August 23, 1862, found the Federal commander in chief face-to-face with the wife of an officer who had a grievance. Gabriel R. Paul, a West Point graduate and a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army, believed “some things in Washington were out of kilter.” Over and over, he had seen men whose service had not been continuous receive promotions he felt should have gone to career officers. During the 1862 Confederate invasion of New Mexico, he commanded vital Fort Union with the temporary rank of colonel. When enlistments of his men expired, he was demoted to his former grade.
Mrs. Paul spent many nights with her husband, talking about “things wrong with the seniority system of the U. S. Army.” When she felt she fully understood the situation, the wife of a man whose father and grandfather had fought with Napoleon made the long journey from New Mexico to Washington to plead with Lincoln to promote her husband over others who had not spent their careers in uniform.
After their August 23, 1862, session, the president said of Mrs. Paul, “She is a saucy woman and I am afraid she will keep tormenting till I may have to do it.” On September 5, Paul’s name was presented for promotion to the rank of brigadier general. Failing to get Senate confirmation, he continued to serve as lieutenant colonel until he was renominated and confirmed in April 1863.
“It took a while for her to do it,” said a subordinate in the division Paul commanded, “but Mrs. Paul eventually got what she wanted for her husband.”