LINCOLN, Abraham. Autograph letter signed ("A. Lincoln") to Gen. John Martindale, Military Governor of the District of Columbia, Washington, 28 January 1864. 1 page, 8vo, Executive Mansion stationery, integral blank WITH ADDITIONAL 11-LINE AUTOGRAPH ENDORSEMENT SIGNED ("A. LINCOLN") DATED 11 FEBRUARY 1864.
"IF IT CAN BE LAWFULLY DONE": LINCOLN AIDS A DISGRUNTLED SOLDIER SERVING UNDER HIS UNCLE'S COMMAND
Lincoln writes New York lawyer turned General, John H. Martindale, stating "I would like to appoint Capt. James B. Mix an Assistant Adjutant General with the rank of Captain, if you have a vacant place and would like to have him. What say you?" The next day, in his response on the blank leaf of Lincoln's letter, Martindale agreed, but adds that "I have not a vacant place for him at my HdQrs in that particular character. His appointment, however, would not disqualify him for the duty which he is now performing." On 11 February, in an endorsement beneath Martindale's note, Lincoln writes "If it can be lawfully done, let Capt. Mix be appointed an Assistant Adjutant General with the rank of Captain. This does not increase his present rank."
Mix had asked Lincoln's friend Ward Lamon on 21 January 1864 (Lincoln Papers, Library of Congress) to remind the commander in chief that Mix had previously requested a transfer "after the President's return from the Soldier's Home in the fall of 1862, I being at that time in a very unfortunate position in my Regiment." It seems there were "unfriendly relations between the Colonel and myself," and the Colonel was also Mix's uncle! The unhappy nephew hoped he could get the Assistant Adjutant General's spot--which required Presidential nomination and Senatorial approval--"or any position in the service with my rank which will remove me from the Regiment..." He told Lamon he was then serving on Martindale's staff "at the Old Capitol & Carroll Prisons."
Lincoln was also in an "unfortunate position" in early 1864. These were gloomy months, filled with lingering grief for his dead son Willy, recovery from a mild case of smallpox that Lincoln brought back with him from his Gettysburg visit, slow military progress, and the prospect of a re-election contest in November, some 3½ years after Sumter, with the end of the fighting nowhere in sight. No wonder Lincoln said to a friend on 6 February, "This war is eating my life out. I have a strong impression that I shall not live to see the end" (quoted in Baringer, 1864:238). The following month, however, things would turn a good deal brighter with the installation of U. S. Grant as supreme commander.