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.”

Published in: on August 21, 2014 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

President Lincoln Delays Execution of 15-year-old Accused of Murder

August 20, 1864

On a rainy day in Washington, President Lincoln writes Union Army General John F. Miller in Nashville Tennessee at the request of Tennessee Governor Andrew Johnson: “Suspend execution of death sentence of Patrick Jones, Co. F. twelfth Tennessee Cavalry until further orders and forward record for examination.”   Johnson argued that the Jones was only 15 and had been drunk at the time of the murder.   He wrote Lincoln: “I am free to say that the moral influence would be much greater if we could hang some of the larger fish…there is no trouble in convicting & hanging the little helpless minnow which makes & leaves no impression upon the public mind.”’

President also takes an interest in another youth, writing Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton: “Col. Whistler, who presents this, says he has an application on file for his son—Garland N. Whistler—to go to West-Point, and that there is now a vacancy. If there is a vacancy, and if his vouchers are the best now on file, let him have it. “

Meanwhile, efforts to replace President Lincoln as the Republican presidential nominee increase. Historian William Frank Zornow wrote in Lincoln & the Party Divided:“While the calls for the new convention were being distributed, steps were taken to secure the withdrawal of Lincoln and Fremont so that all obstacles in the way of a new convention would be removed. About August 20 a group of abolitionists in Boston addressed a letter to [General John C.] Frémont concerning the possibility of his withdrawal. Fremont’s reply indicated that he could not take this step without consulting the party which had nominated him, but he assured them he was ready to do whatever seemed best and would abide by the decision of a new convention. Lincoln made no formal statement concerning his willingness to withdraw and permit a new convention to meet.”

The impact of the Wade-Davis Manifesto has reached Louisiana. From New Orleans, Cuthbert Bullitt writes to the president’s top aide: “Knowing how our worthy President’s pressed for time to Read the communications presented him, induces me to ask your polite attention to the enclosed communication, in reply to the attack of Thos. J Durant.1

It is useless to tell you that the protest of Winter Davis & Ben Wade emanates from Durant or rather it is a joint partnership concern–

I wish to assist in overthrowing this trio, especially Mr Durant, who with his myrmidons in office here, (all Chase3 men) are determined to defeat Mr Lincoln — & there is no more affectual mode of doing it, than to publish Mr Durants letter to me in July 1862, which I forwarded to the President & which he answered,4 & is now in my possession, it is by the by one of the best letters ever written by Mr Lincoln, & ought to be presented to the public at this time–

this letter of Mr Durant is some several pages long, in which he complains bitterly of the course pursued by the President, the Administration & the military, in fact his entire position, the reverse of what it is now,

We have to fight the enemy here, every foot of the ground, untill the election is over, & though Mr Lincolns friends are somewhat disapointed in his not turning his enemies out of office we do not despair–

Published in: on August 20, 2014 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

President Meets with Black Abolitionist Frederick Douglass

August 19, 1864

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. Douglas later recalled in The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass: “It was when General Grant was fighting his way through the wilderness to Richmond, on the ‘line’ he meant to pursue ‘if it took all summer,’ and every reverse to his arms was made the occasion for a fresh demand for peace without emancipation that President Lincoln did me the honor to invite me to the Executive Mansion for a conference on the situation. I need not say I went most gladly. The main subjected on which he wished to confer with me was as to the means most desirable to be employed outside the army to induce the slaves in the rebel states to come within the federal lines. The increasing opposition to the war, in the North, and the mad cry against it, because it was being made an abolition war, alarmed Mr. Lincoln, and made him apprehensive that a peace might be forced upon him which would leave still in slavery all who had not come within our lines. What he wanted was to make his Proclamation as effective as possible in the event of such a peace. He said in a regretful tone, ‘The slaves are not coming so rapidly and so numerously to us as I had hoped.’ I replied that the slaveholders knew how to keep such things from their slaves, and probably very few knew of his Proclamation. ‘Well,’ he said, ‘I want you to set about devising some means of making them acquainted with it, and for bringing them into our lines. He spoke with great earnestness and much solicitude, and seemed troubled by the attitude of Mr. Greeley, and the growing impatience there was being manifested through the North at the war. He said he was being accused of protracting the war beyond its legitimate object, and of failing to make peace, when he might have done so to advantage. He was afraid of what might come of all these complaints, but was persuaded that no solid and lasting peace could come short of absolute submission on the part of the rebels, and he was not for giving them rest by futile conferences at Niagara Falls, or elsewhere, with unauthorized persons. He saw the danger of premature peace, and, like a thoughtful and sagacious man as he was, he wished to provide means of rendering such consummation as harmless as possible. I was the more impressed by his benevolent consideration because he before said, in answer to the peace clamor, that his object was to save the Union, and to do so with or without slavery. What he said on this day showed a deeper moral conviction against slavery than I had even seen before in anything spoken or written by him. I listened with the deepest interest and profoundest satisfaction, and, at his suggestion, agreed to undertake the organizing of a band of scouts, composed of colored men, whose business should be somewhat after the original plan of John Brown, to go into the rebel states, beyond the lines of our armies, and carry the news of emancipation, and urge the slaves to come within our boundaries.

“This plan, however, was very soon rendered unnecessary by the success of the war in the wilderness and elsewhere, and by its termination in the complete abolition of slavery.

“I refer to this conversation because I think it is evidence conclusive on Mr. Lincoln’s part that the Proclamation, so far at least as he was concerned, was not effected merely as a ‘necessity.’

“An incident occurred during this interview which illustrates the character of this great man, though the mention of it may savor a little of vanity on my part. While in conversation with him his secretary twice announced ‘Governor Buckingham of Connecticut,’ one of the noblest and most patriotic of the loyal governors. Mr. Lincoln said, “tell Governor Buckingham to wait, for I want to have a long talk with my friend Frederick Douglass.” I interposed, and begged him to see the governor at once, as I could wait; but no, he persisted he wanted to talk with me, and Governor Buckingham could wait. This was probably the first time in the history of this Republic when its chief magistrate found occasion or disposition to exercise such an act of impartiality between persons so widely different in their positions and supposed claims upon his attention. From the manner of the governor, when he was finally admitted, I inferred that he was as well satisfied with what Mr. Lincoln had done, or had omitted to do, as I was.”

“I have often said elsewhere what I wish to repeat here that Mr. Lincoln was not only a great president, but a great man – to great to be small in anything. In his company I was never in any way reminded of my humble origin, or of my unpopular color. While I am, as it may see, bragging of the kind consideration which I have reason to believe that Mr. Lincoln entertained towards me, I may mention one thing more. At the door of my friend John A. Gray, where I was stopping in Washington, I found one afternoon the carriage of Secretary Dole, and a messenger from President Lincoln with an invitation for me to take tea with him at the Soldiers Home, where he then passed his nights, riding out after the business of the day was over at the Executive Mansion. Unfortunately I had an engagement to speak that evening, and having made it one of the rules of my conduct in life never to break an engagement if possible to keep it, I felt obliged to decline the honor. I have often regretted that I did not make this an exception to my general rule. Could I have known that no such opportunity could come to me again, I should have justified myself in disappointing a large audience for the sake of such a visit with Abraham Lincoln.

A few days later, Douglass wrote 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.”

President Lincoln meets with First Assistant Postmaster General Alexander W. Randall, William P. Dole, and Joseph T. Mills. Randall delivers a letter Green Bay Advocate editor Charles D. Robinson: “The President was free & animated in conversation. I was astonished at his elasticity of spirits. Says Gov Randall, why cant you Mr P. seek some place of retirement for a few weeks. You would be reinvigorated. Aye said the President, 3 weeks would do me no good–my thoughts my solicitude for this great country follow me where ever I go. I don’t think it is personal vanity, or ambition–but I cannot but feel that the weal or woe of this great nation will be decided in the approaching canvas. My own experience has proven to me, that there is no program intended by the democratic party but that will result in the dismemberment of the Union. But Genl McClellan is in favor of crushing out the rebellion, & he will probably be the Chicago candidate. The slightest acquaintance with arithmetic will prove to any man that the rebel armies cannot be destroyed with democratic strategy. It would sacrifice all the white men of the north to do it. There are now between 1 & 200 thousand black men now in the service of the Union. These men will be disbanded, returned to slavery & we will have to fight two nations instead of one. I have tried it. You cannot concilliate the South, when the mastery & control of millions of blacks makes them sure of ultimate success. You cannot conciliate the South, when you place yourself in such a position, that they see they can achieve their independence. The war democrat depends upon conciliation. He must confine himself to that policy entirely. If he fights at all in such a war as this he must economise life & use all the means which God & nature puts in his power. Abandon all the posts now possessed by black men surrender all these advantages to the enemy, & we would be compelled to abandon the war in 3 weeks. We have to hold territory. Where are the war democrats to do it. The field was open to them to have enlisted & put down this rebellion by force of arms, by concilliation, long before the present policy was inaugurated. There have been men who have proposed to me to return to slavery the black warriors of Port Hudson & Olustee to their masters to conciliate the South. I should be damned in time & in eternity for so doing. The world shall know that I will keep my faith to friends & enemies, come what will. My enemies say I am now carrying on this was for the sole purpose of abolition. It is & will be carried on so long as I am President for the sole purpose of restoring the Union. But no human power can subdue this rebellion without using the Emancipation lever as I have done. Freedom has given us the control of 200 000 able bodied men, born & raised on southern soil. It will give us more yet. Just so much it has sub[t]racted from the strength of our enemies, & instead of alienating the south from us, there are evidences of a fraternal feeling growing up between our own & rebel soldiers. My enemies condemn my emancipation policy. Let them prove by the history of this war, that we can restore the Union without it. The President appeared to be not the pleasant joker I had expected to see, but a man of deep convictions & an unutterable yearning for the success of the Union cause. His voice was pleasant–his manner earnest & cordial. As I heard a vindication of his policy from his own lips, I could not but feel that his mind grew in stature like his body, & that I stood in the presence of the great guiding intellect of the age, & that those huge Atlantian shoulders were fit to bear the weight of mightiest monarchies. His transparent honesty, his republican simplicity, his gushing sympathy for those who offered their lives for their country, his utter forgetfulness of self in his concern for his country, could not but inspire me with confidence, that he was Heavens instrument to conduct his people thro this red sea of blood to a Canaan of peace & freedom. Comr. Dole then came in. We were about to retire, but he insisted on our remaining longer. Dismissing the present state of the country, he entertained us with reminiscences of the past–of the discussions between himself & Douglass. He said he was accused of of [sic] joining. In his later speeches, the serious of the theme prevented him from using anecdotes. Mr. Harris a democratic orator of Ill, once appealed to his audience in this way. If these republicans get into power, the darkies will be allowed to come to the polls & vote. Here comes forward a white man, & you ask him who will you vote for. Iwill vote for S A Douglass. Next comes up a sleek pampered negro. Well Sambo, who do you vote for. I vote for Massa Lincoln. Now asked the orator, what do you think of that. Some old farmer cried out, I think the darkey showd a damd sight of more sense than the white man. It is such social tete a tetes among his friends that enables Mr Lincoln to endure mental toils & application that would crush any other man. The President now in full flow of spirits, scattered his repartee in all directions. He took his seat on the sofa by my side. Said I Mr President I was in your reception room to day. It was dark. I suppose that clouds & darkness necessarily surround the secrets of state. There in a corner I saw a man quietly reading who possessed a remarkable physiognomy. I was rivetted to the spot. I stood & started at him He raised his flashing eyes & caught me in the act. I was compelled to speak. Said I, Are you the President. No replied the stranger, I am Frederick Douglass. Now Mr. P. are you in favor miscegenation. That’s a democratic mode of producing good Union men, & I don’t propose to infringe on the patent. We parted from his Excellency, with firmer purpose to sustain the government, at whose head there stands a man who combines in his person all that is valuable in progress in conservatism–all that is hopeful in progress.”

Navy Secretary Gideon Welles writes in his diary: “Much pressed with duties. A pleasant hour at the Cabinet, but no special subject. Fessenden still absent. Stanton did not attend. Blair inquired about the Niagara peace correspondence. The President went over the particulars. Had sent the whole correspondence to Greeley for publication, excepting one or two passages in Greeley’s letters which spoke of a bankrupted country and awful calamities. But Greeley replied he would not consent to any suppression of his letters or any part of them; and the President remarked that, though G. had put him (the President) in a false attitude, he thought it better he should bear it, than that the country should be distressed by such a howl, from such a person, on such an occasion. Concerning Greeley, to whom the President clung too long and confidingly, he said to-day that Greeley is an old shoe,–good for nothing now, whatever he has been. ‘In early life, and with few mechanics and but little means in the West, we used,’ said he, ‘to make our shoes last a great while with much mending, and sometimes, when far gone, we found the leather so rotten the stitches would not hold. Greeley is so rotten that nothing can be done with him. He is not truthful; the stitches all tear out.’

Both Blair and myself concurred in regret that the President should consult only Seward in so important a matter, and that he should dabble with Greeley, Saunders, and company. But Blair expresses to me confidence that the President is approaching the period when he will cast off Seward as he has done Chase. I doubt it. That he may relieve himself of Stanton is possible, though I see as yet no evidence of it. To me it is clear that the two S.’s have an understanding, and yet I think each is wary of the other while there is a common purpose to influence the President. The President listens and often defers to Seward, who is ever present and companionable. Stanton makes himself convenient, and is not only tolerated but, it appears to me, is really liked as a convenience.

Published in: on August 19, 2014 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Republicans Seek a Lincoln Alternative

August 18, 1864

A longtime Lincoln friend, Illinois attorney Leonard Swett, meets with Lincoln to report that New York Republicans believe that Lincoln’s defeat was certain.   Swett later wrote his wife: “I told Mr. Lincoln that his re-election was an impossibility.” He added: “Mr. Raymond thinks commissioners should be immediately sent t, to Richmond, offering to treat for Peace on the basis of Union. That something should be done and promptly done, to give the Administration a chance for its life, is certain.’”

In New York, many Republican leaders seek an alternative to Lincoln. Historian William Frank Zornow wrote: “In compliance with the appeals being voiced on every hand for a new convention, a group of malcontents arranged a meeting at the home of New York Mayor George Opdyke on August 18. The Opdyke meeting was propelled by such journalistic leaders as Greeley, Parke Godwin of the Evening Post, Theodore Tilton, and George Wilkes; and such political luminaries as Wade, Davis, Governor John A. Andrew of Massachusetts, Charles Sumner, and David D. Field. Altogether about twenty-five men were present at this conference.”   Historian Robert S. Harper wrote: “Horace Greeley was unable to attend the first meeting of the committee, held at the Opdyke home, but he sent his regrets in a letter dated August 18, 1864, saying:

I must go out of town tomorrow evening and cannot attend the meeting at your house. Allow me to say a word.

Mr. Lincoln is already beaten. He cannot be elected. And we must have another ticket to save us from utter overthrow. If we had such a ticket as could be made by naming Grant, Butler, or Sherman for President, and Farragut as Vice, we could make a fight yet. And such a ticket we ought to have anyhow, with or without a convention.

As politicians panick, the commander-in-chief remains calm. President Lincoln addresses the 164th Ohio Regiment on its way home: “You are about to return to your homes and your friends, after having, as I learn, performed in camp a comparatively short term of duty in this great contest. I am greatly obliged to you, and to all who have come forward at the call of their country. I wish it might be more generally and universally understood what the country is now engaged in. We have, as all will agree, a free Government, where every man has a right to be equal with every other man. In this great struggle, this form of Government and every form of human right is endangered if our enemies succeed. There is more involved in this contest than is realized by every one. There is involved in this struggle the question whether your children and my children shall enjoy the privileges we have enjoyed. I say this in order to impress upon you, if you are not already so impressed, that no small matter should divert us from our great purpose. There may be some irregularities in the practical application of our system. It is fair that each man shall pay taxes in exact proportion to the value of his property; but if we should wait before collecting a tax to adjust the taxes upon each man in exact proportion with every other man, we should never collect any tax at all. There may be mistakes made sometimes; things may be done wrong while the officers of the Government do all they can to prevent mistakes. But I beg of you, as citizens of this great Republic, not to let your minds be carried off from the great work we have before us. This struggle is too large for you to be diverted from it by any small matter. When you return to your homes rise up to the height of a generation of men worthy of a free Government, and we will carry out the great work we have commenced. I return to you my sincere thanks, soldiers, for the honor you have done me this afternoon.

President Lincoln writes to General James G. Blunt regarding his command in Kansas: “Yours of July 31st is received. Governor Carney did leave some papers with me concerning you; but they made no great impression upon me; and I believe they are not altogether such as you seem to think. As I am not proposing to act upon them, I do not now take the time to re-examine them.

I regret to find you denouncing so many persons as liars, scoundrels, fools, thieves, and persecutors of yourself. Your military position looks critical, but did any body force you into it? Have you been ordered to confront and fight ten thousand men, with three thousand men? The Government cannot make men; and it is very easy, when a man has been given the highest commission, for him to turn on those who gave it and vilify them for not giving him a command according to his rank.

My appointment of you first as Brigadier, and then a Major General, was evidence of my appreciation of your service; and I have no since marked but one thing in connection with you, with which to be dissatisfied. The sending a military order twenty five miles outside of your lines, and all military lines, to take men charged with offence against the military, out of the hands of the courts, to be turned over to a mob to be hanged, can find no precedent or principle to justify it. Judge Lynch sometimes takes jurisdiction of cases which prove too strong for the courts; but this is the first case within my knowledge, wherein the court being able to maintain jurisdiction against Judge Lynch, the military has come to the assistance of the latter. I take the facts of this case as you state them yourself, and not from any report of Governor Carney, or other person.

Published in: on August 18, 2014 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

President Lincoln Reviews Court-martial Cases

August 17, 1864

President Lincoln writes General-in-chief Ulysses S. Grant: “I have seen your despatch expressing your unwillingness to break your hold where you are. Neither am I willing. Hold on with a bull-dog gripe, and chew & choke, as much as possible. “

As he struggles with efforts to reposition himself in the presidential contest many Republicans think he is losing, President Lincoln writes but does not send a letter to a Wisconsin editor, Charles D. Robinson. “The chief executive is looking for the right vehicle to set forth his policy on the Union and emancipation: “To me it seems plain that saying re-union and abandonment of slavery would be considered, if offered, is not saying that nothing else or less would be considered, if offered. But I will not stand upon the mere construction of language. It is true, as you remind me, that in the Greeley letter of 1862, I said: “If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing all the salves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some, and leaving others alone I would also do that.” I continued in the same letter as follows: “What I do about slavery and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union. I shall do less whenever I shall believe what I am doing hurts the cause; and I shall do more whenever I shall believe doing more will help the cause.” All this I said in the utmost sincerety; and I am as true to the whole of it now, as when I first said it. When I afterwards proclaimed emancipation, and employed colored soldiers, I only followed the declaration just quoted from the Greeley letter that “I shall do more whenever I shall believe doing more will help the cause” The way these measures were to help the cause, was not to be by magic, or miracles, but by inducing the colored people to come bodily over from the rebel side to ours. On this point, nearly a year ago, in a letter to Mr. Conkling, made public at once, I wrote as follows: “But negroes, like other people, act upon motives. Why should they do anything for us if we will do nothing for them? If they stake their lives for us they must be prompted by the strongest motive–even the promise of freedom. And the promise, being made, must be kept.” I am sure you will not, on due reflection, say that the promise being made, must be broken at the first opportunity. I am sure you would not desire me to say, or to leave an inference, that I am ready,  whenever convenient, to join in re-enslaving those who shall have served us in consideration of our promise. As matter of morals, could such treachery by an possibility, escape the curses of Heaven, or of any good man? As matter of policy, to announce such a purpose, would ruin the Union cause itself. All recruiting of colored men would instantly cease, and all colored men now in our service, would instantly desert us. And rightfully too. Why should they give their lives for us, with full notice of our purpose to betray them. Drive back to the support of the rebellion the physical force which the colored people now give, and promise us, and neither the present, nor any coming administration, can save the Union. Take from us, and give to the enemy, the hundred and thirty, forty, or fifty thousand colored persons now serving us as soldiers, seamen, and laborers, and we can not longer maintain the contest. The party who could elect a President on a War & Slavery Restoration platform, would, of necessity, lose the colored force; and that force being lost, would be as powerless to save the Union as to do any other impossible thing. It is not a question of sentiment or taste, but one of physical force, which may be measured, and estimated as horsepower, and steam power, are measured and estimated. An by measurement, it is more than we can lose, and live. Nor can we, by discarding it, get a white force in place of it. There is a witness in every white mans bosom that he would rather go to the war having the negro to help him, than to help the enemy against him. It is not the giving of one class for another. It is simply giving a large force to the enemy, for nothing in return.

In addition to what I have said, allow me to remind you that no one, having control of the rebel armies, or, in fact, having any influence whatever in the rebellion, has offered, or intimated a willingness to, a restoration of the Union, in any event, or on any condition whatever. Let it be constantly borne in mind that no such offer has been made or intimated. Shall we be weak enough to allow the enemy to distract us with an abstract question which he himself refuses to present as a practical one? In the Conkling letter before mentioned, I said: “Whenever you shall have conquered all resistance to the Union, if I shall urge  you to continue fighting, it will be an apt time then to declare that you will not fight to free negroes.” I repeat this now. If Jefferson Davis wishes, for himself, or for the benefit of his friends at the North, to know what I would or for the benefit of his friends at the North, to know what I would do if he were

Robinson had written Lincoln a letter that had been delivered to the president by First Asst. Postmaster Gen. Alexander W. Randall the previous day: “I am a War Democrat, and the editor of a Democratic paper. I have sustained your Administration . . . 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. . . . 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 . . . Rebellion. That was a good argument. . . . 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 your 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.”

General Ulysses S. Grant writes President Lincoln in response to a telegram three days earlier: “I have thought over your dispatch relative to an agreement between [Confederate General Robert E.] Lee and myself for the suppression of incendiarism by the respective armies.

Experience has taught us that agreements made with rebels are binding upon us but are not observed by them longer than suits their convenience. On the whole I think the best that can be done is to publish a prohibitory order against burning private property except where it is a military necessity or in retaliation for like acts by the Enemy. Where burning is done in retaliation it must be done by order of a Dept or Army Commander and the order for such burning to set forth the particular act it is in retaliation for.

Such an order would be published & would come to the knowledge of the rebel army. I think this course would be much better than any agreement with Lee. I could publish the order or it could be published by you. This is respectfully submitted for your consideration & I will then act as you deem best.

Published in: on August 17, 2014 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Cabinet Discusses Captured Cotton

August 16, 1864

Navy Secretary Gideon Welles writes in his diary regarding a Cabinet meeting dispute about captured cotton: “Have been compelled to advise the Treasury that their management and delay is destroying the public credit. Men will not contract with the government if in violation of good faith they are kept out of their pay for months after it is due. Mr. [Treasury Secretary William P.] Fessenden has not yet returned.”

At the Cabinet-meeting to-day Mr. Seward inquired of me in relation to some captured cotton claimed by the French. I told him I had no recollection of it, but, if a naval capture, it had been sent to the courts for adjudication. This, he said, would not answer his purpose. If they had no business to capture it, the French would not be satisfied. I remarked that neither would the courts, who, and not the State or Navy Departments, had exclusive jurisdiction and control of the matter; it was for the judiciary to decide whether the capture was good prize, and whether, if not good prize, there was probable cause, and to award damages if there had been a flagrant wrong committed.

As Mr. Seward has no knowledge of admiralty or maritime law or of prize proceedings, I was not displeased that Mr. Bates took up the matter and inquired by what authority he or the Executive Department of the government attempted to interfere with a matter that was in court. Seward attempted to reply, but the Attorney-General was so clearly right, and Seward attempted to reply, but the Attorney-General was so clearly right, and Seward was so conscious of his inability to controvert the law officer, that he flew into a violent rage and traversed the room, said the Attorney-General had better undertake to administer the State Department, that he wanted to keep off a war, he had kept off wars, but he could not do it he was to be thwarted and denied information. I told him he would have all the information we had on the subject, but it was not less clear that until the judicial remedies were exhausted there should be Executive interference, no resort to diplomacy or negotiations.

It was to me a painful exhibition of want of common intelligence as to his duties. He evidently supposes that his position is one of unlimited and unrestrained power, that he can override the courts and control and direct their action, that a case of prize he can interfere with and withdraw if he pleases. AL his conversation exhibited such utter ignorance of his own duties and those of the court in these matters that one could scarcely credit it as possible. But it has been so through his whose administration of the State Department.

As some Republicans sought jobs in a second Lincoln administration, other Republicans sought to prevent what they saw as certain defeat. The fine line that President Lincoln must walk politically is reflected in a letter that he sends an upstate Republican leader regarding the congressional renomination of Roscoe Conkling, who had lost a reelection bid in 1862: “Yours of the 9th. Inst. was duly received, and submitted to Secretary Seward. He makes a response which I herewith inclose to you. I add for myself that I am for the regular nominee in all cases; and that no one could be more satisfactory to me as the nominee in that District, than Mr. Conkling. I do not mean to say there [are] not others as good as he in the District; but I think I know him to be at least good enough.” The leader, Ward Hunt replies: “Your favor enclosing Mr Sewards letter, on the subject of Mr Conklings election, in this district is received with great pleasure. The assurances contained in Mr Sewards letter are very gratifying, and in the event of Mr Conklings nomination for Congress, I shall venture to make application for the influence that can be exerted, and that will be of great service to him.”

Published in: on August 16, 2014 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

New York Republicans Panicking about President Lincoln’s Reelection

August 15, 1864

New York City politicians are increasingly convinced that President Lincoln cannot be reelected. Even New York Republican chief Thurlow Weed confers with Democrats about a possible alternative.   Longtime Lincoln friend Leonard Swett is shocked by their panick, writing his wife: “The fearful things in relation to the country have induced me to stay a week here.”

New York Senator Ira Harris writes President Lincoln: “I enclose Mr Weeds2 last as it appeared in the ” Journal” of Saturday– You will see that we have not much to expect from him– His object seems to be to induce the Chicago Convention to nominate a man who would prosecute the war upon the principles of the Crittenden resolution–3 Such a candidate would rejoice in his ” voice and vote”– But thank God, Mr Weed’s ‘voice and vote’ have not the power they once had in New York– I think, other things being propitious, we can succeed without them.”

President Lincoln writes National Republican Chairman Henry J. Raymond: “I have proposed to Mr Greeley that the Niagara correspondence be published, suppressing only the parts of his letter over which the red-pencil is drawn in the copy which herewith send. He declines giving his consent to the publication of his letters unless these parts be published with the rest. I have concluded that it is better for me to submit, for the time, to the consequences of the false position in which I consider he has placed me, than to subject the country to the consequences of publishing these discouraging and injurious parts. I send you this, and the accompanying copy, not for publication, but merely to explain to you, and that you may preserve them until their proper time shall come.

President Lincoln writes a recommendation for an unknown man: “I am always for the man who wishes to work; and I shall be glad for this man to get suitable employment at Calvary Depot, or elsewhere.”

President Lincoln writes General William T. Sherman in Georgia: “If the government should purchase, on it’s own account, cotton Northward of you and on the line of your communications, would it be an inconvenience to you, or detriment to the Military service, for it to come to the North on the Railroad?

Published in: on August 15, 2014 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

President Lincoln Writes General Lee about the Hard Hand of War

August 14, 1864

After meeting with Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton President Lincoln writes General Ulysses S. Grant: “The Secretary of War and I concur that you better confer with Gen. [Robert E.] Lee and stipulate for a mutual discontinuance of house-burning and other destruction of private property. The time and manner of conference, and particulars of stipulation we leave, on our part, to your convenience and judgment.”

Published in: on August 14, 2014 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Political Unrest in New York City

August 13, 1864

Navy Secretary Gideon Welles writes in his diary: “The worst specimens of these wretched politicians are in New York City and State, though they are to be found everywhere. There is not an honest, fair-dealing Administration journal in New York City. A majority of them profess to be Administration, and yet it is without sincerity. The New York Herald with a deservedly bad name, gives tone and direction to the New York press, particularly those of Whig antecedents and which profess to support the Administration. It is not, of course, acknowledge by them, nor are they conscious of the leadership, but it is nevertheless obvious and clear. When the Herald has in view to defame or put a mark upon a man, it commences and persists in its course against him. He may be the friend of the Tribune and Times. Of course, they do not at first assent to what is said by the Herald. Sometimes they will make a defense,–perhaps an earnest and strong one,–but the Herald does not regard it and goes on attacking, ridiculing, abusing and defaming. Gradually one of the journals gives way, echoes slightly the slanders of the Herald, and having once commenced, it follows up the work. The other journals, when things have proceeded to that length, also acquiesce. This is a truthful statement of the standing and course and conduct of the papers I have named.”

Gen. Robert Anderson, hero of Fort Sumter, is President Lincoln’s guest for dinner

President Lincoln is sent a letter from a New York political supporter, Elliott F. Shepard: “I have just read again the kind little note which you sent me 28th Septber 1860,1 in answer to one which I had addressed to you enclosing letters of introduction from Governor Morgan, Mr Greeley and Mr Weed,2 and containing a few observations upon the then pending national election.

Since that time, I entered actively into the campaign of ’60, making various speeches in your behalf, and have, both in my conversation and, occasionally, by my pen in the journals, sustained your administration; and last year, at Syracuse, I had the pleasure, as president of the Loyal Young Men’s Mass Convention, of presenting the letter which you had sent to us as well as to the convention at Springfield Ills.

Under these circumstances, another national election being now pending, and as I believe your re-election to be essential to the welfare of the Country, allow me to make a few observations upon the present campaign.

Unfortunately, many, who in this state were united in supporting you four years ago, are now separated; and I think if of great importance that the Hon. Secretary of State [William H. Seward] should come immediately into the state and address his fellow citizens at half a dozen different places, to set bring old friends together again. He can do it — but there should be no time lost.

Something should be done to bring those of the more powerful journals which are now lukewarm into active advocacy of your re-election.

Wherever there are vacancies in office to be filled by the Executive, not only those who can do the duties of the office should be appointed, but those who can, in addition, reach the hearts of the people and bring them up to their work in this campaign, which many now in important places cannot.

We shall materially miss the aid that the organization of the Wide Awakes gave us in ’60, and the eclat which their music, their frequent processions and speeches, and their lights, lent to the canvass — and hence the greater necessity for increased exertion in other directions.

The regular Committees cannot alone make this campaign successful. I can speak understandingly about the Committees, for I am a member of the Union Central Committee for this City and County. If only those things are done which the Committees project, th and carry out, the campaign will be a failure.

Such men as General Dix, General Butler, John Brough, James T. Brady, should be induced to declare at once for the Union ticket without waiting for the nominations of the Democratic Convention. Of the above men, the action of Genl. Dix is of the most importance, and should be secured as quickly as possible. He can, if he will, be as serviceable to you as a whole convention, and I think that he ought from patriotic motives. There is a fine opportunity for these gentlemen to make a non-partisan movement before the Democratic nominations. They cannot do it half as well afterwards, for then those who support you would naturally be expected to attack your opponents — now they can commit themselves in your favor without opposing any one. It is very fortunate in this respect that the Chicago Convention was postponed. It was the best thing that could have happened, provided the delay be taken advantage of in the way suggested. And I take it that your intercourse with these gentlemen is such as to give you better opportunities to bring the matter up for their decision, than are possessed by private individuals, and especially by any political committee, which is always a partisan body.

I sincerely wish your re-election. I shall work for it, I shall spend money for it, I shall vote for it, I shall speak for it, I shall write for it. But my opinion is, that something more and wiser than is now doing should be done forthwith, or we shall not have the pleasure of rejoicing in another victory.

Published in: on August 13, 2014 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

President Lincoln Sends Emissary to Test Grant’s Political Ambitions

August 12, 1864

The political situation is becoming more confusing. President Lincoln dispatched Colonel John Eaton to City Point Virginia. He instructs Eaton to ascertain Grant’s reaction to becoming presidential candidate. Eaton to City Point to check Grant’s political temperature. President Lincoln told him: “The disaffected are trying to get him to run, but I don’t think they can do it. If he is the great general we think he is, he must have some consciousness of it, and know that he cannot be satisfied with himself and secure the credit due for his great generalship if he does not finish his job. I do not believe that they can get him to run.” When Eaton explained his mission to Grant at his headquarters and asked his position on becoming a candidate for President, Grant replied: “They can’t compel me to do it!”

New York Republican political boss Thurlow Weed meets with President Lincoln regarding presidential campaign. Weed later writes to William H. Seward: “I told Mr Lincoln that his re-election was an impossib[il]ity, I also told him that the information would soon come to him through other channels. 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.” He added that New York Times Editor Henry J. “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.’”

New York Postmaster Abram Wakeman responds to a July 25 letter from President Lincoln: “Your excellent letter was duly received–1 I have read it with proper explanations to Mr B.2 He said, after some moments of silence, that so far as it related to him, “it did not amount to much”–

I supposed, if anything was written, something more specific would be expected– However, I hope to avoid the writing of any thing further– Should it be deemed necessary I will indicate my views as to its form, personally, as I expect to be in Washington next week– I have ventured to show this letter to several of my our freinds (of course without indicating a word as to what drew it out) and it has met with universal approval–

A word upon our other matter– I am fearful our hold upon Mr Weed3 is slight– He evidently has his eye upon some other probable candidate– I deeply regret this, for against him it will be difficult to carry New York– Now I don’t know, precisely, what he asked when he last saw you, but I think, so far as I could without compromising principle, I would yield to his wishes– Cant this be done? If so, it should be, at once–

Daily cogitations are occuring and new alliances may be formed– I think this requires instant attention–

Again, much anxiety exists as to the effect of the draft– Men must be had–

Cant they be obtained in some other way? Let me suggest– Genl Sickles4 is idle– He is immensely popular with the war people of this State– He has great tact & address– I am of the opinion, with proper appliances, he could raise fifty-thousand men in this State before election– This would be a great point– But, politically, he would be ranked with us, and in this he could be of immense service– You could fix this easily by a personal interview–

Hancock & Hooker are really great generals, but in this business, in this State, Sickles would surpass either of them–

Again, we have a curious genius in this city by the name of Wm. R. Bartlett–

He has interested himself deeply in your success– He deals with men who guide public opinion– He desires a confidential interview with you, but he would not visit Washington unless invited by you– He claims he can give you some information of vital importance, but he must see you and that at your request–

I may say he is a friend of Mr. Isaac Sherman and that Mr. S. believes in him– Now I have not been able to see Mr Sherman– He is out of town and will not return until Monday– I would beg to suggest that you write a line saying you would be pleased to see him in Washington and enclose it to me– I will, without his knowing or seeing it, first consult with Mr Sherman, and if, upon consultation with him, we shall deem it best to deliver it, then I will do so — otherwise, with proper explanations, return it to you– This, I think, will be safe– Time, Bartlett says, is all important– Else I would wait and see Mr S. for it–

Mr Bennett you will see by the enclosed is in for Commissioners &c to Richmond– He says this would elect you– I don’t give any opinion.

I learn Mrs. L. is to be in New York the first of the week– Pray present my compliments to her and say if I can serve her in any way I should be most happy–

By the way, I may say we have inaugurated a movement which will harmonize the New York conflicting organizations– Pardon this prolixity and believe me ever,

Springfield resident Francis Stewart writes President Lincoln from Philadelphia: “You will, I hope, remember that, only a few days since when, I called upon you in behalf of my son Frank who, is consigned to “Fort Delaware”, you kindly heard my “petition,” & most readily & graciously granted to me & mine — my request–

Since I was at Washington I have received a note from my Son, expressing his heartfelt and sincere thanks & gratitude to you, for your clemency & pardon, & at the same time earnestly desiring “to know, from you, whether, He shall be permitted to come at once Home, or be sent back to his Regiment (the 106 Pennsylvania) & with them remain in service until the Regiment shall be mustered out”&?

This “Regiment” is very soon to be mustered out,1 but the Co. to which he belonged (Co H) I am informed, has three or four months time yet to serve! I do not understand this, nor does my son, and it is because of this uncertainty that, we trouble you with these inquiries–?

You will more than oblige his anxious Father & your old Neighbor & friend, by giveing the necessary & proper direction to your executive officer, so that your origonal act of clemency may very soon bring his discharge, & to us our only Son & hope–

Poet Walt Whitman observes President Lincoln on his morning ride from the Soldiers Home to the White House: “I see very plainly [his] dark brown face, with the deep cut lines, the eyes, &c., always to me with a latent sadness in the expression. We have got so that we always exchange bows, and very cordial ones.”

Presidential aide John Hay leaves for Illinois for an extended vacation and presidential missions.

Published in: on August 12, 2014 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment