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dfie JtersiDe ptes& Camfcri&0* 




Although this book contains a sketch of Mr. Stan- 
ton's early life, his professional career, and his general 
characteristics, its main purpose is to present the record 
of his relation to the civil war, and to mark the place 
in history to which his services to the country entitle 
him. His public life embraced the secession winter of 
1860-61, three years of the civil war, — 1862-65, — 
and three years of the reconstruction struggle which 
followed it. He died in 1869, while yet the passions 
of those times were at the highest. The story, there- 
fore, of his public career is as stormy as the period in 
which he wrought ; and his claims upon the respect and 
gratitude of his countrymen rest chiefly upon the part 
he took in the preservation of the Union. 

It is thirty years since this great American ended 
his work ; and the country, then torn by faction, and 
divided into two warring sections, is now thoroughly 
reunited. Time and a revival of national pride and 
patriotic feeling have extinguished the violent animosi- 
ties of that period, and the wounds thus healed are in 


no danger of being reopened by such recitals as are 

necessary to illustrate Stanton's work and his motives. 

On the contrary, the author believes that the time has 

come when the judgment of all Americans — North and 

South — who rejoice in the possession of a reunited 

country may confidently be invoked upon the patriotic 

services of the great War Minister to whom so much is 

due for the grand result. 

G. C. G. 

Washington, D. C, January 2, 1899. 





Prefatory. — Ancestry. — School-Days. — Death of his Father. 

— Clerk in a Store at Thirteen. — Preparations for College. 

— Characteristics as a Boy. — His Struggle for an Educa- 
tion. — His College Course unfinished for Want of Means . 1 


A Miniature Disunion Struggle at Kenyon College, in which 
Stanton " goes over to Jackson." — Admitted to the Bar. — 
Married 11 


His Choice between the Political Parties in 1836. — A Politi- 
cal Review. — Jackson and the United States Bank. — For- 
mation of the Whig Party. — Its Elements. — Calhoun a 
Whig Leader. — Van Buren's Election. — Toleration on the 
Slavery Question 19 


Resumes his Residence in Steubenville. — Relations with Sen- 
ator Tappan. — His Part in the Campaign of 1840 ... 25 


His Great Success as a Lawyer. — " The Divine Alchemy of 
Work." — His First Case in Washington. — Removal to 
Pittsburg. — His Career there. — Second Marriage ... 31 



Argument of Mr. Stanton in the Wheeling Bridge Case in the 
United States Supreme Court. — His Methods in preparing 
for an Argument 38 


Removal to Washington. — Employed by the Government as 
Special Counsel in California Land Cases. — The Limantour 
Fraud 46 


Mr. Stanton in California. — His Work there. — Collection and 
Arrangement of the Mexican Archives 51 


The Limantour Case. — The Claim rejected. — Zeal, Ability, 
and Ingenuity of Stanton in conducting the Case .... 57 


Overthrow of the Forged Claim to the New Almaden Quick- 
silver Mine. — Stanton's Work in California. — Land Cases 
in the Supreme Court of the United States 67 


Mr. Stanton's Political Views, Antecedents, and Antagonisms. 
— A Freesoiler in 1848. — The " Union-Saving " Era from 
1850 to 1860. — Pro-Slavery Whigs adopt the Anti-Slavery 
Shibboleth. — Stanton's Aversion to the Whigs. — His Posi- 
tion in 1856-60. — The Support he gave Buchanan . . .71 





Appointed Attorney-General, December 20, 1860. — Review 
of the Political Situation. — The Presidential Election. — 


The Disunion Conspiracy. — Movements in South Caro- 
lina. — Her Agents in Washington. — Floyd's Treason. — 
Buchanan's Message revised by Jefferson Davis .... 81 


Mr. Buchanan asks Attorney-General Black's Opinion. — The 
Opinion, November 20, 1860. — The Same analyzed and 
reviewed. — The Anti-Coercion Doctrine 94 


President Buchanan's Last Annual Message. — Censure of the 
North and Apology for the South. — Unconstitutional to use 
Force to preserve the Union 106 


The Southern Forts. — Resignation of Cass, Secretary of State. 
— Secession Pronunciamento at Washington. — Secession of 
South Carolina. — Demand for Surrender of Fort Sumter . Ill 


Stanton accepts Appointment. — Judge Black's Influence in 
the Matter. — Why exercised. — His New Attitude. — 
Perils of the Administration 121 


The South Carolina Commissioners. — Anderson's Movement 
at Charleston. — Jefferson Davis urges the President to sur- 
render Fort Sumter. — Submission of the Question to the 
Cabinet 127 


The Cabinet Crisis. — Anderson's Instructions. — Buchanan's 
Pledge to South Carolina. — Floyd's Demand. — The Presi- 
dent's Irresolution 131 


The President confers with the Commissioners. — The Strug- 
gle in the Cabinet. — Stanton's Attitude. — Resignation of 
Floyd. — The President's Letter to the South Carolina Com- 
missioners. — His Final Break with the Secessionists . . . 142 



Stanton's Account of the Cabinet Crisis. — Judge Holt on the 
Same 149 


New Departure of the Administration. — Anderson's Act ap- 
proved. — Attempt to reinforce Sumter. — Rebel Attack on 
the Star of the West. — Treason of Jacob Thompson. — 
His Resignation. — Anderson's Truce. — The Confederacy- 
erected. — Attempts at Compromise. — War not then seri- 
ously thought of. — No War Party. — The Government and 
the Secessionists equally disinclined to open Hostilities . . 160 


Mr. Stanton's Work during the Remainder of his Term as At- 
torney-General. — Freedom from Disguises. — He affiliates 
with Union Men of all Parties, and antagonizes all Others. 
Fidelity to the President. — The Plot to seize the National 
Capital. — Stanton's Interview with Sumner. — Alarm of 
Black. — The Real Peril. — How it was averted by the Pre- 
sence of Troops. — Importance of Stanton's Services at that 
Time 165 


Mr. Stanton's Democracy and his Patriotism. — His Attitude 
towards Slavery. — The Pro-Slavery Constitution. — His 
Views on Compromise Propositions, compared with those of 
Mr. Lincoln. — Patriotic Motives of Both. — Necessity of 
making Union and not Anti-Slavery the Test. — The Outlook 
for Emancipation at that Time. — The Northern Disunion- 
ists 176 


Expiration of Buchanan's Administration. — Summary of his 
Course towards the South. — Stanton's Great Influence upon 
him 187 






1861. — The Accession of Mr. Lincoln. — The Situation. — 
Jealousy and Distrust among the Unionists 191 


Surrender of Fort Sumter favored by the Lincoln Cabinet. — 
Effect of Supposed Non-Resistant Policy of Mr. Lincoln on 
Union Democrats. — Mr. Stanton as a Representative Man 
of this Class. — His Letter to a Friend in 1861 on the Union 
Question. — His Aid or Advice not sought by the Republican 
Administration. — Did not meet Lincoln while President 
until he was appointed Secretary of War. — The Hostility 
between Republicans and Union Democrats explained. — 
Bombardment of Fort Sumter 197 


The Attack on Sumter. — Stanton on the Outlook. — His Want 
of Confidence in Mr. Lincoln. — The Reasons for it. — Mr. 
Buchanan declares his Allegiance to the Union Cause . . 208 


The Two Uprisings. — One for the Union, and the Other for 
Slavery. — Radicals and Conservatives. — Discontent among 
Union Men. — Mr. Stanton's Trenchant Criticisms of the 
Administration in Private Letters 212 


The Battle of Bull Run. — Stanton's Views at the Time. — 
McClellan called to the Command in Virginia 219 


McClellan in Command of the Division of the Potomac. — Or- 
ganization of the Army. — Fortifying the Capital. — Confi- 


dence reposed in him. — His Private Letters from August to 
November. — General Scott retired and MeClellan placed 
in Command of all the Armies. — Stanton's Relations with 
him at that Time. — Public Impatience for Military Opera- 
tions. — Joint Committee of Congress on the Conduct of the 
War, to investigate the Causes of the Inactivity of the Army. 
— Testimony of the Division Generals and Others. — Mc- 
Clellan's Delay in appearing before the Committee . . . 226 



Stanton's Appointment as Secretary of War. — Without Pre- 
vious Consultation with him. — Stanton consults MeClellan 
before accepting. — Reasons for the Appointment. — Com- 
ments on the Appointment by Men of Distinction. — Stan- 
ton's Conception of the Duties of his Office 238 


Mr. Stanton at Work. — Some of his Duties and Some of his 
Annoyances 246 


His First Official Order. — Care for Union Prisoners. — Con- 
ference with the Committee on the Conduct of the War. — 
The Military Situation made known to him through the Tes- 
timony of McClellan's Generals. — His First War Bulletin. 
— In this the President's Military Supremacy asserted . . 250 


Important War Measures enacted by Congress on Mr. Stan- 
ton's Recommendation. — Work in the Department. — Con- 
gress calls for Information 255 



Army Contracts dealt with. — An Order made to investigate 
them and terminate Fraudulent Ones. — Order taking Pos- 
session of all Railroads for Military Purposes 258 


Order concerning Political Prisoners and Military Arrests. — 
Release of Prisoners. — Further Extraordinary Arrests to 
be made by the Military Authorities only. — Mr. Stanton 
defends Arrests otherwise made up to that Time .... 262 


Colonel Thomas A. Scott's Mission to the West. — Halleck 
and Buell. — Grant escapes from Halleck and takes Forts 
Henry and Donelson. — Halleck demands his Reward for 
it. — Nashville evacuated 268 


Correspondence between Secretary Stanton and Assistant Sec- 
retary Scott. — Stanton's Ideas of what War should be. — 
His Intentions towards Halleck and Buell. — Comments on 
this and Reference to Critics. — Grant promoted to Major- 
Generalship on Recommendation made by Stanton on the 
Morning following the Capture of Fort Donelson .... 277 


Horace Greeley on Stanton. — The Latter disclaims Credit not 
his Due in a Letter to the " Tribune." — Comments on this 
Letter by Lewis Cass 283 


A Fleet of Steam Rams for Operations on the Mississippi 
River. — Constructed under Stanton's Orders by Charles 
Ellet, Jr 288 


The Capture of Memphis 297 



Halleck in the West. — His Importunity for an Enlarged Com- 
mand. — His Ludicrous Pretensions. — His Injustice to 
Grant undone by an Inquiry from the War Department. — 
He is given Supreme Command in the West. — He then 
restores Grant to his Command. — The Battle of Shiloh 
fought while Halleck is still at St. Louis. — He then takes 
the Field and resumes Persecution of Grant. — Halleck's 
Advance on Corinth by Parallels. — Finds it evacuated . . 300 


General Butler's New Orleans Expedition. — Cooperation of 
Naval Fleet under Admiral Farragut. — Grand Naval 
Exploit and Capture of the City. — Occupation and Military 
Government by General Butler 313 


Operations on the Mississippi River. — First Movements on 
Vicksburg by Farragut and Butler 321 




Lincoln and McClellan. — The Relations between them. — 
Reluctance of the President to force an Issue with his Gen- 
eral-in-Chief. — Stanton's Hopes of McClellan. — Elation of 
the Latter attributable to Exaggerated Importance given 
to his Operations in West Virginia. — Brief Review of that 
Campaign. — Stanton's Influence made Manifest. — Lincoln 
asserts his Authority as Commander-in-Chief. — He orders a 
Movement of the Land and Naval Forces 326 


McClellan proposes a Peninsular Campaign. — Mr. Lincoln 
opposes it and orders a Different Movement. — The Ques- 


tion left unsettled until Obstructions are removed from the 
Lower Potomac and the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. — 
Blunders at Harper's Ferry compel an Abandonment of an 
Important Movement. — An Order to attack Rebel Batter- 
ies on the Potomac revoked, because of an Opinion of the 
Chief Engineer of the Army, Five Months before the Order 
was made. — General Lander's Brilliant and Successful Ex- 
ploit. — Rashness on his Part feared by the General-in-Chief. 

— Stanton's Contrary Opinion 336 

A Council of War. — McClellan's Plan submitted and adopted* 

— The Council summoned to the White House. — The Plan 
laid before the President. — The Council questioned by Sec- 
retary Stanton. — The President accepts the Plan with Cer- 
tain Modifications 345 


The Peninsular Campaign. — Conditions imposed by the Pre- 
sident. — Evacuation of Manassas. — The Rebels in a Panic 
when deemed most Formidable by McClellan. — Advance of 
the Army on the Deserted Field 350 


McClellan relieved of General Command, and assigned to the 
Army of the Potomac only. — His Plan demanded by Stan- 
ton. — Vague Response. — Ordered to move by Some Route 
at once. — The Transportation of the Army and its Supplies 
to Fortress Monroe 360 


Stanton's New Duties. — Daily Meetings of his Bureau Offi- 
cers as a Board of Administration. — Its First Meeting. — 
How to neutralize the Merrimac 366 


The Peninsular Campaign. — McClellan's Disregard of Orders. 

— His Attempt to leave Washington unprotected. — How this 
was prevented. — McDowell's Corps retained. — McClellan's 


Misrepresentations. — He treated the Enforcement of Con- 
ditions originally placed upon his Campaign as an Interfer- 
ence 376 


On the Peninsula. — Stanton to McClellan. — The Siege of 
Yorktown. — Manassas repeated. — Preparations and n& 
Attack for Thirty Days. — Yorktown then evacuated. — 
Loud Demand for Troops which were sent and never used. 

— McClellan's Daily Promises to Stanton daily broken. — 
Said he would have attacked on the 6th of May if the Enemy 
had not retreated on the 4th 381 


The Battle of Williamsburg. — McClellan says Battle was an 
Accident due to Rapidity of Pursuit of the Enemy ordered 
by him. — How he saved the Day by Two Orders, neither of 
which he says was executed 391 


The Fall of Norfolk and the Destruction of the Merrimac. — 
The James River then opened to McClellan 398 


McClellan's Snail Pace on the Peninsula. — His Failure to take 
the Line of the James River on two Favorable Occasions. — 
Then attributes Failure of his Campaign to not having taken 
it. — His Correspondence, exposing Glaring Inconsistency, 
and refuting many Statements in his Book 403 


Slanders of Stanton by the McClellan and Copperhead Press. 

— Directly based on Private Letters of McClellan. — The 
Latter boasts of having insulted President Lincoln .... 414 


Stanton's Silence under Persecution, lest Harm come to the 
Country. — His Reply in a Private Letter, never published 
until Seventeen Years after his Death. — A Voice from the 
Grave 425 



The Battle of Fair Oaks. — McClellan divides his Army by a 
River rapidly being rendered impassable by a Flood. — Two 
Corps are saved by Sumner's Energetic Movement in Ad- 
vance of McClellan 's Order. — A Costly Victory thrown 
away. — Army ordered back when within Four Miles of 
Richmond 433 

McClellan lies down on the Banks of the Chickahominy and 
awaits an Attack which he says will destroy his Army . . 440 

The Seven Days' Battles 447 



Edwin M. Stanton. From a daguerreotype taken when he was 
about forty-two Frontispiece 

Birthplace of Mr. Stanton, Steubenville, Ohio ; from a photo- 
graph taken in 1898 facing 8 

Mrs. Stanton (Ellen M. Hutchison), from a daguerreo- 
type facing 34 

Facsimile extracts from letter of J. S. Black to Mr. Stanton, 
April 27, 1858 facing 54 

Mr. Stanton's Washington home, 1861-1869 . . . facing 188 

The War Department under Secretary Stanton . . . facing 238 

Facsimile of part of letter from James Buchanan to Mr. Stan- 
ton, February 25, 1862 facing 284 

Facsimile of letter from President Lincoln to General McClel- 
lan, February 3, 1862 facing 338 

Map to illustrate McClellan's Peninsular Campaign . facing 380 

Facsimile of Mr. Stanton's copy of his letter to General Mc- 
Clellan, May 6, 1862 facing 398 

Facsimile of part of Mr. Stanton's letter to the Rev. Heman 
Dyer, May 18, 1862 facing 426 





Prefatory. — Ancestry. — School-Days. — Death of his Father. — 
Clerk in a Store at Thirteen. — Preparations for College. — Char- 
acteristics as a Boy. — His Struggle for an Education. — His 
College Course unfinished for Want of Means. 

From the incipiency of the Southern rebellion in 
1860 to the end, in 1868, of the unsuccessful struggle 
of the Southern leaders to dictate the terms of peace, 
perhaps no man exercised more influence over the des- 
tinies of the nation than did Edwin M. Stanton. He 
has been the object of as much admiration and as much 
hatred as ever fell to the lot of a public man. His 
public services as our great War Minister were rendered 
in fierce revolutionary times, and in proportion to the 
fidelity and force he brought to the cause of the gov- 
ernment he was praised by its friends and denounced 
by its foes. In the administration of his office he came 
in direct conflict with the class of plunderers who al- 
ways seek to enrich themselves out of the necessities of 


a government engaged in war. These he counted as 
public foes equally with the enemy in the field. From 
various sources have naturally come many unjust 
assaults upon his memory. On the other hand, he has 
sometimes been credited with a perfection of character 
and a consistency of antecedents which are equally 
exaggerated. To give some account of his life and ser- 
vices, and to speak of him as he was, concealing no 
weakness and exalting unduly no virtue, would be a 
desirable contribution to biographical literature. Per- 
haps such a task is impossible to either a friend or an 
enemy of the cause he upheld. These pages are writ- 
ten from the standpoint of the Union cause of 1861, 
and no pretense is made to impartiality between the 
Unionists of that period and their antagonists. Jus- 
tice can be done to the subject of this biography, when 
dealing with his public career, only by assuming the 
right of this nation to preserve its life by all necessary 
measures, and by refusing to admit to the field of con- 
troversy any claims in any manner tending to justify 
the rebellion. This will not, however, excuse any false 
claims in his behalf, nor a failure to meet in a spirit 
of fair discussion any allegation calling in question his 
public acts and motives. As to his private life and 
conduct, and his political opinions and affiliations, from 
the beginning to the end, it is the duty of the biogra- 
pher to make them as an open book, presenting the 
truth uninfluenced by any consideration of his public 
services. The real Stanton is the one on whom the 
considerate judgment of mankind will be invoked, — 
the man of great mental endowments, a warm, emotional 


nature, varying moods, and, like all other men, pos- 
sessed of qualities which often warred one with another. 

Politically, he commenced life as a Jackson Demo- 
crat ; became a " Freesoiler " when he thought Mr. 
Van Buren had been unfairly defeated by the South in 
the convention of 1844 ; remained, nevertheless, in the 
Democratic party, and adhered to the extreme pro- 
slavery wing of the party when the Dred Scott decision 
marked a new departure in the discussion of the slavery 

In the cabinet of Mr. Buchanan, during the secession 
winter of 1860-61, he was faithful to his country and 
to his chief, and never served the latter better than 
when, with the aid of his colleagues, Black and Holt, 
he saved the President from the ruin in which treason 
at the council board sought to engulf him. His patri- 
otic zeal at that time led to his subsequent appointment 
as Secretary of War. He was slow to overcome his 
antipathy to the " Black Kepublicans," as he, in com- 
mon with other Democrats, called them as late as the 
summer of 1861 ; and so intense was his dislike for 
President Lincoln that we have his own authority for 
saying that when he called on him to receive his com- 
mission as Secretary of War, on the 15th of January, 
1862, it was the first time he had seen him since his 
inauguration, more than ten months before. 

It was in the War Department that Mr. Stanton 
developed his greatest qualities. These were intellec- 
tual power, self-reliance, an iron will, unbending integ- 
rity, devoted patriotism, immense capacity for long-sus- 
tained work, adaptability to new duties, and an intense 


enthusiasm for whatever cause he espoused. His faults 
were chiefly those of temperament. Rapidity of discus- 
sion and action, made necessary by the vastness of the 
work before him, sometimes led him to injustice, which 
was the harder to bear because of the abruptness of 
manner with which it was often accompanied. He was 
too busy to be ceremonious when many would have 
construed it into an invitation to occupy the time which 
he could not give them. He was the man who said 
" no " for the government when it had to be said, no 
matter how distasteful or offensive it might be to those 
to whom it was addressed. 

The materials for a just and full narrative of Mr. 
Stanton's public life do not exist. In the very nature 
of the case, his most important daily work during the 
war left no record behind. Mr. Stanton kept no diary, 
nor did he in any manner concern himself with what 
should be said of him either by his contemporaries or 
by posterity. The great mass of papers left by him 
contain no suggestion of any contribution by him to 
his biography. The daily conferences between him and 
President Lincoln at the War Department, where the 
latter spent much of his time, and the share which he 
contributed to the conclusions at which they arrived 
cannot be known or estimated. They worked together 
as one man, each supplying something that might be 
wanting in the other. 1 

1 In a letter to Mr. Stanton, dated at Paris, July 26, 1865, Mr. John 
Hay made this reference to the relations between Mr. Stanton and Mr. 
Lincoln, as he had observed them while near the President : — 

" Not every one knows as I do how close you stood to our lost leader. 
How he loved you and trusted you, and how vain were all the efforts to 


He was potent in the councils of congressional com- 
mittees, where public measures are framed. He kept 
himself well informed as to the thoroughness with 
which the several bureaus of his department were per- 
forming their great work of raising and equipping 
troops, and providing transportation and supplies for 
them in the field. His long arm reached into the 
States and aided their authorities in raising volunteers. 
His words of encouragement and cheer went out to the 
country through the press in frequent official announce- 
ments of events in the field, always giving the bright 
side in times of doubt and discouragement. 

His antagonism to President Johnson's reconstruc- 
tion policy, and his refusal to resign from the Cabinet 
when called upon by him to do so, will be praised or cen- 
sured according as the motives of the President and the 
Secretary respectively are estimated. It was a part of 
a great controversy involving the fruits of the war and 
the terms of peace. In that controversy he upheld 
what he believed to be the national cause, and resisted 
a " plan " which he regarded as reactionary, and one 
that could be enforced only by executive usurpation of 
legislative powers. 

When the cause he wrought for had fully prevailed, 
he resigned. His work was done, and, worn out by it, 
he died within the following year. 

Mr. Stanton's origin and early surroundings, his 
school-days and youthful impressions, his twenty-five 
years of hard work as a lawyer, and his political affilia- 

shake that trust and confidence, not lightly given and never withdrawn. 
All this will be known some time, of course, to his honor and yours." 


tions before lie entered public life afford material for 
some interesting chapters. 

Stantons and Macys — Quakers — had emigrated 
from Massachusetts to North Carolina before the war 
of the Revolution. There Benjamin Stanton and Abi- 
gail Macy were married in 1774. 

Following the example of members of the Society of 
Friends residing in Northern States, Benjamin Stanton, 
in 1787, desired to manumit the slaves he had inherited ; 
but as this was at the time forbidden by a statute of 
the State, he made his will, in which he provided that 
" all the poor black people that ever belonged to me be 
entirely free whenever the law of the land will allow, 
until which time, my executor I leave as guardian to 
protect them and see that they be not deprived of their 
rights, or in any way misused." 

He died ; and in the year 1800 his widow, taking six 
of her children, the eldest of them but sixteen, and 
accompanied by a married daughter and son-in-law, 
emigrated to the free Northwestern territory because 
slavery had been there forever prohibited. Two years 
later her three remaining daughters — all married — 
followed her thither. She purchased land of the gov- 
ernment at the present site of Mount Pleasant, Ohio, 
and was one of the pioneers of that region. 

Her son David was bred a physician at Steubenville, 
and he was reputed a skillful practitioner, a curious 
scholar, a worthy and public spirited citizen, and a man 
of sincere convictions. 

Lucy Norman, the daughter of a Virginia planter, 
had of her own choice left her father's home, with his 


consent, to emigrate with friends of her deceased 
mother to the Northwest. Young David Stanton mar- 
ried her, and to them was horn, at Steubenville, Ohio, 
on the 19th of December, 1814, the subject of these 
memoirs, Edwin McMasters Stanton. 1 

Dr. Stanton separated from the Quakers upon their 
demand for an apology for having married outside of 
his sect. His wife was a woman of deep religious faith, 
strong character, and amiable qualities. Their home 
was the favorite resort of traveling preachers and 
philanthropists. Every week, during the year 1821, 
Benjamin Lundy — Quaker Abolitionist — came there 
to bring, for distribution therefrom, his edition of " The 
Genius of Universal Emancipation," an anti-slavery 
journal published by him at Mount Pleasant, where he 
also made saddles for a livelihood, and to eke out the 
cost of printing his paper. 

The following extracts from a letter addressed, in 
1865, to Stanton by a venerable old lady friend, 2 give 
the earliest glimpse we have of his life, and other inter- 
esting references to himself and his family : — 

I have a vivid recollection of you and your brother when 
you were schoolmates of my sons, Thomas and Peter, and of 
your little sisters when you were all children, and your father, 
kind, good Dr. Stanton, who, you may recollect, was our 
family physician for many years. ... I still recollect of once 
going into poor Miss Eandle's school, and you and my Thomas 

1 The daughter of the friends with whom Lucy Norman had left 
Virginia married David McMasters ; hence that portion of Stanton's 

2 Mrs. Frances B. Wilson, of Steubenville, then seventy-six years of 


were seated in your little chairs, one on each side of her, with 
your heads lying in her lap, both fast asleep. She said to 
me : " You see my two little pets." The fact is, you were 
quite too young to be sent to school ; but she was so gentle 
and affectionate that we always felt you were safe. . . . 

Some years ago I received a letter from my youngest son, 
Samuel M. Wilson, of San Francisco, 1 saying that you were 
there attending to some business for the government, and 
that you were gaining golden opinions by the way you were 
managing it. . . . 

Dr. Stanton's practice was good, but in those days, 
in a place like Steubenville, this meant only a living, 
even to the most thrifty. When he died, therefore, in 
1827, he left his widow in straitened circumstances, 
with four children to care for. Young Edwin, then 
thirteen years of age, was the eldest, and him she 
placed, with his ready assent, in the bookstore of Mr. 
Turnbull. His salary there was meagre enough, — 
being but four dollars a month, — but to her this was 
then a helpful sum, which, in her circumstances, she 
could not afford to forego. 

This situation took him from school, but he devoted 
his evenings, under his latest teacher, the Eev. Mr. 
Buchanan, to such preparatory studies as would be 
necessary for his entrance at Kenyon College. At the 
store he read much, and sometimes, as his employer 
complained, to the neglect of customers, failing to see 
them when they first came in. 

Mr. Gallagher, a venerable and highly respected 
citizen of Steubenville, better known there as " Squire " 

1 A leading member of the bar of that city, since deceased. 



Gallagher, attended school with Stanton, and says of 
him that he was " a good boy; amiable and courteous." 
He tells of his enterprise in starting a circulating 
library ; also of prayer-meetings held by some boys 
under his leadership. His only adverse criticism upon 
him was when he referred, with a tinge of bitterness, to 
his having " gone over to Jackson." 

John Harper, afterwards and for many years the 
president of the Bank of Pittsburg, went to Steuben- 
ville a boy in 1826, and remained until 1831. He 
knew young Stanton intimately during those years, and 
testifies to his greed for books. He was especially fond 
of poetry. He was of a religious tendency, and in 
their Sunday strolls in the country " generally gave the 
conversation a moral and religious turn." He had no 
taste for the streets, nor for association with boys of 
coarse manners or language. Mr. Harper bears willing 
testimony to the general amiability and kindness of Mr. 
Stanton's disposition when a boy, as well as to his ele- 
vated moral tone. They continued to be friends up 
to the time of the latter' s death. 

His old playmate, Louis A. Walker, testifies to his 
masterfulness as a boy. He says : " Stanton was always 
positive, and in the latitude given or taken in boys' 
plays and games was somewhat imperious ; never com- 
bative or abusive. I question whether he ever in his 
lifetime once thought of personal force to defend him- 
self or punish an enemy. Self-reliance, however, placed 
him in advance of others with whom he played, acted, 
and lived, and his invincible energy kept him there 
to the very end." "Imperious," "self-reliant," 


"positive/' and of "invincible energy/' — so testifies 
a companion of Stanton's boyhood. He needs no cor- 
roboration. The boy was, indeed, father to the man. 

He struggled at a great disadvantage for the limited 
education he received. In 1831, when in his seven- 
teenth year, after four years of work in the bookstore, 
he entered Kenyon College (Gambier, Ohio). He was 
unable to continue the course there for want of means, 
and left during his junior year in 1833. In a letter 
written that year he complains bitterly of a disappoint- 
ment which rendered it impossible for him to realize 
the hope he had entertained of being able to remain at 
least one year longer in college. 


A Miniature Disunion Struggle at Kenyon College, in which Stan- 
ton " goes over to Jackson." — Admitted to the Bar. — Married. 

It was at Kenyon that Stanton " went over to Jack- 
son." The old Whig squire of his native town, who 
thus reproached him, related at the same time how firm 
an adherent of Clay and Adams, as against Jackson, 
Stanton's father was in 1825. This fact seemed to him 
to carry with it an inherited obligation on the part of 
the son to oppose Jackson at all times and under all 

It is worth while here to consider the reasons that led 
young Stanton, while at Kenyon, to espouse the cause 
of Jackson, — a step which had so large an influence 
upon his life. 

Dr. Stanton died in 1827, two years before Jackson 
became President, five years before the first national 
Democratic convention was held, and seven years before 
the Whig party came into existence. The last presi- 
dential struggle that took place during his lifetime was 
that of 1824. Monroe had been chosen to a second 
term in 1820, with but one dissenting electoral vote, that 
one being of his own party. After this the Federalist 
party made no sign, and the Republican party was left 
without an antagonist. 

In 1824 the Republican representatives in Congress 


refused to meet in the usual party caucus for the selec- 
tion of a presidential candidate. 1 A minority of them 
met, however (66 out of 216), and nominated William 
H. Crawford, of Georgia. This being without binding 
force, three other members of the " Republican " party 
— Jackson, Adams, and Clay — were presented by their 
friends as candidates. No others entered the field. 
Whoever voted that year, therefore, voted for a Repub- 
lican. Jackson received the highest number of electoral 
votes, but not a majority. Adams received the next 
highest number, Crawford the next, and Clay the low- 
est. The failure of the people to elect threw the elec- 
tion into the House of Representatives, where, by the 
terms of the Constitution, a choice had to be made 
from the three persons having the highest number of 
votes. Clay's friends, under his directions, gave the 
votes necessary to make Adams President. This greatly 
embittered the Jackson men, the more so from the fact 
that the legislature of Kentucky — Clay's own State — 
had, by a vote of 73 to 11 in the House of Represent- 
atives, and 18 to 12 in the Senate, requested its members 
to vote for Jackson, since Clay could not himself be 
constitutionally voted for. 

This coalition between Adams and Clay was followed 
by the appointment of the latter as Secretary of State, 
and it was charged that the appointment was the result 
of a pledge or " bargain " extorted from Adams by 
Clay or his friends as the price of their votes. The 
fiercest passions were aroused by these events, and upon 
the relative merits of the parties to the controversy 

1 National conventions were then unknown. 


hinged our national politics for the ensuing twenty 
years. The truth or falsity of this charge of a " bar- 
gain " between Clay and Adams was hardly to be 
ranked as a political principle, adherence to which was 
essential to political consistency, regardless of the poli- 
cies subsequently upheld by the opposing chiefs. 

The supporters of the Adams Administration called 
themselves " National Republicans." General Jackson 
continued to claim for his adherents the name of " Re- 

The national judgment was with Jackson, and twice 
made him President. Adams and Clay, whose coalition 
had defeated him in 1824, were successively rejected 
by the people in his favor, the one in 1828, and the 
other in 1832. 

There never has been a period during the political 
history of the country when men were more intolerant 
toward their political opponents than in the time we are 
considering. No enemy of either chief could see any 
ofood in him. No admirer of either could discover in 
him any imperfection. The fierce hostility of the two 
men towards each other was reflected in their respective 
followers, and the evil of each became the good of the 

Stanton probably went with the political party of his 
father in 1828, when Jackson defeated Adams. He 
was then not quite fourteen. But the strong influences 
necessary to change his boyish predilections were near 
at hand. John C. Calhoun, of South Carolina, had at 
first some pretensions to the presidency, in 1824, but 
finally became a candidate for the vice-presidency, and 


was elected. Although he served as Vice-President 
under Adams from 1825 to 1829, he became the Jack- 
son candidate for the same office in 1828, and was 
elected. While serving his second term as Vice-Presi- 
dent, it became apparent that Martin Van Buren was 
becoming an important factor in politics. To check 
his rise, and to rebuke Jackson for showing a prefer- 
ence for him, Calhoun defeated the confirmation of Van 
Buren for the English mission by his casting vote as 
president of the Senate. Thus invited to activity, Van 
Buren influences brought together the first national 
Democratic convention in May, 1832, not for the nom- 
ination of a candidate for the presidency, — Jack- 
son's candidacy being a foregone conclusion, — but for 
the purpose of nominating a candidate with him for 
the vice-presidency. The convention nominated Van 
Buren by a vote of 208 out of 283 votes, and indorsed 
the several nominations of Jackson for the presidency 
which had been made in the States. They were both 
elected by 219 out of the 286 electoral votes of the 
Union. South Carolina, dominated by Calhoun, was 
represented in the convention, and cast her eleven 
votes for the nomination of Philip P. Barbour for the 
vice-presidency. Neither Jackson (by birth a South 
Carolinian) nor Van Buren received a single one of her 
electoral votes, which were all cast for John Floyd, of 
Virginia, for President, and Henry Lee, of Massachu- 
setts, for Vice-President. 

The South Carolina leader had not rested quietly 
during the preparations for these events so damaging 
to his own political future. As early as 1830 he had 


commenced making the tariff law of 1828 the pretext 
for breeding a revolt against the national authority, to 
take the form of state action declaring that law unau- 
thorized by the Constitution, and null and void within 
the borders of South Carolina. Being in the chair of 
the Senate, he spoke to the people only through his 
Edgefield letters, and by the mouth of his spokesman 
in the Senate, Robert Y. Hayne. The latter, in Janu- 
ary, 1830, announced in that body, in an elaborate 
speech, the Calhoun doctrine of nullification, and was 
replied to by Daniel Webster in an exposition of the 
relations between the federal and state governments, 
which at once became, as it has ever since remained, 
the received and settled authority with all who believe 
that the Constitution established a nation. It thrilled 
every patriot heart as a renewal of the covenant of 
union of 1789, and revived the fires of patriotism 
which had been slumbering in the breasts of the people 
in the absence of any apparent danger to the country. 

The agitation in South Carolina continued to rage 
under the revolutionary leadership which had set it in 
motion, until in November, 1832, immediately after the 
reelection of Jackson, it reached white heat, and gave 
vent to itself in the adoption of the long-threatened 
state ordinance, declaring null and void within the 
State the existing tariff laws of the United States, as 
being an exercise of power unauthorized by the Consti- 
tution. On the 10th of December President Jackson 
issued his immortal proclamation against the Nulliflers, 
in which he declared the national authority to be 
supreme on all subjects intrusted by the Constitution 


to federal control, and asserted it to be his inflexible 
purpose to execute the tariff and all other laws of the 
United States with whatever force resistance might 
render necessary. 

Stanton, as we have seen, entered Kenyon College in 
1831, and remained until some time in 1833. His fel- 
low-student, S. A. Bronson, in a letter to Stanton's sis- 
ter, Mrs. Wolcott, dated June 25, 1886, says : " We 
had been through a miniature division of the Union in 
our literary society in Kenyon College. We had come 
to a point where the South would not admit a member 
from the North, nor the North a Southern member ; so 
we split and made two societies. When I met Stanton 
at Columbus (some years afterwards) there was a South- 
ern gentleman in the office. Stanton took me to him, 
introduced me as a student from Kenyon, saying: 
6 Here is " Father Bronson " (my sobriquet). We 
fought the South together at Kenyon, and whipped.' ' 
In a subsequent letter, dated August 17, 1887, Mr. 
Bronson says : " The cause of the strife was the grow- 
ing hostility between the North and the South." This 
hostility was based upon the attitude at that time 
(1832-33) of South Carolina and her adherents under 
Calhoun's lead. It was upon the question of nullifi- 
cation that Stanton and his fellows had " fought the 
South at Kenyon, and whipped." When, therefore, 
the proclamation of " the Old Hero " came thundering 
over the land, if any one of them could have hesitated 
for a moment about " going over to Jackson " from 
whatever attitude previous circumstances, traditions, 
predilections, or family ties might have placed him in, 


that one would not have been Edwin M. Stanton. 
Burning with patriotic enthusiasm, he turned his back 
upon the stale and personal politics of 1824, to be for- 
ever enlisted in the cause of the Union and the mainte- 
nance of its rightful authority. He learned no better 
lesson at Kenyon than this. It was good training for 
the boy who, in his manhood, was to raise and equip 
the armies by which the heresies of nullification and 
secession should be forever silenced in the land. Had 
his father lived, he would have had reason to rejoice 
that he had a son who at eighteen possessed individu- 
ality enough to break away from the dry rot of old 
political traditions and rise to the stature of a patriotic 
citizen in time of public danger. 

In 1833 Stanton again entered the employ of Mr. 
Turnbull, — this time in a store at Columbus, Ohio, — 
in the hope of earning enough to enable him to pay 
his way another year in college ; but the amount of 
the portion of his compensation which had been made 
contingent disappointed his expectations, and he wrote 
to his guardian making known his dissatisfaction. The 
result was the termination of his engagement with Mr. 
Turnbull, and an abandonment of all hope of reentering 

He then entered, with energy, upon the study of the 
law, — the profession in which, as he matured in years 
and character, his whole ambition was centred, and in 
which he obtained a place among the few in the very 
front rank, with all the honors it could bestow, includ- 
ing commissions as Attorney-General and Justice of the 
Supreme Court of the United States. During this his 


eighteenth year he became engaged to Miss Mary Ann 
Lamson, the daughter of William Lamson, of Columbus, 
Ohio. They were not to be married, however, until he 
had completed his law studies. These he pursued at 
Steubenville with unremitting industry, literally obey- 
ing the scriptural injunction : " Whatsoever thy hand 
findeth to do, do it with thy might." Three years of 
well-directed and vigorous work at his books brought 
the reward. His examination found him well equipped,, 
and in 1836 he was admitted to the bar, and commenced 
practice at Cadiz, the county-seat of Harrison County, 
adjoining the county in which he was born. Having 
thus made his start in life, he was married on the 31st 
of December of that year. From this marriage were 
born a son and daughter. The latter died September 
17, 1841. The son survived him a few years. 

After a brief sojourn in Steubenville at the house of 
Judge Tappan, the young couple took up their residence 
at a hotel in Cadiz. In the spring following they went 
to housekeeping in a very modest way, in a house but 
partially finished at the edge of that town, bringing the 
furniture therefor from Stanton's home at Steubenville. 
This removal did not take place, however, until after 
the young husband, leaving his wife at Judge Tappan' s, 
had made a journey over the mountains of Virginia for 
the dutiful purpose of escorting home his mother, who 
had been spending the winter there with her family. 
In all periods of his life, and under all circumstances, 
his devotion to his mother was a marked trait in his 


His Choice between the Political Parties in 1836. — A Political Re- 
view. — Jackson and the United States Bank. — Formation of 
the Whig Party. — Its Elements. — Calhoun a Whig Leader. — 
Van Buren's Election. — Toleration on the Slavery Question. 

The young lawyer must have made a good impression 
in the county in which he commenced business, for, 
during the first year of his practice, viz., in August, 
1837, he received his commission as prosecuting attor- 
ney, to which office he had been chosen by the people 
as a Democrat at the preceding election. Why he chose 
to act with the Democratic party will appear by refer- 
ence to the questions upon which parties were then 
divided, and the elements that composed them. 

General Jackson had, during his first term (1829-33), 
called in question the constitutionality and expediency 
of the United States Bank, a federal corporation deriv- 
ing much profit and importance from the handling of 
the government funds of which it was the depository. 
In 1832, before the presidential election of that year, 
he vetoed a bill to recharter the bank, the existing 
charter of which was not to expire until 1836. This 
gave that institution an opportunity for an appeal to 
the people, which it confidently made. The result was 
the reelection of Jackson by 219 electoral votes against 
49 for Clay, 11 for Floyd, and 7 for Wirt. 


A new question came now, however, to supplant the 
bank agitation, and gave its supporters time to rally 
from their discomfiture. As already stated, this second 
election of Jackson had been almost immediately fol- 
lowed by the South Carolina convention, and the adop- 
tion, on the 24th of November, 1832, of the Nullifica- 
cation Ordinance against the tariff law of 1828. The 
people who, during the presidential canvass then just 
ended, had been divided between the friends and oppo- 
nents of the United States Bank must now divide for 
and against nullification. Jackson's proclamation was 
a fiery appeal to the national patriotism. It pleaded 
with the rebellious people in his own native State to 
obey the laws, but at the same time made it unmistak- 
ably clear that if they could not be thus conciliated, 
they would be met with " all means to crush." The 
struggle terminated in a surrender on the part of Con- 
gress, under the leadership of Henry Clay. The law of 
the United States which South Carolina had ordained 
should be null and void within her boundaries became 
null and void accordingly. It was meekly taken out 
of her way, and another substituted for it, with which 
she and her chieftain professed to be satisfied, and for 
which he voted. 1 Notwithstanding this stultifying 
vote of the great Nullifier in favor of diluted "pro- 
tection," the fact remained that, instead of the prestige 
of vindicated authority remaining with the federal 
government, it went with the revolted State. Clay 
gained great credit at the time as " a Union-saver," by 

1 Mr. Calhoun had resigned the vice-presidency and taken a seat in 
the Senate in December, 1832. 


this compromise, but most dangerously did he prevail. 
The federal government was saved from the necessity of 
enforcing its authority only by abdicating that author- 
ity, and faction was taught how to rule by making 
national submission to its most unreasonable demands 
the price at which the Union might continue to exist 
without the use of force. 

Peace having thus been secured on terms agreeable 
to the Nullifiers, the United States Bank was again left 
to the undisputed leadership of " the field " in oppo- 
sition to Jackson. That corporation, nothing daunted 
by the verdict of the people at the polls, and des- 
perately fighting for existence, rallied its forces for the 
control of the next congressional elections. In view of 
this, the President, in the summer of 1833, ordered the 
Secretary of the Treasury to remove the government 
deposits from the vaults of the bank for the alleged 
double purpose of protecting the country from loss and 
the people from the political power which the bank 
could otherwise wield against them with their own 
money. No executive act, not even the Emancipation 
Proclamation of Lincoln thirty years later, ever brought 
upon its author such an avalanche of denunciation or 
more of concentrated hate. 

For this act the Senate at its next session (in April, 
1834), under the leadership of Clay, adopted a resolu- 
tion of censure of the President. 1 

At the same time the Whig party was formed, made 

1 This resolution is principally known in history as the one which, 
some years afterwards, the Senate caused to be expunged from its 


up of Clay and his followers, Calhoun and the Nulliflers, 
the Anti-Masons, and all other opponents of Jackson's 
administration. This statement is made upon the 
authority of Horace Greeley, the ablest and most zeal- 
ous champion of the Whig party, as he had been one 
of the most conspicuous of its founders. 1 

1 The statement made at page 3, in The Whig Almanac and Politi- 
cian's Register for 1838, published by Horace Greeley, is in the following 
words : — 

"The American Whig Party was formed in the spring of 1834 by a 
union, so far as their common objects and views seemed to dictate, of all 
those who condemned the most arbitrary and unconstitutional removal of 
the deposits of the public treasure by General Jackson, from the one 
safe, advantageous, and proper depositary designated by law, into forty 
or fifty State banks. That reckless and most indefensible measure — 
which lies at the foundation of all our subsequent commercial, financial, 
and general calamities — necessarily gave rise to an intense political 
excitement, and to a new organization of parties, in which was partially 
merged all former distinctions. 

" The Whig Party comprised — 

" 1. Most of those who, under the name of National Republicans, had 
previously been known as supporters of Adams and Clay, and advocates 
of the American system. 

" 2. Most of those who, acting in defense of what they deemed the 
assailed or threatened rights of the States, had been stigmatized as 
Nullifiers, or the less virulent State-Rights men, who were thrown into a 
position of armed neutrality towards the administration by the doctrines 
of the proclamation of 1832, against South Carolina. 

" 3. A majority of those before known as Anti-Masons. 

" 4. Many who, up to that time, had been known as Jackson men, but 
who united in condemning the high-handed conduct of the executive, the 
immolation of Duane, and the subserviency of Taney. 

" 5. Numbers who had not before taken any part in politics, but who 
were now awakened from their apathy by the palpable usurpations of the 
executive and the imminent peril of our whole fabric of constitutional 
liberty and national prosperity. 

" Such was the origin of the Whig Party." 

Duane, for refusing to obey Jackson's order for the removal of these 


The Whig party, thus made up, was led by Clay and 
Calhoun, and seemed indeed formidable ; but in vain 
did it contend with Jackson for popular favor. Martin 
Van Buren, his choice for the succession, was unani- 
mously nominated by the national Democratic conven- 
tion in 1835, and triumphantly elected in 1836 by the 
170 electoral votes of four of the New England States, 
with New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Caro- 
lina, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana, against 71 
for William Henry Harrison, and 51 scattering. 

Van Buren was pledged to " follow in the footsteps 
of his illustrious predecessor." Harrison was under no 
pledge ; he was simply the candidate of the opposition. 
Neither party had, at that time, made any declaration 
whatever on the question of slavery. The prevailing 
sentiment in the North, and, indeed, throughout the 
country, was that slavery was an evil which would in 
time be removed by the States in which it existed, and 
which alone had the lawful right to deal with it. Anti- 
slavery men on principle were not only tolerated in both 

deposits, had been removed from the secretaryship of the Treasury, and 
Taney had been appointed to succeed him. 

At page 24 of the same Almanac Mr. Greeley bears the following testi- 
mony to the zeal with which the Nullifiers supported the Whig cause in 
1836. Under the head of " South Carolina " he says : — 

" In the election of 1836 this State voted for Willie P. Mangum of 
North Carolina for President and John Tyler of Virginia for Vice-Presi- 
dent. There was no Van Buren party here. Not a single vote was given 
for Van Buren in the legislature. Not a voice was raised for him in the 
public journals. The clear Whig majority in that State is probably not 
less than 36,000." 

Presidential electors were then chosen in South Carolina by the legis- 


parties, but to question their opinions on the subject 
was no more thought of than it is to question the right 
of individual opinion in the parties of to-day upon the 
subject of religious belief. To enlist, therefore, in 
either the one party or the other at the time was not to 
take any position whatever upon the subject of slavery. 

If any faction was secretly endeavoring to control 
politics in the interest of slavery in 1836, it was the 
Nullifiers, and they, as Mr. Greeley testifies, were in the 
Whig party. 

Such were the party divisions and such the party 
candidates when young Stanton, having reached his 
majority, was called upon to cast his vote at the presi- 
dential election of 1836. The Whig party, which, 
according to the authority of Horace Greeley, embraced 
" most of those who had been stigmatized as Nullifi- 
ers," and " State-Rights men, thrown into a position 
of armed neutrality towards the administration by the 
doctrines of the proclamation of 1832 against South 
Carolina," was not the party for Edwin M. Stanton. 

1836 was for him a most eventful year. It had seen 
him admitted to the practice of the law, married, and 
enlisted in a political cause which to him represented 
the patriotism that flamed in his enthusiastic nature. 


Resumes his Residence in Steubenville. — Relations with Senator 
Tappan. — His Part in the Campaign of 1840. 

Stanton was most diligent in his profession ; careful 
in the preparation, and confident in the presentation of 
his cases. Within the space of two years he had built 
up a lucrative practice, extending through the circuit. 
He was then but twenty-three years of age. 

At the end of his term as prosecuting attorney 
of Harrison County, in the fall of 1839, he resumed 
his residence in Steubenville, where he became the law 
partner of Judge Tappan, who had just been elected to 
the United States Senate. He had found time to inter- 
est himself to some extent in political affairs, and had 
been consulted by Judge Tappan during his political 
contest. He preserved many letters from that gentle- 
man, whose confidence in him seemed to be unbounded. 
In one of these letters (January 9, 1840) the Senator 
refers to a letter written by Stanton, in the " Ohio 
Statesman," to one of the supreme judges of the State 
opposing the latter' s reelection. He writes : — 

" We all think here you must have killed him. Our 
mess consists of Allen and Tappan of the Senate, 
Medill, Weller, and Duane of the House — a genuine 
loco-foco set as you will find in this city. We read 


your letter to Wood and all agreed in the above 
opinion." Wood was defeated. 

It appears that Stanton was named for judicial hon- 
ors, for Senator Tappan wrote him March 3, 1840, as 
follows : — 

I am very clearly of the opinion that you should refuse the 
office of President Judge, if offered to you. I was elected 
under similar circumstances with yours as to business, and I 
lost by it in every point of view. If you are ambitious (and 
who is not ?) look this way, 

Stanton was ambitious, but not for office. He looked 
neither towards Congress nor the bench, but kept right 
on in his practice of the law. 

Although in full accord with the party in power, and 
on terms of intimacy with a Senator from his State, who 
endeavored to spur him to political activity, he could 
not be induced to leave his law business to seek political 
preferment. He was a warm partisan of Van Buren, 
who was the upholder of the dynasty established by 
Jackson, and in 1840 wrote and spoke in favor of his 
reelection. The issues which were then uppermost in 
the public mind were those which related to banking 
and currency. The following editorial written by him 
that year will give the reader an idea of the Democratic 
doctrine of that day, and of Mr. Stanton's method of 
discussing it : — 

Every one looks upon the election of this fall as a solemn 
declaration by the people of the State against the present un- 
equal and fraudulent system of banking. " But what system 
are you going to give us in the place of it ?" is asked by those 
who think the whole affairs of the world are dependent upon 


banks and corporations. For there are many who so disre- 
gard their own senses and hang their faith implicitly upon the 
humbuggery of banks, as to think those institutions equally 
essential to life, as the sun is to animal existence. 

" What plan will the governor recommend or the legisla- 
ture adopt?" such persons ask; and they are greatly aston- 
ished when told that no plan is necessary, and that none will 
be recommended or adopted, except to repeal the existing 
restrictions on banking, and to enforce the prohibition against 
issuing and circulating small notes. 

" But how will exchange be regulated ? " It will regulate 
itself, is answered, if left free, just as the price of wheat or 
pork, or any other article of trade is regulated, and without 
the aid of special, partial, or fraudulent legislation. 

It is now clear that the people of this country and espe- 
cially of this State have discovered that all the evils under 
which, through the medium of a corrupt banking system, they 
have been suffering, may be traced to one simple cause — 
partial legislation. By this partial legislation it is now seen 
that one set of men have, under various pretenses, been 
granted exclusive privileges, and allowed to exercise powers 
denied to the rest of the community. That thus monopolies 
have been created; competition put down. Irresponsible 
associations have been formed with power to regulate the 
quantity and value of the circulating medium, and thereby 
regulate the price of everything else. And acting upon this 
principle, they have managed, for a long while, not only to 
compel the mass of the people to pay them heavy tribute, but 
have also tried, in various ways, to bring the whole business 
of the country within their grasp. The people have felt such 
a state of things to be an evil of great magnitude, and, having 
traced that evil to partial and unequal legislation, they have 
also made another discovery, the truth of which is every day 
becoming more apparent and better understood, viz., that all 
the schemes of State banks and other corporations for banking 


purposes, by whatever name called, which are now so busily 
suggested or set afloat, are but contrivances to accomplish the 
same end for which the present system was created. They 
are all based on partial or exclusive legislation. Build them, 
construct them, regulate and christen them as you may, the 
people see that they are but machines to promote the interest 
of the few at the expense of the many. And the public mind 
is therefore fast and firmly resolving to have no legislation 
upon the subject, except what may be necessary to check and 
prevent the abuses of the present system. 

The Democratic party will leave currency tinkering and 
doctoring to their opponents, the Whigs and the Conservatives, 
considering charters and acts of incorporation no more essen- 
tial to the purposes of trade and commerce than they are for 
raising wheat or making salt. The injustice and impolicy of 
granting to a few persons the exclusive privilege of raising 
wheat or making salt is easily seen, and the people, though for 
a long time deceived, have now found it to be equally unwise 
and unjust to grant to a few persons powers and privileges by 
which the circulating medium is regulated and controlled, 
and thereby wheat, salt, and other commodities of life monopo- 
lized, and their prices controlled. 

When a human body is diseased a skillful practitioner seeks 
first to discover the source or cause of disease, and remove 
that cause. The rest he will leave to nature, or use such rem- 
edies only as may aid her operations. On the other hand, a 
quack will fall to dosing and doctoring, counteracting all the 
while the operations of nature, and perhaps increasing the 
violence of the disease. 

The present diseased state of currency and of business has 
been, as is now admitted, caused by the partial legislation 
that created the banks, and restricted that peculiar branch of 
business to a few persons only, who were at the same time 
endowed with vast powers and exclusive privileges. The 
quack nostrums of State banks and all similar remedies, 


instead of removing the cause of disease, only aggravate the 
symptoms, and may render the evil incurable. But by put- 
ting an end to partial legislation and exclusive privileges, by 
removing the present legislative restrictions upon banking, so 
far as may be sufficient to prevent monopoly and secure com- 
petition, the cause of the present evils will be removed, and 
the operations of business once more become equal, healthy, 
and uniform. 

Such appears now to be the current of public opinion, and 
there is little doubt but the next legislature will set a wise 
and wholesome example by abstaining from all partial legisla- 
tion, strictly confining itself to such action as shall have in 
view the interests of the people at large, and will, in granting 
no exclusive privileges, create no corporations, and build up 
no monopolies, under any name or for any purpose. 

An invitation for him to speak at Bloomfield was 
made very urgent by the club committee, on the ground 
that the " Tippecanoe Club " had sent as a speaker Mr. 
Bingham, in the hope of drawing their audience. 

Among his papers he preserved the points of some 
speeches made by him that year, which bristled with 
arguments in favor of the independent treasury system, 
and against the banks. 

The Democratic leaders looked for a continued adher- 
ence by the people to the Jacksonian dynasty ; but the 
country had not recovered from the effects of the panic 
and bank suspensions in 1837. The administration 
of Van Buren had been one of "hard times" through- 
out, and the magic power of Jackson could not sway 
the people from the " Hermitage " as it had when at the 
helm of State he spoke with authority and " took the 
responsibility." The voters listened, therefore, with less 


interest to the usual appeals against the banks, than 
they did to the promise of better times if a change 
should be made. With songs of " Tippecanoe and 
Tyler too," and tales of " hard cider " dealt out with 
generous hospitality at the " log-cabin " of General 
Harrison, the " latch-string " of whose door was picto- 
rially represented as being " always out " to all who 
chanced to fare his way, they marched over the pros- 
trate cause of Democracy in 1840, and seated the Whig 
candidate — William Henry Harrison — in the White 
House by an electoral vote of 234 against 60 for Van 
Bur en. 

With this campaign terminated Stanton's interest in 
party affairs. He became more and more devoted to 
his profession. The energy and fidelity with which he 
attended to his business, and the ability which he dis- 
played in the conduct of his cases, brought to him well- 
earned success and amply gratified his sole ambition. 


His Great Success as a Lawyer. — " The Divine Alchemy of Work." 
— His First Case in Washington. — Removal to Pittsburg. — His 
Career there. — Second Marriage. 

The professional career of Mr. Stanton was, through- 
out, a brilliant success. From the very start he meant 
to succeed, and never doubted his power to do so. For 
this he worked eagerly and unremittingly, not as an 
irksome necessity, but with a stimulating resolve to 
win. Light of heart, healthy of body, abounding in 
energy, he deemed nothing very difficult, much less 
impossible. His reputation and business steadily in- 
creased together after his return from Cadiz to Steu- 
benville, in 1839, and the tide of his prosperity knew 
no returning ebb. 

The irresistible force and momentum which he car- 
ried into his work are well illustrated by his conduct 
of a case into which he was brought, in 1845, after it 
had been virtually abandoned by the lawyers originally 
employed. Caleb J. McNulty, Clerk of the United 
States House of Representatives, had been indicted as a 
defaulter. He was an Ohio man, and in his extremity 
sought the aid and advice of Senator Tappan. He 
was confined in the District of Columbia jail in default 
of bail, and the resident lawyers in charge of his case 
regarded it as hopeless. 


Tappan advised him to secure the services of Stan- 
ton, who was promptly sent for. Arriving in Wash- 
ington at midnight, he went directly to the jail and 
conferred with his client. He found that no time was 
to be lost. The case was set for trial on the following 
morning. Without thinking of rest, he at once com- 
menced an examination of the statutes, rules of the 
House of Representatives, and all records that would 
shed light on the duties and responsibilities of the 
office held by McNulty. By four o'clock in the morn- 
ing he had satisfied himself that the indictment was 
not good in law, and he then took two hours of sleep. 
After an early breakfast he called upon the attorneys 
in the case. It was much too early in the day to find 
them, and he employed the intervening time up to 
ten o'clock in further examination of the law. Upon 
consulting with them, he found them decidedly of the 
opinion that the facts and the law were against the 
accused. They readily assented, however, to an effort 
by him to quash the indictment, and he at once pro- 
ceeded to draw up the motion for that purpose. Ap- 
pearing in the court a perfect stranger, he was at a 
great disadvantage in thus attacking an indictment, 
the validity of which had been virtually acquiesced in 
by older and well-known counsel for the defense. The 
court was disposed to regard it as a dilatory motion, 
without merit, and to decline to entertain it at that late 
stage in the proceedings. Seeing that he must act 
with energy, and even with audacity, if he would be 
heard at all, he arose, and, not waiting for the court to 
say whether or not his motion should have a hearing, 


made an appeal so vehement and earnest — giving 
briefly the story of his sudden entrance into the case, 
and what he had been doing during the preceding 
night, and asking only one day in which to prepare for 
the argument — that the district attorney made no 
objection, and the court granted his request. At the 
same time it was ordered that if the motion should be 
overruled, the prisoner must be ready for trial at once. 
A two hours' argument the next day resulted in the 
quashing of the indictment and the discharge of the 

In 1844 he met with a severe affliction in the death 
of his wife. His removal to Pittsburg occurred in 
1847. He had long been contemplating a wider field 
of operations than was presented at Steubenville. Co- 
lumbus was considered by him, but Pittsburg was 
finally chosen, partly through the encouragement of 
the Hon. William Wilkins of that city, and partly be- 
cause he could, by steamboat from there, more easily 
visit his mother at Steubenville on Sundays than from 
the other place. He continued to be a citizen of Ohio, 
retaining the home at Steubenville for his mother's 
use, and also retaining his place in the law firm of 
Stanton & McCook. 

On the 25th of June, 1856, while Mr. Stanton was 
still residing in Pittsburg, he married Miss Ellen 
M. Hutchison, the daughter of Lewis Hutchison, a 
wealthy merchant of Pittsburg. From this marriage 
were born four children, — two sons and two daugh- 
ters. Of these, one of the sons, born October 17, 
1861, died July 10, 1862. 


He remained at Pittsburg from 1847 to 1856. His 
professional life there was one of great activity and 
brilliant success, as was well attested by the leading 
members of the Pittsburg bar at the meeting of their 
association, called after his death, in 1869. On that 
occasion Thomas M. Marshall, Esq., said : — 

With invincible will and resolute purpose he performed 
his work, whether in the schoolroom at the student's desk, in 
the office, in the forum, or as the greatest war minister of the 
age. He approached the object of labor with the purpose to 
overcome it. He labored with the diligence of the student 
and the courage of the soldier. Herein lay the secret of his 
great success. He believed in the divine " alchemy " of 
work. When he was admitted to the bar in our sister 
State, Ohio, he worked for bread for his widowed mother. 
He attained the front rank of his profession there before he 
reached the age of thirty years. When he moved to Pitts- 
burg he at once took his place with the ablest of our bar. 
It is no small compliment to his memory to say that he added 
fresh honors to the bar that could point to its illustrious dead 
and pronounce the names of Woods, Ross, Baldwin, Semple, 
Biddle, Fetterman, and Burke, and, among the then great 
living minds, to Wilkins, Fernand, Shaler, Loomis, Metcalf, 
and their associates. After ten years of full practice here, 
the rare ability, learning, and success of which may be traced 
in contemporary reports, he removed to Washington, soon to 
enter upon that public career which made his name famous 
wherever civilization had a foothold, and patriotism, loyalty, 
and courage had admirers. Before saying a single word 
further of Mr. Stanton, I may say that if by any human pos- 
sibilities his valuable public services to this nation could be 
expunged from its history; if he had contributed nothing 
more than the results of his individual labor as an example 

0yU^<ny tj^^^^ytd^ny c££&n£?n/ 


to Lis countrymen, as an example to the young men of the 
country, still his fame would have been ample and secure. 

Of Mr. Stanton's great capacity for work Mr. Mar- 
shall said : — 

I have known men more richly endowed with natural gifts ; 
I have known more learned men, more eloquent men, more 
persuasive men ; but I have never met another man who was 
capable of such prodigious, continuous, and incessant mental 
labor. I may be pardoned in referring to an instance of 
this power. I think it was in the winter of 1854. I had 
occasion to meet him in regard to a case which had been fixed 
on a Saturday for trial on the succeeding Monday two weeks. 
The cause involved questions of church polity, rules of church 
discipline, and considerable real estate was dependent upon 
the result of the issue. It was a quarrel, a trouble among 
the saints. It was a novel and rare case in the law, intricate 
and complex in its facts. Mr. Stanton had no previous 
knowledge of the case ; had never known anything of the 
denominational or church quarrel. Yet within two weeks 
he mastered the case in all its details of the law, facts, and 
church history. To do so he was compelled to peruse and 
study over one thousand pages of ecclesiastical history, and 
examine critically the yearly proceedings of church courts, 
synods, and assemblies for over fifty years. He had to 
unravel and dissect the dry and unchristian details of a 
denominational schism, and prepare the law for the trial 
of the case. In these two weeks he became familiar with 
the history of the Covenanter Church from the days of 
the " solemne league and covenant " to the day of trial. He 
delivered the opening address on behalf of the defendants, 
and occupied one hour and a half in an exhaustive statement 
of the case. The court-room was crowded with the brethren, 
— doctors of divinity, gray with time's years, and full of the 


wisdom of their school. When he sat down, one of these 
doctors inquired if Mr. Stanton had not been educated in the 
church, tutored in her principles and history. He was 
answered : " Two weeks since he knew nothing of your his- 
tory or principles, and scarcely knew of your existence." The 
doctor's wonder was excited, to be merged afterwards in 
admiration of the perfections of a lawyer's work. This case 
was tried by men eminent in the profession, — Mr. Williams 
with Mr. Jones, and my dead friend, the eloquent, brave 
hero, Samuel W. Black, were counsel for the plaintiffs. Mr. 
Stanton prepared and tried that case as if it had been his 
life's work. When it was won, he turned to fresh work with 
the appetite and inspiration of youth. 

John H. Hampton, Esq., said : — 

He rose in his profession rapidly, not because wealth or 
influential family connections opened the way, but because his 
ambition and ceaseless effort drew attention to his early 
efforts and excited him to renewed exertion. He possessed 
an indomitable will, and trusted not to displays of winning 
declamation to gain a cause, but to severe and continuous 
study, which marks the careful and successful lawyer. When 
at our bar, he was noted for the exact knowledge he had of 
the law and facts in his case, and for the constant labor he 
practiced in getting ready for the conflicts he entered. Day 
and night he toiled, and exhibited in a large degree that stub- 
born pertinacity of purpose which distinguished him in the 
great duties he afterwards performed as Secretary of War. 
No man ever saw one of his briefs that was not struck with 
its completeness and with the array of authority it presented. 
But he added to his labor that high degree of method which 
few men possess. Order was the controlling element of his 
mind. He possessed a power of arranging his facts and the 
decisions applicable to them that made him almost irresistible 


when put before a court or a jury. He planted himself for 
success upon one or two points in his case, and fought his 
battle manfully to the end upon them. His mind was strong, 
his judgment clear, his logic direct and convincing. No false 
ornaments marred the line of his arguments; no attempt 
made to triumph by pathetic appeals. He moved steadily on 
to the end by clear reasoning, and carried his case by the 
power and force which he infused into it. 

A. W. Loomis, Esq., a leading lawyer of the Pitts- 
burg bar, said when Mr. Stanton took up bis residence 
in that city : — 

I shall now have to work. Stanton will study my side of 
cases as thoroughly as he does his own, and will know as 
much as I do of it, and perhaps more. 


Argument of Mr. Stanton in the Wheeling Bridge Case in the 
United States Supreme Court. — His Methods in preparing for 
an Argument. 

Early in his Pittsburg career Mr. Stanton acquired 
a considerable national reputation as counsel for the 
State of Pennsylvania in a suit brought by that com- 
monwealth, under his advice, against the Wheeling 
Bridge Company, in the Supreme Court of the United 
States. It was an original suit, brought under that 
clause of the Federal Constitution which provides that 
in all cases in which a State is a party, the Supreme 
Court shall have original jurisdiction, and was for an 
injunction against the construction of a bridge across 
the Ohio River at Wheeling, then in progress, under a 
charter granted by the State of Virginia. 

The legislatures of Ohio and Virginia had, as early 
as 1816, passed acts authorizing the construction of a 
bridge at that point, providing that it should not 
obstruct navigation. The work not being done, Con- 
gress was, in 1836 and 1838, petitioned to perform it, 
but without favorable results. In 1843 the Ohio leods- 
lature memorialized Congress to construct the bridge. 
This was met by Pennsylvania with resolutions of 
remonstrance, setting forth the injury to her commerce 
which would be caused thereby. The scheme was again 


In 1847 Virginia revived her former charter, and 
authorized the reorganization of the corporation for the 
construction of the bridge. The people of Pittsburg 
and of western Pennsylvania saw with dismay the 
work progressing, which was, as Mr. Stanton said in his 
argument, to make Wheeling, Va., to all intents and 
purposes, the head of navigation on the Ohio Kiver. 
The two States embracing the shores on either side of 
the river had consented, and were indeed equally desir- 
ous of seeing the work advanced. Where could the 
authority be found to interfere ? It was not then the 
fashion for the federal government to be appealed 
to, to stay the action of the States, even when its 
powers were invaded ; and the Virginia legislature had 
avoided the appearance of any conflict with the power 
of Congress to regulate commerce between the States 
by declaring that if the bridge should be so erected as 
to obstruct the navigation of the river, then, unless the 
obstruction was at once removed, the bridge might be 
treated as a public nuisance and abated accordingly. 

But although the bridge, as it was being constructed, 
would thus obstruct the navigation of the river, little 
was to be hoped for from the courts of Virginia in the 
way of enforcing the conditions of her charter thus 
violated. To seek relief in the United States Circuit 
Court for either of the districts in which the bridge was 
situated would likely be fruitless, and an appeal could 
be heard only after long and injurious delay. How, 
then, could it be made to appear that the State of Penn- 
sylvania was an injured party, in the sense which would 
bring her within the right to institute an original suit 


against the Bridge Company in the Supreme Court of 
the United States? 

This problem Mr. Stanton solved. He commenced 
suit in July, 1849, by filing in the office of the clerk 
of that court the bill of complaint of the State of Penn- 
sylvania against the Wheeling Bridge Company and 
others. On the 16th of the following month he ap- 
peared before Justice Grier, sitting at chambers in Phil- 
adelphia, and moved for an injunction against the 
Bridge Company on behalf of the State of Pennsylvania 
at the instance of her attorney-general. After consid- 
ering the bill and answer, and the affidavits of the 
respective parties in support of the same, the judge 
refused the injunction, but ordered that the papers be 
filed in the office of the clerk of the court, and that the 
complainant have leave to move for an injunction, as 
prayed for, on the first day of the next term of the 
court, which would be in the following December. He 
declined to take the responsibility of exercising the 
power of the court in the premises, mainly because the 
question of the plaintiff's right was new and involved 
the jurisdiction of the court. 

Mr. Stanton's position as to the right of the State of 
Pennsylvania to bring the suit, and the reasons urged 
by him to show that her interest was sufficient for that 
purpose, were deemed " far fetched " by leading mem- 
bers of the Pennsylvania bar, while Virginia lawyers 
treated the suit with derision. Unmoved by these dis- 
couragements, he appeared in the Supreme Court at the 
next term (December, 1849), and moved for the injunc- 
tion. His argument in support of the motion exhausted 


the history and law of the subject. He demonstrated 
the federal jurisdiction over the subject-matter, and the 
original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court in the ease. 
His argument was conceded to be one of great power, 
and placed him at once in the front rank of his profes- 
sion in the nation. 

Mr. Stanton's argument in this celebrated case ap- 
pears in the 13th volume of Howard's U. S. Reports, 
page 532. In its conclusion he grandly asserted the 
rights of the State, while confidently submitting their 
protection to the highest tribunal of the nation. The 
sentiments he uttered evinced his fidelity to the majesty 
of the law, and his devotion to the rightful authority 
of both the nation and the State. He said : — 

Having thus presented my proposition in its various 
branches, I feel that it is not needful for me to urge upon 
this court the important considerations which necessarily arise 
from the case, considerations not only affecting life and pro- 
perty to an immeasurable extent, but vast commerce, essential 
state rights, and the peace of the confederacy. They will 
present themselves to the court with more force than I could 
urge them. I know not, sir, that it becomes me to say more 
in this behalf. This only I will add : — 

In 1765 a distinguished son of Pennsylvania, Dr. Ritten- 
house, first conceived the idea of her great works connecting 
the waters of the lakes and the Atlantic with the Ohio River. 
Seventy years elapsed before the resources of the State were 
equal to such an undertaking. But, once commenced, it was 
accomplished. While all other works tending to the same 
object halted east of the Alleghanies, Pennsylvania forced her 
way through, thus opening a cheap, easy, and secure water 
transportation from the Gulf and the Rocky Mountains to the 
Atlantic seaboard. 


But no sooner had this mighty work been completed and 
its revenues commenced to replenish the exhausted treasury 
of the State, and a prosperous commerce to reimburse her 
citizens for their heavy taxation, than the flagitious scheme 
is undertaken to cut her off from the Ohio by a bridge at 
Wheeling, within fifty miles of her borders. 

When to prevent so great a wrong she appeals to the Su- 
preme Court, the work is hurried on ; and, pending her appli- 
cation for an injunction, iron cables are stretched across the 
channel of a navigable river, interrupting vessels arriving and 
departing from the ports of Pennsylvania, and before she can 
be heard in this tribunal her vessels are stopped on a public 
highway, their cargo and passengers discharged at Wheeling, 
and Pennsylvania ports shut up. 

For less injuries than these States have been heretofore 
prompt to redress their wrongs, and have rushed swiftly to 
war. Even under our government, in defense of commercial 
rights, supposed to be invaded by congressional enactment, 
the banner of disunion has been unfurled in the South. In 
the North and East bordering States, asserting navigation 
privileges, have resorted to acts of confiscation and retortion, 
until at length civil war was ready to burst forth along their 
borders and range along their coasts. At a later day, the 
Western States of Ohio and Michigan, on a mere boundary 
question, arrayed their military forces against each other 
under command of their respective governors. And now on 
a mere abstract question, State is seen arrayed against State 
with threats and warlike aspect. 

To these what a contrast and example does Pennsylvania 
this day present. Threatened in her dearest rights, she 
makes no appeal to force. 

When the foundations of the government were laid, and 
this tribunal established as its corner-stone, Pennsylvania 
was there. She knew that the chief object of the Constitu- 
tion was to substitute the law of reason for the law of force, 


and her abiding confidence in its efficacy for every exigency 
has never been shaken. Her commerce obstructed on a pub- 
lic river, she comes this day at the head of no armed squad- 
rons, with no blustering enactments of state sovereignty, with 
no threatenings of disunion upon her lips. As becomes the 
keystone of the federal arch, she seeks first a peaceful rem- 
edy. She appears as an humble suitor before civil judges 
upon their judgment seat, surrounded by no armed janiza- 
ries, by no imperial guards ; but in the exercise of their con- 
stitutional functions clothed with an authority more potent, in 
her estimation, than an army with banners. She asks them to 
protect a right deemed the most inestimable among all nations, 
guaranteed by the Constitution and the laws of Congress, for 
the improvement of which millions of her treasure have been 
lavished, and upon which the welfare of her people depends. 
She asks them by simple injunction to prevent a local corpo- 
ration from violating, under color of state authority, a right 
that a world in arms could not wrest from her. 

The court sustained Mr. Stanton on the question of 
jurisdiction, and ordered a reference to a special com- 
missioner to take testimony as to whether the bridge 
really was an obstruction to the free navigation of the 
river, and if so, what alterations could be made, if any, 
which would remove the obstruction and yet allow of 
the continuance of the bridge. The commissioner re- 
ported at the next term that the bridge was an obstruc- 
tion to the free navigation of the Ohio Eiver by steam- 
boats, and recommended certain alterations, which if 
made would render such navigation entirely free. 

The court decided that the interest of Pennsylvania, 
as an owner of the public works which would be injuri- 
ously affected by any obstruction to the free navigation 


of tlie Ohio Kiver, was such as to entitle her to bring 
the suit, and that, therefore, it was properly brought in 
this court, as a court of original jurisdiction in cases 
where a State was a party ; that the Ohio River is sub- 
ject to the commercial power of Congress, and that its 
navigation cannot be obstructed by the authority of 
any State ; that the Wheeling bridge as constructed 
was a nuisance, being an obstruction to navigation ; 
that the remedy applied for in this case was a proper 
one ; and that the bridge must be altered within a fixed 
time or removed. 

The triumph of Mr. Stanton was complete. In the 
face of a powerful army of antagonists, he had estab- 
lished the right of Pennsylvania to bring the suit at 
once in the highest court. He had been sustained by 
the court on the constitutional power of Congress to 
maintain the free navigation of the Ohio against any 
impediment under state authority. He had prevailed 
on the disputed question of fact as to whether the 
bridge really was an obstruction. And, finally, he was 
held to have sought the remedy appropriate to the 

In 1856, and until the final determination of the 
case in 1858, Mr. Stanton was counsel with that emi- 
nent patent lawyer, George Harding, Esq., of Phila- 
delphia, in the celebrated case of McCormick v. 
Manny, in a suit brought for an alleged infringement 
of the patent for McCormick's reaping-machine. 

Mr. Harding says of this case : — 

Mr. Stanton argued the patent case of McCormick v. 
Manny before Judges McLean and Drummond at Cincinnati. 


Mr. Lincoln and I were associated with him for the defense, 
and Messrs. Dickerson and Reverdy Johnson represented the 
plaintiff. He devoted himself to the legal question which 
arose in the case, and enforced the defendant's position on the 
facts as brought out. Mr. Lincoln did not argue the case. 

Of Mr. Stanton's eloquence Mr. Harding says : — 

He was a very eloquent speaker. I never heard a more 
eloquent lawyer. He had a style of vehement speaking well 
adapted for a jury, and an entirely different style when 
before the Supreme Court at Washington. In the latter case 
he was calm, deliberate, and impressive, carefully repressing 
all feeling and all exuberance of expression. The greatest 
legal work of Mr. Stanton's life was, in my judgment, his 
conduct of the suit of the State of Pennsylvania against the 
Wheeling and Belmont Bridge Company, commonly known 
as the Wheeling Bridge case. . . . 

Mr. Stanton's manner of preparing his arguments in the 
Supreme Court was to arrange his matter in advance, and then 
formulate his sentences, and correct them mentally without 
using any notes or reducing anything to writing, so that his 
great speeches were usually precomposed and committed to 
memory, although he never wrote out a single sentence of 
them. This is the most difficult mode of preparing a speech, 
but it was very effective. His speaking had all the vigor of an 
extemporaneous production, and at the same time possessed 
the accuracy and completeness of a written speech. 


Removal to Washington. — Employed by the Government as Spe- 
cial Counsel in California Land Cases. — The Limantour Fraud. 

In the latter part of 1856, Mr. Stanton removed 
to Washington, where he could devote himself more 
especially to cases in which he was already engaged in 
the Supreme Court, and be the better prepared for an 
increase of practice in that tribunal. In December of 
that year he made his final argument in the Wheeling 
Bridge case. At the next term of the court he made 
his final argument in the McCormick Keaper case ; and 
two days afterwards, February 18, 1858, he was on his 
way to California as special counsel for the United 
States in some of the most important litigation to 
which the federal government has ever been a party. 

By the treaty of 1848 with Mexico, under which 
California, with other territory, was ceded to the United 
States, it was provided that the " grants of land made 
by Mexico in the ceded territories " should " preserve 
the legal value which they may possess, and the gran- 
tees may cause their legitimate titles to be acknow- 
ledged before the American tribunals." 

In order to secure to the owners of valid grants, 
under Mexican law, the treaty rights thus pledged, 
Congress, by the act of 1851, created a Board of Land 
Commissioners, before which their claims were to be 


presented within two years from the passage of the act. 
Lands not claimed within that time were to be consid- 
ered as a part of the public domain. This board was 
to have three years within which to decide upon the 
claims presented. The term of its existence was ex- 
tended by subsequent enactments to five years. It 
adjourned sine die on the 1st of March, 1856, after 
having acted upon all the claims brought before it for 
consideration, — 803 in number. The law provided for 
an appeal to the United States District Court from the 
decision of the Land Commission, and from the District 
to the Supreme Court of the United States. 

The amount of land covered by the claims presented 
to the Board of Land Commissioners under alleged 
grants from Mexico was 19,148 square miles, — more 
than twelve millions of acres, — including the sites of 
San Francisco, Sacramento, Marysville, and other cities 
and towns. 

The most enterprising of all the claimants was J. Y. 
Limantour, a Frenchman, and formerly a merchant 
at Monterey. He filed eight claims, embracing 958 
square miles. One of these claims was for eighty 

Six of his claims, covering 924 square miles, were 
rejected by the board, while the other two were con- 
firmed. He modestly or magnanimously waived his 
right to appeal from the adverse decisions, and from 
the two which were favorable to him an appeal was 
taken by the United States. 

Of the two pretended grants confirmed to him by 
the commission, one was for four square leagues of 


land within the city and county of San Francisco, and 
the other was for the Farallone Islands, just outside 
the Golden Gate, and the islands of Alcatraz and 
Yerba Buena (Goat Island), and one square league at 
Point Tiburon, opposite Angel Island, — all in the bay 
of San Francisco. On these the fortifications and 
lighthouses of the government were being erected. 
The market value of the lands thus claimed by him at 
San Francisco was, at that time, estimated at from ten 
to twelve millions of dollars, while the sites for military 
and lighthouse purposes were of a value that could 
hardly be estimated. 

Judge Black became Attorney-General, March 6, 
1857. The Land Commission in California had ex- 
pired by limitation of law, a year before. Its decisions 
and the evidence upon which they had been based were 
a part of the records of his department. Most of the 
cases not abandoned by the claimants were pending in 
the District Court of California on appeal. During 
the session of Congress preceding his appointment, the 
Judiciary Committee of the House of Representatives 
had reported a bill confirming all grants not already 
rejected by the Land Commission, and its passage had 
been vehemently urged as an act of justice to the poor 
injured claimants under treaty rights. Such a clamor 
was raised against the Limantour claims that the com- 
mittee, hoping to save the bill thereby, so amended it 
as to exclude them from its operation. The scheme 
was nevertheless defeated. 

Within three months after Judge Black came into 
office, he was visited by one Augustus Jouan, then 


residing in Cincinnati, who related to him, from per- 
sonal knowledge, what was afterwards shown to be a 
true story of the crimes upon which the Limantour 
claims were founded. 

Jouan seems to have drifted away from California, 
and to have been located at Cincinnati. The clamor 
against Limantour in Congress and in the newspapers 
doubtless originated with him. He felt sure the gov- 
ernment would need him, if he would reveal the know- 
ledge he possessed. He went to Washington in May, 
1857, opened his budget, secured employment, and 
started to California June 5, to aid in the preparation 
of the case against Limantour. 

At San Francisco he reported to the United States 
District Attorney June 30, 1857. Himself an agent, 
and to some extent an accomplice of Limantour, his 
statements standing alone would have carried with 
them little or no weight; but on the hearing of the 
case he was fully corroborated in every particular. 

To resist these monstrous claims of Limantour to the 
land embracing the city of San Francisco, and all the 
eligible sites for military approaches to it, Mr. Stanton 
was employed as special counsel for the United States. 
His mission, however, was made to embrace the whole 
subject of Mexican grants in California. The value of 
the lands covered by fabricated grants was estimated by 
Attorney-General Black, in 1860, in an official report, 
at $150,000,000. 

Mr. Stanton's instructions, dated February 18, 1858, 
directed him to proceed to San Francisco, confer with 
the United States Attorney in relation to land claims 


pending in the United States District Court, wherein 
the United States was a party, and " render such pro- 
fessional services therein, as in your opinion may be 
required for the interests of the United States." He 
was instructed to especially direct his attention to the 
case of the United States v. J. Y. Limantour, and 
with the District Attorney to " take such measures in 
the investigation and defenses of said claim of J. Y. 
Limantour, as in your judgment may be proper to 
resist the claim." He was to remain in San Francisco 
as long as might be necessary for resistance and de- 
fense against the claim, and his investigations were to 
be extended into Mexico and wherever else occasion 
might require. Said the Attorney-General in conclu- 
sion : " You will generally do and perform all such 
matters and things in relation to the aforesaid cases as 
may be right and proper to be done by counsel learned 
in the law, in behalf of the United States as your 


Mr. Stanton in California. — His Work there. — Collection and 
Arrangement of the Mexican Archives. 

Mr. Stanton's diary shows that on the 21st of Feb- 
ruary, 1858, he sailed from New York to Aspinwall 
on the steamer Star of the West, — the steamer at 
which, less than three years after, while he was serving 
as Attorney-General in Mr. Buchanan's Cabinet, rebel- 
lion fired its first shot. He arrived in San Francisco 
at ten o'clock p. m., on Friday, March 19, and after 
a single day spent in introductions, he entered upon his 

His plan was to collect all the archives of the Depart- 
ment of California under Mexican rule, and to ascertain 
from them what grants of land had been made ; then 
to resist as fabricated and spurious all that were not 
found among them, no matter how strongly they might 
be supported by documents purporting to be official but 
unknown to those records. These archives, if all col- 
lected together and properly arranged, might be sup- 
posed to exhibit the record evidence of every act of the 
former government whereby lands had been granted to 

This was a work that had never been attempted. In- 
deed, its necessity did not appear to have occurred to 
any one. Mr. Stanton found a portion only of these 


archives, and they were kept in loose boxes in the office 
of the United States Surveyor-General at San Francisco, 
where but little attention had been paid to them. The 
Board of Land Commissioners, created in 1851 for the 
express purpose of investigating and deciding the valid- 
ity of alleged Mexican grants in California, had totally 
ignored them during the five years of its labors. They 
embraced only a portion of what had been taken by the 
United States forces at the time of the conquest of 
California in 1846, — many having gone into private 
hands, and many more having remained stored away 
and forgotten in various parts of the State. Besides 
this, our government never had been in possession of 
all the Mexican records. Civil commotion in the De- 
partment of California at the outbreak of the war be- 
tween Mexico and the United States, and the final chaos 
of conquest, had thrown the archives into seemingly 
inextricable confusion, and many records were missing. 
To the documents he found at San Francisco, Mr. Stan- 
ton therefore had to add all others that could be found, 
and if any were in the possession of private individuals, 
they must be traced and wrested from them by legal 
process, under a statute yet to be enacted. The records 
when so collected must be methodically arranged, and 
bound in convenient volumes, so that they might be 
safely preserved and ready for reference. This task, 
which to most men would have seemed impossible, Mr. 
Stanton undertook and accomplished. 

From the date of his arrival in California until 
July 16 was one hundred and twenty days, of which 
eighty-nine, as his diary shows, were spent by him in 


examining these records. In this he had the valuable 
assistance of Mr. E. C. Hopkins, afterwards, for thirty 
years, the keeper of the archives. That gentleman has 
furnished an interesting statement in this connection, 
in which he says that the books and papers were taken 
from the " loose boxes " in which they were packed, and 
arranged in order in several rooms. An adequate cleri- 
cal force was engaged, the work of which was directed 
by Mr. Stanton, who, according to Mr. Hopkins's tes- 
timony, " labored with unremitting industry, doing as 
much or more work than any of his clerks." " When 
he commenced the work," says Mr. Hopkins, " he was 
unacquainted with the Spanish language, but very soon 
he was able to substantially translate any ordinary 
Spanish document." 

Mr. Stanton framed and sent to Attorney-General 
Black two bills for the consideration of Congress, one 
of which provided for the compulsory production, wher- 
ever they might be found, of Mexican official papers 
belonging to the archives, and the other for the punish- 
ment of any who should present false claims, or add to 
or take away anything from these archives. These bills 
were successfully urged upon Congress by Judge Black, 
and became laws on the 18th of May, within two months 
from the day of Mr. Stanton's arrival in California. 
They will be found in the U. S. Revised Statutes, 
Sections 2229, 2471, 2472, 2473, 5411, and 5412. 
Under this new authority Stanton made rapid work of 
gathering the scattered records so valuable to the gov- 
ernment. He sent his subordinates in various directions 
upon successful missions. He went himself to Benicia 


and San Jose, and was well rewarded for his labors. 
At the former place he found four boxes of documents, 
including some valuable ones which proved fatal to the 
pretensions of Limantour. 

The archives of the Mexican government, thus labo- 
riously collected, were arranged by him in their proper 
order, and bound in four hundred large volumes. As 
they unfolded to Stanton the system of Mexican land 
laws, the methods of Mexican administration, the changes 
of governments by revolution or otherwise, the succes- 
sion of high and lesser officials, and the history of the 
departmental government in all its details, he was put 
upon inquiry as to what was missing, and aided in 
detecting what had been interpolated. 

The records of land grants were found to have been 
admirably kept and indexed, and one of the most valu- 
able discoveries made was that of the " Jimeno index," 
the leaves of which, separated and worn, were restored to 
their places. This was an index of all Mexican grants 
in California up to December, 1844, kept by Jimeno, 
the Secretary of State for many years, whose high char- 
acter stood the test of all the investigations. Another 
index was found of all grants from December, 1844, to 
the conquest in 1846. 

Of the value of this immense labor, Attorney-General 
Black said, in a letter to the President : — 

When the historical facts ascertained from the archives, 
and the laws, customs, and usages of the Mexican government, 
of which a knowledge was derived from the same source, came 
to be presented before the Supreme Court, that tribunal con- 
curred on every occasion with the views taken by this depart- 








[Extract from J. S. Black's letter to Mr. Stanton, Afrit _=7, 1858} 

A^-i^^OO £u Mjul^q &_jl~J^. O^^JL. €&^<S- ctLo-^-ij* 


The correspondence between Mr. Stanton and At- 
torney-General Black during the former's stay in Cali- 
fornia is voluminous and interesting. It shows the 
close relations and mutual confidence that existed be- 
tween them, and gives an inside view of a campaign 
against fraud, in which they both performed patriotic 
and successful services calling for the highest courage 
and unbending integrity. 

On the 27th of April Black wrote that he had read 
letters from Stanton with " intense delight." " The 
progress you make/' he said, " in the Limantour case 
is just what I expected of your energy and talents. 
You are doing justice to your reputation and to your 
great client, the United States of America." He had 
shown Stanton's letter to the President, " who is de- 
lighted with his own sagacity in selecting so able and 
faithful a man for this important business." He had 
called on the chairman of the Judiciary Committee of 
the Senate with drafts of the bills which Stanton had 
sent him, to aid in collecting scattered documents be- 
longing to the archives and for punishing fraud upon 
them, and that gentleman had enlisted himself earnestly 
in their behalf. 

" There is," Black wrote, "a rumor which annoys me 
sometimes, about your coming home suddenly, or rather 
about your intention to come home. This is a thing 
that won't do to think of as long as there remains any- 
thing in the world you can do for this great cause you 
are engaged in. . . . There is no other man living on 
this round earth for whom I would have assumed the 
responsibility which I have taken with you. You must 


succeed, or be able to prove that success was utterly 
impossible. I am sure you will. It is true I can't float 
unless I ride on the wave of your reputation, and I want 
it to roll high. Your interest in success is like my own 
exactly. I mean exactly equal to my own in magnitude. 
. . . When you make up your mind to come home, you 
must give me due and timely notice of it. All this I 
have said in consequence of the opinion which divers 
persons have expressed with great confidence, that you 
would return in May." 

On the 15th of May Judge Black writes again in 
highest praise of Stanton's progress, and says : — 

" The President expressed great pleasure at learning 
what an immense amount of work you were doing and 
had done. When I came to the part of it in which you 
mentioned the number of volumes you had collected, 1 he 
broke out : 6 God bless me, what a task.' ' 

1 Four hundred. 


The Limantour Case. — The Claim rejected. — Zeal, Ability, and 
Ingenuity of Stanton in conducting the Case. 

The Limantour case was one which well illustrated 
the proverb : " Truth is often stranger than fiction." 
Had the story of it appeared as a romance, it would 
have been pronounced grossly improbable. It was a 
gigantic fraud, contemplating large results, and was 
upheld by a conspiracy extending into Mexico, includ- 
ing among its participants an ex-member of the Mexi- 
can cabinet, a former Mexican governor of California, 
and others of consequence. It was bold in plan, but 
lame in some of the details of its execution. The 
measures of Mr. Stanton, by which it was completely 
overthrown, illustrate the marvelous energy, fertility 
of resources, and strength of character brought to the 
service of the United States, during this the most 
important year in its results of any in his professional 

Limantour alleged that his grants were made in con- 
sideration of money and goods furnished by him to the 
Mexican government. The documents presented in 
support of his claims seemed to be conclusive, under 
the Mexican law governing in such cases. Those in 
relation to the islands were a petition, and a concession 
and grant signed by the Mexican governor of Cali- 


fornia, — Micheltorana. Those on which he relied 
for the confiscation of the site of San Francisco were 
most formidable. The first of these was a letter from 
the same governor asking Limantour for aid, and offer- 
ing grants of land in return. Following this was a 
petition by Limantour for a grant, designating the land 
he desired. Upon the margin of this was the usual 
reference of inquiry as to the character and condition 
of the land, signed by the governor ; then a letter pur- 
porting to have been written under the governor's 
direction by his secretary to the captain of the port of 
San Francisco, describing the lands solicited ; and two 
days later, the grant for four leagues, dated February 
27, 1843, and signed by the governor. On the margin 
of this was an approval or confirmation dated April 
18, 1843, signed by Bocanegra, who was Minister of 
Exterior Relations in the government of Mexico. The 
" Island " grant also had his approval indorsed thereon. 
There was also a letter from the governor to the Min- 
ister, Bocanegra, dated February 24, 1843, inclosing 
Limantour's petition, and that official's reply, October 7, 
1843, announcing that the " supreme government has 
been pleased to grant to Limantour sufficient leave to 
acquire, besides the property which he has already ac- 
quired, and which has been recognized by the supreme 
government, further country, town, or any other kind 
of property." A copy of Bocanegra's minute or direc- 
tion, that this letter be written to Governor Michel- 
torana, was produced from the archives in the City of 
Mexico. Two letters were presented from Arista, the 
President of the Mexican Republic, dated October 2, 


1852, one addressed to the president of the Board of 
Land Commissioners, and one to the governor of the 
State of California, commending the claim of Liman- 
tour to their favorable consideration. 

Witnesses of reputed high character, who had held 
responsible positions in California under Governor 
Micheltorana, were introduced to prove the advances 
made in money and goods by Limantour to the govern- 
ment, which were said to have been the considerations 
upon which the grants were made to him. The genu- 
ineness of the signature of Governor Micheltorana to 
the grants and other documents was clearly established. 

Against this apparently invincible case Mr. Stanton, 
on behalf of the government, introduced the one wit- 
ness, Augustus Jouan, who had, as before stated, re- 
lated his story to the Attorney-General at Washington. 
He testified that in March, 1852, nearly six years after 
California became the territory of the United States, 
Limantour had exhibited to him in the City of Mexico 
several land grants signed by Micheltorana, who was 
the last but one of the Mexican governors of the De- 
partment of California, and who held that office from 
December, 1842, until early in 1845. Only one of these 
titles was in the name of Limantour. Jouan says that 
Limantour employed him to go to California to hunt up 
the lands and survey them, and followed him to Cali- 
fornia later in the year. He met Limantour on the 
steamer when he arrived at San Francisco, and noticed 
that he then had in his possession a bundle covered with 
black glazed cloth, and having stamped upon it the 
official seal of the French legation at Mexico. It was 


addressed to the French consul at San Francisco. 
Limantour told Jouan that it contained papers. He 
afterwards saw the same bundle taken out of Liman- 
tour's trunk at the latter's hotel by his clerk, Letan- 
neur, who informed him that it contained eighty blank 
petitions and titles, all signed with the genuine signa- 
ture of the ex-governor, Micheltorana, and which were 
the same as those used by Limantour for his California 
grants. Two days after this, when Limantour was 
going to dine with the French consul, he carried with 
him this bundle under his overcoat. 

Jouan said that Limantour gave him, for translation, 
fourteen titles, none of which he had previously shown 
him in Mexico ; that he " conversed freely with him, 
without dissimulation," as to their being fraudulent, 
and that u Limantour never denied, but on the contrary 
always admitted," that his titles were fraudulent. He 
said that when Limantour gave him the islands grant 
for translation, he noticed that the ratification of the 
same on the margin thereof by Bocanegra, the Mexican 
Minister of the Exterior, was of a date earlier in the 
year 1843 than the grant itself. On calling Liman- 
tour' s attention to this discrepancy, he was directed by 
the latter to erase the figure 3 and substitute the fig- 
ure 4, so that the date of ratification would read 1844 
instead of 1843. This he did, but intentionally in 
so rough a manner as to make a hole in the paper. 
This paper, produced in court, verified his statement. 
He related conversations with Letanneur, the clerk of 
Limantour, in which he learned the place and time at 
which these antedated titles were fabricated and signed 


by ex-Governor Micheltorana, long after California had 
become a part of the United States, and, therefore, 
long after he had ceased to hold office. And finally 
he produced and delivered in evidence to the court a 
blank title which Letanneur had given him, saying it 
was taken from the bundle before mentioned. This 
blank title had upon it the genuine signature of Michel- 
torana, three times repeated, and the name of Don 
Pablo de la Guerra, former administrator of the custom- 
house at Monterey, twice forged. 1 

This blank title consisted of two blank documents, 
on one of which room was left for a petition for land, 
yet to be written, but on the margin of which Governor 
Micheltorana had kindly written and signed his consent 
in advance ; the other was a sheet all blank except 
that, at the bottom of the third page, Micheltorana had 
signed his name, as granting whatever lands the holder 
might subsequently be pleased to choose, and of which 
he might fill in the description. 

Mr. Hopkins, custodian of the archives, stated that 
during the summer of 1857 he " spent much time 
examining the miscellaneous and, at that time, disre- 
garded records and correspondence in the Spanish 
archives," and that there he one day found copies of 

1 Under the Mexican system, grants for land were made only in 
response to petitions written upon stamped paper. Each petition had 
upon its margin a brief order, signed by the governor for the issuance of 
the grant. The grant, also stamped upon paper, was of course signed 
by the governor. Stamped or " habiliated " paper duly authenticated by 
the Supreme Court of Mexico was furnished for these purposes. If at 
any time the supply failed, the law provided for the use of paper having 
the seal of the custom-house, and the signature of the governor and 
custom-house administrator in California. 


correspondence between Governor Micheltorana and 
Manuel Castanares, the Customs Administrator at Mon- 
terey in 1843, which, if genuine, showed that during 
the early months of that year there was not in existence 
any stamped paper of the kind upon which alleged 
grants to Limantour purported to have been written 
and dated within that time. The governor's letters 
were requisitions for stamped paper to be prepared 
because there was none for the year 1843. And yet 
the pretended grant of the site of San Francisco was 
written on local stamped paper, signed by himself, 
and dated as of the very time when he declared in this 
correspondence that there was no such stamped paper 
in existence. 

The resources of Limantour were, however, equal to 
this emergency. He produced as a witness Castanares 
himself, the very official with whom Micheltorana had 
this supposed correspondence, who testified that he had 
caused the stamped paper on which Limantour's grant 
was written to be prepared in November or December, 
1842, in ample time for such a purpose. This testi- 
mony of one of the parties to the alleged correspond- 
ence of course outweighed mere pretended copies of 
letters, the existence of the originals of which, so far 
from being proven, was thus apparently disproven. 

Castanares came, as he stated, from Mexico, for the 
purpose of giving evidence in this cause, and by per- 
mission of the President of Mexico, obtained through 
the intervention of the French Minister. His evidence 
carried with it, at the time, convincing weight. The 
cause of the government seemed enveloped in darkness. 


On the one side the Limantour claim, commended by 
the President of Mexico, supported by every docu- 
ment deemed necessary, and by the testimony of swift 
Mexican witnesses, one of whom was given leave of 
absence from high official duties, at the intercession of 
the French Minister at the City of Mexico, to enable 
him to go as a witness to San Francisco ; on the other 
side, Jouan, the discarded tool and accomplice of the 

Limantour' s triumph was of but short duration. One 
of the four boxes of records found by Stanton himself 
at Benicia contained the evidence which convicted 
Castanares of perjury. This evidence consisted of the 
original correspondence concerning the stamped paper, 
of which Hopkins had found the copies. This original 
correspondence clearly established the non-existence, in 
February, 1843, of the sealed paper on which Liman- 
tour's pretended grant of that date was executed. It 
established with equal certainty the fact that Governor 
Micheltorana and Castanares had been guilty, at a later 
date, of the crime of fabricating stamped paper, as of 
February, 1843, to be used in manufacturing a false 
grant of that date. 

The discovery of this vital testimony is thus recorded 
in Mr. Stanton's diary of April 27 : — 

At the archives office in the morning. Opened one box 
of Benicia papers and found : 1, The original correspondence 
of Micheltorana and Castanares as to the sealed paper. 
2. The original accounts as to the cargo of the Fannata. 

On the 29th of the same month Stanton's diary 
shows that he found " the books of Abrego for 1845." 


Abrego was the Mexican commissary under Governor 
Micheltorana, and had testified to large advances by 
Limantour to the government, both in money and 
goods. His book of accounts flatly contradicted his 
testimony, and his certificate that they embraced all 
that had transpired closed the door against all theories 
that other books mio-ht contain them. 


Stanton searched the records until he had found 
overwhelming proof of the truth of Jouan's story, and 
much more. De la Guerra testified, in spite of direct 
threats of assassination, that his name had been forged 
in every instance where it appeared on Limantour' s 
paper as Customs Administrator for 1844. 

August 2 Stanton wrote to Judge Black as fol- 
lows : — 

Last week I had an examination made by Lieutenant 
Fairfield (of the coast survey) of every seal in the (Califor- 
nia-Mexican) archives, some 10,000 or upwards, and a com- 
parison with the Limantour seal. This examination shows 
but two seals in the archives of the custom-house of Mon- 
terey. 1st, the genuine seal of Pablo de la Guerra ; 2d, the 
Limantour seal. Of the last there are only eleven impres- 
sions — all found on grants to Limantour or his witnesses. 

Stanton had the archives of the Mexican government 
in the City of Mexico searched, and produced cer- 
tificates showing that they contained no trace of the 
confirmation of the grants by Bocanegra, Mexican 
Minister of the Exterior, although such pretended 
confirmation appeared on the margin of Limantour's 
grants. He filed photographic exhibits in the case, 
concerning which he wrote, September 5, 1858 : — 


They are the most expensive and valuable work that has 
been done. They constitute an epitome of the Mexican and 
Spanish archives, 265 in number, and will cost about $4,000. 
They will afford you and the several departments of the 
government the means of knowing what the archives are, the 
forgeries that have been committed, the means of detecting 
them, and will protect about two thousand square leagues of 
land. . . . 

The photographic exhibits embrace 256 photographic 
copies of original documents, about one third being forgeries 
against the United States. In the face of these all Mexico 
may perjure itself at leisure. A lie can't be made the truth, 
as these photographs will prove. 

The array of proofs of the fraudulent character of 
Limantour's claims was so overwhelming that his law- 
yers deserted him at the end of five years of service. 
Of one firm Stanton wrote, October 3 : " The archives 
and photographic proofs have driven them from the 
field." Of the one remaining lawyer, he wrote, Octo- 
ber 16, that he " had fled two days before." The 
argument on behalf of the government was exhaustive. 
The reading of the proofs and exhibits occupied a 
week. Not a word was uttered in reply. The claim 
was rejected by the District Court, and of course no 
appeal was ever taken. Limantour was indicted for 
his crimes, and fled the country. 

The following extracts from the opinion of United 
States District Judge Hoffman convey some idea of 
the magnitude of the work in this case and the thor- 
oughness with which it had been performed : — 

Whether we consider the enormous extent or the ex- 
traordinary character of the alleged concessions to Liman- 


tour ; the official positions and the distinguished antecedents 
of the principal witnesses who have testified in support of 
them, or the conclusive or unanswerable proofs by which 
their falsehood has been exposed ; whether we consider the 
unscrupulous and pertinacious obstinacy with which the 
claims now before the court have been persisted in, — 
although six others presented to the Board have long since 
been abandoned, — or the large sums extorted from property 
owners in this city as the price of the relinquishment of 
the fraudulent pretensions; or, finally, the conclusive and 
irresistible proofs by which the perjuries by which they have 
been attempted to be maintained have been exposed and 
their true character demonstrated, it may safely be affirmed 
that these cases are without parallel in the judicial history of 
the country. . . . 

It is no slight satisfaction that the evidence has been 
such as to leave nothing to inference, suspicion, or conjecture, 
but that the proofs of fraud are as conclusive and irresist- 
ible as the attempted fraud itself has been flagrant and 


Overthrow of the Forged Claim to the New Almaden Quicksilver 
Mine. — Stanton's Work in Calif ornia. — Land Cases in the 
Supreme Court of the United States. 

Mr. Stanton further greatly distinguished himself 
while in California by his conduct of a suit in the 
United States Circuit Court against the New Almaden 
Quicksilver Mining Company. This suit was brought 
in the summer of 1858 in the name of the United 
States, and was for an injunction against the further 
working of the mine, until the title thereto should be 
determined. (1 McAllister, 271.) 

The New Almaden Mine was claimed under a pre- 
tended grant to Andre Castillero, which the Board of 
Land Commissioners had confirmed, and from which 
decision an appeal was then pending in the District 
Court of the United States. It was in the possession 
of an English company. It had already yielded about 
$8,000,000, and about $1,000,000 a year was still 
being taken out. 

The ground upon which the suit was brought was 
that certain official Mexican documents, constituting a 
part of the documentary title set up by the defendants, 
were false, fraudulent, antedated, and forged, and that 
they had been thus fraudulently contrived and fabri- 
cated since the termination of Mexican rule in Cali- 


fornia. At the hearing the correspondence was pro- 
duced in which the arrangements were made for the 
fabricating of the false documents. This consisted 
mainly of letters, forty in number, between the chief 
conspirators, one residing at San Francisco and the 
other at Tepic in Mexico. The genuineness of these 
letters was admitted by the counsel for the claimant. 

In them the California party informed his co-worker 
in Mexico just what documents were wanted, and how 
they must be worded. These the latter was expected 
to procure in Mexico. California ceased to be a Mexi- 
can province, and became territory of the United States, 
July 7, 1846 ; the earliest of the letters between these 
conspirators for obtaining the New Almaden mine, by 
a fabricated Mexican title not yet in existence, was 
dated six months later, viz., January 7, 1847. They 
ran through more than three years. 

The associates of the conspirators, in admitting the 
genuineness of the letters, as they were compelled to 
do, disclaimed any previous knowledge of them. The 
proof these letters gave of the fraudulent character 
of the claim of Castillero was overwhelming, and the 
Circuit Court granted the injunction. 

The District Court, in January, 1861, on a hearing 
of the appeal from the Land Commission, confirmed 
Castillero' s claim in part, and rejected it in part. Both 
parties appealed to the Supreme Court of the United 
States. The case was argued in that tribunal January 
30, 1863. The array of counsel was exceptionally 
strong. For the government there appeared the Attor- 
ney-General (Mr. Bates), Benjamin R. Curtis, Jeremiah 


S. Black, and Edwin M. Stanton. For the claimant, 
A. C. Peachy, Eeverdy Johnson, Charles O'Conor, 
John J. Crittenden, and Hall McAllister. A brief sub- 
mitted by Mr. Edmund Kandolph in the District Court 
was also filed in behalf of the United States. (Mr. 
Randolph had died during the appeal.) The argument 
of Mr. Judah P. Benjamin before the District Court 
was also filed on behalf of the claimant. Mr. Benja- 
min had then become a member of the Cabinet of 
Jefferson Davis ; Mr. Stanton was Secretary of War of 
the United States. 

The title was held to be fabricated and void, and 
Castillero's entire petition for the land was ordered to 
be dismissed. 

In rendering its decision, the Supreme Court recited 
the material portions of the criminating letters, and 
said : — 

Counsel for claimants admit that every one of these let- 
ters are genuine, and the proofs in the case are full to that 
effect. Comments upon these extraordinary documents are 
unnecessary, as they disclose their own construction, and 
afford a demonstration that those in the possession of the 
mine, holding it under conveyances from the claimant, knew 
full well that he had no title. 

The report of many other cases of fraudulent land 
claims defeated by Mr. Stanton may be found in the 
special message of President Buchanan of May 22, 
1860, transmitting to the House of Representatives the 
communication of Attorney-General Black on the sub- 
ject ; also in the twenty-one cases argued by Mr. Stan- 
ton in the Supreme Court during the December term, 


1859, and reported in the 22d and 23d of Howard, 
U. S. Supreme Court Eeports. 

Stanton's work in California destroyed the occupa- 
tion of the fabricators of false land grants, and pro- 
tected both the United States and the owners of valid 
Mexican grants. It was an open book, in which could 
be read all rights to land under the treaty of 1848, and 
by which the public domain was rescued from spolia- 
tion, and the settlement of land titles in California 
made possible. He explored the sources of the Spanish 
and Mexican systems of land law, and collected and 
arranged the records of the successive departmental 
governments of California with such fidelity that he 
was able to instruct the court not only as to those laws, 
but as to their administration in the minutest detail, 
and even to successfully dispute those records when 
they showed the exercise of official power by the smallest 
pretended officer whose lawful authority had ceased at 
the time of such act. 

He received the well-earned encomiums of bench and 
bar for the great results he had thus achieved in a 
single year. 


Mr. Stanton's Political Views, Antecedents, and Antagonisms. — 
A Freesoiler in 1848. — The " Union-Saving " Era from 1850 to 
1860. — Pro-Slavery Whigs adopt the Anti-Slavery Shibboleth. 

— Stanton's Aversion to the Whigs. — His Position in 1856-60. 

— The Support he gave Buchanan. 

Mr. Stanton was in no sense of the word a politi- 
cian. He was devoted to his profession, and outside 
of that he had no ambition. His political opinions 
were formed and his party affiliations established at a 
time when Democracy meant Jacksonism. He was 
enthusiastic in politics while Jackson and Van Buren 
were in the lead. With them he was opposed to nulli- 
fication, secession, a national bank, state bank mono- 
poly, and a high tariff. When Van Buren was defeated 
for the nomination at Baltimore in 1844 by the two- 
thirds rule, the adoption of which was made possible by 
the votes of men instructed to support him, Mr. Stanton 
lost interest in party contests. He felt that the result 
had been attained by an unfair assertion of Southern 
power for exclusively Southern interests, and he shared 
the strong feeling of resentment it aroused among 
Northern Democrats. A letter he wrote to the Hon. 
Jacob Brinkerhoff, a Eepresentative in Congress from 
Ohio, exhibits the disposition then prevailing among 
Northern Democrats to resist Southern domination 
within the Democratic party. Mr. Brinkerhoff had 


made a speech against the annexation of Texas unless 
freedom should be guaranteed in a portion of the new 
acquisition. In the course of his speech he was very 
severe on the Southern Democratic leaders. 1 
Mr. Stanton wrote him : — 

I cannot refrain from expressing the satisfaction with 
which I have read your speech on the Texas question. It 
would have delighted me to have been able to hear you 
deliver it ; but the effect will tell upon the public mind as 
" a word in season." There is too much inclination among 
Northern men to submit in silence to the insolent demands 
of the South. And one of the chief duties that will devolve 
upon us as citizens of free and independent States will be to 
curb the spirit of domination that has too long been suffered 
to prevail. You have set a noble and manly example in 
which many besides myself will to the uttermost sustain you. 
I trust, therefore, that the ground you have taken will be 

From that time forward, although he adhered to his 
old-time opinions on the questions that divided parties 
during the existence of the Jackson dynasty, he took 
no hand in party work. 

In 1847-48 he favored the Wilmot Proviso in 
common with Martin Van Buren, Samuel J. Tilden, 
Sanford B. Church, and others, then and afterwards 
eminent leaders in the Democratic party. That proviso 
would have excluded slavery from all territory acquired 
from Mexico. It was adopted by the aid of Whigs in 
a Democratic House of Representatives in 1846, and 
defeated by the aid of Democrats in a Whig House in 

1 Congressional Globe, 28th Congress, 2d session, page 131. 


Prior to the Ohio Democratic state convention of 
the latter year, Mr. Stanton wrote to Salmon P. 
Chase : — 

There is no doubt that a struggle will be made to put down 
the spirit of freedom in the 8th of January convention. 
Another Syracuse is just as likely to occur, but, if it does, 
there must be another Herkimer. 

This meant that if resolutions approving the Wilmot 
Proviso should be defeated, its friends must support 
them in another convention to be called for the pur- 
pose, as had been done in New York. 

That he did not conceal from Southern men his 
views on the subject is shown by the following letter 
addressed to him by Senator Yulee, of Florida, Febru- 
ary 23, 1848 : — 

I have been for some time intending to write you in token 
of remembrance, but one cause or other has prevented. I 
now send you a copy of a speech I have lately inflicted upon 
the country relative to the subject which proved so consider- 
able a subject of conversation, during the very agreeable trip 
on the Ohio, when it was my good fortune to meet you. You 
will recognize in my remarks in the Senate almost an old 
acquaintance, for we went over the same ground together. 
You did not seem at that time convinced. I shall be glad to 
learn if printing will have more weight with you. 

The speech referred to in the above letter was an 
argument in support of the ultra-Southern view on the 
subject of slavery in the Territories. 

After the defeat of Cass in the presidential election 
of that year, he wrote as follows to his sister, Mrs. 
Wolcott : — 


The presidential election has resulted in an overthrow of 
Cass, which, for one, I do not regret. The manner in which 
the Freesoil men adhered to their ticket in the Reserve grat- 
ified me very much, but I am disappointed with the result 
in New York and Pennsylvania. It is to be hoped that the 
friends of liberty will keep up an organization, and, by pre- 
serving an armed neutrality, hold as they may the balance of 
power in the Free States, until one or other party, by falling 
in line, secure our principles. 

In 1852 he was in Washington during the session 
of the national Democratic convention in Baltimore 
which nominated Pierce, but did not feel sufficient 
interest in its proceedings to visit that city. To his 
mother he wrote, May 5 : — 

Washington has been very full of strangers coming to the 
convention. . . . The convention has not yet been able to 
nominate a candidate for President, and it is very uncertain 
when they will succeed, if they do so at all. Baltimore is 
said to be crowded to overflowing with strangers. I have 
not been there and shall not go. As soon as my business is 
ended here, I shall hasten home. 

During the campaign of that year he wrote her 
from Pittsburg, October 25 : — ■ 

John P. Hale, your candidate for the presidency, is in 
town to deliver a lecture this evening before the Young 
Men's Mercantile Literary Society. . . . Politicians are busy 
electioneering for the presidential election, and the Scott men 
still have strong hopes of electing him, although their chance 
looks slim enough. 

The "Freesoil" movement of 1848 was succeeded 
by a "Union-Saving" era, which continued through 
two campaigns. The conquest of California, and the 


prolonged struggle between the North and South over 
her admission as a free State in 1850, ended in the 
compromise measures which included the new Fugitive 
Slave Law, and the admission of slavery into New Mex- 
ico. The two great political parties of that day — the 
Whigs and Democrats — vied with each other in pro- 
claiming their devotion to what was called " this new 
settlement of the slavery question/' and in anathema- 
tizing any who should attempt to disturb it. In 1852 
the national conventions of both parties vehemently 
applauded it, and each singled out the Fugitive Slave 
Law as the especial object of its admiration and devo- 

All but 155,000 of those who voted on the presi- 
dency that year supported either the pro-slavery De- 
mocracy, or the pro-slavery Whigs. That insignificant 
number recorded their protest against slavery extension 
by voting for John P. Hale, of New Hampshire. 

Thus the South dominated both parties equally. 
The Whigs, who had in some Northern States opposed 
the Mexican war on the professed ground that it was 
waged to extend slavery, had made haste to apologize 
in 1848 by putting forward for President General Tay- 
lor, one of its heroes ; in 1852 they nominated another, 
in the person of General Scott. 

It was very generally believed that the Union was 
endangered by the increasing agitation of the slavery 
question ; and its preservation was more precious to the 
hearts of the great body of the Northern people than 
any other cause. This was well understood by the 
ultra-Southern leaders, and they made the most of the 


fact. Having already defaced the federal statute-book 
with the superfluous brutalities of the Fugitive Slave 
Law/ and exacted submission to thern as the price of 
national existence, they next inaugurated a crusade for 
the admission of slavery into the Territories, and its 
protection there by a federal enactment. 

The defeat of Scott, in 1852, led to the complete 
overthrow of the Whig party. He had received but 
42 out of the 296 electoral votes. A recast of political 
parties became inevitable. At this juncture the main 
body of the Whig party did what their opponents 
would probably have done, had their positions been 
reversed. They determined to appeal to the sentiment 
they thought would enlist the most recruits to their 
number, and to invite the formation of a new party. 
Unable to agree as to what issue would yield the best 
result in votes, they divided, — one portion, under the 
name of " Americans," presenting hostility to foreign- 
ers as their shibboleth, and the other, under the name 

1 This law denied to the alleged fugitive slave the right of trial by 
jury of the issue whether he was a slave or not. It gave the United 
States Commissioner a fee of ten dollars in each case when he decided 
the black man to be a slave, and only five dollars when he decided him 
to be a free person. It authorized the summoning of the posse comitatus 
in advance of any resistance to the arrest of the alleged fugitive. The 
famous Crittenden compromise measures, voted down in the Senate 
March 2, 1861, included amendments to remove from the Fugitive Slave 
Law the above recited obnoxious provisions. There were others equally 
offensive to operate to the disadvantage of a free Northern black who 
might be claimed as a fugitive slave. 

It is a notable fact that Senator Lewis Cass, who had been the Demo- 
cratic candidate for the presidency two years before, refused to vote for 
the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850, because it denied the right of trial by 
jury to the black man claimed as a slave. 


of " Republicans/' the non-extension of slavery. Each 
drew something from the Democratic party, but that 
party elected Mr. Buchanan President, in 1856, over 
the divided opposition, by the votes of every slave 
State save Maryland, and those of the Northern States 
of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Illinois, Indiana, and 

Stanton, having become a resident of Washington, 
had no vote at the presidential election of that year. 
He was wholly absorbed in his law business. As he 
had taken no active part in politics for years, his con- 
tinuance in that course did not affect his standing as a 
Democrat. It is certain that his old enemies, the 
Whigs, found no more favor in his sight that year, 
under their new names of " Republicans " and " Amer- 
icans," than they had when marshaled against Jackson 
in support of the national bank, or when they surren- 
dered to the South Carolina Nulliflers, in 1833, under 
the coalition between Clay and Calhoun. 

In the breach between Mr. Buchanan's adminis- 
tration and those who opposed his Kansas policy in 
1857-58, Mr. Stanton stood unmistakably with Mr. 
Buchanan, as appears by the following letter written 
by him to Judge Black from San Francisco, September 
5, 1858 : — 

This steamer will bear the news of a great administration 
victory in this State. It has been a most triumphant and 
glorious victory. From the hour that Broderick reached this 
shore, until the last moment, his energies were devoted to the 
contest, and his overthrow is signal and ignominious. You 
say to the President that his own great name achieved the 


triumph — to that victory is due. Gwin and Scott were both 
absent. Broderick was in the field in person. The organ- 
ization was feeble and incomplete, and the election is but an 
emphatic overwhelming indorsement of the President and 
his administration. 

Senator Broderick and his friends had bolted the 
Democratic organization in California, on the issue 
which Mr. Douglas had successfully made within the 
party in Illinois. The campaign in California had 
been waged with extreme bitterness against Mr. Bu- 
chanan personally. The above letter indicates the 
strong sympathy Mr. Stanton felt with the President 
in such a controversy. Judge Black says of him : — 

He was always sound on the Kansas question, and faith- 
ful among the faithless on the Lecompton Constitution. So 
far as we, his Democratic associates, were permitted to know 
him, no man detested more than he did the knavish trick of 
the abolitionists in preventing a vote on slavery, by which 
it would have been expelled from Kansas, and the whole 
trouble settled in the way they pretended to wish. 1 

The Kansas convention at Lecompton, which was 
dominated by the pro-slavery men, had submitted the 
Constitution to be voted on in the following manner : 
" For the Constitution with slavery/' or u For the Con- 
stitution without slavery." In no case could a man 
vote against the Constitution. The free state men be- 
lieved they had little reason to hope for a fair election, 
and therefore abstained from voting. According to 
Judge Black's testimony, Mr. Stanton believed they 
could have made Kansas a free State at that election. 

1 Letter to Henry Wilson, Atlantic Monthly, April, 1870. 


Being still a resident of the District of Columbia, 
he was not a voter in 1860. His son, Edwin, after a 
visit to Washington that year, informed Stanton's old 
friend, John F. Oliver, at Steubenville, that his father 
was for Breckinridge. To his sister, Mrs. Wolcott, 
Stanton wrote, June 28 of that year : — 

I suppose you all look forward to Lincoln's election and 
expect to come on here to the coronation. . . . The election 
of Lincoln is as certain as any future event can be. The 
Democratic party are hopelessly shivered, and will not re- 
unite for many years, if ever. 

Says Judge Black : — 

He was out and out for Breckinridge in 1860, and re- 
garded the salvation of the country as hanging on the forlorn 
hope of his election. 

To sum all up : Mr. Stanton was in 1860 and 1861, 
and prior to that, a Democrat, opposed to slavery, but 
a firm upholder of the laws constitutionally enacted for 
its protection. 

That he believed the success of the Republican party 
would endanger the Union, and that he adhered to the 
extreme wing of the Democratic party after it had 
subordinated all other questions to the protection of 
slavery in the rights guaranteed it by the Constitution, 
as interpreted by the United States Supreme Court in 
the Dred Scott case, must be admitted. That when 
the apprehended danger to the Union followed Repub- 
lican success, he rose superior to all party trammels, 
and, in the Cabinet of Mr. Buchanan, acted with high 
courage and the most unselfish patriotism, none can 


deny. He strengthened the hands of Mr. Buchanan 
in all that he safely and lawfully did to avert a colli- 
sion, because, at that time, it was obvious to all intel- 
ligent persons that the sympathies of foreign nations 
as well as the support of a large body of our own 
people would be with the side that remained on the 
defensive until attacked. When the retired President 
was overwhelmed with the imprecations of people who 
held him responsible for the perils which beset the 
country, and was apprehensive that proceedings might 
be taken against him in Congress, Mr. Stanton was his 
chosen counselor, and his considerate, unselfish, and 
trusted friend. 




Appointed Attorney-General, December 20, 1860. — Review of the 
Political Situation. — The Presidential Election. — The Disunion 
Conspiracy. — Movements in South Carolina. — Her Agents in 
Washington. — Floyd's Treason. — Buchanan's Message revised 
by Jefferson Davis. 

On the 20th of December, I860, Mr. Stanton, then 
forty-six years of age, was appointed Attorney-General 
of the United States. Up to that time, with the excep- 
tions in early life of one year's service as a county pro- 
secuting attorney, and three years as a state Supreme 
Court reporter (both in the line of his profession), he 
had never held office, nor sought or desired to. 

His appointment was not a political one. He had 
rendered no political services entitling him to recogni- 
tion at the hands of the President or his party. It is 
impossible to imagine that he desired the office, for it 
was an invitation to leave a lucrative practice, and share 
with an administration about to go out in eclipse the 
bufferings it was receiving from the triumphant opposi- 
tion, and which it must also receive from the Southern 


faction of its own party, unless it should lend itself to 
their revolutionary aims. 

The administration of Mr. Buchanan had already 
drifted with extraordinary fatuity into a position in 
which it dared not remain, and yet from which retreat 
was both difficult and dangerous. To form some idea 
of the stormy sea upon which it was being tossed at 
that time, it will be necessary to review what had 
occurred during the forty-four days between the presi- 
dential election and the date of Stanton's appointment. 
The United States government at that time seemed 
to have no rights that anybody was bound to respect. 
It had been so long under the cootrol of the men 
then bent on the dismemberment of the Union that, 
although they had been defeated at the polls, resistance 
to their will seemed to them a little short of rebellion 
against established authority. 

The presidential struggle of 1860 had been con- 
ducted by the extreme Southern leaders, from the open- 
ing of the president-making Congress in December, 
1859, until the closing of the polls in November, 1860, 
upon the express plan of securing the election of the 
Kepublican candidate, as a pretext for the long-threat- 
ened and, by them, ardently desired dissolution of the 
Union. The delegates from the cotton States to the 
national Democratic convention at Charleston had been 
instructed in their state conventions to demand of the 
convention a platform on the slavery question, which 
it was known would defeat the party if adopted ; and, 
failing to secure it, they were instructed to disrupt 
that body, which would be equally certain to accom- 


plish the desired result. Unable to secure a majority 
to support their views, they seceded from the con- 
vention, in accordance with their instructions, and 
subsequently put forward a third candidate for the 
presidency. Having thus, with premeditation, insured 
Republican success through Democratic division, they 
committed themselves and their heated followers during 
the canvass in the most explicit terms, by public re- 
solves, speeches, and writings, to secession and disunion 
in the event of Mr. Lincoln's election, and to a war to 
the knife if the nation should refuse to be unresistingly 
put to death. 

This action of theirs was the culmination of many 
years of debate, in which they had vainly endeavored to 
stem the rising tide of opinion against the system of 

The election of Mr. Lincoln, thus contrived, was 
deemed so certain that definite revolutionary measures 
were set on foot a full month before it took place. The 
election day was November 6. On the 5th of the pre- 
ceding month Governor Gist, of South Carolina, ad- 
dressed a confidential circular letter to the several gov- 
ernors of the other cotton States, in which he said that 
the great probability, nay, almost certainty of Abraham 
Lincoln's election to the presidency rendered it impor- 
tant that there should be a full and free interchange of 
views between the executives of the Southern and more 
especially the cotton States. He then gave his own 
views as to the probable action of his State, and asked 
them as to their States respectively. South Carolina, 
he declared, would rather follow or accompany some 


other State than lead. She would follow any single 
State that would secede ; and if no other State took the 
lead, she would, in his opinion, secede alone, if assured 
that she would be soon followed by another or other 
States. Otherwise he said it would be doubtful. 

To this the governor of North Carolina replied, 
October 18, that he thought the people of that State 
would not consider the occurrence of the event referred 
to as sufficient ground for dissolving the Union of the 
States, but he did not think his State would become a 
party to the enforcement of " the monstrous doctrine of 
coercion." In no event would he assent to that. 

The governor of Louisiana wrote, October 26, that 
he should not advise secession in case of Lincoln's elec- 
tion, and did not think the people of his State would 
favor it ; but he believed in the right of secession, and 
would sustain any seceded State against attempted coer- 
cion by the general government. 

The governor of Mississippi wrote, October 26, to 
the effect that his State would follow any other State 
that would secede. 

The governor of Georgia wrote, October 31, that 
he thought his State would wait for an overt act before 
seceding. He favored a conference of Southern States, 
but events not yet foreseen might lead to action by 
Georgia, without waiting for other States. 

The governor of Alabama wrote, October 25, that 
in his opinion Alabama would secede, if two or more 
States would cooperate with her, and that she would 
rally to the rescue of any one seceded State against the 
use of force by the federal government. 


The governor of Florida did not reply until after the 
election (November 9), when he assured Governor Gist 
that his State would wheel into line with South Caro- 
lina or any other State. 

Governor Gist's diligence in the disunion cause did 
not stop with this interstate correspondence. He com- 
menced to make ready for war by secret negotiations 
for the purchase of arms from the United States through 
his accomplice, John B. Floyd, the Secretary of War. 

As early as October 22, 1860, Thomas F. Drayton, 
an emissary of his, visited Washington on this business, 
and in company with Senator Wigfall, of Texas, called 
upon the Secretary of War to make inquiries as to the 
efficiency and price of certain muskets belonging to 
the United States. Upon his return to Charleston he 
reported to the governor, under date of November 3, 
that these muskets " would shoot for 200 yards as well 
as any smooth-bore gun in the service, and would carry 
a conical ball, made lighter by enlarging the hollow at 
the base of the cone, 700 yards ; " that he could have 
these particulars authenticated by the Board of Ord- 
nance officers, of which General Joseph E. Johnston 
was president, who had inspected and reported on the 
muskets to the Secretary of War ; that ten thousand of 
them could be purchased for the State of South Caro- 
lina at $2.00 each, and that the accommodating secre- 
tary had agreed to have them rifled at the reasonable 
additional cost of $1.00 per barrel. Texas had, he 
said, already engaged 20,000 of these muskets. " As 
this interview with Mr. Secretary Floyd," wrote the 
discreet Drayton, " was both semi-official and confiden- 


tial, your Excellency will readily see the necessity, should 
this matter be pursued, of appointing an agent to nego- 
tiate with him, rather than conduct the negotiations 
directly between the State and the department." 

His Excellency saw the necessity, and gave Drayton 
the suggested authority. The latter, in accepting the 
agency, wrote the governor that the only remedy for 
existing ills was " to break up with dispatch the present 
confederacy and construct a new and better one." He 
urged privacy, and said he would at once write Floyd to 
have the rifles put in preparation so as to have them 
ready for use at an early day. 

This letter was written on the day of the presidential 
election. It was delivered into Mr. Floyd's hands two 
days later by Mr. Trescott, of South Carolina, then 
Assistant Secretary of State. 

The South Carolina legislature met, in called ses- 
sion, November 5. The message of the governor pre- 
dicted Mr. Lincoln's election on the following day, 
recommended the secession of the State, and urged that 
she be placed at once on a war footing by arming 
every man between eighteen and forty -five years of age, 
and accepting the services of 10,000 volunteers. 

At a gathering of prominent politicians of the State, 
including the governor and all the congressional dele- 
gation but one, held October 25, at the residence of 
United States Senator Hammond, it had been unani- 
mously resolved that South Carolina should secede in 
the event of Mr. Lincoln's election. 

No demonstration was omitted which was calculated 
to aid in precipitating the crisis. The most theatrical 


scene of all was enacted in the United States District 
Court room at Charleston, on the day following that of 
the presidential election, and before the result could 
have been certainly known. The foreman of the 
Grand Jury addressed the court, saying that that body 
declined to proceed with their presentments because the 
last hope for the stability of the federal government 
had been swept away " by the verdict of the Northern 
section of the confederacy, solemnly announced to the 
country through the ballot-box on yesterday." Where- 
upon the judge of the court, A. G. Magrath, arose, 
and instead of punishing the foreman for contempt of 
court, resigned his office in a grandiloquent speech in 
support of secession. The resignation of the United 
States attorney and marshal followed immediately. 
This performance seems, in the light of subsequent 
events, to have been an important step in making up 
an agreed case for executive consideration, and for a 
decision which it was believed would insure to the State 
immunity from immediate federal interference with the 
rebellious attitude she was about to assume. 

The legislature called a convention to assemble 
December 17. The bill for that purpose passed the 
Senate November 10, and the House on the 12th. 

While South Carolina was thus being borne rapidly 
along in the direction of her heart's desire by the restless 
zeal and audacity of her sons at home, she was served 
with no less fidelity and ability at the national capi- 
tal. There she had an unofficial representative, still 
in the official harness of the federal government, in the 
person of William H. Trescott, the Assistant Secretary 


of State. That he enjoyed the confidence of President 
Buchanan in a marked degree is evidenced by the fact 
that from June to October of that year he had been 
Acting Secretary of State, by presidential designation, 
in the temporary absence of Secretary Cass. He was 
equally in the confidence of the disunion leaders, and 
often went between them and their allies in the Cabinet. 
For example, on the 1st of November he wrote to Mr. 
Rhett, of South Carolina, that, while he could not, of 
course, say anything about his own views or opinions 
of the administration, the Secretary of the Treasury, 
Mr. Howell Cobb, of Georgia, had authorized him to 
communicate his views in confidence. The substance 
of them was that Mr. Cobb was an ardent disunionist, 
and thought Georgia would and should secede in the 
event of Mr. Lincoln's election, but not until the 4th 
of March. He feared earlier action would peril una- 

Mr. Trescott called upon Secretary Floyd November 
8, with the letter of November 6 from Drayton, 
agent of South Carolina, before referred to, propos- 
ing to buy 10,000 muskets for the use of the State. 
This enabled Drayton to write to Governor Gist, No- 
vember 16, from Charleston, that, although he had 
been prevented by an accident from going to Washing- 
ton, his absence had not delayed the execution of the 
order for the rifles; the Secretary of War had had 
the preparation of them in hand for some time. He 
requested the governor to address him at Washington 
in Mr. Trescott's care. 

On the 19th of November Drayton was in Washing- 


ton, and wrote to Governor Gist that he had been 
greatly disappointed at being informed by Secretary 
Floyd that it would take three or four months to rifle 
the muskets, for that functionary had assured Mr. 
Trescott as well as himself that they would be ready 
for delivery on his arrival. But Secretary Floyd's 
good faith towards the disunion cause was made clear 
by his kindly suggestion that they should " purchase 
the 10,000 smooth-bored muskets instead, as a more 
efficient arm, particularly if large-sized buckshot should 
be used, which, if put in a wire case capable of contain- 
ing twelve of them, would go spitefully through an 
inch plank at 200 yards." Drayton was also advised 
by General Joseph E. Johnston, then Quartermaster- 
General, u that for the purpose the smooth-bored musket 
is preferable to the altered rifle." Later on the same 
busy day Drayton wrote that Secretary Floyd deemed it 
important that he should go to New York to arrange 
for shipping the arms from that point instead of Wash- 
ington. He said he was also getting some of the same 
muskets for Georgia. On the 23d of November Dray- 
ton telegraphed to Governor Gist from Washington : 
" Your order for rifles of the 17th instant cannot be 
had. To manufacture them will take a year. The 
rest of the order I hope to fill. Will send 10,000 
smooth-bore. Reply by wire." At the same time he 
wrote, saying he had just returned from New York, 
whither he had gone at the suggestion of Secretary 
Floyd to engage G. B. Lamar, president of the Bank 
of the Republic, to make an offer to the Secretary for 
the number of muskets required for South Carolina. 


"The Secretary of War/' he wrote, "was reluctant to 
dispose of them to me, preferring the intermediate 
agency." He also stated that Secretary Floyd had that 
day written to the officers in charge of the Watervliet 
arsenal to deliver 5000 or 10,000 to Mr. Lamar's 
order. Drayton expressed much anxiety to get the 
arms immediately forwarded to Charleston, as " the 
Cabinet may break up at any moment on differences of 
opinion with the President as to the right of secession, 
and a new Secretary of War might stop the muskets 
going South, if not already on their way, when he 
comes into office." On the following day, November 
24, he telegraphed Governor Gist as follows : " The 
quota for eighteen hundred and sixty-one ordered from 
Harper's Ferry." 

While the Secretary of War was thus selling mus- 
kets, which would send twelve buckshot " spitefully 
through an inch plank at 200 yards," to conspirators 
who were making ready to use them against the sol- 
diers of the army of which he was the sworn guardian, 
he was professing to President Buchanan and Attor- 
ney-General Black to be opposed to the Southern 
movement. 1 

Mr. Trescott kept the governor of South Carolina 
well informed as to the attitude of Mr. Buchanan, and 
was the faithful sentinel of the " sovereign State " of 
South Carolina within the federal camp, ready to notify 
her authorities if any movement should make it advis- 
able for her to commence hostilities. On the 19th of 
November he wrote to Drayton that no action of any 

1 Black's Essays and Speeches, page 2G7. 


sort would be taken until the message of the President 
had been sent to Congress. The contents of that mes- 
sage were correctly foreshadowed by him. He could 
not tell what the President would do when the State 
should secede, but he thought that as long as Cobb and 
Thompson retained seats in the Cabinet, it would be 
evidence that no action had been taken seriously affect- 
ing the position of any Southern State. He thought he 
could rely upon his own knowledge of what would be 
done, and he would resign as soon as that knowledge 
satisfied him of "any move in a direction positively 
injurious to us, or altering the present condition of 
things to our disadvantage." 

Two of the Southern members of the Cabinet tele- 
graphed at about this time to Jefferson Davis, in Mis- 
sissippi, to come immediately to Washington, and use his 
influence with the President in relation to the forth- 
coming message. He obeyed the summons, and was 
well rewarded for his trouble. He called on Mr. 
Buchanan, who read him the message and invited sug- 
gestions, and, as Mr. Davis states, " kindly accepted all 
the modifications which I suggested." 1 

While these things were going on, the rebellion in 
South Carolina was rapidly progressing. Mr. Buchanan 
knew, as did all the world, that the convention which 
was to meet there on the 17th of December would 
surely take the first formal step in a revolt against the 
government of the United States, by an act of secession 
which, if unchallenged by federal power, would speedily 

1 Jefferson Davis, Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government, vol. i. 
p. 59. 


be followed by similar acts in other States. This was 
known, because the successive steps contemplated by 
the disunionists had been as plainly and publicly an- 
nounced by them in advance, as are the plot and inci- 
dents of a modern drama in the play-bill. 

It was obvious that if anything could prevent a sepa- 
rate and hostile government of confederated slave States 
from springing up at once within the territorial limits 
of the United States, it would be a prompt demonstra- 
tion by the administration at Washington of a firm, 
patriotic, and unmistakable purpose to defend the rights 
of the government wherever and under whatever pre- 
text or authority they might be assailed, followed by 
popular uprisings in the North, without regard to party 
lines, which such a stand would surely evoke. Such a 
course might have given pause even to South Carolina. 
On the other hand, it was in the President's power, if 
he chose, to promote the cause of disunion, and divide 
public opinion at the North, by assurances to those who 
were instigating and organizing rebellion that the na- 
tional government had not the power under the Consti- 
tution to adopt the measures necessary for the preserva- 
tion of the Union. The secession doctrine had been 
debated for thirty years, and not a statesman in the 
land but had a definite opinion concerning it. Those 
who believed it to be simply revolution knew whether 
they thought a justification existed for a resort to it. 
The President was an experienced statesman, and had 
gathered around him a Cabinet containing some able 
men. It was not an unreasonable expectation that as 
the chief magistrate of the nation, he would oppose the 


threatened revolution, and purge the Cabinet of any 
who might be found promoting it. The hot discussions 
of the campaign had left no room to doubt that the 
election of Mr. Lincoln would create a crisis in which 
either a revolution or the government must go down. 
The extent of that revolution was the only question. 
It might be confined to South Carolina ; it might extend 
through the cotton States, or it might finally include 
all the slave States. The crisis might be precipitated 
immediately after the election, and tax all the patriotism 
and energies of the outgoing administration, or it might 
be procrastinated until the advent to power of the Pre- 
sident whose election was made the pretext for it. It is 
reasonable to suppose that the former contingency was 
contemplated by Mr. Buchanan and his advisers, and 
some views interchanged as to the manner in which it 
should be met in whichever of many possible forms it 
might present itself. 


Mr. Buchanan asks Attorney-General Black's Opinion. — The Opin- 
ion, November 20, 1860. — The same analyzed and reviewed. — 
The Anti-Coercion Doctrine, 

On the 17th of November, President Buchanan called 
upon Attorney-General Jeremiah S. Black, for an official 
opinion as to the powers and duties of the Executive in 
the crisis then impending. 

Judge Black's opportunity was such as seldom falls 
to the lot of any man. He could point out to the Presi- 
dent in direct and unequivocal terms all that the patri- 
otic people of the country had a right to hope from their 
government, and all that those who were openly threat- 
ening its destruction had to fear. Never had any man 
more completely in his grasp the destinies of a great 
people. He was the President's chosen friend, and was 
by him deemed so able and so reliable that his view of 
the law was likely to be the chart by which the ship of 
state would be navigated in that tempestuous time by 
its constitutional commander. His opinion was given 
on the 20th of November, 1860, just one month before 
the adoption of the ordinance of secession by the State 
of South Carolina. 1 It was by far the most important 
paper he ever wrote, and in it he might reasonably have 
been expected to show the breadth of his capacity as a 

1 Attorney- General* s Opinions, vol. ix. p. 523. 


legal and constitutional expounder „ Learned in consti- 
tutional law and in the history and art of government, 
trained in the Jackson school of Democracy, and gifted 
with unusual strength and facility of language in which 
to clothe his ideas, he was called upon to speak the 
words that were to be potent either for peace or war. 

The opinion was written in response to questions pro- 
pounded by President Buchanan, the vital one of which 
dealt with affairs as they actually existed in South Caro- 
lina. It was as follows : — 

Can a military force be used for any purpose whatever 
under the Acts of 1795 and 1807, within the limits of a State 
where there are no judges, marshals, or other civil officers f 

The Attorney-General replied emphatically that it 
could not! He had in reply to minor questions elabo- 
rated at length, what nobody denied, that under those 
acts, in support of the United States Marshal, resisted 
in the execution of judicial process, military force might 
be applied. 

" But," he now asked, " what if the feeling in any 
State against the United States should become so uni- 
versal that the federal officers themselves (including 
judges, district attorneys, and marshals) would be 
reached by the same influences and resign their places? " 

The federal court officials in South Carolina had 
created exactly this situation two weeks before. 

" Of course," he continued, " the first step would be 
to appoint others in their stead, if others could be got 
to serve. But in such an event, it is more than prob- 
able that great difficulty would be found in filling the 


offices. We can easily conceive how it might become 
altogether impossible." 

It had then, as all men knew, become altogether im- 
possible, without federal protection, in South Carolina. 
The people of that State would have handled any men 
who would have dared to accept appointments to those 
offices as roughly as they would any who had attempted 
to deliver abolition harangues to their slaves. 

What then? What should the President of the 
United States do when the federal courts in a State are 
thus closed by a reign of terror ? If he could use the 
army and call out the militia to enforce a process in the 
hands of a marshal, what could he do if the process 
could not be obtained against the law-breakers because 
no man could accept the judicial office with safety to 
his life ? Here is Judge Black's answer : — 

In that event, troops would certainly be out of place and 
their use wholly illegal. If they are sent to aid the courts 
and marshals, there must be courts and marshals to be aided. 
Without the exercise of those functions which belong exclu- 
sively to civil service, the laws cannot be executed in any event, 
no matter what may he the physical strength which the gov- 
ernment has at its command. Under such circumstances to 
send a military force into any State, with orders to act against 
the people, would he simply making war upon them. 

Contrast Judge Black's reply with the law of the case 
as laid down by Judge Grier, speaking for the Supreme 
Court of the United States in the Prize cases, after the 
commencement of the war. 1 

1 67 United States Reports, page 635- 


As a civil war is never publicly proclaimed, eo nomine, 
against insurgents, its actual existence is a fact in our domestic 
history which the court is bound to notice and to know. 

The true test of its existence, as found in the writings of 
the sages of the common law, may be thus summarily stated : 
When the regular course of justice is interrupted by revolt, 
rebellion, or insurrection, so that the courts of justice cannot 
be kept open, civil war exists, and hostilities may be prose- 
cuted on the same footing as if those opposing the government 
were foreign enemies invading the land. 

When Judge Black wrote his opinion, revolt was 
already rife in South Carolina, and was rapidly " fester- 
ing into rebellion." " The regular course of justice " 
had been " interrupted " there, and indeed wholly sus- 
pended, " by revolt." 

Judge Black had cited the Act of 1795, which pro- 
vides that the President may call forth the militia " when- 
ever the laws of the United States shall be opposed, or 
the execution thereof obstructed in any State by combi- 
nations too powerful to be suppressed by the ordinary 
force of judicial proceedings, or by the power vested in 
the marshals," and also the act of 1807, which author- 
izes the employment of the army and navy for the same 
purpose. He had admitted that these acts imposed upon 
the President the responsibility of deciding whether the 
exigency had arisen which required the use of military 
force ; but he held that under them the power of the 
President was restricted to the aiding of marshals in the 
execution of process duly issued in the ordinary course 
of judicial proceedings. Military force could be used 
to uphold a marshal with a writ in his hand, but not to 


restrain the violence which made it impossible for a 
newly commissioned judge to enter upon the duties of 
his office, and issue such a writ. In short, he held that 
" combinations " in opposition to the laws of the United 
States " too powerful to be suppressed by the ordinary 
course of judicial proceedings, or by the power vested 
in the marshals," could not be suppressed at all. If 
they were powerful enough to suppress the courts and 
abolish judicial proceedings, then, according to the 
opinion of Judge Black, the statutes of 1795 and 1807 
conferred no power upon the President to interfere. 

But the Supreme Court, in the case above cited, sub- 
sequently declared that those enactments do authorize 
the President " to call out the militia and use the mili- 
tary forces of the United States in case of invasion by 
foreign nations, and to suppress insurrection against the 
government of a State, or of the United States." 

It might be said that although the federal courts in 
South Carolina were no longer open, and could not be 
because of the violent condition of public feeling in 
that State, yet there had been no actual outbreak in 
the nature of an armed insurrection. But the violence 
against United States authority which had not yet thus 
visibly demonstrated itself, because none had dared to 
provoke it, ruled in South Carolina as completely on the 
20th of November, 1860, as it did at any time during 
the civil war. It is true that the overt acts of treason 
were yet to come which the secession leaders had for 
months solemnly and publicly announced it to be their 
purpose to commit, if their work of erecting, within the 
territorial limits of the United States, a government in- 


imical and hostile thereto, should be interfered with by 
the national authority. But rebellion was sharpening 
its sword and shotting its cannon. Daniel S. Dickinson, 
a Democratic leader in New York, said : " The South 
commenced scraping lint before the presidential elec- 
tion." Active hostilities had not commenced in South 
Carolina, only because conspiracy and revolt, busily and 
openly organizing rebellion, went unchallenged, and 
therefore found no obstacle with which to collide. 

Such a condition of affairs, constituting civil war as 
defined by the Supreme Court and by the " sages of 
the common law," was not the less "insurrection" be- 
cause shot and shell had not been actually discharged 
from the throats of rebel cannon. Yet Judge Black 
advised the President that the acts of 1795 and 1807 
did not authorize the intervention of federal power to 
guard against the unexploded violence in South Carolina 
in the consuming heat of which a federal court could 
not live. Let us now see whether on the 20th of No- 
vember, 1860, he thought the Constitution conferred 
upon Congress the power to enact laws authorizing the 
use of military force for the preservation of the Union, 
and whether, in his opinion, the exercise of such power 
would be justified by overt acts of treason and flagrant 

He said : — 

Whether Congress has the constitutional right to make 
war against one or more States, and require the Executive of 
the federal government to carry it on by means of force to 
be drawn from the other States, is a question for Congress 
itself to consider. It must be admitted that no such power is 


expressly given, nor are there any words in the Constitution 
which imply it. 

The question before the country at that time was 
whether, in an aggressive war about to be waged upon 
the United States government by rebellious States, the 
former could constitutionally fight for its life. Judge 
Black maintained that it could not. 

In support of this position he said : — 

Among the powers enumerated in Article 1, Section 8, is 
that " to declare war, grant letters of marque and reprisal, and 
to make rules concerning captures on land and water." This 
certainly means nothing more than the power to commence 
and carry on hostilities against the foreign enemies of the 

This comment was wholly gratuitous on his part, for 
the Constitution, as correctly quoted by him, makes no 
distinction between a foreign and a domestic or civil 

He continued : " Another clause in the same section 
gives Congress the power ' to provide for calling forth 
the militia ' and to use them within the limits of the 

The words " and to use them within the limits of the 
state " are Judge Black's, and are also gratuitous. 

He continued : " But this power is so restricted by 
the words which immediately follow that it can be exer- 
cised only for one of the following purposes : 1. c To 
execute the laws of the Union.' " (Here he adds to the 
words of the Constitution his own as follows : " That is, 
to aid the federal officers in the performance of their 
regular duties.") " 2. To i suppress insurrection.' " 


(Here he adds to the words of the Constitution his own 
as follows : " against the State," and makes this com- 
ment : " But this is confined by Article 4, Section 4, 
to cases in which the State herself shall apply for assist- 
ance against her own people.") " 3. To repel invasion 
of a State by enemies who come from abroad to assail 
her in her own territory." (This last subdivision is 
Judge Black's substitute for the three simple words of 
the Constitution, "to repel invasions.") 

He adds : " All these provisions are made to protect 
the State." He certainly went far out of his way, and 
made many interpolations, in his vain endeavor to wrest 
such a conclusion from the simple language of the Con- 
stitution, which is as follows : — 

" To provide for calling forth the militia to execute 
the laws of the Union, suppress insurrection, and repel 
invasion." * 

This is all ; not a word here about " the States ; " 
they are provided for in another article of the Consti- 
tution. This section relates to " the laws of the Union," 
insurrections against the federal government, and inva- 
sions of the United States. 

When the militia is needed to aid in the execution of 
the laws of the Union, it may be sent into any State 
in which any of these laws are resisted. It would, in 
case of widespread resistance within a State, naturally 
be called from other States. 

Article IV, Section 4, of the Constitution deals with 
insurrections and invasions against States, and reads 
thus : — 

i Article I, Section 8. 


The United States shall guarantee to every State in this 
Union a Republican form of government, and shall protect 
each of them against invasions, and on application of the 
Legislature, or of the Executive (when the Legislature cannot 
be convened) against domestic violence. 

Judge Black says the power to suppress insurrec- 
tions, granted in Article I, is confined by this pro- 
vision, in Article IV, to insurrections against States. 
The Supreme Court, on the contrary, held that the 
President had the power, under constitutional enact- 
ments then already in existence, " to call out the militia 
and use the military forces of the United States in case 
of invasion by foreign nations, and to suppress insurrec- 
tions against the government of a State or of the United 
States." That tribunal found the power in the first 
article of the Constitution to deal with insurrections 
against the United States, and in the fourth article to 
deal with insurrections against a State. It did not 
agree with Judge Black that the first article was in 
part nullified by the fourth, or that they bore any 
relation to each other. Nor did the court agree with 
him that only invasions against a State could be re- 
pelled by the United States. 1 

Having asserted that all the powers granted to the 
general government for carrying on war relate only to 
foreign enemies, and that it cannot " carry on hostilities" 
against domestic assailants in a civil war ; and having 
further explained that the general government can only 
suppress insurrections against States, and must allow 
those against its own authority to spend their fury unin- 
1 Prize Cases, G7 United States Reports, page 635. 


terrupted, Judge Black concluded with gloomy predic- 
tions that the Union must utterly perish if any attempts 
were made to defend it from those who were arming for 
its destruction. That this is not too strongly put, let his 
own words attest. He said : — 

If it be true that war cannot be declared, nor a system 
of general hostilities carried on by the central government 
against a State, then it seems to follow that an attempt to do 
so would be ipso facto an expulsion of such State from the 
Union. Being treated as an alien and an enemy, she would 
be compelled to act accordingly. 

And this was while discussing the question of how to 
meet the case of a government of a State treating the 
Union as an alien and an enemy. Then, as if to con- 
vey the impression that the Unionists, instead of the 
Secessionists, were stirring up strife, he continues : — 

And if Congress shall break up the present Union by 
unconstitutionally putting strife and enmity and armed hos- 
tility between different sections of the country, instead of the 
domestic tranquillity which the Constitution was meant to in- 
sure, will not all the federal States be absolved from their 
obligations ? Is any portion of the people bound to contribute 
their money or their blood to carry on a contest like that ? 

This seemed a suggestion to the Northern and border 
States to withhold troops and supplies for the suppres- 
sion of the rebellion. 

Not a word in all this of the desperate designs of the 
secession leaders ; nothing but a protest against the in- 
terruption of their disunion scheme by force. He still 
mingled phrases about " the right of the general govern- 
ment to preserve itself in its whole constitutional vigor 


by repelling a direct and positive aggression upon its 
property or its officers/' with other phrases flatly deny- 
ing this right, if the assertion of it required the use of 
military force against a domestic foe making an aggres- 
sive war upon the Union. He declared that " the Union 
must utterly perish at the moment when Congress shall 
arm one part of the people against another for any 
purpose beyond that of merely protecting the general 
government in the exercise of its proper constitu- 
tional functions ; " but that the general government 
had any " proper constitutional functions " except to 
aid United States marshals in States which allowed 
federal courts to be held within their borders, and to 
recapture forts from States that had seized them when 
it could be done without fighting, nowhere appears in 
this most remarkable state paper. 

Of course Judge Black claimed that in his opinion he 
was simply defining the terms of the Constitution itself. 
We have seen what interpolations and transpositions he 
found it necessary to make to extort from that instru- 
ment the semblance of such a doctrine as he announced. 
The Southern leaders were professing to believe their 
treasonable plan to be entirely constitutional. They 
intended to dissolve the union of the States, but in 
doing so they affected a scrupulous regard for the Con- 
stitution of that Union. That sacred instrument was, 
in some mysterious manner, to be saved from the general 
conflagration, and to survive the nation of which, by 
its own express terms, it was the supreme law. Those 
of their friends at the North who denied the constitu- 
tionality of secession, were only asked to deny also the 


legality of any action by which their work could be 
arrested or retarded. They wanted to be " let alone." 
They were opposed to coercion — of themselves. The 
mildness of this demand must have been a great relief 
to those in the North who had made up their minds to 
go to the last extremity in the service of the revolting 
faction, stopping only at the line drawn by penal laws. 
They could be for the Union without hurting the seces- 
sion cause, if they could only find some weak spot or 
omission in the Constitution which would enable them 
to maintain the new doctrine of " anti-coercion." The 
paternity of this remarkable scheme for pinioning the 
nation's arms, while unresisted treason flourished over 
it, is not absolutely known. It was first broached in 
letters of governors of cotton States, already quoted, 
written to Governor Gist during the month before Mr. 
Lincoln's election ; but Judge Black was probably the 
first of our Northern statesmen and publicists to an- 
nounce the grotesque doctrine that in a civil war com- 
menced against its authority by an alliance of rebellious 
state governments and people, the nation had no right 
to do any of the fighting. 


President Buchanan's Last Annual Message. — Censure of the North 
and Apology for the South. — Unconstitutional to use Force to 
preserve the Union. 

The President, fortified by his Attorney- General, 
bettered the instructions of his teacher. Of all the 
inflammatory appeals of that year to the passions of 
the Southern people, then already in revolt, his mes- 
sage of December 3 was perhaps the most incendiary. 
It represented the South as a meek and patient sufferer 
at the hands of the cruel North. The Northern people 
were represented as tolerating if not actually encour- 
aging a class of fanatics who had long been in a scheme 
to incite insurrections among the negro slaves, in which 
women and children were to be the victims of the most 
barbarous atrocities. The inference was that the election 
of the previous month had resulted favorably to this 
scheme. "Northern agitation," he said, had "at length 
produced its malign influence upon the slaves, and 
inspired them with vague notions of freedom." Follow- 
ing in the train of this horror, had come the " sense of 
insecurity around the family altar." " Many a matron 
in the South on retiring at night dreaded what might 
befall herself and children before morning." 1 

1 This venerable piece of nonsense was well punctured during the 
civil war. Southern men bore uniform testimony to the fidelity with 


The President thought disunion must naturally fol- 
low the extension of these fears. The Union could 
not, he said, long continue if the necessary conse- 
quence be to render the homes and firesides of nearly 
half the parties to it habitually and hopelessly insecure. 
He thought the fatal period had not yet arrived. But 
agitation must cease. The freedom of speech and of 
the press must not be exercised in the North in dis- 
cussing the system of slavery, although Southerners 
might everywhere, North as well as South, speak and 
write the most furious denunciations of all who pre- 
ferred a free labor system for new States. But the 
President advised his much injured slave-holding friends 
— who he admitted had as yet never been denied any- 
thing they demanded of the North, except electoral 
votes in 1860 for Breckenridge and Lane — to give 
Mr. Lincoln a trial. " Let us wait," said he, " for an 
overt act " — referring to a possible failure to execute 
the fugitive slave law. He said the Southern States 
would be " justified in revolutionary resistance to the 
government of the Union " unless the state legislatures 
of the North repealed the laws for the protection of 
the personal liberty of their own colored citizens. 1 

Having thus added fuel to the revolutionary flames 
by sustaining the Southern conspirators in all their 
contentions, and pleading guilty for the North on each 
count of the secession indictment, the President gently 

which their slaves guarded the Southern matrons and their children, 
whose husbands, sons, and fathers were absent in the field, fighting, as 
they knew, for the preservation of slavery. 

1 These were enacted to prevent freemen from being kidnapped as 
fugitive slaves, as they could be under the fugitive slave act of 1850. 


remonstrated with his enraged friends against the form 
of their remedy. He argued against the technical 
legal right of a State to secede from the Union, and 
said that secession was revolution. " It may or may 
not be a justifiable revolution ; but still it is revolu- 
tion." As the South had long been demanding, with- 
out favorable results, the repeal by certain Northern 
States of their personal liberty laws, before referred to, 
and as the President in his message declared such a 
refusal to be a sufficient " justification for revolutionary 
resistance to the government of the Union," he left no 
room for doubt that he believed the impending revolu- 
tion entirely justifiable. 

He then proceeded to discuss his own responsibility 
in the presence of the revolution against the govern- 
ment of which he was the executive head. Here he 
closely followed the opinion of Judge Black. He said 
that in South Carolina " the whole machinery of the 
Federal government necessary for the distribution of 
remedial justice among the people had been demolished, 
and it would be difficult, if not impossible, to replace 
it." There being no judge to issue a writ, and no 
marshal to execute one, and the local community being 
opposed to having any United States courts, the sup- 
pression of the United States authority seemed to him 
complete and irremediable. If South Carolina seceded, 
he could not himself officially recognize her as an inde- 
pendent nation, without authority from Congress, but 
he would lay her case before that body. He volun- 
teered the opinion to Congress that the Constitution 
had not delegated to that body the power " to coerce a 


State into submission which is attempting to withdraw, 
or has actually withdrawn from the confederacy." He 
said : — 

Congress possesses many means of preserving it (the 
Union) by conciliation ; but the sword was not placed in 
their hands to preserve it by force. 

He recommended a convention of the States and the 
adoption thereby of amendments to the Constitution, 
which would be satisfactory to the 847,953 voters who 
had at the presidential election supported Brecken- 
ridge, against the 3,814,217 who had voted for the 
other three candidates, Lincoln, Douglas, and Bell. 

Mr. Buchanan had no plan to suggest for staying 
the progress of the rebellion, then already on foot, but 
an appeal to the forbearance of the disunionists, and 
for the compliance of all others with their final de- 
mands. It never once occurred to his mind that the 
Union could be preserved otherwise than by the con- 
sent of its implacable enemies, who had for a genera- 
tion lain in wait for its destruction, Towards them he 
never lost his temper. All his frowns were reserved 
for those by whose ballots they had been politically 
inundated. If slavery should go down, chaos would 
come again. The usual surrender to the Southern 
extremists by all who differed from them seemed to him 
too obvious a demand on patriotism to require argument. 
The Union had thus been saved in 1820 by the admission 
of Missouri as a slave State ; in 1833 by repealing the 
tariff act of 1828, because South Carolina refused to 
obey it ; and in 1850 by the enactment of the harsh, 


despotic, and unconstitutional provisions of the fugitive 
slave law. Why should any other course be now 
adopted ? Was not the preservation of the Union 
paramount to every other consideration? And since 
persuasion only could be used for that end, was it not 
plain that those who wanted it dissolved could dictate 
their own terms to those who wanted it preserved ? 
Such seemed to be the reasoning of the President. 1 

1 Referring to this period John Van Buren said : " Mr. Buchanan in 
the White House was like a bread-and-milk poultice drawing the rebel- 
lion to a head." 


The Southern Forts. — Resignation of Cass, Secretary of State. — 
Secession Pronunciamento at Washington. — Secession of South 
Carolina. — Demand for Surrender of Fort Sumter. 

The secessionists had been the backbone of the sup- 
port of Buchanan's administration. He wanted them 
to be satisfied; but he greatly preferred that they 
should consent to remain in the Union if allowed to 
rule it, than to go out and dissolve it. It cannot be 
doubted that he had a strong desire to preserve the 
Union intact, and to transfer his official trust unim- 
paired to his constitutional successor. All that was in 
his nature to do to that end he did. He dreaded a colli- 
sion during his term, and in seeking to avoid it, gave 
assurances to the South Carolina representatives which 
seriously compromised him, and which, if adhered to, 
would have resulted in the unresisted seizure of all the 
Southern forts, including Fort Sumter, and would have 
saved the insurgents from the fatal disadvantage of 
being compelled to fire the first shot of the civil war. 

When it became apparent that the South Carolina 
convention, which was to assemble December 17, 
would adopt an ordinance of secession, it became equally 
apparent that this act would be an absurd nullity unless 
the federal government could either be at once per- 
suaded to abdicate its authority within that State, or be 


forcibly expelled therefrom. The nation would not be 
wholly effaced from that portion of its territory which 
it occupied jointly with the government of South Caro- 
lina, so long as it held even one of the forts in Charles- 
ton harbor. Appreciating the potency of this fact, the 
authorities of that State desperately resolved that pend- 
ing the preliminaries to secession the forts should not 
be reinforced. They were desirous of avoiding any col- 
lision, but they acted upon the theory that the United 
States and South Carolina were already separate nations, 
and that any attempt by the United States to reinforce 
its garrisons at Charleston would be, not merely a pos- 
sible menace, concerning which, by the law of nations, 
they might demand an explanation, but an act of war 
which it would be mere self-preservation for them to 
resist. They did not allow themselves to be at all 
embarrassed by the fact that until their State claimed 
to be out of the Union by an act of secession, she was, 
under their own view of State and Federal relations, 
still a State in the Union, and that the United States 
had, under what they termed the " compact " of the 
Constitution — not yet dissolved — exclusive jurisdic- 
tion of the forts and arsenals within her limits. 

Had the President reinforced those forts upon the 
first conditional threat of revolt, made long before the 
presidential election, it is by no means certain that 
the secession of even South Carolina would have taken 
place. While the number of troops that could then 
have been sent would have been few, as compared with 
South Carolina's power to resist them, any augmenta- 
tion of the garrison would have been a plain notice that 


the followers of Buchanan, as well as the followers of 
Lincoln, would regard secession simply as a revolution 
to be put down by military force. The people of South 
Carolina had been educated up to a belief that seces- 
sion did not necessarily mean war. We have the valu- 
able testimony of Mr. Trescott, that a reinforcement of 
the forts, or any demonstration whatever by the United 
States at that time, was regarded by the Southern mem- 
bers of the Cabinet as dangerous to the Southern cause. 
When, at one time, the President had apparently deter- 
mined in favor of reinforcement, it seemed important 
for them to devise some means of rendering it unneces- 
sary. They wanted, as Mr. Trescott said, time for the 
development of a unity of purpose in all the Southern 
States in favor of disunion upon the advent of Mr. 
Lincoln to power. 1 

Believing that a premature explosion would be dis- 
astrous to the cause of the Southern Confederacy, Mr. 
Trescott undertook, and, with the aid of three cabinet 
officers, carried out with consummate tact, the difficult 
task of restraining both the federal and state govern- 
ments from any hostile movement whatever prior to 
secession. The three cabinet officers were Floyd, Cobb, 
and Thompson. 2 

The President's chief anxiety was for the safety of 
the forts until the end of his term of office, or until 
their surrender by Congress. To allay this anxiety, 
Mr. Trescott obtained from Governor Gist a written 
assurance, dated November 29, that if no men or 

1 Crawford's Genesis of the Civil War, page 28. 

2 Ibid., page 27. 


munitions of war were sent to the forts, "the state 
authorities had no desire to attack them " before the 
passage of the ordinance of secession, and not then 
unless compelled to do so by the refusal of the Presi- 
dent to surrender them to the seceded State ! 1 

This communication was shown to the President on 
Sunday evening, December 2, and he was at the same 
time assured by Mr. Trescott that the people of South 
Carolina would take especial pride in being allowed to 
dissolve the Union peaceably, and that it would mortify 
them to be compelled to resort to force. They would 
pass the ordinance of secession, said the Assistant Sec- 
retary of State, and then send regularly accredited 
agents to negotiate with the government. The Presi- 
dent said he could not himself recognize them; he 
could only refer them to Congress. Mr. Trescott told 
him that he believed " such a reference, courteously 
made and in good faith, would be accepted, and that 
the State would wait a reasonable time for the decision 
of Congress." With this the President seemed satis- 
fied, but still, testifies Mr. Trescott, "he was very 
cautious, and his great hope seemed to be, by temporiz- 
ing, to avoid an issue before the 4th of March." 2 

At the President's request, Mr. Trescott started for 
South Carolina the next morning, taking with him, as a 
peace-offering to the South Carolina governor, a copy 
of the message which was to be transmitted that day to 
Congress. He was to " explain in Columbia what 
might not be understood there." 3 

1 Genesis of the Civil War, page 31. 

2 Ibid., page 31. 3 Ibid., page 33. 


Governor Gist's reply to the President was that the 
State would under no circumstances delay secession 
until March 4, and he declared, as an ultimatum, that 
the concession of the right of secession could alone pre- 
vent a resort to force. 

On the 8th of December, Secretary of the Treasury 
Cobb resigned, and on the same day members of Con- 
gress from South Carolina waited upon the President 
to arrange with him that the " relative military status" 
of that State and the United States should remain 
unchanged until after an offer should be made by the 
State to negotiate for an amicable arrangement between 
the two governments. In return for this the Congress- 
men would say they did not believe the forts would be 
taken in the face of such an agreement. 

The extent to which the President entered into this 
proposed arrangement became afterwards the subject of 
high discussion, and brought on a crisis in the Cabinet, 
which compelled him to choose at last whether the 
Union or the Secession members should leave it. 

On the 10th of December Mr. Trescott tendered his 
resignation as Assistant Secretary of State to General 
Cass, who persuaded him to temporarily continue in 
office. The next day General Cass himself resigned 
because the President refused to reinforce the Charles- 
ton garrisons, in accordance with his advice. Mr. 
Trescott says in his narrative that " the refusal to adopt 
the advice of General Cass was in the interest of the 
State" (South Carolina), and that "under the circum- 
stances " he felt bound " to save the President the 
embarrassment of being without either a Secretary or 
Assistant Secretary." 


To accommodate the President, therefore, who had 
thus protected the interests of South Carolina, even to 
the driving of General Cass out of the Cabinet, Mr. 
Trescott acted as Secretary of State until Judge Black 
came in, December 17, and as Assistant Secretary 
under Black until the 20th. The President then parted 
with Mr. Trescott, — the latter said, reluctantly, — but 
thought it was due to him to make an appointment of 
a successor as soon as possible, and had promised him 
that it should certainly be done before the Convention 
of South Carolina had taken any action. 1 Mr. Trescott 
had been requested by Governor Gist to act as the con- 
fidential Washington agent of the Executive Depart- 
ment of South Carolina, when his duty to the federal 
government should cease. 2 His duty to the federal 
government would, in his view, necessarily terminate 
when, by the secession of his State, he should cease to 
be a citizen of the United States, and become, there- 
fore, ineligible longer to hold office therein. The 
President's delicate perceptions taught him how embar- 
rassing it would be to a newly made alien to remain in 
the foreign office of a government with which his own 
was, with his approval and active support, preparing for 
war ; hence his assurance that he would relieve Mr. 
Trescott before his State actually seceded, — not, as it 
appeared, because of solicitude for the interest of the 
government of which he was the head, but because 
it was due to the South Carolinian, who would nat- 
urally be impatient to enter exclusively into his new 

1 Genesis of the Civil War, page 38. 2 Ibid., page 32. 


Mr. Trescott's official duty to the federal government 
ceased on the very day his State seceded, and from 
being the Assistant Secretary of State of the United 
States, he instantly became virtually the Minister resi- 
dent of the pseudo nation of South Carolina at Wash- 
ington. His position had, up to that time, been a most 
difficult one. He had been serving two masters whose 
interests were so diametrically opposed to each other 
that war between them was a question of days only, 
unless the federal government would consent to the 
peaceable dismemberment of the Union. He had, by 
his own confession, stayed the hand of the President, 
when reinforcement of the forts in Charleston harbor 
would have imperiled the disunion cause by provoking 
collision too soon, and by losing to that cause the 
advantage of the continued control of the War Depart- 
ment under Floyd. It must have been a great relief 
to him when the secession of his State compelled Judge 
Black to take notice of his resignation, which had been 
in the State Department for ten days. 

On the 14th of December, while a House Committee 
was considering plans for a compromise to appease the 
South, and when none had been rejected, the " Consti- 
tution " newspaper, the administration organ at Wash- 
ington, published a pronunciamento, signed by seven 
Senators and twenty-three Kepresentatives in Congress 
from the Southern States, and addressed to their con- 
stituents, in which they declared that all hope of the 
Union was extinguished, proclaimed their conviction 
that the honor, safety, and independence of the South- 
ern people required the organization of the Southern 


Confederacy, and urged the separate secession of their 
respective States. 

The same issue of the " Constitution " also contained 
a proclamation by the President for a day of humilia- 
tion, fasting, and prayer, on which the people were 
exhorted " to implore the Most High to remove from 
their hearts that false pride of opinion which would 
impel them to persevere in wrong for the sake of con- 
sistency, rather than yield a just submission to the 
unforeseen exigencies by which they were surrounded." 
Of course only the recalcitrant and contumacious people 
of the North were here referred to, as he had before 
said they only were in the wrong. 

It was about this time that Secretary of the Interior 
Thompson, still a member of the Cabinet, was appointed 
a commissioner by the State of Mississippi to visit 
North Carolina and urge her to secede. He accepted 
the honor, went on his mission, and was given a 
public reception by the legislature. He then returned 
and resumed his duties in the Cabinet of the govern- 
ment against which he had been thus publicly inciting 

On the 17th of December, on which day Judge 
Black was appointed Secretary of State, the secession 
convention assembled in South Carolina. On the day 
following, the President dispatched Caleb Cushing to 
Columbia, the capital of that State, to persuade the 
secessionists not to secede. His departure was so timed 
that he was not likely to arrive before the ordinance of 
secession had been passed ; but owing to the presence 
of a contagious disease in that city the work was unex- 


pectedly retarded for a whole day by the enforced 
removal of the convention to Charleston, and the ordi- 
nance was not passed until near noon on December 20, 
the day of his arrival. He enjoyed the distinction of 
being invited by a joint committee of the legislature 
to attend and represent the government of the Union 
at a public celebration of its dissolution, which honor 
he declined. 1 

On the same day a messenger arrived in Washington 
with a letter for the President from F. W. Pickens, the 
new governor of South Carolina, dated on the day of 
his inauguration, December 17, urging that all work of 
repairs on the forts be suspended, and requesting that 
Fort Sumter be turned over to him for safe keeping. 
This he thought " could be done with perfect pro- 
priety," as " the Convention " of the State was then 
"in full authority." Unless these demands were com- 
plied with, he said, he could not answer for the 
consequences. 2 The messenger was presented to the 
President by Mr. Trescott, who had, as we have seen, 
on that very day passed from the employ of the federal 
government into that of South Carolina. He was 
promised an answer on the next day, and one was pre- 
pared in which Mr. Buchanan said he had thus far 
declined to reinforce the forts, " relying upon the honor 
of the South Carolinians that they would not be 
assaulted " while they remained as they were, but that 
commissioners would first be sent by the convention 
"to treat with Congress on the subject." He dis- 

1 Genesis of the Civil War, page 88. 

2 Ibid., page 81. 


claimed the power, which, however, he asserted that 
Congress possessed, to treat with insurgent citizens for 
the dismemberment of the Republic. 1 

Mr. Trescott saw that Governor Pickens's demand 
would, if the President chose, operate as a release from 
the understanding already had with South Carolina 
representatives concerning the forts, and terminate the 
truce thereby established. He at once consulted with 
some of these representatives, and the result was that 
the governor was telegraphed to for a withdrawal of 
his ill-timed letter, which was immediately sent. 2 

Such is the story of the most important of the events 
which were crowded into the period between the elec- 
tion of Mr. Lincoln, November 6, and the 20th of 
December, 1860, on which day South Carolina declared 
the Union dissolved. On this latter date Edwin M. 
Stanton was appointed Attorney-General in place of 
J. S. Black, appointed Secretary of State. Stanton did 
not enter actively upon the duties of his office until 
the 27th. 

1 Curtis's Life of Buchanan, vol. ii. p. 384. 

2 Genesis of the Civil War, page 84. 


Stanton accepts Appointment. — Judge Black's Influence in the 
Matter. — Why exercised. — His New Attitude. — Perils of the 

That the appointment of Mr. Stanton was mainly 
due to the recommendation of Judge Black there can 
be no doubt. The two lawyers had long been close 
friends, and possessed each the confidence of the other 
to an unlimited degree. 

At the time of Mr. Stanton's appointment, December 
20, Judge Black had reconsidered the views expressed 
in his opinion of thirty days before 1 and had notified 
the President accordingly. He no longer believed, as 
therein laid down, that in a civil war the government 
was powerless to open its purse or to draw its sword. 
He no longer denied the power of Congress to provide 
for suppressing insurrections against the United States, 
otherwise than by judicial process. He did not place 
himself on the public record by a formal opinion, re- 
versing the one he had rendered, but he furnished the 
President with a written " memorandum for his private 
use." This was " early in December ; " the exact date 
is not given. This private " memorandum " contained 
the following words : — 

The Union is necessarily perpetual. No State can law- 
fully withdraw or be expelled from it. The federal consti- 
1 See chapter xiii. 


tution is as much a part of the constitution of every State as 
if it had been textually inserted therein. The federal gov- 
ernment is sovereign within its own sphere, and acts directly 
upon the individual citizens of every State. Within these 
limits its coercive power is ample to defend itself, its laws, 
and its property. It can suppress insurrections, fight battles, 
conquer armies, disperse hostile combinations, and punish any 
or all of its enemies. It can meet, repel, and subdue all those 
who rise against it. 

A copy of this brief but important document was 
furnished by Judge Black to Col. Frank A. Burr more 
than twenty years later, with the information that it was 
a copy of a " memorandum" which he gave to the Presi- 
dent for his private use " early in December/' I860. 1 

This same document appears in the speeches and 
essays of Judge Black, collected after his death by his 
son, Chauncey F. Black. It forms no portion of the 
opinion of Attorney-General Black of November 20, 
1860. It is, on the contrary, in direct conflict with 
that opinion. 

When Judge Black said, therefore, in 1870, that he 
urged the appointment of Mr. Stanton as Attorney- 
General, December 20, 1860, because he knew that they 
were " in perfect accord on all questions, whether of law 
or policy," 2 he could only have meant that they were 
agreed on the views of his " memorandum " of " early 
in December," and not on those of his opinion of 
November 20, which the former contradicted and re- 

1 It was printed with this statement, in an interview had with Judge 
Black in his own house, occupying six columns of the Philadelphia Press 
of August 7, 1881. 

2 Black's Speeches and Essays, page 269. 


Judge Black asserted in a letter addressed to Senator 
Wilson of Massachusetts, in 1870, and published in the 
"Galaxy Magazine," that Mr. Stanton indorsed his 
opinion of November 20, 1860, "in extravagant terms 
of approbation, and adhered steadily to the doctrines of 
the annual message." If this were true, it would not 
abate one jot the heretical character of those documents. 
But how can it be true when eleven years later, — 
1881, — we are furnished by Judge Black himself with 
a copy of a " memorandum " in which he privately 
recanted, " early in December," 1860, the odious doc- 
trines of his opinion of the preceding month, and after- 
wards urged the appointment of Mr. Stanton, because 
they were then fully agreed on all questions of law ? 

However "early in December" Judge Black had seen 
fit to thus privately warn the President to disregard the 
official advice of his November opinion, he was too late. 
The President's annual message had already gone forth, 
laden with comfort for the rising revolt, and had been 
like a victory of arms for the nation's enemies. He la- 
bored hard in his special message of January 8 to explain 
away its odious doctrines by saying that he had " no 
right to make aggressive war upon any State." Judge 
Black, in the " Press " interview, called attention to this 
passage. He was unable, however, to show his chief 
how to carry on even a defensive war without the sword, 
the use of which, for such a purpose, both had a few 
weeks before publicly and officially declared was not 
authorized by the Constitution, except to aid in the 
execution of judicial process. President Buchanan's 
annual message of December, 1860, and Attorney-Gen- 


eral Black's opinion of November 20 of that year 
must stand in history ; and later utterances, entirely 
patriotic, and consequently at variance with them, do 
not change their character. 

The only rational explanation that can be made of 
them, consistent with the patriotism of their authors, is 
that neither had been able at that time to break away 
from the influence of party spirit, or to realize the deadly 
earnestness of their Southern political associates. They 
seemed to have calculated upon saving the Union by 
the old method of Northern compliance with Southern 
demands, and to have relied upon securing that com- 
pliance by specious arguments against the power of the 
federal government to maintain its authority in any 
State which declared itself out of the Union. They 
probably never contemplated the thought of consenting 
to disunion. They doubtless supposed at first that their 
Southern Democratic friends would, as they had done 
before, name some terms upon which they would aban- 
don their disunion scheme, and that these would be 
eagerly assented to at the North. 

When Mr. Stanton entered Mr. Buchanan's Cabinet, 
the question with the President and Judge Black was 
not how fully he would adopt the positions they had 
taken, but how well he could aid them in the retreat 
from the clangers upon which they were running. The 
secessionists had not heeded the entreaties of the Pre- 
sident to continue their old alliance with him and his 
political associates within the Union, but, on the con- 
trary, had left him and them to take care of themselves 
in the rapid march of events. The mighty passion of 


a great People, threatened with the destruction of their 
nationality, was about to be unloosed, and the President 
and his favorite cabinet minister, whose attitude had 
thus far given comfort and encouragement only to their 
enemies, were environed by many perils. They did not 
now so much need a courtier, who would say that they 
had done well, as a bold and resolute pilot, who could, 
by wearing ship, save the administration from total 

Judge Black refused to accept the office of Secretary 
of State, as successor to General Cass, unless Mr. Stanton 
should succeed him as Attorney- General. It is evident 
in the light of history that he wanted him there to aid 
in saving the administration from the possible conse- 
quences of his own advice, — consequences he had not 
sufficiently considered when that advice was given. 

The withdrawal of Senators and members of cot- 
ton States would leave the impeachment power in the 
hands of Union men, who might call the President to 
account for virtually licensing the rebellion by a pro- 
clamation of safety to its authors, and allowing the forts 
to remain weak while the enemy grew strong. The 
President's attitude had been doctrinally the same as 
that of his Attorney-General, but, unlike the latter, he 
had to apply it by official acts or omissions. They had 
agreed that while war with States would be unconstitu- 
tional, it was entirely constitutional to defend the forts, 
if done without a resort to war ; but then war was sure 
to be the inevitable consequence of defending the forts. 
He was therefore running dangerously near the Scylla 
of impeachment by leaving the forts exposed to capture. 


to avoid the Charybdis of a civil war which seemed in- 
volved in their defense, and which could only be carried 
on, as he maintained, over a violated Constitution. 

The Attorney-General was in less peril. While he 
had advised the President that he must avoid war or be 
a usurper, he had nevertheless constantly put himself on 
record as insisting upon the reinforcement of the forts, 
although that would, in fact, have been the beginning 
of a war. Thus the President was impaled upon the 
opinion of Judge Black. He was called upon to prac- 
tice what his adviser had only to teach. He could 
finally act only on one side ; but whichever side that 
might be, it could be shown, if it resulted disastrously, 
that his action was against the advice of his Attorney- 

What new pitfalls might be dug into which the Presi- 
dent would allow himself to be led, who could foresee ? 
Certain it is that in the dangers of the time, Judge 
Black chose to have Stanton as a fellow counselor. At 
the threshold of the latter' s service in the Cabinet, they 
both found themselves, with Judge Holt, engaged in 
rescuing the country from immediate peril, and the 
President from final ruin and disgrace. 


The South Carolina Commissioners. — Anderson's Movement at 
Charleston. — Jefferson Davis urges the President to surrender 
Fort Sumter. — Submission of the Question to the Cabinet. 

Judge Black continued to act as Attorney-General 
until and including December 26, although he took 
office as Secretary of State on the 20th of that month. 
The President and his new Secretary of State were to- 
gether on the 26th, when the latter's immediate prede- 
cessor, Mr. Trescott, then the agent of South Carolina, 
presented himself and announced the arrival at the 
federal capital of the commissioners from that State. 
They had come, as stated in their credentials, to treat 
with the United States government for the delivery 
to their own nationality of the forts which had been 
erected within its borders by the former, the money 
value of which they were authorized to recognize, and 
account for in the division which it was assumed would 
now be made of the public property. One o'clock of 
the following day was designated by the President as 
the hour at which he would receive them. 

On the next morning, however, news came which 
caused this appointment to be canceled. Major An- 
derson, in command of the garrisons in Charleston har- 
bor, had spiked the guns of Fort Moultrie during 
the night, and transferred his troops to Fort Sumter, 


from which he could better resist a rebel attack. This 
information came first to the Southern leaders in Wash- 
ington, the Southern telegraph lines being under seces- 
sion control. Senator Wigfall made it known to Mr. 
Trescott and the South Carolina commissioners at the 
residence of the latter. 1 

Secretary Floyd first heard it during an early morn- 
ing call upon them. He refused to believe it, and said 
to Mr. Trescott : — 

It would not only be without orders, but in the face of 
orders. To be very frank, Anderson was instructed in case 
he had to abandon his position to dismantle Fort Sumter. 

Telegrams to one of the commissioners speedily re- 
moved all doubt, and Mr. Trescott says he then drove at 
once to the Capitol, gave the news to Jefferson Davis 
and Senator Hunter, and asked them to go with him to 
the President, which they did. In his narrative, 2 he 
gives the following interesting account of the interview : 

We drove to the White House, sent in our names, and 
were asked into the President's room, where he joined us in 
a few moments. When he came in he was evidently ner- 
vous, and immediately commenced the conversation by mak- 
ing some remark to Mr. Hunter, concerning the removal of 
the consul at Liverpool, to which Mr. Hunter made a general 
reply. Colonel Davis then said : " Mr. President, we have 
called upon an infinitely graver matter than any consulate." 
" What is it ? " said the President. " Have you received any 
intelligence from Charleston in the last few hours ? " asked 
Colonel Davis. " None," said the President. " Then," said 
Colonel Davis, " I have a great calamity to announce to you." 
1 Genesis of the Civil War, page 143. 2 Ibid. 


He then stated the facts, and added : " And now, Mr. Pre- 
sident, you are surrounded with blood and dishonor on all 
sides." He sat down as Colonel Davis finished, and ex- 
claimed : " My God, are calamities (or misfortunes, I forget 
which) never to come singly? I call God to witness, you 
gentlemen, better than anybody, know that it is not only 
without but against my orders. It is against my policy." 
He then expressed his doubt of the truth of the telegram ; 
thought it strange that nothing had been heard at the War 
Department ; said that he had not seen Governor Floyd, and 
finally sent a messenger for him. When Governor Floyd 
came, he said that no news had come to the department; 
that the heads of the bureaus there thought it unlikely, but 
that he had telegraphed to Major Anderson. 

Mr. Trescott's narrative thus continues : — 

The President was urged to take immediate action ; he 
was told that the probability was that the remaining forts 
and the arsenal would be seized and garrisoned by South 
Carolina, and that Fort Sumter would be attacked ; that if 
he would only say that he would replace matters as he had 
pledged himself that they should remain, there was yet time 
to remedy the mischief. The discussion was long and ear- 
nest. At first he seemed disposed to declare that he would 
restore the status, then hesitated ; said he must call his Cab- 
inet together; he could not condemn Major Anderson un- 
heard. He was told that nobody asked that ; only that if 
the move had been made without a previous attack on Ander- 
son, he would restore the status, assure us of that determina- 
tion, and then take what time was necessary for consultation 
and information. That resolution telegraphed would restore 
confidence and enable the commissioners to continue their 
negotiations. This he declined doing, and after adjourning 
his appointment to receive the commissioners until the next 
day, we left. 


Mr. Jefferson Davis gives the following account of 
this interview : — 

After the removal of the garrison to the stronger and 
safer position of Fort Sumter, I called upon him again to 
represent from my knowledge of the people and the circum- 
stances of the case, how productive the movement would be 
of discontent, and how likely to lead to collision. . . . My 
opinion was that the wisest and best course would be to with- 
draw the garrisons altogether from the harbor of Charleston. 

The President's objection to this was that it was his 
bounden duty to preserve and protect the property of the 
United States. To this I replied, with all the earnestness 
the occasion demanded, that I would pledge my life, that if 
an inventory were taken of all the stores and munitions in 
the fort, and an ordnance sergeant with a few men left in 
charge of them, they would not be disturbed. As a further 
guarantee I offered to obtain from the governor of South 
Carolina full assurance that in case any marauders or lawless 
combinations of persons should attempt to seize or disturb 
the property, he would send them from the citadel of Charles- 
ton an adequate guard to protect it, and to secure its keepers 
against molestation. 

The President promised me to reflect upon this proposi- 
tion, and to confer with his Cabinet upon the propriety of 
adopting it. All cabinet consultations are secret ; which is 
equivalent to say that I never knew what occurred in that 
meeting to which my proposition was submitted. The result 
was not communicated to me, but the events which followed 
proved that the suggestion was not adopted. 1 

1 Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government, vol. i. p. 215. 


The Cabinet Crisis. — Anderson's Instructions. — Buchanan's 
Pledge to South Carolina. — Floyd's Demand. — The President's 

The Cabinet was at once convened to deal with the 
new situation. It was the first cabinet meeting at- 
tended by Mr. Stanton. Floyd commenced the discus- 
sion by loudly echoing the complaints of Mr. Jefferson 
Davis and the South Carolina commissioners. He 
assailed the action of Major Anderson vehemently, 
asserting that his instructions contained nothing which 
could justify his removal to Fort Sumter, and charging 
that the movement was a violation of pledges made by 
the government. He angrily demanded its immediate 
disavowal by the President, and the withdrawal of the 

The first question discussed, therefore, was whether 
Anderson had acted under, or in violation of his orders. 
The President was inclined to agree with Floyd. 1 The 
instructions were sent for and found to be a " memo- 
randum " by an army officer, of " verbal " instructions, 
sent through him to Major Anderson by the Secretary 
of War, under the following circumstances : — 

From the time Major Anderson took command at 
Fort Sumter, under an order of November 15, 1860, 

1 Black's Speeches and Essays, page 12, 


he was constantly brought face to face with the avowed 
determination of the South Carolina authorities to seize 
all forts as soon as secession should fail of recognition 
by Congress. It was made equally plain that they 
would be seized before that time if the least suspicion 
should be aroused that the task would be made more 
difficult by delay. He therefore urged the War De- 
partment to allow him to occupy the strong position of 
Fort Sumter, which commanded all the other military 
works and the harbor, before it should fall into the 
hands of the enemy. His importunity for instructions 
of some sort finally compelled enough attention to cause 
some conversation in the Cabinet upon the subject of 
his perilous situation. This resulted in leaving every- 
thing to the discretion of the Secretary of War. Floyd, 
thus compelled to make some show of action, sum- 
moned Major D. C. Buell, of the adjutant-general's 
office, and sent him to South Carolina with verbal in- 
structions to Anderson on the 7th of December. These 
instructions were of the most general character. He 
was to communicate to Major Anderson the general 
policy of the government, which was to avoid a colli- 
sion with the state authorities. He was to do nothing 
that could offend them or provoke aggression by them. 
If they should attack he might defend. This was all. 
Not a word did Floyd put in writing, or direct it to be 
done by Buell. But after the latter had delivered his 
verbal message he told Anderson that he thought it 
was due to him that he should have it in writing, and 
accordingly put on paper what he considered to be its 
proper interpretation, in view of the situation. This 


paper he entitled " Memorandum of verbal instructions 
to Major Anderson." In it he conveyed all the desired 
precautions against aggressive movements, and, as the 
sequel proved, much more than Floyd desired as to 
defensive action ; Anderson was instructed not only to 
defend if attacked, but he might regard any attempt 
to take either of the forts as an act of hostility, and 
thereupon might put his command into the stronger 
fort; but more than this, he need not wait for the overt 
act, after which defense would probably be useless ; he 
might anticipate the action, if convinced of the inten- 
tion. The words were : — 

You are also authorized to take similar steps whenever 
you have tangible evidence of a design to proceed to a hostile 

Major Buell's report of this mission to Charleston 
was oral, but he delivered a copy of his " memorandum," 
which was dated December 11, to a clerk in the War 
Department. It remained there unnoticed until the 
secession of South Carolina was announced in the press 
of the 21st. The President then called upon the Sec- 
retary of War for a report, and was furnished with a 
copy of Buell's memorandum, to which the Secretary 
then appended, over his signature, these words : — 

This is in conformity to my instructions to Major Buell. 

So much for the written instructions. They placed 
upon Major Anderson the entire responsibility of decid- 
ing as to the tangibility of the evidence he might have 
of an intended attack upon him. Major Buell said, in 
after years, that the impression produced upon his 


mind was that any committal to writing was purposely 
avoided by the Secretary. 1 Floyd could not foresee 
that what he meant to leave uncertain would, by Buell, 
be made explicit and reduced to writing, and that he 
would then have to verify Buell's memorandum, as the 
only construction of his own verbal instructions consist- 
ent with honest intention. The evidence on which 
Anderson acted, and was authorized to act, was that 
which the secession leaders had freely published to 
the world : that they meant to have the forts, and 
would take them as soon as Congress, after secession, 
should refuse to surrender them on demand. Says 
General Crawford : — 

When the commissioners had been formally sent to 
Washington by the convention, Anderson anticipated their 
reception and the rejection of their proposals by the govern- 
ment, and believing that the critical moment as to his posi- 
tion had come, he resolved to take advantage of the " tangible 
evidence " he believed he had, and to act under the plain 
instructions given him through Major Buell. 2 

In a letter to the War Department, in answer to 
inquiries, he wrote : — 

Many things convinced me that the authorities of the 
State designed to proceed to a hostile act. 

As they had publicly and positively declared that the 
forts would be seized if not surrendered as soon as the 
commissioners of the State should demand them, and as 

1 Crawford's Genesis of the Civil War, page 72. Crawford was a sur- 
geon in the United States Army, and was stationed at Charleston, in 
November, 1860. 

2 Ibid., page 101. 


the latter had then gone to Washington to make this 
demand, the evidence of an intended attack was per- 
fect, unless, indeed, a surrender was contemplated. 

But whether or not Anderson was justified by his 
instructions, the main question now was whether he 
should be sustained or compelled to withdraw. 

His brilliant movement, unless disavowed and un- 
done, would defeat the plans by which the State 
expected to be able, without a conflict of arms, to 
finally expel the last vestige of United States authority 
from her borders. He had supplies for four months, 
and could be dislodged only by an attack so sharp and 
strong that all the world would see that it was the 
commencement of an aggressive and unprovoked war 
against the government of the United States. 

The Southern cause, which was but yesterday all cov- 
ered over with peaceful disguises, now bristled with 
threats of war. The honest soldier at Charleston had 
baffled all the arts of conspiring diplomacy, and made 
treason show its open hand. 

At this session of the Cabinet the excitement was too 
great for deliberation, and after Floyd's explosion and 
some violent discussion of it, an adjournment was had 
until evening. 1 

1 Judge Holt, who was present on the occasion as a member of the 
Cabinet, thus referred to it in a speech made by him in Charleston, April 
14, 1865, on the occasion of restoring the flag of the Union on Fort 
Sumter : — 

" When intelligence reached the capital that, by a bold and dexterous 
movement, this command had been transferred from Moultrie to Sumter, 
and was safe from the disabled guns left behind, the emotions of Floyd 
were absolutely uncontrollable, — emotions of mingled mortification and 
disgust and rage and panic. His fury seemed that of some baffled fiend, 


At the evening session Floyd renewed the attack, 
demanding the withdrawal of the garrison from 
Charleston harbor altogether, on the ground that, as 
Major Anderson had " violated the solemn pledge of 
the government," no other course could " vindicate our 
honor or prevent civil war." 

The " solemn pledge of the government " he referred 
to had been made by the President unofficially to South 
Carolina representatives in Congress on the 10th of 
December. On the 8th they had called upon him to 
confer as to the best means of preventing a collision 
between the federal government and South Carolina. 
As the government contemplated no attack, the subject 
really discussed was the terms on which South Carolina 
would desist from attacking the government and seiz- 
ing the forts prior to the secession of the State. At 
the President's request they put their conditions in 
writing, and returned to him with them December 10. 
They were signed by five members, viz., Messrs. 
McQueen, Miles, Bonham, Joyce, and Keitt, and were 
in the following words : — 

In compliance with our statement to you yesterday, we 
now express to you our strong convictions that neither the 

who suddenly discovers opening at his feet the gulf of ruin he has heen 
preparing for another. Over all the details of this passionate outburst 
of a conspirator, caught and entangled in his own toils, the veil of official 
secrecy still hangs, and it may be that history will never be privileged to 
transfer this memorable scene to its pages. There is one, however, 
whose absence to-day we have all deplored, and to whom the nation is 
grateful for the masterly ability and lion-like courage with which he has 
fought this rebellion in all the vicissitudes of its career, — your Secretary 
of War (Mr. Stanton), who, were he here, could bear testimony to the 
truthfulness of my words." 


constituted authorities nor any body of the people of the 
State of South Carolina will either attack or molest the 
United States forts in the harbor of Charleston previously 
to the action of the convention, and, we hope and believe, 
not until an offer has been made through an accredited repre- 
sentative to negotiate for an amicable settlement of the 
matter between the state and federal governments, provided 
that no reinforcements shall be sent into those forts and 
their relative military status remains as at present. 1 

This was plain notice to the President that the forts 
would be attacked, whether reinforced or not, as soon 
as the federal government should decide against the 
demand of the seceded State of South Carolina for their 
surrender ; and that they were likely to be attacked at 
any time after the action of the secession convention. 

This brief respite granted to the nation by South 
Carolina was, Mr. Buchanan tells us, " welcomed as a 
happy omen " by him, that by means of the influence 
of the signers, collision might be prevented and time 
afforded to all parties for reflection and for a peaceable 
adjustment. From abundant caution, however, he says 
he objected to the word " provided " in their document, 
lest, if he should accept it without remark, it might 
possibly be construed into an agreement on his part 
not to reinforce the forts. Such an agreement, he 
informed them, he would never make. It would be 
impossible for him, from the nature of his official 
responsibility, thus to tie his own hands and restrain 
his own freedom of action. Had he stopped here, the 
South Carolinians might well have wondered what had 

1 Curtis's Buchanan, vol. ii. p. 377. 


been accomplished by the formal interviews and a 
written treaty which was to bind one side only. He 
proceeded, however, to explain that they had nothing 
to fear from his cautionary remark. He only meant 
that, while he would not reinforce, he could not law- 
fully enter into an official agreement to that effect. 
His account reads thus : - — 

Still, they might have observed from his message that 
he had no present design, under existing circumstances, to 
change the condition of the forts at Charleston. He must, 
notwithstanding, be left entirely free to exercise his own dis- 
cretion according to the exigencies that might arise. 1 

Mr. Curtis asserts that Mr. Buchanan " gave no 
pledge, express or implied, formal or informal, that no 
reinforcements should be sent into Charleston harbor, 
or that the military status, as it existed at the time 
of this interview, should remain unchanged," and that 
he in no way fettered himself upon the subject. 2 In a 
footnote Mr. Curtis says that two of the gentlemen 
who signed the letter — Messrs. Miles and Keitt — 
published at Charleston an account of the interview, 
in which they did not intimate that anything in the 
nature of a pledge passed on either side. 3 He gives 
as his authority for this statement Appleton's " Annual 
Cyclopaedia for 1861," page 703. Mr. Buchanan 
makes precisely the same assertion and gives the same 
authority. 4 The authority they thus refer to flatly 
contradicts their statement of the transaction. The 
narrative of Miles and Keitt, printed on the page and 

1 Buchanan's Defence, page 167. 2 Life of Buchanan, vol. ii. p. 378. 
3 2bid. 4 Buchanan's Defence, page 185. 


in the volume of the cyclopaedia above named, refers 
first to their own lack of authority to pledge the State, 
and the fact that they were treating with the President 
only " as gentlemen in prominent positions/' and then 
proceeds to state the attitude they understood him as 
occupying. They say : — 

The President was acting in a double capacity ; not only 
as a gentleman whose influence in carrying out his share of 
the understanding or agreement was potential, but as the 
head of the army, and therefore having absolute control of 
the whole matter of reinforcing or transferring the gar- 
risons at Charleston. Considering the President as bound in 
honor, if not by treaty stipulations, not to make any change 
in the forts, or to send reinforcements to them unless they 
were attacked, we of the delegation who were elected to 
the convention felt equally bound in honor to do every- 
thing on our part to prevent any premature collision. 

This is the authority referred to (but not quoted) 
by Mr. Buchanan and Mr. Curtis to show that the 
authors " did not intimate that anything in the nature 
of a pledge passed on either side." They are Mr. 
Buchanan's own witnesses, and their testimony cannot 
be attacked on his behalf. They state most explicitly 
that there was an " understanding or agreement " by 
which the President was " bound in honor " " not to 
make any change in the forts, unless they were 
attacked." The South Carolinians say they felt bound 
by it, although they held no authority from the State 
to make the agreement. The two governments were 
not bound, but the men were personally pledged to 
each other. In their statement to the South Carolina 


secession convention, a portion only of which is quoted 
in the cyclopaedia article, Messrs. Miles and Keitt 
further say that, as the delegates rose to go, the Presi- 
dent said substantially : " After all, this is a matter 
among gentlemen, and I do not know that any paper 
or writing is necessary. We understand each other." 
And these are the witnesses called by Mr. Buchanan 
and his biographer. 

One more witness to the pledge will suffice. Gen- 
eral Crawford makes the following interesting state- 
ment : — 

On the 22d of March, 1882, I had a long and earnest 
conversation with Judge Black upon the subject of the inter- 
view between the President and the congressional delegation 
of South Carolina, as to the understanding agreed upon at 
that interview. The details of this interview with the Presi- 
dent, when the commissioners of South Carolina were in 
Washington, were stated, when at the end I said: "Well, 
then, Judge Black, there appears to be but one inference to 
be drawn, but one conclusion to be reached : the President 
did make that agreement." The judge rose, and, looking 
steadily at me for a moment, said : " Remember that is your 
conclusion." 1 

Judge Black confided still further to General Craw- 
ford the fact that the President did confess to him an 
" understanding or agreement," in the maintenance of 
which his personal honor as a gentleman was involved. 2 

This understanding, to which the personal honor of 
a President was pledged, was that he would leave our 
forts naked and defenseless to a public enemy, upon the 
1 Genesis of the Civil War, page 25. 2 Ibid., page 152. 


assurance of unauthorized " gentlemen " that they felt 
sure South Carolina would give Congress an oppor- 
tunity to surrender them before she would attack and 
seize them. Under no circumstances were they to 
remain in the undisputed possession of the United 
States an hour after their surrender should be refused 
upon formal demand. His public denial goes only to 
the technical point that he entered into no obligation 
by which he could be officially bound, but only gave 
an assurance as a gentleman that, as the commander-in- 
chief of the army, he would stake the safety of the 
government fortresses upon the assurances of men who 
had fairly notified him that their people were engaged 
in efforts to dissolve the Union peaceably, and that, 
failing in that, they would forthwith levy war against 
the United States and take those fortresses by force. 

It was in fulfillment of this pledge that, on the 27th 
of December, Floyd and Thompson, within the Cabi- 
net, and United States Senator Jefferson Davis, the 
South Carolina commissioners, and the ever vigilant 
Trescott, without, demanded that Fort Sumter be 
evacuated and made as easy of capture as it had been 
on the 25th. The President was irresolute, and neither 
yielded to the demand nor refused. He disclaimed all 
responsibility for the instructions under which Ander- 
son had acted. He was silent under the charge of 
having made a pledge which that act violated. With- 
out having arrived at any conclusion, the Cabinet 
adjourned until the next day. 


The President confers with the Commissioners. — The Struggle in 
the Cabinet. — Stanton's Attitude. — Resignation of Floyd. — 
The President's Letter to the South Carolina Commissioners. — 
His Final Break with the Secessionists. 

The failure of the secessionists to secure the evacua- 
tion of Fort Sumter on the 27th of December prompted 
them to seize Fort Moultrie and Castle Pinckney during 
that night. 

On the 28th Mr. Buchanan gave an audience to the 
South Carolina commissioners. Although he refused 
to recognize them as the diplomatic representatives of 
a foreign nation, he expressed a willingness to sub- 
mit to Congress any propositions they might make. 1 
As they had no other business in Washington but to 
assert the independence of their State, and to arrange 
terms for the transfer to her of the forts and other 
property of the United States, an official reference to 
Congress of their demands would have been an execu- 
tive recognition as complete as any that could have been 
given in words. 

According to Mr. Buchanan's account, they " insisted 
upon the immediate withdrawal of the major and his 
troops, not only from Fort Sumter, but from the harbor 
of Charleston, as a sine qua non to any negotiation." 2 

1 Buchanan's Defence, page 181. 

2 Ibid., page 182. 


Mr. James L. Orr, one of the commissioners, stated 
in 1871 that the question debated was whether Ander- 
son should be ordered back to Moultrie and the former 
status restored. Mr. Barnwell, the chairman, brought 
to the attention of the President the arrangement he 
had made with the South Carolina delegation, and said 
to him that " Anderson's removal violated that agree- 
ment on the part of the United States government, 
and that the faith of the President and the government 
had been thereby forfeited." Says Mr. Orr : — 

The President made various excuses why he should be 
allowed time to decide the question whether Anderson should 
be ordered back to Moultrie and the former status restored. 
Mr. Barnwell pressed him with great zeal and earnestness to 
issue the order at once. Mr. Buchanan still hesitating, Mr. 
Barnwell said to him, at least three times during the inter- 
view : " But, Mr. President, your personal honor is involved in 
the matter ; the faith you pledged has been violated, and your 
personal honor requires you to issue the order." Mr. Barn- 
well pressed him so hard upon this point that the President 
said : " You must give me time to consider, — this is a grave 
question." Mr. Barnwell replied for the third time : " But, 
Mr. President, your personal honor is involved in this ar- 
rangement." Whereupon, Mr. Buchanan with great earnest- 
ness said : " Mr. Barnwell, you are pressing me too importu- 
nately, you don't give me time to consider ; you don't give 
me time to say my prayers. I always say my prayers when 
required to act upon any great state affair." 1 

The interview resulted in nothing. The President 
still wavered between his duty and his pledge, and the 
battle was resumed in the Cabinet between the factions 

i Genesis of the Civil War, page 148. 


which contended with each other for the mastery over 
him. It raged through the day and evening, and con- 
tinued through the next day. The persistence of the 
Southern members showed that they hoped to prevail. 
Mr. Buchanan had never failed them up to that time. 
If now he would stand by his pledge, South Carolina 
would have no federal foot upon her soil, no federal 
flag on any fort within her border. If the President 
had been left to struggle against them alone, they 
might have worked their will upon him. But Stanton 
was a lion in their path, and Holt and Black were with 
him. Stanton's opposition was not like that of most 
men. It was propelled by a torrent of strong impulses, 
and was not to be arrested by argument or persua- 
sion. In his view, the demand of Floyd and his co-con- 
spirators was not a matter for argument. From the 
moment it was made, he treated it as an insult to be 
resented, a criminal proposition to be spurned. 

On the third day of this intense struggle between 
the unionists and the secessionists of the Cabinet for 
the possession of the Executive Department of the gov- 
ernment, it became apparent that the President would 
refrain from any action at all. He would have been 
willing to send Anderson back to Fort Moultrie, if the 
South Carolinians would have surrendered it to him for 
that purpose, but they showed no disposition to make 
the exchange. 1 

By not withdrawing the garrison entirely from 
Charleston, he decided, as much as it was possible for 
him to decide anything, that, as the United States 

1 Buchanan's Defence, page 182. 


had no other place in South Carolina in which Ander- 
son and his troops could take shelter, they must, at 
least for the time being, remain at Fort Sumter. 

The Southern leaders now abandoned the contest, 
and the result was made known to the world by the 
resignation of Floyd. As the President had not yet 
formally refused to comply with the rebel demand, the 
Secretary was compelled to base his resignation on the 
ground that delay, equally with refusal, was certain to 
inaugurate civil war, and, therefore, he could not con- 
sent to remain in office. His resignation had been 
demanded by the President immediately after the dis- 
covery of his fraudulent acceptances, six days before, 
with a distinct intimation that if it was not forthcom- 
ing, he would be removed. 1 

The amiable weakness of Mr. Buchanan's character is 
well illustrated by the fact that after this the disgraced 
Secretary was not only allowed to be present at cabinet 
meetings, but for three days and nights to disturb their 
proceedings with violent, insulting, and boisterous con- 
duct, and with propositions which proved him a traitor 
to the government. He was subsequently indicted for 
issuing fraudulent acceptances, but acquitted on the 
technicality that having been a witness before a com- 
mittee of Congress, he was thereby exempted by a stat- 
ute from punishment for the transactions concerning 
which he had testified. 

Although the resignation of Floyd virtually termi- 
nated the dangerous crisis which Anderson's patriotic 
act had precipitated, the President seemed unwilling to 

1 Buchanan's Defence, page 185. 


treat the matter as closed. He stood charged by the 
Southern members of his Cabinet, and by the South 
Carolina commissioners, with having violated a pledge 
of honor, which three Northern members of the Cabi- 
net and the patriotic people of the country maintained 
it would have been treason for him to redeem, if made. 
The commissioners had, on that same day, addressed 
him a communication, in which they repeated the 
charges against him of violated faith, and he seemed 
impressed with the idea that he could set himself right 
with both sides of the controversy by a reply. His 
effort in that direction was laid before the Cabinet late 
on the evening of the 29th. It was satisfactory to but 
one member : Toucey. He never differed from the 
President. Black, Stanton, and Holt objected to the 
concessions it made to South Carolina ; Thompson and 
Thomas to the lack of such concessions. Floyd was no 
longer in the Cabinet. The paper seems to have been 
read for information rather than to elicit comment. 
Not much criticism was bestowed on it at the time. 1 
No action was taken upon it, and the meeting ad- 

On the following day (Sunday, the 30th) the Presi- 
dent learned from Mr. Toucey that Judge Black had 
expressed a determination to resign, if the letter he had 
seen the night before should be sent to the commission- 
ers. The President sent for his friend, and the inter- 
view resulted in delivering the document to him for 
such changes as he might suggest. Black went to the 
Attorney-General's office, and wrote a memorandum 

1 Black's Speeches and Essays, page 14. 


embracing the views upon which he and Stanton were 
agreed. The latter made and retained a copy. The 
original went to the President as a guide in the changes 
to be made. A comparison of this document 1 with the 
letter finally sent to the commissioners 2 shows that the 
President substantially disregarded it. 

No explanation has ever been given why Mr. Buch- 
anan adhered to the objectionable features of his reply 
to the commissioners, in the face of his promise to 
modify it in accordance with Judge Black's " memo- 
randum. " To what extent he did modify it is not 
known, as neither the original draft nor a copy of it 
exists. 3 

His final effort to placate the commissioners, and at 
the same time to save himself harmless, was a lament- 
able failure. His letter to them was dated December 31. 
Their reply, dated January 2, was so offensive that 
immediately, on the day of its date, it was returned 
to the commissioners with the following indorsement : 

This paper, just presented to the President, is of such a 
character that he declines to receive it. 

A few days later this letter was presented to the 
Senate by Jefferson Davis, who caused it to be printed 
in the " Globe." 4 

Says Mr. Buchanan : — 

Mr. Davis, not content with this success, followed it up 
by a severe and unjust attack upon the President, and his 

1 Black's Speeches and Essays, page 14. 

2 Curtis's Life of Buchanan, vol. ii. p. 386. 
8 Ibid., vol. ii. p. 380. 

4 January 9, 1861. 


example was followed by several of his adherents. From 
this time forward, as has already been stated, all social and 
political intercourse ceased between the disunion Senators 
and the President. 1 

This terminated the efforts of President Buchanan to 
maintain friendly relations with men wholly absorbed in 
a treasonable enterprise against the government, and at 
the same time to protect that government against their 
machinations. He had trusted them at the expense 
of his reputation, and when he had reached a line he 
could not pass with safety, they turned upon him, and 
accused him of treachery to the government as well as 
to themselves. This result was of real benefit to him. 
It enabled him to show from that time forward that in 
temporizing with the secessionists, it had been his aim 
to arrest their movements, — not to join them. There 
was no longer any apprehension that the United States 
would, by executive action, relinquish its jurisdiction in 
South Carolina. The national flag still waved there 
over a government fort, to contradict her claim that 
secession had made her an independent and sovereign 

1 Buchanan's Defence, page 184. 


Stanton's Account of the Cabinet Crisis. — Judge Holt on the Same. 

A condensed account of the struggle in the Cabinet 
which preceded Floyd's resignation was written by Mr. 
Stanton himself in 1863, under the following circum- 
stances : in February, 1862, Mr. Thurlow Weed, then in 
London, wrote a communication for a newspaper there, 
in which, after referring to Mr. Stanton's appointment by 
President Lincoln as Secretary of War on the 20th of 
the preceding month, he gave an account of the crisis 
in Mr. Buchanan's Cabinet in 1860. Mr. Buchanan 
and his friends complained of its inaccuracy, but no one 
who had been a member of that Cabinet came forward 
to deny its truth. The following year Mr. Augustus 
Schell, a New York Democratic politician and a near 
friend of Mr. Buchanan, addressed a letter to Mr. Stan- 
ton, and to others of the Buchanan Cabinet, asking 
them to say whether the statements in Mr. Weed's com- 
munication were true or not. To this Mr. Stanton 
wrote a reply, which he read to Judge Holt at that time, 
but which he finally decided not to send. It was found 
after his death in his private papers. Of this letter and 
of the reasons which governed Mr. Stanton in with- 
holding it, Judge Holt wrote as follows in 1870 : — 

Several years ago Mr. Stanton read to me, in the War 
Department, a letter addressed by him to Mr. Schell, of New 


York, in answer to one from that gentleman, wherein he set 
forth quite in detail what was said and done at the meeting 
of Mr. Buchanan's Cabinet, which was followed at once, as I 
now remember it, by Mr. Floyd's resignation. The delibera- 
tions and discussions, as of other cabinet meetings, being then 
and still held under the seal of official confidence, I cannot of 
course repeat what the statements of this letter were, but can 
only affirm that they accorded with my own recollection of the 
facts. I requested of Mr. Stanton a copy of this letter, which 
he promised to furnish me, but under the pressure of his 
official labor and engagements the matter was probably lost 
sight of, as the copy never reached me. Subsequently he 
informed me that the letter had never been sent, he having, 
as I understood it, come to the conclusion that such disclos- 
ures would not be justified unless made with the consent of 
the parties to the cabinet meeting and to the deliberations 
referred to. 1 

This unsent letter of Mr. Stanton's has upon it no 
comment or direction of any kind. Its publication in 
this place seems to be justified and required by reason 
of the complaints made of his silence by Mr. Buchanan's 
biographer, 2 and by Mr. Buchanan himself in private 
letters, published for the first time in his biography 
many years after Mr. Stanton's death. 3 His letter sheds 
new light upon momentous events, and is the only 
account written by a participant of what did actually 
occur in the meetings of the Cabinet in the three days 
and nights commencing December 27, 1860. It will 
be observed that Mr. Stanton was replying to an inquiry, 

1 Atlantic Monthly, April, 1870, Henry Wilson's article. 

2 Curtis's Buchanan, vol. ii. p. 523. 
» Ibid., pp. 580, 587, and 588. 


written in 1863, as to the truth of a statement made in 
1862 of things that happened in 1860. 


War Department, 
Washington, D. C, October 8, 1863. 
Dear Sir, — Three days ago I received from you a letter, 
to which the pressure of public duties has prevented me from 
replying until now, and of which the following is a copy : — 

New York, October 3, 1863. 

Dear Sir, — You will find below an extract from a letter 
published in the London " Observer " on the 9th of February, 
1862, subscribed with initials of T. W. The signature is 
known to be that of Mr. Thurlow Weed of Albany, who was, 
at the time, in London : — 

" In February, Major Anderson, commanding Fort Moultrie, 
Charleston harbor, finding his position endangered, passed 
his garrison, by a prompt and brilliant movement, over to the 
stronger fortress of Sumter, whereupon Mr. Floyd, Secretary 
of War, much excited, called upon the President to say that 
Major Anderson had violated express orders, and thereby 
seriously compromised him (Floyd), and that unless the major 
was immediately remanded to Fort Moultrie, he should resign 
the War Office. 

" The Cabinet was assembled directly. 

" Mr. Buchanan, explaining the embarrassment of the Sec- 
retary of War, remarked that the act of Major Anderson 
would occasion exasperation to the South. He had told Mr. 
Floyd that, as the government was strong, forbearance towards 
erring brethren might win them back to their allegiance, and 
that that officer might be ordered back. 

" After an ominous silence, the President asked how the 
suggestion struck the Cabinet. 

" Mr. Stanton, just now called to the War Office, but then 


Attorney-General, answered : ' That course, Mr. President, 
ought certainly to be regarded as most liberal towards erring 
brethren, but while one member of your Cabinet has fraudu- 
lent acceptances for millions of dollars afloat, and while the 
confidential clerk of another — himself in South Carolina 
teaching rebellion — has just stolen 1900,000 from the Indian 
Trust Fund, the experiment of ordering Major Anderson 
back to Fort Moultrie would be dangerous. But if you in- 
tend to try it, before it is done I beg that you will accept my 

" ' And mine too,' added the Secretary of State, Mr. 

" ' And mine also,' said the Postmaster-General, Mr. Holt. 

" ' And mine too,' followed the Secretary of the Treasury, 
General Dix. 

" This of course opened the bleared eyes of the President, and 
the meeting resulted in the acceptance of Mr. Floyd's resig- 

Inasmuch as you were a member of Mr. Buchanan's Cabi- 
net, and one of the persons alluded to among the members of 
the Cabinet who dissented from the proposition alleged to 
have been made by Mr. Floyd, I have thought it not improper 
to call upon you to state whether the subject matter of Mr. 
Weed's communication is or is not true. 

As for myself, I do not believe it to be true, and regard it 
as one of the numerous slanders which have been disseminated 
to reflect discredit upon the late excellent President of the 
United States. I shall esteem it a favor if you will inform 
me by letter of the precise circumstances attending the action 
of Mr. Buchanan's Cabinet at the time of the transaction 
referred to, if any such took place, to the end that the public 
may be truthfully informed of the actual occurrence. 

I have written this letter without the knowledge of Mr. 
Buchanan, and solely for the purpose that the public record of 
Mr. Buchanan's administration may be vindicated from a 


charge which those who know him, as you and I do, cannot 
but feel has originated from personal or political malice. 
Yours very respectfully, 

Augustus Schell. 

Hon. E. M. Stanton, 
Washington City. 

The article of which your letter furnishes an extract appears 
to have been published more than eighteen months ago, and 
contains certain allegations, to wit : — 

First. That in respect to Major Anderson's patriotic and 
brilliant movement from Fort Moultrie to Fort Sumter, John 
B. Floyd, then Secretary of War, asserted that Major Ander- 
son had violated express orders, and thereby seriously com- 
promised him (Floyd), and that unless the major was imme- 
diately remanded to Fort Moultrie, he should resign the War 
Office ; and that the Cabinet were assembled to consider the 

This allegation, except as to date, is substantially true. 

The meeting at which the action of Major Anderson in 
moving his garrison from Fort Moultrie to Fort Sumter was 
laid before the Cabinet by Mr. Buchanan took place, not 
in February, but on the afternoon of the 27th of December, 
1861, — the movement having been made the preceding night. 
It was the first cabinet meeting that I attended after being 
sworn in as Attorney-General. Floyd proposed to withdraw 
the garrison from Charleston harbor, on the ground that Major 
Anderson had violated his orders, and also that the solemn 
pledges of the government had been violated. The violation 
of orders by Major Anderson was denied by some members of 
the Cabinet, and the orders were called for. At a second 
meeting of the Cabinet, in the evening of the 27th, Floyd read 
a paper, which was incorporated in his resignation two days 
afterwards, in which he said nothing about violating orders, 
but reiterated that Major Anderson, by his movement, had 


violated solemn pledges of the government. This paper is 
incorporated in his resignation, presented on the 29th, which 
was published in the " Constitution " of January 1, and is as 
follows : — 

War Department, December 29, 1860. 
Sie, — On the evening of the 27th inst., I read the follow- 
ing paper to you in the presence of the Cabinet : — 

Council Chamber, Executive Mansion. 
Sir, — It is evident now from the action of the commander 
at Eort Moultrie, that the solemn pledges of the government 
have been violated by Major Anderson. In my judgment 
but one remedy is now left us by which to vindicate our honor 
and prevent civil war. It is in vain now to hope for confi- 
dence on the part of the people of South Carolina in any 
further pledges as to the action of the military. One remedy 
only is left ; that is, to withdraw the garrison from the harbor 
altogether. I hope the President will allow me to make that 
order at once. This order, in my judgment, can alone pre- 
vent bloodshed and civil war. 

John B. Floyd, 

Secretary of War, 
To The President, 
December 27, 1860. 

I then considered the honor of the administration pledged 
to maintain the troops in the position they occupied ; for such 
had been the assurances given to the gentlemen of South Car- 
olina, who had a right to speak for her. South Carolina, on 
the other hand, gave reciprocal pledges, that no force should be 
brought by them against the troops or against the property of 
the United States. The sole object of both parties to these 
reciprocal pledges was to prevent collision and effusion of 
blood in the hope that some means might be found for a peace- 
ful accommodation of the existing trouble, the two Houses of 
Congress having both raised committees looking to this object. 


Thus affairs stood until the action of Major Anderson 
(taken, unfortunately, while commissioners were on their way 
to this capital, on a peaceful mission looking to the avoidance 
of bloodshed) has complicated matters in the existing manner. 
Our refusal, or even delay, to place matters back where they 
stood under our agreement invites collision, and must inevita- 
bly inaugurate civil war in our land. 

I cannot consent to be the agent of such a calamity. 

I deeply regret to feel myself under the necessity of ten- 
dering to you my resignation as Secretary of War, because I 
can no longer hold it, under my convictions of patriotism, 
with honor, subjected, as I am, to the violation of solemn 
pledges and plighted faith. 

With the highest personal regard I am, 

Most truly yours, 

John B. Floyd. 

To his Excellency, 

The President of the United States. 

Second. That " Mr. Buchanan, explaining the embarrass- 
ment of the Secretary of War (Floyd), remarked that the 
act of Major Anderson would occasion exasperation in the 
South. He had told Floyd that as the government was 
strong, forbearance towards erring brethren might win them 
back to their allegiance, and that that officer might be ordered 

I cannot at this distance of time state the exact words of 
Mr. Buchanan before the Cabinet. According to my recol- 
lection, the statement in the " extract " is substantially true. 
For a considerable period during the pendency of the discus- 
sion, which continued several days, Mr. Buchanan manifested 
a determination to order Major Anderson back, upon the 
ground that it was essential to the peace of the country, and 
also that the movement was a violation of some pledge or 
promise of his, which he was bound to fulfill. Floyd and 


Thompson both asserted repeatedly, in Mr. Buchanan's pre- 
sence, that such pledge had been given by him, and during 
three days' debate I did not hear him deny it, although mem- 
bers of the Cabinet asked for a specification of the time and 
place, and insisted that it was impossible that such a pledge 
could have been given. 

Third. That Floyd's proposition to withdraw the garrison 
was earnestly opposed by members of the Cabinet, including 
myself ; that direct allusion was made by me, in debate, to 
the then recently discovered theft of Indian Trust Funds in 
the Interior Department, by a clerk of that department, and 
Floyd's complicity in the transaction; and that I asserted 
that to add to these crimes the crime of surrendering Fort 
Sumter would be a dangerous experiment to those concerned 
in it. 

This allegation is also true. From the first, the proposi- 
tion received my determined hostility, and that of two other 
members of the Cabinet. Allusion was made by me to the 
fraudulent acceptances of Floyd, and the abstraction of the 
Indian Trust Funds from the Interior Department, and to 
the just fury that would be excited by a greater crime. 

Fourth. That the adoption of Floyd's proposition by Mr. 
Buchanan would have been instantly followed by my resigna- 
tion and that of other members of the Cabinet. 

This allegation is also substantially true. Apprehending 
that the proposition would be adopted by Mr. Buchanan, my 
resignation was signed and ready to be delivered on the spot, 
the instant the order should be made. Two other members 
of the Cabinet informed me that they would also resign, and 
I believe they would have clone so. 

The " Observer " article is erroneous in the statement that 
General Dix was present on the occasion. He was not then 
in the Cabinet. But from his openly declared opinion, I 
have no doubt that ordering Major Anderson from Fort Sum- 
ter, at any time after he came into the Cabinet, would have 


met his earnest opposition, and would have been followed by 
his immediate resignation. 

Fifth. That the refusal to order Major Anderson from 
Fort Sumter resulted in Floyd's resignation. 

This allegation is true. Floyd's resignation (as you will 
see by reading it) is placed on the distinct ground of violated 
pledges and the refusal or delay to "place affairs back," 
viz., withdrawing the garrison altogether from the harbor of 

The foregoing covers substantially, I think, all the points 
made in the article of which you have given me an extract. 
According to my recollection, the extract from the article, 
which you call Mr. Weed's, is, except in the particulars men- 
tioned, substantially true. 

The principal error of the " Observer " article is, perhaps, 
in ascribing to me more credit than is due in awakening Mr. 
Buchanan to the real character of Floyd's contemplated 
treason. Whatever could be done to that end was done by 
Judge Black and Mr. Holt, as well as by myself, and with the 
earnestness of men who felt that our national existence was 
at stake. 

After most careful examination, it does not appear to me 
that the article alluded to contains any " slander " upon Mr. 
Buchanan, or that it originated in any "personal or political" 
malice. The proposition to give up Fort Sumter was made 
by Floyd. Mr. Buchanan consulted his Cabinet upon it, 
some of whom violently advocated it, while others opposed it 
resolutely as a crime ; and, after several days' angry debate, 
it was rejected. I asserted then to Mr. Buchanan, and assert 
now, that the surrender of Fort Sumter by the government 
would have been, in my opinion, a crime equal to the crime 
of Arnold, and that all who participated in the act should be 
hung like Andre. 

In thus fully replying to your communication, I do not 
recognize any obligation on my part to answer inquiries as to 


the truth or falsehood of statements made by Mr. Weed, or 
any other person, as to what is supposed to have taken place 
in cabinet meetings ; but your personal and political rela- 
tions to Mr. Buchanan, and your professed purpose to vindi- 
cate the record of his administration, leave no room to doubt 
that, while your letter to me, and similar letters to other mem- 
bers of his Cabinet, may have been written without his know- 
ledge, you are acting, if not by his direction, at least with his 
assent ; and as the matter relates to an important national 
event, I do not recognize any obligation of secrecy to prevent 
the public from being truthfully informed, as they were at 
the time of the actual occurrences, in respect to Floyd's trai- 
torous proposition. 

When this letter was found among Mr. Stanton's 
papers, it was submitted to Judge Holt. He listened 
attentively while, at his request, it was read to him, and 
conversed freely on the matters with which it deals. 
He said it was evidently the same one that Mr. Stanton 
had read to him at the War Department in 1863, and 
finally decided not to send ; and that while it fell far 
short of what might have been written, it was correct 
as far as it went. He said that Mr. Stanton's protest 
against acceding to the demands of Floyd was even 
more vigorous than therein represented. He not only 
said that it would be a crime equal to the crime of 
Arnold, and that all who participated in it ought to be 
hung like Andre, but he also said that " a President of 
the United States who would make such an order would 
be guilty of treason." " At this point," said Judge 
Holt, — "and I remember the scene as clearly as though 
it happened but yesterday, — Mr. Buchanan raised his 
hands deprecatingly and said, as if wounded by the 


intensity of Mr. Stanton's language and manner : ' Oh, 
no ! not so bad as that, my friend ! — not so bad as 
that ! ' " 

Judge Holt pronounced a glowing tribute to Stanton 
as a patriot and a man, saying, among other things : 
" His loyalty to the Union cause was a passion. He 
could not open his lips on the subject without giving 
utterance to the strongest expressions. He never 
changed from first to last in his devotion to the coun- 
try, nor in the resolute manner in which he asserted 
and upheld his convictions." 

Referring to this crisis, Mr. Stanton wrote to his 
brother-in-law, the Hon. Christopher P. Wolcott, then 
attorney-general of Ohio, as follows : — 

The great contest for the Union commenced a few minutes 
after I parted from you here. On reaching my office, I found 
a summons to the cabinet council. On entering the chamber, 
I found treason with bold and brazen front demanding the 
surrender of Fort Sumter. The contest continued until dark, 
when dispute ran so high that we adjourned until eight o'clock 
in the evening. What followed is now history, — the details 
I will give you when we meet. 

One by one the secessionists have been worked out. We 
are now a unit. Who will come into the present vacancies is 
uncertain. I think no retrograde step will be made. How 
far we can advance is uncertain. 


New Departure of the Administration. — Anderson's Act approved. 

— Attempt to reinforce Sumter. — Rebel Attack on the Star 
of the West. — Treason of Jacob Thompson. — His Resignation. 

— Anderson's Truce. — The Confederacy erected. — Attempts at 
Compromise. — War not then seriously thought of. — No War 
Party. — The Government and the Secessionists equally disin- 
clined to open Hostilities. 

When the President had returned to the South Caro- 
lina commissioners their final and offensive communi- 
cation of January 2, he declared very emphatically that 
"reinforcements must now be sent." General Scott 
accordingly dispatched the chartered steamer Star of 
the West to Charleston with troops. Subsequent ad- 
vices from Anderson, that he felt secure in his position 
and that troops could be sent him at leisure, led to an 
order countermanding that for reinforcements, but it 
reached New York after the steamer had sailed. 

On the 10th of January Acting Secretary of War 
Holt wrote to Anderson, approving his course in trans- 
ferring his troops from Sumter. 

Jacob Thompson, Secretary of the Interior, tele- 
graphed to one of the insurgent party in South Carolina, 
on the 8th of January, that the Star of the West had 
sailed for Charleston with recruits, and had the satis- 
faction of knowing that his dispatch was received in 
time to cause her repulse by rebel cannon. He then 


resigned his place in the Cabinet in a communication 
expressive of a sense of injury because the order for 
reinforcements had been sent without notice to him. 
To this the President replied that the order had been 
decided on in a special cabinet meeting, at which Mr. 
Thompson himself was present, and that there was no 
dissenting voice. Judge Black's testimony is as follows : 

The order was made in the Cabinet, but Mr. Thompson, 
Secretary of the Interior, did not hear it ; perhaps it was not 
intended he should. 1 

Known to be a conspirator, — because he had then but 
recently returned from North Carolina, where he had 
been publicly received as the Commissioner of the State 
of Mississippi, duly appointed by her legislature, to 
urge the secession of the former State, — Thompson 
was still tolerated in the Cabinet of a President whose 
orders for the safety of the government it was not 
deemed prudent for him to know. 

It is probable that Thompson resigned partly because 
he saw that he would no longer be trusted, and partly 
because he scented the approach of the " tyranny " soon 
to be practiced upon his sort of people. After his 
resignation he went home to Mississippi, and made an 
exultant public speech, in which, after boasting that he 
gave notice to the South Carolinians of the sailing of 
the Star of the West with reinforcements, he said : — 

The troops were thus put on their guard, and when the 
Star of the West arrived, she received a warm welcome from 
booming cannon, and soon beat a retreat. 2 

1 Black's Speeches and Essays, page 20. 

2 National Intelligencer, newspaper, Washington, March 2, 1861. 


Thus was the first shot of the Rebellion fired under 
the direction of a member of the Cabinet of Mr. Buch- 

Major Anderson chose to treat the firing upon the 
Star of the West as an act not authorized by any 
organized enemy, but at once notified the governor that 
unless disavowed, it would be treated as an act of war. 
The latter avowed and justified the act, whereupon 
Major Anderson, unwilling with his little force to enter 
upon actual hostilities, agreed to refrain from any action 
until he could submit the matter to the government at 
Washington, and receive orders. The governor asked 
that Fort Sumter be delivered to him, with a bill for its 
money value. The situation was declared by him to be 
a " state of hostilities," which of course was true. He 
sent his Attorney-General, Hayne, to Washington with 
his ultimatum, accompanied by a United States officer 
bearing dispatches from Major Anderson. 

On the 16th of January Secretary of War Holt 
wrote to Major Anderson : " You rightly designated 
the firing into the Star of the West as an 6 act of war.' ' 
But he informed him that under the circumstances his 
forbearance in not returning the fire was fully ap- 
proved by the President. He was assured that a prompt 
and vigorous effort would be made to forward supplies 
and reinforcements whenever he should require them. 

Major Anderson's truce with the South Carolina 
authorities, pending orders from Washington after the 
firing on the Star of the West January 9, was pro- 
longed until January 31 by the withholding from the 
President, by Attorney-General Hayne, of that State, of 


Governor Pickens's written demand for the surrender 
of Fort Sumter, and still further, until February 6, by- 
delay in reply to that letter, when delivered. On the 
latter date the surrender was peremptorily refused, and 
the South Carolina governor was notified by the Secre- 
tary of War, by order of President Buchanan, that an 
attack upon the fort would place upon the assailants the 
responsibility of inaugurating civil war. 

On the 1st of February seven States had adopted 
ordinances of secession. On the 4th of that month 
the Congress of those States had assembled at Mont- 
gomery, Alabama ; on the 8th adopted the provisional 
Constitution of the Confederate States of America ; on 
the 9th chosen Jefferson Davis President, and on the 
18th inducted him into that office. 

The energies of Congress were wholly devoted, during 
the remainder of the session, to the discussion of propo- 
sitions for compromise. It was not proposed by any 
that the government should make any hostile movement 
against the South. War measures were not seriously 
thought of in or out of Congress. The formation of 
a rebel government at Montgomery was treated, as the 
secession of the States had been, as void and not calling 
for any action by the federal authorities, unless followed 
up by overt acts of treason in the form of aggressive 
war upon the United States government. The entire 
North was still skeptical as to the probability of a war. 
Those of the Eepublicans who opposed all compromises 
were divided into two classes, — one of which desired 
separation, while the other believed the South would 
surrender if the North stood firm. The Union Demo- 


crats and those of the Republicans who favored com- 
promise still hoped there would be some peaceful settle- 
ment. The complaints, therefore, of Mr. Buchanan 1 and 
of Mr. Curtis, his biographer, 2 and Judge Black, 3 that 
Congress refused to vote an army with which to fight 
secessionists, and the counter complaints by the Presi- 
dent's opponents because he remained inactive while 
rebellion made head, instead of inaugurating hostilities 
against it, are equally unjust. The nation, in all its 
departments, drifted under both Buchanan and Lincoln, 
from December until April, because to assert authority 
by force might invite more resistance than could then be 
overcome, and because rebellion, though eager enough 
in seizing public property not guarded, including 
$500,000 in gold coin in the United States mint at 
New Orleans, had not yet deemed it wise to attack any 
forts where military resistance was probable. Each side 
was endeavoring to put upon the other the awful respon- 
sibility of commencing actual hostilities, if such was to 
be the outcome. 

1 See his Defence, page 160. 

2 Life of Buchanan, vol. ii. p. 478. 

8 Black's Speeches and Essays, page 277. 


Mr. Stanton's Work during the Remainder of his Term as Attor- 
ney-General. — Freedom from Disguises. — He affiliates with 
Union Men of all Parties, and antagonizes all others. — Fidel- 
ity to the President. — The Plot to seize the National Capital. — 
Stanton's Interview with Sumner. — Alarm of Black. — The 
Real Peril. — How it was averted by the Presence of Troops. 
— Importance of Stanton's Services at that Time. 

Mr. Stanton found work enough during the re- 
mainder of his term even for his irrepressible energy. 
He devoted himself to the patriotic cause. It aroused 
all his powers and took possession of all his faculties. 
He was inspired with a passionate ardor that broke 
forth with vehemence whenever occasion arose. He 
set on foot inquiries as to the purposes of the secession- 
ists in Washington and its vicinity., and prosecuted 
them with untiring zeal. He made proselytes and 
denounced heretics. To Democrats and Republicans 
he set the example of sinking partisanship in the ser- 
vice of the Union. He counseled with all true men, 
who were certainly opposed to secession, whether they 
agreed with him or not on the subject of compromise 

While cooperating with the most radical Republicans 
to uncover and thwart plots and conspiracies, he re- 
mained most faithful to his chief, and to his associates 


in the reconstructed Cabinet, who were a unit against 
the conspirators. 1 

His cooperation with the most conservative of the 
Union Democrats and Republicans, in advocating a 
constitutional amendment which would secure the bor- 
der States to the Union by protecting slavery in all the 
rights secured for it under the Constitution as it then 
was, involved no departure from his understanding with 
the uncompromising element among the Republicans, 
for he had not agreed with these upon anything except 
hostility to the common enemy. He deceived none. 
His attitude was known of all men. We have the tes- 
timony of Judge Black that he and President Buch- 
anan were at that time pursuing the same course, and 
that he frequently conferred with Mr. Seward, from 
whom he kept nothing secret, which related to public 
duties. Here are his words : — 

The administration kept nothing back ; the President vol- 
unteered to give all he knew concerning the state of the 
Union; every call for information was promptly and fully 
answered. If that had not been enough, every member of 
the Cabinet would have been perfectly free to speak with any 
member of Congress, or to go in person before any com- 
mittee. Mr. Seward did confer fully with me at the State 
Department. 2 

Senator Sumner stated to Senator Wilson, in 1870, 3 

1 Secretary Seward said, in a letter to Henry Wilson, that Stanton 
expressed " entire confidence in the loyalty of the President, and of the 
heads of the departments who remained in association with him until the 
close of that administration." Henry Wilson, in Atlantic Monthly, 1870. 

2 Black's Speeches and Essays, page 279. 

3 Atlantic Monthly, April, 1870. 


that in the month of January, 1861, he called on Mr. 
Stanton at the department ; that the latter made an 
appointment to see him at his lodgings at a late hour 
that night, and at this conference described the deter- 
mination of the Southern leaders, and developed partic- 
ularly their plan to obtain possession of the national 
capital and the national archives, so that they might 
substitute themselves for the existing government. 

I was struck [says Mr. Sumner], not only by the know- 
ledge he showed of hostile movements, but by his instinctive 
insight into men and things. His particular object was 
to make all watchful and prepared for the traitors. I saw 
nobody at the time who had so strong a grasp of the whole 
terrible case. 

Mr. Stanton's apprehensions for the safety of the 
capital were based partly upon his knowledge of the 
men who favored the rebel cause, and partly upon 
the open threats indulged in by the less prudent of 
their clans. To these were added, of course, the know- 
ledge of revolutionary methods and possibilities, common 
enough with all who had read of civil commotions in 
other lands. 

One of their favorite ideas, boldly advanced and 
stoutly maintained, was that, if Maryland should 
secede, the District of Columbia would " revert " to 
that State, by which it had been ceded to the general 
government. This argument was certainly as sound 
as that which claimed Fort Sumter as the property of 
South Carolina. 

The revolutionary spirits who dominated public opin- 
ion at the capital appeared to take it for granted that 


every obstacle to their wishes could and would be 
removed, and that every necessary and desirable step 
leading to the triumph of their plans would be success- 
fully taken. That the secession of Maryland was con- 
fidently relied upon by them is well known, and if it 
could have been accomplished before the count of the 
electoral vote, which was to take place on the 13th of 
February, the rebel plan was understood to include the 
seizure of the capital. 

Said Stephen A. Douglas, in his last public speech 
(May 1, 1861), at Chicago : — 

If the disunion candidate in the late presidential contest 
had carried the united South, their scheme was, the Northern 
candidate successful, to seize the capital last spring, and by 
a united South and divided North hold it. 1 

Edwin L. Stanton, the Secretary's son, thus wrote : 2 

Every department in Washington then contained numer- 
ous traitors and spies. Only a handful of United States 
troops were assembled at Washington, and the residents of 
the capital were mainly in sympathy with the Southern peo- 
ple. To a greater extent probably than any of his associates 
in the Cabinet, Mr. Stanton's mind was filled with forebod- 
ing that attempts would be made by insurrection or assassina- 
tion to prevent the inauguration of Mr. Lincoln, and to seize 
and hold for the Southern States the capital and insignia 
of the government, and thus enable those States to appear 
before the world as a government de facto, succeeding to 
the power and authority of the United States. Oppressed 
by appreciation of this imminent peril and by anxiety to a 
greater extent than his associates, Mr. Stanton conveyed fre- 
quently and urgently his impressions and his information to 

1 McPherson's Rebellion, page 392. 2 Manuscript. 


General Scott, and to friends and supporters of Mr. Lincoln. 
He deemed the most careful and thorough precautions neces- 
sary to prevent a coup d'etat which might be fatal to the 
Union. It is impossible now to estimate the intensity of Mr. 
Stanton's conviction of this danger, or the efforts which he 
made, and stimulated others to make, with a view to prepare 
against and prevent occurrences which might have attended 
the installation of the new administration. 

Judge Black fully shared Mr. Stanton's belief that 
the capital was in imminent danger. As late as the 
22d of January, being confined to his room with an 
attack of rheumatism, he wrote to President Buchanan 
on the subject as follows : * — 

You must be aware that the possession of this city is abso- 
lutely essential to the ultimate designs of the secessionists. 
They can establish a Southern Confederacy with the capital 
of the Union in their hands, and without it all the more 
important part of their scheme is bound to fail. If they can 
take it, and do not take it, they are fools. Knowing them as 
I do to be men of ability and political good sense, not likely 
to omit that which is necessary to forward their ends, I take 
it for granted that they have their eye upon Washington. 
To prove their desire to take it requires no evidence at all 
beyond the intrinsic probability of the fact itself. The 
affirmative presumption is so strong that he who denies it is 
bound to establish the negative. But there are additional 
and very numerous circumstances tending to show that a 
conspiracy to that effect has actually been formed, and that 
large numbers of persons are deeply and busily engaged in 
bringing the plot to a head at what they conceive to be the 
proper time. I do not mean now to enumerate all the facts. 

1 Crawford's Genesis of the Civil War, page 241 ; Curtis's Life of 
Buchanan, vol. ii. p. 491. 


They form a body of circumstantial evidence that is over- 
whelming and irresistible. 

I know that you do not believe this, or did not when I saw 
you last. Your incredulity seemed then to be founded upon 
the assurances of certain outside persons, in whom you con- 
fided, that nothing of that kind was in contemplation. The 
mere opinion of these persons is worth nothing apart from 
their own personal knowledge. They can have no personal 
knowledge unless they are themselves a part of the con- 
spiracy. In the latter case fidelity to their fellows makes 
treachery to you a sort of a moral necessity. 

He implored the President to prepare for the worst, 
because " preparation can do no possible harm in any 
event, and in the event which seems to me most likely, 
it is the country's only chance of salvation." 

In a controversy which arose soon after Mr. Stan- 
ton's death concerning the events which transpired 
during that period, Judge Black made the following 
reference to Mr. Sumner's statement of his interview 
with Mr. Stanton, and to the danger which menaced 
the capital : — 

Early in the winter somebody started the sensational rumor 
that on or before the 4th of March a riot would be got up 
in Washington which might seriously endanger the peace of 
the city. It was discussed and talked about and blown upon 
in various ways, but no tangible evidence of its reality could 
ever be found. The President referred to it in a message to 
Congress, and said he did not share in such apprehensions ; 
but he pledged himself in any event to preserve the peace. 
When the midnight meeting took place (between Stanton 
and Sumner), the rumor had lived its life out, — had paid its 
breath to time and the mortal custom of such things at Wash- 


iugton ; it was a dead canard which had ceased to alarm 
even women or children. 1 

If Judge Black's statement of 1870 is true. — that 
Mr. Stanton, " in January, 1861/' attempted to impose 
upon Mr. Sumner "a dead canard," — it follows that 
Judge Black, in his letter of January 22, to President 
Buchanan above quoted, was attempting the same 
imposition upon his chief. The noble anger to which 
he was then stirred by the machinations of the country's 
enemies spoke out in that letter in terms too earnest 
to admit of a doubt of its genuineness. His language 
of 1870 must be attributed to a frame of mind which 
rendered it impossible for him to do justice to Mr. 
Stanton on any subject whatever. 

Four days after the date of this letter of 1861 a reso- 
lution was adopted in the House for an inquiry whether 
any secret organization hostile to the government of 
the United States existed in the District of Columbia, 
and whether any federal or city officers were members 

Without awaiting the result of this investigation, 
and before the count of the electoral vote, the President 
ordered a body of regular troops to Washington. This 
action caused the introduction of a resolution into 
the House (February 11, 1861), calling upon the Presi- 
dent for the reason which prompted it, and inquiring 
whether he had "any information of a conspiracy on 
the part of any portion of the citizens of the country 
to seize the capital and prevent the inauguration of 
the President-elect." 

1 Black's Speeches and Essays, page 81. 


On the 12th of February the committee of the House 
reported that, after the presidential election, disaffected 
persons of high and low position consulted together on 
the question of submission, and also upon various modes 
of resistance to the result. 

Among other modes [says their report] resistance to count- 
ing the ballots ; to the inauguration of Mr. Lincoln ; the 
seizure of the capital and District of Columbia were discussed 
informally in this city and elsewhere. But too much diver- 
sity of opinion seems to have existed to admit of the adop- 
tion of any well-organized plan, until some of the States 
commenced to reduce their theories of secession to practice. 
Since then the persons thus disaffected seem to have adopted 
the idea that all resistance to the government, if there is to 
be any, should have at least the color of state authority. If 
the purpose was at any time entertained of forming an 
organization, secret or open, to seize the District of Columbia, 
attack the capital, or prevent the inauguration of Mr. Lincoln, 
it seems to have been rendered contingent upon the secession 
of either Maryland or Virginia, or both, and the sanction of 
one of those States. 

The committee said that certain political organiza- 
tions in Maryland and in the District had, since the 
election, been changed into military organizations, but 
"there was no proof that they intended to attack the 
capital or the District, unless the surrender should be 
demanded by a State to which they professed a higher 
degree of allegiance.' ' From this it appeared that if 
Maryland should secede, the federal capital was to be 
claimed by her, on the same authority of state sover- 
eignty by which sixteen forts with over twelve hundred 
guns, that had cost the government six and a half 


millions of dollars, had then already been seized and 
held in the Southern Confederacy which had been 
formed at Montgomery some days before. 

On the 18th of February Secretary of War Holt, to 
whom the President had referred the House resolution 
of inquiry concerning the cause of stationing troops in 
Washington, made a report. Alluding to the revolu- 
tion, which he said had been in progress during the 
three preceding months, he recited what had been 
accomplished by its " surprises and treacherous and 
ruthless spoliations : " arsenals seized and arms appro- 
priated ; forts captured and garrisoned ; and more 
than half a million of dollars stolen from the New 
Orleans Mint, and placed in the state treasury of Loui- 
siana. He told of the surrender of revenue cutters to 
the enemy by the officers in command of them, and of 
the treasonable conduct of men occupying the highest 
positions in the public service. He said that " the 
earnest endeavors made by men known to be devoted 
to the revolution, to hurry Virginia and Maryland 
out of the Union, were regarded as preparatory steps 
for the subjugation of Washington." His belief in the 
existence of such a scheme "rested upon information, 
some of which was of a most conclusive character, that 
reached the government from many parts of the coun- 
try, not merely expressing the prevalence of the opinion 
that such an organization had been formed, but also 
furnishing the plausible ground on which the opinion 
was based." To these were added " the oft repeated 
declarations of men in high political positions here, and 
who were known to have intimate relations with the 


revolution, if, indeed, they did not hold its reins in 
their hands — to the effect that Mr. Lincoln would not, 
or should not, be inaugurated in Washington." 

President Buchanan, in a special message to Con- 
gress of March 2, said : — 

At the present moment, when all is quiet, it is difficult to 
realize the state of alarm which prevailed when the troops 
were first ordered to this city. This almost immediately 
subsided after the arrival of the first company. 

Thus the President and his Secretary of War, the 
committee of Congress, and Judge Black himself all 
bore witness that Mr. Stanton was not imposing a 
" dead canard " upon Mr. Sumner at the midnight 
conference they had " in the month of January," 1861, 
as charged by Judge Black in 1870. 

It is beyond controversy that the early plans of the 
disunionists included the secession of Maryland at all 
hazards, and under whatever coercion might be neces- 
sary and possible, in order that the nation's capital 
might be proclaimed either the capital of the Southern 
Confederacy as such, or as the successor of the sub- 
verted government of the United States. The careless 
prediction of this scheme, by individuals who were in 
full sympathy with the secession movement, was like 
the smoke that first indicates the existence of a dan- 
gerous fire beneath the surface. Had it been allowed 
to smoulder uninterruptedly, and without menace or 
admonition from the government, the Union element 
of Maryland might have been discouraged and over- 
powered, from without and within, and a coup d'etat 
have preceded the electoral count. 


Stanton, Black, and Holt cooperated in arousing the 
President to the necessity of guarding the capital ; and 
a few hundred troops served to remind the conspirators 
that there would be two sides to the question if force 
should attempt in Washington what had already been 
done in the cotton States. Perhaps Mr. Stanton never 
served his country more effectively within a like period 
than he did in January, 1861, by his unremitting zeal 
in showing its friends the dangers above described, and 
leading them in creating the pressure under which the 
President finally took measures to guard against them. 
The presence of the troops ordered to Washington by 
Mr. Buchanan was the first evidence the secessionists 
had seen that even under an administration they had 
helped to create, and with which they had separated 
less than thirty days before, the nation would resort to 
arms against rebellion. It doubtless gave a check to 
the secession movement in the border States, for it 
brought home to them the reality that secession ulti- 
mately meant war, in which, from their position, they 
must be the greatest sufferers. 


Mr. Stanton's Democracy and his Patriotism. — His Attitude 
towards Slavery. — The Pro-Slavery Constitution. — His Views 
on Compromise Propositions, compared with those of Mr. Lin- 
coln. — Patriotic Motives of Both. — Necessity of making Union 
and not Anti-Slavery the Test. — The Outlook for Emancipa- 
tion at that Time. — The Northern Disunionists. 

It is to the everlasting honor of Mr. Stanton that 
from the time he came in contact with public affairs he 
became, and to the end remained, an object of intense 
hatred to every enemy of his country. To those Dem- 
ocrats who claimed the right of secession to be a funda- 
mental plank in the Democratic creed, and to those who, 
although denying it, were so imbued with party spirit 
that they would not sustain the government when under 
an opposition administration, he was equally odious. 
To be for the Union cause was, in their view, to be an 
" abolitionist," because it was upholding the national 
authority under an administration opposed to the na- 
tionalization of slavery. The attempt was made to 
dragoon all Democrats into sympathy with the rebellion 
by denouncing unconditional unionists as abolition- 
ists. Mr. Stanton was one of those with whom this 
utterly failed. He was for upholding the laws, whether 
their enforcement was intrusted to one party or another, 
and whether the offenders against them had been polit- 
ically his friends or his opponents. 


But he did not go over to the Eepublicans in 1861, 
nor profess to agree with them in their treatment of the 
slavery question. He entered the Cabinet of Mr. 
Buchanan a Democrat in December, 1860, and left it 
a Democrat in March, 1861. It has been said that he 
was a " pro-slavery Democrat." He was a lawyer, and 
a good one. He believed in obeying the Constitution 
and the laws, and he had the lawyer's habit of acqui- 
escing in the opinions of the Supreme Court of the 
United States upon all questions arising under them. 
In this obedience he made no mental reservation, and 
appealed to no " higher law." 

There were growing numbers in the Republican 
party who, without rebuke from their associates, resisted 
the enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Law, in obedi- 
ence to what they termed a "higher law." This was 
an assertion of the right of each citizen to determine 
for himself not only which laws he would approve, but 
which he would obey. It was, of course, a menace to 
every private right that depended for its protection 
upon the authority of the law. Mr. Stanton did not 
rise to the heights occupied by these men ; like Mr. 
Lincoln, he favored obedience to all the laws of the 

As orderly people in our day uphold the rights of 
property, notwithstanding the apparent lack of Chris- 
tian spirit which some of them think governs its acqui- 
sition and distribution under existing systems, so the 
men of his school maintained the supremacy of the 
law above all individual protests concerning slavery. 
Slavery was an established wrong, for which no lawful 


remedy existed short of a constitutional amendment. 
This remedy seemed impossible, for no change could 
be made without the assent of three fourths of the 
States, and fifteen of the thirty-one States then consti- 
tuting the Union were slave States. It would require 
an addition of twenty-nine new free States to the exist- 
ing sixteen to make the requisite number of three 
fourths, even if every free State should then favor 
abolition. When it is remembered that the abolition- 
ists were then despised, persecuted, and mobbed even 
in New England, and that Pennsylvania voted for pos- 
sible slavery extension as late as 1856, the reader of 
this generation will see how seemingly hopeless was the 
cause of the slave. Indeed, while sympathy for his 
condition was an impulse of human nature, which could 
not be extinguished by law, it did not seem to most 
people a duty to engage in a bloody revolution for his 
liberation. Previous to the civil war, the great body 
of the Northern people, including most of the Republi- 
cans, were in favor of living up to the terms made with 
the slave-holders when the Constitution was framed, and 
without which it would never have existed. Mr. Stan- 
ton preferred, as did Mr. Lincoln, a reaffirmation of 
that agreement, with a clear settlement of all disputed 
points, to an appeal to arms which might imperil the 
Union. They preferred the Republic, even with slavery 
interwoven in its structure at its birth, to the unknown 
evils which would follow if it should go down in the 
flames of a civil war. 

The grim declaration of Garrison, the great leader of 
the "immediate emancipationists," that the Constitu- 


tion of the United States was " a covenant with death 
and an agreement with hell/' was but his way of stat- 
ing the historical fact that the States which, in 1789, 
deemed the continuance of slavery desirable joined the 
States in the North which desired commerce to be 
under national control, in the formation of a national 
government only on the conditions plainly expressed in 
the federal Constitution, that their peculiar institu- 
tion should remain undisturbed ; that the slave trade 
might continue unmolested by Congress for twenty 
years ; that fugitive slaves should not become free by 
escaping into free States ; and that in addition to the 
representation in Congress based upon free population, 
they should have additional representation proportioned 
to three fifths of the slaves owned by their people. 
The commercial States made the bargain without re- 
serve, and the nation came into existence, not only 
committed to the toleration of slavery as an interest 
sanctioned by the Constitution, but bound to the en- 
forcement by Congress of all the guarantees it had 
secured. Just what these guarantees were became the 
theme of differences and discussions which finally 
resulted in the civil war. The views of Northern men 
as well as Southern men concerning them underwent 
many changes. The slavery propaganda carried along 
with it, in every new pretension, parties and politicians, 
Presidents and Congresses, and finally the Supreme 
Court, — the authoritative expounder of the Consti- 

The Democratic and many of the Eepublican union- 
ists of 1860-61, including Mr. Lincoln himself, found 


it easy to tolerate differences of opinion among them- 
selves, and were willing to preserve the Union by 
amendments to the Constitution, intended to fairly set- 
tle all disputed questions as to the true meaning of 
the original terms. On the 20th of January, 1861, 
Mr. Stanton wrote as follows to his friend, John F. 
Oliver, at Steubenville, Ohio : — 

I am very much obliged to you for your note of the 17th 
instant. It was the first information, and all that I have 
received as to the proceedings in Steubenville, in respect to 
the present state of public affairs. If the resolutions of your 
meeting were sanctioned by the Republican party in Congress, 
I think that the troubles that now disturb and endanger the 
country would speedily be removed. 

The Steubenville resolutions referred to approvingly 
in this letter were adopted at a meeting of citizens, 
assembled without regard to party, on the 15th of Jan- 
uary. They favored the border-state compromise pro- 
positions, and if these could not be had, then a war for 
the Union. These propositions were all subsequently 
indorsed by Mr. Lincoln, except the one to restore the 
Missouri Compromise line of 36° 30' as the boundary 
between slavery and freedom in all the Territories. 
Upon one to make slavery perpetual in the slave States 
Mr. Lincoln said in his inaugural address : — 

I understand a proposed amendment to the Constitution 
— which amendment, however, I have not seen — has passed 
Congress, to the effect that the federal government shall 
never interfere with the domestic institutions of the States, 
including that of persons held to service. To avoid miscon- 
struction of what I have said, I depart from my purpose not 


to speak of particular amendments, so far as to say that, 
holding such a provision to now be implied constitutional 
law, I have no objections to its being made express and irre- 
vocable. 1 

Mr. Lincoln was inflexibly opposed to making any 
concession on the territorial question, by which slavery 
could occupy any newly acquired territory ; but he 
wrote to Thurlow Weed, December 17, 1860, that he 
might say for him, to a convocation of governors, that 
he thought " all opposition, real and apparent, to the 
fugitive slave clause ought to be withdrawn," and to 
Mr. Seward he wrote February 1, 1861, after again 
asserting his unalterable opposition to slavery exten- 
sion : — 

As to fugitive slaves, District of Columbia, slave trade 
among the slave States, and whatever springs of necessity 
from the fact that the institution is amongst us, I care but 
little so that what is done be comely, and not altogether 

1 The proposed amendment to the Constitution here referred to by 
Mr. Lincoln was known as the Corwin amendment, and was as follows : — 

" Be it resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United 
States of America, in Congress assembled, two thirds of both Houses concur- 
ring, — 

"That the following Article be proposed to the legislatures of the 
several States as an amendment to the Constitution of the United States, 
which, when ratified by three fourths of said legislatures, shall be valid 
to all intents and purposes as a part of the said Constitution, namely : — 

"Art. XIII. No amendment shall be made to the Constitution which 
will authorize or give to Congress the power to abolish or interfere 
within any State with the domestic institutions thereof, including that 
of persons held to labor or service by the laws of said State." 

This joint resolution passed the House on the 28th of February by a 
vote of 133 to 65. It passed the Senate on the 2d of March by a vote of 
24 to 12. 


outrageous. Nor do I care about New Mexico, if further 
extension were hedged against. 

The motives which actuated Democratic and Kepub- 
lican unionists in thus offering their several plans for 
an amicable settlement of the great conflict were in 
the highest degree patriotic. They sought to give 
Southern unionists ground on which to stand. They 
believed the advocates and defenders of slavery would 
prevail, if united, and they sought to divide them. 
Confronted with a revolution against the lawful author- 
ities, they felt the necessity of resting their own feet 
firmly upon the rock of the law. They did not deem 
it wise to meet revolution with counter-revolution. 

The cause of the Union was still dear to a large 
portion of the people in some of the slave States. The 
secessionists were endeavoring to show them that 
unionism and abolitionism were convertible terms, and 
that only outside of the Union would their slave pro- 
perty be safe. On the other hand, the unconditional 
unionists were laboring with equal zeal and energy to 
satisfy them that the laws for the protection of slavery 
would be as faithfully enforced as other laws within 
the Union. If ten slave States should secede and suc- 
ceed in establishing a new confederacy, the remaining 
five would be powerless to prevent the adoption by the 
sixteen free States of an amendment to the Constitu- 
tion abolishing slavery. To place the border State 
slave-holders beyond the reach of this apprehended 
danger and incentive to secession was the object of 
those who favored the proposed Corwin amendment, 


making slavery perpetual unless terminated by its own 

Mr. Seward wrote to Mr. Lincoln December 16, 
I860: — 

The action of the border States is uncertain. Sympathy 
there is strong with the cotton States, while prudence and 
patriotism dictate adhesion to the Union. Nothing could 
certainly restrain them but the adoption of Mr. Crittenden's 
compromise, and I do not see the slightest indication of its 
adoption on the Republican side of Congress. 

The only proposition of Mr. Crittenden's to which 
Mr. Lincoln objected was that which looked to a rees- 
tablishment of 36° 30 r as a line below which slavery 
should be permitted in newly acquired territory. Mr. 
Stanton thought, with Mr. Seward, that there was no 
certainty of preventing the secession of the border 
States with any less concession than this. Of the then 
existing Territories, only Arizona and New Mexico 
would have been affected by it. Stanton was not 
ready then to peril the existence of the Republic upon 
a struggle, on one side of which were those who were 
for the Union with or without slavery, and on the 
other all who were for slavery with or without the 
Union. Had such a division been forced at that time, 
the result would have been extremely doubtful, with 
the probabilities against the Union and in favor of 

Abraham Lincoln was willing to place the nation 
under perpetual bonds to keep the peace towards sla- 
very, and even to see that institution extended into 
New Mexico, rather than see the Union go down, or 


even to encounter the perils of a war for its preser- 
vation. He preferred the Union with slavery to no 
Union. Mr. Stanton was willing to add to Mr. Lin- 
coln's offer the extension of slavery into Arizona, and 
into any new territory that might be acquired south 
of 36° 30'. Both were intensely devoted to the Union, 
and sought its preservation by peaceful means ; and 
both were unconditionally for its preservation, whether 
with or without slavery, by any means that resistance 
to its authority might render necessary. 

Kepublicans there were who preferred separation 
either to war or to further concessions to slavery. Had 
they prevailed, the slaves in the seceding States would 
have been doomed to a bondage as hopeless as that 
proposed in the constitutional amendment forbidding 
any abolition amendment; and it cannot be doubted 
that all of the slave States would then have seceded. 
These advocates of a peaceable separation would, of 
course, have flourished better politically in a free 
Northern Confederacy, but their success would have 
indefinitely delayed the ultimate triumph of the cause 
of human freedom. 

The unconditional unionists knew as well as did the 
unconditional disunionists, that the Union and slavery 
could not both long exist. The former were willing to 
trust to the logic of events to deal with slavery, while 
they battled for the Union. Union slave-holders there 
were who loved their country more than they did their 
slave property, and it was a wise policy as well as sim- 
ple justice to give them a voice in determining the best 
means to be employed, and the best tone to be adopted, 


for strengthening the Union cause in the border slave 
States. Dismal as was the outlook apparently for the 
slave, there seemed good ground for hope that if the 
nation marshaled its power against secession and rebel- 
lion only, the supporters of slavery would divide, and 
that ultimately those of them whose patriotism mean- 
while stood fire would consent to cripple the enemy by 
every means known in civilized warfare, including, if 
need be, the liberation of their slaves. Good faith to- 
wards this element was the best policy for the govern- 
ment, for they knew best how to widen the breach 
which secession was making among the slave-holders, 
and were interested in making the most of such know- 

If the results of this so-called border state policy 
seem to have been meagre in the way of proselytizing 
slave-holders to the Union cause, they were of vital 
and controlling importance in building up at the North 
a Union party irrespective of previous political affilia- 
tions. Stanton, Holt, Douglas, Dix, Butler, Dickinson, 
Grant, Sherman, Sheridan, Logan, and Thomas were 
representative men of the great body of Union Demo- 
crats who would not have enlisted in an anti-slavery 
crusade as the counterpart of the secession movement. 
They were incensed against lawbreakers, and whatever 
their views may have been as to the system of slavery, 
they saw it in its legal aspect only, and felt that it 
could not then be menaced without doing violence to 
the majesty of the law, to uphold which the nation was 
about to be called to arms. 

If patriotism went before humanity with the Union 


Democrats, so it did with the main body of the Repub- 
licans, who were pledged as a party not to disturb 
slavery in the slave States. When the time came for 
slavery to die that the nation might live, none saw it 
earlier or declared for it with more alacrity than men 
like Stanton, who in those days were stigmatized as 
" pro-slavery " Democrats by some pro-slavery Whigs. 


Expiration of Buchanan's Administration. — Summary of his Course 
towards the South. — Stanton's Great Influence upon him. 

The administration of Mr. Buchanan expired without 
having either surrendered or reinforced the two remain- 
ing Southern forts, Sumter and Pickens. The legacy 
it left was a hostile nation on a war footing within the 
limits of the United States, and a powerful faction in 
the adhering States denying the right of the government 
to return the blows its enemy was openly preparing to 
deliver. The Southern leaders, however, heeded the 
warning of the President, speaking through Secretary 
of War Holt, February 6, that an attack upon Fort 
Sumter would be regarded as an act of war, which the 
government would meet with all its powers. The assault 
was postponed, and Anderson's little garrison still 
pinned the Palmetto State, frantic with rage, to the 
Union from which, with much pomp and circumstance, 
she had declared herself free. 

There is no reason to believe that Mr. Buchanan was 
willing to see the Union dismembered, or that he was 
conscious of having given dangerous aid or encourage- 
ment to the secession cause. He was infatuated with 
the idea that slavery had been greatly injured by all 
who had questioned any of its demands, and seemed to 
imagine that its upholders could be placated by being 


told so by him. Ignoring the fact that the Republi- 
cans had been voted into power, he continued, probably 
from sheer force of habit, to argue that it was their 
duty to renounce their principles, as an inducement to 
the defeated political South to acquiesce in the result 
of a presidential election and to remain in the Union. 
Unable to discard the political prejudices of years, he 
adhered to and proclaimed them at the expense of his 
reputation, at a time when they but added to the exas- 
peration of the hour. 

After he had finally made a stand against the inad- 
missible demands of the secessionists, and had formally 
approved the movement of Anderson into Fort Sumter, 
no act or omission of his deserved unfriendly criticism. 
Had his course from the beginning been as clear of 
offense as it was from and after the 10th of January, 
his anxiety to avoid a collision would have been ap- 
proved. The country would then have believed that it 
was founded on solicitude for the Union, and not for 
the Southern cause. When this same policy was con- 
tinued by Mr. Lincoln, — as it was, — none thought of 
attributing it to a want of patriotism. Mr. Buchanan 
was distrusted rather for the advance of false doctrines 
at first, and for the far-reaching consequences of such 
action, with which he was fairly chargeable, than for 
any subsequent enforcement of those political heresies, 
— for of this he was innocent. The unionists were not 
offended because of his failure to provoke collision or 
war with the South, at a time when the country was all 
unprepared, but because he had encouraged the revolu- 
tionary faction, by declaring that the government could 

The house where he died 


not constitutionally defend itself against a rebellion, 
except at the back of a United States Marshal with a 
writ in his hand. 

Mr. Stanton's influence in the councils of Mr. Buchanan 
had been instant and controlling. The President had, 
before his entrance into the Cabinet, been guided to a 
dangerous extent by Southern political friends, who had 
suddenly been transformed from the arrogant leadership 
of a dominant party to the management of the treason- 
able conspiracies which necessarily precede rebellion. 
It was difficult for him to immediately realize that some 
of his most trusted counselors and supposed personal 
friends were, in very fact, traitors, plotting for the 
overthrow of the nation he was sworn to defend. He 
had allowed General Cass to resign rather than break 
with these men. Black and Holt had been unable to 
reverse the tendency which was thus drifting him to 
final ruin, and threatening the safety of the government. 
Not until Stanton entered his councils was he aroused 
to a sense of his duty and of his danger. 

Stanton instantly changed the tone of debate, and, in 
a cabinet discussion as to the binding force of a shuf- 
fling unofficial agreement to leave Sumter unprotected, 
thundered out the blunt truth to Floyd and Thompson, 
that they were advocating the commission of a crime 
for which, if committed, they ought to be hanged, and 
were urging the President to an act of treason for 
which, if performed, he could be impeached, removed 
from office, and punished under the penal code. Floyd, 
who had up to that very time posed as a unionist, now 
appeared in his true character, and gave up the contest 


by resigning. Thompson soon followed on a false pre- 
tense, and Thomas, Cobb's successor, followed him. 
The President surrounded himself with a patriotic Cabi- 
net, and thus escaped the fate false friends had been 
preparing for him. 




1861. — The Accession of Mr. Lincoln. — The Situation. — Jeal- 
ousy and Distrust among the Unionists. 

The Republican party made its advent into power in 
1861 under difficulties and hindrances not easy to be 
understood by the present generation. Not the least 
of these were its own inconsistencies and incongruities. 
Its principles were shifting and its purposes vague. 
Appealing to the highest humanity against the system 
of slavery, it confessed itself bound by the Constitution 
to tolerate that system, and pledged itself to obedience. 
A sufficient number of its Senators and Representatives 
in Congress voted with others to carry through that 
body in 1861, by the requisite two-thirds' vote, a 
proposed amendment to the Constitution, which, if 
adopted, would have forbidden any further amendment 
to that instrument on the subject. Mr. Lincoln gave 
this his sanction in his inaugural, although he had pre- 
viously declared that agitation on the subject of slavery 
would never cease until the system had been placed 


where the public mind would rest in the belief that it 
was in the course of ultimate extinction. Organized 
upon the main proposition that slavery must be ex- 
cluded from the Territories by congressional enactment, 
it abandoned that policy the first time it had the power 
to enforce it. It organized Colorado, Nevada, and 
Dakota Territories with no restriction against slavery 
in either of them, and allowed a slave-code to remain 
undisturbed upon the statute-book of the Territory 
of New Mexico. Kallying the people in some of the 
States by loud denunciations of the iniquities of the 
Fugitive Slave Law, its great leader signalized his 
induction into the presidency by adding to his oath of 
office a specific pledge that the odious law should be 
enforced. Thus it came in, promising to chain the 
emotions and suppress the aspirations to which it owed 
success, and lost its identity before it took the reins of 

It was made up of heterogeneous elements, between 
the leaders of which hostilities broke out before the 
Cabinet had been formed. Whig and Democratic 
" war-horses," who bore the scars of many a political 
battle in which they had been arrayed against each 
other, were now united in one party, agreed only on 
the policy of saying enough against slavery to secure 
the favor of the anti-slavery men of the North, just 
as they had, ten years before, in their respective par- 
ties, pursued the policy of doing enough in favor of 
slavery to secure the support of the slave-holders of the 
South. The party had created hopes among sincere 
anti-slavery men which it would have been lawless to 


fulfill, and had aroused fears among tbe defenders of 
slavery which it felt called upon to allay in the interest 
of peace and the safety of the Union. Within its 
ranks were every shade and variety of opinion on the 
slavery question, as well as every degree of indifference 
on the subject. In the Cabinet sat Chase, a pioneer of 
the Liberty party, and Blair, the head of the " clay- 
bank " Republicans of the slave State of Missouri. It 
had met with no tolerance at the hands of its enemies, 
and had exhibited none for them. Its orators and 
writers had a copious vocabulary of expletives for op- 
ponents, such as " slave-drivers " and " doughfaces," 
and in turn it was derided as a party of " negro- 
worshipers " and " black Republicans.'' It embraced 
most of the radical anti-slavery element which had for 
years advocated the dissolution of the Union as an 
escape from continued Northern responsibility for " the 
sin of slavery," and all who had joined their ranks in 
later years as nullifiers of the Fugitive Slave Law. 

The secession movement now developed a new ele- 
ment, headed by prominent Republican leaders, like 
Greeley and Chase, who thought that a Union of non- 
slave-holding States only would be preferable to any 
attempt to maintain by force the Union with the slave 
States. The Republican party was, by this element, 
placed under suspicion of caring less for the whole 
Union than for so much of it as they could with cer- 
tainty control. 

The Union Whigs who had voted for Bell, and the 
Union Democrats who had voted for Douglas, — num- 
bering, together, nearly a hundred thousand more than 


those by whose votes Mr. Lincoln had been elected, — 
were exasperated by defeat, irritated by the reproaches 
of the extremists, North and South, and inclined to 
force the new administration to some concessions. 
They clamored for new security for the property rights 
of the slave-holders, many of whom were earnestly pro- 
testing against disunion. 

Union men there were who had voted for Brecken- 
ridge ; but the main body of his supporters were 
Southern secessionists or their Northern sympathizers. 
Those of them who were for the Union proved the 
sincerity of their patriotism by boldly advocating " all 
means to crush," since conciliation had failed. They 
felt keenly the ingratitude of the South, which would 
leave them naked to their political enemies. They had 
not hoped for success at the presidential election, but 
some of them had assurances that, after defeat, the 
Southern leaders would join them in an appeal to the 
Democratic party to unite for the campaign of 1864 
on the doctrine of the Breckenridge wing, to wit, that 
slavery should be protected by the federal government 
wherever not excluded by state laws. They labored 
for a peaceful settlement, and parted reluctantly with 
those of their associates who, one after another, took 
their stand for disunion. But they did part with them, 
and were as resolute and reliable in their patriotism as 
any men of that period. 

Not only the several parties, but factions within each 
party, looked with distrust upon each other. The 
Republicans were bewildered by the conflicting views 
of their leaders, and by what seemed non-committalism 


on the part of the President himself. From his inau- 
guration on the 4th of March until the firing on Fort 
Sumter on the 12th of April, the country was agitated 
by doubts as to the intentions of the administration 
towards the Southern confederacy, which was all that 
time under full and uninterrupted operation as a de 
facto government. The purpose to hold the remain- 
ing forts within the rebel States was announced in 
the President's inaugural, but semi-official givings out 
seemed to indicate that this purpose had been aban- 
doned. Negotiations with the rebels, similar to those 
which Mr. Buchanan had been drawn into by one 
portion of his Cabinet, and led out of by another, 
were now resumed with Mr. Lincoln's Secretary of 
State, through the medium of justices of the Supreme 
Court ; 1 and it seemed as though the ship of state 
was drifting upon the rocks more rapidly under the 
Republican than it had under a Democratic admin- 
istration. Nothing occurred which, in the light of 
subsequent history, leaves the slightest doubt upon 
any mind as to the inflexible purpose of Mr. Lincoln 
throughout, to preserve the Union ; but in his extreme 
desire to demonstrate to the world the nation's forbear- 
ance, and to force the South into the attitude of ag- 
gressors, if war they would have, he unavoidably risked 
much. At the North he endangered the morale of the 
Union element whenever he seemed to them to waver, 
while in the South, to borrow his own expression of a 
later period, there was danger that his magnanimity 
migh be mistaken for pusillanimity, and the enemy be 
thereby made bolder and stronger. 

1 Nelson and Campbell. 


The prevailing feeling among those Union men who 
were not Republicans was that the latter had endan- 
gered the Union by an outcry against slavery, as an 
evil for which they had no remedy to propose, and that 
it was now their duty to pacify those slave-holders who 
were not secessionists by a surrender of some of the 
opinions on which they had triumphed at the polls. 

Mr. Lincoln met all these conditions with admirable 
temper and marvelous skill. He did not stoop to con- 
quer ; he conquered by rising high above the smoke of 
the political battle just fought, and beyond the din of 
the party chiefs who were fighting it over again. His 
inaugural was so broad that not only could all Union 
men stand upon it, but its thrilling peroration told of 
still further room there, where, if they would, his " dis- 
satisfied fellow-countrymen " might gather without loss 
of pride, or danger to their real interests. 

But the fierce antagonisms of party were not to be 
ended in a day. Not until the country should be 
stung by an insult to its flag, and assailed by armed 
rebellion, could even the most patriotic of the opposi- 
tion be counted on to openly and unreservedly uphold 
the hands of the President. Even then it took a long 
time for some Democrats to learn that they could not 
serve the cause of the Union and oppose the adminis- 
tration in power ; and it took some Republicans a long 
time to learn that they could not save the Union with- 
out aid, and that there were patriots outside of their 
party organization. Some of both classes never learned 
the needed lesson at all. 


Surrender of Fort Sumter favored by the Lincoln Cabinet. — Effect 
of Supposed Non-Resistant Policy of Mr. Lincoln on Union Demo- 
crats. — Mr. Stanton as a Representative Man of this Class. — 
His Letter to a Friend in 1861 on the Union Question. — His Aid 
or Advice not sought by the Republican Administration. — Did 
not meet Lincoln while President until he was appointed Secretary 
of War. — The Hostility between Republicans and Union Demo- 
crats explained. — Bombardment of Fort Sumter. 

Letters of Mr. Stanton written at this time show the 
distrust and dislike with which the new administration 
was regarded by him. They show, too, a good deal of 
party spirit, — much more than would be looked for 
by those who knew of his great services to the country 
afterwards, as Mr. Lincoln's Secretary of War. The 
toleration of Republicans by Union Democrats was a 
plant of slow growth, and Mr. Stanton was no excep- 
tion among his fellows. The toleration of Union Demo- 
crats by Republicans was equally slow in its develop- 
ment, and many were permanently lost to the Union 
cause by the mere fact of finding themselves under 
unjust suspicion. Mr. Stanton wrote to Mr. Buchanan 
March 10 that he was perfectly satisfied Major Ander- 
son would be withdrawn from Fort Sumter, and that 
Fort Pickens in Florida would also be evacuated. He 
was, he said, convinced by the general tone prevailing 
in Washington that there was not the least design to 


attempt any coercive measures. On the 12th he wrote 
that it was the universal impression in Washington that 
Sumter and Pickens would both be surrendered. A 
morning paper at the capital had stated that this course 
had been determined on at the cabinet meeting of 
March 9. 

Messrs. Nicolay and Hay, in their biography of Lin- 
coln, say that, on that day, " after four days' consider- 
ation by the Lincoln government and extended discus- 
sion in a cabinet meeting, the loss of Sumter seemed 
unavoidable, and the rumor was purposely given out to 
prepare the public mind if the need should finally come 
for the great sacrifice." They also assert that on the 
15th of March, for the first time, the Cabinet voted on the 
question, — five voting to evacuate and two to attempt 
to supply. The five were Seward, Cameron, Welles, 
Smith, and Bates. The two were Chase and Blair. 

Mr. Montgomery Blair, then Postmaster-General, in 
a letter dated May 17, 1873, mentions the fact that the 
way was at one time prepared for the surrender of the 
fort by statements in the press that it was untenable. 1 

But although the Cabinet voted in favor of the sur- 
render of Sumter, Mr. Lincoln never gave the order. 
From the time the rumor of its intended evacuation was 
put forth, on the 9th, to prepare the public mind for 
the humiliating event, the current of patriotic opinion 
was overwhelmingly against it, and he respected the 
voice of the people so given. 

Mr. Stanton looked upon the prospect of abandoning 
Fort Sumter with unqualified disfavor. If it was a 

1 Lincoln and Seward, by Gideon Welles, page 65. 


military impossibility to hold that fort against an attack, 
it was, in view of the condition of the public mind at 
that time, a supreme political necessity that it should 
be held until taken by force. Evacuation would be 
regarded as a recognition of the independence of South 
Carolina, and therefore as a consent by the govern- 
ment to peaceable disunion. If the Union was to be 
preserved, it must be either by the consent of the rebels, 
or by their forcible subjection to national authority. It 
was wise for the government not to be the aggressor, 
but this did not necessitate saving the rebels from being 
the aggressors by retreating before they advanced. 

Mr. Stanton's letters during the early months of Mr. 
Lincoln's administration exhibit a fierce contempt for 
the greed for office which seemed to him oblivious of 
the national peril, and a thorough distrust of the capacity 
of the new President and his advisers to cope with the 
enemy. He even seemed at times to have contemplated 
the possibility of a total shipwreck. 

He wrote March 10 : " The scramble for office is ter- 
rific." On the 15th : " The pressure for office con- 
tinues unabated. Every department is overrun, and 
by the time that all the patronage is distributed, the 
Republican party will be dissolved." On the 16th : 
"Lincoln, it is complained in the streets, has undertaken 
to distribute the whole patronage, small and great, leav- 
ing nothing to the chiefs of the departments." 

Of the Supreme Court vacancy, he wrote on the 
14th: — 

There has been no further action in respect to the Supreme 
judgeship. It is generally understood that Crittenden will not 


be nominated. Judge Campbell has reconsidered his determi- 
nation and will not resign immediately. The court adjourns 
to-day. I am now writing in the Supreme Court room. If 
the court ever reassembles, there will be considerable change 
in its organization. Judge Grier went home sick two days 
ago. Judge McLean is reported to be quite ill. Lincoln 
will probably (if his administration continues four years) 
make a change that will affect the constitutional doctrines of 
the court. 

Concerning the tariff^ he wrote on the 16th : — 

The Kepublicans are beginning to think that a monstrous 
blunder was made in the tariff bill, and that it will cut off 
the trade of New York, build up New Orleans and the 
Southern ports, and leave the government no revenue , they 
see before them the prospect of soon being without money 
and without credit. 

April 3 he wrote to Mr. Buchanan : — 

Although a considerable period has elapsed since the date 
of my last letter to you, nothing has transpired here of 
interest but what is fully detailed in the newspapers. Mr. 
Toucey left here last week. Judge Black is still in the city. 
General Dix made a short visit at the request of the Sec- 
retary of the Treasury. Mr. Holt, I think, is still here, but 
I have not seen him for several days. You of course saw 
Thompson's answer and Mr. Holt's reply. I have not had 
any intercourse with any of the present Cabinet, except a few 
brief interviews with Mr. Bates, the Attorney-General, on 
business connected with his department. Mr. Lincoln I 
have not seen ; he is said to be very much broken down with 
the pressure that is upon him in respect to appointments. 
The policy of the administration in respect to the seceding 
States remains in obscurity. There has been a rumor for 
the last two or three days that notwithstanding all that has 


been said, there will be an effort to reinforce Fort Sumter, 
but I do not believe a word of it. The special messenger, 
Colonel Lamon, told me that he was satisfied it could not 
be done. The new loan has been bid for at better rates than 
I anticipated ; and I perceive General Dix was one of the 
largest bidders at the highest rates. The new tariff bill 
seems to give the administration great trouble ; and luckily 
it is a measure of their own. The first month of the ad- 
ministration seems to have furnished an ample vindication of 
your policy, and to have rendered all occasion of other defense 
needless. The rumors from Richmond are very threatening ; 
secession is rapidly gaining strength there. 

On April 11 he wrote to Mr. Buchanan : — 

There is great " soldiering " in town the last two days. 
The yard in front of the "War Office is crowded with the dis- 
trict militia, who are being mustered into service. The feel- 
ing of loyalty to the government has greatly diminished in 
this city. Many persons who would have supported the gov- 
ernment under your administration refuse to be enrolled. 
Many who were enrolled have withdrawn and refused to 
take the oath. The administration has not acquired the 
respect and confidence of the people here. Not one of the 
Cabinet or principal officers has taken a house or brought 
his family here. Seward rented a house "while he should 
continue in the Cabinet," but has not opened it, nor has his 
family come. They all act as though they meant to be ready 
to " cut and run " at a minute's notice, — their tenure is like 
that of a Bedouin on the sands of the desert. This is sensi- 
bly felt, and talked about by the people of the city, and they 
feel no confidence in an administration that betrays so much 
insecurity. And besides, a strong feeling of distrust in the 
candor and sincerity of President Lincoln and of his Cabinet 
has sprung up. If they had been merely silent or secret there 
might have been no ground of complaint. But assurances 


are said to have been given and declarations made in conflict 
with the facts now transpiring in respect to the South, so 
that no one speaks of Lincoln or any member of his Cabi- 
net with any respect or regard. 

The facts about Sumter it is impossible to ascertain, for 
the reasons that have been mentioned, for no one knows 
what to believe. The nearest conjecture I can form is 
this : — 

1st. That the Baltic has been sent with provisions for 

2d. That the Powhatan has been sent with forces to land 
and attack the batteries. 

3d. That a secret expedition, independent of General 
Scott, has been sent, under charge of Fox, to make an effort 
to land in the night at Sumter. 

The refusal to admit Captain Talbot to Sumter may pre- 
vent concert of action with Major Anderson, and I think the 
whole thing will prove a failure. There is no excitement 
here. People are anxious, but the sensation telegrams sent 
from here are without foundation. It is true, however, that 
Ben McCullough has been here on a scouting expedition, and 
he carefully examined all the barracks and military posts in 
this city, and said that he expected to be in possession of the 
city before long. He stayed all night at Dr. Gwin's. This 
has a business aspect. It is believed that a secession ordinance 
will be passed by the Virginia convention to-day. 

Nothing; could better illustrate the attitude towards 
the new administration, at that time, of the Union men 
who were not Eepublicans than these letters of Mr. 

Under the administration of Mr. Buchanan, during 
the months of November and December, the nation had 
seemed to be in the throes of dissolution ; but in Janu- 


ary and February, with a reconstructed Cabinet, it had 
given signs of life and vigor. The surrender of Fort 
Sumter had been refused ; the rebel South Carolina 
commissioners sent home in disgrace ; and those who 
sent them were told that if they wanted Fort Sumter, 
they could have it only by taking it, and that in taking 
it they would have to inaugurate civil war. It was 
not doubted that they could take it before adequate 
defense could be provided, but the idea of surrender- 
ing without resistance was spurned by the government 
of the United States, even under the administration of 
James Buchanan. 

Those Democrats who believed the Union to be inde- 
structible, and who did not believe that separation was 
preferable to war, read, therefore, with amazement 
and indignation in the administration daily papers, five 
days after Mr. Lincoln's inauguration, the semi-official 
announcement that Sumter was to be evacuated on the 
ground of military necessity. It seemed like a procla- 
mation that the South was to be permitted to conquer 
without receiving a blow in exchange for those it had 
already administered upon the patient and enduring 
cheek of the nation. No hint accompanied it of any 
hope that " military necessity " would at any time com- 
pel the rebellion to check its march or lower its 
standard. The nation was literally lying " supinely 
on its back, while its enemies bound it hand and foot." 
The agony of suspense with which the patriotic people 
had looked forward during the winter to a change of 
administration was intensified by the new uncertain- 
ties, instead of being relieved by the announcement 


of a positive and vigorous policy. The warlike blows 
struck at the nation during the winter by the seizure 
of its forts, and the firing on the steamer Star of the 
West, were not only still borne with a patient shrug, 
as before, but it was now given out that the govern- 
ment would escape a repetition of them by flight. A 
war of rebellion would be made unnecessary if all that 
was claimed by rebels in arms was thus to be yielded 
to them by piecemeal. They only wanted to be " let 
alone," for the new confederacy would then lack no- 
thing of actual and entire independence. 

The government, under Mr. Buchanan, had only 
been bridging over the short remaining term of his 
official life. There was some reason in his not pre- 
cipitating a war, for the conduct of which he would 
not be responsible. He had lost his opportunity to 
strangle the rebellion at its birth, and had, indeed, 
early nursed it with nutritious promises of immunity 
from resistance. He was aroused too late to a realiza- 
tion of its plans, purposes, and power, and could then 
only avoid the final collision, and turn the government 
over in as good condition as possible to his successor. 
But none had supposed that the Republican adminis- 
tration would be even more undecided than its prede- 
cessor had been in its weakest hour, or that men newly 
invested by the people with the nation's power would 
be found temporizing with a faction which was in rebel- 
lion because it had been repudiated at the polls. 

Mr. Stanton was one of the men who were angry 
and disgusted at the situation. He believed that the 
Union was stronger than all its foes, and much as he 


preferred a peaceful solution of existing troubles, he 
was for meeting force with force and not with sur- 
render. The spirit which animated him was expressed 
in a letter written by him in January preceding to an old 
friend who had congratulated him on his appointment 
by Mr. Buchanan as Attorney-General. He wrote : — 

Your kind letter was received this morning, and I thank 
you for the confidence and regard it expresses for myself. 
You are right in supposing it to be my determination to do 
everything in my power to preserve and maintain this govern- 
ment, and the Constitution under which the United States 
have been so j)rosperous. The means you indicate, I agree 
with you, are the proper ones for this emergency ; and so 
far as it is possible they will be exerted. I have undoubting 
faith that this government cannot be overthrown — that it 
was ordained of God, and that the powers of hell cannot pre- 
vail against it. We may have trouble ; the city of Washington 
may be captured ; but every effort will be made to prevent 
that catastrophe, and even if it does happen the revolutionists 
will be as far as ever from accomplishing the destruction of 
the government, — but much nearer to their own destruction. 

Notwithstanding the willing testimony of Republican 
leaders to Mr. Stanton's patriotic zeal and courage, 
during the secession winter, while a member of Mr. 
Buchanan's Cabinet, it does not appear that his aid or 
advice was sought by the new administration during 
the year 1861. Indeed, we have his own statement 
that he never once met Mr. Lincoln during 1 all the 
period intervening between the 4th of March, 1861, 
and the 15th of January, 1862. 

No personal reason need be sought to explain the 


lack of community of feeling between Union Repub- 
licans and Union Democrats at that time. Equally 
patriotic in intent, they were equally unable to do 
each other justice. They entertained for each other 
feelings of contempt, distrust, and dislike. 

It is difficult for this generation to comprehend 
how the spirit of party swayed the most ardent Union 
men in those days. The Republicans thought their 
party entitled to the advantage given it by its neces- 
sary identification with the patriotic cause, and were 
inclined to regard as disloyal all who were not willing 
to enlist in their party ranks, and under their party 
name. The Union Democrats denied the right of the 
Republican party to seek a partisan advantage in the 
approach of a civil war. They thought the largest 
Union party could be rallied under their lead, and that 
if the country was to be saved, it must be by a grand 
uprising of the people of all parties. They feared that 
to drop the name of " Democracy " would taint the 
party with "black Republicanism," and lose to its 
support hundreds of thousands of men who would not 
be Union men unless they might still call themselves 
" Democrats." The victorious Republicans, of course, 
naturally refused to entertain the idea of adopting the 
names of their opponents or of dropping their own. 
And so the struggle for precedence went on. The 
leaders of each party hoped to rally the masses to 
their own standard, and to leave the opposing leaders 
without followers. All were endeavoring to reconcile 
their intense partisanship with their equally intense 


Such were the currents of public feeling when the 
rebel authorities made good the declaration of their 
commissioners at Washington, — that the attempt to 
provision Fort Sumter would be treated by them as 
an act of war. The notification of April 8 to Gov- 
ernor Pickens of such an intention on the part of our 
government was followed by the rebel bombardment 
of that fort on the 12th of April, 1861. President 
Lincoln immediately issued a call for 75,000 volunteers 
to fight for the cause of the Union. 


The Attack on Sumter. — Stanton on the Outlook. — His Want of 
Confidence in Mr. Lincoln. — The Reasons for it. — Mr. Bu- 
chanan declares his Allegiance to the Union Cause. 

On the day of the bombardment of Fort Sumter, 
April 12, Mr. Stanton wrote to Mr. Buchanan as 
follows : " We have the war upon us. The telegraphic 
news of this morning you will have seen before this 
reaches you. The impression here is held by many, 
1st, that the efforts to reinforce will be a failure ; 
2d, that in less than twenty - four hours from this 
time Anderson will have surrendered ; 3d, that in 
less than thirty days Davis will be in possession of 

Mr. Stanton's apprehension for the safety of the 
national capital may well have been grounded upon 
the ready aggressiveness of the rebels, and the unready 
and temporizing policy of the new administration. For 
more than thirty days he had seen the Cabinet groping 
in the darkness of indecision, — nerveless and purpose- 
less, — afraid to advocate the defense of the country, 
and afraid to let the country know they were afraid. 
General Scott had advised the surrender of whatever 
positions could not be held without force. The nation 
seemed to be drifting towards an opportunity for the 
scheme favored by many of a national convention of all 


the States. Such a convention would probably have 
decided into how many confederacies the nation should 
be divided, if the South still resisted moral suasion, and 
insisted upon being allowed, as General Scott phrased 
it, like "wayward sisters" to "depart in peace." 

The early halting movements of Mr. Lincoln's ad- 
ministration caused many patriotic men who, like Stan- 
ton, were not wedded to it by party ties, to withhold 
from it their confidence, and to criticise it in terms 
which now seem harsh and unjust. To such men the 
attack on Sumter appeared to have precipitated a war 
for which the government had no place in its calcula- 
tions. General Sherman, in his " Memoirs " (page 168), 
expresses this view in the following account he gives of 
a call he made on President Lincoln late in March, 1861, 
when his brother John introduced him, saying : " Mr. 
President, this is my brother, Colonel Sherman, who is 
just up from Louisiana ; he may give you some infor- 
mation you want." 

Ui Ah,' said Mr. Lincoln, 'how are they getting along 
down there ? ' I said, l They think they are getting 
along swimmingly — they are preparing for war.' c Oh 
well,' said he, c I guess we '11 manage to keep house.' I 
was silenced, said no more to him, and we soon left. I 
was sadly disappointed, and remember that I broke out 
on John, d — ning the politicians generally, saying, 
' You have got things in a hell of a fix, and you may 
get them out as best you can,' adding that the country 
was sleeping on a volcano that might burst forth any 

Nothing could better illustrate the provoking calm- 


ness and apparent insensibility to facts which per- 
vaded the government circles at that time than this 
brief colloquy between Lincoln and Sherman, just prior 
to the action of the "volcano" to which the latter 

Stanton's gloomy forebodings of disaster, in his letter 
above quoted, seemed warranted by the conditions then 
existing. To some minds it seemed likely that the na- 
tion would be subjugated before its rulers could realize 
that it was in any danger. Why the national capital 
was not seized at the beginning of the rebellion, as Mr. 
Stanton predicted it would be, is an unexplained mys- 
tery. Hemmed in between two slave States, inhabited 
mainly by a slave-holding and secession-sympathizing 
population, and with no preparations for defense which 
could for a moment compare with the force that could 
any day be thrown against it, it seemed only awaiting 
the hour when its possession should seem desirable to 
the enemy. 

Mr. Buchanan, from his home in Wheatland, wrote 
to General John A. Dix, April 19 : — 

The present administration had no alternative but to accept 
the war initiated by South Carolina or the Southern Confed- 
eracy. The North will sustain the administration almost to a 
man ; and it ought to be sustained at all hazards. 

To Mr. Stanton, he wrote, May 6 : — 

The first gun fired by Beauregard aroused the indignant 
spirit of the North as nothing else could have done, and made 
us a unanimous people. I had repeatedly warned them that 
this would be the result. 


In " The National Intelligencer " (Washington), May 
16, a patriotic letter from Mr. Buchanan appeared in 
support of the defensive war measures adopted by the 
administration. By public utterances, as well as in 
private correspondence, he seemed to have taken his 
stand as an unreserved supporter of the Union cause. 


The Two Uprisings. — One for the Union, and the Other for Slavery. 
Radicals and Conservatives. — Discontent among Union Men. — 
Mr. Stanton's Trenchant Criticisms of the Administration in 
Private Letters. 

The attack on Sumter was the signal of two mighty 
uprisings, which stirred to their utmost activity the 
centripetal forces of national pride and patriotism, and 
the centrifugal forces of local interest and passion. 
Positive men responded with alacrity to the call, and 
ranged themselves, some on the side of unconditional 
devotion to the Union, and some of unconditional devo- 
tion to the institution of slavery, and incidentally to 
the dogma of state sovereignty. 

The insult to the flag carried with it a sense of per- 
sonal insult and outrage to all who were Unionists 
without an " if," and made them resolve on the humili- 
ation of those who had thus defied the nation's 
authority, and challenged it to mortal combat. On the 
other hand, equally resolute were those who were deter- 
mined that the institution of slavery should not be sub- 
jected to any abatement of its rights or pretensions 
under an administration avowedly opposed to some of 
those pretensions, and to them disunion seemed its only 
protection. Outside of these two classes were hundreds 
of thousands who were stunned and dazed by the colli- 


sion between slavery and the Union, to the defense of 
both of which they were strongly committed, and be- 
tween the claims of which they knew not how to 
choose. To secure the support of these, the earnest 
men of both sides at once put forth every effort. The 
rebel leaders strove to convince them that slavery was 
safe only outside of the Union. The Union men sought 
to satisfy them that it had always been amply protected 
within the Union, and would continue to be. Only 
those who lived in slavery days can realize the terrible 
force of public opinion on the subject. Sympathy with 
Abolitionists was angrily disclaimed by Republicans, 
but they could not rid themselves of the taint. The 
danger to the Union cause was that with many the 
love of country would not be a motive strong enough 
to overcome the dread of the opprobrium that would 
attach to those who would serve it under a "Black Re- 
publican " President. 

Great Union meetings were held, officered, and ad- 
dressed by Union men, without regard to their party 
relations. The most imposing of these, as it was one of 
the earliest on a large scale, was held in New York city. 
It was called by a Union committee, of which John A. 
Dix was chairman. To him Mr. Stanton wrote April 
23: — 

This will be handed you by Mr. Andrews, with whom you 
are acquainted. He will inform you of the state of affairs 
here ; they are desperate beyond any conception. 

If there be any remedy — any shadow of hope to preserve 
this government from utter and absolute extinction — it must 
come from New York without delay. 


Kepublicans might well be pardoned if they remem- 
bered the hard words of the preceding fall and winter, 
and if, so remembering, they came slowly to believe in 
the unadulterated patriotism of opponents who had pre- 
dicted disunion as the natural result of Republican 
victory. But they had to surrender such doubts when 
prominent Democrats like Douglas, Dickinson, Butler, 
Stanton, Logan, Dix, Holt, and others came forward, 
calling on the patriots of all parties to stand by the 

The President's call for troops was responded to with 
alacrity, and he had to select generals to command 
them. This was the first test of the extent to which 
the war was to be made to appear in any manner sub- 
servient to party interests. The Republican party men 
could of course all be relied on to sustain the President 
of their choice. But how would the Democrats stand 
the fire of a rebel-sympathizing press at the North, ridi- 
culing volunteers as " Lincoln's hirelings," and denoun- 
cing the war for the Union as an "Abolition war," and 
all who favored meeting force with force as "Black Re- 
publicans " ? The answer to this question was largely 
dependent upon the extent to which the new adminis- 
tration would exhibit confidence in the men who were 
willing to be thus denounced by old party friends for 
their devotion to the flag. It was not in human nature 
for men to join hands with political opponents for a 
patriotic purpose, if they were to be received coldly 
as if with distrust. A Union party, and not merely a 
recruited Republican party, was felt to be necessary for 
the safety of the country. This necessity was met in 


due time, but not until after much discontent had been 
caused by an apparent tendency to give Republicans too 
largely the preference in the bestowal of honors. John 
A. Dix wrote complainingly to Mr. Buchanan, May 28, 
1861: — 

Ever since I wrote you last, I have been busy night and 
day, and am a good deal worn out by my labors on the Union 
Defence Committee, and by superintending the organization 
and equipment of nine regiments, six of which I have sent to 
the field, leaving three to go to the field to-morrow and the 
day after. The post of Major-General of Volunteers was 
tendered to me by Governor Morgan, and I could not decline 
without subjecting myself to the imputation of hauling down 
my flag, a thing altogether inadmissible. So I am in harness 
for the war, though the administration takes it easy, for I have 
not yet been accepted, and there are rumors that there are too 
many Democratic epaulettes in the field. There seems to be 
no fear at Washington that there are too many Democratic 
knapsacks. New York has about 15,000 men at the seat of 
war without a general, except Sanford, who has gone on tem- 
porarily. How is it, my dear sir, that New York is always 
overlooked (or nearly always) except when there are burdens 
to be borne ? As to this generalship, it was unsought, and I 
am indifferent about it entirely. I am willing to give my 
strength, and life if need be, to uphold the government against 
treason and rebellion. But if the administration prefers some 
one else to command New York troops, no one will acquiesce 
half so cheerfully as myself. 

On the 8th of June, Mr. Stanton wrote to Mr. 
Buchanan : — 

While every patriotic heart has rejoiced at the enthusiastic 
spirit with which the nation has aroused to maintain its exist- 


ence and honor, the peculation and fraud that immediately 
sprung up to prey upon the volunteers and grasp the public 
money as plunder and spoil has created a strong feeling of 
loathing and disgust. And no sooner had the appearance of 
imminent danger passed away, and the administration recov- 
ered from its panic, than a determination became manifest to 
give a strict party direction, as far as possible, to the great 
national movement. After a few Democratic appointments, 
as Butler and Dix, everything has been devoted to Black 
Republican interests. This has already excited strong reac- 
tionary feeling, not only in New York, but in the Western 

General Dix informs me that he has been so badly treated 
by Cameron that he intends immediately to resign. This will 
be followed by a withdrawal of financial confidence and sup- 
port to a very great extent. Indeed, the course of things for 
the last four weeks has been such as to excite distrust in every 
department of the government. The military movements, or 
rather inaction, also excite great apprehension. It is believed 
that Davis and Beauregard are both in this vicinity, — one at 
Harper's Ferry, and the other at Manassas Gap, — and that 
they can concentrate over sixty thousand troops. Our whole 
force does not exceed forty-five thousand. It is also reported 
that discord exists between the Cabinet and General Scott in 
respect to important points of strategy. Our condition, there- 
fore, seems to be one of greater danger than at any former 
period, for the consequence of success by the secessionists 
would be far more extensive and irremediable than if the 
capital had been seized weeks ago. Ould is reported as 
having gone off and joined the secessionists. Harvey, the 
new minister to Spain, it is discovered was a correspondent 
with the secessionists, and communicated the designs and 
operations of the government to Judge McGrath. It is sup- 
posed he will be recalled. Cassius Clay has been playing the 
fool at London, by writing letters to the "Times," which that 


paper treats with ridicule and contempt. The impression 
here is that the decided and active countenance and support 
of the British government will be given to the Southern Con- 
federacy. Mr. Holt is still here, but I seldom see him. I 
should have visited you, but dare not leave town even for one 
night. Our troops have slept on their arms nearly every 
night for a week, anticipating attack. 

June 11, Mr. Stanton wrote to General Dix : — 

It gives me great pleasure that in the midst of arduous 
duties you still bear me in kind remembrance. The meeting 
of the 24th of April in New York has become a national 
epoch ; for it was a manifestation of patriotic feeling beyond 
any example in history. To that meeting, the courage it in- 
spired, and the organized action it produced, this government 
will owe its salvation if saved it can be. To the general 
gratification of the country at your position as Chairman of 
the Union Committee, there was added in my breast a feeling 
of security and succor that until that time was unknown. No 
one can imagine the deplorable condition of this city and the 
hazard of the government who did not witness the weakness 
and panic of the administration, and the painful imbecility of 
Lincoln. We looked to New York in that dark hour, as our 
only deliverance under Providence, and, thank God, it came. 
The uprising of the people of the United States to maintain 
their government and crush rebellion has been so grand, so 
mighty in every element, that I feel it a blessing to be alive 
and witness it. The action of your city especially filled me 
with admiration, and proves the right of New York to be 
called the Empire City. But the picture has a dark side — 
dark and terrible — from the corruption that surrounds the 
War Department, and seems to poison with venomous breath 
the very atmosphere. Millions of New York capital, the time, 
strength, and perhaps lives of thousands of patriotic citizens 
will be wanted to gorge a ravenous crew. On every side the 


government and soldiers are pillaged. Arms, clothing, trans- 
portation, and provisions are each and all subjects of pecula- 
tion and spoil. On one side the waves of treason and rebellion 
are madly dashing ; on the other is a yawning gulf of national 
bankruptcy. Our cause is the greatest that any generation 
of men were ever called upon to uphold — it would seem to 
be God's cause, and must triumph. But when we witness 
venality and corruption growing in power every day, and con- 
trolling the millions of money that should be a patriotic sacri- 
fice for national deliverance, and treating the treasure of the 
nation as a booty to be divided among thieves, hope dies away. 
Deliverance from this danger must also come from New York. 
Those who are unwilling to see blood shed, lives lost, treasure 
wasted in vain, must take speedy measures to reform the evil 
before it is too late. 

Of military affairs I can form no judgment. Every day 
affords fresh proof of the design to give the war a party 
direction. The army appointments appear (with two or three 
exceptions only) to be bestowed on persons whose only claim 
is their Republicanism, — broken-down politicians without 
experience, ability, or other merit. Democrats are rudely 
repelled or scowled upon with jealous and ill-concealed aver- 
sion. The Western Democracy are already becoming dis- 
gusted, and between the corruption of some of the Republican 
leaders and the self-seeking ambition of others, some great 
disaster may soon befall the nation. How long will the 
Democracy of New York tolerate these things ? 

The navy is in a state of hopeless imbecility, and is be- 
lieved to be far from being purged of the treachery that has 
already occasioned so much shame and dishonor. 

In respect to domestic affairs, Mrs. Stanton and I hoped to 
visit New York last month, but the critical state of affairs 
made it hazardous to leave our children, and we could not 
take them with us. With the enemy still at our gates, we 
cannot venture to leave home. 


The Battle of Bull Eun. — Stanton's Views at the Time. — McClel- 
lan called to the Command in Virginia. 

The call for troops which followed the attack on Fort 
Sumter in April was fiercely assailed by the enemy as 
an executive usurpation, and many good Northern 
people could not readily abandon their long-cherished 
habit of going to Southern statesmen for an opinion 
whenever a constitutional question was presented. To 
convince those timid minds that the Constitution did 
not forbid the exercise by the nation of the law of self- 
preservation became an imperative necessity as it was a 
difficult task. The strongest leaders of public opinion 
in the North and on the border found themselves put 
on the defensive by men whose overt acts of treason 
seemed to be lost sight of by many, in what appeared 
to them to be the still greater offense of opposing the 
attempt upon the nation's life, by measures declared by 
the assailants to be unconstitutional. Such was the 
power of audacity over minds long accustomed to com- 
pliance with its demands. While the early summer was 
being devoted to satisfying these weak Union men that 
it was entirely constitutional to return rebel blows, and 
that it would not be an invasion of foreign soil for 
federal troops to be quartered anywhere within the ter- 
ritorial limits of the United States, these self-evident 


propositions, by the very reason of their discussion, 
seemed in July still to be open questions. 

Notwithstanding the establishment of a government 
de facto in the Southern Confederacy, and its vigorous 
preparations for war ; and notwithstanding the acts of 
war already committed in the seizure of unresisting 
federal forts ; the attack on the Star of the West ; 
the bombardment and capture of Fort Sumter, and the 
almost complete expulsion of the federal government 
from within the limits which the new Confederacy had 
prescribed for itself, but slight resistance had yet been 
made to its onward march. Delay was said to be ne- 
cessary to enable our raw recruits to have some instruc- 
tion. But people could not help realizing that the rebel 
forces were likewise raw recruits, and it was discoura- 
ging that the rebellion should, even at the outset, appear 
so much more formidable than the government. 

Under these circumstances the feverish impatience of 
the Unionists reached its limit ; the advance of McDowell 
in Virginia in the middle of July was made because the 
government could not longer stand passive before their 
passionate and unyielding demand that something be 
done to indicate that the long parley was ended, and 
that there were to be two sides to the war then already 

The shock of battle came on the 21st of July, result- 
ing in the flight of our troops from the field at Bull 
Run, while the enemy, also defeated, failed to pursue. 1 

1 General Sherman, who commanded a brigade in the affair, thus gives 
his opinion of it in his Memoirs (page 181) : — 

" We had good organization ; good men, but no cohesion, no real disci- 


But the Unionists knew nothing of a drawn battle ; 
they knew only of the road from Manassas to the 
capital crowded with Union soldiers, fleeing when none 
pursued, and they deeply felt the humiliation. There 
was much criticism of the administration and much 
abuse of those who had led in the cry of " On to Rich- 
mond ; " but the general result was most beneficial to 
the Union cause. It brought the people and the gov- 
ernment to a realizing sense of the conflict before them, 
and did much to prepare them for whatever efforts and 
sacrifices were finally to be the price of the perpetuity 
of the Union. 

General McClellan, who had just won a great deal of 
reputation by his operations in western Virginia, was 
at once called to the command, which he assumed July 
27, 1861. War had not presented to him the grim 
visage with which it had confronted McDowell in the 
East. He had been operating against skirmishing par- 
ties in a mountainous region, where the main body of 
the people were either friendly or indifferent to his cause. 
McDowell had started through an intensely hostile popu- 
lation on a march to Richmond, and had met the main 
forces of the rebellion planted directly across his path. 
But McClellan had the prestige of success, and his great 
popularity gave him the power to be of incalculable 

pline, no respect for authority, no real knowledge of war. Both armies 
were fairly defeated, and whichever had stood fast, the other would have 
run. Though the North was overwhelmed with mortification and shame, 
the South really had not much to boast of, for in the three or four hours 
of fighting, their organization was so broken up that they did not and 
could not follow our army when it was known to be in a state of disgrace- 
ful and causeless flight." 


service to the government at that time. The national 
pride had been severely wounded, and the loyal people 
were impatient for the healing effect of a victory for 
the federal arms. Their confidence in McClellan was 
such, however, that they were prepared to wait until the 
army should reach a condition, as to strength and disci- 
pline, which in his opinion would justify a forward 

Immediately after the battle of Bull Run, Mr. Stanton 
wrote to his brother-in-law, C. P. Wolcott : — 

Affairs in Washington are to some degree recovering from 
the horrible condition exhibited on Monday and Tuesday — 
the disorganized rabble of destitute soldiers is being cleared 
from the streets by slow degrees, the army officers are not 
swarming so thickly in the hotels and taverns, and are per- 
haps beginning to join their men. The enemy have advanced 
to Fairfax, and their pickets extend some miles this side — 
but their movements are as impenetrated a mystery as before. 
Why they did not take possession of the city, as they might 
have done without serious resistance on Monday and Tuesday, 
is a marvel. The " Tribune " struck a mighty blow on Tues- 
day at the cause of this and all the other late disasters. The 
effort to cast the blame on the " White Plume of Navarre " 
(McDowell) proves a ridiculous failure. The confident 
boastings of the Grand Army's march were too recent to be 
forgotten. McDowell is flat at present, but who knows the 
same influence may pick him up again ? Great expectations 
are had of McClellan. But will he not be thwarted by Scott's 
jealousy and cabinet intrigues at every step ? There may be 
some reason to fear that his arrival will be retarded by 
General Lee. 

With all the calamity that is upon us, I still do not by any 
means despair of the Eepublic. The power of endurance, I 


think, will prove equal to the occasion, and if our people can 
bear with this Cabinet, they will be able to support a great 
many disasters. 

The loss in killed and wounded will probably not exceed 
four hundred. The chief loss is in the prisoners and disor- 
ganization of the troops. Until a large portion of the officers 
are purged off, and their places supplied by earnest, capable 
men, not much will be accomplished. 

I shall be glad to hear from you. Give my compliments to 
Mr. Greeley and Mr. Dana. 

To Mr. Buchanan he wrote, July 26 : — 

The dreadful disaster of Sunday can scarcely be mentioned. 

The imbecility of this administration culminated in that 
catastrophe ; an irretrievable misfortune and national disgrace 
never to be forgotten are to be added to the ruin of all peace- 
ful pursuits and national bankruptcy, as the result of Lincoln's 
" running the machine " for five months. 

You perceive that Bennett is for a change of the Cabinet, 
and proposes for one of the new Cabinet Mr. Holt, whose 
opposition to Bennett's appointment was bitter and intensely 
hostile. It is not unlikely that some changes in the War and 
Navy Departments may take place, but none beyond those 
two Departments until Jeff Davis turns out the whole con- 
cern. The capture of Washington seems now to be inevitable ; 
during the whole of Monday and Tuesday it might have been 
taken without any resistance. The rout, overthrow, and utter 
demoralization of the whole army is complete. Even now I 
doubt whether any serious opposition to the entrance of the 
Confederate forces would be offered. While Lincoln, Scott, 
and the Cabinet are disputing who are to blame, the city is 
unguarded, and the enemy at hand. General McClellan 
reached here last evening, but if he had the ability of Caesar, 
Alexander, or Napoleon, what can he accomplish? Will 


not Scott's jealousy, cabinet intrigues, and Republican inter- 
ference thwart him at every step ? While hoping for the best, 
I cannot shut my eyes against the dangers that beset this 
government, and especially this city. It is certain that Davis 
was in the field on Sunday, and the secessionists here assert 
that he headed in person the last victorious charge. General 
Dix is in Baltimore ; after three weeks' neglect and insult he 
was sent there." 

His reference to "Scott's jealousies" show that he 
thought General McDowell had not been supported 
earnestly. The " mighty blow " of the " Tribune " to 
which he alluded was that journal's severe criticism of 
the failure of General Patterson to move to McDowell's 
support, or to so engage Johnston as to prevent him 
from reinforcing Beauregard. Mr. Stanton evidently 
regarded the general-in-chief as responsible for this 
fatal blunder. 

These letters of Mr. Stanton were passionate ebulli- 
tions, not deliberate judgments. They were written 
while he was in a rage over a humiliating disaster to 
the Union cause. They were private letters to intimate 
friends of the Union side, in which he gave vent to his 
total want of respect for Mr. Lincoln and his advisers 
at that time. His hostility to them was not that of a 
partisan Democrat, but of an ardent Unionist, who 
thought they were not equal to the great occasion. It 
is needless to say that he corrected his opinion of Mr. 
Lincoln when he came to know him, as all men did who 
had ever doubted him. The men of 1861 knew not of 
the wisdom, prudence, and courage of their new Presi- 
dent. This was to become known as the duties of his 


office crowded upon him. That Mr. Stanton's aver- 
sion to him at that time was not because of any lack of 
patriotic earnestness is certain. Of his position at that 
period, Charles Sumner said, after referring to his 
course during the secession winter : — 

In the summer that followed, especially during the July 
session of Congress (1861), I was in the habit of seeing Mr. 
Stanton at his house in the evening and conferring with him 
freely. His standard was high, and he constantly spoke with 
all his accustomed power of our duties in the suppression of 
the rebellion. Nobody was more earnest than himself. Com- 
pared with him, the President and Congress seemed slow. 1 

1 Atlantic Monthly, April, 1870, letter to Henry Wilson. 


McClellan in Command of the Division of the Potomac. — Organiza- 
tion of the Army. — Fortifying the Capital. — Confidence reposed 
in him. — His Private Letters from August to November. — Gen- 
eral Scott retired and McClellan placed in Command of all the 
Armies. — Stanton's Relations with him at that Time. — Public 
impatience for Military Operations. — Joint Committee of Con- 
gress on the Conduct of the War, to investigate the Causes of the 
Inactivity of the Army. — Testimony of the Division Generals 
and others. — McClellan's Delay in appearing before the Com- 

McClellan was assigned to the command of the 
Division of the Potomac on the 27th of July. This 
division was created by an order issued on the 25th, 
and consisted of the Department of Northeast Virginia 
and the Department of Washington. These depart- 
ments were respectively under the command of General 
McDowell and General Mansfield. McClellan himself 
was, of course, subordinate to General Scott. In his 
official report he thus describes the conditions he found 
in and around Washington : — 

There was nothing to prevent the enemy from shelling the 
city from heights within easy range which could be occupied 
by a hostile column almost without resistance. Many soldiers 
had deserted, and the streets of Washington were crowded 
with straggling officers and men, absent from their stations 
without authority, whose behavior indicated a general want 
of discipline and organization. 


From this chaos the new commander was expected to 
bring order, — establishing the morale of the troops al- 
ready in the service, and organizing and instructing the 
troops that were rapidly enlisting in the loyal States. 

Congress was then in extra session, and did not 
adjourn until August 6. It validated the call for 
troops already made by the President, and called on the 
States for 500,000 volunteers ; at the same time appro- 
priating $500,000,000 for the support of the army, 
and authorizing loans for raising the money. 

The government and the people reposed full confi- 
dence in General McClellan's energy, ability, and patri- 
otism, and the immense resources of the country were 
placed at his disposal. 

It was conceded by all that active operations by the 
army would be wholly impracticable for some time 
to come. The Army of the Potomac was yet to be 
created. A system of fortifications for securing the 
capital, and rendering its defense possible by a small 
number of troops, had also to be accomplished. The 
defense of the capital, and not an advance upon the 
enemy, was the question with which General McClellan 
had first to deal. 

His correspondence with his wife, published in his 
" Own Story " in 1887, shows that he was much elated 
with his new position, and with the general confidence 
reposed in him. He said, July 27, 1861 : — 

I find myself in a new and strange position here. Presi- 
dent, Cabinet, and General Scott and all, deferring to me. 
By some strange operation of magic I seem to have become 
the power of the land. 


On the 30th he said, referring to a visit to the Sen- 
ate : — 

Was quite overwhelmed by the congratulations I received, 
and the respect with which I was treated. I suppose half a 
dozen of the oldest made the remark I am becoming so much 
used to : " Why, how young you look ; and yet an old sol- 
dier." It seems to strike everybody that I am very young. 
They give me my way in everything. Full swing and un- 
bounded confidence. All tell me that I am held responsible 
for the fate of the nation, and that its resources shall be 
placed at my disposal. 

The following extracts from the same correspondence 
constitute an outline of the history of the first six 
months of his command of the Army of the Potomac, 
as written by himself, and are here cited to show the 
conditions existing when Mr. Stanton became Secretary 
of War at the end of that time. 

August 2, he said : — 

I handed to the President to-night a carefully considered 
plan for conducting the war on a large scale. I shall carry 
this thing on en grande and crush out the rebellion in one 
campaign. I flatter myself that Beauregard has gained his 
last victory. 

August 8, he told of " a long interview with Sew- 
ard about my pronunciamento about General Scott's 

He said that General Scott was always in the way, 
adding: "He understands nothing; appreciates no- 

August 9, he said : — 

General Scott is the great obstacle. He will not compre- 


hend the danger. I have to fight my way against him. To- 
morrow the question will probably be decided by giving me 
absolute control, independent of him. I suppose it will 
result in enmity on his part against me, but I have no choice. 
The people call upon me to save the country. I must save 
it, and cannot respect anything that is in the way. 

I receive letter after letter, have conversation after conver- 
sation, calling on me to save the nation, alluding to the presi- 
dency, dictatorship, etc. As I hope one day to be united 
forever with you in heaven, I have no such aspirations. I 
would cheerfully take the dictatorship and agree to lay down 
my life when the country is saved. I am not spoiled by my 
new unexpected position. 

On the 16th of August he said : — 

I have no ambition in the present affairs. Only wish to 
save my country, but find the incapables around me will not 
permit it. They sit on the verge of the precipice and cannot 
realize what they see. They think everything impossible 
which is against their wishes. 

He seemed apprehensive of an attack by the enemy, 
but trusted to the heavy rains to postpone it. He 
thought in two weeks he could defy Beauregard. Four 
days later, August 20, he said : — 

I am gaining rapidly in every way. I can now defend 
Washington with almost perfect certainty. In a week I 
ought to be perfectly safe, and be prepared to defend all 
Maryland ; in another week to advance our position. 

On the 25th he said that the dangerous moment had 

September 6, he said : — 

If B. (Beauregard) attacks now, he would inevitably be 


defeated with terrible loss. I feel now perfectly secure 
against any attack. The next thing will be to attack him. 

No attack followed. Later in September he said : — 

I inclose a card just received from A. Lincoln, which shows 
too much deference to be seen outside. 

October (no date) he said : — 

We shall be ready to-morrow to fight a battle there (Mun- 
son's Hill) if the enemy should choose to attack, but I don't 
think they will care to run the risk. I presume I shall have 
to go after them, when I get ready, but this getting ready is 
slow work with such an administration. I wish I were well 
out of it. 

And again : — 

I am becoming daily more disgusted with this administra- 
tion ; perfectly sick of it. 

October 6, he said : — 

Preparations are slow, and I have an infinite deal to do 
before my army is really ready to fight a great battle. Wash- 
ington may now be looked upon as quite safe. They cannot 
attack it in front. My flanks are also safe, or soon will be ; 
then I shall take my own time to make an army that will be 
sure of success. 

I do not expect to fight a battle near Washington ; proba- 
bly none will be fought until I advance, and that will I not 
do until I am fully ready. My plans depend upon circum- 
stances. So soon as I feel that my army is well organized, 
well disciplined, and strong enough, I will advance and force 
the rebels to a battle in a field of their own selection. A 
long time must elapse before I can do this, and I expect all 
the newspapers to abuse me for delay, but I will not mind 


October 10, he said : — 

I was obliged to attend a meeting of the Cabinet at eight 
p. M., and was bored and annoyed. There are some of the 
greatest geese in the Cabinet I have ever seen ; enough to tax 
the patience of Job. 

October (no date) he said : — 

I am finally determined to force the issue with General 
Scott. A very few days will determine whether his policy 
or mine is to prevail. He is for inaction and the defensive. 
He endeavors to cripple me in every way, yet I see that the 
newspapers begin to accuse me of a want of energy. 

October 26, he told of a conference with Senators 
Wade, Trumbull, and Chandler about war matters, and 
said : — 

They will make a desperate effort to-morrow to have Gen- 
eral Scott retired at once. 1 Until this is accomplished, I can 
effect but little good. He is ever in my way and I am sure 
desires no action. I want to get through with the war as 
rapidly as possible. 

On the 1st of November, 1861, General Scott retired 
and General McClellan was placed in command of all 
the armies of the United States. This additional honor 
bestowed on him, and the confidence in him which it 
exhibited, seemed only to increase his contempt for the 
President and his counselors, for, sixteen days later, he 
wrote to his wife : — 

It is sickening in the extreme and makes me feel heavy at 
heart to see the weakness and unfitness of the poor beings 
who control the destinies of this great country. 

1 He seemed at that time willing to have " the politicians dictate " as 
to the command of the army. 


These extracts are General McClellan's only explana- 
tions for the inaction of the forces under his command, 
late in the autumn of 1861, when the weather was 
fine, the Virginia roads good, and the army well pre- 
pared for action. He was professing to be eager for 
an advance of our armies, and only restrained by the 
imbecility of the President and his advisers, including 
General Scott ; from these he had successfully appealed 
to leading " Radicals " like Wade and Chandler to aid 
him in getting General Scott out of the way. 

He appears to have succeeded in impressing Mr. 
Stanton with the belief that this was his real attitude, 
and found in him a firm friend. He tells us that he 
was " first introduced to Mr. Stanton a few weeks after 
reaching Washington, as a safe adviser on legal points." 
They became very friendly. On the 17th of Novem- 
ber Mrs. Stanton wrote to Edwin L. Stanton concern- 
ing his father as follows : — 

The papers give him the credit of being General McClel- 
lan's confidential adviser. Their relations appear to me about 
the same as when you were at home. 

McClellan on that day wrote to his wife : — 

I shall try again to write a few lines before I go to 
Stanton's to ascertain what the law of nations is on this 
Slidell and Mason seizure. 1 

Later in the same month (date not given) he wrote 
to his wife as follows : — 

I have been at work all day nearly on a letter to the Secre- 
tary of War (Cameron) in regard to future military opera- 

1 Seizure of the British mail steamer Trent by Admiral Wilkes, with 
Slidell and Mason on board. 


tions. I have not been at home for some three hours, but am 
concealed at Stanton's to dodge all enemies in the shape of 
browsing Presidents, etc. 

One a. m. — I am pretty thoroughly tired out. The paper is 
a very important one, and is intended to place on record that 
I have left nothing undone to make this army what it ought 
to be and that the necessity for delay has not been my fault. 
I have a set of men to deal with unscrupulous and false. If 
possible, they will throw whatever blame there is on my 
shoulders, and I do not intend to be sacrificed by such 
people. . . . 

I cannot guess at my movements, for they are not within 
my control. I cannot move without more means, and I do 
not possess the power to control those means. The people 
think me all-powerful. Never was there such a mistake. I 
am thwarted and deceived by these incapables at every turn. 
I am doing all I can to get ready to move before winter sets 
in, but it now begins to look as if we were condemned to a 
winter of inactivity. If it is so the fault will not be mine ; 
there will be that consolation for my conscience, even if the 
world at large never knows it. 

This letter shows that General McClellan was chafing 
under the complaints that were then being made among 
the people because of no military movements. It is 
important to note that he wrote it in Mr. Stanton's 
house, where he was concealed to u dodge " the Presi- 
dent. All day he had been writing a letter to the 
Secretary of War, Mr. Cameron, to go on record, in 
which he was laying the blame for the inaction of the 
army at the door of the " false and unscrupulous men " 
who were, according to his account, refusing him the 
means, without which the army could not be moved. 
In this he could only have had reference to the Presi- 


dent and his Cabinet, and especially to Mr. Cameron, 
then Secretary of War. The fact that he found 
asylum in Mr. Stanton's house while indicting this 
letter, and that there he felt secure from any interrup- 
tion by " enemies," is an indication that the former was 
not at that time (late in November, 1861) one of those 
who believed him to be at fault. We have already 
seen that Mr. Stanton had no confidence in the admin- 
istration, and that he was in the habit of expressing his 
views freely. General McClellan says that to him Stan- 
ton opposed the President, the administration, and the 
Eepublican party with extreme virulence, but he adds : 
" As he always expressed himself as in favor of putting 
down the rebellion at any cost, I always regarded these 
extreme views as the ebullitions of an intense and 
patriotic nature." 

Certainly the inertia of the army was well calculated 
to arouse public indignation against whoever was re- 
sponsible for it. The press reflected the public impa- 
tience ; but few were disposed to attack the popular 
idol then in command of the army, when it was so 
much easier to blame the President and the War 

November went by without any indication that a 
forward movement was contemplated. December came 
and Congress assembled, representing the people whose 
homes had been decimated to produce the vast army 
now in camp, and whose substance was maintaining it. 
The country had become exceedingly anxious over the 
inexplicable delay, and demanded to know whether it 
was a necessity, and if not, who was at fault. The 


public feeling made itself manifest in Congress and 
took the form of an inquiry into the conduct of the 
war. A joint committee of the Senate and House was 
appointed for that purpose, consisting of Senators 
Benjamin F. Wade of Ohio, Zachariah Chandler of 
Michigan, and Andrew Johnson of Tennessee, and 
Representatives D. W. Gooch of Massachusetts, John 
Covode of Pennsylvania, George W. Julian of Indiana, 
and Moses F. Odell of New York. Its duty was to 
ascertain by all the evidence it could obtain the condi- 
tion of the army, what had been accomplished by it, 
and whether all had been done that could reasonably 
have been expected of it. If it had fallen short of 
such expectations it would examine into and report the 
cause therefor, placing the responsibility where it was 
found to belong. If the general in command had not 
received proper support at the hands of the Executive 
the people must know it. If the War Department had 
been lacking in vigor of administration, then the cen- 
sure should fall there. If the general had received 
adequate materials of war, and with an army equal to 
the serious work before him, had given it no more 
difficult task than to stand in review and shout huzzas 
for him as he galloped up and down the lines, then 
the illusion must be dispelled and the blame fall upon 

Under our constitutional government Congress has 
the sole power to declare war and to govern the army. 
It was in the exercise of this undoubted power and 
duty that Congress undertook an inquiry into the con- 
duct of the war, which thus far had been fruitful only 


in disaster, and seemed now to have settled down per- 
manently to the defense of a besieged capital. 

On Saturday, the 21st of December, the chairman 
was directed to inform General McClellan of the unani- 
mous desire of the committee to have an interview with 
him at the capital. He appointed the 23d for the pur- 
pose, but when the day arrived pleaded illness as a 
reason for not keeping the engagement. It was not 
until the 15th of January, twenty-five days later, that 
he finally appeared before them. During the time 
which intervened a great deal of history had been 
written, in the form of testimony given before the 
committee by Generals McDowell, Heintzelman, Keyes, 
Porter, Franklin, Richardson, Wadsworth, Meigs, Lan- 
der, Slocum, Barnard, and others. The result of this 
inquiry was the discovery that the fortifications around 
Washington were not properly garrisoned ; that no 
council of war or other meeting of the generals had 
been held for consultation with the general-in-chief, 
and that the latter had not consulted, or even con- 
versed, with any of his division generals, except Fitz 
John Porter and W. B. Franklin, upon the subject 
of operations by the army. These two generals testi- 
fied that they knew something of General McClellan' s 
plans, but declined to state what they were without his 
permission. The general opinion of the military wit- 
nesses was that the army could and ought to make a 
movement against the enemy without further delay. 
General Franklin was emphatic in his expression of 
this opinion, and he was second only to Fitz John 
Porter in the favor of General McClellan. General 


Porter said the army was not ready to move ; it had 
not what was requisite to move with ; but he declined 
to explain further. He stood alone in this opinion. 

It was evident that no present movement was con- 
templated by General McClellan ? and it was equally 
evident that he did not intend to inform either the 
President or Congress whether or not he had in view 
any plan of operations whatever for the immense army 
which had been placed under his command. 




Stanton's Appointment as Secretary of War. — Without Previous 
Consultation with him. — Stanton consults McClellan before 
accepting. — Reasons for the Appointment. — Comments on the 
Appointment by Men of Distinction. — Stanton's Conception of 
the Duties of his Office. 

On the 13th of January, 1862, President Lincoln, 
without previous consultation with him, nominated Mr. 
Stanton to the Senate to be Secretary of War. The 
two men had not met since the former's inauguration, 
and did not meet until Stanton presented himself on 
the loth to receive his commission. 

General McClellan states that Stanton called upon 
him immediately upon being nominated, to confer with 
him as to his acceptance, and gives the following ac- 
count of the interview : — 

He said that acceptance would involve very great personal 
sacrifices on his part, and that the only possible inducement 
was that he might have it in his power to aid me in putting 
down the rebellion, by devoting all his energy and ability to 
my assistance, and that together we could soon bring the war 
to a close. If I wished him to accept he would do so, but on 


t> in 
fa w 

^ O 



my account only. He had come to know my wishes and de- 
termine accordingly. I told him I hoped he would accept the 
nomination. 1 

General McClellan was a Democrat, and many of his 
friends at Washington were Union men of Democratic 
antecedents. Mr. Stanton was one of these. 

It was wise in Mr. Lincoln to call into his Cabinet at 
this juncture a Union Democrat of Mr. Stanton's char- 
acter and reputation. Through such a representative 
man the whole body of Union Democrats in the coun- 
try would soon learn whether it was a Republican 
President or a Democratic general who was inviting 
political and financial disaster, and foreign interven- 
tion, by a failure to use the army which the uprising of 
a great people had provided to crush out the rebellion. 

From the 21st of December until the 14th of Janu- 
ary the Committee on the Conduct of the War had 
been unable to secure the attendance before them of 
General McClellan ; but on the last-named day, he 
informed them of his readiness to confer with them. 
This date, it will be observed, was coincident with Mr. 
Stanton's call upon him, informing him of his nomina- 
tion as Secretary of War. McClellan appeared before 
the committee on the 15th. The record states that 
" some time was passed in a full and free conference 
between him and the committee in relation to various 
matters connected with the conduct of the present 

On the same day the nomination of Mr. Stanton was 
confirmed by the Senate ; he was commissioned at once, 

1 McClellan's Own Story, page 153. 


but did not enter upon the duties of his office until Jan- 
uary 20th. 

The appointment of Mr. Stanton was not made on 
party or personal considerations; nor was it made to 
gain personal support for the President in the Cabinet, 
or for his methods in the prosecution of the war ; for 
no man of note had more freely expressed his disap- 
probation of those methods, or been more lavish of 
expressions of dislike for the President himself, than 
had Mr. Stanton. He was appointed because, in ad- 
dition to his great ability, his restless energy, and his 
absolute honesty, he was an unconditional Unionist of 
the Democratic faith, and his appointment would be a 
proof to the country that Mr. Lincoln regarded the 
war as the people's war, and not that of a party. His 
personal relations with General McClellan were known 
to be good, and it was hoped that his administration 
of the War Department would set in motion the army, 
the inactivity of which the general in command had 
attributed to a want of support from the Executive. 

The positive qualities exhibited by Mr. Stanton as 
Attorney-General, during the latter part of Mr. Buch- 
anan's administration, had placed him high in the esti- 
mation of the patriotic leaders. The agents of the 
press promptly spread before their readers information, 
obtained from those who had been in contact with him 
during the secession winter, of his patriotism, will, and 
courage, and the country hailed his accession to the 
War Department as proof that an aggressive policy 
against the rebellion had at last been determined on. 

From all parts of the country, and from citizens in 


various stations in life, came letters not of formal con- 
gratulation, but of intense satisfaction. Following are 
extracts from a few of them. The Hon. Joseph Holt, 
who had served with him in the Cabinet of Mr. Buch- 
anan, wrote to the lieutenant-governor of Ohio as 
follows : — 

The selection of Hon. Edwin M. Stanton as Secretary of 
War has occasioned me unalloyed gratification. It is an im- 
mense stride in the direction of the suppression of the rebel- 
lion. So far as I can gather the popular sentiment, there is 
everywhere rejoicing over the appointment ; but that rejoicing 
would be far greater, did the people know, as I do, the cour- 
age, loyalty, and the genius of the new secretary as displayed 
in the intensely tragic struggles that marked the closing days 
of the last administration. He is a great man, intellectually 
and morally — a patriot of the true Roman stripe, who will 
grapple with treason as the lion grapples with his prey. We 
may rest well assured that all man can do will, in his present 
position, be done to deliver our poor bleeding country from 
the bayonets of the traitors now lifted against its bosom. 

Gen. Robert Anderson, the hero of Fort Sumter, 
thus expressed his feeling : — 

This morning's paper gives me the gratifying intelligence 
of your appointment as Secretary of War having been unani- 
mously confirmed by the Senate. You will undoubtedly re- 
ceive the congratulations of hosts of friends, but I venture 
to say that your nomination and confirmation will be heard 
by none with more heartfelt pleasure than they were by your 
sincere friend, etc. 

Governor Andrew of Massachusetts wrote a friend in 
Washington : — 


I am glad to see the high ability and former patriotic ser- 
vices of Mr. Stanton thus conspicuously recognized by the 

A letter from Stanton's old pastor, the Rev. H. Dyer, 

says : — 

On opening my morning paper this morning, the first 
thing that met my eye was your appointment as Secretary of 
War. I thank God for it, and I cannot help telling you how 
rejoiced I am at it. It has been a source of constant and 
sincere regret that any political necessity should have pre- 
vented at the outset the nomination of yourself, Mr. Holt, 
and Mr. Dix as members of Mr. Lincoln's Cabinet. 

Gen. John A. Dix wrote Stanton from Baltimore : — 

If, as they say, you are Secretary of War, I do not 
congratulate you, but I congratulate the country and army 

Justice Grier of the Supreme Court wrote him as 
follows : — 

As soon as I passed the door of the Senate Chamber I was 
informed of your nomination. It was a secret no longer. 
Senators had freely communicated the fact. I afterwards 
met Nelson, Clifford, and Catron at Catron's room. They 
were talking of your nomination. All agreed you should 
accept ; that it would restore confidence in the nation ; your 
antecedents being known to the President, he should ask no 
pledge, you should give none, and require none at present ; 
the great Democratic party of the North and conservative 
Whigs (now a large majority) would support, strengthen, 
and hold you up ; that you are young, strong, and can bear 
labor, can do great good, and in this crisis your country de- 
mands every sacrifice of individual comfort. You can gain 


great glory if there be success to our arms, and can only- 
sink in the common ruin in case of defeat. I concur with 

Said Horace Greeley in the New York " Tribune : " — 
There is a very general conviction that the appointment of 
the new Secretary means business, and that it is not likely to 
be popular at Beauregard or Johnston's headquarters. We 
believe the general impression is for once in the right. No 
man ever entered upon the discharge of the most momentous 
public duties under more favorable auspices, so far as public 
confidence and support can create such auspices. In all the 
loyal States there has not been one dissent from the general 
acclamation which hailed Mr. Stanton's appointment as emi- 
nently wise and happy. The attempt at first made to repre- 
sent it as a triumph of border-State twaddling on the slavery 
question has been abandoned, and even disavowed in some 
quarters. The simple truth is that Mr. Stanton was not 
appointed to, and does not accept, the War Department in 
support of any programme or policy whatever, but the un- 
qualified and uncompromising vindication of the authority 
and integrity of the Union. Whatever views he may have 
respecting slavery will not be allowed to swerve him one hair 
from the line of paramount and single-hearted devotion to 
the national cause. If slavery or anti-slavery shall at any 
time be found obstructing or impeding the nation in its 
efforts to crush out this monstrous rebellion, he will walk 
straight on in the path of duty, though that path should lead 
him over or through the impediment, and insure its annihila- 

The public expects of Mr. Stanton an administration of 
remarkable energy and vigor, and this expectation will not 
be disappointed. This vigor will not be displayed in dicta- 
tion to the general-in-chief of our armies, nor in the prompting 
of a hasty or ill-advised offensive movement in any or every 


quarter. We feel assured that our military commander will 
find in Mr. Stanton a capable and zealous cooperator rather 
than a harsh critic or a lordly superior. But there are broad 
fields of public duty, peculiarly his own, in which we are con- 
fident Mr. Stanton will evince an energy and decision terrible 
to evil-doers, and first in importance among these is that of 
treason which wears the garb of Unionism, or at least pre- 
tends to abstain from acts of flagrant disloyalty. 

Mr. Stanton's predecessor, Simon Cameron, was a 
man of large experience and conceded wisdom in 
political and legislative affairs; but he was not Stan- 
ton's equal in the executive faculty, which, while keep- 
ing the main object in view, masters the knowledge of 
all details, divides the labor between wisely selected 
subordinates, and energizes their action by his own 
vigilant supervision, and by holding them to a strict 
accountability for their work. 

Mr. Stanton fully met all these requirements. He 
knew that upon the Secretary of War rested the vast 
responsibility of bringing to the highest state of per- 
fection the various instrumentalities in his department, 
through which alone the war power of the government 
could be exercised. Each bureau of that department 
was charged with duties, the neglect or slack perform- 
ance of which might be fatal to the success of our 
armies. The enlisting and equipment of soldiers, the 
furnishing them with supplies of food and clothing, 
munitions of war, and medical stores and transporta- 
tion, were all dependent upon the proper administration 
of the War Office. He rapidly acquired a knowledge 
of the methods by which these functions were per- 


formed, and the efficiency of the several bureaus charged 
with their performance. He supplemented their efforts 
with his own energy and with his own fertility in ex- 
pedients. He looked to it that the army should lack 
nothing which it was the duty of the government to 

He knew all the powers which, by the Constitution, 
are lodged with the government, and he wanted to see 
every one of them exercised to its utmost in the struggle 
with treason. In that instrument he found the war- 
making power granted to Congress without limit, and 
he found the President vested by Congress with full 
authority to do all that may be done in civilized 

He longed to see the President assert his whole 
authority and mass the nation's power, which, he firmly 
believed, no enemy could successfully resist. Animated 
by these convictions, and bent upon seeing them made 
the basis of the future action of the government, he 
entered upon the discharge of the duties of Secretary 
of War with all the energy and power of his nature. 


Mr. Stanton at Work. — Some of his Duties and Some of his An. 


It is impossible to convey any adequate idea of the 
daily work of the War Department at that time. In 
the vast army, military promotion was eagerly sought 
for by nearly every colonel and general in the field. 
As Mr. Lincoln graphically expressed it, " There were 
ten pegs where there was one hole to put them in." 
Senators and members of Congress, upon whose appro- 
bation the administration was dependent for war mea- 
sures and appropriations, had their earnest opinions in 
favor of the promotions of military officers from their 
own States ; governors, whose zeal in raising volunteers 
was so highly appreciated, had their views to urge; 
different clashing military coteries added to the num- 
ber of currents which set in upon the Secretary of War 
in an endeavor to control his action in recommending 
promotions. The great generals of the country, and for 
that matter the lesser ones too, also contributed their 
advice. Wealthy contractors, and sturdy beggars who 
desired to become contractors, sought to promote their 
advantage by aiding in the selection of officers with 
whom they were to be brought in contact. 

The hotels and bar-rooms of Washington swarmed 
with newly made generals, appointed upon influences 


which could not be ignored, and whose services, in 
some instances, were as valuable there as they would 
have been in the field had the army been in motion. 
The capital was a sort of loafer's paradise, if only 
the loafer wore stars or epaulettes. Officers obtruded 
themselves into the War Department, absenting them- 
selves from duty without leave, in order to apply in 
person for leave of absence. 

In addition to the official persons who flocked in 
upon Stanton, there came swarms of private persons 
on business, who wanted " just a word " with the Sec- 
retary, for information or profit. He always decided 
for himself whom he would see, when he would see 
them, and how much time he would give to each. 

In his private office he received those who had 
orders to come, or who, from their position or official 
relation to him, were entitled to admittance. There, 
too, he received visitors whose calls he deemed impor- 
tant. On his reception days, and at other times when 
it was possible, he was in the habit of coming out into 
the general office and stationing himself where but one 
person could converse with him at a time. The proces- 
sion then passed rapidly in front of him. It included 
high dignitaries, both civil and military. Each one 
soon understood that he must make his errand known 
without special privacy, without circumlocution, and in 
the briefest terms ; and unless he was ready to do this, 
he got no hearing at all. Having stated his case, the 
Secretary answered him instantly and decisively, yes or 
no. Having thus decided, he heeded no remonstrance, 
and tolerated no repetition of the request, but simply 


dismissed the case and the person together, hurried him 
on, and received the next one. This often led to bitter 
feelings against him, and by many who were disap- 
pointed or rebuffed he was regarded as tyrannical, 
arbitrary, and unjust. But he was there to decide, and 
not they. The business of the government had to go 
on. It was more important that he should keep up 
with it than that in every case he should make the 
right decision. Hundreds of frivolous requests were 
made, and dismissed merely because they were frivo- 
lous or purely personal. 

At these general levees he did not always listen to 
the people in the order of their reaching him in the 
line of the procession, but, looking over the assembled 
crowd, would call to him individuals whom he chose to 
hear at once. Sometimes it would be some person 
wholly unknown to him, upon whom his eye had rested 
with interest. 

But the Secretary's contact with the multitude of 
officials and private persons, wearing as it was and sub- 
jecting him, as it frequently did, to the importunities 
of men of strongest will and unlimited self-assertion, 
formed but a small portion of his hard work. He had 
daily consultations with the heads of the several bu- 
reaus in his department, requiring and receiving from 
each of them full information as to the demands that 
were being made upon them in the organization and 
equipment of the army, and their reports as to the 
thoroughness with which they had complied with these 
demands. He placed himself in touch with the com- 
mittees of Congress, which had to deal with military 


questions, and those committees looked to him largely 
for the shaping of measures necessary for calling out 
the strength of the nation in men and material for the 
prosecution of the war. The President, whose right 
arm he speedily became, was much in his department, 
going over the situation with him, and a council of mil- 
itary men advised them at times in the consideration of 
purely military matters. 

He aided the congressional Committee on the Con- 
duct of the War in giving their inquiries such direction 
as would bring out clearly the condition of the army 
and its equipment, and its fitness for active operations. 
The records of the committee show frequent requests 
for conferences with him and of meetings in response 
thereto. Adjoining his private office there was a tele- 
graph room, in which he spent much time every day, 
and often much of the night, communicating with gen- 
erals in the various commands, governors of States, and 
others having relations with the government. The 
President spent much time with the Secretary in this 


His First Official Order. — Care for Union prisoners. — Conference 
with the Committee on the Conduct of the War. — The Military- 
Situation made known to him through the Testimony of McClel- 
lan's Generals. — His First War Bulletin. — In this the President's 
Military Supremacy asserted. 

The first official order made by Mr. Stanton bears 
date of January 20, the day he entered upon his duties 
as Secretary of War. It was as follows : — 

No. 1. — Provisions for Union Prisoners, 

War Department, January 20, 1862. 

This department recognizes as the first of its duties to take 
measures for the relief of the brave men who, having im- 
periled their lives in the military service of the government, 
are now prisoners and captives. It is therefore, 

Ordered, — That two commissioners be appointed to visit 
the city of Richmond, Virginia, and wherever else prisoners 
belonging to the army of the United States may be held ; and 
there take such measures as may be needed to provide for the 
wants and contribute to the comforts of such prisoners, at the 
expense of the United States, and to such extent as may be 
permitted by the authorities under whom such prisoners are 

A few days later, the Keverend Bishop Ames of the 
Methodist Episcopal Church, and the Hon. Hamilton 
Fish of New York were appointed as such Commis- 


On the 30th of January, Secretary Stanton issued an 
order that officers and soldiers of the United States 
made prisoners of war should, during their imprison- 
ment, receive the same pay as if they were doing active 

It would be difficult to conceive of any method better 
adapted to reconcile the people to the sacrifices they 
were making than the issuance of these humane orders 
which would be read in every home of the North, sad- 
dened by the absence in the army of husbands, brothers, 
and sons. 

From the following entry in the official report of the 
proceedings of the Committee on the Conduct of the 
War, for January 20, it will be seen that Mr. Stanton 
was placed in communication with that committee on 
the first day of his actual service as Secretary of War. 

At eight o'clock p. m., the committee reported for session ; all 
the members present, and had a conference of several hours' 
duration with the Honorable Edwin M. Stanton, Secretary of 

At this conference the new Secretary was made 
acquainted with the military situation, as shown by the 
testimony already taken before the committee. We 
have seen from that testimony that General McClellan 
consulted none of his generals except Porter and Frank- 
lin ; that all of them except Porter declared that the 
army was, and had long been, in condition for an ad- 
vance upon the enemy, and that it ought to take the 
offensive ; that it could not be discovered that General 
McClellan had any plan, or that he contemplated any 


movement ; and, finally, it was evident that his attitude 
was that of persistent inactivity, and of sullen defiance 
towards Congress and the administration. 

This was not the McClellan into whose confidence 
Stanton supposed he had been taken. To him, and 
before the country at large, McClellan had successfully 
posed as an impatient warrior, chafing under the restraint 
that was keeping him from the field. Late in the pre- 
ceding November, he had taken refuge at Stanton's 
house for the privacy necessary to writing a document, 
showing that he was, and had been all along, trying to 
get at the enemy, but that the administration " incapa- 
bles " were in some way preventing him. 

On the day after he became Secretary of War, an 
opportunity was given Stanton, which he promptly 
improved, to remind the country that the President was 
the constitutional commander-in-chief, and that all 
generals were his military subordinates. He received 
a dispatch from General George H. Thomas, giving an 
account of the battle of Mill Spring, Kentucky. The 
rebels, 12,000 strong, under General Zollicoffer, had at- 
tacked Thomas, who repulsed and routed them. The 
rebels lost 114 killed, including their general, 116 
wounded, and 45 prisoners. The Union loss was 127 
wounded and 39 killed. A large amount of munitions 
of war, supplies, and horses fell into the hands of the 
victors. This was the most encouraging exhibition of 
energy and thoroughness on the part of a Union gen- 
eral that had been made up to that time. Mr. Stanton 
at once issued the following order : — 


War Department, January 22, 1862. 
The President, Commander-in-Chief of the Army and 
Navy, has received information of a brilliant victory achieved 
by the forces of the United States over a large body of armed 
traitors and rebels at Mill Spring in the State of Kentucky. 
He returns thanks to the gallant officers and soldiers who won 
that victory, and when the official reports shall be received, 
the military and personal valor displayed in battle will be 
acknowledged and rewarded in a fitting manner. The cour- 
age that encountered and vanquished the greatly superior 
number of the rebel force, pursued and attacked them in their 
intrenchments, and paused not until the enemy was completely 
routed, merits and receives commendation. The purpose of 
this war is to attack, pursue, and destroy a rebellious enemy, 
and to deliver the country from danger menaced by traitors. 
Alacrity, daring, courageous spirit, and patriotic zeal on all 
occasions, and under every circumstance, are expected from 
the Army of the United States. In the prompt and spirited 
movements, and daring battle of Mill Spring, the nation will 
realize its hopes, and the people of the United States will re- 
joice to honor every soldier and officer who proves his cour- 
age with the bayonet, and storming intrenchments, or in the 
blaze of the enemy's fire. By order of the President. 

This was more than a mere exultation over a victory ; 
more than an honorable gazetting of the victors. It 
was equivalent to an order by the commander-in-chief, 
assuming the command, which was not only his by 
right, but was his under an obligation which he could 
not transfer to another. Still more than this, it was an 
admonition to all in the military service, that the army 
was expected to do something and to risk something, 
and that if there had been unnecessary delays, they 
must cease. It stated the real objects of the war to be 


the destruction of the enemy, and not a mere effort to 
ascertain on what terms treason would lower its hostile 
front and allow peace to be restored. It applied to the 
enemies of the country the names of " rebels " and 
" traitors/' and held them up to the public execration, 
instead of treating them as misguided brethren with 
whom a conflict was to be avoided, in the hope of a 
peaceable compromise. It furnished the keynote of 
what the administration of the War Office would be ; 
and, finally, it was notice to the rebels that they need 
not count upon the Democratic antecedents of North- 
ern Union men to qualify their patriotism because of 
previous political affiliations. 


Important War Measures enacted by Congress on Mr. Stanton's 
Recommendation. — Work in the Department. — Congress calls 
for Information. 

At his conference with the committee of Congress, on 
the day of his entrance into the War Department, Mr. 
Stanton impressed on them the importance of securing 
the adoption, by the two Houses, of a rule providing for 
the immediate consideration, in secret session, of all 
war measures deemed urgent by the Executive. Such 
a rule was submitted to the Senate on the following day. 
It was adopted by both Houses on the 29th. 

At the same conference he urged the passage of a 
bill to authorize the President to take possession of all 
the railroad and telegraph lines of the country. Such 
a bill was reported to the Senate by the committee on 
the 22d, and passed both Houses on the 29th. These 
measures were both passed on the assurance that they 
were deemed urgent by the Secretary of War. 

The following letter from Stanton to Senator Wade 
shows the zeal with which he followed up any sug- 
gestion made by him to the committee : — 

Most Confidential. 
Dear Sir, — An order has this day been made by the 
President requiring all the armies in the field to place them- 


selves in fighting order immediately, and to commence opera- 
tions by a certain specified date. 

The success of these measures will in a great measure 
depend upon the control of the railroad and telegraph lines, 
and the immediate passage of the bill before the Senate may 
and must have a great influence on the war. 

It is no less important that Congress should at once place 
itself in fighting condition by the rule for executive session in 
both Houses. Any hour the necessity may be upon you 
unprepared. Please communicate confidentially with the 
loyal and honest members of both Houses, and have action, — 
immediate action. 

On the 22d of January a bill was approved by the 
President authorizing the appointment of two additional 
Assistant Secretaries of War, and on the 23d, upon Mr. 
Stanton's request, the President nominated to the Sen- 
ate, for these positions, John Tucker and Peter H. 
Watson. Thomas A. Scott, of Pennsylvania, was 
Assistant Secretary of War when Mr. Stanton entered 
upon the administration of the War Department. He 
was succeeded by Christopher P. Wolcott,of Ohio, who 
was appointed July 1, 1862, and served until January 
1, 1863. Charles A. Dana, of New York, was ap- 
pointed Assistant Secretary March 1, 1864, and con- 
tinued in office until July 31, 1865. Thomas T. Eckert 
was appointed Assistant Secretary July 27, 1866. The 
War Department records do not show his term of 

The new Secretary speedily reorganized the War 
Office. He marked out the work he wanted done, and 
informed himself as to the capacity of the clerical force 
provided by law for doing it. He asked Congress for 


the additional clerks and messengers needed, and they 
were promptly granted him. He systematized the 
work, and every man knew what was required of him, 
and knew that the head of the department would know 
if it was not done. 

On the 22d the House adopted a resolution request- 
ing the Secretary of War to inform that body as soon 
as practicable whether and in what time sufficient mili- 
tary protection could be extended to the line of the 
Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, to enable the company to 
reopen and operate said road. 


Army Contracts dealt with. — An Order made to investigate them 
and terminate Fraudulent Ones. — Order taking Possession of 
all Railroads for Military Purposes. 

The vast expenditure of money involved in the re- 
cruiting, arming and equipping, transporting and sup- 
plying of a great army was, in the nature of things, a 
temptation to the cupidity which exhibited itself under 
every garb in which it could secure dealings with the 
government. Stanton had in words of burning wrath 
denounced the " ravenous crew " who early in the sum- 
mer of 1861 were " pillaging the government and the 
soldiers on every side " and " using the treasury of the 
nation as a fund to be divided among themselves." 
His predecessor had been compelled by the emergency 
which then presented itself to enter into heavy con- 
tracts with whomsoever could execute them, and he was 
at the mercy not only of them, but of newly appointed 
officers in various parts of the country, who received 
and receipted for the vast amount of material thus con- 
tracted for. It is little to be wondered at that the 
government was robbed in many of these transactions. 
Shortly after Mr. Stanton came into the War Office, he 
adopted measures to investigate all outstanding con- 
tracts, and to terminate those in which the contractors 


had given cause therefor by fraud or neglect. On the 
29th of January he issued the following order : — 

The urgent necessity that required the immediate purchase 
of arms, clothing, and other military supplies from foreign 
countries having ceased, it is, 

Ordered : — - 

1st. That no further contracts be made by this department, 
or any bureau thereof, for any article of foreign manufacture 
that can be produced or manufactured in the United States. 

2d. All outstanding orders, agencies, authorities, or licenses 
for the purchase of arms, clothing, or anything else, in foreign 
countries or of foreign manufacture for this department, are 
hereby revoked and annulled. 

3d. All persons claiming to have any contract, bargain, 
order, warrant, license, or authority of whatsoever nature, 
from this department or any bureau thereof, for furnishing 
arms, clothing, equipment, or anything else to the United 
States are required within fifteen days from this date to 
give written notice of such contract and its purport, with a 
statement in writing of what has been done under it, and to 
file a copy thereof with the Secretary of War. 

4th. All contracts, orders, and agreements for army sup- 
plies should be in writing, and signed by the contracting 
parties, and the original or a copy thereof filed according to 
paragraph 1049 of the regulations with the head of the pro- 
per bureau. 

It is seldom that any necessity can prevent a contract from 
being reduced to writing, and even when made by telegraph, 
its terms can be speedily written and signed ; and every claim 
founded upon any pretended contract, bargain, agreement, 
order, warrant, or license, now outstanding, of which notice 
and a copy is not filed in accordance with this order within 
the time mentioned, shall be deemed and held to be prima 
facie fraudulent and void, and no claim thereon will be al- 


lowed or paid by this department, unless upon full and satis- 
factory proof of its validity. 

Stanton soon made a violent personal enemy of every 
dishonest government contractor or agent of whose bad 
conduct he could gain any information. 

On the 13th of March he appointed Joseph Holt 
and Robert Dale Owen a special commission to exam- 
ine and adjust all claims in the War Department in 
respect to ordnance, arms, and munitions ; their deter- 
mination as to the validity of contracts, execution of 
the same, and payments due thereunder, to be final 
and conclusive upon the department. All contracts 
were to be fully investigated, and if the commission 
found that any employee or agent of the War Depart- 
ment was interested in any contract, or received any 
consideration for its procurement, such finding was to 
be good cause for adjudging the claim fraudulent. 

On the 11th of February, Secretary Stanton made 
the following order, in the name of the President, Com- 
mander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy. He referred 
to the President in his military capacity when issuing 
orders relating to military movements. This order was 
authorized by an act of Congress, already referred to, 
approved January 31, 1862. It was respected by all 
the railroad companies during the war, and they ren- 
dered at all times willing service. 

Ordered : That D. C. McCallum be and is hereby ap- 
pointed Military Director and Superintendent of Railroads 
in the United States, with authority to enter upon, take pos- 
session of, and hold and use all railroads, engines, cars, loco- 
motives, equipments, appendages, and appurtenances that 


may be required for the transportation of troops, arms, muni- 
tions, and military supplies of the United States, and to do 
and perform all acts that may be necessary or proper to be 
done for the safe and speedy transport aforesaid. 

By order of the President, Commander-in-Chief of the 
Army and Navy of the United States. 


Order concerning Political Prisoners and Military Arrests. — Re- 
lease of Prisoners. — Further Extraordinary Arrests to be made 
by the Military Authorities only. — Mr. Stanton defends Arrests 
otherwise made up to that Time. 

The arrest and imprisonment of persons in civil life 
by the sole authority of the President, on charges of 
disloyal practices, had been the subject of much 
criticism before Mr. Stanton came into the Cabinet. 
The Secretary of State, Mr. Seward, had been quoted 
in the press as referring to his power to cause an arrest 
by "tinkling his little bell," and the opinion exten- 
sively prevailed that many arrests had been made upon 
insufficient cause. 

There had been much railing against the govern- 
ment which, although offensive, was not really danger- 
ous, and the public safety did not require, nor would 
public opinion be likely to sustain, a denial of the right 
of free speech, however unfriendly to the authorities, 
within the limits of safety. This subject was one to 
which Mr. Stanton gave early attention. His training 
as a lawyer had bred in him a repugnance to any inva- 
sion of personal liberty for which a good reason did 
not exist. Although the suspension of the writ of 
habeas corjms dispensed with a judicial inquiry in 
many cases, he felt that this in no wise justified arrests 


not required by the public safety. But as, in time o£ 
war, it would often happen that the law as found in 
the statute was silent in the very nature of the case, he 
found no difficulty in then applying the military law. 
In his view a spy could be made a military prisoner 
while surreptitiously gathering information in the War 
Department, instead of waiting until he had actually 
lent aid or comfort to the enemy by communicating that 
information. This would be an exercise of arbitrary 
military power, but if ordered on the authority of the 
President, as commander-in-chief of the army, it was 
just as lawful as would be the arrest by a general in 
the field of a photographer caught in the act of taking 
views of our defenses for the use of the enemy. 

As the head of the army the President could prevent 
interference with military operations without going 
beyond the recognized laws of war, and in doing this 
Mr. Stanton believed that the President should act 
through the War Department, and in his capacity as 
the military chief ; he therefore favored a change in 
the existing methods. The State Department could no 
longer order arrests. This power must be exercised 
under the military authority alone. 

It was a delicate and difficult matter to proclaim this 
change without admitting any error in what had been 
done before ; but not only was this accomplished, but 
the order by which it was done contained so powerful 
a statement of the evils which had beset the country, 
and so clear a showing of the immediate necessity 
which had compelled the adoption of extraordinary 
measures, that it was a complete vindication and was 


well received by the country. As Mr. Stanton's own 
words and official letters are of far greater interest than 
anything that can be substituted for them, and as they 
are always so brief as to render further condensation 
impracticable, this order is here given entire : — 

War Department, Washington City, 
February 14, 1862. 

The breaking out of a formidable insurrection, based on a 
conflict of political ideas, being an event without a precedent 
in the United States, was necessarily attended by a great 
confusion and perplexity of the public mind. Disloyalty, 
before unsuspected, suddenly became bold, and treason 
astonished the world by bringing at once into the field mili- 
tary forces superior in number to the standing army of the 
United States. 

Every department of the government was paralyzed by 
treason. Defection appeared in the Senate, in the House of 
Representatives, in the Cabinet, in the federal courts ; minis- 
ters and consuls returned from foreign countries to enter the 
insurrectionary councils of land and naval forces ; command- 
ing and other officers of the army and in the navy betrayed 
the councils or betrayed their posts for commands in the 
insurgent forces. Treason was flagrant in the revenue and 
in the post-office service, as well as in the territorial govern- 
ments and the Indian reserves. 

Not only judges, governors, legislators, and ministerial offi- 
cers in the States, but even whole States rushed one after the 
other with apparent unanimity into rebellion. The capital 
was besieged and its connection with all the States cut off. 

Even in the portions of the country which were most loyal 
political combinations and secret societies were formed fur- 
thering the work of disunion, while from motives of dis- 
loyalty or cupidity, or from excited passions or perverted 
sympathies, individuals were found furnishing men, money, 


and materials of war and supplies to the insurgents' military 
and naval forces. Armies, ships, fortifications, navy yards, 
arsenals, military posts, and garrisons, one after another, were 
betrayed or abandoned to the insurgents. 

Congress had not anticipated and so had not provided for 
the emergency. The municipal authorities were powerless 
and inactive. The judicial machinery seemed as if it had 
been designed not to sustain the government, but to embar- 
rass and betray it. 

Foreign intervention openly invited, and industriously 
instigated by the abettors of the insurrection, became immi- 
nent, and has only been prevented by the practice of strict 
and impartial justice, with the most perfect moderation in 
our intercourse with nations. 

The public mind was alarmed and apprehensive, though 
fortunately not distracted or disheartened. It seemed to be 
doubtful whether the federal government, which one year 
before had been thought a model worthy of universal 
acceptance, had indeed the ability to defend or maintain 

Some reverses, which perhaps were unavoidable, suffered 
by newly levied and inefficient forces, discouraged the loyal, 
and gave new hope to the insurgents. Voluntary enlistments 
seemed about to cease, and desertions commenced. Parties 
speculated upon the question whether conscription had not 
become necessary to fill up the armies of the United States. 

In this emergency the President felt it his duty to employ 
with energy the extraordinary powers which the Constitution 
confides to him in cases of insurrection. He called into the 
field such military and naval forces, authorized by the exist- 
ing laws, as seemed necessary. He directed measures to 
prevent the use of the post-office for treasonable corre- 
spondence. He subjected passengers to and from foreign 
countries to new passport regulations, and he instituted a 
blockade, suspended the writ of habeas corpus in various 


places, and caused persons who were represented to him as 
being about to engage in disloyal and treasonable practices to 
be arrested by special civil as well as military agencies, and 
detained in military custody when necessary to prevent them 
and deter others from such practices. Examinations of such 
cases were instituted, and some of the persons so arrested 
have been discharged, from time to time, under circumstances 
or upon conditions compatible, as was thought, with the pub- 
lic safety. Meantime a favorable change of public opinion 
has occurred. The line between loyalty and disloyalty is 
plainly defined, the whole structure of the government is 
firm and stable ; apprehension of public danger and facilities 
for treasonable practices have diminished with the passions 
which prompted heedless persons to adopt them. The insur- 
rection is believed to have culminated and to be declining. 

The President, in view of these facts and anxious to return 
to a formal course of the administration, as far as regard for 
the public welfare will allow, directs that all political prison- 
ers or state prisoners now held in military custody be released 
on their subscribing to a parole engaging them to render no 
aid or comfort to the enemies in hostility to the United 

The Secretary of War will, however, in his discretion, 
exempt from the effect of this order any prisoners detained 
as spies in the service of the insurgents, or others, whose 
release at the present moment may be deemed incompatible 
with the public safety. 

To all persons who shall be so released, who shall keep 
their parole, the President grants an amnesty for any past 
offense of treason or disloyalty which they have committed. 

Extraordinary arrests will hereafter be made under the 
direction of the military authorities alone. 

By order of the President. 


Unable to give his attention to state prisoners then 
in custody, Mr. Stanton, on the 27th of February, 
appointed John A. Dix, then in command at Baltimore, 
and Hon. Edwards Pierrepont of New York, commis- 
sioners to examine, hear, and determine all such cases 
ex parte j at such times and places as in their discretion 
they might appoint, and make full report to the War 
Department. They were to ascertain and recommend 
what prisoners should be exempted by the Secretary of 
War from the operation of the general order of release, 
because of their character as spies or because of other 
offenses against military law. 

The foregoing is not produced for the purpose of 
making any claim that Mr. Stanton was tender in his 
treatment of sympathizers with or abettors of treason ; 
on the contrary, his grasp on those of them who were 
dangerous was unrelenting ; but it shows that he had 
the wisdom to draw the power from the right source 
and to use it in the right direction. 


Colonel Thomas A. Scott's Mission to the West. — Halleek and Buell. 
— Grant escapes from Halleek and takes Forts Henry and Don- 
elson. ■ — Halleek demands his Reward for it. — Nashville evacu- 

In January Mr. Stanton dispatched Assistant Secre- 
tary Thomas A. Scott to the West with comprehensive 
instructions which called for reports of the number and 
location of troops raised, the progress of enlistment and 
organization in each State ; what partially enlisted regi- 
ments could be consolidated, the amount of government 
property in the several arsenals, and in the great depots 
for commissary stores and quartermasters' supplies ; and 
also as to what arrangement could be made for the 
transportation of troops to the West, to strengthen 
Generals Halleek and Buell, commanding respectively 
the departments of Missouri and Kentucky. 

Colonel Scott moved rapidly to Pittsburg, Columbus, 
Detroit, Indianapolis, Louisville, St. Louis, Cairo, and 
Paducah, reporting from each place full and correct 
information from official sources concerning the several 
objects of his mission, and communicating his views as 
to the situation and future possibilities. He placed the 
Secretary of War in possession of all the information 
he would himself have gained in a tour of inspection. 
The celerity of his movements, the thoroughness of his 


work, the mass of information he gathered, and the 
valuable suggestions he made were such as might have 
been looked for from such a man. 1 

From Pittsburg he reported, February 2, that the 
whole work for the Mississippi flotilla, mortars, mortar 
boats, and shells, would be ready and shipped within 
twenty-one days from that date. 

Mr. Stanton knew nothing of pauses in his work, nor 
of any other limitation than the capacity of all available 
instrumentalities. His plans were not pigeon-holed to 
be executed at a remote date. Their execution was 
commenced instantly upon being decided on, and those 
to whom the work was intrusted had to move along 
with it at his pace or give way to others who would. 

When McClellan became general-in-chief, November 
1, 1861, he sent General Halleck to Missouri to relieve 
General Fremont, commanding that department, and 
General Buell to Louisville, to relieve General Sherman, 
at the latter' s own request, in the command of the 
Department of Kentucky. Halleck was ordered to 
fortify and " concentrate his troops for such ulterior 
operations as might prove necessary." Buell was to 
remain on the defensive until he could throw the mass 
of his troops by rapid marches into the mountainous 
region of East Tennessee, — a task pronounced by him to 
be impossible in the winter season. These orders were, 
therefore, equivalent to providing that nothing be done 
until spring. 

1 His great capacity for the organization and promotion of business on 
a large scale was subsequently illustrated by his notable career as the 
president and controlling head of the Pennsylvania Railroad Company. 


February 1, 1862, General Buell wrote from his 
headquarters at Louisville to General McClellan as 
follows : — 

While you were sick, by direction of the President I pro- 
posed to Halleck some concert of action between us. He 
answered, " I can do nothing. Name a day for a demonstra- 
tion." Night before last, January 30, I received a dispatch 
from him, saying : " I have ordered an advance at Fort Henry 
and Dover, which will be made immediately." I protest 
against such prompt proceedings ; as though I had nothing to 
do but command and commence firing as soon as he starts off. 
However, he telegraphs me to-night that cooperation is not 
essential now. 

Halleck' s order for an advance had been extorted 
from him by General Grant, then in command at Cairo, 
and Flag-Officer Foote, of the navy. Grant says early 
in January he was reluctantly given leave by Halleck 
to visit him at his headquarters in St. Louis, to lay 
before him a plan of a campaign up the Tennessee 
River, and the capture of Fort Henry, which, if success- 
ful, would compel the enemy to entirely evacuate Ken- 
tucky. Halleck cut him off without allowing him to 
finish his proposition, and he returned to Cairo very 
much crestfallen. All military authorities seem to have 
concurred at that time in a proper estimate of the 
Tennessee River as a line of operations, but Grant was 
the only one who proposed to go on and attempt what 
all agreed ought to be done. McClellan, Halleck, and 
Buell were for action in the future. Grant believed in 
the present. He was not to be easily dissuaded from a 
purpose, and on the 28th of January, backed up by a 


similar dispatch from Flag-Officer Foote, he telegraphed 
to Halleck : " If permitted, I could take and hold Fort 
Henry on the Tennessee." 

On the 29th he wrote more fully to the same effect, 
and on the 1st of February he received instructions 
which " permitted " him to take the fort. It was taken 
on the 6th. 

It was on this very day that Assistant Secretary Scott 
reached General Buell's headquarters at Louisville. 
The General made a strong impression on Scott, and 
expressed to him his opinion that with from 30,000 to 
50,000 men from the Army of the Potomac, General 
Halleck and he could take a position between the Ten- 
nessee and the Cumberland rivers, break the rebel line, 
defeat the separate wings in detail, and soon secure 
Nashville. All this Scott reported to Stanton on the 
same day, with the assurance that if he could be al- 
lowed ten days to arrange for the transportation, he 
could then be ready to transport the desired reinforce- 
ments from the East. On the 14th, he forwarded let- 
ters from General Halleck containing the same sugges- 

Halleck, like Buell, wanted heavy reinforcements 
from the Army of the Potomac, but even with them he 
did not propose to advance on Nashville before April. 
He was impatient to have troops taken from Buell and 
from the East to enlarge his command, but they were 
not to be used by him until two months later. On 
February 6, the day Fort Henry surrendered, and be- 
fore he had learned of the event, Halleck wrote to 
General S. K. Curtis : " I know what a winter cam- 


paign would be, but the administration have 'on to 
Richmond ' fever/ and we must go ahead." 

On the following day, Halleck telegraphed to Gen- 
eral McClellan: "Fort Henry is ours," and accepted 
congratulations without even referring to Grant. 

The enthusiastic Secretary of War, elated by the 
event, and not doubting that it was due to General 
Halleck, telegraphed him on the 8th, as follows : — 

Your energy and ability receive the strongest commenda- 
tion of this department. You have my perfect confidence, 
and you may rely upon my utmost support in your undertak- 
ings. The pressure of my engagements has prevented me 
from writing you, but I will do so fully in a day or two. 

On the 15th, an order was issued by the Secretaries 
of War and of the Navy, in the name of the President, 
as commander-in-chief, to Brigadier-General Grant and 
Flag-Officer Foote, and the forces under their command, 
returning thanks for their gallant achievements in the 
capture of Fort Henry. 

Halleck greatly deprecated any interference by the 
government with the plans of generals, even though 
that interference only took the form of insisting that 
after being provided with all the necessary men and 
means, they should have some plans and execute them. 
To General McClellan he wrote, January 20, that he 
took it for granted that what had been done up to that 
time had been the " result of political policies rather 
than military strategy," and that the want of success 
was " attributable to the politicians rather than the 

1 Referring to the clamor of " On to Richmond " which preceded the 
first battle of Bull Run. 


generals." " I am aware/' he continues, " that you, 
general, are in no way responsible for this, these move- 
ments having been governed by political expediency, 
and in many cases directed by politicians, in order to 
subserve particular interests; but is it not possible with 
the new Secretary of War to introduce a different pol- 
icy, and to make our future movements in accordance 
with military principles?" 

This was a strong appeal to Stanton, who was sure 
to see the letter, that his influence should be exerted to 
allow the great military strategists to continue doing 
nothing, without being disturbed by the clamor of 
meddlesome politicians like the President and his Cabi- 
net and the leaders in Congress. 

McClellan, Halleck, and Buell, at their comfortable 
offices in Washington, St. Louis, and Louisville, doubt- 
less had great plans, but were never ready to execute 
them. They all had what Mr. Lincoln, in McClellan's 
case, so aptly termed "the slows." They always 
wanted more men, and more time for equipping them. 
The idea of actually starting out for a fight with the 
force they had at any given time seemed to them mere 
rashness. To explain the effect the occupation of Nash- 
ville would have upon the rebel forces in Kentucky 
and Tennessee was as far as they had then cared to 
go. It was reserved for Grant to show them that at 
some time doing as well as thinking was necessary, and 
he appears finally to have actually worried Halleck into 
allowing him to take Fort Henry. That being accom- 
plished, he wrote to Halleck that he would then move 
upon Fort Donelson. 


To this the latter gave no response, although he in- 
formed Buell on the next day (7th) that Grant would 
march against Donelson on the 8th. 

On the 14th, while investing Donelson, Grant received 
an order from Halleck, dated the 10th, ordering him to 
devote himself to fortifying Fort Henry. 

On the 16th, two days after Halleck had offered, 
through Assistant Secretary Scott, to move up the Ten- 
nessee River if given 60,000 new troops, Grant, without 
orders from Halleck, the commander of the department, 
and without either approval or disapproval, but not 
without notice to him of his intention, had, after three 
days' fighting, demanded and received the " uncondi- 
tional surrender " of Fort Donelson. 

Halleck had energetically reinforced Grant during 
these rapid movements, but evidently more with a view 
of saving him from destruction than in the hope of any 
decisive results. He and Buell firmly believed that the 
United States forces of the West were too weak for any 
important movement until strengthened by an addition 
of 50,000 from the East. Grant's celerity served in 
lieu of the coveted reinforcements. Had the campaign 
up the Tennessee River awaited the transportation of 
50,000 men from the Army of the Potomac, the enemy 
would have sent still greater reinforcements to Fort 
Donelson, which was the centre of the rebel line, stretch- 
ing from Bowling Green to Columbus. 1 

1 " I was very impatient to get at Fort Donelson because I knew the 
importance of the place to the enemy, and supposed he would reinforce 
it rapidly. I felt that 15,000 on the 8th would be more effective than 
50,000 a month later." Grant's Memoirs, vol. i. p. 298. 


The advance was made with 15,000 men, increased 
by reinforcements to 27,000. The enemy had within 
their intrenchments 21,000 men, of whom 2000 were 
killed, 4000 escaped, and 15,000 were taken prisoners. 

On the 16th Halleck wrote to McClellan that Buell 
ought not to move towards Nashville, but should aid 
Grant in taking and holding Fort Donelson and Clarks- 
ville. He added : " Unless we can take Fort Donelson 
very soon we shall have the whole force of the enemy 
on us. Fort Donelson is the turning point of the war, 
and we must take it at whatever sacrifice." 

On the same day Grant telegraphed him that Fort 
Donelson was taken, but to this he never made reply. 
Although all the world rang with Grant's praises the 
next day, he tells us in his " Memoirs " 1 that he re- 
ceived nothing direct which indicated that Halleck 
knew Donelson was taken. 

The latter did not fail to appropriate the achievement 
to himself, as appears by the following dispatch from 
him to General McClellan, dated St. Louis, February 
17: — 

Make Brigadiers Grant and Pope Major-Gen erals of Vol- 
unteers, and give me command in the West. I ask this in 
return for Forts Henry and Donelson. 

On the same day, he energetically renewed his impor- 
tunities to Assistant Secretary Scott, and persuaded him 
to write Stanton an urgent letter asking that Buell' s 
department be added to his own : he to take the field 
in person, and to move up the Cumberland and Ten- 
1 Vol. i. p. 324. 


nessee rivers. With 50,000 well disciplined troops from 
the Army of the Potomac added to their combined 
forces, he said he felt confident that Nashville could be 
taken. This was deemed so urgent that Scott's letter 
was sent by a special messenger to the War Department. 

The rebel defense of Nashville was made and lost at 
Fort Donelson on the 16th, and Nashville was evacu- 
ated without a struggle as soon as Buell had time to 
make his unimpeded progress to the place, where he 
arrived on the 24th. 

This must have been a great surprise to Halleck, for 
he had written to McClellan on the 15th : " I have no 
definite plans beyond the taking of Donelson and Clarks- 
ville." Thus we have his own word for it that he was 
as innocent of the occupation of Nashville as he had 
been of the capture of Fort Donelson. 


Correspondence between Secretary Stanton and Assistant Secretary- 
Scott. — Stanton's Ideas of what War should be. — His Intentions 
towards Halleck and Buell. — Comments on this and Eeference 
to Critics. — Grant promoted to Major-Generalship on Recom- 
mendation made by Stanton on the Morning following the 
Capture of Fort Donelson. 

Scott's special messenger arrived at Washington in 
due time with his letters for Mr. Stanton, who replied 
as follows : — 

Some features of the proposed military reorganization I 
approve ; others I do not. As soon as General Buell rights a 
battle, or makes any decisive movement with the large force 
under his command, I will be glad to recommend him for 
major-general. But as he communicates nothing to the 
department, nor even acknowledges communications made to 
him by me, the department knows nothing of his operations, 
except what appears from the newspapers. The activity of 
General Halleck leads me to think that the Western operations 
may very wisely be placed under his command if he will take 
the field in person. I am very much inclined to prefer field 
work rather than office work for successful military opera- 
tions. The general who stands upon the field of battle and 
heads his forces in person is the one who is most likely to 
win the victory. The general commanding proposes himself 
to do this at the proper time. I am inclined, therefore, to 
reorganize by placing the whole Western operations under 
General Halleck, and give him such force as may be desired. 


In respect to General Hitchcock, I have no doubt, from what I 
can learn of him, that Missouri may be properly intrusted to 
his command. General McClellan did not approve his appoint- 
ment, but as it was requested by General Halleck and strongly 
recommended by General Scott, I resolved to make it. The 
extent of his command I would be disposed to leave to the 
judgment of General Halleck. General Hunter's command, 
also, I think may remain the same as heretofore. The trouble 
between him and Lane seems to have subsided in a great 

In respect to the details of proposed military operations to 
follow the new organization, it is needless for me to say any- 
thing, because they must depend upon the exigencies of the 
hour, and the general in command would change or modify 
them according to circumstances ; the great purpose being to 
pursue and destroy the rebels wherever they can be found ; to 
capture their cities and strong places ; drive them from every 
State, and restore the authority of the government. I would 
leave the method of accomplishing that purpose to the gener- 
als operating in the field ; undertaking to supply every want, 
so far as might be done by the whole power of the country, 
and rejoicing to reward alacrity and success with every honor 
at the disposal of the government. 

These are the general views I now entertain on the subject 
of your letter, and will confer with the President as soon as 
his domestic calamity will permit. 

I think it is important that you should remain in the West, 
visiting Cairo, Paducah, Torts Henry and Donelson, St. Louis, 
and all the other places held by our forces on the Western 

The officers in command do not seem to be aware that it is 
their duty to address the department, through the adjutant- 
general, so that the Secretary is informed only of what General 
McClellan communicates. In this way their wants and merits 
may by accident sometimes fail to reach me. I shall expect 


from you full reports of everything concerning military oper- 
ations at every point you visit. Your diligence and atten- 
tion is fully appreciated, and I shall be glad to carry out any 
suggestions that may occur to you for the good of the service. 

Secretary Stanton has been accused of interfering 
with military operations in the field, and of exhibiting a 
dictatorial spirit towards the generals in the army. The 
record does not sustain the charge. No general who 
wanted to fight the enemy ever found himself embar- 
rassed with advice from Stanton as to the best way 
to fight. He interfered with military slothfulness, in- 
difference, and insubordination, which it was his sworn 
duty to do, and a duty in which his patriotism would 
not allow him to fail ; but the language and the spirit 
of the above letter written by him, evidently to be 
shown to both Halleck and Buell, attest his sincere pur- 
pose to urge military leaders to activity, and then to 
give them the fullest support in whatever plans they 
might adopt. Buell must fight a battle or make some 
decisive movement if he expected promotion. The 
original draft of Stanton's letter read that " the depart- 
ment knows nothing of his operations except that he 
appears from the newspapers to be quietly enjoying 
himself in Louisville." This he modified to read as 
above quoted. 

If Halleck would take the field in person, which, up 
to that time, he had not done, he favored giving him 
command of the military operations of the West. 

For generals who preferred their offices to the field 
he had no liking. " The general who stands upon 
the field of battle and heads his forces in person is most 


likely to win the victory." Then, lest this might be 
construed into a thrust at General McClellan (who had 
as yet remained at his desk when not on parade in the 
saddle), and thereby diminish the respect for him which 
the service required, he interlined the words, " The 
general commanding proposes himself to do this at the 
proper time." 

Stanton did not make any mistake in placing the 
credit for the capture of Fort Donelson. That was not 
due to Halleck's activity. The " unconditional surren- 
der " took place February 16. On the next morning, 
without hearing from Halleck, he addressed to the 
President the following recommendation : — 

I have the honor to propose for your approbation the fol- 
lowing-named person for appointment in the volunteer force 
now in the service of the United States. 

Brigadier-General U. S. Grant of the United States Volun- 
teers to be Major-General of Volunteers, for gallant and 
meritorious conduct in the capture of Fort Donelson, to date 
from February 16, 1862. 

The President made the nomination the same day, 
and it was placed before the Senate at its next executive 
session on the 19th. On motion of Senator Zachary 
Chandler the nomination was, by unanimous consent, 
immediately confirmed without the usual reference to a 

That portion of Mr. Stanton's letter in which he 
states the great purpose of all military operations — " to 
pursue and destroy the rebels wherever they can be 
found ; to capture their cities and strong places, drive 
them from every State, and restore the authority of the 


government/' and his assurance that " he would leave 
the method of accomplishing that purpose to the gen- 
erals operating in the field " (this originally read " to 
the generals in command "), the government furnishing 
ample supplies, and rewarding success with high honors 
— shows his conception of the relative duties of the 
government and the army, and of the War Department 
and the generals in the field. 

The critics of Mr. Stanton will search in vain for any 
departure by him, during the war, from the general 
spirit of the above letter written one month after he 
took office. 

General Grant, in his testimony before the Committee 
on the Conduct of the War, May 18, 1865, after the 
war had ended, testified as follows : — 

Being asked : " In what manner has Mr. Stanton, Sec- 
retary of War, performed his duties in the supply of the 
armies, and the support of military operations under your 
charge ? " 

He replied : " Admirably, I think. There has been no 
complaint in that respect, — that is, no general complaint. 
So far as he is concerned, I think there has been no ground 
for complaint, in that respect." 

Question: "Has there ever been any misunderstanding 
with regard to the conduct of the war in any particular 
between you and the Secretary since you have been in com- 

Answer : " Never any expressed to me. I have never had 
any reason to believe that any fault was found with anything 
I had done, so far as the Secretary of War and myself are 
concerned. He has never interfered with my duties ; never 
thrown any obstacle in the way of supplies I have called for. 


He has never dictated a course of campaign to me, and never 
inquired what I was going to do. He has always seemed sat- 
isfied with what I have done, and has heartily cooperated with 

me." i 

Report of the Committee on the Conduct of the War, 


Horace Greeley on Stanton. — The Latter disclaims Credit not his 
due in a Letter to the " Tribune." — Comments on this Letter by 
Lewis Cass. 

The capture of Forts Henry and Donelson in Ten- 
nessee, and of Roanoke Island on the coast of North 
Carolina, caused great rejoicing throughout the country. 
The people had been so long accustomed to reading in 
the daily papers what Halleck and Buell would do in 
the West and what McClellan would do in the East, 
and then to finding that nobody did anything but frame 
new excuses for delay, that they were greatly elated with 
the reports of these brilliant enterprises. Secretary 
Stanton gave due credit, by a published bulletin, to 
General Grant and Flag-Officer Foote, and to General 
Burnside and Commodore Goldsborough, and the brave 
men under them, for these achievements. 

The presence of Mr. Stanton in the administration 
had manifestly given a new impetus to the progress of 
affairs. He had imparted to it some of his own intense 
energy and aggressiveness. The President's order for 
a general advance on the 22d of February was felt to 
be as much that of his new Secretary of War as his own, 
and these victories following close upon it, in advance 
of the day named, were very naturally connected with 
it in the public mind. They seemed to prove that we 


had some generals who not only needed no urging, but 
who only wanted permission to do battle, and soldiers 
who were as ready to fight as their commanders were 
to call on them. In the exultation of the hour, Horace 
Greeley published the following editorial in the New 
York " Tribune " of February 18 : — 

While every honest heart rises in gratitude to God for the 
victories which afford so glorious a guaranty of the national 
salvation, let it not be forgotten that it is to Edwin M. Stan- 
ton, more than to any other individual, that these auspicious 
events are now due. Our generals in the field have done 
their duty with energy and courage ; our officers, and with 
them the noble democracy of the ranks, have proved them- 
selves worthy sons of the Republic ; but it is by the impas- 
sioned soul, the sleepless will, and the great practical talents 
of the Secretary of War that the vast power of the United 
States has now been hurled upon their treacherous and per- 
jured enemies to crush them to powder. Let no man imagine 
that we exalt this great statesman above his deserts, or that 
we would detract an iota from that share of glory which in 
this momentous crisis belongs to every faithful participator 
in the events of the war. But we cannot overlook the fact 
that, whereas the other day all was doubt, distrust, and un- 
certainty ; the nation despairing almost of its own restoration 
to life ; Congress the scene of bitter imputations and unsatis- 
factory apologies ; the army sluggish, discontented, and decay- 
ing, and the abyss of ruin and disgrace yawning to swallow 
us ; now all is inspiration, movement, victory, and confidence. 
We seem to have passed into another state of existence, to 
live with distinct purposes, and to feel the certainty of their 
realization. In one word, the nation is saved ; and while 
with ungrudging hands we heap garlands upon all defenders, 

\_Ja?nes Buchanan to Mr. Stanton, February 25, 1862] 









& ^ j 

4 \ 


c * S \ 


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U i 

vi .si 

i i 


let a special tribute of affectionate admiration be paid to the 
minister who organized the victory which they have won. 

These were dangerous claims to assert in behalf of 
any man, even if they could be maintained, and were 
likely to impair the usefulness of Mr. Stanton, by excit- 
ing displeasure in the minds of military men with whom 
the interests of the country required him to be on the 
best of terms. Whatever he had contributed towards 
energizing the administration of affairs, civil and mili- 
tary, he had not given direction to any military opera- 
tions, and he was not the man to assent, by his silence, 
to any unfounded claim in his behalf. He therefore 
addressed the following letter, February 19, to the 
editor of the " Tribune," which w r as, of course, published 
in that paper and copied in nearly all the newspapers of 
the country. 

To the Editor of the New York " Tribune : " 

Sir, — I cannot suffer undue merit to be ascribed to my 
official action. The glory of our recent victories belongs to 
the gallant soldiers and officers that fought the battles. No 
share of it belongs to me. 

Much has recently been said of military combinations and 
"organizing victory." I hear such phrases with apprehen- 
sion. They commenced in infidel France with the Italian 
campaign, and resulted in Waterloo. Who can organize vic- 
tory ? Who combine the elements of success on the battle- 
field ? We owe our recent victories to the spirit of the Lord, 
that moved our soldiers to rush into battle, and filled the 
hearts of our enemies with terror and dismay. The inspira- 
tion that conquered in battle was in the hearts of the soldiers, 
and from on high ; and wherever there is the same inspiration, 
there will be the same results. Patriotic spirit with resolute 


courage in officers and men is a military combination that 
never failed. 

We may well rejoice at the recent victories, for they teach 
that battles are to be won now, and by us, in the same and 
only manner that they were ever won by any people, since 
the days of Joshua, — by boldly pursuing and striking the 
foe. What, under the blessing of Providence, I conceive to 
be the true organization of victory and military combination 
to end this war was declared in a few words by General 
Grant's message to General Buckner, — "I propose to move 
immediately upon your works." 

This was in his best vein. It breathed devotion to 
the country, gratitude to the soldiers, trust in God, and 
an abiding faith in hard knocks. The religious element 
had a large place in his character, and in his appeal to 
the God of battles he was greatly in earnest. 

The following letter written to Mr. Stanton at this 
time by Mr. Cass, the venerable statesman who was at 
the head of Mr. Buchanan's Cabinet until driven out by 
the approaching storm in which he could see only ship- 
wreck, here appears for the first time, and shows that 
the country contained no more patriotic war Democrat 
than Lewis Cass. The allusion to idling and incom- 
petent generals is particularly severe. 

I have read your admirable letter to the New York " Trib- 
une " with the greatest pleasure. I congratulate, not you, but 
this country upon this exposition of your sentiments. Nothing 
could be in better taste ; nothing sounder in principle. I was 
glad when I heard that you were called to take charge of the 
War Department, at this crisis of our affairs, but I am now 
still more rejoiced that you are there. You have a noble ex- 
ample before you of the effect which the firm course of a 


single man may produce, in the history of the elder Pitt, and 
you are following in the same path, and I trust with the same 
results. I concur with you cordially in your view for the 
necessity of prompt, energetic action. We want dashing, 
energetic officers at the head of all our separate detachments, 
who will lead the way to success, and when this is obtained, 
will follow the enemy without giving him a moment's rest. 
We have been lamentably deficient in this respect. Marshal 
Saxe well said that the whole secret of war was in the legs. 
We seem to have thought that the secret was not in using the 
legs, but in sitting still. My heart has been in the suppres- 
sion of this rebellion, and perhaps my impatience has influ- 
enced my judgment, but for my soul I have not been able to 
conceive why the immense force in and about Washington has 
been inactive for some months, while the enemy has been 
encamped almost within view of the capital. Pardon the 
suggestion, but it appears to me, the moment a commanding 
officer proves his incompetency, either by want of courage, of 
conduct, or of enterprise, he should be superseded without a 
moment's hesitation. And this should be done as often as the 
occasion demands, till our troops find themselves led by officers 
possessing their confidence, and proving their claims to it by 
conducting them to victory. No feeling for an incompetent 
officer should save him for a moment. Our country has too 
much at stake in the present struggle for the Constitution to 
suffer its interests to be sacrificed to consideration for indi- 
viduals. When we commenced this contest, we had very few 
military men known to the country by their experience. We 
had to depend on the course of events to make known the ca- 
pacity and pretensions of the men charged with high military 
responsibility. It necessarily follows that in such a trial there 
must be many unfit for the stations. These should at once be 
dropped and those who pass the ordeal retained and employed. 
May God prosper your efforts, and crown them with success. 


A Fleet of Steam Rams for Operations on the Mississippi River. — 
Constructed under Stanton's Orders by Charles Ellet, Jr. 

The possession of the Mississippi River was second 
to no object in the prosecution of the war. Indeed, 
by some of our military leaders it was deemed of the 
first importance. It would sunder the Confederacy and 
cut off from the East the great source of supplies in 
the Southwest. We have seen how anxious Mr. Stan- 
ton was to respond to the demands of Halleck and 
Buell for reinforcements from the East, supposed to 
be necessary for operations on the Cumberland and 
Tennessee rivers and the upper Mississippi. The im- 
portant part taken by the gunboats on the Tennessee 
proved their great value, and directed the attention of 
the administration to what might be done with their 
cooperation on a larger scale on the Mississippi River. 
At a meeting of his Council of the bureau officers of 
the War Department, March 14, Mr. Stanton discussed 
this subject with them at length. At another meeting 
on the 20th Charles Ellet, Jr., was present, upon Secre- 
tary Stanton's invitation, and stated to the board what 
he saw at Fortress Monroe, from whence he had just 

Mr. Ellet was a civil engineer of considerable reputa- 
tion. The sinking of the Arctic, one of the Collins 


line of Atlantic steamers, by being run down by a ves- 
sel of similar tonnage in 1854, had impressed him with 
the feasibility of so constructing steam vessels as to 
make them capable of receiving severe shocks with 
impunity, while acting as rams. That is to say, by 
strengthening the hulls of the vessels and constructing 
heavy prows they could fight the enemy by their 
momentum. Having freely published his views as 
early as 1855 in a pamphlet which attracted much 
attention, he apprehended danger from the adoption of 
his plans by the Confederates, and early warned the 
government of this danger, calling special attention to 
the United States frigate Merrimac, captured by the 
Confederates in the Norfolk navy yard, and which it 
was known they were fitting up as a ram. On the 6th 
of February he published some views on the subject, in 
which he stated that the rebels then had five steam 
rams nearly ready for use, — two on the lower Missis- 
sippi, two at Mobile, and the Merrimac at Norfolk. He 
said if the Merrimac was permitted to escape from the 
Elizabeth River she would commit great depredations 
on our vessels in Hampton Roads and might pass out 
to sea and be a terrible scourge to our commerce, as 
well as a dangerous visitor to our blockading squadrons. 
Four weeks later the Merrimac fulfilled the first part of 
this prediction by the destruction of the Cumberland 
and Congress, with many lives, although she found 
herself overmatched the next day by the Monitor. Her 
exploit sufficiently demonstrated the damage that could 
be inflicted by a powerful steam ram. Her withdrawal 
for repairs abated but did not remove the anxiety of 


the government caused by her proven capacity for great 
harm. Mr. Ellet's opinion of her and of her diminu- 
tive rival, the Monitor, became a matter of interest. 
He reported to Mr. Stanton, at the meeting of the 
Council on the 20th, that Commodore Goldsborough 
and other naval officers at Hampton seemed to have 
become converts to the capability of steam rams, and to 
have concluded that almost any swift-going steamer 
that could, with safety to herself, hit the Merrimac 
would send her to the bottom. Following is a condensed 
summary of the proceedings of the Council on this sub- 
ject, on the 20th and 26th of March, made from the 
official stenographic minutes : — 

After Mr. Ellet had retired from the room, General Meigs 
suggested that he might be usefully employed by the govern- 
ment in gunboat construction in the West. 

The Secretary : Perhaps he would be as good a man as we 
could get for that purpose. He has more ingenuity, more 
personal courage, and more enterprise than anybody else I 
have ever seen. . . . He is a clear, forcible, controversial 
writer. He can beat anybody at figures. He would cipher 
anybody to death. If I had a proposition that I desired to 
work out to some definite result, I do not know of any one to 
whom I would intrust it so soon as Ellet. His fancy and 
will are predominant points, and once having taken a notion 
he will not allow it to be questioned. 1 

Secretary Stanton stated that he had had a conversation 
with Mr. Fox, Assistant Secretary of the Navy, who proposed 
that the Navy Department should undertake the construction 

1 Mr. Ellet had Secretary Stanton's entire confidence as a noble, reso- 
lute, and honest man, and, as we shall soon see, subsequently rendered 
raluable and distinguished services to the government. 


of the sea-going gunboats, and that the War Department 
should undertake the building of the gunboats for the West- 
ern rivers. 

General Meigs stated that the proposition would do very- 
well, but the appropriation for fifteen millions for ironclad 
gunboats was to be expended by the Secretary of the Navy in 
accordance with the terms of the law. 

The Secretary : That is so ; but I do not think there will 
be any difficulty in obtaining an appropriation for army gun- 
boats, because Congress believes that you and I are honest. 

At the meeting of March 26 the Secretary stated that he 
had received a dispatch from General Halleck the previous 
evening to the effect that he had been furnished with infor- 
mation which made him anxious in regard to ironclad boats 
now being built at New Orleans, to be sent up the river for 
the purpose of interfering with our flotilla. He inquired if 
any gentleman had anything to propose respecting the proper 
way to meet these boats now in course of preparation by the 

General Meigs: Does Halleck say that the rebels have 
ironclad boats ? 

The Secretary read the dispatch stating that pretended 
Union men from New Orleans represent that the rebels are 
building one or more river boats at that place, clad with rail- 
road iron like the Merrimac. 

The Secretary said that the construction of a river Monitor 
would not meet the case, but rams might be built to answer 
the purpose. It would take too much time to construct a 
boat like the Monitor, while a ram could be made ready in 
twenty days, or even a half a dozen of them could be pre- 
pared in that time. 

General Meigs: One of the steamboats that we already 
have could in a short time be altered in the bow so as to act 
as a ram. That would be the quickest way of meeting the 


The Secretary : I propose this day to send Mr. Ellet to 
the West as the engineer of this department to construct, as 
speedily as possible, one or more rams at Pittsburg, Cincin- 
nati, and New Albany. Is there any better person to whom 
I could commit that duty ? 

General Meigs : I do not believe there is. 

General Thomas : He has genius and skill, and I presume 
can carry out the plan as soon as anybody. 

General Totten : Has he any particular plan ? 

The Secretary : Yes ; the plan is to take the largest and 
most powerful river boats, remove the upper works, fill the 
bows with timber, and furnish such protection as can be 
afforded. Each boat will require a crew of five men and a 
person to command. Mr. Ellet is himself willing to risk it. 

Colonel Taylor : I think I would give him an opportunity, 
and promptly, too. 

The Secretary : I shall allow him to commence one boat at 
Pittsburg, one at Cincinnati, and one at New Albany, so that 
they may all be progressing at once. 

General Meigs : I do not think you can do better. You 
could not add much to the ironclad boats we already have. 
They now draw more water than it was intended they should 

The Secretary : We do not want to wait for iron armor. 
Ellet calculates upon destroying a boat right off by running 
into her. 

Now, Mr. Quartermaster-General, I like everything done 
systematically and in order. I want a quartermaster at each 
one of those places to make all contracts, to superintend all 
disbursements, to present and vouch for all accounts, etc. It 
cannot be done by the quartermasters at these points because 
they already have as much business as they can attend to. 
Besides, I would rather keep the construction of these boats 
separate from other matters. Are there any unemployed 
quartermasters that can be detailed for that duty ? 


General Meigs: I do not think that there is any one 
available. I wish you would appoint somebody fit for the 

The Secretary : I will appoint fifty quartermasters if you 
will name men who are fit for the position. 

General Meigs : That would be hard to do. 

The Secretary : I propose to get men who are fit. I pro- 
pose to address a telegraphic dispatch to the Board of Trade 
in each city, asking them to appoint three of their most judi- 
cious members to act as an advisory committee of this depart- 
ment, and that one of their number shall accept temporarily 
the post of quartermaster, receive a commission as such from 
the United States, render his accounts, and surrender his 
commission just as soon as this business is completed, they to 
select the man. I appeal simply to their patriotic motives. 
Can any gentleman suggest a better plan? 

Colonel Taylor : I cannot ; that you have suggested is per- 
haps the only one. 

General Meigs : The person selected should be a good man, 
who knows the resources of the place and the people. 

The Secretary then read the telegram which he proposed 
to address to the boards of trade at Pittsburg, Cincinnati, 
and New Albany. 

General Totten : Do you make Ellet directly accountable 
to you ? 

The Secretary : I make him directly accountable to me. 

General Totten : To whom are the boats to be turned 

The Secretary : To the quartermaster. 

General Totten : My inquiry turns upon a point of his 
personal character. He will be lord over all, unless you 
make his path and wall him in. 

The Secretary : He will be accountable to me. 

General Totten : Is he to be subordinate to the command- 
ing officer ? What I fear is that he will not be tractable. 


The Secretary : Then I will dismiss him. The building of 
the boats is all that I propose that he shall do. The boards 
of trade can select good river men to be captains. After 
their construction the boats will be placed under the com- 
mand of the military officer in charge of the operations there. 
Ellet can go on any one of them if he chooses. 

General Totten : That, I think, will be ample security. 

The Secretary : I do not propose to erect him into a mili- 
tary power. 

General Totten : It seems to me that your proposition is 
the proper one for security against these rebel boats. 

General Thomas : It is the only one when the question of 
time is taken into consideration. 

The Secretary : I have told Ellet to construct these boats 
in twenty days. 

General Meigs : You can alter one sooner than that. 

The Secretary : That is the maximum. 

After some discussion the Secretary fixed Mr. Ellet's pay 
at ten dollars per day, with mileage at ten cents per mile. 
He then read to the board his letter of instructions to him. 

On the next day he gave Ellet the following order : — 

Sir, — You will please proceed immediately to Pittsburg, 
Cincinnati, and New Albany and take measures to provide 
steam rams for defense against ironclad vessels on the West- 
ern waters. Instructions will be forwarded you by mail to 
Pittsburg, in conformity with which you will guide your 
proceedings, and from time to time receive such other instruc- 
tions as may be required. All contracts and purchases will 
be made by a special quartermaster, to be appointed to act 
with you, and all expenditures will be made by him and 
under his direction. You will be compensated for your ser- 
vice at the rate of pay allowed by law for similar services, to 
wit, ten dollars per day and mileage at the rate of ten cents 
per mile. 


On the following day Mr. Stanton telegraphed him 
at Pittsburg : — 

Unless for imperative reasons, do not confine your work to 
one locality. Give a portion to Cincinnati and New Albany, 
so as to avoid the imputation of local favoritism, and also to 
bring out the whole mechanical energy of the Ohio Valley. 
Proceed as speedily as you can to Cincinnati. The Board of 
Trade there are ready to act energetically with you. Confer 
with Mr. Butler, the president of the board at Cincinnati, 
with whom I am in communication. Report daily to me. 

On the 29th Mr. Stanton sent the following to 
Major-General Halleck at St. Louis : — 

Steam rams are rapidly being prepared under the direction 
of Engineer Ellet at Pittsburg, and he proceeds immediately 
to Cincinnati to fit up some there. They are the most power- 
ful steamboats, with upper cabins removed, bows filled in 
with heavy timber. It is not proposed to wait for putting 
on iron. This is the mode in which the Merrimac will be 
met. Can you not have something of the kind speedily pre- 
pared at St. Louis also ? 

On the same day Mr. Ellet telegraphed to Mr. Stan- 
ton that the enemy had " eleven gunboats below Island 
No. 10, and others fitted up as rams ascending the 
Mississippi." He recited his plan of work in detail. 

Mr. Stanton replied : — 

Yours received. Direct quartermaster to supply whatever 
you need. Spare nothing to accomplish your object at the 
speediest moment, for time is precious. 

On the 31st Mr. Stanton telegraphed him : — 

Your letter just received. Your plan is approved. I do 
not mean to impose any improper limit, but wish the work 


not confined to one locality, but distributed, so as to get the 
utmost possible vigor, and therefore recommend immediate 
inspection at Cincinnati and New Albany, where an immense 
amount of mechanical industry may work at the same time 
with the force at Pittsburg. You need not consider yourself 
restricted to one more boat at Pittsburg, but I wish to know 
by telegraph what extent is proposed beyond that, before 
contracts are made. The crew is of great importance. I 
will give honorable reward and also prize money for success- 
ful courage in large and liberal manner. 

April 19 Ellet wrote that three gunboats at Pitts- 
burg and one, and possibly two, at Cincinnati would 
be ready as soon as they could be manned. He said : — 

What we do with these rams will probably be accomplished 
within a month after striking the first boat. Success requires 
that the steamers should be run below the batteries, after 
which they will be unable to return, and compelled to go 
down the Mississippi or be sunk or taken. I think if I can 
get the boats safely below Memphis I can command the river. 

He wrote full details of his requirements for the 


The Capture of Memphis. 

The energetic measures of Mr. Stanton for the con- 
struction of steam rams for operations on the Missis- 
sippi resulted in the completion of the fleet about the 
middle of May. On the 5th of June it moved down 
the river to Memphis. On the following day the 
memorable engagement took place, which was mainly 
a battle between the federal ram fleet and that of 
the enemy, and which resulted in the capture of 
Memphis. The following is from the report of Colonel 
Ellet, who commanded the federal rams constructed 
under his direction : — 

Eebel gunboats made a stand early this morning opposite 
Memphis, and opened a vigorous fire upon our gunboats, 
which was returned with equal spirit. I ordered the Queen, 
my flagship, to pass between the gunboats, and run down 
ahead of them upon the two rams of the enemy, which first 
boldly stood their ground. Lieutenant-Colonel Ellet, in the 
Monarch, of which Captain Dryden was first master, followed 
gallantly. The rebel rams endeavored to back down stream, 
and then to turn and run, but the movement was fatal to 
them. The Queen struck one of them fairly, and for a few 
minutes was fast to the wreck. After separating, the rebel 
steamer sank. My steamer, the Queen, was then herself 
struck by another rebel steamer and disabled, but, though 
damaged, can be saved. A pistol-shot wound in the leg 


deprived me of the power to witness the remainder of the 
fight. The Monarch also passed ahead of our gunboats, and 
went most gallantly into the action. She first struck the 
rebel boat that struck my flagship, and sunk the rebel. She 
was then struck by one of the rebel rams, but not injured. 
She was then pushed on and struck the Beauregard and burst 
open her side. Simultaneously the Beauregard was struck 
in the boiler by a shot from one of our gunboats. The Mon- 
arch then pushed at the gunboat Little Rebel, — the rebel 
flagship, — and having little headway, pushed her before her, 
the rebel commodore and crew escaping. The Monarch then 
finding the Beauregard sinking, took her in tow until she 
sank in shallow water. Then, in compliance with the request 
of Commodore Davis, Lieutenant-Colonel Ellet dispatched 
the Monarch and the Switzerland in pursuit of one remaining 
gunboat and some transports which had escaped. The gun- 
boats and two of my rams have gone below. I cannot too 
much praise the conduct of the pilots and engineers and mili- 
tary guard of the Monarch and Queen, the brave conduct of 
Captain Dryden, or the heroic bearing of Lieutenant-Colonel 
Ellet. I will name all parties to you in special report. I am 
myself the only person in my fleet who was disabled. . . . 

It is proper and due to the brave men on the Queen and 
the Monarch to say to you briefly that two of the rebel steam- 
ers were sunk outright and immediately by the shock of my 
two rams ; one with a large amount of cotton, etc., on board, 
was disabled by accidental collision with the Queen, and 
secured by her crew. After I was personally disabled, an- 
other, which was also hit by a shot from the gunboats, was 
sunk by the Monarch and towed to shoal water by that boat. 
Still another, also injured by the fire of our gunboats, was 
pushed into shore and secured by the Monarch. Of the gun- 
boats I can only say that they bore themselves as our navy 
always does, — bravely and well. 


Mr. Stanton responded to him as follows, June 9 : — ■ 
The news of your glorious achievement at Memphis reached 
here last evening, and our joy was only dampened by your 
personal injury. You will accept for yourself, and return to 
your officers, engineers, pilots, soldiers, and boatmen, the 
cordial thanks of this department for the gallantry, courage, 
and skill manifested on that occasion. When your official 
report is received official recognition will be made of their 
respective merits. I went in the evening to your house, and, 
as carefully as I could, communicated to Mrs. Ellet your 
injury. She was of course deeply affected, but bore the 
information with as much spirit and courage as could be ex- 
pected. It is her design to proceed immediately to join you. 
I have furnished her with a pass and free passage, and she 
will be accompanied by your daughter. I hope you will keep 
me advised of your state of health and everything you want. 
To my official thanks, I beg to add my personal regards. 

The brave Ellet died from the effects of his wounds on 
the 21st of the same month, just as the vessel which was 
conveying him to Cairo touched the wharf at that place. 

The capture of Memphis was a strange episode, 
being the result of the zeal and energy of two civilians. 
Stanton's confidence in Ellet and the latter's confidence 
in himself resulted in the rapid creation of a fleet of 
rams over which their constructor was given command. 
The gunboats participated in the engagement, and 
Ellet gave them full credit, but the victory was due to 
the rams. The engagement was watched from the 
levee at Memphis by the Confederate general, M. Jeff 
Thompson, who in his report to General Beauregard 
said : " The enemy's rams did most of the execution^ 
and were handled more adroitly than ours." 


Halleck in the West. — His Importunity for an Enlarged Command. 
— His Ludicrous Pretensions. — His Injustice to Grant undone 
by an Inquiry from the War Department. — He is given Supreme 
Command in the West. — He then restores Grant to his Com- 
mand. — The Battle of Shiloh fought while Halleck is still at St. 
Louis. — He then takes the Field and resumes Persecution of 
Grant. — Halleck's Advance on Corinth by Parallels. — Finds it 

The eagerness of General Halleck to have entire 
command in the West as his reward for permitting 
General Grant to capture Fort Henry, and for not pre- 
venting him from capturing Fort Donelson, has already 
been noted in his telegram to that effect, of February 
17, to General McClellan. 

On the 20th, he again telegraphed McClellan as fol- 
lows : — 

I must have command in the armies of the "West. Hesita- 
tion and delay are losing us the golden opportunity. Lay 
this before the President and Secretary of War. May I 
assume command? Answer quickly. 

To this McClellan replied, February 21: — 

Buell at Bowling Green knows more of the state of affairs 
than you at St. Louis. Until I hear from him, I cannot see 
the necessity of giving you entire command. I expect to hear 
from Buell in a few minutes. I do not yet see that Buell 
cannot control his own line. I shall not lay your case before 
the Secretary until I hear definitely from Buell. 


On the 21st, Mr. Stanton telegraphed to Halleck at 
St. Louis : — 

Your plan of organization has heen transmitted to me by- 
Mr. Scott, and strikes me as very bright. On account of 
domestic affliction in the President's family, I have not yet 
been able to submit it to him. 

On the 22d, Mr. Stanton telegraphed Halleck that, 
after full consideration, the President did not think any 
change in the organization of the army or military 
departments advisable. 

Halleck replied, on the 24th, to Secretary Stanton : — 

If it is thought that the present arrangement is best for 
the public service, I have nothing to say. I have done my 
duty in making the suggestions, and leave it to my superiors 
to adopt or reject them. 

While Grant had been hard at work, achieving grand 
results in Tennessee all through February, he made 
daily reports to Halleck at St. Louis. Unfortunately 
his dispatches for a portion of the time, as well as 
dispatches from Halleck to him, failed to reach their 
destination. One reason was the desertion of a tele- 
graph operator to the enemy. Among these dispatches 
were inquiries made by General McClellan as to the 
number of troops in his command. A question as to 
the reason for this irregularity in the receiving of 
reports would have shown General Halleck, what he 
afterwards found to be the case, that General Grant 
was entirely blameless, having faithfully performed his 
duty. Instead of pursuing that course, he accused 
General Grant, in a dispatch to General McClellan of 


March 2, of neglect and inefficiency. This brought 
from the latter on the next day a dispatch authorizing 
the arrest of Grant, at Halleck's discretion. On the 
4th, Halleck reinforced his first assault, telegraphing 
McClellan that a rumor had reached him to the effect 
that Grant had been addicting himself to drunkenness, 
"which," he said, "if true, would of course account 
for his bad conduct." He said he did not deem it 
necessary to arrest him just then, but he had given his 
command over to General C. F. Smith, who would 
probably restore order and discipline. 1 

The hero of the first great Union victory of the war 
was thus put in disgrace without cause or inquiry, and 
thereby removed from the possibility of being made 
commander of the Western armies, over the head of his 
senior, who had, up to that time, remained at his com- 
fortable desk in St. Louis. Fort Henry, Fort Donelson, 
and Nashville had all been taken, as already shown, 
not only without Halleck's orders, but against his 
judgment. This was not known, however, at Wash- 
ington, where the activity in his department, so loudly 
proclaimed by himself, was naturally credited in great 
part to his energy and generalship. 

While General McClellan was in command of all the 
armies, he maintained two distinct organizations, — one 
as general of the Army of the Potomac, and the other 
as general-in-chief . He had separate headquarters, and 

1 In his Memoirs General Grant thus alludes to this period : — 
"Thus, in less than two weeks after the victory of Fort Donelson, the 
two leading generals in the war were in correspondence as to what dispo- 
sition should be made of me, and in less than three weeks I was virtually 
under arrest and without a command." 


a staff for each. His headquarters as general-in-chief 
were in the War Department, the records being kept 
by the adjutant-general of the army. His headquarters 
as general of the Army of the Potomac were in another 
part of the city, and the records were in charge of the 
adjutant-general of that army. 

In a letter to General Grant 1 he explains that in this 
latter headquarters he kept the chief telegraph office, 
and the record of "all telegraphic dispatches of any 
importance." Thus it will be seen that the telegraphic 
records of his transactions as general-in-chief were not 
kept in his headquarters, as such, at the War Depart- 
ment, but in the minor establishment. 

In March, 1862, Secretary Stanton caused all records 
which related to the general command of the army to 
be consolidated in the office of the adjutant-general in 
the War Department, where they naturally belonged. 
This brought to light much information which was new 
to the President and the Secretary of War. Among 
these discoveries were the dispatches from Halleck to 
McClellan of March 2 and 4, so damaging to Grant. 
Similar charges had appeared in the press, but this 
evidently was the first knowledge the War Department 
had that they had been made by General Halleck. The 
following was addressed to the latter by Adjutant- 
General Thomas, March 10 : - — 

Sie, — It has been reported that soon after the battle of 
Fort Donelson General Grant left his command without 

By direction of the President, the Secretary of War desires 
1 Own Story, page 220. 


you to ascertain and report whether General Grant left his 
command at any time without proper authority, and if so, for 
how long. 

Whether he has made to you proper reports and returns of 
his force. 

Whether he has committed any acts which were unauthor- 
ized, or not in accordance with military subordination or pro- 
priety, and if so, what. 

The order of March 11, which retired McClellan as 
general-in-chief, assigned Halleck to the command of 
all the armies in the West. The President and his 
Secretary of War knew only of results in that region, 
and not of the contrivances by which General Halleck's 
agency in them was magnified. When, therefore, the 
question came to be decided, of the chief command in 
the West, it was given to him. He was entitled to it 
by rank ; he had in official dispatches made Grant to 
appear wholly unfit and unworthy ; and no one else 
could claim any advantage over him in the way of 

Having thus secured the object of his present ambi- 
tion, and having no justification whatever for the great 
wrong he had done General Grant, he attempted none, 
but first restored him to command, and then wrote to 
the adjutant-general, March 15, as follows, in reply to 
Stanton's inquiry : — 

In accordance with your instructions of the 10th inst., I 
report that General Grant and several officers of high rank 
in his command, immediately after the battle of Fort Donel- 
son, went to Nashville without my authority or knowledge. 
I am satisfied, however, from investigation, that General 


Grant did this from good intentions, and from a desire to 
subserve the public interests. Not being advised of General 
Buell's movements, and learning that General B. had ordered 
Smith's division of his (Grant's) command to Nashville, he 
deemed it his duty to go there in person. During the absence 
of General Grant and a part of his general officers, numerous 
irregularities are said to have occurred at Fort Donelson. 
These were in violation of the orders issued by General Grant 
before his departure, and probably under the circumstances 
were unavoidable. 

General Grant has made the proper explanations, and has 
been directed to resume his command in the field. As he 
acted from a praiseworthy, although mistaken zeal, for the 
public service, in going to Nashville and leaving his com- 
mand, I respectfully recommend that no further notice be 
taken of it. 

There never has been any want of military subordination 
on the part of General Grant, and his failure to make returns 
of his forces has been explained as resulting partly from the 
failure of colonels of regiments to report to him on arrival, 
and partly from an interruption of telegraphic communica- 
tion. All these irregularities have now been remedied. 

It was not until the 17th of March that Grant re- 
ceived from Halleck copies of this correspondence; 
" but/' he remarks, " he did not inform me that it was 
his own reports that created all this trouble. In conse- 
quence I felt very grateful to him, and supposed that 
it was his interposition that had set me right with 
the government." 

Halleck had done Grant all the harm he could possi- 
bly do him — had degraded him from command without 
the slightest inquiry, before or afterwards, as to the jus- 
tice of his course. There seems to be no reason to 


suppose that he ever would have retracted his unsup- 
ported charges, had he not been compelled by the 
questions of his superiors to admit that there was no 
fact on which to sustain them. 

General Halleck continued his office at St. Louis for 
about a month after he had been given command of all 
the Western armies. Meanwhile they accomplished a 
great deal. Pope's operations on the Mississippi River 
at New Madrid and Island No. 10, aided by the gun- 
boats of the navy, under Commodore Foote, resulted in 
the capture of 7000 prisoners and an immense amount 
of munitions of war. 

The main operations in the department, however, 
were those conducted by Grant, who, after resuming 
command of the Army of the Tennessee on the 17th of 
March, proceeded to Savannah on the Tennessee River, 
to which point, and places beyond, his troops had been 
advanced. He at once moved all of his forces to Pitts- 
burg Landing, which is within twenty-two miles of 
Corinth, Mississippi, at which latter place the enemy, 
under General A. S. Johnston, was fortifying and mass- 
ing an army — the first stand he had made since his 
retreat from Nashville. Grant was not strong enough 
to attack the intrenched forces of Johnston until rein- 
forced by Buell, who was marching to his aid from 
Nashville. Aware of this situation, and eager to recover 
the prestige he had lost by his failures in Tennessee, 
Johnston decided, against the protest of Beauregard, to 
move at once upon Grant, and give him battle at Pitts- 
burg Landing. Then, after the victory he anticipated, 
he would fall upon Buell before the latter reached 


Grant. He made the attack near Pittsburg Landing at 
eight o'clock on the morning of the 6th of April, and 
the battle raged fiercely until night compelled its ces- 
sation. Both forces suffered greatly, — the Confederate 
losses including the commanding general, Albert Sidney 
Johnston, — and in the ranks of both there had been 
great panic among some of the raw recruits. The Union 
forces had been driven back to the river, where, with 
aid from the gunboats, they repelled the last desperate 
assaults of the enemy on that day, and remained on the 
portion of the field thus held by them. In this fierce 
conflict, Grant had been ably supported by Sherman, 
McClernand, Prentiss, Hurlbut, and W. H. L. Wallace. 
Buell arrived with a division of his army too late to take 
part on the 6th. General Lew Wallace with 5000 men 
also failed to arrive in time to do any good on the 6th, 
owing to a misunderstanding as to the route by which 
he was to march. 

Grant commenced the fighting soon after daybreak 
on the next morning (7th), and, reinforced by Buell and 
Wallace, fought and won the battle of Shiloh. Beau- 
regard succeeded Johnston in command of the rebels. 
"The enemy was driven back all day," says Grant, "as 
we had been the day before, until finally they beat a 
precipitate retreat." 

Grant says that not more than 25,000 Union troops 
were in line on the first day, while the enemy, according 
to Beauregard, were 40,000 strong. Grant says : — 

Shiloh was the severest battle fought in the West, and hut 
a few in the East equaled it for hard, determined fighting. 
. . . Our loss in the two days' fighting was 1754 killed, 8408 


wounded, and 2885 missing. Beauregard reported a total 
loss of 10,677, of whom 1728 were killed, 8012 wounded, and 
957 missing. This estimate must be incorrect. We buried 
by actual count more of the enemy's dead in front of the ranks 
of McClernand and Sherman than here reported, and 4000 
was the estimate of the burial parties for the whole field. 

Grant wrote at once to Halleck informing him of this 
great battle and its results. Halleck gave him no re- 
cognition, and made no mention of him to the govern- 
ment at Washington ; but on the 8th he telegraphed 
from his office in St. Louis to Assistant Secretary Scott 
at New Madrid of a " severe battle and splendid victory 
at Pittsburg Landing." To the Secretary of War on 
the same day he telegraphed : — 

The enemy attacked our works at Pittsburg Landing, 
Tennessee, yesterday, and were repulsed with heavy loss. No 
details given. 

Three days later, April 11, he made his appearance 
at Pittsburg Landing, and assumed command on the 
field. He ignored General Grant, who was next to him 
in command, not even permitting him to see the reports 
of General Buell of his share in the battle. On the 
13th he telegraphed to Mr. Stanton that General Sher- 
man saved the fortune of the day on the 6th, and re- 
quested that he be made a major-general. 1 

It is strange that General Grant, who commanded all 
the forces in this great battle, did not seem to General 

1 General Sherman's services on that occasion were fully recognized by 
General Grant. He says in his Memoirs that any casualty to Sherman 
that would have taken him from the field that day would have been a sad 
one for the troops engaged at Shiloh. 


Halleck worthy of mention. Ten days afterwards 
Stanton telegraphed Halleck : — 

The President desires to know why you have not made 
official report to this department respecting the late battle at 
Pittsburg Landing, and whether any neglect or misconduct of 
General Grant or any other officer contributed to the sad 
casualties that befell our forces on Sunday. 

This inquiry was made because the most malicious 
slanders had been circulated against Grant, charging 
that the enemy had fallen upon him in the early morn- 
ing of the first day while he was drunk, and that he 
was at fault in having been surprised. Subsequent 
investigations proved that these were falsehoods out 
of whole cloth, instigated by malicious persons who 
were desperately resolved to destroy Grant in the face 
of successes which have contributed largely to his im- 
mortal renown. Halleck made the following reply to 
Mr. Stanton's inquiry : — 

The sad casualties of Sunday, the 6th, were due in part to 
the bad conduct of officers, who were utterly unfit for their 
places, and in part to the bravery and enterprise of the enemy. 
I prefer to express no opinion in regard to the misconduct of 
individuals until I receive the reports of commanders of divi- 
sions. A great battle cannot be fought, or a victory won, 
without many casualties. In this instance the enemy suffered 
more than we did. 

This was not responsive to Mr. Stanton's inquiry. 
Halleck had been on the ground thirteen days, and 
could not have failed by that time to know that Grant 
had neither by neglect nor misconduct fallen short of 
his duty. His refusal to express an opinion in regard to 


the misconduct of individuals may not have been in- 
tended as a reference to General Grant, but as that 
officer's name alone had been mentioned by Mr. Stan- 
ton, the failure to at once exonerate him was a suppres- 
sion of the truth, of which no soldier should have been 
guilty. On the 2d of May Halleck telegraphed Stan- 
ton : — 

The newspaper accounts that our divisions were surprised 
were utterly false. Every division had notice of the enemy's 
approach hours before the battle commenced. 

By Halleck's order, Pope's command of 30,000 had 
joined him on the 21st of April, and on the 30th the 
grand army commenced its advance from Shiloh upon 
Corinth, digging intrenchments and creeping along be- 
hind them, consuming the month of May in moving 
twenty miles. Corinth was evacuated on the 29th, 
without the knowledge of General Halleck, who, on the 
following day, announced in orders that an attack by the 
enemy was expected that morning. The month was 
thus consumed in marching against a stronghold to find 
it evacuated, and everything destroyed or carried away 
except a few Quaker guns, made of wooden logs, as was 
the case at Manassas. 

From the 13th of April up to this time Grant had 
been so persecuted by Halleck that he had repeatedly 
asked to be relieved from duty under him. He finally 
obtained permission to leave the department, but as he 
was about to start, General Sherman discovered it and 
persuaded him to remain. He was permitted, however, 
to remove his headquarters to Memphis on the 21st of 


The object in dwelling at some length on these events 
is to show why a theoretical man like Halleck was in 
1862 twice given the preference by Lincoln and Stanton 
over a real soldier like Grant, who by grand achieve- 
ments had proven himself so much better fitted to 
command. It cannot be known who originated the 
calumnies which filled the public press against Grant 
immediately after the battle of Shiloh, any more than 
those which were circulated immediately after the battle 
of Fort Donelson ; but it was the duty of the depart- 
ment commander, in each case, to have immediately 
satisfied himself of the truth or falsity of the accusa- 
tions, and then, if true, to have freed the service of so 
bad a man ; and, if false, to let the country have the 
benefit of the best services of its first successful general. 

Stanton had no patience with any officer who was 
neglectful, insubordinate, or demoralized by bad habits. 
When such things were charged against Grant, and in- 
dorsed by Halleck in some cases, and in others assented 
to by his silence or by innuendo, he had to accept them 
as true for the time being. As seen above, General 
Halleck was himself taken to task by Stanton for having 
failed to make an official report of the battle of Pitts- 
burg Landing for two weeks after it had been fought. 
He apparently thought that Halleck was diffident about 
communicating to him unpleasant facts concerning 
Grant's conduct. This view was naturally strengthened 
by Halleck's reply, begging to be relieved from saying 
anything on that subject until he obtained further in- 

One of the greatest reinforcements the rebels had at 


any time during the war was the effort — successful for 
a time — to deceive the government as to Grant's 
services, capability, and reliability. Whoever may have 
been most responsible for this, its beneficiary in the 
way of recognition and rank was General Henry W. 


General Butler's New Orleans Expedition. — Cooperation of Naval 
Fleet under Admiral Farragut. — Grand Naval Exploit and Cap- 
ture of the City. — Occupation and Military Government by Gen- 
eral Butler. 

At the time of Mr. Stanton's appointment as Secre- 
tary of War, General Benjamin F. Butler was in com- 
mand of the Department of New England, with head- 
quarters at Boston, and engaged, by the authority of 
the President, in raising troops for a descent upon the 
Gulf of Mexico, with the capture and occupation of 
New Orleans, by cooperation of the navy, as the object. 
A portion of his command had been in occupation of 
Ship Island, Mississippi, since the 3d of December, 1861. 

General McClellan had looked with disfavor upon 
General Butler and his expedition. Could he have con- 
trolled, there would have been no movement upon New 
Orleans. He did what he could to thwart it. The 
threatened rupture with England, because of the cap- 
ture of Mason and Slidell from the British mail steamer 
Trent, arrested the movement of troops by sea until 
that matter was settled. This brought it down to early 
in January. On the 13th of that month, General 
McClellan ordered that on the arrival of the steamer 
Constitution from Boston, with troops of Butler's com- 
mand, she should be sent, with the troops on board, to 
Port Royal, South Carolina, to reinforce General T. W. 
Sherman at that point. The intention of this order 
was evidently to break up the New Orleans expedition. 


General Butler had to contend not only with McClel- 
lan's do-nothing policy, but with fierce political oppo- 
sition at home. Combative in the highest degree, he 
had not only been politically opposed to the great body 
of the people of Massachusetts, but he had made his 
opposition as offensive as possible at all times. There 
is no doubt that Governor Andrew greatly distrusted 
him, as many Democratic leaders in other sections were 
distrusted. There was no actual ground for such dis- 
trust in his case. Butler had all his life been on the 
side of law and order, and was as greatly incensed at 
resistance to the authority of the United States from 
one quarter as from another. Mr. Lincoln wisely trusted 
him ; but this would avail little if his troops were to be 
taken from him by General McClellan, and sent to 
South Carolina. 

The appointment of Mr. Stanton came in the nick of 
time to save the New Orleans expedition. Nominated 
on January the 13th, and commissioned on the 15th, 
the remainder of the week was occupied in his personal 
affairs, and in conferences with Union leaders. On 
Sunday morning, the 19th, he entertained General But- 
ler at breakfast, when a long consultation ensued on 
the subject so near to Butler's heart. A memorandum 
of what occurred at this conference covers a dozen 
written pages, in General Butler's handwriting, and 
gives an account of the number and location of all the 
New England troops raised by him. The entire num- 
ber was 16,075. He had complete arrangements for 
transportation and supplies. 

The two old Democrats understood each other per- 


fectly. Deserted by their Southern political associates, 
for whose legal property rights in slaves they had 
stoutly contended until the flag was assailed, each knew 
that the other would devote himself to the maintenance 
of the government against rebel assaults. 

Mr. Stanton entered upon his duties on the next 
day, — January 20, 1862, — and on the 22d General 
McClellan countermanded his order of the 13th, that 
the troops of the Constitution should be sent to Port 
Royal, South Carolina. On the 24th, Secretary Stanton 
made a formal order that General McClellan report 
without delay his opinion whether the expedition pro- 
posed by General Butler should be carried out, and if 
so in what manner. General McClellan replied with a 
recommendation that the troops raised by General But- 
ler, and not assigned, be held in reserve, "ready to 
support and reinforce in any quarter where they may 
be required, and which can only be determined by cir- 
cumstances in the course of active operations ; " and, in 
conclusion, he said it was clear to his mind that " what 
was known as General Butler's expedition ought to be 

Secretary Stanton had not limited himself to infor- 
mation from one side only. On the same day of his 
order to General McClellan for a report he called upon 
General Butler for information of the condition of his 
expedition : its cost to date and its probable necessities. 
To this General Butler responded in detail on February 
6, and on the same day wrote to General McClellan of 
the departure of troops for the Gulf, of the near readi- 
ness of others, and asking for certain necessary orders. 


Mr. Stanton having disregarded the recommendation 
of General McClellan, — - that this important expedition 
be abandoned, — General Butler's preparations had 
been energetically carried forward. Early in February, 
having embarked his 2000 remaining troops from Bos- 
ton for Fortress Monroe en route for the Gulf, he went 
to Washington for orders. These were made out by 
General McClellan, after a consultation with Butler, 
but were not issued. Chafing under the delay, Butler 
reported in writing to the Secretary of War on the 
12th of February, that he had as yet no written instruc- 
tions in regard to the details of the expedition, — a 
memorandum of which he had before given the com- 
manding general, — and, with characteristic adroitness, 
he added : " I presume in the press of more important 
matters these details may have been overlooked. Fear- 
ing, however, that the memorandum may be mislaid, 
and in order to refer to it, a duplicate is sent herewith." 

This was referred to General McClellan on the 17th, 
and his immediate attention requested by the Secretary 
of War to General Butler's expedition, and to the 
instructions to be given him if he was to command it. 

As General McClellan did not act on this at once, 
General Butler conceived of a plan for applying a spur 
to him. He had, on the 12th, testified before the Com- 
mittee on the Conduct of the War, and had given his 
opinion in writing that the rebel strength in front of 
Washington did not exceed 65,000. He fortified this 
opinion with official reports of the enemy, which made 
it nearly a demonstration. Being questioned by the 
President on the 21st, he had repeated this statement. 


Being asked by the President if he would be willing to 
cross the Potomac and make an attack if he had 100,000 
effective troops, he had promptly replied in the affirma- 
tive, saying, however, that he only wished to be off to 
New Orleans. The President asked him to call again 
on the 23d. 

Butler learned that McClellan had issued an order to 
disembark his troops at Fortress Monroe and send them 
to Baltimore. He at once set inquiries on foot which 
disclosed the singular fact that this order had not 
reached General Wool at Fortress Monroe, but had, on 
its way, lodged in the coat pocket of a staff officer of 
General Dix at Baltimore, and been by him forgotten. 
Improving the opportunity afforded by this delay, Gen- 
eral Butler went to General McClellan on the 21st, and 
asked him to revoke the order. " Why are you so 
anxious about this expedition ? " asked General McClel- 
lan. "Because," said Butler, "I think I can do a great 
deal of good for the country. Besides, I want to get 
away from Washington. I am sick of the intrigues and 
cross-purposes that I find here. Mr. Lincoln and Mr. 
Stanton seem to me to be about the only persons who 
are in dead earnest for a vigorous prosecution of the 
war." 1 

He then informed McClellan of his conversation with 
the President, including the latter's inquiry as to 
whether he would be willing to lead 100,000 effective 
troops in an attack upon the enemy then besieging the 
capital. He gave the conversation a turn that was 
calculated to suggest that it might be dangerous to 

1 Butler's Book, page 334. 


McClellan to have a major-general around Washing- 
ton, without a command and ready to fight, and then 
asked whether his next call should be before or after 
his call on the President on the 23d. " Better come 
before," replied McClellan. He did so on the morning 
of the 23d. McClellan no longer delayed compliance 
with Stanton's order, but, on the same day, created a 
Department of the Gulf, assigned General Butler to the 
command, and gave him instructions to cooperate with 
the navy in the attack upon New Orleans. 

General Butler did not lag. Receiving his instruc- 
tions on the 23d of February, he was on his way to 
Fortress Monroe the next day, and on the 25th sailed 
with 1600 men for Ship Island, Miss., where he arrived 
late in March. He had previously sent 8000 men to 
that place. 

Rear-Admiral Farragut had sailed from Fortress 
Monroe on the 3d of February, arriving at Ship Island 
on the 20th. He was under orders to there collect such 
vessels as could be spared from the blockade, and — 
when joined by a fleet of mortar-boats under Com- 
mander D. D. Porter, who was to report to him — to 
reduce the defenses on the Mississippi River below New 
Orleans ; then to take that city and hoist the United 
States flag on government buildings, and to hold it 
until troops could arrive for its permanent occupation. 

The forces he collected for these operations were 
eight sloops of war and ten gunboats, twenty mortar- 
boats and other vessels large and small, aggregating 
forty-six in all, with three hundred guns and mortars. 
None of these were ironclad. 


The obstacles to be overcome were the two strong 
forts, Jackson and St. Philip, mounting 126 guns, — 
many of largest calibre ; a stout chain cable stretched 
across the river (700 yards) supported by a raft of logs 
and eight hulks of vessels ; numerous earthworks, well 
armed, between New Orleans and the forts, and a naval 
force consisting of thirteen gunboats, the ironclad bat- 
tery Louisiana, and the ironclad ram Manassas. 

On the 18th of April the bombardment of the forts 
commenced, which continued for six days without redu- 
cing or silencing them. 

On the 23d, the sixth day, orders were issued by 
Admiral Farragut to the fleet, to prepare for passing 
the forts. At two on the morning of the 24th, the 
whole squadron moved up the river in two columns. 
Every precaution had been taken to make each vessel 
as near invulnerable as possible. The forts were at 
once fiercely attacked, and returned a hot fire. The 
fight lasted two hours, within which time the two forts 
had been passed, and the whole rebel fleet captured or 
destroyed. Farragut arrived with his fleet in front of 
New Orleans at one o'clock of the 25th. 

On the 1st of May General Butler took possession 
of the city, disembarking such of his troops as had 
arrived at sundown of that day. 

On the 10th of June Secretary Stanton wrote to 
Butler : * — 

No event during the war has exercised an influence upon 
the public mind so powerful as the capture and occupation of 
New Orleans. To you and to the gallant officers and soldiers 
1 Butler's Book, page 471. 


under your command the department tenders cordial thanks. 
Your vigorous and able administration of the government of 
that city also receives warm commendation. . . . With admi- 
ration for your achievement and the utmost confidence in 
your continued success, I remain, etc. 

A day or two before General Butler took possession 
of New Orleans, the United States flag, which Admiral 
Farragut had caused to be raised on the United States 
Mint, was torn down, dragged through the streets, and 
then torn in pieces and the fragments distributed 
among the crowd as trophies to be worn in the button- 
holes of their coats. The man who had torn down the 
flag was named Mumford. He was made an example 
of to convince those around him that the government 
of the United States would compel respect for its 
authority and its flag. He was tried for treason before 
a military commission, convicted, and on the 7th of 
June was executed at the United States Mint on the 
spot where he had committed the offense. 

General Butler reported this execution with various 
other matters to Secretary Stanton in a dispatch dated 
June 10. On the 23d of the same month, in a reply 
to this dispatch, Secretary Stanton said : — 

You have been troubled with no specific instructions from 
this department because of the confidence in your ability to 
meet the exigencies of your command better upon your own 
judgment than upon instructions from Washington. ... It 
will give me pleasure to hear from you often, and you may 
count with confidence upon the utmost aid of this depart- 


Operations on the Mississippi River. — First Movements on Vicks- 
burg by Farragut and Butler. 

When Butler established order in New Orleans in 
April he considered his mission only begun. The 
opening of the Mississippi River was of the highest 
importance. The seizure and occupation of New Or- 
leans was of course a great step in that direction. 
The operations of General Pope on that river, culmi- 
nating with the capture of Island No. 10 with 7000 
prisoners of war, were, for no known reason, brought 
to an untimely close by an order from General Halleck 
late in April, that the expedition should be abandoned, 
and Pope and his forces join the main army in its 
advance upon Corinth. 

On the first day of June, General Butler wrote to Mr. 
Stanton that he had proposed to cooperate with Ad- 
miral Farragut in a movement upon Vicksburg. He 
wrote that he would send one half of his entire force 
on the expedition. On the 10th of June, he wrote of 
the progress of this expedition. On the 28th of June, 
Farragut wrote to Halleck that he had passed the bat- 
teries and was then above Vicksburg with the greatest 
part of his fleet. He said that the force which General 
Butler had given him, under Brigadier-General Wil- 
liams, was too small to attempt to land on the Vicks- 


burg side. He said : " My orders, general, are to clear 
the river. This I find impossible without your assist- 
ance. Can you aid me in this matter to carry out the 
peremptory order of the President? I am satisfied 
that you will act for the best advantage of the govern- 
ment in this matter, and shall, therefore, wait with 
great anxiety your reply." 

This should have been a sufficiently strong appeal to 
General Halleck, who, with the grand army of the 
West, was lying idle at Corinth ; but it was not the 
only one. Upon receipt of Butler's letter of the 10th, 
Stanton replied on the 23d : — 

Your suggestion in regard to Vicksburg is one of great 
importance, apparently easy of execution, and would be pro- 
ductive of very important results. If your force is strong 
enough, or if General Halleck would cooperate with you, 
there could be no doubt of success. The possession of New 
Orleans, and clearing the rebels from the Mississippi so as 
to open trade and commerce through that channel with the 
Gulf, has always appeared to be among the chief points of 
this war. You have successfully accomplished one, and I 
hope the other will not be long in the accomplishment. 

On the same day he telegraphed to General Hal- 
leck : — 

If you have not already given your attention to the practi- 
cability of making a cut-off in the rear of Vicksburg, I beg 
to direct your attention to that point. It has been repre- 
sented to the department to be an undertaking of easy accom- 
plishment, especially under the protection of gunboats. A 
dispatch to-day received from General Butler speaks of it as 
a project contemplated by him, but he may not have a force 
to spare. 


To this General Halleck replied July 1 : — 

Your telegram of the 23d received. Five days en route. 
It is impossible to send to Vicksburg at present ; but I will 
give the matter my full attention as soon as circumstances 
will permit. 

Two days later Halleck wrote to Admiral Farragut : 

The scattered and weakened condition of my forces ren- 
ders it impossible for me at the present moment to detach 
any to cooperate with you on Vicksburg. 1 Probably I shall 
be able to do so when I can get my troops more concentrated. 
This may delay the clearing of the river, but its accomplish- 
ment will be sure in a few weeks. Allow me to congratulate 
you on your great success. 

On the 14th of July Secretary Stanton telegraphed 
Halleck : " The Secretary of the Navy desires to know 
whether you have or intend to have any land force to 
cooperate in the operations at Vicksburg. Please in- 
form me immediately, inasmuch as orders he intends to 
give will depend upon your answer." 

To which Halleck replied on the 15th : " I cannot 
at present give Commodore Farragut any aid against 
Vicksburg. I am sending reinforcements to General 
Curtis in Arkansas, and to General Buell in Tennessee 
and Kentucky." 

Thus despite the hearty cooperation between Ad- 
miral Farragut and General Butler, and the earnest 
endeavors of Secretary Stanton to add the one thing 
needful, namely, the cooperation of Halleck, the move- 
ment against Vicksburg had to be abandoned. 

1 He had himself scattered his forces to no purpose. — Grant's Me- 
moirs, vol. i. p. 382. 


Concerning the situation at that time, General Grant 

says : * — 

New Orleans and Baton Rouge had fallen into the posses- 
sion of the national forces, so that now the Confederates at 
the West were narrowed down for all communication with 
Richmond to the single line of road running east from 
Vicksburg. To dispossess them of this, therefore, became a 
matter of the first importance. The possession of the Missis- 
sippi by us from Memphis to Baton Rouge was also a most 
important object. It would be equal to the amputation of a 
limb in its weakening effects upon the enemy. 

As to the ability of Halleck to render aid for this 
immensely important movement we also have General 
Grant's testimony. He says : 2 — 

After the capture of Corinth, a movable force of 80,000 
men, besides enough to hold all the territory acquired, could 
have been set in motion for the accomplishment of any great 
plan for the suppression of the rebellion. In addition to 
this, fresh troops were being raised to swell the effective 
force. But the work of depletion commenced. Buell with 
the Army of the Ohio was sent East, following the line of 
the Memphis and Charleston road. This he was ordered to 
repair as he advanced — only to have it destroyed by small 
guerrilla bands or other troops as soon as he was out of the 
way. If he had been sent directly to Chattanooga as rapidly 
as he could march, leaving two or three divisions along the 
line of the railroad from Nashville forward, he could have 
arrived with but little fighting, and would have saved much 
of the loss of life which was afterwards incurred in gaining 
Chattanooga. Bragg would not then have had time to raise 
an army and contest the possession of Middle and East Ten- 
nessee and Kentucky ; the battles of Stone River and Chick- 
1 Memoirs, vol. i. p. 382. 2 Ibid., page 383. 


amauga would not necessarily have been fought; Burnside 
would not have been besieged in Knoxville without the power 
of helping himself or escaping; the battle of Chattanooga 
would not have been fought. These are the negative advan- 
tages, if the term negative is applicable, which would prob- 
ably have resulted from prompt movements after Corinth 
fell into the possession of the national forces. The positive 
results might have been a bloodless advance to Atlanta, to 
Vicksburg, or to any other desired point south of Corinth in 
the interior of Mississippi. 

When we consider the vast expenditure of lives, 
time, and money made during the ensuing year to se- 
cure the capture of Vicksburg, and when we consider 
that the whole year could probably have been saved, 
and the position taken in July, 1862, instead of July, 
1863, if Halleck would but have extended his hand to- 
wards Farragut, his failure to do so seems unaccount- 
able and unpardonable. 




Lincoln and McClellan. — The Relations between them. — Reluc- 
tance of the President to force an Issue with his General-in- 
Chief. — Stanton's Hopes of McClellan. — Elation of the Latter 
attributable to Exaggerated Importance given to his Operations in 
West Virginia. — Brief Review of that Campaign. — Stanton's 
Influence made Manifest. — Lincoln asserts his Authority as 
Commander-in-Chief. — He orders a Movement of the Land and 
Naval Forces. 

President Lincoln was not wanting in a correct 
estimate of the power vested in him by the Constitu- 
tion and the laws, nor was he wanting in will or in 
dignity of character to assert his authority when it was 
directly questioned. But he found it difficult to deal 
with the indirect insubordination which ignored or 
neglected his orders, and which baffled his purposes by 
groundless excuses and unnecessary delays. He sought 
to persuade without commanding, and for a time car- 
ried this to the verge of an abdication of authority. 
He had placed the destinies of the country in the hands 
of a young man who had never fought a battle, and 
who, at the time of Mr. Stanton's appointment, gave 


little promise of any intention ever to light one. He 
believed that the army should move, but still left 
General McClellan to decide when it should move. 
Foreign intervention was imminent, and even the war 
spirit in the North might not be proof against hope 
too long deferred. But yet the young general, while 
giving out indications at various times of an intended 
early advance, was never ready. Mr. Lincoln saw that 
McClellan was wanting either in capacity or earnest- 
ness, but he was not willing to say so harsh a thing. 
He had not the fortitude to endure the wound to his 
own feelings which would be caused by so wounding 
those of another. 

Stanton was emotional and sympathetic too, but he 
had no tenderness for indifference or insubordination. 
He could, if it became necessary, bluntly tell his friend 
McClellan that he did not believe his excuses for delay 
had sufficient grounds. In short, he could perform 
any imperative duty, however disagreeable. He recog- 
nized no limit upon executive power in the execution of 
the laws and the defense of the Constitution. Equally 
sure was he that there was no other restraint upon 
the President's powers as the supreme military com- 
mander than were to be found in the Articles of War 
and the Usages of Nations. 

Stanton hoped McClellan would feel confident of 
support from him, and would be ready to act when the 
President ceased to leave it at his discretion whether he 
should move or not. He seemed to take it for granted 
that, in the natural course of events, the head of the 
government would see that some fighting was done. 


He thought when the President asserted his authority, 
it would be obeyed. He took office with the intention 
of urging that course upon Mr. Lincoln, and of sup- 
porting him in it. He did not argue that, because the 
President has the constitutional power to take the field 
in person, plan campaigns, and compel their execution 
by generals of his own selection, a President without a 
military training should therefore actually direct the 
marches and field tactics of the army in a campaign. 
But he scouted the idea that the commander-in-chief 
should be subordinate to a general of his own appoint- 
ment, and meekly await the latter's permission that the 
army do something. 

McClellan declares in his " Own Story " that he had 
smooth sailing with the administration until shortly 
before Stanton became Secretary of War, when difficul- 
ties commenced, which culminated soon after his ap- 

Mr. Lincoln had temporized with McClellan in the 
exercise of that large charity which hopeth all things, 
believeth all things, and endureth all things. He had 
urged him to do something, but he defended him when 
others complained of his inactivity. Mr. Stanton's 
entrance into the War Department was quickly fol- 
lowed by more urgent demands for action. At that 
time the lower Potomac was blockaded, the Baltimore 
and Ohio Railroad obstructed, and the capital besieged, 
while 180,000 troops were idling in camp. In the 
West the rebels had been aggressive, and although 
they had not had their own way in Missouri and Ken- 
tucky, no general plan of campaign was yet visible. 


From the time of his arrival in Washington in 
July, 1861, McClellan had reveled in an atmosphere 
of adulation, and enjoyed a reputation he seemed reluc- 
tant to risk in any serious engagement with the enemy. 
That reputation he had easily gained in Western Vir- 
ginia by sounding proclamations following unimportant 
events, in which, as is shown by his own reports, he 
had cut but little figure. 

The events of his so-called West Virginia campaign 
in 1861 are summarized in his final report of August 
4, 1863, as " the successful affairs of Philippi, Rich 
Mountain, Carrick's Ford," etc. These can be briefly 
described, and the story is instructive. 

The papers accompanying his report show that the 
" successful affair of Philippi," Virginia, was the dislodg- 
ment, without further pursuit, of 2000 rebels at that 
place June 3. The only accident on the Union side 
was the wounding of one officer. General McClellan 
received the report of this " successful affair " at his 
office in Cincinnati, Ohio. He had not then taken the 
field, and did not until seventeen days later. 

On the 20th of June he left Ohio and crossed over 
into Virginia. On his way, before he had crossed the 
Ohio River, and when he certainly had performed no 
military exploits, he was made the object of an amount 
of adulation well calculated to turn the head of any 
man not insensible to applause. That it exhilarated 
him greatly is evidenced by a letter to his wife, written 
at Marietta, Ohio, June 21, in which he said : — 

At every station in Ohio where we stopped, crowds had 
stopped to see the "young general," gray-headed old men 


and women, mothers holding up their children to take my 
hand, girls, boys, all sorts, cheering and crying : " God bless 
you." I never went through such a scene in my life, and 
never expect to go through such another one. You would 
have been surprised at the excitement. At Chillicothe the 
ladies had prepared a dinner, and I had to be trotted through. 
They gave me about twenty beautiful bouquets, and almost 
killed me with kindness. The trouble will be to fulfill their 
expectations — they seem to be so high. I could hear them 
say : " He is our own general." " Look at him ; how young 
he is." " He will thrash them." « He will do," etc., etc., ad 
infinitum. 1 

Thus was his fame assured before he commenced his 

On the 23d of June he wrote to his wife from Graf- 
ton, Va. : — 

Everything here needs the hand of the master, and is get- 
ting it fast. 

On the 25th, with no enemy molesting or in sight, 
he issued a proclamation at Grafton to " the soldiers 
of the Army of the West," exhorting them to good 
behavior, and concluding in these words : — 

Soldiers ! I have heard that there was danger here. I am 
come to place myself at your head and share it with you. I 
fear now but one thing — that you will not find foemen 
worthy of your steel. I know that I can rely upon you. 

After remaining at this place for a week longer in 
perfect quiet and safety, he moved eastward. 

The battle of Rich Mountain, on July 11, was 
planned and fought by General Rosecrans. General 
McClellan was to have supported him, but he did not 

1 Own Story, page 57. 


do so. In his official report he admits that he knew 
nothing of the battle until the day after it had been 
won, when he learned, while placing artillery where he 
could command the enemy's works, that they had fled. 
The rebel loss was 20 killed and 50 wounded, with 
many prisoners, and a considerable amount of mu- 
nitions. The Federal loss was 11 killed and 35 

The third and last event of the campaign deemed 
worthy of mention by General McClellan occurred 
when some retreating rebels made a stand at Carrick's 
Ford, where a lively action occurred, resulting in their 
being driven out with a loss of 20 killed and 52 
taken prisoners. The Federal loss was 2 killed and 7 

On the 16th of July General McClellan signalized 
these inconsiderable events by another highly inflated 
proclamation to the "soldiers of the Army of the 
West," commencing as follows : — 

I am more than satisfied with you. You have annihilated 
two armies, commanded by educated and experienced soldiers, 
intrenched in mountain fastnesses, and fortified at their 

These movements in Western Virginia had been 
given great prominence in the journals of the day, the 
columns of which teemed with exaggerated accounts of 
the movements of troops, and the intentions and most 
inconsequential words and utterances of their com- 
mander, to whom the title " Young Napoleon " had 
already been given. 


Such was the process by which a popular idol was 
created. It illustrates the fact that the popular demand 
for a hero to worship is as certain to be supplied as the 
demand for a victim to be sacrificed, and the hero may 
be as innocent as the victim of any act justifying the 

But in January, 1862, when Mr. Stanton entered 
the War Department, the time to try the stuff of which 
this particular hero was made was fast approaching. 
McClellan says in his final report : — 

About the middle of January, upon recovering from a 
severe illness, I found that excessive anxiety for an immedi- 
ate move of the Army of the Potomac had taken possession 
of the minds of the administration. A change had been 
made in the War Department, and I was soon urged by the 
Secretary, Mr. Stanton, to take immediate steps to secure the 
re-opening of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, and to free 
the banks of the lower Potomac of the rebel batteries which 
annoyed passing vessels. 

This strongly increased desire of the administration 
to have something done was evidence to McClellan's 
mind that a conspiracy existed against him. Through- 
out his military career, he always appeared to act upon 
the idea that those who desired him to fight were plot- 
ting his downfall. 

Stanton undoubtedly expected to bring about a 
radical change in the military situation, partly by 
inducing the President to exercise his authority as 
McClellan's military superior, and partly by his own 
thoroughness in supplying the army with everything 
necessary to put it in good fighting condition. He 


soon found that McClellan was as stubborn against his 
persuasions as he had been against those of Mr. Lin- 
coln. Then commenced the long struggle between the 
government and General McClellan, which, at its height, 
threatened the integrity both of the government and of 
the army. 

As mere suggestions and exhortations to McClellan 
to take some steps towards raising the siege of the 
capital produced no effect, the President issued the fol- 
lowing order : — 

Executive Mansion, Washington, D. C, 
January 27, 1862. 

President's General War Order, No. 1. 

Ordered: That the 22d day of February, 1862, be the 
day for a general movement of the land and naval forces of 
the United States against the insurgent forces. That espe- 
cially the army at and about Fortress Monroe, the Army of 
the Potomac, the Army of Western Virginia, the army near 
Munfordville, Kentucky, the army and flotilla near Cairo, 
and a naval force in the Gulf of Mexico, be ready to move 
on that day. 

That all other forces, both land and naval, with their 
respective commanders, obey existing orders for the time, and 
be ready to obey additional orders when duly given. 

That the heads of departments, and especially the Secre- 
taries of War and of the Navy, with all their subordinates, 
and the general-in-chief, with all other commanders and 
subordinates of land and naval forces, will, severally, be held 
to their strict and full responsibilities for the prompt execu- 
tion of this order. 

A. Lincoln. 

It cannot be doubted that this new departure of the 
President, asserting his authority and commanding that 


something be done, was hastened by the presence of 
Mr. Stanton in his Cabinet, and was the precipitation 
by him of an issue between General McClellan and the 
government as to which should determine the policy 
of the war. It was Mr. Lincoln's first exercise of his 
authority as commander-in-chief. 

The idea that the government was to be silent and 
passive in the midst of the great and vital events then 
transpiring, and to abdicate its authority over military 
operations, could not be tolerated by Mr. Stanton. Such 
a subversion of the Constitution he would resist at 
every step of the way. No general had any authority 
except that conferred upon him by law. The same 
law, in terms, made him the military subordinate of 
the President. The latter, although the constitutional 
head of the army, was also subject to appropriate laws 
of Congress, directing how his power and authority 
should be carried into effect. To the people, the final 
source of all governmental power, Congress must ac- 
count at stated times, and the certainty of this ac- 
countability brought the people near to the administra- 
tion of affairs. 

Such was the line in which Mr. Stanton's legal train- 
ing and true Democratic instincts compelled him to 
think, and this it was that made him proof throughout 
against the assumption so common among purely mili- 
tary men, that the government had nothing to do about 
the war but to furnish the supplies. 

He did not favor the substitution of civilians for 
trained soldiers in the direction of military operations, 


but he held the army and its generals to be subordinate 
in war, as in peace, to the government of the people, 
speaking through laws enacted by their representatives, 
and through the President duly chosen to execute 


McClellan proposes a Peninsular Campaign. — Mr. Lincoln opposes 
it, and orders a Different Movement. — The Question left un- 
settled until Obstructions are removed from the Lower Potomac 
and the Baltimore and Ohio Eailroad. — Blunders at Harper's 
Ferry compel an Abandonment of an Important Movement. — 
An Order to attack Rebel Batteries on the Potomac revoked, 
because of an Opinion of the Chief Engineer of the Army, Five 
Months before the Order was made. — General Lander's Brilliant 
and Successful Exploit. — Rashness on his Part feared by the 
General-in-Chief. — Stanton's Contrary Opinion. 

During Mr. Stanton's first week in the War Depart- 
ment General McClellan had laid before him orally 
his opinion as to the part the Army of the Potomac 
should execute, in a general plan of operations of all 
the armies. This was to transport that army down the 
Potomac and lower Chesapeake, and advance upon the 
rebel capital from that direction. The Secretary in- 
structed him to develop his plans to the President, which 
he did. They were disapproved, and, on the 31st day 
of January, the President issued his order, "that all the 
disposable forces of the Army of the Potomac, after 
safely providing for the defense of Washington, be 
formed into an expedition for the immediate object of 
seizing and occupying a point upon the railroad, south- 
westward of what is known as Manassas Junction, all 
details to be in the discretion of the general-in-chief, 
and the expedition to move before or on the 22d day 
of February next." 


This order was never revoked and never obeyed. 
General McClellan asked leave to submit his views as 
to the two opposing plans. These must have been pre- 
sented fully already, in the long conferences which had 
been held with him by the President and the Secretary. 
Nevertheless, he was granted the desired permission, and 
on the 3d of February, he submitted a long paper in 
which he gave his reasons in support of his own plan as 
against the plan of Mr. Lincoln. Mr. Lincoln at the 
same time addressed him the following letter : — 

Executive Mansion, 
Washington, February 3, 1862. 

Major-General McClellan : 

My dear Sir, — You and I have distinct and different 
plans for a movement of the Army of the Potomac — Yours 
to be down the Chesapeake, up the Rappahannock to Urban a, 
and across land to the terminus of the railroad on the York 
River. — Mine to move directly to a point on the railroad 
southwest of Manassas. 

If you will give me satisfactory answers to the following 
questions, I shall gladly yield my plan to yours. 

1st. Does not your plan involve a greatly larger expen- 
diture of time and money than mine ? 

2d. Wherein is a victory more certain by your plan than 

3d. Wherein is a victory more valuable by your plan 
than mine ? 

4th. In fact, would it not be less valuable in this, that it 
would break no great line of the enemies' communications, 
while mine would? 

5th. In case of disaster, would not a safe retreat be more 
difficult by your plan than by mine ? 

Yours truly, A. Lincoln. 


In McClellan's " views " he named the total force 
necessary for his plans to be from 110,000 to 140,000. 
He informs us in his final report that " this letter must 
have produced some effect upon the mind of the Presi- 
dent, since the execution of his order was not required, 
although it was not revoked as formally as it had been 
issued." That is to say, it was treated by him as re- 
voked, because it was not imperatively enforced. 

But while Mr. Lincoln deemed it unwise either to 
select a new commander or to insist upon forcing an 
unwilling general to the execution of a plan he did not 
approve, neither would he be forced into acquiescence 
with the general's plan until he had incorporated in it 
certain conditions, looking to the defense of Washing- 
ton, nor till the siege of the capital was raised by the 
removal of obstructions from the Baltimore and Ohio 
Railroad, and from the lower Potomac River. 

We have McClellan's authority, already quoted, for 
stating that immediately upon coming into office, Mr. 
Stanton had vigorously urged him to take immediate 
steps to secure these latter objects. In compliance with 
his demands, General Hooker was for some time under 
orders to prepare for crossing the lower Potomac, and to 
be in readiness for an assault upon the rebel batteries. 

It became known to the government that the pro- 
longed siege of the capital was being regarded both at 
home and abroad as a fact of much significance, and 
greatly to the advantage of the rebel cause. This meant 
a great deal when it is considered that the nation's 
power to negotiate loans with which to carry on the war 
depended wholly upon the world's opinion of the ulti- 
mate success of the Federal arms. 

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On the 9th of February, a sub-committee was ap- 
pointed by the Committee of Congress on the Conduct 
of the War, to wait upon the Secretary of War at once 
for the purpose of enjoining upon his consideration the 
necessity of immediately raising the blockade of the 
Potomac. In their report to the general committee, the 
sub-committee said that they had waited upon the Sec- 
retary and had conveyed the message sent by them, " to 
which," says their report, "the Secretary replied that 
the committee could not feel more keenly upon this 
subject than he did. That he did not go to his bed at 
night without his cheek burning with shame at this dis- 
grace upon the nation. That the subject had received 
his earnest consideration since he had been in the War 
Department, but as yet he had not been able to accom- 
plish his wish in that respect, as he was not the head, 
and could not control the matter. The Secretary said 
that General McClellan was then in the building and he 
would bring him into the room." 

The report continues as follows : — 

Whereupon the Secretary left the room and shortly re- 
turned, bringing with him General McClellan, to whom he 
stated the object of our visit. 

At the request of the Secretary, the chairman then repeated 
to General McClellan what he had already stated to the Sec- 
retary in reference to the necessity of raising the blockade of 
the Potomac, the rebuilding of the Baltimore and Ohio Kail- 
road, etc. 

General McClellan stated that the subject had been con- 
sidered by him ; that he had just been seeing what could be 
done, and in a short time expected to be able to inform us 
what steps would be taken. When asked how soon something 


could be done, he replied that it was not a question of weeks, 
but of days. . . . 

Mr. Johnson stated that the interview with the Secretary 
had been a very satisfactory one ; that the Secretary listened 
attentively to all the chairman said, and although the chair- 
man sometimes made his statements to General McClellan in 
pretty strong and emphatic language, the Secretary indorsed 
every statement he had uttered. The Secretary feels as 
strongly upon this subject as this committee does. 1 

This report was made by Andrew Johnson, then a 
senator from Tennessee, and afterwards President of 
the United States. 

On the day following these assurances by General 
McClellan, General Hooker expressed, in an official letter 
to him, an entire readiness and an earnest desire to be 
allowed to make the assault on the rebel batteries on 
the lower Potomac, and thus concluded his communica- 
tion : — 

The free navigation of the river will give us an immense 
advantage over the rebels, particularly so long as the roads 
remain in their present condition, and the destruction of the 
batteries will in no way expose the future intentions of the 
major-general in the conduct of the war. 

The response to this communication came just one 
week afterwards in the form of the following telegram 
from General McClellan to General Marcy, his chief of 
staff, dated at Sandy Hook, near Harper's Ferry : — 

Revoke Hooker's authority in accordance with Barnard's 
opinion immediately. 2 On my return we will take the other 
plan and push it vigorously. 

1 Report of the Committee on the Conduct of the War. 

2 General Barnard's opinion, here referred to, was five months old, and 


No other plan was taken, and, as a consequence, there 
■was no pushing it, either vigorously or otherwise. The 
rebels evacuated their Potomac batteries at their own 
will and pleasure ten days later, when, unmolested and 
without the knowledge of McClellan, they also evacuated 
Manassas and Winchester. 

General McClellan's reluctance to drive the rebels 
back from the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, in the 
vicinity of Harper's Ferry, was equally persistent with 
his reluctance to drive them from the lower Potomac. 

On the 14th of February, General Lander, pushing 
his way eastward on the line of the railroad, fought a 
spirited engagement at Bloomery Gap, killed 13 rebels 
and took 65 prisoners, 17 being commissioned officers, 
his loss being only 2 men. He led the charge in per- 
son, surprising the enemy after marching two thousand 
men thirty miles, and crossing them over a bridge con- 
structed of wagons, under his directions, in four hours, 
in the dead of night. 

General Lander was at that time so broken down in 
health that he closed the report of his engagement with 
an earnest appeal to be relieved. 1 

The only recognition by General McClellan of this 
brilliant action was a letter the next day from his aide- 
de-camp, Colonel Hardie, to General Lander concerning 
his movements, instructing him that he must incur no 
desperate risks, and hazard no uncertainty of results. 

was, of course, perfectly well known to General McClellan when he gave 
General Hooker the order he now revoked. 

1 He was not relieved, and continued in the active service of his coun- 
try until within two days of his death, which occurred on the second day 
of March. 


" The general's designs/' wrote Colonel Hardie, " are 
not such as to include any unnecessary hazard at this 

The President and Secretary Stanton did not share 
General McClellan's fear that General Lander would 
fight rashly, and without sufficient prospect of success, 
and, on the 17th of February, the Secretary issued the 
following war bulletin : — 

To Brigadier-General F. W. Lander: — 

The President directs me to say that lie has observed, with 
pleasure, the activity and enterprise manifested by yourself 
and the officers and soldiers of your command. You have 
shown how much may be done in the worst weather, and the 
worst roads by a spirited officer, at the head of a small force 
of brave men, unwilling to waste life in camp, when the ene- 
mies of their country are within reach. Your brilliant success 
is a happy presage of what may be expected when the Army of 
the Potomac shall be led in the field by their gallant general. 

The dubious compliment contained in the concluding 
words of this order may have spurred the " gallant 
general" of the Army of the Potomac to at least a 
semblance of activity, for he says, in his final report, 
that, about the 20th of February, 1862, additional 
measures were taken to secure the reopening of the 
Baltimore and Ohio Railroad which, for some unknown 
reason, he had not until then felt prepared to attempt. 
At last, on the 26th, at 10.20 p. m., General McClellan 
telegraphed Stanton that " a bridge had been splendidly 
thrown " across the river at Harper's Ferry, and that 
8500 infantry, eighteen guns, and two squadrons of 
cavalry had been crossed to the Virginia side, and were 


"ready to resist an attack." "Loudon and Bolivar 
Heights, as well as Maryland Heights, have been occu- 
pied by our men. The canal-boat bridge will be at- 
tempted to-morrow." The troops were " in a mood to 
fight anything." 

At one o'clock the next day all was changed. He 
telegraphed his chief of staff at Washington not to 
send any more troops until further orders. To Secre- 
tary Stanton he telegraphed : — 

The lift-locks are too small to permit the canal -boats to 
enter the river, so that it is impossible to construct a perma- 
nent bridge, as I intended. I shall probably be obliged to 
fall back upon the safe and old plan of merely covering the 
rebuilding of the railroad. This will be done at once, but 
will be tedious. I cannot, as things now are, be sure of my 
supplies for the force necessary to seize Winchester, which is 
probably reinforced from Manassas. 

It was a mortifying fact that an important military 
movement, dependent upon the passing of canal-boats 
through a lift-lock, had, at an advanced stage, failed 
because the boats were then discovered for the first time 
to be too large for the lock ! The explanation of the 
general was that the lock was too small for the boats, 
which could not well be disputed. He said : " The lock 
was built for a narrower class of boats." 1 

Having thus marched up the hill and down again, 
General McClellan returned to Washington on the 26th, 
and, according to his account, " commenced preparations 
for destroying the batteries on the lower Potomac," 
which enterprise he had suspended the day before, by 

1 War Records, Series I. vol. v. p. 49, General McClellan's Report. 


the telegram already quoted. He continued commen- 
cing these preparations until the 9th of March, — a 
period of eleven days, — when he was relieved from the 
necessity of completing them by information, received 
on that day, that the rebels had stolen away unobserved 
from the batteries which he was still commencing to 
prepare to attack. 


A Council of War. — McClellan's Plan submitted and adopted. — 
The Council summoned to the White House. — The Plan laid 
before the President. — The Council questioned by Secretary 
Stanton. — The President accepts the Plan with Certain Modi- 

President Lincoln speedily brought matters to a 
head. He made it plain to General McClellan that he 
would tolerate no further procrastination. He required 
the general to convene a council of war, and to submit 
to that council immediately a plan for a campaign. So 
intolerable had the situation become that it is probable 
McClellan could not have remained in command had he 
not at once yielded obedience to his superior. His 
order for the council was issued on the night of the 
7th of March, and the council was to convene at ten 
o'clock on the following day. The generals summoned 
were all division commanders except Naglee. He was 
present, as he says, by the order of General McClellan 
to represent General Hooker, who was then at too great 
a distance from headquarters to be summoned. Fol- 
lowing is an extract from the minutes of the meeting, 
General Naglee acting as recorder : — 

Council organized. 

General Sumner called to the chair. 

Present: McDowell, Heintzelman, Keyes, Franklin, Fitz 


John Porter, Sumner, McCall, Andrew Porter, W. F. Smith, 
Barnard, Blenker, and Naglee. 

First Proposition. — Is it not advisable as a preliminary 
to offensive operations that the base of the Army of the 
Potomac be changed from the one it now has, in front of the 
capital, to another one further south, in the lower Chesapeake, 
the army to move by water to its position ? The means of 
doing so if ready at Annapolis for the first half in all of 
next week. Some means of water transportation to serve for 
the second half. 

Vote upon First Proposition. — Yeas : Naglee, Smith, 
Blenker, McCall, Franklin, Fitz John Porter, Andrew Porter, 
and Keyes. 

Nays : Barnard, Heintzelman, McDowell, and Sumner. 

Yeas: 8. Nays: 4. 

Several minor incidental questions were discussed. 

After the council had been in session three hours 
they were summoned to appear before the President at 
the Executive Mansion. General Naglee, in a letter to 
Hon. W. D. Kelly, of Pennsylvania, dated September 
27, 1864, states that the President informed the coun- 
cil that he " was quite unwell and exceedingly nervous; 
that the pressure had been intense against General 
McClellan." Naglee writes as follows : — 

I informed him that as recorder of the council of war 
which had held its session by order of General McClellan, I 
would advise him of the result of its proceedings, and then 
read them to him. "What," said he, "have the council 
decided by a vote of eight to four — two to one — in favor 
of the peninsular campaign ? " He then asked many ques- 
tions in regard to the same until Mr. Stanton came in, and I 
proposed to read the proceedings to him. He replied : " Give 
me the papers ; I '11 read them myself." And after reading 


them over and preparing his notes, he, as you say, put them 
(the council) through the strict course of examination to 
which you refer. 

General Naglee states that this examination lasted 
four or five hours. It was understood by the latter as 
indicating the opposition of Stanton to the decision of 
the council of war. 

At the conclusion of the proceedings at the Execu- 
tive Mansion the President requested the attendance of 
all the officers of the council at the same place on the 
following morning at ten o'clock. They appeared at 
that time and were informed that the President had 
determined to acquiesce in the decision of the council, 
and to permit General McClellan to inaugurate the 
peninsular campaign, subject, however, to the restric- 
tions which will be given in the next chapter. 

The following statement by the Hon. W. D. Kelly, 
for many years a leader in the House of Representa- 
tives, is most interesting in this connection : — 

In the consideration of this matter between the President 
and the Secretary of War the President said to the Secre- 
tary : " We can do nothing else than adopt this plan and 
discard all others ; with eight out of twelve division com- 
manders approving it we can't reject it and adopt another 
without assuming all the responsibility in case of the failure 
of the one we adopt." The Secretary said that, while agree- 
ing with the President in his conclusion, he dissented from 
his arithmetic, adding that the generals who dissented from 
the proposed plan of campaign were independent of the 
influence of the commanding general, while all the rest owed 
their positions to him and were especially under his influence, 
so that instead of eight to four there was but one against 


four. " You," lie continued, " as a lawyer, in estimating the 
value of testimony, look not only to the words of the witness, 
but to his manner and all the surrounding circumstances of 
bias, interest, or influence that may affect his opinions. Now, 
who are the eight generals upon whose votes you are going to 
adopt the proposed plan of campaign ? All made so since 
General McClellan assumed command, and upon his recom- 
mendation, influenced by his views, and subservient to his 
wishes, while the other four are beyond these influences, so 
that in fact you have in this decision only the operation of 
one man's mind." 

The Secretary of War told me the President seemed much 
struck with this view of the case, and after considering some 
time said : " I admit the full force of your objection, but* 
what can we do? We are civilians — we should be justly 
held accountable for any disasters if we set up our opinions 
against those of experienced military men in the practical 
management of a campaign — we must submit to the action 
of a majority of the council, and the campaign will have to 
go on as decided upon by that majority." 1 

In 1864, while the anti-war party was laboring to make 
General McClellan President, General Henry M. Naglee 
addressed a letter to Congressman Kelly in response to 
references by Judge Kelly to McClellan's peninsular 
campaign. Kelly sent Secretary Stanton a copy of 
Naglee's letter, and in reply Stanton made the follow 
ing statement concerning the council of war and its 
several meetings : — - 

He speaks of three meetings, — one at McClellan's head- 
quarters in the forenoon, of which, at that time, I had no 
knowledge ; one at the White House the afternoon of the 

1 Questions of the Day, No. 29, " Lincoln and Stanton," by William 
D. Kelly, M. C, pages 33 and 34. 


same day, at which I was called by the President, and one 
the next morning at the President's, when he informed the 
generals that he had ordered the army corps to be reformed. 
The only facts material in respect to any or all of these 
meetings are : — 

First. That McClellan, on that day, having had command 
of the army for eight months, disclosed for the first time to 
his generals any plan of movement, and that this was done 
and they committed to its support before their meeting with 
the President and before any opportunity had been afforded 
them for hearing his inquiries. 

Second. That the President, finding a majority, including 
Naglee and Blenker, committed to the plan, yielded his 
objection, although he was supported by Barnard, Sumner, 
Heintzelman, and McDowell. 

Third. That McClellan, against the unanimous opinion of 
his generals, opposed the organization of his army into corps, 
but the President decided with the generals against McClel- 
lan on this point. 


The Peninsular Campaign. — Conditions imposed by the President. 
— Evacuation of Manassas. — The Rebels in a Panic when 
deemed most Formidable by McClellan. — Advance of the 
Army on the Deserted Field. 

On the 8th of March the President ordered the for- 
mation of that portion of the Army of the Potomac 
destined for active operation into four army corps, to 
be commanded according to seniority of rank, namely, 
by Generals McDowell, Sumner, Heintzelman, and 
Keyes. He directed that the order be executed with 
such promptness and dispatch as not to delay the com- 
mencement of operations already directed to be under- 
taken by the Army of the Potomac. 

On the same day he issued his order making the fol- 
lowing positive conditions to the proposed change of 
base from Washington to the lower Chesapeake for the 
inauguration of the peninsular campaign : — 

1st. To leave in and about Washington such a force 
as in the opinion of the general-in-chief and corps com- 
manders would leave that city entirely secure. 

2d. Not more than two corps should move to the 
new base, until the navigation of the Potomac should 
be entirely unobstructed. 

3d. That any movement to be made by the penin- 
sular route must be commenced by the 18th of March. 


General Banks was assigned to the command of the 
5th corps, to operate on the defensive near Washington. 

This order greatly disturbed McClellan. Three of 
the corps commanders had opposed his peninsular cam- 
paign, and the other, Keyes, had favored it only on 
condition of first driving the rebel batteries from the 

These commanders had not been selected to com- 
mand the corps because of their opinions, but because 
they were entitled to command by seniority in rank, — 
that is to say, the ranking generals were opposed to 
McClellan's plans. 

The conditions imposed on his peninsular campaign 
were most reasonable. They were simply that Wash- 
ington must not be given over to the enemy, and that 
the new expedition should " begin to move " within ten 

The President's order that the general-in-chief 
should be responsible that the movement should begin 
as early as March 18 obviously meant that he should 
not continue to retard it beyond that day. The Secre- 
tary of War was to be responsible for the transporta- 
tion. All General McClellan had to do, as he well 
knew, was to get ready for the embarkation. 

The situation on the morning of the 9th of March 
was as follows : — 

1. Banks's division was on the Virginia side of the 
Potomac, near Harper's Ferry, occupying Charlestown, 
and without orders from the commanding general, but 
would "gradually press upon Winchester," then held 
by the enemy. 


2. The main army was still " commencing prepara- 
tions " to move against the batteries on the lower Po- 

3. The roads to Manassas were said to be " impass- 
able." General Johnston was there with an army, 
thought by McClellan to be vastly superior to his own. 

4. The rebel ram, the Merrimac, had made her ap- 
pearance at Hampton Roads and destroyed several 

The same day saw great changes : — 

First, the news of the morning that the rebel ram, 
the Merrimac, had been doing great havoc at Hampton 
Roads the day before, was followed by the news of the 
afternoon that she had been vanquished by the Moni- 
tor and retired to Norfolk. 

Second, came the information that the rebel batteries 
on the Potomac had been abandoned, and, 

Third, the evening brought the startling intelligence 
that the enemy had entirely evacuated their fortified 
position at Manassas. 

The Confederate correspondence up to that time in 
the " War Records " shows that in February the Con- 
federate government was exceedingly anxious for the 
safety of Johnston's army at Manassas, and great fears 
were entertained that McClellan would attack before it 
could get out of the way. As early as February 16 
General Johnston wrote Jefferson Davis from his head- 
quarters at Centreville : " We cannot retreat from this 
point without heavy loss." 

February 19 Jefferson Davis wrote to General John- 
ston : " I am very anxious to see you. Events have 


cast on our arms and on our hopes the gloomiest shad- 
ows, and at such a time we must show undoubted 
energy and resolution.' ' 1 

The events he referred to were the Federal victories 
in the West. Fort Henry had been captured on the 
6th, and Fort Donelson on the 16th. 

Soon after this the dispatches of General Johnston 
to Davis indicate that great impatience was being 
shown by the latter to have the Confederates safely 
away from Manassas. February 22 he says : " The 
enemy may not allow much time for a change of posi- 

On the 23d he wrote : " In the present condition of 
the country, the orders you have given me cannot be 
executed promptly, if at all." 

On the 25th he wrote : " The accumulation of sub- 
sistence stores at Manassas is now a great evil. . . . 
Much of both kinds of property must be sacrificed in 
our contemplated movement." 

Jefferson Davis wrote General Johnston February 
28 : " The heavy guns at Manassas and Evansport, 
needed elsewhere, and reported to be useless in their 
present position, would necessarily be abandoned in 
any hasty retreat. I regret that you find it impossible 
to move them. With your present force, you cannot 
secure your communication from the enemy, and may, 
at any time when he can pass to your rear, be com- 
pelled to retreat at the sacrifice of your siege -guns, 
and army stores, and without any preparation on a sec- 
ond line to receive your army as it retired." 

1 War Records, Series I. vol. v. p. 1077. 


In the same letter Davis said : " Recent disasters 
have depressed the weak and are depriving us of the 
aid of the wavering. Traitors show the tendencies 
heretofore concealed, and the selfish grow clamorous 
for local and personal interests." 

On the same day Johnston wrote to General Whit- 
ing : " Publish nothing about the move until we are all 
ready. We may need to start before we are ready." 

Jackson wrote Johnston, March 3, as to the best way 
to escape from Winchester. He expected an attack; 
but, under McClellan's directions, Banks kept at a re- 
spectful distance from that place until it was evacuated 
some days later. 

March 3 Johnston wrote Davis : " The removal of 
public property goes on with painful slowness, because 
sufficient numbers of cars and engines cannot be had. 
It is evident that a large quantity of it must be sacri- 
ficed or your instructions not observed." 

March 6 he wrote Whiting : " I have fixed upon 
Saturday morning, the 8th, for the move. Mention it 
to no one until necessary." 

March 13 he wrote Whiting : " We were detained 
at Manassas until Sunday evening late, the 9th." 

In a letter to General Holmes, commanding at Fred- 
ericksburg, March 16, Johnston expressed his uncer- 
tainty as to what route of approach to Richmond 
McClellan would adopt, adding : " His land transporta- 
tion would be shortened by coming up the Rappahan- 
nock, though the route from the Potomac through 
Fredericksburg offers other advantages. I do not 
think his advance from Dumfries can be immediate, 


from what I learn of the condition of the roads, but 
that he will advance upon our line as soon as possible 
I have no doubt." 

Not a word here of any knowledge up to the 16th of 
March, on the part of the enemy, of the contemplated 
movement by the peninsula. This evidence utterly 
dispels the idea entertained and expressed by McClellan 
that the evacuation of Manassas took place March 9, 
because his plan for the peninsular campaign had then 
become known to the enemy. 

The brilliant successes in the West at Fort Henry 
and Fort Donelson, culminating in the occupation of 
Nashville February 25, had created a panic throughout 
the Confederacy, and that panic evidently had com- 
plete possession of Jefferson Davis. For two weeks 
following, as shown by the above correspondence, he 
was tugging as desperately at Johnston to get him to 
retreat as Lincoln and Stanton were at McClellan to 
get him to advance. The evidence is conclusive that if 
McClellan had attacked Johnston at any time after the 
16th of February he could have inflicted great harm 
upon the rebel cause. 

Upon learning of Johnston's retreat McClellan at 
once displayed the greatest activity. The roads to 
Manassas were no longer "impassable." With a celerity 
theretofore unknown to him he left his office in Wash- 
ington that very evening, crossed the Potomac, issued 
an order for the advance of the whole army upon the 
deserted fortifications at Centreville and Manassas, and 
then telegraphed Secretary Stanton that he could not 
make the advance the next day unless the President's 


orders for the formation of army corps should be sus- 
pended. To this Mr. Stanton replied : — 

I think it is the duty of every officer to obey the Presi- 
dent's orders, nor can I see any reason why you should not 
obey them in the present instance. I must, therefore, decline 
to suspend them. 

McClellan responded at one a. m. on the 10th, that he 
had been misunderstood; that he simply meant that 
under the present aspect of affairs he could not imme- 
diately carry out the President's orders as to the forma- 
tion of army corps. He regarded it as a military 
necessity that the advance should move to the front at 
once without waiting for the formation of army corps. 
If desired, he would at once countermand all orders for 
an advance until the formation of the army corps could 
be completed. 

To this Mr. Stanton replied as follows : — 

General, — I do not understand the President's order as 
restraining you from any military movement by divisions or 
otherwise that circumstances, in your judgment, may render 
expedient, and I certainly do not wish to delay or change any 
movement you have made or desire to make. I only wish to 
avoid giving my sanction to a suspension of policy which the 
President has ordered to be pursued. But if you think the 
terms of the order as it stands would operate to retard or 
in any way restrain movements that circumstances require to 
be made before the army corps are formed, I will assume 
the responsibility of suspending the order for that purpose, 
and authorize you to make any movement by divisions or 
otherwise, according to your own judgment, without stopping 
to form the army corps. 


My desire is that you should exercise every power that you 
think present circumstances require to be exercised, without 
delay, but I want that you and I shall not seem to be desir- 
ous of opposing an order of the President without necessity. 
I say, therefore, move just as you think best now, and let the 
other matter stand until it can be done without impeding 

At 2.50 a. m. McClellan acknowledged receipt of 
the above, and stated that the troops were in motion. 
He said : " I thank you for your dispatch. It relieves 
me very much, and you will be convinced that I have 
not asked too much of you." 

It being then 2.50 in the morning it is not clear 
in what direction the troops were moving. The mys- 
tery is not lessened by his dispatch seventeen hours 
later, — 8.20 p. m. of the same day, — saying that he 
" had given the necessary orders for the movement and 
would soon start for Washington, simply to spend the 

The next day (11th) he moved his headquarters to 
Fairfax Court House. 

The general had the grand army on the march, and 
yet as secure and as free from all danger of rashly 
engaging the enemy as if it had been in camp. He 
was not marshaling his men the way they were to go, 
for they were to go down the Potomac and the Chesa- 
peake. He was only taking them out for exercise. He 
naively informs us that " the retirement of the enemy 
and the occupation of the abandoned positions which 
necessarily followed presented an opportunity for the 
troops to gain some experience on the march and the 


bivouac, preparatory to the campaign, and to get rid of 
the superfluous baggage and other impedimenta which 
accumulates so easily around an army encamped for a 
long time in one locality." And again, " It offered a 
good intermediate step between the quiet and compara- 
tive comfort of the camps around Washington and the 
rigors of active operations, besides accomplishing the 
important object of determining the positions, and per- 
haps the future defenses, of the enemy, with the possi- 
bility of being able to harass their rear." 

He telegraphed to Stanton on the 11th, from his 
headquarters at Fairfax Court House, that he had just 
returned from a ride of over forty miles. The " im- 
passable roads " had evidently greatly improved. He 
inspected the evacuated positions of the enemy, and was 
satisfied that he had fallen behind the Rapidan. He 
would have Banks hold Manassas while he himself 
would throw all the available forces upon the penin- 
sula, the line agreed on the previous week. The Moni- 
tor's victory, he thought, justified the movement of 
troops to Fortress Monroe. He had telegraphed to 
have transports brought to Washington. He thought 
circumstances might keep him where he was some little 
time longer. He was still there three days later. 

On the same night, the 11th, after telegraphing to 
the Secretary, he wrote to his wife as follows : — 

I regret that the rascals are after me again. I have been 
foolish enough to hope that when I went into the field they 
wonld give me some rest. Perhaps I should not have ex- 
pected it. If I can get out of this scrape you will never get 
me in the power of such a set again. The idea of persecuting 


a man behind his back. I suppose they are now relieved 
from the pressure of their fears by the retreat of the enemy 
and that they will increase in violence. Well, enough of 
that. It is bad enough for me to be bothered in that way 
without annoying you with it. 

The " rascals " were probably those who were cruel 
enough to ridicule his taking the field with so much 
energy after he knew it had been deserted by the 


McClellan relieved of General Command, and assigned to the Army 
of the Potomac only. — His Plan demanded by Stanton. — Vague 
Response. — Ordered to move by Some Route at once. — The 
Transportation of the Army and its Supplies to Fortress Monroe. 

The withdrawal of the rebel army from Manassas 
without the knowledge of General McClellan gave a 
rude shock to the confidence of his admirers, and con- 
firmed the unfavorable criticisms of others. The Presi- 
dent had pleaded in vain with him to intimate some 
plan of campaign, and had at last imperatively ordered 
him to move on the 22d of February. Sullen and 
insubordinate, he had ignored the order, and finally 
extorted from the President an unwilling consent to a 
plan of campaign which the judgment of the latter, 
sustained by the generals first in rank, strongly con- 
demned, — a plan which had not occurred to General 
McClellan, as he himself admits, until more than five 
months after he took command of the Army of the 
Potomac. 1 

When he had thus carried his point, he showed as 
little inclination as before to take the initiative. At 
last, when he was giving his army its first exercise, by 

1 McClellan fixes "the beginning of December, 1861," as the time 
when he conceived the idea of the peninsular campaign. Own Story, 
page 202. 


a long, fruitless, and meaningless march over muddy 
roads to the deserted and desolate camps from which 
he knew the enemy had retired the day before, the 
President relieved him of the command of " the Armies 
of the United States," and assigned him to the com- 
mand of " the Army of the Potomac " only. Following 
is this order : — 

President's War Order, No. S. 

Executive Mansion, Washington, 
March 11, 1862. 

General McClellan having personally taken the field at 
the head of the Army of the Potomac, until otherwise ordered 
he is relieved from the command of the other military depart- 
ments, he retaining the command of the Army of the Poto- 

Ordered further, that the departments now under the 
respective commands of Generals Halleck and Hunter, to- 
gether with so much of that under General Buell as lies west 
of a north and south line indefinitely drawn through Knox- 
ville, Tennessee, to be consolidated and designated the Depart- 
ment of the Mississippi; and that, until otherwise ordered, 
Major-General Halleck have command of said department. 

Ordered, also ; that the country west of the Department 
of the Potomac and east of the Department of the Missis- 
sippi be a military department, to be called the Mountain 
Department, and that the same be commanded by Major- 
General Fremont. 

That all the commanders of departments, after the receipt 
of this order by them, respectively report severally and 
directly to the Secretary of War, and that prompt, full, and 
frequent reports will be expected of all and each of them. 

A. Lincoln. 

In a letter to the President the next day, General 


McClellan accepted the change without any show of 
displeasure, and summoned his corps commanders to 
discuss the President's order of the 8th, presenting the 
conditions precedent to the embarkation of troops for 
the peninsular campaign. This council announced it 
as their opinion that the enemy having retreated from 
Manassas to Gordonsville, the operations to be carried 
on would be best undertaken from Old Point Com- 
fort, provided the rebel vessel, the Merrimac, could be 
neutralized, transportation provided, naval cooperation 
secured, and Washington left secure. If these condi- 
tions could not be fulfilled, they ought to advance by 
land against the enemy behind the Rappahannock at 
the earliest possible moment. 

This was at once forwarded to Washington by the 
hand of General McDowell. As it favored the penin- 
sular route only on conditions that could not all be at 
once fulfilled, and favored the land route as an alterna- 
tive, and as it bore no words of approval from General 
McClellan, it committed him to nothing. Its indefi- 
niteness drew from Secretary Stanton the following 
inquiry, dated March 13 : — 

General McDowell has arrived here and presented a paper 
purporting to be the opinion of generals commanding army 
corps, but it contains nothing indicating that it is your plan. 
The department has nothing to show what is your plan of 
operations. Will you be pleased to state what plans of oper- 
ations you propose to execute under the present circum- 
stances ? Please state at what time this dispatch is received 
by you, and at what hour your answer is made to it. This 
rule had better be observed in all our telegraphic correspond- 
ence. This dispatch is transmitted at 5.20 p. m. 


This appears to have been satisfactorily answered, 
for on the same day the following directions were sent 
to McClellan by Secretary Stanton : — 

The President, having reviewed the plan of operations 
agreed upon by yourself and the commanders of army corps, 
makes no objection to the same, and gives the following direc- 
tions as to its execution : — 

1. Leave such forces at Manassas Junction as shall make 
it entirely certain that the enemy shall not repossess himself 
of that position and line of communication. 

2. Leave Washington entirely secure. 

3. Move the remainder of the forces down the Potomac, 
choosing a new base at Fort Monroe, or anywhere between 
here and there, or at all events, move such remainder of the 
army at once in pursuit of the enemy by some route. 

This settled the responsibility. McClellan was given 
f nil authority to choose by what route he would move ; 
but move at once he must " by some route " in pursuit 
of the fleeing enemy. 

Now that the army seemed about to engage in the 
serious work for which it had been recruited and or- 
ganized the Secretary took occasion, in the following 
telegram dated March 13, to assure the general of his 
cordial cooperation : — 

General Patrick was nominated upon your request several 
days ago. I took the nomination myself to the President 
and saw it signed by him, and will go to the Senate to-mor- 
row to urge its confirmation. Any others you may designate 
will receive a like attention. Nothing you will ask of this 
department will be spared to aid you in every particular. 

It is very evident from this, that however impatient 
the President and Secretary of War had been with Gen- 


eral McClellan, while waiting for him to overcome the 
evil spirit of procrastination by which he seemed to be 
bound down, they were not then distrustful of his good 
intentions or of his patriotism, nor doubtful of his abil- 
ity to do execution with his forces when once in motion. 
They had quite as much responsibility as he had for 
any failure of the campaign, and they knew nothing of 
the monstrous defects in his character, or of the danger- 
ous condition of his mind towards them at that time. 
These never fully came to light until the publication, 
after his death, of his memoirs and private correspond- 
ence, under the title of his " Own Story." They 
will be referred to hereafter. 

He had from the start an evident aversion to actual 
hostilities, which may have grown out of a reluctance 
to risk in battle a reputation which came to him with- 
out achievement, and which could be maintained only 
until a failure. There is nothing more certain than 
that he refrained from moving until he could no longer 
have done so and remain in command. He took the 
field under compulsion, because the enemy had volun- 
tarily raised the siege of his army, and he could 
not remain idle in camp. Even then he never took 
the offensive, and when attacked left the fighting to 
the sole direction of his corps commanders. 

During the preceding fortnight John Tucker, As- 
sistant Secretary of War, had collected the transports 
for moving the army and its supplies down the Potomac 
and Chesapeake to Fortress Monroe. On the 17th of 
March the work commenced, and in nineteen days, 
April 5, he had transported from Perryville, Alexandria, 


and Washington 121,500 men, 14,592 animals, 1150 
wagons, 44 batteries, and 74 ambulances, besides pon- 
toon bridges, telegraph materials, and all the equipage 
required by this vast army. This work required the 
employment of 113 steamers, 188 schooners, and 88 


Stanton's New Duties. — Daily Meetings of his Bureau Officers 
as a Board of Administration. — Its First Meeting. — How to 
neutralize the Merrimac. 

The President's order displacing McClellan as gen- 
eral-in-chief, and providing that department command- 
ers report directly to the War Department, devolved 
new work upon Mr. Stanton, who entered upon it with 

For the purpose of increasing the efficiency of his 
department, he summoned the heads of bureaus for 
daily conferences, both for information and advice. 
He caused the reports of these proceedings for a time 
to be taken down. The following extracts from them 
cannot fail to interest the reader : — 

War Department, March 13, 1862. 

In pursuance of orders, the following-named officers of the 
Army of the United States assembled at the War Depart- 
ment this day at twelve o'clock, namely : — 

Brigadier-General Lorenzo Thomas, Adjutant-General. 

Brigadier-General M. C. Meigs, Quartermaster-General. 

Brigadier- General James W. Ripley, Chief of Ordnance. 

Br'vt. Brigadier-General James G. Totten, Chief En- 

Colonel Joseph P. Taylor, Commissary-General. 

The Secretary of War, Hon. Edwin M. Stanton, stated 
that his object in assembling the officers present was to effect 


an informal organization for his own instruction, and in order 
the more effectually to bring to bear the whole power of the 
government upon the operations of the present war. To this 
end he desired that they should meet at a regular hour each 
day, to consider such subjects as he might desire to present 
to them, as well as such suggestions, as might be submitted, 
in connection with their several duties for the good of the 
public service. 

The Secretary then read the following statement of the 
numerical strength of the various commands now operating 
against the enemy : — 

Department of New York — a few regular troops and a 

regiment of volunteer artillery — say . . . 1,500 

Department of the Potomac 247,768 

Department of Virginia (at Fortress Monroe) . . 15,000 

Expedition of Burnside 10,853 

Department of West Virginia ..... 23,527 

General Buell's command 133,864 

General Halleck's command 158,905 

Department of Kansas 15,000 

Department of New Mexico 5,790 

Department of Key West and the Tortugas . . 5,000 

Department of Florida (Fort Pickens) . . . 2,500 

Department of the Pacific ..... 6,353 

Expedition of General Sherman 16,927 

Expedition of General Butler ..... 20,000 

Total 662,987 

He thought the Army of the Potomac would require very 
little attention on their part, inasmuch as General McClellan 
would probably inform the department of everything that 
might be necessary to make his command effective, and inas- 
much also as the Army of the Potomac would not remain 
long in this vicinity. . . . 

The board would be called upon to consider the best means 
of defending our harbors and coasts from engines of war sim- 


ilar to that which appeared near Fortress Monroe on Sunday- 
last ; and the first subject to which he desired to invite the 
attention of the board was the condition of affairs at that 
point. 1 

Having stated the object for which he called them 
together, Mr. Stanton inquired if any member of the 
board had any proposition to submit in regard to af- 
fairs at Fortress Monroe. 

General Totten complained of a publication in the 
newspapers, purporting to be an extract from a letter 
written by General Wool, in which he said that " had 
not the steamer Monitor arrived, everything inside as 
well as outside of the fort might have been sacrificed." 
He thought it was a very careless expression, and that it 
excited public apprehension without any grounds. He 
declared Fortress Monroe to be as inaccessible to the 
Merrimac as it was to the man in the moon, and said it 
could not be taken without a long siege, the material 
for which was not within the power of the enemy. 

The Secretary asked General Totten how the fort 
would be affected by the Merrimac should she come up 
and shell it. General Totten thought it would not 
impair the inherent strength of the works at all. He 
thought the works on the Rip Raps could be carried 
by force on steamers. 

The Secretary then inquired if that would be of 
much disadvantage to Fortress Monroe. 

General Totten replied: It is only about a mile distant, 

1 It should be borne in mind that one of the conditions precedent to 
the peninsular campaign was the neutralization of the rebel ram, the 
Merrimac, then at Norfolk. 


and cannonading at that distance does not amount to 
much. 1 

The Secretary then inquired of the commissary- 
general how well Fortress Monroe was supplied. He 
replied that the fort was victualed for about sixty days. 
The Secretary thought that a very short supply. He 
directed the commissary-general to report fully the 
following morning, and in the meantime to take mea- 
sures to be in a condition to put supplies into the fort 
rapidly, and asked General Totten for what length of 
time the fort ought to be supplied in view of the exist- 
ing state of affairs. General Totten thought it ought 
to be furnished with six months' supplies. 

It transpired during the session that there were but 
two guns at Fortress Monroe which could inflict dam- 
age upon the Merrimac : one a 12-inch gun and the 
other a 15-inch, the latter not being mounted. 

The Secretary : Why cannot the 15-inch gun be mounted ? 

General Totten : It cannot be put back upon the carriage. 

The Secretary : I ask the advice of this board whether I 
shall give a peremptory order to put the 15-inch gun on the 
carriage instead of the 12-inch gun. We have ordered 200 
shot for the 15-inch. 

General Ripley: The carriage has been under way for 
months. I have sent Captain Rodman with orders to work 
night and day upon it in order that it may be finished and 
sent to the fort. There are a few shot for the 15-inch gun, 
and orders have been given for shot both for the 12-inch and 
the 15-inch. 

The Secretary then instructed General Ripley to inquire 

1 This was in 1861, and is suggestive of the progress since made in 


and report speedily in respect to projectiles for these guns, 
and it was 

Ordered : That with the advice of this board, there being 
one gun carriage, and having shot for the 15-inch gun, the 
12-inch gun be dismounted, and the 15-inch gun substituted 
in its stead. 

General Ripley said that the carriage for the other 
gun would be ready in two weeks. 

The Secretary : This thing will be over in less than that. 1 

General Totten : I suggest extemporizing a mounting ; 
making a timber bed for it. 

General Eipley : I will give instructions to Lieutenant 
Baylor to do so at once. 

The Secretary : It would be a wonderful reproach to your 
department, General Ripley, should the big gun not be 
mounted when needed. 

General Ripley: Neither of these guns is a part of the 
armament of the fort, having been sent there merely for 
experimental purposes. 

The Secretary : I do not think the public will make that 
distinction. We have now been engaged several months in 
this war, and yet the largest gun at the fort is lying dis- 
mounted on the sand, and without shell. 

General Ripley : But, Mr. Stanton, the gun has never been 

The Secretary : We have been seven months in the war 
with the fort threatened, and that gun not yet been adopted 
into the service. . . . Now how can this gun be mounted 
and made useful and shot procured for it, as well as powder? 
The civilized world will execrate the man who did not have 
this gun in fighting order ready for an emergency. I would 
not answer for the neck of the man upon whom they should 
fix the responsibility. 

1 He was referring to the immediate necessity of protecting McClel- 
lan's transports on their way to Fortress Monroe. 


Then followed a discussion as to the power of the 
Merrimac to endanger Fortress Monroe. 

General Totten thought she could gain nothing if 
she made a breach in the walls, because of the protec- 
tion offered by the ditch and water front. He pro- 
posed to mount the 15-inch gun on the carriage at the 
existing battery and the 12-inch gun on a temporary 

General Meigs felt certain that the Merrimac could 
dismount every gun in time. 

" If she gets out," said he, " there is nothing in this coun- 
try that can beat her. It is a disgrace to the country that 
the rebels, without resources, have built a vessel with which 
we cannot cope. It was a providence that the Monitor ar- 
rived at Old Point the day after this disaster. Yet the least 
damage or accident to the Monitor might disable her." 

The Secretary : What do you propose as a protection 
against the Merrimac ? 

General Meigs: What Commander Wilkes proposed on 
Sunday last, — that the Monitor be directed to sink coal ves- 
sels or anything else available in the channel off Craney 
Island. Now is the time to shut her up at Norfolk while 
she is undergoing repairs. 

The Secretary : The question is, How is this channel to be 
obstructed, for it is guarded by Sewells Point batteries ? 

General Meigs quoted Captain Wise of the navy as 
saying that the deck of the Merrimac was as high out 
of the water as the ceiling of the rooms in the Presi- 
dent's house. 

The Secretary : It seems now as if the navy is determined 
to exaggerate her as much as they underrated her before. 


Who, General Eipley, is the livest man you can send to 
mount the guns at Fort Monroe ? 

General Eipley : Major Hagner would be an excellent 
officer for that duty. 

The Secretary : His health is too bad. 

General Eipley : I do not think we can do any better than 
to leave the duty to Lieutenant Baylor, who is an excellent 

The Secretary : I do not think I would lose a moment in 
writing the order. 

General Eipley at once wrote the order, and it was dis- 
patched by telegraph. 

General Totten felt certain that the 10-inch guns on 
the ramparts of Fortress Monroe could be relied on to 
damage the Merrimac, but she was a dangerous enemy, 
and he would shut her up by all means. 

The Secretary : There is no difference of opinion about 
that, but the question is how to do it. Can any practicable 
mode be suggested ? 

The following dispatch was here read from the As- 
sistant Secretary of the Navy to General McClellan 
concerning the ability of the Monitor to cope with the 

The Monitor is more than a match for the Merrimac, but 
she might be disabled in the next encounter. I cannot ad- 
vise so great a dependence upon her. . . . 

The Monitor may, and I think will, destroy the Merrimac 
in the next fight, but this is hope and not certainty. The 
Merrimac must dock for repairs. 

This was in response to an inquiry made by General 
McClellan the day before as to whether the Monitor 


could be relied on to keep the Merrimac in check, and 
protect the transports from her, so that Fortress Monroe 
could be made the base of operations. 

The Secretary : I now wish to submit to the board the 
question whether they would regard as expedient any military 
expedition looking to the transportation of troops by water 
to Fortress Monroe before the channel off Craney Island is 

General Meigs : We would then have Hampton Eoads full 
of transports, and the Merrimac might come up and destroy 
the whole flotilla. Such an expedition should not be under- 
taken before the channel is stopped up. 

The Secretary: Is it the opinion of this board that the 
army should not be embarked here and transported to 
Hampton Roads in the present state of knowledge respecting 
the relative strength of the Merrimac and the Monitor ? 

To this question each member of the board gave an 
affirmative answer. 

The Secretary then instructed the adjutant-general 
to inform the Navy Department that any transports or 
coal vessels which the War Department had at Fortress 
Monroe were placed at the disposal of the Navy Depart- 
ment, to be used for the purpose of obstructing the 
channel between Craney Island and Sewells Point. 

On the following day (March 14), the board met 

The Secretary remarked that Fortress Monroe, being 
a pleasant place in the summer, had become a point of 
resort for large numbers of people from different parts 
of the country, and that now many visitors, including 
men, women, and children, were there, and in view of 
present circumstances he thought it might be well to 


give an order to General Dix to grant no more permits 
to Old Point, and to instruct General Wool to cause all 
persons not in the service to leave the place at once. 
He desired to know of the board if his action in this 
respect, as indicated by what he had stated, was more 
than circumstances required. 

The members all expressed concurrence in the course 
pursued by the Secretary. He had already made the 

The Secretary : I will state to the hoard that it is in pur- 
suance of suggestions made here yesterday that I addressed 
a letter to the Secretary of the Navy, informing him that our 
hulks and coal vessels were at his disposal to be used in ob- 
structing the channel of Elizabeth River. My letter does 
not seem to have been received in very good temper, for I 
received a communication in reply, stating that when the 
army should clear Sewells Point of the enemy, the navy 
would be very happy to do their duty in sinking vessels. 
This I understand to be a declaration that the navy will do 
nothing towards closing the channel while the batteries are 

He added : — 

The President sent for me. I went and found Mr. Fox 
there. "We had a conference upon this subject, but it led to 
no result. I consider it our duty to give this matter full at- 
tention, and to consider advice from any one who may be 
able and willing to give it, but it is not likely that our views 
in relation to this subject will produce the least result. 

General Meigs : Is Mr. Welles to remain in the Cabinet ? 

The Secretary: That is a question for the President to 
consider. He leans to the judgment of Mr. Fox, who seems 
to think he is in possession of the entire amount of know- 


ledge of the naval world. Not being a sailor myself, I do 
not pretend to know anything about such matters. 

General Meigs : Why, this is equivalent to saying that the 
Merrimac shall be allowed six months or any length of time 
that may be required to make her sufficiently strong to be 

The Secretary: That is the logical result of the proposi- 

General Meigs : We might borrow the Monitor to tow our 
coal vessels up to block the channel. 

The Secretary : The navy would not lend her for that pur- 


The Peninsular Campaign. — McClellan's Disregard of Orders. — 
His Attempt to leave Washington unprotected. — How this was 
prevented. — McDowell's Corps retained. — McClellan's Misrepre- 
sentations. — He treated the Enforcement of Conditions originally- 
placed upon his Campaign as an Interference. 

McClellan's final report of the military operations 
directed by him was not made until August 4, 1863, 
nine months after he had been relieved from command, 
and when he was at his home in New Jersey, training 
for the candidacy of the anti-war party for the presi- 
dency in 1864. 1 It evidently derives much of its tone 
from these conditions. 

The burden of his story in that report and in his 
book is that when he entered upon the peninsular cam- 
paign, the President promised him forces which were 
never allowed to reach him. The record flatly contra- 
dicts this statement. In the paper presented by him to 
the Secretary of War, of the date of February 3, and 
given a place in his final report, he stated that the total 
force to be required would be, u according to circum- 
stances," from 110,000 to 140,000. In that same re- 
port, without questioning its correctness, he gives an 
extract from the report of Mr. John Tucker, Assistant 
Secretary of War, under whose directions the troops 

1 This report appears in vol. v. of Series I. of the official records of the 
War of the Rebellion, at page 5. 


were transported to Fortress Monroe, stating that the 
number so transported was 121,500. 

It thus appears from his own official report that he 
commenced his peninsular campaign April 5, 1862, 
with 11,500 more men than the minimum proposed by 
him to the Secretary of War, and that the number only 
fell 18,500 short of the maximum number proposed by 
him. On the 20th of April — only two weeks later — 
he was reinforced by Franklin's division of 12,000 men, 
all of whom remained idle for two weeks on the trans- 
ports which brought them to him. Later on, during the 
months of May and June, he received reinforcements 
amounting to over 27,000 men, making an aggregate 
of 160,500. 

Before entering upon his campaign, he knew that it 
would be flagrant insubordination for him to move in 
violation of either of the following positive conditions 
under which his operations were ordered : — 

First : The condition imposed by the President on 
the 8th of March, that such a force should be left 
in and about Washington, as, in the opinion of the 
general-in-chief and of the corps commanders, should 
leave that city entirely secure. 

Second : The conditions added by the council of corps 
commanders of March 13, and approved by the Presi- 
dent, that the enemy's vessel, the Merrimac, should 
be neutralized, and that a naval auxiliary force could 
be had to aid in silencing the enemy's batteries on the 
York River ; and, finally, the additional requirement by 
the President, of the same date, that such a force be 
left at Manassas Junction as would make it entirely cer- 


tain that the enemy could not repossess himself of that 
position and line of communication. 

These conditions were not imposed in haste or in 
reversal of any previous orders. They were made 
twenty days before General McClellan left Alexandria 
for Fortress Monroe, and met with no protest whatever 
from him at that time. He knew that without them 
no peninsular campaign would have been entered upon. 
How willfully he disregarded them will now appear. 

He sailed for Fortress Monroe on the 1st of April. 
He gave the Secretary of War no information, before 
leaving, as to the number of troops to be left for the 
defense of Washington and Manassas ; but, from the 
deck of the steamer at Alexandria, while waiting for 
her to start, he wrote a communication to the adjutant- 
general to be laid before the Secretary of War after he 
had gone, informing him of the force so left behind. 
Upon receiving this, the Secretary addressed the follow- 
ing inquiry to the officers named therein : — 

Adjutant-General Thomas and Major-General Hitch- 

Generals, — I beg leave to refer you to the following 
papers : — 

1st. The President's War Order, No. 3, dated March 8, 
1862, marked A. 

2d. The report of a council held at headquarters, Fairfax 
Court-House, March 13, marked B. 

3d. The President's instructions to General McClellan, 
March 13, marked C. 

4th. The report of Major-General McClellan, dated on 
board the steamer Commodore, April 1, addressed to the 
adjutant-general (D). 


5th. The report of General Wadsworth as to the forces in 
his command (E). 

And upon examination, I desire you to report to me whether 
the President's order and instructions have been complied 
with in respect to the forces to be left for the defense of 
Washington and its security, and at Manassas, and, if not, 
wherein those instructions have been departed from. 

The reply to this inquiry, after giving the number 
and position of all the troops which McClellan proposed 
to leave behind him, was as follows : — 

In view of the opinion expressed by the council of the com- 
manders of army corps, of the force necessary for the defense 
of the capital, though not numerically stated, and of the force 
represented by General McClellan as left for that purpose, 
we are of opinion that the requirement of the President — 
that this city shall be left entirely secure, not only in the 
opinion of the general-in-chief, but that of the commanders 
of all the army corps also — has not been fully complied 

The garrisons and forts of Washington, together, had 
left to them only 18,000 men. Generals Thomas and 
Hitchcock stated 30,000 men to be the number neces- 
sary to man the forts on the right bank of the Potomac, 
and the corps commanders had fixed upon 25,000 as 
the number necessary to occupy its left bank. The 
President then made the following order, both the body 
and signature of which are in his own handwriting : — ■ 

Executive Mansion, April 3, 1862. 
The Secretary of War will order that one or the other of 
the corps of General McDowell or General Sumner remain in 
front of Washington until further orders from the depart- 
ment, to operate at or in the direction of Manassas Junction 


or otherwise as occasion may require, and that the other corps 
not so ordered to remain go forward to General McClellan as 
speedily as possible. That General McClellan commence his 
forward movements from his new base at once, and that such 
incidental modifications as the foregoing may render proper 
be also made. 

A. Lincoln. 

Thus was McClellan's reckless attempt to override the 
President's order for the protection of the capital 
defeated by the vigilance of Secretary Stanton. In- 
stead of relieving him from command for this flagrant 
and dangerous act of insubordination, Mr. Lincoln 
caused the following dispatch to be sent to him, 
April 4 : — 

By direction of the President, General McDowell's corps 
has been detached from the forces under your immediate 
command, and the general is ordered to report to the Secre- 
tary of War. 

On the same day, General McClellan was informed of 
the creation of two new departments, — one, the Depart- 
ment of the Shenandoah, under General Banks, and the 
other, the Department of the Kappahannock, under 
General McDowell. 


On the Peninsula. — Stanton to McClellan. — The Siege of York- 
town. — Manassas repeated. — Preparations and no Attack for 
Thirty Days. — Yorktown then evacuated. — Loud Demand for 
Troops, which were sent and never used. — McClellan's Daily 
Promises to Stanton daily broken. — Said he would have at- 
tacked on the 6th of May if the Enemy had not retreated on the 

On April 5 McClellan was on the peninsula with 
121,500 men, independent of General Wool's command 
of 15,000 at Fortress Monroe. The first substantial 
obstacle to his advance was Yorktown, garrisoned, as he 
reported, by not less than 15,000 troops under the 
command of General Magruder. The enemy were 
about 15,000 strong at Norfolk. General McClellan 
assures us in his report that if he could only have 
had men enough, instead of only 121,500, he would 
have driven the enemy into Richmond, and followed 
them in " by rapid movements." Being deprived of 
McDowell's corps (which he never had, nor had any 
right to expect) he was " incapable of continuing opera- 
tions which he had begun." He was compelled to 
adopt " another, a different, and a less effective plan of 
campaign." It " made rapid and brilliant operations 

On the 5th General McClellan addressed the Presi- 
dent, greatly magnifying the force in front of him, and 


expressing his deliberate judgment that the success of 
the cause would be imperiled by so greatly reducing 
his force " when it is actually under the fire of the 
enemy." 1 

He was of the opinion that he would have to fight 
all the available force of the enemy not far from the 
position he then occupied. He begged not to be 
forced to do so with diminished numbers, and earnestly 
urged the President to reconsider his order " detach- 
ing " General McDowell's corps from his command. 

McClellan' s dispatches are so contradictory that it is 
impossible for all of them to be true. If the Presi- 
dent had neglected to protect Washington, as McClel- 
lan had done, and had made no order concerning 
McDowell's corps, by no possibility could that force 
have been with McClellan at that time. His own 
arrangements did not call for them to be there so soon. 
How, then, was his force reduced " while under the 
fire of the enemy" by the detachment of a corps which 
had never been nearer to him than Alexandria ? With 
the Confederates everywhere panic-stricken by Union 
successes in the West, McClellan, with 121,500 men, 
pretended to be disheartened because he was not allowed 
to usurp the authority of the President and abolish 
the conditions under which the campaign had been 

1 The casual reading of this would justify the inference that the main 
body of his army was, at that moment, engaged in a great battle in which 
he was overmatched, and that its success had, therefore, been imperiled 
by withholding from it McDowell's corps. The fact was that a recon- 
noitring party had been fired upon by two guns. (See dispatch of 
General Keyes, War Records, Series I. vol. ii. part iii. p. 70.) 


On the 6th Mr. Stanton made the following ex- 
planation to General McClellan of the reasons why 
McDowell's corps had not been allowed to join his 

Your instructions to McDowell did not appear to contem- 
plate the removal of his force until some time this week. 
The enemy were reported to he still in force at Gordonsville 
and Fredericksburg and threatening Winchester and the Bal- 
timore and Ohio Railroad. The force under Banks and 
Wadsworth was deemed by experienced military men inade- 
quate to protect Winchester and the railroad, and was much 
less than had been fixed by your corps commanders as neces- 
sary to secure Washington. It was thought best, therefore, 
to detach either McDowell or Sumner, and as a part of Sum- 
ner's corps was already with you it was concluded to retain 
McDowell. Your advance on Yorktown gratified me very 
much, and I hope you will press forward and carry the 
enemy's works and soon be at Richmond. 

The order organizing the new departments will not in any 
degree affect your control over the supplies, transportation, 
and materials that have been left behind you, or that you 
may at any time require. The whole force and material of 
the government will be as fully and speedily under your com- 
mand as heretofore, or as if the new departments had not 
been created. 

On the same day McClellan telegraphed that he 
" would attack Yorktown, but that it might be a slow 
process." And again : " The affair will be protracted 
in consequence of the diminution of my forces." 

Mr. Stanton then addressed the following telegram 
to General Wool at Fortress Monroe : " Please let me 
know fully the state of affairs towards Yorktown, and 


whether it is necessary to send more than Sumner's 
corps, which is on the way down ? " 

As General McClellan was virtually threatening to 
abandon the campaign unless he could have his way, it 
was most natural that the government should desire the 
opinion of an old and capable general as to whether 
his affected panic was based on sufficient cause. In 
reply to Mr. Stanton's inquiry General Wool said : — 

From a conversation with General McClellan I am induced 
to believe that with General Sumner's corps he must have 
over 100,000 men, with a large force of artillery. He 
informs me that the enemy has in and about Yorktown 
30,000 men. If the enemy is not stronger I should think he 
had sufficient force to overcome it. He complains, however, 
of taking from him 45,000 men under McDowell, which, he 
says, compels him to change his plans of operation. What 
these plans are he has not informed me. 

On the same day General McClellan wrote General 
Wool that General Joseph Johnston had, according to 
information received from prisoners, arrived in York- 
town with heavy reinforcements, that the troops of 
Manassas were coming in, and the rebels intended 
fighting their first battle at Yorktown. Being on the 
York Eiver he began to express great anxiety to get 
over to the James. He wished the Merrimac would 
come out so that he could " get our gunboats up the 
James Eiver." He declared that he had but 68,000 
men for duty, although the day before he had 100,000. 
What became of the remaining 32,000 has never been 
ascertained. Two days before, according to his report, 
he had 121,000. 


In his dispatches and letters he constantly com- 
plained that 50,000 men had been taken from him 
since he commenced operations. This made it appear 
as though 50,000 men had been withdrawn from the 
peninsula. So frequently does he repeat this unfounded 
statement that it is necessary to explain often that not 
a single man was ever withdrawn from the peninsula 
from the beginning to the end of his campaign. He 
retained his original 121,500 men and had 39,411 
added to them. The men to whom he refers as having 
been withdrawn from his command were the force that 
he was ordered to leave in Washington for its defense ; 
and because he was not allowed to take them away in 
violation of the President's order he charged that they 
had been withdrawn from his support. 

It is evident that the retention of McDowell's corps 
in northern Virginia was made to serve McClellan 
throughout as an excuse for the non-action which was 
either his policy or a constitutional defect. His dis- 
patches to the War Department now alternated between 
explanations why nothing was done and calls for more 
troops. The siege of Yorktown was to be the work of 
" the next thirty days." April 9 the weather was so 
execrable ; the roads were terrible ; siege-guns could 
not be landed because of the washout, but "would lose 
no time in placing our heavy guns," and would assault 
at the earliest practicable moment. On the 10th 
Franklin's and McCall's divisions were wanted. The 
fate of the cause depended upon having Franklin's 
division at any rate. 

His point of attack, he stated, was determined, and 


he was at that moment engaged in fixing the position 
of the batteries. Under the President's direction Stan- 
ton immediately ordered Franklin's division sent to 
him, and telegraphed him April 11 : — 

Franklin's division is marching towards Alexandria to 
embark. McCall's will be sent if the safety of this city will 
permit. Inform me where you want Franklin to land. He 
will embark to-morrow and as quickly as possible. 

On the 11th he assured Secretary Stanton that good 
progress in landing heavy guns and supplies would be 
made on the day following. 

Much of his time was devoted to addressing com- 
munications to President Lincoln and Secretary Stanton 
bewailing his condition, speculating on the probabilities 
as to how much stronger the enemy were than his own 
forces, agreeing to do the best he could without any 
support from the government, and deprecating the 
failure to send him more troops. Mr. Lincoln wrote 
him on the 9th of April : — 

There is a curious mystery about the number of troops now 
with you. When I telegraphed you on the 6th, saying that 
you had over 100,000 with you, I had just obtained from the 
Secretary of War a statement, taken, as he said, from your 
own reports, making 108,000 then with you and on the road 
to you. You now say that you will have but 85,000 when all 
on the road to you shall have reached you. How can the 
discrepancy of 23,000 be accounted for ? 

The President then urged him to strike a blow, 
warning him that the enemy were gaining faster by 
fortifications and reinforcements than he could by 
reinforcements alone. He concluded : — - 


You will do me the justice to remember I always insisted 
that going down the bay in search of a field, instead of fight- 
ing at or near Manassas, was only shifting and not surmount- 
ing a difficulty ; that we have just the same enemy, with the 
same or equal intrenchments at either place. The country 
will not fail to note, is now noting, that the persistent hesita- 
tion to move upon an intrenched enemy is but the story of 
Manassas repeated. I beg to assure you that I have never 
written or spoken to you in a kindlier spirit than now, nor 
with a fuller purpose to sustain you, so far as in my most 
anxious judgment I consistently can ; but you must act. 

April 12 McClellan telegraphed Stanton : - — 

I thank you most sincerely for the reinforcements sent me, 
Franklin will attack on the other side. The moment I hear 
from him I will state a point of rendezvous. I am confident 
as to results now. 

On the 13th McClellan telegraphed Stanton : — 

We shall soon be at them, and I am sure of the result. 

His force at that time, as certified by himself and on 
record in the adjutant-general's office, was, aggregate 
present for duty, 100,97c). 1 

On the 14th he assured Secretary Stanton that he 
was getting up the heavy guns, mortars, and ammuni- 
tion quite rapidly. On the next day he hoped " to 
make good progress." 

On the 16th he telegraphed as follows : — 

General Sumner has just handsomely silenced the fire of 
the so-called one-gun battery, and forced the enemy to suspend 
work. Mott's battery behaved splendidly. 

To which Mr. Stanton replied : — 

1 War Records, Series I. vol. ii. part iii. p. 97. 


Good for the first lick. Hurrah for Mott and the one-gun 
battery. Let us have Yorktown, with Magruder and his 
gang, before the first of May, and the job will be over. I 
have seen General Ripley about the shells. 

April 18 McClellan hoped to have twelve heavy guns 
in battery by daybreak, five more the next night, and 
twenty-one more the next night. Then they would 
commence the first parallel, etc. Mr. Stanton asked 
him on that day whether the indications did not show 
that the enemy were inclined to take the offensive. He 
replied that he could not hope for such good fortune ; 
that he was perfectly prepared for any attack the 
enemy might make. On the same day he called for 
another 200-pound Parrott gun. 

On the 20th of April Franklin's division of 12,000 
men arrived at the headquarters near Yorktown, but 
remained on board the transport vessels which brought 
them until the 3d of May ! They seemed to be 
needed only previous to their arrival. 

On the 25th of April Assistant Secretary Watson 
wrote to McClellan and inclosed to him a paper written 
by a person of high character. 1 It was to the effect 
that the writer believed the enemy would make no stand 
at Yorktown, but would be more likely to concentrate 
for an attack upon McDowell at Fredericksburg, and that 
preparatory to this he would draw off the main body of 
the troops from Yorktown, leaving only enough to 
menace McClellan and keep his forces unoccupied. 

April 26 McClellan informed Stanton that the first 
parallel was completed ! also that it would be nearly 
finished by daylight ! 

1 Probably General Scott. 


Here is his telegram : — 

I am glad to write that the first parallel now extends to 
York River, being now complete. The most exposed portion 
was commenced to-night by the regulars. They are now well 
under cover and the parallel will be nearly finished by day- 
light. Everything quiet to-night. No firing on either side 
that amounts to anything. 

On the 27th he said that the first parallel was 
" essentially finished." 

On the 28th he was making good progress. Mortar 
batteries were progressing and would soon be ready to 
open. He would be glad to have the thirty Parrotts 
in the works around Washington at once. Was " very 
short of that excellent gun." 

Referring to this demand the President sent the fol- 
lowing : — 

Your call for Parrott guns from Washington alarms me, 
chiefly because it argues indefinite procrastination. Is 
nothing to be done ? 

April 30 he reported that he had opened upon York- 
town wharf with battery No. 1, and driven off all their 
schooners. On that day he reported that he had 
present with him for duty 112,392 men. This is from 
the records in the adjutant-general's office. 

May 1 he telegraphed Secretary Stanton : — 

The time for opening fire is now rapidly approaching. 

On the 2d he telegraphed Stanton : — 

You have not much longer to wait. 

On the 3d he telegraphed the Secretary that the 
enemy was unusually quiet the previous night and that 


morning. That most satisfactory progress was being 
made in arming the batteries. 

At noon on the 4th Secretary Stanton received a 
dispatch from McClellan, saying : " Yorktown is in our 
possession." In fact, it had been evacuated the night 
before without his knowledge. McClellan reported 
that he had a force of his cavalry in pursuit of the 
enemy, supported by infantry. Secretary Stanton tele- 
graphed : — 

Accept my cordial congratulations upon the success at 
Yorktown. I am rejoiced to hear that your forces are in 
active pursuit. Please furnish me with details as far as they 
are required. I hope soon to hail your arrival at Richmond. 

McClellan thus summarizes this grand military ex- 
ploit — the siege of Yorktown : a — 

As the siege progressed it was with great difficulty that the 
rifle pits on the road could be excavated and held, so little 
covering could be made against the hot fire of the enemy's 
artillery and infantry. Their guns continued firing up to a 
late hour on the night of the 3d of May. Our batteries 
would have been ready to open on the 6th of May at least, 
but on the morning of the 4th it was discovered that the 
enemy had already been compelled to evacuate his position 
during the night, leaving behind him all of his heavy guns 
uninjured and a large amount of munitions and supplies. 

Manassas had been repeated as President Lincoln 

The gigantic preparations which McClellan had made 
for the firing which never opened included the con- 
struction of sixteen batteries, their full armament being 
114 heavy guns and mortars. Never was there a more 
lame and impotent conclusion. 

1 War Records, Series I. vol. si. part i. p. 18. 


The Battle of Williamsburg. — McClellan says Battle was an Acci- 
dent due to Rapidity of Pursuit of the Enemy ordered by him. — 
How he saved the Day by Two Orders, neither of which he says 
was executed. 

After the evacuation of Yorktown, General McClel- 
lan ordered the pursuit of the enemy towards Williams- 
burg under two separate and conflicting commands. 
General Sumner, in his official report, states that he 
received an order from General McClellan to take com- 
mand of the troops in pursuit of the enemy. General 
Heintzelman, in his report, states that his instructions 
directed him to take "control of the entire movement." 

The enemy made a stand at Williamsburg, and on 
Monday, May 5, a severe battle took place, resulting 
in a Union victory with a loss of 450 killed and 1400 
wounded. 1 General McClellan himself, as he says in 
his report, "remained at Yorktown, pushing General 
Franklin and his troops " up the York River to West 
Point. To his wife he wrote, May 6 : — 

Unfortunately I did not go with the advance myself, being 
obliged to remain to get Franklin and Sedgwick started up 
the river for West Point. 

It certainly was unfortunate that these able generals 

1 In his Own Story, page 322, General McClellan says : ' ' The battle 
of Williamsburg was an accident brought about by the rapid pursuit of 
our troops." He ordered the pursuit ; strange that its success in over- 
taking the enemy should have been regarded by him as " an accident." 


could not, with the aid of their quartermasters, embark 
a division of troops, without the personal supervision of 
General McClellan. 

He was summoned to the field by the news that 
things were going badly, and arrived at five o'clock. 
His official report shows that he produced no effect 
whatever upon the battle. He states that he ordered 
General Smith and General Naglee to the support of 
Hancock's command, but that before they could reach 
the field, although they moved with great rapidity, the 
latter had been confronted by a superior force, which 
he routed and dispersed. 

McClellan says : — 

I then directed our centre to advance to the further edge 
of the woods, and attempted to open direct communication with 
General Heintzelman, but was prevented by the marshy state 
of the ground in the direction in which the attempt was 

This, as appears by his report, was the extent of his 
participation in the battle. Hancock got along with- 
out him, and he failed to reach Heintzelman. He 
says : " Night put an end to all operations here." 

Thus we have his own testimony that no order of his 
was made in time for execution at the battle of Wil- 
liamsburg. This did not prevent him from telegraph- 
ing the Secretary of War that but for him the army 
would have been routed through the incompetency of 
his corps commanders. 

Had I been one half hour later on the field on the 5th, we 
would have been routed and would have lost everything. 

To his wife he wrote from Williamsburg on the 6th : 


As soon as I came upon the field, the men cheered like 
fiends, and I saw at once that I could save the day. 

On the 8th he wrote her : — 

It would have been easy for me to have sacrificed 10,000 
lives in taking Yorktown, and I presume the world would 
have thought it more brilliant. I am content with what I 
have done. The battle of Williamsburg was more bloody. 
Had I reached the field three hours earlier, I could have 
gained greater results, and have saved 1000 lives [!] It is 
perhaps well as it is, for officers and men feel that I saved 
the day. 

A thousand lives would have been a large price to 
pay for establishing the belief that he had " saved the 
day " when his official report demonstrates that he had 
not even contributed to that result. But fortunately 
only 450 of our men were killed at Williamsburg. 

In a familiar letter to General Burnside, dated May 
21, he says : — 

We came near being badly beaten at Williamsburg. I 
arrived on the field at five p. m., and found that all thought 
we were whipped and in for a disaster. You would have 
been glad to see, old fellow, how the men cheered and bright- 
ened up when they saw me. In five minutes after I reached 
the ground, a possible defeat was changed into victory. 

The message from Williamsburg to General McClel- 
lan at Yorktown, which called him to the field, was 
carried by Governor Sprague in an hour and a half. It 
was four hours from that time before General McClel- 
lan appeared on the field. He seemed offended at 
being called upon at all, for Governor Sprague testified 
that when he stated to him the condition of affairs, 


General McClellan remarked to him that " he supposed 
those in front could attend to that little affair." 1 

At ten o'clock that evening McClellan telegraphed to 
Stanton, as usual, that Johnston was in front of him 
in strong force — probably a great deal stronger than 
his own — and very strongly intrenched. He learned 
from prisoners that the enemy intended disputing every 
step to Richmond. He would run the risk of at least 
holding them in check where they were, while he 
resumed the original position. He stated that his force 
was undoubtedly considerably inferior to that of the 
rebels, who still fought well ; but he would do all he 
could with the force at his disposal. Four hours later, 
that is, at three o'clock on the morning of the 6th of 
May, the rebels evacuated Williamsburg, as they had 
Yorktown and Manassas, in a state of great demoraliza- 

On the 9th of May, four days after the battle of 
Williamsburg, McClellan telegraphed to the Secretary of 
War, then with the President at Fortress Monroe : — 

Notwithstanding my positive orders, I was informed of 
nothing that had occurred, and I went on the field of battle 
myself upon official information that my presence was needed 
to avoid defeat. 

I found there the utmost confusion and incompetency ; the 
utmost discouragement on the part of the men. At least a 
thousand lives were really sacrificed by the organization into 
corps. 2 

1 Testimony of Governor Sprague in the Report of the Committee on 
the Conduct of the War, part i. p. 569. 

2 He still adhered to the story of the loss of a thousand lives, when 
only 450 lives were lost to the Union army as shown by the record. 


He wished to return to the organization by divisions, 
or else to be authorized " to relieve from duty with this 
army, commanders of corps or divisions who find them- 
selves incompetent." This was a fresh manifestation 
of the hostility to Generals Sumner, Heintzelman, and 
Keyes, shown when the President had overruled him in 
March by organizing the army into corps, and giving 
the command of them to those generals who were 
entitled to it by rank. 

To this dispatch the following reply was sent on the 
same day by Mr. Stanton : — 

The President is unwilling to have the army corps organ- 
ization broken up ; but also unwilling that the commanding 
general shall be trammeled and embarrassed in actual skir- 
mishing collision with the enemy, and on the eve of an ex- 
pected great battle. You, therefore, may temporarily sus- 
pend that organization in the army now under your immediate 
command, and adopt any you see fit until further orders. He 
also writes you privately. 

The letter of the President to General McClellan, 
referred to in the above, is as follows : — 

Dear Sir, — I have just assisted the Secretary of War in 
framing the part of a dispatch to you relating to army corps, 
which dispatch, of course, will have reached you long before 
this will. 

I wish to say a few words to you privately on this subject. 
I ordered the army corps organization not only on the unani- 
mous opinion of the twelve generals whom you had selected 
and assigned as generals of divisions, but also on the unani- 
mous opinion of every military man I could get an opinion 
from, and every modern military book, yourself only excepted. 
Of course, I did not on my own judgment pretend to under- 


stand the subject. I now think it indispensable for you to 
know how your struggle against it is received in quarters 
which we cannot entirely disregard. It is looked upon as 
merely an effort to pamper one or two pets and to persecute 
and degrade their supposed rivals. I have no word from 
Sumner, Heintzelman, or Keyes. The commanders of these 
corps are, of course, the three highest officers with you, but I 
am constantly told that you have no consultation or commu- 
nication with them ; that you consult and communicate with 
nobody but General Fitz John Porter, and perhaps General 
Franklin. I do not say that these complaints are true or 
just ; but at all events it is proper you should know of their 
existence. Do the commanders of corps disobey your orders 
in anything? 

When you relieved General Hamilton of his command the 
other day, you thereby lost the confidence of at least one of 
your best friends in the Senate. And here let me say, not as 
applicable to you personally, that senators and representa- 
tives speak of me in their places as they please, without ques- 
tion, and that officers of the army must cease addressing 
insulting letters to them for taking no greater liberty with 

But to return: are you strong enough — are you strong 
enough even with my help — to set your foot upon the necks 
of Sumner, Heintzelman, and Keyes all at once? This is a 
practical and very serious question for you. 

The success of your army and the cause of the country are 
the same, and of course I only desire the good of the cause. 

A little later the President authorized the formation 
of two additional provisional army corps, to be com- 
manded by Generals Porter and Franklin. They were 
numbered the 5th and 6th. The order announcing 
this was promulgated by General McClellan May 18. 


The President and his Secretary of War cannot "be 
said to have been wanting in forbearance towards the 
general, who, like a spoiled child, was nevertheless just 
as determined in his hostility after being indulged as 
when opposed. When an order was distasteful to him, 
the only attention paid to it by him was to persistently 
demand its revocation or modification. The govern- 
ment had to compromise with him and make corps 
commanders of his two favorites before he would even 
seem to tolerate their seniors, already under his com- 
mand. Even then he made no show of being recon- 
ciled to the latter. 


The Fall of Norfolk and the Destruction of the Merrimac. — The 
James River then opened to McClellan. 

On the day of the evacuation of Yorktown, Mr. 
Stanton sent the following to General Wool, at Fortress 
Monroe : — 

The President desires to know whether your force is in con- 
dition for a sudden movement, if one should be ordered under 
your command. Please have it in readiness. 

On the 6th the President and Secretaries Stanton and 
Chase were at Fortress Monroe, as appeared by the fol- 
lowing dispatch from Stanton to McClellan : — 

The President with the Secretary of the Treasury reached 
here a few moments ago, having left Washington last evening, 
and we are rejoiced to learn of the success of your recent 
operations. I find here a copy of your dispatch of this day's 
date, and in answer to inquiry state that you are authorized 
to inscribe the names of battles upon regimental banners at 
your discretion. We shall remain here a day or two, and 
will be glad to confer with you to-morrow and render you any 

May 7 Mr. Stanton sent the following to General 
McClellan: — 

Your dispatch received, and I am rejoiced at the success of 
your operations. An expedition under Captain Rodgers will 
under express orders be sent up the James River to-night, 



[Mr. Stanton's cofiy of letter to General McCkUan, May 6, JS62] 

Vi- ^ Wk Uv 

\jM\" GXNfiAAAANj ' OVvob lMLfi_ A/yviL. />^\e**jL*/^~G^ 

^nw At^XxL ^C * fc* Aoha cXoXo <wJ" 


consisting of the Galena and two gunboats for the purpose of 
cooperating with you. They start as soon as pilots can be 
found. Wednesday midnight. Is there anything else you 

And on the 8th Mr. Stanton telegraphed General 
McClellan: — 

Commander Eodgers with three gunboats started this morn- 
ing up the James Eiver. If you can aid them any way with 
supplies in case they run short, it may be well to be in condi- 
tion to do so. A rebel tug-boat from Norfolk came over and 
surrendered to us this morning. They report that for three 
days Norfolk was being evacuated, the Navy Yard being dis- 
mantled, the troops going some to Richmond and others 
north to join Jackson. The Yorktown, Jamestown, and two 
other rebel gunboats are up the James River, and the Merri- 
mac will probably try to get up to-day. 

An attack on Sewells Point batteries will be made to-day 
by Commodore Goldsborough and General Wool. 

Report anything you need. 

The deserters say there is great consternation in Richmond 
and Norfolk. The machinery of the Navy Yard and all the 
cotton, tobacco, and oil are being shipped to Weldon and 

On the 8th Mr. Stanton sent to Washington the fol- 
lowing account of the naval expedition up the James 
Eiver, and of the movement upon Norfolk : — 

An attack on Sewells Point will be made to-day. Com- 
mander Rodgers with three gunboats moved this morning up 
the James River toward Richmond. We shall advance di- 
rectly on Norfolk. Cannonading up the James River can be 
distinctly heard at this moment, supposed to be our gunboats 
attacking the Yorktown and Jamestown that went up two 


nights ago. Report says that all the tobacco, oil, and cotton 
are being removed from Norfolk. Things are moving now. 

And later in the day the following : — 

The President is at this moment (two o'clock p. M.) at Fort 
Wool witnessing our gunboats — three of them besides the 
Monitor and Stevens — shelling the rebel batteries at Sewells 
Point. At the same time, heavy firing up the James Eiver 
indicates that Rodgers and Morris are fighting the Jamestown 
and Yorktown up the James River. The boom of heavy 
cannonading strikes the ear every minute. The Sawyer gun 
in Fort Wool has silenced one battery on Sewells Point. 
The James rifle mounted on Fort Wool also does good work. 
It was a beautiful sight to witness the boats moving on 
Sewells Point, and one after the other opening fire and blaz- 
ing away every minute. The troops will be ready in an hour 
to move. The ships engaged are the Dacotah, the Savannah, 
and the San Jacinto, the Monitor and the Stevens. The 
Merrimac has not made her appearance, but is expected in 
the field every minute. A rebel tug came over this morning, 
and the deserters said that the Merrimac was at Norfolk when 
they left. 

The naval attack on the batteries at Sewells Point 
was followed by the landing of troops in that vicinity 
by General Wool, during the night of the 9th. 

Mr. Stanton telegraphed to Washington from Fortress 
Monroe May 10 : — 

The troops were landed last night, and are on the advance 
to Norfolk. Nothing for the last twenty-four hours from 
Rodgers's expedition. Nothing of any interest from the army. 
Your telegram received. We shall wait the result on Norfolk. 

Later on the same day, Mr. Stanton telegraphed 
General McClellan : — 


Norfolk and Portsmouth surrendered to General Wool at 
five o'clock this afternoon without a battle. General Huger 
withdrew his force. General Viele is in possession with five 
thousand troops. The city was not burned. The smoke and 
fires which have been visible for some hours in that direction 
arose from other causes. General Wool and Secretary Chase, 
who accompanied him from Norfolk, have returned here. 

On the 11th Mr. Stanton sent the following to P. H. 
Watson : — 

The Merrimac was blown up by the rebels at two minutes 
before five o'clock this morning. She was set fire to about 
three o'clock, and the explosion took place at the time stated. 
It is said to have been a grand sight by those who saw it. 
The Monitor, Stevens, and the gunboats have gone up towards 

General McClellan had telegraphed to Secretary Stan- 
ton on the 10th : — 

Should Norfolk be taken and the Merrimac destroyed, I 
can change my line to the James River and dispense with 
the railroad. 

At nine o'clock on the morning of the 11th, McClellan 
sent the following from his camp, nineteen miles from 
Williamsburg : — 

I congratulate you from the bottom of my heart upon the 
destruction of the Merrimac. I would now most earnestly 
urge that our gunboats and the ironclad boats be sent as far 
as possible up the James River without delay. This will 
enable me to make our movements much more decisive. 

On the same day, the Secretary of the Navy ordered 
Commodore Goldsborough to push all the boats he 
could spare up the James Kiver, even to Richmond, 


unless otherwise ordered by the President. The fol- 
lowing dispatch from Stanton to McClellan the same 
day shows that the latter did not lack the support of 
the navy, if he felt disposed to change his base to the 
James River : — 

We are on board the steamer homeward bound, having 
just returned from Norfolk. The order to send the Monitor, 
Stevens, and one or two other boats up the James River has 
been given and will be executed immediately, as I am assured 
by Flag-Officer Goldsborough. 


McClellan's Snail Pace on the Peninsula. — His Failure to take the 
Line of the James River on two Favorable Occasions. — Then 
attributes Failure of his Campaign to not having taken it. — His 
Correspondence, exposing Glaring Inconsistency, and refuting 
many Statements in his Book. 

The Merrimac had been a formidable menace to all 
operations in the lower Chesapeake from the time of 
her appearance in Hampton Koads on the 8th of March. 
Although she had been so damaged by the Monitor that 
on the following day she had been compelled to go 
into dock at Norfolk for repairs, the fact of her ex- 
istence had operated as an efficient blockade of the 
James River. By her destruction on the 11th of May 
that blockade had been raised. 

General McClellan's dispatch to Stanton on the day 
before was expressive of elation at the movement on 
Norfolk, and of his apparent eagerness to make the 
James River the base of his operations in the event of 
its success. He said it would enable him to dispense 
with the railroad running from the head of York River 
to Richmond. On the 11th he congratulated Stanton 
from the bottom of his heart on the destruction of 
the Merrimac, and earnestly urged that gunboats and 
ironclads be sent up the James River without delay, 
saying this would enable him to make much more 
decisive movements. 


His wishes were immediately complied with, and a 
message so informing him was received by him from 
Mr. Stanton on the same day. All this clearly appears 
from the dispatches quoted in the preceding chapter. 

No impediment remained to prevent the adoption of 
the James River as his base. His own judgment had 
the approval of the Secretaries of War and of the Navy. 
Being thus left perfectly free on the 11th of May to 
adopt either the James or the York River, he deliber- 
ately adopted the latter ! From the hour that gun- 
boats and ironclads were ordered up the James River, at 
his request, by Admiral Goldsborough, he moved stead- 
ily in the other direction. Although according to his 
" Own Story " " the roads were so bad, narrow, and un- 
frequent as to render the movement of large masses 
very slow and difficult, — so much so that in the move- 
ment to White House on the 15th and 16th it required 
forty-eight hours to move two divisions and their two 
trains five miles," 1 he nevertheless moved his army to 
the last-named locality, and there established his head- 
quarters on the 16th. 

In his book he thus states the advantages of the 
James River as a base : — 

With the aid of the gunboats and water transportation, I 
am sure that I could have occupied Petersburg and placed 
the army between that place and Richmond, so that the 
enemy would have been obliged to abandon the capital or to 
come out and attack in a position of my own choosing. 2 

As to the line of the York and Pamunkey, here is 
his statement as to its fatal disadvantages : — 

1 Own Story, page 341. 2 Ibid., page 343. 


As it was impossible to get at Richmond, and the enemy's 
army covering it, without crossing the Chickahominy, I was 
obliged to divide the Army of the Potomac into two parts 
separated by that stream. 

And yet he deliberately adopted this line without any 
suggestion from Washington, or from any source what- 
ever, after the James River had been opened to him at 
his own request. If he had approached Richmond by 
the James, he says he would have " avoided the delays 
and losses incurred in bridging the Chickahominy, and 
could have had the army united in one body, instead 
of being necessarily divided by that stream." 1 

If these were indeed his opinions at the time — as in 
his book he would have it appear — what defense can 
be made for the perversity with which he first doomed 
his army to contend for forty days with the deadly 
vapors of the Chickahominy swamps, and then to the 
seven days of merely defensive fighting, initiated by 
the enemy, and the seven nights' flight to Harrison's 
Landing on the James ? 

His own defense is 2 that his movements from the 
11th of May to the 16th, when he voluntarily estab- 
lished his headquarters at White House on the Pamun- 
key River, were compelled by an order of the President, 
made two days after the last-named date. 3 

" This order," he says, " rendered it impossible for 
me to use the James River as a line of operations; 
forced me to establish our depots on the Pamunkey, 

1 Own Story, page 346. 2 Ibid. 

8 The President's order, as will presently be shown, did not direct the 
adoption of any base of operations, but merely dealt with the line already 
adopted by McClellan. 


and to approach Kichmond from the north. Herein 
lay the failure of the campaign." 

It would be difficult for any man to crowd the same 
amount of self-stultification into the same space. Let 
us recapitulate : As we have seen, he was, at the very 
time of receiving that order, on the 18th of May, — 
and had been for two days, — already established on 
the Pamunkey, of his own free choice. 

He had told Stanton on the 10th, that if the Merri- 
mac were destroyed, he could change his line to the 
James River, and " dispense with the railroad from 
Eichmond to West Point." When this event happened, 
he had asked for gunboats to be sent up the James 
River to enable him to make these " decisive move- 
ments." His request had been complied with, and at 
Stanton's solicitation Admiral Goldsborough had been 
ordered to send the gunboats up on the same day, 
and he had been so informed. Thus the initiative for 
the adoption of the James River as a base had actually 
been taken on the 11th of May by Stanton, who could 
not then have doubted that it would be followed up by 
General McClellan ; but instead of so doing, without 
even a suggestion from any source, the latter had, on 
the 18th, been moving his troops up the Pamunkey 
River and away from the James River for the seven 
days immediately following the opening of the latter to 
his use. 

During that week he had been wildly calling for 
reinforcements. To the President he declared that 
the enemy had double the number of his troops, 
besides having the advantage of intrenchments. In 


the same dispatch he said it was entirely possible that 
the rebels might abandon Richmond, but that if they 
did, he wanted to be in a condition to press them when 
they should make a stand west or south of that place. 
Even if more troops were not needed, " it would," he 
said, " have the best moral effect for us to display an 
imposing force in the capital of the rebel govern- 
ment." * 

Monday, the 12th, he wrote to his wife : — 

I think one more battle here will finish the work. I expect 
a great one, but feel that confidence in my men and that trust 
in God, which makes me very sanguine as to the result. 

My government, alas, it is not giving me any aid, but I 
will do the best I can with what I have, and trust to God's 
mercy and the courage of my men for the result. 

On the 15th he wrote : — 

I don't know yet what to make of the rebels. I do not see 
how they can possibly abandon Virginia and Richmond with- 
out a battle, nor do I understand why they abandoned and 
destroyed Norfolk and the Merrimac, unless they also intend 
to abandon all of Virginia. There is a puzzle somewhere 
which will soon be solved. 

On the 17th he wrote : — 

It is very difficult to divine whether secesh will fight a 
great battle in front of Richmond or not. I still think they 
ought to, but there are some circumstances which look some- 
what as if they would evacuate. 

That he could thus imagine it possible for the enemy 
to run away from intrenched positions, and give up their 

1 Own Story, page 343. Dispatch to the President, May 14, War 
Records, vol. xi. part i. p. 26. 


capital, if, as he declared, they had twice his number, 
indicates that his mental processes were outside of any 
other human experience. 

While General McClellan's disordered imagination 
pictured to him an enemy in front twice the number of 
his own force, the Confederate government was actually 
making preparations for the evacuation of Richmond, if 
it should become a necessity, - — a danger which to them 
seemed imminent for the two weeks following the battle 
of Williamsburg. This fact is fully established by the 
following extracts from the Confederate correspondence 
in the "War Records." The Confederate Secretary of 
War wrote from Richmond to the President of the 
Richmond, Fredericksburg, and Petersburg Railroad 
Company, May 9, 1862, as follows : — 

The government desires, in the event of the occupation of 
this city by the enemy, that all of your rolling stock and 
materials necessary for the operation of the road should he 
sent South. You will therefore prepare it for removal, and 
should the danger become imminent, you will remove it with- 
out waiting for further instructions. 

To the Confederate adjutant -general he wrote 
May 10 : — 

Have such of your records and papers as ought to be pre- 
served, and are not required for constant reference, packed 
in boxes for removal and marked so as to designate the bureau 
to which they belong. Books and papers necessary for con- 
stant reference may be kept in the presses, but boxes must be 
prepared for them. This is only intended as a prudent step, 
and is not caused by any bad news from the army. There is 
no need, therefore, for any panic in the city, and it should be 


prevented by the assurance that we have every reason to think 
that the city can be successfully defended. 

The following, dated May 10, from General D. H. 
Hill to the rebel Secretary of War shows the demoral- 
ized condition of the enemy at that time : — 

It is with deep mortification that I report that several 
thousand soldiers and many individuals with commissions 
have fled to Richmond on pretext of sickness. They have 
even thrown away their arms that their flight might not be 
impeded. Cannot these miserable wretches be arrested and 
returned to their regiments, where they can have their heads 
shaved and be drummed out of the service ? 

May 13 General Lee wrote to General Joseph John- 
ston as follows : — 

I have received your letter of to-day by Major Cole in 
reference to the supply of provisions for your army, in the 
event of Richmond falling into the hands of the enemy. 

Then follows a statement of the formation of supply 
depots at Danville, Charlotte, Atlanta, Gordonsville, 
Charlottesville, and Lynchburg. 

On the 17th of May Jefferson Davis wrote to General 
Johnston as follows : — 

There is much manifestation of a determination that the 
ancient and honored capital of Virginia, now the seat of the 
Confederate government, shall not fall into the hands of the 
enemy. Many say rather let it be a heap of rubbish. 

On the 21st of May, in response to a call made upon 
him by General Lee at the request of Jefferson Davis, 
General Johnston reported the strength of the army 
under his command near Kichmond to be 53,688. 


The strength of the Army of the Potomac on the 
20th of May, as officially reported by General McClellan, 
was 128,864, of which he reported that there were 
present for duty and equipped 107,088. 

The President and his Secretary of War could not 
fail to see from McClellan's wild and incoherent lan- 
guage that he intended to do nothing, and that he 
intended to place the blame for inaction upon the gov- 
ernment, for not sending him the troops then guarding 
the capital. Indeed, at this time, every newspaper that 
was unfriendly to the national cause was loudly making 
that very charge against the administration. These 
publications were read in Richmond, and could have no 
other effect than to satisfy the Confederate authorities 
that McClellan contemplated no offensive movement. 

Following is Stanton's dispatch of the 18th of May 
to McClellan, which the latter said had alone controlled 
his previous action from the 11th to the 16th of that 
month in selecting his base of operations : — 

General, — Your dispatch to the President asking rein- 
forcements has been received and carefully considered. 

The President is not willing to uncover the capital entirely ; 
and it is believed that even if this were prudent, it would 
require more time to effect that junction between your army 
and that of the Rappahannock by way of the Potomac and 
the York River than by a land route. In order, therefore, to 
increase the force of the land attack upon Richmond at the 
earliest moment, General McDowell has been ordered to march 
upon that city by the shortest route. 

He is ordered, keeping himself always in position to save 
the capital from all possible attack, so to operate, as to put 
his left wing in communication with your right wing, and 

Mcdowell ordered to mcclellaisps aid 411 

you are instructed to cooperate so as to establish this com- 
munication as soon as possible by extending your right wing 
to the north of Richmond. 

It is believed that this communication can be safely es- 
tablished either north or south of the Pamunkey River. 

In any event, you will be able to prevent the main body of 
the enemy's forces from leaving Richmond and falling in 
overwhelming force upon General McDowell. He will move 
with between thirty-five (35) and forty thousand men. 

A copy of the instructions to General McDowell are with 
this. The specific task assigned to his command has been to 
provide against any danger to the capital of the nation. 

At your earnest call for reinforcements, he is sent forward 
to cooperate in the reduction of Richmond, and charged, in 
attempting this, not to uncover the city of Washington, and 
you will give no order, either before or after your junction, 
which can put him out of position to cover this city. You 
and he will communicate with each other by telegraph or 
otherwise, as frequently as may be necessary for efficient 
cooperation. When General McDowell is in position on your 
right, his supplies must be drawn from West Point, and you 
will instruct your staff officers to be prepared to supply him 
by that route. 

The President desires that General McDowell retain the 
command of the Department of the Rappahannock, and of 
the forces with which he moves forward. 

By order of the President. 

This order, it should be remembered, was in response 
to McClellan's vehement and repeated declarations that 
his army was about to be overwhelmed by the enemy, 
unless he could have the aid of the forces which were 
absolutely necessary for the defense of Washington. 
He feared the enemy was so weak that he would abandon 


Richmond and go South without a fight, and yet so 
strong that he would crush the Union army. And so 
he stood still and did nothing. 

McClellan sent a lengthy dispatch to the President in 
response to this order, in which he discussed water 
transportation, and raised an issue as to the relative 
authority of McDowell and himself over the troops of 
the former when these should arrive. But neither in 
that nor in any subsequent one did he make the slight- 
est intimation that the order had anything to do with 
his selection, as a line of operations, of the York and 
Pamunkey rivers as against the James. How could he 
have done so, when of his own free will he had two 
days before (16th) advanced to White House on the 
Pamunkey, and had on the 18th ordered an advance of 
his headquarters with the army corps five miles further 
up that river to Tuns tail's Station ? 1 

And yet more than a year afterwards, when he had 
been deprived of command, and was at his home in New 
Jersey, he wrote what he called an official report, 
abounding in contradictions, inconsistencies, and mis- 
representations, in which he declared that this order of 
May 18 forced him to adopt the line of the York and 
Pamunkey and caused the failure of his campaign. In 
that report he exalted the line of the James River, to 
which, as has been here shown from the record, he 
promptly turned his back as soon as it was opened to 
him on the 11th of May. 

On this inexplicable course of McClellan, Jefferson 
Davis says : — 

1 Own Story, page 358. 


The considerations which induced General McClellan to 
make his base on the York River had at least partly ceased 
to exist. From the corps for which he had so persistently 
applied, he had received the division which he most valued, 
and the destruction of the Virginia [Merrimac] had left the 
James River open to his fleet and transports as far up as 
Drury's Bluff, and the withdrawal of General Johnston across 
the Chickahominy made it quite practicable for him to trans- 
fer his army to the James River, the south side of which had 
then but weak defenses, and thus by a short march to gain 
more than all the advantages which at a later period of the 
war General Grant obtained at the sacrifice of a hecatomb of 
soldiers. 1 

To his wife McClellan wrote at midnight May 18 : — 

Those hounds in Washington are after me again. 

This could only have referred to the President and 
his Secretary of War, the immediate provocation being 
the conditions imposed upon McDowell's advance to his 
support, and contained in Stanton's dispatch to him of 
that date, last above cited. 

1 Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government, vol. ii. p. 105. 


Slanders of Stanton by the McClellan and Copperhead Press. — 
Directly based on Private Letters of McClellan. — The Latter 
boasts of having iusulted President Lincoln. 

It seemed to have become the settled policy of Gen- 
eral McClellan to act on the defensive towards the 
rebels, and to make offensive war only upon his own 
government. Well understanding the eager anxiety of 
the Union masses of the people to see him deliver his 
first blow at the rebellion, but apparently determined 
not to fight, he commenced the work of misleading the 
public mind into the belief that the War Department 
was holding him in check, and depriving him of forces 
without which he was hopeless in the presence of the 
enemy. A review of his newspaper campaign against 
Mr. Stanton will be instructive. The editor of the 
Baltimore " American " addressed Mr. Stanton a letter 
as early as the 9th of April, in which he said : — 

A private note from our correspondent with General 
McClellan, intimate with all leading officers of his staff, 
says much feeling is shown here in depriving McClellan of 
McDowell's corps. Our military authorities have reliable 
information that Magruder's force up to last night was sixty 
thousand, 1 and still being reinforced. If we should be de- 

1 McClellan himself, in his report to Secretary Stanton, stated the 
number to be 15,000. 


feated, through trickery of McDowell, a terrible retribution 
will rest somewhere. I send you this as coming from one in 
a position to know the sentiment of officers at headquarters. 

This furnishes a key to the public clamor which rap- 
idly arose by the aid of newspapers having correspond- 
ents near McClellan's headquarters. 

The New York " Commercial Advertiser " of April 
15 stated, upon what it deemed the " fullest author- 
ity/' what General McClellan's " plans " were, and how 
they had been disarranged at Washington, and that 
the success of " his grand movement " had thus been 
put in peril. It was quite sure that the rebels had 
thus been enabled to concentrate at Yorktown forces 
vastly superior to those of the government. The re- 
mainder of the article was so evidently inspired from 
McClellan's headquarters that it is inserted at length : 

On this whole subject we fear there is room for uneasiness, 
and occasion for censure somewhere. There appears to be a 
plot — we fear indeed that it is not in appearance only, but 
that such a combination exists, both here and in Washington 
— to prevent General McClellan achieving the results of his 
masterly strategy of the fall and winter. On this subject 
we do not speak unadvisedly, and we deem it high time the 
subject should be ventilated, and thoroughly understood by 
the public. We do not believe that the President is in 
sympathy with the conspirators against General McClellan's 
fame and success. From the first, the chief magistrate, who 
is no mean judge of men in any relation of life, was led to 
give him his confidence, and is now, we believe, further than 
ever from withdrawing it. The same feeling, we understand, 
exists in the Cabinet generally. We fear it is true, however, 
that General McClellan has no very warm friend in the Sec- 


retary of War. We would not for a moment suppose, how- 
ever, that that officer of the government would knowingly do 
the general commanding an injustice. Least of all would 
we suppose that the Secretary of War, in any idea of hostil- 
ity to General McClellan, would consent to any such crip- 
pling of the general's resources and movements as would put 
in peril his success against the rebels. It is but too true, 
however, that McClellan's enemies do not regard the War 
Department as a serious obstacle to their cherished purpose 
of ultimately forcing him from his position as the general 
commanding the Army of the Potomac. 

The conspiracy against General McClellan is composed 
mainly of civilians, though the names of some military com- 
manders are spoken of in connection with it. The ground 
of hostility, we take it, is twofold, — personal and political. 
Personal we mean in this sense, that the general stands in 
the way of partisans of other commanding officers, who would 
even secure to their favorites the honors of the fame that 
awaits General McClellan. This motive for the opposition 
to him is not creditable to the patriotism of those who are in- 
fluenced by it. The political character of the opposition has 
been more than once betrayed. A certain school of politi- 
cians are angered with him, and because they foresee a pos- 
sibility that he may be carried into the next presidency, by 
the acclamations of an admiring and grateful people. That, 
while General McClellan has acted on the noble principle of 
the Jewish patriot, — "I am doing a great work so that I can- 
not come down ; why should the work cease whilst I leave it 
and come down to you ? " — he has nevertheless felt keenly 
this hostility is not to be wondered at. Nor will the country 
be surprised if the interference with his plans after he left 
Washington proves to have been the subject of an earnest 
protest to the War Department, with the request that it may 
be filed there to be seen by his friends, should disaster over- 
take him. 


On the 17th of April the newspapers published 
rumors that Secretary Stanton had resigned in conse- 
quence of differences of opinion between him and the 
President touching the movement of troops. These 
rumors were false, and were manufactured for the pur- 
pose of confusing the public mind with a pretended 
conflict, with Lincoln and McClellan on one side, and 
Stanton on the other. 

The New York " Commercial Advertiser " of the 
17th, commenting upon this rumored resignation, 
said : — 

The Secretary of War has certainly committed grave errors 
since he took charge of the department, and we have reason 
to believe that the President is far from satisfied with the 
Secretary's treatment of General McClellan. It is even said 
that after the general commanding went to Yorktown, the 
President felt it to be his duty to interfere peremptorily for 
his protection, and sent troops to him that Stanton had with- 
held ; and we believe that such is a fact. There are very 
unpleasant rumors afloat, alluded to partially in our remarks 
on Tuesday. Various reasons are assigned for the behavior 
of the Secretary of War to General McClellan, the most 
common of which is that the Secretary has seen visions of a 
White House that will want an occupant in 1865, and that a 
desire to be that occupant has taken an engrossing possession 
of his mind. The judgment being thus warped, jealousy of 
McClellan has followed, and is bearing some very unpleasant 
fruits. Such is the common rumor. Of its truth, we are 
not competent to judge, and therefore offer no opinion. But 
that, from his first entrance upon office down to the present 
time, Mr. Secretary Stanton has not given General McClellan 
a cordial support, to say the least, is very generally under- 
stood. The evidences of this spirit are abundant. The let- 


ter, addressed to the " Tribune " by the Secretary, in response 
to that journal's laudation of him, at General McClellan's 
expense, was a pitiful exhibition of his temper. It was fol- 
lowed soon by a covert sneer at the general commanding, 
dragged into a letter of thanks to General Lander, and has 
been shown in other ways since. It is said that at least one 
military general whose obligations to General McClellan 
should have taught him another line of conduct, is more or 
less covertly in sympathy with these attempts to embarrass 
General McClellan. . . . 

It is reported that the course pursued by the Secretary 
of War to the commander of the Army of the Potomac had 
become a subject of grave cabinet discussions, and that the 
President had " put his foot down " — which is a way he 
has, greatly to Mr. Stanton's surprise and disgust. It is not 
improbable that these reports have some foundation in truth. 
It is very certain that he has no jealousies of McClellan, and 
that he has much confidence in him, and we are well assured 
that he will, if necessary, very summarily dismiss from his 
Cabinet any man who tries to thwart, from whatever motive, 
that enduring general's efforts to give a final blow to the 

Mr. Stanton must change either his policy or his place. 

The following private letter to Stanton, dated April 
16, gives the source of the " fullest authority " of the 
" Advertiser " for its article of the 15th. Its writer, 
Edwards Pierrepont, was a stanch patriot and an inti- 
mate friend of Stanton's. He served afterwards as 
Attorney-General and minister to England during the 
presidency of General Grant : — 

To an ordinary newspaper article I would not call your 
attention. The inclosed from the " Commercial Advertiser " 
of New York excites much comment. Read it twice. Three 


days ago, a friend of McClellan's told me the contents of 
letters just received by him from the general. These letters 
were the basis of this article. That General McClellan so 
intended, I do not believe. That these letters caused the arti- 
cle, I am (in my own mind) quite sure. The general sup- 
poses the President is with him, and his friends suppose that 
in any difference between the Secretary of War and the 
general, that the President is secure for the general. Mc- 
Clellan gave a statement of a very peculiar interview " scene " 
between the President and himself. I shall give you the 
" affectionate particulars " when we meet. I think you will 
understand that meeting and the " affectionate scene." 1 

1 In his Own Story, at page 195, McClellan states that in an interview 
between the President and himself, on the 8th of March, Mr. Lincoln 
said that it had been represented to him that the peninsular campaign 
" was conceived with the traitorous intent of removing its defenses from 
Washington, and thus giving over to the enemy the capital and the gov- 
ernment, thus left defenseless." McClellan then says : — 

" It is difficult to understand that a man of Mr. Lincoln's intelligence 
could give ear to such abominable nonsense. I was seated when he said 
this, concluding with the remark that it did look to him much like 
treason. Upon this I arose, and in a maimer perhaps not altogether 
decorous towards the Chief Magistrate, desired that he should retract 
the expression, telling him that I could permit no one to couple the word 
treason with my name. He was much agitated and at once disclaimed 
any idea of considering me a traitor, and said he merely repeated what 
others had said, and that he did not believe a word of it. I suggested 
caution in the use of language, and again said that I would permit no 
doubt to be thrown upon my intentions ; whereupon he apologized and 
disclaimed any purpose of impugning my motives." 

If McClellan could make the coterie around him believe this prepos- 
terous story, the effect would be to convince them of his mastery over 
Mr. Lincoln to such an extent that the latter could be relied upon at any 
time to cooperate with him in any issue he might choose to make with 
Mr. Stanton. The tale is manifestly a fabrication worthy of Baron 
Munchausen. It is probable that this pretended interview or " scene " is 
the one referred to by McClellan in the letter received from him in New 
York, and which inspired the Advertiser's attack on Secretary Stanton. 


Here is another letter to Mr. Stanton from the same 
writer of the following day : — 

If McClellan's friends continue the attack on the Secretary 
of War, a reply in time may be well. Of that we shall see. 
The charge is that McClellan went to Yorktown with the 
promise from the Secretary of War that he was to have all 
needed troops ; that when he got there you changed ; gave 
McDowell separate command ; would not allow McClellan 
to have even sappers and miners nor any force adequate to 
the work before him. The motive charged is that you and 
Chase and McDowell and Wadsworth combined to have 
McClellan defeated in order : — 

First : To make you President instead of McClellan, who, 
they say, is the rival for that office. 

Second : To give McDowell the office of commander-in- 
chief and thus to aid Chase. 

Third: To gratify Wadsworth, who dislikes McClellan 
because the latter is not an abolitionist, and whose success 
may defeat Wadsworth in his political aspirations. 

All these amiable and patriotic motives are very confidently 
asserted as the cause of your continued efforts to have your 
country disgraced by the loss of a battle before Yorktown. 
That you all wish the battle lost is regarded as a truth so 
self-evident by the followers of McClellan as to need no 

The activity is extraordinary. Of the papers I have sent 
you specimens to-day. This is all got up by letters from 
Washington. It is boasted loudly that "the President 
stands by his country and protects his general-in-chief from 
those who wish our brave troops to be slaughtered to gratify 
unholy and bloody ambition." 

If they can get you to resign, then all will be as they wish. 
This you must not do. This accursed, absurd bosh is not 
amongst the common people. It is confined to the upper 


classes and to the newspaper men. In short, it is confined 
to those who love the South more than the North, and who 
would pay homage to Jeff Davis the moment he entered 

These attacks upon Mr. Stanton were evidently based 
upon the contents of McClellan's private letters. 

In its issue of the 18th of April the "Advertiser" 
explained that it was McClellan's desire to put down 
the rebellion without hurting anybody, so that the 
memory of it " would not rankle in the generations to 
follow." His simple purpose was to " bag " the rebel 
army, which he had not been able to do because he 
had not been allowed to leave Washington undefended. 
It said : — 

For this conception alone General McClellan, in our judg- 
ment, deserves the credit of the millions of the loyal people 
of the United States. For a young general, scarcely past the 
enthusiasm of youth and with a reputation on the field yet 
comparatively unmade, to come to such a Christian deter- 
mination, is one of the sublimest moral spectacles ever pre- 
sented to the world. Animated by such noble sentiments 
General McClellan will triumph over all opposition ; but if 
the interference with his grand and comprehensive plans fills 
the North with groaning for the slain before the intrench- 
ments at Yorktown, let the responsibilities rest upon the par- 
ties at Washington, who, without consulting him, divided his 
army when he had left the capital. 

General McClellan has never stooped to complain of the 
bitter assaults upon him and of the dubious course pursued 
towards him by the War Department. His friends, too, so 
far have contented themselves with defending him without 
assailing others. But if it is necessary in order to sustain 


him at this important crisis, they may be tempted to carry 
the war into Africa. 

This " Christian youth/' who so excited the admira- 
tion of the writer of the above, did not fill the North 
with groaning for any slain before the intrenchments 
at Yorktown. As a defense of McClellan " without 
assailing others/' the article is unapproachable. 

On the 27th of April the New York "Herald" in- 
formed the public that it had been decided at a cabinet 
meeting that " McClellan and his plans are no longer 
to be disturbed by the cowardly abolition fanatics who 
have dogged him so long." On the same day the 
New York " Express " declared its suspicion of Mr. 
Stanton, because he had been indorsed " by such men 
as Wendell Phillips." It said : — 

The army power of the war administration has been twisted, 
too, by somebody of late to administer to and to excite negro 
fanaticism, and to put passion in the South rather than to 
strengthen and develop the Union sentiment. 

Complaints were loud and continuous at this time at 
Mr. Stanton's censorship of the press. The New York 
" Advertiser/' on April 26, said it was " about on a 
par with the Egyptian taskmasters of the Israelites, 
when required to make their full tale of bricks without 
a supply of straw." 

Said the New York " World : " — 

Not only is the censorship useless for the purpose for which 
it was professedly instituted, but it is exercised in such an 
arbitrary manner as to be excessively annoying and harassing. 

This spirit of discontent at not being allowed to pub- 


lish all that might be interesting very naturally made 
a large portion of the press willing coadjutors with 
McClellan's special organs and the copperhead volun- 
teers in his service. The day before that small por- 
tion of the rebel army which had for a month kept 
McClellan at bay retired from Yorktown, the New 
York "World" said: — 

But for Secretary Stanton's interference with General 
McClellan's plans, Richmond and Yorktown might this day 
be occupied by our troops and the rebel army have been 
bagged or routed. 

Even the New York " Tribune " appears finally to 
have been taken into McClellan's confidence, for on 
May 5, the day after the evacuation of Yorktown, that 
journal said : — 

It is not improper now to say that General McClellan's 
plan of the campaign on the peninsula was, when he had 
gotten before Yorktown, to have General McDowell push 
across the head of the peninsula with 50,000 men and cut off 
the rebel retreat that has now taken place. 1 If this plan had 
been carried out, not a regiment of all the rebel army at 
Yorktown would have escaped ; but the plan was changed at 
Washington after General McClellan got before Yorktown, 
and changed without his knowledge or consent. His enemies 
blame him now for letting the enemy get away, the very 
thing, above all others, that McClellan's plan, if followed, 
would have prevented. 

The moment McClellan was officially informed, in 

1 McDowell's best division of 12,000 men, commanded by Franklin, 
was sent to McClellan, and in his dispatch to Stanton of April 13 he 
declared that this made him "confident as to results." Yet he made 
no use of them until after the evacuation of Yorktown, but left them 
on their transports until that time. 


April, of what he already well knew, that he would not 
be allowed to leave Washington defenseless, in flagrant 
disobedience of the President's orders, he set up a false 
and noisy pretense that so many troops had been with- 
drawn from him that the country must not expect any 
successes at his hands. This was as loudly proclaimed 
throughout the Confederacy as it was throughout the 
North, and was as encouraging to the enemies of the 
Union in both sections as it was depressing among its 

There was no time during the siege of Yorktown 
that his forces were not twice the numerical strength 
of the enemy, nor any occasion when he made use of all 
he had. 


Stanton's Silence under Persecution, lest Harm come to the Country. 
— His Reply in a Private Letter, never published until Seventeen 
Years after his Death. — A Voice from the Grave. 

Under all the obloquy that was cast upon him during 
that trying period, Mr. Stanton remained absolutely 
silent, while McClellan posed under the fraudulent guise 
of the victim of a conspiracy of which the former was 
the head. The country was being told that Stanton 
was afraid to allow McClellan to win a victory, lest it 
might help him to the presidency and hinder Stanton. 
The press teemed with sayings like those in the last 
chapter, in which Lincoln was pictured as trying to pre- 
vent Stanton from aiding the enemy by thwarting the 
brilliant and Napoleonic plans of McClellan. Stanton 
alone stood in the way of McClellan' s arrangements for 
" bagging " the entire rebel army without bloodshed. 

Although these falsehoods were, "like a mountain, 
gross and palpable," they were, nevertheless, accepted 
by a large portion of the people as historical truths. 
They are to this day believed by many who either never 
had the opportunity or have never taken the trouble to 
examine the records. They were never publicly noticed 
by Mr. Stanton during his lifetime, but, as if he had 
spoken from the grave, his own answer to them reached 
the public twenty-four years after they were uttered, and 


seventeen years after his death. It came in the form of 
a private letter written by him on the 18th of May, 
1862, to his old pastor and friend of his youth. Rev. 
Heman Dyer, — a letter written under the seal of con- 
fidence, which had been strictly observed for twenty- 
four years. On the 28th of May and on the 4th of 
June, 1886, a member of the House of Representatives 
reproduced in debate the charges which McClellan and 
his friends had made against Mr. Stanton in April and 
May, 1862, and thereafter ; whereupon, on the 8th of 
June, the Hon. W. D. Kelly, a Representative from 
Pennsylvania, responded, and in the course of his re- 
marks read the letter referred to, which is as follows : — 

Washington, May 18, 1862. 

My dear Friend, — Yours of the 16th is welcomed as an 
evidence of the continued regard of one whose esteem I have 
always been anxious to possess. I have been very well aware 
of the calumnies busily circulated against me in New York, 
and elsewhere, respecting my relations to General McClellan, 
but am compelled from public considerations to withhold 
the proofs that would stamp the falsehood of the accusa- 
tions and the base motives of the accusers, who belong to two 
classes : — 

1st, Plunderers who have been driven from the depart- 
ment where they were gorging millions ; 

2d, Scheming politicians whose designs are endangered by 
an earnest, resolute, uncompromising prosecution of this war 
— as a war against rebels and traitors. 

A brief statement of facts, on official record, which I can 
make to you confidentially, will be sufficient to satisfy your- 
self that your confidence in me has not been misplaced : — 

1st, When I entered the Cabinet, I was, and for months 








IP art of Mr. Stanton's tetter to the Rev. Neman Dyer'] 

\ ^AvwAft^^* vAco* Wx»>- Wlvv <W*\>es^~^VU*'Vv ^U {X>\|V5>*»^*'^' 


had been, the sincere and devoted friend of General McClel- 
lan, and to support him, and, so far as I might, aid and as- 
sist him in bringing the war to a close, was a chief induce- 
ment for me to sacrifice my personal happiness to a sense of 
public duty. I had studied him earnestly with an anxious 
desire to discover the military and patriotic virtue that might 
save the country, and if in any degree disappointed, I hoped 
on, and waited for time to develop. 

I went into the Cabinet about the 20th of January. On 
the 27th the President made his war order No. 1, requiring 
the Army of the Potomac to move. It is not necessary, or 
perhaps proper, to state all the causes that led to that order, 
but it is enough to know that the government was on the verge 
of bankruptcy, and at the rate of expenditure, the armies must 
move, or the government perish. The 22d of February was 
the day fixed for movement, and when it arrived there was no 
more sign of movement on the Potomac than there had been 
for three months before. Many, very many, earnest conver- 
sations I had held with General McClellan, to impress him 
with the absolute necessity of active operations, or that the 
government would fail because of foreign intervention and 
enormous debt. 

Between the 2 2d of February and the 8th of March the 
President had again interfered, and a movement on Win- 
chester and to clear the blockade of the Potomac was pro- 
mised, commenced, and abandoned. The circumstances cannot 
at present be revealed. 

On the 6th of March the President again interfered, ordered 
the Army of the Potomac to be organized into army corps, 
and that operations should commence immediately. 

Two lines of operations were open, — 1st, one moving di- 
rectly on the enemy by Manassas and forcing him back on 
Eichmond, beating and destroying him by superior force, and 
all the time keeping the capital secure by being between it 
and the enemy. This was the plan favored by the President* 


2d, The other plan was to transfer the troops by water to 
some point on the lower Chesapeake, and thence advance on 
Richmond. This was General McClellan 's plan. The Presi- 
dent reluctantly yielded his own views, although they were 
supported by some of the best military men in the country, and 
consented that the general should pursue his own plan. But 
by a written order he imposed the special condition, that the 
army should not be removed without leaving a sufficient force 
in and around Washington to make the capital perfectly se- 
cure against all danger, and that the force required should be 
determined by the judgment of all the commanders of army 

In order to enable General McClellan to devote his whole 
energy to the movement of his own army (which was quite 
enough to tax the ability of the ablest commander in the 
world), he was relieved from the charge of the other military 
departments, it being supposed that the respective commanders 
were competent to direct the operations in their own depart- 

To enable General McClellan to transport his force, every 
means and power of the government was placed at his dis- 
posal and unsparingly used. 

When a large part of his force had been transferred to 
Fortress Monroe, and the whole of it about to go in a few 
days, information was given to me by various persons, that 
there was great reason to fear that no adequate force had been 
left to defend the capital in case of a sudden attack ; that the 
enemy might detach a large force and seize it at a time when 
it would be impossible for General McClellan to render any 
assistance. Serious alarm was expressed by many persons, 
and many warnings given me, which I could not neglect. I 
ordered a report of the force left to defend Washington. It 
was reported by the commander to be less than twenty thou- 
sand raw recruits, with not a single organized brigade ! A 
dash like that made a short time before at Winchester would 


at any time take the capital of the nation. The report of the 
force left to defend Washington, and the order of the Presi- 
dent, were referred to Major-General Hitchcock and Adju- 
tant-General Thomas to report, — 

1st, whether the President's orders had been complied 

2d, whether the force left to defend this city was sufficient. 

They reported in the negative on both points. These re- 
ports were submitted to the President, who also consulted 
General Totten, General Taylor, General Meigs, and General 
Ripley. They agreed in opinion that the capital was not 
safe. The President, then, by written order, directed me to 
retain one of the army corps for the defense of Washington, 
either Sumner's or McDowell's. As part of Sumner's corps 
had already embarked, I directed McDowell to remain with 
his command, and the reasons were approved by the President. 

Down to this period there had never been a shadow of dif- 
ference between General McClellan and myself. It is true 
that I thought his plan of operations objectionable, as the 
most expensive, the most hazardous, and most protracted that 
could have been chosen ; but I was not a military man, and 
while he was in command, I would not interfere with his plan, 
and gave him every aid to execute it. But when the case had 
assumed the form it had done by his disregard of the Presi- 
dent's order, and by leaving the capital exposed to seizure by 
the enemy, I was bound to act, even if I had not been required 
by the specific written order of the President. Will any man 
question that such was my duty? 

When this order was communicated to General McClellan, 
it of course provoked his wrath, and the wrath of his friends 
was directed upon me, because I was the agent of its execu- 
tion. If the force had gone forward as he had designed, I 
believe that Washington would this day be in the hands of 
the rebels. 

Down to this point, moreover, there was never the slightest 


difference between the President and myself. But the en- 
treaties of General McClellan induced the President to modify 
his order to the extent that Franklin's division (being part of 
McDowell's corps that had been retained) were detached and 
sent forward by boat to McClellan. 

This was against my judgment, because I thought the whole 
force of McDowell should be kept together, and sent forward 
by land on the shortest route to Richmond, thus aiding Mc- 
Clellan, but, at the same time, covering and protecting Wash- 
ington by keeping between it and the enemy. In this opinion 
Major-General Hitchcock, General Meigs, and Adjutant-Gen- 
eral Thomas agreed ; but the President was so anxious that 
General McClellan should have no cause of complaint that he 
ordered the force to be sent by water, although that route was 
then threatened by the Merrimack. I yielded my opinion to 
the President's order ; but between him and me there has 
never been the slightest shadow since I entered the Cabinet. 
And except the retention of the force under McDowell by 
the President's order for the reasons mentioned, General Mc- 
Clellan has never made a request, or expressed a wish, that 
has not been promptly complied with, if in the power of the 

To me personally he has repeatedly expressed his confidence 
and his thanks in the dispatches sent me ! Now one word as 
to political motives. What motive can I have to thwart Gen- 
eral McClellan ? I am not now, never have been, and never 
will be a candidate for any office. 

I hold my present post at the request of a President who 
knew me personally, but to whom I had not spoken from the 
4th of March, 1861, until the day he handed me my commis- 
sion. I knew that everything I cherish and hold dear would 
be sacrificed by accepting office. But I thought I might help 
to save the country, and for that I was willing to perish. If 
I wanted to be a politician or a candidate for any office, would 
I stand between the Treasury and the robbers that are howling 


around me ? Would I provoke and stand against the whole 
newspaper gang in this country, of every party, who to sell 
news would imperil a battle ? 

I was never taken for a fool, but there could be no greater 
madness than for a man to encounter what I do for anything 
else than motives that overleap time and look forward to 

I believe that God Almighty founded this government, and 
for my acts in the effort to maintain it, I expect to stand before 
Him in judgment. You will pardon this long explanation, 
which has been made to no one else. It is due to you, who 
was my friend when I was a poor boy at school, and had no 
claim upon your confidence or kindness. It cannot be made 
public for obvious reasons. General McClellan is at the head 
of our chief army, he must have every confidence and support, 
and I am willing that the whole world should revile me rather 
than to diminish one grain of the strength needed to conquer 
the rebels. In a struggle like this, justice or credit to indi- 
viduals is but dust in the balance. 

Desiring no office nor honor, and anxious only for the peace 
and quiet of my home, I suffer no inconvenience beyond that 
which arises from the trouble and anxiety suffered by worthy 
friends like yourself, who are naturally disturbed by the 
clamors and calumny of those whose interest or feeling are 
hostile to me. 

The official records will at proper time fully prove, — 

1st, that I have employed the whole power of the govern- 
ment unsparingly to support General McClellan's operations 
in preference of every other general. 

2d, that I have not interfered with or thwarted them in any 

3d, that the force retained from his expedition was not 
needed and could not have been employed by him — that it 
was retained by express orders of the President upon military 
investigation and upon the best military advice in the country 


— that its retention was required to save the capital from the 
danger to which it was exposed by a disregard to the Presi- 
dent's positive order of the 6th of March. 

4th, that between the President and myself there has never 
been any, the slightest, shadow of difference upon any point 
save the detachment of Franklin's force, and that was a point 
of no significance, but in which I was sustained by Generals 
Hitchcock, Meigs, Thomas, and Kipley, while the President 
yielded only to an anxious desire to avoid complaint, declaring 
at the same time his belief that the force was not needed by 
General McClellan. 

You will, of course, regard this explanation as being in the 
strictest confidence, designed only for your information upon 
matters wherein you express concern for me. 

The confidence of yourself, and men like you, is more than 
a full equivalent for all the railing that has been or can be 
expended against me ; and in the magnitude of the cause all 
merely individual questions are swallowed up. 

I shall always rejoice to hear from you, and am, as ever, 

Truly yours, 

Edwin M. Stanton. 

Revd Heman Dyer. 


The Battle of Fair Oaks. — McClellan divides his Army by a River 
rapidly being rendered impassable by a Flood. — Two Corps are 
saved by Sumner's Energetic Movement in Advance of McClel- 
lan's Order. — A Costly Victory thrown away. — Army ordered 
back when within Four Miles of Richmond. 

It was while McClellan was resting on the Pamunkey 
River, after a march of twenty miles in twelve days 
in pursuit of a fleeing enemy, that Stanton wrote his 
letter of May 18, in strict confidence to a friend. It 
was on that very day that he wrote the order to Mc- 
Dowell to advance to the support of McClellan, and 
wrote the latter accordingly. 

On the 21st of May McClellan wrote to the Presi- 
dent, complaining because McDowell's command was to 
be, to a certain extent, independent of him after form- 
ing the junction. The President kindly replied to him 
on the 24th that it should be as he desired, and that 
he should be in such relations to McDowell as he had 
himself defined in his letter of the 21st. 

On the same day, May 24, the President telegraphed 
him that the rebels, reinforced from Richmond, had 
appeared in such numbers in the Shenandoah Valley 
that McDowell could not move southward until the 
danger had been averted. On the 25th the President 
telegraphed him that he must either assume the offen- 


sive, or come in aid of the defense of the capital. This 
was equivalent to saying that his force on the penin- 
sula had not been a sufficient menace to Richmond to 
occupy the attention of the rebel army in that region, 
and that his inaction was endangering Washington. 
This was a truth he could not gainsay. 

His army was now on the left or north bank of the 
Chickahominy River. As this stream soon became as 
formidable an enemy to the Federal army as were the 
rebels themselves, it is interesting to know something 
of its power for evil. McClellan thus describes it : — 

The Chickahominy River rises some fifteen miles to the 
north of Richmond, and unites with the James about forty 
miles below that city. Our operations embraced the part 
of the river between Meadow's and Bottom's bridges, covering 
the approaches to Richmond from the east. In this vicinity 
the river in its ordinary stage is about forty feet wide, fringed 
with a dense growth of heavy forest trees, and bordered by 
low marshy bottom lands, varying from half a mile to a mile 
in width . Within the limits above mentioned, the firm 
ground lying above high-water mark seldom approaches the 
river on either bank, and no place was found, within this sec- 
tion, where the high ground came near the stream on both 

It was subject to frequent, sudden, and great variations in 
the volume of water, and a single violent rainstorm of brief 
duration would cause a rise of water which overflowed the 
bottom lands on both sides, and for many days made the 
river absolutely impassable without bridges. 1 

He states that this stream, so easily flooded by a 
single rain, and so formidable an impediment when so 

1 Own Story, page 362. 


flooded, was subjected that month to steady rains. He 
says : — 

In view of the peculiar character of the Chickahominy, 
and the liability to sudden inundations, it became necessary 
to construct eleven bridges, all long and difficult, with exten- 
sive log-way approaches, and often built under fire. 1 

General McClellan minutely chronicles the weather 
in May in his " Own Story." From him we learn that 
on the 14th and 15th it " rained heavily and continu- 
ously/' and " somewhat on the 16th." 2 On the 19th 
the rain " recommenced," 3 and on the 20th it again 
"rained heavily." 4 "It rained heavily" on the 22d, 
23d, 24th, 26th, 27th, 28th, and 29th, and "during 
the day and night of the 30th an unusually violent 
rainstorm occurred, accompanied by torrents of rain. 
The valley of the Chickahominy was flooded more than 

It was in the midst of this nearly continuous rain- 
storm of eight days that (on the 25th) McClellan placed 
this dangerous stream between that portion of his army 
consisting of the third and fourth corps, and the re- 
mainder, by ordering those corps to the right bank of 
the river. 

He says that " on approaching the river on the 20th 
of May, it was found that all the bridges had been 
destroyed by the enemy on our approach, except that 
of Mechanicsville." 5 

On the 24th the bridge at Mechanicsville was also 
destroyed. 6 He commenced bridge-building on the 24th, 

1 Own Story, page 364. 2 Ibid., page 341. 8 Ibid., page 360. 

4 Ibid., page 361. 5 Ibid., page 362. 6 Ibid., page 363. 


— one day before he moved two corps of his army to 
the opposite side of the river from the three remaining 
corps. The seven days' heavy rain which preceded the 
30th did not appear to cause General McClellan any 
uneasiness, although he knew it was surely isolating 
two corps of his army, and placing them at the mercy 
of the whole strength of the enemy. He professed to 
believe this strength double that of his own. It plainly 
follows that he was willing to expose two corps to an 
attack from double the strength of his entire army, 
under conditions that, he believed, would make retreat 
and reinforcement alike impossible. 

Finally, when the great storm of the 30th had come 
and gone, the battle of Fair Oaks was fought on the 
31st of May and the 1st of June on the Kichmond 
side of the Chickahominy, between all the rebel forces 
and three fifths only of our own. The two imperiled 
corps, commanded by Generals Heintzelman and Keyes, 
were reinforced by General Sumner, who, with great 
difficulty, got his two divisions across the river, on two 
uncompleted and partially submerged bridges at half 
past two of the first day. This desperate battle of two 
days resulted in a victory for the Federal army, but 
it was dearly bought. The losses on the Union side 
in killed, wounded, and missing were 5031. The rebel 
losses were 6084. 

This battle was not one of McClellan' s seeking, but 
was an inevitable consequence of his own disposition 
of his forces. He tells the story very concisely him- 
self when he says, after describing the storm of the 
30th: — 


The enemy seized the occasion and determined to attack 
the part of the army which had crossed the Chickahominy, 
when it would be very difficult or impossible to support it. 1 

And again : — 

The enemy, perceiving the unfavorable position in which 
we were placed, and the possibility of destroying that part of 
the army which was apparently cut off from the main body by 
a rapidly rising stream, threw an overwhelming force (grand 
divisions of Generals D. H. Hill, Huger, Longstreet, and G. 
W. Smith) upon the position occupied by Casey's division. 

It is not necessary, therefore, to go outside of 
McClellan's " Own Story " to show that, without any 
explainable motive, he exposed two corps of his army 
to destruction with open eyes ; because he sent them 
south of the Chickahominy after three days' rain, 
when the waters were rising and most of the bridges 
destroyed. Not only so, but he neither recalled nor 
reinforced them, after four more days of continuous 
rains. When their extreme peril came, and the firing 
was heard at Federal headquarters, we have McClellan's 
own word for it that he did not order General Sumner 
to move, but only to " get his command under arms, and 
be ready to move at a moment's warning." 2 Instead 
of waiting for further orders, Sumner at once marched 
his two divisions to the river, and halted them at two 
bridges he had built. When the order came to cross 
the Chickahominy, he was, therefore, an hour in ad- 
vance of his orders. He was then only just in time to 
cross before the bridges became impassable. McClellan 
says : — 

1 Own Story, page 365. 2 Ibid., page 329. 


On the 31st, when the battle of Fair Oaks was commenced, 
we had two of our bridges nearly completed ; but the rising 
waters flooded the log-way approaches and made them almost 
impassable, so that it was only by the greatest efforts that 
General Sumner crossed his corps and participated in that 
hard-fought engagement. The bridges became totally useless 
after this corps had passed. 1 

It was the presence of Sumner's corps that saved the 
3d and 4th corps from destruction on the first day of 
that battle. Porter and Franklin with their corps re- 
mained on the north side during the two days' fighting. 
The rebels fled to their intrenchments on the second 
day in such disorder that some United States officers of 
high rank declared afterwards that our victorious troops 
could easily have followed them into Richmond before 
they could have recovered themselves. No effort, how- 
ever, was made by McClellan to utilize the unexpected 
victory, and the treacherous Chickahominy continued 
to flow between the two wings of the Army of the 

General McClellan then declared that although three 
fifths of his army had routed the main body of the 
enemy at Fair Oaks, he could make no further move- 
ments until he had received large reinforcements. Gen- 
erals Heintzelman and Sumner testified to the contrary 
of this before the Committee on the Conduct of the 
War, February 18, 1863. General Sumner being asked, 
"When the enemy had retreated after the battle of 
Fair Oaks, what military reasons were there for not 
immediately following them up to Richmond?" said: 

1 Own Story, page 384. 


I know of none, and, from information we got afterwards, 
I do believe that if the general had crossed the Chickahominy 
with the residue of the army, and made a general attack with 
his whole force, we would have carried Richmond. . . . 

From information we received afterwards, the enemy were 
very much demoralized by the accident to their chief at that 
time. There was no other officer of suitable rank to take com- 
mand there, and when Johnston was knocked from his horse 
and taken on a litter to Richmond, the rebel army became a 
confused mob, and if we had attacked with our whole force, 
we would have swept everything before us, and I think the 
majority of the officers who were there think so now. 

General Sumner further testified that General Mc- 
Clellan was not with him in any engagement on the 
peninsula. 1 

General Heintzelman, on February 17, testified as 
follows, regarding what occurred on the day following 
the battle : — 

I sent my troops forward, and they got within about four 
miles of Richmond. They sent back word how far they had 
got, and I sent that word to General McClellan. He ordered 
me to stop and fall back on the old lines. From information 
we got from the rebels, I had no doubt we could have gone 
right into Richmond. 

Question : Where was General McClellan during this 
battle ? 

Answer : He was on the other side of the Chickahominy. 
I received no orders from him during this battle. 2 

These were the generals who fought the battle of 
Fair Oaks without any directions from General Mc- 

1 Report of the Committee on the Conduct of the War, part i. p. 33G. 

2 Ibid., page 352. 


McClellan lies down on the Banks of the Chickahominy and 
awaits an Attack which he says will destroy his Army. 

Two days after the battle of Fair Oaks, General 
McClellan issued an order to the soldiers of the Army 
of the Potomac in which he said : — 

Soldiers of the Army of the Potomac, — I have 
fulfilled at least a part of my promise to you. You are now 
face to face with the rebels, who are at bay in front of their 
capital. The final and decisive battle is at hand. Unless 
you belie your past history the result cannot be for a moment 
doubtful. If the troops who labored so patiently and fought 
so gallantly at Yorktown, and so bravely won the hard fights 
at Williamsburg, West Point, Hanover Court House, and 
Fair Oaks now prove worthy of their antecedents, the victory 
is surely ours. The events of every day prove your supe- 
riority ; wherever you have met the enemy you have beaten 
him ; wherever you have used the bayonet he has given away 
in panic and disaster. I ask of you now one last crowning 
effort. The enemy has staked his all on the issue of the 
coming battle. Let us meet and crush him here in the very 
centre of the rebellion. 

Soldiers, I will be with you in this battle and share its 
dangers with you. Our confidence in each other is now 
founded upon the past. Let us strike the blow which is to 
restore peace and union to this distracted land. Upon your 
valor, discipline, and mutual confidence that result depends. 1 

1 But no blow followed until twenty-four days later, and that was 
delivered by the enemy at Mechanicsville June 26. 


To Secretary Stanton he telegraphed the same day, 
June 2 : — 

Our troops charged frequently on both days and uniformly 
broke the enemy, The result is that our left is within four 
miles of Kichmond. I only wait for the river to fall to cross 
with the rest of the troops and make a general attack. 
Should I find them holding firm in a very strong position, 
I may wait for what troops I can bring up from Fortress 
Monroe ; but the morale of my troops now is such that I can 
venture much and do not fear for odds against me. 

Secretary Stanton immediately replied : — 

Your telegram has been received, and we greatly rejoice at 
your success, not only of itself, but because of the dauntless 
spirit and courage displayed in your troops. . . . 

All interest now centres in your operations and full con- 
fidence is entertained of your brilliant and glorious success. 

On the 5th Mr. Stanton telegraphed him that five 
new regiments would be sent him at once, and, on the 
6th, that McCall's division would be sent him from 
Fredericksburg as soon as transportation could be had. 

On the 7th of June McClellan telegraphed to Stan- 
ton : — 

I shall be in perfect readiness to attack Richmond the 
moment McCall reaches here and the ground will admit of 
the passage of artillery. 

On the 11th he telegraphed Stanton : — 

McCall's troops have commenced arriving at White House. 
I have sent instructions. Weather good to-day. Glad to 
hear of Commodore Dupont's and Hunter's progress. Give 
me a little good weather, and I shall have progress to report 

On the 12th he telegraphed : — 
"Weather now good. 

But still the digging of intrenchments went on, 
behind which our men were to be protected from rebel 
attacks. The enemy was not to be attacked — he never 
had been. So long as he would be quiet there would 
be no trouble. 

During all this period of criminal blundering and 
procrastination no complaints reached McClellan from 
Washington, but instead words of good cheer and 
unceasing efforts to strengthen his hands. On the 
11th of June Secretary Stanton telegraphed him as 
follows : — 

Your dispatch of three thirty (3.30) yesterday has been 
received. I am fully impressed with the difficulties men- 
tioned, and which no art or skill can avoid, but only endure, 
and am striving to the utmost to render you every aid in the 
power of the government. McCall's force was reported yes- 
terday as having embarked and on its way to join you. It is 
intended to send the residue of McDowell's force also to join 
you as soon as possible. 

Fremont had a hard fight yesterday with Jackson's force 
at Union Church, eight miles from Harrisonburg. He claims 
the victory, but was pretty badly handled. It is clear that 
a strong force is operating with Jackson for the purpose of 
detaining the forces here from you. I am urging as fast as 
possible the new levies. 

Be assured, general, that there never has been a moment 
when my desire has been otherwise than to aid you with my 
whole heart, mind, and strength, since the hour we first met ; 
and whatever others may say for their own purposes, you 
have never had and never can have any one more truly your 


friend, or more anxious to support you, or more joyful at the 
success which, I have no doubt, will soon be achieved by 
your arms. 

On the 14th McClellan telegraphed Stanton that the 
weather was favorable ; that he hoped two days more 
would make the ground practicable; that he should 
advance as soon as the bridges were completed and the 
ground fit for the artillery to move. He incidentally 
remarked that he would be glad to have whatever 
troops could be sent him. 

On the 15th he reported more rain, and explained 
that they " must have a few days of dry weather to 
make the ground firm enough to sustain the guns 
before advancing." 

June 18 McClellan telegraphed Stanton that Jackson 
(then in the Shenandoah Valley) was being reinforced 
from Lee's army at Richmond. This movement had 
been going on for ten days. He thought the force 
sent away from Richmond to support Jackson was not 
less than ten thousand. To this the President replied 
that the information had been corroborated ; his dis- 
patch concluded thus : — 

If this is true, it is as good as a reinforcement to you of an 
equal force. I could better dispose of things if I knew about 
what day you could attack Richmond, and would be glad to 
be informed, if you think you can inform me with safety. 

On the same day McClellan telegraphed the Presi- 
dent as follows : — 

I have the honor to acknowledge receipt of your dispatch 
of to-day. Our army is well over the Chickahominy, except 
the very considerable force necessary to protect our flanks 


and communications. Our whole line of pickets in front runs 
within six miles of Eichmond. The rebel line runs within 
musket range of ours. Each has heavy support at hand. 
A general engagement may take place at any hour. An 
advance by us involves a battle more or less decisive. The 
enemy exhibit at every point a readiness to meet us. They 
certainly have great numbers and extensive works. If ten 
thousand or fifteen thousand men have left Richmond to 
reinforce Jackson, it illustrates their strength and confidence. 1 
After to-morrow we shall fight the rebel army as soon as 
Providence will permit. We shall await only a favorable 
condition of the earth and sky and the completion of some 
necessary preliminaries. 

The favorable conjunction of circumstances described 
in the above never arrived. The completion of the 
" necessary preliminaries " was never accomplished. 

McClellan was now, with the main body of his army, 
on the right bank of the Chickahominy, while his base 
of supplies and his " considerable force " guarding 
them were on the other side. This rear guard con- 
sisted of Fitz John Porter's 5th corps, to which had 
been added McCalFs division. 

On the 23d McClellan directed Porter, if attacked, to 
promptly and carefully state the number, composition, 
and position of the enemy. " The troops on this side" 
(of the Chickahominy), he said, " will be ready to sup- 
port you, or to attack the enemy directly in their front. 
If the force attacking you is large, the general would 
prefer the latter course, counting on your skill and the 
admirable troops under your command to hold their 

1 It illustrated rather their confidence in the continued inaction of the 
Union commander. 


own against superior numbers long enough for him to 
make the decisive movement which will determine the 
fate of Richmond." 

Although he kept up some appearance of an inten- 
tion to advance upon the defenses of Richmond, he had 
commenced preparations as early as the 18th of June 
for a change of base to the James River. This is made 
apparent from the following statement in his " Own 
Story: 1 — 

In anticipation of a speedy advance upon Richmond, to 
provide for the contingency of our communications with the 
depot at the White House being severed by the enemy, and 
at the same time to be prepared for a change of the base 
of our operations to James River, if circumstances should 
render it advisable, I had made arrangements more than a 
week previous (on the 18th) to have transports with supplies 
of provisions and forage, under a convoy of gunboats, sent 
up James River. 

On the 24th he telegraphed the Secretary of War as 
follows : — 

A very peculiar case of desertion has just occurred from 
the enemy. The party states that he left Jackson, Whiting, 
and Ewell (15 brigades) at Gordonsville on the 21st ; that 
they were moving to Frederick's Hall, and that it was in- 
tended to attack my rear on the 28th. 2 

On the 25th he telegraphed 3 that he had information 
that Jackson's advance was near Hanover Court House ; 
that Beauregard had arrived with strong reinforcements 
in Richmond; that he thought Jackson would attack 
his right and rear; that the rebel force was stated at 

1 Own Story, page 411. 2 Ibid., page 390. 3 Ibid., page 392. 


200,000 (!) ; that he regretted his great inferiority in 
numbers, but felt that he was in no way responsible, 
as he had repeatedly called for reinforcements ; that he 
would do all a general could do with such a splendid 
army, and that, if the army was destroyed, he could at 
least die with it ; that if the result of the action, which 
would probably occur on the next day or very soon, 
should be disaster, the responsibility could not be 
thrown on his shoulders, but must rest where it be- 
longed ; and that he would probably be attacked the 
next day, and would make preparations for a defense. 
He concluded by saying that he felt that there was 
" no use in again asking for reinforcements." 

In all this lugubrious outpouring he gives no excuse 
for awaiting the attack of what he said was a superior 
and an irresistible force, instead of withdrawing his 
army to the James River as he had been contemplating 
for a week. He was informed on the 24th that he 
would be attacked on the 28th by an overwhelming 
force of the enemy, reinforced by Jackson, but he did 
not act upon the information. The only step he ap- 
pears to have taken was to telegraph the Secretary of 
War an assurance that the army would certainly be 
destroyed three days later because the government 
willfully refused to sustain it, and that he would await 
the attack and die with it. 


The Seven Days' Battles. 

McClellan informs us 1 that up to the 26th of 
June the operations against Richmond had been con- 
ducted from the east and northeast, but that " the dis- 
sipation then of all hope of cooperation by land of 
General McDowell's forces " compelled an immediate 
change of base across the peninsula. 

From this it might be inferred that until the 26th he 
had relied upon the support of McDowell's command. 
But he contradicts this view. Referring to his tele- 
gram to Stanton of June 7, he says : — 

As I did not think it probable that any reinforcements 
would be sent me in time for the advance on Richmond, I 
stated in the foregoing dispatch that I should be ready to 
move when General McCall's division joined me. 2 

McCall's division of 10,000 men, taken from Mc- 
Dowell's command, reached him on the 11th, and he 
reported good weather for the next four days ; but he 
made no advance on Richmond. 

If the change of base had been rendered necessary 
by the failure to send him all of McDowell's command, 
why did he not commence that movement as soon as he 
became satisfied that McDowell was not coming? This, 

1 Own Story, page 411. 2 Ibid., page 387. 


as above shown, would have been as early as the 7th. 
Why was McCall's division sufficient to justify an attack 
on Richmond until it arrived on the 11th, and not 
sufficient after it arrived ? 

On the 15th of June the President wrote McClellan 
that he feared McDowell would be unable to get to him 
in time. If the fact that he could not have McDowell 
with him compelled him, on the 26th, to change base to 
the James River, why had not the same fact, when thus 
officially made known to him on the 15th, induced the 
same decision? 

The truth appears to be that he never fully decided 
when to change base until the morning after the battle 
of Gaines's Mill, the second of the Seven Days' battles, 
which was fought on the 27th. 

In General McClellan's report of the battle of 
Mechanicsville, of the 26th of June, after stating the 
disposition of the right wing under General Fitz John 
Porter (consisting of three divisions on the north or 
left bank of the Chickahominy), he makes the following 
extraordinary statement : — 

Such was the state of affairs on the morning of June 26. 
I was by that time satisfied that I had to deal with at least 
twice my numbers, but so great was my confidence in the 
conduct of the officers and the devotion of the men, that I 
felt contented to calmly await the bursting of the coming 
storm, ready to profit by any fault of the enemy, and sure 
that I could extricate the army from any difficulty in which 
it might become involved. No other course was open to me, 
for my information in regard to the movement of the enemy 
was too meagre to enable me to take a decided course. 1 
1 War Records, vol. xi. part ii. p. 20. 


And yet, in the beginning of this same report, he 
says : — 

On the 24th of June I received information that appeared 
entitled to some credit, that Jackson was at Frederick's Hall 
with his entire force, consisting of his own division with those 
of Ewell and Whiting, and that his intention was to attack 
my flank and rear, in order to cut off our communications 
with the White House, and throw the right wing of the army 
into the Chickahominy. Fortunately I had a few days before 
provided against this contingency by ordering a number of 
transports to the James River, loaded with commissary, quar- 
termaster, and ordnance supplies, and, therefore, felt free to 
watch the enemy closely, await events, and act according to 
circumstances, feeling sure that if cut off from the Pamunkey, 
I could gain the James River for a new base. 

It will always appear to the non-military mind that 
he could have gained the James River for a new base 
easily, and without serious loss, if he had started the 
movement actively on the 24th, instead of " calmly 
awaiting the bursting of the coming storm " on the 
27th, which he deemed irresistible, and which raged 
for a week, with a loss to the Union cause of 9800 
killed and wounded, and 6000 missing. 

At the battle of Mechanicsville (or Beaver Dam) on 
the 26th, Porter repulsed the enemy repeatedly, and 
remained in full possession of the field when the battle 
ended at nine o'clock. He reported that with 5000 
men he had defeated 10,000, and had lost 250 men 
against a loss of 2000 by the rebels. 

This victory was most disastrous to the morale of the 
enemy, and might have been followed up with great 
effect. The Confederate general, Longstreet, declared 


in later years that " next to Malvern Hill, the sacrifice 
at Beaver Dam was unequaled in demoralization during 
the entire summer." * 

Late in the evening after this battle had been won, 
Porter urged McClellan, who had visited his headquar- 
ters, to make the attack on Richmond the next day with 
the main army, assuring him that in such an event he 
could with small reinforcements hold his ground on the 
north side of the Chickahominy. 

This would simply have been carrying into effect 
McClellan's assurance contained in his order to Porter 
of the 23d, quoted in the preceding chapter. McClel- 
lan returned to his own headquarters, having decided 
nothing, and given Porter no information of his inten- 
tions. If, as in his book he says he did, he really 
" bent all his energies from the evening of the 26th to 
a change of base to the James River," Porter, who saw 
him that evening, knew nothing of it. He still had 
only for his guidance McClellan's order of the 23d, 
namely, that if attacked he was to hold his own, even 
if against superior numbers, long enough for McClellan 
to make the decisive movement on the other side of the 
river, which would determine the fate of Richmond. 
At daylight of the 27th Porter was ordered to a posi- 
tion near Gaines's Mill, with no intimation that he was 
merely to cover a retreat of the main army. His new 
position was still north of the Chickahominy, covering 
the most important bridge across that stream. 

McClellan states that he had certain information on 
the 26th that Jackson was rapidly advancing in strong 

1 Battles and Leaders of the Civil War, vol. ii. p. 398. 


force from Hanover Court House, and that his advance 
guard had probably participated in the battle of that 
day. Thus informed, he allowed Porter, with only 
about one fourth of the army, to be overwhelmed on 
the 27th by more than three fourths of the army of 
Lee. Having a month before exposed three fifths of 
his army to destruction, at Fair Oaks, by a force said 
by him to be double that of his entire army, so, at the 
battle of Gaines's Mill, he allowed Porter, with very 
meagre reinforcements (his whole force never exceeding 
30,000 at any time during the day), to receive the shock 
of all the forces which the enemy chose to bring against 
him (estimated at 65,000). 1 

Confederate accounts all agree that the main body 
of their army fought the battle of Gaines's Mill. The 
main body of the Union army remained on the other 
side of the Chickahominy Eiver in front of Richmond, 
neither reinforcing Porter nor advancing on that place. 
McClellan utterly ignored his assurance to Porter that 
" the troops on this side will be held ready either to 
support you directly, or to attack the enemy in their 

1 General Porter says : " The forces in this battle were, Union, 50 regi- 
ments, 20 batteries (several not engaged) ; in all about 30,000 fighting 
men (including the reinforcements received during the day) ; Confed- 
erate, 129 regiments, 19 batteries ; in all about 65,000." Battles and 
Leaders, vol. ii. p. 337. 

General McClellan estimated the Union forces engaged in the battle at 
35,000 and the Confederate forces at 70,000. McClellan's Report, War 
Records, vol. xi. part i. p. 56. 

McClellan's official report of June 20 showed the number of his army 
present and equipped to be 114,691. The official estimate of Lee's forces 
at that time was 80,762. 


More than 80,000 Union troops remained inactive, 
while 30,000 fought more than twice their number, in 
the most useless and hopeless battle ever recorded in 
history, as it was one of the bloodiest of the war against 
the rebellion. The Union loss was 4000 killed and 
wounded, and that of the enemy about 5000. General 
McClellan was at no time on the field, and gave no 
order during the battle. 

Two battles having thus been forced upon him by 
the enemy, and the second having been most disastrous, 
he was finally able to bring himself to a decision as to 
the course to be pursued. During the night of the 
27th he summoned his corps commanders, and gave 
orders for the retreat to the James River. The surviv- 
ors of Porter's 5th corps, which had fought both 
battles, retired safely across the Chickahominy, burning 
the bridges behind them and joining the main army, as 
they could have done with greater ease and entire safety 
the day before, after the battle of Mechanicsville. 

Stung with mortification, and anxious to shift the 
responsibility of this terrible defeat, for which he was 
alone to blame, McClellan on the 28th sent the follow- 
ing absurd and untruthful dispatch to the Secretary of 
War: — 

I now know the full history of the day. On this side of 
the river (the right bank), we repulsed several attacks. 
On the left bank our men did all that men could do, — all 
that soldiers could accomplish, — but they were overwhelmed 
by vastly superior numbers, even after I brought my last 
reserves into action. The loss on both sides is terrible. I 
believe it will prove to be the most desperate battle of the 


war. The sad remnants of my men behave as men. Those 
battalions who fought most bravely and suffered most are 
still in the best order. My regulars were superb, and I count 
upon what are left to turn another battle in company with the 
gallant comrades of the volunteers. 

Had I twenty or even ten thousand fresh troops to use 
to-morrow, I could take Richmond, but I have not a man in 
reserve, and shall be glad to cover my retreat and save the 
material and personnel of the army. If we have lost the day, 
we have yet preserved our honor, and no one need blush for 
the Army of the Potomac. 

I have lost this battle because my force was too small. I 
again repeat that I am not responsible for this ; and I say it 
with the earnestness of a general who feels in his heart the 
loss of every brave man who has been needlessly sacrificed 

I still hope to retrieve our fortunes, but to do this the gov- 
ernment must view this matter with the same earnestness that 
I do ; you must send me very large reinforcements, and send 
them at once. I shall draw back to this side of the Chicka- 
hominy, and think I can withdraw all of our material. Please 
understand that in this battle we have lost nothing but men, 
and those the best we have. In addition to what I have al- 
ready said, I only wish to say to the President that I think he 
is wrong in regarding me as ungenerous when I say that my 
force was too small. I merely reiterate a truth which to-day 
has been plainly proven. I should have gained this battle 
with ten thousand fresh men. If at this instant I could dis- 
pose of ten thousand fresh men, I would gain a victory to- 
morrow. I know a few thousand more men would have 
changed this battle from a defeat into a victory. As it is, 
the government cannot hold me responsible for the result. I 
feel too earnestly — I have seen too many dead and wounded 
comrades to feel otherwise than that — the government has 


not sustained this army. If you do not do so now the game 
is lost. 1 

Let the dispatch be compared with the facts as shown 
by the record, and its mendacity becomes at once appar- 
ent. He did not lose the battle because " his force was 
too small/' but because he allowed 65,000 of the enemy 
to be opposed by but 30,000 of his own force of 
114,000, while he kept 84,000 troops across the Chick- 
ahominy, and away from the battle that was raging, 
to watch 15,000 of the enemy behind the defenses of 

The testimony of the corps commanders shows that 

1 The original of this dispatch is not in the files of the War Depart- 
ment. The foregoing copy will be found in part i. of the Report of the 
Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War, at page 339. It there 
appears as having been furnished in evidence by Major-General E. A. 
Hitchcock on the 21st of January, 1863. He was then on duty in the 
War Department and had been during the preceding ten months. The 
original being lost, this copy would seem to be authority for the text 
of that dispatch as it was received at the department. More than six 
months after the copy had been furnished by General Hitchcock, Gen- 
eral McClellan forwarded to the adjutant-general from his home in New 
Jersey his final report of all the operations of the army under his com- 
mand. It was dated August 4, 1863. In that report he inserts the above 
dispatch of June 28, but with these alterations : — 

The words, " I should have gained this battle with ten thousand fresh 
men," are stricken out, and the following words are added : " If I save 
this army now, I tell you plainly that I owe no thanks to you or to any 
person in Washington. You have done your best to sacrifice this army." 

In the absence of any further proof on the subject, it is fair to assume 
that the dispatch as furnished by General Hitchcock contains all that 
McClellan sent to Secretary Stanton, while the one embodied in his re- 
port contains the original draft which he changed before sending. It is 
not a matter of vital importance, but it seems proper that the record as 
made up by him should be corrected to conform with the record which 
General Hitchcock furnished from the War Department. 


each one fought on his own account in the bloody bat- 
tles which followed during the retreat to the James 
Kiver, the energies of the general in command being 
devoted to selecting the line on which our army should 
retreat after each day's fighting. There is nothing in 
McClellan's report or those of his subordinates to show 
that the fate of any battle was affected by any order of 
his. He had been compelled to change base in front 
of the enemy, because he had waited for the enemy to 
arrive at his front and attack him instead of executing 
such change at the time its necessity became known to 
him on the 24th of June. 

The valor of the Army of the Potomac during the 
Seven Days' battles made its name immortal in the 
annals of the war, but the carnage of that week was 
an unnecessary sacrifice of life, in a series of battles 
in each of which our troops were on the defensive, 
although in most of them victorious. 

McClellan says : — 

The battles which continued day after day in the progress 
of our flank movement to the James, with the exception of 
the one at Gaines's Mill, were successes to our arms, and the 
closing engagement at Malvern Hill was the most decisive of 
all. 1 

Malvern Hill might, indeed, have been most decisive, 
but this decisive victory was, to McClellan, only a call 
for his final retreat. The beaten and demoralized 
enemy were allowed to depart in peace, while the vic- 
tors, under McClellan' s orders, fled from them and 

1 Own Story, page 423. 


rested on the bank of the James. Says General Mc- 
Clellan of this successful flight : — 

So long as life lasts, the survivors of those glorious days 
will remember with quickened pulse the attitude of that army 
when it reached the goal for which it had striven with such 
transcendent heroism. 1 

Their heroism and sacrifices were worthy of a better 

Exhausted and demoralized, our forces reached Har- 
rison's Landing on the 2d day of July. The Union 
cause seemed well-nigh lost, and the enemy were corre- 
spondingly elated. 

The Federal losses in the Seven Days' battles were 
1734 killed, 8062 wounded, 6053 missing, — total, 

The losses on the Confederate side were 2823 killed, 
13,703 wounded, and 3223 missing, — total, 19,749. 2 

1 Own Story, page 439. 2 Ibid., page 440. 




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