Lincoln Urges Immediate Action

By September, Tennessee was under Union control, and this letter to Johnson is considerably more imperative than usual, as Lincoln told him “not a moment should be lost [in] re-inaugurating a loyal state government.” Despite the exigency, Lincoln remained reasonable in his tone, deferring to Johnson’s local knowledge and offering “a few suggestions” only. With the next presidential election looming, Lincoln was pessimistic about his own future, telling Johnson “that it can not be known who is next to occupy the position I now hold, nor what he will do.” He thanked Johnson warmly for his declaration “in favor of emancipation in Tennessee” and urged him to “get emancipation into your new State government” and to continue his efforts to recruit “colored troops.” Johnson eventually enlisted more than 20,000 black troops for the Union.