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By Ellis Paxson Oberholtzer
T HE evil star which way. Vain efforts were made by Mrs.
seemed somehow to Sprague to dispossess him cf the papers, and hang above the heads the book profoundly displeased the family of Salmon P. Chase and Mr. Chase's friends. Almost simuland his daughter taneously Mr. Schuckers, who had once Kate, afterward Mrs. been the statesman's private secretary,
Sprague, to bring began a work with such letters as he them so much disappointment, pursued the could collect. letters and diaries of the able statesman What precisely were the adventures of whom Lincoln made his Secretary of the these papers after they had served the Treasury in 1861 and then three years later uses of the biographers can never be known. appointed to be Chief Justice of the l'nited We do know, however, that within a few States. At his death two biographers of years public libraries have come into posVIr. Chase appeared. Judge Warden as- session of two lots of this material. While serted his claim to prepare a volume, a task writing his “History of the United States which he promptly performed in his own from the Compromise of 1850," it came to
Mr. Rhodes's knowledge that there were Chattanooga was more hopeful, but it was many Chase letters in the vaults of a safe- evident that Rosecrans's army. was in great deposit company in Washington. As they peril. Meade was in the neighborhood of had long lain there unclaimed, they were Manassas, following Lee, and, it was hoped, offered to him if he would pay the accumu- about to win a decisive victory over him. lated storage charges of twenty years. He But he was cautious and it was uncertain advanced the sum, which was later re- if he would strike at all. I went home turned to him when the papers were sold from the Department thinking over the to the Library of Congress. There they state of things with great anxiety. It was now repose-supplemented by a large col- about midnight, and I had just retired lection found in the possession of the when the door-bell rang and the message family of a man, who had once been a was brought to me, 'The Secretary of War political agent for Chase, by Albert Bush- desires that you will come to the Departnell Hart when he was preparing his ment immediately and has sent a carriage biography for the American Statesman for you.' Series. These papers at Washington seem “What can be the matter?' I said to to be those which were worked over by myself as I hastily rose and dressed. “Has Judge Warden.
the enemy attacked Rosecrans? Has he Another collection was sold by Mr. captured him and his army? Has he Schuckers to Brinton Coxe, of Philadelphia, driven our men across the Tennessee ?' and at the latter's death it found its way “When I reached the War Department to the Library of the Historical Society of I found Mr. Stanton there, silent and stern. Pennsylvania. It is from these letters and “Is there any bad news?' I asked. diaries that the accompanying extracts are “None,' was the brief reply. General gleaned.
Halleck was present and the President Of much interest is Mr. Chase's account either was there already or soon came in; of the means that were taken in Septem- Mr. Seward also came. ber, 1863, to transport a large body of “At length when we five were assembled troops from Virginia to Tennessee in order Mr. Stanton began: to reënforce Rosecrans. Mr. Chase's con “I have invited, this meeting because fidence in this commander, despite his long I am thoroughly convinced that something inaction after the battle of Murfreesboro, must be done, and done immediately, to was as great as in Hooker on the eastern insure the safety of the army under Rosefield of war. Nevertheless his spirit chafedas crans, and wish to have it considered and the weeks passed and no effectual steps were decided whether anything, and if anything, taken “to drive the rebels from east Ten- what shall be done.' nessee," while Bragg, who confronted the “Then turning to General Halleck he Union troops, was being constantly strength- asked: ened by the Confederate Government. “What forces can Burnside send to
Rosecrans in motion at last, by clever Rosecrans at Chattanooga ?' strategical movements had compelled his “General Halleck replied, '20,000 men.' opponent to vacate Chattanooga, although “Stanton-How soon?'. the victory soon proved to be rather bar- “Halleck—'In ten days, if not interren. The Confederate lines were drawn rupted.' closely around him, and after the battle of “President— Before ten days Burnside Chickamauga he was virtually a besieged can put in enough to hold the place.' man. So serious was the situation ac- “Halleck—“He can bring up 12,000 percounted to be that on the night of Septem- haps in eight days.' ber 23d there was a hurried conference in "President—When Burnside's men beWashington, of which Mr. Chase tells in gin to arrive the place will be safe; but the his diaries as of that date, though the in- pinch is now,' sertion was manifestly made at his leisure “Stanton-If the enemy presses or atsome time afterward:
tacks Burnside, what then?'
"Halleck—'Burnside must take his "I shall not soon forget the events of measures accordingly-fight or act defenthe night of this day. Our news from sively.'
“Stanton—'If enemy has enough to de- est approach to definiteness was eight days tach a force against Burnside and also by Burnside if uninterrupted by the enemy. attack Rosecrans?'
Was not the enemy sure to interrupt? And “Halleck—'Rosecrans must be relieved was it not well known that activity by otherwise.
Burnside would involve the abandonment “Stanton—'When can Sherman relieve of east Tennessee to which Burnside was him?'
strongly opposed and therefore extremely “Halleck—'In about ten days, if already unwilling to move? Whereas if it should marched from Vicksburg. If not marched be determined to send men from the Army should come up the river and overland of the Potomac the order for the two corps from Memphis. He has 20,000 or 25,000 could be given in the morning-by night men. Every available man is ordered for- the column would be entering Washington, ward and boats have gone down the river the troops could be put in cars at once and from Cairo to bring them up.'
in five days the advance might be entering “Stanton—Then your estimate of what Nashville. can be done by Sherman is only conjec- “Why,' said the President, “You can't tural?'
get one corps into Washington in the time “Halleck—'Of course it is impossible to you fix for reaching Nashville,' and he speak definitely in such a matter.' illustrated his idea of the impossibility by
“Stanton-'Can men be had from any some story which I have forgotten. other quarter?'
“Stanton was greatly annoyed and made “Halleck—'Perhaps a few from Ken- some remark to the effect that the danger tucky-don't know how many. All are al- was too imminent and the occasion too ready ordered to Rosecrans.
serious for jokes; he added that as he saw “Stanton-Mr. President, I think it himself overruled he would give up the perfectly clear from what has been said point; and invited us all into the adjoining that no certain or even probable relief will room where he had caused a light collation reach Rosecrans from any quarter that has to be prepared. been named. I do not believe a man will “I then remarked that I hoped the get to him from Burnside or Sherman in proposition would not be abandoned; that time to be of any use in the emergency it seemed to me exceedingly important and which is upon us. The Army of the that we could resume its consideration with Potomac is doing nothing important, nor advantage after a little refreshment. I is it likely to be more actively employed. added a very brief résumé of Mr. Stanton's I propose, therefore, to send 20,000 men arguments already urged, expressed my from the Army of the Potomac to Chatta- entire confidence in his ability to do what nooga under the command of General he proposed, and declared it to be my Hooker.'
deliberate judgment that to refuse to adopt “This proposition was objected to quite it was to refuse to adopt the only plan by strongly by General Halleck and the Presi- which the army of Rosecrans would with dent. Both expressed the belief that the any certainty be saved. We then went to troops could not be got through to Chatta- the collation. On returning to the Secrenooga, or near enough to be of essential tary's room, Mr. Seward took up the subservice to the army of Rosecrans as soon as ject and supported Mr. Stanton's propositroops could be furnished from Burnside's tion with excellent arguments. or Sherman's command, and both were un “The scale was now turned. Every obwilling to withdraw troops from Meade. jection was abandoned except that of
"Mr. Stanton said that he had fully weakening Meade, and finally the Presiconsidered the question of practicability dent said that he would telegraph Meade and should not have submitted his proposi- in the morning, and, if he did not propose tion had he not fully satisfied himself on an immediate movement, the order for the that head by conference with the ablest two corps to move should be given at once railroad men of the country. General to General Halleck. It was near morning Halleck had given no definite assurance when we went home. Two or three hours as to the time in which relief could be later the telegram was sent, the answer regiven by Sherman or Burnside. His near- ceived, the order for the movement given. “The result is well known. The ad- greater emphasis. How will history anvance of Hooker's command reached Nash- swer them?” ville in a week, frustrated the attempt to break up Rosecrans's communications and That President Lincoln and Secretary his army was saved; and Chattanooga Stanton could themselves manage the war was saved and the future was saved. with success was doubted by very many Neither Sherman's column, nor Burnside's, people. Mr. Chase in particular felt his came up in time to be of any use in this individual responsibility keenly, and he all special work. Burnside's did not come the while wrote letters to military leaders up at all. Sherman's came, but came after in the field, as well as to civil officials and the peril was past, though in time for the citizens, offering his counsel and criticism, glorious achievement which soon after- to which they as frankly replied. ward electrified the country. The coun- Montgomery Blair once told Samuel J. try does not know how much it owes Tilden that Chase was the “only human Edwin M. Stanton for that night's work."* being” whom Lincoln "actually hated."
The issue of this bold movement was in (Letters and Literary Memorials of Samuel doubt for many days and it needed the J. Tilden, p. 233.) A statement of this brilliant victories on Lookout Mountain kind from so unfriendly a source may be and at Missionary Ridge to mollify the taken with caution, but that the great critics of the government, of whom Mr. President and his Secretary of the TreasChase always reserved to himself the right ury were not congenial spirits is a wellto be one of the most active, notwithstand- known fact. It finds fresh corroboration ing his responsible relations to it. On in these papers. It irked Mr. Chase, who September 30 he wrote to his daughter always himself desired to be President, to Kate:
occupy any subordinate place. On July “... The great expedition to reënforce 15, 1862, he wrote to James A. Hamilton: Rosecrans is going on admirably. If no “Your excellent note is just received. I hitch occurs the advance from the Army will send it to the President and shall be of the Potomac will begin to arrive at glad if he will read and heed it. Chattanooga, or within supporting dis- “I have seen little of him for some time tance, within the next few days.
past. When he thinks fit to ask my counsel “How much would have been gained or to impart his own I attend his summons. had Rosecrans attacked when Bragg was “Otherwise I confine myself to my weak?"
special work. What I think ought to be To John D. Jones on the same day done is so generally left undone—what I Chase wrote:
think ought not to be done so generally "... My soul is filled with anguish by done, that I am led to doubt greatly the the belief that much of the calamity we value of my views on any subject.” suffer is due to irresolution and procrastination, and, I fear sometimes also, to the Again in September, 1862, in the course indifference of those who are charged with of a letter to Zachariah Chandler, Senator the conduct of the war. Why did not from Michigan, Mr. Chase wrote: Rosecrans attack Bragg when he was “I, though charged with the responsiweak? Why, when the golden moments bility of providing for the enormous exwere suffered to slip by unused, why did penditures entailed upon the country, have not General Halleck promptly reënforce no control over—no voice even in deciding Rosecrans to the full extent of the re- on-the measures by which the necessity enforcements he knew were going to for them is created. In fact I know almost Bragg? Why did not the President re- as little of what is being done as any outquire him to do so? These are questions side. Neither credit nor responsibility for which history will put again with even what is decided outside of the Treasury
* Chase to the end warmly admired Stanton, who alone of Department belongs to me. The only all his old associates in the Cabinet called upon him before his departure from Washington, after his resignation from the Treasury Department in the summer of 1864. In a let
se ter to Robert Dale Owen on September 6, 1863, Chase wrote: "Some progress has been made for which we are in great necessarily supposed to have some voice measure indebted to Mr. Stanton, to whom how much the country owes will aever be known."
in public affairs, and especially in the
measures which belong to the prosecution except in so far as my own department is of the war in which we are involved; when concerned, is almost as great as my anxiety. in reality I have none at all which may not Our administration under the President's be overborne by factitious military clamor system, if system it be, is Departmental. or insidious outside pressure.
There are some important matters which “Don't misunderstand me as making the President reserves substantially to himany personal complaint of the President. self-for example those relating to slavery I do not. In every matter connected with for the most part. He also not unfrequently my Department he allows me to take what- determines important and sometimes unever course I think best, always giving me important questions concerning the war; a cordial support, and manifesting in me and decides on many appointments. Whatall the confidence I can possibly claim. ever he there does he does generally, though
“But I do not think it enough that the not always, without consultation, so far as Heads of Departments be supported in I am advised. If there is consultation, extheir special administrations. The affairs cept in a few cases, I do not know it. of each are so intimately connected with With these reservations, I repeat, the adthe general action of the government that ministration is Departmental; that is to it has always been thought the duty of the say I administer the Treasury, Mr. Blair President to convene them regularly for the Post Office, Mr. Welles the Navy, and consultation, and to take their judgments so on. The President sustains me kindly in all important matters, and in general- and cordially when I ask him; but in though this is by no means obligatory—to general does not interfere at all, or even act in accordance with the well-considered care to be informed as to the line of action conclusions of the majority. There is on I adopt. What is true of the President is the contrary at the present time no cabinet true of other Heads of Departments, as a except in name. The Heads of Depart- general statement. And what is true of ments come together now and then, nomi- my Department is true of all, except that nally twice a week; but no reports are made, the President naturally takes most interest no regular discussions held, no ascertained in the progress of the war, and of course in conclusions reached. Sometimes weeks the action of the War Department, and pass by and no full meeting is held. One also, though not so marked, in that of the can get some information about military Navy Department. The Heads of Dematters if he will make due enquiry at the partments are not expected to exert much, War Department, or about naval matters if any, influence on the action of any other at the Naval Department; but full system- Department than their own: of course they atic accounts of the progress of the strug- do not expect to be consulted except very gle; the purposes entertained; the means rarely in relation to any important matter and modes of action by or against us are involved in such action. Not being conneither made, nor given, nor required. sulted they are not informed. I can get
"Let us rejoice that Providence rules more or less information touching the war and let us hope that He means to save by going to the War and Navy Departthough as by fire.”
ments and making particular enquiries. I
receive what it is thought fit to impart and These views were elaborated by Mr. am left in ignorance of what it is thought Chase in correspondence with his friend fit to withhold. How much is imparted, Bishop C. P. McIlvaine of Ohio, on Jan- how much withheld, I can only judge by uary 25, 1863:
developments. Such information under “Your letters should have been an- such circumstances is not pleasant nor very swered at once, but I need not apologize to profitable. So I content myself generally you for delay; for you know my hindrances. with what I learn from the public prints. Even since writing this initial sentence I “I see it for example announced this have been interrupted half a dozen times morning that General Burnside is relieved by half a dozen callers on various business. from command and General Hooker ap
“It is impossible for me to express my pointed in his stead. I had heard nothing anxiety concerning the state of the country; from anybody in the Administration indibut my ignorance of the real condition, cating that such event was likely to take