President Lincoln’s enemies surrounded his administration and many of his closest military and political advisors contemplated a Presidential Putsch. When Abraham Lincoln was elected President, his innate wisdom, convinced him to bring his trusted friend, Ward Hill Lamon, to Washington. The new President had created many enemies during the campaign and these hatreds and jealousies would plague Lincoln throughout his terms of office. Lamon, his closest friend for many years, would play an important role, not only as a body-guard, extraordinaire, but as a personal confidant and counselor. President Lincoln kept close tabs on his political enemies and suffered the constant stream of advise from the self-serving, ambitious and greedy Washington power brokers and often relied on Lamon for an unbiased opinion.
Lincoln’s most visible and vociferous detractors included many of his General’s in the field. Some of these general officers were graduates of the Military Academy, having battle field experience in the Mexican War, political, business and media connections and were priming a future career in Washington. Several had no prior military experience and were eventually doomed to backwater positions of no consequence. However, some of these prima donnas, had puppet masters that planned their futures and the demise of President Lincoln’s Civil War administration and policies of Union and Emancipation.
Ward Hill Lamon was constantly briefing President Lincoln on current nefarious rumors and threats, both personal and political. Some of this menace was just gossip, but the innuendos of a coup d’état, were substantiated and Lamon kept Lincoln abreast of these latest developments. Soon after Hooker had replaced Burnside, as Commander of the Army of the Potomac, Lamon was discussing the possibility of the military deposing the President and Lincoln responded,
“I think for a man of accredited courage you are the most panicky person I ever knew; you can see more dangers to me than all the other friends I have….now you think the people of this great government are likely to turn me out of office. Now to show you my appreciation, let me read you a letter I have written to General Hooker whom I have just appointed to the command of the Army of the Potomac.”
Lamon felt that President Lincoln never grasped the magnitude of the political and military scheming that was afoot, however he just sighed and listened to his friend’s letter to Hooker,
“General, I have placed you at the head of the Army of the Potomac. Of course I have done this upon what appears to me sufficient reasons; and yet I think it best for you to know that there are some things in regard to which I am not quite satisfied with you.
I believe you to be a brave and skillful soldier, which of course I like. I also believe you do not mix politics with your profession, in which you are right. You have confidence in yourself, which is a valuable, if not indispensable quality. You are ambitious, which within reasonable bounds, does good rather than harm. But I think that during General Burnside’s command of the army you have taken counsel of your ambition solely, and thwarted him as much as you could; in which you did a great wrong to the country and to a most meritorious and honorable brother officer. I have heard, in such a way as to believe it, of your saying that the country and the army needed a dictator. Of course it was not for this, but in spite of it, that I have given you the command.
Only those generals who gain success can set themselves up as dictators. What I ask of you is military success, and I will risk the dictatorship. The government will support you to the utmost of its ability, which is neither more nor less than it has done and will do for all its commanders.
I much fear that the spirit which you have aided to infuse into the army, of criticising their commander and withholding confidence from him, will now turn upon you; and I shall assist you as far as I can to put it down. Neither you nor Napoleon, if he were alive again, could get any good out of an army while such a spirit prevails in it.
And now, beware of rashness, but with energy and sleepless vigilance go forward and give us victories.”
“Yours very truly,
The content of President Lincoln’s confidential letter to Hooker spread and temporarily silenced Lincoln’s enemies and the rumors of a Presidential Putsch.