Fake Lincoln Proclamation of 1864

        In May, 1864 there was a Presidential Proclamation published in some of the New York newspapers that called for four hundred thousand more troops to be furnished by the states for the war effort.  This Proclamation was immediately determined to be a fake.  The following is the correspondence describing the  actions that were taken that resulted from this publication.  This correspondence was taken from "The Official Records of the War of the Rebellion" and nothing has been changed. 


NEW YORK, May 18, 1864.
(Received 10 a.m.)

Maj. THOMAS T. ECKERT:

        The following is taken from the New York World of this morning. Is it genuine?

M. S. ROBERTS,
Manager New York Office.

Four hundred thousand more troops called for.

EXECUTIVE MANSION,
May 17, 1864.

FELLOW-CITIZENS OF THE UNITED STATES:

        In all exigencies it becomes a nation carefully to scrutinize its line of conduct, humbly to approach the Throne of Grace, and meekly to implore forgiveness, wisdom, and guidance.
        For reasons known only to Him it has been decreed that this country should be the scene of unparalleled outrage, and this nation the monumental sufferer of the nineteenth century. With a heavy heart, but an undiminished confidence in our cause, I approach the performance of duty, rendered imperative by my sense of weakness before the Almighty, and of justice to the people.
        It is not necessary that I should tell you that the first Virginia campaign under Lieutenant-General Grant, in whom I have every confidence, and whose courage and fidelity the people do well to honor, is virtually closed.
        He has conducted his great enterprise with discreet ability.
        He has inflicted great loss upon the enemy. He has crippled their strength and defeated their plans.
        In view, however, of the situation in Virginia, the disaster at Red River, the delay at Charleston, and the general state of the country, I, Abraham Lincoln, do hereby recommend that Thursday, the twenty-sixth day of May, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-four, be solemnly set apart throughout these United States as a day of fasting, humiliation, and prayer. Deeming, furthermore, that the present condition of public affairs presents an extraordinary occasion, and in view of the pending expiration of the service of 100,000 of our troops, I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, by virtue of the power vested in me by the Constitution and the laws, have thought fit to call forth, and hereby do call forth, the citizens of the United States between the ages of eighteen and forty-five years to the aggregate number of 400,000, in order to suppress the existing rebellious combinations and to cause the due execution of the laws. And furthermore, in case any State or number of States shall fail to furnish by the fifteenth day of June next their assigned quotas, it is hereby ordered that the same be raised by an immediate and peremptory draft. The details for this object will be communicated the State authorities through the War Department. I appeal to all loyal citizens to favor, facilitate, and aid this effort to maintain the honor, the integrity, and the existence of our national Union, and the perpetuity of popular government. In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.
        Done at the city of Washington this seventeenth day of May, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-four, and of the Independence of the United States the eighty-eighth.

ABRAHAM LINCOLN.

By the President:

WILLIAM H. SEWARD,
Secretary of State.

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NEW YORK, May 18, 1864.
(Received 11.35 a.m.)

Hon. W. H. SEWARD,
Secretary of State:

        A proclamation by the President, countersigned by you, and believed to be spurious, has appeared in some of our morning papers calling for 400,000 men, and appointing the 26th instant as a day of fasting, humiliation, and prayer. Please answer immediately for steamer.

JOHN A. DIX,
Major-General.

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DEPARTMENT OF STATE,
May 18, 1864.

To THE PUBLIC:

        A paper purporting to be a proclamation of the President, counter-signed by the Secretary of State, and bearing date the 17th day of May, is reported to this Department as having appeared in the New York World of this date. The paper is an absolute forgery. No proclamation of that kind or any other has been made or proposed to be made by the President, or issued or proposed to be issued by the State Department or any Department of the Government.

WILLIAM H. SEWARD.

(Sent to New York press and to Charles Francis Adams, London, and William L. Dayton, Paris.)

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WAR DEPARTMENT,
Washington City, May 18, 1864.

Major-General DIX,
New York:

        I have just seen a copy of the spurious proclamation referred to in your telegram. It is a base and treasonable forgery.

EDWIN M. STANTON,
Secretary of War.

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EXECUTIVE MANSION,
Washington, May 18, 1864.

Maj. Gen. JOHN A. DIX,
Commanding, New York:

        Whereas, there has been wickedly and traitorously printed and published this morning in the New York World and New York Journal of Commerce, newspapers printed and published in the city of New York, a false and spurious proclamation purporting to be signed by the President and to be countersigned by the Secretary of State, which publication is of a treasonable nature, designed to give aid and comfort to the enemies of the United States and to the rebels now at war against the Government, and their aiders and abettors, you are, therefore, hereby commanded forthwith to arrest and imprison in any fort or military prison in your command the editors, proprietors, and publishers of the aforesaid newspapers, and all such persons as, after public notice has been given of the falsehood of said publication, print and publish the same, with intent to give aid and comfort to the enemy, and you will hold the persons so arrested in close custody until they can be brought to trial before a military commission for their offense. You will also take possession, by military force, of the printing establishments of the New York World and Journal of Commerce and hold the same until further orders, and prevent any further publication therefrom.

A. LINCOLN.

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WAR DEPARTMENT,
Washington, D.C., May 18, 1864--2 p.m.

Maj. Gen. JOHN. A. DIX,
New York:

        The President directs that immediately upon receipt of this order you take military possession of the offices of the Independent Telegraph Company at New York (one corner Cedar and Nassau streets, Gold Room, William street, and Brokers' Exchange), and of all the instruments, dispatches, and papers that may be found in the office or upon the person of the manager, superintendent, and operators, and keep possession thereof, and arrest the manager, operators, superintendent, and hold them in close custody until further order, and permit no telegraph to be sent over the line until further orders. Strict diligence, attention, and confidence is desired in the execution of this order, and you are requested to give it your personal attention and employ your best officers.

EDWIN M. STANTON,
Secretary of War.

(Similar orders to General Cadwalader, Philadelphia; Colonel Bornford, Harrisburg, and Captain Foster, Pittsburg.)

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NEW YORK, May 18, 1864.
(Received 4.35 p.m.)

Hon. E. M. STANTON,
Secretary of War :

        I am investigating the gross fraud of this morning. The paper purporting to be a proclamation of the President was handed into the offices of the city newspapers at 4 o'clock, written on thin manifold paper of foolscap size, like the dispatches of the Associated Press. In handwriting and every other respect it was admirably calculated to deceive. It was published in the World and Journal of Commerce. None of the responsible editors of either of the papers was present. As soon as the editors of the World discovered the fraud they announced it on their bulletin, and they have offered a reward of $500 for the detection of the author. It was printed by the Herald, but none of the copies were issued, the fraud having been discovered before they left the office. I have sent to all the newspapers for their manuscripts and have received three. They are alike in respect to paper and handwriting. I think the authors will be detected, and I need not add that I shall in that case arrest and imprison them for trifling in so infamous a manner with the authority of the Government and the feelings of the community at this important juncture in our public affairs. Since writing the above the President's order for the arrest of the editors, proprietors, and publishers of the World and Journal of Commerce has come to hand. I shall execute it unless the foregoing information shall be deemed sufficient by the President to suspend it until my investigation is concluded.

JOHN A. DIX,
Major-General.

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WAR DEPARTMENT,
May 18, 1864.

Major-General DIX,
New York:

        The President's telegram was an order to you which I think it was your duty to execute immediately upon its receipt. I have no further orders to give you.

EDWIN M. STANTON,
Secretary of War.

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NEW YORK, May 18, 1864.
(Received 5.40 p.m.)

Hon. EDWIN M. STANTON,
Secretary of War:

        There will be no delay in the execution of either order. The telegraph offices will be seized immediately, and the newspapers, editors, &c., unless I hear from you before the guards are ready.

JOHN A. DIX,
Major-General.

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WAR DEPARTMENT,
May 18, 1864--6.30 p.m.

Major-General DIX,
New York:

        Your telegram of 5.40 is just received. A great national crime has been committed by the publication. The editors, proprietors, and publishers, responsible and irresponsible, are in law guilty of that crime. You were not directed to make any investigation, but to execute the President's order; the investigation was to be made by a military commission. How you can excuse or justify delay in executing the President's order until you make an investigation is not for me to determine.

EDWIN M. STANTON,
Secretary of War.

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WAR DEPARTMENT,
Washington City, May 18, 1864--8.30 p.m.

Major-General DIX,
New York:

        The officer in charge of the investigation, respecting the forged proclamation, reports that he is led to believe it originated in this city, and that the New York publishers were not privy to it. If your conclusions are the same you may suspend action against them until developments are made.

EDWIN M. STANTON,
Secretary of War.

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NEW YORK, May 18, 1864.
(Received 10.40 p.m.)

Hon. E. M. STANTON,
Secretary of War:

        The investigation was made by me as commanding officer of the department before the President's order was received, as my dispatch showed. There has been none since. I understood the President's orders as commands to be executed, and there has been no unnecessary delay in the execution. The telegraphic offices were seized as soon as my officers could reach them. The World and Journal of Commerce printing offices are in possession of my men. Two of my officers, Major Halpine and Captain Barstow, are engaged in the arrest of the editors, proprietors, and publishers, and a steamer is waiting at Castle Garden to take them to Fort Lafayette. The only delay has been in making proper arrangements to secure, as nearly as possible, simultaneous and effective action.

J. A. DIX,
Major-general.

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NEW YORK, May 18, 1864.
(Received 10.40 p.m.)

Hon. E. M. STANTON,
Secretary of War:

        Your dispatch in regard to the probable origin of the forged proclamation is just received. I am satisfied the publishers of the World and Journal of Commerce had no knowledge of it. I shall, therefore, suspend the order as to them, but shall keep possession of their printing offices until you otherwise direct. The manager, superintendent, and operators of the telegraph line will be sent to Fort Lafayette in an hour. They have been in arrest since 5 o'clock.

JNO. A. DIX,
Major-General.

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PHILADELPHIA, May 18, 1864.
(Received 7.50 p.m.)

Hon. E. M. STANTON,
Secretary of War:

        The telegram lines indicated in your telegram, and all the instruments, dispatches, and papers have been seized, and the manager, operators, and superintendents arrested and will be held until further orders. A large number of private dispatches are detained. Two other offices than those named by you connected with this line have also been taken possession of. They have through communication everywhere without going through the principal office. It is said that there are also other offices, which I will seize if I can find them. Please inform me if I am not acting correctly.

GEO. CADWALADER,
Major-General, Commanding.

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PITTSBURG, May 18, 1864.

Hon. E. M. STANTON,
Secretary of War:

        Under orders received at 5.30 I have seized papers, instruments, and J. H. Robinson, manager, J. R. Roe, assistant superintendent, George A. Hamilton, operator, W. J. Gill, clerk, Inland Telegraph Line, and all papers. Will send them at 8.35.

J. HERON FOSTER,
Capt. and Prov. Mar. Twenty-second District of Pennsylvania.

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WAR DEPARTMENT,
Washington City, May 18, 1864.

Major-General CADWALADER,
Philadelphia:

        Accept the thanks of this Department for your prompt action. Secure and forward all the papers, and send the prisoners forward under guard to report to Colonel Wisewell, Military Governor.

EDWIN M. STANTON,
Secretary of War.

(Same to Capt. J. Heron Foster, Pittsburg.)

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HARRISBURG, May 18, 1864.

Hon. E. M. STANTON:

        Have received your important telegram of this date. At 7 p.m. have taken possession of office of Independent Telegraph (self-styled Inland and American Line), also books, papers, instruments, and operators. Am now searching for the president and treasurer. The superintendent, A. J. Baldwin, is in New York City.

J. V. BOMFORD,
Lieutenant-Colonel Sixteenth Infantry, &c.

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CONFIDENTIAL. ] WAR DEPARTMENT,
Washington, City, D.C., May 18, 1864.

Maj. Gen. LEW. WALLACE,
Baltimore:

        A forged treasonable document, purporting to be a proclamation by the President, countersigned by the Secretary of State, appeared in the New York World and Journal of Commerce this morning. Make arrangements and seize all the issues of the papers that may arrive at Baltimore by express or mail and prevent their circulation, and report to this Department.

EDWIN M. STANTON,
Secretary of War.

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BALTIMORE, May 18, 1864. (Received 9 p.m.)

Hon. E. M. STANTON,
Secretary of War:

        Your dispatch arrived after the train from New York and the New York World had already been distributed. I have seized all the copies I could find.

LEW. WALLACE,
Major-General of Volunteers.

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NINTH STREET OFFICE, Washington, May 18, 1864.
(Received 2.15 p.m.)

Hon. E. M. STANTON:

        I have the honor to report that the arrests have been made and offices closed.

THOS. T. ECKERT,
Major and Assistant Superintendent Military Telegraph.

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DEPARTMENT OF STATE,
Washington City, May 18, 1864--12.30 p.m.

CHARLES FRANCIS ADAMS, Esq.,
U.S. Minister Plenipotentiary, London:

        Orders have been given for the arrest and punishment of the fabricators and publishers of the spurious proclamation.

WILLIAM H. SEWARD.
(Same to William L. Dayton, Esq., U.S. Minister Plenipotentiary, Paris.)

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NEW YORK CITY, May 19, 1864.
(Received 2.30 p.m.)

His Excellency A. LINCOLN,
President of the United Slates:

        SIR: The undersigned, editors and publishers of a portion of the daily press of the city of New York, respectfully represent that the leading journals of this city sustain very extended telegraphic news arrangements, under an organization established in 1848 and known as the New York Associated Press, which is controlled by its members, acting through an executive committee, a general agent in this city, and assistant agents immediately responsible to the association at every important news center throughout this country and Europe. Under the above-named organization the rule has always been to transmit by telegraph all intelligence to the office of the general agent in this city, and by him the same is properly prepared for publication, and then written out by manifold process on tissue paper, and a copy of the same is sent simultaneously in sealed envelopes to each of the editors who are entitled to receive the same. From foregoing statement of facts Your Excellency will readily perceive that an ingenious rogue, knowing the manner in which the editors were supplied with much of their telegraphic news, could, by selecting his time and opportunity, easily impose upon editors or compositors the most wicked and fraudulent reports. On Wednesday morning, at about 3 o'clock, a messenger, who well counterfeited the regular messenger of the Associated Press, presented himself at all save one of the editorial rooms of the papers connected with the Associated Press and delivered to the foreman, in the absence of the night editors, sealed envelopes containing manifold papers similar in all respects to that used by the association, upon which was written a fraudulent proclamation, purporting to be signed by Your Excellency and countersigned by the Honorable Secretary of State. The very late hour at which the fraud was perpetrated left no time for consideration as to the authenticity or genuineness of the document, and the copy in most of the offices was at once cut up into small pieces and given into the hands of the compositors, and in two cases the fraud was not discovered or suspected even till after the whole morning editions of the papers were printed off and distributed. The undersigned beg to state to Your Excellency that the fraud, which succeeded with The World and the Journal of Commerce, was one which, from the circumstances attending it and the practices of the Associated Press, was extremely natural and very liable to have succeeded in any daily newspaper establishment in this city, and inasmuch as, in the judgment of the undersigned, the editors and proprietors of the Journal of Commerce and The World were innocent of any knowledge of wrong in the publication of the fraudulent document, and also in view of the fact that the suspension by Your Excellency's orders of the two papers last evening has had the effect to awaken editors and publishers and news agents, telegraph companies, &c., to the propriety of increased vigilance in their several duties, the undersigned respectfully request that Your Excellency will be pleased to rescind the order under which The World and the Journal of Commerce were suppressed.

Respectfully, Your Excellency's obedient servants,
SIDNEY HOWARD GAY,

For Tribune.

ERASTUS BROOKS,
New York Express.

FREDERICK HUDSON,
For JAS. G. BENNETT,

New York Herald.

M. S. BEACH,
New York Sun.

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NEW YORK, May 19, 1864.
(Received 10.40 a.m.)

Hon. E. M. STANTON:

        SIR: I have the honor to report that the Secretary of State's dispatch to Ministers Adams and Dayton was delivered to the purser of the Scotia, and that he was ordered by Mr. Cunard to telegraph it from Queenstown. Slips were issued by some of the morning papers exposing the forgery, and circulated among the passengers before the vessel sailed.

Very respectfully,
E. S. SANFORD.

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WAR DEPARTMENT,
Washington, D.C., May 19, 1864.

Major-General WALLACE,
Baltimore:

        The President directs that you take military possession of the telegraph line known as the Independent or Inland Telegraph and its offices and instruments, materials, papers, and dispatches. The principal office is No. 21 South street. The papers and dispatches you will forward to Colonel Wisewell, Military Governor. The agents, superintendents, and operators you will arrest and parole them to appear before you when required. You will place a guard in the offices and prevent any telegraphing.

By order of the President:
EDWIN M. STANTON,

Secretary of War.

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NEW YORK, May 20, 1864.

Hon. E. M. STANTON:

        I have arrested and am sending to Fort Lafayette Joseph Howard, the author of the forged proclamation. He is a newspaper reporter, and is known as " 'Howard,' of the Times." He has been very frank in his confession--says it was a stock-jobbing operation, and that no person connected with the press had any agency in the transaction except another reporter, who took manifolds and distributed the proclamation to the newspapers, and whose arrest I have ordered. He exonerates the Independent Telegraph Line, and says that publication on a steamer day was accidental. His statement in all essential particulars is corroborated by other testimony.

JOHN A. DIX,
Major-General.

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WAR DEPARTMENT,
Washington City, May 20, 1864--9.10 p.m.

Major-General DIX,
New York:

        Your telegram respecting the arrest of Howard has been received and submitted to the President. He directs me to say that while, in his opinion, the editors, proprietors, and publishers of The World and Journal of Commerce are responsible for what appears in their papers injurious to the public service, and have no right to shield themselves behind a plea of ignorance or want of criminal intent, yet he is not disposed to visit them with vindictive punishment; and hoping they will exercise more caution and regard for the public welfare in future, he authorizes you to restore to them their respective establishments.

EDWIN M. STANTON,
Secretary of War.

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WAR DEPARTMENT,
Washington City, May 20, 1864--1 p.m.

Major-General DIX,
New York:

        You will please proceed immediately to take the examination of the telegraph operators, superintendents, and officers that may have been arrested by you under order of this Department, taking their statements and examination in writing, and, if satisfied that they have had no complicity nor part in the transmission or perpetration of the forgery of the President's proclamation, published in The World and Journal of Commerce, you will discharge them, but holding in arrest any against whom any evidence may appear and reporting the same.

EDWIN M. STANTON,
Secretary of War.

Source: "Official Records of the War of the Rebellion


         Joseph Howard was a newspaper journalist and a bit of a prankster throughout his career.  His worst one was just described. To complete the story, Howard and a acquaintance had hoped to make a profit on declining gold prices if news from the front was bad. He and his acquaintance acquired the stationery and other items necessary to make it look as if a story had come in on the wires to the headquarters of the Associated Press of New York, the clearing house for official wire stories coming from Washington. They forged the Proclamation from the president and had it delivered to the offices of various New Your newspapers. Only two actually published the story but it caused such firestorm as can be seen from the reports that Howard was arrested two days after the story appeared and placed in Fort Lafayette Prison. He was released on Lincolnís personal order on August 24, 1864.

This page last updated 06/19/05

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