Increasing Political Apprehension at the White House

August 21, 1864

As New York Republicans contemplate an alternative to President Lincoln, presidential Aide John G. Nicolay writes home: “The week has passed again without any remarkable events. There is rather a bad state of feeling throughout the Union party about the political condition of things. The want of any decided military successes thus far, and the necessity of the necessity of the new draft in the coming month, has materially discouraged many of our good friends, who are inclined to be a little weak-kneed, and croakers are talking everywhere about the impossibility of re-electing Mr. Lincoln, ‘unless something is done.’ What that precise something is to be they don’t very distinctly define. I think however, that it is mainly anxiety and discouragement and that they will recover from it, after the Democrats shall have made their nominations at Chicago, and after the active fighting of the political campaign begins. The Democrats are growing hold and confident, and will be very unscrupulous, but I still [do] not think they can defeat Mr. Lincoln in any event…”

In the midst of military and political problems, President Lincoln orders the testing of a new weapon: “Mr. Ames having constructed certain wrought-iron cannon of 7-inch calibre, which he desires to have inspected and tested with a view to determine their fitness for the United States service, it is Ordered”

First, that a board of officers, to consist of Major General Gilmore as president of the board, a competent ordnance officer to be designated by the Secretary of War, and a competent officer to be designated by the Secretary of the Navy, shall be organized and meet at Bridgeport, Connecticut, on the first day of September next, with a view of inspecting and testing the aforesaid cannon and determining the capacity and fitness for the United States service, with such tests and trials as they shall deem proper, and make report to the President of their opinion in respect to said cannon, and their value and fitness for the service.

Second, that the ordnance bureaus of the War and Navy Departments shall provide suitable shot, shells, and ammunition for making the aforesaid tests, and provide all the necessaries for a careful and fair test of the aforesaid cannon.

From Norfolk, Union General Benjamin F. Butler responds to a presidential telegram the previous day about Judge E.K. Snead and explains his behavior with civilian officials there: “I have never hindered or intended to hinder E K Snead who was elected Judge by twenty three votes as I am told from going to his family on the Eastern Shore1 I had supposed he was there until I saw in the New-York Tribune of the nineteenth a scurrillous article by him dated at Alexandria– In fact I intended that Snead should leave the Eastern Shore until he answered my inquiries whether he voted for Davis for President of the Confederate States or whether he made a speech cheering on the rebels of the Eastern Shore to attack the U S troops saying he would shoot any one who should run & if he run he hoped somebody would shoot him & whether he held the Office of Commission of Elections under the Confederate States– These questions Snead has not answered because he will convict himself of incapacity of holding office under the United States without a pardon The trouble is Snead is a liar, has deceived the President.

A Military Commission has just convicted Chas H Porter the Commonwealth attorney of Virginia of treasonable language in saying that the U S Govt was a rotten corrupt bogus Govt & that Abraham Lincoln was doing all he could to break it up & ruin the Country & that he would rather live under Jeff Davis Porters defence was that he was drunk when he said it. Of such are the restored Govt of Virginia–

From Illinois, Governor Richard Yates complains about the state’s draft quota: “The State s of Illinois has an excess of thirty five thousand eight hundred seventy five (35875) three (3) years July first (1st) eighteen sixty four (1864) The law of Congress requires in adjusting accounts with States that the time of service shall be computed our Quota under the call of July is fifty two thousand and fifty seven (52057) If therefore we had no excess fifty two thousand and fifty seven (52057) one years men would fill our quota Now therefore I insist that this state is not liable to a draft under the present call because adjustments should be made with States when the calls are made1 Universal dissatisfaction exists at the threatened draft, under these circumstances.”

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