Lincoln Talks to the Troops; CSA Invades the North (Sort Of)

Tuesday, July 23, 1861

Colonel William Tecumseh Sherman found himself riding in the Presidential carriage alongside President Lincoln and Secretary of State Seward. He took notice of the carriage as it crossed the Potomac on the ferry near Georgetown. Lincoln had heard that the “big scare” was over and wanted to see the troops. Sherman, who was a proper soldier, asked if the President wanted to address the troops. Lincoln said that he did and so Sherman gave the President a bit of a warning.

Soldiers needed to be cool and collected. All this cheering and pompous huzzahing is what led to the defeat; “no more hurrahing, no more humbug.” Lincoln agreed to humor Sherman.

President Lincoln then gave what Sherman later called “one of the best, most feeling addresses” he had ever heard. Throughout the short speech, the boys began to cheer, but Lincoln raised his hand, “don’t cheer, boys. I confess I rather like it myself, but Colonel Sherman here says it’s not military; and I guess we had better defer to his opinion.”

At another stop, Lincoln urged the soldiers to personally call upon him if they needed anything. An officer stepped forward. “Mr. President, I have a cause of grievance,” he said as he made his way towards Lincoln and Sherman. “This morning I went to speak to Colonel Sherman, and he threatened to shoot me.”

“Threatened to shoot you?” asked Lincoln.

“Yes,” confirmed the officer, “threatened to shoot me.”

Lincoln bent down as if to tell him a secret and loudly whispered, “well, if I were you, and he threatened to shoot, I would not trust him, for I believe he would do it.”

The crowd of soldiers erupted into laughter as Lincoln and Sherman drove on to the next camp.1

Later that day, Lincoln finished a memorandum of “military policy suggested by the Bull Run defeat.” In it, he proposed that the beaten army be reorganized and a volunteer force be quickly moved in and around Washington to boost its numbers. The naval blockade should be strengthened, he thought, as should the army at Harpers Ferry (soon to be under General Banks). Events in western Virginia were going well, so there, the status quo was to be kept. In Missouri, Lincoln wanted to see events happening quickly under General Fremont.

Most of the items mentioned by Lincoln had nothing to do with the “eastern theater” in northern Virginia. He knew it would take time to rebuild the army and, meanwhile, wanted to tie up lose ends in the west before another disaster like Bull Run could take place.2


McClellan Leaves to Save the Union

Because events were going so well for General George McClellan in western Virginia, he was called up to come to Washington to take over what would soon become the Army of the Potomac. General Rosecrans, at McClellan’s discretion, was handed the reigns to the small army in the hills of western Virginia.3 Both Generals rode together from Beverly to Grafton discussing McClellan’s plans for the Department of the Ohio, which Rosecrans now also commanded.4

McClellan’s train, rather than going from Grafton to Washington on the B&O line, first went west to Wheeling. There, the General and his very pregnant wife, Nelly, were reunited. Due to her condition, she could not accompany her husband to Washington.5

As McClellan was boarding his train in Grafton, General Cox in the Kanawha Valley of western Virginia was preparing to move. Cox had been delayed by the late arrival of his baggage train and the small skirmish at Scary Creek. His plan was to push up the Kanawha Valley via the turnpike that would take his small Army of the Kanawha through Charleston.6


First Confederate Invasion of the North… into New Mexico

By the middle of June, it appeared clear that secessionists from Texas were about to invade the Union-held Territory of New Mexico. Colonel Edward Canby, Union commander in New Mexico, ordered that the troops in the region be concentrated at Fort Fillmore, near Mesilla, just across the border from Texas.

Secessionists in southern New Mexico Territory had declared their half of the land as the Territory of Arizona. Fort Fillmore, with its 500 Union troops, though officially in US-held New Mexico, was thought by them to be in Confederate-loyal Arizona. The concentration of Union troops convinced Lt. Col. John Baylor, Rebel commander of the 2nd Texas Mounted Rifles, that Federal forces were soon to attack.

Baylor was already permitted to take the 2nd Texas into New Mexico by the Confederate Department of Texas commander, Colonel Earl Van Dorn. The plan of attack, however, was up to Baylor.

More certain than ever that the 500 Union troops at Fort Fillmore were preparing for an invasion, Baylor crossed over into New Mexico Territory on this date. Though his regiment consisted of only 258 men, the first organized invasion of Northern territory by a Southern force had begun. 7

  1. Memoirs Of General W. T. Sherman by William Tecumseh Sherman. []
  2. Memoranda of Military Policy Suggested by the Bull Run Defeat by Abraham Lincoln, July 23. 1861. []
  3. The New York Times ran an article announcing the change on this date. In it, the “Army of the Potomac” and “Army of Western Virginia” were referenced by name. McClellan’s army was never called that and the “Army of the Potomac” moniker wouldn’t officially come until later. Often, the name “Army of Northeastern Virginia” is given to the Union force that fought at Bull Run, but it wasn’t called that until well after the battle. []
  4. Lee vs. McClellan by Newell. []
  5. Rebels at the Gate by Lesser. []
  6. Lee vs. McClellan by Newell. []
  7. The Civil War in the Western Territories by Ray C. Colton, University of Oklahoma Press, 1959. []
Creative Commons License
Lincoln Talks to the Troops; CSA Invades the North (Sort Of) by CW DG is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 4.0 International


View all posts by