LINCOLN, Abraham, President. Autograph endorsement signed ("A. Lincoln") to Major General E.O.C. Ord, military commandant of Union-occupied Norfolk, Virginia; [Washington, D.C.], 28 January 1865. Five lines plus signature and dateline, written on a single panel on the verso of a petition from 61 citizens of Norfolk addressed to "His Excellency Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States." 4 pages, folio (petition), 1 page, folio (page of signatures) neatly attached at the end of the petition, the latter with clean fold separations (repairable), Lincoln's endorsement on the verso of the page bearing citizens' signatures.
A FORE-TASTE OF THE PROBLEMS OF RECONSTRUCTION: UNION-OCCUPIED NORFOLK, VIRGINIA PETITIONS FOR THE RIGHT TO ELECT CIVIL GOVERNMENT
A petition of considerable interest as it reflects the difficulties confronted in former Confederate states and territories once the Confederate central government had relinquished control and Union military occupation began. Norfolk, captured by the Union early in the war, had been under the military governship of General Benjamin F. Butler, notorious for his severity when in charge of Union-held New Orleans. At the same time, a "restored" loyal governor, Francis H. Peirpont, had been elected in West Virginia, with nominal authority over other parts of Virginia held by the Union, including Norfolk. The ambiguity of the situation was exacerbated by prolonged and bitter clashes between Peirpont's civil authority and Butler, who frequently wrote to Lincoln on the matter (see Lincoln's letter to Butler, 9 Aug. 1864, Basler 7:487-488). In an election held in July under Butler's auspices, Norfolk residents rejected Peirpont's administration; Butler immediately decreed that the civil authorities were subordinate to his military power. In addition, he questioned the loyalty of some elected officials, and prevented Judge Edward K. Snead from convening court. On January 8, Butler was relieved of command and succeeded by Ord. The present petition to President Lincoln explains that the original charter of Norfolk "vested in the people the right to elect a delegate to the Legislature & to choose their Mayor, Aldermen, Common Councilmen & other municipal officers;" this was annual practice "even while still in a colonial state & before the establishment of our national independence." The privilege of "governing themselves through agents of their own selection" and setting their own taxes has been enjoyed by Norfolk's citizens, with "no interruption in the exercise of these rights even during the dangers & disorders of the Revolution." Last June  the usual elections were held: "But a few days afterwards an order was issued, emanating from the officers of the Army of the Unites States [Butler], prohibiting" these elected officials from taking office or exercising the duties of their office. The petitioners complain that "our courts of justice are all shut up," wills cannot be probated, the enforcement of judgements has stopped and many other normal and necessary functions of civil government suspended. No military exigency for such a suppression of civil government exists, "in a city which has been for nearly three years in the uncontested possession of the United States." The petitioners ask "the restoration of their Courts, the establishment of their Councils, the replacement of their other necessary municipal officers, in order that, in common with their fellow citizens of all other parts of the country, they may live under their own laws, manage their own proper affairs, adjust & assess their own taxes, & regulate their own expenditures & disbursements." Beneath, 61 citizens of Norfolk have affixed their signatures.
On the verso, Lincoln writes: "Submitted to Major General Ord, asking, in connection, a respectful hearing for Gov. Pierpont. A. Lincoln."