Friday, June 17, 2011

June 18, 1861 (Monday): Lincoln Intercedes

Fort Jefferson, Dry Tortugas

                                                                                    ENGINEER DEPARTMENT
                                                                                                June 18, 1861.
Lieutenant-Colonel Townsend,
            Assistant Adjutant-General, Headquarters, Washington:
    COLONEL:  I had the honor in a letter dated the 15th to request that Lieutenants Reese and McFarland might be sent from Fort Pickens to resume their duties at Forts Jefferson and Taylor, from which they had been withdrawn by Col. Harvey Brown. ….Colonel Brown exercised a control over engineer property and engineer operations that he could only be entitled to exercise from special assignment by the highest authority, and he delegated besides a like power to his subordinate, for, in virtue of said delegation, major Arnold issued orders to the engineer officer in charge of the construction of Fort Jefferson, directing what particular work he should carry on at that fort; that he should make specified purchases; that he should make a submit for his approval plans for new defenses on the several keys of the harbor; the new works, &c, thus ordering to be set aside instructions from this department and interfering with, arresting, and delaying operations of that fort when the safety of the harbor, the fort, the garrison, and all things there, indeed, required that every available farthing should be applied to the fort proper according to those instructions, causing by these proceedings funds that had been granted by Congress for a specified object to be expended in the face of the most explicit interdict of law and to the delay and detriment of the specified object upon others, sustained by no authority but his own.
     I am constrained, in behalf of the service we are held responsible for, and especially of these defenses of such great importance to our control in the Gulf of Mexico, to make formal protest against this interference, and I do not hesitate to assert that every deviation from the course that the engineer officer would have pursued under his instructions which has been caused by these irregular proceedings, has necessarily increased expenditures, as well as injuriously delayed operations essential to strength and efficiency…..
   I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
                                                                        JOS. G. TOTTEN
                                    Brevet Brigadier-General and Colonel of Engineers

Totten was a career regular Army Officer and 73 at the outbreak of the war.  In the old Army engineers were kings.  Brown, on the other hand, had served at Washington and Fort McHenry, making political connections with the Lincoln administration.  Unknown to Totten, Brown carried an order saying “All officers of the Army and Navy to whom this order may be exhibited will aid by all means in their power the expedition under the command of Col. Harvey Brown, supplying him with men and material, and co-operating with him as he may desire.---Abraham Lincoln.” Brown would take command of Fort Pickens and direct its improvements, to the detriment of Forts Jefferson and Taylor.  Jefferson would never be entirely completed, but protected a key deep water anchorage and was later the place of internment of Doctor Mudd, involved in aiding Lincoln's assassin.  Early in the war Lincoln's already directing the Army involving himself in ways large and small.

Series I, Vol. 52, Part 1, Page 180

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