The Writings of Abraham Lincoln Vol. 1-7



October 5, 1863.


GENTLEMEN:-Your original address, presented on the 30th ult., and the
four supplementary ones presented on the 3d inst., have been
carefully considered. I hope you will regard the other duties
claiming my attention, together with the great length and importance
of these documents, as constituting a sufficient apology for not
having responded sooner.

These papers, framed for a common object, consist of the things
demanded and the reasons for demanding them.

The things demanded are

First. That General Schofield shall be relieved, and General Butler
be appointed as Commander of the Military Department of Missouri.

Second. That the system of enrolled militia in Missouri may be
broken up, and national forces he substituted for it; and

Third. That at elections persons may not be allowed to vote who are
not entitled by law to do so.

Among the reasons given, enough of suffering and wrong to Union men
is certainly, and I suppose truly, stated. Yet the whole case, as
presented, fails to convince me that General Schofield, or the
enrolled militia, is responsible for that suffering and wrong. The
whole can be explained on a more charitable, and, as I think, a more
rational hypothesis.

We are in a civil war. In such cases there always is a main
question, but in this case that question is a perplexing compound–
Union and slavery. It thus becomes a question not of two sides
merely, but of at least four sides, even among those who are for the
Union, saying nothing of those who are against it. Thus, those who
are for the Union with, but not without slavery; those for it
without, but not with; those for it with or without, but prefer it
with; and those for it with or without, but prefer it without.

Among these, again, is a subdivision of those who are for gradual,
but not for immediate, and those who are for immediate, but not for
gradual extinction of slavery.

It is easy to conceive that all these shades of opinion, and even
more, may be sincerely entertained by honest and truthful men. Yet,
all being for the Union, by reason of these differences each will
prefer a different way of sustaining the Union. At once, sincerity
is questioned, and motives are assailed. Actual war coining, blood
grows hot and blood is spilled. Thought is forced from old channels
into confusion. Deception breeds and thrives. Confidence dies, and
universal suspicion reigns. Each man feels an impulse to kill his
neighbor, lest he be killed by him. Revenge and retaliation follow.
And all this, as before said, may be among honest men only. But this
is not all. Every foul bird comes abroad, and every dirty reptile
rises up. These add crime to confusion. Strong measures deemed
indispensable, but harsh at best, such men make worse by
maladministration. Murders for old grudges, and murders for self,
proceed under any cloak that will best serve for the occasion.

These causes amply account for what has occurred in Missouri, without
ascribing it to the weakness or wickedness of any general. The
newspaper files, those chroniclers of current events, will show that
the evils now complained of were quite as prevalent under Fremont,
Hunter, Halleck, and Curtis, as under Schofield. If the former had
greater force opposed to them, they also had greater force with which
to meet it. When the organized rebel army left the State, the main
Federal force had to go also, leaving the department commander at
home relatively no stronger than before. Without disparaging any, I
affirm with confidence that no commander of that department has, in
proportion to his means, done better than General Schofield.

The first specific charge against General Schofield is, that the
enrolled militia was placed under his command, whereas it had not
been placed under the command of General Curtis. The fact is, I
believe, true; but you do not point out, nor can I conceive, how that
did, or could, injure loyal men or the Union cause.

You charge that, General Curtis being superseded by General
Schofield, Franklin A. Dick was superseded by James O. Broadhead as
Provost-Marshal General. No very specific showing is made as to how
this did or could injure the Union cause. It recalls, however, the
condition of things, as presented to me, which led to a change of
commander of that department.

To restrain contraband intelligence and trade, a system of searches,
seizures, permits, and passes, had been introduced, I think, by
General Fremont. When General Halleck came, he found and continued
the system, and added an order, applicable to some parts of the
State, to levy and collect contributions from noted rebels, to
compensate losses and relieve destitution caused by the rebellion.
The action of General Fremont and General Halleck, as stated,
constituted a sort of system which General Curtis found in full
operation when he took command of the department. That there was a
necessity for something of the sort was clear; but that it could only
be justified by stern necessity, and that it was liable to great
abuse in administration, was equally clear. Agents to execute it,
contrary to the great prayer, were led into temptation. Some might,
while others would not, resist that temptation. It was not possible
to hold any to a very strict accountability; and those yielding to
the temptation would sell permits and passes to those who would pay
most and most readily for them, and would seize property and collect
levies in the aptest way to fill their own pockets. Money being the
object, the man having money, whether loyal or disloyal, would be a
victim. This practice doubtless existed to some extent, and it was,
a real additional evil that it could be, and was, plausibly charged
to exist in greater extent than it did.

When General Curtis took command of the department, Mr. Dick, against
whom I never knew anything to allege, had general charge of this
system. A controversy in regard to it rapidly grew into almost
unmanageable proportions. One side ignored the necessity and
magnified the evils of the system, while the other ignored the evils
and magnified the necessity; and each bitterly assailed the other. I
could not fail to see that the controversy enlarged in the same
proportion as the professed Union men there distinctly took sides in
two opposing political parties. I exhausted my wits, and very nearly
my patience also, in efforts to convince both that the evils they
charged on each other were inherent in the case, and could not be
cured by giving either party a victory over the other.

Plainly, the irritating system was not to be perpetual; and it was
plausibly urged that it could be modified at once with advantage.
The case could scarcely be worse, and whether it could be made better
could only be determined by a trial. In this view, and not to ban or
brand General Curtis, or to give a victory to any party, I made the
change of commander for the department. I now learn that soon after
this change Mr. Dick was removed, and that Mr. Broadhead, a gentleman
of no less good character, was put in the place. The mere fact of
this change is more distinctly complained of than is any conduct of
the new officer, or other consequence of the change.

I gave the new commander no instructions as to the administration of
the system mentioned, beyond what is contained in the private letter
afterwards surreptitiously published, in which I directed him to act
solely for the public good, and independently of both parties.
Neither any thing you have presented me, nor anything I have
otherwise learned, has convinced me that he has been unfaithful to
this charge.

Imbecility is urged as one cause for removing General Schofield; and
the late massacre at Lawrence, Kansas, is pressed as evidence of that
imbecility. To my mind that fact scarcely tends to prove the
proposition. That massacre is only an example of what Grierson, John
Morgan, and many others might have repeatedly done on their
respective raids, had they chosen to incur the personal hazard, and
possessed the fiendish hearts to do it.

The charge is made that General Schofield, on purpose to protect the
Lawrence murderers, would not allow them to be pursued into Missouri.
While no punishment could be too sudden or too severe for those
murderers, I am well satisfied that the preventing of the threatened
remedial raid into Missouri was the only way to avoid an
indiscriminate massacre there, including probably more innocent than
guilty. Instead of condemning, I therefore approve what I understand
General Schofield did in that respect.

The charges that General Schofield has purposely withheld protection
from loyal people and purposely facilitated the objects of the
disloyal are altogether beyond my power of belief. I do not arraign
the veracity of gentlemen as to the facts complained of, but I do
more than question the judgment which would infer that those facts
occurred in accordance with the purposes of General Schofield.

With my present views, I must decline to remove General Schofield.
In this I decide nothing against General Butler. I sincerely wish it
were convenient to assign him a suitable command. In order to meet
some existing evils I have addressed a letter of instructions to
General Schofield, a copy of which I enclose to you.

As to the enrolled militia, I shall endeavor to ascertain better than
I now know what is its exact value. Let me say now, however, that
your proposal to substitute national forces for the enrolled militia
implies that in your judgment the latter is doing something which
needs to be done; and if so, the proposition to throw that force away
and to supply its place by bringing other forces from the field where
they are urgently needed seems to me very extraordinary. Whence
shall they come? Shall they be withdrawn from Banks, or Grant, or
Steele, or Rosecrans? Few things have been so grateful to my anxious
feelings as when, in June last, the local force in Missouri aided
General Schofield to so promptly send a large general force to the
relief of General Grant, then investing Vicksburg and menaced from
without by General Johnston. Was this all wrong? Should the
enrolled militia then have been broken up and General Herron kept
from Grant to police Missouri? So far from finding cause to object,
I confess to a sympathy for whatever relieves our general force in
Missouri and allows it to serve elsewhere. I therefore, as at
present advised, cannot attempt the destruction of the enrolled
militia of Missouri. I may add that, the force being under the
national military control, it is also within the proclamation in
regard to the habeas corpus.

I concur in the propriety of your request in regard to elections, and
have, as you see, directed General Schofield accordingly. I do not
feel justified to enter upon the broad field you present in regard to
the political differences between Radicals and Conservatives. From
time to time I have done and said what appeared to me proper to do
and say. The public knows it all. It obliges nobody to follow me,
and I trust it obliges me to follow nobody. The Radicals and
Conservatives each agree with me in some things and disagree in
others. I could wish both to agree with me in all things, for then
they would agree with each other, and would be too strong for any foe
from any quarter. They, however, choose to do otherwise; and I do
not question their right. I too shall do what seems to be my duty.
I hold whoever commands in Missouri or elsewhere responsible to me
and not to either Radicals or Conservatives. It is my duty to hear
all, but at last I must, within my sphere, judge what to do and what
to forbear.

Your obedient servant,




WASHINGTON, October 8, 1863.

MAJOR-GENERAL J. G. FOSTER, Commanding Department of Virginia and
North Carolina, Fort Monroe, Va.

SIR:–The proceedings of the military commission instituted for the
trial of David Wright, of Norfolk, in Special Orders Nos. 195, 196,
and 197, of 1863, from headquarters Department of Virginia, have been
submitted to the President of the United States. The following are
his remarks on the case:

Upon the presentation of the record in this case and the examination
thereof, aided by the report thereon of the Judge-Advocate-General,
and on full hearing of counsel for the accused, being specified that
no proper question remained open except as to the sanity of the
accused, I caused a very full examination to be made on that
question, upon a great amount of evidence, including all effort by
the counsel for accused, by an expert of high reputation in that
professional department, who thereon reports to me, as his opinion,
that the accused, Dr. David M. Wright, was not insane prior to or on
the 11th day of July, 1863, the date of the homicide of Lieutenant
Sanborn; that he has not been insane since, and is not insane now
(Oct. 7, 1863). I therefore approve the finding and sentence of the
military commission, and direct that the major-general in command of
the department including the place of trial, and wherein the convict
is now in custody, appoint a time and place and carry such sentence
into execution.





I am appealed to in behalf of August Blittersdorf, at Mitchell’s
Station, Va., to be shot to-morrow as a deserter. I am unwilling for
any boy under eighteen to be shot, and his father affirms that he is
yet under sixteen. Please answer. His regiment or company not given





The boy telegraphs from Mitchell’s Station, Va. The father thinks he
is in the One hundred and nineteenth Pennsylvania Volunteers. The
father signs the name “Blittersdorf.” I can tell no more.





The father and mother of John Murphy, of the One hundred and
nineteenth Pennsylvania Volunteers, have filed their own affidavits
that he was born June 22, 1846, and also the affidavits of three
other persons who all swear that they remembered the circumstances of
his birth and that it was in the year 1846, though they do not
remember the particular day. I therefore, on account of his tender
age, have concluded to pardon him, and to leave it to yourself
whether to discharge him or continue him in the service.


[Cipher.] WAR DEPARTMENT, October 12, 1863.8.35 A.M.


As I understand, Burnside is menaced from the west, and so cannot go
to you without surrendering East Tennessee. I now think the enemy
will not attack Chattanooga, and I think you will have to look out
for his making a concentrated drive at Burnside. You and Burnside
now have him by the throat, and he must break your hold or perish I
therefore think you better try to hold the road up to Kingston,
leaving Burnside to what is above there. Sherman is coming to you,
though gaps in the telegraph prevent our knowing how far he is
advanced. He and Hooker will so support you on the west and
northwest as to enable you to look east and northeast. This is not
an order. General Halleck will give his views.

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