Army of the Potomac Approach Richmond-Petersburg Area

June 14, 1864

The Army of the Potomac, repeatedly battered by the Confederate army under General Robert E. Lee, begins to close in on Richmond and Petersburg, but President Lincoln warns against over-optimism. Journalist Noah Brooks writes: “The President said the other day: ‘I wish when you write and speak to people you would do all you can to correct the impression that the war in Virginia will end right off victoriously. To me the most trying thing in all of this war is that the people are too sanguine; they expect too much at once. I declare to you sir, that we are to-day further ahead than I thought one year and a half ago we should be, and yet there are plenty of people who believe that the war is about to be substantially closed. As God is my judge I shall be satisfied if we are over with the fight in Virginia within a year. I hope we shall be ‘happily disappointed,’ as the saying is, but I am afraid not — I am afraid not.’”

President Lincoln is sent formal written notification of his presidential nomination by former Ohio Governor William Dennison: “The National Union Convention which assembled in Baltimore on the 7″ of June 1864 has instructed us to inform you that you were nominated with enthusiastic unanimity for the Presidency of the United States for four years from the fourth of March next.

The resolutions of the Convention which we have already had the honor of placing in your hands,1 are a full and clear statement of the principles which inspired its action, and which, as we believe, the great body of Union men in the Country heartily approve. Whether those resolutions express the national gratitude to our soldiers and sailors; or the national scorn of compromise with rebels and consequent dishonor; or the patriotic duty of union and success: whether they approve the proclamation of emancipation, the constitutional amendment, the employment of former slaves as Union soldiers, or the solemn obligation of the Government promptly to redress the wrongs of every soldier of the Union of whatever color or race; whether they declare the inviolability of the pledged faith of the nation, or offer the national hospitality to the oppressed of every land, or urge the union by railroad of the Atlantic & Pacific oceans; whether they recommend public economy & vigorous taxation, or assert the fixed popular opposition to the establishment by armed force of foreign monarchies in our the immediate neighborhood of the United States, or declare that those only are worthy of official trust who approve unreservedly the views & policy indicated in the resolutions, — they were equally hailed with the heartiness of profound conviction.

Believing with you, Sir, that this is the people’s war for the maintenance of a government which you have justly described as “of the people, by the people, for the people”, we are very sure that you will be glad to know not only from the resolutions themselves, but from the singular harmony & enthusiasm with which they were adopted, how warm is the popular welcome of every measure in the prosecution of the war which is as vigorous, unmistakeable & unfaltering as the national purpose itself. No right, for instance, is so precious and sacred to the American heart as that of personal liberty. Its violation is regarded with just, instant & universal jealousy. Yet in this hour of peril every faithful citizen concedes that, for the sake of national existence and the common welfare, individual liberty may, as the Constitution provides in case of rebellion, be sometimes summarily constrained, asking only with painful anxiety that, in every instance and to the least detail, that absolutely necessary power shall not be hastily or unwisely exercised.

We believe, Sir, that the honest will of the Union men of the country was never more truly represented than in this Convention. Their purpose we believe to be the overthrow of armed rebels in the field, and the security of permanent peace and Union by liberty and justice under the Constitution. That these results are to be achieved amid cruel perplexities, they are fully aware. That they are to be reached only by cordial unanimity of counsel, is undeniable. That good men may sometimes differ as to the means and the time, they know. That in the conduct of all human affairs the highest duty is to determine, in the angry conflict of passion, how much good may be practically accomplished, is their sincere persuasion. They have watched your official course, therefore, with unflagging attention; and amid the bitter taunts of eager friends and the fierce denunciation of enemies; now moving too fast for some, now too slowly for others, they have seen you throughout this tremendous conflict test patient, sagacious, faithful, just; leaning upon the heart of the great mass of the people, and satisfied to be moved by its mighty pulsations.

It is for this reason that long before the Convention met the popular instinct had plainly indicated you as its candidate, and the Convention, therefore, merely recorded the popular will. Your character & career prove your unswerving fidelity to the cardinal principles of American Liberty and of the American Constitution. In the name of that liberty and Constitution, Sir, we earnestly request your acceptance of this nomination; reverently commending our beloved Country, and you its chief magistrate, with all its brave sons who on sea and land are faithfully defending the good old American cause of equal rights, to the blessing of Almighty God.

Freeman Cleaves wrote in Meade of Gettysburg: “Without a doubt, the crossing of the James on June 14-16, 1864, was one of Grant’s most splendid achievements, and possibly for this reason the important end to be gained was subordinated to the means. Everyone was so occupied in the mass exodus from Lee’s front that the vital necessity of immediate capture of Petersburg was neglected. Error twice compounded played its part, as did prevailing secrecy. But it was not expected that Petersburg, which lay about ten miles southwest of already occupied City Point near the junction of the James and the Appomattox, would present any great problem.

If anyone is to be blamed for lack of foresight and preparation, General Butler is the first to be named. It is true that he could not have known everything in Grant’s mind, but he continued to at as an independent commander, in effect neglecting orders. Inasmuch as Grant returned to the army on the fourteenth before Smith arrived at Bermuda Hundred, Smith received only Butler’s version of an order for another attack on Petersburg. Grant had asked that Smith start that same night, but instead arrangements were made for the next morning.   Grant had also asked Butler to supply Hannock, who also was to move toward Petersburg, with 6,000 rations, for ‘without this precaution the services of the corps cannot be had for an emergency tomorrow.’ The term ‘emergency’ is vague; yet all Butler had to do was to obey orders. However, he would not deplete his stores for an army he believed undeserving, not was he writing a passport to glory for any rival, including Baldy Smith, if he could possibly help it. Meade meanwhile was busy getting Hancock off and the bridge completed while keeping in constant touch with the other three corps. He never did learn that Petersburg was to be attacked, no did Hancock, who on that point was emphatic.”

General William Rosecrans writes to President Lincoln: “Major Hay has received such full details of the character of the conspiracy alluded to in my dispatches as will suffice to show you what important national interests are involved in the proper understanding and handling of the matter, and satisfy you that the whole should be laid immediately before you by an officer capable of giving such details as will enable you to adopt a policy the execution of which will give adequate security to the public interest.

I beg leave therefore to call your attention to a few points in connexion with the information he will give you.

1. The organization not only threatens great danger in case our military operations are unsuccessful or indecisive in their results but is now working great general mischief by spreading discontent among the people, circulating false reports injurious to the Government, creating doubt and discouragement, aiding spies suppliers of arms and other contraband and giving aid comfort and encouragement to the rebellion.

2. These conspirators are already to do anything in their power such as assisting guerillas and, whenever opportunity offers, joining them in destroying R.R. bridges, capturing our outposts threatening our depots and aiding in the work of plunder and murder and devastation. The present raid in Kentucky was invited and as you will observe unquestionably received aid from this organization bridges having been destroyed and other mischief done at distance of thirty or forty miles form the rebel raiders….

AL invested virtually all of his presidential salary in governmental bonds.

“By this time, Lincoln’s purchases of government securities had become confusing to him. With problems of the war occupying his every waking minute, he had not time for personal affairs. Therefore he asked Salmon P. Chase to have his purchases consolidated into one type of government bonds. Chase promised to have this done. Lincoln made a list of his holdings, pocketed everything at hand, walked over to the Treasury Department and emptied the contents of his pockets on Chase’s desk.

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