Abraham Lincoln and Missouri

Abraham Lincoln and Missouri

Abraham Lincoln’s visits to Missouri were generally short and perfunctory. He passed through the state on the way to somewhere else – to New Orleans in the 1830s, to Kentucky in the 1840s, and perhaps twice to Kansas in 1859. In mid-August 1859, Mr. Lincoln went to Hannibal, Missouri with Illinois Secretary of State Ozias M. Hatch as part of some railroad research they were conducting. Mr. Lincoln apparently went on to St. Joseph. Missouri. There, he visited with the editor of the St. Joseph Journal, who wrote: “In personal appearance… he looks like any other ‘six-foot’ Kentuckian, and is very affable in manners.”1 It was probably one of the nicer comments that Missouri newspapers made about America’s 16th President.

Mr. Lincoln again crossed Missouri on November 30, 1859. He was on his way to Kansas, via St. Joseph. Presumably, he came back through Missouri on December 7-8 after a week of speaking engagements in Kansas. Mr. Lincoln may have recognized that there was not much point in spending time and energy in Missouri because the state already had its own favorite son candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 1860. Attorney Edward Bates represented one strand of the Republican Party – tentative former Whigs turned Know Nothings turned potential Republicans. Bates’ appeal was limited – especially to former Democrats and recent immigrants to America. Historian Allan Nevins wrote of Bates: “While most Missouri Germans knew that he had supported [Know-Nothing Millard] Fillmore in 1856 for reasons quite unconnected with the Know-Nothing platform, many foreign-born voters outside the State viewed his stand in that year resentfully. When the Missouri Republican convention met in March, a German-American demonstration against him disturbed observers in far-away areas.”2

When the Republican National Convention met in Chicago in mid-May, a top German-American supporter of Mr. Lincoln assured delegates that German-Americans would never vote for Bates. Bates was not a top contender for the nomination, but his elimination allowed his votes to move behind Mr. Lincoln. Bates himself did not have a good impression of Mr. Lincoln, writing in his diary after the Republican National Convention: “Mr. Lincoln personally, is unexceptionable, but politically, is as fully committed as Mr. Seward is, to the extremist doctrines of the Republican Party. He is quite as far north as Mr. Seward is. And as to the V.P. – Mr. [Hannibal] Hamlin is not the right person: He has not general popularity, hardly a general reputation; and his geography is wrong. His nomination can add not strength to the ticket.”3 War Department official Charles Dana observed that Bates “was a very eloquent speaker. Give him a patriotic subject, where his feelings could expand, and he would make a beautiful speech. He was a man of very gentle, cordial nature, but not one of extraordinary brilliancy.”4

Long before Mr. Lincoln entered the White House in March 1861, Missouri was a political disaster area. Describing the situation in 1860, historian William B. Hesseltine wrote: “Missouri presented a unique set of problems. The rivalries that appeared in 1860 were deep-rooted, running back to the days when Thomas Hart Benton had ruled Missouri as a satrapy, during the ‘reign’ of Andrew Jackson. Later, when Benton had split with President Polk and the Southerners, administration followers had disrupted the Democratic Party. By 1860 the Bentonites were led by Frank Blair, son of Jackson’s fiery editor, Francis Preston Blair. To the Bentonian faction Blair added Germans from St. Louis to form a Republican Party avowedly abolitionist and radical. With the Benton element out of the party, the Democrats were able to heal the Douglas-Breckinridge breach at least long enough to unite in nominating Claiborne Fox Jackson for the governorship. But when Jackson, personally known as a Breckinridge man, announced his preference for Douglas, the Breckinridge forces again pulled up stakes and entered a weak candidate against him. In August, Jackson won. After the election he switched his allegiance to Breckinrdge in a futile effort to save the state from the Constitutional Union Party in the presidential campaign. The most significant result of the election, however, was the triumph of Frank Blair’s radical Republicans in St. Louis.” 5 Moreover, there was considerable agitation and violence along the Kansas-Missouri border, fomented in part by former Senator David Rice Atchison after passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854.

Mr. Lincoln’s election complicated the situation further and from the beginning of the Civil War, Missouri vexed President Lincoln almost daily. First, Mr. Lincoln needed to keep the state in the Union. Then, he needed to keep its feuding Union factions from killing each other. And he needed Missouri as a staging ground for Union military operations to the West and South. “There is no State in which a deeper interest is felt in Washington, “wrote aide John Hay in an anonymous newspaper dispatch in December 1861. “The condition of Missouri has been a subject which has very deeply occupied the mind of the President. He received yesterday a delegation of very respectable gentlemen from the Southwest section, who wished to hear some settled plan of action in respect to the conduct of the war in slaveholding regions There is very great difficulty in announcing at present any settled forms of action which shall be the guide of our generals in every part of our wide spread field of operations.”6 Mr. Lincoln hated factionalism and Missouri was a den of factionalism. Historian Eric Foner wrote: “Almost from the outset of the war, Missouri Unionists were divided by what Lincoln called a ‘pestilent factional quarrel.’ Conservatives hoped to preserve as much of the old order as possible, while Radicals demanded emancipation, the arming of blacks, and the disenfranchisement of rebels.”7

An important element in the quarrels was represented by Frank Blair Jr., a transplanted Marylander whose brother was appointed Postmaster-General by President Lincoln and whose father was a valued adviser. Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin wrote: “Strikingly good-looking, with reddish-brown hair, a long red mustache, high cheekbones, and bright gray eyes, Frank was the one on whom the Blair family’s burning ambitions rested.” 8 They fulled expected him to be elected President one day. Blair had been a founder and shareholder in the Missouri Democrat with cousin Benjamin Gratz Brown. In the years before Mr. Lincoln was elected President, Blair developed a relationship with him concerning Republican strategy. Blair, however, played an ambiguous role in the 1858 Senate election in Illinois – meeting at least once with Senator Stephen A. Douglas in the spring before the election. But according to Douglas biographer George Milton Fort, “In the Summer Blair himself determined that he was for Lincoln, admitted the letter to his editor-cousin and the interview with Douglas, but stubbornly evaded its details or decisions.”9 In 1860, Frank and his family supported the presidential candidacy of Edward Bates but backed Mr. Lincoln after the Republican National Convention.

President Lincoln came to rely on the Blair family in Missouri and other border states. In the Civil War, Frank Blair bounced back and forth between the political field and the battlefield. Blair went to Washington in late February 1861 to talk with President-elect Lincoln about the political and military situation in Missouri. Returning to St. Louis, Blair was instrumental in preventing St. Louis from falling to pro-Confederate militia forces. Blair himself was elected as colonel of a militia regiment, but he contributed to a confusing situation in which command of pro-Union forces oscillated between General William Harney and Colonel Nathaniel Lyon. Harney’s loyalty was doubted by Blair and others in St. Louis who believed that Lyon was a stronger leader to prevent a secessionist takeover of the state. Blair dispatched his brother-in-law, Franklin A. Dick, to Washington to make the case against Harney.

“Dick reached Washington city on the 16th of May, and obtained that very day, an order for the appointment of Lyon as brigadier-general of volunteers; and also persuaded the President, agaisnt the advice of Attorney-General Bates, Judge Gamble, and other influential citizens of St. Louis, to make an order relieving General Harney of the command of the Department of the West,” wrote historian Thomas Lowndes Snead.10 On May 18, 1861, President Lincoln wrote Frank Blair: “We have a good deal of anxiety here about St. Louis. I understand an order has gone from the War Department to you, to be delivered or withheld in your discretion, relieving Gen. Harney from his command. I was not quite satisfied with the order when it was made, though on the whole I thought it best to make it; but since then I have become more doubtful of its propriety. I do not write now to countermand it; but to say I wish you would without it, unless in your judgement the necessity to the contrary is very urgent.”

“There are several reasons for this. We better have him a friend than an enemy. It will dissatisfy a good many who otherwise would be quiet. More than all, we first relieved him, then restored him, and now if we relieve him again, the public will ask, ‘why all this vacillation.’
Still if, in your judgement, it is indispensable let it be so.”11

At this point in the war, Frank Blair was perceived as a radical on slavery in Missouri; Blair himself had freed what slaves he owned in the late 1850s. Future Civil War General William T. Sherman, then in business in St. Louis, wrote his foster father in May 1861: “I am satisfied with Mr. Lincolns policy, but I do not like that of the Blairs – I know Frank Blair openly declares war on Slavery. I see him daily, and yesterday had a long talk with him. I saw the time is not yet come to destroy Slavery, but it may be to circumscribe it. We have not in America the number of inhabitants to replace the Slaves. Nor have we the national wealth to transport them to other lands.”12

Lyon replaced Harney and he moved quickly to consolidate Union control of St. Louis and disarm the pro-secession militia gathering at Camp Jackson. Lyon occupied the state capital at Jefferson City on June 15 and succeeded in dividing secessionist sympathizers in the state. In July, a new commander was appointed at the instigation of the Blair family. John C. Fremont, a renowned explorer who had been the Republican candidate for President in 1856, was named as the Union Army commander in the West. Almost immediately, he ran into trouble – with Frank Blair and with newly appointed governor Hamilton R. Gamble. Historian Bruce Catton wrote: “It seemed to Fremont that he needed officers, and he began to hand out commissions generously, overlooking the rule that officers’ commissions could legally come only from the President. Foreign adventurers of high and low degree began to blossom out in blue uniforms with gold braid and sashes, and the problems of Missouri were analyzed and argued in all the tongues of middle Europe.”13 He failed to reinforce Union troops under General Lyon. On August 10, they were defeated at the battle of Wilson’s Creek and Lyon was killed.

Government contracts also played a role in Frémont’s problems. He was accused of corruption in the granting of contracts to California friends. Frank Blair wanted some of those contracts to go to his St. Louis friends. At the beginning of Frémont’s command, some did but later he bulked contracts for which Blair pressed. Meanwhile, Frémont was given multiple chances by President Lincoln to become more aggressively militarily and less aggressive politically. One explanation for Frémont’s lethargy may have been pharmacological, according to Frank Blair’s sister, Elizabeth Blair Lee. She wrote that Frémont was “an opium eater.” According to Frémont biographer Andrew Rolle, “We cannot be sure of how destabilizing was his possible use of drugs, or if indeed Frémont used opium.”14 Whatever the cause, Frémont cut himself off from military and civilian officials and then issued orders that sent shock waves through Missouri and all the North. He essentially cut himself off from the influence of the Blairs, including father Francis Blair, Sr., who pushed Frémont who give Frank a top military command.

Historian Eugene M. Violette wrote: “Owing to the disorder and turbulence in Missouri following upon the battle of Wilson’s Creek [on August 10, 1681] Frémont issued a proclamation ten days after that battle, declaring martial law throughout the State. According to this proclamation all persons found with arms within the lines of the army of occupation that extended from Fort Leavenworth to Cape Girardeau should be shot; the property of all persons with the State who should take up arms against the United States or who should taken an active part with its enemies in the field should be confiscated; and furthermore, the slaves of such persons, if they should have any, should be declared free.”15

“The reasons for this duel between Frémont and the Blairs, with political results that tormented the Lincoln Administration till the last year of the War, were complex,” wrote Frémont biographer Allan Nevins. “Temperamentally, the men were certain to clash. Frank Blair, who had taken the helm in Missouri, had gained thereby a national reputation. He was shrewd, direct, practical, and aggressive, and the erratic, impetuous, visionary traits of Frémont grated upon him. Both were hot-tempered and tenacious. Frank Blair expected to continue to be the directing force in Missouri affairs, while Frémont had no intention of letting anybody dominate them but himself. Already the Blair clan had shown what it would do with any commander who crossed its path in that state.”16

In response to letters from President Lincoln asking Frémont to reverse his course, his wife Jessie Frémont went to Washington with a letter from the general and took an active role in pushing her husband’s case Biographer Andrew Rolle wrote: “From Washington she sent John Charles [Frémont] coded telegrams about ‘enemies’ who lurked there. Chief of these was Lincoln himself, who, she said, especially resented his having placed the slavery issue up front in the midst of a war. She assured her husband that he had an indisputable right to free any slaves who had come across his front lines.” 17 Mrs. Frémont and Mr. Lincoln had an unfriendly and chilly late-night conversation at the White House and Mr. Lincoln subsequently ordered Frémont to reverse his proclamation. When Mrs. Frémont demanded to see letters critical of her husband sent to the President by Frank Blair, he responded: “I do not feel authorized to furnish you with copies of letters in my possession, without the consent of the writers. No impression has been made on my mind against the honor or integrity of General Frémont, and I now enter my protest against being understood as acting in any hostility towards him.”18 Back in St. Louis, General Frémont had Frank Blair arrested for subordination; he was released eight days later. The tempestuous Blair was furious and sought vengeance on Frémont by filing formal charges against the general.

In early September 1861 President Lincoln sent a delegation of Postmaster General Blair and Quartermaster General Montgomery C. Meigs and St. Louis. A second delegation of Secretary of War Simon Cameron and Adjutant General Lorenzo Thomas followed in early October. Mr. Lincoln also sent his personal secretary, John G. Nicolay, to investigate the situation in the fall of 1861. Nicolay reported to President Lincoln: “The universal opinion is that he had entirely failed and that he ought to be removed – that any change will be for the better.'” 19 Illinois Congressman Elihu B. Washburne visited St. Louis and reported that a “horde of pirates” was running Union operations.20 All the reviews were critical and probably exaggerated; it was Fremont’s inability to take military action that led to his removal in November 1861. He was temporarily replaced by General David Hunter, who was soon replaced by General Henry W. Halleck.

The leadership of Missouri was constantly in flux during the Civil War. Whoever was in military command was usually under attack from one or more political factions in the state. Missouri went through four governors during the Civil War. Democrat Claiborne Fox Jackson was governor at the beginning of the Civil War and unsuccessfully attempted to lead the state into the Confederacy. Historian Christopher J. Olsen wrote that Claiborne Jackson “was a former ‘border ruffian’ who had helped rig elections in 1855-1856 in the Kansas Territory. His response to Lincoln’s request for troops became legendary: ‘Your requisition is illegal, unconstitutional, revolutionary, inhuman, diabolical, and cannot and will not be complied with.'”21

When Union loyalists led by Blair and Lyon prevented the state’s secession, Jackson was replaced. The state convention which had met from February to May to consider – and reject – secession was called backed into session in July to consider a new civilian government for the state. It voted to vacate all the statewide elected offices as well as all those of the state legislators. Historian Eugene M. Violette wrote: “The action taken by the convention, which created the provisional government is highly significant. Strictly speaking, the convention had no legal authority to do what is had just done. It had been elected to determine what Missouri should do with reference to secession, and it had no commission from the people to set up a new State government. Governor Jackson and the legislature were decided in favor of secession and were greatly surprised and disappointed when not a single out-and-out secessionist had been elected to the convention. Notwithstanding the stand which the people had taken against secession, the governor and the legislature were conspiring to take Missouri out of the Union. Under these circumstances there was nothing else for those who were opposed to secession to do but to support the provisional government which the convention had established.”22

In late July 1861 Hamilton R. Gamble was as the state’s provisional governor before the convention adjourned. Thereafter, Missouri was ruled by a strange amalgam of civil and military officials who often clashed with each other – as well as with Confederate forces in the state. The convention acted as the state’s legislature – meeting at the governor’s direction. Gamble biographer Dennis K. Boman wrote: “Several factors recommended Gamble to the convention as the best choice for governor. Many editorials of Missouri newspapers noted his lack of political ambition, his long residence and acquaintance with many leaders throughout the state, and his solid character and strong intellect. Probably another factor in the decision was Gamble’s close, long-running personal and professional relationship with his brother-in-law Edward Bates, who was then attorney general of the United States. Bates trusted and respected Gamble and could be expected to aid him in his negotiations with the Lincoln administration for military and financial support.” 23 Gamble subsequently developed a good working relationship with President Lincoln, which he used to secure financial and military assistance for Missouri. He also pressed for the funding of a strong state militia that could be used as an alternative to federal troops in maintaining order in Missouri.

Originally, Gamble was supposed to remain in office for a brief time. However, in 1862 Governor Gamble reluctantly agreed to continue in office until elections in 1864. In January 1864, Gamble succumbed to an arm infection caused by a train accident that was aggravated by a fall on steps of the governor’s mansion and died. He was replaced by Lieutenant Governor Willard P. Hall, a longtime political ally who served out Gamble’s term. Later that year, former Union Army Colonel Thomas Clement Fletcher was elected governor and he took over the governor’s duties in 1865.

There was a lot of turnover in the Missouri’s representation in the U.S. Senate as well. Democrat Waldo Johnson was expelled from the Senate in 1862 for disloyalty and replaced by Unionist Robert Wilson. In 1863, Wilson was replaced by Unconditional Unionist Benjamin Gratz Brown, a radical with a talent for quarreling with military and civilian officials. In 1862 John B. Henderson replaced Trusten Polk in the Senate after Polk vacated his post to become a Confederate Army officer. Henderson was a substantial slaveowner who turned leading emancipationist. He became a strong ally of President Lincoln and he authored the 13th Amendment and 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Henderson was a strong advocate of universal Negro suffrage.

Blair and Gamble represented the more conservative wing of Union politics in Missouri. Gratz Brown represented the most radical. Historian William E. Gienapp noted: “The Republican party in Missouri was rent by bitter factionalism as Radicals demanding the end of slavery battled against conservatives who gave priority to the Union issue. Charges and countercharges were hurled back and forth, and one delegation after another regularly trooped to the capital to win support in its battle for state supremacy. Caught between these rival groups, Lincoln and his military commander inevitably were unable to satisfy either side and became a target for both.”24

Initially, Governor Gamble and General Halleck got along well, but Halleck utilized some harsh measures under martial law. Historian William E. Parish: “When refugees flooded into St. Louis during the winter of 1861-62 following the heavy fighting in southwest Missouri, General Henry W. Halleck…resorted to yet another tactic of martial law – assessment. To enforce loyalty, Halleck supported the provisional government’s requirement of a test oath. Those who swore allegiance to the Union by mid-December 1861 would be assumed to be loyal. Those who refused were labeled ‘secesh’ and subjected to fines or confiscation of property to help pay the costs of supporting the refugees.”25

Moreover, Halleck effectively moved out of the state in the spring of 1862 and by that summer was in Washington as the nation’s general-in-chief. Historian Gienapp wrote: “Following Fremont’s removal relations between the military and Gamble and the provisional government temporarily improved, only to soon deteriorate again. Disputes arose over control of the state militia and its relationship to federal troops in the state. As in the other border states, there was constant trouble over the army and slavery. Solution of these problems at the local level, intensified as they were by personal hatreds and rival ambitions, was impossible.”26

Like other border states, Missouri political leaders found fault with the military commanders. The situation was complicated in 1862 when General John Schofield was given command of the District of St. Louis in February and the District of Missouri in June. Schofield had helped organize Union forces in St. Louis at outset of war and would become commander of Department of Missouri in 1863. Part of the state however was under the command of General Samuel Curtis. Schofield was judged insufficiently radical in the administration of the confiscation legislation passed by Congress. He was eventually replaced by Curtis, who got along well with Missouri radicals like Senator Brown and Congressman Henry T. Blow but not with more conservative Governor Hamilton Gamble. Gamble pressed his case against Curtis in letters to Montgomery Blair. “How on earth did he [Curtis] come to be appointed to this Department?” he wrote, accusing Curtis of being a cotton speculator.”27

“If military and civilian leaders weren’t troublesome enough, President Lincoln had to deal with problems regarding the state’s religious leaders. Lincoln biographer William Barton wrote: During the year [1863] a somewhat bitter discussion arose between the Rev. Dr. [William M.] McPheeters of the Vine Street Church in St. Louis ad some of his congregation in regard to his supposed sympathies with the rebellion. Looking back upon the controversy from this distance of time it seems that rather hard measure was dealt to the parson; for although, from all the circumstances of the case, there appears little doubt that his feelings were strongly enlisted in the cause of the rebellion, he behaved with so much discretion that the principal offenses charged against him by his zealous parishioners were that he once baptized a small rebel by the name of Sterling Price, and that he would not declare himself in favor of the Union. The difference in his church grew continually more flagrant and was entertained by interminable letters and statements on both sides, until at last the provost-marshal intervened, ordering the arrest of Dr. McPheeters, excluding him from his pulpit, and taking the control of his church out of the hands of its trustees. This action gave rise to extended comment, not only in Missouri, but throughout the Union…”28

New York Republican journalist Henry B. Stanton recalled: “My brother, Rev. R. L. Stanton, D.D., was a leader in the Presbyterian Church, and a warm friend of Mr. Lincoln during the war. In the great struggle he was aggressively on the side of the Union, and in favor of the emancipation policy of Mr. Lincoln. In 1862-63 the Rev. Dr. McPheeters, a prominent Presbyterian, was preaching at St. Louis. Major-general Curtis commanded in that military department. One Sunday Dr. McPheeters uttered some sentiments that were deemed disloyal. The next Sunday Dr. McPheeters found the doors of his church closed by order of General Curtis. There was immediate trouble, not alone in St. Louis, but in Washington. A committee, composed of both factions, went to see the President. Finding Dr. Stanton in Washington, they requested him to go with them to the White House and present them to Mr. Lincoln. The President listened patiently, and then spoke as follows:

“I can best illustrate my position in regard to your St. Louis quarrel by telling a story. A man in Illinois had a large watermelon patch, on which he hoped to make money enough to carry him over the year. A big hog broke through the log-fence nearly every night, and the melons were gradually disappearing. At length the farmer told his son John to get out the guns, and they would promptly dispose of the disturber of their melon-patch. They followed the tracks to the neighboring creek, where they disappeared. They discovered them on the opposite bank, and waded through. They kept on the trail a couple hundred yards, when the tracks again went into the creek, but promptly turned up on the other side. Once more the hunters buffeted the mud and water, and again struck the lead and pushed on a few furlongs, when the tracks made another diver into the creek. Out of breath and patience, the farmer said, ‘John, you cross over and go up on that side of the creek, and I’ll keep upon this side, for I believe the old fellow is on both sides.’ Gentlemen,’ concluded Mr. Lincoln, ‘that is just where I stand in regard to your controversies in St. Louis. I am on both sides. I can’t allow my generals to run the churches, and I can’t allow your ministers to preach rebellion. Go home, preach the Gospel, stand by the Union, and don’t disturb the government with any more of your petty quarrels.”
“Dr. Stanton said that, when the belligerents reached Willard’s Hotel, they had a hearty laugh, and made up their minds that they would go home and follow the President’s advice.”29

The problem resurfaced in December 1863 when President Lincoln responded to complaints about the treatment of Dr. McPheeters: “Now, all this sounds very strangely; and withal, a little as if you gentlemen making the application, do you understand the case alike, one affirming that the Dr. [McPheeters] is enjoying all the rights of a civilian, and another pointing out to me what will secure his release! On the 2nd day of January last I wrote Gen. Curtis in relation to Mr. Dick’s order upon Dr. McPheeters, and, as I suppose the Dr. is enjoying all the rights of a civilian, I only quote that part of my letter which relates to the church. It is as follows: ‘But I must add that the U.S. government must not, as by this order, undertake to run the churches. When an individual, in a church or out of it, becomes dangerous to the public interest, he must be checked; but the churches, as such must take care of themselves. It will not do for the U.S. to appoint Trustees, Supervisors, or other agents for the churches.’ This letter going to Gen. Curtis, then in command there I supposed of course it was obeyed, especially as I heard no further complaint from Dr. M. or his friends for nearly an entire year.”

“I have interfered, nor thought of interfering as to who shall or shall not preach in any church; nor have I knowingly, or believingly, tolerated any one else to so interfere by my authority. If any one is so interfering, by color of my authority, I would like to have it specifically made known to me.”
“If, after all, what is now sought, is to have me put Dr. M. back, over the heads of a majority of his own congregation, that too, will be declined. I will not have control of any church on any side.”30

While President Lincoln could distance himself from the problem of religious leader, he could not divorce himself form the problems that political and military leaders created. On January 5, 1863, President Lincoln wrote General Samuel R. Curtis: “I am having a good-deal of trouble with Missouri matters, and I now sit down to write you particularly about it. One class of friends in greater severity, and another in greater leniency, in regard to arrests, banishments, and assessments. As usual in such cases, each questions the other’s motives. On the one hand it is insisted that Gov. Gamble’s Unionism, at most, is not better than a secondary spring of action – that hunkerism, and a wish for political influence, stand before Unionism, with him. On the other hand, it is urged that arrests, banishments, and assessment are made more for private malice, revenge, and pecuniary interest, than for the public good. This morning I was told by a gentleman who, I have no doubt believes what he says, that in one case of assessments for ten thousand dollars, the different persons who paid, compared receipts, and found they had paid thirty thousand dollars. If this be true, the inference is that the collecting agents pocketed the odd twenty thousand. And true or not, in the instance, nothing but the sternest necessity can justify the making and maintaining of a system so liable to such abuses. Doubtless the necessity for the making of the system in Missouri did exist, and whether it continues for the maintenance of it, is now a practical, and very important question. Some days ago Governor Gamble telegraphed me asking that the assessments, outside the St. Louis county, might be suspended, as they already have been within it; and this morning all the members of congress here from Missouri, but one, lay a paper before me asking the same thing. Now, my belief is that Gov. Gamble is an honest and true man, not less so than yourself; that you and he could confer together on this, and other Missouri questions with great advantage to the public; that each knows something which the other does not, and that, acting together, you could about double your stock of pertinent information. May I do not hope you and he will attempt this? I could at once safely do, (or you could safely do without me) whatever you and he agree upon. There is absolutely no reason why you should not agree.” After closing the letter, President Lincoln added: “I forgot to say that Hon. James S. Rollins, M.C. from one of the Missouri Districts wishes that, upon his personal responsibility, Rev. John M. Robinson, of Columbia, Mo. James L. Matthews of Boone county, Mo, and James L. Stephens, also of Boone county, Mo. may be allowed to return to their respective homes. Major Rollins leaves with me very strong papers from the neighbors of these men, whom he says he knows to be true men. He also says he has many constituents who he thinks are rightfully exiled; but that he thinks these three should be allowed to return. Please look into the case, and oblige Major Rollins if you consistently can.” 31 Indiana Congressman George W. Julian wrote in his memoirs that “Rollins of Missouri was an eloquent man, of superior ability and attainments, and large political experience.”32

Radical Benjamin Gratz Brown was not so easily pacified. He telegraphed President Lincoln on January 7, 1863: “Does the Administration desire my defeat if not why are its appointees here working for that end.” President Lincoln wired back the same day: “The Administration takes no part between it’s friends in Mo, of whom, I at least, consider you one; and I have never before had an intimation that appointees there, were interfering, or were inclined to interfere.” 33 Gratz Brown was considered a “Charcoal” in Missouri politics – as distinguished by the more conservative “Claybanks.”

According to Galusha Anderson, a Baptist minister involved in Missouri politics, “What gave birth to these party names no one can certainly tell. Apparently, like Topsy, they ‘just growed’. The clay of Missouri is of a decidedly neutral tint. Perhaps an extremists, indignant at a conservative for his colorless views, called him a claybank; and since the name was descriptive, fitting, and easily understood by Missourians, it stuck. The conservative, stung by the epithet, may have warmly retorted, ‘You are a charcoal.’ And that name, equally descriptive and fitting, also stuck. At all events each faction named the other, and each adopted the name hostilely given and gloried in it.”34

Military-political relationships in Missouri had deteriorated during the winter of 1862-1863. Radicals wanted Gamble replaced. Conservatives wanted General Curtis replace. Gambled wanted federal occupying troops replaced by state militia. According to Gamble biographer Dennis K. Boman: “Lincoln had first proposed the removal of federal troops from Missouri. As the Union effort in the West appeared to have bogged down, Lincoln asked General Curtis if ‘the civil authority [could] be introduced into Missouri in lieu of the military to any extent with advantage and safety?’ Curtis, whom Gamble correctly suspected of wishing to pursue radical policies, replied that he feared the withdrawal of federal forces would endanger the property and lives of many loyal Missourians.”35

General Curtis not only offended Governor Gamble but also Senator John B. Henderson, who lobbied President Lincoln for Curtis’s replacement and got approval for it in February 1863. General Edwin Sumner was named to replace Curtis but Sumner died before he could take command, so President Lincoln ordered Schofield back to Missouri. Bates biographer Marvin R. Cain wrote: “By mid-March, after new intrigues involving Curtis, Gamble, and Schofield, Bates had persuaded Lincoln to act. The President well realized Missouri’s importance in the structure of the Union and the importance of supporting Gamble’s government. On March 9, 1863, Lincoln directed Stanton to appoint General E.V. Sumner, veteran commander of the Second Corps in the Army of the Potomac, as the new military commander in Missouri. Delighted, Bates arranged to talk with Sumner before the latter left Washington. During their discussion he emphasized the necessity of a cordial relationship between the Gamble government and the Federal command.” 36 Before Sumner could take command in Missouri, he died on March 21 of a heart attack at his home in Syracuse New York. President’s dilemma was still unsolved.

On March 22, Congressman Henry Blow came to General Curtis’s defense, writing President Lincoln: “I dislike very much to trouble you in regard to my own views and have always shrunk from doing so, feeling that you would be guided in your course concerning Missouri, by the opinions of those Officers of your own choosing, that you had placed over this Department: justice to them and you, Sir: requires me to depart from my usual course.”

“I had a full conversation with Genl Henderson to day and learned from same, that he had demanded the removal of Genl Curtis, because he was not in harmony with the policy of Govr. Gamble, and also that while he had been so decided in relation to Genl Curtis, that he had scarcely ever met him and had learned this thing from others, of course being willing to put on the shoulders of the commanding Genl all the blame for the non agreement of two men that no well informed person could expect to agree on the various questions arising in this State, one being an Anti Slavery and the other a pro Slavery man – tho’ I am free to confess the last, a moderate and fair man and one willing to do all in his power to preserve the quiet of the State, if he can have his own way.”
“Genl Curtis has administered this Department in a manly prudent and satisfactory manner. I have watched his course closely and know that he has been both friendly and generous towards Govr. Gamble, while Govr. Gamble is noted for his unrelenting spirit towards every one who disagrees with or opposes him: Genl Curtis commands the respect of our enemies, because they know he cannot be deceived or flatt[e]red by them, and they fear him and behave themselves, because even Rebels know that if they are deceitful and treacherous with him, they will receive the punishment due, – and which has been so long wit[h]held, that they fondly imagine is is to result in demoralizing the Union sentiment in this State, to such an extent as to give them the ascendancy; when no Union man or supporter of this Govt will be allowed to remain in this State: – They fully understand that with Genl Curtis in command, the efficient aid rendered him by true Unionists in this State and the thorough knowledge he has from experience, of the manner in which they work, that their case is hopeless, and all efforts will be unavailing, their hypocrisy is understood, their representations go for nothing and their lies and slanders fall harmlessly to the ground, while the good cause, Union and patriotism, go marching steadily on.”
“Genl Curtis has been with us for some time and has learned much from experience, more in fact than any new Command could in the next six months, – months full of danger to Missouri and the Union – If I thought him guilty in the slightest degree of the charges that have been made against him on account of Cotton speculations or of having any improper connection with them, I would spurn him as earnestly as I now sustain him, and I would be the last Union man to request his retintion [sic] here, but as I am satisfied that he is slandered, and that he is opposed by selfish office holders and office seekers, without his ability his integrity or his experience, I beg of you Mr. President, to grant him every consideration, and reflect seriously over the condition of Missouri and the earnest wishes of your most devoted supporters and friends in Missouri, before you peril our highest interests, by removing one who has our respect and confidence, and giving us in his place an untried stranger One who cannot understand for months, the conflicting elements or the wiley schemes of the bad or, leave the balance of the State, the dreary waste and desolation that our South West now is.”37

While Blow wanted Gamble replaced, Attorney General Bates continued to defend Gamble and to argue for the replacement of Curtis. Bates biographer Marvin Cain wrote: “Bates called at the White House, hoping to change Lincoln’s mind and persuade him to appoint Sumner’s successor at once. Curtis had to be replaced, he advised, or the Missouri Situation would grow worse. He dramatically described these conferences and his apprehensions to Gamble. ‘Sometimes he [Lincoln] almost yields to my remonstrances, and resolves to play the man to serve the state; and then seemed to get the better of him the influences of extreme politicians and the fear of offending certain Major Generals.'”

“Bates realized that he took a calculated risk in opposing Curtis. He endangered his friendship with Lincoln as well as incurred the hostility of both the Drake faction in Missouri and the powerful Blair family which had so little regard for Gamble’s administration. Meshed with the struggle over Federal commanders was an internal fight among Missouri’s politically conservative, moderate, and radical elements over patronage, property, and the condition of the Negro. Bates hoped Lincoln would not alienate Gamble or intentionally damage the partnership between the Attorney General and the Governor of Missouri. By carrying the matter as far as he had, he virtually staked his reputation on Lincoln’s acceptance of his position, which, in many ways, was no longer strong in his own state.”38

On May 2, Governor Gamble pressed again for the removal of General Curtis. President Lincoln wrote Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton on May 11: “I have again concluded to relieve Genl Curtis. I see no other way to avoid the worst consequences there. I think of Gen. Schofield for his successor; but I do not wish to take the matter of a successor out of hand of yourself and Genl Halleck.”39 President Lincoln duly appointed General John Schofield to replace General Curtis. On May 5, Blow wrote the President: “I have the honor to enclose a Petition from some of our best Union men, for which your careful consideration is requested. I agree with these Petitioners in asking that Govr. Gamble be deprived of the high military power granted him, but in addition must say that I deem this change insufficient, as I believe now, more than ever, that our State should be controlled pacified, and the people protected by the Federal authorities under a decided and stringent policy.” President Lincoln endorsed the envelope: “One side of the quarrel.”40 The struggle continued to intensify. When Missouri radical Republican James Taussig visited the President in early May, Mr. Lincoln told him that “the Union men in Missouri who are in favor of gradual emancipation represented his views better than those who are in favor of immediate emancipation. In his speeches, he had frequently used as an illustration the case of a man who had an excrescence on the back of his neck, the removal of which, in one operation, would result in the death of the patient, while tinkering it off by degrees would preserve life… The Radicals in Missouri had no right to consider themselves the exponents of his views on the subject of emancipation in that state.”41

“In Missouri the struggle between the ‘Immediatists’ and the ‘Gradualists’ – or as they were called in that state, the ‘Charcoals’ and the ‘Claybanks’ – was particularly bitter,” wrote historian Ralph Korngold. “The former, feeling they were entitled to the President’s support since they were preparing the ground for the adoption of a measure which alone could guarantee fulfillment of the promise given in the [emancipation] proclamation, sent a delegation to Washington headed by James Taussig of St. Louis to solicit his aid. To their disappointment and chagrin, Taussig reported on May 10, 1863:”

“‘The President said that the Union men in Missouri who are in favor of gradual emancipation represented his views better than those who are in favor of immediate emancipation. In explanation of his views on the subject, the President said that in his speeches, he had frequently used as an illustration, the case of a man who had an excrescence on the back of his neck, the removal of which, in one operation, would result in the life… The President announced clearly that, as far as he was at present advised, the Radicals of Missouri had no right to consider themselves the exponents of his views on the subject of emancipation in that State.'”42

“The problem of emancipation,” wrote historian Eugene M. Violente, “roved the most difficult to solve of all the questions that came before the provisional government. The particular difficulty involved in this problem was due chiefly to the disagreement that arose among the loyalists themselves as to when and how the slaves of Missouri should be freed.”43

The political skirmishing continued. On May 15, President ran out of patience. In a telegram to the President Congressmen Henry T. Blow and his allies wrote: “The Telegraph reports the probable appointment of Gen Schofield to command this Dept. We a committee last Monday by the largest meeting of Union people ever held in St Louis pray to suspend that appointment until you hear from us.” 44 Mr. Lincoln responded: “Your despatch of to-day is just received. It is very painful to me that you in Missouri cannot, or will not, settle you factional quarrel among yourselves. I have been tormented with it beyond endurance for months, by both sides. Neither side pays the least respect to my appeals for your reason. I am now compelled to take hold of the case.” 45 Blow quickly responded:

“I have just returned from addressing one of the largest meetings ever held in the 2nd Congressional District, out of this City. My efforts to impress the People with the just, radical and earnest efforts of the Government were responded to most heartily, and that on a spot where two years ago the raising of a Rebel Flag by armed traitors was arrested by that kind of Union men who honestly think at least, that they are in full sympathy with you.”
“On my return I find your Despatch to my self and others of the 15th Inst:”
“I hasten to assure you, Sir, that I am not engaged in any Factional quarrel, that my aims, as I trust you believe, have been for the great enduring interests of my country, and not the advancement of greedy and selfish politicians. I protest that I have never tormented you, and that in the interviews you have honored me with my only efforts were directed to the safety of Missouri, and the advancement of that policy presented by yourself and endorsed by Congress as the hope of the Nation.”
“I very much desire your confidence, I know that I command from my acts that of the people of this State. My opinion is, Mr. President, that if you cannot rely upon the representative men elected by your own friends, and advocates of your own policy, your troubles in the future will far exceed those of the past.”
“But from such troubles, if I am permitted in the performance of absolute duties, I hope yet to do something to relieve you, and at the same time serve the best interests of the desolated & impoverished regions of our State.”46

Bates wrote in his diary on May 30: “The appointment of Gen Schofield to succeed Gen Curtis has produced great excitement among the jacobins in Mo. and some among their radical sympathizers and supporters at the north. But, a little patient firmness, prudence, and steady conduct, with the People at home, and active, aggressive war upon the armed enemy, will make all right.”
“It was the only course that could save Missouri from Social war and utter anarchy. The Radicals seemed to have come to the conclusion that Mr. Lincoln’s plan of emancipation was all wrong, too slow and cost too much money; and that the best way to abolitionize Mo. was by violence and fraud – And [if] the state were thrown into anarchy, all the better. It would depopulate the State, by death and banishment. And they could settle it anew, getting improved lands, for nothing!”
“These devilish designs, I trust, will all be frustrated by the appointment of Schofield, and the expected harmony between him and Gamble. The capture of Vicksburg and the opening of the Miss. Will secure the peaceful result.”47

On May 27, President Lincoln outlined his attitude towards the political problems of the command in a letter to General Schofield: “Having relieved Gen. Curtis and assigned you to the command of the Department of the Missouri – I think it may be of some advantage for me to state to you why I did it. I did not relieve Gen. Curtis because of any full conviction that he had done wrong by commission or omission. I did it because of a conviction in my mind that the Union men of Missouri, constituting, when united, a vast majority of the whole people, have entered into a pestilent factional quarrel among themselves, Gen. Curtis, perhaps not of choice, being the head of one faction, and Gov. Gamble that of the other. After months of labor to reconcile the difficulty, it seemed to grow worse and worse until I felt it my duty to break it up some how; and as I could not remove Gov. Gamble, I had to remove Gen. Curtis. Now that you are in the position, I wish you to undo nothing merely because Gen. Curtis or Gov. Gamble did it; but to exercise your own judgment, and do right for the public interest. Let your military measures be strong enough to repel the invader and keep the peace, and not so strong as to unnecessarily harrass and persecute the people. It is a difficult role, and so much greater will be the honor if you perform it well. If both factions, or neither, shall abuse you, you will probably be about right. Beware of being assailed by one, and praised by the other.”48

General Schofield replied to the President: “The most serious difficulty I shall have to overcome will arise from the differences to which you allude between the factions into which the Union people are unfortunately divided. It shall be my highest aim, while keeping aloof from either faction, to reconcile their differences so far as my influence should extend, or at least to so conduct my administration as to give neither any just cause of complaint…”49 Schofield biographer Donald B. Connelly wrote: “Lincoln’s advice to Schofield was sound but difficult to achieve. Just as Curtis had been identified with the radical Republicans even before he took command, Schofield’s prior duty in Missouri had linked him with the conservatives.”50

Almost two weeks later, President Lincoln wrote General Curtis: “I have scarcely supposed it possible that you would entirely understand my feelings and motives in making the late change of commander for the Department of the Missouri. I enclose you a copy of a letter which I recently addressed to Gen. Schofield, & which will explain the matter in part. I became almost a matter of personal self-defense to somehow break up the state of things in Missouri. I did not mean to cast any censure upon you, nor to indorse any of the changes made against you by others. With me the presumption is still in your favor that your are honest, capable, faithful, and patriotic.” 51 General Curtis wrote to President Lincoln on June 5: “While a little rest after two years care and toil may be very useful to me, I hope your Excellency will not hesitate to use my services on any occasions: and especial[l]y do not make me appear as a special object of your displeasure, since as a faithful soldier and personal friend I have devoted myself to your support, and the cause of our unhappy country since the origin of our problems.”52

Schofield quickly got into trouble when the radical publisher of the Missouri Democrat printed President Lincoln’s letter to Schofield of May 27 and Schofield proceeded to put the publisher in jail. On July 13, President Lincoln wrote General Schofield: “I regret to learn of the arrest of the Democrat editor. I fear this loses you the middle position I desired you to occupy. I have not learned which of the two letters I wrote you, it was that the Democrat published; but I care very little for the publication of any letter I have written. Please spare me the trouble this is likely to bring[.]”53

Meanwhile in June 1863, Governor Gamble had convened a state convention to consider the issue of emancipation. He noted that under state constitution the state legislature could not deal with the problem because slaves could not be freed without compensation and there was no money available to compensate slaveowners. According to Gamble biographer Dennis K. Boman: “After the failure of Missouri’s legislature and Congress to pass an emancipation law of some kind, Governor Gamble, convinced that slavery in Missouri was doomed, sent out a proclamation to reconvene the state convention to consider ‘some scheme of Emancipation’ to be adopted. By doing this, Gamble hoped to remove the contentious issue of slavery from Missouri’s Civil War politics. Radical politicians, however, were unwilling to settle for anything less than full and immediate emancipation. Some radicals, believing that whites and blacks had the natural right to freedom and equality, sought immediate emancipation regardless of its impact on the war efforts. Other radicals argued that the destruction of slavery would precipitate the war’s end. Moreover, opposition to gradual emancipation appealed to the radical leaders’ supporters and kept the slavery issue alive, providing them with much political advantage and preserving a useful issue with which to oppose Gamble’s administration. On the other hand, moderates, although often morally opposed to slavery, welcomed gradual emancipation as an expedient less disruptive to the social and economic order.”54 The convention voted that “slavery and involuntary servitude except for the punishment of crime should cease to.”

Although the Emancipation Proclamation applied to areas under Confederate control, it did not apply to areas under Union control – including Missouri. Mr. Lincoln wanted to start compensated emancipation in the state. On July 9, 1863, Illinois Senator Orville H. Browning recorded in his diary: “Found Senator [John] Hale at the Presidents. Before he left the President said having two Senators present he wished to make a speech to us. He then took us to a map and pointed out the relative positions of Missouri, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio. He said since the proclamation the negroes were stampeding in Missouri, which was producing great dissatisfaction among our friends there, and that the democratic legislatures of Illinois and Indiana seemed bent upon mischief, and the party in those states was talking of a union with the lower Mississippi states. That we could at once stop that trouble by passing a law immediately appropriating $25,000,000 to pay for the slaves in Missouri — that Missouri being a free state the others would give up their scheme — that Missouri was an empire of herself — could sustain a population equal to half the population of the United States, and pay the interest on all of our debt, and we ought to drive a stake there immediately — He said to Hale you and I must die but it will be enough for us to have done in our if we make Missouri free.”55

On June 20 General Schofield had telegraphed President Lincoln: “The action of the Missouri state convention upon the question of Emancipations will depend very much upon whether they can be assured that the action will be sustained by the General Government and the people protected in their slave property during the short time that slavery is permitted to exist. Am I authorized in any manner directly or indirectly to pledge such support and protection? This question is of such vital importance to the peace of Missouri that I deem it my duty to lay it before your Excellency.” 56 President Lincoln replied two days later: “Desirous as I am, that emancipation shall be adopted by Missouri, and believing as I do, that gradual can be made better than immediate for both black and white, except when military necessity changes the case, my impulse is to say that such protection would be given. I can not known exactly what shape an act of emancipation may take. If the period from the initiation to the final end, should be comparatively short, and the act should prevent persons being sold, during that period, into more lasting slavery, the whole would be easier. I do not wish to pledge the general government to the affirmative support of even temporary slavery, beyond what can be fairly claimed under the constitution. I suppose, however, this is not desired; but that it is desired for the Military force of the United States, while in Missouri, to not be used in subverting the temporarily reserved legal rights in slaves during the progress of emancipation. This I would desire also. I have very earnestly urged the slave-states to adopt emancipation; and it ought to be, and is an object with me not to overthrow, or thwart what any of them may in good faith do, to that end.”57

A month later, President Lincoln received a very irritated letter from Governor Gamble, who wrote: “Your letter to Major General Schofield of the 27th of May was published in the newspapers of this city on the 27th of June last and but for my engagements in the State Convention in aiding in the passage of an ordinance of emancipation, and other pressing official duties I would sooner have attended to that most extraordinary publication.”

“As a paper written by the President… Concerning the Governor of a loyal state is a most remarkable production and its publication is a most wanton and unmerited insult… I have borne in silence the attacks…by newspaper writers, but when the President…in an official communication undertakes to characterise me, the Governor of a loyal state, as the head of a faction in that state, an answer is demanded…”
“I take leave to say…that the language of your letter…is in my judgment unbecoming your position…But there is your accusation…this further wrong, that the charge is not true…”
“I have earnestly desired that the military might be restrained from all wanton violence and cruelty… When my views of the policy necessary to the restoration of peace and civil government have been disregarded, I have caused the facts to be made known to you in order that you might apply the remedy… If making to you the proper representation of facts constituted me the head of a faction then I have been such; but if I was performing a simple duty to you, upon whom rests the ultimate responsibility for the government of the military, then my conduct was necessary for the country, and just to you, furnished no ground for your attack upon me…”
“Mr. President, I have disapproved of acts of your administration, but I have carefully abstained from denouncing you…and this because there is nothing of a ‘faction’ spirit in me…”
“You can then judge sir how grossly offensive the language your letter is, when you say ‘as’ (that is, because) ‘I could not remove Gov Gamble I had to remove General Curtis’ distinctly intimating that you would have removed me if you could.”58

Mr. Lincoln replied on July 23: “My Private Secretary has just brought me a letter saying it is a very ‘cross’ one from you, about mine to Gen. Schofield, recently published in the Democrat. As I am trying to preserve my own temper, by avoiding irritants, so far as practicable, I have declined to read the cross letter. I think fit to say, however, that when I wrote the letter to Gen. Schofield, I was totally unconscious of any malice, or disrespect towards you, or of using any expression which should offend you, if seen by you. I have not seen the document in the Democrat, and therefore can not say whether it is a correct copy.”59

At the behest of Attorney General Bates, President Lincoln asked Governor Gamble to come to Washington in early to discuss their differences. The meeting was brief and unsatisfactory for the governor who hoped for a long and frank discussion. Bates biographer Marvin Cain wrote that Bates “realized he ran a risk in arranging for a personal confrontation of the president and his brother-in-law, but he was determined to have Gamble present his views to the president. During the ensuing discussion both he and Gamble tried to convince Lincoln that civil control in Missouri must not be sacrificed in the name of military necessity. The Governor of Missouri asked the President for a gradual withdrawal of Federal troops from his state, leaving the maintenance of internal order to his government and the local militia. Bates supported this plan as much as he possibly could, though he realized the presence of Confederate forces in Missouri made it difficult to consider ordering Union troops from the state in the hope that the militia could handle the situation.”60 Gamble wrote Attorney General Bates that he now thought President Lincoln “a mere intriguing, pettifogging, piddling politician.”61

Meanwhile, radicals in Missouri also grew cross. On September 9, Senator Benjamin Gratz Brown wrote President Lincoln to attack General Schofield and Governor Gamble: “I enclose you a copy of a speech made by me on the 27th Ult from which you will see somewhat of the wrongs under which this State and Department is now laboring. I do not wish at this time to enlarge upon those grievances, as they will be sufficiently palpable even to yourself. It is only necessary for me to add that the necessity which called for a crimination of the National Administration is more grievous to me than it could possibly be to you. I have been of the staunchest of your supporters, and not only that I intend to be of the staunchest of your supporters in prosecuting this war to a termination that shall establish Freedom as the rule and not the exception.”

“I would perhaps indulge in more reflection upon the specialities of your Administration in this State were it not for a feeling that all specialities had been disregarded by you in your appointments. I assure you Mr. President that in this matter I have nothing at heart but the success of the National Freedom Cause – that all minor issues of personality, I for one, am willing to lay aside to another day, but that this thing of temporizing with rebels of Consorting with & giving power to a State government notoriously hostile to the Supreme Authority is bringing us into daily collision with unknown powers, and the whole system is used for sustaining in impunity bushwhackers in our midst.”
“I respectfully ask that you will give the enclosed your attention, that you will take cognizance of the departure therein indicated from the Orders of the U[nited] States and that you will reflect upon what all these things will lead to if not corrected.”
“You cannot trust your present Commander in this Department to carry out any corrections you may order; for his sympathy is all with the Gamble Dynasty if not worse. I say this with reluctance but with full conviction There will be a border war if not stopped by a change of Department Commanders in this district within thirty days. You cannot wish or tolerate such a thing? – I know you too well for that! What then will you do? Will you permit this antagonism to culminate to a head? Why not appoint temporaryly [sic] Genl Strong or some other man to the Command and then listen to the authoritative statements, substantiated by facts, which will be made to you by the delegation from every County of this State. I am frank to say to you my dear Sir that I could in this letter enumerate to you instances and facts that would arouse you to immediate action, but I judge that you are already advised of most if not all of those things for the statements have been addressed to you whether read or not. This I assure you is not a question of personalities but of [peoples?]. We are struggling in ernest [sic] for freedom. We want it – we intend to have it. We ask the assistance – at least the non interposition of the federal arm, At all events we intend to have it any how and we shall only regret, as the bitterest regret in the lives of many of us, if the federal arm is used to confirm our bondage as is now threatened by those in authority in this Department. Thus much it is due to you that I should say.”
“Mr. President I have not trespassed on you since you were inaugurated I have asked no office for myself or for any friend. I have been content to work laboriously and faithfully in the vineyard, without the expectation of reward but for the good of the cause to which I believed you in your heart were devoted. If you think that this matter of immediate Emancipation in this State is a question sprung for the purpose of making me Senator I have to assure you that I have no wish to be a Senator, that I can think of no life more distasteful to me than that of a life in Washington But Sir you do owe something to the freedom loving people of Missouri They fought when others trembled. They made the [initiative?] of your Presidential canvass when others were ready to lower the standard and accept defeat. They stood to you in faith and confidence then and they have the right to demand faith and confidence now. Not that you shall repose yourself upon timidities and compromises as if such were your native bed, but that you shall stand up as a man and deliver them from the incubus that is paralyzing all their properity, and entailing upon them all the missives of an unending border war. Will you hearken to this appeal? It is not in the interest of any faction but in that of the people of Missouri Do this, correct your department here by substituting some one who is not a mere stool Pigeon of Pro Slaverism Accord your government with the thousands and hundreds of thousands who are ready to shoulder their muskets around you and fight to the death for Freedom, and you will again have deserved will of the Country.”62

The Missouri radicals met in Jefferson City on September 1, 1863, and decided to send a delegation to Washington to press their grievances. According to one of the radical leaders, Enos Clarke, “There were seventy ‘Radical Union men of Missouri,’ they had accepted that designation. They had been chosen at mass convention in Jefferson city – ‘the largest mass convention ever held in the state,’ their credentials said. That convention had unqualifiedly indorsed the emancipation proclamation and the employment of negro troops. It had declared its loyalty to the general government. It had appointed these seventy Missourians, from fifty-seven counties, to proceed to Washington and ‘to procure a change in the governmental policy in reference to Missouri.” Clarke wrote:

“This action by Missouri meant more than a local movement. It was the precipitation of a crisis at Washington. It was the voice of the radical anti-slavery element of the whole country speaking through Missouri, demanding that the government commit itself to the policy of the abolition of slavery and to the policy of the use of negro troops against the confederate armies. It was the uprising of the element which thought the administration at Washington had been too mild. President Lincoln understood that the coming of the Missourians meant more than their local appeal. The Missourians understood, too, the importance of their mission. On the way to Washington the seventy had stopped in city after city, had been given enthusiastic reception by the antislavery leaders; they had been encouraged to make their appeal for a new policy in Missouri insistent and to stand on the platform that the border states must now wipe out slavery of loyal owners.”63

Arriving in Washington, the group set to work on preparing a message for the President and meeting with friendly Republicans – such as Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase. “The address was the result of several meetings we held after we reached Washington. We were there nearly a week,” wrote Clarke. “Arriving on Saturday, we did not have our conference at the White House until Wednesday. Every day we met in Willard’s Hall, on F street, and considered the address. Mr. Drake would read over a few paragraphs, and we would discuss them. At the close of the meeting Mr. Drake would say, ‘I will call you together to-morrow to further consider this matter.'”64

Missouri Conservatives had not been idle during this period, according to historian William Ernest Smith. They “sought to convince the President of the danger in any attempt to support the radicals. Rollins importuned the Postmaster-General to persuade Lincoln not to remove Schofield, the military mainstay of the Conservative party in Missouri. He enclosed a letter which he asked Blair to read first and then to present it to Lincoln. He wanted Frank Blair, who was presumed to have gone to Washington, to cooperate at once. Tell Frank, wrote Rollins, that some of his friends ‘are thinking of him for the Presidency provided he doesn’t turn fool and join the Radicals.’ Rollins had ungrounded fears; Frank Blair had no intentions of becoming a radical, although he could have been a popular leader, and possibly could have reached the White House by 1868, had he been inclined to stultify himself. Judge Gantt was equally worried about the radical delegation. ‘For Heaven’s sake,’ he wrote to Montgomery Blair, if Schofield was to be removed from the command of the Department of Missouri, ‘send him to the Army of the Cumberland and send Frank Blair here!… Make Frank Commander of the Department, and you will give a sense of security to every honest man in Missouri!'”65

John Hay wrote in his diary on September 29: “I Had a little talk with the Presdt. today about the Missourians. He says that they come he supposes to demand principally the removal of Schofield – and if they can show that Schofield has done anything wrong & has interfered to their disadvantage with State politics – or has so acted as to damage the cause of the Union and good order their case is made. But on the contrary he [A.L.] thinks that it will be found that Schofield is a firm competent energetic and eminently fair man, and that he has incurred their ill will by refusing to take sides with them in their local politics; that he (A.L.) does not think it in the province of a military commander to interfere with the local politics or to influence elections actively in one way or another.”

“I told him the impression derived from talking with people from there was that there were two great parties in Missouri, the Secession sympathizing Democrats and the Radicals – that the Union Conservatives were too small to reckon – that the Radicals would carry the State and it would be well not to alienate them if it could be avoided, especially as their principles were in fact ours and their objects substantially the same as ours. He seemed fully to recognize this and other things in the same strain.”
“He suddenly said, These people will come here claiming to be my best friends, but let me show you a letter from Joe Hay. He showed me one from Uncle Joe, saying that Drake had recently in a speech a[t] LaGrange denounced him for a tyrannical interference with the convention through his agent Schofield, referring of course to the letter he wrote Schofield in June in reply to S’s telegram earnestly soliciting from him some statement of his views, in favor of gradual emancipation and promising that the power of the general government would not be used against the slaveowners for the time being provided they adopted an ordinance of Emancipation – stating at the same time that he hoped the time of consummation would be short and a provision be made against sales into permanent slavery in the meantime. He said after rereading his own letter, ‘I believe that to be right and I will stand by it.'”

Mr. Lincoln concluded: “John, I think I understand this matter perfectly and I cannot do anything contrary to my convictions to please these men, earnest and powerful as they may be.” 66 The 70 “Radical Union men of Missouri”, led Charles D. Drake of St. Louis and Kansas Senator James Lane, came to the White House on the morning of September 30. The meeting with President Lincoln began at 9AM in the East Room on the first floor. After the group of what John Hay called “simply representative men from Missouri not better than average” was settled in the East Room by John Hay, the President came down to meet with them. Hay called it “an ill combed, black broadcloth, dusty, long-haired and generally vulgar assemblage of earnest men who came to get their right as they viewed it. They say things are in a bad way out there and they came here, a little vaguely, for redress.”67

Journalist Walter B. Stevens wrote that President Lincoln “bore the appearance of being much depressed, as if the who matter at issue in the conference which was impending was of great anxiety and trouble to him,’ says one of the Missourians who sat awaiting the president’s coming.”68 According to John Hay: “They discharged their speech at him which Drake read as pompously as if it were full of matter instead of wind, and then had desultory talk for a great while. The President never appeared to better advantage in the world. Though He knows how immense is the danger to himself from the unreasoning anger of that committee, he never cringed to them for an instant. He stood where he thought he was right and crushed them with his candid logic.”69

Historian Marvin R. Cain wrote: “Tersely, the group outlined its desires for immediate emancipation in Missouri and for the purging of Gamble’s administration, including the removal of Schofield. For nearly four hours the discussion continued. Lincoln informed them that the Administration had no intention of withdrawing its support from the Gamble government; the delegates trooped out, disappointed at their apparent failure.”70

The radicals sought a change in the military government of Missouri – preferably to General Benjamin F. Butler. Reporting on the meeting, journalist Noah Brooks took a kind view of the radicals: “The Missouri-Kansas delegation, now in town for the purpose of urging upon the President the removal of General Schofield, is a large and good looking body, numbering seventy men.” Brooks wrote that journalists were barred from the meeting by the White House doorkeeper. “That doorkeeper knows his business. The delegation has the sympathies of all loyal men here, apparently, but their success is a doubtful question. They would have been more likely to have secured Butler for a commander in their department if they had not asked it, but now I venture to predict that General Butler will not be sent to Missouri. It is one of the marvels of these progressive times that a Committee from slave-holding Missouri, a fair representation of the State, urges a more radical policy than our ‘sectional’ Republican President.”71

The President apparently didn’t make much of an initial impression on the group. Enos Clarke wrote that “He did not shake hands, but sat down in such a position that he faced us. He seemed a great, ungainly, almost uncouth man. He walked with a kind of ambling gait. His face bore the look of depression, of deep anxiety.” One delegate recalled that when the President entered, “‘He bore the appearance of being much depressed, as if the who matter at issue in the conference which was impending was of great anxiety and trouble to him,’ says one of the Missourians who sat awaiting the president’s coming.”72 After Drake asked the President if he could read the group’s “address,” the President responded affirmatively and Drake began:

“We rejoice that in your proclamation of January 1, 1863, you laid the mighty hand of the nation upon that gigantic enemy of American liberty and we and our constituents honor you for that wise and noble act. We and they hold that that proclamation did, in law, by its own force, liberate every slave in the region it covered; that it is irrevocable, and that from the moment of its issue the American people stood in an impregnable position before the world and the rebellion received its death blow. If you, Mr. President, felt that duty to your country demanded that you should unshackle the slaves of the rebel states in an hour, we see no earthly reason why the people of Missouri should not, from the same sense of duty, strike down with equal suddenness the traitorous and parricidal institution in their midst.”73

Enos Clarke observed: “Here was the essence of the Missouri movement which gave it national interest, which prompted the grand chorus of approval, which led to the series of indorsing ovations concluding with the might demonstrations over the seventy Radical Union men in Cooper Institute, New York City with William Cullen Bryant presiding. President Lincoln, pursuing the course which seemed to him necessary to keep the united North with him felt fully the critical character of the issue which the Missourians were raising.” 74 After Drake concluded his presentation, recalled Clarke, President Lincoln, “began to discuss the address in a manner that was very disappointing to us. He took up one phrase after another and talked about them without showing much interest. In fact, he seemed inclined to treat many of the matters contained in the paper as of little importance. The things which we had felt to be so serious Mr. Lincoln treated as really unworthy of much consideration. This was the tone in which he talked at first. He minimized what seemed to us most important.”75 According to aide John Hay, President Lincoln began:

“I suppose the committee now before me is the culmination of a movement inaugurated by a Convention held in Missouri last month, and is intended to give utterance to their well considered views on public affairs in that state. The purpose of this delegation has been widely published and their progress to the city everywhere noticed. It is not therefore to be expected that I shall reply hurriedly to your address. It would not be consistent either with a proper respect for you, or a fair consideration of the subject involved to give you a hasty answer. I will take your address, carefully consider it and read it at my earliest convenience. I shall consider it, without partiality for or prejudice against any man or party; no painful memories of the past and no hopes for the future, personal to myself shall hamper my judgment.”

In the dialogue between the President and the Missouri group, Clarke recalled: “There was nothing that seemed like levity at that stage of the conference. On the contrary the president was almost impatient, as if he wished to get through with something disagreeable. When he had expressed the opinion that things were not so serious as we thought he began to ask questions, many of them. He elicited answers from different members of the delegation. He started argument, parrying some of the opinions expressed by us and advancing opinions contrary to the conclusions of the Committee of Seventy. This treatment of our grievances was carried so far that most of us felt a sense of deep chagrin. But after continuing in this line for some time the president’s whole manner underwent change. It seemed as if he had been intent upon drawing us out. When satisfied that he fully understood us and had measured the strength of our purpose, the depth of our feeling, he took up the address as if anew. He handled the various grievances in a most serious manner. He gave us the impression that he was disposed to regard them with as much concern as we did. After a while the conversation became colloquial between the president and the members of the delegation — more informal and more sympathetic. The change of tone made us feel that were going to get consideration.” 76

Enos Clarke recalled: Responding to references of a factional quarrel, Mr. Lincoln said, according to Clarke: “‘Why,’ “he said,” “‘you are a long way behind the times in complaining of what I said upon that point. Gov. Gamble was ahead of you. There came to me some time ago a letter complaining because I had said that he was a party to a factional quarrel, and I answered that letter without reading it. Well, I’ll tell you. My private secretary told me such a letter had been received and I saw down and wrote to Gov. Gamble in about these words: I understand that a letter has been received from you complaining that I said you were a party to a factional quarrel in Missouri. I have not read that letter, and, what is more, I never will.'” “With that Mr. Lincoln dismissed our grievance about having been called parties to a factional quarrel. He left us to draw our inference from what he said, as he had left Gov. Gamble to construe the letter without help.” 77

Mr. Lincoln declared: “In a civil war one of the saddest evils is suspicion. It poisons the springs of social life. It is the fruitful parent of injustice and strife. Were I to make a rule that in Missouri disloyal men were outlawed and rightful prey of good citizens as soon as the rule should begin to be carried into effect I would be overwhelmed with affidavits to prove that the first man killed under it was more loyal than the one who killed him. It is impossible to determine the question of motives that govern men, or to gain absolute knowledge of their sympathies.”78

President Lincoln defended Schofield against their vague attacks: “I am sorry you have not been more specific in the statements you have seen fit to make about Gen. Schofield. I had heard in advance of your coming that apart of your mission was to protest against his administration and I thought I should hear some definite statements of grievances instead of vague denunciations which are so easy to make and yet so unsatisfactory. But I have been disappointed. If you could tell me what Gen[.] Schofield has done that he should not have done, or what omitted that he should have done, your case would be plain. You have on the contrary only accused him vaguely of sympathy with your enemies. I cannot act on vague impressions. Show me that he has disobeyed orders: show me that he has done something wrong and I will take your request for his removal into serious consideration. He has never protested against an order – never neglected a duty with which he has been entrusted so far as I know. When Gen. Grant was struggling in Mississippi and needed reinforcement no man was so active and efficient in sending him troops as Gen. Schofield. I know nothing to his disadvantage. I am not personally acquainted with him. I have with him no personal relations. If you allege a definite wrongdoing and having clearly made your point, prove it, I shall remove him.”79

Kansas Senator James Lane pressed to the point: “Do you think it is sufficient cause for the removal of a General, that he has lost the entire confidence of the people.” President Lincoln suggested not if the causes were unjust, but Lane pressed forward: “General Schofield has lost that confidence.” There were murmurs of approval from the delegation but President Lincoln said: “I am in possession of facts that convince me that Gen[.] Schofield has not lost the confidence of the entire people of Missouri.” The delegates suggested that he had lost the confidence of “All loyal people.” Again Lane pressed: “There are no parties and no factions in Kansas – All our people demand his removal.” He added: “The massacre of Lawrence, is in the opinion of the people of Kansas, solely due to the embicility [sic] of Gen. Schofield.”80

President Lincoln again demurred: “As to that, it seems to me that is a thing which could be done by any one making up his mind to the consequences, and could no more be guarded against than assassination. If I make up my mind to kill you for instance, I can do it and [three?] hundred gentleman [sic] could not prevent it. They could avenge but could not save you.” 81 Delegation members then pressed various points – incoherently and ineptly in the view of Hay. “In every instance, a question or two from the President pricked the balloon of loud talk and collapsed it around the rears of the delegate to his no small disgust and surprise. The baffled patriot would retreat to a sofa and think the matter over again or would stand in his place and quietly listen in a bewildered manner to the talk and discomfiture of another.”82

When one delegate suggested “We are your friends and the Conservatives are not,” President Lincoln replied: “These so called Conservatives will avoid, as a general thin, votes, or any action, which will in any way interfere with or imperil, the success of their party. For instance they will vote for supplies, and such other measures as are absolutely necessary to sustain the Government. They will do this selfishly. They do not wish that the Government should fall, for they expect to obtain possession of it. At the same time their support will not be hearty: their votes are not equal to those of the real friends to the Administration. They do not give so much strength. They are not worth so much. My Radical friends will therefore see that I understand and appreciate their position. Still you appear to come before me as my friends if I agree with you, but not otherwise. I do not here speak of mere personal friendship, as between man and man, – when I speak of my friends I mean those who are friendly to my measures, to the policy of the government.

I am well aware that by many, by some even among this delegation, – I shall not name them, – I have been in public speeches and in printed documents charged with ‘tyranny’ and willfulness, with a disposition to make my own personal will supreme. I do not intend to be a tyrant. At all events I shall take care that in my own eyes I do not become one. I shall always try and preserve one friend within me, whoever else fails me, to tell me that I have not been a tyrant, and that I have acted right. I have no right to act the tyrant to mere political opponents. If a man votes for supplies of men and money; encourages enlistments; discourages desertions; does all in his power to carry to the war on to a successful issue, – I have no right to question him for his abstract political opinions. I must make a dividing line, some where, between those who are the opponents of the Government and those who only oppose peculiar features of my administration while they sustain the Government.”83

Mr. Lincoln advocated gradual emancipation. He complained to the delegation: “My friends in Missouri last winter did me a great unkindness. I had relied upon my Radical friends as my mainstay in the management of affairs in that state and they disappointed me. I had recommended Gradual Emancipation, and Congress had endorsed that course. The Radicals in Congress voted for it. The Missouri delegation in Congress went for it, – went, as I thought, right. I had the highest hope that at last Missouri was on the right track. But I was disappointed by the immediate emancipation movements It endangers the success of the whole advance toward freedom. But you say that the gradual emancipation men were insincere; – that they intended soon to repeal this action; that their course and their professions are purely fraudulent. Now I do not think that a majority of the gradual Emancipationists are insincere. Large bodies of men cannot play the hypocrite. I announced my own opinion freely at the time. I was in favor of gradual emancipation. I still am so. You must not call yourselves my friends, if you are only so while I agree with you. According to that, if you differ with me you are not my friends.”84

At the end of the meeting, according to Clarke, “Mr. Drake stepped forward and, addressing the president, who was standing, said, with deliberation and emphasis. ‘The hour has come when we can no longer trespass upon your attention. Having submitted to you in a formal way a statement of our grievances, we will take leave of you, asking the privilege that each member of the delegation may take you by the hand. But, in taking leave of you, Mr. President, let me say to you many of these gentlemen return to a border state filled with disloyal sentiment. If upon their return there the military policies of your administration shall subject them to risk of life in the defense of the government and their blood shall be shed — let me tell you, Mr. President, that their blood shall be upon your garments and not upon ours.'” Clarke reported that the President responded “[w]ith great emotion. Tears trickled down his face, as we filed by shaking his hand.”85

In their notes of the meeting, John Hay and William O. Stoddard concluded: “In the main ignorant and well meaning, they chose for their spokesman Drake who is neither ignorant nor well meaning, who covered the marrow of what they wanted to say in a purposeless mass of unprofitable verbiage which they accepted because it sounded well, and the President will reject because it is nothing but sound. He is a man whom only the facts of the toughest kind can move and Drake attacked him with tropes & periods which might have had weight in a Sophomore Debating Club. And so the great Western Delegation from which good people hoped so much for freedom, discharged their little rocket, and went home with no good thing to show for coming – a little angry and a good deal bewildered – not clearly seeing why they have failed – as the President seemed so fair and their cause so good.”86

Clarke was more upbeat in his remembrance: “We did not receive specific promises, but I think we felt much better toward the close than we had felt in the first hour. The president spoke generally of his purposes rather than with reference to conditions in Missouri. Toward the close of the conference he went on to speak of his great office, of its burdens, of its responsibilities and duties. Among other things he said that in the administration of the government he wanted to be the president of the whole people and of no section. He thought we, possibly, failed to comprehend the enormous stress that rested upon him. ‘It is my ambition and desire,’ he said with considerable feeling, ‘to so administer the affairs of the government while I remain president that if at the end I shall have lost every other friend on earth I shall at least have one friend remaining and that one shall be down inside me.'”87 Bates biographer Marvin R. Cain wrote: “Jubilant, Bates gloated over [the radicals’] defeat. In a burst of vanity, he took much personal credit for Lincoln’s statements and for his resolution to uphold Gamble and leave the direction of Missouri’s policy in the Governor’s hands. After his exultation, however, Bates realized that Gamble could not ask for more from the President, who had gone to the limit for the Provisional Government.”88

Two months later, John Hay wrote in his diary that President Lincoln told him: “I talked to these people in this way when they came to me this fall. I saw that their attack on Gamble was malicious. They moved against him by flank attacks from different sides of the same question. They accused him of enlisting rebel soldiers among the enrolled militia: and of exempting all the rebels and forcing Union men to do the duty: all this in the blindness of passion. I told them they were endangering the election of Senator: that I thought their duty was to elect Henderson and Gratz Brown; and nothing has happened in our politics which has pleased me more than that incident.”89

Historian William E. Parrish wrote: “Schofield, meanwhile, unaware of all this activity, had forwarded through General Halleck a series of incendiary articles from the Radical press, mincing few words in his denunciation of their effects on the tense Missouri situation.”90 Although President Lincoln did not replace Schofield, he wrote him a set of detailed orders on October 1:

“There is no organized military force in avowed opposition to the general government, now in Missouri; and if any such shall reappear, your duty in regard to it will be too plain to require any special instruction. Still the condition of things, both there and elsewhere, is such as to render it indispensable to maintain for a time, the United States Military establishment in that State, as well as to rely upon it for a fair contribution of support to that establishment generally.”
“Your immediate duty, in regard to Missouri, now is to advance the efficiency of that establishment, and to so use it, as far as practicable, to compel the excited people there to leave one another alone.”
“Under your recent order, which I have approved, you will only arrest individuals, and suppress assemblies, or newspapers, when they may be working palpable injury to the Military in your charge; and, in no other case will you interfere with the expression of opinion in any form, or allow it to be interfere with the expression of opinion in any form, or allow it to be interfered with violently by others. In this, you have a discretion to exercise with great caution, calmness, and forebearance.”
“With the matters of removing the inhabitants of certain counties en masse; and of removing certain individuals from time to time, who are supposed to be mischievous, I am not now interfering, but I am leaving to your own discretion.”
“Nor am I interfering with what may still seem to you to be necessary restrictions upon trade and intercourse.”
“I think proper, however, to enjoin upon you the following: Allow no part of the Military under your command, to be engaged in either returning fugitive slaves, or in forcing, or enticing slaves from their homes; and, so far as practicable, enforce the same forbearance upon the people.”
“Report to me your opinion upon the availability for good, of the enrolled militia of the State.”
“Allow no one to enlist colored troops, except upon orders from you, or from here through you.”
“Allow no one to assume the functions of confiscating property, under the law of congress, or other wise, except upon orders from here.”
“At elections, see that those, and only those are allowed to vote, who are entitled to do so, by the laws of Missouri, including as of those laws, the restriction laid by the Missouri convention upon those who may have participated in the rebellion.”
“So far as practicable you will, by means of your military force, expel guerrillas, marauders, and murderers, and all who are known to harbor, aid, or abet them. But, in like manner, you will repress assumptions of unauthorized individuals to perform the same service; because under pretence of doing this, they become marauders and murderers themselves. To now restore peace, let the military obey orders; and those not of the military, leave each other alone; thus not breaking the peace themselves.”
“In giving the above directions, it is not intended to restrain you in other expedient and necessary matters not falling within their range.”91

Schofield had problems in several areas – but especially over the speed of emancipation in the recruitment of black troops. “Schofield’s journey from Stephen Douglas Democrat to advocate of compensated emancipation to immediate emancipation was a slow trek marked more by the demands of military necessity and political expediency than principle,” wrote Schofield biographer Donald B. Connelly.92 Halleck biographer Curt Anders wrote: “That Old Brains had high regard for the young commander of his old Department of the Missouri was reflected in a letter he wrote Schofield on October 5, 1863 – an unusual one in that the general-in-chief seldom shared so much of his thinking so candidly with anyone. Halleck said:

“What is required in your department is a steady, firm, energetic rule, entirely independent of all factions or factional influences. Nothing helps a newspaper or faction more than the cry of persecution. I know that the President was very much embarrassed by General Burnside’s against the newspaper press. I have not heard the President say anything about the representatives of the mammoth committee, but I don’t think they did you much harm. They have the support of the ultra-radicals, but not of the leading men in the cabinet. The whole thing is regarded as a political attack on the President, and your name is used merely as a cloak to strike at him.”93

Meanwhile, political matters in Missouri continued to deteriorate. William O. Stoddard wrote in October 1863: “General Schofield has at least followed one portion of the President’s letter of instructions – he has got himself soundly abused by pretty nearly all parties because he will side with no one.”94 The President responded in writing to the Missouri radicals on October 5. After outlining their complaints against General Schofield, Mr. Lincoln wrote: “Among the reasons given, enough of suffering and wrong to Union men is certainly, and I suppose truly stated. Yet the whole case, as presented, fails to convince me, that Gen. Schofield, or the Enrolled Militia, is responsible for that suffering and wrong. The whole case can be explained on a more charitable, and, as I think, a more rational hypothesis. We are in civil war. In such cases there always is a main question; but in this case that question is a perplexing compound – Union and Slavery. It thus becomes a question not of two sides merely, but of at least four sides, even among those who are for the Union, saying nothing of those who are against it. Thus, those who are for the Union with, but not without slavery — those for it without, but not with – those for it with or without, but prefer it with – and those for it with or without, but prefer it without. Among these again, is a subdivision of those who are for gradual but not for immediate, and those who are for immediate, but not for gradual extinction of slavery – It is easy to conceive that all these shades of opinion, and even more, may be sincerely entertained by honest and truthful men. Yet, all being for the Union, by reason of these differences, each will prefer a different way of sustaining the Union – At once sincerity is questioned, and motives are assailed. Actual war coming, blood grows hot, and blood is spilled – Thought is forced from old channels into confusion – Deception breeds and thrives. Confidence dies, and universal suspicion reigns. Each man feels an impulse to kill his neighbor, lest he be first killed by him. Revenge and retaliation follow – And all this, as before said, may be among honest men only. But this is not all. Every foul bird comes abroad, and every dirty reptile rises up. These add crime to confusion. Strong measures, deemed indispensable but harsh at best, such men make worse by mal-administration. Murders for old grudges, and murders for pelf, proceed under any cloak that will best cover for the oc[c]asion. These causes amply account for what has occurred in Missouri, without ascribing it to the weakness, or wickedness of any general. The newspaper files, those chroniclers of current events, will show that the evils now complained of were quite as prevalent under Fremont, Hunter, Halleck, and Curtis, as under Schofield – If the former had greater force opposed to them, they also had greater forces with which to meet it. When the organized rebel army left the state, the main federal forces had to go also, leaving the Department commander at home relatively no stronger than before. Without disparaging any, I affirm with confidence that no commander of that Department has, in proportion to his means, done better than Gen. Schofield.”

At the end of his detailed reply to their complaints, Mr. Lincoln wrote: “I do not feel justified to enter upon the broad field you present in regard to the political differences between radicals and conservatives. From time to time I have done and said what appeared to me proper to do and say – The public knows it all. It obliges nobody to follow me, and I trust it obliges me to follow nobody. The radicals and conservatives, each agree with me in somethings, and disagree in others. I could wish both to agree with me in all things; for then they would agree with each other, and would be too strong for any foe from any quarter. They, however, choose to do other wise, and I do not question their right. I too shall do what seems to be my duty. I hold whoever commands in Missouri, or elsewhere, responsible to me, and not to either radicals or conservatives– It is my duty to hear all; but at last, I must, within my sphere, judge what to do, and what to forbear.”95

The Cabinet met on October 16 and the President read to them both his letters to General Schofield and the radical delegation. “Both exhibit tact, shrewdness, and good sense, on a difficult and troublesome subject,” recalled Navy Secretary Welles. “There is no cause for dissension among the friends of the Administration in Missouri, and the President does not commit himself to either faction in this controversy, but, like some of us, has little respect for the wild vagaries of the radical portion.”96 Bates wrote of the letter to radicals: “Altho’ too long, and not phrased in the pointed language I could wish, still, it denies every thing they ask, and is a flat rebuff. He also read his letter to Genl Schofield, which, tho’ in some of its parts, lacking in precision and speciality, still, with a good understanding between the Gov and the Genl, all our legal and legitimate ends may be easily accomplished.”

“In the course of the conversation, I drew the Prest’s attention to Gov Gamble’s last letter – I said it was a formal demand, under the constitution, upon this government, to protect the State Govt. against local insurrection, wch. was the simple duty of this govt. to do. The Prest admitted the duty, but he did not know that there was any such insurrection. I answered, substantially, that the Gov’s demand was the only evidence required by the constitution. The President then said, that certainly he wd. protect the Govt. of Mo., just as he wd. the Govt. of Pa., neither more nor less.”97

Gamble was losing his patience. On October 1, Governor Gamble had written President Lincoln to “demand…that you shall order the General commanding this department to maintain…the integrity of the State Government, and to suppress in its incipiency every combination designed to subvert its authority….” President Lincoln replied on October 19:

“Yours of the First Inst. was duly received; and I have delayed so long to answer it, because of other pressing duties; because it did not appear to me that the domestic violence you apprehend, was very imminent; and because, if it were so imminent, my direction to Gen. Schofield embraces very nearly the extent of my power to repress it. Being instructed to repress all violence, of course he will, so far as in his power, repress any which may be offered to the State government.”
“At the beginning of our present troubles, the regularly installed State officers of Missouri, taking sides with the rebellion, were forced to give way to the provisional State government, at the head of which you stand and which was placed in authority, as I understood, by the unanimous action and acquiescence, of the Union people of the State. I have seen no occasion to make a distinction against that provisional government because of its not having been chosen and inaugurated in the usual way. Nor have I seen any cause to suspect it of unfaithfulness to the Union. So far as I have yet considered, I am as ready, on a proper case made, to give the State the constitutional protection against invasion and domestic violence, under the provisional government, as I would be if it were under a government installed in the ordinary manner. I have not thought of making a distinction.”
“In your proclamation of the 12th Inst. you state the proposition substantially, that no objection can be made to any change in the State government, which the people may desire to make, so far as the end can be effected by means conforming to the constitution and laws through the expression of the popular will; but that such change should not be effected by violence. I concur in this; and, I may add, that it makes precisely the distinction I wish to keep in view. In the absence of such violence, or imminent danger thereof, it is not proper for the national executive to interfere; and I am unwilling, by any formal, action, to show an appearance of belief that there is such imminent danger, before I really believe there is. I might thereby to some extent bear false witness.”
“You tell me ‘a party has sprung up in Missouri, which openly and loudly proclaims the purpose to overturn the provisional government by violence.’ Does the party so proclaim, or is it only that, some members of the party so proclaim? If I mistake not, the party alluded to recently held a State convention, and adopted resolutions. Did they, therein declare violence against the provisional State government? No party can be justly held responsible for what individual members of it may say or do.”
“Nothing in this letter is written with reference to any State which may have maintained within it, no State government professedly loyal to the United States.”98

On October 28 President Lincoln wrote General Schofield about the upcoming elections in Missouri: “There have recently reached the War Department, and thence been laid before me, from Missouri, three communications, all similar in import, and identical in object. One of them, addressed to nobody, and without place or date, but having the signature of (apparently) the writer, is a letter of eight closely written foolscap pages. The other two are written by a different person, at St. Joseph, Mo., and of the dates, respectively, October 12th and 13th. 1863, and each inclosing a large number of affidavits. The general statements of the whole are, that the Federal and State authorities are arming the disloyal, and disarming the loyal, and that the latter will all be killed, or driven out of the State, unless there shall be a change. In particular, no loyal man, who has been disarmed, is named; but the affidavits show by name, forty two persons, as disloyal, who have been armed. They are as follows…”

Mr. Lincoln concluded: “The remarkable fact, that the actual evil is yet only anticipated – inferred – induces me to suppose i understand the case. But I do not state my impression, because I might be mistaken; and because your duty and mine is plain in any event. The locality of nearly all this, seems to be St. Joseph, and Buchanan County. I wish you to give special attention to this region, particularly on election day. Prevent violence from whatever quarter; and see that the soldiers themselves, do no wrong.”99

President Lincoln’s patience with Schofield was being tried. On November 10, President Lincoln wrote Schofield: “I see a despatch here from St. Louis which is a little difficult for me to understand. It says ‘Gen. Schofield has refused leave of absence to members in Military service to attend the Legislature. All such are radical and Administration men. The election of two Senators from this place on Thursday will probably turn upon this thing’ What does this mean? Of course members of the Legislature must be allowed to attend its sessions. But how is there a session before the recent election returns are in? And how is it to be at ‘this place’ – that is- St Louis? Please inform me.” 100 The next day, President Lincoln wrote Schofield: “I believe the Secretary of War has telegraphed you about members of the Legislature. At all events, allow those in the service to attend the session; and we can afterwards decide, whether they can stay through the entire session.”101

Get Schofield quickly replied: “The legislature meets at Jefferson City today The recent election was not for members of the Legislature except perhaps to fill Vacancies. I have not authority to grant leaves of absence to officers except in case of sickness The orders of the War Dept expressly forbid it I have informed members of the Legislature who are in the Military service that I will accept their resignations to enable them to attend the session of the Legislature There are but few of them and they are about equally divided between radicalls [sic] and conservatives If authorized to do so I will grant the leaves of absence long enough to elect senators but I would not think it proper for them to be absent all winter and still retain their commissions in the army”.102

Meanwhile, in addition to his problems with Gamble, Schofield and the radicals, Mr. Lincoln had a Blair problem. Montgomery Blair frequently acted as his brother Frank’s agent in dealing with the President. In October 1863 Montgomery asked President Lincoln whether Frank should serve in the upcoming session of Congress or stay at his military command. Biographer William E. Parrish wrote: “Frank had deferred the question of returning to the House until his arrival, but the president quickly put that matter to rest by agreeing to hold Blair’s resignation from the army in abeyance until spring, while assuring him that he needed him in Congress in the meantime. The radicals, meanwhile, operating through Speaker Schuyler Colfax, refused to give Frank a seat on any of the major House committees.”103 Pennsylvania Congressman Thaddeus Stevens was particularly angry at the Blair and pushed a resolution asking President Lincoln to deliver a report on Blair congressional and military roles.

On November 1, John Hay wrote in his diary that President Lincoln had said “Montgomery Blair came to him today to say that Frank had no idea or intention of running for Speaker – that Frank wishes to know what the President desires him to do and he will do it. The President will write to Frank his ideas of the best thing to do: for Frank to come here at opening of Congress: say publicly he is not candidate for Speaker: assist in organization of the House on Union basis and then go back to the field.” According to Hay, “If Frank Blair does that, it will be the best thing for his own fame he has recently done. He is a glorious fellow and it is pitiable to see him the pet of traitors or lukewarm loyalists in Mo, and attacked abused and vilified by his old friends and adherents.”104

The next day, Mr. Lincoln wrote Postmaster General Montgomery Blair with some advice for his brother Frank: “Some days ago I understood you to say that your brother, Gen. Frank Blair, desires to be guided by my wishes as to whether he will occupy his seat in congress or remain in the field. My wish, then, is compounded of what I believe will be best for the country, and best for him. And it is, that he will come here, put his military commission in my hands, take his seat, go into caucus with our friends, abide the nominations, help elect the nominees, and thus aid to organize a House of Representatives which will really support the government in the war. If the result shall be the election of himself as Speaker, let him serve in that position; if not, let him re-take his commission, and return to the Army. For the country this will heal a dangerous schism; for him, it will relieve from a dangerous position. By a misunderstanding, as I think, he is in danger of being permanently separated from those with whom only he can ever have a real sympathy – the sincere opponents of slavery. It will be a mistake if he shall allow the provocations offered him by insincere time-servers, to drive him out of the house of his own building. He is young yet. He has abundant talent – quite enough to occupy all his time, without devoting any to temper. He is rising in military skill and usefulness. His recent appointment to the command of a corps, by one so competent to judge as Gen. [William T.] Sherman, proves this. In that line he can serve both the country and himself more profitably than he could as a member of congress on the floor. The foregoing is what I would say, if Frank Blair were my brother instead of yours.”105

John Hay wrote in his diary that President Lincoln described to him on December 9, 1863 the history of his relations with the Blairs: “The Blair has to an unusual degree the spirit of clan. Their family is a close corporation. Frank is their hope and pride. They have a way of going with a rush for anything they undertake; especially have Montgomery and the Old Gentleman. When this was first began they could think of nothing but Fremont; they expected everything from him and upon their earnest solicitation he was made a general and sent to Mo. I thought well of Fremont. Even now I think well of his impulses. I only think he is the prey of wicked and designing men and I think he has absolutely no military capacity. He went to Missouri the pet and protégé of the Blairs. At first they corresponded with him and with Frank who was with him, fully and confidently thinking his plans and his efforts would accomplish great things for the country. At last the tone of Frank’s letters changed. It was a change from confidence to doubt and uncertainty. They were pervaded with a tone of sincere sorrow, and of fear that Fremont would fail. Montgomery showed them to me and we were both grieved at the prospect. Soon came the news that Fremont had issued his emancipation order and had set up a Bureau of Abolition, giving free papers, and occupying his time apparently with little else. At last, at my suggestion Montgomery Blair went to Missouri to look at and talk over matters. He went as the friend of Fremont. I sent him as Fremont’s friend. He passed on the way Mrs. Fremont coming to see me. She sought an audience with me at midnight and taxed me so violently with many things that I had to exercise all the awkward tact I have to avoid quarreling with her. She surprised me by asking why their enemy, Montgy Blair, had been sent to Missouri. She more than once intimated that if Gen. Fremont should conclude to try conclusions with me he could set up himself.”106

According to Blair biographer William E. Parrish, “On the fifteenth [of December], Frank and Montgomery met with the president. The three discussed the recent Vicksburg campaign and recent requests from Texas refugees that Frank be sent there with troops. Lincoln, as well as the Blair family, was more concerned with having Frank in Washington for the upcoming congressional session. They agreed that he should remain in the House, where he could better serve as a spokesman for Lincoln’s program, rather than stand for the Senate, as some of his Missouri friends were urging. In the meantime, the president extended Frank’s military leave, giving him the opportunity to rest and spend more time with his family. [Sister] Lizzie told [her husband] Phil, ‘I rejoice that Frank has got his leave for I think tho he is sunburnt and red looking but not fat I doubt if he is as heavy as when he went south. Still he looks corpulent.'”107 Biographer William E. Parrish wrote: “Frank and Lizzie spent the evening with the Lincolns on the sixteenth [of December 1863], as Blair reviewed the Chattanooga campaign for the president. Undoubtedly, they also discussed politics…”108

Mr. Lincoln was again caught between Missouri conservatives and radicals. On December 10, 1863 John Hay wrote of another conversation with President Lincoln: “Talking about the Missouri matter he said, ‘I know these Radical men have in them the stuff which must save the State and on which we must mainly rely. They are absolutely uncorrosive by the virus of secession. It cannot touch or taint them. While the Conservatives, in casting about for votes to carry through their plans, are tempted to affiliate with those whose record is not clear. If one side must be crushed out & the other cherished there could be no doubt which side we would choose as fuller of hope for the future. We would have to side with the Radicals.”
“But just there is where their wrong begins. They insist that I shall hold and treat Governor Gamble and his supporters – men appointed by loyal people of Mo. as reps of Mo. loyalty, and who have done their whole duty in the war faithfully and promptly – who when they have disagreed with me have been silent and kept about the good work – that I shall treat these men as Copperheads and enemies to the Govt. This is simply monstrous.”

“I talked to these people in this way when they came to me this fall. I saw that their attack on Gamble was malicious. They moved against him by flank attacks from different sides of the same question. They accused him of enlisting rebel soldiers among the enrolled militia, and of exempting all the rebels and forcing Union men to do the duty: all this in the blindness of passion. I told them they were endangering the election of Senator; that I thought their duty was to elect Henderson and Gratz Brown: and nothing has happened in our politics which has pleased me more than that incident.”109

On December 13, President Lincoln had another conversation with John Hay: “The President speaking today about Missouri matters said he had heard some things of Schofield which had very much displeased him: That While [Illinois Congressman Elihu B.] Washburne was in Missouri he saw or thought he saw that Schofield was working rather energetically in the politics of the State, and that he approached Schofield and proposed that he should use his influence to harmonize the conflicting elements so as to elect one of each wing, Gratz Brown and Henderson Schofield replied was that he would not consent to the election of Gratz Brown.”
“Again when Gratz Brown was about coming to Washington he sent a friend to Schofield to say that he would not oppose his confirmation if he would so far as his influence extended, agree to a convention of Missouri to make necessary alterations in her State Constitution. Schofield’s reply as reported by brown to the President, was that he would not consent to a State Convention. These things the President says are obviously transcendent of his instructions and must not be permitted. He has sent for Schofield to come to Washington and explain these grave matters.”
“The President is inclined to put Rosecrans in Schofields place and to give to Gen Curtis the Department of Kansas. But Halleck and Stanton stand in his way and he has to use the strong had so often with those impracticable gentlemen, that he avoid it when he can.”110

General Schofield had to be replaced. As early as November 2, President Lincoln told John Hay that “he had thought, when the trouble and row of this election in Missouri is over, and the matter will not be misconstrued, of sending Rosecrans to Missouri and Schofield into the field.”111 Rosecrans had been removed from his army command in October. According Schofield biographer Donald B. Connelly, “Schofield realized that he was in an untenable position: “Believing that Schofield’s retention would be a continuing source of trouble, Lincoln had also concluded that the Department of the Missouri was just too fractious for a single command. With [General Frederick] Steele’s success in Arkansas and Blunt’s gains in Indian Territory, the strategic rationale for the department had diminished. By giving Kansas to Samuel Curtis and Missouri to William Rosecrans, Lincoln hoped to take care of these officers and arrange a deal that would secure Schofield’s promotion to major general.”112

On December 13, President Lincoln held discussions at the White House in which he stated his intention to replace Schofield with General William Rosecrans. Shrewdly, President Lincoln extracted a quid pro quo from Republican Radicals in return for this shift. The elevation of Schofield to major general was being blocked in the Senate by Radicals upset by his administration in Missouri. President Lincoln called in Senators Morton S. Wilkinson and Zachariah Chandler and informed them that General William T. Sherman had asked for the services of Schofield. He offered: Now if you will confirm Schofield I will send him down there to Sherman and I will send Rosecrans up to take his place in Missouri. And I think that this will so harmonize matters that the whole thing will hang together.” Wilkinson remembered: “We went back to the Senate, making up our minds on the way that that was the best thing to be done.” And it was – over the objections of Gratz Brown.”113 Although Senator Brown had objected, he agreed after meeting with President Lincoln to support Schofield promotion in return for his removal from Missouri. Lincoln ally Norman Judd wrote him that he hoped Schofield’s shift has resulted in calming down the Angry waters Gratz wrote me a short not saying his interview was perfectly satisfactory, and if carried thro, there was peace.”114

On December 18, President Lincoln wrote Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton: “I believe Gen. Schofield must be relieved from command of the Department of Missouri, otherwise a question of veracity, in relation to his declarations as to his interfering, or not, with the Missouri Legislature, will be made with him, which will create an additional amount of trouble, not to be overcome by even a correct decision of the question. The question itself must be avoided. Now for the mode. Senator Henderson, his friend, thinks he can be induced to ask to be relieved, if he shall understand he will be generously treated; and, on this latter point, Gratz Brown will help his nomination, as a Major General, through the Senate. In no other way can he be confirmed; and upon his rejection alone, it would be difficult for me to sustain him as Commander of the Department. Besides, his being relieved from command of the Department, and at the same time confirmed as a Major General, will be the means of Henderson and Brown leading off together as friends, and will go far to heal the Missouri difficulty.”

“Another point. I find it is scarcely less than indispensable for me to do something for Gen. Rosecrans; and I find Henderson and Brown will agree to him for the commander of their Department.”
“Again, I have received such evidence and explanations, in regard to the supposed cotten transactions of Gen. Curtis, as fully restores in my mind the fair presumption of his innocence; and, as he is my friend, and what is more, as I think the countries friend, I would be glad to relieve him from the impression that I think him dishonest, by giving him a command. Most of the Iowa and Kansas delegations, a large part of that of Missouri, and the delegates from Nebraska, and Colorado, ask this in behalf of Gen. C. and suggest Kansas and other contiguous territory West of Missouri, as a Department for him.”
“In a purely military point of view it may be that none of these things is indispensable, or perhaps, advantageous; but in another aspect, scarcely less important, they would give great relief, while, at the worst, I think they could not injure the military service much. I therefore shall be greatly obliged if yourself and Gen. Halleck can give me your hearty co-operation, in making the arrangement. Perhaps the first thing would to send Gen. Schofield’s nomination to me. Let me hear from you before you take any actual step in the matter.”115

In a conversation with Missouri Republican leader Benjamin Gratz Brown, Mr. Lincoln said “he would put his hand in and see if he could not push the compensation bill through.”116 Noah Brooks reported that after that Missouri radicals were disappointed that more of the President annual message to congress was not devoted to their problems. But Brooks noted that that “despite the non-indorsement of Missouri radicalism in theory, heartily applaud the plan of reconstruction, and are fain to believe that their distracted State can be harmonized, emancipated and secured to the Union forever upon the basis laid down in the Message. When ‘the Blair family’ and the Missouri Radicals are alike agreed to accept so bold and original propositions as those contained in the last annual Message of the President, we may well conclude that the political millennium has well nigh come, or that the author of the Message is one of the most sagacious men of modern times.”117

Governor Gamble died on January 31, 1864 as a result of complications from his arm injury the previous August. Gamble’s arm had been broken again on December 16, 1863 when he fell outside the Governor’s Mansion. His final words were: “I shall try to do what is right and proper to do, and shall prevent anything from being done which it is wrong to do.”118

General Rosecrans served as Missouri’s commander for almost all of 1864. He had to deal with a host of problems – not the least of which was a Confederate invasion under General Sterling Price in September. Charles D. Drake wrote President Lincoln on November 2, 1864 to urge the appointment General Thomas V. Ewing as Rosecrans’ replacement:

“We suppose that, at this advanced stage of the Presidential canvass, we need hardly tell you that outside of the ranks of the Radicals you have very few supporters in Missouri. If this State casts its Electoral vote for you, – as we hope and believe it will, you will owe it to the Radicals: if it should not do so, you may thank the Conservatives, to whose counsels you have in times past listened, and who, professing to be your friends, now desert you at the pinch. The majority of the Conservative leaders are for McClellan, and of course the majority of that faction follow their leaders. In our opinion, you will not receive five hundred Conservative votes in Missouri.”
“We mention these things to substantiate the claim of the Missouri Radicals to consideration in reference to the military affairs of this Department. We submit respectfully, but firmly, that the time has gone by when their wishes and feelings ought to be disregarded by the Administration. They have honestly and earnestly supported your Administration and your re-election, which the Conservatives have not; and it is not just that they should be put aside as if they had opposed both. Our State is almost ruined, and we insist on being heard on behalf of her loyal people.”
“The Radicals of Missouri wish the command of this Department entrusted to a General who will be thoroughly and cordially in sympathy with them; and we hold that they have a most fair claim to have it so. Just as long as the Commanding General here is of the Conservative stripe, just so long will our people be subjected to wrong and suffer to expect better things from some Conservative Commander hereafter, than we had from such in the past. Your friends object to any Conservative being placed in command here. You may send such a one here, and expect Missouri to be quiet, but the storm will burst out again. Our loyal people will not silently submit to the military rule of any man, whose administration, directly or indirectly, shields or encourages rebels, rebel sympathizers, or Conservatives. They will complain against it, and keep on complaining, till they are heard. Why should you not at once, frankly and generously, relieve them from all cause of complaint? You can do so, as easily as to let it alone; and as they have stood by you, even while they felt that you had treated them unkindly, why should you not stand by them, at least for a while, and see how it will work?”119

Presidential aide John G. Nicolay again spent some time in Missouri in late spring of 1864, reviewing the complicated problems of the military occupation. “During my few days’ sojourn here, I have been looking a little into ‘the situation,'” he wrote John Hay. “If Missouri be not ‘governed too much,’ it is at least governed by too many different and conflicting authorities. For instance: Gen. C.B. Fisk in command of this District, comprising all the Counties of the State lying north of the Missouri River, exercising all the usual functions and authority of a District Commander. But his is not the only military authority in the District. There is an addition, a system of military provost marshals (not those appointed under the enrol[l]ment law) but appointed the orders of Gen. Rosecrans, and governed, regulated, and instructed by Col. [John P.] Sanderson, of Gen. Rosecrans staff, who is the Provost Marshal General, of that system. This military district commanded by Gen. Fisk, is subdivided into nine subdistricts, each of which has a provost marshal, appointed nominally by Rosecrans, but really by Sanderson, to whom they report, and under whose direction they gather information, make arrests, issue order and do various acts, all independently of, and in many instances without the knowledge of Gen. Fisk the District Commander.”

“This is still not all. Under existing laws and orders, the Governor of Missouri controls certain organizations of State Militia, and again independently of the other military authorities of the State. That is: he may at his own option call and put certain militia into service, or being in service, he may relieve it from service, and disband it, he alone being the judge of necessity of doing either Using this District then, as an illustration, there are three distinct sources of military authority here, all independent of each other:

One. The District Commander.
Two. Sanderson’s Provost Marshals.
Three. The Governor as Com. in Chief of the State Militia.”

“It is easy to see that perpetual confusion and conflict of authority, and especially conflict of policy grows of this things, and I have no doubt that many of Missouri troubles grow solely out of this confusion.
One of the most serious of the late affairs in this district, grew directly out of this independent police system of Sanderson’s.
“A detective or scout named Truman went to Sanderson and Rosecrans, and professed to be able to ferret out a great conspiracy which had for its object the capture of Hannibal, Quincy and other points by guerrillas. They believed him, and sent him up here with directions to detail a squad of soldiers to go with him, under his orders, who were to disguise themselves as guerrillas, and thus spy out and punish the plotters. Truman however seems to have been a very bad character, illiterate, intemperate, immoral, and subsequently criminal. Gen. Fisk suspected him from the first, and soon becoming convinced after he had started on his scout that his suspicions were true, ordered him to report himself to Sanderson at St. Louis. Truman however, instead of obeying the order, telegraphed to Sanderson and Rosecrans, asking permission to ‘stay in the field a week longer,’ saying it was a ‘military necessity.’ Sanderson and Rosecrans answered his telegram and told him to ‘go ahead.’ He went ahead and a few days summarily shot and hung seven men, whom he took from their houses and farms, and who were not at the time in arms or engaged in over acts of treason. This occurred to Chariton county. Of course it produced a reign of terror there. everybody took to the brush, and since that time, thirteen Union men have been murdered in retaliation. Altogether it was a most terrible affair. Truman was promptly arrested, and is now in confinement here for trial.
“The Governor’s independent action in Militia matters is a great source of difficulty to the District Commander here. In counties where the force is very much needed, the Governor has neglected to commission the officers which have been chosen, while in others he has relieved and disbanded the militia already serving. Since I have been here, one company in Rails Co. and another in Pike Co have been thus relieved from duty, the first notice the District Commander had of it, being the petitions and protests of the Union men there, not to be left unprotected at the mercy of the bush-whackers. Of course politics has much to do with all these local movements and changes. In this district as elsewhere in the State, the feuds are bitter and unrelenting and the language and acts of men intemperate and rash. I do not pretend to say who is right or who is wrong; the point I make is, that the division and conflict of authority as it now exists, is powerless for good and potent for mischief.
“Gen. Fisk, the District Commander here, whom the President personally knows is, I am convinced, an able, prudent, and sagacious officer. His policy has been to conciliate – to induce men to cease wrangling and fighting, and to promote peace and quiet, by laboring together for the re-establishment of courts, schools, churches, and engaging in philanthropic enterprises, and pursuing the cultivation of their farms – so that the whole military power of the district could be used to put down the actual bushwhackers and guerrillas. To his appeals in this behalf he has met most encouraging responses from the people of the District; but his pacific efforts have been in a measure prevented and neutralized by the disadvantageous division and conflict of authority under which he has been compelled to labor.120

The final Union commander for Missouri was General Grenville Dodge, who had been seriously wounded in General William T. Sherman campaign’s against Atlanta in August 1864. After recuperation, Dodge took over in Missouri in December 1864. He recalled: “I learned from a private dispatch that I received from General Grant that he had requested General Rosecrans to be relieved and I to take his command, because he and the War Department did not consider that General Rosecrans had made a proper use of his command in defeating the movement of [Confederate General Sterling] Price into Missouri, as Price had a force much smaller than that of General Rosecrans. I assumed command of that Department and Army on the second day of December. I found there had been a great many dispatches sent to General Rosecrans to send all the troops he could spare to General [George H.] Thomas, who was in a death struggle with General Hood in Nashville. I received a similar dispatch from General Halleck, at the end of which he quoted a part of Grant’s dispatch to him giving the order, which was: ‘With such an order, Dodge can be relied upon to send all that can properly go.’ I learned afterwards that President Lincoln was present when this order was given, and that it was he who suggested to General Halleck that that portion of Grant’s dispatch should be added, saying, it might induce Dodge to make an extra effort to help Thomas out.”

“When I received this dispatch, I looked my command over. There were no organized Rebel forces in Missouri, nothing but guerrillas and partisan bands who were robbing and killing, not fighting anyone, and I made up my mind that there was really no necessity for any federal troops in Missouri: therefore. I gathered together every organized regiment in state and sent Thomas some fifteen thousand men, including two Divisions of the 16th Corps, under the command of Major-General A.J. Smith. At the Battle of Nashville, this force turned Hood’s left and started the defeat and destruction of Hood’s Army.”
“I found in Missouri a state of affairs existing in no other state in the Union. It was one-half Rebel and one-half Union. It was brother against brother and father against son. There had been a great many murders in the state and they were continually being committed. President Lincoln took a great interest in Missouri. The fact that Blair, Lyons, Siegel and the Germans had held the state of Missouri in the Union against all the efforts of its Rebel Government, made it very interesting to him, and he had been endeavoring for a long time to bring it back under its own civil government. He assigned General Schofield, a very fine soldier and executive officer, to the command of the department, with a view of his carrying out this policy, but he had failed. General Schofield’s policy did not satisfy either side, it was too conservative for the radicals and too radical for the half-Union men; therefore the War Department relieved him. But President Lincoln believed in General Schofield and when he left there he made him a Major-General, but the State of Missouri was strong enough to stop his confirmation in the United States Senate and it was one year before he was confirmed. President Lincoln said he saw his opportunity when he received a dispatch from General Grant in 1864, asking to have General Schofield sent to the command of the Department of the Ohio at Knoxville, Tennessee, and he said he then put the pressure right on the Senate and they had to… confirm him.”
“As soon as I had gotten well settled in the Department of the Missouri, President Lincoln wrote me a long letter. I was in no wise an order or a suggestion that I was obliged to carry out. It was simply his views of the conditions in the country, also what he thought, not what he thought I ought to do, and as I looked the country over I came to his views that there was absolutely no necessity for any military forces in the State of Missouri. That state had just elected Colonel Fletcher Governor. Colonel Fletcher had been a good soldier in the service and I made up my mind that if it was in my power I would turn over the Civil Government entirely to him, but as soon as my policy was known, both sides were opposed to it; one side because they were afraid of the guerrillas, and the other side because they did not want to go under a Union soldier as a Governor. I was in a great dilemma, and wrote the War Department that I had made up my mind to give it a trial, and sent to General Halleck at Washington my plan – that was, to withdraw all the federal troops from the small towns and railroad lines and relieve them from all civil duties and concentrate them at the prominent strategic points in the state where I could handle them as a body, and call on the citizens of the counties to take care of themselves. I did not get a very hearty response from General Halleck. His response was something like this: ‘If you do this and succeed, all right; but if you do this and fail, you must not charge any of it up to us.'”
“Before doing this, President Lincoln thought I should consult and get the consent of the Governor of the state; this, I had expected to do. I had to struggle with the Governor quite a long time but he finally consented. He did not feel like assuming the responsibility of enforcing the law without a large military force behind him. There were some eight or ten thousand State Militia that had been mustered into the United States Army for service in the state, and I proposed that this force should be used by the Governor to do the work which the federal troops had been performing.”
“I issued an order that citizens of the state, of southern sentiment, must hereafter comply with the Civil Authorities, and those who could not or would not would be forced to leave the state. I gave them permission to go through the lines south or north. This order also provided that any citizens of the state who harbored a guerrilla, or where any of the bands of guerrillas camped upon their land, or where they had any knowledge of being present, must, within twenty-four hours, notify the nearest federal post. If they did not, they would be arrested and shot. This was a very drastic order and was complained of bitterly by the citizens of southern sentiment. A few days after the order was issued, a Lieutenant of one of the companies, discovered a citizen harboring some guerrillas and he took him out and shot him. This, of course, he had no authority to do. He should have arrested the man and reported the fact to the commanding officer and given him a trial, but the fact of the prompt execution of the order struck terror throughout the state, especially to those of southern sentiment, and they felt that their lives were not safe, and thousands of them emigrated immediately to Idaho and Montana, while others who remained entered protests to the War Department, and there was a general complaint and denunciation of the order. I was called upon immediately by the War Department for an explanation of this officer’s acts. Before I had gotten the order, however, I had investigated the case and found that the party he had killed was without question guilty, and I wrote the War Department that, while it was a lack of judgment on the part of the officer – he thought he had the right to kill the man immediately – still, it had been of great benefit in bringing peace to the state, and I felt that it was not necessary to take any further action in the matter and assured them that it would not be repeated. It was wonderful how quickly the state quieted down and how many reports went into the different posts of guerrillas or partisan hands, or even people suspected, so that as soon as they found that they did not have the support of the southern sympathizers and could not quarter upon them without being reported, they immediately left the state.”
These complaints, of course, finally reached President Lincoln, but it was a long time after they occurred. In the meantime Governor Fletcher, who was taking great satisfaction in the rapidity with which the state had been brought under Civil Government, had written a letter to President Lincoln stating that the order had had a wonderful effect, and that the state was then as quiet as any other state in the Union. Some of the members of Congress from Missouri called on President Lincoln, quite a long time after this occurred, and still demanded a repeal of the order, but President Lincoln showed them Governor Fletcher’s letter and he said that, under the conditions, he would not “interfere in the matter.”121

Meanwhile in early 1864, the Blair family had opened another front. Instead of picking on congressional radicals as Postmaster General Montgomery Blair had done in October 1863, Congressman Frank Blair now attacked the leading Cabinet radical, Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase. Blair biographer William E. Parrish wrote: “On February 1, Frank made his move against Chase, introducing a resolution that called for the appointment of a special five-man committee to investigate the work of Treasury officials in the Mississippi valley. Speaker Colfax and others opposing Lincoln managed to block the resolution, much to Blair’s disgust.” 122 Chase counterattacked. Chase biographer Frederick Blue wrote: “The secretary’s Missouri supporters accused Frank Blair of entering into fraudulent government contracts and engaging in illegal whiskey trade. The evidence, a requisition of General Blair, was soon revealed to be a forgery, and a House investigating committee cleared Blair of any wrongdoing.”123 But the incident further poisoned relations between President Lincoln and Republican Radicals.

Radical Republicans were a threat to President Lincoln’s nomination that year. While in New York in late March, Nicolay met with German-American Republican leader Carl Schurz. He wrote President Lincoln: “He is under impression that the German movement for Fremont is earnest and will be pretty strong, and that they seriously intend to run him as a third candidate – that Pomeroy, Brown & Co have transferred their strength from the Chase movement to this, and are bent upon defeating you at all events. 124 Meanwhile, preparations for the Republican National Convention in Baltimore had gone ahead. Two delegations of delegates were sent from Missouri. Had the Conservative delegation been seated, Mr. Lincoln’s renomination would have been unanimous. The Republican delegation from neighboring Illinois thus favored the conservatives, noted delegate Clark E. Carr. But then the President’s personal secretary, John G. Nicolay, made a contrary case – apparently at the President’s request. “Just as we were about to vote upon the question, a young man arose in a corner of the room and modestly asked to be heard for a moment. He said that he only wished to say a word – that he wanted ‘to give his own opinion, and not that of any one else,’ repeating that he only spoke for himself. Then he told us that, after all, under all the circumstances, he thought that Illinois had better favor the admission of the delegates of the Radical convention of Missouri. That was all. There was perfect silence for a few moments after he closed. One delegate asked him to give a reason for taking such a position, This he said he could not do, but reiterated his statement as to how he thought we should act.” Clark added: We at once voted in favor of seating the Radicals. Other delegations followed, and they were seated.”125 Missouri then cast 22 votes for Ulysses S. Grant – the only votes that President Lincoln did not receive at the convention.

Attorney General Bates wrote in his diary on June 4: “Senator Gratz Brown…headed the call for the Fremont convention at Cleveland, yet now he tells Mr. Eads that he keeps himself aloof from political controversy.”126 A few days later, Bates wrote in his diary: “The Baltimore Convention (National Union I believe, it[‘]s called itself) has surprised and mortified me greatly. It did indeed nominate Mr. Lincoln, but in a manner and with attendant circumstances, as if the object were to defeat their own nomination. They were all (nearly) instructed to vote for Mr. Lincoln, but many of them hated to do it, and only ‘kept the word of promise to the them hated to do it, and only ‘kept the word of promise to the ear’ doing their worst to break it to the hope. They rejected the only delegates from Mo. who were instructed and pledged for Lincoln, and admitted the destructives, who were pledged against Lincoln, and, in fact, voted against him, falsely alleging that they were instructed to vote for Grant! The conservative [delegation] was chosen in a manner more legitimate and regular than the destructive Radicals; for the Radical convention in Mo. (which appointed those delegates) was, substantially annulled, by the defection of the whole German element, they preferring to go to Cleveland and support Fremont, rather than go to the packed Lincoln gathering, at Baltimore. Their rep[resentatives]s did desert the Mo: Convention: and every[one] knows that the Germans constitute the heart and nucl[e]us – the body and strength of the Radicals of Mo. The remaining part of the convention (about 2/3 in no.) Resolved to send delegates to Baltimore, because they could better serve the destructive cause, and support Fremont, at Baltimore than at Cleveland. And they judged rightly – for they ‘are wiser, in their generation than the children of light.'” In a note in the margin, Bates wrote: “] I shall tell the Prest: in all frankness that his best nomination is not that at Baltimore, but his nomination spontaneously, by the People, by which the convention, was constrained to name him. That if he chose to unite with his enemies, he and they can easily accomplish his defeat.”127

After the Convention, Lincoln aide John Hay went to Missouri to meet with General Rosecrans at the general’s request to report on “a conspiracy to overthrow the government.” Hay wrote in his diary after briefed by Rosencrans and Sanderson: “There is a secret conspiracy on foot against the government carried forward a by a society called the Order of American Knights or to use their initials – O.A.K. The head of the order styled the high-priest, is in the North [Ohio Congressman Clement L.] Vallandigham and in the South, Sterling Price. Its objects are in the North, to exert an injurious effect upon public feelings, to resist the arrest of its members to oppose the war in all possible ways: in the border States to join with returned rebels and guerrilla parties to plunder, murder, and persecute Union men and to give to rebel invasion all possible information and timely aid. He said that in Missouri they had carefully investigated the matter by means of secret service men who had taken oaths and they had found that many recent massacres were directly chargeable to them: that the whole order was in a state of in intense activity – that they numbered in Missouri 13,000 sworn members; in Illinois 140,000. In Ohio and Indiana almost as large numbers and in Kentucky a very large and formidable organization.” Hay reported: “Rosecrans has made some arrests and has alarmed the leaders in St. Louis…” Hay took notes but did not bring back any reports from Rosecrans and his staff – which Hay related to Rosecrans ill feelings toward Secretary of War Stanton. “The President seemed not over well pleased that Rosecrans had not sent all the necessary papers by me, reiterating his want of confidence in Sanderson, declining to be made a party to the quarrel between Stanton and Rosecrans, and stating in reply to Rosecrans’ suggestion of the importance of the great secrecy, that a secret which had already been confided to Yates Morton Brough Bramlette and their respective circles of officers could scarcely be worth the keeping now. He treats the Northern section of the conspiracy as not especially worth regarding, holding it a mere political organization, with about as much of malice and as much of puerility as the Knights of the Golden Circle.”128

In the fall of 1864, Nicolay went back to Missouri for another of his fact-finding missions. Historian William C. Harris wrote that “the Radicals and the Claybanks, or conservative Unionists, battled for control. The division had threatened to give the election to McClellan. Lincoln instructed Nicolay to bring the two sides together and report to him regarding his prospects in that state. In a long written report to the president, Nicolay indicated that personal animosities and ambitions, not ideology, had poisoned the political environment among Missouri Unionists.” 129 Nicolay wrote back to Washington on October 18: “I arrived here last night, having left St. Louis yesterday morning. I was there over a week, and talked very fully with our friends of all the different factions, and have I think as full and fair an understanding of their quarrels as one can get in such brief time.”

“My conclusion is, that there is little else than personal animosity, and the usual eagerness to appropriate the spoils, that is left to prevent a full and harmonious combination of all the Union voters of Missouri. Even these obstacles are fast giving way before the change and pressure of circumstances, and the mere lapse of time.”
“Of the Claybank faction, but little is left in point of numbers. Such portion of them as did not go to the Democracy (where they originally came from) are fusing with the Radicals, until but a small nucleus, consisting of the office-holders, and a few old personal friends of Frank Blair, remains as a distinct and separate organization. They are held aloof more by pride and personal feeling, I think, than anything else.”
“A few days before my arrival in St. Louis, Mr. [William L.] Avery, the Secretary of the Western branch of the Union National Committee, had called a meeting of men belonging to the different factions, with a view of bringing about united action, and also to devise measures for a more active campaign. The meeting was well attended, and the talk was conciliatory. A committee was appointed; when it met, Hume offered a resolution to raise a finance committee to collect funds, and Foy offered a substitute, proposing to vote for all candidates that would support Lincoln and Johnson, and that the primary meetings, conventions &c. for the selection of candidates should be called simply ‘Union’ meetings. The Radicals would not consent to strike the word ‘Radical’ from their party title, and voted down Foy’s substitute, whereupon he and others withdrew from the Committee. A number of Claybanks, however, took part in the primary meetings and conventions for nomination of the County ticket, and two or three Claybanks were put on the ticket.”
“Foy and Blair both told me that the only test they desire to make was that candidates, whether State, Congressional or County, should avow themselves for you. That the man who would not avow himself for you when the choice was only between yourself and McClellan, was clearly not your friend; and that you certainly could not wish your friends to vote for your enemies. While I was in St. Louis, the Claybanks held a caucus, to which I was invited, where the same sentiments were expressed, and at which a committee was appointed to address a letter to the various candidates, asking them the direct question whether or not they intended to support you. So much for the Claybanks.”
“As to the Radicals, Hume called on me the day after my arrival, and told me that he had some weeks before interrogated Fletcher, the Radical candidate for Governor, and had received his private assurance that he would support you, but that he did not then deem it politic to declare his purpose, because such avowal would be almost certain to alienate from him a large number of Germans who were yet bitterly hostile to you, and who in such event would take measures to set up a ticket of their own. Afterwards I saw Fletcher, who had the evening before made a little reception speech at Barnum’s Hotel, in which, while announcing his determination not to vote for McClellan, he had not said anything about voting for you. Fletcher told me that when he arrived, he had made up his mind to announce his purpose to vote for you; but that at Barnum’s he had found the letter of the Claybank Committee (which I have previously mentioned,) and the concluded he would not be coerced into an explanation; but that in the course of a week or ten days he would take occasion to declare himself for you. Meanwhile primary meetings had been held, and on Monday Oct 10th the County convention was held and a ticket nominated. The Convention did not adopt a resolution endorsing the national ticket. On the same day the Congressional Convention for the second District was held, and nominated Blow. He has not yet, even in private, admitted that he would vote for you. On the 12th, the Congressional Convention for the 1st District met Knox was the candidate of the ‘Democrat’ Office clique – C. P. Johnson was the candidate of those against the Democrat. Johnson was nominated; but the Knox men contended that the nomination was unfair, and have bolted, and when I left were obtaining signatures requesting Knox to run independent. As that however would most likely insure the election of a Democrat, efforts were also being made to induce both Johnson and Knox to withdraw, and to combine the Union vote on Judge [Samuel T.] Clover [Glover]. The indications were when I came away that this would be done in a day or two.”
“I gave Mr. Foy your message and learned from him that he and the other office-holders are entirely willing to acquiesce in your wishes. They claim they have always been ready to support the ticket as soon as candidates were ready to declare themselves for you. I am satisfied that the indisposition on the part of both radicals and claybanks to come forward in a manly spirit and heal their dissensions, is due entirely to the long and chronic character of the quarrel, and that in the very nature of the case the reconciliation will be somewhat slow, although it seems to be going on pretty satisfactorily now.”
“It seems to be very well understood that with the exception of very few impracticables, the Union men will cast their votes, for you, for the radical Congressmen, for the Emancipation candidates for the State Legislature and the State Convention, so that in practice nearly everybody is right and united, while in profession everybody is wrong, or at cross purposes. I do not see that anything but time will abate the disorder.”
“When I arrived, Gen. Rosecrans had not yet issued his order about the election, and the radicals were very apprehensive, and anxious about that – more so than about their own factious quarrels, or the distribution of patronage. They said,’a good election order is the main thing we want. That, and that alone will enable us to carry the State.’ Rosecrans issued his order and they expressed themselves entirely satisfied with it. They said I might assure you would carry the State. Fletcher, who knows more of the other parts of the State than of the City, seems confident of the same result. He think he will be elected by ten thousand majority. I think he is perhaps too sanguine, but he seems pretty confident, and as he has lately been a good deal among the people, his judgment ought to be pretty good.”
“I urged upon the factions in the 1st Congressional district, that their quarrel ought not to be permitted to lose us the Congressman there – that if we continued to make giants as we had done in Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania we should get a two-thirds vote in the House and thus be able to pass the Constitutional Amendment about Slavery. They acknowledge the importance of the matter and will I think unite on a third candidate and elect him.”130

Missouri contributed a 70-30% victory for President Lincoln in the November election. In January 1865, Missouri was able to contribute to the accomplishment of President Lincoln’s objectives. The votes of the Missouri delegation were key to passage of the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery. Missouri Congressman James S. Rollins, an old Whig, slaveowner, recalled being lobbied by President Lincoln to vote for passage. After assuring President Lincoln of his vote, President Lincoln “asked me how many more of the Missouri delegates in the House would vote for it. I said I could not tell; the republicans of course would; General [Benjamin] Loan, Mr. [Henry T.] Blow, Mr. [Sempronius H.] Boyd, and Colonel [Joseph W.] McClurg. He said: ‘Won’t General [Thomas L.] Price vote for it. He is a good Union man.’ I said I could not answer. ‘Well, what about Governor [Austin A.] King?’ I told him I did not know. He then asked about Judges [William A.] Hall and [Elijah H.] Norton. I said they would both vote against it, I thought.”

“‘Well,’ he said, ‘are you on good terms with Price and King?’ I responded in affirmative. And that I was on easy terms with the entire delegation. He then asked me if I could not talk with those who might be persuaded to vote for the amendment, and report to him as soon as I could find out what the prospect was. I answered that I would do so with pleasure, and remarked at the same time, that when I was a young man, in 1848, I was the whip competitor of King for Governor of Missouri and as he beat me very badly, I thought now he should pay me back by voting as I desired him on this important question. I promised the President I would talk to this gentleman upon the subject. He said: ‘I would like you to talk to all the border state men whom you can approach properly, and tell them of my anxiety to have the measure pass; and let me know the prospect of the border state vote,’ which I promised to do. He again said: ‘The passage of this amendment will clinch the whole subject; it will bring the war, I have no doubt, rapidly to a close.'”131

Passage of the 13th Amendment on January 31, 1865 provided the “king’s cure” for slavery that President Lincoln sought and for which Missouri radicals so passionately fought.


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  126. Rufus Wilson Rockwell, editor, Lincoln Among His Friends, p. 372 (Clark E. Carr, Century Magazine, February 1907).
  127. Howard K. Beale, editor, The Diary of Edward Bates, 1859-1866, p. 373 (June 4, 1864).
  128. Howard K. Beale, editor, The Diary of Edward Bates, 1859-1866, pp. 374-375 (June 10, 1864).
  129. Michael Burlingame and John R. Turner Ettlinger, editors, Inside Lincoln’s White House: The Complete Civil War Diary of John Hay, pp. 204-205, p. 207 (June 17, 1864).
  130. Charles M. Hubbard, editor, Lincoln Reshapes the Presidency, (William C. Harris, Lincoln’s Role in the Presidential Election of 1864, p. 189.
  131. Michael Burlingame, editor, With Lincoln in the White House: Letters, Memoranda, and Other Writings of John G. Nicolay, 1860-1865, pp. 163-165 (Letter to President Lincoln, October 18, 1864).
  132. Isaac N. Arnold, The Life of Abraham Lincoln, pp. 358-359.