Lincoln Goes A-Calling While the South Fills Its Cabinet

Monday, February 25, 1861

William Seward, who had not quite decided upon the offer of Secretary of State, was never far from Lincoln’s side. He was there when Lewis Cass, Buchanan’s former Secretary of State from Missouri, visited around 11am. Several Republican Senators dropped by, as did President Buchanan and Vice-President Breckinridge.

In the afternoon, Lincoln and Seward (or Lincoln, lead by Seward, as the appearance would lead one to believe) visited Congress. The Senate politely received him, especially the Republicans. A few northern Democrats did so as well. He was snubbed by Virginia Senator James Mason and Louis Wigfall of Texas, the latter of whom had reasons of his own for remaining in the capitol.

Lincoln and Seward then made their way to the House where the President-elect was a hit. Republicans and most Democrats rushed over to shake his hand.

In a political “hat trick,” Lincoln then visited the Supreme Court. His short and cordial meeting with Chief Justice Roger B. Taney must have been a bit awkward. Taney was the judge who handed down the Dred Scott decision, claiming that all people of African descent that were held as slaves (including their descendants, regardless of slave status) were property and had no protection under the Constitution. He also ruled that Slavery could not be kept out of the Territories (exactly the opposite of Lincoln’s position).1


Filling the Southern Cabinet

Way down south in Dixie’s capitol, two more cabinet positions were filled. Henry T. Ellett was appointed Postmaster General and Judah P. Benjamin was for Attorney General.

Ellett was a Princeton-graduated lawyer from New Jersey who had moved to Mississippi over 20 years before. There, he was a state Senator.

Benjamin was a Jewish emigrant who came to the States with his parents. He was a Louisiana state Senator and then United States Senator and, like Lincoln, a former Whig. He was a friend of Jefferson Davis, the two becoming close after Benjamin challenged Davis to a duel (Davis apologized and that was that). Anyway, here he was now, the Attorney General of the Confederate States of America.

As it turned out, Henry Ellett of Mississippi turned down the appointment.2


Sherman Visits a Southern Friend

It was around this time that William Tecumseh Sherman was in New Orleans. He had recently severed all ties, military and otherwise, with the seceded State of Louisiana where he had been head of their military academy. He was staying at the St. Louis Hotel and spending time each day with his old friend Braxton Bragg, a colonel in the state militia.

He also decided to pay a visit to another old friend, P.G.T Beauregard. Sherman had two of Beauregard’s sons as students at the academy and wished to tell their father about how they were doing. Beauregard was packing to leave for Montgomery when Sherman dropped by. He had been called to the Confederate capitol by Jefferson Davis.

Two of Sherman’s close friends were staying with the South. Sherman would have to head North.3

  1. Lincoln President-Elect by Harold Holzer as well as Days of Defiance by Maury Klein. []
  2. Jefferson Davis: His Life and Personality by Morris Schaff, J.W. Luce and Company, 1922. []
  3. Memoirs of General William T. Sherman, Volume 1 by William Tecumseh Sherman, D. Appleton and Company, 1875. []
Creative Commons License
Lincoln Goes A-Calling While the South Fills Its Cabinet by CW DG is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 4.0 International


View all posts by