President Lincoln Confers with Generals Grant and Halleck at War Department

August 7, 1864

Navy Secretary Gideon Welles writes in his diary:” Going into the War Department [Sunday] morning to inquire if any tidings had been received concerning Colonel Stedman of the 11th Connecticut Infantry, who was wounded, probably mortally, on Friday, I found the President with General Grant, Stanton, and General Halleck in the Secretary’s room. I proposed leaving on making the single inquiry, provided they’ were in secret council, but the President and General Grant declared they were not, for me. Learning that poor Stedman was dead, and that some little intelligence had been received from Mobile] I soon left, for there was, it appeared to me, a little stiffness as if I had interrupted proceedings. General Grant has been to Frederick and placed Sheridan in command of the forces on the upper Potomac instead of Hunter, which is a good change, for H., though violently earnest, is not exactly the man for that command. I think him honest and patriotic, which are virtues in these days, but he has not that discretion and forbearance sufficient to comprehend rightly the position that was given him

It may have been this Sunday when John Hay writes fellow presidential aide John G. Nicolay from New York: “I am stranded here, badly bored with nothing to do but wait for tomorrow.”

I have lost my knife. I wish you would put one in an envelope and send it to me here.

Everybody is out of town. New York is duller than Washington. I saw Boutwell for a while today. He takes rather an encouraging view of the political situation. I won’t go to see Greeley unless the Prest desires it.

General David Hunter, commanding in the Shenandoah Valley, asked to be relieved: “In sending the rebel citizens & their families beyond our lines I was obeying the order of Lieut Gen Grant communicated through Gen Halleck your Chief of Staff with several thousand wealthy rebel spies in our midst constantly sending information & supplies to the Enemy & pointing out union men to their vengeance it is impossible to conduct the affairs of any Department sucessfully I most humbly beg that I may be relieved from command of the Dept of West Virginia.”

In the wake of the Wade-Davis Manifesto, Indiana political leader John Defrees writes Ohio Senator Benjamin F. Wade (and sends a copy to the White House): “Either Mr. Lincoln or a Copperhead must be the next President.”

If the latter, an ignomenious peace — a recognition of the Southern Confederacy, or the adoption of the Constitution of the Confederacy by all the States, will certainly follow.

Of course, you are not in favor of thus ending the present struggle for the existence of the nation; and yet, the address by Winter Davis and yourself is so construed and will be so used by those who wish the electin of a Copperhead.

Granted, if you please, that Mr. Lincoln ought to have signed the approved the reconstruction law, is his neglect to do so a sufficient reason for making war upon him, and thus lessen his chances for re-election.

In this hour of the country’s greatest peril much should be overlooked by all thoes who desire that it should live.

At the commencement of the rebellion, and for some time afterwards, Mr. Lincoln hesitated as to the proper course to be pursued by the government towards slavery, and the use of Slaves as Soldiers. Union men were divided on these questions. At length he became convinced that our cause would be strengthened by their liberation, as far as possible, and their use in our armies — and hence his proclamation.

More of our public men who then entertained what were called ultra views on the Slavery question, applauded his act — whilst those opposed to them, acquiesed in it.

Is it not a little strange that most of the opposition to Mr. Lincoln, among Union men, is to be found among the very men who were loudest in their accomendations of the proclamation of freedom, as they called it?

Mr. Lincoln can be re-elected, — but, it will require the United effort of all those who do not wish to see the restoration of the slave power in more than its former hideousness.

It is time for the pioneer in the anti-slavery movement above all others, now to shrink from sustaining the President merely be cause, in all things, they do not agree with him.

The address to which I refer will do harm, unless you take a very early occasion, in a speech or letter, to say, that you mean to support Mr. L, notwithstanding his difference with you about the re-construction law — and, as a friend, I do wish you may do so.

From Green Bay, Wisconsin, Advocate editor Charles Robinson writes President Lincoln asking clarification about his war policy: “I am a War Democrat, and the editor of a Democratic paper. I have sustained your Administration since its inauguration, because it is the legally constituted government– I have sustained its war policy, not because I endorsed it entire, but because it presented the only available method of putting down the rebellion– In the course of pursuing this policy, I have had occasion to assist in the defeat of a “Copperhead” ticket in this State, giving and taking some hard knocks with some of my party in consequence. It was alleged that because I and my friends sustained the Emancipation measure, we had become abolitionized. We replied that we regarded the freeing of the negroes as sound war policy, in that the depriving the South of its laborers weakened the strength of the Rebellion. That was a good argument, and was accepted by a great many men who would have listened to no other. It was solid ground on which we could stand, and still maintain our position as Democrats– We were greatly comforted and strengthened also by your assurance that if you could save the Union without freeing any slave, you would do it; if you could save it by freeing the slaves, you would do it; and if you could do it by freeing some, and leaving others alone, you would also do that.

The Niagara Falls “Peace” movement was of no importance whatever, except that it resulted in bringing out your declaration, as we understand it, that no steps can be taken towards peace, from any quarter, unless accompanied with an abandonment of slavery. This puts the whole war question on a new basis, and takes us War Democrats clear off our feet, leaving us no ground to stand upon– If we sustain the war and war policy, does it not demand the changing of our party politics?

I venture to write you this letter, then, not for the purpose of finding fault with your policy — for that you have a right to fix upon without consulting any of us — but with the hope that you may suggest some interpretation of it, as well as make it tenable ground on which we War Democrats may stand — preserve our party [consistently?] — support the government — and continue to carry also to its support those large numbers of our old political friends who have stood by us up to this time.

I beg to assure you that this is not written for the purpose of using it, or its possible reply, in a public way. And I take the pains to send it through my friend Gov. Randall in the belief that he will guarantee for me entire good faith–

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Published in: on August 7, 2014 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

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