And so, James Wadsworth had an unusual career as political general.
He began as a military celebrity, his reputation earned within the powerhouse New York state high command during the crisis of Lincoln's inaction. His federal career was launched under Stanton's (not Lincoln's) patronage, however, and where a Banks or Butler would occasionally have some role demanding political skill, Wadsworth was in field commands until his death. He was this odd duck of a purely military poltical general.
As mentioned yesterday, his removal from New York via U.S. commission solved a political problem and thereby marked the end of Lincoln's interest in him. Had Wadsworth won the governorship vacated by Edwin Morgan, had he persecuted and then crushed his Weed-Seward Republican enemies, Radical James Wadsworth might have become interesting to Lincoln as a threat ... the way Andrew Curtin was interesting to Lincoln after Curtin routed and then persecuted Cameron's forces in Pennsylvania, and after Curtin combined with Dennison of Ohio to formulate war policy with McClellan. But Wadsworth was a political casualty after his loss to Seymour, albeit one with strong friends in Congress. And he took refuge in an alternative reality called war.
The career of John McAuley Palmer follows a more conventional path for political generals. I don't want to make light of his patrotism and achievements but the pattern looks like this:
- Founds the Republican Party in Illinois (1856)
- Champions Lincoln to be Fremont's running mate at convention (1856)
- Strongly backs Lincoln against Douglas (1858)
- Is Republican national elector for Lincoln (1860)
- Lincoln appoints to peace commission (1861)
- Is named commander of 14th Ill Volunteers and serves under Fremont (1861)
- Lincoln promotes him to BG USV December 20, 1861
- Promoted to MG USV (1862)
- Governs Kentucky (1865)
- Continues his political career postwar.
If we leave it at that, this picture is unfair to Palmer. He had a distinguished military career and one that was very interesting, serving under Pope, Buell, Thomas, Rosecrans, and Sherman. Again and again, Palmer is saving somebody's bacon on the battlefield, with a glorious culmination at Chickamauga.
Take a look at these quick-n-easy web links: this one; here's another; here's another. Note how totally positive these career retrospectives are. If your heart has a military corner in there somewhere, it senses pangs of envy.
And yet, based on private statements made after the war, attributed anonymously to him, the military image Palmer had of himself is depressing.
Like Wadsworth, Palmer had a grandson and his grandson recorded these private thoughts.
We'll get to the thoughts, the sons and the militia shortly.