Secretary of War Edwin Stanton

Edwin Stanton Quotes

Last Updated March 11, 2011

With Stanton’s quotes first followed in alphabetical order of the person making the quote


“Battles are to be won now and by us in the same and only manner they were ever won by any people, or in any age since Joshua, by boldly pursuing and striking the foe…true organization of victory and military organization to end the war was declared in a few words by General Grant’s message to General Buckner: ‘I propose to move immediately on your works.’”

Edwin Stanton Feb 1862

Stanton’s concept of warfare

From Commander of All Lincoln’s Armies – A Life of General Henry W. Halleck by John F. Marszalek.  Cambridge MA:  The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press,  2004 page 133

originally from Washington in Lincoln’s Timeby Noah Brooks. (New York: Century, 1896) page 2

“get the machinery of the office working, the rats cleaned out, and the rat holes stopped we shall move.  This army has to fight or run away; while men are striving nobly in the West, the champagne and oysters on the Potomac must be stopped.”

Edwin Stanton Jan 24 1862

Stanton to Charles Dana describing his actions on taking over as Secretary of War

From On Hallowed Ground The Story of Arlington Cemetery by Robert Poole.  New York:  Walker & Company, 2009. Page 39

originally from The Life and Times of Lincoln’s Secretary of War by Benjamin P Thomas and Harold M. Hyman. (New York:  Alfred A. Knopf, 1862) page 146

“We have had no war, we have not been playing war.”

Edwin Stanton

Feb 2 1862

Stanton to Charles Dana

From McClellan’s War: The Failure of Moderation in the Struggle for the Union by Ethan Rafuse.  Bloomington IN:  Indiana University Press, 2005. page 172

“narrow minded, full of prejudices, exceedingly violent, reckless of the rights and feelings of others, often acting like a wild man in the dark….He is coarse in his use of language, and his dislikes are mere prejudices.

After working for Stanton for a month, a man offers this description

From General John Pope A Life for the Nation by Peter Cozzens.  Urbana:  University of Illinois Press, 2000. Page 75

originally from “War Reminiscences by John Pope,” vol  X,” NT Feb 12 1891

“terrific earnestness””tireless worker””tremendous energy””impetuous temper””opinionated, almost immovable”

Noah Brooks Describing Stanton

From How the North Won by Herman Hattaway and Archer Jones. Urbana:  University of Illinois Press 1983. Page 92

originally from Terrible Swift Sword by Bruce Catton. (New York, 1963)

page 142

“Stanton had the loveliest smile I ever saw on a human face.”

Charles A. Dana

Dana a newspaper editor and later Assistant Secretary of War on Stanton

From How the North Won by Herman Hattaway and Archer Jones. Urbana:  University of Illinois Press 1983. Page 92

originally from Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant,by U.S. Grant edited by E.B. Long (Cleveland and New York, 1952 volume II: 536

“cared nothing for the feelings of others [and seemed to find it more pleasant] to disappoint than to gratify.”

U.S. Grant

Grant on Stanton

From How the North Won by Herman Hattaway and Archer Jones. Urbana:  University of Illinois Press 1983. Page 92

originally from Recollections of the Civil War by Charles A. Dana (New York, 1898 page 4-7

“Around the room stood his visitors, who stepped up one by one to this high table, stated his business as briefly as possible and in the hearing of everybody, and received a prompt and final answer as rapidly as words could convey it.”

John Pope

Pope describing Stanton’s office

From How the North Won by Herman Hattaway and Archer Jones. Urbana:  University of Illinois Press 1983. Page 92

originally from Recollections of the Civil War by Charles A. Dana (New York, 1898 page 4-7

“a long haired, fat, oily, politician-looking man”

Charles S. Wainwright

Jan 15 1862

Wainwright describes Stanton when he sees him at an opera

From A Diary of Battle The Personal Journals of Colonel Charles S. Wainright 1861-1865 by Charles Wainwright. Ed. Allan Nevins. New York:  De Capo Press, 1998. Page 10

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