At our dinner meeting on January 23, 2018, Dr. Ethan S. Rafuse, Professor of Military History at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth KS, gave an interesting program about Lincoln's Secretary of War, Edwin M. Stanton. Some of the key points that Dr. Rafuse made were:
- Prior to the Civil War, Stanton was a prominent lawyer and became very wealthy. He argued several high profile suits including the State of Pennsylvania vs. Wheeling and Belmont Suspension Bridge and McCormick vs. Manny.
- In 1859, Stanton defended Daniel Sickles, who killed his wife's lover. However, Sickles was acquitted after using temporary insanity as a legal defense for the first time in U.S. history.
- As a politician, Stanton tried to play both sides against each other.
- Stanton served as Secretary of War from 1862-1865. Stanton and Union General George B. McClellan had a bitter relationship. During the Peninsula Campaign, Stanton ordered McClellan to send one corps east to defend Washington. Dr. Rafuse said Stanton was disruptive to Abraham Lincoln's overall war effort.
- Union General William T. Sherman negotiated a peace deal with Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston. Stanton publicly criticized Sherman over this deal, which made Sherman look bad. As a result, Sherman refused to shake Stanton's hand during the Grand Review of the Armies.
- After Lincoln was assassinated, Stanton organized the manhunt for Lincoln’s killer, John Wilkes Booth.
- Following the Civil War, Stanton remained as Secretary of War under President Andrew Johnson. However, Stanton opposed the lenient policies of Johnson toward the former Confederate States. Johnson's attempt to dismiss Stanton ultimately led to Johnson's impeachment.
- Stanton died in 1869, shortly after his nomination as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court was confirmed by the Senate.