Edwin Stanton and Abraham Lincoln were opposites in many ways. Lincoln was a tall Republican, known for his wit and warmth; Stanton was a short Democrat who was secretive, quiet and often aloof. Yet their mutual passion for the Union made them effective partners in the successful execution of the Northern war effort.
The role of the Secretary of War was a tedious task of negotiating contracts and dealing with myriads of details. Edwin Stanton possessed the administrative ability to largely deal with these complications.
Stanton was not a fan of General McClellan, and the feelings were quite mutual. One of the most startling messages of a commander during the War was McClellan’s telegram to Stanton after the Battle of Gaines Mill (VA) on 6/28/1862, when he wrote:
“I have lost this battle because my force was too small. I have seen too many dead and wounded comrades to feel otherwise than this government has not sustained this army. If you not do so now the game is lost. If I save this army now, I tell you plainly that I owe no thanks to you or any other person in Washington. You have done the best to sacrifice this army.”
Other facts about Stanton:
- His administrative strengths helped to hold together the Buchanan Administration from total collapse. (Stanton served only in the final months of the Administration as Attorney General.)
- Stanton persuaded Buchanan to not surrender Fort Sumter.
- Upon Lincoln’s death, he is reported to have uttered the famous words, “Now he belongs to the ages.”
- Stanton had a terrible experience as Secretary of War in the Johnson Administration, ultimately being replaced when a vote to impeach the President failed.
- He was confirmed by the Senate as a President Grant appointment to the Supreme Court in December of 1869, but died four days later.