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James S. Wadsworth (1807-1864)

James S. Wadsworth
James S. Wadsworth
James S. Wadsworth
James S. Wadsworth was an unlikely soldier and an improbable politician. Wadsworth was “a thorough Radical, in favor of every elision of constitutional guarantees that the President had made, and likewise an ardent emancipationist,”according to historian George Fort Milton.1 Historian Sidney David Brummer wrote: “James S. Wadsworth was a gentleman highly respected for his ability, philanthropy, independence, and public spirit. He was very wealthy, having inherited from his father a large estate in the Genesee River valley, He had been educated at Harvard and Yale, and had studied law at Albany and in Daniel Webster’s office, though he did not practice. In the days of Martin Van Buren, Wadsworth had zealously supported free soil.”2 Illinois Senator Orville H. Browning, himself a moderate, in his diary: “I was much pleased with Genl Wadsworth. He is a calm, sensible, just and reasonable man, intent upon doing his duty in a sensible and reasonable manner, with no tincture of fanaticism about him, but firm in his hostility to slavery and rebellion.”3
At the beginning of the Civil War, Wadsworth was named a major general — first by Governor Edwin D. Morgan and then by President Lincoln. He led one of the first contingents of New York troops to Washington — chartering a ship at his own expense to get there. William O. Stoddard was sent by President Lincoln to “inspect” Wadsworth’s troops in the fall of 1861. He went, expecting lavish treatment at Wadsworth’s headquarters, and was instead treated to “weak whisky and water out of army tin cups. It was difficult for me to make an eloquent response, for I was thinking more of what I would tell Mr. Lincoln about that dinner than of anything I could say.”4
Wadsworth was notable for living in the same conditions as his men — and keeping a sharp eye out for his soldier’s comfort and health. Stoddard recalled a visit to Wadsworth’s military encampment in the fall of 1862. He noted that the general “is known as ‘Wadsworth of Geneseo,’ and he is about the richest brigadier in this army. When he is at home, he can ride up and down the Genesee, mile after mile, upon the lands of his own fair inheritance, and he is a gentleman of cultivated tastes, polished manners, and excellent mental capacity.” When he found Wadsworth’s camp, Stoddard was expecting something in line with the military exhibitions then in vogue.
Is this Wadsworth’s headquarters. Not in a tent-marquee? Only a little, old, paintless, frame farmhouse. Very well, he can fix it up inside to suit himself. Mrs. Wadsworth is with him, and she is said to be a graceful, dignified, accomplished woman. She, too, was born rich, of a high-caste family, and she was a beauty and a belle in her day.
We are just in time to avoid keeping the General’s dinner waiting — that is, unless it is true, as it is said of him, that he would not really postpone it on account of anybody of less rank and importance than an attack in force by the Confederates.
Mrs. Wadsworth is at the head of the table, and she is admirable. The General is here. So are his staff, and several distinguished officers as guests, and the table is indeed brilliant! But it is of pine boards, without any cloth to cover it, and the dinner placed upon it consists rigidly of the regular army rations, well cooked, served in such ware as the private soldiers of Wadsworth’s brigade are eating from, around their camp-fires at this very hour.
This is style!
Can it be possible that, after all, the General is a humorist, and that this is a sarcasm upon the brigadiers, whose income is or should be measured by their pay and allowances? Or is it not rather a wise and simple-hearted fellowship with the men under his command?
“Here comes a reminder that the White House is present, for the General rises and proposes the President’s health, and you are to respond. You suppose they will bring a champagne glass.
What! A tin cup? A black bottle?
Exactly, and the President’s health is drunk in weak whiskey and water instead of champagne. It is just as well, but you are thinking more of what you will tell Mr. Lincoln about this dinner than you are of responding to the toast.”5
Wadsworth didn’t shy from combat — even with other generals and friends of President Lincoln. On March 15, 1862 General Wadsworth was appointed military governor of Washington. “James S. Wadsworth, a brigadier general in charge of Washington defenses, reported to Stanton that he had only 19,022 green troops available with which to defend the capital,” wrote historian Bruce Tap of the general’s appointment as military governor in April 1862.6 The report put him into immediate conflict with General George B. McClellan, who commanded the Army of the Potomac and who claimed that more than 70,000 troops were in position to defend Washington.
Wadsworth also did not shy from stating uncomfortable truths that annoyed less radical politicians and less competent superiors like George B. McClellan. He “maintained that his troops were so unfit that they could scarcely operate the heavy artillery defending the city. Stanton reacted immediately, detailing Ethan Hitchcock and Adj. Gen. Lorenzo Thomas to determine whether McClellan had complied with Lincoln’s orders to secure the capital. After a quick investigation, they assured Stanton that McClellan had not done so. Shortly thereafter, Wadsworth himself explained the situation to Lincoln. The next day he appeared before the committee, reinforcing its members’ intense distrust of McClellan and their suspicions about his loyalty. That same day Lincoln instructed Stanton to hold back McDowell’s corps, depriving McClellan of 35,000 men and creating an open rupture between the administration and the nation’s top general.”7
On April 27, 1862 Wadsworth and Secretary of War Stanton laid out their conclusions about Washington’s inadequate defense in a night Cabinet meeting. “From the outbreak of war, Wadsworth had been notable for his patriotism. At fifty-three, he was still lean and active,” wrote historian Margaret Leech. “A landed proprietor of political interests he resembled in many ways the Southern planters who had dominated Washington before 1861. There was one conspicuous difference. Wadsworth was an ardent abolitionist, unsympathetic to the slaveholding population of the capital. From the moment of taking command, he showed an intense distrust of McClellan — who expressed the opinion that Stanton had inspired this antagonism. On the other hand, Major [William] Doster gathered from Wadsworth and his staff that there had been ill feeling for some months between the New Yorker and McClellan, because Wadsworth, officially and in conversation, had expressed himself in favor of an advance in Virginia.”8
Wadsworth’s complaints about the capital’s vulnerability “made a bitter enemy of McClellan, and in the fall of 1862, seeing no prospect of serving in McClellan’s army, Wadsworth allowed his supporters to run him for governor of New York against the anti-war Democrat Horatio Seymour. He was so intent on being a good soldier, however, that he declined to leave the army to campaign. As a result, he lost the election. He didn’t seem to mind, enjoying the excitement and satisfaction of being with the troops in the field,” wrote historian Larry Tagg.9 As a result of Wadsworth’s report the previous spring, the corps commanded by Irvin McDowell was withheld from McClellan to defend Washington. “A wiser and less arrogant man than McClellan might have anticipated this result. He had not done so. His plans were disarranged, and he indignantly protested that it would now be necessary to lay siege to Yorktown. The War Office saw only that McClellan still had an army of over one hundred thousand men. Smaller armies, with vastly inferior equipment, had been winning important victories, and this fact Stanton proceeded to emphasize in an order giving thanks for the successes of the Union arms,” wrote historian Leech.10
Wadsworth seemed to move from one crisis to another during 1862. He was a prominent advisor to President Lincoln in the critical early days of September 1862 when Washington seemed threatened by the Confederate army under Robert E. Lee after the Union defeat at the Second Battle of Bull Run in late August. Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase recorded in his diary that on September: “After the General left, went to War Department, where found the President, Stanton and Wadsworth. The President said he had felt badly all day. Wadsworth said there was no danger of an attack on Washington, and that he man ought to be severely punished who intimated the possibility of its surrender. The President spoke of the great number of stragglers he had seen coming into town this morning; and of the immense losses by desertion.”11
Meanwhile, Wadsworth’s role as military governor of the District of Colombia had put him in the middle of a overtly political crisis in “which he had endeared himself to the abolitionists by obstructing the operation of the Fugitive Slave Law in the District,” according to historian William B. Hesseltine.12Historian Margaret Leech wrote: “With the departure of the Army of the Potomac for the Peninsula, the contrabands in the District had come under Wadsworth’s charge, together with the control of the provost guard and the military prisons. He had soon moved the blacks from the Old Capitol prison to the near-by houses of Duff Green’s Row. To prevent overcrowding, a number of able-bodied men and women were placed in private service in Washington and other cities. In spite of Wadsworth’s efforts, conditions at Duff Green’s Row were far from ideal. Its constantly changing population lived in miserable poverty. The Negroes had too recently been enslaved to become immediately industrious and self-reliant. They required, not only Government supervision, but philanthropic assistance as well. The Freedman’s Aid Association provided them with clothing and sent them teachers. Colored churches in the city contributed to their relief. Missionaries came down from the North to labor among them.”13 Wadsworth biographer Henry G. Pearson explained the complicated actions of the District courts, helped put Wadsworth and U.S. District Marshal Ward Hill Lamon on a collision course after Congress passed the First Confiscation Act in 1861:
The incompleteness of the measures of emancipation already passed by Congress became apparent the instant the omnipotence of this remarkable statute was invoked; the marshal and his deputies, impelled by the powerful vis a tergo of heavy fines, overran the town. They could invade the contraband quarters with impunity; they could even make search through the regimental camps, for the article of war recently passed, though forbidding officers to return fugitives, made no provision for keeping out civil authorities bent on such an errand. Wadsworth’s military protections counted for naught, and Lamon’s promise that a fugitive thus provided should, if apprehended, be turned back to him, in order that the loyalty of the master might again be investigated, was evaded. One negro, arrested in spite of a ‘protection,’ was tried and returned to his master with such speed that Wadsworth had no opportunity to make his investigation. In other cases Wadsworth was not notified at all.
In the course of their legalized prowlings, Lamon’s officials came to the camp of the Seventh-sixth New York [Regiment]. Here the anti-slavery spirit of the plain soldiers, responsive to the dictates of the ‘higher law,’ brought the slave-hunters to a standstill, and the camp, which contained a number of negroes acting as officers’ servants and in other capacities, went unsearched. On the next day, however, May 22, as the regiment, marched through the streets of the city, it was set upon by the same men. The fugitives were being protected by the menace of bayonets and by the few good knock-down blows from clubbed muskets, but on sight of the writs the officers of the regiments ordered their men to desist, and two captives were taken off for trial.
At the court-house, whither the victims were brought to appear before the commissioners, further demonstration of the might of the Fugitive Slave Law within the District was now to be given. These gentlemen, who were of assured conservative, if not Southern, proclivities, had that morning announced a decision that the law (Section 6) required their proceedings to be ex parte and summary, and that they were not competent to inquire as to the loyalty of the claimant except when he resided in a State that had seceded. By this decision, the slave-holders of Maryland, a large number of whom, it is to be remembered, were disloyal, would be able to recover their fugitive slaves without the disagreeable necessity of taking the oath of allegiance to the United States Government. Veritably, on this day the slave power reached the ne plus ultra of its legal triumphs, and that, too, in the capital of the nation.
A decision much less extreme than this would have sufficed to stir up Wadsworth’s fighting spirit; as it was, he was now ready to go to almost any length in upholding the dignity of the military arm in the city of Washington. The spark which touched off his quick temper was the news brought to him at the end of this same day that Althea Lynch, a mulatto having one of his protections, had been put in the city jail overnight pending further examination by the commissioners. ‘It stands upon something like record,’ to employ a serviceable phrase of the elder Trevelyan, that the said Althea Lynch was cook in the Wadsworth household and that the prospects were dark for breakfast the next morning; but perhaps it is safer to regard this assertion as an embellishment of the narrative. At any rate, having personal knowledge that her owner was disloyal, Wadsworth sent to the jail and demanded the release of the prisoner. The jailer refused. A second demand, threatening force, was also denied. Then Wadsworth, at about nine o’clock in the evening, sent thither his aide, Lieutenant John A. Kress, with a dozen soldiers, who, after considerable parleying, arrested the jailer and also the deputy-marshal, who had arrived upon the scene, took possession of the jail, and set free not only the mulatto in question but all the other contrabands there confined. Lamon, now aroused, dashed to the White House, only to discover that the President was out of town, and then, collecting a force of city police, proceeded to the jail at two o’clock in the morning. Finding there only two of Wadsworth’s men, he was easily able to turn the tables on the military. Later in the day there was a courteous release of the prisoners captured by both sides in this engagement, but the marshal did not regain possession of Althea Lynch.
Meanwhile the situation in its legal aspects were undergoing rapid developments. On the decision of the commissioners that one of the negroes snatched from the ranks, as it were, of the Seventh-sixth New York was to be returned to his master the lawyer, John Dean of Brooklyn, who had been employed to defend the fugitive, applied for a writ of habeas corpus in order to test the applicability of the Fugitive Slave Law in the District of Columbia. Dean’s argument had weight with anti-slavery lawyers at least; but the refusal of his application by the circuit court made it plain that the only hope of remedy lay in Congress. As that body was not yet ready to repeal or to suspend the Fugitive Slave Law, a bill was introduced on June 18 to abolish the circuit court and to establish instead a supreme court, but owing to the lateness of the session, it never came to a vote.
In spite of the decision of the circuit court, Wadsworth yielded not an inch of ground. Taking the attitude that it was not one of the circuit courts to which power had been given to appoint commissioners to act under the Fugitive Slave Law, he in July released negroes imprisoned by Lamon; moreover, in August and again in September he arrested some of Lamon’s officers as kidnappers.14
The conflict between Marshal Lamon and General Washington was partly political and partly personal. “The arrest of the mulatto girl, Alethia Lynch, precipitated the conflict between the civil and military jurisdictions. There was a story that she was General Wadsworth’s cook. In any case, she carried one of his military protections when the constables seized her. Wadsworth sent a peremptory demand for her release. When this was refused, his aide and a squad of the provost guard marched on the jail, took possession of the keys and delivered Alethia by force. The jailer and Deputy Marshal Phillips were arrested and taken to the Central Guard-house; while two lawyers who had arrived on the scene — one was the counsel for the girl’s Maryland owner — were shut up in the Blue Jug,” wrote historian Margaret Leech.15
Historian James G. Randall described the conflict as “an amazing opera bouffe war between conflicting authorities. The combination of martial law, inefficient local government, and unsettled procedures offered the setting for this melodrama; its cast included Maryland slaveholders of doubtful loyalty, a pro-slavery circuit court in the District, a swashbuckler of a Federal marshal (Ward H. Lamon ) whose hatred of abolitionists coexisted with a much-advertised intimacy with Lincoln, bands of rowdies seeking deviltry for its own sake, and on the other side a vigorous anti-slavery general, James S. Wadsworth, in command of United States troops as military governor of the District. It was a degrading spectacle, unworthy of a controlled democracy. Slaves pouring from Maryland into the District constituted a daily annoyance, and the laws on the subject were not clear. Slaveowners claimed that the fugitive slave law of 1850 applied to the District, but this was stoutly denied, and the question was so unsettled that Governor Bradford of Maryland wrote to Attorney General [Edward] Bates to know where the law officers of the government stood. The governor wanted to know whether it was true that the United States government had forbidden the execution of warrants for the arrest of these alleged escaping slaves, not omitting to state that slaveowners and politicians were excited about it. As for the Attorney General, he could give little satisfaction; he was himself struggling through a maze of puzzles concerning wartime legal aspects of the fugitive slave question.”16
Historian Margaret Leech wrote: “In July [1864], smallpox broke out among the families huddled in the little rooms of Duff Green’s Row. The sick were left there, while the rest were transferred to the camp on North Twelfth Street, formerly occupied by the dragoons of McClellan’s bodyguard. No Maryland fugitives were allowed in this camp, but Lamon’s constables hung around it. In protecting his charges, Wadsworth remained defiantly paternal. He had two county constables arrested as kidnapers. In November, and again in December, there were spectacular jail deliveries of Negroes by the provost guard. The civil and military authorities were as much at odds as ever, when Wadsworth left to take command of a division of the Army of the Potomac, and the post of military governor fell to a less impetuous western New Yorker, General John A. Martindale.”17 According to historian James G. Randall, “When, late in 1862, Wadsworth was transferred from the military governorship of the District to the Army of the Potomac under Burnside, the issue was still unsettled. It disappeared only with the repeal of the fugitive-slave laws in 1864 and the progress of emancipation.”18
While dealing with the fugitive slave problem and the vulnerability of Washington, DC to Confederate attack, Wadsworth had to deal with his own campaign for governor of New York. In August 1862, he wrote a friend, James C. Smith: “I do not find any sufficient reason for absolutely refusing to accept the nomination for governor, but I unaffectedly dread it, and long to be at home and rid of public cares. While I do not seriously doubt that I can get on reasonably well with the ordinary duties of the office, I know that a candidate coming in by common consent, as it were, must disappoint many of his supporters. ‘Availability’ is very pleasant while running, but greatly increases the embarrassment of executing the duties of an office.” Wadsworth also wished his friend Smith to be elevated to the Senate and worried that his own nomination would hurt Smith’s chances. Wadsworth already knew he had prominent supporters, including Treasury Secretary Chase. In the letter to Smith, he mentioned that Secretary of War Stanton also wanted him to become Governor of New York. “He is out and out of our views on the slavery question, and wishes New York to stand unequivocal in that question.”19
Wadsworth had become close to Chase, who wrote in his diary in September 1862: “Coming from Cabinet, I found a letter from [Hiram] Barney to make it unanimous, if it is not to be considered as a triumph over him; and wrote a note to the General asking him to dine. Both he and the Judge [Pierrepont] came, and we had a pleasant time. Wadsworth has but has one objection to saying he would be Governor, if at all, of the state and not of a section of a party, which was, that it might be considered as in some sort a pledge, which he would not give to anybody. Told Wadsworth, in confidence, that the Proclamation might be expected tomorrow morning — which surprised and gratified him equally.”20 A week earlier, Wadsworth had written his friend Smith — before President Lincoln issued his draft Emancipation Proclamation:
I find myself growing quite nervous as the day for the gathering of our convention approaches. I sincerely trust that my friends or my enemies will give the nomination some other direction. I do not like the idea of leaving the military service at this time, or of leaving the Capital. While my main duties are unimportant I hold a position which gives me some influence here which I do not like to relinquish. I should probably be succeeded by a pro-slavery general; moreover, great changes have got to be made in the command of the army before any good will come of it. While I should not anticipate or desire any very responsible position, in the event of these changes I might find a position where I could render service in the line which I prefer and which would carry me ‘down South’ where Military Governorships will be plenty and of some avail. I trust that you and my other friends who may meet at our convention will well consider the matter in this point of view.
But if I am to be nominated let me have a strong, decided platform. If you do not I shall surely kick it over when I accept. I have come to think that the Rebellion can only and ought only to end in the total overthrow of slavery. This is a severe ordeal to pass through, but let us meet it like men and not leave it to our children, with the inheritance of debt and taxation we are laying up for them. I have no fears of the ‘St. Domingo Massacres’ which are held up to us as certain results of emancipation, but it would be a terrible revolution to the whites of the South and the merchants of the North. Still, let it come now, whatever it may be, and let us have an end to this infamy.21
Republican boss Thurlow Weed opposed Wadsworth’s nomination. He preferred the nomination of War Democrat John A. Dix, another Union general closer to Weed’s own conservative views. Dix was respected but lacked Wadsworth’s Republican roots while Weed’s own roots in the party were beginning to rot. At the Republican convention in Syracuse, Wadsworth’s strength overwhelmed Dix.
According to Wadsworth biographer Henry Greenleaf Pearson: “As it turned out it was Lincoln’s change of attitude on the subject of Emancipation that determined Wadsworth’s nomination. In the convention, meeting when the news of the proclamation was barely forty-eight hours old, the Greeley and the anti-slavery men had things their own way. Since to support the policy of Emancipation was now to support the President, they were in no mood to listen the counsels of the moderates and under no necessity to bargain for their help. Weed, who on the failure of his overtures to Wadsworth had renewed his advocacy of [John A.] Dix, could make no headway against the cry for a leader who could rally the State to strengthen the hands of the President in his new policy. On the first ballot Wadsworth was nominated, two hundred and thirty-four votes having gone to him, while Dix received only one hundred and ten.”22
During the gubernatorial campaign, Wadsworth stayed at his military post in Washington and at the President’s side. Democratic State Chairman John Van Buren berated McClellan as “an open, notorious, bitter enemy of George B. McClellan…It is our purpose to stand by Mr. Lincoln so far as he will let us, and to stand by General McClellan whether he will let us or not.'”23 According to historian Sidney David Brummer, “The Unionists apparently felt this charge, for they found it advisable during the course of the campaign to deny that their candidate was unfriendly to McClellan and to aver that Wadsworth had simply been anxious for the Union army to make a forward movement during the preceding winter when McClellan persisted in remaining inactive.”24
At the end of October, Wadsworth delivered his one and only speech of the entire campaign. According to historian William Hesseltine, “The climax of the campaign brought the contestants together at Cooper Institute a few days before election. At the beginning of the contest the radical managers had rejected Thurlow Weed’s practical and experienced advice. But as the campaign went badly, they had invited him to their councils. Weed raised money and did what he could to revive the hopeless cause. When Wadsworth arrived for the Cooper Institute speech, Weed advised him to speak for Lincoln and the Union. But Wadsworth’s principles were sounder than his judgment. He would have none of such ‘infamy.’ ‘We have paid for peace and freedom in the blood of our sons,’ he said, ‘let us now have it. His speech had fervor without poise, passion without compromise.”25 Disregarding Weed’s advice, Wadsworth spoke out forcefully in favor of emancipation rather than stick strictly to Weed’s save-the-Union script. Wadsworth’s outspoken advocacy of abolition cost him sufficient votes that Democrat Horatio Seymour was elected governor by 11,000 votes.
Wadsworth’s brief campaign was plagued by splits within the Republican Party. According to historian Stewart Mitchell, “Thurlow Weed was long suspected of the treachery he denied by letter of November 4, 1862. [Customs official] Henry B. Stanton, in Random Recollections…declares that Seward was ‘dead against’ Wadsworth ‘all through the campaign.’ [New York Evening Post editor] W. C. Bryant wrote Lincoln what is ‘generally agreed to be the major cause of this great reversal’:Bryant thought Seymour’s election would be a public calamity but might happen if the army were kept idle”.26
In October 1862, Mr. Lincoln had discussed the military situation with Wadsworth and told him that he was “tired” of McClellan’s “excuses; he’d remove him but for the election; thought it not best to do it till after November’s voting.”27 After Wadsworth was defeated in his political campaign and McClellan was dismissed from his military mission, Wadsworth was placed in command of a division of the First Corps in the Army of the Potomac.
General Wadsworth served with that division in the Battles of Chancellorsville and Gettysburg. After Gettysburg, Wadsworth became a reliable presidential informant for the Union army’s failure to follow up and crush the Confederate army. According to the diary of Navy Secretary Gideon Welles on July 17, 1863: “In a conversation with General Wadsworth, who called on me, I learned that at the council of the general officers, Meade was disposed to make an attack, and was supported by Wadsworth, Howard, and Pleasonton, but Sedgwick, Sykes, and the older regular officers dissented. Meade, rightly disposed but timid and irresolute, hesitated and delayed until too late. Want of decision and self-reliance in an emergency has cost him and the country dear, for had he fallen upon Lee it could hardly have been otherwise than the capture of most of the Rebel army.”28 Indeed, Wadsworth was clearly distressed by the July 14 vote by Meade’s Council of War. On July 14 at Meade’s headquarters, newspaperman Noah Brooks met Vice President Hannibal Hamlin , who “raised his hands and turned away his face with a gesture of despair. Later on, I came across General [James S.] General Wadsworth, who almost shed tears while he talked with us about the escape of the rebel Army. He said that it seemed to him that most of those who participated in the council of war had not stomach for the fight. ‘If they had,’ he added, the rebellion, as one might say, might have been ended then and there.”29
Wadsworth had been an antislavery leader and a leader in the Free Soil party before he became a Republican in 1856. With some ‘political generals” like Carl Schurz, President Lincoln occasionally took time to address non-military issues. In early January 1864 President Lincoln wrote General Wadsworth:
You desire to know, in the event of our complete success in the field, the same being followed by a loyal and cheerful submission on the part of the South, if universal amnesty should not be accompanied with universal suffrage.
Now, since you know my private inclinations as to what terms should be grated to the South in the contingency mentioned, I will here add, that if our success should thus be realized, followed by such desired results, I cannot see, if universal amnesty is granted, how, under the circumstances, I can avoid exacting in return universal suffrage, or, at least, suffrage on the basis of intelligence and military service.
How to better the condition of the colored race has long been a study which has attracted my serious and careful attention; hence I think I am clear and decided as to what course I shall pursue in the premises, regarding it a religious duty, as the nation’s guardian of these people, who have so heroically vindicated their manhood on the battle-field, where, in assisting to save the life of the Republic, they have demonstrated in blood their right to the ballot, which is but the humane protection of the flag they have so fearlessly defended.
The restoration of the Rebel States to the Union must rest upon the principle of civil and political equality of both races; and it must be sealed by general amnesty.30
Wadsworth was shot through the head on the second day of the Wilderness Battle in early May 1864. His death drew an outpouring of grief and recrimination from Navy Secretary Gideon Welles. He wrote in his diary that “few nobler spirits have fallen in this war. He should, by good right and fair-dealing, have been at this moment Governor of New York, but the perfidy of Thurlow Weed and others defeated him. I have always believed that [William H.] Seward was, if not implicated, a sympathizer in that business. No purer or more single-minded patriot than Wadsworth has shown himself in this war. He left home and comforts and wealth to fight the battles of the Union.”31 In New York City George Templeton Strong wrote in his own diary: “We have lost a brave and useful man, but this is just the death Wadsworth would have ordered of the destinies had they consulted him on the subject.”32


  1. George Fort Milton, Abraham Lincoln and the Fifth Column, p. 122.
  2. Sidney David Brummer, Political History of New York State During the Period of the Civil War, p. 218-219.
  3. Orville H. Browning, Diary of Orville H. Browning, .
  4. William O. Stoddard, Jr., editor, Lincoln’s Third Secretary, p. 118-121.
  5. William O. Stoddard, Inside the White House in War Times, p. 83-84.
  6. Bruce Tap, Over Lincoln’s Shoulder, p. 116.
  7. Bruce Tap, Over Lincoln’s Shoulder, p. 116.
  8. Margaret Leech, Reveille in Washington, p. 157.
  9. Larry Tagg, The Generals of Gettysburg: The Leaders of America’s Greatest Battle, .
  10. Margaret Leech, Reveille in Washington, p. 168.
  11. David Donald, editor, Inside Lincoln’s Cabinet: The Civil War Diaries of Salmon P. Chase, p. 127 (September 8, 1862).
  12. William B. Hesseltine, Lincoln and the War Governors, p. 268.
  13. Margaret Leech, Reveille in Washington, p. 246.
  14. Henry Greenleaf Pearson, James S. Wadsworth of Geneseo: Brevet Major-General of United States Volunteers, p. 137-139.
  15. Margaret Leech, Reveille in Washington, p. 246-247.
  16. James G. Randall, Lincoln the President, Springfield to Gettysburg, Volume I, p. 136-139.
  17. Margaret Leech, Reveille in Washington, p. 249.
  18. James G. Randall, Lincoln the President, Springfield to Gettysburg, Volume I, p. 134-135.
  19. Henry Greenleaf Pearson, James S. Wadsworth of Geneseo: Brevet Major-General of United States Volunteers, p. 151 (Letter from James S. Wadsworth to James C. Smith, August 22, 1862).
  20. David Donald, editor, Inside Lincoln’s Cabinet: The Civil War Diaries of Salmon P. Chase, p. 153 (September 22, 1862).
  21. Henry Greenleaf Pearson, James S. Wadsworth of Geneseo: Brevet Major-General of United States Volunteers, p. 153-154 (Letter from James S. Wadsworth to James C. Smith, September 13, 1862).
  22. Henry Greenleaf Pearson, James S. Wadsworth of Geneseo: Brevet Major-General of United States Volunteers, p. 155-156.
  23. Sidney David Brummer, Political History of New York State During the Period of the Civil War, p. 246 (New York Herald, October 31, 1862).
  24. Sidney David Brummer, Political History of New York State During the Period of the Civil War, p. 246.
  25. William B. Hesseltine, Lincoln and the War Governors, p. 269.
  26. Stewart Mitchell, Horatio Seymour of New York, p. 249.
  27. Don E. Fehrenbacher and Virginia E. Fehrenbacher, editor, The Recollected Words of Abraham Lincoln, p. 458.
  28. Gideon Welles, Diary of Gideon Welles, Volume I, p. 374-375.
  29. Noah Brooks, Washington in Lincoln’s Time: A Memoir of the Civil War Era by the Newspaperman Who Knew Lincoln Best, p. 92-93.
  30. Roy P. Basler, editor, The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, Volume VII, p. 101-102 (Letter to James S. Wadsworth, ca. January, 1864).
  31. Gideon Welles, Diary of Gideon Welles, Volume II, p. 27 (May 10, 1864).
  32. Allan Nevins, editor, Diary of the Civil War, 1860-1865: George Templeton Strong, p. 443 (May 9, 1864).