Friday, May 31, 2013

General Ambrose Burnside offers to resign

On May 29, President Lincoln received a telegram from General Ambrose Burnside, offering his resignation.
Burnside had been told that his recent arrest of former Ohio Congressman Clement Vallandigham had caused some embarrassment to the president. Mr. Lincoln did not accept Burnside's offer.

The following day, U.S. Senator Charles Sumner (Massachusetts) and his committee from New York met with the president. They offered that they were confident they could raise a force of 10,000 black soldiers for the U.S. Colored troops if General John Fremont could command them. Mr. Lincoln said he would be pleased to receive not 10,000 but ten times ten thousand and that he would protect them and receive them into service to help complete his task of finishing the war.

Mr. Lincoln and Congressman Sumner also discussed problems associated with organizing and raising colored troops in the North. Sumner had known the problem that raising 2,000 men to fill the 54th and 55th Massachusetts had presented. Only a few more than 400 black men had enlisted. The regiments both had to recruit in other states to fill their ranks with their primary source being Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Several prominent black leaders were recruited to help with enlistment of colored soldiers including Frederick Douglass and Martin R. Delany.

Friday, May 24, 2013

President Lincoln finally receives good news from the front

On May 22, President Lincoln is elated receiving a telegram from the front announcing that General Ulysses S. Grant had begun a siege on Vicksburg, MS. Grant had recently taken the Mississippi capital at Jackson. He had defeated two rebel armies. And now his men were attempting to break through the entrenchments at Vicksburg.

Lincoln called Grant's campaigns for the month of May "one of the most brilliant in the world."

That same week, Mr. Lincoln met with more than two dozen one-legged Union soldiers in the East Room of the White House. The veterans from St. Elizabeth's hospital each received a handshake from the president who was deeply moved by their dedication and courage. Chaplain J. C. Richmond who accompanied the men commented "These maimed heroes, sir, are eloquent without uttering a word. The limbs that are absent speak more loudly that the arms and legs that are here."

The president also visited three army hospitals in the Washington DC vicinity and talked to over 1,000 soldiers who were convalescing there.

On May 22, the Bureau of United States Colored Troops also came into existence. This enabled black soldiers to be received for the first time officially into the Union army as soldiers. Several prior black regiments, including the 54th Massachusetts, had already been formed.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Troubles abound with a former Congressman from Ohio

On May 12, the president learned that in the Union loss in battle at Chancellorsville, Confederate General Stonewall Jackson had died.

He also had to deal with the arrest of former Ohio Congressman Clement Vallandigham by General Burnside. Vallandigham had said Lincoln's war was a war of "freedom of blacks and enslavement of the whites" and that the war would only come to conclusion when the Union troops deserted en masse and proceeded to "hurl King Lincoln from his thrown."

When Vallandigham applied for a writ to be released, Lincoln suspended the writ. Judge H.H. Levitt denied the motion in the case. Lincoln said Judge Levitt's denial equaled at least three victories in the field. On May 19, the president commuted Vallandigham's jail term by banishing him to the Confederacy. At least temporarily, the former Congressman would be out of the limelight.

During the same week, Mr. Lincoln went with Secretary Seward and Secretary Stanton to the Navy Yard and then onto a ship which would carry them down the Potomac River to inspect the Union troop transports.

Friday, May 10, 2013

President troubled by news of defeat at Chancellorsville

President Lincoln received the news badly of Hooker's retreat and the recent defeat of the union army at Chancellorsville. This had followed on the heels of the defeat at Fredericksburg.

Lincoln's friend, Noah Brooks, who was with the president when the telegram arrived said he had never seen Mr. Lincoln was "so broken, so dispirited, and so ghostlike."

The president paced the room at the telegraph office, Brooks reported, saying "My God. My God. What will the country say!"

Mr. Lincoln corresponded with General Hooker saying "the recent movement of your army is ended without effecting its object...what next? have you already in your mind a plan wholly or partially formed? If you have, prosecute it without interference from me. If you have not, please inform me, so that I, incompetent as I may be, can try to assist in the formation of some plan for the army."

Friday, May 3, 2013

President is concerned with operations at Chancellorsville

President Lincoln spent much time this week in the telegraph office concerned over telegrams from the battle raging at Chancellorsville. His telegram to General Butterfield asked "Where is General Hooker? Where is General John Sedgwick? Where is Stoneman?"

The response he received was as follows: "General Hooker is at Chancellorsville. General Sedgwick with 15,000 to 20,000 men is on the road to Chancellorsville. General Stoneman has not been heard from."

General Hooker had told the president that he had no concern about the Confederates -- his only concern being the weather. President Lincoln consulted with a weather "expert" Francis Capen. Capen had assured that there would be no rain until at least April 30 or May 1. After experiencing rain for a ten hour period prior to those dates, the president dismissed Capen.