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L. E. (Lucius Eugene) Chittenden.

Recollections of President Lincoln and his administration online

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LINCOLN ROOM




UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS
LIBRARY




ABKAHAM LINCOLN.
(From the Statue by Augustus St. Gaudens.)




OF



PRESIDENT LINCOLN



AND



HIS ADMINISTRATION



BY

L. E. CHITTENDEN

HIS KEGISTEB OF THB TREASURY




HARPER & BROTHERS PUBLISHERS

NEW YORK AND LONDON

1904



Copyright, 1891, by HARPER & BROTHERS.
Ail righto rtterved.



1104-



THIS VOLUME
HAS GROWN OUT OF MY LOTS AND RESPECT FOB

ABRAHAM LINCOLN

AND KNOWING NO WAT IN WHICH I CAN BETTER ATTEST
THE SINCERITY OF ITS PURPOSE

1 Dedicate it

TO HIS SON

ROBERT T. LINCOLN

OF THE UXITID STATK8 TO TBS COURT OF ST. JUTES



85157



CONTENTS.



PAQB

I. PRELIMINARY AND EXPLANATORY. ORIGIN OF THIS VOL-
UME. ITS SCOPE AND PUBPOSE . 1

II. A GLIMPSE OF A NOTED CAMPAIGN. THE STATE ELEC-
TIONS EARLY IN OCTOBER, I860, WHICH VIRTUALLY
SETTLED THE PRESIDENTIAL CONTEST 8

III. OFFICE - SEEKING BY AN INEXPERIENCED CANDIDATE.

APPOINTMENT TO THE PEACE CONFERENCE. SENATOR
FOOT, OF VERMONT. His PREMONITIONS OF REBEL-
LION 17

IV. NOTES ON THE PEACE CONFERENCE. THE PLANS OF

THE CONSPIRATORS. ADAM QUROWSKI. JAMES S.
WADSWORTH 28

V. AN OFFICIAL CALL UPON THE PRESIDENT. IT UNITES

THE LOYAL MEMBERS OF THE CONFERENCE 32

VI. ANOTHER OFFICIAL CALL. GENERAL SCOTT. His LOY-
ALTY AND ITS INFLUENCE UPON THE DECLARATION
OF THE ELECTORAL VOTE . . . 36

VII. THE 13TH OF FEBRUARY, 1861. THE ELECTION OF PRES-
IDENT LINCOLN DECLARED. FIRMNESS OF VICE-PRES-
IDENT BRECKINKIDGE. ANGER OF THE SECESSIONISTS 40
VIII. ANOTHER INCIDENT OF FEBRUARY 13TH. JUDGE SMAL-
LEY ON TREASON. SEIZURE OF ARMS IN NEW YORK

CITY. ACTION OF ITS MAYOR 47

IX. AN ALTERCATION IN THE PEACE CONFERENCE. SENA-
TOR LOT M. MORRILL AND COMMODORE STOCKTON. A

TEST OF NORTHERN COURAGE 50

X. THE CONSPIRACY OF ASSASSINATION. ITS DETAILS. MR.
LINCOLN CONSENTS TO FOLLOW THE ADVICE OF His
FKIENDS . 58



Vi CONTENTS.

MM

XI. How DID MB. LINCOLN "GET THROUGH BALTIMORE"? 65

XII. A SECOND PRESIDENTIAL RECEPTION. MR. LINCOLN
CONVERSES WITH LEADING SOUTHERNERS. His DUTY
TO THE CONSTITUTION 68

XIII. THE LAST WEEK OP PRESIDENT BUCHANAN'S ADMINIS-

TRATION. . 79

XIV. THE INAUGURATION. A MEMORABLE SCENE .... 84
XV. SOME NOTES UPON GENERAL SCOTT AND ROBERT E. LEE 93

XVI. THE NONES AND IDES OP MARCH. THE NEW CAB-
INET 103

XVII. A NOVEL INDUCTION INTO OFFICE 109

XVIII. THE ISOLATION OP THE CAPITOL. AN ALARMED VIR-
GINIAN 115

XIX. BALTIMORE BLOCKS THE WAT 120

XX. THE FIRST VOLUNTEER DEFENDERS OF THE CAPITOL.
THE PLUG-UGLIES OF BALTIMORE. THE SEVENTH
NEW YORK AND THE EIGHTH MASSACHUSETTS REGI-
MENTS 125

XXI. THE "TRENT AFFAIR." STATESMANSHIP OP MR. SEW-

ARD 132

XXII. THE ANTAGONISM OF THE REGULAR TO THE VOLUN-
TEER SERVICE. THE INFLUENCE OF PRESIDENT LIN-
COLN 149

XXIII. THE COLORED PEOPLE. THEIR INDUSTRY IN LEARN-

ING TO READ. THEIR IMPLICIT CONFIDENCE IN PRES-
IDENT LINCOLN 158

XXIV. SECRETARY CAMERON. His RESIGNATION. GENERAL

FREMONT. His TROUBLES IN THE DEPARTMENT OP
THE WEST. SECRETARY ST ANTON. His CHARACTER.
THE DAVIS COMMISSION. MR. O'NEILL'S REPORT
ON SECRETARY STANTON'S SERVICES 168

XXV. MAKING $10,000,000 OP U. S. BONDS UNDER PRESS-
URE. THE CONSTRUCTION OF CONFEDERATE IRON-
CLAD SHIPS IN BRITISH SHIP- YARDS. THE DEPART-
URE OF Two PREVENTED. AN ENGLISHMAN OFFERS
A GREAT SERVICE TO OUR REPUBLIC. His INCOG-
NITO . 194



CONTENTS.

XXVI. PRESIDENT LINCOLN'S CONNECTION WITH THE ORI-
GIN OF ARMORED VESSELS. His FAITH IN IRON-
CLADS. THE INFLUENCE OF ASSISTANT-SECRETARY
Fox. His INTERVIEW WITH THE PRESIDENT ON
THE ?TH OF MARCH, 1862 212

XXVII. PRESIDENT LINCOLN'S CONFIDENCE IN ARMORED
VESSELS, CONTINUED. THE "MONITOR" AND HER
BATTLE WITH THE "MERRIMAC" DESCRIBED BY
CAPTAIN WORDEN 222

XXVIII. JOSEPH HENRY AND ABRAHAM LINCOLN 235

XXIX. INTER ARMA, SCIENTIA. THE POTOMAC NATURAL-
ISTS' CLUB 239

XXX. A NIGHT WITH THE POTOMAC NATURALISTS' CLUB.

THE GIANT OCTOPUS 246

XXXI. HOSPITAL NOTES. THE WOUNDED FROM THE WIL-
DERNESS. CHARITIES OF THE COLORED POOR.
SISTERS OF CHARITY. ANAESTHETICS 251

XXXII. PRESIDENT LINCOLN AND THE SLEEPING SENTINEL.
ERRONEOUS VERSIONS OF THE STORY. WILL-
IAM SCOTT, OF THE THIRD VERMONT, SENTENCED
TO DEATH FOR SLEEPING ON HIS POST. HE is
PARDONED BY THE PRESIDENT. His LAST MES-
SAGE TO THE PRESIDENT. His DEATH AT THE
BATTLE OF LEE'S MILLS 265

XXXIII. TREASURY NOTES AND NOTES ON THE TREASURY . 284

XXXIV. NEW MONEYS OF LINCOLN'S ADMINISTRATION.

DEMAND NOTES. " SEVEN-THIRTIES. " POSTAGE
CURRENCY. FRACTIONAL CURRENCY. LEGAL-
TENDER NOTES, OR "GREENBACKS." THEIR OBI-
GIN, GROWTH, AND VALUE 296

XXXV. GRANT AND MCCLELLAN 316

XXXVI. THE CONFEDERATES EXCHANGE A PARTY OF THEIR

PRISONERS OF WAR 323

XXXVII. PRESIDENT LINCOLN'S STORY OF DANIEL WEBSTER 830

XXXVIII. PRESIDENT LINCOLN THE UNAPPRECIATED FRIEND
OF THE SOUTH. His OFFER OF COMPENSATED
EMANCIPATION. HE MEETS A VERMONT CON-
TRACTOR. THEIR IMPRESSIONS OF EACH OTHER. 835



viii CONTENTS.

MM

XXXIX. THE PROFESSIONAL DETECTIVE. His EMPLOYMENT
BY THE UNITED STATES AND ITS INFLUENCE UPON
THE PEOPLE 341

XL. PUBLIC MISCONCEPTIONS OF THE VALUE OF SALARIED

OFFICERS. GENERAL STANNARD 353

XLI. WAS GENERAL THOMAS LOYAL ? 360

XLII. THE IMPARTIAL JUDGMENT OF PRESIDENT LINCOLN.
THE RESIGNATION OF SECRETARY CHASE. ITS
CAUSES AND CONSEQUENCES 366

XLIII. THE CAMPAIGN AGAINST WASHINGTON IN 1864. ~THB

BATTLE OF MONOCACY 385

XLIV. GENERAL EARLY BEFORE WASHINGTON IN 1864.

BATTLE OF FORT STEVENS 403

XLV. THE JUDGMENT OF PRESIDENT LINCOLN. His COOL-
NESS IN TIMES OF EXCITEMENT. His FAITH THAT
THE UNION CAUSE WOULD BE PROTECTED AGAINST
SERIOUS DISASTER. FOUR OF HIS LETTERS NOW
FIRST PUBLISHED 428

XL VI. ABRAHAM LINCOLN. A SKETCH OF SOME EVENTS IN

HIS LIFE 431

INDEX 455



RECOLLECTIONS OF

PRESIDENT LINCOLN

AND HIS ADMINISTRATION.



I.

PRELIMINARY AND EXPLANATORY. ORIGIN OF THIS VOLUME.
ITS SCOPE AND PURPOSE.

WHEN the notes were made which are now expanded
into a volume, I had no purpose beyond that of record-
ing, so far as I had time and opportunity, my personal
knowledge of current events, which might afterwards
possess some interest for my family and my immediate
personal friends. Neither then nor for a quarter of a
century afterwards had any thought of their publica-
tion occurred to me. As time passed, and many of these
events were imperfectly or inaccurately described in the
numerous current publications, corrections of them, which
I verbally made, appeared to possess an unexpected in-
terest to those who heard them. I have been told many
times, and by those whose judgments are entitled to re-
spect, that my version of these occurrences formed a part
of the history of Mr. Lincoln's administration, and that
their publication and preservation was in some sense a
duty.

Accordingly, and by way of experiment, I brushed
I



2 RECOLLECTIONS OF PRESIDENT LINCOLN

the dust of more than a score of years from my note-
books, and acting as my own amanuensis, wrote out the
article entitled " Making United States Bonds under
Pressure," which was published in the number of Har-
per's Monthly Magazine for May, 1890. How that ar-
ticle was received the public knows. The correspond-
ence to which it gave rise was extensive enough to be-
come a burden. While the criticisms were generally
favorable, the complaint was many times repeated that
I ought to have given more details that the article was
too much condensed that I should have given more of
the conversations what was said by the President and
Secretary Chase, etc. This complaint was unexpected
because I supposed that the more condensed it was, the
greater was the merit of the article. It was followed
by others which were not unfavorably received, and the
interest excited, with the possibly too partial judgment of
my friends, has resulted in the preparation of this volume.
Whatever other criticism may be made, it cannot be
said that the book has been thoughtlessly written.
Thoughts have rushed upon me like a flood the diffi-
culty has been to avoid giving expression to them, and
to restrict my pen to the record of the events. The
reader will comprehend some of these reflections if he
will place himself in my position. He will appreciate
as he never did before, how quickly "one generation
passeth away and another generation cometh." There
were giants in those days. It has been a labor of love
for me to recall some of their mighty works. But
where are the giants now ? The great war cabinet, the
great soldier, and the President, greater than all com-
bined, have all passed away. The last of the three finan-
cial secretaries of President Lincoln, stricken while I am
writing, now lies upon what is feared will be his dying






AND HIS ADMINISTRATION. 3

couch. I am the last surviving officer of the Treasury,
above the grade of a clerk, connected with the issue of
securities during the war. General Spinner, the incor-
ruptible guardian of the gold of the nation, the last of
my official associates, has recently passed away. In his
letter to me, one of the last written by his hand, he says :
" In my 89th year an incurable disease has so affected my
vision that I can only write with great difficulty, and for
five weeks all my letters have been written by another
hand. I wish I could write you a long letter about old
times, but I cannot. So, good-bye, old friend, and may
God bless you!" His death sadly reminds me that if
there is any importance in having this history written
by one who had some part in it some personal knowl-
edge of its details, I am almost the only civil officer of
that time upon whom the duty rests, and that I have but
little time left for the performance.

It was natural that the story of the military and
naval operations of the war should have been first writ-
ten. This work has been comprehensively performed.
It probably fills more volumes than the history of any
other four years since the invention of printing. They
represent both parties to the contest, and are usually
written by admirers of the heroes whose achievements
they record. They are interesting, but in many details
they are not history ; they are so far from it as to sug-
gest a doubt whether events can be accurately described
by their contemporaries. If, as I am sure he will, the
reader shall find statements herein directly opposed to
the assertions of the authors of some of these military
histories, I ask the same charity which I will concede to
others. Let the statements be judged by all the evidence,
intrinsic as well as external. If they will not stand that
test, they are not true and have no place in history.



4: RECOLLECTIONS OF PRESIDENT LINCOLN

When I took charge of a bureau in the Treasury, I
naturally wished to understand the theory of its con-
struction. "What were the functions of the several
bureaus? their relation to the secretary and to each
other? I wanted a history of the institution. Mr.
Hamilton was its reputed creator. What were his plans ?
his objects ? How did he propose to secure them ?

No such history existed. The memoirs of Mr. Ham-
ilton were silent upon the details of this the greatest
work of his life. The only printed book which gave
any promise of the information I wanted was a work
by " Eobert Mayo, M.D., Compiler of a New System of
Mythology," published in 1847. In these thin quartos,
buried in an indigestible mass of circulars, instructions
and decisions of secretaries, were a few details of the
functions of the different bureaus, and that was all.
Such knowledge as I acquired of the Treasury, and of
all the matters referred to in this volume, was derived
through my own personal experience in the operations
of the government and personal contact with its officers.
I am therefore solely responsible for the accuracy of
my statements, where I have not given the authority
upon which they are made.

I acquired, as I believe justly, a high opinion of the
Treasury system and of the importance of a rigid en-
forcement of its regulations. By its complete control
of the finances during the war it was a mighty power
for evil as well as for good. The fate of the nation
depended upon its competent management. Directed
by an able financier who could reinforce the military
and naval departments by the confidence born of a
strong national credit, ours was one of the strongest
governments on earth. In the hands of an incompetent
secretary, careless of the national credit, the future



AND HIS ADMINISTRATION. 5

promised was bankruptcy, defeat in the field, and a
divided union.

Important as it was in the suppression of the rebel-
lion, I do not intend to write the history of Secretary
Chase's financial policy, nor any financial or other his-
tory. This volume, like the notes of which it is an
extension, has no special object. It will meet all my
expectations if it records facts, does no injustice, and
gives credit to whomsoever credit is due.

I must protest in advance against any inference
against public men whom I hold in high esteem because
the truth of history requires me to mention acts of theirs
which their friends have always regretted. No man is
at all times entirely great. If he were, he would be a
hero to his valet. In the early part of the war, the
public judgment was very unreliable. Those were the
days when the people were shouting, "On to Kich-
mond!" and looking to Providence for a Moses or a
Napoleon. An unimportant victory was sufficient to
make them cry out, " Behold, he is a leader and a com-
mander to the people " a single failure and they were
equally ready to crucify him. Later on they learned to
tolerate errors and excuse failures, and value public men
by the general balance of their services. Their judg-
ment was more matured and reliable when Secretary
Chase, after more than two years of labor, had estab-
lished the public credit, when Grant would fight it out
on that line if it took all summer, and Sherman was
leading an army through the enemy's country on a
march which commenced in November and ended with
the war in May.

The sectional divisions of the country must be consid-
ered by those who would comprehend the earlier events
of the war. The North believed that slavery was the



6 RECOLLECTIONS OF PRESIDENT LINCOLN

sum of all villainies the South that it was the mother
of all virtues ; one that it degraded, the other that it
ennobled, the white race ; one that it changed men into
coarse, brutal tyrants, the other that deprivation of its
salutary influences had converted the North into the
home of a race of traders too cowardly to fight and
too inferior to govern. "With such extreme views, they
necessarily misjudged and misunderstood each other.

Sectional differences in our republic belong to the
past. By the war, slavery, its cause, has perished.
There is no longer any excuse for sectional divisions.
The ship of state, manned by a united crew, has turned
away from the dangers of the past, and is sailing oyer
tranquil seas towards the peaceful port of her manifest
destiny, the supremacy of the nations of the Western
Continent. The enterprise to secure that supremacy
will be furnished by her own sons, the wealth to main-
tain it will be gathered from her own mines and forests,
and the products of her own soil, and not from weaker
nations despoiled. The sections devastated by the war
have been the first to recover their strength. Manufac-
tures are pushing southward ; new towns and cities are
springing up, and everywhere the sun of prosperity is
shining over a reunited and reconstructed union.

Such political and industrial conditions must not be
ignored by those who write of the history of the war.
Such writers owe a duty to the future as well as to the
past. It is plainly a part of that duty not to revive old
controversies which the war has settled. No one can
be made better or happier by threshing over the straw
of old accusations, which only serve to awaken old ani-
mosities. There were events of the war, there are events
in all wars, which good men should regret, which should
as quickly as possible be blotted from the memory of



AND HIS ADMINISTRATION. f

man. It would be almost criminal to revive and per-
petuate them. I have sought to keep this duty and
these facts in mind while writing this book. On the
other hand, it is not to the advantage of either section
that facts should be suppressed or misinterpreted which
may hereafter be of service by way of warning or
instruction. I have corrected some misdescription in
accounts of battles. I have spoken plainly of the treat-
ment of Federal prisoners, and of those who I believe
were responsible for that crime against humanity. But
here and in every sentence I have sought to write in
the temper of mind which would have controlled the
martyr-President, who, especially in the closing days of
his noble life, was mindful that "the end of the com-
mandment is charity."



II.

A GLIMPSE OF A NOTED CAMPAIGN. THE STATE ELECTIONS
EARLY IN OCTOBER, 1860, WHICH VIRTUALLY SETTLED THE
PRESIDENTIAL CONTEST.

VERMONT was the first state which held an election
after the nomination of Mr. Lincoln. The first Tues-
day in September had come, and the Kepublicans had
carried Vermont. If doubts had existed, they were
now dispelled. The Republicans were united; they
had made a strong pull and a pull all together, and when
they made a united effort they almost always carried
Vermont. Their majority being greater than the com-
bined vote of all their opponents, the state was consid-
ered safe for Lincoln at the presidential election in No-
vember.

As soon as the election was over I was invited by the
National Committee, then in continuous session, to come
to the Astor House, New York, for consultation. They
wanted to know something about our Vermont meth-
ods ; also what Vermont could do for other states where
the contest was more doubtful. At the committee rooms
I first met Judge William D. Kelley, then making his
first run for Congress in Philadelphia. He had not then
gained the name of " Pig-iron Kelley," nor the grateful
affection of his state and the country which he after-
wards earned by long, efficient, and most reputable ser-
vice in the popular branch of the national legislature.
We made short speeches at the same mass-meeting in
Jersey City. When the meeting was over he said to



AND HIS ADMINISTRATION. 9

me, " Tour style will just suit my district. Come over
to Philadelphia with me, and give us a taste of your
Green Mountain quality. You may return to New
York early on Monday."

I assented, with little thought of the danger of trust-
ing myself to the friendly contact of Philadelphia poli-
ticians. I went with Judge Kelley to what was then a
suburb of the city of brotherly love, Germantown by
name, where I made an out-door address to ten thousand
Wide-awakes and other Kepublicans. The newspapers
said the speech was " a cracker." I had never heard the
term before applied to any form of political or intellect-
ual work. It was evidently commendatory, and indi-
cated the partiality of the Philadelphians to what I
thought was rather a dry form of edible.

On the following morning Judge Kelley introduced
me to some of the campaign managers at the committee
rooms. I remember two of them, for their names be-
came afterwards pretty well known to the people of
this republic. There were Andrew G. Curtin and Col.
Alexander McClure. The first-named was running for
governor, and Col. McClure was running him. Both
greeted me with effusion. They could now tell me in per-
son what I should have learned later by letter. They had
decided that Col. Frank Blair and myself were a matched
pair of speakers for the country. They had, therefore,
appointed a series of meetings for us which would occu-
py nearly every afternoon and evening until the Friday
preceding the state election in October. They had tele-
graphed the notices to every town and city where the
meetings were to be held.

I objected that this was rather a cool proceeding ; that
Col. Blair and myself had never met ; that I had busi-
ness engagements at home ; that I protested on general



10 RECOLLECTIONS OF PRESIDENT LINCOLN

principles against an appropriation of my time for two
or three weeks without mentioning the subject to me.
They swept my objections away like cobwebs ; declared
that we " Yermonters did not know the first principles
of running a campaign ; that if they waited to arrange
all the details in advance, they would never get the speak-
ers they wanted ; that the only safe way was to make
the appointments and then capture the speakers ; that
in our case there had been no difficulty ; Col. Blair and
myself were both within easy reach, and they kn^w we
would never consent to disappoint fifty thousand Repub-
licans, disarrange the plans of the committee, and per-
haps endanger the election."

Resistance appeared to be unavailing. I surrendered,
telegraphed home some of the details of my capture, and
that I did not anticipate an early escape out of the hands
into which I had fallen. The next day two very lively
young Republicans took charge of Col. Blair and myself,
and carried us far into the dark regions of a Democratic
county. Where we travelled, what places we visited, I
never inquired. The image of that fortnight upon my
memory represents a continuous procession of committees
of eminent citizens, mass -meetings, torch -light proces-
sions, "Wide-awakes in uniform, shouting, singing political
songs, and hurrahing for the ticket. In the afternoons
Col. Blair and myself usually addressed the same mass-
meeting. As soon as one had concluded he was hurried
away to a distant town or city, to be in time for the even-
ing meeting. The other made his speech, and was rushed
off in the opposite direction. Some nights we were hun-
dreds of miles apart, at noon the next day together.
Such sleep as we got was on the cars. We were only
permitted to see Republican newspapers, which declared
that our converts were numerous, our missionary work



AND HIS ADMINISTRATION. H

a pronounced success. "We never failed to make our
connections, and, as agreed, were returned to the Girard
House in Philadelphia, on Friday preceding the Mon-
day of the state election. We were a used-up pair of
campaigners. We had lost our voices ; could not speak
above a whisper, and in desperate need of the rest and
sleep to which we intended to appropriate the next forty-
eight hours.

But rest and sleep were not for us. Col. Blair was
hurried off somewhere, and I did not see him again until
the second year of the war. John T. Nixon, afterwards
a Federal judge in the southern district of New Jersey,
was lying in wait for me. He was running for Con-
gress ; was having a hard fight, and there were special
reasons why, he said, I must go into the southeast corner
of New Jersey to a great mass-meeting and barbecue,
where I had been advertised to speak. I pleaded exhaus-
tion, loss of voice, general dilapidation and worthless-
ness, in vain. I could " save the district," he said. " A
night's rest would set me all right. I must go and show
myself, if I had to be carried on a stretcher, or he would
be accused of intentionally deceiving and disappointing
five thousand people in a rural community. Promptly
at seven next morning he would come for me."

I was awakened out of a dream. It was early morn-
ing. From my window I saw that the street in front
of the hotel was filled by a crowd of Wide-awakes,
who were commencing the day by a service of music
and song, which they ended by a night procession in
the country, one hundred miles away. They were
to form my escort to the train for Southeastern New
Jersey.

Omitting the intervening details, let me say at once
that, attended by Mr. Nixon and a party of his friends,



12 RECOLLECTIONS OF PRESIDENT LINCOLN

I reached the place of meeting shortly after midday.
There was no town or village, scarcely a collection of
houses. I do not know that the place had any name.
It was near water communication with Delaware Bay,
for during the afternoon four steamers arrived, bringing
as many thousand Wide-awakes from Philadelphia and
vicinity. Seats had been provided in a lovely grove,
and these were already occupied, apparently by the pop-
ulation of the locality en masse. Fathers and mothers
with their families, young persons of both sexes, to the
number of six or seven thousand the most orderly, quiet,
cleanly rural population it has ever been my good-fortune
to see. They had come not to shout, but to listen. Their
good example reacted. Nobody could talk nonsense to



Online LibraryL. E. (Lucius Eugene) ChittendenRecollections of President Lincoln and his administration → online text (page 1 of 35)