President Lincoln Praises “liberty and equality” in the United States

August 31, 1864

President Lincoln addresses the 148th Ohio Regiment passing the White House: “It is vain and foolish to arraign this man or that for the part he has taken, or has not taken, and to hold the government responsible for his acts. In no administration can there be perfect equality of action and uniform satisfaction render by all. But this government must be preserved in spite of the acts of any man or set of men. It is worthy your every effort. Nowhere in the world is presented a government of so much liberty and equality. To the humblest and poorest amongst us are held out the highest privileges and positions. The present moment finds me at the White House, yet there is as good a chance for your children as there was for my father’s.

Again I admonish you not to be turned from your stern purpose of defending your beloved country and its free institutions by any arguments urged by ambitious and designing men, but stand fast to the Union and the old flag. Soldiers, I bid you God-speed to your homes.

Presidential aide John G. Nicolay reports to President Lincoln on his political meetings in New York and a shakeup in patronage there in order the smooth out differences between political factions in the Republican Party: “I called on Mr. Barney today and gave him your message. He said he desired a few days of time in which he might prepare his papers, accounts &c for the change, and suggested that he would tender his resignation today to take effect on the 5th of Sept., to which I agreed, and he has forwarded the resignation to the Secretary of the Treasury by tonights mail. He was at first a little surprised and disposed to temporize about it – suggesting that he would like to go to Washington to confer with you on the subject, &c – but at length acquiesced very cheerfully, saying that he should still do all he could for you and the cause, and should retain all his personal friendship and esteem for you.

Mr. Andrews whom I have also seen did not accede to your request. He spoke of it as a sacrifice demanded by Mr. Weed to gratify his personal ill-will towards him – said you were mistaken in supposing Mr. Weed controlled the politics of the State – said that if you would wait until after the coming State Convention, and were not convinced that he (Andrews) carried the Convention against Weed he would willingly resign &c.

“He finally left me without saying what he would do, but afterwards sent me the letter which I enclose.

“He said however that even if you removed him, he should support yourself and the ticket.

“My impression tonight is that you will do best to adhere to your original programme, although Mr. Weed and some of his friends have mooted the proposition to make Dennison collector, Draper Naval Officer, and Wakeman Surveyor. Weed told me this afternoon that he thought Draper would agree to this. I am also informed that Wakeman would be satisfied with it.

“But I still think that if you adhere to the original plan, Mr. Draper will finally acquiesce, although he now seems firm in his determination to decline.

“I shall stay here over tomorrow. Shall I come home tomorrow night, or shall I remain longer, to look after this and other matters? Please telegraph.

President Lincoln issues an order regarding the transportation of cotton: “Any person or persons engaged in bringing out Cotton, in strict conformity with authority given by W. P. Fessenden, Secretary of the U.S. Treasury, must not be hindered by the War, Navy, or any other Department of the Government, or any person engaged under any of said Departments.” In a specific case, President Lincoln writes top New York Republican leaders: “Mr. Louis A. Welton came from the rebel lines into ours with a written contract to furnish large supplies to the rebels, was arrested with the contract in his possession, and has been sentenced to imprisonment for it. He, and his friends complain of this, on no substantial evidence whatever, but simply because his word, only given after his arrest, that he only took the contract as a means of escaping from the rebel lines, was not accepted as a full defence. He perceives that if this had been true he would have destroyed the contract so soon as it had served his purpose in getting him across the lines; but not having done this, and being caught with the paper on him, he tells this other absurd story that he kept the paper in the belief that our government would join him in taking the profit of fulfiling the contract.”

Navy Secretary Gideon Welles writes in his diary: “It is an infirmity of the President that he permits the little newsmongers to come around him and be intimate, and in this he is encouraged by Seward, who does the same, and even courts the corrupt and the vicious, which the President does not. He has great inquisitiveness. Likes to hear all the political gossip as much as Seward. But the President is honest, sincere, and confiding,–traits which are not so prominent in some by whom he is surrounded.”

Mrs. Lincoln is vacationing in Manchester, Vermont. President Lincoln writes her: “”All reasonably well. Bob not here yet. How is dear Tad?”

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New York Opposition to President Lincoln Begins to Weaken

August 30, 1864

Presidential aide John G. Nicolay is in New York doing political reconnaissance for President Lincoln. Nicolay reports to President Lincoln on his political meetings in New York with top Republicans like gubernatorial candidate Reuben Fenton, Republican Party boss Thurlow Weed, and Senator Edwin Morgan: “Mr Fenton arrived here this morning and had a conversation with Weed, in which he urged upon Weed his reasons in detail against any changes in the Custom House at this time. Mr. Weed heard him through, admitted there was much force in what he said; but was not convinced. In a conversation with afterwards. Mr. Weed repeated what he said to me yesterday, that changes were absolutely necessary and would be productive of much good. Delafield Smith, and Mr. Evarts also concur with Weed. Gov. Morgan was here at the Astor House a little while this evening. I talked with him on the subject, and while he seemed to have no definite impressions as to what really was best to be done, he said he would stand by whatever you might do. I saw Greeley yesterday and today; I did not talk very fully with him on this matter but gathered from what he said, that while he did not see much good likely to result from changes, yet that Barney was not good for anything.

On the whole I have concluded that I will endeavor to see Barney and Andrews as early as I can tomorrow, if they are in the City, and ask them for their resignations in accordance with your instructions.

“Almost all those with whom I have consulted, however, unite in saying that, excepting the Collector and Surveyor, there should be very few, if any other changes in their subordinates. Those who are in should have the hope other changes in their subordinates. Those who are in should have the hope of being kept in as a motive for work, while those who are out should have the hope of being put in to prompt them. The new appointees of Collector and Surveyor should receive instructions from yourself on this point.

“Mr. Everts is very earnest that Draper should be made collector instead of Wakeman.

Gov. Morgan and Senator Morrill have been through most of the New England States. They report an improved state of feeling in all respects, and say we will certainly [carry] Maine at the approaching September election, by a good majority.

“In my conversation with Mr. Greeley I urged upon him the necessity of fighting in good earnest in this campaign. He said in reply ‘I shall fight like a savage in this campaign. I hate McClellan.’

Mr. Weed and Gov Morgan concur in the opinion that Preston King will not take the Post Office in this city. Gov. Morgan suggests James Kelley instead.

I send this by Robert [Todd Lincoln]. If I get matters arranged satisfactorily I may start home tomorrow night – if not I will stay another day unless you telegraph for me.

Historian Gerald S. Henig in Henry Winter Davis, wrote that “the radicals met again in New York on August 30 at Field’s house. The only discouraging note was John Andrew’s refusal to attend. After learning that Lincoln stood firmly behind emancipation as one of the terms of peace with the South, the Massachusetts governor had decided to withdraw his support from the movement to discard the President. Andrew’s defection, although a serious blow, nevertheless failed to dampen the enthusiasm of those in attendance. With almost entire unanimity they resolved to go through with the original plan for a convention at Cincinnati. Davis was confident of success. As he presumptuously noted a day after the meeting: ‘Those who think Lincoln came down from Heaven will soon be convinced that he was on his way lower down & was not intended to stop here much longer; & having been found out he will be sent on his way rejoicing.’”

Navy Secretary Gideon Welles writes in his diary: “Not much of interest at the Cabinet. Seward, Blair, and Bates absent from Washington. The capture of Fort Morgan is confirmed by accounts from [General William T.] Sherman.”

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President Lincoln Seeks to Sort Out Political Difficulties

August 29, 1864

Navy Secretary Gideon Welles writes in his diary: “We have word through Rebel channels that the Union forces have possession of Fort Morgan. This will give us entire control of the Bay of Mobile.”

The President sent me a bundle of papers, embracing a petition drawn up with great ability and skill, signed by most of the Massachusetts delegation in Congress and a large number of the prominent merchants in Boston, asking special favors in behalf of Smith Brothers, who are under arrest for fraudulent deliveries under contract, requesting that the trial may be held in Boston and that it may be withdrawn from the military and transferred to the civil tribunals. Senator Sumner and Representative Rice wrote special letters to favor the Smiths. The whole scheme had been well studied and laboriously got up, and a special delegation have come on to press the subject upon the President.

He urged me to relieve him from the annoying and tremendous pressure that had been brought to bear upon him in this case by religious or sectarian and municipal influence. I went briefly over the main points; told him the whole subject ought to be referred to an left with the Navy Department in this stage of the proceedings, that I desired him to relieve himself of all care and trouble by throwing the whole responsibility and odium, if there was odium, on the Navy Department, that we could not pursue a different course in this case from the others,–it could not be made an exception. He then asked why not let the trial take place in Boston and thus concede something. I told him this might be done, but it seemed to me inexpedient; but he was so solicitous–political and party considerations had been artfully introduced, against which little could be urged, when Solicitor Whiting and others averred that three Congressional districts would be sacrificed if I persisted–that the point was waived and the President greatly relieved. The President evinced shrewdness in influencing, or directing me, but was sadly imposed upon by the cunning Bostonians.

Presidential aide John G. Nicolay writes President Lincoln from New York where he had been sent on a political mission to adjust patronage difficulties: “I did not reach here until noon today, in consequence of the late train of last night coming no farther than Philadelphia.”

“I have seen no one yet but Mr. Raymond and Mr. Weed, and several influential men from the country, who were in Mr. Raymond’s office when I went there.

“Raymond is still of opinion that the change contemplated should be made at once, although he does not seem to have conferred with any one, except Weed, who joins him very decidedly in the same belief. I myself asked Mr. Weed the distinct question whether the change ought to be made now, or after the election, and he answered, now by all means.

“The conference of Raymond and Sherman with him this morning of course apprised him that the step was in contemplation. I do not know through whose instrumentality it was, but somehow Mr. [Simeon] Draper has been informed that you were thinking of appointed him Surveyor, and he and some of his friends are stirring up a new difficulty by announcing and insisting that he will decline it. I enclose a letter to you on the subject from Draper’s bosom fiend, Moses H. Grinnell, who had just brought it to Mr. Weed to be forwarded to you when I saw him.

“There is however still a chance that Draper will re-consider this determination. If he does not then I advise, on the strength of what I have heard today, that you accept his declension as final, and leave him out in the cold until he becomes more tractable. I will write more fully of this tomorrow.

“I hope [Reuben] Fenton may come on tonight, as he thought he would, so that I may have his advice in the matter tomorrow.

In August, the President met with Frederick Douglass and recruited the former slave to help organize slave escapees as volunteer recruits for the Union Army. A few days later, Douglass writes the President: “all with whom I have thus far spoken on the subject, concur in the wisdom and benevolence of the idea, and some of them think it is practicable. That every slave who escapes from the Rebel States is a loss to the Rebellion and a gain to the Loyal Cause I need not stop to argue[;] the proposition is self evident. The negro is the stomach of the rebellion.”

The Democratic National Convention begins meeting in Chicago with General George B. McClellan favored as the presidential nominee.

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President Commutes Death Sentence for Four Spies

August 28, 1864

President Lincoln responds to a late night visit by Baltimore attorney Charles J. M. Gwinn, Baltimore lawyer asking for commutation of death sentences for four convicted spies – William H. Rodgers, John R. H. Emberet, Branton Lyons), and Samuel B. Hearn.   President Lincoln orders General Lew Wallace: “The, punishment, of the four men under sentence of death to be executed to-morrow at Baltimore, is commuted in each case to confinement in the Penitentiary at hard labor during the war. You will act accordingly.

Presidential aide John G. Nicolay writes home: “I have been rather expecting to make another visit to the West in September, but it is rendered somewhat doubtful by the present rush of affairs. I think Hay will be back by the middle of September, but it may take both of us to keep the office under proper headway.

I wrote you that the Republican party was laboring under a severe fit of despondency and discouragement. During the past week it reached almost the condition of a disastrous panic — a sort of political Bull Run — but I think it was reached its culmination, and will speedily have a healthy and vigorous reaction. It even went so far that Raymond, the Chairman of the National Executive Committee wrote a most doleful letter here to the President, summing up the various discouraging signs he saw in the country, and giving it as his opinion that unless something was done (and he thought that something should be sending Commissioners to Richmond to propose terms of peace to the Rebels on the basis of their returning to the Union) we might as well quit and give up the contest. In this mood eh came here to Washington three or four days to attend a meeting of the Executive Committee of the National Committee. The President and the strongest half of the Cabinet — Seward, Stanton and Fessenden — held a consultation with him, and showed him that they had already thoroughly considered and discussed his proposition; and upon showing him their reasons, he very readily concurred with them in the opinion that to follow his plan of sending commissioners to Richmond would be worse than losing the presidential contest — it would be ignominiously surrendering it in advance.

Nevertheless the visit of himself and committee here did very great good…They found the President and Cabinet wide awake to al the necessities of the situation, and went home much encouraged and cheered up. I think that immediately upon the nominations being made at Chicago (it seems now as if McClellan would undoubtedly be the nominee) the whole Republican Party throughout the country will wake up, begin a spirited campaign and win the election.

President Lincoln writes Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles: “Please find some way to relieve me from the embarrassment of this case [regarding the Smith brothers in Boston accused of fraud]. Let me have a return of the papers, with your answer by 9 o’clock, A.M. to-morrow, at which time I am engaged to see the gentlemen who now present the case.”

Kansas Senator James Lane and Congressman Abel C. Wilder write President Lincoln: “he result of the massacre at Lawrence having excited feelings amongst our peoples, which makes a collision between them & the Military probable, the imbecility & incapacity of Schofield is most deplorable. Our people unanimously demand the removal of [General John] Schofield, whose policy has opened Kansas to invasion & butchery.” Schofield writes President Lincoln a extensive defense of his performance:

In reply to your telegram of the 27th, transmitting copy of one received from two influential citizens of Kansas, I beg leave to state some of the facts connected with the horrible massacre at Lawrence, and also relative to the assaults made upon me by a certain class of influential politicians

Since the capture of Vicksburg a considerable portion of the rebel Army in the Mississippi Valley has disbanded, and large numbers of men have come back to Missouri:– Many of them, doubtless, in the hope of being permitted to remain at their former homes in peace, while some have come under instructions to carry on a guerrilla warfare, and other, men of the worst character, become marauders on their own account, caring nothing for the Union, nor for the rebellion except as the latter affords them a cloak for their brigandage.

Under instructions from the rebel authorities as I am informed and believe, considerable bands, called “border guards” were organized in the Counties of Missouri bordering on Kansas, for the ostensible purpose of protecting those counties from inroads from Kansas, and preventing the slaves or rebels from escaping from Missouri into Kansas.

These bands were unquestionably encouraged, fed, and harbored by a very considerable portion of the people of those border Counties. Many of these people were in fact the families of those “bushwhackers”, who are brigands of the worst type.– Upon the representation of Genl. Ewing4 and others familiar with the facts, I became satisfied there could be no cure for the evil short of the removal from those Counties of all the slaves entitled to their freedom, and of the families of all those men known to belong to these bands, and others who were known to sympathize with them. Accordingly I directed Gen. Ewing to adopt and carry out the policy he had indicated, warning him, however, of the retaliation which might be attempted, and that he must be fully prepared to prevent it, before commencing such severe measures.

Almost immediately after it became known that such policy had been adopted, Quantrill secretly assembled, from several of the border Counties of Missouri, about three hundred of his men. They met at a preconcerted place of rendezvous near the Kansas line, at about sunset, and immediately marched for Lawrence, which place they reached at daylight the next morning. They sacked and burned the town and murdered its citizens in the most barbarous manner.

It is easy to see that every unguarded town in a country where such a number of outlaws can be assembled is liable to a similar fate, if the villains are willing to risk the retribution which must follow. In this case one hundred of them have already been slain, and the remainder are hotly pursued in all directions. If there was any fault on the part of Genl. Ewing it appears to have been in not guarding Lawrence. But of this it was not my purpose to speak, Genl Ewing and the Governor of Kansas have asked for a Court of Inquiry, and I have sent to the War Department a request that one may be appointed, and I do not wish to anticipate the result of a full investigation.

I believe beyond doubt that the terrible disaster at Lawrence was the immediate consequence of the “radical” measures to which I have referred. Although those measures are far behind what many at least of the radical leaders demand, they surely cannot attribute the sad result to a “conservative” policy.– Had these measures been adopted last winter, when the State was easily controlled because the absence of leaves from the brush rendered it impossible for “bushwackers” to hide from the troops, and there was a large force in the State lying idle, they might have been carried into effect with out injury to the loyal people. The large part of my troops having been called off for service in Arkansas, and down the Mississippi, and the season being favorable for guerilla operations, it may have been unwise to adopt such measures at this time. If so, they have no right to complain who have been continually clamoring for such measures, and who couple their denunciation of me with demands for more “radical” measures still, and hold up by way of contrast, as their model, the General who did not see fit to adopt such measures when they could have been carried out with perfect ease and security.

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Political Uncertainty Persists

August 27, 1864

Navy Secretary Gideon Welles writes in his diary: “Much party machinery is just at this time in motion. No small portion of it is a prostitution and abuse. The Whig element is venal and corrupt, to a great extent. I speak of the leaders of that party now associated with Republicans. They seem to have very little political principle; they have no belief in public virtue or popular intelligence; they have no self-reliance, no confidence in the strength of a righteous cause, little regard for constitutional restraint and limitations. Their politics and their ideas of government consist of expedients, and cunning management with the intelligent, and coercion and subornation of the less informed.” Patronage in New York City is a major concern for the Lincoln Administration:

Mr. Wakeman, the postmaster at New York, with whom I am on very good terms, — for he is affable, insinuating, and pleasant, though not profound nor reliable, —— a New York politician, has called upon me several times in relation to the Brooklyn Navy Yard. He is sent by Raymond, by Humphrey, by Campbell and others, and I presume Seward and Weed have also been cognizant of and advising in the matter. Raymond is shy of me. He evidently is convinced that we should not harmonize. Wakeman believes that all is fair and proper in party operations which can secure by any means certain success, and supposes that every one else is the same. Raymond knows that there are men of a different opinion, but considers them slow, incumbrances, stubborn and stupid, who cannot understand and will not be managed by the really ready and sharp fellows like himself who have resources to accomplish almost anything. Wakeman has been prompted and put forward to deal with me. He says we must have the whole power and influence of the government this coming fall, and if each Department will put forth its whole strength and energy in our favor we shall be successful. He had just called on Mr. Stanton at the request of our friends, and all was satisfactorily arranged with him. Had seen Mr. Fessenden and was to have another interview, and things were working well at the Treasury. Now, the Navy Department was quite as important as either, and he, a Connecticut man, had been requested to see me. There were things in the Navy Yard to be corrected, or our friends would not be satisfied, and the election in New York and the country might by remissness be endangered. This must be prevented, and he knew I would use all the means at my disposal to prevent it. He then read from a paper what he wanted should be done. It was a transcript of a document that had been sent me by Seward as coming from Raymond, for the management of the yard, and he complained of some proceedings that had given offense. Mr. Halleck, one of the masters, had gathered two or three hundred workmen together, and was organizing them with a view to raise funds and get them on the right track, but Admiral Paulding had interfered, broken up the meetings, and prohibited them from assembling in the Navy Yard in future.

President Lincoln writes Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton: “If Gen. [Franz] Sigel has asked for an Inquiry, let him have it, if there is not some insurmountable, or at least, very serious obstacle. He is fairly entitled to this consideration.” On July 7, General Ulysses S. Grant had written: General Henry W. Halleck of the controversial German-American general: “All of General Sigel’s operations from the beginning of the war have been so unsuccessful that I think it advisable to relieve him from all duty, at least until present troubles are over. I do not feel certain at any time that he will not after abandoning stores, artillery, and trains, make a successful retreat to some place.”

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

White House Calm After the Political Storm

August 26, 1864

At the Cabinet meeting at the White House, attendance is sparse with Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton, Postmaster General Montgomery Blair and Attorney General Edward Bates absent. Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles notes that “Judge Johnson of Ohio informs me that [Ohio Senator Benjamin F.] Wade is universally denounced for uniting with Winter Davis in his protest, and that he has been stricken from the list of speakers in the present political campaign in that State.”

Another Ohio ally of President Lincoln, Cincinnati attorney Richard Corwine, writes two letters to report continuation agitation to replace Lincoln as the Union-Republican presidential nomination. In first letter, Corwin writes: :I had a call from one of Gen [General Benjamin F.] Butler’s aids, who was just from New York. His business is to organize a party in favor of his chief’s nomination for the Presidency in room of Mr. Lincoln. He disclosed much of their plan with the view of intrusting me in the movement. He premised by saying that Weed & Raymond would urge Lincoln to withdraw and that they had assurances of success because Seward had said, and Lincoln had concurred in it, that the latter had no prospect of being elected. Dudley Field, Winter Davis &c are interested in the movement and he said that Gov Andrew & all New England were united in the effort to nominate Butler & compell the President to withdraw It is proposed to issue a circular calling a Convention to assemble in this City the last of September, the call to issue immediately after the Chicago Convention. This aid wants to get the names of some influential Republicans to that paper. He is the same gentleman who came here last fall to effectuate the same thing, viz. the nomination of Butler. I frankly told him that I should regard any change of nominee now as being attended with the greatest possible danger to our ticket success, even if there seemed to be any necessity for a change, which I could not see. That I regarded the grumbling among the people in this, and a few other localities, as the result of the same bad influences that were at work to defeat the President’s nomination, and that they would be as short-lived now as they were then. That the nominations at Chicago would dissipate all such opposition or dissatisfaction with the same celerity and unanimity that did the firing upon Fort Sumpter silence the loud spoken sympathisers with the rebbles of the South at that time. That this opposition to the President sprang from the same source, deluding many good men, who will not fail to see and understand the movement soon enough. The disappointed politicians, who are at the head of the movement, will turn to the support of the President in due time because they will stare into their own political graves, which will be gaping to receive them, if they fail to come to his support.”

But I write you, for your own & the President’s information, of this movement. I was placed under no terms of confidence by this military gentlemen. Hence the freedom with which I communicate this conversation for your guidance in counteracting the movement. Let me have your views and all movements with the same freedom.

In the second letter, Corwine writes: “I had another visit from [General Benjamin F.] Butler’s Captain this morning. He is persistant in his efforts to have some influential men meet here to agree upon signers to the Call referred to in the enclosed letter. I assured him I could not help him. He said Lew Campbell was here and would meet any parties who would cooperate in the movement. I hardly suppose he will find any man of character to assist him. The dissatisfaction with Mr Lincoln’s nomination will not carried these men so far as to sign this call. This Captain said that Gen Hamilton of Texas and Forney sympathised with the movement. Of course, I knew how to receive this statement as, indeed, I did all he said. It is a desperate move of Mister David Dudley Field, &c to wreak their vengeance on Mr Lincoln for not allowing them to dictate the measures of the Government. The real men, at the bottom of this revolutionary measure, should be dragged to the light and exposed.”

I hope to be able shortly to make a speech to our people, when I intend to attack those sorehead politicians and expose their motives. The people must be speedily educated on this point to [the one?] that they may know why Mr Lincoln is abused.

Presdential aide John Hay, doing family business in Illinois, is concerned about a replacement for William O. Stoddard, who has been appointed U.S. marshal in Arkansas. Hay writes John G. Nicolay: “Has the appointment of Land Patent Secretary yet been made? Charlie Philbrick is perfectly steady now I am told. I saw him when last in Springfield & he was straight as a string. If you make it proper at yr. End of the line I am very sure you could not get a man more thoroughly discreet & competent. He made a most favorable impression on me when I saw – all of one evening…Stod[ard] has been extensively advertising himself in the Western Press. His asinity which is kept a little dark under your shadow at Washington blooms & burgeons in the free air of the West.”

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President Lincoln Discusses Peace Negotiations and Politics with Henry J. Raymond

August 25, 1864

Presidential aide John G. Nicolay writes colleague John Hay: “Hell is to pay. The N.Y. politicians have got a stampede on that is about to swamp everything. Raymond [Henry G. Raymond, editor of the New York Times] and the National Committee are here today. R. thinks a commission to Richmond is about the only salt to save us — while the Tycoon sees and says it would be utter ruination. The matter is now undergoing consultation. Weak-kneed d–d fools like Chas. Sumner are in the movement for a new candidate – to supplant the Tycoon. Everything is darkness and doubt and discouragement. Our men see giants in the airy and unsubstantial shadows of the opposition and are about to surrender without a fight.

I think that today and here is the turning-point in our crisis. If the President can infect R. and his committee with some of his own patience and pluck, we are saved. If our friends will only rub their eyes and shake themselves and become convinced that they themselves are not dead we shall win the fight overwhelmingly.

Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles writes in his diary: “Calling on the President near eleven! o’clock, I went in as usual unannounced, the waiter throwing open the door as I approached. I found Messrs. Seward, Fessenden, and Stans ton with Raymond, Chairman of the Executive NationaliCommittee, in consultation with the President. The President was making some statement as to a document of his, and said he supposed his style was peculiar and had its earmarks, so that it could not be mistaken. He kept on talking as if there had been no addition to the company, and as if I had been expected and belonged there. But the topic was not pursued by the others when the President ceased. Some inquiry was put to me in regard to intelligence from the fleet at Mobile and the pursuit of the Tallahassee. Mr. Fessenden rose and, putting his mouth to the ear of the President, began to whisper, and as soon as I could answer the brief inquiries, I left the room.” Nicolay writes in a memo: “The President and the stronger half of the Cabinet, Seward, Stanton, and Fessenden, held a consultation with him [Raymond] and showed him that they had thoroughly considered and discussed the proposition of his letter of the 22d; and on giving him their reasons he very readily concurred with them in the opinion that to follow his plan of sending a commission to Richmond would be worse than losing the Presidential contest—it would be ignominiously surrendering it in advance. Nevertheless the visit of himself and committee here did great good. They found the President and Cabinet much better informed than themselves, and went home encouraged and cheered.”

Historian David Long wrote in Jewel of Liberty that before Republican Chairman Henry Raymond arrived at the White House, “We will never know how seriously Lincoln considered the idea. In their history of the Lincoln presidency, Nicolay and Hay claimed that he wrote the draft of instructions solely to facilitate examination and discussion of the question. Lincoln was well aware of Raymond’s importance and would have given his suggestion serious consideration. Or, the draft written on August 24 may simply have been Lincoln again playing devil’s advocate with himself regarding a difficult question.” Historian Francis Brown wrote in Raymond of the Times that: “That day, August 25, the National Committeemen met in Washington amid rumors that they were going to win the Administration to a policy of peace. They arrived, Lincoln’s secretaries recalled, in ‘depression and panic.’ Lincoln, however, persuaded them that the outlook was not so dark as they supposed. For one thing, the Wade-Davis Manifesto had not won the support that its authors had expected. Moreover, there was still chance for victory in the field: Sherman was close to Atlanta, and the country had taken heart from the recent destruction of the famed Confederate raiser Alabama and the naval successes in Mobile Bay. In the end, ‘encouraged and cheered,’ the committee issued an optimistic statement of confidence in Lincoln’s reelection (though the President himself thought reelection unlikely), and the Times next day denied that the Government had had any thought of peace negotiations. ‘Its sole and undivided purpose is to prosecute the war until the rebellion is quelled.”

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

President Lincoln Watches Morse Code Demonstration

August 24, 1864

Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner writes Governor John Andrew after unrest in the Republican Party over President Lincoln’s nomination: “You know well that I have always regretted that the Republican Convention was called at so early a day. Its action seemed to me ill-considered & unreasonable[.] If it were regarded as merely temporary, then its errors might be corrected by another Convention, which, with the concurrence of Mr Lincoln, might nominate a candidate who would surely be elected.”

President Lincoln writes New York Times Editor Henry J. Raymond a set of instructions which he decides later not to issue: “You will proceed forthwith and obtain, if possible, a conference for peace with hon. Jefferson Davis, or any person by him authorized for that purpose.

You will address him in entirely respectful terms, at all events, and in any that my be indispensable to secure the conference.

At said conference you will propose, on behalf this government, that upon the restoration of the Union and the national authority, the war shall cease at once, al remaining questions to be left for adjustment by peaceful modes. If this be accepted hostilities to cease at once.

If it is not accepted, you will then request to be informed what terms, if any embracing the restoration of the Union, would be accepted. If any such be presented you in answer, you will forthwith report the same to this government, and await further instructions.

If the presentation of any terms embracing the restoration of the Union be declined, you will then request to be informed what terms of peace would, be accepted; and on receiving any answer, report the same to this government, and await further instructions.

Raymond had written Lincoln: “I am in active correspondence with your staunchest friends in every state and from them all I hear but one report. The Tide is setting strongly against us. Hon. E. B. Washburne writes that ‘were an election to be held now in in Illinois we should be beaten.’ Mr. Cameron writes that Pennsylvania is against us. Gov. Morton writes that nothing but the most strenuous efforts can carry Indiana. This State (new York), according to the best information I can get, would go 50,000 against us to-morrow. And so of the rest.

Two special causes are assigned for this great reaction in public sentiment — the want of military successes, and the impression in some minds, the fear and suspicion in others, that we are not to have peace in any event under this administration until Slavery is abandoned. In some way or other the suspicion is widely diffused that we can have peace with Union if we would.

It is idle to reason with this belief — still more idle to denounce it. It can only be expelled by some authoritative act, at once bold enough to fix attention and distinct enough to defy incredulity & challenge respect.

Secretary of the Interior John Palmer Usher writes President Lincoln: “I have the honor herewith to submit for your signature, should you approve the same, a form of Proclamation of sales of the lands in Minnesota, within the late Winnebago Indian Reservation, pursuant to provisions of the act of Congress. Approved February 21, 1863.1

The accompanying report of the Commissioner of the General Land Office, will explain the reasons for adopting the present form of Proclamation and date of sales, instead of those which were before you with my letter of the 14th July, last.2

As a measure of economy in advertising, I cordially recommend the substitution of the present form of Proclamation for sales of these lands.

President Lincoln spends the night at the Soldiers Home, where he watches a demonstration of communication. War Department Telegrapher Homer Bates recalled: “At that time Lincoln, with his family, lived in one of the cottages at the Soldiers Home, and so it was arranged that there should be an exhibition (for his special benefit) of Morse signaling to and from the Smithsonian, and on the evening of August 24, 1864, Major Eckert and I went to the Soldiers Home with suitable instruments, our comrades, Chandler and Dwight, having gone to the Smithsonian Institute, with a similar equipment. My diary records that there were present on the tower of the Soldiers Home, besides the operators the President, RearAdmiral Davis of the Navy Department, Colonel Nicodemus of the Signal Corps and Colonel Dimmick of the army. We were able to send Morse signals to the roof of the Smithsonian and receive responses from Chandler and Dwight. Professor Joseph Henry was present and witnessed our experiments. Mr. Lincoln was greatly interested in this exhibition and expressed the opinion that the signal system of both the army and navy could and would be improved so as to become of immense value to the Government. This has, in fact been done, and our efforts of over forty years ago now appear rudimentary.”

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

President Lincoln writes a Contingency Plan for his Defeat

August 23, 1864

After the dismal Republican National Committee meeting in New York the previous day and reports of his probable defeat in many states, President Lincoln writes and seals a memorandum: “This morning, as for some days past, it seems exceedingly probable that this Administration will not be re-elected. Then it will be my duty to so co-operate with the President elect, as to save the Union between the election and the inauguration; as he will have secured his election on such ground that he can not possibly save it afterwards.”   The president then has the cabinet members sign the unread memo.

President Lincoln meets with New York Congressman Reuben Fenton about the upcoming gubernatorial race. President Lincoln clearly wanted Fenton’s help in sorting about political and patronage difficulties in New York State. Fenton later recalled: “On the 22d day of August, I received a telegram from Mr. John G. Nicolay, Private Secretary, saying that the President desired to see me. I arrived in Washington next day. The President, speaking to me said, in language as nearly as I can remember: ‘You are to be nominated by our folks for Governor of your State. [Governor Horatio] Seymour of course will be the Democratic nominee. You will have a hard fight. I am very desirous that you should win the battle. New York should be on our side by honest possession. There is some trouble among our folks over there, which we must try and manage. Or rather, there is one man who may give us trouble, because of his indifference, if in no other way. He has great influence, and his feelings may be reflected in many of his friends. We must have his counsel and cooperation if possible. This, in one sense, is more important to you than to me, I think, for I should rather expect to get on without New York, but you can’t. But in a larger sense than what is merely personal to myself, I am anxious for New York, and we must put our heads together and see if the matter can’t be fixed.”

President Lincoln issues order: “For the sale of Valuable lands in the late Winnebago Indian Reservation, in Minnesota.”

In pursuance of law, I ABRAHAM LINCOLN, President of the United States of America, do hereby declare and make known that public sales will be held in the undermentioned Land Office, in the State of Minnesota, at the period herinafter designated, to wit:

At the Land Office at ST. PETER, commencing on Monday the Fifth day of December next, for the disposal of the Public lands comprised in the late reserve for the Winnebago Indians, above mentioned, and situated within the following parts of townships, which will be sold at the appraised value of the land and the improvements thereon

From Chicago, Congressman Isaac N. Arnold writes President Lincoln: “Immediately following your last call for troops the Illinois Staatz Zeitúng commenced attacking the enrollment law, the call for more troops, & especially myself. I caused copys of the paper & a translation of one of the articles to be sent to the Secretary of War. The result was, the paper was dropped from those receiving the advertisements of the War Department. It continues its attacks, & its editors declare, that if I am nominated, they will not support me, nor you. I have no doubt the paper will support the tickit after the nomination is made. The Congressional Convention is next week. If any application is made to renew the advertising for the paper I hope it may not be done until after the convention, & then, on condition that it shall cease its assaults upon the enrollment law, & upon the administration, & support the nominees of the party. I hope to be in Washington in two or three weeks.”


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

A Dejected Republican National Committee Meets in New York City

August 22, 1864

President Lincoln tells the 166th Ohio Regiment on its way home: “I suppose you are going home to see your families and friends. For the service you have done in this great struggle in which we are engaged I present you sincere thanks for myself and the country. I almost always feel inclined, when I happen to say anything to soldiers, to impress upon them in a few brief remarks the importance of success in this contest. It is not merely for to-day, but for all time to come that we should perpetuate for our children’s children this great and free government, which we have enjoyed all our lives. I beg you to remember this, not merely for my sake, but for yours. I happen temporarily to occupy this big White House. I am a living witness that any one of your children may look to come here as my father’s child has. It is in order that each of you may have through this free government which we have enjoyed, an open field and a fair chance for your industry, enterprise and intelligence; that you may all have equal privileges in the race of life, with all its desirable human aspirations. It is for this the struggle should be maintained, that we may not lose our birthright–not only for one, but for two or three years. The nation is worth fighting for, to secure such an inestimable jewel.”

President Lincoln and Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton meet to discuss release from Fort Lafayette of Joseph Howard, Jr., the mastermind behind the fake presidential proclamation in May. Howard is ordered released the next, apparently under pressure from Brooklyn minister Henry Ward Beecher: “Let Howard, imprisoned in regard to the bogus proclamation, be discharged.”

In a letter from New York, Lincoln political ally summarizes the political problems in a letter to his wife back in Illinois: “The malicious foes of Lincoln are calling or getting up a Buffalo convention to supplant him. They are Sumner, Wade, Henry Winter Davis, Chase, Fremont, Wilson, etc.

The Democrats are conspiring to resist the draft. We seized this morning three thousand pistols going to Indiana for distribution. The war Democrats are trying to make the Chicago nominee a loyal man. The peace Democrats are trying to get control of the Government, and through alliance with Jefferson Davis, to get control of both armies and make universal revolution necessary.

The most fearful things are probable.

I am acting with Thurlow Weed, Raymond, etc., to try to avert. There is not much hope.

Unless material changes can be wrought, Lincoln’s election is beyond any possible hope. It is probably clean gone now.

In New York City, the Republican National Committee meets at the Astor House. Historian Francis Brown writes in Raymond of the Times that Chairman Henry J. “Raymond could report only gloom and despair in every quarter. He canvassed the situation with the other members, then sat down to tell Lincoln that ‘the tide is setting strongly against us. Hon. E. B. Washburne writes that ‘were an election to be held now in Illinois we should be beaten.’ Mr. Cameron writes that Pennsylvania is against us. Gov. Morton writes that nothing but the most strenuous efforts can carry Indian. This State, according to the best information I can get, would go 50,000 against us tomorrow. And so of the rest.”

Raymond writes President Lincoln: “`I feel compelled to drop you a line concerning the political condition of the country as it strikes me. I am in active correspondence with your staunchest friends in every state and from them all I hear but one report. The tide is setting strongly against us. Hon. E. B. Washburne writes that `were an election to be held now in Illinois we should be beaten.’ Mr. Cameron writes that Pennsylvania is against us. Gov. Morton writes that nothing but the most strenuous efforts can carry Indiana. This state, according to the best information I can get, would go 50,000 against us to-morrow. And so of the rest. Nothing but the most resolute and decided action on the part of the government and its friends, can save the country from falling into hostile hands.

Two special causes are assigned to this great reaction in public sentiment,—the want of military successes, and the impression in some minds, the fear and suspicion in others, that we are not to have peace in any event under this administration until Slavery is abandoned. In some way or other the suspicion is widely diffused that we can have peace with Union if we would. It is idle to reason with this belief—still more idle to denounce it. It can only be expelled by some authoritative act, at once bold enough to fix attention and distinct enough to defy incredulity & challenge respect.

Why would it not be wise, under these circumstances, to appoint a Commissioner, in due form, to make distinct proffers of peace to Davis, as the head of the rebel armies, on the sole condition of acknowledging the supremacy of the constitution,—all other questions to be settled in a convention of the people of all the States? The making of such an offer would require no armistice, no suspension of active war, no abandonment of positions, no sacrifice of consistency.

If the proffer were accepted (which I presume it would not be,) the country would never consent to place the practical execution of its details in any but loyal hands, and in those we should be safe.

If it should be rejected, (as it would be,) it would plant seeds of disaffection in the south, dispel all the delusions about peace that prevail in the North, silence the clamors & damaging falsehoods of the opposition, take the wind completely out of the sails of the Chicago craft, reconcile public sentiment to the War, the draft, & the tax as inevitable necessities, and unite the North as nothing since firing on Fort Sumter has hitherto done.

I cannot conceive of any answer which Davis could give to such a proposition which would not strengthen you & the Union cause everywhere. Even your radical friends could not fail to applaud it when they should see the practical strength it would bring to the common cause.

I beg you to excuse the earnestness with which I have pressed this matter upon your attention. It seems to me calculated to do good—& incapable of doing harm. It will turn the tide of public sentiment & avert pending evils of the gravest character. It will rouse & concentrate the loyalty of the country &, unless I am greatly mistaken, give us an early & a fruitful victory.

Permit me to add that if done at all I think this should be done at once,—as your own spontaneous act. In advance of the Chicago Convention it might render the action of that body, of very little consequence.

I have canvassed this subject very fully with Mr. Swett of Illinois who first suggested it to me & who will seek an opportunity to converse with you upon it.

Meanwhile, New York Republican bigwig Thurlow Weed writes Secretary of State William H. Seward: “When, ten or eleven days since, I told Mr Lincoln that his re-election was an impossibility, I also told him that the information would soon come to him through other channels.1 It has doubtless, ere this, reached him. At any rate, nobody here doubts it; nor do I see any body from other States who authorises the slightest hope of success.

Mr Raymond, who has, just left me, says that unless some prompt and bold step be now taken, all is lost.

The People are wild for Peace. They are told that the President will only listen to terms of Peace on condition Slavery be “abandoned.”

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