A note from Abraham Lincoln dated June 25, 1861.
Written in response to a letter from Congressmen Isaac Arnold of Illinois and Thurlow Weed of New York suggesting the promotion of Edwin Coates. Lincoln wrote: “If there still be any vacancies of Lieutenants, in the Regular Army I wish one of them be given to Edwin W. Coates, named within. He was one of Col. Ellsworth’s nearest friends, and is a good drill officer.” Coates was a member of the 11th New York Zouaves led by Lincoln’s protégé Colonel Elmer Ellsworth.
A military-enthusiast, Ellsworth became known as the leader of the Zouave Cadets, a militia unit from Illinois whose uniforms were inspired by those worn by the French Army in North Africa. As a budding attorney in Illinois, Ellsworth studied the law under Lincoln in Springfield and politicked on his behalf during the 1860 presidential campaign, making stump speeches in support of the candidate. Following the assault on Fort Sumter in April, 1861, Ellsworth travelled to New York City to organize a regiment. Armed with a letter of recommendation from Lincoln, he recruited from among the city’s well-regarded volunteer fire battalions. The 11th New York Regiment, or Fire Zouaves, as they came to be known because of their colorful uniforms, were soon ordered to enter the rebel-occupied city of Alexandria, Virginia where Colonel Ellsworth was killed. His death devastated the Lincoln family. In this note, Lincoln sought to honor his young friend’s memory by aiding the military career of his fellow Zouave. With Lincoln’s endorsement, Coates received his promotion to 2nd US Cavalry and later the 12th US Infantry, eventually achieving the rank of Captain.