March 14, 1864

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Telegram Sent on: March 14, 1864.
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Office U.S. Military Telegraph

War Department

Washington, D.C. March 14 1864

Major General Butler

Fort Monroe, VA

Lieut. and Adj. 6 Wis-

consin volunteers. Edward P. Brooks is a prisoner

of War at Richmond , and if you

can, without difficulty, effect a special exchange

for him, I shall be obliged.



34 Chg Ex Mans

Recd 315 pm

Sent 340 pm

By D

Historical analysis

This analysis makes use of a heuristic for historical thinking know as SCIM-C developed by David Hicks, Peter Doolittle and Tom Ewing. For more about this historical thinking heuristic please see [1]

Summary of the telegram

In this telegram, Lincoln asked Major General Benjamin Butler to pursue a prisoner exchange for Edward Brooks, and adjunct general from Wisconsin.

The Context for this telegram

Prisoner exchanges were common during the Civil War. The process was often negotiated at high levels, but involved prisoners at all ranks.

General Benjamin Butler was in charge of the Union Army of the James in Virginia and North Carolina. Butler served as a representative in the U.S. House of Representatives from Massachusetts before the war. In the early years of the war, Butler was placed in charge of the Union occupation of New Orleans in 1861.

Edward P. Brooks was an adjunct general from Madison, Wisconsin who commanded troops at the 1863 Battle of Gettysburg. Major General Abner Doubleday mentioned Brooks in his report on the Gettysburg battle. "In the Sixth Wisconsin, Adjt. Edward P. Brooks is mentioned for greatly aiding the successful capture of the two regiments in the railroad cut, by throwing a body of men into the cut so as to enfilade the rebel line." [1]

Brooks capture was recorded by James P. Sullivan in a memoir he wrote some years after the war. "Also in November, Edward P. Brooks the handsome young adjunct whose earlier capering had been chronicled was captured. It was another example of comely Southern womanhood who led the Madison lad into his captors' hands." [2]

Butler replied to Lincoln by telegram that same day that he would execute a prisoner exchange right away [3]

Inferences about the telegram

We can infer from this telegram that Lincoln was involved in the process of prisoner exchange. We might also infer that Lincoln was familiar with the Brooks story.

Lincoln might also have been acting on a request from someone else. James P. Sullivan's recounting of the capture of Brooks suggests that his capture was non-military. Lincoln could have been trying to pursue a prisoner exchange because he thought the terms of capture were unfair.


  1. Reports of Maj. Gen. Abner Doubleday, U. S. Army, Commanding Third Division Of, and First Army Corps. Gettysburg Campaign O.R.--SERIES I--VOLUME XXVII/1 [S# 43]
  2. An Irishman in the Iron Brigade: the Civil War memoirs of James P. Sullivan
  3. Bulter's reply is available in The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, Vol. 7, Volume 7, page 225 available from Google Books at