Fremont’s One Hundred Days
Francis P. Blair, Jr.’s speech
to the House of Representatives, March 7, 1862
Introduction by G. E. Rule
The implosion of the relationship between Frank Blair and John Fremont had far-reaching consequences for Unionism in Missouri. Blair and his Safety Committee had, for a short time, been the uncontested power in St. Louis. The arrival of Fremont to take over command of the Western Department on July 25th changed all that. The Blairs had been instrumental in getting Fremont the job in the first place, and no doubt had expected a close and fruitful relationship with the new general.
But it didn’t happen. Instead of working with the Blairs and the other Unionist “powers that be” in St. Louis, Fremont relied on his own circle of cronies, including many of his old California friends, some of whom were not particularly ethical. Possibly (experts differ) Blair could have forgiven being shut out of the inner circles and decision-making in Missouri if success to Union arms had come along with it. Alas, this was not the case. A string of Union reverses attended the reign of the new general, and Frank Blair turned bitterly against the department commander he had helped to make. Fremont was removed by President Lincoln as commander of the Department of the West on November 2, 1861.
|See Charcoals vs Claybanks|
Even more unfortunate, the battle between the two men became entangled in the growing battle between radical Republicans (known in Missouri as “Charcoals”) and more conservative Unionists (known as “Claybanks”) over slavery. What had been growing tension suddenly became an open rupture that would last until the end of the war and beyond.
On March 7, 1862, Frank Blair rose on the floor of the House of Representatives to give his version of what had happened in Missouri during the Fremont reign. You will find the complete text below, taken from the Congressional Globe as provided on the Library of Congress website. You will note in reading Blair’s speech that he references a magazine article called “Fremont’s Hundred Days in Missouri”. We will be providing this article on the site too.
There are other pages on the site that you might find informative on the short-lived Fremont era in Missouri. See the amalgamated combination of John McElroy, Galusha Anderson, and William T. Sherman here. Also the court-martial and “Vindication” of Fremont’s quartermaster, Justus McKinstry, here .
For an analysis that is sympathetic (certainly much more so than you will find below) to Fremont without being totally blind to his faults, we recommend Allan Nevins’ Fremont: Pathmarker of the West. This is considered by most experts to be the standard work on Fremont. It is important to get the revised edition, 1955 or later —not the original 1939 edition. This is because the revised edition includes the chapter “Some New Light on Fremont” at the end of the book, which is where much of the interesting discussion on what went wrong in Missouri is. For an analysis that walks a middle-path between Blair and Fremont, see Louis S. Gerteis Civil War St. Louis (2001).
Mr. BLAIR, of Missouri: I have sought the floor, Mr. Chairman, for the purpose of making some observations upon the subject of the administration of the department of the West under General Fremont. I did not introduce this topic to the House of Representatives, nor have I ever desired to make any issue between General Fremont and myself; but I have noticed for several weeks past a very great pressure brought to bear in certain newspapers to force General Fremont back into an active command in the field, to force the Administration, against its judgment, after mature deliberation, again to place him in command of one of the departments of the army. I have seen telegraphic dispatches sent from this place, asserting that General Fremont had again and again demanded a trial upon the charges preferred against him, and that the Administration had steadily refused him this act of justice. No part of this statement is true.
Mr. RIDDLE: Will the gentleman state his authority for that denial?
Mr. BLAIR, of Missouri: I had intended to give the House my authority without the request of the gentleman. Unless General Fremont has made that demand within the past three or four days, I assert that he has not made it at all. I have taken the pains to inquire of the Adjutant General of the United States Army, through whose office, under the regulations, such an application would necessarily be made, and also of the Judge Advocate, in whose office that application would be filed, and I was assured by both of those officers that no such application had ever been made by him. I refer to this matter for the purpose of remarking that it is one of the most extraordinary examples of an officer charged with grave errors and high military offenses in the conduct of his administration, and in consequence of such charges, after deliberate examination by the Administration, dismissed from his command, and yet up to this time he has demanded no trial or investigation. He quietly holds on to his office under the censure thus pronounced upon him by the highest officer of the Government, and has not sufficient faith in his own innocence to challenge an inquiry, which might deprive him of his office as well as of his command. He prefers a different kind of trial, one in which his own loose and unsupported statements, and those of his friends, shall go to the public, rather than a lawful trial in which evidence can he sifted and a judgment pronounced by his peers. I express the opinion, that if he were to demand a trial he would obtain it. The Government, although not disposed in time of war, as long as the officer deposed from his command neglects to make application for trial, to detail for that purpose other officers of equal rank now in active service, and who could not well be spared for such a purpose, yet it would not deny him a trial if he should demand it. It has also been heralded in the newspapers that the committee on the conduct of the war has unanimously demanded the restoration of General Fremont to an active command in the military service. I undertake to say there is no truth in the statement. It is simply an attempt of some of his partisans to induce the belief in the country that the committee on the conduct of the war, after an examination into his administration of his department, had approved it, which is not true in point of fact. It is proclaimed upon the same authority that he is to be appointed to an important command, and that he has been promised such a command by the President of tire United States. I do not know whether such is the case or not, but inasmuch as the information comes in the same shape as the other publications I have noticed, I believe it is of the same character. The President could not, with propriety, give an important command to an officer charged with the gravest offenses known to military law, and on account of such charges censured and deposed from his command, who yet quietly submits to this censure, and does not ask to have his character vindicated by a court-martial. I think no other instance of the same kind can be found in military annals.
The publications to which I have referred, put forth by his partisans, foreshadowed and heralded the simultaneous appearance of the statement made by General Fremont in his own defense before the committee on the conduct of the war, and the speech of his aid-de-camp, the member from Indiana, [Mr. Shanks] made in this House the other day. This speech and statement inaugurate a new campaign, and in a new and more congenial field, to be fought with new weapons, far different from the rude instruments of war with which General Fremont has been so unsuccessful. It is a campaign of proclamations, the only weapons which, up to this time, he seems to have used with effect. I commend his choice of weapons. His proclamations will not help the enemy as much as he did by supplying them with arms at his isolated and unsupported positions at Lexington and elsewhere, nor will his proclamations injure the Government in its struggle to put down rebellion one tithe as much as one single contract of his making for condemned arms or for useless earthworks.
The statement made by General Fremont is extraordinary both in its character and in the manner in which it was made public. I do not believe, after the statements upon this floor the other day by authority of the committee on the conduct of the war, that its publication was sanctioned by them.
Mr. GOOCH: As that testimony has been made public, I feel bound to state, with the permission of the gentleman from Missouri, the action of the committee on the conduct of the war in reference to it.
General Fremont came before the committee the same as all other witnesses that appeared before us. The committee deemed it essential that they should inquire into the conduct of the war in the western department, and for that purpose begun, as they have begun in all other departments, where it has been possible for them to do so, by bringing before them first the general in command of the department.
When he appeared before the committee he produced certain documents, from which he said the committee could select such parts as they deemed material. It was suggested by the chairman of the committee—and in that the whole committee agreed—that General Fremont had better make a concise statement in writing, such as he wished to make in reference to the conduct of the war in his department. He did so; and when that statement was submitted these documents were submitted with it. They were not, however, received by the committee with the understanding that all of them were to be published in the report the committee were to make to Congress, but only such parts as they should deem material to the investigation which they had been instructed to make. At a subsequent time General Fremont appeared before the committee, and certain questions were asked him, in relation to the western department, which he answered. When General Fremont left the committee room he was requested by the committee, as all other witnesses have been, to give no information to any one of what he had stated to the committee. With that request I understood him to comply, the same as all other witnesses have done.
I only wish to say further, that the testimony was published without the knowledge or consent of the committee; and I will add that I do not believe that under any circumstances the committee would have felt it to be their duty to have reported to Congress all the letters and telegraphic dispatches which were laid before them, because they would have considered that some of them would throw no light upon the investigation which the committee was making, and ought, from their very character, to be suppressed.
Mr. BLAIR, of Missouri: I ask the gentleman if all General Fremont’s testimony is published?
Mr. GOOCH: The written statement and the letters and dispatches which he gave to the committee are published, but not that part of his testimony which was in response to interrogatories propounded to him by the committee. He did not give to the committee the original letters and dispatches, but copies of them, and said that he would furnish the originals when we desired them. He had no copy of that part of his testimony which was in response to interrogatories, and therefore could not publish that.
Mr. BLAIR, of Missouri: Mr. Chairman, the character of this statement is as extraordinary as the manner in which it has found its way before the public. It is an apology for disaster and defeat; ingenious upon its face by the omission of important facts, and by the suggestion of others which never existed. It proves him to be a much better apologist for the defeats which he suffered, than he is a general to achieve victories. One of his aids-de-camp, a gentleman distinguished as a literary man, has also published an account of his campaign in Missouri, in one of our popular magazines, under the title of “Fremont’s Hundred Days in Missouri,” thereby challenging comparison with the far-famed campaign of Bonaparte. Is there anything in this campaign, as portrayed by the general himself, and by his several aids-de-camp, that resembles, except in the number of days, the historic campaign of the first Napoleon? Can imagination conceive of Bonaparte returning to Paris, and announcing that he had lost two armies, liberated two negroes, and published a bombastic proclamation.
It is known, Mr. Chairman, that I took an interest in the elevation of General Fremont to his present rank and recent command in the Army. I do not suppose that my recommendation aided him in securing him that position, but it shows the good feeling I entertained for him, and the confidence I had in him at the time. I should have rejoiced in his success in the department over which he was placed. I had been his friend for many years, and my whole family had been most friendly to him and to his family. The kindest relations had always existed between us. I should have rejoiced in his success, not only on account of the great public cause in which we were both engaged, but also on account of my personal interest in him. I recommended him in the belief that he would serve the great public interest, and when I found he was incompetent to serve that cause, I recommended his removal upon the same public considerations, and with no other feelings than those of humiliation and regret. There is nothing in the letter that I addressed to my brother, the Postmaster General, and through him to the President, that shows that I had one particle of feeling against him. The conviction which was forced upon me, came with grief and mortification, such as I have never before experienced. My judgment, uninfluenced by any motives except those for the public good, compelled me to the conclusion that General Fremont was unfitted for the command of that department. I never had any private griefs against him of any kind. I never asked anything of him for myself, because there was nothing I desired that I could have obtained by his aid, which I could not just as well have obtained without it. I never asked for anything for others, that he did not cheerfully assent to, and, so far as it was in his power, grant.
Now, sir, I have read with attention the statement he has made through the press, and I have read also the speech of the gentleman from Indiana, [Mr. SHANKS,] who followed him to Springfield as an aid-de-camp, and I can find nothing in either to justify the enthusiasm which that gentleman seems to feel over a sad record of defeats and unvaried disasters. The one is a tame apology, the other a sort of frothy rhetoric and confused declamation. There are two great points which will forever stand out in relief in the history of those hundred days, the saddest days that ever befell the loyal men of that State, which no rhetoric and no studied obscurity of expression can shield from view or make the nation forget. Those two great points of public interest upon which the sad eyes of the nation will always be fixed, are Springfield and Lexington; the fields where the heroic Lyon fell, and where Mulligan yielded, not to the foe, but to famine and thirst. What had the gentleman from Indiana [Mr. SHANKS] to say about them? Absolutely nothing! What has General Fremont said about them in his statement? He treads lightly on that ground. The other historian, who has chosen a popular magazine for his forum, finds little time to bestow upon them. But I will do General Fremont the justice to quote his own language:
“From St. Louis to Cairo was an easy days journey by water, and transportation abundant. To Springfield was a weeks march, and before I could have reached it, Cairo would have been taken, and with it, I believe, St. Louis.” On my arrival at Cairo, I found the force under General Prentiss reduced to one thousand two hundred men, consisting mainly of a regiment which had agreed to await my arrival.
“A few miles below, at New Madrid, General Pillow had landed a force estimated at twenty thousand, which subsequent events showed was not exaggerated. Our force, greatly increased to the enemy by rumors, drove him to a hasty retreat, and permanently secured the position. To these facts the accompanying papers and the testimony of General Prentiss and other officers is offered to the committee.
“I returned to St. Louis on the 4th August, having in the mean time ordered Colonel Stevenson’s regiment, from Booneville, and Colonel Montgomery, from Kansas, to march to the relief of General Lyon.
“Immediately upon my return from Cairo, I set myself to work, amid incessant demands upon my time from every quarter, principally to provide reinforcements for General Lyon.
“I do not accept Springfield as a disaster belonging in my administration. Causes wholly out of my jurisdiction had already prepared the defeat of General Lyon before my arrival at St. Louis. His letter to me of the 9th August, with other papers annexed, will show that I was already in communication with him, and that he knew his wants were being provided for. It will be seen that I had all reasonable expectations of being able to relieve him in time, and had he been able to adhere to the course indicated in his letter, a very short time would have found him efficiently sustained.”
His defense for not succoring Lyon at Springfield is that Cairo was threatened; that it was an easy day’s journey from St. Louis by water, and transportation abundant; that Lyon was at Springfield, a week’s march from St. Louis, and that he does not accept Lyon’s defeat as belonging to his administration. Now, I undertake to say, that it is true Cairo was within an easy day’s journey from St. Louis by water, and less by railroad, that it could be reached from Springfield, Illinois, as easily and in as short a time. From Indianapolis, the capital of Indiana, from Columbus, Ohio, from almost any point in any of the northwestern States, Cairo was not more than an easy day’s journey by water or by railroad. It was and is, the point of all others, most accessible to the entire Northwest, and easily reinforced. It was also intrenched, defended by eight thousand men, and with ordnance of the heaviest caliber. General Prentiss had as many men as Lyon and more, as shown by their statements, accompanying General Fremont’s defense. McCulloch and Price, according to Fremont’s statement, had one third more then to attack Lyon than Pillow had to assail Cairo, its it was then said he was threatening to do. Lyon was without fortifications and without heavy guns, Prentiss had both at Cairo, and that place was covered by two rivers in front, and could not have been assailed without crossing them, which it was utterly impossible for the enemy to do, in face of an army to oppose them.
It is pretended and attempted to be shown by a dispatch from General Prentiss, that his army, consisting of six “three months” and two “three years” regiments, was about to be disbanded, and the statement of General Prentiss is left unexplained, and the argument boldly advanced that without reinforcements he could have had but two regiments left to defend the post. The truth of the matter is, as shown by General Prentiss in a subsequent dispatch, that these six “three months” regiments were then in process of reorganization; and I say they did not disband, but reentered the service almost in a body for the war. Cook’s regiment, Oglesby’s regiment, McArthur’s regiment, the regiment originally raised by Prentiss, were all “three months” men. They remained in the service; they remained at Cairo, and the other two regiments of “three months” men, whose names I do not now remember, remained also, and all have since made their names illustrious at the siege of Fort Donelson. But if a portion of Prentiss’s command were “three months” men, so also were a majority of the troops under Lyon’s command, at Springfield. Springfield was a week’s march from St. Louis, and was capable of being reinforced only from that point. Yet General Fremont believed and acted upon the belief that Cairo, threatened by Pillow with twenty thousand men, was the point to be reinforced, although it was strongly intrenched, garrisoned by eight regiments, defended by guns of the heaviest caliber, with the Ohio and Mississippi rivers in front, and capable of being reinforced within twenty-four hours from any part of the entire Northwest; and that Lyon at Springfield, threatened by thirty thousand men, having under his command a less force than that at Cairo, with no intrenchments, with no heavy guns, with no natural defenses interposed between him and the enemy, a week’s march from St. Louis, from which point alone it could be effectually reinforced, was to be left to his fate, or to be left to wait until Cairo, naturally so much stronger, and with its artificial defenses so much better, so much more easily reinforced, and defended by more men, should first be attended to. This is the amplification of his own argument. Let him be judged on his own statement.
So thoroughly was he possessed by this idea that he seems utterly to have forgotten Lyon and Springfield until the 3d day of August, nine days after his arrival in Missouri. A messenger came from Lyon repeating the sad story of his distress and peril, which was forwarded to Cairo, and General Fremont on that day telegraphed an order to Stevenson at Booneville and Colonel Montgomery at Leavenworth in Kansas, ordering them to reinforce Lyon with their regiments. These two regiments were probably the two of all others in his command the farthest from Springfield by the routes which they would be compelled to take, and in positions the most difficult to supply them immediately with transportation. This is literally all that Fremont ever did to reinforce Lyon. You may search his statement—every letter, every telegram, and every document—and you will find no other order given. He makes the distress of Lyon the pretext for the purchase of condemned arms, but he made no effort of any kind except the orders given to Stevenson and to Montgomery, to relieve Lyon’s distress, and he provided neither Stevenson nor Montgomery with transportation to enable them to carry out the order of relief. If he had provided the transportation for these two regiments, they could not have reached Lyon in time, although both could certainly have done so had he made the order on his first arrival in Missouri. He had other regiments in his command which could have reached Lyon and reinforced him, even if ordered as late as the 3d of August. For instance, Wyman’s regiment, thirteenth Illinois, then at Rolla, and thirty-six hundred other men, as shown by the report of Colonel Chester Harding, Jr., to have been at the arsenal and Jefferson barracks on the 5th day of August, of which Coler’s Illinois regiment is stated by him to be the only one not ready for service.
In this place I desire to allude to the assertions of General Fremont and of Colonel Chester Harding Jr., to the effect that the force which Pillow is said to have had, and with which he was threatening to assault and take Cairo, was demonstrated by subsequent events not to have been over-estimated. Well, sir, if subsequent events have demonstrated that fact, they have been very unfortunate in not pointing to a single one of them. Neither of them point to anything that has occurred that justifies any such statement; and, in my opinion, there was good reason for this singular reserve on their parts. Months afterwards, when the battle was fought at Belmont, it was not supposed by any one that there were twenty thousand men at Columbus, under command of General Polk, who had then taken the place formerly held by Pillow. It has not been shown, by anything that will pass for evidence, that there were twenty thousand men at Columbus the other day when it was evacuated. The fact that Pillow retired when the reinforcements went forward under Fremont, would go to show that Pillow did not consider himself very strong at that time, and the fact that no demonstration has since that time been made against Cairo, are among the “subsequent events” that do not strengthen their assertions. It is the opinion of many well-informed persons that the movement towards Cairo at that time, as well as the demonstration under Hardee against Iron Mountain; were more feints to draw off reinforcements from Lyon, in order that he might be overwhelmed by the superior force brought against him under Price and McCulloch. The general and the adjutant general who had been deceived by such a ruse would he among the last to admit that they had been outwitted, although the fact that no serious attack nor even a demonstration in that quarter has since been made will go far to convince impartial persons that the enemy in that quarter were standing on the defensive, and their heavy fortifications at Columbus will be almost conclusive. I leave this branch of the case. I think I have made it appear that it was not Fremont’s first duty to reinforce Cairo in preference to Springfield, but I am willing for the sake of the argument to admit that he was correct in his judgment upon this point. It is a matter of opinion, and will always be a matter of opinion, whether he should have taken that course or not. I am willing that upon the facts of the case—not, however, upon his statement of facts—the country shall judge his conduct upon this point.
There remains, however, another branch of this case, which is not a matter of opinion, but a question of fact, upon which I take issue with him. It is the statement that he had not sufficient force under his command with which to reinforce both Cairo and General Lyon at Springfield. It is perfectly evident that he had enough to reinforce Cairo, for that was done, and the enemy fled before his grand flotilla. I will undertake to prove that he had enough also, after he had reinforced Cairo, to have reinforced Lyon; and that he had ample notice of Lyon’s peril, and ample time in which to forward reinforcements. I premise by saying that it is curious that he should have omitted, when he stated that he had not sufficient force for both of these objects, to state also the force which he then had under his command.
The statement which I shall make is not derived from the books in the Adjutant General’s office, for I have had no access to them. General Fremont probably has those books, or at least all the data which embrace the returns of the number of troops in his own department. My knowledge is derived from my own early connection with the organization of troops in the department, from my association with them since, and from scattered items of information which I have been able to glean from the studied obscurity of General Fremont’s own statements and the documents annexed to it.
There was, on the day of arrival of General Fremont in Missouri, sixteen full Missouri regiments in the service of the United States. They were as follows:
First regiment Missouri volunteers, Colonel F. P. Blair, at Springfield.
Second regiment Missouri volunteers, Colonel Boernstein.
Third regiment Missouri volunteers, Colonel Sigel, at Springfield.
Fourth regiment Missouri volunteers, Colonel Schuttner.
Fifth regiment Missouri volunteers, Colonel Saloman, at Springfield.
Of these, the first regiment was the only three years’ regiment.
The sixth regiment Missouri volunteers, Colonel Bland, at Ironton.
Seventh regiment Missouri volunteers, Colonel Stevenson, at Booneville.
Eighth regiment Missouri volunteers, Colonel Smith, in Warren county, Missouri.
Ninth regiment Missouri volunteers, Colonel Fredericks, at St. Louis.
Tenth regiment Missouri volunteers, Colonel Bayles, at or near St. Louis.
I find Colonel Schaeffer’s regiment, which I believe to be the eleventh regiment Missouri volunteers, is noticed in the Missouri Democrat with that of Bayle’s and Frederick’s, as being armed and equipped, and under marching orders on the 6th day of August. In addition to these, the five reserved corps regiments—Almstedt’s, Kalmann’s, McNeil’s, Brown’s, and Stifel’s—were then in the service, fully armed and equipped, and stationed at different points in Missouri. There were four Kansas regiments in his department—Dietzler’s and Mitchell’s, the first and second, then with General Lyon; the third and fourth regiments, Montgomery’s and Weer’s, one at Leavenworth, the other at Fort Scott, on the boundary between Missouri and Kansas, about sixty or seventy miles from Springfield. There were at that time four Iowa regiments in the State of Missouri, the first under Bates at Springfield, the second (Curtis) at Jefferson barracks, the third (Williams) on the Hannibal and St. Joseph railroad; there was one other in the State, and three others, making seven regiments in all, in Iowa, and ready for service; two of which, the sixth and seventh regiments, reached Jefferson barracks on the 11th of August, and a battalion of the Iowa fifth was at the arsenal, St. Louis, on August 10; three companies of the Iowa fourth arrived in St. Louis on the 11th of August. There were eighteen Illinois regiments to the service and under his command. These regiments were numbered from seven to twenty-fourth inclusive; six of these were “three months” men, which I have already named as being at Cairo in the command of General Prentiss, almost the whole body of which were reorganized and reentered the service, and are now leading the column of victory in Tennessee. There were ten others, “three years” men, numbered from thirteenth to twenty-fourth, inclusive, fully armed and equipped, all in active service, mostly in Missouri, and all under Fremont’s command. These ten regiments had been authorized by the Legislature of Illinois to be raised by the Governor in anticipation of a call by the President. There were one thousand regular troops under Lyon at Springfield, as will appear from the statement of the adjutant general, Captain Kelton, which is among the documents published in Fremont’s papers. These consisted of cavalry, artillery, and infantry. There were also three companies of regulars at Leavenworth. There was a battalion of four hundred home guards at St. Joseph under Colonel Peabody, who was afterwards severely wounded in the siege of Lexington. There were three hundred under Major Hunt at Hannibal, and three hundred at Kansas City under Major ——, who was also subsequently wounded at Lexington; there were also one hundred and fifty at Booneville, under a gallant officer, who afterwards defended that city with his small force and dispersed eight hundred rebels. The Nebraska regiment of four hundred and fifty-seven men reached St. Louis on the 13th or 14th of August.
This statement shows that there were forty-four regiments in the western department armed and equipped when General Fremont arrived there and took the command. On the 4th of August Governor Morton of Indiana telegraphed to General Fremont, as appears from his dispatch annexed to Fremont’s statement, offering him five regiments. Surely these regiments could have been made available for the defense of Cairo, if any serious attack had been made on that position, and although they were not in the western department the Government would not have hesitated to have given him this force if Cairo had been attacked. The Government did consent to his taking those regiments, for they arrived in St. Louis on or about the 17th of August, and were soon followed by three other regiments and several batteries of artillery from that State, all of which have since served with distinction in Missouri.
I propose now to show something as to the particular location of the troops actually in his department at the time of Fremont’s arrival in Missouri, and to prove that he not only had the men to reinforce Cairo and to succor Lyon, but that they were in position to be available to him for those purposes. I read from a letter addressed to me by Colonel John M. Palmer, fourteenth Illinois volunteers, now a brigadier general; who is well known to every member of this House from the State of Illinois:
St. Louis, November 22, 1861.
Dear Sir: On the 5th of July, 1861, the fourteenth regiment Illinois volunteers (nine hundred strong) crossed the Mississippi river, and on tile 13th moved from Hannibal to Macon City, and remaining there and at Renich and Sturgeon, on the North Missouri railroad, until the 9th of August, and on the 10th reached Jefferson barracks.
When this regiment left Hannibal, the third Iowa and the sixteenth Illinois were on the line of the Hannibal and St, Joseph railroad. On the 13th July, Colonel Turchin’s Illinois regiment came into the State of Missouri. On the 14th, Colonel Grant’s twenty-first Illinois was at Palmyra, at which place Colonel Turchin was stationed. On the 3lst July, I found at Mexico Colonel Marshall’s first Illinois cavalry and one battalion of the fifteenth Illinois, Colonel Heeler’s regiment having left the same place a few days before.
During the month of July the following regiments were in North Missouri and within twenty-four hours of St. Louis:
Fourteenth Illinois volunteers, (Palmer,)………………900 men.
Sixteenth Illinois volunteers, (Smith,) say…………….800 ”
Nineteenth Illinois volunteers, (Turchin,) say……..800 ”
Fifteenth Illinois Volunteers, (Turner,) say…………..800 ”
Twenty-first Illinois volunteers, (Grant,) say………..800 ”
First Illinois cavalry, (Marshall,) say……………………600 ”
Twenty-fourth Illinois volunteers, (Hecker,) say…..900 ”
Third Iowa volunteers, (Williams,) say………………..700 ”
All these regiments were then full, and the estimate of their actual strength is low.
Very truly, &c.,
J. M. PALMER.
Colonel F. P. BLAIR.
P. S. If it be inquired what all these regiments were doing, the answer is, eating their rations and holding the railroads. J. M. PALMER
I annex a statement, also, of the number and designation of troops taken by General Fremont to reinforce Cairo, and it will be seen that of the whole number of sixty-three hundred men, contained in the list of General Palmer above, there was but one regiment of these taken to Cairo—Colonel Turchin’s—leaving fifty-five hundred men within twenty-four hours of St. Louis, available, when Fremont first arrived in St. Louis, to reinforce Lyon:
List of troops taken by General Fremont to Cairo, August 1, 1861:
“Nineteenth Illinois regiment, Colonel Turchin, armed with Minies.
“Seventeenth Illinois regiment.
“Rombauer’s house guard, composed of one battalion of Almstedt’s and one of Kalmann’s of the first and second United States reserve corps—eleven hundred strong.
“Second Iowa regiment, formerly Curtis’s, and Captain Buell’s battery of six pieces; eight steamboats; Fremont and staff in four carriages, the City of Alton steamboat being especially devoted to the general and his staff.”
This statement is made front the columns of the St. Louis Democrat.
In addition to the regiments mentioned in the schedule of Colonel Palmer within easy reach of Fremont, there was the thirteenth Illinois regiment, Colonel Wyman, at Rolla; Colonel Stevenson’s regiment, at Booneville; Weer’s regiment, at Fort Scott, in Kansas, sixty or seventy miles from Springfield, and Colonel Montgomery’s regiment at Leavenworth, Kansas, all of which could have reached Springfield before the 10th of August, and in time to have reinforced Lyon. There were other regiments, including Bayle’s, Frederick’s, Shaeffer’s, Smith’s and Coler’s, then at or near St. Louis, which regiments I presume are included in the statement of Colonel Chester Harding, Jr., as comprising the thirty-six hundred men in the St. Louis arsenal on the 5th of August. As the regiments not named by him in his statement are enumerated in the Republican newspaper of St. Louis as being at the arsenal, and under marching orders, on the 6th of August. From this statement it is very clear that there were ten thousand men fully armed and equipped which might have been used to reinforce Lyon, if General Fremont had had the capacity to appreciate the difficulties surrounding Lyon, instead of making those difficulties an excuse for his purchase of Austrian guns, and breaking down under that effort for his relief, and making no other movement, and giving no other order for that purpose, except the order to move two regiments, the only regiments at that time among those I have enumerated, whose positions made it impossible they should reach Lyon by the 10th of August. He not only made no other effort, but, so far from it, transportation which was at Rolla, and which might have been used to forward troops to Springfield if Fremont had had any intention of sending them, was on the 4th of August discharged from service at Rolla and brought back to St. Louis.
I assert that Fremont had notice of Lyon’s perilous condition before he left the city of New York for St. Louis. I received a dispatch from General Lyon while I was in Washington during the extra session of Congress, on or about the 18th of July, stating that Price was advancing upon him with a force of thirty thousand men, and that he would be overwhelmed unless reinforced. My brother, Montgomery Blair, transmitted that message to General Fremont in New York, urging him at the same time to proceed to the West. When General Fremont arrived at St. Louis he was met by a messenger from General Lyon, Major Barnard G. Farrar, attached to Lyon’s staff’, who came from Lyon with urgent entreaties for reinforcements. Captain John S. Cavender, of the first regiment Missouri volunteers, also come from Lyon upon the same errand, and returned, and was afterwards wounded at the battle of Wilson’s Creek. Colonel John S. Phelps, a member of this House from the Springfield district, made the same statements to Fremont, and placed in his hands a written statement from General Lyon, which will be found among the documents attached to Fremont’s defense, to which Lyon said that Missouri would be devastated unless he was reinforced. Fremont, therefore, had ample knowledge of the position in which Lyon stood. He had that knowledge when he left New York, and it was repeated to him in the most urgent terms when he arrived in St. Louis. He seems to have disregarded it altogether, and to have paid no attention to the wants of Lyon until the 3d of August. It does not appear that he even opened communication with Lyon until his return from Cairo. Lyon’s letter of August 9, in response to one from Fremont, does not disclose any encouragement held out to him by Fremont’s letter, to which his is in reply. Fremont’s letter to Lyon is not published, for some reason best known to himself. He has favored the public with a great many of his letters upon matters wholly immaterial, and has chosen to keep back this letter, which might have disclosed what his views were at that time, and what his intentions were with regard to reinforcing Lyon. I know of no subject connected with General Fremont’s career which at this moment would have so much interest for the public.
He says that Lyon had the assurance that he was doing everything he could for him. If he had that assurance, it is more than anybody else has been able to discover. If he had, it is more than he has attempted to prove by this record; for thus record shows that he took no notice of Lyon until the 3d of August, nine days after his arrival in St. Louis, although I have shown that he had ample force under his command, in addition to that which he sent to Cairo. The only remaining question is, whether there was time, to the period intervening between the 25th of July, the date of his arrival in St. Louis, and the 10th of August, when the battle was fought, to draw in his forces and send them to reinforce Lyon. From St. Louis to Rolla, by railroad, the distance is one hundred and eleven miles; from Rolla to Springfield, one hundred and fifteen miles, with a road firm and hard, though rough and broken. Sigel, in his first expedition to Springfield, made the same distance in much less time than fifteen days. The distance has been traversed before and since by large armies, in much less time, and we have General Fremont’s own authority for saying that Springfield is only a week’s march from St. Louis.
I am willing to rest the case here. I think that I have proven that he had ample notice, ample time, and ample force with which to have relieved Lyon; but the difficulty was that he had no appreciation of Lyon’s condition. He told Governor Gamble, of Missouri, who went to him to urge upon him the necessity of sending forward reinforcements, that Lyon was stronger than anybody else upon his line. If further proof were needed it would be found in the fact, that immediately upon the receipt of the news of the battle of Springfield he sent forward Palmer’s and Turner’s regiments, and two other regiments, all of which reached Rolla within three days after the news of the battle, and all of which might have been sent on the first clay he arrived in St. Louis. The pretext now put up by himself for not sending them, and which is also to be found in the certificate given him by Colonel Chester Harding, Jr., was that they were required in northeast Missouri to prevent an uprising of the rebels. The fact is, that these troops were withdrawn from northeast Missouri before the battle of Springfield, Palmer’s regiment arriving in St. Louis on the 10th of August, and there was no organized body of secessionists there when Fremont arrived in the State, and Palmer, in his letter above quoted, states: “If it be inquired what all these regiments were doing, the answer is, eating their rations and holding the railroads.” Everybody knows that these troops could have been better spared from northeast Missouri, or indeed from any other part of the State before the battle of Springfield, than they could afterwards, because that event inspired the rebels with hope and confidence, and set them to organizing all over the State. The sum total of his attempts to succor Lyon may be thus stated. He made no effort at all until it was too late. He ordered two regiments forward, but made no arrangements for transportation; and that these two regiments, so ordered, had the least chance of getting to Springfield in time.
It was under these circumstances that Lyon was forced, by the condition in which he found himself, to engage the enemy twenty-three thousand strong, with his force of less than five thousand men, in one of the most sanguinary and deadly conflicts that ever took place on this continent, and which resulted in a victory and driving the enemy from the field. After the battle was over and the enemy had disappeared from sight, it was discovered that during the tremendous struggle which they had endured, the ammunition of our forces had been almost entirely expended, and they had suffered so much that it was not possible, if the enemy should return and renew the attack, for them to hold their ground, and therefore they retired unmolested. They were never pursued. The enemy showed no disposition to engage them again. They plundered the bodies of tile slain, but never attacked the remnant of Lyon’s army. Fremont has done injustice to the men who at Springfield risked everything for their country, by speaking of it as a defeat. It was a disaster, but no defeat. In the opinion of Lyon and his officers, to attack the enemy was the only way in which the army could be saved, it being unsupported and beyond the hope of any succor. If they had attempted to retreat over the broken roads, through the defiles and forests to Rolla, the enemy having a large force of cavalry, would have harassed them and cut them off, especially as they would have been embarrassed and impeded by the large numbers of Union men fleeing with their wives and children. General Lyon thought his best course was to attack the enemy in front. He did attack them and lost his life, but saved his army and won a victory. That victory did not bear fruit, but that was not the fault of the general who ordered the battle or the men who fought and won it; it was the fault of another. The battle need not to have been fought that day, if there had been any hope of succor; it might have been delayed possibly for a week. It was simply because Lyon, as he then stated, considered himself abandoned, and was hopeless of receiving reinforcements, and felt that this was the only road to safety, that the battle was fought.
The next point to which I shall ask the attention of the House is the siege and fall of Lexington, the most disastrous blow which the Union cause has received in the whole war, if we regard it in the aspect of the number of prisoners taken, and the number of arms, munitions of war, stores, money, and other valuables lost to the Government and captured by the enemy. The number of killed and wounded on our side was not very large, and did not exceed two hundred men, but the enemy took three thousand prisoners, upwards of one thousand horses, three thousand stand of small arms, four heavy guns, wagons, stores, and munitions of war, and nearly half a million of dollars in money. General Fremont says that the first news he received of Price’s advance upon Lexington was on the 12th of September, the day of Mulligan’s arrival at that place. The fact is, that it had been known for weeks that Price was advancing into that part of the State, and Mulligan went to Lexington to take possession of it, and hold it, against Price’s advance. The dispatch of Mulligan, to which General Fremont refers to support his statement, proves simply that on the 12th of August he received news that Price had arrived at Warrensburg, thirty-five miles distant from Lexington, with an army estimated at from twelve to fifteen thousand. Two days afterwards, Fremont made a statement of the forces, under his command, which I here give:
HEADQUARTERS WESTERN DEPARTMENT
September 14, 1861.
To the Hon. SIMON CAMERON,
Secretary of War, Washington, D. C.
Subjoined is a list of our total force, with its distribution:
St. Louis, including home guard……………………………. 6,899
Under Brigadier General Pope, including home guard 5,483
Lexington, including home guard………………………….. 2,400
Jefferson City, one fourth house guard…………………… 9,677
Cape Girardeau…………………………………………………… 650
Bird’s Point and Norfolk………………………………………. 3,510
Cairo. including, McClernand’s brigade…………………. 4,826
Fort Holt, opposite Cairo, Kentucky shore……………… 3,595
Paducah …………………………………………………………….. 7,791
Under General Lane…………………………………………….. 2,200
Mound City; near Cairo………………………………………….. 900
Total of present and absent on detached duty …………55,693
JOHN C. FREMONT
Major General Commanding.
It will be seen from the above that, according to his own showing, he had at the time nearly fifty-six thousand men under his Command.
[Here the hammer fell.]
Mr. COLFAX: If the gentleman from Missouri has not concluded his remarks, I hope he will be allowed to do so.
No objection was made.
Mr. BLAIR, of Missouri: I am very much obliged to the committee and to the gentleman from Indiana for the courtesy which has been shown me. I am well satisfied that it could be shown that Fremont had a larger force at this time. His adjutant general, Captain McKeever, informed me, on or about the middle of October, one month later, that General Fremont had upwards of ninety thousand men under his command in the department of the West; but I am content to take his own statements. Mulligan was ordered to Lexington, to take and hold it until relieved. The dispatches which he sent to Colonel Jefferson C. Davis, commanding at Jefferson City, and which are annexed to Fremont’s statement, show that such were his instructions, for he declares his determination to hold it, and asks that reinforcements be sent to him. But for these instructions, he could have saved his command by crossing the river in the two ferry-boats and a steamboat which lay at the landing of Lexington, and thus put the Missouri river between him and Price, who would have had no means of crossing over and following him. He could thus have joined his forces to those of Sturgis on the north side of the river, and made a stand against Price. But he was ordered to hold Lexington until relieved. He was sent there for that purpose and none other, and he obeyed the order. When General Fremont gave that order, he must have had an opinion as to his ability to reinforce Mulligan in time; he must have supposed either that he was able or that he was not able to do it. If he believed he was able to do it, and then failed, the responsibility of giving such instructions, by which three thousand men with their arms, ammunition, equipments, munitions of war, and stores fell into the hands of the enemy, must rest upon him. If he gave such instructions without believing that he could reinforce Mulligan in time, then the responsibility that rests upon him is unrelieved by any redeeming feature.
This latter construction has been placed upon his conduct by two newspapers published in St. Louis, the Democrat and Republican, both advocates and apologists of his administration of the western department. The Democrat of September 25, in announcing the fall of Lexington, and noticing the movements against Price’s victorious army, says:
“All look to the grand movement for the complete entrapping of the rebel army under General Price, to the accomplishment of which, we are disposed to believe, the Capture of Colonel Mulligan was but one of the predetermined necessities.”
The Republican contained an article of the same tenor. I take a different view of it. I do not think Fremont meditated the destruction of Mulligan. He doubtless believed he had the force to succor him, and he simply lacked the capacity to wield it. I point to the number of troops then under his command, and the positions they occupied, as shown by the statement of his adjutant general, which I have already quoted to prove that he had ample force, if he had known how to use it. Everybody in Missouri, prior to the fall of Lexington, friend and foe alike, believed that he would succeed in cutting off and destroying Price’s army.
The statement already referred to which I hold in my hand, shows that he had nearly seven thousand men in St. Louis; under General Pope, in North Missouri, five thousand four hundred; in Lexington, including the home guard, two thousand four hundred; (the real force in Lexington was three thousand;) at Jefferson City, nearly ten thousand men; at Rolla, four thousand seven hundred, and under General Lane, two thousand two hundred. All of these forces were within less than a week’s march of Lexington; all of them could have been brought to bear upon Lexington in less than a week; in all, upwards of thirty thousand men, armed and equipped. Mulligan held out for nine days. Price held possession for ten days of Lexington, after the capture of Mulligan, making in all nineteen days. The army with which he invested Lexington was reported at from ten to fifteen thousand. He was reinforced by Harris and Green with five thousand men, who traversed the State from its eastern boundary, crossing the river at Glasgow and reaching Lexington before its fall, traveling the whole distance by land, and aiding in its capture. In the mean time, General Fremont, with the railroads at his command to carry his troops within sixty miles of Lexington, with the river and abundant transportation to carry his troops to the city of Lexington itself, and land them at the foot of the hill on which Mulligan was making his gallant defense, failed to send a single man to his assistance. He alleges that he gave orders that were not executed. It was a case in which he should have executed his own orders.
It was a case in which he knew day by day, or had the means of knowing, whether his orders were executed or not; and after the loss of a few days, when he found his orders were not being executed, it was still in his power to take the matter in his own hands, and by moving the troops from St. Louis and Jefferson City, he could have reached Lexington in three days by the river, reinforced Mulligan, and destroyed Price’s army.
After the fall of Lexington he had full time to have rushed upon Price and destroyed him before he left that city, where he remained for ten days after its capture. He announced his intention to do so in a telegraphic dispatch to the President. He remained nearly a week in St. Louis after this announcement. He went to Jefferson City by railroad, and remained there another week; not leaving there with his army until Price moved off leisurely from Lexington. He went then in the direction of Sedalia, on the Pacific railroad, and remained nearly another week. He then marched off to Warsaw and Springfield, and reached the latter place one month after leaving St. Louis, a distance of about one hundred and fifty miles by railroad, and less than a hundred and thirty by land. He started on his expedition with an army of forty thousand men, sufficient to have confronted every secessionist on the western bank of the Mississippi. With that army he reached Springfield in disorder and confusion, the division of General Hunter being compelled by his order’s to make forced marches by night and day to relieve the panic fears of a leader whose enemy was sixty miles away and in full retreat. Was he disturbed by thoughts of the neglected Lyon, or of that other gallant soldier who succumbed to famine in the trenches of Lexington, while he indulged his vanity in the pomp and parade of the inauguration of Benton barracks? It is a curious coincidence, marking the trivial and frivolous character of the man, that at the very moment when the cry of distress came with its wildest accents from both Wilson’s Creek and Lexington, it was drowned by the music of a holiday parade, the only warlike sound that ever smote on our general s ear; and it is not the less curious that he who could be so indifferent to the dangers that beset Lyon and Mulligan, should turn pale at the visionary terrors of the approach of Price’s Falstaffian army in buckram and Kendal green, when he was surrounded and defended by a well-appointed army of more than forty thousand men. If he had made half the haste to succor Lyon or to relieve Mulligan as he did in ordering up Hunter to his own relief, it would have been better for his fame, and far better for the country. Yet I would not impugn his personal courage. A man may be physically brave, but so conscious of the want of faculties to answer the responsibilities of a great occasion as to be paralyzed by it. Fremont was in consternation with such apprehension amid affairs he could not manage.
In his own summing up of the results of his command in Missouri, he declares that it is unreasonable to expect that a general shall always be victorious. It is equally unreasonable to expect that our generals shall always be defeated. He adds that when he had completed the organization of his army, and got it into the field, and commenced handling it, that he was victorious at all points. He cites the instances of Zagonyi’s charge at Springfield and the battle of Frederickton. Something has already been said in this Hall of the battle of Frederickton. I did not make any observation upon it at the time, because I had not seen the dispatches produced by the gentleman from Indiana on that occasion. The occasion of their production was a statement made by the gentleman from Ohio [Mr. Gurley] that the battle was fought against the orders of the commanding general, and that therefore he was not entitled to the credit of winning it. It would appear on the face of the telegraphic dispatches produced by the gentleman from Indiana [Mr. Shanks] that General Fremont did not order the concerted movement on Frederickton, which was the only victory won in the hundred days in Missouri. The charge of Zagonyi was, in no sense, a victory. Zagonyi and the men under him made a gallant charge; they went in and came out very much worsted, and fell back twenty-five miles. There could be no result from the charge to compensate for the loss it occasioned, as Springfield must necessarily have fallen without loss upon the approach of Fremont’s overwhelming force. The action was brave indeed, and the men who performed it deserve applause. The general who ordered such a sacrifice without any advantage to be obtained from it, deserves nothing but censure.
The dispatches read by the gentleman from Indiana to prove that General Fremont ordered the battle of Frederickton do not sustain that theory, but prove the reverse of it. The dispatches read by the gentleman from Ohio [Mr. Gurley] establish the absolute truth of his statement that it was fought against General Fremont’s orders. All of the dispatches taken together prove that if Fremont had not been providentially taken away from St. Louis, and out of the reach of the telegraph, he would have been without a single victory to illustrate his hundred days. The first dispatch is from Colonel Carlin, commanding at Pilot Knob, announcing the approach of Jeff Thompson’s army. I read it:
( 1 ) (Vol. 5, p. 94.
(Special Messenger.) Pilot Knob October 15, 1861.
Captain C. McKeever A. A. G.:
Jeff Thompson is reported twenty two miles east, near Farmington. I require two more regiments If you can send them. I will attack him and follow him up. His force is estimated at three thousand, (3,000.) The telegraph is broken or cut, and I fear the railroad will be obstructed.
CARLIN, Colonel Commanding.
The second dispatch shows that Fremont was out of reach of the telegraph, and was, fortunately for the country, where he could not interfere with the disposition of the troops called on to act against Thompson. He was twenty-five miles south of Syracuse, and could only be
Communicated with by express. The date of the dispatch is the night of the 15th of October. I present it:
(2) [Vol. 4,p,94.
Syracuse, October 15, 1861.
Captain C. McKeever, A. A. G.:
Rumor reports the destruction of long bridge, on Iron Mountain road, and the capture by the enemy of its guard. General Fremont is to-night twenty-five miles south of here. Dispatches sent to me can reach him by express from this place.
McKinstry, Brigadier General.
The dispatches which I shall now read prove that the movements which led to the defeat of Thompson, at Frederickton, were concerted between General Curtis and Captain C. McKeever, who agreed cordially upon the measures necessary to be taken. The dates of these dispatches prove that Fremont had no hand in them:
(3) [Vol. 5, p. l00.
BENTON Barracks, October 16, 1861.
C. M. McKeever, A. A. G.:
Who commands south of St. Louis county? Important reports are coming to me. Thompson was at Big River bridge.
SAMUEL R. CURTIS,
Brigadier General Commanding.
(4) (Vol. 5, P. 101.
St. Louis, October 15, 1861.
Brigadier General Grant, Cairo, Illinois:
Jeff Thompson, with between two and three thousand men, is at Farmington, twenty miles east of Ironton. Send as large a force as you can from Cape Girardeau, in the direction of Ironton, or Pilot Knob, to cut off his retreat into Arkansas.
By order of Major General Fremont.
McKeever, A. A. G.
(5) (Vol. 5, p.102.
Camp Benton, October 16; 1861
C. McKeever, A. A. G.:
The remainder of tire (8th) eighth Wisconsin went to depot early this morning. Boyd’s is about ready to move; is delayed for want of wagons, but will soon move down.
S. R. CURTIS,
(6) (Vol. 5, p. 102,
Camp Benton, October 16, 1861.
C. McKeever, A. A. G.:
Have detailed Captain Spoore’s company, Dodge’s light battery, and the captain, to go forthwith.
S. R. CURTIS,
Brig. Gen. Com.
[Vide No.5.] (7) [Vol. 5.p.111.
St. Louis, October 16, 1861.
Brigadier General CURTIS, Benton Barracks:
Colonel Carlin is in command south of St. Louis county. His headquarters are at Pilot Knob, Send six days’ provisions with Colonel Boyd’s regiment. Have the remaining companies of the eighth Wisconsin left this morning? Thompson is at Farmington. Answer how soon troops can be at depot.
C. McKeever, A. A. G.
[ Vide No. 6.] (8) [Vol. 5, p. 111.
St. Louis, October 16, 1861.
Brigadier General CURTIS, Benton Barracks:
Have one of the companies of light artillery under your command equipped immediately. You will make requisition upon Major Allen and Captain Callender for everything that is necessary. Please notify me which company you intend equipping.
By order of General Fremont.
C. McKeever A. A. G.
The next dispatch is from General Fremont, McKinstry’s express having reached him and brought back his orders. Fortunately they came too late to make another Springfield or Lexington at Frederickton:
Headquarters, October 2l, 1861.
To Brigadier General Curtis
Order all the troops that you have sent on the Iron Mountain road back to Benton barracks. The whole affair has been grossly exaggerated. Colonel Carlin should have kept the road open without any additional force.
By order of Major General Fremont.
C. McKeever, A. A. A. G.
The querulous tone of this dispatch proves that it emanated from the commanding general, who never thought anybody to be in danger but himself. It could not have been McKeever’s, because he had concerted the movements with Curtis which led to the sending of the reinforcements countermanded by Fremont. I read another dispatch announcing the victory:
HEADQUARTERS, October 21, 1861.
To Brigadier General CURTIS, Benton Barracks:
Colonel Carlin left Pilot Knob Sunday. Attacked the enemy yesterday and routed him. The eighth Wisconsin and Colonel Boyd’s Missouri volunteers will remain for the present at Pilot Knob. You will order Colonel St. James with his command to return immediately to Benton barracks. Orders will be issued at once sending his regiment forward to Tipton.
C. McKeever, A. A. A. G.
A singular fact in connection with this transaction which deserves mention is, that the dispatch to Curtis, countermanding the reinforcements is not to be found in the whole batch produced by the gentleman from Indiana; each of which has the mark of the folio of Fremont’s order-book attached to it, showing who furnished them, for the purpose of appropriating to General Fremont the honors of that victory. The dispatch to Curtis is discreetly left out. May we not presume that the man who suppressed that dispatch might overlook others calculated to throw light on the other events of the “hundred days.” The dispatch to Curtis was given to me by that gentleman with his own hand; I use it now, that honor may be given where honor is due.
We have heard much in this House and out of it of the great army which General Fremont created, and of the enthusiasm which he inspired. I had thought that the people of the West had volunteered for the defense of the cause. When the President made his first call for “three months” volunteers, the quota was filled to overflowing in the West. The second call was filled up before General Fremont’s reluctant footsteps were lured back from France by the offer of a major generalship. Every call made on the people of the West has been filled, and the acceptance of more men was refused by the Government. But the idolators of General Fremont will have it that his popularity alone created our western army, and that the Governors and people of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Missouri, and the entire Northwest have no merit at all in this matter; but when we have been forced by the clamors of his partisans almost to admit that he alone raised this vast army, and when we beheld with our eyes their gallant array, as we did on the grand flotilla which bore him and them to Cairo, when the pleading for succor fell sadly on our ears before the battle of Wilson’s Creek, and as we did, also, at that splendid pageant which commemorated the inauguration of Benton barracks, at the very hour when the booming cannon shook the resounding hills at Lexington, and when we ask why were these brave men not permitted to succor their brothers and carry our banners to victory upon the stricken fields of Wilson’s Creek and Lexington instead of ministering to the pride and vainglory of our chief, then we are told that these long and splendid lines of troops, who marched before our own eyes to the sound of martial music and with flaunting flags, were not men, they were phantoms; the gay flotilla “a painted ship upon a painted ocean;” and the clang of arms, which made the breast of more than one burly brigadier swell with pride, and paled the cheek of beauty at Benton barracks, was a mere imagination of men, and a thing unreal.
Now, sir, he did have the troops, but he did not know how to use them. He did not create these troops. Most of them were enlisted before his feet touched the shores of America on his return from Europe. Missouri overflowed her quota. I have seen men in Missouri after he arrived there, high men, too, coming to him with offers of regiments, and they were elbowed out of the way by his lackeys and orderlies. They were made to give way to the California cormorants. The army that he raised was that army of contractors who settled down upon us like obscene birds of prey upon a carcass. They elbowed everybody else out of the way, and unfortunately for him and the country, engrossed his time and attention. I suppose that there are no men in America whose characters are so bad as the men who were his familiars and associates. Of course, I do not refer to the gentlemen who were near him, of whom there were many on his staff; very many of them were most honorable men, whose only motives were to serve the country and to serve him, and among that number I take pleasure in distinguishing the gentleman from Indiana. My allusion is directed to those who sought him for the sake of contracts. Those of his aids-de-camp who did get contracts were the worst of all.
I desire, in this place, although somewhat out of place in the line of my remarks, to refer, for a moment, to an allusion in the speech of the gentleman from Indiana, to the effect that St. Louis was seething with treason when Fremont arrived there. The general himself stigmatizes St. Louis as a rebellious city, over which he was compelled to establish martial law, and resort to the most stringent measures to prevent the secessionists from taking the town. These statements are made in utter ignorance of affairs in St. Louis. The city and county of St. Louis voted for Abraham Lincoln for President by a large majority, and almost all the votes of the minority were given for Douglas. The vote for Breckinridge did not number one thousand, in a total vote of more than twenty thousand. I venture the assertion that, at the time General Fremont came to the city, there were not a thousand secessionists there. They had the whole winter, with the State and national Governments in their favor, to raise and arm men for the secession cause, and yet they raised only two meager regiments; the other troops captured with these two regiments at Camp Jackson, by General Lyon, on the 10th of May, came from the interior of the State. The secessionists are found among the would-be respectable people, and a few other thoughtless persons, led by these upstarts; but when the call to arms was made in support of the Union cause, ten thousand men volunteered in St. Louis in two weeks, and ten thousand more would have offered if they could have been accepted. No congressional district in the Union has given so many soldiers to the Union cause as the city and county of St. Louis. St. Louis a rebellious city! There never was a greater slander uttered by any man. Some of the rich men were, as he said, secessionists, but the working men, the mechanics and the great body of the people, nine tenths of them, were for the Union, and ready to bear arms in its defense. The declaration of martial law by General Fremont was the offspring of timidity, seeking to prevent imaginary dangers by inspiring the terrors with which he himself was haunted. The robust courage of Lyon failed to see any efficacy in martial law, even when the traitors were openly congregating in Camp Jackson. He relied on his own courage and the valor of his soldiers. The people of that city took up arms, when they were not permitted to bear commissions, but the men who bore arms for their country without commissions from anybody, sustained the power of the Government in the State of Missouri. If they had waited for commissions, an armed minority would have trampled down the authority of the Government there, as was done in many, if not all, of the southern States. It can be said of St. Louis, what cannot be said of any city in a slave State, that the arsenal of the United Suites and the United States treasury were saved to the Government by its loyal citizens, while the State and national governments were conspiring for their capture.
I return to the point I was discussing before this digression on the subject of the loyalty of St. Louis demanded that I should say a few words in defense of the patriotism of its citizens. General Fremont approaches the subject of contracts with rather more of confusion in his manner than characterizes the rest of his statement. In respect to the Beard contract, he makes use of some remarkable language. Among other things, with regard to this contract, when speaking of its treatment in the report of the Van Wyck committee, he says:
“Concerning the contract for this work the committee of investigation say that it was made under the ‘special order and direction of General Fremont,’ and concerning the payments that they were made upon his ‘personal order’. The following extract will show that not only was I recognized to have this power, but that I was so late as the 3d of September, counseled to exercise it by the Quartermaster General, General Meigs.”
Here is the counsel of Quartermaster General Meigs, which he quotes:
Letters of the Hon. M. Blair, P. M. G.
“WASHINGTON, September 3, 1861.
“Meigs begged me this afternoon to get you to order fifteen-inch guns from Pittsburg for your gunboats. He says that the boats can empty any battery the enemy can make with such guns. He advises that you contract for them directly yourself, telling the contractor you will direct your ordnance officer to pay for them.”
Quartermaster General Meigs counsels him to buy fifteen-inch guns. For what? For his gunboats. And this he construes as authority to erect fortifications around St. Louis, forgetful of the order of the Secretary of War to stop the erection of these same fortifications, and make no further payment on account of them, which order he set at defiance, and continued the construction of the forts, and ordered the payment of $60,000 on them to be made by Major Allen, as is clearly shown by the testimony of that officer in the very report upon which he was commenting. What is still more singular is, that when the committee were charging that this was a case of gross fraud upon the Government, and not laying so much stress upon his want of authority, that he should set up his power to make the contract instead of vindicating its fairness. The contract, by its terms, requires that the forts shall be built in five days. It is proven, and admitted by General Fremont; that he set Beard to work upon them as soon as he (Beard) arrived in St. Louis from California. The first payment on account of the forts was made to Beard on the 29th of August; the contract was dated on the 25th of September. It is shown by the testimony that Beard had been working for twenty-five gays on the forts before the contract was signed, which contract required him to complete them in five days. It is proven that the forts were not completed on the 14th of October, when the Secretary of War ordered Fremont to stop the work on them. The work continued. How long Beard was in completing them, I do not know. I have been informed that they were not completed on the 1st of November.
Thus it is established that Beard was working for six weeks, and probably for two months, on a job which he had stipulated to finish in five days. The fact of his having been employed in constructing these forts for six weeks, is brought home to the knowledge of General Fremont; the stipulation to complete them in five days was the colorable pretext merely for the enormous prices paid him for the job. Beard built five of the forts; five others were built under the superintendence of Major Kappner, he employing and paying the laborers. The five built by Kappner cost $60,000, and were one fifth larger than the five built by Beard, who received in money $171,000, and received orders upon the quartermaster, signed by General Fremont, for $75,000 more; making in all $246,000. The committee in their report say:
“It will be seen, therefore, the total amount ordered to be paid to Beard, on account of these works, by General Fremont, was $246,000, of which $171,000 was actually paid. Through the firmness of Major Allen, who appears to be a vigilant and incorruptible guardian of the public interest, this last amount of $60,000 was saved from going into the capacious and already gorged pocket of Beard, who, in the language of Major Allen, was the ‘leader among the contractors,’ and perhaps ‘the most extravagant and grasping of them all.”‘
The committee say further:
“There is, however, another way of testing the character of this contract. The five forts built by Major Kappner, by days’ work, which would ordinarily be the most expensive way, cost the sum of $60,000, while they were one fifth larger on an average than the five built by Beard. Major Kappner testifies positively that the five forts built by Beard would certainly not cost more than $60,000, which the five forts cost that he built. Allowing to Beard the liberal estimate that the cost of building the five forts which he constructed was $60,000, he has already obtained from the Treasury of the United States the profit of $111,000; and had the additional amount of $75,000 been paid him, which General Fremont had ordered to he paid, the Government would have been defrauded in that one transaction out of the enormous sum of $176,000.
“From the facet that the contract with Beard was entered into so long after the work had been commenced by him it has the appearance that it was really intended to cover all the work on all the forts—that done by Major Kappner by days’ work as well a by himself—for the purpose of enabling him to obtain pay for the whole at the extravagant and outrageous prices provided for in his contract. It is but justice to General McKinstry to state that he is not responsible for this contract. It was made at headquarters, and the enormous and unconscionable prices were there fixed upon between General Fremont and the contractor, and the payments made by him on the contract were made by the express direction of General Fremont. He acted for the commanding general, and by his direction. Beard brought to him a paper from headquarters, ‘formally drawn up,’ which contained the prices. (See Clement’s testimony, p. 885.) He objected to the prices, and ‘greatly reduced them.’ If the prices named in the contract were tile ‘reduced’ prices, it would be a matter of curiosity to know what the original prices were as sent from headquarters.”
I cannot forbear another quotation from the report of the committee:
“The money appropriated by Congress to subsist and clothe and transport our armies was thus, in utter contempt of all law and of the Army regulations, as well as in utter defiance of superior authority, ordered to be diverted from its lawful purpose, and turned over to the cormorant, Beard. While he had received $171,000 from the Government, it will be seen from the testimony of Major Kappner that there had only been paid to the honest German laborers, who did the work on the first five forts built under his direction, the sum of $15,500, leaving from forty to fifty thousand dollars still their due. And while these laborers, whose families were clamoring for bread, were besieging the quartermaster’s department for their pay, this rapacious contractor, Beard, with $171,000 in his pocket, is found following up the army, and in the confidence of the major general, who gives him orders for large purchases, which only could have been legally made through the quartermaster’s department, and which afforded him further opportunities for still plundering the Government.”
I can only add to this, that the laboring men who did the work for Beard went without their money as well as those who did the work under Kappner. Dozens of them came to my house to ask how they should get their money, and as I was not its well acquainted with Beard as General Fremont appears to be, from his statement, and had not the same confidence in him as the general declared that he had, I could not answer their questions.
The above quotations show what was the gravamen of the charge made by the committee, and I regard it as a most singular answer to this charge that Quartermaster General Meigs had recommended him to purchase fifteen-inch guns for his gunboats.
This allusion to gunboats, however, reminds me of the declaration made by the gentleman from Indiana, [Mr. Shanks,] and many times repeated in his speech, in praise of the forethought and energy of Fremont to ordering and constructing the gunboats on the western waters. The gentleman says they were a part of Fremont’s plan, and originated by him. Now, sir, I am compelled to state, in vindication of the truth of history, that Fremont did not order the gunboats, and that the plan did not originate with him. They were ordered before he came back from Europe. The Government had determined upon the plan, and the advertisements for proposals were published before he reached the shores of America. They were intended for McClellan when he was in command of that department. The idea of the mortar boats originated with Captain Fox, Assistant Secretary of the Navy, to whom the whole merit of their plan is justly due.
The gentleman from Indiana is haunted with the idea of an awful combination against the “champion of freedom.” There is scarcely a paragraph in his speech in which this combination does not crop out. He classifies the parties to that combination or conspiracy, and goes over it again and again in “damnable iteration,” showing that it had made a great impression on his mind, and that he actually believed in it. Parties to this “unholy alliance” consisted of pro-slavery men, jealous politicians looking to the Presidency, West Pointers, and contractors. I do not know in which of these classes the gentleman has placed me. I am inclined to think that I am left out altogether. My opposition to slavery has been tried and proven in a more severe ordeal than any through which the gentleman front Indiana or General Fremont have ever been called on to pass. It has been tested in worse places and in worse times than either of them have ever experienced. I have sealed my devotion to that cause by quite as many sacrifices as the gentleman from Indiana, or his friend General Fremont. I intend, so far as I can, under the Constitution of my country, to continue my hostility to the institution of slavery. I shall oppose, as I have always opposed, its existence in the State in which I live; and if any mode, under the Constitution, can be devised by which the institution of slavery can be obliterated from all the States in the Union, I shall be among the first to support that measure; but I will not aid in breaking down the Constitution even to destroy slavery. I consider the Constitution of more value to me and to my children than any other earthly possession.
During the pendency of the present struggle, I have taken upon myself some slight hazards in its defense, and will never be found enrolled among its enemies and violators, no matter from what quarter they may come. I understand that by pro-slavery men the gentleman means to designate those who opposed the proclamation of General Fremont. I can say that I did not see anything very bad in that proclamation. Nobody paid much attention to it in Missouri, where it really had little or no effect. Everybody understood very well that it was not intended for that meridian, but that it was put out for a campaign in New England and elsewhere. It was not intended to operate upon the theater of war, where its only effect would be to make the rebels fight more desperately to save their property and negroes; it was rather intended for a political campaign in which the general had embarked, and in which he hoped for better success than had attended his arms. The net results of this bombastic proclamation was the loss of two armies and the liberation of two negroes—negroes that did not belong to the man from whom they were taken, but to his wife, to whom they were secured by a marriage contract. The deeds of emancipation which he gave to these two negro men were intended to point an electioneering document. In the course that I have thought proper to pursue towards General Fremont, I believe I am uninfluenced by any sentiment of jealousy. I have heretofore given him a very cordial support for every position to which he has aspired, and I am unconscious of ever having experienced a feeling of jealousy to any one. There is certainly nothing in General Fremont’s present position to inspire any one with jealousy. I am neither a West Pointer nor a contractor, and do not feel myself included in the conspiracy, which the imagination of the gentleman from Indiana has conjured up.
My belief is that the President was operated upon in the removal of General Fremont by his own judgment upon events which transpired in Missouri. Before General Fremont took command in that department uninterrupted success attended the standard of the Union. The first blow which was struck for the Government was given in Missouri; the first successes of the cause were won upon the soil of that State. Camp Jackson, Booneville, and Carthage, made the names of Lyon and Sigel historic, and gilded the cloud of disaster which had settled upon our arms elsewhere. The welcome which greeted the advent of Fremont had hardly ceased to sound before the cry of distress broke upon our ears. Humiliation, disaster, defeat, and disgrace, came with him, remained with him, and went away with him and his army of contractors.
As soon as the paralyzing influence of his imbecility was removed victory came back to the standard of the Union in the West, and the advancing columns of our victorious armies have penetrated to the very heart of the rebellion, inflicting blows from which it lies writhing in death, and from which it can never recover.
I believe it is the judgment of mankind that there is no such thing as an unfortunate great man. A man to be great must be able to do great things with small means; and when we hear of a fellow going whimpering around the country trying to give the reasons for his being whipped, the spectacle may excite sympathy, he may even be regarded as a very good man, but nobody will ever select him as a fit person to fight battles and to carry on war.
The admirers of General Fremont say that he would have won a victory if he had been permitted to remain in command. The world would have more confidence if he had given any proof of his capacity by winning victories when he had a command. It was with great difficulty that the order for General Fremont’s removal was carried through his lines. A messenger who bore the dispatch passed through his lines by a ruse, as I am given to understand, and delivered it to General Fremont.
The newspapers that were in his interest in St. Louis announced that, when the intelligence of his removal was made known, there was a mutiny in the army, and that there was a meeting of officers, especially of those whose commissions expired with the end of his service in the department; that they gathered around him, and shouted “Hurrah for Fremont, and down with Hunter!” His friends say that he used his potent influence to put down this terrible mutiny. There was no mutiny that was not of his own making. The press in St. Louis, in his interest and under his control, instigated mutiny, and promoted it by every species of influence they could bring to bear; by misrepresentations of the grossest character; by appeals to the pride and passions of the men.
The general himself permitted it by not preventing it, if he did anything to quell the mutiny, it was only when he found that it did not extend beyond a few of his own dependents and retainers, and that the army had risen in defense of the country and not to put him above the country. The conduct of his nearest and most trusted friends, and the conduct of the press, which had only spoken during his administration of the department as he dictated, proved most conclusively that he would have defied the Government and retained the command, if he had dared to do so.
The fact that his friends applaud him, even for yielding his command when ordered to do so by the Government, shows how little margin there is for praise when such an act, under such circumstances, is extolled. But as little as there is to exalt in his enforced obedience to what he could not and dared not resist, yet it was the most commendable act, after all, of his administration.
“Nothing in life [official life] so became him
As the leaving it.”