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Abraham Lincoln as Commander-in-Chief

A presentation utilizing Linoln's writings found at http://housedivided.dickinson.edu/sites/lincoln/.

Susan Segal

on 10 October 2014

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Transcript of Abraham Lincoln as Commander-in-Chief

Abraham Lincoln to George Brinton McClellan, April 9, 1862.
Abraham Lincoln to George B. McClellan, October 13, 1862.
Abraham Lincoln to George Gordon Meade, July 14, 1863
"Why Should There be Delay?" New York Times. October 19, 1862.
Abraham Lincoln to George Brinton McClellan, October 25, 1862.
Excerpt from the "Emancipation Proclamation," January 1, 1863.
And I further declare and make known, that such persons of suitable condition, will be received into the armed service of the United States to garrison forts, positions, stations, and other places, and to man vessels of all sorts in said service.
Order of Retaliation, July 1, 1863
Abraham Lincoln to William Sherman, December 26, 1864

1. Concentration in time. "Menacing the enemy with superior forces at different points, at the same time."

2. Attack the enemy where they are. Fight the enemy where they are rather than conduct maneuvers to try to capture and occupy places.

3. Confederate offensives constitute more of an opportunity than a threat. Gives the army an opportunity to come in behind the enemy and trap the enemy.

Abraham Lincoln to Don Carlos Buell, January 13, 1862.
Abraham Lincoln to Mrs. Lydia Bixby, November 21, 1864

Abraham Lincoln to Ulysses Simpson Grant, July 13, 1863

James McPherson, “Lincoln as Commander in Chief,” Gilder Lehrman Institute (November 22, 2008)
Chastising General Meade:
An Unsent Letter

Finally--Lincoln's Strategy is Carried Out
The Toll of War: Consoling Others in their Grief
Recruitment of Black Soldiers
Lincoln's Military Strategy for Winning the War
Abraham Lincoln to Agenor-Etienne de Gasparin, August 4, 1862
Protecting the Soldiers
“The Removal of Gen. McClellan.”
New York Times. November 10, 1862.

The Draft and the Riots
Abraham Lincoln to Horatio Seymour, August 7, 1863
General Fremont Oversteps His Authority
Abraham Lincoln to John Frémont, September 2, 1861
. . . I think there is great danger that the closing paragraph [of your proclamation], in relation to the confiscation of property, and the liberating slaves of traiterous owners, will alarm our Southern Union friends, and turn them against us---perhaps ruin our rather fair prospect for Kentucky. Allow me therefore to ask, that you will as of your own motion, modify that paragraph so as to conform to the first and fourth sections of the act of Congress, entitled, ``An act to confiscate property used for insurrectionary purposes,'' approved August, 6th, 1861, and a copy of which act I herewith send you. This letter is written in a spirit of caution and not of censure.

When you first reached the vicinity of Vicksburg, I thought you should do what you finally did -- march the troops across the neck, run the batteries with the transports and thus go below; and I never had any faith, except a general hope that you knew better than I, that the Yazoo-Pass expedition, and the like could succeed. When you got below, and took Port Gibson, Grand Gulf and vicinity, I thought you should go down the river and join Gen. Banks; and when you turned Northward, East of the Big Black, I feared it was a mistake. I now wish to make the personal acknowledgement that you were right and I was wrong.
It is the duty of every government to give protection to its citizens, of whatever class, color, or condition, and especially to those who are duly organized as soldiers in the public service. The law of nations and the usages and customs of war as carried on by civilized powers, permit no distinction as to color in the treatment of prisoners of war as public enemies. To sell or enslave any captured person, on account of his color, and for no offence against the laws of war, is a relapse into barbarism and a crime against the civilization of the age.

The government of the United States will give the same protection to all its soldiers, and if the enemy shall sell or enslave anyone because of his color, the offense shall be punished by retaliation upon the enemy's prisoners in our possession.

It is therefore ordered that for every soldier of the United States killed in violation of the laws of war, a rebel soldier shall be executed; and for every one enslaved by the enemy or sold into slavery, a rebel soldier shall be placed at hard labor on the public works and continued at such labor until the other shall be released and receive the treatment due to a prisoner of war

Abraham Lincoln as Commander in Chief
A Presentation for "Understanding Lincoln"
By Susan Plimpton Segal
Telegram to Joseph Hooker, June 10, 1863
Major General Hooker
Your long despatch of to-day is just received. If left to me, I would not go South of the Rappahannock, upon Lee's moving North of it. If you had Richmond invested to-day, you would not be able to take it in twenty days; meanwhile, your communications, and with them, your army would be ruined. I think Lee's Army, and not Richmond, is your true objective point. If he comes towards the Upper Potomac, follow on his flank, and on the inside track, shortening your lines, whilst he lengthens his. Fight him when oppertunity offers. If he stays where he is, fret him, and fret him.
"Lee's Army, and Not Richmond"
Abraham Lincoln, General War Order No. 1, January 27, 1862
Ordering the Generals into Action
Ordered that the 22nd day of February 1862, be the day for a general movement of the Land and Naval forces of the United States against the insurgent forces.

That especially---

The Army at & about, Fortress Monroe.

The Army of the Potomac.

The Army of Western Virginia

The Army near Munfordsville [sic], Ky.

The Army and Flotilla at Cairo.

And a Naval force in the Gulf of Mexico, be ready for a movement on that day.

That all other forces, both Land and Naval, with their respective commanders, obey existing orders, for the time, and be ready to obey additional orders when duly given.

That the Heads of Departments, and especially the Secretaries of War and of the Navy, with all their subordinates; and the General-in-Chief, with all other commanders and subordinates, of Land and Naval forces, will severally be held to their strict and full responsibilities, for the prompt execution of this order.
I know as fully as one can know the opinions of others, that some of the commanders of our armies in the field who have given us our most important successes, believe the emancipation policy, and the use of colored troops, constitute the heaviest blow yet dealt to the rebellion; and that, at least one of those important successes, could not have been achieved when it was, but for the aid of black soldiers. Among the commanders holding these views are some who have never had any affinity with what is called abolitionism, or with republican party politics; but who hold them purely as military opinions. I submit these opinions as being entitled to some weight against the objections, often urged, that emancipation, and arming the blacks, are unwise as military measures, and were not adopted, as such, in good faith.

You say you will not fight to free negroes. Some of them seem willing to fight for you; but, no matter. Fight you, then, exclusively to save the Union . . . I issued the proclamation on purpose to aid you in saving the Union . . .

I thought that in your struggle for the Union, to whatever extent the negroes should cease helping the enemy, to that extent it weakened the enemy in his resistance to you. Do you think differently? I thought that whatever negroes can be got to do as soldiers, leaves just so much less for white soldiers to do, in saving the Union. Does it appear otherwise to you? But negroes, like other people, act upon motives. Why should they do any thing for us, if we will do nothing for them? If they stake their lives for us, they must be prompted by the strongest motive---even the promise of freedom. And the promise being made, must be kept.

. . . And then, there will be some black men who can remember that, with silent tongue, and clenched teeth, and steady eye, and well-poised bayonet, they have helped mankind on to this great consummation; while, I fear, there will be some white ones, unable to forget that, with malignant heart, and deceitful speech, they have strove to hinder it.
Abraham Lincoln to James C. Conkling, August 26, 1863
Whether Gen. Grant shall or shall not consummate the capture of Vicksburg, his campaign from the beginning of this month up to the twenty second day of it, is one of the most brilliant in the world.
Abraham Lincoln to Isaac Newton Arnold, May 26, 1863
A word upon another subject. Gen. Thomas has gone again to the Mississippi Valley, with the view of raising colored troops. I have no reason to doubt that you are doing what you reasonably can upon the same subject. I believe it is a resource which, if vigorously applied now, will soon close the contest. It works doubly, weakening the enemy and strengthening us. We were not fully ripe for it until the river was opened. Now, I think at least a hundred thousand can, and ought to be rapidly organized along it's shores, relieving all the white troops to serve elsewhere.
Abraham Lincoln to Ulysses S. Grant, August 9, 1863
Lincoln's Growing Frustration
with General McClellan

"You Fail me Precisely"
Lincoln to Halleck, January 1, 1863
Gen. Burnside wishes to cross the Rappahannock with his army, but his Grand Division commanders all oppose the movement. If in such a difficulty as this you do not help, you fail me precisely in the point for which I sought your assistance. You know what Gen. Burnside's plan is; and it is my wish that you go with him to the ground, examine it as far as practicable, confer with the officers, getting their judgment, and ascertaining their temper, in a word, gather all the elements for forming a judgment of your own; and then tell Gen. Burnside that you do approve, or that you do not approve his plan. Your military skill is useless to me, if you will not do this.
I can not consent to suspend the draft in New-York, as you request, because, among other reasons, time is too important.

Again, my dear general, I do not believe you appreciate the magnitude of the misfortune involved in Lee's escape. He was within your easy grasp, and to have closed upon him would, in connection with our other late successes, have ended the war. As it is, the war will be prolonged indefinitely. If you could not safely attack Lee last monday, how can you possibly do so South of the river, when you can take with you very few more than two thirds of the force you then had in hand? It would be unreasonable to expect, and I do not expect you can now effect much. Your golden opportunity is gone, and I am distressed immeasureably because of it.
Abraham Lincoln to Orville H. Browning, September 22, 1861
Genl. Fremont's proclamation, as to confiscation of property, and the liberation of slaves, is purely political, and not within the range of military law, or necessity. If a commanding General finds a necessity to seize the farm of a private owner, for a pasture, an encampment, or a fortification, he has the right to do so, and to so hold it, as long as the necessity lasts; and this is within military law, because within military necessity. But to say the farm shall no longer belong to the owner, or his heirs forever; and this as well when the farm is not needed for military purposes as when it is, is purely political, without the savor of military law about it.
I have just read your despatch about sore tongued and fatiegued horses. Will you pardon me for asking what the horses of your army have done since the battle of Antietam that fatigue anything?
I state my general idea of this war to be that we have the greater numbers, and the enemy has the greater facility of concentrating forces upon points of collision; that we must fail, unless we can find some way of making our advantage an over-match for his; and that this can only be done by menacing him with superior forces at different points, at the same time; so that we can safely attack, one, or both, if he makes no change; and if he weakens one to strengthen the other, forbear to attack the strengthened one, but seize, and hold the weakened one, gaining so much.
In the untimely loss of your noble son, our affliction here is scarcely less than your own. So much of promised usefulness to one's country, and of bright hopes for one's self and friends, have rarely been so suddenly dashed as in his fall. In size, in years, and in youthful appearance a boy only, his power to command men was surpassingly great. This power combined with a fine intellect, an indomitable energy, and a taste altogether military, constituted in him, as seemed to me the best natural talent, in that department, I ever knew.

And yet he was singularly modest and deferential in social intercourse. My acquaintance with him began less than two years ago; yet through the latter half of the intervening period, it was as intimate as the disparity of our ages, and my engrossing engagements would permit. To me, he appeared to have no indulgences or pastimes; and I never heard him utter a profane or an intemperate word. What was conclusive of his good heart, he never forgot his parents. The honors he labored for so laudably, and in the sad end so gallantly gave his life, he meant for them, no less than for himself. In the hope that it may be no intrusion upon the sacredness of your sorrow, I have ventured to address you this tribute to the memory of my young friend, and your brave and early-fallen child.
May God give you that consolation which is beyond all earthly power.

Sincerely your friend
in a common affliction.
A. Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln to Ephraim and Phoebe Ellsworth, May 25, 1861
Lincoln's Praise and Confidence in His General-in-Chief
Abraham Lincoln to Ulysses Simpson Grant, 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, pleased 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 within 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.
War Powers and Civil Liberties:
Suspension of the Writ of Habeas Corpus
Abraham Lincoln to Winfield Scott, April 25, 1861

The Maryland Legislature assembles to-morrow at Anapolis [Annapolis]; and, not improbably, will take action to arm the people of that State against the United States-- The question has been submitted to, and considered by me, whether it would not be justifiable, upon the ground of necessary defence, for you, as Commander in Chief of the United States Army, to arrest, or disperse the members of that body-- I think it would not be justifiable; nor, efficient for the desired object. First, they have a clearly legal right to assemble; and, we can not know in advance, that their action will not be lawful, and peaceful. And if we wait until they shall have acted, their arrest, or dispersion, will not lessen the effect of their action—

Secondly, we can not permanently prevent their action-- If we arrest them, we can not long hold them as prisoners; and when liberated, they will immediately re-assemble, and take their action-- And, precisely the same if we simply disperse them. They will immediately re-assemble in some other place—

I therefore conclude that it is only left to the Commanding General to watch, and await their action, which, if it shall be to arm their people against the United States, he is to adopt the most prompt, and efficient means to counteract it, even, if necessary, to the bombardment of their cities -- and of course in the extreme necessity, the suspicion suspension of the writ of habeas corpus—
Letter from Francis Fletcher to Jacob Safford, May 28, 1864
You take a far more liberal view of things than you could in my situation. Just one year ago to day our regt was received in Boston with almost an ovation, and at 5 P. M. it will be one year since we were safely on board transport clear of Battery Wharf and bound to this Department: in that one year no man of our regiment has received a cent of monthly pay all through the glaring perfidy of the U.S. Gov’t.

I cannot any more condemn nor recite our wrongs, but console myself that One who is able has said vengeance is mine and I will repay.

All the misery and degradation suffered in our regiment by its members’ families is not atoned for by the passage of the bill for equal pay.

Abraham Lincoln to Erastus Corning and Others, June 12, 1863
Ours is a case of Rebellion---so called by the resolutions before me---in fact, a clear, flagrant, and gigantic case of Rebellion; and the provision of the constitution that ``The previlege of the writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in cases of Rebellion or Invasion, the public Safety may require it'' is the provision which specially applies to our present case.
Deportation : "Unbeknownst" to Lincoln
With the matters of removing the inhabitants of certain counties en masse; and of removing certain individuals from time to time, who are supposed to be mischievous, I am not now interfering, but am leaving to your own discretion
. . .
So far as practicable you will, by means of your military force, expel guerrillas, marauders, and murderers, and all who are known to harbor, aid, or abet them. But, in like manner, you will repress assumptions of unauthorized individuals to perform the same service; because under pretence of doing this, they become marauders and murderers themselves. To now restore peace, let the military obey orders; and those not of the military, leave each other alone; thus not breaking the peace themselves.
Lincoln to Gen. John M. Schofield Washington, D.C. Oct. 1. 1863
I had a conversation with the President on the topic suggested by you. He said in regard to the Guerrillas in Lafayette and Jackson counties of whom you propose to dispose & at the same time remove the causes of their organization, that his position could be very well illustrated by an anecdote. An Irishman once asked for a glass of soda water and remarked at the same time that he would be glad if the Doctor could put a little brandy in it "unbeknownst to him." The inference is that old Abe would be glad if you would dispose of the Guerrillas and would not be sorry to see the negroes set free, if it can be done without his being known in the affair as having instigated it. He will be certain to recognize it afterward as a military necessity.

Francis Blair to Gen. John Schofield, August 12, 1863
An Attempt to End Martial Law in Missouri
It seems that there is now no organized military force of the enemy in Missouri and yet that destruction of property and life is rampant every where. Is not the cure for this within easy reach of the people themselves? It cannot but be that every man, not naturally a robber or cut-throat would gladly put an end to this state of things. A large majority in every locality must feel alike upon this subject; and if so they only need to reach an understanding one with another. Each leaving all others alone solves the problem. And surely each would do this but for his apprehension that others will not leave him alone. Can not this mischievous distrust be removed? Let neighborhood meetings be every where called and held, of all entertaining a sincere purpose for mutual security in the future, whatever they may heretofore have thought, said or done about the war or about anything else. Let all such meet and waiving all else pledge each to cease harassing others and to make common cause against whomever persists in making, aiding or encouraging further disturbance. The practical means they will best know how to adopt and apply. At such meetings old friendships will cross the memory; and honor and Christian Charity will come in to help.
Abraham Lincoln to Gov. Fletcher, February 20, 1865
Entry from the Diary of Edward Bates, Attorney General of the United States, December 31, 1861.
I . . . told the President that he was commander in chief, and that it was not his privilege but his duty to command; and that implied the necessity to know the true condition of things . . . That if I was in his place, I would know; and if things were not done to my liking, I would order them otherwise. That I believed he could get along easier and much better by the free use of his power, than by this injurious deference to his subordinates.
. . . But I fear that I spoke in vain. The Prest. is an excellent man, and, in the main wise ; but he lacks will and purpose, and, I greatly fear he, has not the power to command.
A Christmas Present from General Sherman
General William H. Thomas
General Philp Sheridan
A Recently Discovered Letter
Encountering Resistance from General Sherman
I have seen your despatches objecting to agents of Northern States opening recruiting stations near your camps. An act of congress authorizes this, giving the appointment of agents to the States, and not to this Executive government. It is not for the War Department, or myself, to restrain, or modify the law, in its execution, further than actual necessity may require. To be candid, I was for the passage of the law . . . Many of the States were very anxious for it, and I hoped that, with their State bounties, and active exertions, they would get out substantial additions to our colored forces, which, unlike white recruits, help us where they come from, as well as where they go to. I still hope advantage from the law; and being a law, it must be treated as such by all of us. We here, will do what we consistently can to save you from difficulties arising out of it. May I ask therefore that you will give your hearty co-operation?
Abraham Lincoln to General Sherman, July 18, 1864
The Battle of Milliken’s Bend: June 7, 1863.
The colored population is the great available and yet unavailed of, force for restoring the Union. The bare sight of fifty thousand armed, and drilled black soldiers on the banks of the Mississippi, would end the rebellion at once. And who doubts that we can present that sight, if we but take hold in earnest?
Abraham Lincoln to Andrew Johnson, March 26, 1863
Unequal Pay
Union Treatment of the Black Soldiers
. . . blood can not restore blood, and government should not act for revenge.
Lincoln to Edwin Stanton, May 17, 1864
Close Reading of "Lincoln's Message to Congress," July 4, 1861
One of the first challenges that Lincoln had to contend with in his role as Commander-in-Chief was Fremont’s issuance of a blanket order on August 30, 1861 that, among other things, freed all slaves of Confederate sympathizers in Missouri. Since the beginning to the war, Lincoln had been carefully navigating around the issue of slavery. Lincoln badly needed to allay any fears on the part of Unionists in the Border States and Democrats that the war was about the abolition of slavery. It was a difficult job holding the Union together, and Fremont’s order had the very real potential of undoing all that Lincoln had in place in terms of keeping the Border States in the Union.
By late 1861, Lincoln was frustrated with his generals and the lack of progress in the war. He soon realized that he had to take a more active role in directing the generals. General War Order No. 1 was a defining moment in Lincoln’s military leadership. As Lincoln’s secretary John Hay (1862a) reported, Lincoln issued the order on January 27, 1862, and “[f]rom that time, [Lincoln] influenced actively the operations of the Campaign”
Expressing Doubts about Lincoln's Ability to Command
Lincoln’s orders suspending the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus not only eliminated a fundamental right guaranteed by the Constitution, but also were issued without Congressional action. They reflect Lincoln’s interpretation of the scope of the president’s war powers under the Constitution. In his “Message to Congress” on July 4, 1861, and “Letter to Erastus Corning” of June 12, 1863, Lincoln sets out his rationale for suspending the writ and his interpretation of the Constitution that allowed him to do so.
The imposition of martial law and the deportations in Missouri during the Civil War drastically infringed on the civil liberties of civilians. Bands of guerrilla fighters were causing serious disruptions and casualties in western Missouri near the Kansas-Missouri border. General Ewing asked General Schofíeld for permission to evacuate and resettle citizens residing in four western Missouri counties in order to flush out the guerrillas. General Francis P. Blair, Jr. went to Lincoln with General Ewing’s plans. While not directly authorizing the severe measure, Lincoln tacitly signaled his assent by telling an anecdote.
"General War Order 11," by George Caleb Bingham
Although he was well trained and skilled at preparing for battle, General McClellan seemed unable to put the Union army into action in a strategic and timely fashion. Lincoln showed great patience and leadership in dealing with this general who neither respected Lincoln nor implemented Lincoln’s military strategy. Lincoln tried a number of approaches—logic, prodding, pleading, criticism, humiliation, character analysis, comparison to the enemy, and sarcasm. The letters that are featured in this section show Lincoln’s growing frustration with McClellan. The news articles reflect the public's reaction to McClellan's removal from his command.
Lincoln's letter to General Halleck came as a result of a difference of opinion between General Burnside and his subordinate generals over Burnside’s plans to cross the Rappahannock River. This was a crisis of leadership that understandably distressed Lincoln. Burnside came to Washington, D.C. and offered to resign. Lincoln refused the resignation, but he did send a letter to General Halleck the next day, in which he told Halleck that he had to take charge of this situation.
Lincoln’s telegram to General Hooker evidences Lincoln’s continuing frustration with his generals. At times, Lincoln was concerned that Hooker had the McClellan tendency to find excuses to delay attack. When Hooker advised Lincoln that he was going to go around Lee’s army and march on to Richmond, Lincoln sent a telegram to Hooker that said, “Lee’s Army, and not Richmond, is your true objective point”
General Meade failed to follow Lincoln’s strategy after the Battle of Gettysburg, by allowing Lee and his army to cross the Potomac near Williamsport, Maryland, and escape back into Virginia. To make matters worse, Lee was stalled near Williamsport for days before he could cross the Potomac, due to the destruction of a bridge and rising waters. Lincoln believed that Meade missed a critical opportunity to end the war by letting Lee escape. Lincoln tells General Meade flat out why he was displeased that Meade did not pursue Lee after Gettysburg in his letter of July 14, 1863. He did not, however, send this letter.
In the Emancipation Proclamation, Lincoln declared that freed slaves would be recruited to serve in the Union military. The proclamation also played a part in Lincoln's military strategy by adding manpower for Union and leaving the Confederacy with a shorter supply of slave labor. Although the black soldiers fought valiantly, Lincoln's decision to enlist black troops was not without criticism and repercussions.
General Sherman to John Spooner, July 30, 1864
Though entertaining profound reverence for our Congress, I do doubt their wisdom in the passage of this law [allowing the recruitment of black men] . . . the negro is in a transition state and is not the equal of the white man . . . I prefer some negroes as pioneers, teamsters, cooks, and servants.
Black soldiers faced the very real risk of being enslaved or executed if they were captured by the enemy. In an attempt to deter Confederate mistreatment of captured black soldiers, Lincoln issued the "Order of Retaliation." However, it was never implemented, even after the brutal massacre at Fort Pillow. Lincoln realized that "blood can not restore blood, and government should not act for revenge."
The Emancipation Proclamation, the bravery of Black Union soldiers, abolitionism, and good intentions could not wipe away longstanding prejudices of the white population in the North overnight, if ever. Black soldiers suffered discrimination and mistreatment by the federal government and military leaders and white troops while serving in the Union army.
Generals Grant and Sherman, as well as Sheridan and Thomas, masterfully employed elements of Lincoln’s three part military strategy. Compared with other Union generals who failed to implement Lincoln’s strategy, these generals captured and defeated whole armies of the Confederacy and ultimately won the war. Lincoln's praise, deferrence and confidence in these generals is reflected in his letters.
From the New York Times:
Among the most cowardly features of the riot . . . was the causeless and inhuman treatment of the negroes of the City. It seemed to be an understood thing throughout the City that the negroes should be attacked wherever found, whether then offered any provocation or not. As soon as one of these unfortunate people was spied, whether on a cart, a railroad car, or in the street, he was immediately set upon by a crowd of men and boys, and unless some man of pluck came to his rescue, or he was fortunate enough to escape into a building he was inhumanly beaten and perhaps killed. There were probably not less than a dozen negroes beaten to death in different parts of the City during the day.
The first draft (also known as conscription) in U.S. history was set to occur on July 11, 1863, after Congress passed the Enrolling Act in March of that year. In New York City, a riot broke out and mobs brutally attacked innocent blacks, as well as anyone who stood in their path. The rioters, who were mostly Irish, threw rocks, beat and lynched people, and burned the Colored Orphan Asylum. The carnage lasted several days. Governor Seymour wrote Lincoln a letter asking that the draft be suspended.
Documents referenced in this prezi may be accessed from the House Divided site at http://housedivided.dickinson.edu/sites/lincoln
While Lincoln had no forman military training, he became a knowledgeable military strategist through hard work and diligent study of battle tactics over the course of the war. He deferred to his generals early on in the war, but, as his confidence and knowlege in military strategy grew, Lincoln became more and more assertive in urging the Union army generals to implement the three part strategy that he believed would win the war.
Colonel Elmer Ellsworth was the first Union officer to fall in the Civil War. Ellsworth had become a surrogate son to the Lincolns. Lincoln’s letter to Elmer’s parents demonstrates the depth of his personal grief at their son’s death. The famous letter to Mrs. Bixby is an eloquent expression of his sympathy for her loss.
Lincoln recognized the need to limit war powers when they were no longer necessary. In 1865, he wrote newly elected Missouri Governor Thomas Fletcher a letter, suggesting that martial law in Missouri be ended.
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