Category Archives: Politics

Lincoln Visits the Stationary Army of the Potomac

October 1, 1862 – President Abraham Lincoln left Washington to visit Major General George B. McClellan and inspect the Federal Army of the Potomac after the Battle of Antietam.

Since the Federal victory at Antietam in September, Lincoln had implored McClellan to move his army and finish off General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. But McClellan had not only remained stationary while the enemy escaped back into Virginia, he resumed his pattern of demanding massive reinforcements as well. Moreover, Lincoln had heard rumors of anti-administration fervor among McClellan and his command, particularly regarding their opposition to the recently released Emancipation Proclamation.

To help push McClellan into action and investigate the rumors, Lincoln and some advisors left Washington on October 1 to visit the general’s headquarters in western Maryland. McClellan, who had not been informed of the visit beforehand, learned while Lincoln was en route and arranged to meet him at Harpers Ferry, which the Federals had regained after the Confederate withdrawal.

Lincoln explained that the official purpose of his visit was to see the battlefield and visit the troops. A witness observed that Lincoln looked “careworn and troubled” upon his late arrival. He and McClellan rode together while inspecting the troops camped at Bolivar Heights overlooking Harpers Ferry. After McClellan returned to headquarters, Lincoln visited the town, including the arsenal that John Brown and his followers had seized in 1859 in hopes of sparking a mass slave uprising.

Lincoln occupied a tent beside McClellan’s for the next two days. He became a conspicuous sightseer in his black suit and stovepipe hat as he reviewed troops stationed at Loudoun and Maryland Heights with Major General Edwin V. Sumner. Lincoln visited army camps and hospitals, and he toured the Antietam battlefield in an ambulance “with his long legs doubled up so that his knees almost struck his chin,” noted a Federal officer. McClellan tried describing the battle, but Lincoln curtly ended the tour and returned to camp.

Meeting of Lincoln and McClellan | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

Lincoln calculated army strength at 88,095 troops, more than enough to confront Lee. This prompted McClellan to write his wife, “I incline to think the real purpose of his visit is to push me into a premature advance into Virginia.” He complained that the army was “not fit to advance–the old regiments are reduced to mere skeletons and are completely tired out–they need rest and filling up.” McClellan concluded, “These people don’t know what an army requires, and therefore act stupidly.”

McClellan later claimed that Lincoln told him privately, “General, you have saved the country. You must remain in command and carry us through to the end.” McClellan also alleged that Lincoln told him not to move the army until he was completely ready and confident of success, and he would defend McClellan against his critics. This was not corroborated, though Lincoln did discuss what he believed to be McClellan’s “over-cautiousness” in refusing to move.

Before dawn on the 3rd, Lincoln brought friend Ozias M. Hatch out for a walk. They climbed a hillside overlooking the white tents of the Federal army below, where Lincoln asked, “Hatch, Hatch, what is all this?” Hatch replied, “Why, Mr. Lincoln, this is the Army of the Potomac.” Lincoln said, “No, Hatch, no. This is General McClellan’s bodyguard.” Only the troops’ strong devotion to McClellan prevented the president from replacing their beloved commander.

Lincoln reviewed the troops later that day, where some noted that he did not cordially greet them as he had done in past reviews. One officer stated that Lincoln offered “not a word of approval, not even a smile of approbation.” After the review, Lincoln rode with friend Ward Hill Lamon, who tried cheering him by singing songs and telling funny stories. Opponents later accused Lincoln of insulting fallen soldiers by laughing on the battlefield.

Lincoln continued touring hospitals and camps on the 4th and then left for Washington that afternoon. McClellan addressed the issue of possible dissension within the army by ordering subordinates to remain obedient to civil authority, even if they disagreed with administration policies. McClellan stated, “The remedy for political errors, if any are committed, is to be found only in the action of the people at the polls.”

Back at Washington, Lincoln discussed his visit with his cabinet on the 6th, and then issued an order to McClellan through General-in-Chief Henry W. Halleck:

“The President directs that you cross the Potomac and give battle to the enemy or drive him south. Your army must move now while the roads are good. If you cross the river between the enemy and Washington, and cover the latter by your operation, you can be re-enforced with 30,000 men. If you move up the Valley of the Shenandoah, not more than 12,000 or 15,000 can be sent to you.

“The President advises the interior line between Washington and the enemy, but does not order it. He is very desirous that your army move as soon as possible. You will immediately report what line you adopt and when you intend to cross the river; also to what point the re-enforcements are to be sent. It is necessary that the plan of your operations be positively determined on before orders are given for building bridges and repairing railroads.”

This message amazed McClellan, who thought he had persuaded Lincoln that the army needed more time to regroup before moving. McClellan answered that he was “pushing everything as rapidly as possible in order to get ready for the advance,” but then he asserted that he lacked the necessary supplies and made no major movements.

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References

Angle, Paul M., A Pictorial History of the Civil War Years (New York: Doubleday, 1967), p. 86; Bailey, Ronald H., The Bloodiest Day: The Battle of Antietam (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 161; CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 220-21, 223; Donald, David Herbert, Lincoln (Simon & Schuster, Kindle Edition, 2011), Loc 8180-203; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 216-19; Goodwin, Doris Kearns, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2005), p. 484-85; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 748-49; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 273-76; McPherson, James M., Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States Book 6, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition, 1988), p. 559; Pollard, Edward A., Southern History of the War (New York: C.B. Richardson, 1866; revised version New York: The Fairfax Press, 1990), p. 489-90

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The Army of the Potomac Stays in Maryland

September 27, 1862 – Major General George B. McClellan sought more approval from Washington, while President Abraham Lincoln addressed reports of disloyalty within the army.

Maj Gen George B. McClellan | Image Credit: Histmag.org

McClellan grew sullen and resentful when he did not receive the credit he felt he deserved for driving General Robert E. Lee’s Confederate Army of Northern Virginia out of Maryland. He dispatched his intelligence chief, detective Allan Pinkerton, to Washington to meet with Lincoln and determine if Lincoln intended to retain him as army commander.

During the meeting, Lincoln asked several questions, including:

  • Why did McClellan not rescue the Federal garrison at Harpers Ferry?
  • Why did McClellan not resume his attacks after the first day at Antietam?
  • Why did the Confederate army escape back into Virginia?

Based on Pinkerton’s answers, Lincoln concluded that McClellan had squandered an enormous opportunity to destroy Lee’s army and end the war. Nevertheless, Pinkerton returned to McClellan and told him that Lincoln “impresses me more at this interview with his honesty towards you and his desire to do you justice than he has ever done before.”

Meanwhile, McClellan settled his men into camps near Sharpsburg rather than push them into Virginia to chase down Lee. In fact, McClellan was glad Lee had escaped, as he explained to his wife, “I will be able to arrange my troops more with a view to comfort.” McClellan finally submitted his official report on the Battle of Antietam (telling his wife, “I would really prefer fighting three battles to writing the report of one”) and received General-in-Chief Henry W. Halleck’s response:

“The valor and endurance of your army in the several conflicts … are creditable alike to the troops and to the officers who commanded them. A grateful country while mourning the lamented dead will not be unmindful of the honors due the living.”

Despite this praise, McClellan wrote his wife the next day, “I do think that man Halleck is the most stupid idiot I ever heard of.”

16th U.S. President Abraham Lincoln | Image Credit: Bing public domain

At Washington, the recent Emancipation Proclamation and suspension of habeas corpus had put the Lincoln administration on high alert for dissension and disloyalty, especially in the military. Lincoln received a report stating that Major John J. Key, a member of Halleck’s staff and brother of McClellan’s judge advocate, had made disloyal statements.

Key had conversed with Major Levi Turner, during which Turner wondered why McClellan had not “bagged” the Confederate army. Key replied sarcastically, “That is not the game. The object is that neither army shall get much advantage of the other; that both shall be kept in the field till they are exhausted, when we will make a compromise and save slavery.”

Lincoln summoned both men to the White House, writing, “I shall be very happy if you will, within twenty-four hours from the receipt of this, prove to me, by Major Turner, that you did not, either literally or in substance, make the answer stated.”

Key and Turner met with Lincoln the next day, where Key admitted he made the statement. Lincoln declared that it was “wholly inadmissible for any gentleman holding a military commission from the United States to utter such sentiments.” If there was indeed a “game” to keep from destroying the Confederacy, Lincoln said that “it was his object to break up that game.”

Lincoln issued an order: “Therefore, let Major John J. Key be forthwith dismissed from the military service of the United States.” Key’s dismissal would serve as “an example and a warning” to stop officers from making such “silly, treasonable expressions.”

After getting rid of Key, Lincoln turned once more to the Army of the Potomac. McClellan reported having nearly 100,000 men under his command, including the troops defending Washington. Lincoln wondered why McClellan had not returned to Virginia after the Battle of Antietam and finished the Confederates off. By month’s end, Lincoln scheduled a trip to McClellan’s headquarters to see for himself.

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References

CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Donald, David Herbert, Lincoln (Simon & Schuster, Kindle Edition, 2011), Loc 8146-57, 8169-80; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 216; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 271-72; McPherson, James M., Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States Book 6, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition, 1988), p. 559

The Suspension of Habeas Corpus

September 24, 1862 – After issuing an order freeing all slaves in the Confederate states, President Abraham Lincoln issued a second order curtailing freedoms in the northern states.

President Abraham Lincoln | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

On the same day that the Emancipation Proclamation was published, Lincoln issued an edict declaring that “all Rebels and Insurgents, their aiders and abettors within the United States, and all persons discouraging volunteer enlistments, resisting military drafts, or guilty of any disloyal practice affording aid and comfort to the rebels against the authority of the United States, shall be subject to martial law, and liable to trial and punishment by courts-martial or military commission.” This order also suspended the writ of habeas corpus for those suspected of perpetrating such activities.

Lincoln issued this directive in conjunction with the provisions of the Militia Act, which gave the War Department arbitrary (and some argued unconstitutional) powers to arrest and imprison anyone suspected of interfering with the military draft. Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton had caused an uproar by ordering the arrest of hundreds of citizens, especially in traditionally Democratic districts of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and Wisconsin.

In addition to this order, the new position of provost marshal general was created within the War Department. This person was to work with the provost marshals within the states:

“To arrest all deserters, whether regulars, volunteers, or militia, and send them to the nearest military commander or military post, where they can be cared for and sent to their respective regiments; to arrest, upon the warrant of the Judge Advocate, all disloyal persons subject to arrest under the orders of the War Department; to inquire into and report treasonable practices, seize stolen or embezzled property of the Government, detect spies of the enemy, and perform such other duties as may be enjoined on them by the War Department.”

The provost marshals were authorized to force citizens into helping them do their jobs, and military commissions were established to try those arrested for such infractions, regardless of whether civil courts functioned in those states. This threatened to place the North under military rule. Hundreds of people were arrested, including five newspaper editors, three judges, and several politicians.

This order served to silence dissent against not only the Emancipation Proclamation, but the war and even the Lincoln administration as well. Many expressed outrage that this order was issued alongside the order freeing slaves, believing that white rights were being curtailed while black rights were being expanded. In addition, many feared the ramifications of allowing the Federal government to infringe so heavily upon constitutional liberties.

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References

CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government: All Volumes (Heraklion Press, Kindle Edition 2013, 1889), Loc 19866-82; Donald, David Herbert, Lincoln (Simon & Schuster, Kindle Edition, 2011), Loc 8027; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 215; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 270-71; McPherson, James M., Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States Book 6, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition, 1988), p. 493; White, Howard Ray, Bloodstains, An Epic History of the Politics that Produced and Sustained the American Civil War and the Political Reconstruction that Followed (Southernbooks, Kindle Edition, 2012), Q362

The Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation

September 22, 1862 – President Abraham Lincoln issued his decree stating “that all persons held as slaves” within rebellions areas “are, and henceforward shall be free” if those areas did not submit to Federal law by January 1.

By the 20th, Lincoln had gathered enough information to convince him that the Battle of Antietam had been a Federal victory. As such, he returned to the decree he had drafted in July. He also received a letter from Congressman Robert Dale Owen, an Indiana abolitionist who reminded the president that he had threatened the Confederates with slave confiscation if they did not stop rebelling against the U.S. within 60 days. Owen wrote:

“The twenty-third of September approaches, the date when the sixty-day notice you have given to the rebels will expire–expire without other reply to your warning than the invasion of Maryland and a menace to Pennsylvania. Is it to rest there? Patiently we have waited the time. Is nothing to follow? Are our enemies to boast that we speak brave words–and there an end of it?”

Owen argued that an emancipation decree would be “the very turning point in the nation’s fate! A day to the rebels of despair, to every loyal heart of exultant rejoicing! A day of which the anniversary will be celebrated with jubilee while the American Union endures! A day to be remembered not on our land alone, but wherever humanity mourns over the wrongs of the slave, or rejoices in his liberation!”

Lincoln summoned his cabinet to a noon meeting at the White House on September 22, one day before his 60-day deadline expired. He began by reading a passage called “High-Handed Outrage at Utica” from a new book sent to him by popular humorist Artemus Ward. Lincoln then reminded the members of the proclamation draft he shared with them in July. He had waited since then for military success, and although the Federal victory at Antietam had not been as decisive as hoped, Lincoln told them:

“When the rebel army was at Frederick, I determined, as soon as it should be driven out of Maryland, to issue a proclamation of emancipation, such as I thought most likely to be useful. I said nothing to anyone, but I made the promise to myself and to my Maker. I think the time has come now. I wish it were a better time. I wish that we were in a better condition. The action of the army against the rebels has not been quite what I should have best liked. But the rebel army is now driven out, and I am going to fulfill that promise.”

Lincoln said he would not seek his cabinet’s advice on the matter, but he would accept suggestions to correct the document’s language or “any other minor matter.” The members unanimously agreed with emancipation. But Postmaster General Montgomery Blair feared that it could cause rebellion in the loyal slave states, demoralize the army, and give the Democrats “a club… to beat the Administration” in the upcoming midterm elections.

Lincoln said that he had exhausted every effort to get the loyal slave states to begin their own voluntary emancipation programs. Since they refused, “we must make the forward movement” without them. Lincoln believed, “They (will) acquiesce, if not immediately, soon.” And the prospect of losing the midterm elections “had not much weight with him” because the Democrats’ “clubs would be used against us take what course we might.”

The Emancipation Proclamation | Image Credit: Wikipedia.org

The original draft ordered the military to adhere to the laws passed in March and July to “recognize the freedom” of slaves escaping into Federal lines. Secretary of State William H. Seward suggested the passage be changed to “recognize and maintain the freedom.” Lincoln agreed, thus assuring slaves that once freed, they would not be returned to bondage.

The proclamation only freed slaves in seceded states, so it technically freed no one since those states considered themselves part of a separate nation beyond Federal authority. The decree exempted the loyal slave states of Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland, and Delaware, as well as southern regions under Federal occupation, mostly in Louisiana. Seceded states would also be exempted if they renounced secession and returned to the Union within 100 days (i.e., January 1), otherwise they would lose their human property.

Lincoln cited “military necessity” under his power as “President of the United States of America, and Commander-in-chief of the Army and Navy thereof” to issue such a proclamation. He also cited provisions of the two Confiscation Acts, even though this decree actually avoided enforcement of the Second Confiscation Act, which called for the immediate emancipation of all slaves within a conquered region (this order allowed slavery to continue in the conquered regions).

The proclamation made no mention of a moral or ethical obligation to free humans in bondage. It served solely as a weapon to cripple the Confederacy’s ability to fight the war. The decree’s first two paragraphs explained that Lincoln’s main goal remained reunion, not abolition, and he repeated his frequent calls to compensate loyal slaveholders who voluntarily freed their slaves and to encourage the voluntary deportation of blacks from America, “upon this continent or elsewhere.”

A crowd led by the Marine Corps Band gathered at the White House to serenade Lincoln when the proclamation went public on September 24. Lincoln appeared in an upstairs window and told them:

“What I did, I did after a very full deliberation, and under a very heavy and solemn sense of responsibility. I can only trust in God I have made no mistake. I shall make no attempt on this occasion to sustain what I have done or said by any comment. It is now for the country and the world to pass judgment and, maybe, take action upon it.”

Lincoln then lauded the troops, saying this was “scarcely so great as the difficulties of those who, upon the battle field, are endeavoring to purchase with their blood and their lives the future happiness and prosperity of this country. Let us never forget them.” He then concluded, “In my position I am environed with difficulties.”

Northerners had a mixed reaction to the Emancipation Proclamation. Abolitionists, especially in New England, celebrated its release. Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “It makes a victory of our defeats. Our hurts are healed; the health of the nation is repaired.” Abolitionist Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts declared that “the skies are brighter and the air is purer, now that slavery has been handed over to judgment.” Some Radical Republicans, such as Congressman Thaddeus Stevens of Pennsylvania, hoped this would inspire the slaves to be “incited to insurrection and give the rebels a taste of real civil war.”

But for some abolitionists, the proclamation did not go far enough. Horace Greeley, who had long urged Lincoln to free the slaves, opined in the New York Tribune that Federal defeats over the past few months would discourage freed slaves from joining the military:

“There was a time when even this bit of paper could have brought the negro to our side; but now slavery, the real rebel capital, has been surrounded by a Chickahominy swamp of blunders and outrages against that race which no paper spade can dig through.”

Other northerners expressed deep resentment and joined in angry protest. The Washington Daily National Intelligencer stated, “Where we expect no good, we shall be only too happy to find that no harm has been done by the present declaration of the Executive.” The Washington Evening Star called Lincoln’s edict “void of practical effect.”

Some northerners feared that freed slaves would migrate to the northern states and compete with them for jobs. This fear seemed confirmed when Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton ordered “contraband” slaves in Illinois to replace farm laborers who had joined the army. Even some Republicans began breaking from their party, reminding Lincoln that their goal had been to stop the expansion of slavery, not stop slavery altogether. Northern Democrats predicted the decree would “render eternal hatred between the two sections” and embolden the Confederates to put up even stronger resistance.

Outraged southerners viewed this as an unconstitutional attempt to overturn established law, a power belonging only to Congress. They also noted that Lincoln issued the proclamation out of “military necessity,” even though the Federal war capabilities far exceeded the Confederacy’s, with plenty of resources to continue turning out war materiel while using the world’s third most powerful navy to block those same resources from reaching the South. And it confirmed initial southern fears that the Republicans’ main goal was not to preserve the Union, but to destroy the southern way of life.

Many southerners believed this aimed to encourage slaves to rebel against their masters, which they considered particularly despicable since most masters had gone to war, leaving women and children to fend for themselves against potentially hostile slaves. Even some northerners expressed concern about Radicals cheering for “the prospect that it will inaugurate a negro insurrection in the South.” The London Times asserted that the unconstitutional edict would spark “arson, the slaughter of innocents, and a host of unmentionable horrors.” However, no mass slave uprisings occurred after the publication of this decree.

Knowing that the proclamation would be overturned in Federal courts and could not be enforced without military success, Lincoln hoped to serve two purposes. First, he sought to turn European opinion against the South by making the war a moral struggle between a slaveholding nation and a nation taking the first steps to end slavery. Second, Lincoln hoped to motivate slaves to escape their masters and support the Federal cause.

The second purpose received help from civil rights leaders such as Frederick Douglass, who encouraged blacks to enlist in the Federal military; two of Douglass’s sons joined the war effort. By month’s end, the 1st Regiment Louisiana Native Guards, calling themselves the “Chasseurs d’Afrique,” became the first formally recognized black regiment. Soon black volunteers from other southern states began moving north to join the army and navy.

The Emancipation Proclamation drastically changed the scope of the war and subsequent American history. Although it had no real legal authority, it ultimately paved the way for a constitutional amendment permanently abolishing slavery in America.

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References

Angle, Paul M., A Pictorial History of the Civil War Years (New York: Doubleday, 1967), p. 85-86; Bailey, Ronald H., The Bloodiest Day: The Battle of Antietam (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 157-59; CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Crocker III, H.W., The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Civil War (Washington: Regnery Publishing, 2008), p. 59; Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government: All Volumes (Heraklion Press, Kindle Edition 2013, 1889), Loc 15039-47; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 217; Donald, David Herbert, Lincoln (Simon & Schuster, Kindle Edition, 2011), Loc 7927-50, 7960, 8027, 8832-8843; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 704, 707; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 214; Freeman, Douglas Southall, Lee (Scribner, Kindle Edition, 2008), Loc 4925; Gara, Larry, Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 242; Goodwin, Doris Kearns, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2005), p. 481-82; Linedecker, Clifford L. (ed.), The Civil War A to Z (Ballantine Books, 2002), p. 95-96; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 269-71; McPherson, James M., Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States Book 6, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition, 1988), p. 556-57; Pollard, Edward A., Southern History of the War (New York: C.B. Richardson, 1866; revised version New York: The Fairfax Press, 1990), p. 529-31; White, Howard Ray, Bloodstains, An Epic History of the Politics that Produced and Sustained the American Civil War and the Political Reconstruction that Followed (Southernbooks, Kindle Edition, 2012), Q362

Lincoln Ponders Colonization and Emancipation

September 11, 1862 – President Abraham Lincoln approved a contract to deport slaves to Central America. He later hosted a delegation urging him to abolish slavery.

U.S. President Abraham Lincoln | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

Lincoln endorsed a government contract with the Chiriqui Improvement Company, under which slaves would be sent to the Chiriqui Lagoon area in Panama to mine coal. Republican Senator Samuel Pomeroy of Kansas “was to be the sole judge of the fitness of the Chiriqui site,” with power to allocate up to $50,000 for finding a ship and collecting slave volunteers. According to Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles, this was part of Lincoln’s larger effort to deport slaves, which had been ongoing “for months, almost from the commencement of this administration…”

Lincoln followed in the footsteps of his political hero, Henry Clay, by supporting black colonization as a means of “returning to Africa her children.” Earlier this year, Congress had appropriated $600,000 for the colonization of all blacks, slave or free, who agreed to leave. Interior Secretary Caleb Smith and Postmaster General Montgomery Blair had urged Lincoln to approve the contract. Anticipating the prospect of freed slaves after he issued his Emancipation Proclamation, Lincoln made the deal.

Welles was skeptical of the idea because there was no guarantee that coal would be there to mine. It was also unclear how many freed slaves would be willing to move to Central America. But Lincoln pushed the plan by asking if a treaty could be negotiated between the U.S. and Costa Rica (which owned the land) to make the region a slave refuge. Welles wrote that Lincoln “thought it essential to provide an asylum for a race which we had emancipated, but which could never be recognized or admitted to be our equals.”

Attorney General Edward Bates supported the plan but urged Lincoln to impose mandatory deportation because he believed no freed slave would voluntarily leave the U.S. Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase opposed deportation but liked the idea of expanding U.S. interests into Central America. Secretary of State William H. Seward opposed deportation because he believed the labor of freed slaves would still be needed in the South. Ultimately all members of Lincoln’s cabinet except Welles and Chase supported negotiating treaties with nations to import freed American slaves.

As Lincoln pondered what to do with the slaves once they were freed, those who were unaware that Lincoln was about to issue an emancipation decree continued pushing for abolition. A group of Chicago clergymen of all Christian denominations met the president at the White House and urged him order the freedom of all slaves. They feared that since Lincoln had reinstated George B. McClellan, he might also revert to his original policy of not interfering with slavery where it already existed.

Lincoln agreed that “slavery is the root of the rebellion,” and freeing slaves would “weaken the rebels by drawing off their laborers” and “would help us in Europe, and convince them that we are incited by something more than ambition.” However, he noted that the Second Confiscation Act had not “caused a single slave to come over to us,” and said:

“What good would a proclamation of emancipation from me do, especially as we are now situated? I do not want to issue a document that the whole world will see must necessarily be inoperative, like the Pope’s bull against the comet. Would my word free the slaves, when I cannot even enforce the Constitution in the rebel states? Is there a single court or magistrate or individuals that would be influenced by it there?…

“I will mention another thing, though it meet only your scorn and contempt. There are 50,000 bayonets in the Union armies from the border slave states. It would be a serious matter if, in consequence of a proclamation such as you desire, they should go over to the rebels. Do not misunderstand me because I have mentioned these objections… I have not decided against a proclamation of liberty to the slaves, but hold the matter under advisement… I can assure you that the subject is on my mind, by day and night, more than any other. It is my earnest desire to know the will of Providence in this matter. And if I can learn what it is I will do it!”

Lincoln shrewdly declined to issue an order but left open the possibility that he may do so in the future. One of the ministers said, “What you have said to us, Mr. President, compels me to say to you in reply, that it is a message to you from our Divine Master, through me, commanding you, sir, to open the doors of bondage that the slaves may go free.”

Lincoln replied, “That may be, sir, for I have studied this question by night and by day, for weeks and for months. But if it is, as you say, a message from your Divine Master, is it not odd that the only channel he could send it by was the roundabout route by way of that awful wicked city of Chicago?”

The clergymen left unsatisfied and unaware that Lincoln was simply waiting for some type of military success before he published his Emancipation Proclamation.

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References

CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Donald, David Herbert, Lincoln (Simon & Schuster, Kindle Edition, 2011), Loc 7905-16; Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government: All Volumes (Heraklion Press, Kindle Edition 2013, 1889), Loc 15013-23; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 705-06; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 271; McPherson, James M., Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States Book 6, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition, 1988), p. 510; White, Howard Ray, Bloodstains, An Epic History of the Politics that Produced and Sustained the American Civil War and the Political Reconstruction that Followed (Southernbooks, Kindle Edition, 2012), Q362

Maryland: Lee Tries Garnering Support

September 7, 1862 – Confederate General Robert E. Lee tried garnering support from the people of Maryland, while Major General George B. McClellan’s Federals tried tracking him down.

Gen Robert E. Lee | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

By Sunday the 7th, Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia was at Frederick, Maryland. Reports of “tremendous excitement” came from Baltimore, 45 miles away, as well as the nearby Pennsylvania capital of Harrisburg. Lee’s advance isolated the Federal garrisons at Harpers Ferry and Martinsburg from Washington. He developed a plan in which part of his army would capture Harpers Ferry while the rest moved north to cut the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad at Hagerstown. The Confederates would then destroy the Rockville bridge above Harrisburg.

The Confederates continued receiving a tepid response from the locals around Frederick, despite Major General Jeb Stuart hosting an elaborate ball southeast of town at Urbana. The festivities were interrupted by Federal artillery, which the Confederate horsemen rode out to silence before returning to their ladies at the party.

Concerned by the skepticism of Marylanders, President Jefferson Davis suggested to Lee:

“It is deemed proper that you should, in accordance with established usage, announce, by proclamation, to the people of Maryland, the motives and purposes of your presence among them at the head of an invading army; and you are instructed in such proclamation to make known.”

Lee assigned Colonel Bradley Johnson, a native of Frederick, to be provost marshal and issue an address to his friends, relatives, and neighbors:

“After 16 months of oppression more galling than the Austrian tyranny, the victorious Army of the South brings freedom to your doors. The men of Maryland, who during the long months have been crushed under the heel of this terrible despotism, now have the opportunity for working out their own redemption, for which they have so long waited and suffered and hoped.”

Johnson declared that the Confederate armies would not stop “until Maryland has the opportunity to decide for herself her own fate. We have the arms here for you, and rise at once in arms and strike for liberty and right!”

At the same time, Lee issued a statewide proclamation “To the People of Maryland”:

“The people of the Confederate States have long watched with the deepest sympathy the wrongs and outrages that have been inflicted upon the citizens… (The people) have seen with profound indignation their sister State deprived of every right and reduced to the condition of a conquered province… No constraint upon your free will is intended; no intimidation will be allowed within the limits of this army, at least. Marylanders shall once more enjoy their ancient freedom of thought and speech.”

“We know no enemies among you, and will protect all, of every opinion. It is for you to decide your destiny freely and without constraint. This army will respect your choice, whatever it may be; and while the Southern people will rejoice to welcome you to your natural position among them, they will only welcome you when you come of your own free will.”

The proclamations did not garner the support the Confederates hoped, indicating that the upcoming campaign may be harsher than expected. That same day, Lee wrote Davis suggesting that he offer to discuss peace with the Lincoln administration based on Confederate independence:

“Such a proposition, coming from us at this time, could in no way be regarded as suing for peace; but, being made when it is in our power to inflict injury upon our adversary, would show conclusively to the world that our sole object is the establishment of our independence and the attainment of an honorable peace.

“The rejection of this offer would prove to the country that the responsibility of the continuance of the war does not rest upon us, but that the party in power in the United States elect to prosecute it for purposes of their own. The proposal of peace would enable the people of the United States to determine at the coming elections whether they will support those who favor a prolongation of the war, or those who wish to bring it to a termination…”

Meanwhile, McClellan’s Army of the Potomac continued moving north, even though McClellan was still unsure where the Confederates were. As the Federals advanced to within 30 miles of the enemy, President Abraham Lincoln received alarming reports that General Braxton Bragg’s Confederate Army of Mississippi was moving north from Chattanooga to join forces with Lee. He sent messages, “Where is Gen. Bragg?” and “What about Harper’s Ferry?” but received no response.

By the 8th, McClellan’s Federals were at Rockville, Maryland, on the Monocacy River about 25 miles south of Lee. Lincoln asked, “How does it look now?” McClellan responded, “I think that we are now in position to prevent any attack in force on Baltimore, while we cover Washington on this side. We are prepared to attack anything that crosses the Potomac this side of the Monocacy.”

McClellan still asserted he was “by no means satisfied yet that the enemy has crossed the river in any large force. I am ready to push in any direction,” hoping “very soon to have the supplies and transportation so regulated that we can safely move farther from Washington, and clear Maryland of the rebels. The time occupied in ascertaining their position, strength, and intentions will enable me to place the army in fair condition. As soon as I find out where to strike, I will be after them without an hour’s delay.”

Intense skirmishing occurred in the Poolesville, Maryland, area as McClellan continued probing to find Lee’s army.

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References

Anderson, Nancy Scott; Anderson, Dwight, The Generals: Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee (New York: Vintage Books, 1987), p. 325; Bailey, Ronald H., The Bloodiest Day: The Battle of Antietam (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 15, 17-18; CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Crocker III, H.W., The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Civil War (Washington: Regnery Publishing, 2008), p. 55-57; Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government: All Volumes (Heraklion Press, Kindle Edition 2013, 1889), Loc 17344-51; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 210; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 665, 673; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 204-05; Freeman, Douglas Southall, Lee (Scribner, Kindle Edition, 2008), Loc 4637-48; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 261, 263-64; McPherson, James M., Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States Book 6, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition, 1988), p. 536; Pollard, Edward A., Southern History of the War (New York: C.B. Richardson, 1866; revised version New York: The Fairfax Press, 1990), p. 492; Wert, Jeffry D., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 19-20

McClellan Reinstated

September 2, 1862 – President Abraham Lincoln reinstated Major General George B. McClellan as overall Federal commander in Virginia and Washington, merging Major General John Pope’s defeated Army of Virginia with McClellan’s Army of the Potomac.

Pope’s Federals ended their retreat on the 2nd, reaching the entrenchments outside Washington. Skirmishing continued between the Federal rear guard and Confederate cavalry in the area around Fairfax Court House, Vienna, Falls Church, and Flint Hill, but the Confederates lacked the strength to attack the capital’s nearly impregnable fortifications.

Maj Gen George B. McClellan | Image Credit: Histmag.org

As Federal troops filtered into Washington, their morale sank to a new low. Rumors quickly spread–some alleged to have been started by McClellan–that 20,000 Federal stragglers remained between Centreville and the capital. Pope denied this rumor, but he wired his superiors early on the 2nd that “unless something can be done to restore tone to this army it will melt away before you know it.”

Lincoln and General-in-Chief Henry W. Halleck met with McClellan at 7:00 that morning, where news arrived confirming the rumor about the stragglers. This proved that Pope was the liar many claimed him to be. Lincoln approved Halleck’s suggestion to remove Pope and restore McClellan to overall army command. Lincoln had not consulted with any of his advisors before making the decision, and McClellan reluctantly accepted the assignment after “a pretty plain talk” about his new responsibilities. The formal order read:

“Major General McClellan will have command of the fortifications of Washington and all the troops for the defense of the capital.”

Although Lincoln and McClellan had clashed over military strategy and tactics for nearly a year, Lincoln knew that only McClellan could restore troop morale. He noted that bringing McClellan back was like “curing the bite with the hair of the dog,” but as he explained to his secretary, John Hay, “We must use the tools we have. There is no man in the Army who can man these fortifications and lick these troops of ours into shape half as well as he. If he can’t fight himself, he excels in making others ready to fight.”

Meanwhile, Lincoln’s cabinet gathered in his office before he arrived and discussed the rumors already circulating that McClellan had been reinstated. Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton strongly opposed such a move, having already drafted a petition urging “the immediate removal of George B. McClellan from any command in the armies of the United States” for his sluggishness in reinforcing Pope during the Second Bull Run campaign.

McClellan’s suggestion that he should “leave Pope to get out of his own scrape” especially infuriated Stanton, prompting him to ask Halleck if McClellan had been too slow in executing Halleck’s directive to leave the Virginia Peninsula. Halleck replied that the order “was not obeyed with the promptness I expected and the national safety, in my opinion, required.” Stanton’s clerk recalled “that if McClellan had been present when the news of Pope’s defeat came in, the Secretary would have assaulted him.”

Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase helped write Stanton’s protest, declaring that the time had come when “either the government or McClellan must go down.” Attorney General Edward Bates also approved after moderating the petition’s language to read that it was “not safe to entrust to Major General McClellan the command of any of the armies of the United States.”

Interior Secretary Caleb B. Smith endorsed the protest as well, but Navy Secretary Gideon Welles refused. While he agreed that McClellan’s “removal from command was demanded by public sentiment and the best interest of the country,” Welles believed the protest was “discourteous and disrespectful to the President.” Secretary of State William H. Seward was absent, and Postmaster General Montgomery Blair offered no opinion.

Just as Chase declared that reinstating McClellan would “prove a national calamity,” Lincoln entered the room and explained he was late for the meeting because he and Halleck had just restored McClellan to overall command. Stanton said, “No order to that effect has been issued from the War Department.” Lincoln replied, “The order is mine, and I will be responsible for it to the country.”

Chase said, “I cannot but feel that giving command to McClellan is equivalent to giving Washington to the rebels.” Lincoln acknowledged the protests of some members who accused McClellan of treason for failing to adequately reinforce Pope, calling it “unpardonable.” But Lincoln explained that no other commander could motivate the troops like McClellan, and such motivation was sorely needed after the recent defeats.

The cabinet’s unanimous opposition to McClellan deeply troubled Lincoln and threatened to divide his administration, but the decision stood nonetheless. The main reason for Lincoln’s decision was clear when Pope and McClellan crossed paths on the road to Centreville. The Federal troops cheered loudly for McClellan’s arrival, while Pope heard the men behind him celebrating his departure.

But Pope would not leave right away. He believed that since the order only gave McClellan command of all troops in and around Washington, Pope would resume command of the Army of Virginia as soon as that body marched out of the capital’s vicinity once more.

Pope met with Lincoln on the 3rd and submitted his official report of the battle, in which he bitterly blamed Major General Fitz John Porter for refusing to obey orders to attack the Confederates. He also condemned McClellan for refusing to send reinforcements that could have turned the battle’s tide. Lincoln reviewed the report with his cabinet and directed Pope to make substantial edits before its official publication.

Two days later, McClellan directed Pope to lead his force out of Washington. Pope responded to McClellan’s chief of staff, “McClellan has ordered my troops to take post at various places, and I have never been notified in a single instance of their positions.” Pope then wrote Halleck, “What is my command, and where is it? McClellan has scattered it about in all directions, and has not informed me of the position of a single regiment. Am I to take the field under McClellan’s orders?” Pope sent another message to Halleck that afternoon:

“I must again ask your attention to the condition of things in this army. By the present arrangement you are doing me more injury than my worst enemy could do. It is understood, and acted on, that I am deprived of my command, and that it is assigned to McClellan. An order defining his exact status here as well as my own is necessary at once. I send you an official protest against his action.”

Halleck simply replied, “The armies of the Potomac and Virginia are being consolidated, you will report for orders to the Secretary of War.” Halleck then directed McClellan to “act accordingly in putting forces in the field. The President has directed that General Pope be relieved and report to War Department.”

Halleck then sent another message to Pope, explaining that he had not been able to answer Pope’s queries until the administration made its final decision. Halleck added, “Do not infer from this that any blame attaches to you. On the contrary, we think you did your best with the material you had. I have not heard any one censure you in the least.”

A week later, the Army of Virginia became part of the Army of the Potomac:

  • Major General Franz Sigel’s I Corps became XI Corps
  • Major General Nathaniel P. Banks’s II Corps became XII Corps, with Banks replaced by Major General Joseph Mansfield
  • Major General Irvin McDowell’s III Corps became I Corps, with McDowell replaced by Major General Joseph Hooker

Pope was sent to command the new Department of the Northwest, which consisted of Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, and the Nebraska and Dakota territories. Pope’s primary mission would be to put down the Sioux uprising in Minnesota.

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References

Bailey, Ronald H., The Bloodiest Day: The Battle of Antietam (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 15; CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government: All Volumes (Heraklion Press, Kindle Edition 2013, 1889), Loc 17261-69; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 209; Donald, David Herbert, Lincoln (Simon & Schuster, Kindle Edition, 2011), Loc 7848-60, 7872; Faust, Patricia L., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 103-04; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 647-49; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 202-04, 206; Freeman, Douglas Southall, Lee (Scribner, Kindle Edition, 2008), Loc 4565; Goodwin, Doris Kearns, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2005), p. 474-80; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 260-62, 264-65; Sommers, Richard J., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 172-74, 177-78, 787-88; Time-Life Editors, Lee Takes Command: From Seven Days to Second Bull Run (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 167; Wert, Jeffry D., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 94-95; Wikipedia: Army of Virginia, John Pope (military officer)