Sculptor James E. Kelly (1855-1933) first visited Alfred Pleasanton on July 25, 1895. It is during his second visit with the general, undated, that the offer of command of the Army of the Potomac comes up. Kelly records the conversation this way (from Generals in Bronze):
Pleasanton: I was offered command of the Army of the Potomac.In the course or reminiscing with Kelly, Pleasanton tells a story involving a subordinate commander he seems to have favored named James Wade.
Kelly: Why didn't you take it?
Pleasanton: I wasn't like Grant. I refused to pay the price.
Kelly: Why, what was the price?
Pleasanton: The terms offered were these: The war must not be ended until the South was crushed. Slavery abolished. And the President reelected.
Pleasanton encourages Wade to apply for the command of a black regiment. Wade mentions something about his father and Pleasanton asks whom that might be. It is Ben Wade.
Kelly takes the trouble to interview James Wade on March 21, 1907. Wade says of Pleasanton, "we all seemed to feel a certain awe of him." Kelly asks Wade about Pleasanton being offered command of the Army of the Potomac. Wade responds:
That time, Gen. Pleasanton took me to Washington with him; I forget the time but it was after Gettysburg. My father, Ben Wade, wanted to meet him. He was stopping at his sister's home at the time. My father was very much interested in him and his manner of talking; and they sat up nearly all night. My father proposed that he should be given command of the Army of the Potomac. Gen. Pleasanton said he was sent for to go to Washington, and asked me to go with him; I told him it was not my turn by Yates'. He said, "both of you come." Yates was in the 4th Michigan Infantry and afterwards in the 7th Cavalry, and killed with Custer. So we went, but somehow or other it fell through; but it was understood at the time that Pleasanton had been offered command of the Army of the Potomac.Kelly asks Wade the $50,000 question: "I think something was said by Pleasanton about 'paying the price.'"
Wade: "I never heard of it, but it looks as if it may be true. Now I could not prove, for lack of documentary evidence, that Gen. Pleasanton was offered that command, but I feel morally certain that it was offered to him, and it was so generally understood at the time."
In the order of his interviews, Kelly missed an opportunity to develop this subject further. Waud had told Prime, "Genl. McMahon says he had some evidence bearing on the same subject at your service." (Same subject = conditions for ending the war.) Kelly does interview General Martin McMahon (on 10/11/79) but it is long before he becomes interested in "conditions."
To recap the chronology:
+ Waud memorializes Ben Wade and company's conversation: June 16th, 1886
+ Pleasanton tells of an offer and conditions: Sometime after July 25, 1895
+ Porter tells Kelly of conditions but not an offer: early 1898?*
+ James Wade tells Kelly of offer but not conditions: March 21, 1907
The time has come for me to make a claim about the "conditions" and I will do so in the last post of this series.
* The Porter memo is not dated but we can bracket it. General David Stanley recommends Porter for a bronze on what appears to be Dec. 14 1897. In his first meeting with Porter, Kelly references this Stanley recommendation. The following Porter entry is marked by editor Styple as the summer of 1899.