EXCEPTIONAL LINCOLN AUTOGRAPH LETTER SIGNED: “HE IS DEEPLY MORTIFIED BY US… IF A REASON IS ASKED, PLACE IT ON THE GROUND OF MY ORDER”— A COMPASSIONATE PRESIDENT LINCOLN REVOKES THE DISMISSAL OF GENERAL MCCLELLAN’S AIDE-DE-CAMP
LINCOLN, Abraham. Autograph Letter Signed “A. Lincoln.” Executive Mansion, Washington, July 27, 1863. Single wove stationery leaf, on Executive Mansion stationery, written on the recto by Lincoln, measuring 5 by 7-3/4 inches, handsomely framed with portrait, entire piece measures 25 by 18 inches.
Autograph letter signed by Abraham Lincoln, to Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton reversing the dismissal of a former British Major General as Aide-de-Camp to General McClellan because, with an “imperfect understanding” of what had happened, “he is deeply mortified by us.” “If a reason is asked,” concludes Lincoln, “place it on the ground of my order.”
Lincoln was a war president. “He had been willing to risk war rather than let the nation perish. Indeed, he was the only president in our history whose entire administration was bounded by the parameters of war… Military matters took up more of his time and attention than any other matter… He spent more time in the War Department telegraph office than anywhere else except the White House itself… Lincoln took seriously his constitutional duty as commander in chief of the army and navy” (McPherson, 65-66).
The letter reads, in full: “Hon. Sec. Of War: My dear Sir: Col. Charles F. Havelock has been mustered out of our service, as I suppose, in strict accordance with law, and the routine of the Department. With an imperfect understanding of this, he is deeply mortified by us, whose cause, I think, he has made some sacrifices to try to serve. Considering who he is, how he came here, and the apparently abrupt, and, to Europeans, unusual mode of his dismissal, I think the order of dismissal as to him, better be revoked-allowing him his pay. If a reason is asked, place it on the ground of my order. Yours truly, A. Lincoln.”
Charles Frederick Havelock (1803-68) was commissioned in the British Army in 1821, in the service of the 16th Lancers. He fought with distinction in India and Afghanistan. By 1856 he was promoted to Major General of the Ottoman Irregular Cavalry. In 1861, the 58-year-old Major General came to America and volunteered to serve in the Union Army. He spoke with President Lincoln on November 8, 1861; on December 23 Lincoln nominated him to be aide-de-camp to Major General George McClellan, commanding Army of the Potomac, with the rank of Colonel. The Senate confirmed his appointment the next day.
In April 1863, Col. Havelock was mustered out of the service. He wrote to Lincoln about what had occurred, and the President, in this letter, requested that, “considering who he is,” Secretary of War Stanton revoke his dismissal. It was done but, being a professional soldier, Havelock still had a problem. On August 9, 1863, he wrote to Lincoln: “I beg leave to tender my grateful acknowledgements for your kind consideration in directing that I should be relieved from the order under which I was mustered out of the service in April last, and for your special order, restoring my date pay and emoluments. But on account of the stringency of the certificate which requires me to state that I have been regularly stationed on duty at Washington during the period charged for, I cannot sign it. I believe myself entitled to this allowance, and respectfully ask that the Quarter Master at this Station may be authorized to pay me on a certificate in which this phrase may be omitted” (from the Lincoln Papers in the Library of Congress).
Very faint fold line, passing through “L” of Lincoln. Remnants of a prior tipping along left margin on verso. A superb letter in excellent condition, veryhansomely framed, an exceptional example of why Lincoln is remembered as a compassionate President.