Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln. Volume 5.
Lincoln, Abraham, 1809-1865.

To Carl Schurz [1]

Gen. Carl Schurz Executive Mansion,
My dear Sir Washington, Nov. 24. 1862.

I have just received, and read, your letter of the 20th. The purport of it is that we lost the late elections, and the administration is failing, because the war is unsuccessful; and that I must not flatter myself that I am not justly to blame for it. I certainly know that if the war fails, the administration fails, and that I will be blamed for it, whether I deserve it or not. And I ought to be blamed, if I could do better. You think I could do better; therefore you blame me already. I think I could not do better; therefore I blame you for blaming me. I understand you now to be willing to accept the help of men, who are not republicans, provided they have ``heart in it.'' Agreed. I want no others. But who is to be the judge of hearts, or of ``heart in it''? If I must discard my own judgment, and take yours, I must also take that of others; and by the time I should reject all I should be advised to reject, I should have none left, republicans, or others---not even yourself. For, be assured, my dear sir, there are men who have ``heart in it'' that think you are performing your part as poorly as you think I am performing mine. I certainly have been dissatisfied with the slowness of Buell and McClellan; but before I relieved them I had great fears I should not find successors to them, who would do better; and I am sorryPage  510 to add, that I have seen little since to relieve those fears. I do not clearly see the prospect of any more rapid movements. I fear we shall at last find out that the difficulty is in our case, rather than in particular generals. I wish to disparage no one---certainly not those who sympathize with me; but I must say I need success more than I need sympathy, and that I have not seen the so much greater evidence of getting success from my sympathizers, than from those who are denounced as the contrary. It does seem to me that in the field the two classes have been very much alike, in what they have done, and what they have failed to do. In sealing their faith with their blood, Baker, an[d] Lyon, and Bohlen, and Richardson, republicans, did all that men could do; but did they any more than Kearney, and Stevens, and Reno, and Mansfield, none of whom were republicans, and some, at least of whom, have been bitterly, and repeatedly, denounced to me as secession sympathizers? [2] I will not perform the ungrateful task of comparing cases of failure.

In answer to your question ``Has it not been publicly stated in the newspapers, and apparantly proved as a fact, that from the commencement of the war, the enemy was continually supplied with information by some of the confidential subordinates of as important an officer as Adjutant General Thomas?'' I must say ``no'' so far as my knowledge extends. And I add that if you can give any tangible evidence upon that subject, I will thank you to come to the City and do so. Very truly Your friend A. LINCOLN


[1]   ALS, DLC-Schurz Papers. On November 20, Schurz replied to Lincoln's communication of November 10, supra, in part as follows:

``I fear you entertain too favorable a view of the causes of our defeat in the elections. . . .

``Whatever proportion of Republicans may have entered the army---if the administration had succeeded in preserving its hold upon the masses, your majorities would . . . have put the majorities of 1860 into the shade. . . . But the general confidence and enthusiasm yielded to general disappointment, and . . . too many Republicans . . . either voted against you or withheld their votes. I know this to be a fact. . . . That some of our newspapers disparaged and vilified the administration may be true. . . . But however that may be, I ask you . . . what power would there have been in newspaper-talk . . . had the administration been able to set up against it the evidence of great successes? . . .

``I am far from presuming to blame you for having placed old democrats into high military positions. . . . But it was unfortunate that you sustained them . . . after they had been found failing;---failing not only in a political but also in a military sense. Was I really wrong in saying that the principal management of the war had been in the hands of your opponents? Or will perhaps anybody assert, that such men as McClellan and Buell and Halleck have the least sympathy with you or your views and principles?---or that their efficiency as military leaders has offered a compensation for their deficiency of sympathy, since the first has in 18 months succeeded in effecting literally nothing except the consumption of our resources with the largest and best appointed army this country ever saw;---since the second by his criminal tardiness and laxity endangered evenPage  511 the safety of Cincinnati; and since the appearance of the third on the battlefield of Shiloh served suddenly to arrest the operations of our victorious troops. . . . Has it not been publicly stated in the newspapers and apparently proved as a fact, that from the commencement of the war the enemy has [been] continually supplied with information by some of the confidential subordinates of so important an officer as Adjutant General Thomas?. . . . I am far from being inclined to impeach the loyalty and good faith of any man; but the coincidence of circumstances is such, that if the case were placed before a popular jury, I would find it much easier to act on the prosecution than on the defence. . . . You say that our Republican generals did no better. . . . I ask . . . what Republican General has ever had a fair chance . . .?

``No, sir, let us indulge in no delusions as to the true causes of our defeat in the elections. . . . The people had sown confidence and reaped disaster and disappointment. They wanted a change, and . . . they sought it in the wrong direction. I entreat you, do not attribute to small incidents . . . what is a great historical event. It is best that you . . . should see the fact in its true light and appreciate its significance: the result of the elections was a most serious and severe reproof administered to the administration. . . .'' (DLC-RTL).

Upon receipt of Lincoln's answer Schurz wrote on December 2 asking for a private and confidential interview (DLC-Nicolay Papers).

[2]   Edward D. Baker, killed at Ball's Bluff, October 21, 1861; Nathaniel Lyon, killed at Wilson's Creek, August 10, 1861; Henry Bohlen, killed at Freeman's Ford, August 22, 1862; Israel B. Richardson, died November 3, 1862, of wounds received September 17, 1862, at Antietam; Philip Kearney, killed September 1, 1862, at Chantilly; Isaac I. Stevens, also killed September 1, 1862, at Chantilly; Jesse L. Reno, killed September 14, 1862, at South Mountain; Joseph K. F. Mansfield, died September 18, 1862, of wounds received September 17 at Antietam.