Military and Political Affairs Preoccupy President Lincoln

September 16, 1864

The presidential campaign continues to heat up. Attorney General Edward Bates writes in his diary: “To day, I handed to Mr. Nicolay my check for $250, my contribution to the National Union Comme., toward the pending election. I believe all the other cabinet ministers have done the same.”

In response to complaints from the Union State Central Committee of Illinois and the Grand Council of the Union League of Illinois, President Lincoln writes Provost-Marshal-General James B. Fry: “Please see and hear these gentlemen, who say that by an adjustment—settlement, so to speak—the aggregate quota for Illinois is 16, 184 men, while by some result of sub-districting the draft is about to be enforced for 29,797.

Please look into this and correct the error if it exists, or make for me an intelligible statement; show no error to exist.

Governor Richard Yates had written earlier in the day: “The total deficiency against this state for all calls was thirteen thousand four hundred forty (13440) on the first of this month and yet the Asst. Pro. Mar. General here informs me that he is instructed to draft by subdistricts for the total deficiency of such subdistricts– Such deficiency was twenty eight thousand fifty eight (28058) on the first of this month or more than double the balance against us as a state: The deficits were only announced on the 27th of August– I have already insisted to the War Dept. that as our excess of three years men was thirty five thousand eight hundred seventy five (35875) when our quota was fifty two thousand fifty seven (52057) one year men — that under the enrolment law of 1863 our state was not liable to a draft under the present call and I had also urged that if a draft was insisted upon that it should only be made for the deficiency against as a state. No attention has been paid to these matters. If a draft is now insisted upon for twenty eight thousand fifty eight (28058) I will not be responsible for consequences In my own opinion it will not only endanger the peace of the state but will hopelessly defeat us in the coming Elections– Our republican papers will universally denounce it and our union men in the state will be left without the means of defending the fatal policy–“

Lincoln brother-in-law Ninian Edwards, whose behavior in a patronage job had frequently been questioned, writes President Lincoln to proclaim his loyalty: “I would write to you occasionally if I did not know that the whole of your time was occupied on public business– I wish however to assure you again that I am not unmindful of the obligations I owe you for many acts of kindness to me — which I shall ever remember with heartfelt gratitude

I was gratified at your unanimous nomination — and it is my opinion that you will be sustained in this State– There may be some loss in the center of the State — but it will be made up by gains in the North and South– I would write more but I know that you have not time to read even a short letter–

I am satisfied with my position here — and in the discharge of my duties I have had but one object in view — the promotion of the public interest–

Another thorn in Lincoln’s side, New York Tribune Horace Greeley writes President Lincoln: “This note will be handed you by Mrs. Benham, mother-in-law of George D. Prentice, and very well acquainted with the master-spirits of the Confederacy, or many of them.”

So many efforts to bring the leaders in this struggle face to face with a view to Peace having failed, I fear you will recoil from another; but I am confident that Mrs. Benham would, if desired, bring to Washington the best among them, such as Alex. H. Stephens and a representative of Gov. Vance.1

I do not urge you to do any thing. I will not even advise. But so anxious am I that not one needless drop of blood should be shed in this terrible struggle that I venture to commend Mrs. Benham to your kind consideration, and to assure you that any confidence you may repose in her will be sacredly respected. I think you will see that she has capacity; and I feel very sure that, if three leading spirits of the more moderate and conservative Confederates were this day in Washington and in communication with you, this desolated land would very soon be again at peace.

President Lincoln writes General Franz Sigel, who has requested to visit the capital: “You are authorized to visit Washington, on receipt of this.”

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