On this date of April 9, 1863, President Lincoln was in the midst of a visit to the Army of the Potomac and General Hooker. This second of two posts will talk about the military/political material side of the visit, while the article yesterday spoke about the pageantry associated with the event.
There were more reviews of troops on this date, including the First Corps. Here is an excerpt from A.P. Smith writing the History of the 76th New York:
April 9th – The First Corps, to which the 76th was attached, was reviewed by President Lincoln. The election of Mr. Lincoln having been made the pretense of the rebellion, and the Northern army having volunteered to refute the fallacy at the point of the bayonet, it is not surprising that of all the men in the country, Abraham Lincoln stood highest among the soldiery. His name was, indeed, the talisman by which they conquered; and whether on the march or around the campfire, his anecdotes and illustrations furnished an inexhaustible remedy for all the ills of soldier life. Even the contrabands, ignorant and stupid (meaning uninformed) as centuries of oppression had made them, catching a gleam of the effulgence of freedom just bursting upon them, in their adorations placed ‘Massa Lincum’ next to Deity. No wonder that the ‘boys in blue’ cheered lustily, and were happy, as they witness the approving smile of the President, on this grand review.”
Along with talking strategy and plans for the upcoming campaigning season, President Lincoln made two major points to General Hooker. In a written memorandum he said, “Our prime object is the enemies’ army in front of us, and is not with, or about Richmond.” Lincoln correctly understood that the war would only end when the Confederate army was defeated. Beyond that, the President parted with some words of advice, “In your next fight, put all your men in.” Lincoln had seen enough of reserves at Antietam and Fredericksburg.
Though Lincoln liked Hooker, who was rightly to be commended for many fine improvements to this splendid army of 130,000 men, he also found him a bit arrogant and over the top in his manner of speech. The general is reported to have often begun sentences with phrases like, “After we have taken Richmond …” or, “When we have defeated General Lee…” as if it were a foregone conclusion and matter of inevitability. Lincoln, noting this air, said to a friend, “That is the most depressing thing about Hooker. It seems to me that he is overconfident.” Hooker did, at this time, devise the plan that would essentially be the Chancellorsville offensive – dividing forces to cross the main body upriver, while a sizeable force in front of Fredericksburg would act to hold the Confederates in place.
Of course, no visit to the Army was complete without the President visiting with the troops, especially spending time in the hospitals and with the wounded. Before departing, son Tad was granted his wish to see some Rebels, and he and his father viewed them from a place across the Rappahannock River. Looking back at them, some Confederates recognized the President and respectfully bowed.