This unique letter was penned by James Crandall Lane (1823-1888) of New York City, the son of Daniel and Mary (Crandall) Lane. Lane joined the 102nd Van Buren Light Infantry as Major in January 1862 and rose to command the regiment during its heaviest fighting. Assigned to the 2nd Corps, Army of the Potomac the 102nd New York was baptised at Cedar Mountain in August 1862 suffering 115 casualties. The next month with morale intact the New Yorker’s under Lt. Colonel Lane were sharply engaged at Antietam repelling several determined Confederates charges while in support of a friendly artillery battery. Later transferred to the 12th Corps, the regiment sustained an additional 90 men killed, wounded, and missing at Chancellorsville before counter-marching to Gettysburg where they were hard pressed until well after dark on July 2nd at a cost of 32 casualties including Colonel Lane who was wounded during the night action. In October 1863 the 12th/20th Corps was sent to the western theater as reinforcements with Lane rejoining his regiment in time to lead the attack on Lookout Mountain during the so called “battle above the clouds.” During the height of the Atlanta campaign in which the hard marching 102nd saw its share of combat, Colonel Lane mustered out on July 12, 1864, still suffering the effects of his Gettysburg wound.
After the Civil War, Col. Lane conducted mineralogical surveys in California, Arizona, Nevada, and Lower California, as well as topographical surveys in Palestine. He was also engaged a Chief Engineer of the South Side and of the New York, Woodhaven, and Rockaway Railroads on Long Island.
This letter was penned in the days following the Peninsula Campaign during which time it had become evident to many that McClellan’s Army of the Potomac might have benefited from the types of services proposed by Major Lane in his letter to Edwin M. Stanton.
The envelope accompanying the letter has docketed upon it the following words, “Respectfully submitted to the Secretary of War and Gen’l Totten & asking special attention to it. — A. Lincoln, July 14, 1862.” Though someone has traced over the President’s handwriting—perhaps written originally in pencil or pale ink—it does appear to be the signature of the President and characteristic of his handwriting. A similar endorsement was docketed on an appointment of a surgeon named Owen M. Long in 1862 that read, “Respectfully submitted to the War Department, with the remark that I personally know Dr. Long to be a good man. — A. Lincoln, July 21, 1862.” Also, see footnote images. HOWEVER, subsequent to the publication of this post, the purchaser of the letter requested an authentication of Lincoln’s writing/signature on the envelope by Daniel R. Weinberg (Abraham Lincoln Book Shop in Chicago) who determined that the original (underlying) writing is a forgery.
Headquarters Van Buren Light Infantry
102nd New York Volunteers
Camp near Strasburg, Va.
July 2nd 1862
To the Honorable Edwin M. Stanton
Secretary of War
Washington D. C.
Being desirous of forming a Regiment, Battalion or Corps of mounted men, to act in the double capacity of Engineers and Rangers, and feeling myself to be capable of raising and commanding such a Corps, (having had over ten years experience as an Exploring Engineer and Ranger), I respectfully ask permission from the Department to raise such [a] Regiment.
My idea of the equipment of the Corps I desire to raise would be—for the officers; besides sword and revolvers, to carry Pocket Sextants and the other necessary instruments to ascertain latitude and longitude, and also to make triangulations to establish trigonometrical points and make such observations as to render the artillery more effective where they might be acting on inside lines, and also to carry all necessary materials to note and preserve the topographical and strategic combinations which they might meet in their reconnoissance. The officers of the Regiment to furnish for themselves all instruments and materials required—viz: Sextants, Drawing materials, &c for reconnoissance without expense to the Government.
The men to be mounted (if possible) on the Indian mustang, armed with Carbine, Cutlass, and revolver, and in the pockets of the McClellan saddle, a serviceable short handled axe or tomahawk (the latter preferred as it may be used for both axe and pick) and in the other a small spade with movable handle (to be used by them as sappers and miners).
One third of the Regiment, besides the above equipment to have pieces of tough wood (accurately fitted) to form in the shortest possible time, a truss bridge (light for passage of infantry) of as large a span as the capacity and strength of material will admit of. Such a body of men (well drilled in Cavalry Tactics, with my experience as Scout and Ranger), officered by picked and tried Engineers—both Topographical and Civil—would have an “esprit du corps” at least equal to any Regiment now in the Army of the United States. And if attached to a Mountain Department (Gen. Pope’s for instance) or to either of the Divisions of Gen’ls Banks or Sigel, would, in my judgement, be able to render invaluable aid to the Column or Corps d’ armée to which they might be attached.
As for myself, I can procure from many influential men (not political) endorsements as to capacity, force of character, morality, and ability to command which they will do me the honor to state. I have earned fairly and after long and thorough trials, such as few men have had the honor and good fortune to pass through. In the years 1850 and 1851, I was Acting Assistant Engineer on the experimental lines of the Illinois Central Railroad under Col. R. B. Mason, Chief Engineer. In the years ’52 to ’54, I was Chief Engineer of the explorations in New Grenada and in connection with that survey am favorably known to the Governments of England, France, and the United States. Since then, for the most part of the time, I have engaged in a Reconnaissance and Mineralogical Survey of the West India Islands and was on the Island of San Domingo during the time of the pseudo-revolution in which the Spanish Crown usurped the Government of the Dominican Republic. Since January 1862, I have had the honor of serving the United States in the 102nd Regiment, New York State Volunteers as Major, and have no desire to leave the Regiment until it becomes necessary to form the new command.
I have the honor to be respectfully your obedient servant, — Jas. C. Lane, Major, 102nd N.Y.S.V.
I think practicable and recommend the same. — Matthew Schlaudecker, Col., 111th Regt. P. Vols., Commanding 1st Brigade, 2d Division, 2d Army Corps, Va.
Major Lane, who submits the above proposition, I deem admirably qualified to carry out the plan proposed and make it an entire success. He has numerous friends, is exceedingly popular in this regiment of which he has been Major since it came into the service and has many qualities, independent of his theoretical & practical knowledge of Engineering & Scouting, which peculiarly qualify him to command a regiment of the character proposed.
Very respectfully, &c., — Thos. [Brodhead] Van Buren, Col., 102nd N.Y.V.
I think it quite practicable to raise such a regiment as the one proposed and all I have heard and seen of Major Lane induces me to believe that he is peculiarly fitted for such a command. — James Cooper, Brig. Gen. Commanding Division
I highly recommend the plan of Major Lane to the kind and favorable consideration of the Secretary of War, — F. Sigel, Maj. Gen. commanding 1st Corps, Army of Virginia
Headquarters Second Corps d’ armée
July 6, 1862
The plan of Major Lane proposed within meets my cordial approval and I recommend to the government its favorable consideration. — N. P. Banks, M. G. Commanding
I concur in the above. — O. M. Mitchell, Maj. Gen., U.S.A.
July 7th, 1862
We the undersigned officers in the 1st Brigade, Gen. [James] Cooper’s Division, Second Corps d’ armée (Acting Brig. Gen’l. [M.] Schlandecker) respectfully recommend the within plan of raising an Engineer & Ranger Regt. (by Major J. C. Lane) and take pleasure in recommending him as an officer eminently qualified (in our opinion) for the command of such Regt.
Geo. A. Cobham, Lt. Col., commanding 111th P. V.
W[illiam] B. Hayward, Lt. Col., 102nd N. Y. Vols.
Capt. S[amuel] M. Davis, Co. E, 111th [P. V.]
A[rthur] Corrigan, Capt. Co. B, 111th P. V.
Capt. J. Baker
Capt. F[rank] Wagner, Company I, 111th Regt.
W[illiam] J. Alexander, Capt. Co. D, 111th P. V.
John P. Schlaudecker, Capt. Co. H [111th P. V.]
Thos. M. Walker, Maj., 111th Pa. [Vol.]
H[iram] L. Blodgett, Lieut. Co. C [111th P. V.]
L[eander] W. Kimball, Lieut. Co. E, 111th
F[rank] J. Osgood, 1st Lieut., Co. K, 111th P. V.
Lieut. C[hristian] Sexauer, Co. G, 111th [P. V.]
N[elson] E. Ames, 2nd Lieut., Co. A, 111th P. V.
Lieut. C[aspar] M. Kingsbury, Act. Adjutant, 111th
[On the envelope in which Major Lane’s proposal was enclosed:]
Respectfully submitted to the Secretary of War and Gen’l [Joseph Gilbert] Totten & asking special attention to it. — A. Lincoln, July 14, 1862 ¹
¹ On the previous day, 13 July 1864, President Lincoln, Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles, and Secretary of State William H. Seward traveled by “carriage” to attend the funeral of the Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton’s “infant child” James. Welles recalled, “It was on this occasion and on this ride that [Lincoln] first mentioned . . . the subject of emancipating the slaves by proclamation . . . He dwelt earnestly on the gravity, importance, and delicacy of the movement, said he had given it much thought and had about come to the conclusion that it was a military necessity absolutely essential for the salvation of the Union.” Gideon Welles,Diary of Gideon Welles (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1911), vol. 1, 70; Benjamin P. Thomas and Harold M. Hyman, Stanton: The Life and Times of Lincoln’s Secretary of War (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1962), 175.