The Civil War Connections Blog

Uncle Abraham has arrived on the James

We know that President Lincoln visited theĀ Monitor on the 9th of July, 1862. But what did he do when he left the little ironclad?

On July 12, 1862 the New York TimesĀ printed the following article:


The army was yesterday taken by surprise by a most unexpected visit by President LINCOLN. At 3 o’clock a rumor ran through the camp that “Uncle ABRAHAM” had arrived, and that be would review the army at once. At 4 o’clock a salute of 22 guns fired near the north part of the encampment roused every soldier and officer from his reverie. The first impression naturally was that the enemy had attacked our right flank, but the soldier’s ear soon detected the absence of that peculiar sound which distinguishes a blank cartridge from the screaming shell; and when he had counted 22, the matter was explained. It was the salute for the President of the United States. Immediately bugles sounded and drums beat throughout the camp as if by one spontaneous impulse, and almost before the echo of the salute had died away, long columns of troops were observed marching from their several encampments and taking their places in regimental lines for review. The day had been intensely hot, but the sun had already begun to decline, and the soldiers moved with an alacrity which showed how gratifying it was to them to receive a visit from the Chief Magistrate at this time.

The President, who came direct from Washington in a Government steamer, was signaled after rounding Windmill Point, below this reach, and as soon as the announcement, had been conveyed to headquarters, Gen. MCCLELLAN made immediate preparations to welcome him. Without waiting for any formal reception or ceremony, however, the President landed, and mounting a fine horse which the General had sent down for his use, he rode directly to headquarters, accompanied by several of the General’s Staff.

The reception of the President by Gen. MCCLELLAN was hearty and, cordial in the extreme, and showed how timely and gratifying the visit was on the part of the President. Members of the Staff, most of them already well acquainted with the President, exhibited the greatest pleasure at the unexpected meeting.

A short time only was devoted to repose. Word had already been sent to the commanders of divisions to be in readiness for a review by the Commander-in-Chief, and almost immediately afterward the President, accompanied by Gen. MCCLELLAN and Staff, were mounted and on their way to review the troops. The various army corps were encamped so widely apart that the distance to be traveled over was necessarily very great, and would, ordinarily, have occupied a whole day to visit them all in turn. The President showed that he had come on business, however, and did not loiter. Beginning with Gen. SUMNER’s command, the distinguished party rode rapidly from one camp to the other, passing through the lines and carefully observing the condition and bearing of the troops. Everywhere the President was greeted by cheers of the most enthusiastic character. He also received a salute from each army corps.

It was after 9 o’clock P.M. before the review was finished, Gen. MORELL’s Division, which is nearest to headquarters, being the last in the order visited. A bright moonlight, and a deliciously cool evening, in contrast with the broiling heat of daylight, fully compensated for the slight delay in the ceremony.

The President, though somewhat careworn, exhibited throughout the day in the presence of the troops a stern resolve, which indicated how much in earnest he is in prosecuting the war. At the sight of come of the regimental colors, which had been turn almost to shreds by the balls of the enemy during the late engagements, the President more than once exhibited much emotion. The thinned ranks of some of the divisions, as one after the other was pointed out to him among the most prominent in the late contests, seemed to awaken the liveliest sympathy, and many a weary soldier, I have no doubt, read in the rough lineaments of that face the assurance of the nation’s hearty sympathy with their struggle, and the earnest of prompt and abundant succor, in the shape of reinforcements, and an early termination of the campaign of the Peninsula.

Besides the acquisition by the Executive of valuable information of the real situation of the army before Richmond, the visit has been well timed and well received by the army. It is a message of cheer from the whole nation, conveyed through, her great, good and strong-hearted President. He returns immediately to Washington by the same steamer which brought him.

The rebels have lately made their appearance near Windmill Point, near which our steamers have to pass in coming to this landing, and have opened a battery (probably a moveable one) on our mail and other steamers as they go by. On Monday the Canonicus received a shot underneath the pilot-house, cutting off the bell wires, and the Achilles also had two balls put through her hull, and the Nelly Baker narrowly escaped having her rudder carried away by another missile on the same day. Capt. COLDEN said, “Let her rip,” and the engineer put on full steam and escaped out of range. The river is now lined with gunboats, and the rebels do not dare to bark. The mail steamer goes up and down under convoy.