To John C. Fremont

“Cypher”
Major General Fremont              Washington City, D.C.
Mount Jackson, Va.                     June 16, 1862

Your despatch of yesterday reminding me of a supposed understanding that I would furnish you a corps of thirty five thousand men, and asking of me “the fulfillment of this understanding” is received. I am ready to come to a fair settlement of accounts with you on the fulfillment of understandings.

Early in March last, when I assigned you to the command of the Mountain Department, I did tell you I would give you all the force I could, and that I hoped to make it reach thirty five thousand. You, at the same time told me that, within a reasonable time, you would seize the Railroad at, or East of, Knoxville, Tenn. if you could. There was then in the Department a force supposed to be twentyfive thousand—the exact number as well known to you as to me. After looking about two or three days you called and distinctly told me that if I would add the Blecker [Blenker] Division to the force already in the Department, you would undertake the job. The Blecker [Blenker] division contained ten thousand; and at the expense of great dissatisfaction to Gen. McClellan, I took it from his army, and gave it to you. My promise was litterally fulfilled. I had given you all I could, and I had given you very nearly if not quite thirtyfive thousand.

Now for yours. On the 23rd. of May, largely over two months afterwards, you were at Franklin Va, not within three hundred miles of Knoxville, nor within eighty miles of any part of the Railroad East of it—and not moving forward, but telegraphing here that you could not move for lack of everything. Now, do not misunderstand me. I do not say you have not done all you could. I presume you met unexpected difficulties; and I beg you to believe that as surely as you have done your best, so have I. I have not the power now to fill up your corps to thirtyfive thousand. I am not demanding of you to do the work of thirtyfive thousand. I am only asking of you to stand cautiously on the defensive, get your force in order, and give such protection as you can to the valley of the Shenandoah, and to Western Virginia. Have you received the orders? and will you act upon them?

A. LINCOLN.

Fremont’s telegram received at 3 P. M. on June 15, reminded Lincoln that “when assigned to this command I was informed that I should have a corps of thirty five thousand men I now ask from the President the fulfillment of this understanding. . . .”

Fremont telegraphed in reply the same day that he had received the orders and “as a matter of course I will act upon them as I am now doing.”  Upon reports arriving at the War Department which indicated that Fremont understood his orders to require him to remain at Mount Jackson regardless of circumstances, Stanton at Lincoln’s direction telegraphed Fremont on June 17 that the president “does wish you to hold your position at Mount Jackson if you can safely do so; but if pressed beyond your strength that you will then fall back toward Strasburg for support from General Banks. General Banks is now here, and will see you immediately upon his return to his command.”

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