James Ford Rhodes (18481927). History of the Civil War, 18611865 1917.
AN unfortunate political appointment of the Presidents was that of Simon Cameron as Secretary of War. Unequal as he was to the task of conducting a great war, he managed his Department as if it were a political machine. He had two competent subordinates1 whose work was efficient; yet Cameron left behind him, where his own hand could be traced, a continuous line of peculation. Contracts mounting up to enormous sums were repeatedly awarded to his political followers as a reward for past services, or in anticipation of future work. He paid exorbitant prices, gave commissions, accepted inferior goods. Early in the autumn Lincoln became aware of the defects of his Secretary and undoubtedly held the view set down in Nicolays private paper, Conversation with the President, October 2, 1861: Cameron utterly ignorant and regardless of the course of things and probable result. Selfish and openly discourteous to the President. Obnoxious to the country. Incapable either of organizing details or conceiving and executing general plans.2 We are going to destruction, wrote Senator Grimes to Senator Fessenden, as fast as imbecility, corruption and the wheels of time can carry us.3 Imitating Frémont, Cameron, in order to turn the public mind from his maladministration, made an appeal to the rising tide of anti-slavery sentiment. In his report to the President of December 1, he made the suggestion,
Note 1. Montgomery Meigs, Quartermaster-General, and Thomas A. Scott, Assistant-Secretary. [back]