Monday, October 22, 2012

Intrigue and a Paint Brush

John Cochrane
In 1813, John Cochrane was born in Palatine NY. Cochrane studied law, entered the bar in 1834, and moved to New York City in 1846. In the 1852 campaign, Cochrane avidly supported Franklin Pierce who in turn rewarded Cochrane with the appointment of Surveyor for the Port of NY. Next Cochrane was elected as a Democrat to both the 35th & 36th Congresses where he served as a Representative until March 3, 1861. His bid for reelection to the 37th Congress was unsuccessful but he did serve as a delegate at the Democratic National Conventions in Charleston and Baltimore in 1860. In June 1861, Cochrane joined the Union army as Colonel of the 65th NY Infantry and was promoted to Brigadier in July 1862. During the Maryland Campaign, Cochrane commanded the 3rd brigade of  the 1st Division of the IV Corps. (1)

Cochrane was not a participant in the battle at Antietam because the IV Corps had been assigned to Harpers Ferry by McClellan. After the battle ended on the evening of 17th, McClellan assessed his situation and determined to renew the fight on the morning of the 18th. He sent orders to Couch to abandon Maryland Heights and move his IV Corps to Sharpsburg with haste. With the arrival of Couch (and Humphrey) on the morning of the 18th, as well as large portions of the V and VI Corps that had not been used in the previous day’s fighting, McClellan had nearly 30,000 fresh troops on hand. However, McClellan chose not to use these soldiers due to the strain of the night march. Instead, McClellan suspended orders to resume the fight and then succumbed to a case of dysentery. (2)

Although Cochrane missed being a part of this crucial battle, days later he made up for it by being part of a significant conversation. While this discussion is often referred to, it seems the importance of it is woefully understated. Members of what I call the “Emancipation Panel” included McClellan, Cochrane, Burnside, and Cox. On September 22th, Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. As to why McClellan felt the need to respond to this proclamation is a mystery since he was well aware that he harbored powerful enemies in high places just waiting for a misstep to point to treasonous behavior. It would have been more appropriate and favorable for him to remain silent but that was not McClellan’s style. Nonetheless, he called these men together and, according to Cox, it was “for the purpose of asking our opinions and advice with regard to the course he should pursue respecting the Proclamation...and whether we thought he should say anything or should maintain silence on the subject”. The Panel questioned McClellan on his beliefs in regards to slavery and the war to which he responded “the war would work out the manumission of the slaves gradually...however, that the Proclamation was premature”. Cox stated that he, Burnside, and Cochrane all advised McClellan that “any declaration on his part against the Proclamation would be a fatal error...that any public utterance by him in his official character criticizing the civil policy of the administration would be properly regarded as a usurpation” and even though McClellan agreed, he declared that there were forces at work attempting to thwart the administration by organizing a coup with McClellan as leader of this insurgency. I think what needs to be most emphasized here is that it is extremely plausible that had McClellan decided to march upon Washington and topple Lincoln, that the Army of the Potomac would have followed him. The question that needs to be answered is--- who were these agitators urging McClellan to engage in treason? It can be surmised that John Garrett and William Aspinwall were likely whispering in McClellan's ear. Possibly even John Fitz-Porter. But who were the “others” McClellan referred to when he said “people assured him that the army was so devoted to him that they would as one man enforce any decision he should make as to any part of the war policy”? No doubt McClellan had a huge flair for drama, but in this case I do believe there was a ring of conspirators who were exerting undue pressure on McClellan to make a disloyal move on Washington. (3)

Jacob Cox

Ambrose Burnside
Nonetheless, it was discussed that if “there was agitation in camp on the subject, and intrigues of the sort...[was it not] wise for him to say something which would show, at least, that he gave no countenance to any would-be revolutionists”. The Panel agreed that McClellan should release general orders to “remind the army...that whatever might be their rights as citizens, they must as soldiers beware of any organized effort to meddle with the functions of the civil government”. On October 7th, McClellan released General Orders No. 163 which stated the afore mentioned.  (4)

George McClellan
 For whatever reason, Cochrane was so impressed with McClellan and his anti-slavery views that Cochrane ran off to Washington to meet with Chase who Cochrane correctly believed “constituted a central point, to which converged the multifarious strands of the radical web...[and was] a decided and resolute opponent of General McClellan”. Not only did Cochrane wish to change Chase and the Radicals opinions about McClellan, but he also held the bold notion that HE COULD REPLACE HALLECK WITH MCCLELLAN so that he could eliminate the “selfish machinations” that were endangering the successful prosecution of the war. Talk about intrigue! Gotta love Civil War politics! According to Cochrane, upon learning of McClellan’s true views in regards to slavery Chase agreed to reinstate him as the head of all armies. Satisfied that Chase was in his back pocket, Cochrane next took off for the Soldier’s Home to converse with Lincoln on the same subject. Cochrane presented the same argument to the President and claimed Lincoln “answered that the plan had occurred to him, and that it might, perhaps, supply the proper relief for the troubles we were enduring, and avert the dangers which menaced”. Wow! According to Cochrane, this scheme never played out due to McClellan being associated with the Democrats and this party’s open hostility towards the Lincoln administration during the 1862 election. After the election, McClellan found himself out of a job rather than being promoted to the top spot, ouch. (5)

As to what Burnside’s reaction was to this conversation with McClellan, Cox, and Cochrane, it’s hard to say. According to his biographer, Burnside “had actively enforced slave laws to win over uncommitted North Carolinians, [but] Burnside’s observations had convinced him that no amount of such currying would lure the South back into the would be more threaten them into a renunciation of secession on the penalty of total emancipation, while implying that slavery might continue (if it could) if the ordinance of secession were revoked”. Other than that, Burnside’s thoughts remain unknown. Unfortunately, I haven’t found any works written by Burnside covering the Maryland Campaign. The Rhode Island Historical Society has the majority of his papers but there is gap spanning June-November 1862. (6)

First Reading of the Emancipation Proclamation (Located in Senate wing of US Capitol)
So now I come to the paint brush. In 1864, FB Carpenter lived at the White House for six months. During this time, he set up a canvas in the State Dining Room and painted the First Reading of the Emancipation Proclamation by President Lincoln. There are three things associated with this painting that I find to be truly interesting. First, Carpenter chose “not the signing of the final proclamation, but the July 1862 cabinet meeting at which Lincoln first told his ministers that he intended to issue the momentous order”. I think most would assume that this painting depicts the signing but as the title states, it is only the first reading. Second, although Carpenter hugely admired Seward, the painting actually shows Seward objecting “to the issuing of the proclamation until it could be sustained by a Union battlefield victory...the most famous painting ever made of the Emancipation Proclamation thus ironically depicted not its enactment but its postponement”. Bet that nugget of information would make a few modern day crusaders a little red in the face. (7) 
1860 Census Map
Third, and by far the most interesting and completely overlooked, are the two maps made by the United States Coast Survey in the painting. The first map in the lower right corner is the “Map Showing the Distribution of the Slave Population of the Southern States of the United States Compiled From the Census of 1860”. As the longest-ever-title states, this map shows the slave population in the South based on the statistics from the 1860 census. The 1860 census was the last time slaves were counted and this is the first map that shows the distribution of that last count. The amount of slaves per county is illustrated through the light/dark shading. It is abundantly clear where slave populations were highest (Mississippi River region and coastal South Carolina). Ironically, one can count the near order of secession based on the states slave population holdings.  Although there were a plethora of maps available (however, not always accurate), Lincoln chose this map to help with strategic planning since it clearly displayed the Confederacy’s labor system of slavery. It did not go unnoticed by Carpenter that Lincoln constantly referred to this map. Carpenter wrote that he wanted to display the map in his painting so “he carried it off one day, without the President’s knowledge, and as the copying of it was a tedious affair, it remained in the studio for some time...[until] one afternoon the President came in...[and] his eye fell upon the map...[and exclaimed] ‘you have appropriated my map, have you? I have been looking all around for it’”. (8)

1863 Map of the State of Virginia
The second map located on the table behind Seward is the US Coast Survey’s 1863 “Map of the State of Virginia”. This map too shares a military element. It displays concentric rings from Richmond outward every 10 miles as well as every rail line and mileage distance by rail.  In addition, all towns and terrain features are prominently displayed. These elements also factored into and guided Union strategy. It’s no surprise that Carpenter featured these two maps in his painting. (9) 
Concentric rings around Richmond

Rail Lines and Mileage

So in this blissful trip of a post I have gone from a New York Representative---who, after the crucial battle of Antietam, was included in a conversation about a newly issued proclamation--- back to an earlier discussion about the same  proclamation, whereby its release depended on that crucial battlefield victory, that later led to a painting---which included two maps that illustrated the Union war strategy that enabled and emboldened the release of the Emancipation Proclamation. I hope you followed along and had as much fun as I did!

1. &  Wikipedia
2. McClellan's War by Ethan Rafuse, 205. Pgs 327-328.
3. Military Reminiscences of the Civil War by Jacob Cox, 1900. Pgs 359-360.
4. Cox pg 361.
5. American Civil War by John Cochrane, 1879. pgs 30-33.
6. Burnside by William Marvel, 1991. Pg 153.
7. Six Months at the White House with Abraham Lincoln by FB Carpenter, ed. by Harold Holzer, 2008. Pgs 8-9.
8. Carpenter pg 234. Notes on maps from 2011 Geography & Map Division (LOC) Civil War Maps Seminar.
9. Notes on maps from 2011 Geography & Map Division (LOC) Civil War Maps Seminar

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