President Lincoln Meets General Ulysses S. Grant at Fortress Monroe

July 31, 1864

President Lincoln arrives at Fortress Monroe to meet with General Ulysses S. Onboard U.S.S. Baltimore at 10 AM to discuss new command for Shenandoah Valley.

Historian Brooks Simpson wrote in Ulysses S. Grant: Triumph Over Adversity, 1822-1865,: “Early on the morning of July 31 Grant traveled to Fort Monroe to meet with Lincoln. The failure of the Crater still weighed heavily on his mind: he would much rather have presented the president with a victory than with more disappointment. Now he needed to straighten out the confused command situation around Washington Both the president and the general-in-chief wanted to do more than to simply render the capital secure. A unified command under an aggressive Union commander could destroy a portion of Lee’s army in the field, deprive Lee’s army of resources from the Shenandoah Valley, and perhaps make it far enough south to destroy the Virginia Central Railroad.   Explaining that Franklin was unacceptable, Lincoln was lukewarm to the idea of transferring Meade, ostensibly because it would look as if he was being demoted, but probably in part because the president, recalling Gettysburg, did not see Meade as a general capable of conducting a vigorous pursuit. Ironically, he was willing to discuss the possibility of naming George b. McClellan to take charge – an option worth considering more for political than military reasons, for McClellan was a leading candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination. Although Grant had previously expressed an interest in offering McClellan an assignment, nothing came of this proposal. Grant then suggested Sheridan for the command – although Hunter would remain as head of the department. Lincoln agreed. ‘I presume our Father Abraham looks on his election prospects as waning, and wants to know if Ulysses, the warrior, if some man or some plan can’t be go to do some thing,’ Lyman speculated. ‘I one word he wants to know WHY THE ARMY OF THE POTOMAC DON’T MOVE.”

At 3 PM, President Lincoln begins return trip to Washington by boat.

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President Lincoln Departs Washington for Meeting With General Grant

July 30, 1864

There is an evening band concert at White House, but President Lincoln had undoubtedly left by boat for Fort Monroe in Virginia where he was scheduled to confer with General-in-chief Ulysses S. Grant.

Attorney General Edward Bates writes in his diary:“Here is Mr. Gibson’s resignation, and the President’s answer (by the hand of John Hay). I regret to be obliged to say that both of them seem to me in bad taste – and uncalled for in fact; and hardly justifiable on any motive (that occurs to me) of prudence and Policy.” On July 25, President Lincoln had written a draft response (for Hay to sign) to the clerk of the Court of Claims in annoyed response to resignation letter of Charles Gibson:

According to the request contained in your note, I have placed Mr Gibson’s letter of resignation in the hands of the President. He has read the letter, and says he accepts the resignation, as he will be glad to do with any other which may be tendered, as this is, for the purpose of taking an attitude of hostility against him. He says he was not aware that he was so much indebted to Mr Gibson for having accepted the office at first, not remembering that he ever pressed him to do so, or that he gave it otherwise than as was usual, upon request made on behalf of Mr Gibson. He thanks Mr Gibson for his acknowledgment that he has been treated with personal kindness and consideration; and he says he knows of but two small draw-backs upon Mr Gibson’s right to still receive such treatment, one of which is that he never could learn of Mr Gibson’s his giving much attention to the duties of his office, and the other is this studied attempt of his Mr. Gibson’s to stab his patron.

President Lincoln writes Judge Advocate John A. Bingham: “Mr. Gibson having resigned, I have appointed you Solicitor of the U. S. in the Court of Claims.”   Bingham declines because he has been nominated for Congress.

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President Lincoln Postpones Meeting with General Grant

July 29, 1864

President Lincoln telegraphs Ulysses S. Grant: “I have changed my purpose, so that now I expect to reach Fort-Monroe at 10. A.M. Sunday, the 31st.”

President Lincoln writes Anne Williamson in Scotland: “The plaid you send me is just now placed in my hands. I thank you for that pretty and useful present, but still more for those good wishes to myself and our country which prompted you to present it.” Mrs. Williamson had written him: “My Lord President: As one deeply interested in your present struggle, I trust the Lord will bless all your endeavors for the peace of your country and the freedom of the slave. As this letter is written by an old lady of 81, she hopes you will overlook all its imperfections; and, with good wishes for you and your family.”

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President Lincoln Sets Up Meetings

July 28, 1864

President Lincoln writes John W. Forney, editor of the Philadelphia Press, and Morton McMichael, editor of Philadelphia North American, to meet him in Washington on the Weekend regarding political problems in Philadelphia.   President Lincoln also writes General Ulysses S. Grant: “Will meet you at Fort-Monroe at 8. P.M. on Saturday the 30th. unless you shall notify me that it will be inconvenient to you.”

Historian David Long wrote: “Throughout that spring and summer, the administration had been apprised of the existence of massive secret societies formed to rebel against the government and provide aid to the Confederate cause. These reports were the results of efforts by a governor, several military officers, and one very enterprising spy, all of whom had been attacked as incredible by numerous twentieth-century historians. Colonel John P. Sanderson, provost marshal general for the Department of the Missouri and staff officer to the department commander Major General William Rosecrans, revealed in June that there was a secret society working for the defeat of the government. He claimed that Clement Vallandigham was the leader of the Northern wing of the organization and that membership numbered in the hundreds of thousands. Sanderson was the protégé of Rosecrans, who had fallen from grace because of his dismal performance at Chickamauga. Rosecrans, having failed in June to convince Lincoln that the situation called for harsh measures, in late July turned the results over to the press. On July 28, the Missouri Democrat published Sanderson’s expose, titled ‘Conspiracy to Establish a Northwestern Confederacy,’ which was reprinted along with indignant editorials in republican newspapers across the country.   The Chicago Tribune, the Cincinnati Gazette, and the Illionois State Journal made the report an overnight sensation.

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President Lincoln Advocates for Women Workers

July 27, 1864

President Lincoln writes Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton: “I known not how much is within the legal power of the government in this case; but it is certainly true in equity, that the laboring women in our employment, should be paid at the least as much as they were at the beginning of the war. Will the Secretary of War please have the case fully examined, and so much relief given as can be consistently with the law and the public service.”

President Lincoln writes Tennessee Governor Andrew Johnson: “Yours in relation to Gen. A. C. Gillam just received. Will look after the matter to-day [regarding the delay in his nomination as brigadier general by the Senate].. I also received yours about Gen. Carl Schurz. I appreciate him certainly as highly as you do; but you can never know until you have the trial, how difficult it is to find a place for an officer of so high rank, when there is no place seeking him.”

President Lincoln writes General David Hunter regarding the Shenandoah Valley: “Please send any recent news you have—particularly as to movements of the enemy.” President Lincoln is considering replacing Hunter.

President Lincoln orders By virtue of the authority vested in the President of the United States, by the sixth section of an act entitled “an act to amend an act entitled `an act to aid in the construction of a Rail road and Telegraph line from the Missouri river to the Pacific Ocean, and to secure to the Government the use of the same for postal, military and other purposes’ Richard W. Thompson, of Indiana, is hereby appointed a Commissioner, to examine the road or roads authorized by said acts to be constructed by the “Union Pacific Rail road Company,” and the `Union Pacific Rail road Company, Eastern division,’ and make report to him in relation thereto as contemplated and specified by said acts.”

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Renewed Concern for Confederate Invasion north of Potomac River

July 26, 1864

Navy Secretary Gideon Welles writes in his diary after Cabinet meeting at the White House: “There are demonstrations for a new raid into Maryland and Pennsylvania. I told the President I trusted there would be some energy and decision in getting behind them, cutting them off, and not permitting them to go back, instead of a scare and getting forces to drive them back with their plunder. He said those were precisely his views and he had just been to see and say as much to Halleck. I inquired how H. responded to the suggestion. The President said he was considering it, and was now wanting to ascertain where they had crossed the Potomac and the direction they had taken.”

President Lincoln writes General William T. Sherman regarding his campaign in Georgia: “I have just seen yours, complaining of the appointment of Hovey and Osterhaus. The point you make is unquestionably a good one; and yet please hear a word from us. My recollection is that both Gen. Grant and yourself recommended both H& O. for promotion; and these, with other strong recommendations, drew committals from us which we could neither honorably or safely, disregard. We blamed H. for coming away in the manner in which he did; but we knew he had apparant reason to feel disappointed and mortified, and we felt it was not best to crush one who certainly had been a good soldier. As to O. we did not known of his leaving at the time we made the appointment, and do not now known the terms on which he left. Not to have appointed him, as the case appeared to us at the time, would have been almost if not quite a violation of our word. The word was given on what we thought high merit, and somewhat on his nationality. I beg you to believe we do not act in a spirit of disregarding merit. We expect to await your programme, for further changes and promotions in your army.

My profoundest thanks to you and your whole Army for the present campaign so far.

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President Lincoln Addresses Military and Political Concerns

July 25, 1864

Navy Secretary Gideon Welles writes in his diary that Postmaster General Montgomery “Blair is sore and vexed because the President frequently makes a confidant and adviser of Seward, without consulting the rest of the Cabinet. I told him this had been the course from the beginning; Seward and Chase had each striven fro the position of Special Executive Counsel; that it had apparently been divided between them, but Seward had outgeneraled or outintrigued Chase. The latter was often consulted when others were not, but often he was not aware of things which were intrusted to Seward (who was superserviceable) and managed by him.”

President Lincoln writes a memo about the recent negotiations conducted by New York Tribune editor: “Hon. Clement C. Clay, one of the Confederate gentlemen who recently, at Niagara Falls, in a letter to Mr. Greeley, declared that they were not empowered to negotiate for peace, but that they were, however, in the confidential employment of their government, has prepared a Platform and an Address to be adopted by the Democracy at the Chicago Convention, the preparing of these, and conferring with the democratic leaders in regard to the same, the confidential employment of their government, in which he, and his confreres are engaged. The following plans are in the Platform–

5. The war to be further prossecuted only to restore the Union as it was, and only in such manner, that no further detriment to slave property shall be effected.

6. All negro soldiers and seamen to be at once disarmed and degraded to menial service in the Army and Navy; and no additional negroes to be, on any pretence whatever, taken from their masters.

7. All negroes not having enjoyed actual freedom during the war to be held permanently as slaves; and whether those who shall have enjoyed actual freedom during the war, shall be free to be a legal question.

The following paragraphs are in the Address–

Let all who are in favor of peace; of arresting the slaughter of our countrymen, of saving the country from bankruptcy & ruin, of securing food & raiment & good wages for the laboring classes; of disappointing the enemies of Democratic and Republican Government who are rejoicing in the overthrow of their proudest monuments; of vindicating our capacity for self-government, arouse and maintain these principles, and elect these candidates.”

*          *          *          *          *

The stupid tyrant who now disgraces the Chair of Washington and them, only that he persists in the war merely to free the salves.”

The convention may not litterally adopt Mr. Clay’s Platform and Address, but we predict it will do so substantially. We shall see.

Mr. Clay confesses to his Democratic friends that he is for peace and disunion; but, he says “You can not elect without a cry of war for the union; but, once elected, we are friends, and can adjust matters somehow.” He also says “You will find some difficulty in proving that Lincoln could, if he would, have peace and re-union, because Davis has not said so, and will not say so; but you must assert it

President Lincoln writes New York Republican Abram Wakeman, Esq.: “I feel that the subject which you pressed upon my attention in our recent conversation is an important one. The men of the South, they are in the confidential employment of the rebellion; and they tell us as distinctly that they are not empowered to offer terms of peace. Does any one doubt that what they are empowered to offer terms of peace. Does any one doubt that what they are empowered to do, is to assist in selecting and arranging a candidate and a platform for the Chicago convention? Who could have given them this confidential employment but he who only a week since declared to Jacquess and Gilmore that he had no terms of peace but the independence of the South–the dissolution of the Union? Thus the present presidential contest will almost certainly be no other than a contest between a Union and Disunion candidate, disunion certainly following the success of the latter. The issue is a mighty one for all people and all time; and whoever aids the right, will be appreciated and remembered.”

Historian William Frank Zornow wrote in Lincoln & the Party Divided: “Through these missions, however, Lincoln accomplished one important result. He silenced many of the critics who insisted that the South was eager for peace and would yield if given fair terms. The Jacquess-Gilmore mission especially brought back conclusive proof that this was not so. Jefferson Davis had told the envoys that nothing short of independence would satisfy the Confederacy. Those who loved the Union had no choice after this but to fight to the finish.”

From City Point, Virginia, General Ulysses S. Grant writes President Lincoln: “After the late raid into Maryland had expended itself,1 seeing the necessity of having the four departments of “The Susquehanna”, “The Middle”, “Western Va.” and “Washington” under one head, I recommended that they be merged into one, and named Gen. Franklin as a suitable person to command the whole. I still think it highly essential that these four Departments should be in one command. I do not insist that the Departments should be broken up, nor do I insist upon Gen. Franklin commanding. All I ask is that one General officer in whom I, and yourself, have confidence in, should command the whole. Gen. Franklin was named because he was available and I know him to be capable and believe him to be trustworthy.

It would suit me equally well to call the four Departments referred to, a “Military Division”, and to have, placed in command of it, General Meade.3 In this case I would suggest Gen. Hancock for command of the Army of the Potomac, and Gen. Gibbon5 for the command of the 2d Corps.

With Gen. Meade in command of such a Division, I would have every confidence that all the troops within the Military Division would be used to the very best advantage in case of another invasion. He too having no care beyond his own command, would station his troops to the best advantage, from a personal examination of the ground, and would adopt means of getting the earliest information of any advance of the enemy, and would prepare to meet it.

During the last raid the wires happened to be down between here and Fortress Monroe, and the cable broken between there and Cherrystone. This made it take from twelve to twenty-four hours, each way, for dispatches to pass. Under such circumstances it was difficult for me to give positive orders or directions because I could not tell how the conditions might change during the transit of dispatches.

Many reasons might be assigned for the change here suggested, some of which I would not care to commit to paper but would not hesitate to give verbally.

I send this by Brig. Gen. Rawlins, Chief of Staff, who will be able to give more information of “the situation” than I could give in a letter.

Historian R. Steven Jones wrote in The Right Hand of Command: Use & Disuse of Personal Staffs in the Civil War: “In late July Grant assigned Rawlins to personally deliver the report and rolls of Confederate parolees to the adjutant general’s office in Washington.   He intended the trip to be something of a vacation for the chief of staff, who had worked so diligently for Grant the past two years. He also sent with Rawlins a letter introducing him to President Lincoln. Grant said he would be pleased if the president granted Rawlins an interview, noting that Rawlins could give Lincoln any information he wanted about affairs in the Department of the Tennessee. Grant ended by saying that he thought Lincoln would be relieved to know that Rawlins had no favor to ask. ‘Even in my position it is a great luxury to meet a gentleman who has no ‘axe to grind’ and I can appreciate that it is infinitely more so in yours,’ said Grant. Lincoln must indeed have been relieved, recalling the visits of McClellan’s chief of staff and father-in-law, Randolph Marcy, in 1862 when Marcy most certainly had an ‘axe to grind.’”

President Lincoln writes General Edward R.S. Canby in Louisiana: “Frequent complaints are made to me that persons endeavoring to bring in cotton in strict accordance with the trade regulations of the Treasury Department, are frustrated by seizures of District Attorneys, Marshals, Provost-Marshals and others, on various pretences, all looking to black-mail, and spoils, one way and another. I wish, if you can find time, you would look into this matter within your Department, and finding these abuses to exist, break them up, if in your power, so that fair dealing under the regulations, can proceed. The printed Regulations, no doubt, are accessable to you. If you find the abuses existing, and yet beyond your power, please report to me somewhat particularly upon the facts.

The bearer of this Shaffer, is one who, on behalf of himself and firm, makes complaint; but while he is my friend, I do not ask anything for him which can not be done for all honest dealers under the Regulations.

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

A Quiet Sunday after a Tumultuous Month

July 24, 1864

President Lincoln writes Interior Secretary John Palmer Usher: “I know nothing personally of Mr. Rohrer, but shall be very glad if the Sec. of Interior can oblige the gentlemen who write the within letter.”

Missouri, however, is never peaceful.   A representative of the Conservative Unionist faction there, James Brodhead, writes fellow Missourian, Attorney General Edward Bates, a long letter predicting disaster: It has been a long time since I have made any complaint to the Adminstration at Washington — and it may be utterly useless that I should do so now — the wail of our afflicted people has so often gone up to the authorities, that they will probably attract no notice — but up to this time I have been faithful to the Administration through good & through evil report, and I claim that I have a right to be heard.

I speak the truth when I say that the condition of Missouri is worse to-day than it ever has been — massacres, private assassinations — burnings — plundering, thieving are more frequent now than they ever have been — the newspapers of all kinds show this and yet not the half is told — some are afraid to tell — some do’nt want to tell of outrages that never meet the public eye through the public prints–

When application was made to remove Gen: [John] Schofield from this command, the President admitted that he found no cause to remove him, approved of what he had done — and yet he was removed shortly afterwards — whether from political or personal considerations I know not — but if there were no public reasons growing out of his official conduct, why there should be a change of Administration — it is hard that Missouri, blasted as she has already been by fire and sword should be made the victim of political ambition or political malice– Gen: [William] Rosecrans was sent us — was it because there was no other place for him — for he did not seem to be in favor with the Administration — and the administration could not therefore have thought much of him — but doubtless was of the opinion that he was good enough for Missouri — if not fit for any other position– This seems to have been the reasoning by which the war office at Washington came to the conclusion that the man who was ordered in disgrace from the army of the Cumberland, was a very proper person to take charge of the delicate and complicated affairs of the Department of the Missouri. Now I am not justifying the course of the War Department towards Gen: Rosecrans — but I know and the public knows that he is not in favor at Washington, and that he was sent here either as a punishment to him or to us, or else out of utter indifference to our fate–

I shall not undertake to enumerate our grievances in detail– I point you to the present condition of Missouri — to the burning of towns — the murdering of people — the destruction of property by both guerillas and soldiers — to the fact that Truman is permitted under the garb of federal authority to shoot down and hang unarmed citizens — that he had twenty men placed under his command by military order — the military authorities knowing the character of the man — which was equivolant to a license to kill & destroy at his pleasure– I point you to the system of espionage adopted by which hired informers are sent through the country in the garb of bushwhackers to deceive and betray unsuspecting citizens, many of whom are timid enough be they ever so loyal — to pretend to favor bushwhacking when they believe themselves in the power of bushwhackers — in order to save themselves, their families and their property– I point you to the system by which spies are sent through the cities to induce men to violate the military regulations in regard to trade, and then betray them — and under which numbers of citizens of undoubted loyalty have been arrested and some of them convicted on the perjured testimony of these hired informers.

Following in the track of these events comes the armed bands of Bushwhackers — some doubtless to retaliate — some merely to plunder — and many, and I suppose most of them stragglers or emissaries from Price’s5 army to carry on in their own way the impious warfare which they long since commenced against the Government & the Union– They find the people as Truman found them unarmed — for by military order every man has been disarmed– These marauders shoot, murder, burn & steal — they beset the highways and not the public conveyances and unarmed passengers — a few of them rush into a town — strike terror into the citizens, plunder the stores of money and of goods shoot a few citizens and then disappear unharmed — they levy contributions on the citizens through the country — seize upon Ferry Boats where they please — go where they please — do what they please — soldiers in the country but what do they care for that — they litterally swarm through the country — and the only persons who could have kept them out — who know the country and could follow their tracks have been disarmed by military order.

Next Ford & Jennison are permitted to come from another department into Missouri — burn Platte City and Camden Point — kill some unoffending citizens and declare in their official despatch that others deserve killing — they in their turn plunder and rob — (I have the authority of the Kansas papers for saying so) and having secured their booty in Kansas have returned I am told again to devastate and destroy–

The military commandant confessing his own weakness addresses a proclamation to the people of North Missouri — telling them that they must organize to protect themselves — that if they do not a vengeance and desolation will come upon them which he cannot avoid — and which he intimates ought not to be avoided if it could be– I quote his language, he says,

“I could not save it — and I must tell you as a friend I do not think it would deserve it” — and he says further “you must expect the vengeance due to such moral dereliction “amongst free, and professedly Christian people–” was there ever a more glaring instance of imbecility and wickedness combined?

This proclamation is made after the country is filled with Bushwhackers — the people know that if they undertake to meet and organize without arms in their hands, they are liable to be waylaid and shot either going to or returning from such a meeting — and this has been done as you know– I dont object to this order, I think it a good one — but for the reasons stated it is difficult to carry it out– No arms have as yet been furnished to the citizens so far as I am aware– And yet the people are told that if they do’nt exterminate the bushwhackers, a thing which the military authorities confessedly admit themselves unable to do — that a terrible vengeance will be visited upon them — and the commander in North Mo. Gen: Fisk,7 says in a public speech that there is an armed body of men numbering thousands who will take this thing into their own hands and that he can’t prevent it.

The placing of this man Fisk in command of North Mo. was a most unfortunate blunder — a bundle of dry goods well adapted to measuring tape and making long prayers, but having no military knowledge or experience and utterly unfit for a crisis like this–

The people well understand that the loyal Leaguers are the persons alluded to whose vengeance is to be dreaded — and that they deem none loyal except those who are members of their order — the most natural inference is that many of those who are thus threatened, for it is a threat coming from a high source — will become desperate and seek safety & protection in the best way they can– Suppose two such forces arrayed against each other, the friends and adherents of each permeating every avenue of society and found in almost every neighborhood — the military arm paralized — the civil has long since been so — the military officers in command with trembling lips confessing their own weakness and saying to the public that they cannot stay the arm of vengeance or extinguish the torch of desolation if they would — and would not if they could — think of the results produced by the collision of two such forces — the brain reels & the heart grows sick at the imaginary contemplation of such a spectacle as would ensue — and yet it is becoming and will I fear become true. When the civil law is powerless and the military confessing its weakness predicts a desolation which it intimates ought not to be avoided, how can we expect its interposition to prevent it?

Will it do to say that what Gen: Rosecrans cannot prevent — no one can — and therefore Missouri must be left to the demon of desolation? Has the Administration so much confidence in the man who in its estimation was fit for no other place, that it will with these facts staring it in the face, leave him here to cower before the wolves of anarchy whilst they hound down their pray — or to encourage them in their work of desolation by telling them beforehand, that he knows what they are going to do — that he can’t prevent it and do’nt think he ought to if he could?

I do’nt attribute any bad motive to the Gen: Commanding– I like his order No … , but I fear it is too late — and I think his proclamation betrays a weakness which is inexcusable — his great fault has been in disarming every body — the loyal & peaceful citizens ought to have had arms as under Schofield’s order — and he persists in keeping an incompetent commander in North Mo — the theatre of all these troubles–

I will not go back into the history of the military administration of this Department– Mr McKee of St. Francisville a loyal citizen, an original Union man had $30.000 worth of property wantonly destroyed by soldiers because he did not have a flag on his house — or rather because he voted for the conservative ticket for supreme Judges for this was the true reason — a military investigation is had but nothing done except to give him permission to sue in the civil courts — a writ from the Gov: of Missouri and a requisition from the Gov: of Kentucky in the hands of a loyal sheriff are torn up by an armed mob of soldiers under the eyes of their commanding officer — the criminal rescued and the officer running for his life barely escapes their vengeance — and yet neither officer nor soldiers are punished or proceeded against — two newspaper presses are destroyed by a mob of soldiers & citizens and yet nothing done — these things might all be passed over, but a public confession of imbecility in a crisis like that which is now upon us — demands that something should be done and that speedily if Missouri is to be saved from desolation.

I have not stated any fact which is not notorious, and therefore I do not wish my name made public in connection with this matter, unless it is necessary for the public good. If the President is disposed to turn us over to the horrors of a massacre before which the Sicilian vespers and the eve of St. Bartholomew grow pale — be it so– Missouri has made much history — she can make more — and it may perhaps in after times serve

On August 5, Bates takes the Broadhead letter to President Lincoln: “He read it in silence, and seemed deeply moved. But I foresee that no good will come of it. The Prest. Knows what is right, as well as any man, and would be glad to see it done, but unhappily, lacks the nerve to do it.”

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

President Lincoln Inquires about Shenandoah Situation

July 23, 1864

President Lincoln writes General David Hunter at Harpers Ferry: “Are you able to take care of the enemy when he turns back upon you, as he probably will on finding that Wright has left?” Hunter replies: “`My force is not strong enough to hold the enemy should he return upon us with his whole force. Our latest advices from the front however do not lead me to apprehend such a movement. General Crook has information . . . that Early left his positions at Berryville suddenly upon the arrival of a courier from Richmond with orders to fall back upon that place. News from Averill [Brigadier General William W. Averell] yesterday says he has pushed his cavalry to Front Royal and Strasburg without hearing of the enemy. I will take care that no such movement of the enemy shall take us by surprise.”

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

Cabinet Meeting Discusses Greeley Negotiations

July 22, 1864

President Lincoln briefs the Cabinet on the complicated negotiations undertaken by Tribune Editor Horace Greeley. Navy Secretary Gideon Welles writes in his diary: “At the Cabinet-meeting the President read his correspondence with Horace Greeley on the subject of peace propositions from George Saunders and other at Niagara Falls. The President has acquitted himself very well ,– if he was to engage in the matter at all,–but I am sorry that he permits himself, in this irregular way, to be induced to engage in correspondence with irresponsible parties like Saunders and Clay or scheming busybodies like Greeley. There is no doubt that the President and the whole Administration are misrepresented and misunderstood on the subject of peace, and Greeley is one of those who has done and is doing great harm and injustice in this matter. IN this instance he was evidently anxious to thrust himself forward as an actor, and yet when once engaged he began to be alarmed; he failed to honestly and frankly communicate the President’s first letters, as was his duty, but sent a letter of his own, which was not true and correct, and found himself involved in the meshes of his own frail net.”

Attorney General Edward Bates writes in his diary: “In C.C – present, Welles, Usher, Blair, Bates, and part of the time, Fessenden. Absent Seward and Stanton –

The Prest. gave a minute account of the (pretended) attempt to negotiate for peace, thro’ George [N.] Sanders, Clem. C. Clay and Holcolm[be] by the agency of that meddlesome blockhead, Jewitt [Jewett] and Horace Greel[e]y. He read us all the letters.

“I am surprised to find the Prest. Green enough to be entrapped into such a correspondence; but being in, his letters seem to me cautious and prudent.

Jeweitt [Jewett] a crack-brained simpleton (who aspires to be a knave, while he really belongs to a lower order of entities) opens the affair, by a letter and telegram to Greel[e]y; and Greel[e]y carries on the play, by writing to the President, to draw him out, and, if possible, commit him, to his hurt – while the pretended Confederate Commissioners play dumby, – wa[i]ting to avail themselves of some prrobable blunder, on this side.

“I noticed that the gentlemen present were, at first, very chary, in speaking of Grel[e]y, evidently afraid of him and his paper, the Tribune; and so, I said I cant [sic] yet see the color of the cat, but there is certainly a cat in that mealtub.’ The contrivers of the plot counted largely on the Presidents [sic] gullibility, else they never would have started it by the agency of such a mad fellow as Jewitt [Jewett] – perhaps they used him prudently, thinking that if bluffed off, at the start, they might pass it off as a joke….

“The President, I fear, is afraid of the Tribune, and thinks he cant [sic] afford to have it for an enemy. And Usher tries to deepen that impression. But Blair says there is no danger of that; that Greel[e]y is restrained by Hall, who controls the paper, and Greel[e]y too, owning 9/10 of the stock, and is a fast friend of the President – (of that? [I question])

Welles more perceptively writes in his diary: “In these peace movements, the President has pursued his usual singular course. Seward was his only confidant and adviser, as usual in matters of the greatest importance. He says that Mr. Fessenden accidentally came in on other business while he was showing Seward and the Greeley correspondence, and he was let into a knowledge of what was going on, but no one else. John Hay was subsequently told, before going off, and now, to-day, the Cabinet are made acquainted with what has been done. The President, instead of holding himself open to receive propositions, has imposed conditions and restrictions that will embarrass the parties.”

General George B. McClellan, under consideration for the Democratic nomination, writes Francis P. Blair, Sr., about the presidential campaign: “In the course of our conversation its basis, the predominating idea, was your proposition that I should write a letter to the Presdt distinctly stating that I would not permit my name to be used as a candidate for the Presidency in opposition to the present incumbent, and that in that event — not otherwise — I would be actively employed by him in a position befitting my rank, & that thus the nation would have the benefit of what you are pleased to regard as valuable services on my part. That another officer of high rank General Grant had written such a letter was mentioned by you as an argument in favor of my pursuing a similar course.

Here let me repeat the statement, which you are aware I have more than once made, that I have not taken a single step nor said one word for the purpose of influencing the action of any political Convention, & that I am not an aspirant for nomination for the Presidency. It is my firm conviction that no man should seek that high office, and that no true man should refuse it, if it is spontaneously conferred upon him, & he is satisfied that he can do good to his country by accepting it. Whoever is nominated for the Presidency in opposition to the present incumbent, it will be upon principles differing widely from those which have controlled his course. Should the result of the election be in his favor — no harm will have inured to him from the contest. Should a majority of the loyal voters of the country decide in favor of his opponent it will be upon a struggle of principles not of men. Now, situated as your country is, its fate trembling in the balance, anyone who pledged himself not to oppose the reelection of the actual incumbent as a condition of obtaining office or employment places himself upon the horns of a dilemma.

If he does not conscientiously approve the policy of the incumbent, he simply sells his self respect honor & truth — as well as his country – for a price.

Or he says by implication at least, that he does fully approve of all the measures of the incumbent, & that he regards the question as merely a choice of men, &not of principles or measures.

No one who knows me will suppose that I could accept the first alternative. The second is admissable for the reason that I do not approve of the policy and measures of the present President.

To prevent the possibility of misunderstanding permit me to mention a few important points in regard to which I differ very widely from the President — I shall not attempt to go over the whole ground because it is not necessary to do so.

By retaining my commission as I have done at a great personal sacrifice, I have shown my constant readiness to perform any proper duty to which I might be assigned. If the cause of my being removed from command & being kept so long unemployed was a want of confidence in my ability as a soldier it would have been idle for me to ask for command. But I am not permitted to adopt this solution, for the reason that it was only a short time before my removal from command that the President took occasion to express to me his high confidence in my value as a soldier.

If political considerations caused my displacement I can merely assert that no thought, word or act of mine justified such a course, and the onus of undoing the work, together with all its consequences, must rest with t hose who are alone responsible for it.

I conceive that I should forfeit my own self respect, & be wanting in that respect due the high office of the president of the U.S. should I seek for employment — ‘I sit upon the bank & patiently watch the wind.’

I think that the original object of the war, as declared by the Govt., viz: the preservation of the Union, its Constitution & its laws, has been lost sight of or very widely departed from, & that other issues have been brought into the foreground which either should be entirely secondary, or are wrong or impossible or attainment.

I think the war has been permitted to take a course which unnecessarily embitters the inimical feeling between the two sections, & much increases the difficulty of attaining the true objects for which we ought to fight. Convinced that the Union of the States should never be abandoned so long as there is a hope that it can be made to secure the welfare & happiness of the people of all the States, I deprecate a policy which far from tending to that end tends in the contrary direction.

I think that in such a contest as this policy should ever accompany the use of arms, & that our antagonists should be made to know that we are ever ready to extend the olive branch, & make an honorable peace on the basis on the Union of all the states.

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