Mr. Lincoln's T-Mails: How Abraham Lincoln Used the Telegraph to Win the Civil War

Mr. Lincoln's T-Mails: How Abraham Lincoln Used the Telegraph to Win the Civil War

Tom Wheeler

Language: English

Pages: 256

ISBN: 0061129801

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


Abraham Lincoln's two great legacies to history—his extraordinary power as a writer and his leadership during the Civil War—come together in this close study of the President's use of the telegraph. Invented less than two decades before he entered office, the telegraph came into its own during the Civil War. In a jewel–box of historical writing, Wheeler captures Lincoln as he adapted his folksy rhetorical style to the telegraph, creating an intimate bond with his generals that would ultimately help win the war.

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field as though he were in the tent with them. Accompanying this was the ability to assume the role of commander-in-chief in more than a titular sense. That Abraham Lincoln would have turned to the telegraph in such an electronic breakout should not be surprising. The interesting consideration is why it was so long in coming. Part of the reason, undoubtedly, can be attributed to the military’s domination of the medium until early 1862. Part, also, goes to Lincoln’s growth in the job; the man who

telegraphed the president, “Any attempt to mingle them [his troops] with Potomac troops by placing them under Potomac Generals would kindle a flame of jealously and dislike.” He would not accede to the president’s request. Chattanooga hung by a thread and its commanding officer was worried about inter-unit jealousy! Lincoln knew it was time for a change. The president needed a no-nonsense general to reclaim the initiative. It was clear who that leader was. On October 16, 1863, the Military

George McClellan. It was quite possibly the most decisive battle these soldiers and their civilian counterparts had ever fought. The decision at the ballot box put a spike in Confederate hopes that a new government might negotiate a peace in which the Southern states became an independent nation. THE LAST DAY OF January in the new year 1865 brought a telegram from Ulysses Grant to Abraham Lincoln that was far different in its content from any of their previous exchanges. General Grant

preceding day, had begged off on the president’s invitation to join him at the theater that evening. Secretary Stanton, who knew of rumored threats against the president’s life, urged Lincoln to give up the theater outing. When he would not, Stanton urged that he should, at least, take someone along for security. Standing in the telegraph office, Lincoln indicated that his choice for the security role was the head of its operations, Major Thomas Eckert. “I have seen Eckert break five pokers, one

liable to be torn by dogs, front and rear, without a fair chance to gore one way and kick the other.” Reminding Grant of his management issues as Early threatened the North: “Watch it every day, every hour, and force it.” Pushing to hasten the surrender of Robert E. Lee: “Gen. Sheridan says, ‘If the thing is pressed I think Lee will surrender.’ Let the thing be pressed.” The president seldom minced words with his generals, and he urged them to act likewise. While he was refereeing the June

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