ON LINCOLN'S MIND
Rock Island Arsenal and a governor's pleading
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SPRINGFIELD -- With Nov. 19
marking the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address, the Abraham
Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum is featuring letters to or
by Lincoln, written between the end of Battle of Gettysburg on July
3, 1863, and his famous speech. Each letter represents one of the
many issues he had to face as chief executive of the nation during
its greatest crisis. This week the letter is from Illinois Gov.
Richard Yates to President Lincoln.
Richard Yates to Abraham Lincoln
Aug. 5, 1863
(Copy of transcript)
State of Illinois
Springfield Augst 5 1863.
Abraham Lincoln President &c
I desire to submit
the within most important paper of Citizens of Rock Island and to
request your earnest attention. It certainly is of the utmost
importance that the Arsenal at R Island be at once commenced and
completed, and I trust that the transfer of the Island of R. Island
to the Iowa Military Department & jurisdiction will not for a single
moment be entertained, and that you will set the minds of the people
of R. Island and of the State easy by immediate direction to Capt
Reynolds A. Q. M. or in such manner as you may deem best.
referred to the Secretary of War.
Aug. 12. 1863.
(For a PDF copy of the handwritten document,
[to top of second column]
This letter from Illinois Gov. Yates amply demonstrated one of
Lincoln's other concerns: keeping all loyal state governors happy --
especially Republican ones. Congress approved construction of the
Rock Island Arsenal in July 1862, and the long delay clearly grated
on Yates. Construction began three weeks later with the foundation
of the Clock Tower but did not conclude until after the war.
With great armies marching throughout the nation and the fate of
the American Union in the balance, the construction and jurisdiction
of an arsenal deep within the North may seem insignificant, but the
politics of such decisions gave them great importance. Lincoln could
not merely ignore or delegate such a matter, as an incorrect
decision could lose him vital political support or generate unwanted
strain in his party -- less than a decade old when this letter was
written. Juggling competing personalities and interests was a major
concern, and a major distraction, for Lincoln.
To see one of only five copies of the Gettysburg Address in
Lincoln's hand and receive a free booklet titled "On Lincoln's Mind:
Leading the Nation to the Gettysburg Address," containing this and
other document stories, visit the Abraham Lincoln Presidential
Library and Museum between Nov. 18 and 24.
[By the editors of the
Abraham Lincoln. Text from file provided by the
Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum
and received from the Illinois Historic