Abraham Lincoln and Virginia
In 1778 Abraham Lincoln’s father, Thomas Lincoln, was born in Linville Creek, Virginia. Three years earlier, Daniel Boone led his first group of pioneers from Virginia into Kentucky. Two years later, grandfather Abraham Lincoln, son Thomas Lincoln, and the rest of the Lincoln family followed Boone and other pioneers across the Appalachians. Years earlier, the Lincoln and Boone families had attended the same Quaker meeting house in Pennsylvania until the Boones were expelled. Grandson Abraham Lincoln would be born in Kentucky.
In the 1860 presidential campaign, the Lincolns’ Virginia roots provided no home state advantage for grandson Abraham Lincoln, but Virginia did help him win the Republican nomination for president in Chicago in mid-May. Historian William C. Harris wrote: “In one of the many ironies associated with the Civil War era, a southern delegation – Virginia’s – played a key role in the balloting on the first roll call. [William H.] Seward’s manager had expected ‘the rotten borough’ delegations from the South to vote overwhelmingly for the senator in exchange for promises of federal patronage in their states. Probably sensing that the New York senator could not win the fall election and fulfill the promises, Virginia’s delegation, which included members from what later became the state of West Virginia, surprised the convention when it cast fourteen of is twenty-three votes for Lincoln.”1
That November, Virginia’s electoral votes were won by former Tennessee Senator John Bell of the Constitutional Union Party. He defeated the two Democratic candidates – Senator Stephen A. Douglas for northerners and Vice President John Breckinridge of the southern faction. Bell’s victory came despite attempts by the divided Democrats to unify behind a single anti-Lincoln candidate. “As the campaign developed both Democratic groups realized that Bell would probably carry the state if some plan of uniting the members of the party was not carried out,” noted historian Henry T. Shanks, but “the hostility between the two factions was too strong for reconciliation.” By a 358-vote plurality, Bell was the victor; Mr. Lincoln won only 1,929 votes, mostly in northwestern Virginia. The support for Breckinridge, ironically, came from the northwestern and Appalachian sections of the state where union sentiment was strongest.2
Before leaving Springfield, Illinois, for Washington in February 1861, President-elect Lincoln looked around for a potential Cabinet appointee from a southern or border state such as Virginia. One possibility was John Minor Botts with whom Lincoln had served in Congress. Historian William Baringer wrote: “In Botts he could have secured a lifelong Virginian, a former Henry Clay Whig, and a veteran of three terms in the House of Representatives who had consistently opposed the pretensions of the slave-holding aristocracy…There Lincoln came to know Botts, and to decide that he was an impractical visionary…Not wanting such a person in his cabinet, Lincoln declined to open negotiations with his quondam colleague.”3 Historian Nelson D. Lankford wrote: “Nicknamed ‘Bison,’ Botts was a giant of a man with commensurate temper and appetites.”4 Botts also had his political strengths, noted historian William A. Link: “Enjoying a reputation for incisive intelligence, Botts was once described as possessing a ‘herculean’ intellect and a ‘close, crushing logic.'”
Link wrote: “Although Lincoln’s policy remained unclear during late 1680 and early 1861, there was ample evidence that he might forcibly prevent southern states from seceding. Most Virginia Unionists favored defending the Union only if Lincoln renounced coercion of seceding states.” 5 The incoming Lincoln Administration’s commitment to holding onto Virginia was unambiguous. Historian Richard N. Current wrote that from the moment President-Elect Lincoln arrived in Washington on February 23, he was reminded how important Virginia was to the state of the Union. Historian David Detzer wrote: “Abraham Lincoln was as sensitive about the delicate status of Virginia as Buchanan had been. From the time of Lincoln’s arrival in the capital, almost two weeks before his inauguration, he…attempted a policy of appeasement with Virginia’s leaders. He was told by men like Seward – and he believed it to be true – that most Virginians remained good unionists.”6
The reality, wrote Current, was different: “The Virginians were divided among themselves. A few of them, and only a very few, were thoroughgoing Unionists, men who considered secession neither a constitutional right nor a sensible course. The rest, the great majority, could be classified as either moderate or extreme secessionists.” 7 They sought guarantees to protect slavery that were unacceptable in the North.
Incoming Secretary of State William H. Seward was particularly preoccupied with keeping Virginia in the union. Historian Burton J. Hendrick wrote: “In Virginia Seward’s chief reliances were James Barbour and John Minor Botts – both of whom had been included among the ‘White Crows’ whom he had suggested for the cabinet. That Botts was a white crow events made clear, for he remained loyal to the Union after Virginia’s secession, but Mr. Barbour was a Unionist of less pronounced type though Seward called him the ‘master spirit of the Union cause’ in Virginia.”8 In early February 1861, a state convention convened in Richmond to consider secession for Virginia. Unionists appeared to be in the majority, but there was strong agitation for secession inside and outside the convention. The unionist majority raised hopes that the Confederate tide might be stemmed, but there was an undertow that undermined these hopes. Not all unionists were equally unionist. Historian Hendrick noted that while unconditional unionist Botts failed to win election to the convention, conditional unionist James Barbour did. Barbour warned “the prospective Secretary of State not to take this victory too seriously. The election merely meant that Virginia was for the Union, provided ‘guarantees for slavery’ were given; otherwise it would go with the lower South. Not only would Virginia insist on the new Missouri line and other concessions, but Mr. Barbour thought she was right in doing so.”9 Without strong unconditional unionists in the convention, the deck was stacked against the attempts by Secretary Seward and President Lincoln to keep Virginia in the union.
But Seward and Lincoln did try hard to retain the state’s loyalty.. Historian David M. Potter contended: “The fact is not generally known, but there can be little doubt that, even before the inauguration, Lincoln offered to abandon Fort Sumter if the Virginia Unionists would adjourn the state convention at Richmond.”10 Upon arrival in Washington, President-elect Lincoln was invited by a former congressional colleague, Charles Morehead of Kentucky, to meet with southern delegates to the Peace Conference then being held near the White House in Washington. Boston journalist Ben. Perley Poore wrote: “When Mr. [William C.] Rives, of Virginia, was introduced, Mr. Lincoln said: ‘I always had an idea that you were a much taller man.’ He received James B. Clay, son of the Kentucky statesman, with marked attention, saying to him: ‘I was a friend of your father.'”
“The interchange of greetings with Mr. Barringer, of North Carolina, who was his colleague in Congress, was very cordial. When [Marylander] Reverdy Johnson was presented, he expressed great rejoicing, remaking to him: ‘I had to bid you good-bye just at the time when our intimacy had ripened to a point for me to tell you my stories.'”
“The Southern Commissioners freely expressed their gratification at his affability and easy manner, and all joined in expressing agreeable disappointment at his good looks in contrast to his pictures. Nothing was said to any one in regard to the condition of the country or the national troubles. After the reception of the Peace Congress was concluded, a large number of citizens were presented.”11
According to Vermont Republican Lucius Chittenden, Rives told President-elect Lincoln that “the clouds that hang over [the Union] are very dark. I have no longer the courage of my younger days. I can do little — you can do much. Everything now depends upon you.” Mr. Lincoln told the former diplomat: “I cannot agree to that. My course is as plain as a turnpike road. It is marked out by the Constitution. I am in no doubt which way to go Suppose now we all stop discussing and try the experiment of obedience to the Constitution and the laws. Don’t you think it would ork?” 12 Historian Allan Nevins wrote of the meeting that “the venerable William C. Rives of Virginia, Judge George W. Summers of that State, and James B. Guthrie of Kentucky, head of the Treasury under Franklin Pierce…[a]ll had gathered in a semi-circle about the President-elect, who sat awkwardly in a chair, his feet on the rungs, his elbows on his angular knees, and his large hands cupped under his cheeks.”13 Kentuckian Charles Moorhead recalled that “Rives rose from his chair, and, with a dignity and an eloquence I have seldom heard surpassed in the course of my life, he appealed to him. I could not pretend to give even the substance of his speech, but I remember that he told him that he was then a very old man; that there never had been a throb of his heart that was not in favour of the perpetuation of the Union; that he came there with a hope and a wish to perpetuate it, and that all his efforts had been exerted in endeavouring to procure such guarantees as would perpetuate it; but that he desired to say to him – and he said it with a trembling voice – in order that he might know, and not say thereafter that he was not fully warned, that he agreed with every word I had said with regard to the horrors of this anticipated war, and that if he did resort to coercion, Virginia would leave the Union and join the seceding States. ‘Nay, sir,’ he said, ‘old as I am, and dearly as I have loved this Union, in that event I go, with all my heart and soul.’…Mr. Lincoln jumped up from his chair, as Mr. Rives was standing, advanced one step towards him, and said, ‘Mr. Rives! Mr. Rives! If Virginia will stay in, I will withdraw the troops from Fort Sumter.’ Mr. Rives stepped back and said, ‘Mr. President, I have no authority to speak for Virginia. I am one of the humblest of her sons; but if you do that it will be one of the wisest things you have ever done. Do that, and give us guarantees, and I can only promise you that whatever influence I possess shall be exerted to promote the Union and to restore it to what it was.’ We then all of us got up and were standing. I was on the outer circle. He [Lincoln] said, ‘Well, gentlemen, I have been wondering very much whether, if Mr. Douglas or Mr. Bell had been elected President, you would have dared talk to him as freely as you have to me.’ I did not exactly hear the answer, but I am told that Mr. Guthrie answered about in this way. ‘Mr. President, if General Washington occupied the seat you will soon fill, and it had been necessary to talk to him as we have to you to save such a Union as this, I for one should talk to him as we have to you.'”14
At that meeting, wrote historian Thomas H. O’Connor, “The civility of the discussions was suddenly broken by James A. Seddon of Virginia (later to be Secretary of War in the Confederate government) who charged the Republican Party with having encouraged John Brown and William Lloyd Garrison in their attempts to provoke slave insurrections in the South. When Lincoln dryly observed that Brown had been hanged and that Garrison was in prison, Seddon blasted the Northerners for not having carried out the statutes calling for the return of fugitive slaves. Again Lincoln quietly parried by pointing out that fugitive slaves had been returned – from the very shadow of Boston’s Faneuil Hall, in fact. Although people in the North were required to observe the letter of the law, he said, there was nothing in the law which forced them to enjoy their work.”15
Months later, aide John Hay reported in his diary that President Lincoln recalled that “a committee of Southern Pseudo Unionists coming to him before Inauguration for guarantees &c. He promised to evacuate Sumter if they would break up their Convention, without any row or nonsense. They demurred. Subsequently he renewed proposition to Summers but without any result. The President was most anxious to prevent bloodshed.”16 Mr. Lincoln wanted to retain Virginia’s loyalty – without violating the principles of the 1860 Republican National Platform regarding opposition to slavery’s extension. But, strong countervailing forces were at work. Frederick W. Seward, son of Lincoln Secretary of State William H. Seward, wrote: “All the energies of the disunionists were put forth therefore to acquire Virginia. It was confidently believed, however, at the North, that the disunion leaders were in a minority, though a very active and persevering one. The disunionists themselves insisted that their policy meant peace, not war, for all the free States, even if united, could not hope to conquer all the slaveholding ones. While the debates in the Virginian convention thus dragged along, the leaders cast about for means to ‘fire the Southern heart,’ and so secure a ‘united South.'”17
President Lincoln’s inaugural address on March 4, 1861 did not calm Virginia’s troubled politics. The Richmond Enquirer responded: “Sectional war, declared by Mr. Lincoln, awaits only the signal gun from the insulted Southern Confederacy to light its horrid fires all along the border of Virginia. No action of our Convention can now maintain the peace. She must fight! The liberty of choice is yet hers. She may march to the contest with her sister States of the South, or she must march to the conflict against them.”18 Lincoln biographer Josiah G. Holland wrote: “Virginia at this time was holding a state convention which, to the dismay and vexation of the rebel leaders, was controlled by a large majority of Union men. Nothing is more demonstrable than that the choice of Virginia was to remain in the Union. These delegates were chosen as Union men; yet every possible influence was brought to bear upon them to cajole or coerce them into disunion. Threats, misrepresentations, promises of power, social proscription, appeals to personal and sectional interest, everything that treasonable ingenuity could suggest were resorted to urge the laggard state into the vortex of secession. The fall of Sumter, the inaugural of President Lincoln and the failure of the confederate commissioners to secure a treaty were used in different ways to inflame southern pride, and loosen the love of the loyal members from the old Union. The President’s Inaugural had been so misconstrued as to convey the idea that his policy was one of coercion; and the convention sent a committee to Mr. Lincoln, commissioned to ask him to communicate to the convention the policy which the federal executive intended to pursue, in regard to the confederate states, complaining that great and injurious uncertainty prevailed in the public mind in regard to this policy.”19
Lincoln continued to try not to upset Virginia Unionists, whose loyalty may have been less than the president hoped. Still, he had reason to hope. Late in the 1860 campaign, a Virginia correspondent wrote Lincoln: “The people are getting tired of the old oligarchy. Some men say that no one will except [sic] office under you, but that is all moon shine. I presume it will be the greatest difficulty to supply all those who want office.”20 Historian Michael Burlingame wrote: “To one faction of Virginia Unionists who appealed for patronage, Lincoln ‘replied that must pursue a cautious policy’ and showed them a letter from Virginia Congressman Sherrard Clemens recommending that further action on Old Dominion appointments be postponed. To weaken Clemen’s influence, John C. Underwood of another faction suggested that Lincoln be shown a letter in which Clemens described the president, after interviewing him, as ‘a cross between a sandhill crane and Andalusian Jackass,’ ‘vain, weak, puerile, hypocritical, without manners, without moral grace,’ an ‘abolitionist of the Lovejoy and Sumner type,’ ‘by all odds the weakest man who has ever been elected – worse than Taylor, and he was bad enough.'” Clemens went on to predict that Virginia would secede.21
Meanwhile, Secretary of State Seward was maneuvering desperately to keep Virginia in the Union and keep Union relief away from Fort Sumter. “For Seward, the key…was to keep those upper South states from leaving. The most important way to achieve that end, according to his lights, was to remove all points of potential conflict that might force the upper South to choose sides.”22 Historian Allan Nevins wrote that “Seward, still hoping that the Sumter expedition might be held back while the [Fort] Pickens relief squadron went forward, had a third card to play – a weak and dubious card. On April 2 or 3 he asked Allan B. Magruder, a Virginia Whig practicing law in Washington, to accompany him to the White House, where Lincoln was expecting their call. The President requested Magruder to hurry to Richmond, and bring G.W. Summers, a Union leader [from western Virginia] in the Virginia Convention, to Washington. It was common knowledge that Virginia now teetered on the edge of secession, and some believed that public sentiment might force the convention to declare for it at any moment. As Virginia acted so would North Carolina, Tennessee, and perhaps Kentucky. If they all seceded, the Confederacy would become highly formidable. Seward hoped that using an influential intermediary, the Administration might arrange a last-minute bargain, agreeing to let Sumter go to Virginia would stay in the Union. On the way back from the White House, the Secretary still expressed confidence that the troubles would blow over without war, and the Union might be saved!”23 Lincoln had sent a message to Baldwin in February that “I will execute the fugitive slave law better than it has ever been…Tell them I will protect slavery in the States where it exists…Tell them they shall have all the offices south of Mason and Dixon’s line if they will take them. I will send nobody down there as long as they will execute the offices themselves.'”24 It was Baldwin rather than Summer who came to Washington to meet with Lincoln.
Baldwin & Botts
On April 4, Baldwin met with President Lincoln in a White House guest bedroom to discuss a solution to the impasse. In congressional testimony after the war, attorney Baldwin recalled: “Mr. Lincoln received me very cordially, and almost immediately arose and said that he desired to have some private conversation with me…As I was about sitting down, said he, ‘Mr. Baldwin… I am afraid you have come too late; I wish you could have been here three or four days ago.’ Why, said I, Mr. President, allow me to say I do not understand your remark… you sent a special messenger to Richmond, who arrived there yesterday; I returned with him by the shortest and most expeditious mode of travel known; it was physically impossible that I or any one else, answering your summons, could have got here sooner than I have arrived… Said he, ‘Why do you not all adjourn the Virginia convention?’ Said I: Adjourn it! – how? Do you mean sine die? ‘Yes,’ said he, ‘sine die; why do you not adjourn it; it is a standing menace to me, which embarrasses me very much.’ ‘Of course you will understand that I do not pretend to recollect the language at all, but this is about the substance of it.’ Said I: Sir, I am very much surprised to hear you express that opinion; the Virginia convention is in the hands Union men; we have in it a clear and controlling majority of nearly three to one; we are controlling it for conservative results; we can do it with perfect certainty, if you will uphold our hands by a conservative policy here. I do not understand why you want a body thus in the hands of Union men to be dispersed, or why you should look upon their sessions as in any respect a menace to you; we regard ourselves as co-operating with you in the objects which you express to seek; besides, said I, I would call your attention to this view: If we were to adjourn that convention sine die, leaving these questions unsettled in the midst of all the trouble that is on us, it would place the Union men of Virginia in the attitude of confessing an ability to meet the occasion; the results would be, that another convention would be called as soon as legislation could be put through for the purpose.”
“Said I, …and the Union men of Virginia could not, with a proper self-respect, offer themselves as members of that convention, having had the full control of one, and having adjourned without having brought about any sort of settlement of the troubles upon under the control of secessionists, and that an ordinance of secession would be passed in less than six weeks. Now, said I, sir, it seems to me that our true policy is to hold the position that we have, and for you to uphold our hands by a conservative, conciliatory, national course. We can control the matter, and will control it if you help us. And, sir, it is but right for me to say another thing to you, that the Union men of Virginia, of whom I am one, would not be willing to adjourn that convention until we either effect some settlement of this matter or ascertain that it cannot be done. As an original proposition, the Union men of Virginia did not desire amendments to the Constitution of the United States; we were perfectly satisfied with the constitutional guarantees that we had, and thought our rights and interests perfectly safe. But circumstances have changed: seven States of the south, the cotton States, have withdrawn from us and left us in an extremely altered condition in reference to the safe-guards of the Constitution. As things stand now, we are helpless in the hands of the north. The balance of power which we had before our protection against constitutional amendment is gone. And we think now that we of the border States who have adhered to you against all the obligations of association and sympathy with the southern States have a claim on the States of the north which is of a high and very peculiar character. You all say that you do not mean to injure us in our peculiar rights. If you are in earnest about it there can be no objection to your saying so in such an authentic form as will give us the force of constitutional protection. And we think you ought to do it, not grudgingly, not reluctantly, but in such a way as that it would be a fitting recognition of our fidelity in standing by you under all circumstances – fully, and generously, and promptly. If you will do it in accordance with what we regard as due to our position, it will give us a stand-point from which we can bring back the seceded States.”
“I cannot follow the conversation through; but he asked me the question. ‘What is your plan?’ Said I: Mr. President, if I had control of your thumb and forefinger five minutes I could settle the whole question. ‘…Well,’ said he, ‘what is your plan?’ Said I: Sir, if I were in your place I would issue a proclamation to the American people, somewhat after this style: I would state the fact that you had become President of the United States as the result of a partisan struggle partaking of more bitterness than had usually marked such struggle; that, in the progress of that struggle, there had naturally arisen a great deal of misunderstanding and misrepresentation of the motives and intentions of both sides; that you had no doubt you had been represented, and to a largest extent believed, to be inimical to the institutions and interests and rights of a large portion of the United States, but that, however, you might, in the midst of a partisan struggle, have been more or less (as all men) excited at times, occupying the position of President of the United States, you had determined to take our stand on the broad platform of the general Constitution, and to do equal and exact justice to all, without regard to party or section; and that, recognizing the fact without admitting the right, but protesting against the right, that seven States had undertaken to withdraw themselves from the Union, you had determined to appeal to the American people to settle the question in the spirit in which the Constitution was made – American fashion – by consultation and votes instead of by appeal to arms. And I would call a national convention of the people of the United States and urge upon them to come together and settle this thing. And in order to prevent the possibility of any collision or clash or arms interfering with this effort at a pacific settlement, I would declare the purpose (not in any admission of want of right at all, but with a distinct protest of the right, to place the forces of the United States wherever in her territory you choose) to withdraw the forces from Sumter and Pickens, declaring that it was done for the sake of peace, in effort to settle this thing; and that you were determined, if the seceded States chose to make a collision, that they should come clear out of their way to do it.”
Baldwin, a lawyer who later became a Confederate army officer and congressman, advised President Lincoln: “Sir, if there is a gun fired at Fort Sumter, as sure as there is a God in heaven the thing is gone. Virginia herself, strong as the Union majority in the convention is now, will be out in forty-eight hours.” Baldwin recalled that President Lincoln replied: “Oh, sir, that is impossible.”25 The Baldwin mission failed, but Mr. Lincoln tried another. A few days later on the rainy evening of April 7, at the urging of Secretary of State Seward and Attorney General Edward Bates, President Lincoln met with former Congressman Botts at the White House.
According to historian Richard N. Current, Botts proposed: “a peculiar scheme. Call a convention of all the states, Botts pleaded. Let the convention draw up a constitutional amendment giving the seceded states permission to withdraw from the Union. Allow them to keep the forts and other property but require them to pay a fair price, and if they do not have enough cash, trust them.”26 Mr. Lincoln told Botts of his meeting with Baldwin. After the Civil War, Botts reported on the conversation in testimony to a congressional investigating committee:
“On Sunday afternoon, the 7th, I received a note from Mr. Lincoln, saying he would be glad to see me during the evening. I went up to his house and spent from 7 o’clock until 11 o’clock in company with Mr. Lincoln, during which time we had a great deal of conversation upon the general affairs of the country, and especially in reference to the condition of things in Virginia. During the conversation Mr. Lincoln said to me that he had about a week or ten days before that, possibly a fortnight, written to Mr. Summers, with whom we had both served in Congress together, asking him to come to Washington without delay, as he had a most important proposition to make to him, and that if he could not come himself he would send some other prominent influential Union man of the convention to him; that he had not heard from Mr. Summers until the Friday preceding, which was the 5th; that on that day Mr. John B. Baldwin, a member of the convention, had presented himself to him as having been sent up by Mr. Summers on the invitation of Mr. Lincoln; that when he made this announcement Mr. Lincoln said to him: ‘Ah, Mr. Baldwin, why did you not come sooner? I have been waiting and expecting some of you gentlemen of that convention to come to me for more than a week past. I had a most important proposition to make to you. I am afraid you have come too late. However, I will make the proposition now.’ Said he, ‘Mr. Baldwin, we have in Fort Sumter with Major Anderson about eighty men, and I learn from Major Anderson that his provisions are nearly exhausted – that he has so much beef, so much pork, so many bushels of beans, potatoes, but that his bread will not last longer than a particular day. I forget whether he said the next Wednesday or Wednesday after, but at that time his bread would give out. I have not only written to Governor Pickens, but I have sent a special messenger to him to say that if he will allow Major Anderson to obtain his marketing at the Charleston market, or if he objects to allowing our people to land at Charleston, if he will have it sent to him, that I will make no effort to provision the fort; but that if he does not do that, I will not permit these people to starve, and that I, shall send provisions down – that I shall send a vessel loaded with bread,’ (that was his expression, by which, of course, I understood provisions generally,) ‘and that if he fires on that vessel he will fire upon an unarmed vessel loaded with nothing but bread; but I shall at the same time send a fleet along with her, with instructions not to enter the harbor of Charleston unless that vessel is fired into; and if she is, then the fleet is to enter the harbor and protect her. ‘Now,’ said he, ‘Mr. Baldwin, that fleet is now lying in the harbor of New York, and will be ready to sail this afternoon at five o’clock; and although I fear it is almost too late, yet I will submit, anyway, the proposition which I intended when I sent for Mr. Summers. Your convention in Richmond, Mr. Baldwin, has been sitting now nearly two months, and all that they have done has been to shake the rod over my head. You have recently taken a vote in the Virginia convention on the right of secession, which was rejected by ninety to forty-five, a majority of two-thirds, showing the strength of the Union party in that convention; and if you will go back to Richmond and get that Union majority to adjourn and go home without passing the ordinance of secession, so anxious am I for the preservation of the peace of this country, and to save Virginia and the other border States from going out, that I will take the responsibility of evacuating Fort Sumter, and take the chance of negotiating with the cotton States which have already gone out.’ Well, said I, Mr. Lincoln, how did Mr. Baldwin receive that proposition! Raising his hands up in this way, (illustrating,) he said: ‘Sir, he would not listen to it for a moment; he hardly treated me with civility. He asked me what I meant by an adjournment; did I mean an adjournment sine die.’ Why of course, Mr. Baldwin, said I, I mean an adjournment sine die. I do not mean to assume such a responsibility as that of surrendering that fort to the people of Charleston upon your adjournment, and then for you to return in a week or ten days and pass your ordinance of secession after I have given up the fort.”
“As a matter of course I felt very much incensed that Mr. Baldwin should have rejected a proposition which it was manifest, as I thought at that time, would be the only means of saving the country from the calamities through which it has passed; and I said at once: Mr. Lincoln, will you authorize me to make that proposition to the Union men of the Convention? I will take the steamboat tomorrow morning and have a meeting of the Union men tomorrow night, and I will guarantee with my head, that they will adopt your proposition, and adopt it willingly and cheerfully. ‘Oh,’ said Mr. Lincoln, ‘it is too late; the fleet has sailed, and I have no means of communicating with it.’ Well, said I, will you authorize me to mention this circumstance for your own benefit? Because the attempt will be made by all the demagogues in the Southern country to impose the responsibilities of this war upon your shoulders; and they will say that you have come here for the purpose of making war upon the institutions of the South, and that you cannot be driven from it. His reply was: ‘Well, not just now, Botts; after awhile you may.’ The inference I drew from it was this: that Mr. Lincoln was assuming a responsibility which would, at that day, have been extremely distasteful to those who had elevated him to the presidency, but which I think it is due now to history and to the character of Mr. Lincoln to make known, for it should elevate him in the minds of all men, to see how anxious he was, and what personal sacrifices he was prepared to make, in order to save the country from that ruinous and destructive war which he foresaw.”
Philadelphian John Plumer Smith told a similar story about lunch and Virginia. He recalled that he visited President Lincoln in the spring of 1861 and had been told that Lincoln had offered “to withdraw the troops from Fort Sumter – and do all within the line of his duty to ward off collision” if Virginia’s convention pledged its adherence to the federal Union.27 Lincoln chronicler Frank van der Linden wrote: “With his fixed idea about the Union majority in the convention, Lincoln could not bring himself to face the truth – that, as he had been repeatedly warned, any clash or attempt at coercion would drive Virginia out of the Union.”28 Historian James G. Randall wrote: “Lincoln never left a statement of his consultation with Baldwin, and the somewhat labored and rationalized account by his secretaries, who show marked sarcasm toward Virginia unionism while disliking to admit that Lincoln might have yielded Sumter, is far from satisfactory. Statements have been preserved, however, by Summers, Baldwin, John Minor Botts… and Allan B. Magruder, who served as messenger between Washington and Richmond. Disregarding matters about which these accounts disagree, it appears that Lincoln, through Seward and Magruder, sought consultation with some responsible Virginia unionists, and that Summers, not wishing to leave Richmond, sent Baldwin….According to Baldwin’s recollection, Lincoln referred to the possibility of withdrawing from Sumter as a ‘military necessity,’ showing that such withdrawal seemed as late as April 4 to have been in the President’s mind; the President strongly dissented when Baldwin predicted that the firing of a gun at Sumter would mean war and would lose the cause of Union and peace.”29
Historian Michael Burlingame wrote that “Baldwin may have told less than the full truth in his postwar accounts of Lincoln’s remarks. As a devoted Southern patriot…he could well have desired to make the president look belligerent instead of conciliatory and thus indirectly blame him for the outbreak of the war. Or Baldwin may have believed that it was impossible to have the Virginia convention adjourn sine die at that point.” Burlingame added, however: “Much evidence supports the conclusion that Lincoln did offer to remove the Sumter garrison if the Virginia convention would adjourn sine die.”30
The differences between the Baldwin and Botts accounts have perplexed historians. Lincoln biographer Nathaniel Stephenson wrote: “There are three versions of the interview between Lincoln and Baldwin. One was given by Baldwin himself before the Committee on Reconstruction some five years after; one comprises the recollections of Colonel Dabney, to whom Baldwin narrated the incident in the latter part of the war; a third is in the recollections of John Minor Botts of a conversation with Lincoln April 7, 1862. No two of the versions entirely agree. Baldwin insists that Lincoln made no offer of any sort; while Botts in his testimony before the Committee on Reconstruction says that Lincoln told him that he had told Baldwin that he was so anxious ‘for the preservation of the peace of this country and to save Virginia and the other Border States from going out that (he would) take the responsibility of evacuating Fort Sumter, and take the chances of negotiating with the Cotton States.'”31 President Lincoln’s efforts to keep Virginia in the Union may have been ineffective, but he did not totally overestimate Virginia’s residual loyalty to the Union. Historian William Marvel noted that “Virginians had acquired a more pragmatic perspective than people in cotton country. Although they might resent an overbearing federal government, and…even resist tyranny forcibly, this close to the Potomac political loyalty often depended on whether the Confederacy could defend its territory, its people, and their property.”32 Historian Maury Klein noted: “The fatal flaw of Virginia Unionists, and those of other border states, was their inability to see that their key demand of non-coercion was fatal to any perpetuation of the Union and could never be acceptable.”33 Coercion was necessary to keep the South in the Union but coercion pushed Virginia out of the Union and into the Confederacy. Historian Russell McClintock wrote: “Offering to evacuate Sumter in return for Virginia’s guaranteed loyalty was considerably different from capitulating to the mere threat of attack, as he had thought Buchanan had done. Moreover, whatever his calculations may have been in making the proposition, there is no evidence that he repeated it over the next few weeks.”34
The state’s moderates were at a disadvantage in dealing with extreme events. Virginia Unionists tried to compromise by called for a conference of eight slave states that had not yet seceded. According to a report of the convention’s Committee on Federal Relations: “Virginia will await any reasonable time to obtain answers from other states.”35 As late as April 4, the convention resoundingly rejected secession by 88-45. But Unionists were no match for the machinations of secessionists in Virginia. The firing on and surrender of Fort Sumter dissolved the bonds and restraint that held back the Virginia convention from secession. At the time, a three-member convention delegation was in Washington to “ask of him to communicate to this Convention the policy which the Federal Executive intends to pursue in regard to the Confederate States.” President Lincoln, who had heard of the attack on Sumter, quoted from his Inaugural address and told the delegates that in the event of “an unprovoked assault…upon Fort Sumpter, I shall hold myself at liberty to re-possess, if I can like places which have been seized before the Government was devolved upon me.” He added that he might “caused the United [States] mails to be withdrawn from all the States which claim to have seceded – believing that the commencement of actual war against the Government, justifies and possibly demands this.”36
When President Lincoln issued his call for troops, even Virginia Unionists despaired.
Historian William W. Freehling attributed the Unionists’ swift defeat after Fort Sumter to the masterful actions of former Governor Henry Wise, of whom Freehling wrote that “in rare seasons of crisis, no other Virginian acted more decisively.”37 Wise was a take-control guy. Historian Nelson D. Lankford wrote that Wise’s “long hair and gaunt, angular features, had always given him the look of a dangerous man.” According to Lankford, “Erratic, slovenly, gesticulating as he spoke, dribbling tobacco juice down the front of his linen shirt, contorting his face and waving his hands, Wise in full cry was unmistakable.”38 With deliberate drama and marked emotion, Wise effectively pushed the convention delegates toward secession.
Historian William W. Freehling observed that Wise as if he was still governor and ordered one military task force of about 1,000 soldiers north to take Harpers Ferry and another group to the southeast to capture the Gosport naval yard where ten ships of the Union navy were located. Meanwhile, Wise acted dramatically to move the Virginia convention from stalling tactics to active secession. Freehling wrote: “He snapped open his pocket watch. He announced that at this hour, by his command, Virginia was at war with the federal government. If anyone wished to shoot him for treason, they could seek to wrestle away his oversized pistol.” Freehling contended secession would have happened eventually, but Wise hastened the outcome.39 According to one witness, Wise’s “features were as sharp and rigid as bronze. His hair stood off from his head, as if charged with electricity.” 40 Wise steam-rolled the convention towards secession – while the “People’s Spontaneous Convention” meeting nearby demanded immediate action to join the Confederacy. By a margin of 88-55, the Virginia convention supported leaving the Union. A Richmond woman recalled: “From the secrecy which characterized the proceedings of the Convention, the people of Richmond were expecting some important results, and were not surprised at the information announced in the morning papers. Suddenly – almost as if by magic – the new Confederate flag was hoisted on the Capitol, and from every hill-top, and from nearly every house-top in the city, it was soon waving. The excitement was beyond description; the satisfaction unparalleled.”41
Six days later, Robert E. Lee, who had been offered the command of the Union army, became instead Virginia’s Confederate commander. By the end of the month, the state convention closed. A referendum was called for May 23 to ratify the convention’s vote. Lincoln aide William O. Stoddard wrote “Can anybody know beforehand the result of a State election? Perhaps not; but the President is so sure in his own mind that Virginia will adopt the Ordinance of Secession that he has ordered the Union forces to be ready to cross the Potomac at sunset of May 23, this very week upon which are entering.”42 President Lincoln forecast correctly; Virginians voted for secession by a margin of 6-1.
In Freehling’s opinion, Lincoln’s call for troops to suppress the rebellion pushed conditional Unionists into the secessionist camp. They probably didn’t need much pushing. “Mr. Lincoln’s unlucky and ill-conceived proclamation” led to Virginia’s secession, according to William C. Rives. 43 Freehling wrote: “Not only a state’s abstract right to withdraw consent but also Southerners’ visceral loathing of Yankees turned Lincoln’s coercion into a summons to disunion. Now Virginians had to decide who they hated enough to kill; and most Southerners loathed Northerners. The Yanks were hypocrites, puritans, holier-than-thous, meddlers, insulters, sanctimonious, insufferable.” 44 The Richmond Examiner reported: “Lincoln declares war on the South and his Secretary demands from Virginia a quota of cutthroats to desolate Southern firesides.”45 Historian Nelson Lankford blamed President Lincoln for alienating Virginia unionists: “There was no military necessity to seek troops from the upper South. If he had not done so, unionists there would have faced less of an outcry from their opponents. They might have retained their shaky control over their states.” 46 Lankford noted that Governor John Letcher’s rejection of President Lincoln’s troop request was communicated to the state convention before it voted for secession. Letcher had been anti-secession, but he was also on record against any federal military intervention in Virginia. Lincoln revealed his own straightforward views about Virginia’s secession in a special message to Congress on July 4, 1861:
“The course taken in Virginia was the most remarkable – perhaps the most important. A convention, elected by the people of that State, to consider this very question of disrupting the Federal Union, was in session at the capital of Virginia when Fort Sumter fell. To this body the people had chosen a large majority of professed Union men. Almost immediately after the fall of Sumter, many members of that majority went over the original disunion minority, and, with them, adopted as ordinance for withdrawing the State from the Union. Whether this change was wrought by their great approval of the assault upon Sumter, or their great resentment at the government’s resistance to that assault, is not definitely known. Although they submitted the ordinance, for ratification, to a vote of the people, to be taken on a day then somewhat more than a month distant, the convention, and the Legislature, (which was also in session at the same time and place) with leading men of the State, not members of either, immediately commenced acting, as if the State were already out of the Union. They pushed military preparations vigorously forward all over the state. They seized the United States Armory at Harper’s Ferry, and the Navy-yard at Gosport, near Norfolk. They received – perhaps invited – into their state, large bodies of troops, with their warlike appointments, from the so-called seceded States. They formally entered into a treaty of temporary alliance, and co-operation with the so-called ‘Confederate States,’ and sent members to their Congress at Montgomery. And, finally, they permitted the insurrectionary government to be transferred to their capital at Richmond.”
“The people of Virginia have thus allowed this giant insurrection to make its nest within her borders; and this government has no choice left but to deal with it, where it finds it. And it has the less regret, as the loyal citizens have, in due form, claimed its protection. Those loyal citizens, this government is bound to recognize, and protect, as being Virginia.”47
Nevertheless, Lincoln continued to treat Virginia carefully. When the president authorized a Union effort to capture Alexandria from Confederate forces, he told Colonel Elmer E. Ellsworth to act with “great delicacy. Much depended thereon. He desired to avoid all violence. The people of Virginia were not in a mass disloyal and he wanted nothing to occur that might incense them against the government, but rather wished to so conduct the movement that it would win them over.” Lincoln was deeply shaken when his young friend Ellsworth was killed after he took down a Confederate flag in Alexandria. Ellsworth’s death reportedly prompted the president to say “so this is the beginning – murder. Ah, my friends, what shall the end of all this be.”48
Residents of northwestern Virginia dissented from Virginia’s secession. They immediately began moves to set up a separate government loyal to the Union and to elect Francis H. Pierpont as their governor.49 Eventually, they would act to set up a separate state, leaving Pierpont to govern a small section of Union-controlled Virginia itself. In Mr. Lincoln’s special message to Congress in July 1861, noted Maine Congressman James G. Blaine, “The President was severe upon Virginia and Virginians. He had made earnest effort to save the State from joining the Rebellion. He had held conferences with her leading men, and had gone so far on the 13th of April as to address a communication, for public use in Virginia, to the State convention then in session at Richmond, in answer to a resolution of the convention asking him to define the policy he intended to pursue in regard to the Confederates States.” Blaine noted that “The President’s resentment towards those who had thus, as he thought, broken faith with him is visible in his message. Referring to the Virginia convention, he observed that, ‘the people had chosen a large majority of professed Union men’ as delegates.”50
Just because some Virginians were loyal did not make them happy with Lincoln Administration policies. In September 1861, Governor Pierpont wrote President Lincoln to complain about a lack of federal military assistance. With his unique spelling, Pierpont wrote: “There is much publ[i]c condemnation of Western Va. because the people do not defend themselves from the rebbel forces in their midst – I regret Sir, to inform you that so far I have not received one gun from the Federal government – for the Volunteer Malitia [sic] of Va. except a few captured by Gens McClelland [sic] and Cox. Massachusetts gave us 2000. altered Muskets – all of which are long since distributed. I was promised 5000. Muskets in July from the war department none of which have come to hand. I recd a letter a few days ago, stating that one thousand was ordered. I have daily demands from the interior by Volunteer companies for guns to defend themselves from vile men infesting neighborhoods and sections who are burning and plundering. This volunteer home guard is essential to the safety of the country where Federal troops cannot be spared.”
“I regret that the muskets that have been sent here for the regular Vol. regiments, are a very inferior [quality]. The Col of one of the regiments informed me the other day that out of 250 of the Muskets placed in the hands of three of his companies – at least fifty of them were useless, of no account in the mens hands as far as shooting was concerned. The men are discouraged. I am in great hopes my dear Sir, that this section of the service will not be entirely overlooked – At the breaking out of the revolution, Western Va was destitute of state arms – and of arms of any kind, and it seems from some st[r]ange legerdemain that the individu[a]l aim is in the hand of the secessionist as well as the Governme[n]t arm.”51
For four years – from April 1861 to April 1865 – Virginia was the focal point of the Civil War. Historian James M. McPherson wrote that Confederate General Robert E. “Lee was far from alone in perceiving Virginia as the most important theater. Most people in North and South alike, as well as European observers, shared that view. While it may be true that the Confederacy lost the war in the West, it is also clear that Lee’s victories in the East came close on several occasions to winning the war, or at least staving off defeat.”52 President Lincoln was likewise often preoccupied with the Virginia theater – especially in the spring and summer of 1862 when General George B. McClellan stalled in front of Richmond. Only when Ulysses S. Grant took command in March 1864 was President Lincoln assured of a general who would fight in Virginia and win.
From the commencement of the “On to Richmond” campaign promoted by the New York Tribune in the late spring and early summer of 1861, Union forces were focused on how to capture Richmond. From the beginning of the Civil War the North sought to seize the Confederate capital of Richmond while the South threatened the Union capitol of Washington. The fall of that city in early April 1865 made the end of the Confederacy almost inevitable, but four years of hellish warfare in Virginia preceded the Union victory. In the fall and early 1861, many Union officials became impatient with Union commander George B. McClellan’s failure to make any concerted move against the Confederate army. Finally, in March 1862, McClellan revealed his plans to shift his army by boat to the Virginia Peninsula where he intended to launch a major initiative against Richmond. Historian William Marvel wrote: “In less than three weeks a fleet of contracted steamers transported more than 120,000 men, nearly fifteen thousand horses and mules, 1,150 supply wagons, and forty-four batters of artillery from the vicinity of Washington to Fort Monroe.”53 Using the Union beachhead at Fortress Monroe, McClellan moved slowly against Yorktown and then bogged down as the Confederates conducted a show of strength to mask their weakness there. Once again, Lincoln Administration officials became impatient. In addition to Richmond, they also were concerned about Union control of ports in the Norfolk area, which had been threatened in early March by the Confederate ironclad, the Merrimac, rechristened the Virginia.
The Capture of Norfolk
The Hampton Roads area was of great strategic importance to the Union. The initiative of former Governor Wise assured that the naval yard there was captured by secessionists shortly after Fort Sumter fell in April 1862. Lincoln biographers John G. Nicolay and John Hay wrote: “The Gosport navy yard, at Norfolk, Virginia, was of such value and importance that its safety, from the very beginning of Mr. Lincoln’s Administration, had neither been overlooked nor neglected.” Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles wrote: “I soon became satisfied that the large amount of public property there was in a precarious condition. As a preventative, or matter of caution, it seemed to me advisable that a military force should be placed there to protect the yard, and to serve as a rallying point for Union men in case of emergency.” 54 Welles tried to guarantee the security of the Union ships as Gosport, but he was undermined a lack of available resources and recalcitrance of the facility’s commandant. Commanding General Winfield Scott believed Gosport indefensible and refused to supply soldiers for its defense.55
Nicolay and Hay noted that on April 23,  there was excitement in Washington when two steamers arrived at the Washington Navy Yard: “There was a momentary hope that these might be the long-expected ships from New York; but inquiries proved them to be the [warship] Pawnee and a transport on their return from the expedition to Norfolk. The worst apprehensions concerning that important post were soon realized – it was irretrievably lost. The only bit of comfort to be derived from the affairs was that the vessels brought back a number of marines and sailors, who would not add a little fraction of strength to the defense of the capital. The officers of the expedition were soon before the President and Cabinet, and related circumstantially the tale of disaster and destruction which the treachery of a few officers and the credulity of the commandant had rendered unavoidable.”56 The yard’s commandant reacted to rumors of a Confederate militia marching on Hampton Roads. Everything that loyal officers attempted seemed to go wrong. Even an attempt to blow the dry-dock in the Navy Yard so it would not fall into Confederate hands went awry. Unfortunately, Union mechanics did repair the engines of the Merrimac before they were forced to abandon it. The Merrimac was refloated by the Confederates, refitted with an iron-plated hull, and renamed the Virginia. It terrorized Union ships in March 1862. “Without the Virginia to delay the Union’s Peninsula Campaign, the outcome of it and also of the larger conflict would have been different, perhaps dramatically so,” wrote historian Nelson Lankford.57
In May 1862, President Lincoln resolved to reverse the Confederate capture of Norfolk. He visited the area with Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton and Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase. Historian William E. Baringer wrote: “On Monday afternoon, May 5, his whereabouts veiled by military secrecy, Lincoln climbed out of his carriage at the Washington navy yard and boarded a ship commanded by the Secretary of the Treasury. Salmon P. Chase had a navy of his own, a fleet of armed revenue cutters… Chase was already on board. Following Lincoln, after dark, Secretary of War Stanton came aboard with an officer, General Egbert L. Viele, who had no idea where he was going.”58
Viele was accustomed to knowing where he was going; he was an engineer who had conducted a topographical survey of New Jersey and worked on the construction of Central Park in New York and Prospect Park in Brooklyn. Viele later recalled: “For obvious reasons the departure of the President from Washington at such a moment and for such a purpose was kept a profound secret; and when, without any previous intimation, I was requested by the secretary of war, late in the afternoon of the th of May, 1862, to meet him within an hour at the Navy Yard, with the somewhat mysterious caution to speak to no one of my movements, I had no conception whatever of the purpose or intention of the meeting. It was quite dark when I arrived there simultaneously with the secretary, who, after exchanging a few words with me, led the way through the enclosure to the wharf on the Potomac, to which a steamer was moored that proved to be the revenue cutter Miami. We went on board and proceeded at once to the cabin, where to my surprise, I found the President and Mr. Chase, who had preceded us. The vessel immediately got under way and steamed down the Potomac. The Miami was one of the finest models and most neatly appointed vessels ever owned by the government, and was of about five hundred tons burden.”59
Dinner that night was catered by Secretary Chase. Viele wrote: “After supper the table was cleared, and the remainder of the evening was spent in a general review of the situation which lasted long into the night. The positions of the different armies in the field, the last reports from their several commanders, the probabilities and possibilities as they appeared to each member of the group, together with many other topics, relevant and irrelevant, were discussed, interspersed with the usual number of anecdotes from the never-failing supply with which the President’s mind was stored. It was a most interesting study to see these men relieved for the moment from the surroundings of their onerous official duties. The President, of course, was the center of the group – kind, genial, thoughtful, tenderhearted, magnanimous Abraham Lincoln!” 60 Viele wrote: “Both Mr. Chase and Mr. Stanton were under great depression of spirits when we started, and Mr. Chase remarked with a good deal of seriousness that he had forgotten to write a very important letter before leaving. It was too late to remedy the omission, and Mr. Lincoln at once drove the thought of it from his mind by telling him that a man was sometimes lucky in forgetting to write a letter, for he seldom knew what it contained until it appeared again some day to confront him with an indiscreet word or expression; and then he told a humorous story of a sad catastrophe that happened in a family, which was ascribed to something that came in a letter, – a catastrophe so far beyond the region of possibility that it set us all laughing, and Mr. Chase lost his anxious look.”61
The weather turned treacherous and rather than risk an accident, the Miami dropped anchor for the night. Historian Baringer wrote: “They pored over maps, Viele pointing out what he thought was a feasible approach on the rear of Norfolk. Chase was highly interested in this possible tactic, for maps and strategy absorbed the Treasury Secretary hardly less than the strenuous duties of his own enormous department. He fell to work convincing Lincoln and Stanton that Norfolk should be assaulted. Chase carried the point, and the four agreed that if troops were available at the fortress, and advance should be tried.” Baringer added: “They went to bed. The President had great difficulty fitting himself into his bunk. He joked to Chase that Viele had more room in his bunk than he needed, while he had too little; Chase ought to look into the matter of moveable partitions, in case the party took another trip on the Miami. During the night the voyage downstream resumed.”62
Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase wrote in his diary: “Our staunch little Steamer bore us rapidly and pleasantly down the River until we were some 10 or 15 miles below Alexandria, when the night which had come on with a drizzling rain became so thick and dark that the Pilot found himself unable to discern the right course. We were, therefore, obliged to cast anchor and wait for a clearer sky. By 3 of Tuesday morning we were again on our way. We passed Acquia about day, and found ourselves about noon tossing on the Chesapeake. It would have amused you to see us take our luncheon. The President gave it up almost as soon as he began, and declaring himself too uncomfortable to eat, stretched himself at length on the locker. The rest of us persisted; but the plates slipped this way and that – the glasses tumbled over and slid and rolled about – and the whole table seemed as topsy-turvy as if some Spiritualist were operating upon it. But we got thro, and then the Secretary of War followed the example of the President and General Viele and I went on deck and chatted.”63
The Miami reached Fortress Monroe at 10 that night. The President met with General John Wool and Flag Officer L. M. Goldsborough. They reviewed the latest news of the Union takeover of Yorktown. Historian Baringer described the confluene of the James River with the Chesapeake: “The north shore, guarded by Fortress Monroe, was in Union hands and swarmed with soldiers. Almost directly opposite the fort, on the south shore of the James, lay Norfolk, its large navy yard in Confederate hands, base of the rebel ironclad Virginia, which every Union man thought of under its old name, Merrimac. East of Norfolk, the land ran nearly straight east for fifteen miles to Cape Henry on the Atlantic, all of it in Enemy hands and protected by batteries.”64 To his consternation, the aged General Wool found this high-powered war cabinet wanted virtually immediate action taken to recapture Norfolk. So they joined Goldsborough aboard the Minnesota around midnight and explained their objective and the need for naval cooperation in the capture of Norfolk.
The next day, May 7, President Lincoln reviewed the military situation – both in conferences with Wool and Goldsborough in person on ship and on horseback on shore. Historian William Davis wrote that the President: “paid a special visit to the USS Monitor, the new ironclad that had electrified the country in its dramatic battle with the Confederate behemoth ironclad CSS Virginia just two months before. The president inspected every nook of the ship, talked with the officers, and then asked that all the seamen be mustered on the deck. Holding in his hand a hat still showed mourning crepe for Willie, he walked slowly past the line of sailors, looking at each man. When he had finished and was leaving the vessel, they gave him three cheers.” 65 Historian Stephen Sears wrote that “it appeared to Mr. Lincoln that Norfolk was now quite isolated and ripe for capture, and that it was time to challenge the Confederates for control of the James River. With General McClellan apparently indifferent to the matter and taking no action, the president, commander-in-chief of the nation’s armed forces, took matters into his own hands.”66
President Lincoln ordered Goldsborough to send three gunboats up the James River. While the Union forces were preparing for the assault on Norfolk, Mr. Lincoln peppered them with questions: “How are we going to find a good landing point where the depth of the water is sufficient for our boats to land?”67 President Lincoln later reported to General James Garfield that he “consulted with Admiral Goldsborough as to the feasibility of taking Norfolk by landing on the north shore and making a march of eight miles. The Admiral said, very positively, there was no landing on that shore, and we should have to double the cape and approach the place from the south side, which would be a long and difficult journey. I thereupon asked him if he had ever tried to find a landing, and he replied that he had not. ‘Now,’ said I, ‘Admiral, that reminds me of a chap out West who had studied law, but had never tried a case. Being sued, and not having confidence in his ability to manage his own case, he employed a fellow-lawyer to manage it for him. He had only a confused idea of the meaning of law terms, but was anxious to make a display of learning, and on the trial constantly made suggestions to his lawyer, who paid no attention to him. At last, fearing that his lawyer was not handling the opposing counsel very well, he lost all patience, and springing to his feet cried out, ‘Why don’t you go at him with a capias, or a surre-butter, or something, and not stand there like a confounded old nudum-pactum?'”68 It was one of Mr. Lincoln’s favorite stories.
Both naval and army commanders were blamed for the military inertia around Norfolk. Army officer Le Grand B. Cannon, who acted as “aide in waiting to President Lincoln,” remembered: “The navy, in command of Admiral Goldsborough, had repeatedly refused to co-operate with us in making an effort to take Norfolk, and this was the real reason of the President Secretary of War coming down, their object being to establish harmony of action between the army and navy. General Wool represented to the President that he could do nothing with his army, except he had a naval force to cover his landing upon the opposite shore. Result was that they proceeded off to the flagship at once, meeting Admiral Goldsborough with General Wool, and from there issued an order that night that the navy should go into action next day and bombard the forts of the Elizabeth River, Sewell’s Point, and Craney Island. Wool said to the President: ‘If you will order the navy to co-operate with me, I will take Norfolk in three days.'”69
After meeting with Goldsborough on the morning of Thursday May 8, President Lincoln watched the bombardment of Sewall’s Point and Craney Island in the afternoon. A council of war was held that night. According to General Viele, “The result of this conference was a plan to get up an engagement between the Merrimac and the Monitor, so that during the fight, the Vanderbilt which had been immensely strengthened for the purpose, might put on all steam and run her down. Accordingly the next morning, the President and party went over to the Rip Raps to see the naval combat. The Merrimac moved out of the mouth of the Elizabeth River, quietly and steadily, just as she had come out only a few weeks before when she had sunk the Congress. She wore an air of defiance and determination even at that distance. The Monitor moved up and waited for her. All the other vessels got out of the way to give the Vanderbilt and the Minnesota room to bear down upon the rebel terror in their might, as soon as she should clear the coast line. It was a calm Sabbath morning and the air was still and tranquil. Suddenly the stillness was broken by the cannon from the vessels and the great guns from the Rip Raps that filled the air with sulphurous smoke and a terrific noise that reverberated from the fortress and the opposite shore like thunder. The firing was maintained for several hours, but all to no purpose; the Merrimac moved sullenly back to her position. It was determined that night that on the following day vigorous offensive operations should be undertaken. The whole available naval force was to bombard Sewalls Point, and undercover of the bombardment, the available troops from Fortress Monroe were to be landed at that point and march on Norfolk. Accordingly, the next morning, a tremendous cannonading of Sewalls Point took place. The wooden sheds at that place were set on fire and the battery was silenced. The Merrimac, coated with mail and lying low in the water, looked on but took no part. Night came and the cannonading ceased. It was so evident that the Merrimac intended to act only on the defensive, and that so long as she remained where she was, no troops could be landed in that vicinity, that they were ordered to disembark, somewhat like the King of Yvetot who called his fighting-men, And marched a league from home, and then Marched back again.”
It may here be remarked that all this fiasco had been clearly foreseen by more than one of our party. But the proposition to make a landing at Pleasure Point, discussed on the Miami on our way down, had been met by the assertion from at least two of General Wool’s staff-officers that such a thing was utterly impossible. One of them had said there was no such place, and the other had asserted positively of his own knowledge that the water was shoal for more than a mile from shore, being but between three and five feet deep, that troops could not possibly be landed there, and that any attempt to do so would prove an utter failure. For these reasons, so decidedly and authoritatively put forth, the plan which had been determined upon the first evening of our trip had been set aside for the one that had thus been brought to a most ridiculous termination.
The failure of the proposed attack upon Sewalls Point and the disembarkation of the troops that had been hastily crowded into everything in the way of a transport that could be made available was not a very inspiriting spectacle; and no one felt the mortification of the occasion so much as Secretary Chase. He was so keenly alive to the necessities of the hour, and so sensitive to the least thing that savored of defeat that he fairly chafed under a sense of disappointment as he saw the disembarking troops. Turning to me, he said, Let us take our man-of-war (the Miami) and reconnoiter the place you suggested for a landing. Of course I was gratified at the proposition, and we started at once. General Wool was sitting at the door of his quarters as we passed, and learning our design, volunteered to accompany us, and sent his orderly for the very officer (Colonel Cram) who had pronounced the plan impracticable. The Miami was soon under way, accompanied by a small tug. As Colonel Cram still insisted upon it that we would go aground if we attempted to approach the shore in so large a vessel, we anchored in six fathoms of water and betook ourselves to the tug, which was in its turn anchored at quite a distance from the shore. A row-boat was quickly manned with armed sailors, and in this Colonel Cram, with another officer, undertook a closer reconnaissance, but returned in great haste before they were half way to the land, with a breathless account of a large body of men on shore. While they were recounting their narrow escape, Mr. Chase was watching the shore with a powerful field-glass, with the hope of discovering the force that had so alarmed the reconnoitering officer. Instead of defiant warriors he saw some people waving a white sheet as a flag of truce; a longer scrutiny revealed a white woman, a negress and child and a dog, as the sole cause of the colonels terror, and he was therefore instructed to return to the shore with the crew, while Mr. Chase and myself followed in another boat. The result of all this was the demonstration that this was not only an available, but a most admirable, landing-place, with depth of water sufficient for the largest transport to approach to within a few feet of the shore yet these officers had been stationed at Fortress Monroe a whole year! On our return – Secretary Chase reported the result of our reconnoissance [sic] to the President, who was so much astonished that he insisted upon going in person that very night to verify the fact.70
On Friday night, President Lincoln, Chase and Stanton first used the Miami and then a tugboat to investigate potential landing sites that Lincoln thought he spotted on one of the maps he had been perusing. 71 Secretary Chase wrote in his diary: “When I got back to Ft. Monroe I found the President had been listening to a Pilot and studying a chart and had become impressed with a conviction that there was a nearer landing and wished to go and see about it on the spot. So we started again and soon reached the shore, taking with us a large boat and some 20 armed soldiers from the Rip Raps. The President and Mr. Stanton were on the tug and I on the Miami. The tug was, of course, nearest shore and as soon as she found the water too shoal for her to go farther safely the Rip Raps boat was manned and sent in. Meantime, I had the Miami got ready for action and directed the Captain to go ashore with both boats and all the men they could take fully armed. Before this could be done, however, the other boat had pulled off shore and several horsemen who appeared to be soldiers of the enemy were seen on the beach. I sent to the President to ask if we should fire on them, and he replied negatively. We had again found a good landing, which at the time I supposed to be between 2 and 3 miles nearer Ft. Monroe but which proved to be only 1/2 to 3/4 of a mile nearer.”
“Returning to Ft. Monroe it was agreed that an advance should at once be made on Norfolk from one of these landings. General Wool preferred the one he had visited and it was selected. It was now night but the preparations proceeded with great activity. Four Regiments were sent off and orders given for others to follow. Col. Cram went down to make a bridge of boats to the landing, and General Wool asked me to accompany him the next morning.”
“Next morning (yesterday) I was up early, and we got off as soon as possible. As soon as we reached the place, I took the tug which brought us down and went up the shore to where the Presidents boat had attempted to land the evening before. I found the distance to be only 3/4 of a mile and returned to the Miami where I had left the General. He had gone ashore and I at once followed. On shore, I found General Viele…”
“It was sundown when we left Norfolk – about 10 when we reached Ocean View – and near to 12 when we reached Ft. Monroe. The President had been greatly alarmed for our safety by the report of General Mansfield as he went by to Newport News; and you can imagine his delight when we told him Norfolk was ours. Stanton soon came up to his room and was equally delighted. He fairly hugged General Wool.”
“For my part, I was very tired and glad to get to bed.”72
Writing of the explorations by Chase and the President, Lincoln biographers John Nicolay and John Hay observed: “It is probable that these opportune discoveries were supplemented by other important information. On the previous evening (of Thursday) a Norfolk tug-boat seized the favorable opportunity to desert from the rebel service and run into Newport News. Its officers reported that Norfolk was being evacuated by the Confederates, and that the two or three thousand troops yet there would probably soon be gone. When therefore the officials and officers were once more assembled at Fort Monroe, an immediate advance to Norfolk was agreed upon, and troops were again embarked on transports and other preparations hurried forward on Friday night.”73 General McClellan did not show up so the group took decisions without him. Stanton briefly suggested that Chase lead the assault but Wool’s rank and dignity prevailed. Chase, however, would accompany him.74
Colonel Le Grand B. Cannon, who served on Wool’s staff, remembered: “General Wool embarked, and all day long we heard nothing from him. At times we could hear firing and could see some smoke. It was a day of most fearful anxiety. The President and Secretary of War were almost overcome with their anxiety concerning this expedition. They could not but feel that they were in a measure responsible, as they had consented to it.”
“The whole day passed, and no word came from Norfolk. Evening set in, and when it got to be about 9 or 10 o’clock, I persuaded the President to go to bed in my room. I also persuaded Secretary Stanton to retire. He had a bed in my office. I went outside the fort with Captain Rogers, of the navy, and we went down on the ordnance wharf. It was a beautiful moonlight night. There we remained, waiting for some news to come.”
After a long time I heard a distant sound of paddle-wheels splashing in the water. The sound came nearer and nearer, and finally up came a little gunboat with General Wool and the members of his staff and Secretary Chase on board, and the news that Norfolk was taken. [Confederate] General [Benjamin] Huger had run.”
“The excitement was wonderful. General Wool came up into the fort, and we approached headquarters the sentinel challenged, ‘Who goes there?’ The President heard the challenge, and the next thing we saw was six feet of white nightshirt at the French window.”
“‘What is it?’ asked the President.”
“‘General Wool, to present Norfolk to you!’ I replied.”
‘Call up Stanton, and send Wool up here,’ he said.”
“I roused up Secretary Stanton and told him, General Wool has returned, and we have taken Norfolk.”
“‘My God!’ he said, and jumped out of bed, and started up in his night-shirt to the President room.”
“President Lincoln was sitting on the edge of the bed. General Wool was there, in full uniform and all covered with dust, and one or two of his officers were also there. Secretary Stanton rushed impetuously into General Wool’s arms in his excitement, and embraced him fervently. The Present broke out laughing at seeing the General in full uniform and the Secretary in his nightshirt clasped in each other’s arms, and said, ”
“‘Look out, Mars! If you don’t, the General will throw you.'”75
Two years later, President Lincoln related his own version of the victory to artist Francis B. Carpenter: “Chase and Stanton had accompanied me to Fortress Monroe. While we were there, an expedition was fitted out for an attack on Norfolk. Chase and General Wool disappeared about the time we began to look for tidings of the result, and after vainly waiting their return til late in the evening, Stanton and I concluded to retire. My room was on the second floor of the Commandant’s house, and Stanton’s was below. The night was very warm; the moon shining bright; and, too restless to sleep, I threw off my [bed] clothes and sat for some time by the table, reading. Suddenly hearing footsteps, I looked out of the window, and saw two persons approaching whom I knew by their relative size to be the missing men. They came into the passage and I heard them rap at Stanton’s door and tell him to get up, and come upstairs. A moment afterward they entered my room. ‘No time for ceremony, Mr.President, said General Wool. ‘Norfolk is ours!’ Stanton here burst in, just out of bed, clad in a long nightgown, which nearly swept the floor, his ear catching, as he crossed the threshold, Wool’s last words. Perfectly overjoyed, he rushed at the General, whom he hugged most affectionately, fairly lifting him from the floor in his delight. The scene altogether must have been a comical one, though at the time we were all too greatly excited to take much note of mere appearances.”76
Cannon wrote that on Sunday, May 11, “We started on a gunboat for Norfolk. We took over President Lincoln, Secretary Chase, Secretary Stanton, and Admiral Goldsborough, who came on board. But we knew the Merrimack was there yet, and whether we could get to Norfolk or not we did not know. We had proceeded but a short distance when we heard a tremendous explosion. Looking in the direction whence the sound came, we saw that it was in the Elizabeth River. It proved to be the destruction of the Merrimack, which the rebels had blown up.”77 Chase wrote in his diary: “This morning, as the President had determined to leave for Washington at 7, I rose at 6 and just before 7 came into the parlor where Commander Goldsborough astonished and gratified us that the rebels had set fire to the Merrimac and had blown her up. It was determined that before leaving, we would go up in the Baltimore, which was to convey us to Washington, to the point where the suicide had been performed and above the obstructions in the channel if possible, so as to be sure of the access to Norfolk by water which had been defended by the exploded ship. This was done; but the voyage was longer than we anticipated, taking us up to the wharves of Norfolk, where, in the Elizabeth River, were already lying the Monitor, the Stevens, the Susquehanna and one or two other vessels. General Wool and Commander Goldsborough had come up with us on the Baltimore and as soon as they were transferred to the Susquehanna, our prow was turned down stream and touching for a moment at the Fort we keep on our war towards Washington, where we hope to be at Breakfast tomorrow.” Secretary Chase added an uncustomary word of praise for Lincoln: “So has ended a brilliant week’s campaign of the President, for I think it quite certain that if he had not come down, it would still have been in possession of the enemy and the Merrimac as grim and defiant and as much a terror as ever. The whole coast is virtually ours. There is no port which the Monitor and Stevens cannot enter and take.78
The Administration of Virginia
President Lincoln had political as well as military concerns in 1862 and 1863. Throughout the year, work proceeded to separate West Virginia into a separate state. President Lincoln finally signed the required federal legislation at the end of 1862. Lincoln biographers Nicolay and Hay wrote: “The organization and admission of the new State still left in existing the restored government of Virginia, of which Governor Peirpoint was the executive head. He had meanwhile removed his seat of government to Alexandria, where his authority and administration, still recognized by the President and Congress as being loyal and legal, were exercised over such portions of the remaining territory of the Old Dominion as came under the permanent control of the Union armies until the end of the Rebellion.” 79
The President determined to make Virginia part of his program of southern reconstruction. John Hay wrote in his diary on December 25, 1863: “The President today got up a plan for extending to the people of the rebellious districts the practical benefits of his proclamation. He is to send record books to various points to receive subscriptions to the oath, for which certificates will be given to the man taking the oath. He has also prepared a placard himself giving notice of the opening of the books and the nature of the oath required.” He added: “He sent the first of these books to Pierpont to use in Virginia.”80 Historian William B. Hesseltine described Pierpont as “completely under Lincoln’s thumb.”81
Meanwhile, other problems in the civil administration of loyal Virginia were developing. In November 1863, General Benjamin Butler assumed command of the Department of Virginia and North Carolina. In past commands in Maryland and Louisiana, Butler had conflicts with the civilians; Virginia proved no different. In his memoirs, Butler recalled: “The army being much in need of recruits, and Eastern Virginia claiming to be a fully organized loyal State, by permission of the President an enrolment of all the able-bodied loyal citizens of Virginia within my command was ordered for the purposes of a draft, when one should be called for in the other loyal States. This order was vigorously protested against by Governor Pierpont, and this was all the assistance the United States ever received from the loyal government of Virginia in defending the State.” 82 General Butler had other conflicts with the Pierpont government, which objected to taxes and fees which he levied on civilians. He also came into conflict with the citizens of Norfolk, whom Butler considering overwhelmingly secessionist in their sympathies.
In January 1864, Pierpont met with President Lincoln. He followed up with a letter to Secretary of War Stanton. He wrote: “In addition to the two orders of Gen. Butler which I submitted to the President on Saturday last, in regard to the banks and civil officers of the City of Norfolk and Portsmouth, I desire to call your attention to further orders and regulations of his in that Department, which I think tend to the oppression of the people and subversive of good government, and in no way to the suppression of the rebellion.” After detailing his complaints, Pierpont stated his demands:
“First. That Gen. Butler is not allowed to interfere with the banks of the State.”
“Second. That his order requiring civil officers to report amount of salaries etc. to him, be revoked.”
“Third. That the one per cent on merchandise, one dollar on passes, three dollars on clearing of vessels, be abolished, and that nothing be allowed for that service.”
“Fourth. That the Provost Marshal’s Court in the state of Virginia, for the collection of debts and the trial of all civil causes by the same in regard to real and personal estate, be abolished and prohibited.”
Pierpont concluded: “The reason of this is so apparent that I do not feel like making further argument in the premises. It is Gen. Butler’s duty to attend to the army and its discipline. There is no sort of use for a Military Government in Norfolk or Portsmouth. A sensible, honest Provost Marshal is all that is needed. Two companies to guard the commissary stores is all the army that is wanting. But as to giving place to more Brigadiers and officers, military, I am not going to raise questions or find fault on the subject, but the path of duty is so plain that if the military will only attend to their own business, and let the civil officers attend to theirs, there can be no difficulty – and all will work in harmony.”83
General Butler had a long record of exceeding his military authority. His conflict with local authorities aggravated President Lincoln during much of 1864 although he was reluctant to alienate Butler because of his popularity with Radical Republicans. In February 1864, a Connecticut resident had testified that Lincoln told him that “General Butler is not fit to have a command.” Butler sent an aide to Lincoln to ascertain the veracity of the Lincoln quote. The aide, Colonel John Shaffer, sent a note back to Butler’s headquarters saying the President “talked very decided in your favor.” He included a memo from the president: “Col Shaffer has been conversing with me and I have said to him that Genl Butlerc has my confidence in his ability and fidelity to the country and to me and I wish him sustained in all his efforts in our great common cause subject only to the same supervision which the Government must take with all Department Commanders.”84 William C. Harris noted: “Lincoln, however, would not write, as Butler wanted him to do, that he never made the derogatory comment about the general’s competence.”85 Rather than dealing with Butler forcefully, the President let his actions aggravate the small section of Virginia he commanded.
Butler sent a report to Lincoln on February 23, 1864 defending his actions: “I found the streets, wharves, and squares of Norfolk in a most filthy, ruinous, and disordered state, so much so that life and limb are not safe upon them to the wayfarer, and in the coming summer, pestilence must ensue like the yellow fever of ’53 unless large expenditures are made in cleansing and purifying them. I found the fire department entirely disorganized and its material out of repairs and useless. The city was unlighted for months, and the Gas Company being largely disloyal had refused to put their works in operation, so that it was impossible to properly guard or police it…I have already lighted the city…and am employing my convicts who are sentenced to hard labor in cleansing the streets and repairing them.’ His dealings with the local banks Butler explained as necessary to obtain funds to feed the poor.”86
Regarding the tax complaints, Butler wrote to President Lincoln: “The first complaint is of Order No. 40. which requires the payment of one per cent upon merchandise brought into the Department, a copy of which order is appended. I found it necessary to employ large numbers of officers, soldiers, clerks and messengers at great expense to the United States, for the purpose of watching, guarding and regulating trade in this insurrectionary district and to prevent smuggling. I found a large portion of my time and that of one member of my staff employed in investigations regarding it. Now it seemed to me but just that as this trade was carried on for the emolument of parties engaging in it: was usually very profitable, that its expenses should be paid by them and not by the Government, and therefore issued the order that one percent should be paid upon it to defray its expenses. As an ordinary rule of political economy it is true that a tax upon trade is tax upon the consumer, but it is only the rule where trade in course of time and with full competition has found its strict level, but it is not true as applicable to the limited and special trade carried on in this insurrectionary district of a speculative character with a percentage not founded upon any exact ratio between the supply and demand. Therefore this tax is borne by the trader and not by the consumer and thus falls where it should; but as a large share of the expense of the trade to the Government must be born by the United States, from the fact that its officers and soldiers must necessarily be employed in taking care of it a fund must accumulate, although I have endeavored to employ civilians in the Provost Marshal and other offices and pay them from it as much as possible.”87
Meanwhile, Pierpont was trying to emulate West Virginia in the development of a new constitution and legitimate government for his truncated dominion. U.S. Attorney General Edward Bates was harshly critical of the feeble representation of 16 delegates to a constitutional convention in Alexandria in February 1864: “A pretty convention this to reform the great old commonwealth and bless her with a new and better constitution! The whole farce is gotten up by a few…reckless Radicals, who manage those helpless puppets (the straw ‘Governor and Legislature of Virginia’) as a gamester manages his marked cards. They are grown very bold, and seem no longer to feel the necessity of disguise, nor even to claim legality and authority for patching up new constitutions for old States.”88
The conflict escalated during the year as Butler and Pierpont became vocally critical of each other. “Butler determined to end the civil authority in and about Norfolk.” Historian Charles Ambler wrote that Butler’s “immediate purpose was to prevent the trial, in the circuit court of Norfolk, of some thirty odd indictments against liquor offenders for violation of the state license laws.” The problems in the Norfolk area came to a head in June 1864 when Butler called for a referendum on whether the existing civilian government on Norfolk should be replaced by a military one. Ambler wrote:”In addition to his well-founded aversion to Butler on Moral grounds, Pierpont objected to a popular referendum conducted by the military as a direct thrust at his own authority.”89 Many residents boycotted the vote; the few that participated endorsed Butler’s position, 330-15.
Most of the Lincoln cabinet did not endorse Butler’s position, however. State Attorney General T. R. Bowden and Governor Pierpont complained to Attorney General Bates who told them to put their complaints in writing. They brought their statements to Bates’ home on June 25. Bates wrote in his diary that day: “Poor Pierepoint! He ought to be, and I suppose is ashamed of his former subserviency to the Radicals. He begins to find out that my advice to him and the M.[embers of] C[ongres]s of W. Va. To beware of those heartless demagogues, was sound and true. He begins to feel mean, in discovering how he has been fooled, used and betrayed.”90 Bates was no fan of the legitimacy of Pierpont’s government but he was even less of a fan of Butler.
Historian David Work noted: “Nearly every member of Lincoln’s cabinet damned Butler’s actions. Stanton called it ‘a high-handed measure,’ and Attorney General Bates declared it ‘barbarous government.’ Lincoln ‘said he was much perplexed to know what to do’ but allowed Butler’s action to stand.”91 On July 16 Bates wrote in his diary: “The President does not yet answer my demand for the revocation of the arbitrary orders of Genls [George F.] Shepley and Butler, for ab[o]lishing civil law at Norfolk, Va…The President, I fear, is in a most unpleasant dilemma. I am sure he sees and feels the wrong done, but cannot pluck up the spirit to redress the evil, much less to punish the wrong-doers. Well may he say, with King David – ‘These sons of Zeruiah be hard to me.'”92 Four days later, Bates wrote in his diary of the day’s cabinet’s meeting:
“Yesterday, in C.C. The President brought up the matter of the military proceedings at Norfolk Made a long statement, [of] the quarrel between Gov Pierepoint and Genl. Butler – say little, about the orders of [george] Shepley and Butler, and nothing at all about my letter – Some conversation took place in which the Prest. said he was much perplexed to now what to do [.] Mr. Stanton, sec [of] War said it was a high-handed measure – In answer to some question of Mr. Fessenden, Sec [of the] Trasy. I said ‘I[t] is a bald usurpation.’ Afterwards Mr. F.[essenden] said it was clearly against law, and Gen Butler ought to be ordered… to revoke the orders, and abstain from doing any thing under the mock election[.]”
“Mr. Seward, Sec of State, (who always shuffles around a knotty point, by some trick) thought that as It was a question of military necessity, it ought to be refer[r]ed to Genl. Grant! (Just to stave it off) I ansd. that the Secy of State could not have read Genl Shepley’s order, which put it on a different footing – I told the prest that, in my judg[men]t, it was a simple question of jurisdiction – whether the military should put down the civil law – I was only the law-officer of the Govt. without any power, but would protect my office and my self, by putting of record, the opinions and views which I had on these subjects, [.]”
“All admitted that the Govt. of Va. was fully recognized by every branch of the U.S. govt. (referring to the W.Va. Act) – I do not remember that Welles and Usher said any thing, except that Mr. Welles said that Genl Butler had given permits to trade in the N.C. sounds – and some of them had been detected in trading with the agent of the enemy – selling whisky, shoses [sic] [.]”
“I think the Prest: can get over revoking the orders but I fear, reluctantly and ungracefully[.]”
On July 31, Bates added: “I am mortified that the President has not yet announced his determination on this important business. It ought not to have occupied an hour. The Genls proceedings are flat usurpation, and ought to have been put down instantly. The admn. cannot but feel the evils of such barbarous government.”93 Bates had a particular conflict with Butler because he had arrested U.S. Circuit Court Judge Edward Snead when he attempted to have a court session in Norfolk. On August 1, 1864 Butler submitted another lengthy report to President Lincoln which began with an indictment of Norfolk and its residents: “When I took command of this Department, thro’ your kind consideration, in November last, I found nineteen twentieths (19/20) of the citizens of Norfolk disloyal, and more than one half actually and actively engaged in correspondence with, and giving aid to the enemy. Few had taken the oath of allegiance to the United States and fewer still who had taken it respected it as a binding obligation. I found the streets and wharves out of repair, filthy & dangerous. I found its Fire Department utterly disorganized and inefficient, both in men and material, so much so that only a few days before I took command, a large fire, destroying very great amounts of private property and some public, and endangering still more, had occurred, which was the work of an incendiary. I found the Government distributing provisions to the white inhabitants alone, to the amount of some seventy-five thousand dollars ($75 000) yearly. The churches, with a single exception, were unopened, because those who should have taught the Religion of Christ, would only teach rebellion. I found that the people were governed by an admixture of military government and civil government, neither of which was administered with too much vigor. As an instance of the administration of the military government, I found an order had been promulgated with a view of increasing the respect of the people for the Flag of the United States and make them pass under the same, that that flag should be hoisted over all the grog shops and drinking saloons where the people most did congregate, so that a large part of the citizens thereby were brought under the influence of the Stars and Stripes.”94
Bates wrote in his diary on August 4: “The President knows as well as I do, that Genl. Butler’s proceedings to overthrow the Civil Law at Norfolk, and establish his own despotism in its stead, is unlawful and wrong, and without even a pretence of military necessity, and yet, he will not revoke the usurping orders, for fear Genl Butler will ‘raise a hubbub about it.’ Alas! That I should live to see such abject fear – such small stolid indifference to duty – such open contempt of constitution and law – and such profound ignorance of policy and prudence!” Bates added: “My heart is sick, when I see the President shrink from the correction of gross and heinous wrong because he is afraid ‘Genl Butler will raise a hubbub about it.'”95
Butler was indeed treated with kid gloves by the Lincoln Administration – in part because of concerns about the upcoming presidential election. Historian William C. Harris wrote: “The president on August 9… drafted a letter to Butler chastising him for his institution of military rule for reasons other than military necessity.” 96 In his letter, President Lincoln wrote: “This subject has caused considerable trouble, forcing me to give a good deal of time and reflection to it. I regret that crimination and recrimination are mingled in it. I surely need not to assure you that I have no doubt of your loyalty and devoted patriotism; and I must tell you that I have no less confidence in those of Gov. Pierpoint and the Attorney General. The former, at first, as the loyal governor of all Virginia, including that which is now West-Virginia; in organizing and furnishing troops, and in all other proper matters, was as earnest, honest, and efficient to the extent of his means, as any other loyal governor. The inauguration of West-Virginia as a new State left to him, as he assumed, the remainder of the old State; and the insignificance of the parts which are outside of the rebel lines, and consequently within his reach, certainly gives a somewhat farcical air to his dominion; and I suppose he, as well as I, has considered that it could be useful for little else than as a nucleous to add to. The Attorney General only needs to be known to be relieved from all question as to loyalty and thorough devotion to the national cause; constantly restraining as he does my tendency to clemency for rebels and rebel sympathizers. But he is the Law-Officer of the government, and a believer in the virtue of adhering to law.”97 The letter was never sent. The Norfolk conflict continued to simmer. On August 10, Pierpont wired President Lincoln: “I am Just in receipt of information that Genl Butler has Mr [. C.H.] Porter commonwealth attorney of Norfolk in arrest on charge of uttering treasonable language – I have no idea that Porter can get Justice at the hands of Genl Butler and would respectfully ask that he be brought to Washington where he can have a fair trial if he is guilty of any crime.”98
For much of the late summer and early fall, Gov. Pierpont was away from Virginia – campaigning for Lincoln’s reelection. Before he embarked on his campaign tour in September, Pierpont met with Lincoln at the White House. In comments written two decades latter, Pierpont recalled that Lincoln was “sad” and said that the Democrats “have declared the war a failure, and by false representations they are not only doing great mischief in the country, but they are creating dissatisfaction among the soldiers in the Army. We must have military success if we succeed this fall in the elections. If the election had come off two or three weeks after I was nominated at Baltimore, I think I should have carried every state in the Union lines. Should it take place today, I hardly know what states I could carry. All looks to me like uncertainty without military success.”99 Meanwhile, Butler was also called away. In November, Butler had been detailed to New York City to insure civil conduct of the elections and prevent any disruption by Confederate sympathizers.
The conflict between Butler and Pierpont, eventually boiled over when Butler made special tax assessments on local residents. In December, Pierpont renewed his attack on Butler in a letter to President Lincoln: “I desire again most earnestly to call your immediate attention to a further great wrong being committed by Gen. Butler. A few days ago he seized the Assessor’s books of the City of Norfolk, and assessed one hundred and fifteen cents on the one hundred dollars worth of real property in the city, and has appointed a military collector and notified the people to pay the same in thirty days or five per cent will be added. The corporate authorities last year levied thirty cents on the one hundred dollars, and had sufficient to defray the expenses of the city. This levy will realize nearly one hundred thousand dollars, in addition to at least fifteen thousand dollars derived from licenses. I assure you this money is to be used for speculative purposes.”
“At least 30 per cent of the real estate in that city is in the hands of the military, on which no rent is being paid. I appeal, sir, to your sense of justice if it is right to permit these enormous sums of money to be collected without law or authority, and from men whose property is in the hands of the agents, of the Government, to whom it is paying no rent. These people have paid their three and five per cent taxes on their imports and exports, the internal revenue tax, one per cent to Gen. Butler on their imports and exports, and their direct tax to the U[nited] State[s]. The loyal and disloyal have taken the oath prescribed in the Amnesty Proclamation of Your Excellency. Many of them are as loyal as the angel Gabriel. One of the U. S. tax commissioners, collecting direct taxes at Norfolk, told me that a few days ago a woman came to their office to pay her tax, which was less than five dollars. Her eyes were red with weeping. She said that she had sold the bed of her little children to get the money.”
“If these people are thus to be tortured by piece-meal they ought to know it, that they might abandon their homes.”100
With the election behind him, President Lincoln had enough of Butler’s interference with civilian affairs. In December, Lincoln sent Butler his draft August letter with a cover note: “On the 9th of August last I began to write you a letter, the inclosed being a copy of so much as I then wrote. So far as it goes, it embraces the views I then entertained, and still entertain. A little relaxation of complaints made to me on the subject, occurring about that time, the letter was not finished and sent. I now learn, correctly I suppose, that you have ordered an election, similar to the one mentioned, to take place on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. Let this be suspended, at least until conference with me, and obtaining my approval.” 101 Butler’s tenure as a military commander was coming to an end. Shortly thereafter, he would be removed from his post by General Ulysses S. Grant. But the controversy did not end. On February 16, 1865, Gov. Pierpont spoke before a boisterous crowd in Norfolk and implied that Butler’s military regime had been “engaged in this infamous and treasonable [smuggling] traffic.” Military loyalists challenged Pierpont and one threatened to arrest him.” 102 Their feud would continue after the war; Pierpont wrote that he considered Butter “the most profound scoundrel in America.”103
President Lincoln more enthusiastically involved himself in another Virginia controversy during 1864. He was very concerned about Union prisoners in Confederate camps and was too easily persuaded that a cavalry raid on Richmond could free Union soldiers held there in the Libby Prison. In his book about the raid led by Union Army General Judson Kilpatrick, Virgil Carrington Jones wrote: “As Kilpatrick learned, it was not problem to convince Abraham Lincoln that something should be done to relieve the plight of the Union soldiers held in Richmond. Stories of their starvation diet and cramped quarters continued to seep into official channels.”104 Mr. Lincoln’s enthusiasm for a rescue attempt was not shared by Kilpatrick’s superiors. According to Lincoln scholar Edward G. Longacre: “Kilpatrick’s… immediate superior, Major General Alfred Pleasonton, commanding the Cavalry Corps of the Army of the Potomac, was asked his opinion of the project; his reaction was not in the least favorable – primarily, it would seem, because the plan had not originated with Alfred Pleasonton…Other cavalry officers also denounced the scheme as too dangerous and risky.” 105 Lincoln was more moved by the distress of the prisoners than by the opinions Pleasanton.106
For Radical Republicans, Kilpatrick was politically correct. He was unrelenting in his opposition to slavery and his dissemination of the Emancipation Proclamation in Virginia. Historian William C. Harris wrote: “In a raid through nine Virginia counties in March 1864, an officer on Gen. Judson Kilpatrick’s staff left copies of the proclamation in temporarily abandoned houses, shops and churches and ‘in every conceivable nook and corner’ where people could find them.”107 By then, Kilpatrick’s recklessness had seriously damaged his reputation, which he desperately wanted to restore. The raid was his opportunity for respect and glory.
President Lincoln had high hopes for the Kilpatrick mission. Artist Francis B. Carpenter wrote of a meeting with Lincoln in the White House while he was painting the Emancipation Proclamation: “Wishing to introduce this map into my picture, I carried it off one day, without the President’s knowledge, and as the copying of it was a tedious affair, it remained in the studio for some time. This chanced to be during the week of Kilpatrick’s great cavalry raid in Virginia. One afternoon the President came in alone, as was his wont, – the observation of the daily progress of the picture appearing to afford him a species of recreation. Presently his eye fell upon the map, leaning against a chair, as I had left it after making the study. ‘Ah!’ said he, ‘you have appropriated my map, have you? I have been looking all around for it.’ And with that he put on the spectacles, and taking it up, walked to the window; and sitting down upon a trunk began to pore over it very earnestly. He pointed out Kilpatrick’s position, when last heard from, and said: – ‘It is just as I thought it was. He is close upon – County, where the slaves are thickest. Now we ought to get a ‘heap’ of them, when he ‘returns.'”108
In his pursuit of fame, Kilpatrick was often irresponsible. The Richmond raid was no different and turned into a disaster. The London Times gave its usual anti-Lincoln spin to the Richmond raid: “General Kilpatrick, misled by the reports of dishonest or over-sanguine deserters and escaped prisoners from Richmond, took it into his head that he could capture that city by a cavalry coup de main and make his name illustrious for evermore. He laid a wager at heavy odds with another officer, General Pleasanton, that he would do it within a fortnight, and, though opposed by every real soldier to whom he submitted his notion, obtained, it would appear, the sanction of the President to try what he could, with the best wishes of that amiable, but most unmilitary Commander-in-Chief that he might ‘go in and win’. He went in accordingly; committed a large amount of ruthless and wanton destruction in the rear of General Lee’s army, broke down bridges, burned corn mills and factories, frightened the women and children and the impotent or bedridden old men in all his line of march; reached the suburbs of Richmond, threw a few harmless shells into the city, and fearing the capture of his whole command of 6,000 horsemen – which would have been the befitting punishment for his foolhardy experiment – rode out of the enemy’s lines into those of General [Benjamin] Butler, with the loss of four colonels and 500 soldiers…”109 Among the casualties was the son of Admiral John Dahlgren, one of President Lincoln’s favorite naval officers.
Despite the failures of Butler and Kilpatrick, the Union army under Ulysses S. Grant fitfully but progressively tightened its grip on Richmond at the end of 1864 and beginning of 1865. Although victory was on the horizon, President Lincoln was loathe to reject categorically any peace effort. At end of January, noted historian Brooks D. Simpson, a “rumor circulated throughout Washington that Confederate commissioners were ready once more to discuss peace terms. Lincoln denied that any such envoys were coming to Washington, neglecting to add that three men were at City Point. It was not the first time since the election that Lincoln had contemplated negotiating an end to the war.”110
The most notable effort was undertaken by Washington luminary Francis P. Blair, Sr., the father of Montgomery Blair, who had been postmaster general in the Lincoln administration until September 1864. After Blair met with Confederate President Jefferson Davis, a three-member commission – including Vice President Alexander H. Stephens, Senator Robert M. T. Hunter and former Supreme Court Justice John A. Campbell – was sent to negotiate with the Lincoln Administration. Reluctant at first to even receive the visitors, President Lincoln sent Secretary of State William H. Seward and then went himself to Hampton Roads to meet with the delegation. Historian Michael Vorenberg wrote: “The negotiations at Hampton Roads were unusual, for both Jefferson Davis and Abraham Lincoln were almost certain beforehand that an arranged peace was impossible. David welcomed negotiations not because he countenanced reunion but rather because he sought a temporary cease-fire to allow Southern forces to regroup before renewing their fight for Confederate independence.” Vorenberg wrote: “The conference was a failure, as the president knew it would be. Yet, the meeting served Lincoln’s ends perfectly. By introducing the issue of the antislavery amendment, Seward and his chief had convinced the Confederate commissioners that the president was powerless to revoke his emancipation policy.”111
In wake of House passage of the Thirteenth Amendment shortly before the Hampton Roads conference, President Lincoln made it clear that emancipation was not negotiable. Historian Bruce Levine wrote: “The Hampton Roads conference…ended without producing any substantive agreements. Both Jefferson Davis and R. M. T. Hunter (who still opposed the black-troops idea) told large public gatherings that the Union delegation had demanded both the South’s unconditional surrender and return to the Union and the complete and permanent abolition of chattel slavery. Lincoln demands that we ‘come back as a conquered people,’ Davis reported, ‘submitting to all the recent legislation of the Washington Government, including the abolition clause recently enacted in Congress.’ ‘If we go back to the bonds of the Union,’ Hunter affirmed, we will have to do so with ‘three millions of slaves loosed in the midst of Southern society; we ourselves slaves, and our slaves freedmen.'”112
Lincoln aide John G. Nicolay wrote to his fiance of the conference: “Of course it would be impossible to give an outline of a four hours’ conversation; but substantially the talk amounted to this: The President told them that he could not entertain any proposition or conversation which did not concede and embody the restoration of the national authority over the States now in revolt…that he could not recede in the least from what he had publicly said about slavery; and that he could not concede or agree to any cessation of hostilities which was not an actual end of the war and a disbandment of the rebel armies.” 113 Historian James G. Randall wrote that “the conference broke up in deadlock, for which each government blamed the other; but in a further study the meeting has significance as showing some of Lincoln’s attitudes. Once the war ended with union and the acceptance of emancipation, Lincoln indicated at Hampton Roads that he would be generous in other matters. He would favor compensation to slaveowners and would act with the ‘utmost liberality’ as to the seizure of Southern property.”114
President Lincoln was careful to retain control of the peace process as the war came to a close. Through Secretary of War Stanton, President Lincoln telegraphed Grant on March 3, 1865: “The President directs me to say to you that he wishes you to have no conference with General Lee unless it be for the capitulation of Gen. Lee’s army, or on some minor, and purely military, matter. He instructs me to say that you are not to decide, discuss or confer upon any political question. Such questions the President holds in his own hands; and will submit them to no military conferences or conventions. Meanwhile you are to press to the utmost your military advantages.”115 Navy Secretary Gideon Welles reported after a Cabinet meeting in early March 1865:
“Chief Justice Chase spent an hour with the President last evening, and is urging upon him to exempt sundry counties in eastern Virginia from the insurrectionary proclamation. He did not make his object explicit to the President, but most of the Cabinet came, I think to the conclusion that there was an ulterior purpose not fully disclosed.”
“It is obvious that Chase has his aspirations stimulated. This movement he considers adroit. By withdrawing military authority and restoring civil jurisdiction he accomplishes sundry purposes. It will strike a blow at State individuality and break down Virginia, already by his aid dismembered and divided. It will be a large stride in the direction of the theory of the radicals, who are for reducing old States to a Territorial condition. It is centralizing, to which he has become a convert; [it] will give the Chief Justice an opportunity to exercise his authority on questions of habeas corpus, military arrests, etc..”116
Visiting the Front
In order to get a break from the pressures of Washington and evaluate the prospects for victory, President Lincoln and Mrs. Lincoln visited General Grant at City Point in late March and early April. Along with son Tad, they left Washington on March 23 aboard the River Queen and reached City Point the next day. The commander in chief was a witness to military reviews and the closing stages of the war along the Union front facing Petersburg and Richmond. On March 28, President Lincoln held a conference of war aboard the River Queen with General Grant, General William T. Sherman and Admiral David Dixon Porter. Sherman recalled: “Both General Grant and myself supposed that one or the other of us would have to fight one more bloody battle, and that it would be the last. Mr. Lincoln exclaimed, more than once, that there had been blood enough shed, and asked us if another battle could not be avoided. I remember well to have said that we could not control that event; that this necessarily rested with our enemy; and I inferred that both Jeff. Davis and General Lee would be forced to fight one more desperate and bloody battle. I rather supposed it would fall on me, somewhere near Raleigh; and General Grant added that, if Lee would only wait a few more days, he would have his army so disposed that if the enemy should abandon Richmond, and attempt to make junction with General Jos. Johnston in North Carolina, he (General Grant) would be on his heels. Mr. Lincoln more than once expressed uneasiness that I was not with my army at Goldsboro’, when I again assured him that General Schofield was fully competent to command in my absence; that I was going to start back that very day, and that Admiral Porter had kindly provided for me the steamer Bat, which he said was much swifter than my own vessel, the Russia. During this interview I inquired of the President if he was all ready for the end of the war. What was to be done with the rebel armies when defeated? And what should be done with the political leaders, such a Jeff. Davis, etc.? Should we allow them to escape, etc.? He said he was all ready; all he wanted of us was to defeat the opposing armies, and to get the men composed the Confederate armies back to their homes, at work on their farms and in their shops. As to Jeff. Davis, he was hardly at liberty to speak his mind fully, but intimated that he ought to clear out, ‘escape the country,’ only it would not do for him to say so openly. As usual, he illustrated his meaning by a story: ‘A man once had taken the total abstinence pledge. When visiting a friend, he was invited to take a drink, but declined, on the score of his pledge; when his friend suggested lemonade, which was accepted. In preparing the lemonade, the friend pointed to the brandy-bottle, and said the lemonade would be more palatable if he were to pour in a little brandy; when his guest said, if he could do so ‘unbeknown’ to him, he would not object.’ From which illustration I inferred that Mr. Lincoln wanted Davis to escape, ‘unbeknown’ to him.”117
Naval officer John S. Barnes wrote of the meeting with Sherman, Grant and Porter: “That morning was passed at General Grant’s headquarters on the bluff. His log cabin was roomy, with one large room used as a meeting place and office. The tents of his staff were grouped about it. Here, on this and several other occasions when I was present, would meet the general officers of divisions, Admiral Porter, staff officers, senators, congressmen, and other visitors. There was no formality. The news of the day was discussed, and dispatches were read or referred to in general conversation. Lincoln seemed confident that Petersburg must soon fall, and with it Richmond. Sherman would be coming up victoriously from the South and uniting with Grant’s army. The end of the rebellion was near. In the discussion that forenoon General Grant took little part, listening in grim silence, or only answering direct questions from Mr. Lincoln in short monosyllabic utterances. The President and Admiral Porter took the main parts in conversation.”118
Remaining at Union Army headquarters, President Lincoln closely monitored the military developments occurring around him in Virginia. Bodyguard William H. Crook later recalled:
“As March 31, 1865, drew near, the president (then at City Point, Virginia) knew that Grant was to make a general attack upon Petersburg, and grew depressed. The fact that his own son was with Grant was one source of anxiety. But the knowledge of the loss of life that must follow hung about him until he could think of nothing else. On the 31st there was, of course, no news. Most of the first day of April Mr. Lincoln spent in the telegraph-office, receiving telegrams and sending them on to Washington. Toward evening he came back to the River Queen, on which we had sailed from Washington to City Point.”
“There his anxiety became more intense. There had been a slight reverse during the day; he feared that the struggle might be prolonged. We could hear the cannon as they pounded away at Drury’s Bluff up the river. We knew that not many miles away Grant was pouring fire into Lee’s forces about Petersburg.”
“It grew dark. Then we could see the flash of the cannon. Mr. Lincoln would not go to his room. Almost all night he walked up and down the deck, pausing now and then to listen or to look out into the darkness to see if he could see anything. I have never seen such suffering in the face of any man as was in his that night.”119
Journalist Sylvanus Cadwalader recalled the President, General Grant and staff mounted up to visit “Gen. Wright’s headquarters, where Gen. Meade and staff met them. The location commanded as good a view of Petersburg as could then be had from our lines. Maps were examined, the position of the army explained, its future operations discussed, the steeples and spires of the city observed as well as the dust and smoke would allow, national airs were played by the bands, the enemy’s works on the opposite side of the Appomattox inspected, and after a stay of an hour and a half the party started on its return to headquarters.”120 The Confederate position deteriorated as the Union forces tightened their lines around Petersburg and Richmond.
Crook remembered: “On the morning of April second, a message came from General Grant asking the President to come to his headquarters, some miles distant from City Point and near Petersburg. It was on Sunday. We rode out to the intrenchments, close to the battle-ground. Mr. Lincoln watched the life-and-death struggle for some time, and then returned to City Point. In the evening he received a despatch from General Grant telling him that he pushed Lee to his last lines about Petersburg. The news made the President happy. He said to Captain Penrose that the end of the war was now in sight. He could go to bed and sleep now. I remember how cheerful was his ‘Goodnight, Crook.'”
“On Monday, the third, a message came to the President that Petersburg was in possession of the Federal army, and that General Grant was waiting there to see him. We mounted and rode over the battle-field to Petersburg. As we rode through Fort Hell and Fort Damnation – as the men had named the outposts of the two armies which faced each other, not far apart – many of the dead and dying were still on the ground. I can still see one man with a bullet-hole through his forehead, and another with both arms shot away. As we rode, the President face settled into its old lines of sadness.”
“At the end of fifteen miles we reached Petersburg, and were met by Captain Robert Lincoln, of General Grant’s staff, who, with some other officers, escorted [us] to General Grant. We found him and the rest of his staff sitting on the piazza of a white frame house. Grant did not look like one’s idea of a conquering hero. He didn’t appear exultant, and he was as quiet as he had ever been. The meeting between Grant and Lincoln was cordial; the President was almost affectionate. While they were talking I took the opportunity to stroll through Petersburg. It seemed deserted, but I met a few of the inhabitants. They said they were glad that the Union army had taken possession; they were half starved. They certainly looked so. The tobacco warehouses were on fire, and boys were carrying away tobacco to sell to the soldiers. I bought a five-pound bale of smoking tobacco for twenty-five cents. Just before we started back a little girl came up with a bunch of wild flowers for the president. He thanked the child for them kindly, and we rode away. Soon after we got back to City Point news came of the evacuation of Richmond.”
“In the midst of the rejoicing some Confederate prisoners were brought aboard transports at the dock near us. The President hung over the rail and watched them. They were in a pitiable condition, ragged and thin; they looked half starved. When they were on board they took out of their knapsacks the last rations that had been issued to them before capture. There was nothing but bread, which looked as if it had been mixed with tar. When they cut it we could see how hard and heavy it was; it was more like cheese than bread.”
“‘Poor fellows!’ Mr. Lincoln said. ‘It’s a hard lot. Poor fellows… ‘”
“I looked up. His face was pitying and sorrowful. All the happiness had gone.”121
Naval officer John S. Barnes wrote: “Mr. Lincoln received a multitude of dispatches that day from various generals; and upon General Grant’s telegraphing him that he was in Petersburg and would be glad to see him there, a train was made up, and with Admiral Porter, Thad [Tad], myself and several others, we proceeded to Patrick Station, so called, a mile or so from the town. General Grant had said that he was too busy to meet him, but would send an escort. It was there, consisting of an officer and a few troopers, and an ambulance for Mr. Lincoln. Admiral Porter borrowed a horse from one of the cavalrymen, Mr. Lincoln and Thad went in the ambulance. I went afoot, passing through the labyrinth of trenches, breastworks, batteries, and rifle pits constituting the defenses of the city, then held by our men….Mr. Lincoln remained in Petersburg only an hour or two, when, rejoining the train, we returned to City Point, the President going on board the Malvern for the night. He was in high spirits, seemed not at all fatigued, and said that the end could not be far off.”122
Admiral David Porter recalled: “The night before Richmond was evacuated by the Confederate forces we were sitting on the Malvern’s upper deck, enjoying the evening air. The President, who had been some time quiet, turned to me and said, ‘Can’t the navy do something at this particular moment to make history?'”
“Not much, I replied; the navy is doing its best just now holding in utter uselessness the rebel navy, consisting of four heavy ironclads. If those should get down to City Point they would commit great havoc – as they came near doing while I was away at Fort Fisher. In consequence, we filled up the river with stones so that no vessels can pass either way. It enables us to ‘hold the fort’ with a very small force, but quite sufficient to prevent any one from removing obstructions. Therefore the rebels’ ironclads are useless to them.”
‘But can’t we make a noise?’ asked the President; ‘that would be refreshing.'”
“Yes, I replied, we can make a noise; and, if you desire it, I will commence.”
“‘Well, make a noise,’ he said.”
“I sent a telegram to Captain Breese, just above Dutch Gap, to commence firing the starboard broadside guns of the vessels above, to have the guns loaded with shrapnel, and to fire in the direction of the forts without attempting any particular aim, to fire rapidly, and to keep it up until I told him to stop. The firing commenced about nine o’clock, the hour when all good soldiers and sailors turn in and take their rest.”
“The President admitted that the noise was a very respectable one, and listened to it attentively, while the rapid flashes of the guns lit up the whole horizon.”
“In about twenty minutes there was a loud explosion which shook the vessel.”
“The President jumped from his chair. ‘I hope to Heaven one of them has not blown up!’ he exclaimed. No, sir, I replied. My ear detects that the sound was at least two miles farther up the river; it is one of the rebel ironclads. You will hear another in a minute.”
“‘Well,’ he said, ‘our noise has done some good; that’s a cheap way of getting rid of ironclads. I am certain Richmond is being evacuated, and that Lee has surrendered, or those fellows would not blow up their ironclads.'”
“Just then there was a second explosion, and two more followed close after.”
“That is all of them, I said; no doubt the forts are all evacuated, and tomorrow we can go up to Richmond. I will telegraph to Captain Breese to take the obstructions up to-night, or at least enough of them to let the Malvern go through.”
“The telegram was sent, and the work of moving the obstructions commenced at once. It was completed by eight o’clock the following morning, and several of the smaller vessels went through, got their boats out, and began sweeping the river for torpedoes.”
“At daylight it was discovered that all the forts had been set on fire and evacuated, and nothing was to be seen of the ironclads but their black hulls partly out of water.” 123
Boston journalist Charles Carleton Coffin related how the traffic in human slavery came to an abrupt end on April 2 when the Confederate government fled Richmond as Union troops closed in. Coffin wrote: “Within pistol-shot of the mansion which President Davis had occupied was the prison house of the slave-traders, a dark and gloomy building with iron grated cells. The slave-dealer, Mr. Lampkins, quick handcuffed his human chattels, and marched them to the railroad station, but there was no room for them on the train which whirled the Confederate Government from the capital. Soldiers with fixed bayonets forced them back. It was the last slave gang seen in this Western world. With oaths and curses loud and deep at his hard luck, the slave-dealer was obliged to unlock their handcuffs and allow them to go free. They had been worth fifty thousand dollars, but on that Sunday morning were of less value than the mule and the wagon which had drawn the slave-trader’s trunk to the station. The ‘corner-stone’ of the Confederacy had crumbled to atoms. As the sun went down, the President and his secretaries, together with several Doctors of Divinity who had preached eloquent sermons in support of slavery as a beneficent institution ordained of God for the welfare of the human race, whirled away from the station, leaving behind a panic-stricken crowd.”124
Black journalist T. Morris Chester wrote from Richmond: “On Sunday evening, strange to say, the jails in this place were thrown open, and all runaway negroes, those for sale and those for safe keeping were told to hop out and enjoy their freedom. You may rely upon it that they did not need a second invitation. Many of these persons will have no difficulty in convincing themselves that they were always on the side of the Union and the freedom of the slave. Great events have a wonderful influence upon the minds of guilty, trembling wretches.”125 White journalist Charles Carleton Coffin related how barrels of whiskey were destroyed by departing Confederate troops: “…as the liquor ran down the gutter, officers and soldiers filled their flasks and canteens, while those who had no canteen threw themselves upon the ground and drank from the fiery stream. The rabble with pitchers, basins, dipped it up and drank as if it were the wine of life. The liquor soon began to show its effects. The crowd became a mob, and rushed upon the stores and Government warehouses. The soldiers on guard at first kept them at bay, but, as the darkness deepened the whisky-maddened crowd became more furious. But midnight there was a grand saturnalia. The flour in the Government stores was seized. Men were seen, rolling hogsheads of bacon through the streets.126
Mr. Lincoln’s passage to Richmond on April l4 was not without difficulty. “Drewry’s Bluff, seven miles below Richmond, marked the second line of obstructions, and there serious problems began. To restrict passage, the Confederates had sunk steamships across the river, leaving only their rotting wheelhouses protruding above the surface and a gap of fifty feet to allow flag-of-truce boats to pass,” wrote historian Nelson Lankford. “Even before reaching this point, Porter had to leave the Bat behind when it ran into trouble. Its modern design – shallow draft, steel hull, and two large oscillating engines – had not saved it from being captured on its first blockade run, and it was of no help at all now to its new Federal owners.”127 White House bodyguard William H. Crook recalled: “Beyond Drury’s Bluff, at a point where a bridge spans the water, the tug was sent back to help a steamboat which had stuck fast across the stream. It seems that it was the Allison, a captured Confederate vessel, and Admiral Farragut, who had taken it, was on board. The marines, of course, went with the tug. In the attempt to help the larger boat the tug was grounded. Then we went on with no other motive-power than the oars in the arms of the twelve sailors.”128 Also accompanying Lincoln were Army Captain Charles B. Penrose, Navy Captain A. H. Adams, and Army Lieutenant W. W. Clemens.129
Boston journalist Coffin wrote: “It was a little past noon when I walked down the river bank to view the desolation. While there I saw a boat pulled by twelve rows coming up-stream, containing President Lincoln and his little son, Admiral Porter, and three officers.” Coffin recalled that “Not far away a lieutenant had some forty or fifty coloured men at work, laying a bridge across the canal. Turning to one, I said: “I suppose you were a slave.”
“Would you like to see the man who gave you your freedom – Abraham Lincoln? There he is.”
‘Is dat Mars Linkum, sure, boss.’
“That is he.”
‘Hurrah! Hurrah! Mars Linkum! Mars Linkum!’
“He leaped in wild ecstasy, and tossed his hat into the air. In a moment, the entire company were shouting and running to gather round the man who had given them their freedom.”
‘Be dat Mars Linkum, sure?’
“A negro woman who came from a little cabin asked this question. I assured her it was President Lincoln.”
“‘Glory! Glory! Glory!’ she shouted, clapping her hands and leaping into the air. It was not a hurrah that gave so much as a wild, jubilant cry of inexpressible joy.”
“They pressed round the President, ran ahead, and hovered upon the flanks and rear of the little company. Men, women, and children joined the constantly increasing throng. They came from all the streets, running in breathless haste, shouting and hallooing, and dancing with delight. The men threw up their hats, the women waved their bonnets and handkerchiefs, clapped their hands, and shouted, ‘Glory to God! glory! glory! glory!’ – rendering all the praise to God, who had given them freedom, after long years of wear waiting, and had permitted them thus unexpectedly to meet their great benefactor.”130
Bodyguard William Crook recalled: “The shore for some distance before we reached Richmond was black with negroes. They had heard that President Lincoln was on his way – they had some sort of an underground telegraph, I am sure. They were wild with excitement, and yelling like so many wild men, ‘Dar comes Massa Linkum, de Sabier ob de lan’ – we is so glad to see him!’ We landed at the Rocketts, over a hundred yards back of Libby prison. By the time we were on shore hundreds of black hands were outstretched to the President, and he shook some of them and thanked the darkies for their welcome. While we stood still a few minutes before beginning our walk through the city, we saw some soldiers not far away ‘initiating’ some negroes by tossing them on a blanket. When they came down they were supposed to be transformed into Yankees…But they were all eager for the ordeal. The President laughed boyishly; I heard him afterward telling some one about the funny sight.”
We formed in line. Six sailors were in advance and six in the rear. They were armed with short carbines. Mr. Lincoln was in the centre, with Admiral Porter and Captain Penrose on the right, and I on the left, holding Taddie by the hand. I was armed with a Colt’s revolver. We looked more like prisoners than anything else as we walked up the streets of Richmond not thirty-six hours after the Confederates had evacuated.131
An anonymous reporter, probably Charles Carleton Coffin, later recorded the same scene for the Atlantic Monthly. The newly emancipated slaves “gathered round the President, ran ahead, hovered upon the flanks of the little company, and hung like a dark cloud upon the rear. Men, women, and children joined the constantly increasing throng. They came from all the by-streets, running in breathless haste, shouting and hallooing and dancing with delight.” This reporter observed: “The air rang with a tumultuous chorus of voices. The street became almost impassable on account of the increasing multitude. Soldiers were summoned to clear the way. How strange the event! The President of the United States – he who had been hated, despised, maligned above all other men living, to whom the vilest epithets had been applied by the people of Richmond – was walking their streets, receiving thanksgivings, blessings, and praises from thousands who hailed him as the ally of the Messiah! How bitter the reflections of that moment to some who beheld him!”132
Sergeant Alexander H. Newton, a black soldier serving in the 29th Connecticut Regiment, wrote: “We were present in Richmond when President Lincoln made his triumphal entry into the city. It was a sight never to be forgotten. He passed through the main street, There were multitudes of Colored people to greet him on every hand. They received him with many demonstrations that came from the heart, thanking God that they had seen the day of their salvation, that freedom was theirs, that now they could live in this country, like me and women, and go on their way rejoicing. Orderly I. J. Hill said that he saw a colored woman trying to get a look at the president, at last he came along and Orderly Hill said to her: ‘Madame, there is the man that made you free.’ She shouted, ‘Is that President Lincoln? Glory to God, give Him praise for His goodness.'” Sergeant Newton wrote:
“This march created the wildest enthusiasm of the Colored people. They had lived to see the day of their liberty drawing. I was reminded of what had been done for the ancient Hebrews by Moses when he led them out of the land of their bondage, into the land of their promised liberty. Lincoln was indeed our Moses. He led us forth. He gave us our freedom. I noticed one white lady in a window, who turned away from the whole scene as if in utter disgust. There were still two sides to the question, then and there are two sides to it today. How long will these two sides remain, is the question. As the President looked upon the poor Colored people and remembered how many lives had been lost in working out their salvation, he was not able to keep the tears from his eyes. There were tears of gladness and sorrow, of regret and delight; but the tears of my own people were the tears of the greatest joy.”133
Historian Michael Burlingame wrote: “As the procession made its way slowly up the street, it paused once again, this time at Libby Prison, where Union officers had been incarcerated in especially grim conditions. When someone suggested that it be torn down, Lincoln objected, saying it should be preserved as a monument.” 134 The New York Times reported on President Lincoln’s visit to Richmond: “Mr. Lincoln, accompanied by his young son and Admiral PORTER arrived at the Rockette at 2 P.M., in the Malvern, and proceeded at once to the mansion of Ex-President DAVIS, now the headquarters of Maj.-Gen. Weitzel.”
“The arrival of the President soon got noised abroad, and the colored population turned out in great force, and for a time blockaded the quarters of the President, cheering vociferously.”
“It was to be expected, that a population that three days since were in slavery, should evince a strong desire to look upon the man whose edict had struck forever the manacles from their limbs. A considerable number of the white population cheered the President heartily, and but for the order of the Provost-marshal, issued yesterday, ordering them to remain within their homes quietly for a few days, without doubt there would have been large addition to the number present. After a short interval the President held a levee – Gen DEVINS introducing all the officers present. The President shook hands with each, and received the hearty congratulations of all.”
“The Presidential, party attended by Gens. WEITZEL, [Thomas] DEVINS, [George F.] SHEPLEY, and a brilliant staff of officers, then made a tour round the city – drove rapidly round the capitol – stopping for a few moments to admire CRAWFORD’s magnificent statute of Washington, in the grounds of the capitol, and returned to Gen. Weitzel’s headquarters at 5:30.”
“The President and party left Richmond at 6:30 P.M.”135
Naval officer John S. Barnes wrote of the President’s entrance into the Confederate White House: “The President entered by the front door that opened into a small square hall with steps leading to the second story. He was then led into the room on the right, which had been Mr. Davis’s reception room and office. It was plainly but comfortably furnished – a large desk on one side, a table or two against the walls, a few chairs, and one large leather-covered arm or easy chair. The walls were decorated with prints and photographs, one or two of Confederate ironclads – one of the Sumter, that excited my covetousness. Mr. Lincoln walked across the room to the easy chair and sank down in it. He was pale and haggard, and seemed utterly worn out with fatigue and the excitement of the past hour. A few of us were gathered about the door; little was said by anyone. It was a supreme moment – the home of the fleeing President of the Confederacy invaded by his opponents after years of blood contests for its possession, and now occupied by the President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, seated in the chair almost warm from the pressure of the body of Jefferson Davis!…what he said remains fixed in my memory – the first expression of a natural want – ‘I wonder if I could get a drink of water.’ He did not appeal to any particular person for it. I can see the tired look out of those kind blue eyes over which the lids half drooped; his voice was gentle and soft. There was no triumph in his gesture or attitude. He lay back in the chair like a tired man whose nerves had carried him beyond his strength. All he wanted was rest and a drink of water.”136
Union commander Edward H. Ripley later recalled the dangers presented by the Richmond visit of President Lincoln, who refused the security contingent which General Ripley thought necessary: “He would not allow it, and strolled through the city like a private citizen, followed by crowds of people, white and black. It was a very dangerous thing to do. One rebel agent, who was an informant for Ripley told him that “it would be but human nature for some one to take the opportunity to revenge the lost cause on the person of the man who represented the triumphant cause of the Union.” He warned Ripley that President Lincoln was “in great danger of violence and he should take the greater care of himself.”137
Naval officer John S. Barnes wrote: “Although General Weitzel had been in possession of Richmond since early morning or late the evening before, not a sign of it was in evidence, not a soldier was to be seen, and the street along the riverside in which we were, at first free from people, became densely thronged, and every moment became more and more packed with them. With one of my officers, the surgeon, I pushed my way through the crowd endeavoring to reach the side of the President, whose tall form and high beaver hat towered above the crowd. In vain I struggled to get nearer to him. In some way they had learned that the man in the high hat was President Lincoln, and the constantly increasing crowd, particularly the negroes, became frantic with excitement.” Barnes wrote that “the situation was very alarming to me. I saw that they were pushed, hustled, and elbowed along without any regard to their persons, while I was packed closely, and simply drifted along in their general direction. This state of things lasted a half hour or more, The day was very warm, and as we progressed the street became thick with dust and smoke from the smoldering ruins about us. At last when the conditions had become almost unendurable, a cavalryman was found standing at a street corner, and word was sent by him to the nearest post that President Lincoln wished for assistance. He galloped off and in a few minutes a small squadron of mounted men made its appearance.”138 House Speaker Schuyler Colfax later told President Lincoln how nervous this visit to Richmond had made many Americans. President Lincoln responded: “Why, if anyone else had been president and had gone to Richmond, I would have been alarmed too, but I was not scared about myself a bit.”139
The Campbell Request
On April 5, the day after he visited Richmond, President Lincoln met aboard a gunboat in the James River with former Supreme Court Justice John A. Campbell, whom he had met two months earlier at the Hampton Roads conference. They discussed how “Virginia can be brought back into Union.” Union Admiral David Dixon Porter recalled that “John A. Campbell, late justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, sent a request to be allowed to come on board with General Weitzel. He wanted to call on the President. He came on board and spent an hour. The President and himself seemed to be enjoying themselves very much, to judge from their laughter.”
“I did not go down to the cabin. In about an hour General Weitzel and Mr. Campbell came on deck, asked for a boat, and were landed.”
“I went down below for a moment, and the President said: ‘Admiral, I am sorry you were not here when Mr. Campbell was on board. He has gone on shore happy. I gave him a written permission to allow the State Legislature to convene in the Capitol in the absence of all other government.'”
“I was rather astonished at this piece of information. I felt that this course would bring about complications, and wondered how it had all come to pass. I found it had all been done by the persuasive tongue of Mr. Campbell, who had promised the President that if the Legislature of Virginia could meet in the halls of the Confederate Congress it would vote Virginia right back into the Union; that it would be a delicate compliment paid to Virginia which would be appreciated, etc.”
‘Weitzel backed up Mr. Campbell, and the President was won over to agree to what would have been a most humiliating thing if it had been accomplished.
“When the President told me all that had been done, and that General Weitzel had gone on shore with an order in his pocket to let the Legislature meet, I merely said: ‘Mr. President, I suppose you remember that this city is under military jurisdiction, and that no courts, Legislature, or civil authority can exercise any power without the sanction of the general commanding the army. This order of yours should go through General Grant, who would inform you that Richmond was under martial law; and I am sure he would protest against this arrangement of Mr. Campbell’s.'”
“The President’s common sense took in the situation at once. ‘Why,’ he said, ‘Weitzel made no objection, and he commands here.'”
“‘That is because he is Mr. Campbell’s particular friend, and wished to gratify him; besides, I don’t think he knows much about anything but soldiering. General Shepley would not have preferred such a request.'”
“‘Run and stop them,’ exclaimed the President, ‘and get my order back! Well, I came near knocking all the fat into the fire, didn’t I?'”
“To make things sure, I had an order written to General Weitzel and signed by the President as follows: ‘Return my permission to the Legislature of Virginia to meet, and don’t allow it to meet at all.’ There was an ambulance-wagon at the landing, and giving the order to an officer, I said to him, ‘Jump into that wagon, and kill the horse if necessary, but catch the carriage which carried General Weitzel and Mr. Campbell, and deliver this order to the general.'”
“The carriage was caught after it reached the city. The old wagon horse had been a trotter in his day, and went his three minutes. The general and Mr. Campbell were surprised. The President order was sent back, and they never returned to try and reverse the decision.”
“Mr. Campbell evidently saw that his scheme of trying to put the State Legislature in session with the sanction of the President had failed, and that it was useless to try it again. It was a clever dodge to soothe the wounded feelings of the South, and no doubt was kindly meant by the late Justice Campbell, but what a howl it would have at the North!! Mr. Campbell had been gone about an hour when we had another remarkable scene. A man appeared at the landing, dressed in gray homespun, of a somewhat decayed appearance, and with a staff about six feet long in his hand. It was, in fact, nothing more than a stick taken from a wood-pile. It was about two inches in diameter, and was not even smoothed at the knots. It was just such a weapon as a man would pick up to kill a mad dog with.”140
The letter President Lincoln had written Campbell described his terms for peace, which he apparently read to Campbell as they discussed how to bring the war to an end:
“As to peace, I have said before, and now repeat, that three things are indispensable.
“One. The restoration of the national authority throughout all the States.”
“Two. No receding by the Executive of the United States on the slavery question, from the position assumed thereon, in the late Annual Message to Congress, and in preceding documents.”
“Three. No cessation of hostilities short of an end of the war, and the disbanding of all force hostile to the government.”
“That all propositions coming from those now in hostility to the government; and not inconsistent with the foregoing, will be respectfully considered, and passed upon in a spirit of sincere liberality.”
“I now add that it seems useless for me to be more specific with those who will not say they are ready for the indispensable terms, even on conditions to be named by themselves. If there be any who are ready for those indispensable terms, on any conditions whatever, let them say so, and state their conditions, so that such conditions can be distinctly known, and considered.”
“It is further added that the remission of confiscations being within the executive power, if the war be now further persisted in, by those opposing the government, the making of confiscated property at the least to bear the additional cost, will be insisted on; but that confiscations (except in cases of third party intervening interests) will be remitted to the people of any State which shall now promptly, and in good faith, withdraw it’s troops and other support, from further resistance to the government.”
“What is now said as to remission of confiscations has no reference to supposed property in slaves.”141
Lincoln’s generosity was not shared by northern Republicans. Michael Burlingame wrote: “As Shepley predicted, Lincoln’s order sparked a firestorm of protest, and the cabinet disapproved of the plan. Stanton, as he later said, ‘vehemently opposed’ the scheme and held ‘several very earnest conversations’ with the president, advising him ‘that any effort to reorganize the Government should be under Federal authority solely, treating the rebel organizations and government as absolutely null and void.'”142
Richmond lawyer Gustavus A. Myers had accompanied Campbell when he visited President Lincoln on April 5. He wrote that as President Lincoln reviewed his statement, he told them “he could not retract from anything he had heretofore announced as his opinion in his public message to Congress, and independently of his own opinions about the questions of property in slaves, he could not without a violation of good faith change any of his sentiments in that behalf. In reference to confiscation of property, that was in his power, and he should be disposed to exercise that power in the spirit of sincere liberality. It had not gone to any great extent, and, except in the cases of the rights of third persons intervening by purchase, a question he must of course leave to the courts to decide, he did not think there would [be] any insurmountable obstacle in adjusting the matter.” President Lincoln added that “he was thinking over a plan by which the Virginia legislature might be brought to hold their meeting in the Capitol in Richmond, for the purpose of seeing whether they desired to take any action on behalf of the states in view of the existing state of affairs…the outline of his plan being, that safe conduct should be given to the members to come hither, and that after a reasonable time were allowed them to deliberate, should they arrive at no conclusion, they would have safe conduct afforded them to leave Richmond.”143
Historian James G. Randall wrote that President “Lincoln realized that genuine Southern leaders could and would co-operate to make the situation orderly instead of chaotic, and that their help was essential if this high purpose was to be accomplished quickly and reasonably.”144 Historian Brooks D. Simpson wrote: “The idea seemed a little far-fetched, even to Lincoln, and soon involved him in matters he would have done better to avoid.”145 On April 6, President Lincoln wrote 29-year-old General Weitzel: “It has been intimated to me that the gentlemen who have acted as the Legislature of Virginia, in support of the rebellion, may now desire to assemble at Richmond and take measures to withdraw the Virginia troops, and other support from resistance to the General Government. If they attempt it give them permission and protection until, if at all, they attempt some action hostile to the United States, in which case you will notify them and give them reasonable time to leave; and at the end of which time arrest any who may remain. Allow Judge Campbell to see this, but do no make it public.”146
In a letter to General Grant on April 6, President Lincoln wrote: “I was at Richmond yesterday and the day before, when and where Judge Campbell (who was with Messrs. Hunter and Stephens in February) called on me and made such representations as induced me to put in his hands an informal paper, repeating the propositions in my letter of instructions to Mr. Seward (which you remember) and adding that if the war be now further persisted in by the rebels, confiscated property shall, at the least, bear the additional cost; and that confiscations shall be remitted to the people of any state which will now promptly, and in good faith, withdraw its troops and other support, from resistance to the government. Judge Campbell thought it not impossible that the rebel Legislature of Virginia would do the latter, if permitted; and accordingly, I addressed a private letter to Gen. Weitzel (with permission for Judge Campbell to see it) telling him, Gen. W. that if they attempt this, to permit and protect them, unless they attempt something hostile to the United States, in which case to give them notice and time to leave, and to arrest any remaining after such time.
“I do not think it very probable that anything will come of this; but I have thought best to notify you, so that if you should see signs, you may understand them. From your recent despatches it seems that you are pretty effectually withdrawing the Virginia troops from opposition to the government. Nothing I have done, or probably shall do, is to delay, hinder, or interfere with you in your work.”147
Assistant Secretary of War Charles A. Dana had been dispatched to the former Confederate capital. He recalled: “The important question which the President had on his mind when I reached Richmond was how Virginia could be brought to the Union. He had already had an interview with Judge Campbell and other prominent representatives of the Confederate Government. All they asked, they said, was an amnesty and a military convention to cover appearances. Slavery they admitted to be defunct. The President did not promise them amnesty, but he told them he had the pardoning power, and would save any repentant sinner from hanging. They assured him that, if amnesty could be offered, the rebel army would be dissolved and all the States return.”
“On the morning of the 7th, five members of the so-called Virginia Legislature held a meeting to consider written propositions which the President had handed to Judge Campbell. The President showed these papers to me confidentially. They were two in number. One stated reunion as a sine qua non; the second authorized General Weitzel to allow members of the body claiming to be the Legislature of Virginia to meet in Richmond for the purpose of recalling Virginia’s soldiers from the rebel armies, with safe conduct to them so long as they did and said nothing hostile to the United States. In discussing with me these documents, the President remarked that [Philip] Sheridan seemed to be getting rebel soldiers out of the war faster than the Legislature could think.148
The Campbell-Lincoln correspondence riled Radical Republicans in Congress with whom President Lincoln’s relations were often rocky. Historian William C. Harris wrote: “Critics vehemently complained that his action recognized rebel authority and repudiated Pierpont’s Union government. They also expressed fear that once the rebels were in control of the Virginia government, they would continue their hostility toward the Union. If his decision stood, it would create a dangerous precedent for reconstruction in all of the defeated South. Already five or six members of the old legislature had returned to Richmond, and a few days later they were joined by a half dozen more members.”149
On April 12, President Lincoln wrote General Weitzel: “I have just seen Judge Campbell’s letter to you of the 7th. He assumes as appears to me that I have called the insurgent Legislature of Virginia together, as the rightful Legislature of the State, to settle all differences with the United States. I have done no such thing. I spoke of them not as a Legislature, but as ‘the gentlemen who have acted as the Legislature of Virginia, in support of the rebellion.’ I did this on purpose to exclude the assumption that I was recognizing them as a rightful body. I dealt with them as men having power de facto to do a specific thing, towit, ‘to withdraw the Virginia troops, and other support from resistance to the General Government,’ for which in the paper handed Judge Campbell I promised a specific equivalent to wit, a remission to the people of the State, except in certain cases, the confiscation of their property. I meant this and no more. In as much however as Judge Campbell misconstrues this, and is still pressing for an armistice, contrary to the explicit statement of the paper I gave him; and particularly as Gen. Grant has since captured the Virginia troops, so that giving a consideration for their withdrawal is no longer applicable, let my letter to you, and the paper to Judge Campbell both be withdrawn or, countermanded, and he be notified of it. Do not now allow them to assemble, but if any have come, allow them safe-return to their homes.”150
On April 10, 186, President Lincoln had written Governor Pierpoint: “Please come and see me at once.” 151 When they met later that day at the White House, President Lincoln explained to Pierpont that “your government at Alexandria was fully in my mind, and I intended to recognize the restored government, of which you were head, as the rightful government of Virginia. My plan then was to authorize in my proclamation the assembling of those men to do a single act – that was to withdraw the army of Virginia, then cooperating with the Confederate army, from the field; and with this act I expected their powers as legislators to cease. They had put the army in the field, why not take it out and quit?” According to Pierpont, President Lincoln said:
“‘The drafting of that order, though so short, gave me more perplexity than any other paper I ever drew up. I went to the boat at 7 o’clock, and worked at that proclamation until 1 [o’clock] before I got it to suit me. My object was so to draw the paper as to give no authority to do anything except to take the rebel soldiers out of the field, and at the same time, in no way compromise your position as Governor of the Restored Government of Virginia.'”
“‘I issued that proclamation, which you have seen, authorizing the assembling of the so-called Confederate Legislature of Virginia. Then I gave it to the General commanding the post, and gave him full oversight of the Legislature when it assembled, with general power to disperse it if it manifested a refractory spirit.’ ‘But,’ said Mr. Lincoln, ‘if I had known that General Lee would surrender so soon I would not have issued it.'”
“There is one question on which I should like to have information. I tried to get some in Richmond, but it was all a sealed book. I could get no information as to the feeling of the people. How will they receive you, who have antagonized them from the beginning of the war? Will they rush forward and try to seize all the offices? Will they sulk and do nothing?”152
On Wednesday and Thursday of the final week of his life, President Lincoln explained his thinking about convening the Virginia state legislature to Navy Secretary Gideon Welles: “His idea was that the members of the legislature, being the prominent and influential men of their respective counties, had better come together and undo their own work. He felt assured they would do this, and the movement he believed a good one. Civil government must be reestablished as soon as possible. There must be courts and law and order, or society would be broken up, the disbanded armies would turn into robber bands and guerrillas, which we must thrive to prevent. These were the reasons why he wished them to come together and turn themselves and their neighbors into good Union men. But as we all took a different view, he had perhaps made a mistake, and was ready to correct if he had.”153
General Ulysses S. Grant recalled: “I remember one little incident which I will relate as an anecdote characteristic of Mr. Lincoln. It occurred a day after I reached Washington, and about the time General [George] Meade reached Burkesville with the army. Governor [William] Smith of Virginia had left Richmond with the Confederate States government, and had gone to Danville. Supposing I was necessarily with the army at Burkesville, he addressed a letter to me there informing that, as governor of the Commonwealth of the State of Virginia, he had temporarily removed the State capital from Richmond to Danville, and asking if he would be permitted to perform the functions of his office there without molestation by the Federal authorities. I give this letter only in substance. He also inquired of me whether in case he was not allowed to perform the duties of his office, he with a few others might not be permitted to leave the country and go abroad without interference. General Meade being informed that a flag of truce was outside his pickets with a letter to me, at once sent out and had the letter brought in without informing the officer who brought it that I was not present. He read the letter and telegraphed me its contents. Meeting Mr. Lincoln shortly after receiving this dispatch, I repeated its contents to him. Mr. Lincoln, supposing I was asking for instructions, said, in reply to that would be permitted to leave the country unmolested, that his position was like that of a certain Irishman (giving the name) he knew in Springfield who was very popular with the people, a man of considerable promise, and very much liked. Unfortunately, he had acquired the habit of drinking, and his friends could see that the habit was growing on him. These friends determined to make an effort to save him, and to do this they drew up a pledge to abstain from all alcoholic drinks. They asked Pat to join them in signing the pledge, and he consented. He had been so long out of the habit of using plain water as a beverage that he resorted to soda-water as a substitute. After a few days this began to grow distasteful to him. So holding the glass behind him, he said: ‘Doctor, couldn’t you drop a bit of brandy in that unbeknownst to myself.'”
“I do not remember what the instructions were the President gave me, but I know that Governor Smith was not permitted to perform the duties of his office. I also know if Mr. Lincoln had been spared, there would have been no efforts made to prevent any one from leaving the country who desired to do so. He would have been equally willing to permit the return of the same expatriated citizens after they had time to repent of their choice.”154
On Friday, April 14, Campbell returned to General Edward O. C. Ord Campbell’s copy of the memorandum from President. Campbell wrote: “The communication of President Lincoln in respect to convening the legislature of Virginia in Richmond was addressed to General Weitzel. I read the communication by the authority of the writer and communicated its purpose to those who were interested in fulfilling its requirements. The object was to restore peace to Virginia on the terms mentioned in the enclosed paper, by the agency of the authorities that had sustained the war against the U.S. I still think that the plan was judiciously selected and that the issue would have been most favorable. The events that have since occurred have removed some impediments to the action sought for and preclude the possibility of its failure.”155
The same day, Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton presented a plan for reconstruction to the Lincoln Cabinet. Historian Allan Nevins wrote: “It has long been assumed, and probably with a correct interpretation of the limited evidence available, that the cabinet on April 11 was unanimous against the proposal of Lincoln to use the Virginia Legislature. Two days later, Welles had a talk with Lincoln in which the President said that as all Cabinet members had taken a view differing from his own, ‘he had concluded that he had perhaps made a mistake, and was correct to correct it if he had….’ Stanton and [James] Speed were the men most determined against the plan, while [William] Dennison also was quite firm.”156 Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles reported in his diary about the Friday cabinet session: “General Grant was present at the meeting of the Cabinet to-day, and remained during the session. The subject was the relations of the Rebels, the communications, the trade, etc. Stanton proposed that intercourse should be opened by his issuing an order, that the Treasury would give permits to all who wished them to trade, excluding contraband, and he, Stanton, would order the vessels to be received into any port. I suggested that it would be better that the President should issue a proclamation stating and enjoying the course to be pursued by the several Departments.”
“[Treasury Secretary Hugh] McCulloch expressed a willingness to be relieved of the Treasury agents. General Grant expressed himself very decidedly against them; thought them demoralizing, etc. The President said we, i.e. the Secretaries of Treasury, War, and Navy, had given the subject more attention than he had and would be satisfied with any conclusion we would united upon. I proposed to open the whole coast to any one who wished to trade, and who had a regular clearance and manifest, and was entitled to a coast license. Stanton thought it should not extend beyond the military lines. General Grant thought they might embrace all this side of the Mississippi.”
“Secretary Stanton requested the Cabinet to hear some remarks which he desired to make, and to listen to a proposition or ordinance which he had prepared with much care and after a great deal of reflection, for reconstruction in the Rebel States. The plan or ordinance embraced two distinct heads, one for asserting the Federal authority in Virginia, the other for reestablishing a State government. The first struck me favorably, with some slight emendations; the second seemed to me objectionable in several essentials, and especially as in conflict with the principles of self-government which I deem essential. There was little said on the subject, for the understanding was that we should each be furnished with a copy for criticism and suggestion, and in the mean time we were requested by the President to deliberate and carefully consider the proposition. He remarked that this was the great question now before us, and we must soon begin to act. Was glad Congress was not in session.”
“I objected that Virginia occupied a different position from that of any other State in rebellion; that while regular State governments were to be established in other States, whose Secession governments were nullities and would not be recognized, Virginia had a skeleton organization which she had maintained through the war, which government we had recognized and still recognized; that we to-day acknowledge Peirpoint as the legitimate Governor of Virginia. He had been elected by only a few border counties, it was true; had never been able to enforce his authority over but a small portion of the territory or population; nevertheless we had recognized and sustained him.”
“The President said the point was well taken. Governor Dennison said he though we should experience little difficulty from Peirpont. Stanton said none whatever.”
“I remarked the fact was not to be controverted that we had treated with the existing government and could not ignore our own acts. The President and a portion of West Virginia, recognized the validity of the government of Virginia and of Peirpont’s administration, which had given its assent to that division. Without that consent no division could legally have taken place. I had differed with others in that matter, but consistency and the validity of our own act required us to continue to acknowledge the existing government. It was proper we should enforce the Federal authority, and it was proper we should aid Governor Peirpoint, whose government was recognized and established. In North Carolina a legal government was now to be organized and the State reestablished in her proper relations to the Union.”
“Inquiry had been made as to army news on the first meeting of the Cabinet, and especially if any information had been received from Sherman. None of the members had heard anything, and Stanton, who makes it a point to be late, and who has the telegraph in his Department, had not arrived. General Grant, who was present, said he was hourly expecting word. The President remarked it would, he had not doubt, come soon, and come favorable, for he had last night the usual dream which he had preceding nearly every great and important event of the War. Generally the news had been favorable which succeeded this dream, and the dream itself was always the same. I inquired what this remarkable dream could be. He said it related to your (my) element, the water; that he seemed to be in some singular, indescribable vessel, and that he was moving with great rapidity towards an indefinite shore; that he had this dream preceding Sumter, Bull Run, Antietam, Gettysburg, Stone River, Vicksburg, Wilmington, etc. General Grant said Stone River was certainly no victory, and he knew of no great results which followed from it. The President said however that might be, his dream preceded that fight.”
“‘I had,’ the President remarked, ‘this strange dream again last night, and we shall, judging from the past, have great news very soon. I think it must be from Sherman. My thoughts are in that direction, as are most of yours.'”
“I write this conversation three days after it occurred, in consequence of what took place Friday night, and but for which the mention of this dream would probably have never been noted. Great events did, indeed, follow, for within a few hours the good and gentle, as well as truly great, man who narrated his dream closed forever his earthly career.”157
After the Cabinet meeting, Attorney General James Speed told Supreme Court Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase that the President contended he “had made a mistake at Richmond in sanctioning the assembling of the Virginia legislature and had perhaps been too fast in his desires for early reconstruction.158 President Lincoln ordered Secretary of War Stanton to take the lead in developing a reconstruction plan to be discussed at the next cabinet meeting. Virginia was to be excluded from the plan. Historian William C. Harris wrote: ” In a pointed aside, Lincoln remarked that it was providential that Congress was not in session to embarrass the work of restoration.”159
Far less providentially, President Lincoln was assassinated that evening.
- William C. Harris, Lincoln’s Rise to the Presidency, p. 209.
- Henry T. Shanks, The Secession Movement in Virginia, 1847-1861, pp. 111, 115-117.
- William Baringer, A House Dividing, pp. 112-113.
- Nelson D. Lankford, Cry Havoc! The Crooked Road to Civil War, 1861, p. 65.
- William A. Link, Roots of Secession: Slavery and Politics in Antebellum Virginia, pp. 145-146.
- David Detzer, The Turbulent Days Between Fort Sumter and Bull Run, p. 172.
- Richard N. Current, Lincoln and the First Shot, p. 31.
- Burton J. Hendrick, Lincoln’s War Cabinet, p. 169.
- Burton J. Hendrick, Lincoln’s War Cabinet, p. 170.
- Donald M. Potter, Lincoln and His Party in the Secession Crisis, p. 352.
- Benjamin Perley Poore, Perley’s Reminiscences, Volume II, pp. 64-65.
- Charles M. Segal, editor, Conversations with Lincoln, p. 82.
- Allan Nevins, The War for the Union: The Improvised War, 1861-1862, pp. 46-47.
- Charles M. Segal, editor, Conversations with Lincoln, p. 90 (Charles Moorhead, Liverpool Mercury, October 13, 1862).
- Thomas H. O’Connor, Lords of the Loom: The Cotton Whigs and the Coming of the Civil War, pp. 150-151.
- Michael Burlingame and John R. Turner Ettlinger, editors, Inside Lincoln’s White House: The Complete Civil War Diary of John Hay, p. 28 (October 22, 1861).
- Frederick W. Seward, Reminiscences of a War-Time Diplomat, pp. 147-148.
- Richard N. Current, Lincoln and the First Shot, pp. 52-53.
- Josiah G. Holland, Life of Abraham Lincoln, p. 295.
- Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress. Transcribed and Annotated by the Lincoln Studies Center, Knox College. Galesburg, Illinois. (Letter from Daniel G. Roberts to Abraham Lincoln, October 16, 1860).
- Michael Burlingame, Abraham Lincoln: A Life, Volume II, p. 97.
- Nelson D. Lankford, Cry Havoc! The Crooked Road to Civil War, 1861, p. 40.
- Allan Nevins, The War for the Union: The Improvised War, 1861-1862, p. 64.
- Michael Burlingame, Abraham Lincoln: A Life, Volume II, p. 120.
- Charles M. Segal, editor, Conversations with Lincoln, pp. 102-105.
- Richard N. Current, Lincoln and the First Shot, p. 111.
- Charles M. Segal, editor, Conversations with Lincoln, pp. 106-107.
- Frank van der Linden, Lincoln: The Road to War, p. 255.
- James G. Randall, Lincoln the President, Springfield to Gettysburg, Volume I, pp. 326-327.
- Michael Burlingame, Abraham Lincoln: A Life, Volume II, p. 121.
- Nathaniel Stephenson, Lincoln: An Account of His Personal Life, Especially of Its Springs of Action as Revealed and Deepened by the Ordeal of War, p. 444.
- William Marvel, Mr. Lincoln Goes to War, p. 88.
- Maury Klein, Days of Defiance: Sumter, Secession, and the Coming of the Civil War, pp. 382-383.
- Russell McClintock, Lincoln and the Decision for War: The Northern Response to Secession, p. 197
- William W. Freehling, The Road to Disunion: Secessionists Triumphant, Volume II, p. 514.
- CWAL, Volume IV, pp. 330-331 (Reply to a Committee from the Virginia Convention, [April 13, 1861).
- William W. Freehling, The Road to Disunion: Secessionists Triumphant, Volume II, pp. 525-526.
- Nelson D. Lankford, Cry Havoc! The Crooked Road to Civil War, 1861, pp. 3, 50-51.
- William W. Freehling, The Road to Disunion: Secessionists Triumphant, Volume II, pp. 525-526.
- Nelson D. Lankford, Cry Havoc! The Crooked Road to Civil War, 1861, p. 122
- Sallie A. Putnam, In Richmond During the Confederacy, p. 19.
- William O. Stoddard, Inside the White House in War Times, p. 9.
- Michael Burlingame, Abraham Lincoln: A Life, Volume II, p. 136.
- William W. Freehling, The Road to Disunion: Secessionists Triumphan, Volume II, p. 528.
- Virginius Dabney, Virginia: The New Dominion, p. 294.
- Nelson D. Lankford, Cry Havoc! The Crooked Road to Civil War, 1861, p. 106.
- CWAL, Volume IV, pp. 427-428 (Special Message to Congress, July 4, 1861).
- Michael Burlingame, Abraham Lincoln: A Life, Volume II, p. 177.
- With good reason, Pierpont’s name is frequently misspelled – e.g., Peirpont and Pierepoint. Until 1881, Pierpont himself spelled his name as “Peirpont.”
- James G. Blaine, Twenty Years of Congress, pp. 334-335.
- Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress. Transcribed and Annotated by the Lincoln Studies Center, Knox College. Galesburg, Illinois. (Letter from Francis H. Pierpont to Abraham Lincoln, September 12, 1861).
- James M. McPherson, This Mighty Scourge: Perspectives on the Civil War, p. 62.
- William Marvel, Lincoln’s Darkest Year: The War in 1862, p. 24.
- Gideon Welles, Diary of Gideon Welles, Volume I, p. 41.
- John Sherman Long, “The Gosport Affair, 1861,” The Journal of Southern History, May 1957, p. 158.
- Michael Burlingame, editor, Abraham Lincoln: The Observations of John G. Nicolay and John Hay, p. 45 (From John G. Nicolay and John Hay, Abraham Lincoln: A History, pp. 68-71).
- Nelson D. Lankford, Cry Havoc! The Crooked Road to Civil War, 1861, p. 192.
- William E. Baringer, “On Enemy Soil: President Lincoln’s Norfolk Campaign,” Abraham Lincoln’s Quarterly , March 1962, Volume VII, No. 1, pp. 5-8.
- Rufus Rockwell Wilson, editor, Intimate Memories of Lincoln, p. 450.
- Rufus Rockwell Wilson, editor, Intimate Memories of Lincoln, p. 451.
- Abraham Lincoln: Tributes from His Associates, p. 116. (Egbert L. Viele, “Lincoln as a Story-Teller”).
- William E. Baringer, “On Enemy Soil: President Lincoln’s Norfolk Campaign,” Abraham Lincoln’s Quarterly, March 1962, Volume VII, No. 1, pp. 5-8.
- David Donald, editor, Inside Lincoln’s Cabinet: The Civil War Diaries of Salmon P. Chase, pp. 75-76.
- William E. Baringer, “On Enemy Soil: President Lincoln’s Norfolk Campaign,” Abraham Lincoln’s Quarterly, March 1962, Volume VII, No. 1 , pp. 8-10.
- William Davis, Lincoln’s Men, p. 64.
- Stephen W. Sears, To the Gates of Richmond, p. 90.
- Solomon S. Rowe, Autobiography and Reminiscences of Solomon S. Rowe.
- Francis B. Carpenter, Six Months at the White House, pp. 240-241.
- Le Grand B. Cannon, Personal Reminiscences of the Rebellion, 1861-1865, p. 154.
- Egbert L. Viele, “A Trip with Lincoln, Chase, and Stanton,” Century Illustrated Magazine, Volume XVI , pp. 815-817.
- William C. Davis, Lincoln’s Men, p. 64.
- David Donald, editor, Inside Lincoln’s Cabinet: The Civil War Diaries of Salmon P. Chase, pp. 81-83 (May 11, 1862).
- John G. Nicolay and John Hay, Abraham Lincoln: A History, Volume V, p. 236
- William E. Baringer, “On Enemy Soil: President Lincoln’s Norfolk Campaign”, Abraham Lincoln’s Quarterly, March 1962, p. 18.
- Le Grand B. Cannon, Personal Reminiscences of the Rebellion, 1861-1865, pp.161-162.
- Francis B. Carpenter, Six Months at the White House, pp. 104-105.
- Le Grand B. Cannon, Personal Reminiscences of the Rebellion, 1861-1865, p. 163.
- David Donald, editor, Inside Lincoln’s Cabinet: The Civil War Diaries of Salmon P. Chase, p. 85 (May 11, 1862).
- John G. Nicolay and John Hay, History of Abraham Lincoln, Volume VI, p. 313.
- Michael Burlingame and John R. Turner Ettlinger, editors, Inside Lincoln’s White House: The Complete Civil War Diary of John Hay, p. 133 (December 25, 1863).
- William B. Hesseltine, Lincoln and the War Governors, p. 255.
- Benjamin F. Butler, Butler’s Book, Volume II, p. 618.
- Jessie Ames Marshall, editor, Private and Official Correspondence of Gen. Benjamin F. Butler, Volume III, p. 321-324 (Letter from Francis Pierpont to Edwin M. Stanton, January 20, 1864).
- Roy P. Basler, editor, Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln (CWAL), Volume VII, p. 207 (Memorandum Concerning Benjamin F. Butler, February 26, 1864).
- William C. Harris, With Charity for All, Lincoln and the Restoration of the Union, p. 165.
- Richard S. West, Jr., Lincoln’s Scapegoat General: A Life of Benjamin F. Butler, 1818-1893, p. 266.
- Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress. Transcribed and Annotated by the Lincoln Studies Center, Knox College. Galesburg, Illinois. (Letter from Benjamin F. Butler to Abraham Lincoln, February 23, 1864).
- Howard K. Beale, editor, The Diary of Edward Bates, p. 335 (February 15, 1864).
- Charles Henry Ambler, Francis H. Pierpont, p. 238
- Howard K. Beale, editor, The Diary of Edward Bates, p. 378 (June 25, 1864).
- David Work, Lincoln’s Political Generals, p. 167.
- Howard K. Beale, editor, The Diary of Edward Bates, p. 386 (July 16, 1864).
- Howard K. Beale, editor, The Diary of Edward Bates, p. 387 (July 20, 1864).
- Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress. Transcribed and Annotated by the Lincoln Studies Center, Knox College. Galesburg, Illinois (Letter from Benjamin F. Butler to Abraham Lincoln, August 1, 1864).
- Howard K. Beale, editor, The Diary of Edward Bates, p. 394 (August 4, 1864).
- William C. Harris, With Charity for All, Lincoln and the Restoration of the Union, p. 168.
- Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress. Transcribed and Annotated by the Lincoln Studies Center, Knox College. Galesburg, Illinois. (Draft letter from Abraham Lincoln to Benjamin F. Butler, August 9, 1864).
- Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress. Transcribed and Annotated by the Lincoln Studies Center, Knox College. Galesburg, Illinois. (Letter from Francis H. Pierpont to Abraham Lincoln, August 10, 1864).
- Charles Henry Ambler, Francis H. Pierpont, p. 253.
- Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress. Transcribed and Annotated by the Lincoln Studies Center, Knox College. Galesburg, Illinois. (Letter from Francis H. Pierpont to Abraham Lincoln, December 2, 1864).
- Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress. Transcribed and Annotated by the Lincoln Studies Center, Knox College. Galesburg, Illinois. (Draft letter from Abraham Lincoln to Benjamin F. Butler, December 21, 1864).
- Charles Henry Ambler, Francis H. Pierpont, pp. 243-244.
- Charles Henry Ambler, Francis H. Pierpont, p. 245.
- Vigil Carrington Jones, Eight Hours Before Richmond, p. 25.
- Edward G. Longacre, Mounted Raids of the Civil War, p. 231.
- Vigil Carrington Jones, Eight Hours Before Richmond, p. 29.
- William C. Harris, With Charity for All, Lincoln and the Restoration of the Union, p. 145
- Francis B. Carpenter, The Inner Life of Abraham Lincoln: Six Months at the White House, p. 216.
- Ian F. W. Beckett, The War Correspondents of the American Civil War, p. 130 (Times, March 23, 1864)
- Brooks D. Simpson, The Reconstruction Presidents, p. 56.
- Harold Holzer and Sara Vaughn Gabbard, editors, Lincoln and Freedom: Slavery, Emancipation, and the Thirteenth Amendment, pp. 187, 189 (Michael Vorenberg, “The Thirteenth Amendment Enacted”).
- Bruce Levine, Confederate Emancipation: Southern Plans to Free and Arm Slaves During the Civil War, p. 112.
- Helen Nicolay, Lincoln’s Secretary, p. 222.
- James G. Randall, Lincoln and the South, p. 127.
- CWAL, Volume VIII, pp. 330-331 (March 3, 1865).
- Gideon Welles, Diary of Gideon Welles, Volume II, p. 253 (March 7, 1865)
- William T. Sherman, Memoirs of General William T. Sherman, pp. 326-327.
- John S. Barnes, “With Lincoln from Washington to Richmond in 1865,” Appleton’s Magazine, May 1907, p. 742.
- Margarita Spalding Gerry, editor, Through Five Administrations: Reminiscences of Colonel William H. Crook, p. 47.
- Benjamin P. Thomas, editor, Three Years with Grant as Recalled by War Correspondent Sylvanus Cadwallader, pp. 232-233.
- Margarita Spalding Gerry, editor, William H. Crook, Through Five Administrations: Reminiscences of Colonel William H. Crook, pp. 46-49.
- John S. Barnes, “With Lincoln from Washington to Richmond in 1865,” Appleton’s Magazine, May 1907, p. 744.
- David Dixon Porter, Incidents and Anecdotes of the Civil War, pp. 292-294.
- Charles Carleton Coffin, Four Years of Fighting: Personal Observation with the Army and Navy, p. 528.
- Donald Yacovone, editor, Freedom’s Journey: African American Voices of the Civil War, p. 282 (Philadelphia Press, April 6, 1865).
- Charles Carleton Coffin, Four Years of Fighting: Personal Observation with the Army and Navy, p. 528.
- Nelson Lankford in Richmond Burning: The Last Days of the Confederate Capital, p. 160.
- Margarita Spalding Gerry, editor, Through Five Administrations: Reminiscences of Colonel William H. Crook, p. 54.
- Michael Burlingame, Abraham Lincoln: A Life, Volume II, p. 788.
- Charles Carleton Coffin, Four Years of Fighting: Personal Observation with the Army and Navy, p. 538.
- Margarita Spalding Gerry, editor, Through Five Administrations: Reminiscences of Colonel William H. Crook, pp. 50-53.
- “Late Scenes in Richmond,” The Atlantic Monthly, June 1865, p. 754 (Some of the same language is used by Charles Carleton Coffin in his memoirs.)
- Donald Yacovone, editor, Freedom’s Journey: African American Voices of the Civil War, p. 377 (from Alexander H. Newton, Out of the Briars: An Autobiography and Sketch of the Twenty-ninth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers).
- Michael Burlingame, Abraham Lincoln: A Life, Volume II, p. 790.
- David Herbert Donald and Harold Holzer, editors, Lincoln in the Times; The Life of Abraham Lincoln as Originally Reported in the New York Times, p. 228 (New York Times, March 5, 1861).
- John S. Barnes, “With Lincoln from Washington to Richmond in 1865,” Appleton’s Magazine, May 1907, pp.748-749.
- Edward H. Ripley, “Final Scenes at the Capture and Occupation of Richmond”, New York MOLLUS, Volume III, 1907
- John S. Barnes, “With Lincoln from Washington to Richmond in 1865,” Appleton’s Magazine, May 1907, p. 747-748.
- Don E. and Virginia E. Fehrenbacher, editors, Recollected Words of Abraham Lincoln, p. 115.
- David Dixon Porter, Incidents and Anecdotes of the Civil War, pp. 304-305 (Historian James McPherson noted that “Porter was a good naval commander but an untrustworthy memoirist,” James M. McPherson, This Mighty Scourge: Perspectives on the Civil War, p. 131)./li>
- CWAL, Volume. VIII, pp. 386-87. (Letter to Letter to John A. Campbell, April 5, 1865).
- Michael Burlingame, Abraham Lincoln: A Life, Volume II, p. 794.
- Don E. and Virginia Fehrenbacher, The Recollected Words of Abraham Lincoln, p. 338 (Gustavus A. Myers).
- James G. Randall, Lincoln and the South, p. 129.
- Brooks D. Simpson, The Reconstruction Presidents, p. 60.
- Douglas L. Wilson and Rodney O. Davis, editors, Herndon’s Informants, p. 413 (Letter from Abraham Lincoln to Gen. Godfrey Weitzel, April 6, 1865).
- CWAL, VIII, p. 388 (Letter from Abraham Lincoln to Ulysses S. Grant, April 6, 1865).
- Charles A. Dana, Recollections of the Civil War, pp. 231-232.
- William C. Harris, With Charity for All, Lincoln and the Restoration of the Union, p. 251.
- CWAL, Volume VIII, pp. 406-407 (Letter from Abraham Lincoln to Godfrey Weitzel, April 12, 1865).
- Charles Hallam McCarthy, Lincoln’s Plan of Reconstruction, p. 426 (Letter from Abraham Lincoln to Francis H. Pierpont, April 10, 1865).
- Charles H. Ambler, Francis H. Pierpont, pp. 256-257.
- Gideon Welles, Diary of Gideon Welles, Volume II, pp. 279-280.
- Ulysses S. Grant, Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant, p. 532.
- Douglas L. Wilson and Rodney O. Davis, editors, Herndon’s Informants, p. 412. (Letter from John A. Campbell to General Edward O. C. Ord, April 14, 1865).
- Allan Nevins, War for the Union, Volume IV, p. 305.
- Gideon Welles, Diary of Gideon Welles, Volume II, pp. 280-283 (April 14, 1865).
- Don E. and Virginia E. Fehrenbacher, editors, Recollected Words of Abraham Lincoln, p. 412.
- William C. Harris, With Charity for All, Lincoln and the Restoration of the Union, pp. 263-264.