Wednesday, May 18, 2011

150 Years Ago: Frank Blair's Letter

On Saturday, May 18, 1861, Frank Blair received a letter from Abraham Lincoln giving him the authority to relieve Brigadier General William Harney, the top army commander in St. Louis, from command if Blair thought it necessary:
My Dear Sir—We have a good deal of anxiety here about St. Louis. I understand an order has gone from the War Department to you, to be delivered or withheld in your discretion, relieving General Harney from his command. I was not quite satisfied with the order when it was made, though on the whole I thought it best to make it; but since then I have become more doubtful of its propriety. I do not write now to countermand it, but to say I wish you would withhold it, unless in your judgment the necessity to the contrary is very urgent. There are several reasons for this. We better have him a. friend than an enemy. It will dissatisfy a good many who otherwise would be quiet. More than all, we first relieve him, then restore him; and now if we relieve him again the public will ask, "Why all this vacillation?"

Still, if in your judgment it is indispensable, let it be so.

Yours very truly, A. Lincoln

Blair would quickly find it necessary and remove Harney from command on May 30.

Also on this date, Arkansas was admitted to the Confederacy, and, in Virginia, the mouth of the Rappahannock River was blockaded by Union ships.

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