Fremont’s Days are Numbered; Anderson’s Final Order

Monday, October 7, 1861

Things in Missouri hadn’t been the same since the Union was defeated at Lexington and General John C. Fremont arrested Frank Blair. Sterling Price, commander of the secessionist Missouri State Guard, had withdrawn to the Arkansas border after his Lexington victory, while Fremont reorganized his Army, causing much confusion.

Fremont’s complete lack of ability was becoming painfully obvious to everyone in Washington after he again arrested Frank Blair, who threatened to take legal action against Fremont. While General-in-Chief Winfield Scott again ordered Blair’s release, Fremont finally left St. Louis to join his gathering Army in the field.1

Unsure of what to do with Fremont, Lincoln sent Secretary of War Simon Cameron and Adjutant General Lorenzo Thomas to see for themselves the condition of Fremont’s command. Along with Cameron and Thomas was a letter drafted by Lincoln to General Samuel R. Curtis in Missouri, asking him his thoughts on Fremont.2

Specifically, Lincoln asked, “Ought Gen. Fremont to be relieved from, or retained in his present command?” He assured Curtis that it would be “entirely confidential,” and that he needed the sound advice of “an intelligent unprejudiced, and judicious opinion from some professional Military man on the spot,” to assist him.3

Though Lincoln was not completely sold on the idea of removing Fremont, he must have been leaning more towards that option than any other. General Order No. 18, which appears in the Official Records under the date of October 24, 1861, was actually written on this date and given to Secretary Cameron to, upon his discretion, hand to Fremont.

The order, written by General-in-Chief Scott, called for the axing of Fremont:

“Major General Frémont, of the United States’ Army, the present commander of the Western Department of the same, will, on the receipt of this order, call Major General Hunter, of the United States’ Volunteers, to relieve him temporarily in that command, when he, Major General Frémont, will report to general head quarters, by letter, for further orders.”4

Unlike Lincoln’s letter to General Curtis, the order removing Fremont from command was only supposed to be given to Fremont if Secretary Cameron felt it was necessary.

The journey to St. Louis would take four days.


Robert Anderson’s Parting Words

Though he laid the groundwork for General Sherman to replace him, General Robert Anderson was still very much in charge of the Department of the Cumberland. Headquartered in Louisville, Kentucky, Anderson issued an order condemning the practice of arresting the Kentucky citizens “on the slightest and most trivial grounds.” He requested the civil authorities and ordered the military authorities “not to make any arrests except where the parties are attempting to join the rebels or are engaged in giving aid or information to them,” adding that there must be sufficient evidence to convict them in court.

Anderson had received the news that some members of the Kentucky Home Guards (a Unionist militia organization) had “gone into adjoining counties and arrested and carried off parties who have been quietly remaining at home under the expectation that they would not be interfered with.” Some reports even mentioned Kentuckians being taken out of the state.

Anderson “believed that many of those who at one time sympathized with rebellion are desirous of returning to their allegiance and wish to remain quietly at home attending to their business.” If these people were treated fairly, he reasoned, “will join them to our cause.” Treating them otherwise, “may force them into the ranks of our enemies.”5

Knowing that he would soon be replaced by General Sherman, Anderson may have been hoping to tidy up his command before leaving.

  1. Frank Blair: Lincoln’s Conservative by William Earl Parrish. []
  2. Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin. []
  3. Letter from Abraham Lincoln to To Samuel R. Curtis, October 7, 1861. []
  4. General Orders No. 18, October 07, 1861 (General Order removing Fremont []
  5. Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 4, p296. []
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4 thoughts on “Fremont’s Days are Numbered; Anderson’s Final Order

  1. A descendant of Fremont defended his handling of the job in an article in the Missouri Historical Review. July 1988 (Vol. 82, No. 4) “Fremont and the Western Department.” By Robert L. Turkoly-Joczik. pp. 363-385. His article isn’t entirely convincing, but he does point out the difficulties of the job and the poor support he got from the federal government.

    1. Oh it was definitely a difficult job, but Fremont was clearly not up to it. Halleck managed it much better, but then, that was sort of Halleck’s strong point. It would be fun to read the defense of Fremont, though. Is it available online anywhere?

      1. I don’t believe it’s online. I can photocopy and send it to you, but not until the end of the month. I’m in the middle of a move right now and that issue is in the wrong house!

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