Brig: Genl. S. R. Curtis Washington, Oct. 24, 1861.
Dear Sir On receipt of this, with the accompanying inclosures, you will take safe, certain, and suitable measures to have the inclosure addressed to Major General Fremont, delivered to him, with all reasonable despatch—subject to these conditions only, that if, when Gen. Fremont shall be reached by the messenger (yourself, or any one sent by you) he shall then have, in personal command, fought and won a battle, or shall then be actually in a battle, or shall then be in the immediate presence of the enemy, in expectation of a battle, it is not to be delivered, but held for further orders. After, and not till after, the delivery to Gen. Fremont, let the inclosure addressed to Gen. Hunter be delivered to him. Your Obt. Servt. A. Lincoln
[The commentary here is worth reading for context:]
The enclosures referred to were undoubtedly General Orders No. 18 and Lincoln’s letter to General David Hunter, infra. It seems obvious, however, that after writing this letter to Curtis, Lincoln decided to withhold the letter to Hunter until a later date, thus allowing time for General Hunter to assume command before receiving Lincoln’s suggestions (see Lincoln to Curtis, October 28,infra). General Orders No. 18 (OR, I, III, 553) is as follows:
“Headquarters of the Army,
“Washington, October 24, 1861.
“Major-General Fremont, of the U.S. Army, the present commander of the Western Department of the same, will, on the receipt of this order, call Major-General Hunter, of the U.S. Volunteers, to relieve him temporarily in that command, when he (Major-General Fremont) will report to General Headquarters, by letter, for further orders.
“By command: E. D. TOWNSEND,
Lincoln’s precaution in withholding the letter to Hunter was justified, for General Fremont attempted to prevent the delivery of General Orders No. 18. Leonard Swett, by whom Lincoln dispatched the letter to Curtis, related the circumstances at length in a letter dated November 9, 1861, which reads in part as follows:
“Tuesday morning [October 29], I went immediately to Genl. Curtis . . . but I could not see him until evening . . . . we found numerous obstacles to the delivery of the order. It had unfortunately been announced in the New York papers, that the order was coming. Several St Louis men, who knew me came out on the same train. . . . It was therefore thought by Genl’ Curtis & myself that my connection with it might be suspected and some other person should take it through the lines. . . . Gen’l Curtis knew nothing of the character of these orders except what I, a stranger to him, told him. In the event of trouble, which he feared, it might be necessary for him . . . to know what it contained. . . . I opened one of the orders, took several copies, after which, the Genl enclosed it in a new envellop and directed it as before.
“The trouble of delivery was to get some reliable man, who had legitimate business inside Gen’l Fremont’s lines. Capt [Ezekiel] Boyden, of Champaign Co. Ills . . . was selected as one, and Capt McKinney [Thomas J. McKenny?] . . . as the other. . . . McKinney took the originals and delivered them first.
“He arrived at Fremonts camp, at five oclock am. [November 1] having rode on horseback the two nights and day previous, having gone by Rolla. After waiting about five hours, and learning that there was no immediate prospect of battle, he applied at head quarters for admission The aid . . . told him he must make known his errand He declined, stating he must see the Gen’l & could confer with no one else I omitted to say he was dressed for the trip like a country farmer. . . . Finally he was admitted. When the Gen’l read the order he said excitedly “Sir, how did you get through my lines,” when informed the Gen’l dismissed him. In a few moments . . . the aid came to him and told him not tell [sic] in camp the character of the order In a few moments more he came back again asking if Hunter knew of this To this . . . he responded as directed that a messenger had gone by Sedalia to give him a duplicate The messenger then tried to find where Hunter was. The soldiers did not know and the Genl’s friends could not or would not tell. He tried to get a pass out of camp That was refused About eleven oclock at night, he overheard the password With that and an old pass of Gen’l Curtis he started & got out The next day [November 2] about twelve oclock he found Hunter. . . .
“The following facts I learn from Capt J W Shaffer of Freeport As soon as the order arrived, Fremont ordered all his men to arms He sent back for Hunter'[s] division to march all night which they did, to join in the battle in the morning. When morning came, Fremont issued his Farewell address and left without giving any information about the Gov property There went with him, his body guard, 50 Indians and a paymaster with between 200000 & 300,000$ The paymaster was arrested here last night and has some of the money. Hunter on taking command send [sic] cavalry scouts in all directions for from 30 to 40 miles but of course there was no enemy. . . .
“Let me tell a few more things which I have tried to investigate candidly & believe to be true. Gen’l Fremont has talked about his signature to unlawful orders being above law & to be obeyed The german people have talked about making him Dictator Some of his officers in quite high standing have talked so too.”
Fremont’s order relinquishing his command to General Hunter was issued under date of November 2 (General Orders No. 28, OR, I, III, 559).