Letter to Andrew Johnson (September 11, 1863)

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#119 on the list of 150 Most Teachable Lincoln Documents

Annotated Transcript

“All Tennessee is now clear of armed insurrectionists. You need not to be reminded that it is the nick of time for re-inaugerating a loyal State government. Not a moment should be lost.” 

On This Date

HD Daily Report, September 11, 1863

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How Historians Interpret

“Soon after his appointment by Lincoln as Tennessee’s governor, Johnson had allowed an election to go on as scheduled in Nashville for circuit court judge.  There were two candidates: Unionist M. M. Brien and secessionist Turner S. Foster.  Johnson was certain that citizens voting in secret and not intimidated by disunionists would put the loyal man on the bench.  When Foster won by a large margin, Johnson was furious, vowing that there would be no more elections to fill local offices.  Judge Foster was arrested, charged with treason, and confined in the penitentiary.  A year later Abraham Lincoln gave the governor a few pointers on ‘reinaugurating a loyal State government.’ advice that by now Johnson no longer needed.  ’Let the reconstruction be the work of such men only as can be trusted for the Union,’ wrote Lincoln.  ’Exclude all others.’  Both men well understood that if free elections were permitted, the people would again choose to be free of the United States.”

Walter Brian Cisco, War Crimes Against Southern Civilians (Gretna, LA: Pelican, 2007), 46

“During the early months of 1863, federal forces expanded their grip on central Tennessee, but the eastern section of the state—and Johnson’s hometown—remained in Confederate control.  On June 1 Governor Harris, whose state government in rebellion had been driven from one town to another, attempted to nominate candidates for the Confederate congress.  The convention met, only to be disrupted by the advance of federal forces.  For Johnson, political matters went much better.  A Unionist convention meeting in Nashville on July 1 passed a resolution approving Lincoln’s appointment of Johnson as military governor and praised the latter’s administration.  The delegates also voided all actions of the Harris convention.  Unionists asked Johnson to issue writs of election for the first week of August, but he declined, preferring to wait until guerrillas had been driven from east Tennessee so the entire state could participate in an election.  In mid-August Major General Ambrose E. Burnside marched his army from Kentucky into east Tennessee.  Simultaneously, Rosecrans advanced on General Braxton Bragg at Chattanooga, forcing the latter to draw reserves from Burnside’s line of march.  On September 2, 1863, Burnside occupied Knoxville, and on the 9th, Rosecrans forced Bragg out of Chattanooga and into northern Georgia.  In east Tennessee the mountaineers gave three cheers for the Union and three more for Andy Johnson.  For them, the day of reconciliation had come.  Lincoln reacted quickly to the good news and on September 11 telegraphed Johnson. . .”

Chester G. Hearn, The Impeachment of Andrew Johnson (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co., 2000), 28

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Searchable Text

Private
Executive Mansion, Washington, September 11, 1863.
 
Hon. Andrew Johnson
My dear Sir: 
All Tennessee is now clear of armed insurrectionists. You need not to be reminded that it is the nick of time for re-inaugerating a loyal State government. Not a moment should be lost. You, and the co-operating friends there, can better judge of the ways and means, than can be judged by any here. I only offer a few suggestions. The re-inaugeration must not be such as to give control of the State, and it’s representation in Congress, to the enemies of the Union, driving it’s friends there into political exile. The whole struggle for Tennessee will have been profitless to both State and Nation, if it so ends that Gov. Johnson is put down, and Gov. Harris is put up. It must not be so. You must have it otherwise. Let the reconstruction be the work of such men only as can be trusted for the Union. Exclude all others, and trust that your government, so organized, will be recognized here, as being the one of republican form, to be guarranteed to the state, and to be protected against invasion and domestic violence.
It is something on the question of time, to remember that it can not be known who is next to occupy the position I now hold, nor what he will do. I see that you have declared in favor of emancipation in Tennessee, for which, may God bless you. Get emancipation into your new State government—Constitution—and there will be no such word as fail for your case.The raising of colored troops I think will greatly help every way. 
Yours very truly,
A. LINCOLN
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