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SELECTED LETTERS OF SALMON P. CHASE

From, Garrett Davis .

WASHINGTON CITY 21st Augt 1861

DR. SIR I am consious of having annoyed you a good deal, but I am more conscious of not having done so for honor, or profit, or place, but from an earnest desire to attempt to render some little service to my government, to my native state, and to my country, in their great need. I am 59 years of age - I have children & grand children, and the great boon which I ask of my Maker is to see this great rebellion put down, the political heresies that brought it on, conquered & blotted out forever, the seceded States brought back into the union, and the constitution & laws of Congress in full, vigorous & healthy operation from the capitol to the uttermost border of the United States.
If in the future battles, our army is victorious, we will have turbulence in Ky., but no convulsion. If our arms meet with serious reverse, we shall be threatened with violence & intestine war; and the union men of Ky. ought to have the best possible preparation for that issue.
If every union man in the State had a good gun, I should fear no result, and the pressing need is to arm as many and as fast as possible - it being judiciously done. The arms intended for East Tennessee, now in Cincinnati or Ky. ought, as soon as possible, to be put into the hands of unconditional, I would say extreme union men in our State, to be organized into companies upon the express understanding, that they were to hold themselves in readiness to. be mustered into the service of the U. S. & to go upon any service. I know I could effect such an organization to the extent of 15000 additional men to those now enrolled, without serious obstacle.
In three elections, rapidly succeeding each other Ky., has declared against secession and for the Union. The union men are determined that this protracted conflict shall cease, & the secessionists are equally determined it shall not; and the only way it can terminate without bloodshed is, for the Union men to have an overwhelming military organization, that will inform the secessionists, that if they rise with force of arms they are to be annihilated. Should this organization be promptly & considerably extended it would have a wholesome influence upon our Legislature. Lieut. Nelson's enrolment & encampment might have been more judiciously managed. But there must be no square backing down from his movement. It would have a most discouraging & demoralizing effect with the Union party of the State. To prevent it from alarming & to some considerable extent, disaffecting the peace loving & timid union men of the State, for the present, it must be modified & be made to assume the name of an organization & encampment to give peace security and protection to Ky. and all her people & for no other purpose. On this form, & for this ostensible purpose, the union men would approve and sustain it, before it was sanctioned directly or inferentially by the Legislature.
When the Legislature meets, it will, & especially if sustained by a strong military organization of the union men, assume & pay the State's portion of the direct taxes, pass a law to punish treason, to punish the enlistment of men in the State for any service but that of the State or the U. S.; and pass resolutions asserting the power & right of the U. S. government to march troops across, or station them in any State; & also the power & the duty of the general Government to protect every State, & every loyal citizen thereof, against invasion, rebellion, or insurrection. I believe all these measures will be promptly passed by our State Legislature. I know that I can contribute some moral force to the success of these measures, & I also know that that moral force would be materially increased were I clothed by the administration with the authority of which we conversed last evening. But I do not solicit that authority, & I only declared my willingness to take it because, I believe, I could use it both discreetly & with good results to my State & my country. If the administration thinks differently be it so. I shall go home firmly resolved, as best I can, to do my duty to both.
This may be the last time I shall ever address you, & I ask leave to say to you, that I, & the people of my State, felt more repugnance to your appointment than to that of any other head of a department: and I further say, with equal candor & truth, that I now put more trust & hope in you than the whole administration besides. It seems to me that the Government is not yet fully alive to the greatness & urge: cy of the dangers which beset it; and that unless it makes prompt, vigorous & much greater preparations, it will never subdue this horrible rebellion; & if such should be the issue, I wish the true union men of Ky. to be fully armed, so that they may be able to hold the State to her old anchorage in despite of every storm.
I have never known a more united call of the union men, without regard to former parties, than for Holt to fill the war department. His appointment alone would change the relative force of the belligerents 20 pr. cent.
Yr. obt. servt
GARRETT DAVIS.

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Annual Report of the American Historical Association; Volume II; Washington, Government Printing Office; 1903

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