Let every American, every lover of liberty, every well wisher to his posterity, swear by the blood of the Revolution, never to violate in the least particular, the laws of the country; and never to tolerate their violation by others.

As the patriots of seventy-six did to the support of the Declaration of Independence, so to the support of the Constitution and Laws, let every American pledge his life, his property, and his sacred honor; let every man remember that to violate the law, is to trample on the blood of his father, and to tear the charter of his own, and his children's liberty.

Let reverence for the laws, be breathed by every American mother, to the lisping babe, that prattles on her lap; let it be taught in schools, in seminaries, and in colleges; let it be written in Primers, spelling books, and in Almanacs; let it be preached from the pulpit, proclaimed in legislative halls, and enforced in courts of justice. And, in short, let it become the political religion of the nation; and Let the old and the young, the rich and the poor, the grave and the gay, of all sexes and tongues, and colors and conditions, sacrifice unceasingly upon its altars.

While ever a state of feeling, such as this, shall universally, or even, very generally prevail throughout the nation, vain will be every effort, and fruitless every attempt, to subvert our national freedom.

- Abraham Lincoln, January 27, 1838
  Address Before the Young Men's Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois

Friday, May 22, 2009

Looking back at Lincoln: On May 22, 1849

On this day in 1849, Abraham Lincoln was granted Patent No. 6469 by the U.S. Patent Office for a device he designed and intended for "Buoying Vessels Over Shoals." Lincoln is the only United States president to hold a patent.

On May 22, 1849, Abraham Lincoln was granted Patent No. 6469 by the U.S. Patent Office on a device for "Buoying Vessels Over Shoals." As noted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Lincoln's "invention consists of a set of bellows attached to the hull of a ship just below the water line. On reaching a shallow place, the bellows are filled with air and the vessel, thus buoyed, is expected to float clear."

Although the device was never actually manufactured, Abraham Lincoln remains today as the only United States President to hold a patent. A scale model of the invention is on display at the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of American History. /blockquote>

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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Looking back at Lincoln: On May 20, 1862

On this day in 1862, Lincoln signed the Homestead Act: which provided settlers with 160 acres of surveyed public land upon payment of a filing fee and five years of continuous residence.

This bill was created to encourage western expansion; however the Homestead Act took 20 years to pass, due to fears in Northern cities that the lure of 'free land' would lower property values and reduce the cheap labor supply. Meanwhile, in the South, there was fear that homesteaders (as generally single family farmers,) would add to the growing abolition movement.

When the southern opposition was nullified in 1862, due to their secession from the Union, the bill finally passed -- and Lincoln signed it into law, opening up the west.

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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Looking back at Lincoln: On May 19, 1860

On this day in 1860, Abraham Lincoln met with a delegation that had traveled all the way from Chicago to Springfield so that they could personally inform Lincoln that the Republican Convention had chosen him to be the party's candidate for President.

Lincoln's response:

Mr. Chairman and gentlemen of the committee, I tender [to] you, and through you [to] the Republican National Convention, and all the people represented in it, my profoundest thanks for the high honor done me, which you now formally announce.

Deeply, and even painfully sensible of the great responsibility which is inseparable from that [this high] honor---a responsibility which I could almost wish had fallen upon some one of the far more eminent men and experienced statesmen whose distinguished names were before the Convention, I shall, by your leave, consider more fully the resolutions of the Convention, denominated the platform, and without unseasonable [unnecessary or unreasonable] delay, respond to you, Mr. Chairman, in writing---not doubting now, that the platform will be found satisfactory, and the nomination [gratefully] accepted.

And now, I will not longer defer the pleasure of taking you, and each of you, by the hand.

I wonder, as the war dragged on and on in future years... if he ever regretted it?

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Monday, May 18, 2009

Looking back at Lincoln: On May 18, 1864

In one of the moves that remains controversial to this day - especially among the media - Lincoln ordered the arrest and military detainment of the editors and owners of two New York newspapers, after publications were printed that Lincoln held to be "of a treasonable nature, designed to give aid and comfort to the enemies of the United States, and to the rebels now at war against the Government, and their aiders and abettors:"

Executive Mansion,
Washington, May 18. 1864.

To Maj. Gen'l Dix,
Commanding, at New York.---

Whereas, there has been wickedly and traitorously printed and published this morning, in the "New York World" and New York "Journal of Commerce," newspapers printed and published in the city of New York,---a false and spurious proclamation, purporting to be signed by the President, and to be countersigned by the Secretary of State, which publication is of a treasonable nature, designed to give aid and comfort to the enemies of the United States, and to the rebels now at war against the Government, and their aiders and abettors: you are therefore hereby commanded forthwith to arrest and imprison in any fort or military prison in your command, the editors, proprietors and publishers of the aforesaid newspapers, and all such persons as, after public notice has been given of the falsehood of said publication, print and publish the same, with intent to give aid and comfort to the enemy;---and you will hold the persons so arrested, in close custody, until they can be brought to trial before a military commission, for their offense. You will also take possession by military force, of the printing establishments of the "New York World," and "Journal of Commerce," and hold the same until further order, and prevent any further publication therefrom. A. LINCOLN


[1] LS, DNA WR RG 107, Presidential Telegrams, I, 54. Only the date and signature are in Lincoln's handwriting, the telegram having been drafted in the War Department at Stanton's direction. For an account of the hoax perpetrated by Joseph Howard, Jr., the same reporter who had created the hoax story of Lincoln's arrival in Washington in 1861 disguised in ``a Scotch cap and long military cloak,'' see Sandburg, Abraham Lincoln: The War Years, III, 53 ff. The spurious proclamation as printed in the New York World and Journal of Commerce, May 18, 1864, reads:

"Executive Mansion,

"Fellow Citizens of the United States: May 17, 1864.

"In all seasons of exigency, it becomes a nation carefully to scrutinize its line of conduct, humbly to approach the Throne of Grace, and meekly to implore forgiveness, wisdom, and guidance.

``For reasons known only to Him, it has been decreed that this country should be the scene of unparalleled outrage, and this nation the monumental sufferer of the Nineteenth Century. With a heavy heart, but an undiminished confidence in our cause, I approach the performance of a duty rendered imperative by my sense of weakness before [the] almighty, and of justice to the people.

"It is necessary that I should tell you that the first Virginia campaign under Lieut. Gen. Grant, in whom I have every confidence, and in whose courage and fidelity the people do well to honor, is virtually closed. He has conducted his great enterprise with discreet ability. He has crippled their strength and defeated their plans.

"In view, however, of the situation in Virginia, the disaster at Red River, the delay at Charleston, and the general state of the country, I, Abraham Lincoln, do hereby recommend that Thursday, the 26th day of May, A.D., 1864, be solemnly set apart throughout these United States as a day of fasting, humiliation and prayer.

"Deeming furthermore that the present condition of public affairs presents an extraordinary occasion, and in view of the pending expiration of the service of (100,000) one hundred thousand of our troops, I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, by virtue of the power vested in me by the Constitution and the laws, have thought fit to call forth, and hereby do call forth the citizens of the United States, between the ages of (18) eighteen and (45) fortyfive years, to the aggregate number of (400,000) four hundred thousand, in order to suppress the existing rebellious combinations, and to cause the due execution of the laws.

"And, furthermore, in case any State, or number of States, shall fail to furnish by the fifteenth day of June next, their assigned quota, it is hereby ordered that the same be raised by an immediate and peremptory draft.

"The details for this object will be communicated to the State authorities through the War Department.

"I appeal to all loyal citizens to favor, facilitate and aid this effort to maintain the honor, the integrity and the existence of the National Union, and the perpetuity of popular government.

"In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand, and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed. Done at the City of Washington this 17th day of May, one thousand eight hundred and sixty-four, and of the independence of the United States the eighty-eighth."

By the President, ABRAHAM LINCOLN.

WM. H. SEWARD, Secretary of State."

On May 19, Sidney H. Gay of the Tribune, Erastus Brooks of the Express, Frederick Hudson of the Herald, and M. F. Beach of the Sun, telegraphed Lincoln: ``The undersigned Editors and publishers of a portion of the daily press of the City of New York respectfully represent that the leading daily journals of this city sustain very extended telegraphic news arrangements under an organization established in 1848 & known as the N York associated Press which is controlled by the members acting through an executive committee a general Agent in this city & Assistant Agents immediately responsible to the association at every important news centre throughout this country & Europe Under the above named organization the rule has always been to transmit by telegraph all intelligence to the Office of the General Agent in this city & by him the same is properly prepared for publication & then written out by manifold process on tissue Paper & a copy of the same is sent simultaneously in sealed envelopes to each of the Editors who are entitled to receive the same. From foregoing statement of facts your excellency will readily perceive that an ingenious rogue knowing the manner in which the editors were supplied with much of their telegraphic news could by selecting his time & opportunity easily impose upon Editors or compositors the most wicked & fraudulent reports. On wednesday morning at about three oclock a messenger who well counterfeited the regular messenger of the Associated Press presented himself at all save one of the editorial rooms of the Papers connected with the associated Press and delivered to the foreman in the absence of the night editors sealed envelopes containing manifold Paper similar in all respects to that used by the association upon which was written a fraudulent Proclamation purporting to be signed by your Excellency and countersigned by the honorable Secy of State. The very late hour at which the fraud was perpetrated left no time for consideration as to the authenticity or genuineness of this document & the copy in most of the offices was at once cut up into small pieces and given into the hands of the compositors & in two cases the fraud was not discovered or suspected even till after the whole morning edition of the Papers were printed off & distributed The undersigned beg to state to your excellency that the fraud which succeeded with the World and the Journal of Commerce was one which from the circumstances attending it & the practices of the associated Press was extremely natural and very liable to have succeeded in any daily newspaper establishment in this city & inasmuch as in the judgement of the undersigned the editors and proprietors of the World were innocent of any knowledge of wrong in the publication of the fraudulent document and also in view of the fact that the suspensionPage 350 by your excellencys order of two Papers last evening has had the effect to awaken editors & publishers and news agent telegraph companies etc. to the propriety of increased vigilance in their several duties the undersigned respectfully request that your excellency will be pleased to rescind the order under which the World and the Journal of Commerce were suppressed. . . .'' (DLC-RTL).

The editors were released, and the World and Journal of Commerce resumed publication after two days, but Joseph Howard remained in prison at Fort Lafayette until August 23, 1864. See Lincoln to Stanton, August 22, infra.

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Sunday, May 17, 2009

Looking back at Lincoln: On May 17, 1864

Concerning what came to be known as the 'Fort Pillow Massacre,' Lincoln wrote the following letter to Secretary of War Edwin Stanton; although according to the annotation, it doesn't appear that anything was actually done officially concerning this matter:

Executive Mansion
Washington, D. C. May 17. 1864

Hon. Secretary of War:


Please notify the insurgents, through the proper military channels and forms, that the government of the United States has satisfactory proof of the massacre, by insurgent forces, at Fort-Pillow, on the 12th. and 13th. days of April last, of fully white and colored officers and soldiers of the United States, after the latter had ceased resistance, and asked quarter of the former.

That with reference to said massacre. the government of the United States has assigned and set apart by name insurgent officers, theretofore, and up to that time, held by said government as prisoners of war.

That, as blood can not restore blood, and government should not act for revenge, any assurance, as nearly perfect as the case admits, given on or before the first day of July next, that there shall be no similar massacre, nor any officer or soldier of the United States, whether white or colored, now held, or hereafter captured by the insurgents, shall be treated other than according to the laws of war, will insure the replacing of said insurgent officers in the simple condition of prisoners of war.

That the insurgents having refused to exchange, or to give any account or explanation in regard to colored soldiers of the United States captured by them, a number of insurgent prisoners equal to the number of such colored soldiers supposed to have been captured by said insurgents will, from time to time, be assigned and set aside, with reference to such captured colored soldiers, and will, if the insurgents assent, be exchanged for such colored soldiers; but that if no satisfactory attention shall be given to this notice, by said insurgents, on or before the first day of July next, it will be assumed by the government of the United States, that said captured colored troops shall have been murdered, or subjected to Slavery, and that said government will, upon said assumption, take such action as may then appear expedient and just.


[1] ADf, owned by Charles W. Olsen, Chicago, Illinois. See Lincoln's letter to cabinet members and note, May 3, supra. Presumably this communication to Stanton was never signed or delivered, and there is some mystery surrounding the fact that it should have been preserved until recently in the papers of Thomas T. Eckert of the War Department telegraph office. No record has been found of a communication from Stanton to the Confederate authorities carrying out Lincoln's instructions. According to Nicolay and Hay, action on the Fort Pillow massacre was "crowded out of view and consideration'' by Grant's Wilderness campaign (Abraham Lincoln: A History, VI, 483).

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Saturday, May 16, 2009

Looking back at Lincoln: On May 16, 1862

On this day in 1862, President Lincoln gave the following presidential address to Congress:

Message to Congress on the History of Conspiracy of Rebellion
May 16, 1862

To the Senate and House of Representatives:

The insurrection which is yet existing in the United States and aims at the overthrow of the Federal Constitution and the Union, was clandestinely prepared during the Winter of 1860 and 1861, and assumed an open organization in the form of a treasonable provisional government at Montgomery, in Alabama on the 18th day of February, 1861. On the 12th day of April, 1861, the insurgents committed the flagrant act of civil war by the bombardment and the capture of Fort Sumter, Which cut off the hope of immediate conciliation. Immediately afterward all the roads and avenues to this city were obstructed, and the capital was put into the condition of a siege. The mails in every direction were stopped and the lines of telegraph cut off by the insurgents, and military and naval forces which had been called out by the government for the defense of Washington were prevented from reaching the city by organized and combined treasonable resistance in the State of Maryland. There was no adequate and effective organization for the public defense. Congress had indefinitely adjourned. There was no time to convene them. It became necessary for me to choose whether, using only the existing means, agencies, and processes which Congress had provided, I should let the government fall at once into ruin or whether, availing myself of the broader powers conferred by the Constitution in cases of insurrection, I would make an effort to save it, with all its blessings, for the present age and for posterity.

I thereupon summoned my constitutional advisers, the heads of all the departments, to meet on Sunday, the 20th day of April, 1861, at the office of the Navy Department, and then and there, with their unanimous concurrence, I directed that an armed revenue cutter should proceed to sea to afford protection to the commercial marine, and especially the California treasure ships then on their way to this coast. I also directed the commandant of the navy-yard at Boston to purchase or charter and arm as quickly as possible five steamships for purposes of public defense. I directed the commandant of the navy-yard at Philadelphia to purchase or charter and arm an equal number for the same purpose. I directed the commandant at New York to purchase or charter and arm an equal number. I directed Commander Gillis to purchase or charter and arm and put to sea two other vessels. Similar directions were given to Commodore Dupont, with a view to the opening of passages by water to and from the capital. I directed the several officers to take the advice and obtain the aid and efficient services, in the matter, of his Excellency Edwin D. Morgan, the Governor of New York, or in his absence George D. Morgan, William M. Evarts, R. M. Blatchford, and Moses H. Grinnell, who were by my directions especially empowered by the Secretary of the Navy to act for his department in that crisis in matters pertaining to the forwarding of troops and supplies for the public defense.

The several departments of the government at that time contained so large a number of disloyal persons that it would have been impossible to provide safely through official agents only for the performance of the duties thus confided to citizens favorably known for their ability, loyalty, and patriotism.

The several orders issued upon these occurrences were transmitted by private messengers, who pursued a circuitous way to the seaboard cities, inland across the States of Pennsylvania and Ohio and the northern lakes. I believe by these and other similar measures taken in that crisis, some of which were without any authority of law, the government was saved from overthrow. I am not aware that a dollar of the public funds thus confided without authority of law to unofficial persons was either lost or wasted, although apprehensions of such misdirection occurred to me as objections to those extraordinary proceedings, and were necessarily overruled.

I recall these transactions now because my attention has been directed to a resolution which was passed by the House of Representatives on the 30th day of last month, which is in these words:

"Resolved, That Simon Cameron, late Secretary of War by investing Alexander Cummings with the control of large sums of the public money and authority to purchase military supplies without restriction, without requiring from him any guaranty for the faithful performance of his duties, when the services of competent public officers were available, and by involving the government in a vast number of contracts with persons not legitimately engaged in the business pertaining to the subject-matter of such contracts, especially in the purchase of arms for future delivery, has adopted a policy highly injurious to the public service, and deserves the censure of the House."

Congress will see that I should be wanting equally in candor and in justice if I should leave the censure expressed in this resolution to rest exclusively or chiefly upon Mr. Cameron. The same sentiment is unanimously entertained by the heads of department who participated in the proceedings which the House of Representatives have censured. It is due to Mr. Cameron to say that although he fully approved the proceedings they were not moved nor suggested by himself, and that not only the President, but all the other heads of departments, were at least equally responsible with him for whatever error, wrong, or fault was committed in the premises.


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Friday, May 15, 2009

Looking back at Lincoln: On May 15, 1863

Imagine Lincoln's frustration.

The war was going badly for the North, and the Union death tolls were staggering. Meanwhile he was forced to deal with and intercede in political infighting between his generals, and ridiculous squabbles between politicians. His annoyance definitely shows in some of his telegraphed correspondences.

Executive Mansion,
May 15, 1863. [9 P.M.]

Hon. H. T. Blow
C. D. Drake & others
St. Louis, Mo

Your despatch of to-day is just received. It is very painful to me that you in Missouri can not, or will not, settle your factional quarrel among yourselves. I have been tormented with it beyond endurance for months, by both sides. Neither side pays the least respect to my appeals to your reason. I am now compelled to take hold of the case. A. LINCOLN


[1] ALS, RPB. The telegram to which Lincoln replied reads as follows: "The Telegraph reports the probable appointment of Gen Schofield to command this Dept. We a committee last Monday by the largest meeting of Union people ever held in St Louis pray to suspend that appointment until you hear from us'' (DLC-RTL).

In reply to a despatch from Major General Francis J. Herron, commanding at Rolla, Missouri, threatening to resign rather than serve under Schofield, Stanton replied on May 17 that the president ``directs me to say that he is unaware of any valid objection to General Schofield, he having recently commanded the Department of the Missouri, giving almost universal satisfaction so far as the President ever heard. He directs me to add that he has appreciated the services of General Herron and rewarded them by rapid promotions, but that, even in him, insubordination will be met as insubordination, and that your resignation will be acted upon as circumstances may require whenever it is tendered.'' (OR, I, XXII, II, 285).

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Thursday, May 14, 2009

Looking back at Lincoln: On May 14, 1863

Its no wonder a grimly determined Bobby Lee and his brilliant commanders held off the Union for four long years, against superior numbers and with dwindling supplies. The Union army was bogged down in political infighting (to say nothing of ineptitude.)

In January of 1863, Lincoln had written the following letter to his (current) commander of the Army of the Potomac, Joseph Hooker:

EXECUTIVE MANSION, Washington, D.C., January 26, 1863.

Major-General HOOKER:

GENERAL: I have placed you at the head of the Army of the Potomac. Of course I have done this upon what appears to me to be sufficient reasons, and yet I think it best for you to know that there are some things in regard to which I am not quite satisfied with you. I believe you to be a brave and skillful soldier, which, of course, I like. I also believe you do not mix politics with your profession, in which you are right. You have confidence in yourself, which is a valuable, if not an indispensable, quality. You are ambitious, which, within reasonable bounds, does good rather than harm; but I think that during General Burnside's command of the army you have taken counsel of your ambition, and thwarted him as much as you could, in which you did a great wrong to the country and to a most meritorious and honorable brother officer. I have heard, in such a way as to believe it, of your recently saying that both the Army and the Government needed a dictator. Of course, it was not for this, but in spite of it, that I have given you the command. Only those generals who gain successes can set up dictators. What I now ask of you is military success, and I will risk the dictatorship. The Government will support you to the utmost of its ability, which is neither more nor less than it has done and will do for all commanders. I much fear that the spirit which you have aided to infuse into the army, of criticising their commander and withholding confidence from him, will now turn upon you. I shall assist you as far as I can to put it down. Neither you nor Napoleon, if he were alive again, could get any good out of an army while such a spirit prevails in it. And now beware of rashness. Beware of rashness, but with energy and sleepless vigilance go forward and give us victories.

Yours, very truly,

And of course - this came to be.

On this day in 1863, and in the wake of a sound thrashing of the Union army under Hooker at Chancellorsville, Lincoln found himself writing once again to General Hooker about... politics.

Executive Mansion,
May 14. 1863.

Major General Hooker

My dear Sir: When I wrote you on the 7th. I had an impression that possibly, by an early movement, you could get some advantage from the supposed facts that the enemies communications were disturbed and that he was somewhat deranged in position. That idea has now passed away, the enemy having re-established his communications, regained his positions and actually received re-inforcements. It does not now appear probable to me that you can gain any thing by an early renewal of the attempt to cross the Rappahannock. I therefore shall not complain, if you do no more, for a time, than to keep the enemy at bay, and out of other mischief, by menaces and occasional cavalry raids, if practicable; and to put your own army in good condition again. Still, if in your own clear judgment, you can renew the attack successfully, I do not mean to restrain you. Bearing upon this last point, I must tell you I have some painful intimations that some of your corps and Division Commanders are not giving you their entire confidence. This would be ruinous, if true; and you should therefore, first of all, ascertain the real facts beyond all possibility of doubt. Yours truly A. LINCOLN

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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Looking back at Lincoln: On May 13, 1864

On this day in 1864, Lincoln came to the rescue of a church in Memphis, Tennessee -- apparently for the second time-- from Union Army occupation.

May 13, 1864

I believe it is true that with reference to the church within named I wrote as follows:

"If [2] the Military have Military need of the church building, let them keep it; otherwise let them get out of it, and leave it and it's owners alone, except for causes that justify the arrest of any one.''

March 4. 1864. A. LINCOLN"

I am now told that the Military were not in possession of the building; and yet that in pretended execution of the above they, the Military put one set of men out of and another set into the building. This, if true, is most extraordinary. I say again, if there be no military need for the building, leave it alone, neither putting any one in or out, of it, except on finding some one preaching or practicing treason, in which case lay hands upon him just as if he were doing the same thing in any other building, or in the streets or highways. A. LINCOLN

May 13 1864


[1] ADfS, DLC-RTL. The envelope containing this draft is endorsed by Lincoln "Church at Memphis.'' See the memorandum of March 4, supra. Apparently the endorsement of May 13, of which Lincoln retained his first draft, was written on a statement or petition of the loyal church members who had been turned out by the secessionist trustees (see note to Lincoln's communication to Cadwallader C. Washburn, July 5, infra). A portion of the endorsement has been preserved as noted below, but the remainder, as well as the document on which it was written, has not been located.

[2] An autograph fragment comprising the quoted portion of the endorsement, which appears to have been cut out of Lincoln's original endorsement written on the petition from the loyal church members, is in the Illinois State Historical Library.

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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Looking back at Lincoln: On May 12, 1864

Poor Mr. Lincoln. More political difficulties on this day in 1864 --as if he needed that annoyance in the midst of the carnage that was taking place in the wilderness near Spotsylvania, where Grant and Lee had been slugging it out daily since late April. Over 14,000 Union soldiers were killed between May 8 to May 18 alone.

In this obviously frustrated note to Kansas Senator Samuel C. Pomeroy, Lincoln requests a ceasefire between Pomeroy and fellow Kansas Senator James H. Lane (each was pointedly backing a different candidate for Kansas District Assessor, and apparently neither was willing to back down.)

Executive Mansion
Washington May 12. 1864

Hon. Senator Pomeroy


I did not doubt yesterday that you desired to see me about the appointment of Assessor in Kansas. I wish you and Lane would make a sincere effort to get out of the mood you are in. It does neither of you any good---it gives you the means of tormenting my life out of me, and nothing else. Yours &c A. LINCOLN
(I apologize for the lateness of this post -- technical difficulties, alas.)

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Monday, May 11, 2009

Looking back at Lincoln: On May 11, 1862

On this day in 1862, Lincoln received word that the Confederates had blown up the Merrimac (which had been defeated soundly at Hampton Roads by the new and diminutive ironclad Monitor,) and that the Monitor and other Union ships were proceeding unimpeded up the James river towards Richmond.

In addition to her battles with Union warships Cumberland, Congress and the famous meeting with her counterpart ironclad, the Monitor, the Merrimac (named the CSS Virginia by the Confederacy) had taken part in several other naval battles -- including two other attempts to 'beat' the Monitor and thereby free the lower Chesapeake Bay of Union control (the Union saw the James River as the naval road to Richmond, so the area around Hampton Roads was highly contested.)

Before the two ships were able to have their much anticipated rematch, southern commanders decided to evacuate Norfolk, Virginia where the Merrimac was stationed. Unfortunately for the local Confederate Navy leader Captain Josiah Tattnall, the news didn't arrive in time to evacuate the Merrimac from Norfolk. She would have to be lightened considerably so that she could readily steam out of Norfolk, but there simply wasn't time. Thus, before they left, the Confederacy was forced to destroy her so that she wouldn't fall into Union hands.

On 11 May, CSS Virginia was run aground near the entrance to the Elizabeth River, abandoned and set afire. When the flames licked up and into the gunpowder supplies, the ship exploded.

Lincoln, who was on board the U.S.S. "Baltimore" at the time, passed right by the location where the ship had been destroyed off of Craney Island before going on to Norfolk where he stopped to visit for an hour (at some point after receiving word of the Merrimac's demise, he sent the following telegram to Major General Halleck:).

Fort. Monroe, Va.
May. 11. 1862

Major Gen. Halleck
Pittsburg Landing, Tenn.

Norfolk in our possession, Merrimac blown up, & Monitor & other boats going up James River to Richmond. Be very sure to sustain no reverse in your Department. A. LINCOLN

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Sunday, May 10, 2009

Looking back at Lincoln: On May 10, 1861

A 1st Florida Cavalry/4th Florida Infantry battle flag, captured near Murfreesboro, Tennessee.

On this day in 1861, Lincoln signed a proclamation which authorized the commander of Union forces along the Florida coast to suspend writ of habeas corpus "if he shall find it necessary;" meaning if any people in the vicinity were suspected to be a threat to United States forts still held by the Union. Because Florida had seceded from the Union (third, and was thus one of the Confederacy's 'founding members,') this was really a formality; it was considered enemy territory to officers stationed there, and undoubtedly they considered most of the citizens in the vicinity of the forts to be hostile to Union occupation.

May 10, 1861

By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

Whereas, an insurrection exists in the State of Florida, by which the lives, liberty and property of loyal citizens of the United States are endangered:

And whereas it is deemed proper that all needful measures should be taken for the protection of such citizens, and all officers of the United States in the discharge of their public duties, in the State aforesaid:

Now therefore be it known that I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, do hereby direct the Commander of the Forces of the United States on the Florida coast, to permit no person to exercise any office or authority upon the Islands of Key West, the Tortugas and Santa Rosa, which may be inconsistent with the laws & constitution of the United States, authorizing him at the same time, if he shall find it necessary, to suspend there the writ of Habeas Corpus and to remove from the vicinity of the United States fortresses all dangerous or suspected persons.

In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand, and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this tenth day of May in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-one, and of the Independence of the United States the eighty-fifth. ABRAHAM LINCOLN


By the President:

WILLIAM H. SEWARD, Secretary of State.

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Saturday, May 09, 2009

Looking back at Lincoln: On May 9, 1862

On this day in 1862, Lincoln and Secretary of War Stanton held a conference at Fortress Monroe, Virginia. While in Virginia they also - apparently - attempted to resolve a political dispute that had arisen between General McClellan and other officers in the Army Corps.

Stanton sent out two telegrams (both written by Lincoln;) the first official, the second more personal in nature, addressed directly to McClellan:

Fort Monroe, Va.
May 9, 1862.

Major General McClellan.

My dear Sir:

I have just assisted the Secretary of War in framing the part of a despatch to you, relating to Army Corps, which despatch of course will have reached you long before this will. I wish to say a few words to you privately on this subject. I ordered the Army Corps organization not only on the unanimous opinion of the twelve Generals whom you had selected and assigned as Generals of Division, but also on the unanimous opinion of every military man I could get an opinion from, and every modern military book, yourself only expected. Of course, I did not, on my own judgment, pretend to understand the subject. I now think it indispensable for you to know how your struggle against it is received in quarters which we cannot entirely disregard. It is looked upon as merely an effort to pamper one or two pets, and to persecute and degrade their supposed rivals. I have had no word from Sumner, Heintzelman, or Keyes. [2] FOOTNOTES}>(2) The commanders of these Corps are of course the three highest officers with you, but I am constantly told that you consult and communicate with nobody but General Fitz John Porter, and perhaps General Franklin. [2] FOOTNOTES}>(3) I do not say these complaints are true or just; but at all events it is proper you should know of their existence. Do the Commanders of Corps disobey your orders in any thing?

When you relieved General Hamilton [2] FOOTNOTES}>(4) of his command the other day, you thereby lost the confidence of at least one of your best friends in the Senate. And here let me say, not as applicable to you personally, that Senators and Representatives speak of me in their places as they please, without question; and that officers of the army must cease addressing insulting letters to them for taking no greater liberty with them.

But, to return, are you strong enough-are you strong enough, even with my help-to set your foot upon the necks of Sumner, Heintzelman, and Keyes all at once? This is a practical and very serious question for you.

The success of your army and the cause of the country are the same; and of course I only desire the good of the cause. Yours truly. A. LINCOLN.


[1] Copy, DLC-RTL; copy, DLC-Stanton Papers. The copy in the Stanton Papers is in Stanton's handwriting. McClellan's dispatch to Stanton, received May 9, 12:19 A.M., reads in part as follows: "I respectfully ask permission to reorganize the army corps. I am not willing to be held responsible for the present arrangement, experience having proved it to be very bad, and it having very nearly resulted in a most disastrous defeat. I wish either to return to the organization by division or else be authorized to relieve incompetent commanders of army corps. Had I been one-half hour later on the field on the 5th we would have been routed. . . . Notwithstanding my positive orders I was informed of nothing that had occurred. . . . At least a thousand lives were really sacrificed by the organization into corps.

"I have too much regard for the lives of my comrades and too deep an interest in the success of our cause to hesitate for a moment. I learn that you are equally in earnest, and I therefore again request full and complete authority to relieve from duty with this army commanders of corps or divisions who prove themselves incompetent.'' (OR,I,XI,III,153-54). No reply from McClellan has been located. The Army Corps organization was retained, but on May 18 General Orders No.125 established the Fifth and Sixth Provisional Corps under Generals Fitz-John Porter and William B. Franklin.

[2] Brigadier General Edwin V. Sumner commanded the Second Corps, Brigadier General Samuel P. Heintzelman the Third Corps, and Brigadier General Erasmus D. Keyes the Fourth Corps.

[3] Brigadier General Fitz-John Porter was a division commander in Heintzelman's Third Corps and Brigadier General William B. Franklin a division commander in Major General Irvin McDowell's First Corps.

[4] On April 30 Brigadier General Charles S. Hamilton was replaced as commander of the Third Division of the Third Corps by Brigadier General Philip Kearny.

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Friday, May 08, 2009

Looking back at Lincoln: On May 8, 1863

Lincoln is still leaning on General Joseph Hooker.

On this day in 1863, after meeting with Brigadier General August Willich (who the Confederates had just released from Richmond's Libby Prison,) Lincoln wrote again to General Hooker. In short, Lincoln seems to be once again encouraging his general du jour, suggesting that Richmond isn't in a position to put up much of a fight (and thus with a bit of aggressiveness on the part of Union leadership, could perhaps be taken.)

Unfortunately, Lincoln wouldn't have his aggressive commander until 1864, and Richmond wouldn't be in Union hands until 1865.

Judging from the daily letters, I'd have to guess that privately, Lincoln's frustration with Hooker hasn't lessened...

Executive Mansion,
Washington, May 8. 1863.

Major General Hooker.

The news is here, of the capture, by our forces of Grand Gulf---a large & very important thing. Gen. Willich, [2] an exchanged prisoner, just from Richmond, has talked with me this morning. He was there when our cavalry cut the roads in that vicinity. He says there was not a sound pair legs in Richmond, and that our men, had they known it, could have safely gone in and burnt every thing & brought us Jeff. Davis. We captured and parold three or four hundred men. He says, as he came to City point, there was an army three miles long (Longstreet's he thought) moving towards Richmond. Milroy has captured a despatch of Gen. Lee, in which he says his loss was fearful, in his late battle with you. [3]. A. LINCOLN


[1] ALS, IHi.

[2] Brigadier General August Willich had been captured December 31, 1862, at Stone River near Murfreesboro, Tennessee.

[3] General Milroy's telegram to General Schenck of 8 P.M., May 6, reads in part: "A telegraphic dispatch was received at Edenburg an hour before my forces took this place, addressed to Major Myers [Samuel B. Myers] rebel commander . . . signed by General Lee, stating that they (the rebels) had gained a glorious victory, but with fearful loss on both sides. . . ." (OR, I, XXV, II, 437).

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Thursday, May 07, 2009

Looking back at Lincoln: On May 7, 1863

In the wake of the disastrous Union routing at the Battle of Chancellorsville (also known as Spotsylvania,) Lincoln wrote to his current Union commanding officer Joseph Hooker during a personal visit to the Army of the Potomac, asking the inevitable question: so what next?

Head-Quarters, Army of the Potomac,
May. 7 1863.

Major General Hooker.

My dear Sir

The recent movement of your army is ended without effecting it's object, except perhaps some important breakings of the enemies communications. What next? If possible I would be very glad of another movement early enough to give us some benefit from the fact of the enemies communications being broken, but neither for this reason or any other, do I wish anything done in desperation or rashness. An early movement would also help to supersede the bad moral effect of the recent one, which is sure to be considerably injurious. Have you already in your mind a plan wholly, or partially formed? If you have, prossecute it without interference from me. If you have not, please inform me, so that I, incompetent as I may be, can try [to] assist in the formation of some plan for the Army. Yours as ever A LINCOLN

According to the annotation (in the 'Collected Works of Lincoln,') this letter and Hooker's reply are stored (as part of the 'Lincoln Papers' collection) in the original envelope labeled by Lincoln 'Gen. Hooker. Visit to camp, May 7 1863.'

Hooker's offered the following reply to Lincoln's letter of above:

"I have the honor to acknowledge your communication of this date, and in answer have to state that I do not deem it expedient to suspend operations on this line from the reverse we have experienced in endeavoring to extricate the army from its present position. If in the first effort we failed it was not from want of strength or conduct of the small number of the troops actually engaged, but from a cause which could not be foreseen, and could not be provided against. After its occurrence the chances of success were so much lessened that I felt another plan might be adopted in place of that we were engaged in, which would be more certain in its results. At all events, a failure would not involve disaster, while in the other case it was certain to follow the absence of success. I may add that this consideration almost wholly determined me in ordering the army to return to its old camp.

"As to the best time for renewing our advance upon the enemy, I can only decide after an opportunity has been afforded to learn the feeling of the troops. They should not be discouraged or depressed, for it is no fault of theirs---if I may except one Corps---that our last efforts were not crowned with glorious victory. I suppose details are not wanted of me at this time.

"I have decided in my own mind the plan to be adopted in our next effort, ---if it should be your wish to have one made. It has this to recommend it---It will be one in which the operations of all the Corps, unless it be a part of the Cavalry, will be within my personal supervision." (DLC-RTL).

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Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Looking back at Lincoln: On May 6, 1863

On this day in 1863, Lincoln received word of yet another Union defeat (and what would go down as one of Lee's greatest victories,) the battle at Chancellorsville; which was fought at and around the town of Spotsylvania Courthouse, Virginia, from April 30 through May 6.

Lee - outnumbered more than two to one - did the unthinkable: he split his smaller army, sending 28,000 men under famed General Thomas 'Stonewall' Jackson sneaking with a local guide through backroads under cover of the forest to attack Hooker's right flank, while Lee's remaining force of 12,000 faced the brunt of the 70,000 Union forces in the middle.

With cover provided by JEB Stuart's Confederate cavalry, the plan worked perfectly. Confederate forces surprised General Howard's corps on Hooker's right flank while they were cooking dinner, capturing 4000 of them outright, and without a fight (the rest were routed.) For Hooker, who's military career would be forever marred by the outcome of this battle, it went downhill from there.

For Lee, the battle would be an uneasy combination of stunning success and tragedy. On the night of May 2th, General Stonewall Jackson was mistakenly shot by Confederate pickets as he returned to camp. He lost his left arm, and later died of pneumonia. Of his loss, and in reference to Jackson's amputation, Lee lamented "Now I have lost my right arm."

Jackson truly was irreplaceable, to the South and to Lee. The two men - both strategic military geniuses in their own right - seemed to naturally understand each other, and together continually outsmarted their slower more cautious Union counterparts.

Robert E. Lee could trust Jackson with deliberately non-detailed orders that conveyed Lee's overall objectives, what modern doctrine calls the "end state." This was because Jackson had a talent for understanding Lee's sometimes unstated goals and Lee trusted Jackson with the ability to take whatever actions were necessary to implement his end state requirements. Many of Lee's subsequent corps commanders did not have this disposition. At Gettysburg, this resulted in lost opportunities. Thus, after the Federals retreated to the heights south of town, Lee sent one of his new corps commanders, Richard S. Ewell, discretionary orders that the heights (Cemetery Hill and Culp's Hill) be taken "if practicable." Without Jackson's intuitive grasp of Lee's orders and the intuition to take advantage of sudden tactical opportunities, Ewell chose not to attempt the assault, and this failure is considered by historians to be the greatest missed opportunity of the battle.

By May 6th, the larger Union force retreated back across the Rappahannock. Lincoln apparently read the Richmond papers to get a clearer idea of what had happened, and then commenced a series of telegraphed messages to General Hooker, including these below. Lincoln, as always, was gracious, although he must have been quite frustrated.

War Department
Washington City, D.C.
May 6. 9/40. AM. 1863

My dear General

The great storm of yesterday and last night, has interrupted the telegraph; so that we think fit to send you Gen. Dix despatch of the contents of Richmond papers. I need not repeat the contents. We also try to get it to you by Telegraph. We have nothing from your immediate whereabouts since your short despatch to me, of the 4th. 4/20. P.M. We hear many rumors, but do not exactly know what has become of Sedgwick. We have heard no word of Stoneman, except what is in Dix's despatch about Col. Davis which looks well. It is no discourgement that you have already fought the bulk of Longstreet's force, nor that Jackson is severely wounded. And now, God bless you, and all with you. I know you will do your best. Waste no time unnecessarily, to gratify our curiosity with despatches. Yours as ever A. LINCOLN

Maj. Genl. Hooker.

Later that morning, Lincoln (who often slept in the telegraph office, so anxious was he to keep up with the latest developments on the battlefield,) sent this followup telegraph:

Washington City, D.C.
May 6. 11/40 1863

Major General Hooker.

We have, through Gen. Dix, the contents of Richmond papers of the fifth (5th) Gen. Dix's despatch in full, is going to you by Capt. Fox of the Navy. The substance is Gen. Lee's despatch of the third (3rd) Sunday claiming that he had beaten you, and that you were then retreating across the Rappahannock; distinctly stating that two of Longstreet's Divisions fought you on Saturday; and that Gen. Paxton was killed, Stonewall Jackson severely wounded, and Generals Heth and A. P. Hill slightly wounded. The Richmond papers also state, upon what authority, not mentioned, that our Cavalry have been at Ashland, Hanover Court-House and other points, destroying several locomotives, and a good deal of other property, and all the Railroad Bridges to within five (5.) miles of Richmond. A. LINCOLN

Lincoln sent yet another telegraph at 12:30 p.m. Hooker's and General Butterfield's replies follow in the annotation:

Washington, D.C.
May 6, 1863--- 12.30 p.m.

General Hooker: Just as I had telegraphed you contents of Richmond papers, showing that our cavalry has not failed, I received General Butterfield's of 11 a.m. yesterday. This, with the great rain of yesterday and last night, securing your right flank, I think puts a new face upon your case; but you must be the judge.



[1] OR, I, XXV, II, 434. Hooker replied at 4:30 P.M., as follows:

"Have this moment returned to camp. On my way received your telegrams of 11 a.m. and 12.30. The army had previously recrossed the river, and was on its return to camp. As it had none of its trains of supplies with it, I deemed this advisable. Above, I saw no way of giving the enemy a general battle with the prospect of success which I desire. Not to exceed three corps, all told, of my troops have been engaged. For the whole to go, there is a better place nearer at hand. Will write you at length to-night. Am glad to hear that a portion of the cavalry have at length turned up. One portion did nothing." (Ibid., p. 435).

Stanton replied, "The President and General-in-Chief left here this afternoon at 4 o'clock to see you. They are probably at Aquia by this time." (Ibid.).

[2] General Daniel Butterfield's despatch to Lincoln is as follows:

"General Hooker is not at this moment able, from pressing duties, to write of the condition of affairs. He deems it his duty that you should be fully and correctly advised. He has intrusted it to me. These are my words, not his.

"Of his plans you were fully aware. The cavalry, as yet learned, have failed in executing their orders. [William W.] Averell's division returned; nothing done; loss of 2 or 3 men. [John] Buford's Regulars not heard from. General [John] Sedgwick failed in the execution of his orders, and was compelled to retire, and crossed the river at Banks' Ford last night; his losses not known.

"The First, Third, Fifth, Eleventh, Twelfth, and two divisions of Second Corps are now on south bank of Rappahannock, intrenched between Hunting Run and Scott's Dam. Trains and Artillery Reserve on north bank of Rappahannock. Position is strong, but circumstances, which in time will be fully explained, make it expedient, in the general's judgment, that he should retire from this position to the north bank of the Rappahannock for his defensible position. Among these is danger to his communication by possibility of enemy crossing river on our right flank and imperiling this army, with present departure of two-years' and three months' [nine-months'] troops constantly weakening him. The nature of the country in which we are prevents moving in such a way as to find or judge position or movements of enemy. He may cross to night, but hopes to be attacked in this position." (Ibid., pp. 421-22).

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Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Looking back at Lincoln: On May 5, 1864

Its a little hard to imagine in this day and age. Its hard to imagine that anyone would send - to the president - a pair of hand-knitted socks; even harder to imagine an era when the president, this particular president anyway, would likely wear them. Harder still to imagine that this president would sit down in the midst of a Civil War and write a personal note of gratitude. Oh for the days when the country was less crowded.

It still amazes and impresses me that Mr. Lincoln always took time to converse with the 'regular people;' the aged, the poor, the ordinary citizens. Of course that is one of the peculiar traits that Mr. Lincoln brought with him to the White House -- he thought of himself as one of the regular people, and never lost that self-image. From all accounts (by his personal secretaries John Hay and John Nicolay,) he never even referred to himself directly as the president. The humility was real: and undoubtedly the source of his great patience.

On this day in 1865, Mr. Lincoln wrote to an octogenarian Massachusetts woman who had sent him a pair of hand-knitted socks. In the midst of war, sleepless hours at the telegraph office, lines of petitioners, meetings with his cabinet, and growing anxiety over daily fighting in the Wilderness, Lincoln apparently found time to write her an appreciative reply:

Executive Mansion,
Washington, May 5, 1864.

Mrs. Abner Bartlett

My dear Madam.

I have received the very excellent pair of socks of your own knitting, which you did me the honor to send. I accept them as a very comfortable article to wear; but more gratefully as an evidence, of the patriotic devotion which, at your advanced age, you bear to our great and just cause.

May God give you yet many happy days. Yours truly


I wonder what Mr. Obama would do if he were to receive a pair of hand-knitted socks from a little old lady in Massachusetts?

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Monday, May 04, 2009

Looking back at Lincoln: On May 4, 1864 & 1865

On this day in 1864 Lincoln sent a telegraph to General Sherman in Tennessee on behalf of residents complaining that 'Order No. 8' would require them to travel north of Nashville - to the rear of the army - when seeking provisions. My guess is that they feared there wouldn't be much in the way of food available behind the army, most if not all of it having already been consumed.

At this point in the war, citizens living in the vicinity of a camping army were starving or at the brink of starvation; there simply wasn't enough food available to feed thousands of men, horses, mules, livestock... and non-combatants.

The army - and citizens living in the vicinity of the marching army - competed constantly over food. Most community food, farm vegetables, livestock and horses had already been requisitioned by the army, leaving their previous owners with little recourse but to approach the army itself for food -- that, or starve.

Lincoln was continually besieged by pleas from citizens who showed up daily at the White House, asking his assistance on every issue from pardoning imprisoned husbands and sons, to desperate pleas like those offered by the residents of Tennessee.

Lincoln did his best to follow up on these requests, and intervened on the citizen's behalf whenever possible. Unfortunately there were times when the situation was simply impossible to remedy. War and starvation go hand in hand.

War Department,
Washington, D.C., May 4. 1864.

Office U.S. Military Telegraph,
Major General Sherman
Chattanooga, Tenn.

I have an imploring appeal in behalf of the citizens who say your order No. 8 will compel them to go North of Nashville. This is in no sense, an order; nor is it even a request that you will do any thing which in the least, shall be a drawback upon your military operations, but any thing you can do consistently with those operations, for those suffering people, I shall be glad of


The most interesting part of this story doesn't lie within Lincoln's telegraph to Sherman, but in Sherman's obviously frustrated reply, sent on May 5th (see Annotation):

"We have worked hard with the best talent of the country & it is demonstrated that the railroad cannot supply the army & the people too. one or the other must quit & the army don't intend to unless Joe Johnston makes us. The issues to citizens have been enormous & the same weight of corn or oats would have saved thousands of the mules whose carcasses now corduroy the roads and which we need so much. We have paid back to East Tenn. ten for one of provisions taken in war. I will not change my order and I beg of you to be satisfied that the clamor is partly a humbug & for effect, & to test it I advise you to tell the bearers of the appeal to hurry to Kentucky & make up a caravan of cattle & wagons & to come over by Cumberland Gap and Somerset to relieve their suffering friends on foot as they used to do before a railroad was built. Tell them they have no time to lose. We can relieve all actual suffering by each company or regiment giving of their savings. Every man who is willing to fight and work gets all rations & all who won't fight or work should go away and we offer them free transportation." (DLC-RTL)

On this day in 1865, Lincoln's body, having traveled halfway across the country on 'The Lincoln Special' funeral train, was finally home in Springfield, Illinois.

The day of his funeral and burial dawned hot, but clear of the rain that had plagued much of the trip. Lincoln's casket lay in state at the Hall of Representatives (inside the very room where a much younger and impassioned Abraham Lincoln had given his "House Divided" speech in 1858.)

Preperations for the funeral began shortly after 10 am:

At 10:00 A.M. the doors to the State House were closed, and Mr. Lincoln's body was prepared for burial by the undertaker and embalmer. The coffin was carried to an elegant hearse (finished in gold, silver, and crystal) lent to Springfield by the city of St. Louis. The procession was led by Major-General Joseph Hooker and followed a zigzag route from the State House, past Mr. Lincoln's home, past the Governor's Mansion, and onto the country road leading to Oak Ridge Cemetery. The hearse was followed immediately by Old Bob wearing a mourning blanket. Mr. Lincoln's only two blood relatives in attendance that day were his son, Robert, and his cousin, John Hanks. Mrs. Lincoln was still in mourning in the White House. The procession was the largest spectacle the Midwest had ever seen. Upon arrival at the cemetery, the coffin was laid upon the marble slab inside the tomb. Willie's little coffin was also placed inside the tomb. The funeral oration was given by Bishop Matthew Simpson who had been chosen over every other minister in the United States for this sad occasion. Simpson gave an extremely eloquent address. When Simpson was finished, Dr. Phineas Densmore Gurley read the benediction. The crowd then watched as the gates of iron and the heavy wooden doors of the tomb were closed and locked. It was over at last.

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Sunday, May 03, 2009

"Those cowboys, they came with a good horse."

Its breeding and its training
And its something unknown
That drives you and carries
You home.

Run for the Roses, Dan Fogelberg

That 'something unknown' might include a diminutive Robin Williams-look-alike jockey with moves that Houdini would covet.

(The quote in the blog title came from competing trainer Bob Baffert; understatement of the day.)

This was the most satisfying Kentucky Derby I've ever seen; for as many reasons as it was miraculous and improbable. This was the race where the regular guy beat out the fat cats; where the horse and trainer ignored and at best marginalized by the corporate media... walked off with the cup. This story included adversity, perseverance, an incredible ride, an ebullient jockey and a historic sprint.

In the final stretch, as Mine That Bird pulled away from the field, I had flashbacks to Secretariat.

What a horse! Its one thing to steadfastly work your way forward from dead last (Calvin "Bo-rail" Borel has cemented his place in history with this ride.) Its another thing for a young horse to then turn on the afterburners needed to dart through a tiny opening on the rail, and have the stamina to open an astounding lead as the million dollar horses scrambled for second place in his muddy wake.

This young, unknown horse did all of this for his talented jockey: from last place, he passed Atomic Rain on the outside before cutting in to the rail, slipped through a tiny opening - faster than onlookers could even blink in surprise - then surged forward, still accelerating and increasing the gap as he crossed the finish line - as though all of this had been merely a warm-up exercise before the real sprint. Mine That Bird finished with the largest margin (6 3/4 lengths) since 1946, when Assault won by eight lengths.

This was a race for the ages.

The media, as usual, was left mired in the muddy backstretch. All they could find to say about this unknown commodity was that Mine That Bird had only cost $9,200 (some accounts said $9,500) in a field where the favorites were worth millions, and that trainer and part owner Bennie Woolley Jr. had driven over 20 hours from New Mexico with the horse trailer hooked up to his pickup truck -- and a broken leg (what about this didn't seem like a story, I'll never know.) All to bring his 50-1 gelding onto the Field of the Roses for the second greatest upset in history.

When life hands you hard times, sometimes fate replies with a miracle. I'm sure I wasn't the only American watching this victory with an enormous grin of satisfaction. In a time when everyone but the super-rich are losing - well, nearly everything - a budget-priced, underdog gelding with a regular-guy trainer outraced the million dollar favorites. He physically and symbolically kicked mud in their faces as he flew by them on the track.

This year, in this race, the little guy won. Even the King of Dubai couldn't buy this race away from a New Mexico cowboy.


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Looking back at Lincoln: On May 3, 1864

On this day in 1864, Lincoln called a cabinet meeting (requesting in advance, via Secretary of State Seward, that everyone be there) to discuss a government response to reports of a massacre at Fort Pillow, Tennessee.

I recommend reading the (linked above) comprehensive and relatively balanced treatment of the battle in Wikipedia. It takes into account Confederate Major General Nathan Bedford Forrest's version of events, but also notes the underlying deadly racism that prevailed in his command. "The river was dyed with the blood of the slaughtered for two hundred yards. The approximate loss was upward of five hundred killed, but few of the officers escaping. My loss was about twenty killed. It is hoped that these facts will demonstrate to the Northern people that negro soldiers cannot cope with Southerners." This quote by Forrest doesn't exactly support his professions of innocence.

During the meeting - and as he had done previously concerning the issue of whether to send provisions to Fort Sumter just prior to the opening of the war - President Lincoln gave written instructions to each member of his cabinet, requesting that they offer in writing their opinion as to what course the government should take regarding reports that "a large number of our colored soldiers, with their white officers, were, by the rebel force, massacred after they had surrendered:"

Executive Mansion,
Washington, May 3, 1864.


It is now quite certain that a large number of our colored soldiers, with their white officers, were, by the rebel force, massacred after they had surrendered, at the recent capture of Fort-Pillow. So much is known, though the evidence is not yet quite ready to be laid before me. Meanwhile I will thank you to prepare, and give me in writing your [2] opinion as to what course, the government should take in the case. Yours truly A. LINCOLN


[1] ADfS, DLC-RTL. The envelope containing the letter is endorsed by Lincoln "Letter to each Member of Cabinet, May 3, 1864.'' Individual letters sent to the cabinet members are extant as follows: to Blair (DLC-Blair Papers), to Seward (DNA FS RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters), to Welles (owned by George A. Ball, Muncie, Indiana). The lengthy and divergent replies from the cabinet members are in the Lincoln Papers, but limitations of space forbid adequate quotation and summary. A satisfactory summary may be found in Nicolay and Hay, Abraham Lincoln: A History, VI, 478 ff. All members agreed that the Confederate government should be called on to avow or disavow the massacre. Seward, Chase, Stanton, and Welles agreed in advising that Confederate prisoners equal in numbers to the Union troops massacred should be set apart as hostages, to be executed if the Confederate government avowed the massacre. Usher, Bates, and Blair advised no retaliation against innocent hostages, but advised that orders be issued to commanders to execute the actual offenders (Forrest and any of his command) if captured. Recommendations of the cabinet were not carried out, but see further Lincoln's instructions to Stanton, May 17, infra. For the report of the special committee (Senator Benjamin F. Wade and Representative Daniel W. Gooch) appointed to investigate the massacre, see House Committee Reports No. 65, Thirty-eighth Congress, First Session.

Although attempts have been made to absolve General Forrest and although Forrest's own explanation undertook to place the blame on the Union commander, Major Lionel F. Booth, for declining to surrender the fort before it was stormed, the truth contained in Forrest's own reports to Assistant Adjutant General Thomas J. Jack and to General Leonidas Polk on April 15, 1864, is self-evident. Testimony of survivors was that after they had thrown down their arms the Confederates shot most of those who did not jump into the river. Forrest's report to Jack is as follows:

"...Arrived there [Fort Pillow] on the morning of the 12th and attacked the place with . . . about 1,500 men, and after a sharp contest captured the garrison and all of its stores. A demand was made for the surrender, which was refused. The victory was complete, and the loss of the enemy will never be known from the fact that large numbers ran into the river and were shot and drowned. The force was composed of about 500 negroes and 200 white soldiers (Tennessee Tories). The river was dyed with the blood of the slaughtered for 200 yards. There was in the fort a large number of citizens who had fled there to escape the conscript law. Most of these ran into the river and were drowned.

"The approximate loss was upward of 500 killed, but few of the officers escaping.

"It is hoped that these facts will demonstrate to the Northern people that negro soldiers cannot cope with Southerners. We still hold the fort.

"My loss was about 20 killed and about 60 wounded. . . .'' (OR, I, XXXII, I, 610-11).

[2] The autograph draft was revised to the present text by an unidentified hand. As Lincoln wrote it, the remainder of this sentence read: "what course, in your judgment the government should take in the case.''

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Saturday, May 02, 2009

Jon Stewart: Our Last 100 Days

I loved this segment! Jon's initial reaction to the news of the flu -- exactly how I felt. Pretty sure this is the first time in my life that I've ever been pissed off over a flu outbreak... or maybe its the media coverage. And nobody exposes the ghouls in the corporate media quite like Jon Stewart.

Lincoln, I believe, would have loved this show. Humor, politics... and surgical satirizing of the more ridiculous elements in our society, especially our media. I didn't get around to posting this after I saw it because I was out of town... but its never too late to remedy that!

The Daily Show With Jon StewartM - Th 11p / 10c
Snoutbreak '09 - The Last 100 Days
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Economic CrisisFirst 100 Days

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Looking back at Lincoln: On May 2, 1863

On this day in 1863, the Washington Chronicle published a hilarious example of Lincoln's off the cuff humor (my thanks to the Lincoln Log for this one!)

I can only imagine how fun it must have been to work with Lincoln every day. Imagine being one of his aides - John Hay or John Nicolay - and enjoying daily doses of Lincoln's great wit, insights and compassion. They certainly had a front row seat to history, and direct access to our greatest president.

During past week gentleman called on President and asked for pass to Richmond. "Well," said President, "I would be very happy to oblige you, if my passes were respected; but the fact is, sir, I have, within the past two years given passes to 250,000 men to go to Richmond, and not one has got there yet." Washington Chronicle, 2 May 1863.

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Friday, May 01, 2009

Looking back at Lincoln: On May 1, 1863

Union troops in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

On this day in 1863 - and after two rather desperate telegrams from Pennsylvania Governor Curtin, who feared that an invasion of his state was imminent - Lincoln replied with the following letter, which appears to be a telegram:

Executive Mansion, Washington,
May 1. 1863. [10:55 P.M.]

Gov. Curtin
Harrisburg, Pa.

The whole disposable force at Baltimore & elsewhere in reach have already been sent after the enemy which alarms you. The worst thing the enemy could do for himself would be to weaken himself before Hooker, & therefore it is safe to believe he is not doing it; and the best thing he could do for himself, would be to get us so scared as to bring part of Hooker's force away, and that is just what he is trying to do. I will telegraph you in the morning about calling out the militia A. LINCOLN

Lincoln was correct for the time-being; although Curtain was also right to be alarmed. By June, Lee had begun his Gettysburg Campaign which would culminate in one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War... in a little Pennsylvania town destined to become infamous: Gettysburg.

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