Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln. Volume 8.
Lincoln, Abraham, 1809-1865.

To Ulysses S. Grant [1]

Executive Mansion Washington
Lieut Gen Grant, Oct. 5th. 1864.

I enclose you copy of a correspondence [2] in regard to a contemplated exchange of Naval prisoners through your lines and not very distant from your Head Quarters. It only came to the knowledge of the War Department and of myself yesterday, and it gives us some uneasiness. I therefore send it to you with the statement that as the numbers to be exchanged under it are small, and so much has already been done to effect the exchange, I hope you may find it consistent to let it go forward under the general supervision of Gen Butler, and particularly in reference to the points he holds vital in exchanges. Still you are at liberty to arrest the whole operation, if in your judgment the public good requires it. Yours Truly A. LINCOLN

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Annotation

[1]   Copy, DNA WR RG 108, HQA, Letters Received, P 459, Box 73. On October 11, 1864, Grant forwarded Lincoln's letter with the enclosures to General Benjamin F. Butler, turning ``the whole matter over to you to conduct.'' (OR, II, VII, 965). Welles' Diary under dates of October 4 and 5 records at length the difficulty between the Navy and War departments, concluding as follows: ``The President came to see me pretty early this morning in relation to the exchange of prisoners. It had troubled him through the night. . . . The President said he wanted the subject to be got along with harmoniously, that they were greatly ruffled at the War Department, and if I had no objection he would go and see Seward, tell him the facts, get him to come over, and bring the Secretary of War . . . to a consultation. . . .

``In less than an hour the President returned with Seward. We went briefly over the question. . . . After discussing the subject, went, by request of the President, with him to the War Department. General Hitchcock and General Halleck came in soon. Stanton was ill-mannered, as usual, where things did not please him. . . . The President said that the correspondence was a past transaction,---that we need not disturb that matter; the Navy arrangement must go forward, and the Navy have its men. He wrote and read a brief letter to General Grant proposing to turn over the prisoners we had sent to him. . . . Hitchcock . . . began a speech . . . intimating that the War Department should have exclusive control of the cartel. . . . I told him I was perfectly willing . . . if they would not obstruct the exchange but get back our men. All assented to the President's letter. Stanton and Seward preferred it should be addressed to General Butler. . . . But the President preferred addressing the General-in-Chief, and I commended his preference. We telegraphed Capt. Melancthon Smith, to turn the prisoners over to General Grant to be disposed of. . . .''

[2]   See OR, II, VII, 661, for letter of Stephen R. Mallory to Gideon Welles, August 20, 1864, and Welles' reply, September 9, 1864 (ibid., p. 790).