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In researching the Civil War, I've seen a quote, attributed to Abraham Lincoln, come up several times. The most complete version of the quote I have found comes from this website which gives the quote as follows:

See… what a lot of land these fellows hold, of which Vicksburg is the key. Here is Red River which will supply the Confederates with cattle and corn to feed their armies. There are the Arkansas and White Rivers, which can supply cattle and hogs by the thousand. From Vicksburg these supplies can be distributed by rail all over the Confederacy. Then there is the giant depot of supplies on the Yazoo. Let us get Vicksburg and all that country is ours. The war can never be brought to a close until that key is in our pocket. I am acquainted with that region and know what I am talking about.

The website also claims that the quote comes from Abraham Lincoln while he was "explaining how important Vicksburg was to the Confederacy. Lincoln was pointing at a large wall map in General George B. McClellan’s headquarters during a secret planning meeting to take New Orleans with Rear Admiral David Dixon Porter and General McClellan".

This quote feels suspicious to me because I cannot find any information about this "secret meeting", like when it occurred. Also, if the meeting was supposed to be secret, how has this quote been preserved?

I would really appreciate it if someone could identify where this quote was first recorded, or at least when Lincoln supposedly gave this quote.

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  • HI, welcome to SE.Good reaction about the "secret meeting". I understand from the text this term is just a way to say it was a war council that was not supposed, by its time, to be unveiled to media but was not secret anymore after the civil war ended Mar 1 at 9:07

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The quote is from the recollection of someone who was there, Admiral David Dixon Porter. You can find it on page 95 of his book, Incidents and Anecdotes of the Civil War, published in 1886 (emphasis mine).

It is not my intention here to give a history of the war. I have written a full account of all the events that came under my cognizance during the conflict which may or may not be published at some future time, but I can not help recalling President Lincoln's words as we were planning this expedition.

"See" said Mr. Lincoln pointing to the map "what a lot of land these fellows hold, of which Vicksburg is the key. Here is Red River, which will supply the Confederates with cattle and corn to feed their armies. There are the Arkansas and White Rivers, which can supply cattle and hogs by the thousand. From Vicksburg these supplies can be distributed by rail all over the Confederacy. Then there is that great depot of supplies on the Yazoo. Let us get Vicksburg and all that country is ours. The war can never be brought to a close until that key is in our pocket. I am acquainted with that region and know what I am talking about, and, valuable as New Orleans will be to us, Vicksburg will be more so. We may take all the northern ports of the Confederacy, and they can still defy us from Vicksburg. It means hog and hominy without limit, fresh troops from all the States of the far South, and a cotton country where they can raise the staple without interference."

Mr. Lincoln's capacious mind took in the whole subject and he made it plain to the dullest comprehension. A military expert could not have more clearly defined the advantages of the proposed campaign.

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  • Interested because it is the first time I see all this supply issue exposed clearly Mar 1 at 9:09

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