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.

Hunting for Mosby

april 28 - mssEC_19_334 - hunting for mosby - code 4.jpg

Hd Qrs M M Divn
RR McCaine Winchester  Apl 28th 1865
Plug Richard Harriet David for Consent Regent Parsons
can trifle of course now that Booth pimple
caught dog The Panther wishes you to try
and hunt up Elder If more money is
needed it canby had upward C H Morgan

Decoded, using cipher 4
Hd Qrs M M Divn
RR McCaine Winchester  Apl 28th 1865
Head Quarters Middle Military Division 11 AM 28th for A.T.A. Torbert Major Governor
can return of course now that Booth has been
caught ; The general wishes you to try
and hunt up Mosby If more money is
needed it can be had signature C H Morgan

Whoever was encoding the messages for General Morgan appears to have gotten a little carried away. I can understand obscuring “Mosby”, but did “has been” really need to be replaced by its arbitrary, “pimple”? And the operator made an error by using the arbitrary for Governor, Parson, instead of the second arbitrary for General, Paradise, which is the line above in the cipher. Perhaps it was like a child who has received a new toy, and wants to use it at any opportunity?

Whatever the case may be, with John Wilkes Booth dead and most of his associates in custody, the Union army continued the business of wrapping up the war. Here we have General Morgan, who was Chief of Staff to General Hancock at this point, altering the short term goal of General Torbert’s command from capturing Booth to capturing Confederate Colonel John Mosby. It is perhaps unsurprising that Mosby, the “Gray Ghost”, evaded his pursuers for another month and a half before turning himself in.

 

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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Surrender of Johnston

april 26 - mssEC_13_235 - johnston surrenders.jpg

910 am 28th  Raleigh Apl 26th 1865
Raleigh 730 pm 26th Maj Eckert Sherman & Johnston
had another interview today and Johnston has
surrendered on same terms Lee accepted .
I think the great bulk of the army will
start for Washn over-land in few days
I will be guided by circumstances in the
absence of any instruction from you . I
think we will hold on here some time
R. O’Brien Chf Opr

After the original terms that Sherman offered to Johnston were rejected, the two opposing generals met again, and on this day in 1865 Johnston surrendered all of the Confederate troops in North and South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. This time the terms were approved (Sherman stuck exclusively to military matters).

Following the surrender, Sherman prepared to return to Washington with his troops. They would participate, with other Union Troops, in a Grand Review, which was held on the 23rd and 24th of May. Sherman and Johnston were friends following the war, and both served as pallbearers in U.S. Grant’s funeral in 1885. In fact, Johnston died of pneumonia in 1891, caught while serving as a pallbearer at Sherman’s funeral.

421255 p 45 - The_pallbearers.jpg

Seven mile funeral cortege of Genl. Grant in New York Aug. 8, 1885, U.S. Instantaneous Photographic Co., 1886, p. 45. (Huntington Digital Library, UDID 397202)

Roundabout News from New Orleans

priJLC_002017

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.

Grant Defends Sherman’s Truce

april 24 - mssEC_13_231 - grant defends shermans truce pt 1.jpg

april 24 - mssEC_13_232 - grant defends shermans truce pt 2.jpg

7 P.M.  Raleigh N.C. Apl. 24. 1865.
Raleigh Apl 24th 9 AM . Secry of War – Sir I
reached here this mng & delivered to Gen Sherman the reply
to his negotiation with Johnston He was not
surprised but rather expected their rejection – word was
immedy sent to Johnston terminating the truce & information
that civil matters could not be entertained in any
Convention between army Comdrs – Gen Sherman has been guided in
his negotiations with Johnston Entirely by what he thought
was precedent authorized by the Prest – He had before
him the terms given by me to Lees Army

& the call of the rebel legislature of Va authorized
by Gen Weitzel , as he supposed with the sanction
of the President & myself – at the time of the agreement
Gen Sherman did not know of the withdrawal of authority for the
meeting of that legislature – the moment he learned
through the papers that authority for the meeting of the
Va legislature had been withdrawn he communicated the fact
to Johnston as having bearing on the negotiations,
US Grant
Lt Genl

In early 1865, Union General William Tecumseh Sherman had gained a great deal of momentum. He and and his army rolled north from Georgia, pressuring the South as Grant was pressuring them in Virginia.  So when he met with Confederate General Joe Johnston in early April to discuss terms of surrender, he was probably feeling pretty sure of himself. A little too sure of himself, it turned out, because the deal that he hashed out with Johnston was promptly rejected, and Sherman was excoriated publicly by Secretary of War Edwin Stanton.

Sherman reacted to this public condemnation about as well as you would expect, and it is interesting to note that Grant himself carried news of the terms’ rejection to Sherman. In this telegram, Grant defends Sherman’s actions, in particular the rights that he negotiated in civil, non-military, matters. This may have kept Sherman out of hot water, but his feud with Stanton lasted for years.

A Seance in the White House

priJLC_000803 - soldiers grave.jpg

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

On April 25, 1863, the Boston Saturday Evening Gazette published a piece titled “Lincoln and Spirits” dated April 23 and bylined to one Mr. Melton. The report described a “spiritual soiree” in the Red Room of the White House hosted by the President of the United States and attended by the Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles and the Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton. The President’s guest of honor was Melton’s friend, one Mr. Charles E. Shockle, and the purpose of the meeting was to test his “wonderful alleged superpowers.”

The mere fact of the President attending a spiritual séance seemed quite unremarkable.  By the beginning of the Civil War, spiritualism, born in the “burned over district” of upstate New York in the 1840s, had become a popular obsession, subject to fervent belief, amused skepticism, and harsh criticism.

The bereaved and disconsolate anxiously seized on the chance to talk to the departed loved ones. More fortunate delighted in tipping tables, pieces of furniture moving on their own volition, and messages from beyond the grave. It also helped that “spirits” who popped up in parlors and living rooms tended to endorse the causes of their earthly hosts or share their political preferences.

Lending additional credence to the mediums was the fact that “spirits” made their presence known by repeated knocking or rapping, which was followed by “automatic” messages appearing on blank sheets of paper, which evoked telegraphic communications.

As the war raged on, thousands of grief-stricken men and women invited mediums to their homes. One such homes was the White House. It was a matter of common knowledge that Mrs. Lincoln, buckling under the pressures of life in war-time Washington and pining for her dead sons Eddie and Willy, resorted to various mediums and spirit guides.

The séance was off to a brisk start, when the President was briefly called away. The annoyed spirits, who had assembled with the sole purpose of convincing the Chief Executive of their power, took it up with the Cabinet members, pinching Secretary Stanton’s ears and tweaking Secretary Welles’ generous beard.

After Lincoln returned, the spirits calmed down and duly moved the tables, swayed the portrait of Henry Clay that adorned the wall “more than a foot,” and hoisted “two candelabras, presented by the Dey of Algiers to President Adams” to the ceiling, before placing the Mr. Shockle under “spiritual influence” that was so “powerful that twice during the evening restoratives were applied.”

In short order, knocks were heard “directly beneath the President’s feet” and a blank sheet of paper covered by a handkerchief requisitioned from Stanton revealed a message from none other than Henry Knox, the Secretary of War under George Washington. For an otherworldly presence, Knox was rather explicit: “Haste makes waste, but delays cause vexations. Give vitality by energy. Use every means to subdue. Proclamations are useless; make a bold front and fight the enemy; leave traitors at home to the care of loyal men. Less note of preparation, less parade and policy talk, more action.”

When the President politely inquired if it was within “within the scope of his ability” to predict the “when the rebellion will be put down,” Knox’s spirit assured Lincoln that “Washington, Lafayette, Franklin, Wilberforce, Napoleon, and myself have held frequent consultations upon this point.” The advice of the illustrious panel, as Lincoln sarcastically quipped, “sounded very much like the talk of my cabinet: Napoleon “says concentrate your forces upon one point; Lafayette thinks that the rebellion will die of exhaustion; Franklin sees the end approaching, as the South must give up for want of mechanical ability to compete against Norther mechanics.” Wilberforce, the message concluded, “sees hope only a negro army.”

The spirits then prophesized that “English people” would demand that “England’s aristocracy” stop propping up their Southern brethren. As the piece-de-résistance, the spirit of Stephen A. Douglass delivered a full-blown oration, imploring his old rival to “throw aside all advisers who hesitate about the policy to be pursued” and prophesying a surge in “the popular approval which would follow one or two victories” that were sure to follow “ere long.”

This was quite a story. It was immediately reprinted in Northern and Southern newspapers before the Boston Saturday Evening Gazette published a retraction on June 6, 1863, calling it a “humbug.”  Two weeks later the spiritualist publication Banner of Light followed suit. Yet the story grew legs. Lincoln’s numerous detractors seized on the story to paint him at best as a deluded individual and at worst, a demon-worshipper. In the fall of 1863, Ohio Democrats painted a picture “the Nation demonized, and its president a spirit-rapper.” Spiritualism’s advocates cited the incident as the ultimate endorsement.

Repeated ever since, the episode has fed various strains of Lincoln scholarship, from the exploration of his spirituality to speculations of his interest in the occult and paranormal, even though Gideon Welles made no mention of the séance in his diary, and there are no records of either Charles E. Shockle or a Boston reporter named Melton. (The latter is frequently conflated with Melton Prior, the famous journalist and artist for the London Illustrated News.)

To be clear, the story is in fact a piece of fiction. It is a combination of a fictional personal letter, opinion piece, and a Lincoln joke, complete with samples of the president’s unique blend of sarcasm and amused observation of human folly and digs at the members of his cabinet. It is somewhat reminiscent of the missives of Orpheus C. Kerr, the ingenious creation of R.H. Newell, which were too full of rather fanciful (and hilarious) accounts of the president.

It is no surprise that a piece featuring various departed historical celebrities urging the president to press on with the war effort, cautioning him against “traitors” and the “spirit of party,” and promoting a “negro army” would appear in a Boston Republican newspaper. Nor was the image of Lincoln as a conscientious and level-headed war-time leader who, despite his sound skepticism, was willing to listen to good advice even if it came from beyond the grave.

As we proceed with the challenge, let us follow Lincoln’s example and heed the spirits’ advice to “give vitality by energy.”


Sources:

The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens: The soldier’s grave, 1862, Jay T. Last Collection (UDID 383505)