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With a Brave Army and a Just Cause

By Olga Tsapina, Norris Foundation Curator of American Historical Manuscripts at the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens

Executive Mansion
Washington, April 30, 1864
Lieutenant General Grant.
Not expecting to see you again
before the Spring Campaign opens, I wish to express,
in this way, my entire satisfaction with what you have
done up to this time, so far as I understand it. The
particulars of your plans I neither know, or seek to
know. You are vigilant and self-reliant; and, pleas=
ed with this, I wish not to obtrude any constraints
or restraints upon you. While I am very anxious that
any great disaster, or the capture of our men in great
numbers, shall be avoided, I know these points
are less likely to escape your attention than they would
be mine. If there is anything wanting which is with=
in my power to give, do not fail to let me know it.
And now with a brave Army, and a just cause, may
God sustain you.
Yours very truly
A. Lincoln

The Civil War, born of a grave constitutional crisis over slavery, tested many provisions of the Constitution that hitherto had remained mere abstractions. One of these was Article II Section 2 which proclaimed the President “Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States.”

The extent of these powers was unclear and was subject of fierce debates, most famously those over the constitutionality of suspension of the writ of habeas corpus or emancipate the enemy slaves by means of a presidential proclamation. It was also unclear to what extent commander-in-chief should be involved in the actual business of commanding the army and navy.

On April 30, 1864, as Ulysses S. Grant was preparing to embark on what would become the bloodiest campaign of the war, the President wrote the above letter to the newly appointed Lieutenant General–a title that only George Washington had borne before.

Lincoln, acutely aware of his lack of military experience, generally refrained from giving orders. He left the planning, and the follow through, of the campaign in Grant’s hands, much as he had done with other generals. And many times had Lincoln been disappointed and frustrated by their performance. This time, however, he had found the correct general. Grant devised a campaign in the Spring of 1864 that would lead to the final collapse of the Confederacy a year later.

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The Enemy Fled

By Olga Tsapina, Norris Foundation Curator of American Historical Manuscripts at the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens

april 29 - mssEC_02_091 - news of new orleans capture rejoiced

Camp near Pittsburgh Tenn
Apl 29th Rcvd 29th
Hon Stanton Genl Pope sent force to Monterey
this morning the enemy fled our
forces took fifteen prisoners some baggage
and supplies We destroyed encampment and
returned to camp in good order
there is a reconnaissance but to
explore the country to Farmington No
news from it yet Our army
greatly rejoiced to hear of capture
of New Orleans Thos A Scott —– —– —–
 

On April 29, 1862, Thomas A. Scott, the Assistant Secretary of War telegraphed to his boss from camp near Pittsburg, Tenn.: “Genl. Pope sent force to Monterey this morning the enemy fled our forces took fifteen prisoners some baggage and supplies We destroyed encampment and returned to camp in good order.” This was the beginning of the advance on Corinth, a massive operation by the combined forces of the Armies of the Tennessee and Ohio, commanded by Henry W. Halleck, with John Pope commanding the left wing of Halleck’s army.

Scott also noted that “our army greatly rejoiced to hear the capture of New Orleans.” Indeed it was on the very same day when Farragut’s sailors from the USS Hartford removed the Louisiana state flag from the City Hall.

The coincidence seemed like a good omen. On May 3, the very same day when Stanton declared the Crescent City “recovered” for the Union, Pope would capture Farmington, just six miles away from Corinth. Corinth, “the vertebrae of the Confederacy,” would surrender on May 29, 1862, just a month after this telegram.

Happy Birthday General Grant!

Taylor Scrapbook Two: page 4, James E. Taylor Collection, Huntington Digital Library, UDID# 49361

On this day in 1822 Hiram Ulysses Grant was born in Point Pleasant, Ohio. Although he was generally known as Ulysses S. Grant, during the Civil War he was referred to by a number of code names. In honor of his birthday, here is a review of his arbitraries from the United States Military Telegraph’s ciphers, roughly in chronological order:

codebook 12 - grant - vmi copy p 17.jpg

Cipher 12: Abel & Austria

codebook 12 - grant - vmi copy_var A_Page_35

Cipher 12A: Abner & Alpha

codebook 9 - grant - mssEC_67_018.jpg

Cipher 9: Bangor & Bengal

codebook 1 - grant - mssEC_45_025.jpg

Cipher 1: Judah, John, Juno, Jupiter, Japan & Jersey

codebook 2 - grant - mssEC_47_023.jpg

Cipher 2: Bellows & Belly

codebook 4 - grant - vmi copy p 20.jpg

Cipher 4: Amateur, Advertise, Amber, Affect, America, Afflict

codebook 5 - grant - mssEC_55_023.jpg

Cipher 5: Artist, Assist, Ashland, & Assume


Many thanks to the kind folks at The George C. Marshall Foundation for sharing their copies of 12,12A and 4 from the William F. Friedman Papers with us!

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Roundabout News from New Orleans

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Capture of New Orleans, Farragut passing the forts by night. Jay T. Last Collection, priJLC_PRG_002017.

 

On this day in 1862 Admiral Farragut and his fleet of 24 gunboats, a bevy of mortar boats, and 15,000 soldiers arrived at New Orleans. The fleet had fought past, under the cover of darkness on the night of the 24th/25th, both Fort Jackson and Fort St. Philip. As Kate noted in her post last July, news of military advances often came from local newspapers as well. It this short telegram to Secretary of War Stanton, John G. Tucker relays Rebel news from Richmond that a single Federal naval vessel had passed Fort Jackson:

april_25_mssEC_02_081_news of NO

Fort Monroe. Apl 25th 10PM. Recd Apl 26th
Hon Stanton We have received the Richmond
dispatch of this morning which states
that a Federal gunboat had succeeded
in passing Ft Jackson below New Orleans but
they rebels state they regard it
of little importance as they had
other defenses to be depended on
No other news of interest from
any quarter J G Tucker – – –

Wildly incorrect reporting. New Orleans laid unprotected, and after prolonged negotiations surrendered; the forts surrendered on April 29. On May 1st Federal forces under General Benjamin Butler entered the city, relieving Farragut’s troops. Even though the news via Richmond was erroneous, Stanton undoubtedly knew of the coming attack. He could infer then that the attack had been successful. Roundabout news, filtered and misleading, can still be very insightful.

Atzerodt Captured

april 20 - mssEC_12_225 - atzerodt arrested

7 P.M.  Baltimore Apl 20. 1865
Secy of War – Genl Tyler
telegraphs that Andrew Atzerodt was
captured at Monocacy station
I have directed him to
send him by first train double
ironed & under secure guard
to Ft Dix where he
will arrive this Evening &
be held subject to your
orders  Lew Wallace Maj Genl

The hunt for the conspirators in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln burned up the telegraph wires after April 14th, 1865. One of the conspirators that was sought was George Andrew Atzerodt, the conspirator chosen by John Wilkes Booth to assassinate the Vice President, Andrew Johnson. Atzerodt lost his nerve on the night of the 14th, got drunk, and never followed through with the plan. He fled to a cousin’s house in Germantown, Maryland, but left behind in the hotel room, the same hotel occupied by Vice President Johnson, weapons, including a bowie knife, and a bank book belonging to  Booth.

Atzerodt became a prime suspect and was found, in bed, early on the morning of April 20th at his cousin’s home. He was arrested by soldiers from Monocacy Junction, just north of Germantown. The were led to him in large part because Atzerodt had used his real name when checking into the hotel. Once arrested he was brought back to Washington DC and imprisoned on the naval vessel U.S.S. Montauk.

Shortly after his arrest, Atzerodt was photographed by Alexander Gardner, along with the other alleged conspirators on the Montauk and another vessel, the U.S.S. Saugus. One of the photographs from that day is pasted on page 97 of the first volume of the James E. Taylor Collection, along with the portraits of three other conspirators, Mary Surratt, Lewis Payne, and David Herold.

april 20_atzerodt_conspirators

All four were found guilty and sentenced to death. On July 7, 1865, George Andrew Atzerodt was hanged with the other three for their roles in the assassination of President Lincoln.

Pinkerton Pledges Life

april_19_mssEC_12_231_232_small

6 P.M. Apl. 23.  New Orleans La Apl 19. 1865
Hon Edwin M Stanton Secretary of
War Washn D C This
mornings papers contain the deplorable
intelligence of the Assassination of
President Lincoln & Secy Seward –
Under the Providence of God
in Feby Eighteen sixty one
I was enabled to –
save him from the fate
he has now met How
I regret that I had
not been near him previous
to this fatal act I
might have been the means
to arrest it – If I
can be of any service
Please let me Know the

service of my whole force
or life itself is at
your disposal & trust you
will excuse me for impressing
upon you the necessity of
great personal caution on your
own part at this time –
The nation cannot spare you –
E.J. Allen

Five days following the assassination of President Lincoln, this urgent message was sent to Secretary of War Stanton by E.J. Allen. This the pseudonym of Allan Pinkerton, the detective turned head of the Union Secret Service and a spy.  Writing from Louisiana, where he was investigating fraud in supplies purchased by the US Government, Pinkerton refers in the telegram to his role in interrupting an assassination plot in 1861.  The plot sought to prevent Lincoln from reaching Washington DC for his first inauguration by assassinating him in Baltimore during a train stop. Pinkerton and Lincoln passed through Baltimore safely by switching the time of his arrival.

Pinkerton now wishes he could have been there to “arrest” the most recent plot. This turned out to be one of his greatest regrets. Interestingly, Pinkerton repeats the erroneous information the Seward was also killed. Although severally wounded, that was not the case. Pinkerton’s sentiment that the “nation cannot spare” to lose Stanton was no doubt shared by many. Pinkerton underscores his thoughts by unconditionally pledging his “whole force or life” in service to Stanton, and presumably, the Nation.


George_Foster_Robinson_Papers_02

Weapon used by Lewis Powell, a Rio Grande Camp Knife, in assassination attempt on William Seward, April 14, 1865.  The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

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Take up the Challenge

Challenge_logo_v3

 

Today, April 17th, 2017, marks the first day of a two-week challenge, a challenge for not only our current volunteers but for all who would like to join in. The goal is a simple one: complete 10 ledgers in Decoding the Civil War between April 17 and May 1.

Our volunteers have been doing yeoman’s work turning out 200 classifications a day (a classification is equal to a page of transcription). However, we have fallen behind where we had hoped to be at this stage of our project. Thus, the challenge and the selection of 10 ledgers. We need roughly 425 classifications per day, a bit more than double our current number. We can do this and it will help get us back toward the long-term goal of having the majority of ledgers finished by June.

But why accept the challenge? The canard is often repeated that libraries and archives are dead, or if not dead, then they are simply morgues for outdated material. Our work, all our work, has demonstrated that active collaboration, research, and discovery are vital. Remember that the work that is being done on Decoding the Civil War brings together resources from four institutions — The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens; the Papers of Abraham Lincoln at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum; North Carolina State University; and the Zooniverse with its team at the University of Minnesota — and the hard work of over 3,000 volunteers. There is also the generous backing of the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC). The collaboration of these groups has brought back to life telegrams from the Civil War, presenting the United States Civil War to the world in a continuous stream, not neatly packaged and organized.

Finally, Decoding the Civil War has created new and exciting paths of research—paths that have been cleared by the hard work of the citizen archivists, who have generously volunteered countless hours to this collaborative project. A hearty Thank You to them!

Starting today, let us see what new paths can be carved and cleared. To keep track of our progress we will be resetting the statistics page to reflect only the ten ledgers in the challenge. The numbers will not be set to zero as some work on the chosen ledgers has already be done. Rather, the numbers can be used as a base line to mark progress going forward. And we, as well as you, will be able to see the number of classifications per day clearly. Come back to our blog daily to see updates and new posts.

Go to our Decoding the Civil War project website, register as a new volunteer, or dive in!

Let us continue to prove that our work is vital! Take up the challenge: 10 ledgers in 2 weeks!

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