President Lincoln Leaves by Boat for Virginia War Front

June 20, 1864

“The weather for the past week has been singular – mostly cool, favorable to military operations, with one or two sultry days, and no rain,” White House aide William O. Stoddard writes in an anonymous newspaper dispatch. Presidential aide John Hay writes John G Nicolay: “Madame is in the North. The President has gone today to visit Grant. I am alone in the White pest-house. The ghosts of twenty thousand drowned cats come in nights through the South Windows. I shall shake my buttons off with the ague before you get back.” The president is accompanied aboard the U.S.S. Baltimore by his son Tad, Assistant Secretary of the Navy Gustavus V. Fox, and Caleb Willard, the proprietor of Willard’s Hotel in Washington for an overnight voyage to General Ulysses S. Grant’s headquarters.

President Lincoln today interviews Philadelphia Postmaster Cornelius Walborn. President Lincoln writes a memo on their conversation: “Complaint is made to me that you are using your official power to defeat Judge Kelly’s renomination to Congress. I am well satisfied with Judge Kelly as an M.C. and I do not know that the man who might supplant him would be as satisfactory; but the correct principle, I think, is that all our friends should have absolute freedom of choice among our friends. My wish therefore is that you will do just as you think fit with your own suffrage in the case, and not constrain any of your subordinates to do other than as he thinks fit with his. This is precisely the rule I inculcated, and adhered to on my part, when a certain other nomination, now recently made, was being canvassed for.” On June 16, the New York Tribune had reported:

“The Postmaster-General has instructed Postmaster Walborn of Philadelphia to use his official influence to prevent the renomination of Judge Kelley. The fact is creating a feeling of deep resentment among the administration members of the House. Mr. Lincoln . . . will not permit his patronage to be used to destroy his stanchest friends.” Walborn’s denial appeared in the Tribune the next day: “The special dispatch of your Washington correspondent in this day’s paper is not correct. Postmaster-General Blair has never instructed, requested, or advised me as to the political future of Judge Kelley.

The anti-Lincoln New York World publishes an article – supposedly reprinted from the Essex Statesman, charging Mr. Lincoln asked Marshal Lamon “for the negro song of ‘Picayune Butler.’” Robert S. Harper wrote in Lincoln and the Press: “The history of The World under Manton Marble’s direction makes it easy to believe that the story was prepared in his office and made to appear as reprinted to give it added interest. Whatever the source of the story, it was a grand success from Marble’s point of view. It set the country to talking, and it hurt Lincoln deeply, perhaps more than any slur published about him.”

“Ward Hill Lamon, who was accused of singing, observed that Lincoln could not bring himself to read the bitter comment. He suggested the president issue a refutation, but he demurred. Many persons wrote to Lincoln and Lamon about the alleged episode, and again the marshal wanted to speak publicly, but the President told him to keep silent.”

Published in: on June 20, 2014 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

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