Posts tagged ‘John C. Fremont’

On this date in Civil War history: August 2, 1861

Friday August 2, 1861

The Federal Congress passed the first national income tax measure, calling for 3 percent on incomes over $800. The bill also provided for new and stiffer tariffs.

Northern forces abandoned Fort Stanton, New Mexico Territory, in the face of the Confederate invasion of the Southwest. At Dug Springs, Missouri, not far from Springfield, a skirmish showed Federals that opposition forces of Missourians and Confederates were in the area. In southeastern Missouri there was a Federal reconnaissance from Ironton to Centreville.

While General Nathaniel Lyon was expecting serious trouble in southwestern Missouri, the department commander, General John C. Fremont, was steaming down the Mississippi from St. Louis with eight boats and reinforcements, which were enthusiastically welcomed at Cairo, Illinois.

At Fort Monroe, Virginia, General Benjamin Butler banned the sale of intoxicating liquors, but soldiers found ways of evading the order. Whiskey was found in the gun barrels of pickets and in hair oil bottles.

Rare Aiken Letter for sale

Democrat attorney encouraged John C. Fremont to challenge Lincoln in 1864 election

A rare 1864 letter by Frederick Aiken, the attorney who later represented Mary Surratt in her Lincoln Assassination conspiracy trial, is up for sale by Seth Kaller Historic Documents. Owning historic documents is not for the feint of heart – or budget.

From their website listing (click on the link if you are interested in purchasing):

Frederick A. Aiken, former Secretary of the Democratic National Convention, applauds General John C. Frémont’s nomination by the Radical Republicans. He suggests that Frémont will have the blessing of the Democrats if he goes up against Lincoln for the Republican nomination. Aiken went on to serve (unsuccessfully) as defense attorney for Lincoln assassination conspirator Mary Surratt.

First page of the 1864 Aiken Letter

Aiken Letter page 2

Complete Transcript:
   “Washington D.C. June 12th 1864.
Up to the present time I have not heard from any democrat in this city an unkind word concerning yourself since the action of the Cleveland Convention. The Platform promulgated by that convention and your brave, truthful and powerful letter of acceptance have completely disarmed all bitter and personal hostility at the hands of the democratic party and if the choice or alternative with us was either Mr. Lincoln or the nominee of the Cleveland Convention we should to a man take the latter. We shall do all we can to elect our own candidate but we certainly shall not find time to wage war against you: and if we are successful we shall be generous. At
 [text loss] last meeting of the National Democratic Association here, the mention of your name by Hon. T.B. Florence was received with genuine and [2] hearty cheers. What I want to say is this. The democrats are willing to help you all they can as against Mr. Lincoln and if I could be put in communication with the chairman of your national committee I think I could make a suggestion that would do infinite good and not be attended with great expense.
I was the Secretary of the National Dem. Executive Com. (Breckenridge & Lane) during the last Presidential election and have experience in such affairs.
I have the honor to be
Very truly & Respectfully
Yr. ob’t serv’t
F.A. Aiken
To / Maj Gen’l John C. Fremont

[docket:] Enclosed as JCF / 15th June 1864”

Historical Background:
On May 31, 1864, Republicans and abolitionists who were dissatisfied with Lincoln’s management of the war met in Cleveland. Among them were such powerful figures as Schuyler Colfax, Frederick Douglass, Horace Greeley, and Wendell Phillips. The Cleveland Herald ridiculed the gathering of “sly politicians from New York, impetuous hare-brained Germans from St. Louis, abolitionists, and personal friends and parasites of Frémont.” In addition to advocating a constitutional amendment immediately ending slavery – something Lincoln also supported – the Cleveland Republicans put together a platform that included a limit of one term for the chief executive and confiscation of all rebel lands in the South. They also nominated John C. Frémont as their presidential candidate, and New Yorker John Cochrane for vice president. They confusingly called themselves the “Radical Democracy.”

Lincoln and his advisors were not overly concerned about the third party. Army Chief of Staff Henry Halleck called the Cleveland meeting the“Ragtail convention,” and professed that Frémont merely wanted to be bought off. If the aim of the organizers of the Cleveland Convention was to influence the mainline of the Republican Party, then they failed. The Republicans met in Baltimore on June 7 and 8, and renominated Lincoln, replacing Hannibal Hamlin on the ticket with Tennessee Unionist Andrew Johnson.

In this letter, Democrat F.A. Aiken (1810-1878), a high-ranking advisor in John C. Breckenridge’s 1860 presidential campaign, suggests to Frémont a clandestine collaboration with the Democrats to defeat Lincoln. It was one of the few times in American history that a sitting wartime president stood for reelection, and Lincoln faced considerable opposition. The war was not going well in the late spring of 1864. Nine days earlier, the Battle of Cold Harbor – Grant’s worst setback in the Overland Campaign – had reached its bloody conclusion. In his southward march on Richmond, Grant acquired a reputation of callousness in the face of mounting casualties (already 60,000 in the month-long campaign). If Frémont, who was very popular with German-Americans in New York and the Midwest, could manage to divide the Republican electorate, he could throw the election to the Democratic candidate.

Early in the war, Lincoln had removed Frémont from military command in Missouri because he had unilaterally declared martial law in the state and threatened to confiscate the property, including slaves, of Southern sympathizers. Lincoln gave Frémont command of an army in western Virginia, where he was defeated by Stonewall Jackson in the Battle of Cross Keys. Frémont refused to serve under General John Pope in the subsequent army reorganization, and Lincoln never again gave him a field command, contributing to the Pathfinder’s personal grudge.

The Democratic Party did not hold its convention until the end of August. With the campaigns against Richmond and Atlanta still stalled, the Democrats nominated another discarded general with a loyal following – George B. McClellan – to run against Lincoln.

Efforts to broker a deal between McClellan and Frémont were unsuccessful – the two had little in common except their hatred of Lincoln. On September 2, William Tecumseh Sherman finally defeated John Bell Hood and occupied Atlanta. This event, coupled with Philip Sheridan’s subsequent successes in the Shenandoah Valley, helped ease voters’ concerns about the war, and propelled Lincoln to a convincing reelection victory in November. Frémont abandoned his political campaign on September 22, 1864, after agreeing to a deal in which Lincoln removed Frémont’s enemy, U.S. Postmaster General Montgomery Blair, from office.

John C. Frémont (1813-1890), “the Pathfinder,” was a legendary explorer who achieved military victories in California during the Mexican War. He entered politics as California’s first senator and then became the first Republican presidential candidate in 1856. Frémont was a controversial political general during the Civil War, commanding the Western Department from St. Louis in 1861, and West Virginia in the first half of 1862, before being pushed out of service.

Demand is high for Civil War re-enactors

Chris Zavadil/Fremont Tribune | Posted: Saturday, April 16, 2011 3:05 am

It’s going to be a busy year for the Fremont Pathfinders.

As the 150th anniversary of the Civil War is observed, re-enactors are in high demand.

“We’re doing things for the next five years,” Pathfinders Secretary Randy Beaton said. “We have quite a number of events in Missouri, we’re going to be at John C. Fremont Days and be a little more active.”

The Pathfinders will skirmish at Maskenthine Lake near Stanton in May and again in July, participate in Plainview’s 125th anniversary celebration June 3-5, and travel to events at other Nebraska communities as well as Kansas, Missouri and Iowa.

This weekend the Venture Crew, an affiliated unit, is sponsoring an event for school children at the Archway near Kearney.

“It’s kind of an emersion thing where you’re mustering into the Army, because on April 15, 1861, President Lincoln made his famous request for 75,000 volunteers to suppress the rebellion in the cotton states,” Beaton said.

“I’m going to be out there as the surgeon who gives them the basic medical exam they had back then,” he said. “They wanted soldiers in the Army and they took a lot of soldiers who were sickly. In four years of fighting all the sicklings and the stragglers were gone, but initially they wanted numbers, and people were very patriotic and enlisted.

Reenactors Marlin Jorgensen and Phil Lutz fire a cannon salute to open the Sons of Union Verterans of the Civil War dedication of new headstones Fremont's 150th celebration in 2006. (Tribune Files)

“They preferred six opposing teeth to tear the cartridges because that’s how you had to load your musket,” he said. “You had to have your trigger finger and your thumb on one hand to fire your musket. You might be missing the other three fingers, but you would be fit for duty.”

The annual Fremont Middle School Civil War Day will be May 18.

“There’s usually myself and another seven re-enactors,” Beaton said. “We started this about six years ago, we can show them quite a few things.”

“We can fire the mortar because it’s usually a 50- to 100-yard maximum. We’ve done that every year; we have some really good artillerists,” he said.

“The kids love it and it’s very safe,” he said. “We usually give them talks, the cavalry guys will bring down their horses and that’s pretty popular. Young guys like the guns, young girls like the horses it seems like.”

Civil War re-enactor Jordan Beaton sits near his tent during an historical exercise for Fremont Middle School students in 2008. (Tony Gray/Fremont Tribune).

Beaton said the Pathfinders are still developing plans for John C. Fremont Days July 8-10. A skirmish could be in the works if a suitable battlefield can be found.

“We’ll definitely have living history and demonstrations in the park,” he said. “We’re still trying to see if it’s feasible, we could have a small battle or skirmish, that is not resolved yet but we still have a couple of months.

“We had a lot of units that used to come but have kind of gone their own way, so we’ve had living histories in the park,” he continued. “We’re going to try to expand it a little bit. We don’t know if we’re going to be able to put the numbers together to do something major the first year, but we’ll try to encourage some of the other units to come back.

“The tough thing right now with John C. Fremont Days is finding property we can use that’s still authentic,” Beaton said. “We’ve done them on the soccer fields. They used to have them on the lake behind the mall years ago and they’re no longer allowing that for liability reasons.”

Beaton, a Dodge County deputy sheriff, said Pathfinder members come from all walks of life. The group does presentations, public displays and re-enactments of Union troops.

“I’m normally a private,” Beaton said. “I don’t ride a horse, but I act as one of the gun crew for the artillery pieces, and usually an infantryman, and I do a surgeon impression when that’s allowed.”

Beaton said people don’t have to travel far to see re-enactments.

“Maskenthine is really a cool place,” he said. “There’s a lot of land where we can do things and still not bother anybody who wants to camp. Of course most people would want to come over and at least see what’s going on since there’s no charge for it.”

Exact dates are not yet set for spring and summer visits there.

“Another cool one is Lamoni, Iowa (Sept. 3-4). It’s one big rolling field, there aren’t a lot of trees out there,” he said. “If somebody brings a small cooler and some comfortable chairs, they can sit on a rolling hill and watch it like they did at First Manassas or Bull Run, where the people showed up to watch the battle and made a hasty retreat when the battle came to them.

“We’re doing a national (event) in the fall,” Beaton said. “It won’t be on the level of Gettysburg, but it will be Wilson’s Creek, an early pivotal battle in 1861 in Missouri. Wilson Creek is down to the southwest, almost to Arkansas.

“For people who want to travel and make a short vacation, it’s an adjoining state. Gas prices are high, but this is about as close as their going to get to a national event where other states come to participate,” he said.

Beaton expects 5,000 to 6,000 re-enactors at the Aug. 12-14 event.

“I’ve been to Gettysburg in 2008 and we had more than 16,000 there,” he said.

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