Document: Emerentiana Bowden to Abraham Lincoln, April 23, 1864



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in your judgment the government should take in the case.

2 The preceding four words are interlineated in a hand other than Lincoln’s.

Yours truly

A. Lincoln

[Endorsed on Envelope by Lincoln:]

Letter to each Member of Cabinet, May 3, 1864

Cabinet
d3278200

Document: Abraham Lincoln to William H. Seward, May 3, 1864 [Copy in John G. Nicolay’s Hand]1



1 This is a copy of a message Lincoln sent to each member of his cabinet (see Lincoln to Cabinet, May 3, 1864). Lincoln responds here to the murder on April 12, 1864, of several dozen black soldiers after they had surrendered at Fort Pillow, Tennessee. The Confederate soldiers perpetrating the massacre were under the command of General Nathan Bedford Forrest. The Lincoln Administration demanded equal treatment for all Union prisoners of war regardless of race, and had at least threatened retaliation in kind among Confederate captives for the murder or enslavement of black Union prisoners. However even after the Fort Pillow Massacre, the president and the Cabinet recognized the difficulty and indefensibility of such a policy. At a cabinet meeting on May 6, each member read his opinion on the case as solicited here, and after receiving this advice, Lincoln began to draft a set of instructions for Stanton to implement in response to the massacre. Apparently Lincoln became distracted by other matters, such as Grant’s campaign against Lee and these instructions were neither completed nor submitted to the War Department. For the written opinions of the cabinet, see Edward Bates to Lincoln, May 4, 1864; William H. Seward to Lincoln, May 5, 1864; Edwin M. Stanton to Lincoln, May 5, 1864; Gideon Welles to Lincoln, May 5, 1864; Montgomery Blair to Lincoln, May 6, 1864; and Salmon P. Chase to Lincoln, May 6, 1864. For Lincoln’s unfinished
instructions to Stanton, see Collected Works, VII, 345-46. For an account of the May 6 cabinet meeting, see Howard K. Beale ed. Diary of Gideon Welles (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1960), Vol. II, 24-25.

Executive Mansion,

Washington, May 3d 1864.

Sir:


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 opinion as to what course the Government should take in the case.

Yours truly,

A. Lincoln.
d3278300

Document: Abraham Lincoln to William H. Seward, May 3, 1864 [Copy in Frederick Seward’s Hand]1



1 This note arises from the murder on April 12, 1864, of several dozen black soldiers after they had surrendered at Fort Pillow, Tennessee. The Confederate soldiers perpetrating the massacre were under the command of General Nathan Bedford Forrest. The Lincoln Administration demanded equal treatment for all Union prisoners of war regardless of race, and had at least threatened retaliation in kind among Confederate captives for the murder or enslavement of black Union prisoners. However even after the Fort Pillow Massacre, the president and the Cabinet recognized the difficulty and indefensibility of such a policy. At a cabinet meeting on May 6, each member read his opinion on the case, and after receiving this advice, Lincoln began to draft a set of instructions for Stanton to implement in response to the massacre. Apparently Lincoln became distracted by other matters, such as Grant’s campaign against Lee and these instructions were neither completed nor submitted to the War Department. For the written opinions of the cabinet, see Edward Bates to Lincoln, May 4, 1864; William H. Seward to Lincoln, May 5, 1864; Edwin M. Stanton to Lincoln, May 5, 1864; Gideon Welles to Lincoln, May 5, 1864; Montgomery Blair to Lincoln, May 6, 1864; and Salmon P. Chase to Lincoln, May 6, 1864. For Lincoln’s unfinished instructions to Stanton, see Collected Works, VII, 345-46. For an account of the May 6 cabinet meeting, see Howard K. Beale ed. Diary of Gideon Welles (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1960), Vol. II, 24-25.

[Marginal note: Copy from F W. S.]2



2 Copies of Lincoln’s correspondence with Seward were provided to John G. Nicolay by Seward’s son and secretary, Frederick W. Seward.

Executive Mansion

Washington. May 3. 1864.

My dear Sir,

Please invite all members of the Cabinet to be present at the meeting today.3

3 At the May 3 cabinet meeting, Lincoln requested formal opinions from each member of the cabinet on the Fort Pillow matter, which opinions would be read and discussed on May 6.

Yours truly.

A. Lincoln
d3278400

Document: James M. Ashley to Abraham Lincoln, May 3, 1864

House Reps

May 3d 1864.



Mr President.

The union members of the Ohio Delegation in Congress convened to consider what action was due from them, in view of the recent speech of Genl F P. Blair of Missouri in this House,1 resolved first to request a personal interview and a free conference with you on the subject before any further action is taken by them. I am requested by the Delegation to ask you at what time -- tomorrow or next day it will be convenient for you to receive us for the purpose indicated.



1 Before Frank Blair left Congress to assume command of the 17th Corps, he delivered a farewell address to the House on April 23 in which he lashed out against the Radical Republicans and leveled charges of corruption against Treasury Secretary Chase. The radicals in Congress were so outraged by Blair’s remarks that they passed a resolution that requested Lincoln to submit the correspondence pertaining to Blair’s military appointment, in the hope that it could be proved that Blair held his commission as a general while he served in the House. A copy of the April 25 resolution is in this collection along with a draft of Lincoln’s April 28 reply. See also, William E. Parrish, Frank Blair: Lincoln’s Conservative, (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1998), 192-95.

Please send answer if convenient by the bearer.2



2 No reply from Lincoln has been located but John Hay’s diary indicates that Lincoln and Ashley did meet on May 5 to discuss the upcoming presidential campaign. See Michael Burlingame and John R. Turner Ettlinger eds. Inside Lincoln’s White House The Complete Civil War Diary of John Hay (Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois University Press, 1997), 194-95.

Respectfully



J. M Ashley
d3278500

Document: Bland Ballard to Abraham Lincoln, May 3, 1864 [With Endorsement by Lincoln]1



1 The nature of Rev. Henderson’s business with Lincoln is not known.

Louisville Ky

May 3rd 1864

Dear sir


This will be handed to you by Rev. D P Henderson. Throughout the whole of our present national struggle no one has been truer or more zealous -- and few have rendered to the national Cause more service than Mr Henderson-- He has been most untiring in his exertions -- emboldening the timid, encouraging the despondent and comforting the sick.-- Being President of the Sanitary Board his labors have been extensive and useful.

I am proud, Mr President, to call Mr Henderson my friend and I commend as a gentleman entitled to your fullest confidence.

Respectfully

Your Obt Sert--

Bland Ballard

[Endorsed by Lincoln:]

Rev. D. P. Henderson.
d3280400

Document: Edward Bates to Abraham Lincoln, May 4, 18641



1 Lincoln convened a meeting of his cabinet on May 3 and requested each member to submit a written opinion that recommended a course of action for the government to take in response to the massacre of
black soldiers at Fort Pillow, Tennessee on April 12. See Lincoln to William H. Seward, May 3, 1864 and Lincoln to Cabinet, May 3, 1864.

Attorney General’s Office,

May 4. 1864.

Sir,


I insert your brief note, of the 3d instant, entire, in order that my remarks, by way of opinion, may appear to be pertinent and comformable.

“Executive Mansion,

Washington, May 3d, 1864.

Hon. Attorney General,

Sir:

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 opinion as to what course the Government should take in the case.



Yours truly,

A. Lincoln.”

I foresaw the great probability of such horrid results as those exhibited in the massacre of Fort Pillow (and, as reported, at other places); and that was one of the reasons, why, from the beginning, I was unwilling to employ negro troops, in this war. Not because, in my judgment, there is anything in the mere fact of the employment of such troops, legally or morally wrong, but upon grounds of policy, which seemed to me prudent and wise.

All history teaches us that men, (especially in the excitements of open rebellion and revolutionary violence, when all legal barriers are broken down, and all moral restraints removed, are always more swayed by their passions and prejudices, than by reason and judgment -- more prone to indulge the fierce passion of revenge, than to practice the mild virtues of prudence, moderation, and justice, the end of which is commonly wisdom and peace.

I knew something of the cherished passions and the educated prejudices of the Southern people, and I could not but fear that our employment of negro troops would add fuel to a flame, already fiercely burning, and thus, excite their evil passions to deeds of horrors, shocking to humanity and to Christian civilization. If they alone were doomed to bear the shame and curse of such barbarity, I might have viewed the subject with less of alarm, content to see them sink under a load of moral infamy, superadded to their political crimes. But I feared that it could not be so. I feared that, the crime once begun, we might be drawn into the vortex, and made, however unwillingly, sharers in their guilt and punishment. That we might feel ourselves, in a manner, constrained to practice the like cruel severities, in just retaliation for the past, and in prudent prevention for the future. What I then foresaw, only in apprehension, is now realized in fact; and we are forced to choose between evils, and in the midst of opposite difficulties, what measures are wisest and best (in view of all the circumstances) to punish past atrocities, and prevent their repetition.

Wiser men than I determined the good policy of employing black soldiers; and I (freely acquiescing in their wisdom and authority) accept the new condition, with all its consequences. Surely it is not for the enemy to dictate to us what kind of troops we shall employ against them. They did not ask our consent to their employment of indian savages, in the far west, and yet, (as I am credibly informed) some of our wounded Missouri soldiers were tomahawked and scalped, by their red troops, on the bloody field of Pea Ridge.

Every belligerent must and will choose for himself, what soldiers he will employ; and having chosen, it is not a debatable question whether he shall protect and (if need be) avenge them. It is a simple duty, the failure to perform which would be a crime and a national dishonor.

Having said this much, in explanation of my position and relations with the subject, I proceed to the precise point suggested by your Excellency, which is, what course should be taken by the government, in relation to the case.

This, it seems to me, presents not a question of law, but questions of prudence and policy only; for, as far as I can judge, the law is clearly with you, to inflict such punishment or exact such retribution for the outrage, as may be, at once, within your power and sanctioned by your wise discretion. The case, however, is so complicated in its relations, and the consequences of your resolution, so important and diversified in themselves, and, possibly, so terrible, in their results, that the utmost care and deliberation, are, it seems to me, necessary to a successful and honorable result.

With these views, I give my opinion, and advise as follows--

1. Adopt no plan of action, and especially, make no threat of vengeance or retaliation, without resolving at the same time, to act it out, to the letter, meeting all its consequences, direct and contingent.

2. Demand of the enemy (through your proper military officer) to know whether he avows the massacre at Fort Pillow, as a governmental act, or disavows it as a personal crime.

3. If he disavow the act, then demand that he surrender to you, the two generals Forrest and Chalmers,2 who commanded the army which took Fort Pillow and perpetrated the attrocities complained of, to be dealt with, at your discretion.

2 Nathan Bedford Forrest and James R. Chalmers

4. If he avow and justify the act, then issue an order directed to all your commanders of armies, and all commanders of separate or detached ports and forts, and to all naval commanders, to the effect, that, whenever any one or more of the army of the enemy which captured fort Pillow and committed the massacre there, shall come within the power of such commander, he, the commander, shall cause instant execution to be done upon all such, whether officers or privates.

5. I would have no compact with the enemy for mutual slaughter -- no cartel of blood and murder -- no stipulation to the effect that if you murder one of my men, I will murder one of yours’!

Retaliation is not mere justice. It is avowedly Revenge; and is wholly unjustifiable, in law and conscience, unless adopted for the sole purposes of punishing past crime and of giving a salutary and blood-saving warning against its repetition. In its very nature it must be discretionary.

I will not say that there is no danger that a desperate enemy, in pretended answer to such a course, may make the closing scenes of this war (already replete with horrors) one disgusting spectacle of blood and fire. If that be the demoniac spirit of our enemies (which God, in his mercy forbid) still, be it so -- we, of necessity, must accept the consequences. But upon their souls be the guilt, and upon them be the punishment, both here and hereafter.

The subject is full of difficulties, and we have at best, only a choice of evils. And I pray God that your mind may be so enlightened as to enable you to choose a course of measures, most for the good of our country, and least productive of evil consequences.

All which is respectfully submitted3

3 At a cabinet meeting on May 6, each member read his opinion on the case and after receiving this advice, Lincoln began to draft a set of instructions for Stanton to implement in response to the massacre. Apparently Lincoln became distracted by other matters, such as Grant’s campaign against Lee and these instructions were neither completed nor submitted to the War Department. For the written opinions of the cabinet, see William H. Seward to Lincoln, May 5, 1864; Edwin M. Stanton to Lincoln, May 5, 1864; Gideon Welles to Lincoln, May 5, 1864; Montgomery Blair to Lincoln, May 6, 1864; Salmon P. Chase to Lincoln, May 6, 1864; and John P. Usher to Lincoln, May 6, 1864. For Lincoln’s unfinished instructions to Stanton, see Collected Works, VII, 345-46. For an account of the May 6 cabinet meeting, see Howard K. Beale ed. Diary of Gideon Welles (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1960), Vol. II, 24-25.

By your obedient Servant,



Edwd. Bates

Attorney General


d3281000

Document: Salmon P. Chase to Abraham Lincoln, May 4, 1864 [With Endorsement by Lincoln]1



1 Former congressman David Chambers, introduced here by Chase, was old enough to have been a confidential express rider for President Washington during the Whiskey Rebellion in 1794. See also Benjamin F. Wade, et al. to Lincoln, May 9, 1864.

Treasury Department,

May 4, 1864

My dear Sir,

Please allow me to introduce Col. Chambers of Muskingum County Ohio. Forty one years ago he was a member of Congress for Ohio, and enjoyed the confidence of his Constituents to the fullest extent. That confidence he has always retained, and perhaps no man in the State is now more venerated & esteemed.

He is here visiting the city after an absence of more than forty years & wishes to see you. I am sure you will be pleased to gratify him.

Yours truly

S P Chase

[Endorsed on Envelope by Lincoln:]

Col Chambers -- Zanesville Ohio--


d3281300

Document: Oliver Gibbs to Abraham Lincoln, May 4, 1864 [With Endorsement by Lincoln]1



1 The poet was a clerk in the office of the attorney general.

A New

Directory: mss -> mal -> maltext -> rtf orig
rtf orig -> Document: Ohio and Illinois General Assemblies, Resolutions for Gradual Emancipation of Slaves, 1824 and 1825
rtf orig -> Document: Alexander K. McClure to Abraham Lincoln, June 30, 1863
rtf orig -> Document: Thomas Corwin to Abraham Lincoln, September 6, 1864
rtf orig -> Document: Harriet Chapman to Abraham Lincoln, January 17, 1865
rtf orig -> Document: Mary C. W. Wadsworth to Abraham Lincoln, July 4, 1864 [With Endorsement by Lincoln]
rtf orig -> Document: Isachar Zacharie to Abraham Lincoln, April 25, 1863
rtf orig -> Document: Abraham Lincoln to Mary Mann, April 5, 1864 [Draft]
rtf orig -> Document: Edwin M. Stanton to Abraham Lincoln, November 18, 1863
rtf orig -> Document: Jesse K. Dubois and Ozias M. Hatch to Abraham Lincoln, September 16, 1863 Springfield Sept 16. 1863
rtf orig -> Document: Joseph Butler to Abraham Lincoln, January 10, 1861


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