“Manager Lincoln”

January 31, 1863

Frank Bellew

“Manager Lincoln”

Civil War, Battles; Civil War, Copperheads/Peace Democrats; Civil War, Union Military; Presidential Administration, Abraham Lincoln; U.S. Military; Wars, American Civil War;

Lincoln, Abraham;

No 'Places' indexed for this cartoon.

"Ladies and Gentlemen, I regret to say that the Tragedy, entitled The Army of the Potomac, has been withdrawn on account of Quarrels among the leading Performers, and I have substituted three new and striking Farces or Burlesques, one, entitled The Repulse at Vicksburg, by the well-known, popular favorite, E. M. Stanton, Esq., and the others, The Loss of the Harriet Lane and The Exploits of the Alabama - a very sweet thing in Farces, I assure you - by the Veteran Composer, Gideon Welles."

(Unbounded Applause by the Copperheads.)

This Harper’s Weekly cartoon by Frank Bellew criticizes President Abraham Lincoln’s management of the Union military effort during the Civil War.

Harper’s Weekly is often remembered as a pro-Lincoln, Republican newspaper, but that was not accurate until George William Curtis became editor in December 1863. Until that time, the newspaper lent strong support to the Union military, but was more restrained regarding Lincoln’s leadership abilities and unenthusiastic about emancipation. This cartoon appeared shortly after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation took effect on January 1, 1863. Cartoonist Frank Bellew concentrates on what seemed at the time to be a failing Union military strategy. President Lincoln stands as a (war) theater manager before a cheering audience of Copperheads (Confederate sympathizers in the North). His announcement of the withdrawal of the tragedy, The Army of the Potomac, refers to his removal of General Ambrose Burnside as commander of the Army of the Potomac, the Union’s main fighting force in the Eastern Theater, after the Union defeat at the Battle of Fredericksburg (Virginia) in December 1862.

The substituted farce of The Repulse of Vicksburg, alludes to initial failures of General Ulysses S. Grant and General William T. Sherman to capture Vicksburg, Mississippi, for the Union. (The ultimate surrender of Vicksburg on July 4, 1863, was one of the turning points of the war.) The other references in the caption are to Union naval losses, specifically by the Confederate ship, the Alabama, which seized or destroyed 69 Union vessels before its capture in June 1864.

For much of his administration, Lincoln was an unpopular president. His political strength rested greatly on how the Union military was faring at any given time. On July 4, 1863, the Union victories at Gettysburg (Pennsylvania) and Vicksburg bolstered his stature, but failure to bring the war to a speedier closure weakened the president again. After securing renomination by the Republicans in 1864, Lincoln’s reelection was due in large part to Union military victories, particularly the fall of Atlanta on September 1, 1864.

Robert C. Kennedy

“Manager Lincoln”
July 14, 2024

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