With hand-drawn artwork, it is the only known document bearing the signatures of the Union leadership, presidential, political and military, as the war commenced
The people of the Union rallied to these very men as their hope for victory over the Confederacy after the disaster at Bull Run; a number of these signatories would die in action
Though it is much grander, this document did form the template of future fund raising for the Sanitary Commission;...
Explore & Discover
- The Team of Rivals - Lincoln and his original cabinet in 1861, the original Team of Rivals, including Simon Cameron, who does not appear in other Team of Rivals documents
- The Generals - Among the military leaders was Winfield Scott, hero of the Mexican War and General in Chief at the start of the war
- The Military Leadership - General McClellan has signed, as Dahlgren, Burnside, Miggs and Butler. This is the complete military leadership as war broke out.
- Men in the Field - John C. Fremont is among many of the famed military men who have signed, as have many others, some of whom would not survive the war.
- The Civilians - Among the many civilian leaders are the head of the Sanitary Commission and the head of the Smithsonian Institution. There are many others, including politicans.
- The Art - This is a unique document, hand drawn. There almost certainly no other.
- The Hero of Ft. Sumter - Robert Anderson has signed. You can see the autograph of General Banks below.
The people of the Union rallied to these very men as their hope for victory over the Confederacy after the disaster at Bull Run; a number of these signatories would die in action
Though it is much grander, this document did form the template of future fund raising for the Sanitary Commission; it is almost certainly the first document Lincoln and his Team of Rivals signed in its support
An extraordinary, unique broadside, signed by Abraham Lincoln and his Cabinet; heroes like Robert Anderson of Fort Sumter fame; Army generals like Winfield Scott, George B. McClellan, and Ambrose Burnside; early emancipation promoters like John C. Fremont and Benjamin Butler; founders of important fighting units like Thomas Meagher of the Irish Brigade; Navy notables like John Dahlgren and Charles Wilkes; and many others
All the momentous year of 1860, the danger to the unity of the American nation had been increasing. Southerners were fed up with what they saw as Northern interference, constraints and hypocritical morality, and feared being relegated to a powerless minority if the western territories were not open to slavery and were admitted to the Union as free states. The election of Abraham Lincoln as President on November 8 was to them the last straw, and proved to be the catalyst for bringing the forty year antagonism between the South and North over slavery to a head. “Fire-eating” secessionists, men who would split the nation asunder, long on the fringes of Southern society and looked on by many as crackpots, had a meteoric rise to positions of influence. They found their vision of an independent South taken up by mainstream leaders and made instantly respectable. The idea of a rich, powerful, expansionist South creating an empire and new Roman-style “classical age,” centered around the Caribbean, proved a heady wine that thrilled previously sensible souls. From election day in November through the long winter of 1860-61, the South went beyond visions and staged an uprising. State after state left the Union to form their own Southern commonwealth. Its people were delirious, even intoxicated with joy; strangers embraced on the streets. Their new world, free of the North, appeared to be imminent and only need be acted upon to become reality.
In the North, the anxiety and confusion over the deteriorating state of the country and what to do about it developed into panic and desperation as more and more Southern states seceded, and it became evident that there was no clear way to stem the tide. Northerners believed that the South had maintained an unfair stranglehold on the Federal government for decades, and that Northerners had been constantly called upon to compromise their principles to appease the slaveholders. Now they saw that all their efforts and painful accommodations had been for nothing. Many considered that Southerners had played them for fools. To add insult to injury, cocky U.S. government functionaries from the South sported secession badges and publicly proclaimed loyalty to the South, some even swearing to prevent the inauguration of the lawfully elected incoming President Lincoln. The clamor for something to be done grew with every treasonable act the North saw taken by a Southern state or politician, and this only increased when the seceded states began to seize U.S. government property located in their jurisdictions. The perceived Northern inaction in the face of escalating Southern actions created overwhelming tension and frustration in the North. One U.S. leader did stand up to actively resist the seizures: John A. Dix, who on January 29, 1861, while he was Secretary of the Treasury, famously wrote Treasury agents in New Orleans after Louisiana seceded: “If any one attempts to haul down the American flag, shoot him on the spot”. He became the toast of the North.
As the winter ended and the spring of 1861 came on, Southerners were confident and bellicose, and considered their independence a fact, while Northerners felt ill-used, increasingly sullen and enraged. This proved to be an explosive combination. By April, the situation was extremely tense and emotions had built to a crescendo. On April 12, into this powder keg was quite literally dropped a match, the one that ignited the Confederate cannon that fired on Fort Sumter in Charleston harbor and started the Civil War. The fort’s U.S. army garrison, led by Col. Robert Anderson, held out for days, and Anderson became a hero in the North, the living symbol of resistance to treason. Both North and South plunged immediately into a hysteria the likes of which no one alive today has experienced and which we can only imagine. War fever was pervasive, and both sides made calls for troops. The very air seemed vibrant and electric with excitement. Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., Civil War soldier and distinguished Supreme Court justice, described the feeling some three quarters of a century later, saying “in our youths our lives were touched with fire.”
In those April days, troops from New York and Massachusetts rushed toward Washington to defend the nation’s capital. Gen. Benjamin F. Butler, who was a Southern sympathizer before secession, led the Massachusetts troops, and stopping in Annapolis to secure Maryland’s loyalty and thus Washington’s communication lines to the North, he threatened to arrest the Maryland legislature if it tried to secede. Nathaniel Banks, who shared responsibility for maintaining Maryland in the Union, actually arrested the police chief and commissioners of the city of Baltimore, and replaced the police force with one that had more carefully vetted pro-Union sympathies. Maryland did not secede, and for acting decisively, Butler and Banks were the talk of the North.
In the weeks and months following Sumter, men all over the North put aside their personal lives, families, hopes and dreams, to fly to the colors and defend the country. And they were applauded for so doing by friends and family, in the press, and in the streets. George B. McClellan resigned his post as president of the Ohio and Mississippi Railroad, and was in the army just eleven days after Sumter was fired upon. Ambrose Burnside left his position as treasurer of the Illinois Central Railroad to form the 1st Rhode Island Volunteer Regiment. John C. Fremont left his mining business in California to head east and accept a general’s commission. Schuyler Hamilton, grandson of Alexander Hamilton, left his farm left and crops and volunteered as a private in the 7th New York Regiment. And so it went, the cream of the nation’s manhood rose to the occasion and placed themselves in harm’s way to save the Union.
There were then large populations of Irish and German immigrants in the North, and in order to show their support of the national cause, regiments were raised among them by their leaders. Thomas Meagher formed the famed Irish Brigade, and Louis Blenker and Henry Bohlen formed German regiments. Prince Robert of Orléans, the Duke of Chartres and grandson of French King Louis-Phillippe, left France as soon as he heard the news of the war’s outbreak and headed to Washington to offer his services to the United States.
With war breaking out, the leadership in the North centered around President Lincoln and his cabinet, which included all four of his major rivals for the Republican nomination for President in 1860: William H. Seward (Secretary of State), Salmon P. Chase (Secretary of the Treasury), Simon Cameron (Secretary of War), and Edward Bates (Attorney General). It also included potential rival Indiana favorite son Caleb Smith (Secretary of the Interior), who on the morning of the day when the nominations were made, declined to have the Indiana delegation support him for president, and Gideon Welles (Secretary of the Navy), head of the Connecticut delegation and a Chase supporter. Some of these men had been effectively promised positions as part of the negotiations that led to Lincoln’s nomination at the Republican national convention. Many of them objected to the inclusion of each other in the cabinet. There were worries about both geographic distribution and balance between former members of the Whig and Democratic Parties. There were also differences over ideology, ethics and personality. “No President ever had a Cabinet of which the members were so independent, had so large individual followings, and were so inharmonious,” noted New York politician Chancey Depew. Getting them to work together in harmony would require the skill of a brilliant and masterful leader, and the country had that man in its new president – Abraham Lincoln. This cabinet then, was to use Doris Kearns Goodwin’s famous phrase, Lincoln’s “Team of Rivals”.
At the start of the war, both sides believed that the conflict would be short and they would win. But as summer turned into fall, the war was not going well for the Union. The disastrous defeat at Bull Run on July 21 shocked the North, and it became clear that Northerners would either have to throw in the towel or accept the fact that the war was going to be a long and hard one, and do what it would take to win. Some, including New York Tribune publisher Horace Greeley, called for a peace conference, which would have to be predicted on recognizing the independence of the Confederacy. But Lincoln took the opposite tack, calling for 500,000 volunteers and appointing George McClellan, who had achieved a military success in May and June by taking Western Virginia, as commander of the Army of the Potomac, with orders to build an effective fighting force that could bring victory. The country was now truly in jeopardy, and the response of the North to Lincoln’s call was immediate and enthusiastic. Recruiting offices were immediately jammed with tens of thousands of volunteers, and the public was filled with admiration and praise for those who were determined to carry on the struggle.
Slavery lay at the core of the conflict, and two generals took the first steps that would lead to emancipation. In May 1861, now commanding Fort Monroe in Virginia waters, General Butler ordered that because Virginia had seceded, slaves coming into his lines would be considered “contraband of war” and not returned to slavery. Lincoln approved, and this led to the First Confiscation Act. Then in August, General John C. Frémont, commanding in Missouri, attempted to go further than that: he ordered emancipated of all Missouri slaves owned by active Confederates. Lincoln overruled him, but the pressure on Lincoln to free the slaves would now build.
In the Fall of 1861, the North regrouped. Lincoln brought in Generals and politicians and convened Cabinet meetings to prepare. Lincoln hired McClellan to organize an army and he attempted to put the North on war footing. Lee was yet to command the Confederate Army. In November 1861 Capt. Charles Wilkes boarded a British ship carrying two Confederate commissioners bound for England, James Mason and John Slidell, and arresting them, causing an international incident that almost resulted in a war between the U.S. and Great Britain. This was the Trent Affair.
The United States Sanitary Commission was a civilian organization authorized by the U.S. government to provide medical and sanitary assistance to the Union forces during the Civil War. Its roots lay in the efforts of civic leaders, the medical community and women’s organizations to channel the public’s outpouring of support and concern for the troops in ways most useful to the troops. A delegation to Washington in May 1861 led to the formation of a commission to work in collaboration with the War Department and Medical Bureau, and this was approved by Secretary of War Cameron on June 9, 1861, President Lincoln on June 13, and the U.S. Army Surgeon General on June 15. Reverend Henry W. Bellows, a Unitarian minister, served as president, with scientist-engineer Alexander Dallas Bache (grandson of Benjamin Franklin) serving as vice-president. The Sanitary Commission did not receive funding from the federal government. Its work was supported by donations of cash and supplies, and in late 1861 the new organization was actively looking for seed money.
Someone – we cannot know who – had the extraordinary idea to raise money for the Sanitary Commission by having the patriotic leaders at the head of the fight to save the country all sign something, and sell or auction it off. The result was this unique, large broadside, with its magnificent hand-drawn image of cannon and flags surmounted by an eagle and 34 stars representing all of the states, signed by the entire top political and military command of the North. It is a veritable snapshot of the Union leadership, heroes, and notables at the start of the Civil War. Research indicates that the signatures were obtained in the period from about August 15 to November 30, 1861.
The first group of signatures appear above lettering indicating their offices. Leading off are the signatures of President Abraham Lincoln and his entire first Cabinet – William H. Seward (Secretary of State), Salmon P. Chase (Secretary of the Treasury and later Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court), Simon Cameron (Secretary of War), Edward Bates (Attorney General), Caleb Smith (Secretary of the Interior), Montgomery Blair (Postmaster General), and Gideon Welles (Secretary of the Navy). We would conjecture that these signatures were obtained at a Cabinet meeting; such meetings were held twice a week. An 1861 date is confirmed by the fact that Cameron was replaced by Edwin M. Stanton in January 1862.
Below them are other public servants. There is Isaac Newton, a farmer who was appointed in August 1861 to serve as chief of the agricultural section of the U.S. Patent Office. The next year he would be named the first commissioner of the U.S. Department of Agriculture; Elisha Whittlesee, Comptroller of the Treasury who first served in that post under President Zachary Taylor; Nathan Sargent, an old friend of Lincoln’s who was rewarded with the position of Commissioner of Customs; Thomas L. Smith, First Auditor of the Treasury Department who had entered that department by appointment of President Andrew Jackson; David P. Holloway, Commissioner of Patents, who was brought in by Lincoln to head the Patent Office in April 1861; Richard Wallach, the first Republican mayor of Washington, DC, who would later oversee the police investigation around Lincoln’s assassination; Joseph H. Bradley, Washington’s city attorney, who would later be John Surratt’s lead lawyer after the Lincoln assassination, and who assaulted the judge in the Surratt trial and as a result was disbarred; Benjamin B. French, named Commissioner of Public Buildings in Washington, DC by President Franklin Pierce, and who was the chief marshal of Lincoln’s inaugural parade on March 4, 1861. He also oversaw a number of historical events including the Gettysburg Address and Lincoln’s funeral; Montgomery Meigs, Quartermaster General of the U.S., whose record was regarded as outstanding, both in effectiveness and in ethical probity. Secretary of State Seward viewed it as a key factor in the Union victory; and Meigs’s aide Colonel A. Beckwith, who was later chief commissary of subsistence for General Sherman on his march to the sea.
Not content with the names pre-selected and lettered on the broadside, the owner had other notables, most particularly the military leadership, add their names.
The four great heroes of early ’61 are present: Gen. Robert Anderson of Fort Sumter fame; John Dix, by then a major general, who in January had threatened to shoot traitors, and whose defiance had become a rallying cry; Generals Benjamin Butler and Nathaniel Banks, who secured Maryland for the Union. Butler’s comrade in pressing for emancipation is here as well. He assumed active command after leaving his Maryland posts, and ended up opposing Stonewall Jackson in the Shenandoah Valley, hardly an enviable task; and Gen. John C. Fremont, the Famed Pathfinder who helped take California in the Mexican War, and who had been the first Republican candidate for president in 1856.
Now comes the nation’s senior military leadership. There is Winfield Scott, General in Chief of the U.S. Army, and the most important American military figure of the early 19th century. He resigned on November 1, 1861, so this was surely signed before then; Col. Henry Van Rensselaer, Scott’s chief of staff; Col. George W. Cullum, Scott’s aide-de-camp, who was later a general; Col. Schuyler Hamilton, Scott’s military secretary; Gen. James G. Totten, Chief Engineer of the U.S. Army, who was involved with every aspect of the Army Corps of Engineers activities, from fortifications to harbor improvement; Edward D. Townsend, Adjutant General of the U.S., who countersigned all of President Lincoln’s army appointments; and Gen. Joseph Mansfield, who was in command of the Department of Washington from the war’s start until mid-August. He became a brigade commander in 1862, and was killed at Antietam.
Scott’s departure on November 1 brought in a new wave of military leaders, and two commanders of the Army of the Potomac have signed this. Gen. George B. McClellan, Scott’s successor, who was already hard at work creating a viable Union Army when he signed, likely in October. Also included are the Frenchman Robert D’Orleans, who served as adjutant general on McClellan’s staff; Edward H. Wright, McClellan’s aide-de-camp; and Gen. Edwin V. Sumner, one of McClellan’s corps commanders and the oldest general in the army. He died in 1863 of natural causes. Gen. Ambrose Burnside was in charge of the new brigades arriving in Washington until mid-September 1861, when he was sent to command the Coast Division in North Carolina. He clearly signed this before he left for the South. Later Burnside succeeded McClellan as commander of the Army of the Potomac; Gen. George Cadwalader, military commander in Maryland, where Union communications were being threatened by local Confederate sympathizers, and then division commander in the Shenandoah Valley; and Col. Henry Wilson, commander of a Massachusetts regiment he had recruited and outfitted, and who was later Vice President of the United States under President Grant.
The foreign commanders who raised regiments and brigades are here also. Gen. Louis Blenker, who formed the 8th New York Infantry, a regiment of German-American volunteers, and later died as the result of injuries suffered during the Virginia campaign of 1862; Gen. Henry Bohlen, who had raised a regiment composed almost entirely of German-speaking residents of Philadelphia and newly arrived German immigrants, and was one of Blenker’s division commanders. After the defeat at Second Bull Run, as the army crossed the Rappahannock River to safety, Bohlen was observed by a rebel sharpshooter while riding across the field directing the movements of his troops, and shot through the head and killed; Oscar Hulteman, a Swede who had served with the French Foreign legion, and arrived in America on September 7, 1861 with a recommendation from the Swedish consul to offer his services to President Lincoln, who have him a position on Blenker’s staff; and Gen. Thomas Meagher, who wanted to demonstrate the loyalty of Irish-Americans, and formed the war’s most famous Irish Brigade, one of the foremost combat units in the Army of the Potomac. He signs as acting general, a post to which he was appointed on October 21, 1861. He became a full general in January, thus dating his signature to the end of 1861.
The Navy is also represented. John Dahlgren was the inventor of the smooth-bore cannon and founder of the Navy’s Ordnance Department. He was head of the Washington Navy Yard at this time. In July of 1863 Dahlgren was promoted to rear admiral and assigned command of the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron. In November 1861 Capt. Charles Wilkes boarded a British ship carrying two Confederate commissioners bound for England, James Mason and John Slidell, and arresting them, causing an international incident that almost resulted in a war between the U.S. and Great Britain. This was the Trent Affair.
Two of Lincoln’s close personal acquaintances are here as well. Edward D. Baker was an Illinois friend so close to Lincoln that Lincoln named his son Eddie after him. Baker became a Senator from Oregon, and his oratorical abilities helped carry California and Oregon for Lincoln. He was one of two Senate escorts for the President-elect on the way to Lincoln’s inauguration in 1861, and it was Baker who introduced “Abraham Lincoln, the President-elect of the United States.” Lincoln gave him an army commission as colonel, and on October 20, 1861, Baker went into the field. He was killed the next day at the Battle of Big Bethel, a Confederate putting a bullet in his head from five feet away. Baker remains the only sitting U.S. Senator to be killed in combat. James Shields was an Illinois politico, and in 1842 after letters ridiculing him by Lincoln and his wife were printed in a Springfield newspaper, he challenged Lincoln to a duel. The two showed up with swords, but their seconds intervened and prevented it at the last minute. Shields was named general by his old foe when the war started, and he commanded a division, being wounded in battle a year later.
At the top of each column are the signatures of Sanitary Commission president and vice president Henry Bellows and A.D. Bache, supporting the conclusion that this broadside relates to that commission’s fundraising efforts. We suspect that Rev. Henry W. Duchachet of Philadelphia was also involved with the commission. The nation’s scientific and historic community is also well represented by these men: Joseph Henry, who was a scientist and the first Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution; William W. Seaton, the Smithsonian’s treasurer; and Peter Force, Smithsonian supporter, former mayor of Washington, DC, collector, historian, and author of the monumental “American Archives”.
There are scores of signatures here, and the person obtaining them had extraordinary access and a clear sense of who was important. He produced a truly unique document; certainly in all our decades in this field we have seen nothing like it. It would be the centerpiece to any collection. It was last on the market in the early 1990s.
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