By Daniel Stowell, Decoding the Civil War Independent Researcher.
One of the most exciting aspects of digital humanities projects is the ability to make connections among materials that would not have been possible earlier. One citizen researcher, Linda Dodge, recently brought to our attention that a telegram from Decoding the Civil War connects to a receipt held at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum and digitized through Chronicling Illinois.
The telegram from Mary Lincoln to Thomas Eckert reads:
640 P[M] March 1 6
Will please deliver this message
to A Williamson
To A Williamson
your letter of 27th Gen Spinner
has list that will suffice to
settle without bills. Have it
done at once. Send receipt
Alexander Williamson (1814-1903) became tutor to Willie and Tad Lincoln when Mary Lincoln hired him in September 1861. In March 1863, Abraham Lincoln obtained a clerk position for Williamson in the Second Auditor’s Office of the Treasury Department. Williamson remained a friend of the Lincoln family and assisted Mary Lincoln in her financial difficulties following the President’s death.
Francis E. Spinner (1802-1890) was Treasurer of the United States from 1861 to 1875. He also assisted Mary Lincoln in settling her husband’s estate and in obtaining a pension. On February 13, 1866, Mary Lincoln’s friend and New York businessman Norman S. Bentley sent Spinner a list of ten merchants to whom she was indebted; this document is also a part of Chronicling Illinois. It is possible that Williamson was assisting Spinner in settling the former First Lady’s accounts and that the following receipt was for his services in that effort.
The receipt reads:
17th March 1866 Received from General
Spinner, U.S. Treasurer the sum of Ten
dollars ($10.) on account of Mrs. M. Lincoln
These two documents, held in institutions 1,600 miles apart, each tell a part of the story of Mary Lincoln’s efforts to settle the estate of her murdered husband and to obtain a pension to support herself and her youngest son. Now, thanks to digital projects like Decoding the Civil War and Chronicling Illinois, researchers can access both documents and others that are a part of this tragic story.
Chronicling Illinois is a digital archive project that the writer, Decoding the Civil War researcher Daniel W. Stowell, organized and implemented.
By Olga Tsapina, Norris Foundation Curator of American Historical Manuscripts at the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens
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.
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:
Cipher 12: Abel & Austria
Cipher 12A: Abner & Alpha
Cipher 9: Bangor & Bengal
Cipher 1: Judah, John, Juno, Jupiter, Japan & Jersey
Cipher 2: Bellows & Belly
Cipher 4: Amateur, Advertise, Amber, Affect, America, Afflict
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!
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.
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 Fpost 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:. As Kate noted in her
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.
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,
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.
Apr 12 noon For
Gen Halleck Chf Staff you can see from General Braymans dispatch
to me some thing of Gen Banks disaster , I
have been satisfied for the last nine months that to
Keep Gen Banks in command was to neutralize a large
force & to support it most expensively. although I
do not insist on it I think the best interests
of service demand that Gen J J Reynolds should be placed in command
at once , and that he name his own success
or to the command of New Orleans U.S. Grant Maj Genl
Taking a break from 1865 and the furor surrounding the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, we take a look at a day a year earlier, when the end of the war was not yet in sight, and General Grant has just taken over command of all Union armies. In this particular message, squashed in at the bottom of a page, Grant is bemoaning the latest failings of General Banks. This probably refers to the army’s retreat following a confrontation with Confederate General Richard Taylor’s army at the Battle of Pleasant Hill. Grant wouldn’t be able to reduce Banks’s command during the remainder of the Red River Campaign, but after the campaign’s end a month later Banks was superseded by General Canby. (Grant would become impatient with Canby as well!)
Apl 21 1862
Andes Your dispatch of the nineteenth
was received that day Fredericksburg is
evacuated and the palate destroyed by
the rampant & a small part
of Anthons command occupies this side
of the Sabel opposite the town
He proposes moving his whole force
to that point signed Berlin good
Let it never be said that no good comes from spending time on Twitter! As I was scrolling through Decoding the Civil War’s feed I came across a handwritten copy of a telegram from Lincoln to McClellan, and I asked myself whether we might have a copy in the Eckert Collection as well. It turns out that we do, it’s a lightly coded version, and Project Leader Mario had already done some initial work on it for the folks developing education modules based on the Eckert materials. He had determined, in fact, that the message was sent in a code that has not survived (as far as we know).
By using the original message we can start to reconstruct this missing codebook, which may help us decipher other messages in the future. So far we have learned:
Andes = McClellan
Palate = bridge
Rampant = enemy
Anthon = McDowell
Label = Rappahannock River
Berlin = Lincoln
It may not seem like much, but it’s a start! Thanks to @juliegallowybng for inspiring this blog post!
7 P.M. Baltimore Apl 20. 1865
Secy of War – Genl Tyler
telegraphs that Andrew Atzerodt was
captured at Monocacy station
I have directed him to
send him by first train double
ironed & under secure guard
to Ft Dix where he
will arrive this Evening &
be held subject to your
orders Lew Wallace Maj Genl
The hunt for the conspirators in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln burned up the telegraph wires after April 14th, 1865. One of the conspirators that was sought was George Andrew Atzerodt, the conspirator chosen by John Wilkes Booth to assassinate the Vice President, Andrew Johnson. Atzerodt lost his nerve on the night of the 14th, got drunk, and never followed through with the plan. He fled to a cousin’s house in Germantown, Maryland, but left behind in the hotel room, the same hotel occupied by Vice President Johnson, weapons, including a bowie knife, and a bank book belonging to Booth.
Atzerodt became a prime suspect and was found, in bed, early on the morning of April 20th at his cousin’s home. He was arrested by soldiers from Monocacy Junction, just north of Germantown. The were led to him in large part because Atzerodt had used his real name when checking into the hotel. Once arrested he was brought back to Washington DC and imprisoned on the naval vessel U.S.S. Montauk.
Shortly after his arrest, Atzerodt was photographed by Alexander Gardner, along with the other alleged conspirators on the Montauk and another vessel, the U.S.S. Saugus. One of the photographs from that day is pasted on page 97 of the first volume of the James E. Taylor Collection, along with the portraits of three other conspirators, Mary Surratt, Lewis Payne, and David Herold.
All four were found guilty and sentenced to death. On July 7, 1865, George Andrew Atzerodt was hanged with the other three for their roles in the assassination of President Lincoln.