Abraham Lincoln and Edwin Stanton

Abraham Lincoln and Edwin Stanton

The Gilder Lehrman Collection, New York
Reference Number: GLC05111.07

War Department official Aide Charles Dana wrote that Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton was “impulsive, warm-blooded, very quick in execution, perhaps not always infallible in judgment. I never knew a man who could do so much work in a given time. He was a nervous man, a man of imagination, a man utterly absorbed in the idea of the republic one and indivisible; and he lived for it, wore himself out in the service, and shortly after he ceased to serve in that office he passed into another world, entirely exhausted, consumed by his devotion to public duties.”1

Stanton was a complex and driven man — who combined the moral certainty of an Old Testament prophet with the compulsion of a crusader: “His abilities were great and they were combative abilities. Whether because of his timidity, his ambition, or his fierce nervous ardor, he battled savagely,” wrote historian Allan Nevins, who noted that Stanton “had been stubborn champion of the Union in the darkest months of its history. He had dealt with treason and stratagem without mercy. His patriotism was of the most unflinching kind.”2

Fellow Lincoln cabinet member John Palmer Usher later wrote that Stanton “was a man of immense mental power. Upon occasions I have heard him express himself in speaking of the men who plunged this country into war in almost paralyzing terms. He was devoted to the cause he was striving to serve and gave all his energies to it. Night after night he remained in his office until a late hour and sometimes until daylight; not infrequently would his carriage be found standing at the door waiting for him when daylight came.”3 Stanton aide Albert E. H. Johnson recalled: “While President Lincoln in everything he did or said was to one purpose, the exercise of power within the scope of the constitution, Mr. Stanton was for saving the Union whether the constitution was saved or not, since war with him could brook no hampering or limiting bounds, and as he said, to save the constitution at the expense of the Union, would only result in destroying both.” 4 Johnson recalled that President Lincoln himself liked to tell a story about sending a cotton trader to Stanton with a card. Soon after, the cotton trader came back and told the President that Stanton had destroyed the card. The President replied “that is just like Stanton.’ Johnson recalled: “The President gave Mr. Stanton an account of this incident with much enjoyment and without the slightest show of taking exception to Stanton’s treatment of his introduction card, and it shows the opposite character of these two great men the one, Lincoln, having a heart greater than his head — the other, Stanton, having a head greater than his heart. 5

The Lincoln-Stanton partnership was an awkward one. “No two men were ever more utterly and irreconcilably unlike,” one of Stanton’s aides recalled decades after the Civil War. Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin wrote: “The secretiveness which Lincoln wholly lacked, Stanton had in marked degree; the charity which Stanton could not feel, coursed from every pore in Lincoln. Lincoln was for giving a wayward subordinate seventy times seven chances to repair his errors; Stanton was for either forcing him to obey or cutting off his head without more ado. Lincoln was as calm and unruffled as the summer sea in moment of the gravest peril.; Stanton would lash himself into a fury over the same condition of things. Stanton would take hardships with a groan. Lincoln would find a funny story to fit them. Stanton was all dignity and sternness, Lincoln all simplicity and good nature.”6

The President valued Stanton’s tenacity and organizational abilities — if not his arrogance and duplicity, both of which he had honed to virtual art forms. Their personalities complimented each other; and Stanton’s views increasingly conformed to the president’s. “Stanton is exceedingly industrious, mindful of the interests of his bureau, never off from his post, works like a trooper, and spends day and night at his office when under a strong pressure,” wrote journalist Noah Brooks. “He does not appear to have the maggot of the next presidency on his brain, but plugs right on, unmindful of what anybody says or thinks concerning him.”7

Brooks, who had regular access to President Lincoln, wrote in the spring of 1863 that Stanton “is very arbitrary, and shuts and no man openeth, or opens and no man shutteth, with much vim and decision. The newspaper men…hate him as they do Original Sin, for he is as inexorable as death, and as reticent as the grave. He wears good clothes goes to an Episcopal church — if at all — and would be much more popular if he were not so domineering and so in love with the beauties of military law.”8 By December, Brooks was more biting, declaring “Stanton is coarse, abusive, and arbitrary, decides the most important questions without thought and never reconsiders anything, and abused people like a fish-wife when he gets mad, which is very frequent; nevertheless he is industrious and apparently devoted to the interests of the Government.”9

Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin wrote: “Implacable and abrasive as Stanton could be, his scrupulous honesty, energy, and determination were invaluable to Lincoln.” 10 Historian Harold Hyman wrote that Stanton has gotten a bad historical press because “none of the men who really knew him kept diaries” and “Stanton never troubled to put his own case before the public or posterity”. 11 The lack of information about Stanton, argued Hyman, has damaged “our understanding of Lincoln as well as of Stanton. For both men, the war was the major experience of their lives. They shared for three years the nation’s agony and directed its efforts toward survival. The war dominated Lincoln’s thoughts. He understood little of public finance and was willing in the main to let Seward direct foreign affairs. Lincoln thought of himself primarily as the commander in chief of a nation threatened with disruption, but which deserved to endure and was worthy of the sacrifices men were making that it might survive. Stanton, in his own way, shared this view. He knew that the Union needed to exert efforts far greater than history recorded of any previous nation. If it was to live, the Union required a man able to be the director — the secretary — of a war.”12

Lincoln biographer James G. Randall despised Stanton and contributed to the War Secretary’s already bad image: “Stanton was as unstable as he was arrogant and stubborn. ..At times it appeared that the President and his minister of war were at loggerheads; at other times, it seemed that Lincoln knew Stanton to be ‘unprincipled’ but felt he had to retain him to get the country’s business done. The best of men found it impossible to get along with the secretary….The secretary had allied himself with radicals, had withheld cooperation from McClellan, and had been one of the chief agents in the ruin of that general.”13

Historian John Niven was kinder: “It was easy to dislike Stanton. He could be rude and overbearing. He did not suffer fools or bores gladly, but he could be charming and courtly, and he could be embarrassingly deferential if it served his purposes. Energetic, forceful, personally honest, a prodigious worker and a master of detail, Stanton was supremely confident of his own ability to cope with any problem. Was he not one of the most successful lawyers in the land, whose fees were averaging $50,000 a year? Had not his tenure in the Buchanan Cabinet, however, brief, proved that he could manage affairs of state as easily as he could dominate a courtroom?”14 Historian Allan Nevins wrote: “It is not strange that observers, seeing him in one of his sudden rages, hearing him sputter insults or launch unfounded accusations, or watching him in a brief access of panic, concluded that he was partially demented.”15

The relationship between Stanton and Mr. Lincoln got off to a bad start in 1855 when Mr. Lincoln was hired to work on the Manny Hanny patent case. Because the case might be tried in Illinois, a local lawyer was hired, but when the case was heard in Cincinnati, Mr. Lincoln was rudely frozen out of the company’s legal team by Stanton as lead counsel. He and his legal preparation were ignored and he was not even invited to sit at their table in the courtroom.

Both Stanton and Mr. Lincoln retained poor impressions of the other. Attorney Jeremiah Black recalled that Stanton “knew Mr. Lincoln personally and the account he gave of him was anything but favorable.” Mr. Lincoln did not remember Stanton favorably either. He told William Herndon that he had been “roughly handled by that man Stanton.”16 According to Herndon, “Lincoln felt that Stanton had not only been very discourteous to him, but had purposely ignored him in the case, and that he had received rather rude, if not unkind, treatment from all hands. Stanton, in his brusque and abrupt way, it is said, described him as a ‘long lank creature from Illinois, wearing a dirty linen duster for a coat, on the back of which the perspiration had splotched wide stains that resembled a map of the continent.”17

But despite the ill treatment by Stanton, the experience in Cincinnati was valuable for Mr. Lincoln. Before Mr. Lincoln left the city, the told a friend: “Emerson, I am going home to study law. You know that for any rough-and-tumble case (and a pretty good one, too) I am enough for any man we have out in that country; but these college trained men are coming West. They have had all the advantages of a life-long training in the law, plenty of time to study and everything, perhaps, to fit them. Soon they will be Illinois, and I must meet them. I am just going home to study law, and when they appear I will be ready.”18

Historian Robert J. Havlik wrote: “Two years after the Manny McCormick case, Mr. Lincoln successfully defended the Rock Island Bridge Company in the Effie Afton case. Robert J. Havlik wrote that : “Lincoln’s successful handling of the Effie Afton case, utilizing his own methods of observation, reflection, and experiment, served as a gateway for Lincoln to understand himself and Stanton. From this new self knowledge and accomplishment, he gained an insight on how to approach Stanton when he needed him, in pursuit of victory in the Civil War.”19

Furthermore, Stanton’s ill treatment of Mr. Lincoln came to epitomize Mr. Lincoln’s ability to see beyond past insults to future benefits — when President Lincoln had to chose a successor to Secretary of War Simon Cameron in January 1862. Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin wrote: “Unimaginable as it might seem, after Stanton’s bearish behavior, at their next encounter six years later, Lincoln would offer Stanton ‘the most powerful civilian post within his gift’ — the post of secretary of war. Lincoln’s choice of Stanton would reveal, as would his subsequent dealings with Trumbull and Judd, a singular ability to transcend personal vendetta, humiliation, or bitterness.”20 Lincoln scholar William Lee Miller noted: “Stanton in 1860 and 1861 stood about as far as could be from Lincoln, by party, by ideology, and — especially important — in his personal appraisal and personal relationship.”21

Secretary of State William H. Seward and Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase both had lobbied the President to appoint Stanton to a federal job in the spring of 1861 — but another candidate got the post. According to Navy Secretary Gideon Welles, Postmaster General Montgomery Blair questioned “Stanton’s integrity, and stated a damaging fact which was with his own personal knowledge, but which it is not necessary here to repeat. The statement astonished the President and disconcerted both Seward and Chase, each of whom questioned whether there might not be some mistake in this matter, but Blair said there could be none, and farther that he (Stanton) was a protégé of [Jeremiah] Black, Buchanan’s Secretary of State, and in feeling with him. The President remarked he thought it judicious to conciliate and draw in as much of the Democratic element as possible, and he was willing to try Stanton, though personally he had no special reason to regard him favorably; but the office came within the province of the Attorney-General, and he would turn the question over to him. The Attorney-General thanked the President, and said he would on returning to his office send over the appointment of Mr. [Edward C.] Carrington.”22

Although not included in the early Lincoln Administration, Stanton operated at its periphery, both as a critic and as an advisor. When Simon Cameron wore out his incompetence at the War Department, many members of the cabinet claimed credit for proposing Stanton as Cameron’s successor. But Navy Secretary Welles maintained “that the appointment of Edwin M. Stanton was projected and determined upon by Mr. Seward before he concluded to give up Cameron. He was dissatisfied with the increasing intimacy between the secretaries of war and treasury, and when he beheld the former embarking without reserve in the policy of the latter, on the latter, on the question of the status of the Negro, Mr. Seward no longer desired that Cameron should be retained in the Cabinet, and it was not difficult for other causes as well as that of slavery impressed the President that it was expedient to relieve the Administration of Cameron. It was more difficult to induce him to receive into his cabinet Mr. Stanton, for whom he had, to say the least, no special regard. Their slight previous acquaintance had not been such as to win the esteem or respect of Mr. Lincoln. But he was not the man to permit his personal likes or dislikes to govern his action in cases of public necessity. He knew Mr. Stanton possessed ability and energy, but that he was rough and uncongenial; and he was not fully convinced of his sympathy and right feeling with the Administration.”23

In a January 20th, 1862 dispatch to British Foreign Minister Lord Russell, the British Minister to Washington, Lord Lyons, wrote: “Mr. Stanton is now claimed, both by the moderate party and by the ultra party, as an adherent. In answer to questions put to him, previous to his confirmation, by a Senator commissioned by the ultra party, he is stated to have replied that he rejects absolutely all notion of any compromise with the South; that he will not, so far as it depends upon him, allow officers in the army to restore fugitive slaves to their masters; and that he thinks the South should be attacked in its weakest point, the institution of Slavery. On the other hand, the party which advocates a conciliatory policy towards the South, rely upon obtaining the support of Mr. Stanton on the ground of his having belonged to the old Democratic or Southern Party, and of having been a member (though but for a short time) of Mr. Buchanan’s administration.”24

Stanton quickly took the reins of the War Department and demonstrated that he was nobody’s pawn. Military historian Geoffrey Perret wrote: “Stanton’s will to win was as great as Lincoln’s, and he could pour himself into a fight to the death in a way that no other kind of war would have satisfied. He had a yearning for vengeance that merged seamlessly with the demands of patriotism.”25

Stanton and Lincoln just as quickly developed a working relationship — despite their very different temperaments. In the spring of 1862, they and Secretary of the Treasury Chase actually collaborated in the seizure of a Confederate outpost in Virginia. President Lincoln told future President James Garfield : “By the way, Garfield, do you know that Chase, Stanton, General Wool, and I had a campaign of our own? We went down to Fortress Monroe in Chase’s revenue cutter, and consulted with Admiral [Louis] Goldsborough on the feasibility of taking Norfolk by landing on the north shore and making a march of eight miles. The Admiral said 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 journey and a difficult one. I asked him if he had ever tried to find a landing, and he replied that he had not. I then told him a story of a fellow in Illinois who had studied law, but had never tried a case. He was sued, and, not having confidence in his ability to manage his own case, employed a lawyer to manage it for him. He had only a confused idea of meaning of law terms, but was anxious to make a display of learning, and, on the trial, constantly had suggested to his lawyer, who paid but little attention to him. At last, fearing that his lawyer was not handling the opposing counsel very well, he lost all his patience, and springing to his feet cried out: ‘Why don’t you go at him with a capias or a sur-rebutter or something, and not stand there like a confounded old nudumpactum?’ ‘Now, Admiral,’ said I, ‘if you don’t know that there is no landing on the north shore, I want you to find out.’ The Admiral took the hint; and taking Chase and Wool along, with a company or two of marines, he went on a voyage of discovery, and Stanton and I remained at Fortress Monroe. That night we went to bed, but not to sleep, for we were very anxious for the fate of the expedition. About two o’clock the next morning I heard the heavy tread of Wool ascending the stairs. I went out into the parlor and found Stanton hugging Wool in the most enthusiastic manner, as he announced that he had found a landing and had captured Norfolk.”26

Mr. Lincoln’s judgment often differed from Stanton’s — especially on cases of military discipline and pardon. U.S. Marshal Ward Hill Lamon recalled: “On refusal of Mr. Stanton to accommodate in many such cases, Mr. Lincoln was appealed to, and his invariable reply was: ‘I cannot always know whether a permit ought to be granted, and I want to oblige everybody when I can; and Stanton and I have an understanding that if I send an order to him which cannot be consistently granted, he is to refuse it. This he sometimes does.’ This state of things caused him to say to a man who complained of Stanton, ‘I have not much influence with Administration, but I expect to have more with the next.'”27

Their loyalty to each other and the nation was unquestioned. Speaking of efforts to oust Stanton, army chaplain John Eaton, who supervised army efforts to care for former slaves who escaped through Union lines, wrote: “However these two men differed in many important details, they stood firmly by each other in the great issues, and Lincoln was most unwilling to displace the Secretary.”28 When Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton came under attack in August 1863 for his alleged failure to support General George B. McClellan with more troops, President Lincoln defended him at a war rally at the Capitol: “General McClellan is not to blame for asking what he wanted and needed, and the Secretary of War is not to blame for not giving when he had none to give. And I say here, as far as I know, the Secretary of War has withheld no one thing at any time in my power to give him. I have no accusation against him. I believe he is a brave and able man, and I stand here, as justice requires me to do, to take upon myself what has been charged on the Secretary of War, as withholding from him.”29

Historian Allan Nevins contended: “The popular supposition at the time that Stanton complemented Lincoln, supplying a firmness and decision which the President lacked, was untrue, for Lincoln needed no complement. But it is true that Lincoln’s strength did not lie in careful planning and systematic administration — and Stanton’s did. The two sometimes clashed. Stanton not only said cutting things of Lincoln but indulged in contemptuous gestures, as when he tore up a memorandum and tossed it into the wastebasket. But Lincoln was always the master. When he restored McClellan to command after Second Manassas, Stanton made his resentment as plain as did Chase. ‘No order came from the War Department,’ he said. ‘No,’ replied Lincoln, ‘I gave the order.’ That Lincoln soon learned to deem the Secretary indispensable we have ample testimony. He firmly repelled all proposals that Stanton should give way to N. P. Banks, Ben Butler, or some other favorite of the radicals. The two stood firmly together on critical issues.” 30

Although President Lincoln frequently yielded to Secretary Stanton, Lincoln sometimes stood firm. One disagreement with Stanton came in 1864 when President Lincoln endorsed a proposal by Colonel Henry S. Huidekoper to utilize European-born Confederate prisoners as Union soldiers to fight Indians in the West. “Mr. President I cannot do it. The order is an improper one, and I cannot execute it.” President Lincoln was firm: “Mr. Secretary, it will have to be done.” 31

Presidential bodyguard William Crook recalled: “The President’s relationship to Secretary Stanton was another instance of Mr. Lincoln’s marvelous self-control. Where the good of the nation was involved he didn’t even see things that related to himself alone. Secretary Stanton was a strong man and devoted to his country. I believe, too, that he loved the President. But while he recognized Mr. Lincoln’s greatness and was loyal, those traits of Mr. Lincoln’s which was antipathetic to his character irritated him sometimes almost beyond endurance. Mr. Stanton was not a man of much self-control. The President’s tenderness of heart seemed to him weakness. The fondness for reading and for jesting, which every day restored the balance in the President’s overweighted mind, seemed to Mr. Stanton something approaching imbecility. He was furious once when Mr. Lincoln delayed a cabinet meeting to read the witticisms of Petroleum V. Nasby. When the President, during hours of anxious waiting for news from a great battle, was apparently absorbed in Hamlet, Mr. Stanton, whose invectives were varied, called him, I have heard, ‘a baboon.'” 32

Regular association with the President did not eliminate Stanton’s propensity to disagree or even to sharply criticize the President. One day Stanton sharply rebuked Judge Advocate General Joseph Holt for a mission he had undertaken on behalf of the President, saying: “Well, all I have to say is, we’ve got to get rid of that baboon at the White House!’ When the story was repeated to the President, he refused to even consider Stanton’s comment an insult, saying “that is no insult, it an expression of opinion; and what troubles me most about it is that Stanton said it and Stanton is usually right.” 33

Mr. Lincoln’s indulgence in jokes and stories was not shared by Secretary Stanton, who bridled at Mr. Lincoln’s propensity to tell or read stories at serious moments in the Civil Wafr. Stanton’s anger boiled over on election night, 1864 when the President insisted on reading a selection of Petroleum V. Nasby to Assistant Secretary of War Charles Dana. Stanton was infuriated, telling Dana: “Was there ever such inability to appreciate what is going on in an awful crisis? Here is the fate of this whole republic at stake, and here is the man around whom it all centres, on whom it all depends, turning aside from this momentous, this incomparable issue, to read the…trash of a silly mountebank!” 34

Theirs was an unique partnership. Biographer Harold Hyman maintained: “Stanton’s impatience complemented the President’s forbearance. To the creak old War Department building a few hundred feet away from the White House, Stanton brought his unresting energy, his unstable temper, and his harsh insistence that everyone from clerks to bureau heads shake off the leisurely habits of prewar procedures.” 35 They played a sort of good-cop/bad cop routine, according to Nevins: “Thus the secretary became the President’s convenient buffer against competing political factions, sectional pressures, and individual claims for special consideration, commissions, contracts, ro commands. Stanton was willing to perform as the ogre because it was necessary to his job and because, knowing and respecting Lincoln, he was content to bear as much of the President’s burden as he could.” 36

Lincoln biographer William Hanchett wrote: “Stanton was an easy man to dislike, for he was intense, hard-driving, opinionated, and quick-tempered, but there was a softness underneath that he revealed to few besides Lincoln. The two men sometimes took adjoining cottages at the Solder’s Home in the summer and rode back and forth together in deep discussions about the war. Seward was pretty much left to himself in the State Department, and Lincoln spent more time with Stanton than with any other official. One midnight, when Lincoln was heard climbing the stairs to the War Department telegraph office for news of his armies, someone heard Stanton tell the telegrapher to hide telegrams giving bad news and to find something favorable to that Lincoln would be able to sleep that night.” 37

Historian Matthew Pinsker observed that the two leaders’ relationship was solidified in the summer of 1862 when they began occupying adjoining cottages at the Soldiers’ Home on the outskirts of Washington: “During the many weeks when his family was away, Lincoln seemed to crave such company, in particular reaching out not only to the soldiers but also to a shifting handful of aides and colleagues who became close friends and helped alleviate some of his loneliness. Many of these friendships were temporary or superficial, but one in particular had lasting consequences for the Union cause. Lincoln’s second secretary of war, Edwin Stanton, also maintained a cottage at the Soldiers’ Home. Here, he and his children interacted with the president and helped cement a partnership that contributed mightily to the Union victory.” 38

Stanton’s friendship with Mr. Lincoln was also deepened in 1862 when they shared the deaths of their sons. Mr. Lincoln’s son Willie died in February and Stanton’s infant son James died in early July. A few days earlier, Stanton was summoned early one morning back to the Stanton home in Washington. He left a note for President Lincoln to “get your breakfast at my house” at 9 A.M. He added: “If my child is not dying I will be in town as early as possible.” 39

Pennsylvania editor Alexander K. McClure recalled: “Notwithstanding the many and often irritating conflicts that Lincoln had with Stanton, there never was an hour during Stanton’s term as War Minister that Lincoln thought of removing him. Indeed, I believe that at no period during the war, after Stanton had entered the Cabinet, did Lincoln feel that any other man could fill Stanton’s place with equal usefulness to the country. He had the most unbounded faith in Stanton’s loyalty and in his public and private integrity. He was in hearty sympathy with Stanton’s aggressive earnestness for the prosecution of the war, and at times hesitated, for the prosecution of the war, and at times hesitated, even to the extent of what he feared was individual injustice, to restrain Stanton’s violent assaults upon others. It will be regretted by the impartial historian of the future that Stanton was capable of impressing his intensive hatred so conspicuously upon the annals of the country, and that Lincoln, in several memorable instances, failed to reverse his War Minister when he had grave doubts as to the wisdom or justice of his methods.” 40

In the fall of 1864, President Lincoln discussed with General Ulysses S. Grant the possibility of a vacancy in the War Department. At this White House conference, Grant commented: “I doubt very much whether you could select as efficient a Secretary of War as the present incumbent. He is not only a man of untiring energy and devotion to duty, but even his worst enemies never for a moment doubt his personal integrity and the purity of his motives; and it tends largely to reconcile the people to the heavy taxes they are paying when they feel an absolute certainty that the chief of the department which is giving out contracts for countless millions of dollars is a person of scrupulous honesty.” 41

By the spring of 1865, the victory they sought had been achieved. “Accept my Congratulations on the glorious news of this morning,” Stanton telegraphed President Lincoln from Washington on April 7th, 1865. Secretary of State William H. Seward had recently been injured in a carriage accident. “Mr. Seward continues to be doing as well as could be expected from the nature of his injuries. His spirits are good. Your news stimulates him better than anything the apothecary could give and his surgeons say he will soon be able to sit up. 42

Booth biographer Michael W. Kauffman wrote after Stanton’s arrival at Peterson House on the night of President Lincoln’s assassination: “After consoling Mrs. Lincoln, Secretary Stanton was briefed on the overall situation. Then, bracing himself, he went to the back bedroom. As he looked down at the president, Surgeon General Barnes whispered the obvious: Mr. Lincoln cannot recover. Acknowledging with a faint nod, Stanton lowered himself into a chair next to the bed. All eyes turned to him in anticipation of some pronouncement, but instead he burst into loud, convulsive sobs.” 43

“Mr. Stanton alone was in full activity” that night at the Peterson House, noted Assistant War Secretary Charles A. Dana. “…he began and dictated orders, one after another, which I wrote out and sent swiftly to the telegraph. All these orders were designed to keep the business of the Government in full motion until the cris should be over. It seemed as if Mr. Stanton thought of everything, and there was a great deal to be thought of that night. The extent of the conspiracy was, of course, unknown, and the horrible beginning which had been made naturally led us to suspect the worst. The safety of Washington must be looked after. Commanders all over the country had to be ordered to take extra precautions. The people must be notified of the tragedy. The assassins must be captured. The coolness and clearheadedness of Mr. Stanton under these circumstances were most remarkable.” 44

The war had been injurious to Stanton’s physical and fiscal health; he tried to resign shortly after the surrender at Appomattox but his resignation was rejected by President Lincoln. Lincoln aide John Hay wrote Secretary Stanton from Paris in July 1865: “I know you generally care very little what people say or think about you, but it cannot but be gratifying even to you to know that confidence in you strengths the confidence of good people in the government and stiffens their hopes for the future.” Hay concluded: “Not every knows, as I do, how close you stood to our lost leader, how he loved you and trusted you, and how vain were all the efforts to shake that trust and confidence, not lightly given & never withdrawn.” 45 When Stanton died in 1869, Robert Todd Lincoln wrote the Secretary of War’s son, Edwin L. Stanton, that “when I recall the kindness of your father to me, when my father was lying dead and I felt utterly desperate, hardly able to realize the truth, I am as little able to keep my eyes from filling with tears as he was then.” 46

Corporal James Tanner recalled: “Stanton’s gaze was fixed intently on the countenance of his dying chief. He had, as I said, been a man of steel, throughout the night but as I looked at his face across the corner of the bed and saw the twitching of the muscles I knew that it was only by a powerful effort that he re[s]trained himself. The first indication that the dreaded end had come was at twenty-two minutes past seve[n] when the Surgeon-General gently crossed the pulse-less hands of Lincoln across the motionless breast, and rose to his feet.” 47 Stanton intoned: “He now belongs to the ages.” 48


  1. Charles Dana, Lincoln and His Cabinet, p. 27.
  2. Allan Nevins, The War for the Union: The Improved War, 1861-1862, pp. 37.
  3. Rufus Rockwell Wilson, Intimate Memories of Lincoln, pp. 385.
  4. Albert E. H. Johnson, Record of the Columbia Historical Society, p. 79.
  5. Albert E. H. Johnson, Record of the Columbia Historical Society, p. 94.
  6. Doris Kearns Goodwin, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, p. 560 (New York Post, July 13, 1891).
  7. P.J. Staudenraus, Mr. Lincoln’s Washington: The Civil War Dispatches of Noah Brooks, p. 175.
  8. Michael Burlingame, Lincoln Observed: Civil War Dispatches of Noah Brooks, p. 47.
  9. Michael Burlingame, Lincoln Observed: Civil War Dispatches of Noah Brooks, p. 98.
  10. Doris Kearns Goodwin, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, p. 672.
  11. Allan Nevins and Irving Stone, Lincoln: A Contemporary Portrait, p. 40 (Harold Hyman, “Lincoln’s Mars: Edwin M. Stanton.”).
  12. Allan Nevins and Irving Stone, Lincoln: A Contemporary Portrait, p. 41 (Harold Hyman, “Lincoln’s Mars: Edwin M. Stanton.”).
  13. James G. Randall, Lincoln the President: Springfield to Gettysburg, p. 251.
  14. John Niven, Gideon Welles: Lincoln’s Secretary of the Navy, pp. 397-398.
  15. Allan Nevins, The War for the Union: War becomes Revolution, 1862-1863, p. 36.
  16. William H. Herndon and Jesse W. Weik, Herndon’s Life of Abraham Lincoln, p. 287.
  17. William H. Herndon and Jesse W. Weik, Herndon’s Life of Abraham Lincoln, p. 286.
  18. Frank Abial Flower, Edwin McMasters Stanton: the autocrat of rebellion, emancipation, and reconstruction, p. 63.
  19. Robert J. Havlik, Two Great Rivers – Two Great Men: Lincoln and the Mississippi – Stanton and the Ohio and How an Insult Turned into Respect, Lincoln Herald , Winter 2000, p 190.
  20. Doris Kearns Goodwin, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, p. 175.
  21. William Lee Miller, Lincoln’s Virtues: An Ethical Biography, p. 419.
  22. Gideon Welles, Diary of Gideon Welles, pp. 56-67.
  23. Rufus Rockwell Wilson, editor, Intimate Memories of Lincoln, p. 445.
  24. James J. Barnes and Patience P. Barnes, The American Civil War through British Eyes Dispatches from British Diplomats, November 1860-April 1862 , pp. 275-276 (Dispatch from Lord Lyons to Lord Russell, January 20, 1862)
  25. Geoffrey Perret, Lincoln’s War: The Untold Story of America’s Greatest President as Commander in Chief, pp. 254-255.
  26. Noah Brooks, Abraham Lincoln: the Nation’s Leader in the Great Struggle Through Which was Maintained the Existence of the United States, pp. 336.
  27. Ward Hill Lamon, Recollections of Abraham Lincoln, p. 239.
  28. John Eaton, Grant, Lincoln and the Freedmen: Reminiscences of the Civil War, p. 179.
  29. CWAL, Volume V, pp. 358-359 (Address to Union Meeting at Washington, August 6, 1862).
  30. Allan Nevins, The War for the Union: War Becomes Revolution, 1862-1863, p.40.
  31. Benjamin Thomas and Harold Hyman, Stanton: The Life and Times of Lincoln’s Secretary of War, p. 387.
  32. Margarita Spalding Gerry, Through Five Administrations: Reminiscences of Colonel William H. Crook, p. 33.
  33. Rufus Rockwell Wilson, editor, Intimate Memories of Lincoln, p. 435 (Dr. Francis Durbin Blakeslee).
  34. Rufus Rockwell Wilson, editor, Intimate Memories of Lincoln, p. 578 (Charles A. Dana, New York Sun, 1884).
  35. Allan Nevins and Irving Stone, Lincoln: A Contemporary Portrait, p. 47 (Harold Hyman, (“Lincoln’s Mars: Edwin M. Stanton.”).
  36. Allan Nevins and Irving Stone, Lincoln: A Contemporary Portrait, 50 (Harold Hyman, (“Lincoln’s Mars: Edwin M. Stanton.”).
  37. William Hanchett, Out of the Wilderness: The Life of Abraham Lincoln, p. 88.
  38. Matthew Pinsker, Lincoln’s Sanctuary: Abraham Lincoln and the Soldier’s Home, p. 15.
  39. Matthew Pinsker, Lincoln’s Sanctuary: Abraham Lincoln and the Soldier’s Home, p. 33.
  40. Alexander K. McClure, Lincoln and Men of War-Times, p. 186.
  41. Horace Porter, Campaigning with Grant, pp. 328-329.
  42. Transcribed and Annotated by the Lincoln Studies Center, Knox College. Galesburg, Illinois. (Telegram from Edwin M. Stanton to Abraham Lincoln, Friday, April 7, 1865).
  43. Michael W. Kauffman, American Brutus: John Wilkes Booth and the Lincoln Conspiracies, p. 34.
  44. Charles Dana, Lincoln and His Cabinet, p. 275.
  45. Michael Burlingame, At Lincoln’s Side: John Hay’s Civil War Correspondence and Selected Writings, p. 105-106 (Letter from John Hay to Edwin M. Stanton, July 26, 1865).
  46. John S. Goff, Robert Todd Lincoln: A Man in His Own Right, p. 72 72 (Letter of Robert Todd Lincoln to Edwin L Stanton, December 24, 1869).
  47. John E. Boos, Rare Personal Accounts of Abraham Lincoln, p. 295.
  48. William Lee Miller, President Lincoln: The Duty of a Statesman, p. 213