Sunday, August 21, 2011

August 21, 1861 (Wednesday): Reverdy Johnson's Proposal

Reverdy Johnson
Washington, August 22, 1861.

Major-General MCCLELLAN, U. S. A.,
Commanding Department of the Potomac:

    SIR: The General-in-Chief directs me to say that, on information considered by the War Department as important and reliable, orders were given to Major-General Dix, commanding in Baltimore, to stop, until further orders, all boats between Baltimore and Saint Mary's or the neighboring counties of Maryland and Virginia. This order was given the 15th instant. Permission was given the 18th for a steamboat to make one trip to bring away families left behind.
    The Honorable Reverdy Johnson, of Baltimore, proposes that the boats shall be permitted to renew their trips for the purpose of carrying freight only, without the privilege of taking passengers, under such guard or regulations as may be necessary for the public safety. The object of this arrangement would be to enable the loyal people of Maryland to send their produce to the Baltimore market, as they have been in the habit of doing. The General-in-Chief wishes you to refer this proposition to Major-General Dix, and if he thinks well of it, to have it carried into effect.

I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,\

Assistant Adjutant-General.

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 1, Part 1, Page 578

Johnson was a major political figure in Maryland and had been active in trying to avoid the war.  The Lincoln administration saw him as useful, but likely did not entirely trust him as he was more pro-Reverdy Johnson than pro-Union.  Before the war he had been a member of the Taylor administration and as a lawyer advocated for slave owners in the Dred Scott case.  He would later go on to serve as an attorney to General Fitz-John Porter during his court martial and was the lead attorney for Mary Surratt, accused on participating in the plot to assassinate Abraham Lincoln.  After the war he was a United States senator from Maryland, and died in a fall at the Maryland governor's mansion in 1876.

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