"I felt that it was better for the country that I should be falsely accused..."
Autograph letter signed ("Edwin M Stanton") to John C Knox, regarding his silence in the face of accusations he'd withheld support from McClellan's Peninsula campaign of 1862.
Washington, D.C: July 21, 1862.
1 page, on War Department stationery. Marked "Private" at head. 4to. "I felt that it was better for the country that I should be falsely accused..." Old folds, a few old stains Item #313767
A letter from Lincoln's secretary of war, then embroiled in controversy over actions taken during the Peninsula campaign in the early spring and summer of 1862, to his friend, retired Pennsylvania Supreme Court justice John C. Knox. In part: "I have seldom if ever been gratified so much by any token of friendship as by your generous and manly speech at Harrisburg. From a sense of public duty I have been compelled to remain silent and receive the fiercest assault that can beset any public man ... But I felt that it was better for the country that I should be falsely accused than that the truth should be published; and this course I shall observe until the end."
After Lincoln reduced General McClellan's command from the entire army to the Army of the Potomac early in 1862, Stanton and Lincoln performed the role of commanding general for several months to considerable success. "The two civilians pressured McClellan into launching his Peninsula campaign, personally directed the capture of Norfolk, and devised a nearly successful plan to trap...'Stonewall' Jackson’s army in the Shenandoah Valley. In a controversial move, however, Stanton suspended recruiting in early April in order to reorganize the recruiting service— in the apparent belief that the war would soon be over ... McClellan and his Democratic supporters claimed that the secretary of war had withheld essential reinforcements from the Peninsula offensive, contributing to its failure. While these charges were unfounded ... Stanton and McClellan remained bitter enemies, each calling for the removal of the other, until Lincoln finally relieved McClellan of command in November 1862" (ANB)
Knox's eldest son, Major Kilburn Knox, was an aide to Stanton at the end of the war. His testimony over an encounter with the Booth conspirator Michael O'Laughlen at the Stanton residence the night before the Lincoln assassination helped secure a conviction against O'Laughlen.
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