riding into town wearing his Sunday clothes. A citizen on horseback is always an odd sight in the midst of a uniformed army, and the picture presented by the President bordered upon the grotesque. However, the troops were so lost in admiration of the man that the humorous aspect did not seem to strike them. The soldiers rapidly passed the word along the line that” Uncle Abe ” had joined them, and cheers broke forth from all the commands, and enthusiastic shouts and even words of familiar greeting met him on all sides. After a while General Grant said: “Mr. President, let us ride on and see the colored troops, who behaved so handsomely in Smith’s attack on the works in front of Petersburg last week.” “Oh, yes,” replied Mr. Lincoln; “I want to take a look at those boys. I read with the greatest delight the account given in Mr. Dana’s despatch to the Secretary of War of how gallantly they behaved. He said they took six out of the sixteen guns captured that day. I was opposed on nearly every side when I first favored the raising of colored regiments; but they have proved their efficiency, and I am glad they have kept pace with the white troops in the recent assaults. When we wanted every able-bodied man who could be spared to go to the front, and my opposers kept objecting to the negroes, I used to tell them that at such times it was just as well to be a little color-blind. I think, general, we can say of the black boys what a country fellow who was an oldtime abolitionist in Illinois said when he went to a theater in Chicago and saw Forrest playing Othello. He was not very well up in Shakspere, and did n’t know that the tragedian was a white man who had blacked up for the purpose. After the play was over the folks who had invited him to go to the show wanted to know what he thought of the actors, and he said: ‘Waal, layin’ aside all sectional prejudices and any partiality I may have for the race, derned ef I don’t think the nigger held his own with any on ’em.'” The Western dialect employed in this story was perfect.

The camp of the colored troops of the Eighteenth Corps was soon reached, and a scene now occurred which defies description. They beheld for the first time the liberator of their race — the man who by a stroke of his pen had struck the shackles from the limbs of their fellow-bondmen and proclaimed liberty to the enslaved. Always impressionable, the enthusiasm of the blacks now knew no limits. They cheered, laughed, cried, sang hymns of praise, and shouted in their negro dialect, “God bress Massa Linkum!” “De Lord save Fader Abraham!” “De day ob jubilee am come, shuah.”

They crowded about him and fondled his horse; some of them kissed his hands, while others ran off crying in triumph to their comrades that they had touched his clothes. The President rode with bared head; the tears had started to his eyes, and his voice was so broken by emotion that he could scarcely articulate the words of thanks and congratulation which he tried to speak to the humble and devoted men through whose ranks he rode. The scene was affecting in the extreme, and no one could have witnessed it unmoved.

In the evening Mr. Lincoln gathered with General Grant and the staff in front of the general’s tent, and then we had an opportunity of appreciating his charm as a talker, and hearing some of the stories for which he had become celebrated. He did not tell a story merely for the sake of the anecdote, but to point a moral or to clench a fact. So far as our experience went, his anecdotes possessed the true geometric requisite of excellence: they were neither too broad nor too long. He seemed to recollect every incident in his experience and to weave it into material for his stories. One evening a sentinel whose post was near enough to enable him to catch most of the President’s remarks was heard to say, “Well, that man’s got a powerful memory and a mighty poor forgettery.”

He seldom indulged even in a smile until he reached the climax of a humorous narration; then he joined heartily with the listeners in the laugh which followed. He usually sat on a low camp-chair, and wound his legs around each other as if in an effort to get them out of the way, and with his long arms he accompanied what he said with all sorts of odd gestures. An officer once made the remark that he would rather have a single photograph of one of Mr. Lincoln’s jokes than own the negative of any other man’s. In the course of the conversation that evening he spoke of the improvement in arms and ammunition, and of the new powder prepared for the fifteen-inch guns. He said he had never seen the latter article, but he understood it differed very much from any other powder that had ever been used. I told him that I happened to have in my tent a specimen which had been sent to headquarters as a curiosity, and that I would bring it to him. When I returned with a grain of the powder about the size of a walnut, he took it, turned it over in his hand, and after examining it carefully, said: “Well, it’s rather larger than the powder we used to buy in my shooting days. It reminds me of what occurred once in a country meeting-house in Sangamon County. You see, there were very few newspapers then, and the country storekeepers had to resort to some other means of advertising their wares. If, for instance, the preacher happened to be late in coming to a prayer-meeting of an evening, the shopkeepers would often put in the time while the people were waiting by notifying them of any new arrival of an attractive line of goods. One evening a man rose up and said: ‘Brethren, let me take occasion to say, while we ‘re a-waitin’, that I have jest received a new inv’ice of sportin’ powder. The grains are so small you kin sca’cely see ’em with the naked eye, and polished up so fine you kin stand up and comb yer ha’r in front of one o’ them grains jest like it was a lookin’-glass. Hope you ‘ll come down to my store at the cross-roads and examine that powder for yourselves.’ When he had got about this far a rival powder-merchant in the meeting, who had been boiling over with indignation at the amount of advertising the opposition powder was getting, jumped up and cried out: ‘Brethren, I hope you ‘ll not believe a single word Brother Jones has been sayin’ about that powder. I’ve been down thar and seen it for myself, and I pledge you my word that the grains is bigger than the lumps in a coal-pile; and any one of you, brethren, ef you was in your future state, could put a bar’l o’ that powder on your shoulder and march square through the sulphurious flames surroundin’ you without the least danger of an explosion.'” We thought that grain of powder had served even a better purpose in drawing out this story than it could ever serve in being fired from a fifteen-inch gun.

As the party broke up for the night I walked into my quarters to put back the grain of powder, and upon turning round to come out, I found that the President had followed me and was looking into my tent, from curiosity, doubtless, to see how the officers were quartered. Of course I made haste to invite him in. He stepped inside for a moment, and his eye fell upon a specimen artillery trace, a patented article which some inventor had left the day before in order to have it examined at headquarters. The President exclaimed, “Why, what ‘s that?” I replied, “That is a trace.” “Oh,” remarked Mr. Lincoln, ” that recalls what the poet wrote: ‘Sorrow had fled, but left her traces there.’ What became of the rest of the harness he didn’t mention.”

Assistant Secretary of War Charles A. Dana in Recollections of the Civil War, recalled: “A few days later we had an interesting visit from President Lincoln, who arrived from Washington on June 21st, and at once wanted to visit the lines before Petersburg, General Grant, Admiral Lee, myself, and several others went with him. I remember that, as we passed along the lines, Mr. Lincoln’s high hat was brushed off by the branch of a tree. There were a dozen young officers whose duty it was to get it and give it back to the President; but Admiral Lee was off his horse before any of these young chaps, and recovered the hat for the President. Admiral Lee must have been forty-five or fifty years old. It was his agility that impressed me so much.

As we came back we passed through the division of colored troops which had so greatly distinguished itself under Smith on the 15th. They were drawn up in double lines on each side of the road, and they welcomed the president with hearty shouts. It was a memorable thing to behold him whose fortune it was to represent the principle of emancipation passing bareheaded through the enthusiastic ranks of those negroes armed to defend the integrity of the nation.

Journalist Sylvanus Cadwallader recalled: ‘On June 21st about one o’clock p.m., a long, gaunt bony looking man with a queer admixture of the comical and the doleful in his countenance that reminded one of a professional undertake cracking a dry joke, undertook to reach the general’s tent by scrambling through a hedge and coming in alone. He was stopped by a hostler and told to ‘keep out of here.’ The man in black replied that he thought Gen. Grant would allow him inside. The guard finally called: ‘No sanitary folks allowed inside’ [a reference to Sanitary Commission volunteers — ed.]. After some parleying the man was obliged to give his name, and said he was Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, seeking an interview with Gen. Grant! The guard saluted, and allowed him to pass. Grant recognized him as he stepped under the large ‘fly’ in front of his tent, rose and shook hands with him cordially, and then introduced him to such members of the staff as were present and unacquainted.

It transpired that the President had just arrived on the ‘City of Baltimore,’ and was accompanied by his son ‘Tad’; Asst. Sec. Of the Navy, [Gustavus Vasa] Fox; Mr. Chadwick, proprietor of the Willard Hotel, as purveyor for the party; and the Marine Band. The conversation took a wide, free-and-easy range until dinner was announced. The President was duly seated, ate much as other mortals, managed to ring in three capital jokes during the meal, and kept everybody on the lookout for others, till the party rose.

He was naturally desirous of riding to the front, so at four o’clock horses were brought up. Mr. Lincoln was mounted on Grant’s thorough-bred ‘Cincinnatus,’ the general on ‘Egypt,’ and ‘Tad,’ on Grant’s black pacing pony ‘Jeff Davis.’ Accompanied by a large proportion of the staff, and a cavalry escort, the party rode to Gen. Wright’s headquarters, where Gen. Meade and staff met them. The location commanded as good a view of Petersburg as could then be had from our lines. Maps were examined, the position of the army explained, its future operations discussed, the steeples and spires of the city observed as well as the dust and smoke would allow, national airs were played by the bands, the enemy’s works on the opposite side of the Appomattox inspected, and after a stay of an hour and a half the party started on its return to headquarters.

On the way out many persons recognized Mr. Lincoln. The news soon spread, and on the return ride, the road was lined with weather-beaten veterans, anxious to catch a glimpse of ‘Old Abe.’ One cavalry private had known him in Illinois. Mr. Lincoln shook him by the hand, as an old familiar acquaintance, to the infinite admiration of all bystanders.

The noticeable feature of the ride was the passing a brigade of negro troops. They were lounging by the roadside, and when he approached came rushing by hundreds screaming, yelling, shouting: “Hurrah for the Liberator; Hurrah for the President,’ and were wild with excitement and delight. It was a genuine spontaneous outburst of love and affection for the man they looked upon as their deliverer from bondage. The President uncovered as he rode through their ranks, and bowed on every hand to his sable worshipers.”

Navy Secretary Gideon Welles writes: “The President being absent, there was no Cabinet-meeting to-day.”

Published in: on June 21, 2014 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment