The Writings of Carl Schurz/To President Lincoln, January 25th, 1863


Camp near Falmouth, Jan. 25, 1863.

I have just seen the Philadelphia Inquirer, which publishes a list of your nominations for major-general ships containing my name but not that of General Stahel. You remember the conversations we have had upon that subject and my emphatic declaration that I would not be in any manner in General Stahel's way; that he yielded to me the command of the 11th Corps and would be satisfied with the command of the cavalry-reserve; that I accepted this sacrifice if he could be made a major-general as well as myself. You informed me kindly that this would be done. If there are circumstances preventing General Stahel's nomination together with mine, I feel in honor bound to respectfully decline the distinction you were kind enough to confer upon me, at the same time thanking you most sincerely for this great mark of friendly consideration. You will pardon me for this, for it has always been my principle to be true to my friends and to stand up to a word I once have given. I will much rather command the 11th Corps as a brigadier-general or not command it at all, than wear the two stars, setting aside a man who is worthy of preferment, deserves my friendship and to whom I had the honor to carry your promise of promotion.[1]

  1. The following letters show how averse Schurz was to turning this incident to his own advantage in any way, then or subsequently:
    “New York, Feb. 27, 1897. 

    “Major Geo. W. Davis,
     “War Department.
    “Dear Sir: In compliance with your request I herewith return the letter you have submitted to my inspection. The letter is unquestionably genuine. That it was not found on the files of the War Department does not surprise me. Occasionally letters of a ‘private and personal’ nature would pass between President Lincoln and myself which did not go on the official files. President Lincoln, judging this one to be of such a character, probably withheld it for that reason. I do not remember whether it was answered by him in writing, and I have no means of ascertaining it because all my correspondence of the war period perished in a railroad fire. [See post, p. 375.]

    “I do not know how this letter got into the hands of a third person. It occurs to me that Mr. Lincoln may have given it as a memento to General Stahel when that officer, as he probably did, called upon the President to offer his thanks for the promotion. This, however, is only a random guess.

    “But, if you will pardon the question, is this letter, which certainly does not throw any light upon anything connected with the operations of the army, a proper document to be published in the Rebellion Record? To me it would seem quite doubtful, and this doubt I respectfully submit.

    “Very sincerely yours,
    C. Schurz.” 

    “Hotel Arlington, 18-20 West 25 Street,
    “New York
    , May 26, 1912. 

    “Frederic Bancroft, Esq.,
    “My dear Sir: . . . Mr. Schurz's surmise that the letter was given to me by the President is correct, but I wonder why Mr. Schurz, with whom I had several war-time talks at various times, never made any reference to this matter. . . . Sincerely yours,

    “Julius Stahel.”