I am making progress on my biography of Edwin McMasters Stanton.  I am finishing today chapter 9, which takes Stanton to the end of 1862, his first year as Secretary of War.  I have thus finished the first nine chapters, from 1814 through 1862.  I have 1863 ahead of me, two chapters.  The end of…

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I am working away on my biography of Edwin Stanton, writing today the chapter that deals with 1861, the first few months of the Civil War. As I write I do bits of research, to “fill in the gaps” and to answer questions.  This morning, for example, I was looking at letters between Stanton and…

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Tonight, April 18, and probably again a few times in the next few days, I will appear on Smithsonian TV in a show about Lincoln’s death.  Show time tonight is 9pm east coast and west coast. The producers did a good job of weaving together several interviews, including with people who know MUCH more about…

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On December 25, 1860, the New York Tribune reported that there was “intense excitement” in Pittsburgh the prior day because of reports of the imminent “shipment from the Allegheny Arsenal of seventy-eight guns to Newport, near Galveston Island, Texas, and forty-six more to Ship Island, near Balize, at the mouth of the Mississippi River, the…

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I am reading this morning an interesting little book, a memoir by William Crook, body guard for Lincoln.  Crook, when he arrived at the White House in January 1865, was a young police officer, detailed by the Washington chief to help guard the President.  Crook remained on the White House staff after Lincoln’s death; indeed…

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I have started writing the Stanton book.  I am writing what I call chapter X, because I am not sure how many chapters will precede it.  The chapter deals with the first half of 1864, including the Dahlgren raid, the appointment of Grant as lieutenant general, the spring campaign, the bogus proclamation of May 18,…

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I am reading today Paul Bergeron’s excellent book on Andrew Johnson.  Bergeron notes that the question of Lincoln’s role in the selection of Andrew Johnson as vice president has been and continues to be controversial.  The “conventional wisdom” is that Lincoln was neutral in this process; that he allowed the Republican delegates at the Baltimore…

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A few days ago, while reading the memoirs of Philip Sheridan, I noted his meeting with Stanton in Washington on the morning of October 17, 1864.  According to Sheridan, he was summoned to Washington by Stanton himself, and “proceeded at an early hour to the War Department, and as soon as I met Secretary Stanton,…

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I am trying, in the next two months, to get to some of the libraries near Exeter that have key sources for my Stanton biography. Yesterday I was up on the lovely campus of Bowdoin, in Maine, reviewing the papers of William Pitt Fessenden there.  I was reminded, as I often am, of what incredible…

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I am sometimes asked why it is taking me so long to research and write my biography of Edwin Stanton.  Let me answer, somewhat, by relating what I have found in my research regarding a single day, June 2, 1862. There are two main sources for Stanton’s correspondence in this period.  The first is a…

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