site logo

Ordered To Seize All Copies Of The New York World Bringing In One Of The Great War Episodes The Bogus Presidential Proclamation

Headquarters, Middle Department,

8th Army Corps,

Baltimore, May 18, 1864.

Provost Guards,

or U. S. Detectives.

Seize all copies of the New York World of this date, that may

arrive from New York, or that you can find in the city.

By command, Major General Wallace.


ol. and Provost Marshal.

This order is innocent enough in its appearance, but it is really the

executive action upon a subject almost as vital in its effects as any of

the great battles of the war.

Under date of May 17th a proclamation, calling for four hundred thousand

more troops, purporting to be from President Lincoln, was issued, and

was published in certain papers; among them the New York "World". The

following is a copy:

Executive Mansion, May 17, 1864.

Fellow Citizens of the United States:

In all seasons of exigency it becomes a nation carefully to

scrutinize its line of conduct, humbly to approach the throne

of Grace, and meekly to implore forgiveness, wisdom, and


For reasons known only to Him, it has been decreed that this

country should be the scene of unparalleled outrage, and this

nation the monumental sufferer of the nineteenth century. With

a heavy heart, but an undiminished confidence in our cause, I

approach the performance of a duty rendered imperative by my

sense of weakness before Almighty God and of justice to the


It is not necessary that I should tell you that the first

Virginia campaign, under Lieut. General Grant, in whom I have

every confidence, and whose courage and fidelity the people do

well to honor, is virtually closed. He has conducted his great

enterprise with discreet ability. He has crippled their

strength and defeated their plans.

In view, however, of the situation in Virginia, the disaster

at Red river, the delay at Charleston, and the general state

of the country, I, Abraham Lincoln, do hereby recommend that

Thursday, the 26th day of May, A.D., 1864, be solemnly set

apart throughout these United States as a day of fasting,

humiliation and prayer.

Deeming, furthermore, that the present condition of public

affairs presents an extraordinary occasion, and in view of the

pending expiration of the service of (100,000) one hundred

thousand of our troops, I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the

United States, by virtue of the power vested in me by the

Constitution and the laws, have thought fit to call forth, and

hereby do call forth the citizens of the United States between

the ages of (18) eighteen and (45) forty-five years, to the

aggregate number of (400,000) four hundred thousand, in order

to suppress the existing rebellious combinations, and to cause

the due execution of the laws.

And, furthermore, in case any State or number of States shall

fail to furnish by the fifteenth day of June next their

assigned quotas, it is hereby ordered that the same be raised

by immediate and peremptory draft. The details for this object

will be communicated to the State authorities through the War


I appeal to all loyal citizens to favor, facilitate, and aid

this effort to maintain the honor, the integrity, and the

existence of the National Union, and the perpetuity of popular


In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand, and caused

the seal of the United States to be affixed. Done at the city

of Washington, this 17th day of May, one thousand, eight

hundred and sixty-four, and of the independence of the United

States the eighty-eighth.


By the President:

WILLIAM H. SEWARD, Secretary of State.

This was immediately contradicted by the Government, as follows:

To the Public.

Department of State, Washington, D. C.

May 18, 1864.

A paper purporting to be a proclamation of the President,

countersigned by the Secretary of State, and bearing date of

the 17th inst. is reported to this Department as having

appeared in the New York "World" of this date. This paper is

an absolute forgery. No proclamation of this kind has been

made, or proposed to be made, by the President, or issued, or

proposed to be issued, by the State Department, or any other

Department of the Government.


Secretary of State.

Under the head "Freedom of Press" Appleton's Encyclopedia for 1864

gives twelve columns of space to this matter. The excitement resulted in

the greatest distress. Gold advanced four or five per cent., a panic

prevailed, and great calamity, of course, followed.

Soon thereafter we seized every telegraph instrument and office record

in the Department, and arrested the officers and clerks. I became so

tired with the extraordinary labor and loss of sleep, that I actually

fell asleep while standing at a desk in one of the offices. I had heard

of such experiences, but had believed it impossible.

The object of seizing the newspapers, telegraphic instruments and

records, was to prevent the disaster that must follow the further

spreading of the impression created by the bogus message, that our

Government was in dire distress.

Copperhead conspirators and Confederate agents here and in Canada, had

been and were at work to undermine us by every means. Distress to us,

however brought about, was their purpose. They sought to create in the

minds of the masses the idea that the war was a failure.

These conspirators had tried to use the conscription, in 1863, to

disrupt us, and they were again trying to scare the people with a

prospective draft, in 1864, to unsettle the public mind before the

Presidential election, then soon to occur (in November).

Governor Seymour relentlessly pursued General Dix, seeking to have him

indicted for arresting (he claimed) illegally, persons party to the

fraud. But the grand jury refused to indict him. Seymour claimed that he

(Seymour) was trying to preserve _personal liberty_, from the general

government's encroachments, which was also his attitude in

Vallandigham's case in 1863.

The New York "World" and "The Journal of Commerce" were the newspapers

involved in the affair, but the odium should not attach to the present


The bogus proclamation spread faster and further than the denial of it

possibly could.