Lincoln purposely withheld news of military disasters so as not to discourage enlistments. To satisfy the endless levies for troops, Secretary of State William Seward scoured Europe for mercenaries, Lincoln allowed Northern governors to count captured slaves against State quotas, and generous enlistment bounties put many men in blue who would not otherwise fight. After McClellan’s defeat at Gaines’s Mill, the Comte de Paris related that “Far from letting the [Northern] people know what was taking place around Richmond, the Secretary of War [Seward] . . . gave out that the Army of the Potomac had undertaken a strategic movement which would result in the capture of Richmond.”
Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com
Lincoln Turns the Trick
“The defeat of General [George] McClellan’s right wing at Gaines’s Mill [June 1862] was a shock to President Lincoln and his cabinet, who were daily anticipating the capture of the Confederate capital. It was hard for them to realize that the expensively equipped Grand Army, on which their hopes and expectations of swiftly ending the war were fixed, had turned its back on Richmond.
President Lincoln, on further weighing McClellan’s despondent telegram, felt assured that the Peninsula campaign was about to end in failure and that a new levy of troops would be necessary.
Yet, while he wanted volunteers badly, he was, as he says in a carefully prepared letter to Secretary [William] Seward, fearful that “a general panic and stampede would follow” if he “publicly appealed to the country for this new force”; for the desperate strait of the Federal army on the Peninsula was being withheld from the people. How otherwise than by direct call, queries Bancroft [Life of Seward], “could a hundred thousand new soldiers be obtained? Seward was a master of political strategy, and Lincoln was no novice. Here is the device: it was principally Seward’s.”
Seward, taking with him Lincoln’s letter just mentioned and an equally adroit letter to the governors of Northern States, hurried to New York and other cities for personal and telegraphic conferences with such governors and other men of influence as could meet them. During these conferences Seward so shaped matters that the responsibility for a new levy was seemingly shifted from the President and assumed by the governors of the several States.
To give the appearance of reality to the transaction he formulated a petition for the loyal governors to sign. The petition recites:
“The undersigned, governors of the states of the union, impressed with the belief that the citizens of the states which they respectfully represent are of one accord in the hearty desire that the recent successes of the Federal arms may be followed up . . . that you at once call on the several states for such equal numbers of me . . . as may in your judgment be necessary to garrison and hold all the numerous cities and military positions that have been captured by our armies and to speedily crush the rebellion.”
To this uniquely contrived petition, the President graciously replied: “Fully concurring in the wisdom of the views expressed to me in so patriotic a manner by you . . . I have decided to call into the service an additional force of three hundred thousand men.”
When the correspondence, “purporting to be the voluntary request of eighteen governors to the President,” was published on July 2, the people were still ignorant of McClellan’s discomfiture. When [the Northern public] learned that the army had been driven to Harrison’s Landing, the trick had been turned. “The alarm and anger of the North,” adds Bancroft, “were great, but the prospects of having large reinforcements saved the administration from serious embarrassments.” Under this call 421,465 men were secured. To stimulate volunteering Secretary Stanton agreed, at Seward’s request, to go beyond his lawful authority and advance $25 out of the $100 bounty promised to each recruit.”
(The History of North Carolina in the War Between the States, Volume II, Bethel to Sharpsburg, Daniel Harvey Hill, Edwards & Broughton, 1926, pp. 128-130)