Wednesday, November 21, 2012

November 22, 1862 (Saturday): "You must be off before Congress meets."

General Nathaniel Banks

Washington, November 22, 1862.
     MY DEAR GENERAL BANKS: Early last week you left me in high hope with your assurance that you would be off with your expedition at the end of that week or early in this. It is now the end of this, and I have just been overwhelmed and confounded with the sight of a requisition made by you which, I am assured, cannot be filled and got off within an hour short of two months. I inclose you a copy of the requisition, in some hope that it is not genuine - that you have never seen it. My dear general, this expanding and piling up of impedimenta has been so far almost our ruin, and will be our final ruin if it is not abandoned. If you had the articles of this requisition upon the wharf, with the necessary animals to make them of any use, and forage for the animals, you could not get vessels together in two weeks to carry the whole, to say nothing of your 20,000 men; and, having the vessels, you could not put the cargoes aboard in two weeks more. And, after all, where you are going you have no use for them. When you parted with me you had no such ideas in your mind. I know you had not, or you could not have excepted to be off so soon as you said. You must get back to something like the plan you had then or your expedition is a failure before you start. You must be off before Congress meets. You would be better off anywhere, and especially where you are going, for not having a thousand wagons doing nothing but hauling forage to feed the animals that draw them, and taking at east 2,000 men to care for the wagons and animals, who otherwise might be 2,000 good soldiers. Now, dear general, do not think this is an ill-natured letter; it is the every reverse. The simple publication of this requisition would ruin you.
      Very truly, your friend,

      A. LINCOLN.

Series III., Vol. 2, Part 1, Page 862.

Banks was on Long Island preparing an expedition to New Orleans to reinforce that critical city which was under Butler's Union control.  Banks had, in fact, requestioned far more horses and equipment than he could ever take by sea to New Orleans.  He would reply that he was only requisitioning what he would ultimately need and still planned to depart within the week.  Lincoln may sometimes be regarded as an activist President in military affairs, but this letter acknowledges a pertinent fact, namely that the Republican Congress was more than willing to become involved in military matters.  Lincoln wanted the expedition gone before his allies in Congress could find other uses for the troops.


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