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.