President Lincoln Congratulates Sheridan for Shenandoah Valley Victory

September 20, 1864

General Philip Sheridan defeats Confederates at the hard-fought Third Battle of Winchester.   President Lincoln writes Sheridan: “Have just heard of your great victory. God bless you all, officers and men. Strongly inclined to come up and see you.” Sheridan had written General Ulysses S. Grant: “`I have the honor to report that I attacked the forces of Genl Early over the Berryville Pike at the crossing of Opequan Creek, and after a most stubborn and sanguinary engagement.”

Navy Secretary Gideon Welles writes in his diary: “At Cabinet-meeting. Met Fessenden on my way, who said he had called in but the President told him there was ‘no business.’ This is the announcement three out of four days of meeting. Sometimes matters are brought forward notwithstanding. I found the Post-master-General and the Attorney-General with the President. In a few minutes Fessenden returned, and shortly after Stanton came in. It was easy to perceive that the latter was full,–that he had something on the brain,–and I concluded he had additional tidings from Sheridan. But, the President being called out just as he entered, Stanton went and seated himself by Fessenden and conversed in an undertone. He had remarked as he came in that he had sent for Mr. Seward. When Seward arrived, Stanton unfolded and read a telegram, stating two steamers had been captured on Lake Erie by Rebels from Canada. This he said was a matter that immediately concerned the State and Navy Departments. He inquired what naval force we had there. I told him I apprehended more than we were authorized to have by treaty stipulations. He inquired what the treaty was; said he knew nothing about that. Seward explained. Stanton wanted to know where the Michigan was. I told him she had lain at Johnson’s Island most of the summer to aid the army and guard the prisoners and my impression was that she was still there. As usual, he was excited, and as usual, a little annoyed that I viewed the matter cooly. He soon left, and Seward also, each in agreeing to let me know as soon as they had farther information. On my return to the Department I telegraphed to Commodore Rodgers in New York to hold himself in readiness to obey any orders, and also to Admiral Paulding to have on hundred picked men and officers ready to proceed on immediate service if required. I then called on Stanton, who agreed to furnish transportation for these men and four guns to Buffalo, if the occasion needed them,–and he was confident it would,–thought they had better be sent at all events, officers, men and guns.”

New York Times Editor Henry Raymond writes Indiana Congressman Schuyler Colfax: “I have spent the best part of four weeks at Washington, trying to get the Government to help elect itself..but to no purpose.”   Raymond’s political ally, Thurlow Weed, writes Secretary of State William H. Seward: “I had very important communication this morning — one which, if relied upon will secure Indiana, Illinois, Ohio and probably Pennsylvania. But it requires every attention.

If possible, hold back any decision by the President, upon a Law of Congress, until I can see some confidential men. Perhaps he will send [John] Nicholay [sic]here, or some one in whom he confides.

The person I am in communication with is from Illinois.

I have, also, just seen Sherman, who will set about the other matter. If he fails I know a man who will not fail.

If I go to Vermont I will say so by Telegraph, and then I must see somebody from Washington when I return.

Gov. [Andrew] Curtin went Home last evening. He is not ready to do much. I am to write him about this State when I get Home.

President Lincoln writes Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton: “Let Mallison, the bogus proclamation man, be discharged.” Francis A. Mallison had collaborated with Joseph Howard in the bogus proclamation fraud in May.

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

President Seeks Release of Indiana Soldiers to Vote

September 19, 1864

President Lincoln writes General William T. Sherman: “The State election of Indiana occurs on the 11th. of October, and the loss of it to the friends of the Government would go far towards losing the whole Union cause. The bad effect upon the November election, and especially the giving the State Government to those who will oppose the war in every possible way, are too much to risk, if it can possibly be avoided. The draft proceeds, notwithstanding its strong tendency to lose us the State. Indiana is the only important State, voting in October, whose soldiers cannot vote in the field. Any thing you can safely do to let her soldiers, or any part of them, go home and vote at the State election, will be greatly in point. They need not remain for the Presidential election, but may return to you at once. This is, in no sense, an order, but is merely intended to impress you with the importance, to the army itself, of your doing all you safely can, yourself being the judge of what you can safely do.”

On September 12, Indiana Governor Oliver O. Morton joined Republican members of Congress in writing Secretary of the War Edwin M. Stanton that “we express it as our profound conviction that upon the issue of the election that occurs within a month from this date may depend the question as to whether the secession element shall be effectually crushed or whether it shall acquire strength enough, we do not say to take the state out of the Union, but practically to sever her from the general government, so far as future military aid is concerned.

We further express the gravest doubts as to whether it will be possible for us to secure success at the polls on the 11th of October unless we can receive aid—

  1. By delay of the draft until the election has passed.
  2. By the return, before election day, of fifteen thousand Indiana soldiers.

Stanton had conveyed to Morton the gist of a telegram from Sherman: ‘The Secretary of War tells me the draft will be made on Monday next. If the President modifies it to the extent of one man, or waivers in it’s execution he is gone ever. The Army would vote against him.”

President Lincoln writes New Jersey Congressman John C. Ten Eyck: “Dr. J. R. Freese, now editor of a leading Union Journal in New-Jersey, resided, for a time, in Illinois, when & where I made his acquaintance, and since when I have enjoyed much of his friendship. He is somewhat wounded with me now, that I do not recognize him as he thinks I ought. I wish to appoint him a Provost-Marshal in your State. May I have your approval?”

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

Reelection Politics Consume Capital

September 18, 1864

Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton writes Indiana Governor Oliver Morton: “It appears from a dispatch received from General [William T.] Sherman last night that his army is jealously watching whether the draft will be suspended or enforced. The general says:

“‘If the President modifies it to the extent of one man, or wavers in its execution, he is gone. Even the army would vote against him.

“You can judge from this what effect the recall of troops and delaying the draft is likely to have on your election.”

New York Republican political boss Thurlow Weed, frequently concerned about political disaster, writes Secretary of State William H. Seward from New York City: “The Democrats had a formidable Turn-out here last night. It is the first time that they really acted like working.

Our Secretary of State is alarmed about the Soldiers Vote. The Law is loosely drawn, and he says that they can, with Democratic Inspectors here, work in any number of Fraudulent Votes. This must be looked to, and yet it may be irremediable.

[Pennsylvania Governor] Curtin is here. I aim to talk with him to-day. He is said to be luke-warm. [Hooper?], who was sour a week ago, is right now. He was at Breakfast with me this morning.

[Henry J.] Raymond says that Mr Lincoln is refusing to avail himself of an element of strength. This, if it be needed, is not wise.

If all is well without it, then let it go– But I would hold the power until after the October Elections.

I had Draper and Wakeman pleasantly together yesterday.

Also from New York, Boston Republican businessman John Forbes writes Francis P. Blair, Sr., an old-time Washington regular and father of deposed Postmaster General Montgomery Blair: “I telegraphed Mr Wm Cullen Bryant from Washington on Friday but he was not in the city either that day or yesterday and so I missed him, but I have no sort of doubt he will be with us and I give you enclosed a cutting from his Fridays paper which accords entirely with our views–

I spent yesterday in seeing various friends in New York & discussing the best mode of bringing out our idea & finally left for home with an understanding that a letter should be written as originally intended instead of calling a public meeting & inviting the President to express his views upon that occasion, as was suggested by some.

I regretted to find that some prominent men of the old Democratic line, who were on the fence a week ago have jumped down on the wrong side, Brady1 & John Van Buren among them — : The rich men too and the young men of fashion — the ” Jeanesse doré” as Carlyle calls them are going for McLlellan more generally than I like–

I can understand how boys aping Arisotocracy can be mis led but how men of property can see the currency & the Bonds left at the mercy of a Peace party is totally incomprehensible — even putting patriotism & self respect out of sight.

It is however all the more important to face the situation & to meet it by bringing into prominence the great Issue — Democratic Institutions against Aristocratic ones–

Mr Lincoln must not depend upon the rich or Aristocratic classes — nor upon the city poeple –; He must appeal to the hard handed poeple of the Country upon a plain square Issue, which they can understand — and there is no time to be lost –; We ought to have a year ago, but it is not too late—- One election campaign like this with our Sons & Brothers in the battle field counts for ten Common years–

On the other side the Aristocratic party have an immense bribe held out to them in the control of the Government for four years and the oppertunity it would give them to change our form of Government into a permanent Oligarchy–:

With this glittering prize ahead nothing that money can do will be wanting to defeat us–

With such men as Belmont, Sherman, Corning and a host of other milllionaires against us you can see how easy it would be to get a corruption fund of ten or twenty million Greenbacks put up by parties who in case of success would gather five times the amount out of the public chest–

Who can doubt that the British aristocracy who have been building Alabamas6 & blockade runners — and Louis Napolean with his Mexican Elephant7 on his hands will contribute or that Jeffn Davis who pays no home debts will send a few cargoes of cotton to fight his battle at the Polls–?

New York is crowded with Secesh who will vote and pay for McLellans Election

We must meet this array by the simple and sure flank movement of invoking the popular element — appealing to the plain poeple against the Plantation and Bank paper Aristocracy–

If we can do this successfully we can laugh at our enemies North & South and we will found a Nation based upon true Democracy instead of the mere Confederacy which these poeple pretend that we have been and are–

I enclose a copy of an article which I wrote two years ago upon Emancipation regarding it from a conservative point of view & which has some of our present ideas in it

We have now a far bigger Issue than the mere Emancipation of the Negro but really including it — the success of free Institutions for our own Country and for all the world–

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

President Lincoln Exchanges Communications with General William T. Sherman

September 17, 1864

President Lincoln writes General William T. Sherman: “I feel great interest in the subjects of your despatch mentioning corn and Sorghum, & a contemplated visit to you.” Sherman had wired General Halleck two days earlier: “`My report is done, and will be forwarded as soon as I get a few more of the subordinate reports. I am awaiting a courier from General Grant. . . . Governor Brown has disbanded his militia, to gather the corn and sorghum of the State. I have reason to believe that he and Stephens want to visit me, and I have sent them a hearty invitation. I will exchange 2,000 prisoners with Hood, but no more.”

Sherman responds: I will keep the Department fully advised of all developements as connectedwith the subject in which you feel so interested. A Mr. [Augustus R.] Wright, former member of Congress from Rome Ga and a Mr. [William] King of Marietta are now going between Gov Brown and myself. I have said that some of the people of Georgia are now engaged in rebellion begun in error and perpetuated in pride; but that Georgia can now save herself from the devastation of war preparing for her, only by withdrawing her quota out of the confederate army, and aiding me to repel Hood from the border of the State; in which event instead of desolating the land, as we progress I will keep our men to the high roads and commons, and pay for the corn and meat we need and take. I am fully conscious of the delicate nature of such assertions, but it would be a magnificent stroke of policy, if I could without wasting a foot of ground or of principle arouse the latent enmity to Jeff Davis, of Georgia.”

Sherman adds regarding Confederate Vice President Alexander H. Stephens, whom Lincoln had known in Congress in the late 1840s: “The people do not hesitate to say, that Mr. Stevens was, and is, a Union man at heart, and they feel that Jeff Davis will not trust him, or let him have a share in his government.”

Former Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase writes in his diary: “I have seen the President twice since I have been here. Both times third persons were present, and there was nothing like private conversation. His manner was cordial and so were his words; and I hear of nothing but good-will from him. But he is not at all demonstrative, either in speech or manner. I feel that I do not know him, and I found no action on what he says or does…It is my conviction that the cause I love and the general interests of the country will be best promoted by his re-election, and I have resolved to join my efforts to those of almost the whole body of my friends in securing it…I have been told that the President said he and I could not get along together in the Cabinet. Doubtless there was a difference of temperament, and on some points, of judgment. I may have been too earnest and eager, while I thought him not earnest enough and too slow. On some occasions, indeed, I found that it was so. But I never desired any thing else than his complete success, and never indulged a personal feeling incompatible with absolute fidelity to his Administration. To assure that success I labored incessantly in the Treasury Department, with what results the world knows. When I found that the use of my name in connection with the presidency would interfere with my usefulness in that department, I seized the opportunity offered by the expression, by a majority of the Union members of the [Ohio] Legislature, of a preference for Mr. Lincoln, to ask that no further consideration should be given to my name. After that, I advised all friends who consulted me, in reference to the action of the Baltimore Convention, to give him their support. But it would be uncandid not to say that I felt wronged and hurt by the circumstances which preceded and attended my resignation, and that I was far from satisfied with the indications that Mr. Lincoln sympathized more with those who assailed and disparaged than with those who asserted and maintained the views held by me in common with the great majority of the supporters of his Administration. I think even now there would never have been any difficulty about our getting along together, could he have understood my sentiments just as they were, and if he had allowed me to understand his freely and unreservedly…” (not completed)

Navy Secretary Gideon Welles writes in his diary: “There was a special Cabinet-meeting to-day on the subject of the abandoned plantations. A person of the name of Wright wishes the President to put him in possession of what he claims to be his plantation, now in the occupancy of Mr. Flanders, the Treasury agent. It seems that F. has fifty-two of these plantations,–or had some time since, perhaps he has more now.”

The President said serious questions were rising in regard to this description of property; appeals were made to him, and he could not undertake to investigate and adjust them. Quite a discussion took place in which the President, Mr. Bates, and Mr. Stanton took the principal part. It was not made distinctly to appear how these plantations came into the hands of Mr. Flanders, the Treasury agent. AL who were present, except Mr. bates and myself, seemed to take it for granted that it was legitimate and proper. They said the law had prescribed how abandoned plantations became forfeit. Mr. Stanton said he had given the subject great attention and most thorough investigation, and he made a somewhat emphatic and labored argument, telling the President (very properly I think) he could not, and ought not to, take upon himself the details of these embarrassing questions; that when Admiral Farragut and General Butler took possession of New Orleans, many of the inhabitants fled, leaving their plantations, and kept themselves within the Rebel lines; thousands of negroes were left unprovided for. It became necessary for the government to provide for them; the military authorities had take up their deserted plantations and seized others, and let them out for the negroes to work. When Mr. Chase got his Treasury agents at work, it was thought best to turn these plantations over to him. After a little time, Chase became sick of his bargain, and desired the War Department to retake possession and responsibility but he (S.) had, declined.

Attorney General Edward Bates writes in his diary:Speci[i]al meeting of C.C. call[e]d to consider of claims of certain persons in Louisiana to have restored to them, their plantations, which had been seised by the Military, and, after being sometime in possession of the Quarter

Master, turned over to a Treasury agent (mr. Flanders). It evidently appeared that the President and the Secs. Of Treasury and War had never considered how and by what authority those plantations were held – Mr. Fessenden insists that Flanders has no authority under his Department, and considers him, in that regard, the agent of the War Dept. But Mr. Stanton says no – the War office, having turned over the plantations to a treasury agent, had nothing more to do with them. Still, the question remained how to dispose of them; and there seemed to be no sensible understanding upon the subject – Nobody had considered the elements of the case – under what right or power, they were seized, for what uses and purposes held, or by whom to be controlled and disposed of –

The subject being tangled in this manner, I suggested several thoughts to bring the case to more definite issues – i. A – I asked what is meant by a plantation? To which I was sarcastically answered, ‘Why, of course, the place where planting is done’ – which raised a laugh at my expense – Then, said I, being only the place, my question is fully answered – It is land only – not stock, implements, machinery, nor any outfit, beyond the land. That will do – the act of, 63 relates to personal property – and these plantations were seised and these transactions occur[r]ed long before the act of July 2d., 64, which is the first that gives power to the treasury agent, to lease (and there is now [no] power given to any one else[)].

It was suggested by the secy. of War, that as these plantations were originally seised by the military power, so they ought now to be disposed of by military order.

To that I answered, that military seisure could only be for military use – that it was no claim of title, but is possession only, and continues so long only as the possession is needed, and continues in fact – and that it applies to friends as well as foes. And, besides all this, that these plantations were actually and formally surrendered and turned over to the Treasury agent – and so the military connection with them had ceased.

I then suggested the difficulties of making any Executive order, civil or military, as to the delivery of possession, and that the best way would be to leave the parties entitled, to assert their claims, in the courts. Mr. Staanton said the courts might give the possession to traitors in arms. I replied that the laws had made provisiosn of their own for the forfeiture nd confiscation of land of rebels; and that I did not know that [the] question of confiscation could be tried, collaterally, in an action for possession. He rejoined that a Judge could not, in any case, give possession to a rebel – I said, how is he to know that [the] plaintiff is a rebel, till he is tried and convicted? If the Judge decide a case otherwise than according to law, he ought to be impeached and broken – He resumed (rather in furore) if the Judge should give the land to a traitor he ought to be shot and I would give the order! I could not help replying – You might have force enough to ensure impunity for the crime, but, by law, you would be subject to be hanged for the murder![‘]”

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

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.”

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

Tennessee Preoccupies President

September 15, 1864

Longtime political advisor Francis P. Blair, Sr. meets with President Lincoln. They discuss political conditions in Tennessee.   In response to an inquiry from President Lincoln, General James B. Steedman telegraphs: “Mrs McElrath is a talented and influential Lady, a bitter and dangerous Rebel and I am opposed to her returning to [her home in] East Tennessee at present, unless by your orders.” President Lincoln had written: “Mrs. McElrath, of East Tennessee is here saying she has been sent away by your order, and appealing to me to allow her to return to her home. I have told her I will if you say so. What say you?” About six weeks later, Lincoln learned: “Mrs McElrath (widow of Major McE. late of the rebel army) who recently had an interview with you at Washington, waited on . . . Brig Gen. S[amuel] P. Carter at Knoxville E.T. to take the oath of Amnesty.”

Presidential aide John G. Nicolay writes New York Tribune editor Horace Greeley: “In furtherance of the idea you suggested to me when in New York, I send you enclosed a copy of the letter of Col. Markland Special Mail Agent, who has under Mr. Blair’s instructions, made arrangements for the distribution of such newspapers, or other political matter, as the National Committee may determine to circulate in the Army of the Potomac. Will you please show it to Mr. Raymond and confer with him further on the subject?

“Your later letter, enclosing one from Col. Conkling was duly received, and show to the President. Col. Philips’ papers were specially referred by the President to the Secretary of War. Ours news from all quarters is very encouraging.

Army Colonel William R. Nevins writes President Lincoln: “I Beg leave to suggest for your consideration, that the Armies, and Navy, be Ordered to attack the enemy: on every side at once, in order to force them to Surrender.”

I find that the people in Chicago, and in the West, say that your relection depends–upon the taking of Richmond for god’s-sake hurry on the troops.

I am doing all in my power for you re election,, to save our union–

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

President Lincoln Greets Republican Campaign Marchers

September 13, 1864

After Republican campaign rally at Mt. Vernon Hotel, 9th and Pennsylvania Ave., Republicans march to the White House to serenade President at White House. Washington Daily National Republican reportedthat about 3 PM: “Mr. Lincoln made a brief response, to the effect that he was not prepared to acknowledge the honor done him in a set speech. We had heard the right sort of speeches from Vermont and Maine lately, and previously from Mobile and Atlanta, and he was much in favor of hearing more of the same sort from the South.”

He then thanked the assemblage and bade them farewell, upon which they took up the line of march for Mr. Seward’s residence.

President Lincoln predicts his own election victory in a brief memo: Lincoln, 172, McClellan, 66, Fremont 7. A Maine Republican leader telegraphs President Lincoln: ‘The State Election today has resulted in a great victory for the Union cause.” Later that night, he wrote: “The Union majority will reach 20,000. We will give you thirty thousand (30,000) in November.” Lincoln responded: “On behalf of the Union, thanks to Maine.”

Presidential aide John G. Nicolay writes to former Secretary of War Simon Cameron:: “Your note of yesterday came duly to hand. When last I heard from General Schurz he was making preparations with the expectations of making a speech at Philadelphia. I suppose you can learn his whereabouts and engagements by writing to Mr. Raymond.

“The President yesterday made an order in reference to Major Taggart. The Lehigh matter is being looked after. It was necessary to make some enquiries by letter there.

President Lincoln writes General Benjamin F. Butler: “The Ames guns I am under promise to pay, or rather to advise paying, a very high price for, provided they bear the test, and they are not yet tested, though I believe in process of being tested. I could not be justified to pay the extraordinary price without the testing. I shall be happy to let you have some of them so soon as I can. How comes on your canal.”

Former Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase writes in his diary: “”Jar of boat kept me waking every few minutes up at 6–shaved and dressed–reached New York–10 min past 7.–talk with gentleman who thought Lincoln very wise-if more radical would have offended conservatives–if more conservative the radicals–will this be the judgment of history?”

President Lincoln writes an order concerning William Elmore: “If this man’s Colonel will say in writing on this sheet that he is willing to receive him back into his regiment I will pardon and send him.” He adds: “According to the foregoing, this man is pardoned and ordered to his regiment.

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

President Lincoln Drafts Response to Democratic Criticism

September 12, 1864

President Lincoln responds to recent newspaper criticism of his behavior when visiting the Antietam battlefield in October 1862. He drafts a response for U.S. Marshall Ward Hill Lamon: “The President has known me intimately for nearly twenty years, and has often heard me sing little ditties. The battle of Antietam was fought on the 17th. day of September 1862. On the first day of October, just two weeks after the battle, the President, with some others including myself, started from Washington to visit the Army, reaching Harper’s Ferry at noon of that day. In a short while Gen. McClellan came from his Head Quarters near the battle ground, joined the President, and with him, reviewed the troops at Bolivar Heights that afternoon; and, at night, returned to his Head Quarters, leaving the President at Harper’s Ferry. On the morning of the second, the President, with Gen. Sumner, review the troops respectively at Loudon Heights and Maryland Heights, and at about noon, started to Gen. McClellan’s Head Quarters, reaching there only in time to see very little before night. On the morning of the third all started on a review of the three corps, and the Cavalry, in the vicinity of the Antietam battle ground. After getting through Gen. Burnsides Corps, at the suggestion of Gen. McClellan, he and the President left their horses to be led, and went into an ambulance or ambulances to go to gen. Fitz. John Porters’s Corps, which was two or three miles distant. I am not sure whether the President and Gen. Mc. were in the same ambulance, or in different ones; but myself and some others were in the same with the President. On the way, and on no part of the battleground, and on what suggestion I do not remember, the President often heard me sing, and had always seemed to like very much. I sang them. After it was over, some one of the party, (I do not think was the President) asked me to sing something else; and I sang two or three little comic things of which Picayune Butler was one. Porter’s Corps was reached and reviewed; then the battle ground was passed over, and the most noted parts examined; then, in succesion the Cavalry, and Franklin’s Corps were reviewed, and the President and party returned to Gen. McClellan’s Head Quarters at the end of a very hard, hot, and dusty day’s work.

Next day, the 4th. the President and Gen. Mc. visited such of the wounded as till remained in the vicinity, including the now lamented Gen. Richardson; then proceed[ed] to and examined the South-Mountain battle ground, at which point they parted, Gen. McClellan returning to his Camp, and the President returning to Washington, seeing, on the way, Gen Hartsuff, who lay wounded at Frederick Town. This is the whole story of the singing and it’s surroundings. Neither Gen. McClellan or any one else made any objection to the singing; the place was not on the battle field, the time was sixteen days after the battle, no dead body was seen during the whole time the president was absent from Washington, nor even a grave that had not been rained on since it was made.

A Democratic newspaper, the New York World had reported on September 9 that “one of Mr. Lincoln’s Jokes–The second verse of our campaign song published on this page was probably suggested by an incident which occurred on the battle-field of Antietam a few days after the fight. While the President was driving over the field in an ambulance, accompanied by Marshal Lamon, General McClellan, and another officer, heavy details of men were engaged in the task of burying the dead. The ambulance had just reached the neighborhood of the old stone bridge, where the dead were piled highest, when Mr. Lincoln, suddenly slapping Marshal Lamon on the knee, exclaimed: ‘Come, Lamon, give us that song about Picayune Butler; McClellan has never heard it,’ ‘Not now, if you please,’ said General McClellan, with a shudder; ‘I would prefer to hear it some other place and time.’”

President Lincoln writes Isaac M. Schermerhorn: “Yours inviting me to attend a Union Mass Meeting at Buffalo is received. Much is being said about peace; and no man desires peace more ardently than I. Still I am yet unprepared to give up the Union for a peace which, so achieved, could not be of much duration. The preservation of our Union was not the sole avowed object for which the war was commenced. It was commenced for precisely the reverse object –to destroy our Union. The insurgents commenced it by firing upon the Star of the West, and on Fort Sumpter, and by other similar acts. It is true, however, that the administration accepted the war thus commenced, for the sole avowed object of preserving our Union; and it is not true that it has since been, or will be, prossecuted by this administration, for any other object. In declaring this, I only declare what I can know, and do know to be true, and what no other man can know to be false.

In taking the various steps which have led to my present position in relation to the war, the public interest and my private interest have been perfectly paralel, because in no other way could I serve myself so well, as by truly serving the Union. The whole field has been open to me, where to choose. No place-hunting necessity has been upon me urging me to seek a position of antagonism to some other man, irrespective of whether such position might be favorable or unfavorable to the Union.

Of course I may err in judgment but my present position in reference to the rebellion is the result of my best judgment, and according to that best judgement, it is the only position upon which any Executive can or could save the Union. Any substantial departure from it insures the success of the rebellion. An armistice–a cessation of hostilities–is the end of the struggle, and the insurgents would be in peaceable possession of all that has been struggled for. Any different policy in regard to the colored man, deprives us of his help, and this is more than we can bear. We can not spare the hundred and forty or fifty thousand now serving us as soldiers, seamen, and laborers. This is not a question of sentiment or taste, but one of physical force which may be measured and estimated as horse–owner and Steam-power are measured and estimated. Keep it and you can save the Union. Throw it away, and the Union goes with it. Nor is it possible for any Administration to retain the service of these people with the express or implied understanding that upon the first convenient occassion, they are to be re-inslaved. It can not be; and it ought not to be.

Lincoln does not send the letter, deciding instead to write Schemerhorn: “I beg you to pardon me for having concluded that it is not best for me now to write a general letter to a political meeting. First, I believe it is not customary for one hold the office, and being a candidate for re-election, to do sop; and secondly, a public letter must be written with some care, and at some expense of time, so that having begun with your meeting, I could not well refuse others, and yet could not get through with all having equal claims.”

President Lincoln writes General Ulysses S. Grant about battles in the Shenandoah Valley: “Sheridan and Early are facing each other at a dead lock. Could we not pick up a regiment here and there, to the number of say ten thousand men, and quietly, but suddenly concentrate them at Sheridan’s camp and enable him to make a strike? This is but a suggestion.”

Ohio judge Bellamy Storer writes President Lincoln: There is no doubt now, but every vestige of opposition to the Baltimore nominations, among those who claimed to seek the same object, has disappeared.”

We are united, more strongly than ever, and more harmonious than ever in our efforts.

I have no fear of the result. Ohio will respond as she did in 1860, by a largely increased majority. I doubt if a single peace man is returned to the next Congress from this state.

Let us thank the great Ruler, for all his signal mercies to our country.

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

President Lincoln Meets with New York Congressman Fernando Wood

September 11, 1864

President Lincoln writes his wife on vacation in Vermont: “All well. What day will you be home? Four days ago sent despatch to Manchester Vt. for you.”

Presidential aide John G. Nicolay writes home a summary of the events of the past week: “While the week just passed has bought us no event of startling nature or great magnitude, there have been some lesser ones that are gratifying, and which assist materially in improving the general feeling of the country, and especially the political situation.

1st Sherman’s Victory at Atlanta, according to the details received proves in every way as effective and important as was expected from the first and incomplete report.

2d McClellan having written and published his letter of acceptance, and having attempted in it to ignore and dodge the question presented by the on this point, in his party, irreconcilable, and has developed a row in the happy Democratic family which promises to be serious – two influential New York papers having already repudiated him. ‘Got it husband, go it bear.’

3d The publication of Grant’s letter in which he gives an encouraging view of the military situation, and tells the country the true road to peace is through hard fighting till the rebellion is put down.

4th The Vermont election which shows from 3 to 5000 gain on her former Republican majority.

5th The ready acceptance by the moneyed men of the new 30 Million Loan recently offered by [William P.] Fessenden, about three times the amount having been bid for.

Altogether the results of the week are most cheering and inspiring. The political situation has not been as hopeful for six months past as it is just now. There is a perfect revolution in feeling. Three weeks ago., our friends everywhere were despondent, almost to the point of giving up the contest in despair. Now they are hopeful, juvilant, hard at work and confident of success.

We are anxiously awaiting the result of the election in Maine day after tomorrow, which will have a very decided influence on the campaign. Our friends there are sanguine of success.

Hay has not yet returned and I cannot yet decide whether or when I will come west.

Early in the morning, the President meets with Congressman Fernando Wood at the Soldiers’ Home.


Published in: on September 11, 2014 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Political Position of President Lincoln Strengthens

September 10, 1864

New York Republican boss Thurlow Weed writes Secretary of State William H. Seward that Republican opposition to President Lincoln has virtually ended in New York:

“The conspiracy against Mr Lincoln collapsed on Monday last. It was equally formidable and vicious, embracing a larger number of leading Men than I supposed possible. Knowing that I was not satisfied with the President they came to me for co-operation; but my objection to Mr L. is that he has done too much for those who now seek to drive him out of the Field.

Their last Meeting was early last week at the house of Dudley Field. It was attended by Greeley, Godwin, Wilkes, Tilton, Opdyke, Curtis Noyes, and twenty five others of the same stripe.

Gov Smith, of Vermont, received a “Circular,” ten days ago, signed by Greeley, Godwin or Tilton, inquiring whether Vt would vote for Lincoln; whether in his Judgment Lincoln would be re-elected; and whether the Nomination of another Union Candidate for President, would weaken the Union Cause.

Finally, on Monday last, finding that their conspiracy would “Fizzle,” they concluded to buck up, go to the State Convention, claim that the Draper and Andrews5 De Delegates [were?] Regular, and [recognised?] of the President. This gave them the Convention Now, as two years ago, they refused to give us an Old Whig for Lt– Governor So we go.

Attorney Solomon Newton Pettis writes to President Lincoln about Ohio politics: “As I signified to you from Jefferson Ohio, a few days since. I called upon Senator Wade and invited him to address our people at Meadville next Saturday in reply to Vallandingham who speaks to them there to day–

Our politicians thought it was policy to obtain his service for two reasons. 1st There are many in our North Western counties very radical indeed as I have before told you, and another class opposed to us that flattered themselves that Wade would oppose you. Taking these things together I thought it important to have him in the harness early in your favor. I hope I have not displeased you in the premises, as I meant it for your benefit, as I consider your success in November as essential to the existence of Union and the Goverment–

His heart is in the cause as much as ever, and the only hesitancy he manifested I think was from the awkwardness of his position at complying — but he will be there if he lives & give us his best–

He asked me what you said about his course.5 I said I thought you felt more than you said, but that I did not think that you questioned his integrity or fidelity in the cause we are all engaged in, but that at times he was to sanguine– My own opinion is that Wade signed that manifesto without reading it–

In other Ohio news, President Lincoln orders: “The term of one hundred days for which the National Guard of Ohio volunteered having expired, the President directs an official acknowledgment to be made of their patriotic and valuable services during the recent campaigns. The term of service of their enlistment was short, but distinguished by memorable events. In the Valley of the Shenandoah, on the Peninsula, in the operations on the James River, around Petersburg and Richmond, in the battle of Monocacy and in the entrenchments of Washington, and in other important service, the National Guard of Ohio performed with alacrity the duty of patriotic volunteers, for which they are entitled to and are hereby tendered, through the Governor of their State, the National thanks.”

Published in: on September 10, 2014 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment