Andrew Johnson: A Study in Courage

By Lloyd Paul Stryker | Go to book overview

LXII
JOHNSON REMOVES STANTON

SHERMAN having failed him, Johnson had to find the best substitute he could. Not very happily he now hit on old General Lorenzo Thomas,--neither a blood nor spiritual relative of the hero of Nashville. He graduated from West Point in 1819, and was then nearing seventy. He became Adjutant-General three days after Lincoln took his first oath of office.1 His service in the war had been confined to inspection trips, missions for the exchange of prisoners and the organization of colored regiments. His last military duty comprised the examination of soldier cemeteries.2 He was a garrulous old man with an undistinguished war record. He had never lost his position of Adjutant-General, but during Stanton's administration had been assigned to duty far away from Washington. At Welles' suggestion, on February 14th, Johnson directed Grant to restore Thomas to the full charge of the Adjutant-General's office.

The choice of Thomas was not a fortunate one. He was a military fuss-budget of the kind not infrequently encountered among old officers of the regular establishment who have seen but little active duty. Military men are not often adapted to civil tasks, and the President had in mind for Thomas such a service albeit a very temporary one. On February 18th he told Thomas that he thought of making him his Secretary of War ad interim.3 Three days later Thomas was again summoned to the White House. This time the President handed two letters to his secretary, Col. Moore, and directed that they be read to Thomas.4 This was the first of the two letters to which Thomas listened:

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