The President Demands Better for His Troops

As an active commander in chief, Lincoln personally tested the innovative Spencer repeater carbines, or “navy rifles.” Despite being pressured to approve the weapon, Lincoln demanded its flaws be corrected before it was issued to his troops. This letter shows Lincoln’s sense of responsibility—in word and deed—to the troops and his insistence on high standards.

The result is that I have tried two of these guns; and each so got out of order as to have been entirely useless in a battle. This happened too, with specimens of the gun, which the Navy officers had inspected and bought for their own use, and, in fact, happened in the hands of their present Chief Ordnance Officer—The Secretary of War . . . is opposed to furnishing this gun; and when to this is added the opposition of the Gen. in Chief, and my own discouragement, at the trials, I am sorry to disappoint you by saying I can not now order these guns for you.