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    President Lincoln apologizes for not being able to review New York's National Guard

    Abraham Lincoln Autograph Letter Signed as President. One page, 5" x 8", "Executive Mansion, Washington, April 20, 1863." One month after the passage of the Conscription Act, President Lincoln apologizes to Major General of Militia Edward S. Sandford for not being able to review New York State's National Guard, but finds later, when draft riots threaten, that he may be compelled to call them to action.

    In full: "Major General Sandford, I beg your pardon for having neglected to acknowledge the honor of your invitation to review the First Division of New York National Guards on this day - It would have been a pleasure to be present at the Review; and especially, to have met you, who have always been so devoted to the country, as well as personally kind to me; but the press of my duties would not admit. Yours very truly, A. Lincoln."

    Although this may seem a routine political apology, there is a bit more to the story. On March 1, 1863, the first conscription act made all men between the ages of twenty and forty-five liable for military service, although service could be avoided by a payment of $300 or by procuring a substitute to enlist for three years. The enlistment of draftees would officially begin on August 19, 1863. One month after the conscription act was signed, President Lincoln sent the above apology to Sandford for not having been able to do a formal review of New York's First Division.

    Months passed while displeasure with the upcoming draft was growing in New York State. In August 1863, Major General A. Dix began to fear that riots would break out. He requested 10,000 federal troops and suggested the propriety of calling out the state militia. The situation was so critical that President Lincoln signed a proclamation to be used by Dix "in case of any necessity arising from the employment of military force to overcome unlawful combinations against the authority of the General Government in executing the Act of Congress to enroll and call out the National force."

    Fear of riots also compelled Lincoln to draft the following command to Sandford regarding civil unrest (dated August 12, 1863): "Whereas by reason of unlawful combinations against the authority of the government of the United Sates, it has become impracticable, in my judgment to enforce, by the ordinary course of judicial proceedings, the laws of the United States . . . therefore I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, do call forth yourself and your command, as part of the Militia of the State of New York to aid in suppressing said combinations and opposition to said laws."

    Neither the proclamation prepared for General Dix nor the draft letter to Sandford authorizing mobilization of the state militia was ever sent. The draft commenced on August 19th and relative calm prevailed throughout New York State. Minor tape repair on verso of lower fold. Crisp and clean.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    June, 2010
    8th-9th Tuesday-Wednesday
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