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1864 April 9: General Grant “is just now the great sensation in the city” and Other News from Washington

April 10, 2014

From the April 9, 1864, issue of The Prescott Journal.


Gen. Grant in Washington—The Missouri Faction—New Hampshire Election—
Gov. Randall—Gov. Doty—Disaster in Florida—Recklessness of Gen. Seymour—

Congressional matters [sic]—Wisconsin Men at the Capitol.

Correspondence of the State Journal.

WASHINGTON, March 10, 1864.

The arrival of Gen. Grant [Ulysses S. Grant] is just now the great sensation in the city, and whether he will remain here, or continue in the field is a question on every tongue.  He was hardly known to be in the city when he appeared at the President’s levee last night.  His entrance, as soon as it became known, caused a tremendous excitement in the crowded rooms of the White House, and such was the rush to him that a modest man could not get within forty feet of him, while the occupants of crinoline,¹ who happened to be in the crowd, were squeezed quite to their hearts content and to the ruin of their gay habiliments.

The General came in about 10 o’clock unheralded, and soon the Secretaries not present were sent for, and came to welcome the distinguished hero of thirty-seven battles.  He bears his honors well and looks hale and hearty, as though he could shoulder his new responsibilities without damage and meet the requirements of his place where so many failed.  What will be done with Halleck [Henry W. Halleck], or what his position is to be is matter of earnest speculation.  It is confidently hoped that many evils arising from his personal hostility to certain earnest men and strong measures will be cured by the appointment of General Grant to the first position under the Commander-in-Chief.

The controversy which is now kept up between the rival factions in Missouri, has entered upon the floor of Congress and provoked some feeling.  So far as it partakes of personalities between the members it had better been excluded.  But I confess, radical as I am, and with all my sympathies with the opposition to Schofield & Co. [John M. Schofield], the more I see of the case the stronger the conviction that rivalry and personal, rather than public considerations are inciting nausea.  I cannot forget that the now so-called conservative champion, General Blair [Francis P. Blair], was the first to raise the banner of Emancipation in Missouri, and to stem manfully and boldly the pro-slavery torrent, while many of these now radical abolitionists were arrayed under the black flag of slavery, and doing their worst to destroy the germ which the former so successfully planted.  I cannot sympathize with those who are seeking to embitter this controversy and extend it abroad for the purpose of using it against Mr. Lincoln, and in favor of some of his rival aspirants.  Better far to conciliate and harmonize these local and personal conflicts between parties in the same great common cause of freedom.

The glorious result in New Hampshire was not expected here, and demonstrates how much can be done by proper effort.  The representatives from there spoke discouragingly, but called for aid, and the response has been effective and satisfactory.  Gov. Randall,² who attained such distinction as an effective laborer and speaker in the New York, Pennsylvania and Connecticut canvases, was pressed into the service in New Hampshire, and all who have heard him on the stump can fully credit the report that he was among the most powerful of the speakers in that canvass.

By the way, at the time of leaving the city on his way north, the Governor was the subject of a pretty severe practical joke.  While procuring his ticket at the railroad depot he was very quietly relieved of all his loose money to the amount of $140!  He undoubtedly neglected to read the notice so prominently posted there : “Beware of pick-pockets ;” so I suppose he alone is responsible for the loss.  He nevertheless went on his mission though robbed and moneyless.

Gov. Doty,³ now of Utah, has been here for some weeks, leaving the administration of affairs of his office in the hands of Amos Reed, Secretary of the Territory.  He went out as Superintendent of Indian Affairs for Utah, in which capacity he rendered most important service in reconciling the Indians and securing their loyalty.  Several valuable and important treaties negotiated by him with different tribes in Utah have been ratified by the Senate.  No man is better fitted for his present position, and he will acquit himself creditably and to the honor of the nation.  He looks ten years younger than when he went outthe influence of the climate, &c., having removed all his old rheumatism and renewed his age.

The disaster in Florida is a serious and unexpected one, and wholly unnecessary, and apparently attributable to rashness and over anxiety on the part of West Point General commanding to achieve a name as a fighter.  He was most reckless, and the lesson he has learned has cost the nation heavily.  The loss in killed, wounded and prisoners will be near 2,500 from all private accounts.  It seems to have been so unnecessary that one gets exasperated at the thought of it.  The force suddenly thrust down there from Charleston and Savannah could not long have been spared to remain there, and if Seymour had invited an attack at his station at Barber, he could have successfully repelled it against heavy odds.  Had the enemy refused to advance upon him, he could have remained until the rebel force was defeated by necessary demands elsewhere and then made a successful advance.  There appears also to have been a great want of skill in the management of his forces, though in personal courage he is not wanting.  [Truman Seymour]

A strange fatatity [sic] seems to attend all the operations on the Atlantic coast.  The commanders of the army and the navy in the Southern department have seemed to be generally unequal to their responsibility, and an inscrutable providence has struck down the only two men sent there, who were able to cope with the many difficulties to be encounteredviz: Gen. Mitchell and Admiral Foote [Andrew H. Foote].  Thus far it has been the most expensive and the least effective department of the service.  The blockade, however, in now rendered perfect at Charleston and along the entire coast save at Wilmington, North Carolina.

If a respectable force is kept at Jacksonville it will open the St. John’s River country and secure supplies of lumber and turpentine, &c., and will divide the forces and attention of the enemy and be of great ultimate advantage.  But there is no use of talking of or relying upon the “Union element of the South ;” save among the negroes, it is not there.  Slavery has tainted the moral and political atmosphere to such a degree that the whiskey drinking “cracker” and the swaggering slaveholder are alike embittered against the “Yankees,” and will fight until exhausted.  Every tallow-faced female throughout the South is a preacher of vengeance and thoroughly possessed by the demon of slavery.  Even while living upon the liberality of the government and protected from the suffering resulting from the rebellion, they breathe out curses upon the heads that feed them, and foam in vindictive rage at the flag which shields them.  While there is a vestige of hope, they will fight and will only yield to advancing civilization, when the strong arm of federal power demonstrates the advantages of freedom and the blessings, moral and physical, of the Republican Institutions.

The whiskey question having been temporarily disposed of by Congress, the gold question has taken its place, and both attract the personal attention of speculators.  The proposition of Mr. Boutwell4 to put the excess of government gold into circulation by anticipating the payment of interest, seems to obviate the objections existing against authorizing the sale and U have little doubt but this will finally  be adopted.

The bill before the Senate granting lands to Minnesota for a railroad from St. Paul to Lake Superior is contested by our Senators who are faithfully guarding the interests of Wisconsin and are seeking to obtain the grant for her to open the road from Tomah to Superior.

Gen. Simeon Mills5 arrived here on Tuesday, and J. R. Brigham6 of Milwaukee has been here some days, it is understood on business connected with the Milwaukee Post Office, to which C. L. Sholes7 was appointed some time since, but whose appointment was suspended.  D. H. Richards is here representing the Canal Company8 and a number of Wisconsin lawyers in attendance upon the Supreme Court.

The impeachment of Andrew J. Miller seems not to be very probable this session; not certainly for the want of adequate evidence so much as from the persistent efforts of interested lawyers and parties representing non-residents, and who derive a good business from connection with that court.  I fear the blighting curse has rested so long upon the people of that State that it can only be removed by God himself.

.    .    .    .   .    .    .    .R.

Crinoline cutaway diagram from Punch magazine, August 1856

Cutaway diagram showing a crinoline, from Punch magazine, August 1856

1.  By 1850, the word “crinoline” had come to mean a stiffened petticoat or rigid skirt-shaped structure of steel designed to support the huge skirts of a woman’s dress into the required fashionable shape worn in the 1850s and 1860s.  The “occupants of crinoline” would have been the society ladies in their party dresses with the large hoops.
2.  Former Wisconsin Governor Alexander W. Randall, who at this time was in Washington, D.C., because he was the assistant postmaster general.
3.  Wisconsin’s second governor, and Utah Territory’s 5th governor, James Duane Doty (1799-1865).
4.  George Sewall Boutwell (1818-1905) was the 20th governor of Massachusets (1851-1853), the first Commissioner of Internal Revenue (1862-1863), a U. S. Representative from Massachusetts (1863-1860), the 28th U. S. Secretary of the Treasury under Grant (1869-1873), and a U. S. senator from Massachusets (1873-1877). Secretary Boutwell controversially reduced the national debt by selling Treasury gold and using greenbacks to buy up Treasury bonds, and Representative Boutwell was instrumental in writing and passing the 14th and 15th Amendments to the U. S. Constitution.
5.  Simeon Mills (1810-1895) was a Wisconsin state senator best known for introducing the bill that became the charter for the University of Wisconsin. an efficient businessman, he served as clerk to various government agencies and as Wisconsin paymaster during the Civil War.
6.  Jerome Ripley Brigham (1825-1897) was a Wisconsin lawyer, city attorney of Milwaukee (1880-1882), state assemblyman (1877), member of the Milwaukee board of city fire and police commissioners (1885-1888), and a regent of the University of Wisconsin (1870- 1875).
7.  Christopher Latham Sholes (1819-1890) was a Wisconsin newspaperman, politician, and inventor. Sholes helped to organize the Free Soil and Republican parties in Wisconsin, supporting both Lincoln and then Johnson. He was state senator (1848-1849, 1856-1857) and state assemblyman (1852-1853). During the Civil War, Sholes also served for a time as Milwaukee postmaster, and was later port collector and commissioner of public works.
8.  Daniel H. Richards (1808-1877) was one of the founders of the Milwaukee Advertiser. The Milwaukee and Rock River Canal Company, “which had for its purpose the construction of a canal connecting Lake Michigan by way of the Waukesha lakes with the Rock River, and thus establishing a waterway to the Mississippi River. Congress made a land grant for the purpose, surveys and estimates were made and during the twelve years preceding the admission of the state to the Union repeated efforts had been made to carry out the enterprise. … During the twelve years from 1836 to 1848, when the prospect was abandoned, the only actual work done besides making surveys was the construction of a dam across the Milwaukee river at Milwaukee. … The advent of railroad building was the chief influence in bringing about an abandonment of the canal project.” Bonds had been sold to pay for the building of the canal and there were claims against the State of Wisconsin—who had issues the bonds—filed with the U.S. Congress, with D. H. Richards listed as a claimant. (For more information, see the Dictionary of Wisconsin History entry for the Canal Company.)

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