Parting of the Ways
The Firing of Simon Cameron


     In keeping a watchful eye on the present administration and their activities during the course of hostilities between North and South, the Committee on Government Contracts had raised red flags against the War Department Secretary, Simon Cameron regarding paid out federal contracts for quartermaster stores bought for the Army and Navy. Running rampant during the latter half of 1861 and early 1862 were clothing, blankets, and accoutrements, over priced and underrated.

     The United States Senate began seeking an explanation, and issued the Secretary of War a mandate to furnish record of contractors, amounts charged, payments made, and dates of transactions. He flat out ignored Congress and their entire inquest on the matter, perhaps, thinking that it will simply go away. There began speculation that the Secretary of War was exercising his own favoritism or perhaps turning a profit for himself.

     Many prominent men came seeking President Lincoln wanting the secretary's head on a silver platter. He was not impressed himself with the end of year report from the War Department, and confided in his personal Secretary Mr. John G. Nicolay that Cameron was utterly ignorant, yes, an obnoxious cabinet member, organizationally inept, and last but not least openly insulting to the Chief Executive.

     At the end of the calendar year, the War Department had stepped beyond the bounds allowed it. Simon Cameron submitted his administrative policy views in that the government had the entire right to arm the black slave giving the impression that Lincoln was about to fill the ranks with the negro and allow them to fight.

     This little turn of events gave the President the ammunition he needed to make the replacement. Administrative policy belongs solely to the President of the United States, and the public would gain a wrongful intention should he ignore the publicity this would bring.

     During the President's Tuesday Morning cabinet meetings, both he and Cameron maintained their cordiality as always, yet there were hints that the Pennsylvanian was growing weary of his post as Secretary of War. He was looking towards a foreign mission job, so Lincoln thus nominated him before the United States Senate on January 11, 1862 as Minister to Russia. He would be confirmed six days later by a two thirds vote.

     As Simon Cameron left his post in the War Department, Lincoln expressed to Congress a written letter denoting no fault on the part of Cameron in the neglect of his duties as his war secretary. Instead he personally blamed his own administration of the short sightedness with the issues at hand. Mr. Cameron was truly grateful to the Chief Executive for bailing him out, and according to John Nicolay the two men remained devout and personal friends.


Dan (Aldie) Daniel Moran
© 2002

Editors Note: Mr.Moran is a feature writer on the US-Civilwar.com writers staff. He may be contacted with your questions, ideas and requests at dmoran@us-civilwar.net