Tag Archive | 1864

Banks Should Be Replaced

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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Banks’s command during the remainder of the Red River Campaign, but after the campaign’s end a month later Banks was superseded by General Canby.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!)

april 22 - Taylor_Scrapbook_Two_page_21 - banks and staff.jpg

Studio portrait of General Nathaniel P. Banks and his staff – James E. Taylor Collection: Scrapbook Two, page 21: Top left (photCL 300, vol. 2, UDID 49380)

What Did He Do?!?

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12 Nov 4
Columbus Nov 4
Maj Eckert
I will never forgive you
for what you did at Baltimore

There are many tantalizing glimpses into peoples’ everyday lives during the Civil War lurking in the Eckert ledgers, but this one has been teasing me for months. One of the benefits of having access to all of the ledgers is that I can go hunting through the nearby pages for related messages, but in this case I was unsuccessful. It’s unclear who David was or what on earth happened in Baltimore, and I can only hope that some eagle-eyed transcriber is able to catch what I’ve missed!

It can’t have been too bad though, for only a few days later he sent a telegram to Eckert that ended:

mssEC_30_429 - I will never forgive you follow up.jpg

Hope to see you Saturday

Ben Franklin Sees Some Action

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H E Thayer  Washn Sept 17th 1864
For Benjamin Franklin Phila period
Let the pistols be delivered
to Smith follow him to
Virgin year and when he
reaches there seize him and
the pistols and ammunition period
Turn him over to the
military commander at Wheeling to
be put in the military
prison there and turn over
the pistols and ammunition to
the ordnance officer at Wheeling
taking his receipt period This
telegram will be received as
an order to the military
Commander at Wheeling to take
charge of Smith and by
the ordnance officer to receive
the pistols and ammunition Telegraph
when seizure is made E.M. Stanton

I realize that “Benjamin Franklin” was probably a code name, given the original Benjamin Franklin had been dead for 74 years, but I have a wonderful mental image of ol’ Ben as a secret agent. It looks something like this:

franklin as secret agent.jpg

He tries to be stealth, but everyone is like, OMG, Benjamin Franklin, what are you doing here?! How are you even alive?! So then he has to run away and his borderline-entrapment scheme is blown. All because Stanton didn’t think of sending an agent who is not immediately recognizable to the majority of Americans. Way to go, Edwin.

Have a great weekend everybody!

Election Day, 1864!

As Mario has shown in the last few posts, Eckert and other telegraph men were preparing their staff and equipment to receive updates on the presidential race of 1864. Reports poured in from across the country, from Indiana to Maine, and in honor of our own election, we would like to present you with a glimpse of what kind of news was received in the Washington USMT office.


New York
Maj Eckert
all seems quiet &
serene I was at
polls before they
opened & found 100
to 200 voters in line
waiting their turn.
I gave them an hour
& a half of my valuable
time before I could
get my vote in. It was
as good natured a
crowd as I <unclear>


mssEC_30_449 - heavy voting yet all quiet.jpg

Maj Eckert
Very heavy voting
but as yet all
quiet & serene as a
May sunday morning


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8 Nov 8
Cleveland  Nov 8
Indianapolis 8″ Election progressing
quietly here and Generally throughout State
Slight disturbance at Brownstown. Lincoln
will have not less than thousand more
than Morton majority in City
A Stager


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N York
Are you waiting
for more news or
have you got enough
to retire upon. It is
possible that New Jersey
has voted for Lincoln
in which case it is
proposed to take her
back into the union
E S Sanford

(Sanford is being quite sarcastic here in regards to New Jersey! and wrong–it went for McClellan. They stayed with their local boy, Little Mac.)

Man all Stations!

530 Nov 7
Cleveland Nov 7

Maj Eckert
Stevens will be on hand
and if feasible Ward via Parkersburg
If weather is fair shall do as
well or better tomorrow night
for you than at State Elections
Horner will furnish NY State
returns Brooks will give Penna
I will send all west of NY
& Penna
Anson Stager


The evening before the Election of 1864 Stager wires Eckert to let him know which telegraphers are in place to forward election results to him. This was all part of Eckert’s efforts to have all the results and news sent to him speedily and efficiently. As noted earlier, in the message between Sanford and Eckert, it was important to get these pieces in place. It is interesting that Stager appears to be hand picking certain operators for the task. Were these Lincoln men, or were they simply fast and competent? Those answers are for others to ferret out. However, it is clear that by dawn of November 8, 1864, Eckert, along with Stager and Sanford, had all hands on deck. The tension of that contentious election season was about to snap and all were at their stations ready to relay the news: Lincoln or McClellan.

The Best Wire for Election Day


Sanford to Eckert, Nov. 5, Thomas T. Eckert Papers, mssEC 30, The Huntington Library

Nov 5
New York
Maj Eckert
I have instructed Westbrook to connect our best
Cincinnati wire with your line at H Ferry
tuesday Eve Please ask the Secy to permit
you to forward to me here any Early
Election news you may receive from
the west  I shall be on hand to forward
from the junction you should notify
ES Sanford

It is often said that we live in a wired world, with almost instantaneous news at our beck and call. This virtual ease makes its analog equivalent in the Election of 1864 look just plain cumbersome. Using the telegraph, the wonder of their age, took coordination to get the news through. In this message Edward S. Sanford, president of the American Telegraph Company, is making sure that the best lines are connected. He is also asking Eckert to talk with the “Secy,” presumably Secretary of War Stanton, to allow news to move freely across those lines. And to make sure all was set, Sanford request that Charles Davenport, the Superintendent of the Western Union telegraph in Cincinnati be brought up to speed. All of this staging for the Election on November 8th, three days away.

Bouncing the Treasury’s Check

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1140 am  New York June 23d 1864
New York 23 – Secy of Navy. The
voucher receive yesterday was paid by Henderson
by check on Sub Treasy I deposited
it in my bank . this morning
payment is refused Mr Cisco, my
bank account is therefore over drawn if
Sec Treasy telegraphs Mr Cisco he will pay
the check, please have this done as
I have not one cent on hand
H.S. Olcott
Spl Comr

The life of a civil servant has never been easy, though Olcott probably thought that a check from the Sub Treasury of the United States was a fairly reliable method of payment. Alas, Mr. Cisco did not agree, and now Mr. Olcott (whom you may remember from an earlier post) is in a bit of a tight spot. There’s probably a lesson here about not mixing your personal and work accounts, but I can’t be sure.

Tell Us How You Really Feel, Cump

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12 pm 15th  Big Shanty Ga June 15 1864
Near Kenesaw June 15th 630 pm for Halleck Washn I will
have the matter of Sturgis critically examined and if he
be at fault he shall have no mercy at my
hands – I cannot but believe he had troops enough
I know I would have been willing to attempt the
same task with that force but Forrest is the very
devil and I think he has got some of our
troops under cow – I have two Officers at Memphis
that will fight all the time – A J Smith
and Mower – The latter is a young Br Genl of
fine promise & I commend him to your notice –
I will order them to make up a force &
go out & follow Forrest to the death if it
cost ten thousand lives & breaks the treasury – there
never will be peace in Tennessee till Forrest is dead
– We Killed Bishop Polk yesterday & have made good
progress today of which I will make a full report
as soon as one of my aids come from the extreme right
flank Gen Grant may rest easy that Johnston will not
trouble him if I can
help it by labor or
thought sig W T Sherman

In spite of his fierce reputation, William Tecumseh Sherman was generally on fairly cordial terms with Confederate generals – see for example his later relationship with Joe Johnston – but he had nothing but bile and invective for Nathan Bedford Forrest. Although he was prone to hyperbole, Sherman seems to have despised Forrest with a particular intensity.

This telegram was sent only a few days after Samuel Sturgis’s forces were defeated by a Confederate force that they outnumbered more than 2 to 1 in the Battle of Brice’s Crossroads. This disastrous outcome marked the end of Sturgis’s involvement in the Civil War, though Sherman must have softened towards him at least partially, for he returned to service in the Indian Wars of the late 1860s and 1870s.

Thanks to Zooniverse user SuzanneNY for bringing this message to our attention!

The Death of General McPherson

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10 Pm  Near Atlanta Ga
July 24. 1864
24 3 Pm for Halleck the Sudden
loss of McPherson was a heavy blow to me
– I can hardly replace him but must have
a successor – after thinking over the whole matter
I prefer that Howard be ordered to command the
Army & Dept of the Tenn – If this meets
the Prest approval notify me by telegraph when I
will put him in Command & name others to
fill the vacancies created Logan as Senior Command
the Army of the Tenn for the present – after
we have taken Atlanta I will name officers who
merit promotion, in the meantime I request that the Prest will
not give increased rank to Any officer who has
gone on leave for sickness or cause other than
wounds in battle – W.T. Sherman

General James McPherson died at the Battle of Atlanta on this day in 1864, the second highest ranking Union soldier to die in the war (John Sedgwick, the highest ranking Union fatality, had died in May of the same year). Sherman mourns the loss of an able commander but, ever the pragmatist, moves on quickly to the task of replacing him. It’s interesting to note how adamant he is about not promoting officers who aren’t in the field.