Lincoln Appoints Jewish Officer, E.M. Joel, to Serve on General Blair’s Staff

August 18, 1864

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Lincoln Appoints Jewish Officer, E.M. Joel, to Serve on General Blair’s Staff
Autograph Letter Signed
2 pages | SMC 571

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      Background

      The Blairs have to an unusual degree the spirit of clan. Their family is a closed corporation. Frank is their hope and pride. They have a way of going with a rush for anything they undertake; especially have Montgomery and the Old Gentleman.

      President Lincoln, speaking to John Hay and others, December 9, 1863

      With friends like the Blairs of Missouri, Lincoln hardly needed enemies. Father Francis Preston Blair, a newspaper editor, appointed himself an advisor; son Frank served fiercely as a general, and congressman, and general again; and son Montgomery, was Postmaster General, until Lincoln let him go. All were irascible, intense, combative, and time-consuming. Here Lincoln tends to General Blair, who had resigned his commission just long enough to make a blistering speech in Congress against Republican radicals and Salmon Chase’s presidential ambitions and now, reinstated, is complaining about his staffing needs. 

      When Gen. Frank Blair went from here, and ever since, there was and has been so much opposition to him, that I have been restrained from asking, as he frequent has asked me, to have his Staff filled up. He claims to have been substantially without a Staff through this whole years campaign. He now asks as follows…

      One of the men Blair wants back with him is “E.M. Joel now A.Q. M. to be Corps Q.M. with rank of Lt. Col.” Ephraim M. Joel began was a non-commissioned officer and, with Lincoln’s approval here, rose to be a Lieutenant Colonel. Born in Scotland, Joel was that very rare thing: a Jewish staff officer. 

      During the Battle of Vicksburg, Joel of St. Louis seized Confederate cannons. An excellent Quartermaster, he rose as high in the ranks as Lieutenant Colonel, and survived the war, a decorated officer. Mustered out, he returned to Saint Louis, Missouri, where he worked as a district assessor. When he died there in 1884, at the age of 54, he was recalled as a “man of almost universal acquaintance, shrewd and kindly” – and one whose loyalty to Frank Blair, in service and out, never diminished.

      As for Lincoln, he liked and respected the Blairs well enough, be they ever so quarrelsome and malignant. Indeed, one way or another, in concert or no, the Blair clan played an important, if contentious, part of Lincoln’s presidency.

      Autograph Letter Signed (“A. Lincoln”), as President, 2 pages, recto and verso, octavo, Executive Mansion, August 18, 1864. To Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton.
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      Executive Mansion,


      Washington, August 18, 1864.

      Hon Sec. of War

      Dear Sir,

      When Gen. Frank Blair went from here, and ever since, there was and has been so much opposition to him, that I have been restrained from asking, as he frequent has asked me, to have his Staff filled up.  He claims to have been substantially without a Staff through this whole years campaign. He now asks [text is crossed out] as follows.

      Wells W. Leggett, Aid [sic] de Camp, with rank of Capt
      E. M. Joel, now A. Q. M. to be Corps Q. M. with rank of Lt Col
      J. H. W. Mills, now Com. of 8th to be Corps of Com, of 8th, with rank of Lieut Col
      Peter Leary Jr., now of Alxrs 

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      Page 2 transcript

      Maryland Battery, a place on his Staff -- (Papers on file as to Leary) 

      Please have the case looked up and give him so many of them as the law allows.  

      Yours truly  

      A.LINCOLN