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It is easy to conceive that all these shades of opinion, and even more, may be sincerely entertained by honest and truthful men. Yet, all being for the Union, by reason of these differences each will prefer a different way of sustaining the Union. At once sincerity is questioned and motives are assailed. Actual war coming, blood grows hot, and blood is spilled. Thought is forced from old channels into confusion. Deception breeds and thrives. Confidence dies and universal suspicion reigns. Each man feels an impulse to kill his neighbor, lest he be killed by him. Revenge and retaliation follow. And all this, as before said, may be among honest men only. But this is not all. Every foul bird comes abroad, and every dirty reptile rises up. These add crime to confusion. Strong measures deemed indispensable, but harsh at best, such men make worse by maladministration. Murders for old grudges and murders for pelf proceed under any cloak that will best serve for the occasion.
One curious incident, with a touch of the humorous, occurred the previous year. Provost-Marshal Dick, in his loyal zeal, had suppressed a respectable Presbyterian preacher, Doctor McPheeters, as an open-mouthed Secessionist. This naturally raised a great outcry among the minister's sympathizing friends. When at last, after many months, the matter was brought directly to the notice of the President by a formal petition, he wrote:
The petition prays, in the name of justice and mercy, that I will restore Dr. McPheeters to all his ecclesiastical rights. This gives no intimation as to what ecclesiastical rights are withdrawn. . . Mr. Ranney's letter says: “Dr. Samuel McPheeters is enjoying all the rights of a civilian, but can not preach the gospel.” Mr. Coalter, in his letter, asks: “Is it not a strange illustration of the condition of things that the question, Who shall be allowed to preach in a church in St. Louis ? shall be decided by the President of the United States?” . . . I have never interfered, or thought of interfering, as to who shall or shall not preach in any church;
nor have I knowingly or believingly tolerated any one else to so interfere by my authority. If any one is so interfering by color of my authority, I would like to have it specifically made known to me. If, after all, what is now sought is to have me put Dr. Mc. back over the heads of a majority of his own congregation, that, too, will be declined. I will not have control of any church on any side.
The "restoration ” sought, unfortunately for the Doctor, still lacked one thing — the consent of the Presbytery, which was denied him.
General Burnside was in March (1863) given command of an army destined for East Tennessee. The department marked out for him included the State of Ohio, and for several weeks he had his headquarters in Cincinnati. There was at this time much excitement in some parts of the State in regard to enrollment and draft under the conscription law, and this disturbance was so encouraged and aided by violent speeches of ex-Congressman Vallandigham in various places, in defiance of a specific military order, that he was arrested by Burnside, and brought before a military court, which found him guilty, and sentenced him to imprisonment until the close of the war. The President approved the finding of the court, but modified the sentence by sending the offender South, beyond the lines of the Union army. Application for a writ of habeas corpus made on his behalf to the venerable Judge H. H. Leavitt, of the United States District Court at Cincinnati, was refused.
Replying (June 13th) to Erastus Corning and others, representatives of a large Democratic meeting held at Albany, which "resolved” against unconstitutional military arrests and so forth, the President discussed the whole subject in a masterly manner, with much effect on the public mind. Touching the Vallandigham case he wrote:
Mr. Vallandigham avows his hostility to the war on the part of the Union, and his arrest was made because he was laboring, with some effect, to prevent the raising of troops, to encourage desertion from the army, and to leave the rebellion without an adequate military force to suppress it. Must I shoot a simple-minded soldier boy who deserts, while I must not touch a hair of a wily agitator who induces him to desert? This is none the less injurious when effected by getting a father, or brother, or friend, into a public meeting, and there working upon his feelings till he is persuaded to write the soldier boy that he is fighting in a bad cause, for a wicked administration of a contemptible Government, too weak to arrest and punish him if he shall desert. I think that in such a case to silence the agitator and save the boy is not only constitutional, but withal a great mercy.
The Democratic Opposition in Ohio, having obtained a small majority in the preceding election, were confident that they could elect an anti-Administration Governor in the coming autumn. At their State Convention in June they boldly staked their fortunes on Vallandigham as their candidate. Answering to the letter of a committee asking that their candidate be permitted to return, and arguing the general question, the President invited attention to his Corning letter, and said more directly of their candidate:
We all know that combinations, armed in some instances, to resist the arrest of deserters began several months ago; that more recently the like has appeared in resistance to the enrollment preparatory to a draft; and that quite a number of assassinations have occurred from the same animus. These had to be met by military force, and this again has led to bloodshed and death. And now, under a sense of responsibility more weighty and enduring than any which is merely official, I solemnly declare my belief that this hindrance of the military, including maiming and murder, is due to the cause in which Mr. Vallandigham has been engaged, in a greater degree than to any other cause; and it is due to him personally in a greater degree than to any other one man.
These things have been notorious, known to all, and of course known to Mr. Vallandigham. Perhaps I would not be wrong to say they originated with his especial friends and adherents.
When it is known that the whole burden of his speeches has been to stir up men against the prosecution of the war, and that in the midst of resistance to it he has not been known in any instance to counsel against such resistance, it is next to impossible to repel the inference that he has counseled directly in favor of it. With all this before their eyes, the convention you represent has nominated Mr. Vallandigham for Governor of Ohio, and both they and you have declared the purpose to sustain the National Union by all constitutional means; but, ... unlike the Albany meeting, you omit to state or intimate that, in your opinion, an army is a constitutional means of saving the Union against a rebellion, or even to intimate that you are conscious of an existing rebellion being in progress with the avowed object of destroying that very Union.
Some months later the Federal Supreme Court, on appeal, affirmed the decision of Judge Leavitt. In October, after a long and exciting canvass, the people of Ohio elected the Administration candidate for Goyernor, John Brough, by more than one hundred thousand majority over Vallandigham. Of all the decisions in the case, this was the most effectual.
On giving General Hooker command of the Army of the Potomac, the President wrote him privately (January 26th):
I have placed you at the head of the Army of the Potomac. Of course I have done this upon what appear to me to be sufficient reasons, and yet I think it best for you to know that there are some things in regard to which I am not quite satisfied with you. I believe you to be a brave and skillful soldier, which, of course, I like. I also believe you do not mix politics with your profession, in which you are right. You have confidence in yourself, which is a valuable, if not an indispensable quality. You are ambitious, which, within reasonable bounds, does good rather than harm; but I think that during General Burnside's command of the army you have taken counsel of your ambition and thwarted him as much as you could, in which you did a great wrong to the country and to a most meritorious and honorable brother officer. I have heard, in such way as to believe it, of your recently saying that both the army and the government needed a dictator. Of course it was not for this, but in spite of it, that I have given you the command. Only those Generals who gain successes can set up dictators. What I now ask of you is military success, and I will risk the dictatorship. The Government will support you to the utmost of its ability, which is neither more nor less than it has done and will do for all commanders. I much fear that the spirit you have aided to infuse into the army, of criticising their commander,
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