President Lincoln Obtains Draft Substitute

September 30, 1864

John Summerfield Staples of Stroudsburg Pa is named as a draft substitute for President Lincoln from the District of Columbia.

President Lincoln writes Adjutant General Lorenzo Thomas: “I have seen this man, who seems to be an intelligent & manly man, and whose story I believe to be true. If it does not invol[v]e much inconvenience, let the transfer he asks, be made.”  David G. Lindsay had written: “I inlisted in the 17th. Regt Pa. Cavalry and through some missunderstanding I was Sent to the 90th. Pa Infantry. My reason for my inlisting in the 17th. Pa Cavalry was that I had a Brother in that Regiment, and wished to be along with Him. . . . I most respectfully & earnestly request you Sir to transfer me to my proper Regiment the one in which I inlisted.”

President Lincoln writes Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton: “Edwin M. Stanton: “The accompanying is the draft of an order drawn up at the Treasury Department for me to sign. Please look over it, and say whether you perceive any objection.” Stanton responds: “`Having examined the draft of the Treasury Order in relation to Freedmen and Plantations, referred to me by your note of this date, I cannot recommend its execution by you. It seems to me subject to very grave objections, which ought to be removed by satisfactory explanation, before the President would give such sweeping sanction and approval to the acts of Treasury Agents, in respect to which neither he nor this Department has any sufficient information. The specific objections will be stated to you at your convenience.”

Attorney General Edward Bates writes in his diary of the morning cabinet meeting regarding statehood for Nevada: “To day, at C.C. I was surprised to hear Mr. [William H.] Seward insist that the Prest. should issue a proclamation declaring Nevada a state in the union, upon no better evidence than a short telegram of Gov Nye, and in the teeth, as I think, of the act of Congress, which requires the adoption of the constitution, by popular vote, and also a certified copy of the constitution to be sent to the Prest.

Mr. Fessenden declared, flatly, against it, and so did I. The Prest told Mr. S.[eward] to prepare [a] draft of a proclamation, and that he would think of it.

Mr. Welles shewed me a strange order of the Prest to authorize Mr. [ ] Hamilton, of Texas to bring out cotton, from certain ports in Texas, and send it to a govt. agent at N.[ew] O[rleans]. Mr. [Gideon] W.[elles] thinks that it amounts to an abrogation of the blockade, and tells me that his commanding officer, on that coast, says he will not regard the order. He also tells me that Fessenden declares that he does not recognize the order!!

It gives me pain to see so many instances of Mr. Seward’s extreme looseness in practical politics, and his utter disregard of the forms and the plain requirements of the law. He is constantly getting the President into trouble, and unsettling the best established policies of the…Government.

“It was he that procured the Prest’s cotton order, in favor of Hamilton; and nobody knows what fortunes some of his friends and proteges will make out of it. Mr. W. [elles] mentioned the matter, complainingly, to the Prest., who said he rec[k]oned it was all right; it had been arranged by S.[eward]!!

Historian William C. Harris wrote: “When Governor Johnson on 30 September announced a more stringent oath for voting in the presidential election, the Tennessee conservatives objected to Lincoln. John Lellyett, one of the conservative leders, delivered the protest tot he president. When Lellyett insisted that he override Johnson’s action and provide protection for McClellan supporters in the state, Lincoln refused and evidently treated the Tenessean in a rough way. Lellyett immediately wrote an account of the interview and sent it to the World, the Democratic organ in New York. He charged that Lincoln in abruptly ending the exchange with him declared: ‘I expect to let the friends of George b. McClellan manage thier side of this contest in their own way; and I will manage my side of it my way.’ The publican by the Democratic press of Lellyett’s account created considerable grist for the McClellan campaign mills in the North and border states. The Republican press ignored it.”

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Published in: on September 30, 2014 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

President Lincoln Concerned about Confederates in Shenandoah Valley

September 29, 1864

President Lincoln, worried about the prospect of Confederate troops reenforcing General Jubal Early in the Shenandoah Valley, meets with General Henry W. Halleck.   Lincoln writes General Ulysses S. Grant: “I hope it will lay no constraint on you, nor do harm any way, for me to say I am a little afraid lest Lee sends re-enforcements to Early, and thus enables him to turn upon [General Philip] Sheridan.”

General Grant responds: “Your despatch just received. I am taking steps to prevent Lee sending reenforcements to Early by attacking him here. Our advance is now within six miles of Richmond and have captured some very strong enclosed forts, some fifteen or more pieces of artillery and several hundred prisoners. Although I have been at the front I can give no estimate of our losses, about 600 wounded men however have been brought in.”

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President Lincoln Meets with Pennsylvania Governor Andrew Gregg Curtin

September 28, 1864

President Lincoln has a political conclave with Pennsylvania Governor Andrew Curtin.

Philadelphia Congressman William D. Kelley subsequently writes President Lincoln and encloses a newspaper clipping about the Curtin-Lincoln meeting: “You will see that I have clipped the foregoing paragraph from a morning paper.1 It fills me with pleasure, not because I am a partisan or admirer of Gov Curtin’s; but it promises to secure Penna for the ticket with which the welfare of the country is identified.

I care not what committees may report our state is not safe. It is very doubtful. The campaign is not being conducted by the state committee with reference to your election, but to so organising legislative and committee and other influence as to constrain you to accept Simon Cameron as Secty of War — or if that fail to restore him to the Senate. I am not mistaken on this, nor do I utter the language of prejudice. Our State Com. is ignoring every man, and every influence that is not devoted to Cameron. In my district though he knows he cannot defeat me, he is organising a movement to have me cut as a means of impairing my influence– He is also engaged in an attempt to defeat Col McClures election to the Legislature. He is everywhere courting the impression that he alone of Pennsylvanias sons is potential with you, and that he is certain of going into the Cabinet.

This impression must be removed, or you will in certain districts fail to win with the congressional ticket in such districts, and may lose the state– Let me particularise these districts Take those composed of Montgomery & Lehigh, of Schuylkill & Lebanon, and Berks Co. which is a district itself. I hope you will remember them & test my judgment by the results

What can be done? A paragraph that I read the other day suggests the remedy. It suggested the possible appointment of Secty Ussher to a judgeship. Make that appointment and put a Pennsylvanian in Usshers place. Let it be a man acceptable to the Gov & his friends. This will quiet Camerons intrigue, and silence their hostility to Stanton, who, spite of his brusquerie is one of the truest & ablest counsellors you have.

The man for the place is Joseph J Lewis. His name is the synonym for honesty throughout this state, and who is able and devoted to you.

No human being knows, or shall know from me, of this letter. It is of my own impulse, and I know that my suggestions are judicious

General William T. Sherman writes President Lincoln: “I have positive knowledge that Jeff Davis made a speech at Macon on the 22nd which I mailed to Gen. Halleck yesterday

It was bitter against [General Joseph] Johnston & Govr [Joseph] Brown. The militia is on furlough. Brown is at Milledgeville trying to get a legislature to meet next month but he is afraid to act unless in concert with other Governors.

Judge [Augustus] Wright of Rome has been here and Messrs Hill and Nelson former members of our Congress are also here now and will go to meet Wright at Rome and then go back to Madison and Milledgeville. Great efforts are being made to re-enforce Hood’s army and to break up my Railroads, and I should have at once a good reserve force at Nashville.

It would have a bad effect if I were to be forced to send back any material part of my army to guard roads so as to weaken me to an extent that I could not act offensively if the occasion calls for it.

The Rev. Augustus C. Thompson, pastor of the Eliot Church in Roxbury, Massachusetts, writes President Lincoln: “Nine months ago the failure of my health obliged me to seek rest and recreation in foreign travel. My tour embraced portions of Egypt, Palestine, Syria, Turkey and Greece. An official connection with the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, naturally secured for me a kind reception by missionaries from this country wherever I met them. I spent many weeks in their company at different Stations. It was not a little gratifying to find them all thoroughly loyal to our Federal Government, and also to hear their expressions of confidence in yourself and hearty approval of your administration.

It was also delightful to listen to their prayers for “The President of the United States,” and it seems to me due to you, and I know it will be a gratification, to be informed that christian men and women in those remote lands pour out their hearts before Almighty God in supplication for yourself.

During all my absence nothing delighted me more than this, and to listen to those self-banished servants of Jesus Christ, on the banks of the Euphrates and elsewhere, as they raised our national songs and patriotic hymns. It was a peculiar pleasure to hear them amidst the scorched hills of Padan-Aram, sing with exulting hearts,

George Denison writes President Lincoln regarding the New Orleans Customs House: “ I am informed on good authority that a list of the officials under my charge, has been sent to you, with a statement of the action taken by each one in the last election in this State.1 A copy of said list & statement is now before me. It is quite incorrect, being a nearly accurate statement of the employés under my predecessor, many of whom are not now here. It is incorrect as to the action of some of the officials, & entirely omits the employés under me in the Permit Office, constituting nearly one half of the whole.

I have made thorough investigation with the following result. The whole number of officials under my direction is 233….The whole number, who through indifference or hostility, failed to vote, was 40. I regard the obligation on a Gov’t official to vote, as imperative. These persons were reminded by me of their duty, and they shall soon learn that it was not for their interest to disregard it

Tennessee Governor Andrew Johnson writes President Lincoln: “In reply to your despatch referring to Thos R Bridges who is to be executed on Friday the thirtieth inst I will say, from all the information I have upon the subject that a commutation to confinement in the Penitentiary at hard Labor during his natural Life is the utmost extent that Executive Clemency should be extended at this time.”

Published in: on September 28, 2014 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

President Lincoln Confers with Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles

September 27, 1864

Navy Secretary Gideon Welles writes in his diary: “Received mail from Admiral Farragut. Among his dispatches one confidential, inclosing a letter from General Canby, who had received singular order signed by the President, directing that one A.J. Hamilton should be permitted to export cotton from Sabine Pass, Galveston, etc., himself, and that Hamilton’s written order should be a permit for others to export. As Ganeral Canby, to whom this document was directed, has no control over the squadron, he had inclosed the President’s order to Admiral Farragut. The Admiral had transmitted it to the senior officer off Galveston, and communicated copies of the whole correspondence to me, remarking that it would lead to immense swindling.

I submitted this extraordinary document to the President, and remarked as I did so, that in the discussions that had taken place on this subject on two or three occasions within the last six weeks, and since this order (dated, I think, the 9th of August) was issued, no allusion had been made to it, that it conflicted with the blockade which the Department was obliged to enforce, and that I was surprised on receiving the information. The President seemed embarrassed but said he believed it was all right. ‘How right’ I inquired. He said it was one of Seward’s arrangements, that he guessed would come out well enough; but evidently did not himself know, or, if he knew, was unwilling or unable to explain.

This is another specimen of the maladministration and improper interference of the Secretary of State. Commencing with the first expedition sent out to supply Sumter, which he took measures to defeat, there has been on his part a constant succession of wrong acts, impertinent intrigues in the affairs of other Departments, blunders and worse than blunders, that disgrace the Administration. There is unmistakable rascality in this cotton order. Thurlow Weed was here about the time it was issued, and it will not surprise me if the has an interest in it.

Seward thinks to keep his own name out of the transaction. The President has been made to believe that the order was essential; the Secretary of State has so presented the subject to him that he probably thought it a duty. There are times when I can hardly persuade myself that the President’s natural sagacity has been so duped, but his confidence in Seward is great, although he must know him to be, I will not say a trickster, because of his position and our association, but over-cunning to be strictly honest. And when I say this, I do not apply to him dishonesty in money transactions when dealing with men, or the government perhaps but political cheating, deceiving, wrong administration. He knows this scheme to bring out cotton was a fraud, and hence, instead of coming directly to me, who have charge of the blockade, or bringing the question before the Cabinet in a frank and honorable manner, there is this secret, roundabout proceeding, so characteristic of the Secretary of State.

President Lincoln meets with Englishman John W. Wilson, who comes with a letter of introduction from British statesman John Bright. Senator Charles Sumner writes Bright: “The Chicago platform & our victories have settled the Presidential election beyond question, & we all see the beginning of the end. In the large towns, especially New York, the enemy are strong. But elsewhere our majorities will be decisive.”

Before the Chicago Convention, Mr Lincoln’s case seemed almost hopeless. There was a profound discontent in his own party & especially among those who have been in the way of knowing him most. There was a distrust of his capacity. It is a general impression that with a Presdt. of ordinary vigor & practical sense, this was would have been ended long ago. But the Chicago platform was to [bad?]. Greeley who had stood out at once came in; so did Bryant. Wade & others have followed.

From the beginning I declined to have any thing to do with any adversary proceeding, partly on the ground of my personal relations with the Presdt but more because I was satisfied that it would only endanger the result. I should have been satisfied that it would only endanger the result. I should have been satisfied with any of 100 names — with any one of half the Senate, & I think any such person, if nominated with the good will of the Presdt could have been elected. But our candidate long ago set his heart on a re-election, & he will have it. Perhaps it is useless to go into reasons or details.

Chase at first was very bitter & went so far as to doubt the Presdt’s loyalty to the Anti-Slavery cause. I never have so far as he understands it. But he does not know how to help or is not moved to help. For instance, I do not remember that I have had any help from him in any questions which I have conducted — although a word from him in certain quarters would have saved me much trouble. It is hard to tug at questions day after day, when got. support might supersede all labor. But he has no instinct or inspiration.”

President Lincoln writes new Postmaster General William Dennison, who has missed a train connection: “Yours received. Come so soon as you can.”

President Lincoln writes General William T. Sherman: “You say Jeff. Davis is on a visit to Hood. I judge that [Georgia Governor] Brown and [Confederate Vice President Alexander H.] Stephens are the objects of his visit.”

President Lincoln writes General Benjamin F. Butler: “Assistant Surgeon Wm. Crouse in here complaining that you have dismissed him and ordered him out of the Department. Please telegraph me briefly the reasons.” Butler responds: “`Asst Surg William Crouse has deceived the President. He has not been dismissed. He received an appointment as Asst Surge from me in writing he refused to accept the appointment which was thereupon revoked because of his refusal to accept it. Then finding that he was drinking & worthless & as some thought crazy I ordered him out of the Department. I will forward official copies of the papers tomorrow.”

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

Dismissed Montgomery Blair Campaigns for President Lincoln

September 26, 1864

Presidential aide John Hay writes in his diary: Former Postmaster General Montgomery “Blair has gone into Maryland stumping. He was very much surprised when he got the President’s note. He had thought the opposition to him was dying out. He behaves very handsomely and is doing his utmost. He speaks in New York Tuesday night.

“Blair in spite of some temporary indiscretions is a good and true man and a most valuable public officer. He stood with the President against the whole Cabinet in favor of reinforcing Fort Sumter. He stood by Fremont in his emancipation decree, though yielding when the President revoked it. He approved the Proclamation of January, 1863, and the Amnesty Proclamation, & has stood like a brother beside the President always. What have injured him are his violent personal antagonisms and indiscretions. He made a bitter and vindictive fight on the Radicals of Missouri, though ceasing at the request of the Prest. He talked with indecorous severity of Mr. Chase, and with unbecoming harshness of Stanton, saying on street-corners, “this man is a liar, that man is a thief.” He made needlessly enemies among public men who have pursued him fiercely in turn. Whitelaw Reid said today that Hoffman was going to placard all over Maryland this fall ‘Your time has come.’ I said ‘He wont do anything of the kind & moreover Montgomery Blair will do more to carry Emancipation in Maryland than anyone of those who abuse him.”

Hay added: “Nicolay got home this morning looking rather ill. I wish he would start off & get hearty again, coming back in time to let me off to Wilmington. He says Weed said he was on track of the letter & hoped to get it…Nicolay thinks we will carry New York. The New Jersey men promise their state & the Kentuckians pluckily swear they will be on hand with theirs.”

House Speaker Schuyler Colfax writes President Lincoln from Indiana: “I have just telegraphed you about the effect of Gen [James B.] Fry’s decision that Union men who don’t run away & are in the hundred per cent extra draft are to be compelled to make up the desertions of skedaddlers who draft & yet that the Government claims the right to arrest these skedaddlers afterwards as deserters besides. It is our death-blow if you don’t revoke it. I have not time to argue the alienations it causes, for I am speaking every day & at home but a few hours this morning to answer letters accumulated.

I have been speaking every day & twice a day for six weeks — vice & strength almost exhausted — but still at it. Before the draft the District was safe. How it is now I cannot tell; for no one can calculate its effect till ballot boxes are opened.

Another letter about Indiana politics come from former Senator Joseph Wright, a War Democrat: “I have been over a large portion of the two southern districts, Cravens & Laws, (the two worst in the state) Our friends are sanguine, I do not think we will succeed in either. But if we are not greatly deceived, we shall reduce their majorities by thousands. We claim Warrick, Spencer, Pike, Posey, and Vanderburgh Floyd Scott, and our friends show the count by giving the vote of these counties by townships. We are gaining daily. All the doubtful men are with the (so called) democrats, We have none on the Union side. At some few points, half the audience are democrats, though they keep all away they can from our meetings.

All is safe in Indiana, unless there is some masked battery we cannot see. The democrats are not doing openly one half the work the Union men are. I have sometimes feared there is truth in the rumor that a large sum of money has been raised by Belmont & Co of New York — to wit, the sum of one hundred thousand dollars to be expended in importing votes from Illinois and other states through their secret societies, to operate in our election. This may be the “Masked Battery” and may account for their stillness and seeming quiet. I do not fear any violent opposition to the Draft, nor will it injure us; on the contrary I think good will grow out of it, as I am sure many democrats are runing out of the state to avoid it, but not a union man leaving the ground.

I speak tomorrow in Colfax district

From New Orleans General Stephen Hurlbut writes President Lincoln: “I have just entered upon charge of this Department under assignment from Maj Genl Canby.

Genl Banks has left for the North. Recent orders issued by Genl Canby will bring the whole force of the Cotton speculating interest to Washington with the most powerful & combined effort either to effect his removal or modification of the orders.

It is of primary consequence to our success that rigid non intercourse should be kept. I consider the Order No 513 herewith the most valuable if enforced that has been issued and earnestly entreat that no influence of any kind may be allowed to interfere with its exception.

Three months of diligent and effective blockade under this order will be more effective in Louisiana & Southern Mississippi than any other one thing.

No man can deal in purchases of cotton without violating his allegiance to the Country & of necessity holding communication with and giving aid to the public enemy

No man can carry it on without complicity by himself or his agents with the Confederate Military authorities and the enormous gains made by these adventurers are the evidence of the illegality and risk of the traffic.

As I am advised that a great effort will be made upon you personally I have thought it advisable to address you directly not exactly in an official character, but with the belief that you will give me credit for knowing whereof I affirm and for candor in my statements.

Published in: on September 26, 2014 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

President Lincoln Tells Stories of General McClellan

September 25, 1864

Presidential aide John Hay writes in his diary of a conversation with the President about his prodding of General George B. McClellan in October 1862 : “The President replied, “After the battle of Antietam, I went up to the field to try to get him to move & came back thinking he would move at once. But when I got home he began to argue why he ought not to move. I peremptorily ordered him to advance. It was 19 days before he put a man over the river. It was 9 days longer before he got his army across and then he stopped again, delaying on little pretexts of wanting this and that. I began to fear he was playing false – that he did not want to hurt the enemy. I saw how he could intercept the enemy on the way to Richmond. I determined to make that the test. If he let them get away I would remove him. He did so & I relieved him.

“I dismissed Major Key for his silly treasonable talk because I feared it was staff talk & I wanted an example.”

“The letter of Buell furnishes another evidence in support of that theory. And the story you have heard Neill tell about Seymour’s first visit to McClellan all tallies with this story.”

President Lincoln writes General William Rosecrans in Missouri: “One can not always safely disregard a report, even which one may not believe. I have a report that you incline to deny the soldiers the right of attending the election in Missouri, on the assumed ground that they will get drunk and make disturbance. Last year I sent Gen. Schofield a letter of instruction, dated October 1st, 1863, which I suppose you will find on the files the Department, and which contains, among other things, the following:

At election see that those and only those, are allowed to vote, who are entitled to do so by the laws of Missouri, including as of those laws, the restrictions laid by the Missouri Convention upon those who may participated in the rebellion.’

This I thought right then, and think right now; and I may add I do not remember than either party complained after the election, of Gen. Schofield’s action under it. Wherever the law allows soldiers to vote, their officers must also allow it. Please write me on this subject.

Ward Hill Lamon, who was then U.S. marshal for the District of Columbia, later recalled: “There was at no time during the campaign a reasonable doubt of the election of Mr. Lincoln over General McClellan. Early in this campaign, on going into Mr. Lincoln’s office one night, I found him in a more gleeful humor than usual. He was alone, and said, ‘I am glad you have come in. Lamon, do you know that ‘we met the enemy, and they are ourn?’ I think the cabal of obstructionists ‘am busted!’ I feel certain that if I live, I am going to be re-elected. Whether I deserve to be or not, it is not for me to say; but on the score even of remunerative chances for speculative service, I now am inspired with the hope that our disturbed country further requires the valuable services of your humble servant. ‘Jordan has been a hard road to travel,’ but I feel now that, notwithstanding the enemies I have made and the faults I have committed, I’ll be dumped on the right side of that stream. I hope, however, that I may never have another four years of such anxiety, tribulation, and abuse. My only ambition is and has been to put down the rebellion and restore peace; after which I want to resign my office, go abroad, take some rest, study foreign governments, see something of foreign life, and in my own age die in peace with the good will of all of God’s creatures.’”

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

President Lincoln Names William Dennison as Postmaster General

September 24, 1864  

President Lincoln moves quickly to replace Postmaster General Montgomery Blair. He wires former Ohio Governor William Dennison: “Mr. Blair has resigned, and I appoint you Post-Master General. Come on immediately.” Presidential aide John Hay writes in his diary regarding the replacement of Postmaster General Montgomery Blair by former Ohio Governor William Dennison: “This morning I asked the President if the report of the resignation of Blair were true.

He said it was.

“Has Dennison been appointed to succeed him”

“I have telegraphed to him today — have as yet received no answer.”

“What is Mr Blair going to do?”

“He is going up to Maryland to make speeches. If he will devote himself to the success of the national cause without exhibiting bad temper toward his opponents, he can set the Blair family up again.”

“Winter Davis is taking the stump also. I doubt if his advocacy of you will be hearty enough to be effective.”

“If he and the rest can succeed in carrying the State for emancipation. I shall be very willing to lose the electoral vote.”

John Hay wrote fellow aide John G. Nicolay: “Your despatch was just brought in. I took it to the President & he told me to tell you had better loaf around the city a while longer. You need some rest & recreation & may as well take it in N.Y. as anywhere else. Besides you cant imagine how nasty the house is at present. You would get the ‘painter’s cholic’ in 24 hours if you came home now.” He added: “Politicians still unhealthily haunt us. Loose women flavor the ante room. Much turmoil & trouble.” In his diary, Hay wrote that Nicolay had “telegraphed to the President that Thurlow Weed had gone to Canada & asking if he, N., had better return. I answered he had better amuse himself there for a day or two. This morning a letter came in the same sense. The President when I showed it him said ‘I think I know where Mr. W. Has gone. I think he has gone to Vermont, not Canada. I will tell you what he is trying to do. I have not as yet told anybody.”

Some time ago, the Governor of Vermont came to see me ‘on business of importance,’ he said. I fixed an hour & he came. His name is Smith. He is, though wouldn’t think of it, a cousin ofBbaldy Smith. Baldy is large, blonde, florid. The Governor is a little dark phystey sort of man. This is the story he told me, giving General Baldy Smith as his authority.

When General McClellan was here at Washington, Baldy Smith was very intimate with him. They had been together at West Point & friends. McClellan had asked for promotion for Baldy from the President & got it. They were close and confidential friends. When they went down to the Peninsula their same intimate relations continued, the General talking freely with Smith about his plans and prospects: until one day Fernando Wood & one other politician from new York appeared in Camp & passed some days with McClellan. From the day that this took place, Smith saw or thought he saw that McClellan was treating him with unusual coolness & reserve. After a little while he mentioned this to McC. Who after some talk told Baldy he had something to show him. He told him that the people who had recently visited him, had been urging him to stand as an opposition candidate for President: that he had thought the thing over, and had concluded to accept their propositions & had written them a letter (which he had not yet sent) giving his idea of the proper way of conducing the war, so as to conciliate and impress the people of the South with the idea that our armies were intended merely to execute the laws and protect their property &c., & pledging himself to conduct the war in that inefficient conciliatory style. This letter he read to baldy, who after the reading was finished said earnestly ‘General, do you not see that looks like treason: & that it will ruin you and all of us.’ After some further talk the General destroyed the letter in Baldy’s presence, and thanked him heartily for his frank & friendly counsel. After this he was again taken into the intimate confidence of McClellan. Immediately after the battle of Antietam Wood & his familiar came again & saw the General, and against Baldy saw an immediate estrangement on the part of McClellan. He seemed to be anxious to get his intimate friends out of the way and to avoid opportunities of private conversation with them. Baldy he particularly kept employed on reconnoisaances and such work. One night Smith was returning from some duty he had been performing & seeing a light in McClellan’s tent he went in to report. Several persons were there. He reported & was about to withdraw when the General requested him to remain. After every one was gone he told him those men had been there again and had renewed their proposition about the Presidency – that this time he had agreed to their proposition and had written them a letter acceding to their terms and pledging himself to carry on the war in the sense already indicated. This letter he read then and there to Baldy Smith.

Immediately thereafter Baldy Smith applied to be transferred from that army.

At very nearly the same time other prominent men were asked the same, Franklin Burnside and others.

Now that letter must be in the possession of Fernando Wood, and it will not be impossible to get it. Mr. Weed has, I think, gone to Vermont to see the Smiths’ about it.

I was very much surprised at the story & expressed my surprise. I saw I had always thought that McClellan’s fault was a constitutional weakness and timidity which prevented him from active and timely exertion, instead of any such deep laid scheme of treachery & ambition.

President Lincoln wired his wife, who was in Boston: “All well, and very warm. Tad and I have been to Gen. Grant’s army. Returned yesterday safe and sound.”

President Lincoln writes Attorney General Edward Bates: “By authority of the Constitution, and moved thereto by the fourth section of the act of Congress entitled ‘An act making appropriations for the support of the Army for the year ending the thirtieth of June, Eighteen hundred and sixty five, and for other purposes,’ approved, June 15th. 1864, I require your opinion in writing as to what pay, bounty, and clothing are allowed by law to persons of color who were free on the 19th. day of April, 1861, and who have been enlisted and mustered into the military service of the United States between the month of December, 1862 and the 16th. of June 1864.

Please answer as you would do, on my requirement, if the Act of June 15th. 1864 had not been passed; and I will so use your opinion as to satisfy that act.

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

Postmaster General Montgomery Blair Announces he “is decapitated”

September 23, 1864

After cabinet meeting, Postmaster General Montgomery Blair tells colleagues he has been dismissed. Navy Secretary Gideon Welles writes in his diary: “No business of importance brought before the Cabinet to-day. Some newspaper rumors of peace, and of letters from Jeff Davis and others, all wholly groundless. Seward and Fessenden left early. Mr. Bates and myself came out of the Executive Mansion together and were holding a moment’s conversation, when Blair joined us, remarking as he did so, ‘I suppose you are both aware that my head is decapitated,–that I am no longer a member of the Cabinet.’ It was necessary he should repeat before I could comprehend what I heard. I inquired what it meant, and how long he had the subject submitted or suggest to him. He said never until to-day; that he came in this morning from Silver Spring and found this letter from the President for him. He took the letter form his pocket and rad the contents,–couched in friendly terms,–reminding him that he had frequently stated he was ready to leave the Cabinet when the President thought it best, etc., etc., and informing him the time had arrived. The remark that he was wiling to leave I have heard both him and Mr. Bates make more than once. It seemed to me unnecessary, for when the President desires the retirement of any one of his advisers, he would undoubtedly carry his wishes into effect. There is no Cabinet officers who would be willing to remain against the wishes or purposes of the President, whether right or wrong.”

I asked Blair what led to this step, for there must be a reason for it. He said he had no doubt he was a peace-offering to Fremont and his friends. They wanted an offering, and he was the victim whose sacrifice would propitiate them. The resignation of Fremont and Cochrane was received yesterday, and the President, commenting on it, said F. had stated ‘the Administration was a failure, politically, militarily, and financially,’ that this included the Secretaries of State, Treasury, War, and Postmaster-General, and he thought the Interior, but the Navy or the Attorney-general. As Blair and myself walked away together toward the western gate, I told him the suggestion of pacifying the partisans of Fremont might have been brought into consideration, but it was not the moving cause; that the President would never have yielded to that, except under the pressing advisement, or deceptive appeals and representations of some one to whom he had given his confidence. ‘Oh,’ said Blair,’ there is no doubt Seward was accessory to this, instigated and stimulated by Weed.’ This was the view that presented itself to my mind, the moment he informed me he was to leave, but on reflection I am not certain that Chase has not been more influential than Seward in this matter. IN parting with Blair the President parts with a true friend, and he leaves no adviser so able, bold, sagacious. Honest, truthful, and sincere, he has been wise, discriminating, and correct. Governor Dennison, who is to succeed him, is, I think, a good man, and I know of no better one to have selected.

There was unrest in the Lincoln Cabinet. Historian John Niven wrote in Gideon Welles: Lincoln’s Secretary of the Navy: “The President’s offhand remarks on the Wade-Davis letter had deceived Welles. Lincoln would not, as he said, respond to the provocation, but he was prepared to appease the radicals, especially Chase’s disgruntled following. Blair, he knew, was a prime source for the continuous bickerings and intrigues within the Cabinet. Stanton had not spoken to Blair for months. Seward distrusted and disliked him. As for Blair, he seized every opportunity to malign both of them, in public and in private. Sooner or later harmony had to be restored, if only to ease the pressure in the administration. Yet Lincoln bided his time.”

Attorney General Edward Bates writes in his diary: “To day, on coming out from C.C. I was surprised to learn the retirement of P.M. G. Blair. He shewed to Mr. Welles and me the President[‘]s letter (recd. this morning) suggesting his resignation. The letter is couched in very gentle and friendly terms – reminds Mr. B.[lair] of his often-expressed willingnes to withdraw, ehenever the Prest should think the Adm[inistration]n. Could be better or more harmoniously conducted, in his absence &c. I[t]. Declares that there has never been the slightest personal dissatisfaction &c.

Mr. Blair says he will publish the letter – having Mr. L[incoln]’s leave to do so.

“He thinks that this is the result of a compromise with the leaders of the Fremont party – the extreme Radicals. And circumstances seem to warrant the conclusion, for Fremont’s letter of declention, while it professes to oppose the McClellan democrats, and thus indirectly support L[incoln], haughtily dictates the line of policy and measures to Mr. L[incoln].

Also, it is announced the Ben F. Wade and H y Winter Davis (notwithstanding their fierce manifesto) are to take the Stump for Lincoln

The result will, probably, be to ensure Mr. L’s election over McClellan; and the Radicals, no doubt, hope that they will constitute the controlling element in the new party thus formed, and as such will continue to govern the nation. In this view it is their shrewdest policy to abandon their separate organization, for in that they were foredoomed to defeat. But perhaps their success is a melancholy defeat for their Country.

I think Mr. Lincoln could have been elected without them and in spite of them. In that event, the Country might have been governed, free from their malign influences, and more nearly in conformity to the constitution.

President Lincoln writes Montgomery Blair: “You have generously said to me more than once that whenever your resignation could be a relief to me, it was at my disposal. The time has come. You very well know that this proceeds from no dissatisfaction of mine with you personally or officially. Your uniform kindness has been unsurpassed by that of any friend; and, while it is true that the war does not so greatly add to the difficulties of your Department, as to those of some others, it is yet much to say, as I most truly can, that in the three years and a half during which you have administered the General Post-Office, I remember no single complaint against you in connection therewith. “

Blair responds: “I have received your note of this date, referring to my offers to resign whenever you should deem it advisable for the public interests that I should do so and stating that in your judgment that time has now come.

I now, therefore, formally tender my resignation of the Office of Postmaster General.

I can not take leave of you without renewing the expressions of my gratitude for the uniform kindness which has marked your course towards, Yours very truly.

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

Cabinet Discusses Withdrawal of John C. Frémont as Presidential Candidate

September 22, 1864

Newspapers publish General John C. Frémont’s letter withdrawing his candidacy for president: “The presidential contest has in effect been entered upon in such a way that the union of the Republican party has become a paramount necessity. The policy of the Democratic party signifies either separation or re-establishment with slavery. The Chicago platform is simply separation. General McClellan’s letter of acceptance is re-establishment with slavery. The Republican candidate is, on the contrary, pledged to the re-establishment of the Union without slavery, and however hesitating his policy may be, the pleasure of his party will, we may hope, force him to it. Between these issues I think that no man of the Liberal party can remain in doubt. I believe I am consistent with my antecedents and my principles in withdrawing – not to aid in the triumph of Mr. Lincoln, but to do my part toward preventing the election of the Democratic candidate. In respect to Mr. Lincoln, I continue to hold exactly the sentiments contained in my letter of acceptance.   I consider that his administration has been politically, militarily and financially a failure, and that its necessary continuance is a cause of regret to the country.”

Michigan Senator Zachariah Chandler and State Sen. David H. Jerome meet with President Lincoln about possible public support from Ohio Senator Benjamin F. Wade. Clearly, the price was the dismissal of Postmaster General Montgomery Blair from the Cabinet. Historian David E. Long wrote in The Jewel of Liberty:“When Chandler returned to see the president on September 22, Lincoln was in a foul mood. He had received Fremont’s letter ‘and it was a document as offensive as it was tactless.’ Though he assured Lincoln that he would support the party ticket ‘in order to assure the permanence of the Union and the emancipation of the slaves,’ his attitude toward the administration had not changed. ‘I consider that this administration has been politically, militarily, and financially a failure, and that its necessary continuance is a cause of regret to the country.’ The letter was not consistent with the spirit of the agreement, but Chandler argued that there had been no stated condition as to the form of the withdrawal. Finally Lincoln relented, and on September 23 addressed a letter to Blair: ‘You have generously said to me more than once, that whenever your resignation could be a relief to me, it was at my disposal. The time has come.’”

Historian Allan Nevins wrote in his Fremont biography:“Now that Frank Blair had been humiliated, it was the turn of the Postmaster-General. He had lately increased the number of his bitter enemies. When Early’s troops made their raid north of Washington, they burned Montgomery Blair’s beautiful home, Falkland, at Silver Spring. A friend expressed sympathy, and Blair burst out with the bitter remark: ‘Nothing better could be expected while politicians and cowards have the conduct of military affairs. Halleck heard of this and wrote a letter about it to Stanton, which Stanton angrily laid before the President. In consequence, Stanton and Blair ceased to speak. But Montgomery was now disliked in every quarter. He had been barred from the Union League; a radical committee including George S. Boutwell and John Covode had lately demanded his dismissal; Henry Wilson wrote Lincoln that his retention would cost tens of thousands of votes. Men spoke of the Blairs as ‘a nest of Maryland serpents.’”

The Cabinet is abuzz with the political developments. Navy Secretary Gideon Welles writes in his diary: “Blair tells me that Weed is manoeuvring for a change of Cabinet and Morgan so writes me. He has for that reason, B. Says, set his curs and hounds barking at my heels and is trying to prejudice the President against me. Not unlikely, but I can go into no counter-intrigues. If the President were to surrender himself into such hands,–which I do not believe,–he would be unworthy his position. He has yielded more than his own good sense would have prompted him already. For several months there has been a pretended difference between Seward and Weed; for a much longer period there has been an ostensible hostility between Weed and Sim Draper. I have never for a moment believed in the reality of these differences; but I am apprehensive the President is in a measure, or to some extent, deceived by them. He gives himself–too much, I sometimes think–into the keeping of Seward, who is not always truthful, not sensitively scrupulous, but a schemer, while Weed, his second part, and of vastly more vigor of mind, is reckless and direct, persistent and tortuous, avaricious of late, and always corrupt. We have never been intimate. I do not respect him, and he well knows it. Yet I have never treated him with disrespect, nor given him cause of enmity, except by avoiding intimacy and by declining to yield to improper schemes of himself and his friends. On one occasion, at early period of the Administration. Mr. Seward volunteered to say that he always acted in concert with Weed, –that ‘Seward’s Weed and Weed’s Seward.’ If, as Blair supposes, Weed is operating against me, Seward, Seward probably is also, and yet I have seen no evidence of it,–certainly none recently.”

Presidential aide John G. Nicolay writes President Lincoln from New York: “I found Mr. Weed absent when I arrived here, and although he was expected this morning, he has not yet returned. A friend of his telegraphed him today that I was here, and wished to see him, and he thinks he will be here tomorrow.”

President Lincoln writes General Ulysses S. Grant: “I send this as an explanation to you, and to do justice to the Secretary of War, I was induced upon pressing application, to authorize agents of one of the Districts of Pennsylvania to recruit in one of the prisoner depots in Illinois; and the thing went so far before it came to the knowledge of the Secretary of War that in my judgment it could not be abandoned without greater evil than would follow it’s going through. I did not know, at the time, that you had protested against that class of thing being done; and I now say that while this particular job must be completed, no other of the sort, will be authorized, without an understanding you, if at all. The Secretary of War is wholly free of any part in this blunder.”

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

Negotiations Proceed to Get General John C. Frémont Out of Presidential Race

September 21, 1864

President Lincoln writes Edward R. S. Canby: “Gen. Baily, of Rapides Parish, Louisiana, is vouched to me as entirely trustworthy, and appeals to me in behalf of the people in his region, who he says are mostly Union people, and are in great destitution—almost absolute starvation. He says their condition is greatly aggravated by Gen. Banks’ expedition up Red-River, last Spring, in reliance upon which they mostly took the oath of allegiance. Of course what Gen. Baily asks is permission to carry provisions to them. This I will not give without your consent; but I will thank you to hear and consider their case, and do for them the best you can, consistently with the interests of the public service.” A day earlier, Gen Baily has explained to me his application to the President to allow him to collect in New Orleans and send to his empoverished friends in the Parish of Rapides La. food & raiment. Will you allow me to say to the President through you in regard to this mission.

Historian Bruce Tap wrote in Over the Shoulder: “Traveling to Washington, Philadelphia, and New York, Chandler labored diligently to negotiate a deal to save the Republican party. But the headstrong Fremont surprised him by deciding unconditionally to withdraw from the race, writing a letter of withdrawal that castigated the president. Chandler was furious, his scheme to oust Blair apparently compromised. Although Lincoln was peeved at the tone of Fremont’s letter, Chandler’s stubborn insistence that the president had made a deal (Fremont’s withdrawal in exchange for Blair’s resignation) finally wore the president down and he assented. Blair resigned and radical Republicans rallied behind Lincoln to defeat McClellan.”

Presidential aide John Nicolay leaves for New York to discuss political situation there with Republican boss Thurlow Weed at his request.

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