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The War from the Other End of the Telegraph

Sometimes a valuable diary is to be discovered, written by someone other than a participant on the battlefield. Such is the case with this diary kept by Edward Bates: Missouri politician, serious contender for the 1860 Republican Presidential nomination, and a man who years earlier served as a sergeant during the War of 1812. In February 1861, President-elect Lincoln called Bates to Washington, and on March 5th incorporated the man onto his Cabinet as Attorney General.

The sections of Edward Bates’ diary most of interest:

Pages        Dates

121-130    APR-JUN 1860   Presidential aspirations.

143-167    SEP-DEC 1860   “The Country is coming apart.”

175           5 MAR 1861        Bates enters the Lincoln Administration.

180           March                  “The Florida forts must be held, with or without Sumter.”

182           15 APR                War footing recommendations.

201           15 NOV               “Halleck has gone to take charge in Missouri.”

215           December           “France intends to side with England, in event of a provocation…”

217           31 DEC                “We expect to hear of a battle near Bowling Green soon…”

218           31 DEC                Bates advises Lincoln to “take personal command of the Army.”

220           31 DEC                “Nobody knows McClellan’s plans…”

223           10 JAN 1862      “The boats and bomb rafts at Cairo are not ready.”

226           13 JAN                 Cameron has resigned; Stanton to be the new SecWar.

226           13 JAN                 General frustration, due to lack of military action.

228           2 FEB                   Bates describes Edwin Stanton.

228           3 FEB                   “The President has ordered action everywhere to commence by 22 FEB.”

230           5-11 FEB              [Bates makes no mention of Fort Henry.]

232           14 FEB                 “It is said Fort Donelson was attacked today.”

232           17 FEB                 “We have certified information of our success at Fort Donelson.”

232           20 FEB                 “Willie Lincoln has died; his brother, Tad, is gravely ill.”

235           21 FEB                 Bates evaluates meaning of success at Fort Donelson.

239           11 MAR                Stanton Report; McClellan removed as General-in-Chief.

239           11 MAR                The Experiment begins: Stanton/Lincoln co-commanders.

242           15 MAR                Telegrams from Halleck, Foote, Pope (IRT their intentions.)

246           5 APR                   No news…

246           8 APR                   “While in Cabinet Council, news arrived from Island No.10”

247           8 APR                   “We expect news from General Grant…”

247-249    April                      The news from Pittsburg Landing.

249           April                      Bates believes: “Once New Orleans falls, it is over.”

253           28 APR                 “The news comes that we have taken New Orleans…”

260-261     4 JUN 1862          “Things have not gone well recently…”      

            The Diary of Edward Bates, published 1933:  https://archive.org/details/diaryofedwardbat00bate/page/n5 


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Explanation of Missouri Politics

The other day, I found myself with a few spare minutes so decided to tackle a problem I'd been meaning to confront for some time: Missouri Politics. Along the way, the Edward Bates Diary was encountered (which is why it is here.)

As everyone knows, in Missouri prior to the Civil War, politics was not about Democrat versus Whoever... but about Factions and Families, vying for power. The primary Faction prior to 1860 was also the primary Family: Benton (named for Thomas Hart Benton, a man originally from North Carolina, who moved to Missouri when it was still a territory; then served as U.S. Senator from State of Missouri for thirty years.) Ostensibly a Democrat -- a Jackson Democrat -- Benton modified his outlook and evolved his politics over time... and probably would have been a WHIG or Republican in 1860 (had he not died in 1858.) Meanwhile, the Benton Faction was the most significant force in Missouri politics.

The other Democrats of Missouri belonged to the anti-Benton Faction. The rift developed in 1846 when Senator Benton decided to support the Wilmot Proviso. Other Democrats -- with Family names of Price, King, Atchison, Jackson -- remained true to the original Party Platform.

The "whoevers" in 1832 were the WHIGs (which was formed as an anti-Andrew Jackson party.) In political contests in Missouri, the three-way struggle for votes tended to finish: 1) Benton Faction  2) WHIG  3) anti-Benton Faction. But odd alliances occasionally formed, that put the WHIG, or the anti-Benton candidate first across the finish line. Over time, many Families associated with the Benton Faction of the Democrat Party -- Bates, Blair -- gravitated towards the WHIG Party (Edward Bates became a WHIG.) Of those Benton-Faction Democrats that did not quite get to the WHIG Party, many joined the Republican Party when it emerged on the National scene in 1856.

To further muddy the Missouri waters: Senator Benton's daughter, Jessie, met Army officer and adventurer, John C. Fremont in Washington D.C. in 1840 (the two were married in 1841.) Fremont was a member of the Democrat Party before the 1850s (and served as Senator from California 1850 - 1851, elected as a Democrat.) But, in 1856 John Fremont, 43 years old, ran as Republican candidate in the Presidential election (lost to Democrat challenger, James Buchanan.) 

Ever so mildly associated with Missouri Politics after 1856, the Republican Fremonts did not get on with the Republican Blairs (Frank and Montgomery.)

Missouri Politics in five minutes...




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