November 10, 1864 (1)
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Office US Military Telegraph
Washington, D.C. November 10, 1864
Major General Burbaige
I have just recieved a telegram from Gov. Bramlette saying, "Genl James(?) B. Houston(?), a loyal man and prominent citizen, was arrested and yesterday started off by Gen. Burbaige to be sent beyond our lines by way of Callettsburg for no other offense than affrontion to your re-election" and I have answered him as follows below, of which please take notice and report to me.
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 http://www.historicalinquiry.com
Summary of the telegram
In this telegram Lincoln is responding to telegram sent to him by Governor Bramlette of Kentucky. He sends this to General Burbaige inquiring about a situation that a “loyal man and prominent citizen” was arrested for publicly opposing Lincoln’s re-election.
The Context for this telegram
The election of 1864 occurred a few days prior to this event with the end result being the re-election of Abraham Lincoln. This man from Kentucky that was arrested was more than likely denouncing the re-election of Lincoln and practicing his freedom of speech. Kentucky was a Union boarder state at the time and there was a contingent of people from Kentucky who joined the Confederacy. This was certainly a state that was not overly supportive of Lincoln and Governor Bramlette was a Democrat.
Inferences about the telegram
Lincoln probably wanted to cool tensions in the state from a political and practical standpoint. In another telegram that Lincoln sends on the same day he states that the man arrested for opposing his re-election should be immediately released. Lincoln wants to send a clear message here that personal rights will be protected and that opposing viewpoints are permitted lawfully. This is important as well as it being in a border state that already has a sizable opposition to Lincoln. There is also a little bit of doubt in Lincoln’s message as he seems unsure that this event actually occurred. In the next telegram Lincoln sends he certainly expresses his doubt about the situation occurring and the future telegram could be seen as sarcastic.