CHASE, Salmon P. Autograph letter signed ("S. P. Chase") to Gen. Joseph E. Hooker, Washington, 23 May 1863. 3 pp., 4to., ruled paper, small closed tears along creases otherwise fine.
CHASE SCHEMES WITH HOOKER AGAINST LINCOLN
A shocking example of Chase's insubordination against Lincoln, he tells General Hooker about private meetings with Stanton and the President, and coaches the general on how to demand more troops. "This morning I called on Secretary Stanton with Senators Chandler and Wade, and expressed to him my opinion of your late movement and battle, giving you the great credit which I honestly think due to you for the courage, ability and prudence you displayed. The subject of increasing your present force was then discussed." Stanton, Chase relates, expressed his willingness to augment Hooker's forces, but doubted whether transferring the "movable column now in front of Washington to your immediate command" was wise. The War Secretary went on to say that "every thing in Virginia east of the Shenadoah Valley was, practically though not immediately under your order." After leaving Stanton, Chase then went to see Lincoln, and he tells Hooker: "He read to me the letter you read to me yesterday at camp. I made of course no allusion to the fact that I had heard it before, but listened attentively." Chase urges Hooker to take the offesnive against both the rebels and the administration, not necessarily in that order: "Ask the President for a current statement of the troops at Norfolk & Suffolk; at Fortress Monroe and on the Peninsula...make the same enquiries as to the troops before Washington....Then collect all you need to hold your present position and move on the enemy with your main body...with the utmost possible celerity and decision."
Backbiting had become the order of the day in both the Army of the Potomac and the Lincoln Cabinet. Lincoln had already warned Hooker about it in his famous 26 January 1863 letter ("There are some things in regard to which I am not quite satisfied with you...") and he was in the process of interviewing all the Corps commanders so that, in Chase's words, "he might satisfy himself as to their Sentiments." Chase says "I fear it is a mistake to have the Chiefs of Corps come up here to tell their several stories..." As for Chase's scheming, Lincoln was used to it. The Secretary's "discontent," writes Lincoln biographer David Donald, "stemmed fundamentally from his conviction that he was superior to Lincoln both as a statesman and as an administrator." He made a habit of ingratiating himself with those whom Lincoln had offended (Fremont, Rosecrans, Hunter, Butler) and "tried to persuade the victim that he had been unjustly dealt with and that things would have been different had Chase been in control" (Lincoln, 479).