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.]”

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