Edwin M. Stanton became War Secretary after Lincoln dismissed the original War Secretary Simon Cameron in 1862. Lincoln had long been impressed with Stanton, despite the fact that Stanton had felt quite the opposite at first and had called Lincoln a “gorilla” in the past. The disagreeable and sometimes grumpy Stanton was reluctant to accept the position, but conceded in an attempt to “save the country.” Stanton proved a wise choice as War Secretary. His management of the massive efforts required to sustain the Union Army and its movements helped perpetuate the Union cause. Stanton, however, could be quite argumentative and sometimes even refused the president’s order or to carry out his wishes.
As time progressed, Stanton became a great admirer of the president. It was Stanton who first arrived at the scene at the Petersen House following the President’s assassination. It was he, upon Lincoln’s death, who uttered the famous words “Now, he belongs to the ages.” He also helped organize the search for John Wilkes Booth and the trials and executions of his co-conspirators. Stanton continued as Secretary of War during Johnson’s presidency. Disagreements between he and Johnson, however, led to his dismissal. It was the questionable legality behind this dismissal by President Johnson that resulted in Johnson’s impeachment, making him the first president to be impeached.