March 19, 1864

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Telegram Sent on: March 19, 1864.
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The Lincoln Telegram Project

Image of the March 19, 1864 telegram

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Washington D.C., March 19, 1864

Major General Butler,

Fort Monroe, VA

Please find a captain among

the rebel prisioner in your charge and exchange of

for T. Ten Eyck, of 18th U.S. Infan-

try, now a prisoner at Richmond.

A. Lincoln

Recd: 12:20pm


By: S

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 [ttp://]

Summary of the telegram

In this telegram, President Lincoln requested that General Benjamin Butler arrange a prisoner exchange for Captain Tenedor Ten Eyck of the 18th Infantry who was being held as a prisoner of war in Richmond, Virginia.

The Context for this telegram

President Lincoln directly involved himself in the exchange of prisoners on a number of occasions. This particular request for a prisoner exchange involved a captain in the 18th Wisconsin infantry named Tenedor Ten Eyck. Captain Ten Eyck was captured September 20, 1863 during the Battle of Chickamauga, and was transfered to Libby Prison in Richmond Virgina. While at Libby, Ten Eyck participated in a famous February 1864 escape in which 115 Union soldiers escaped from the Confederate prison[1]. Ten Eyck was not among those who escaped. According to an account of Ten Eyck's life published in J. Seymour Currey's Chicago: Its history and its builders, a century of marvelous growth (Volume 4)[2], Ten Eyck was too ill to join the escape. Seymour mentioned Lincoln's March 19, 1864 telegram in his account of Ten Eyck's life, but provides no detail about Lincoln's motivation. According to Seymour, after conditions in the Libby prison forced it's closure, Ten Eyck was transfered to Macon, Georgia and then onto Charleston, South Carolina. Ten Eyck was finally moved to Columbia, South Carolina where he was released under the terms of the previous prisoner exchange request. In an April 23, 1864_(2) telegram, Lincoln again requested a prisoner exchange for Ten Eyck. This time Lincoln mentioned a request from Senator John C. Ten Eyck.

After the Civil War, Tenedor Ten Eyck remained in the army and participated in the 1866-1868 military engagement with Sioux (Lakota) Native Americans known as Red Cloud's War. On December 21, 1866, Ten Eyck was in command of a small group of reinforcements sent to support troops under the command of William Fetterman who had been lured into an ambush by Lakota Indians led by Oglala warrior Crazy Horse. Ten Eyck's reinforcements arrived too late and all 150 troops under Fetterman and Captain James Powell were killed. Ten Eyck received harsh criticism for his failure to support Fetterman and Powell's troops.

Inferences about the telegram

One unanswered question is why did Lincoln choose to request this prisoner exchange. Seymour suggested indirectly that Lincoln received a request from Ten Eyck's wife. In his book, Seymour wrote that after learning that Ten Eyck had been transfered from Libby prison before Lincoln's order arrived "Mrs. Ten Eyck proceeded to Washington and secured an interview with President Lincoln"[3]. Seymour reported that this meeting took place in July of 1864. Seymour also mentioned the second telegram from April 23, 1864 online in this collection at,_1864_(2). Senator Ten Eyck was related to Tenedore Ten Eyck. We might infer that this original March 19th request for a prisoner exchange came from Senator Ten Eyck.


  1. For more see this first hand account of the escape from John Bray
  2. For more see this online version of Seymour's book at
  3. See this online version of Seymour's book at