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Abraham Lincoln, Vol. II by John T. Morse

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[Illustration: Stephen A. Douglas]

American Statesmen


[Illustration: _The Home of Abraham Lincoln_]

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From a photograph by Brady in the Library of the State Department at

Autograph from the Chamberlain collection, Boston Public Library.

The vignette of Mr. Lincoln's home, corner Eighth and Jackson streets,
Springfield, Ill., is from a photograph.


From a photograph by Mr. Le Rue Lemer, Harrisburg, Pa.

Autograph from the Chamberlain collection, Boston Public Library.


From the painting by Carpenter in the Capitol at Washington.


From a photograph by Brady in the Library of the State Department at

Autograph from one furnished by his daughter, Mrs. Mary A. Scudder,
Chicago, Ill.


From a photograph by Brady in the Library of the State Department at

Autograph from the Chamberlain collection, Boston Public Library.

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During the spring and summer of 1861 the people of the North presented
the appearance of a great political unit. All alleged emphatically that
the question was simply of the Union, and upon this issue no Northerner
could safely differ from his neighbors. Only a few of the more
cross-grained ones among the Abolitionists were contemptuously allowed
to publish the selfishness of their morality, and to declare that they
were content to see the establishment of a great slave empire, provided
they themselves were free from the taint of connection with it. If any
others let Southern proclivities lurk in the obscure recesses of their
hearts they were too prudent to permit these perilous sentiments to
appear except in the masquerade of dismal presagings. So in appearance
the Northern men were united, and in fact were very nearly so--for a
short time.

This was a fortunate condition, which the President and all shrewd
patriots took great pains to maintain. It filled the armies and the
Treasury, and postponed many jeopardies. But too close to the surface to
be long suppressed lay the demand that those who declared the Union to
be the sole issue should explain how it came about that the Union was
put in issue at all, why there was any dissatisfaction with it, and why
any desire anywhere to be rid of it. All knew the answer to that
question; all knew that if the war was due to disunion, disunion in turn
was due to slavery. Unless some makeshift peace should be quickly
patched up, this basic cause was absolutely sure to force recognition
for itself; a long and stern contest must inevitably wear its way down
to the bottom question. It was practical wisdom for Mr. Lincoln in his
inaugural not to probe deeper than secession; and it was well for
multitudes to take arms and contribute money with the earnest
asseveration that they were fighting and paying only for the integrity
of the country. It was the truth, or rather it was _a_ truth; but there
was also another and a deeper truth: that he who fought for the
integrity of the country, also, by a necessity inherent in the case and
far beyond the influence of his volition, fought for the destruction of
slavery. Just as soon as this second truth came up and took distinct
shape beside the other, angry political divisions sundered the
Unionists. Abolition of slavery never displaced Union as a purpose of
the war; but the two became mingled, in a duality which could not
afterward be resolved into its component parts so that one could be
taken and the other could be left. The union of the two issues meant the
disunion of the people of the Middle and even of the Northern States.

In the Border States a considerable proportion of the people was both
pro-slavery and pro-Union. These men wished to retain their servile
laborers under their feet and the shelter of the Union over their heads.
At first they did not see that they might as well hope to serve both God
and Mammon. Yet for the moment they seemed to hold the balance of power
between the contestants; for had all the pro-slavery men in the Border
States gone over in a mass to the South early in the war, they might
have settled the matter against the North in short order. The task of
holding and conciliating this important body, with all its Northern
sympathizers, became a controlling purpose of the President, and caused
the development of his famous "border-state policy," for which he
deserved the highest praise and received unlimited abuse.

The very fact that these men needed, for their comfort, reiterated
assurances of a policy not hostile to slavery indicated the jeopardy of
their situation. The distinct language of the President alleviated their
anxiety so far as the Executive was concerned, but they desired to
commit the legislative branch to the same doctrine. Among all those who
might have been Secessionists, but were not, no other could vie in
respect and affection with the venerable and patriotic John J.
Crittenden of Kentucky. This distinguished statesman now became the
spokesman for the large body of loyal citizens who felt deeply that the
war ought not to impinge in the least upon the great institution of the
South. In the extra session of Congress, convened in July, 1861, he
offered a resolution pledging Congress to hold in mind: "That this war
is not waged upon our part in any spirit of oppression, nor for any
purpose of conquest or subjugation, nor with any purpose of overthrowing
or interfering with the rights or established institutions of those [the
revolted] States; but to defend and maintain the supremacy of the
Constitution, and to preserve the Union with all the dignity, equality,
and rights of the several States unimpaired." After the example of the
Constitution, this resolution was carefully saved from the contamination
of a certain offensive word; but every one knew its meaning and its
purpose; and with this knowledge all the votes save two in the House of
Representatives, and all save five in the Senate, were given for it.[1]
"It was," says Mr. Blaine, "a fair reflection of the popular sentiment
throughout the North." So Mr. Lincoln's inaugural was ratified.

But events control. The Northern armies ran against slavery immediately.
Almost in the very hours when the resolution of Mr. Crittenden was
gliding so easily through the House, thousands of slaves at Manassas
were doing the work of laborers and servants, and rendering all the
whites of the Southern army available for fighting. The handicap was so
severe and obvious that it immediately provoked the introduction of a
bill freeing slaves belonging to rebels and used for carrying on the
war. The Democrats and the men of the Border States generally opposed
the measure, with very strong feeling. No matter how plausible the
reason, they did not wish slavery to be touched at all. They could not
say that this especial bill was wrong, but they felt that it was
dangerous. Their protests against it, however, were of no avail, and it
became law on August 6. The extreme anti-slavery men somewhat
sophistically twisted it into an assistance to the South.

The principle of this legislation had already been published to the
country in a very fortunate way by General Butler. In May, 1861, being
in command at Fortress Monroe, he had refused, under instructions from
Cameron, to return three fugitive slaves to their rebel owner, and he
had ingeniously put his refusal on the ground that they were "contraband
of war." The phrase instantly became popular. General Butler says that,
"as a lawyer, [he] was never very proud of it;" but technical inaccuracy
does not hurt the force of an epigram which expresses a sound principle.
"Contraband" underlay the Emancipation Proclamation.

Thus the slaves themselves were forcing the issue, regardless of
polities and diplomacy. With a perfectly correct instinctive insight
into the true meaning of the war, they felt that a Union camp ought to
be a place of refuge, and they sought it eagerly and in considerable
numbers. Then, however, their logical owners came and reclaimed them,
and other commanders were not so apt at retort as General Butler was.
Thus it came to pass that each general, being without instructions,
carried out his own ideas, and confusion ensued. Democratic commanders
returned slaves; Abolitionist commanders refused to do so; many were
sadly puzzled what to do. All alike created embarrassing situations for
the administration.

General Fremont led off. On August 30, being then in command of the
Western Department, he issued an order, in which he declared that he
would "assume the administrative powers of the State." Then, on the
basis of this bold assumption, he established martial law, and
pronounced the slaves of militant or active rebels to be "free men." The
mischief of this ill-advised proceeding was aggravated by the "fires of
popular enthusiasm which it kindled." The President wrote to Fremont,
expressing his fear that the general's action would "alarm our Southern
Union friends, and turn them against us; perhaps ruin our rather fair
prospect in Kentucky." Very considerately he said: "Allow me, therefore,
to ask that you will, as of your own motion, modify that paragraph so as
to conform to" the Act of August 6. Fremont replied, in substance, that
the President might do this, but that he himself would not! Thereupon
Mr. Lincoln, instead of removing the insubordinate and insolent general,
behaved in his usual passionless way, and merely issued an order that
Fremont's proclamation should be so modified and construed as "to
conform with and not to transcend" the law. By this treatment, which
should have made Fremont grateful and penitent, he was in fact rendered
angry and indignant; for he had a genuine belief in the old proverb
about laws being silent in time of war, and he really thought that
documents signed in tents by gentlemen wearing shoulder-straps were
deserving of more respect, even by the President, than were mere Acts of
Congress. This was a mistaken notion, but Fremont never could see that
he had been in error, and from this time forth he became a vengeful
thorn in the side of Mr. Lincoln.

Several months later, on May 9, 1862, General Hunter proclaimed martial
law in Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina, and said: "Slavery and
martial law in a free country are altogether incompatible. The persons
in these States, heretofore held as slaves, are therefore declared
forever free." At once, though not without reluctance, Mr. Lincoln
revoked this order, as unauthorized. He further said that, if he had
power to "declare the slaves of any State or States free," the propriety
of exercising that power was a question which he reserved exclusively to
himself. These words he fully made good. The whole country, wild with
excitement and teeming with opinions almost co-numerous with its
citizens, threatened to bury him beneath an avalanche of advice. But
while all talked and wrote madly and endlessly, he quietly held his
peace, did what he chose when he chose, and never delegated any portion
of his authority over this most important business to any one. He took
emancipation for his own special and personal affair; it was a matter
about which he had been doing much thinking very earnestly for a long
while, and he had no notion of forming now any partnership for managing

The trend, however, was not all in one direction. While Butler, Fremont,
and Hunter were thus befriending the poor runaways, Buell and Hooker
were allowing slave-owners to reclaim fugitives from within their lines;
Halleck was ordering that no fugitive slave should be admitted within
his lines or camp, and that those already there should be put out; and
McClellan was promising to crush "with an iron hand" any attempt at
slave insurrection. Amid such confusion, some rule of universal
application was sorely needed. But what should it be?

Secretary Cameron twice nearly placed the administration in an
embarrassing position by taking very advanced ground upon the negro
question. In October, 1861, he issued an order to General Sherman, then
at Port Royal, authorizing him to employ negroes in any capacity which
he might "deem most beneficial to the service." Mr. Lincoln prudently
interlined the words: "This, however, not to mean a general arming of
them for military service." A few weeks later, in the Report which the
secretary prepared to be sent with the President's message to Congress,
he said: "As the labor and service of their slaves constitute the chief
property of the rebels, they should share the common fate of war.... It
is as clearly a right of the government to arm slaves, when it becomes
necessary, as it is to use gunpowder taken from the enemy. Whether it is
expedient to do so is purely a military question." He added more to the
same purport. He then had his report printed, and sent copies, by mail,
to many newspapers throughout the country, with permission to publish it
so soon as the telegraph should report the reading before Congress. At
the eleventh hour a copy was handed to Mr. Lincoln, to accompany his
message; and then, for the first time, he saw these radical passages.
Instantly he directed that all the postmasters, to whose offices the
printed copies had been sent on their way to the newspaper editors,
should be ordered at once to return these copies to the secretary. He
then ordered the secretary to make a change, equivalent to an omission,
of this inflammatory paragraph. After this emasculation the paragraph
only stated that "slaves who were abandoned by their owners on the
advance of our troops" should not be returned to the enemy.

When the Thirty-seventh Congress came together for the regular session,
December 2, 1861, anti-slavery sentiment had made a visible advance.
President Lincoln, in his message, advised recognizing the independence
of the negro states of Hayti and Liberia. He declared that he had been
anxious that the "inevitable conflict should not degenerate into a
violent and remorseless revolutionary struggle," and that he had,
therefore, "thought it proper to keep the integrity of the Union
prominent as the primary object of the contest on our part." Referring
to his enforcement of the law of August 6, he said: "The Union must be
preserved, and hence all indispensable means must be employed." The
shadow which pro-slavery men saw cast by these words was very slightly,
if at all, lightened by an admission which accompanied it,--that "we
should not be in haste to determine that radical and extreme measures,
which may reach the loyal as well as the disloyal, are indispensable."
Further he said that already, by the operation of the Act of August 6,
numbers of persons had been liberated, had become dependent on the
United States, and must be provided for. He anticipated that some of the
States might pass similar laws for their own benefit; in which case he
recommended Congress to "provide for accepting such persons from such
States, according to some mode of valuation, in lieu, _pro tanto_, of
direct taxes, or upon some other plan to be agreed on." He desired that
these negroes, being "at once deemed free," should be colonized in some
"climate congenial to them," and he wished an appropriation for
acquiring territory for this purpose. Thus he indicated with sufficient
clearness the three cardinal points of his own theory for emancipation:
voluntary action of the individual slave States by the exercise of their
own sovereign power; compensation of owners; and colonization. Congress
soon showed that it meant to strike a pace much more rapid than that set
by the President; and the friends of slavery perceived an atmosphere
which made them so uneasy that they thought it would be well to have the
Crittenden resolution substantially reaffirmed. They made the effort,
and they failed, the vote standing 65 yeas to 71 nays. All which this
symptom indicated as to the temper of members was borne out during the
session by positive and aggressive legislation. Only a fortnight had
passed, when Henry Wilson, senator from Massachusetts, introduced a bill
to emancipate the slaves in the District of Columbia, and to pay a
moderate compensation to owners. The measure, rightly construed as the
entering point of the anti-slavery wedge, gave rise to bitter debates in
both houses. The senators and representatives from the slave States
manifested intense feeling, and were aided with much spirit by the
Democrats of the free States. But resistance was useless; the bill
passed the Senate by a vote of 29 to 14, and the House by 92 to 38. On
April 16 the President signed it, and returned it with a message, in
which he said: "If there be matters within and about this Act which
might have taken a course or shape more satisfactory to my judgment, I
do not attempt to specify them. I am gratified that the two principles
of compensation and colonization are both recognized and practically
applied in the Act." It was one of the coincidences of history that by
his signature he now made law that proposition which, as a member of the
House of Representatives in 1849, he had embodied in a bill which then
hardly excited passing notice as it went on its quick way to oblivion.

The confused condition concerning the harboring and rendition of
fugitive slaves by military commanders, already mentioned, was also
promptly taken in hand. Various bills and amendments offered in the
Senate and in the House were substantially identical in the main purpose
of making the recovery of a slave from within the Union lines
practically little better than impossible. The shape which the measure
ultimately took was the enactment of an additional article of war,
whereby all officers in the military service of the United States were
"prohibited from using any portion of the forces under their respective
commands for the purpose of returning fugitives from service or labor;"
any officer who should violate the article was to be dismissed from the
service. Again the men from the Border States, rallying their few
Democratic allies from the North to their assistance, made vehement
opposition, and again they were overwhelmed beneath an irresistible
majority: 83 to 42 in the House, 29 to 9 in the Senate. The President
signed the bill on March 13, 1862, and thereafter "nigger hunting" was a
dangerous sport in the Union camps.

On March 24, Mr. Arnold[2] of Illinois introduced a bill ambitiously
purporting "to render freedom national and slavery sectional." It
prohibited slavery wherever Congress could do so, that is to say, in all
Territories, present and future, in all forts, arsenals, dockyards,
etc., in all vessels on the high seas and on all national highways
beyond the territory and jurisdiction of the several States. Both by its
title and by its substance it went to the uttermost edge of the
Constitution and, in the matter of Territories, perhaps beyond that
edge. Mr. Arnold himself supported it with the bold avowal that slavery
was in deadly hostility to the national government, and therefore must
be destroyed. Upon a measure so significant and so defended, debate
waxed hot, so that one gentleman proposed that the bill should be sent
back to the committee with instructions not to report it back "until the
cold weather." The irritation and alarm of the Border States rendered
modification necessary unless tact and caution were to be wholly thrown
to the winds. Ultimately, therefore, the offensive title was exchanged
for the simple one of "An Act to secure freedom to all persons within
the Territories of the United States," and the bill, curtailed to accord
with this expression, became law by approval of the President on June

A measure likely in its operation to affect a much greater number of
persons than any other of those laws which have been mentioned was
introduced by Senator Trumbull of Illinois. This was "for the
confiscation of the property of rebels, and giving freedom to the
persons they hold in slavery." It made the slaves of all who had taken
up arms against the United States "forever thereafter free." It came up
for debate on February 25, and its mover defended it as "destroying to a
great extent the source and origin of the rebellion, and the only thing
which had ever seriously threatened the peace of the Union." The men of
the Border States, appalled at so general a manumission, declared that
it would produce intolerable conditions in their States, leading either
to reenslavement or extermination. So strenuous an anti-slavery man as
Senator Hale also suggested that the measure was unconstitutional.
Similar discussion upon similar propositions went forward
contemporaneously in the House. For once, in both bodies, the Democrats
won in many skirmishes. Ultimately, as the outcome of many amendments,
substitutes, recommitments, and conferences, a bill was patched up,
which passed by 27 to 12 in the Senate and 82 to 42 in the House, and
was approved by the President July 17. It was a very comprehensive
measure; so much so, that Mr. Blaine has said of it: "Even if the war
had ended without a formal and effective system of emancipation, it is
believed that this statute would have so operated as to render the slave
system practically valueless."

The possibility of enlisting negroes as soldiers received early
consideration. Black troops had fought in the Revolution; why, then,
should not black men now fight in a war of which they themselves were
the ultimate provocation? The idea pleased the utilitarian side of the
Northern mind and shocked no Northern prejudice. In fact, as early as
the spring of 1862 General Hunter, in the Department of the South,
organized a negro regiment. In July, 1862, pending consideration of a
bill concerning calling forth the militia, reported by the Senate
Committee on Military Affairs, amendments were moved declaring that
"there should be no exemption from military service on account of
color," permitting the enlistment of "persons of African descent," and
making "forever thereafter free" each person so enlisted, his mother,
his wife, and his children. No other measure so aroused the indignation
of the border-state men. Loyalty to the Union could not change their
opinion of the negro. To put arms into the hands of slaves, or
ex-slaves, was a terrible proposition to men who had too often vividly
conceived the dread picture of slave insurrection. To set black men
about the business of killing white men, to engage the inferior race to
destroy the superior race, seemed a blasphemy against Nature. A few
also of the Northerners warmly sympathized with this feeling. Black men
shooting down white men was a spectacle which some who were friends of
the black men could not contemplate without a certain shudder. Also many
persons believed that the white soldiers of the North would feel
degraded by having regiments of ex-slaves placed beside them in camp and
in battle. Doubts were expressed as to whether negroes would fight,
whether they would not be a useless charge, and even a source of peril
to those who should depend upon them. Language could go no farther in
vehemence of protest and denunciation than the words of some of the
slave-state men in the House and Senate. Besides this, Garrett Davis of
Kentucky made a very effective argument when he said: "There is not a
rebel in all Secessia whose heart will not leap when he hears that the
Senate of the United States is originating such a policy. It will
strengthen his hopes of success by an ultimate union of all the slave
States to fight such a policy to the death." It was, however, entirely
evident that, in the present temper of that part of the country which
was represented in Congress, there was not much use in opposing any
anti-slavery measure by any kind of argument whatever; even though the
special proposition might be distasteful to many Republicans, yet at
last, when pressed to the issue, they all faithfully voted Yea. In this
case the measure, finally so far modified as to relate only to slaves
of rebel owners, was passed and was signed by the President on July 17.
Nevertheless, although it thus became law, the certainty that, by taking
action under it, he would alienate great numbers of loyalists in the
Border States induced him to go very slowly. At first actual authority
to enlist negroes was only extorted from the administration with much
effort. On August 25 obstinate importunity elicited an order permitting
General Saxton, at Hilton Head, to raise 5,000 black troops; but this
was somewhat strangely accompanied, according to Mr. Wilson, with the
suggestive remark, that it "must never see daylight, because it was so
much in advance of public sentiment." After the process had been on
trial for a year, however, Mr. Lincoln said that there was apparent "no
loss by it in our foreign relations, none in our home popular sentiment,
none in our white military force,--no loss by it anyhow or anywhere." On
the other hand, it had brought a reinforcement of 130,000 soldiers,
seamen, and laborers. "And now," he said, "let any Union man who
complains of this measure test himself by writing down in one line that
he is for subduing the rebellion by force of arms, and in the next that
he is for taking these 130,000 men from the Union side, and placing them
where they would be best for the measure he condemns." Yet so
ineradicable was the race prejudice that it was not until the spring of
1864, after all efforts for action by Congress had failed, that the
attorney-general declared black soldiers to be entitled to the same pay
as white soldiers. Regarding a soldier merely as a marketable commodity,
doubtless the white was worth more money; yet life was about the same to
each, and it was hard to see why one should be expected to sell his life
for fewer dollars than satisfied the other.

Besides these measures, Congress gave evidence of its sentiments by
passing an act for appointing diplomatic representatives to Hayti and
Liberia; also further evidence by passing certain legislation against
the slave trade.

The recital of all these doings of the legislators sufficiently
indicates the hostility of Congress towards slavery. In fact, a large
majority both in the Senate and in the House had moved out against it
upon nearly every practicable line to the extremity of the
constitutional tether. Neither arguments, nor the entreaties of the
border-state men, nor any considerations of policy, had exercised the
slightest restraining influence. It is observable that this legislation
did not embody that policy which Mr. Lincoln had suggested, and to which
he had become strongly attached. On the contrary, Congress had done
everything to irritate, where the President wished to do everything to
conciliate; Congress made that compulsory which the President hoped to
make voluntary. Mr. Lincoln remained in 1862, as he had been in 1858,
tolerant towards the Southern men who by inheritance, tradition, and
the necessity of the situation, constituted a slaveholding community. To
treat slave-ownership as a crime, punishable by confiscation and ruin,
seemed to him unreasonable and merciless. Neither does he seem ever to
have accepted the opinion of many Abolitionists, that the negro was the
equal of the white man in natural endowment. There is no reason to
suppose that he did not still hold, as he had done in the days of the
Douglas debates, that it was undesirable, if not impossible, that the
two races should endeavor to abide together in freedom as a unified
community. In the inevitable hostility and competition he clearly saw
that the black man was likely to fare badly. It was by such feelings
that he was led straight to the plan of compensation of owners and
colonization of freedmen, and to the hope that a system of gradual
emancipation, embodying these principles, might be voluntarily
undertaken by the Border States under the present stress. If the
executive and the legislative departments should combine upon the policy
of encouraging and aiding such steps as any Border State could be
induced to take in this direction, the President believed that he could
much more easily extend loyalty and allegiance among the people of those
States,--a matter which he valued far more highly than other persons
were inclined to do. Such were his views and such his wishes. To discuss
their practicability and soundness would only be to wander in the
unprofitable vagueness of hypothesis, for in spite of all his efforts
they were never tested by trial. It must be admitted that general
opinion, both at that day and ever since, has regarded them as
visionary; compensation seemed too costly, colonization probably was
really impossible.

After the President had suggested his views in his message he waited
patiently to see what action Congress would take concerning them. Three
months elapsed and Congress took no such action. On the contrary,
Congress practically repudiated them. Not only this, it was
industriously putting into the shape of laws many other ideas, which
were likely to prove so many embarrassments and obstructions to that
policy which the President had very thoughtfully and with deep
conviction marked out for himself. He determined, therefore, to present
it once more, before it should be rendered forever hopeless. On March 6,
1862, he sent to Congress a special message, recommending the adoption
of a joint resolution: "That the United States ought to cooperate with
any State which may adopt gradual abolishment of slavery, giving to such
State pecuniary aid, to be used by such State in its discretion, to
compensate for the inconvenience, both public and private, produced by
such change of system." The first paragraph in the message stated
briefly the inducements to the North: "The Federal government would find
its highest interest in such a measure, as one of the most efficient
means of self-preservation. The leaders of the existing insurrection
entertain the hope that this government will ultimately be forced to
acknowledge the independence of some part of the disaffected region, and
that all the slave States north of such part will then say: 'The Union
for which we have struggled being already gone, we now choose to go with
the Southern section.' To deprive them of this hope substantially ends
the rebellion; and the initiation of Emancipation completely deprives
them of it as to all the States initiating it. The point is that ... the
more northern [States] shall, by such initiation, make it certain to the
more southern that in no event will the former ever join the latter in
their proposed Confederacy. I say 'initiation,' because in my judgment
gradual and not sudden emancipation is better for all. In the mere
financial or pecuniary view, any member of Congress, with the census
tables and Treasury reports before him, can readily see for himself how
very soon the current expenditures of this war would purchase, at fair
valuation, all the slaves in any named State."

The second paragraph hinted at that which it would have been poor tact
to state plainly,--the reasons which would press the Border States to
accept the opportunity extended to them. "If resistance continues, the
war must also continue; and it is impossible to foresee all the
incidents which may attend, and all the ruin which may follow it. Such
as may seem indispensable, or may obviously promise great efficiency
toward ending the struggle, must and will come. The proposition now
made, though an offer only, I hope it may be esteemed no offense to ask
whether the pecuniary consideration tendered would not be of more value
to the States and private persons concerned than are the institution and
property in it, in the present aspect of affairs." The suggestion,
between the lines, to the border slave-owners could not be
misunderstood: that they would do better to sell their slaves now than
to be deprived of them later. The President's proposition was not
cordially received. Pro-slavery men regarded it as an underhand movement
against the institution. Mr. Crittenden expressed confidence in the
President personally, but feared that the resolution "would stir up an
emancipation party" in the loyal slave States. Thus the truth was made
plain that emancipation, by any process, was not desired. In a debate
upon a cognate measure, another Kentuckian said that there was "no
division of sentiment on this question of emancipation, whether it is to
be brought about by force, by fraud, or by purchase of slaves out of the
public treasury." Democrats from Northern States, natural allies of the
border-state men, protested vehemently against taxing their constituents
to buy slave property in other States. Many Republicans also joined the
Democracy against Mr. Lincoln, and spoke even with anger and insult.
Thaddeus Stevens, the fierce and formidable leader of the Radicals, gave
his voice against "the most diluted milk-and-water gruel proposition
that had ever been given to the American nation." Hickman of
Pennsylvania, until 1860 a Democrat, but now a Republican, with the
characteristic vehemence of a proselyte said: "Neither the message nor
the resolution is manly and open. They are both covert and insidious.
They do not become the dignity of the President of the United States.
The message is not such a document as a full-grown, independent man
should publish to the nation at such a time as the present, when
positions should be freely and fully defined." In the Senate, Mr. Powell
of Kentucky translated the second paragraph into blunt words. He said
that it held a threat of ultimate coercion, if the cooperative plan
should fail; and he regarded "the whole thing" as "a pill of arsenic,

But, though so many insisted upon uttering their fleers in debate, yet,
when it came to voting, they could not well discredit their President by
voting down the resolution on the sole ground that it was foolish and
ineffectual. So, after it had been abused sufficiently, it was passed by
about the usual party majority: 89 to 34 in the House; 32 to 10 in the
Senate. Thus Congress somewhat sneeringly handed back to the President
his bantling, with free leave to do what he could with it.

Not discouraged by such grudging and unsympathetic permission, Mr.
Lincoln at once set about his experiment. He told Lovejoy and Arnold,
strenuous Abolitionists, but none the less his near friends, that they
would live to see the end of slavery, if only the Border States would
cooperate in his project. On March 10, 1862, he gathered some of the
border-state members and tried to win them over to his views. They
listened coldly; but he was not dismayed by their demeanor, and on July
12 he again convened them, and this time laid before them a written
statement. This paper betrays by its earnestness of argument and its
almost beseeching tone that he wrote it from his heart. The reasons
which he urged were as follows:--

"Believing that you of the Border States hold more power for good than
any other equal number of members, I felt it a duty which I cannot
justifiably waive to make this appeal to you.

"I intend no reproach or complaint when I assure you that, in my
opinion, if you all had voted for the resolution in the gradual
emancipation message of last March, the war would now be substantially

"And the plan therein proposed is yet one of the most potent and swift
means of ending it. Let the States which are in rebellion see definitely
and certainly that in no event will the States you represent ever join
their proposed Confederacy, and they cannot much longer maintain the
contest. But you cannot divest them of their hope to ultimately have you
with them as long as you show a determination to perpetuate the
institution within your own States; beat them at election as you have
overwhelmingly done, and, nothing daunted, they still claim you as
their own. You and I know what the lever of their power is. Break that
lever before their faces, and they can shake you no more forever. Most
of you have treated me with kindness and consideration; and I trust you
will not now think I improperly touch what is exclusively your own,
when, for the sake of the whole country, I ask: can you, for your
States, do better than to take the course I urge? Discarding punctilio
and maxims adapted to more manageable times, and looking only to the
unprecedentedly stern facts of our case, can you do better in any
possible event? You prefer that the constitutional relation of the
States to the nation shall be practically restored without disturbance
of the institution; and if this were done, my whole duty in this respect
under the Constitution and my oath of office would be performed. But it
is not done, and we are trying to accomplish it by war.

"The incidents of the war cannot be avoided. If the war continues long,
as it must if the object be not sooner attained, the institution in your
States will be extinguished by mere friction and abrasion,--by the mere
incidents of the war. It will be gone, and you will have nothing
valuable in lieu of it. Much of its value is gone already. How much
better for you and your people to take the step which at once shortens
the war, and secures substantial compensation for that which is sure to
be wholly lost in any other event. How much better to thus save the
money which else we sink forever in the war. How much better to do it
while we can, lest the war erelong render us pecuniarily unable to do
it. How much better for you, as seller, and the nation, as buyer, to
sell out and buy out that without which the war never could have been,
than to sink both the thing to be sold and the price of it in cutting
one another's throats. I do not speak of emancipation at once, but of a
decision at once to emancipate gradually."

He closed with an ardent appeal to his hearers, as "patriots and
statesmen," to consider his proposition, invoking them thereto as they
"would perpetuate popular government for the best people in the world."

Thirty gentlemen listened to this paper and took two days to consider
it. Then twenty of them signed a response which was, in substance, their
repudiation of the President's scheme. They told him that hitherto they
had been loyal "under the most discouraging circumstances and in face of
measures most distasteful to them and injurious to the interests they
represented, and in the hearing of doctrines, avowed by those who
claimed to be his friends, most abhorrent to themselves and their
constituents." They objected that the measure involved "interference
with what exclusively belonged to the States;" that perhaps it was
unconstitutional; that it would involve an "immense outlay," beyond what
the finances could bear; that it was "the annunciation of a sentiment"
rather than a "tangible proposition;" they added that the sole purpose
of the war must be "restoring the Constitution to its legitimate
authority." Seven others of the President's auditors said politely, but
very vaguely, that they would "ask the people of the Border States
calmly, deliberately, and fairly to consider his recommendations."
Maynard, of the House, and Henderson, of the Senate, alone expressed
their personal approval.

Even this did not drive all hope out of Mr. Lincoln's heart. His
proclamation, rescinding that order of General Hunter which purported to
free slaves in certain States, was issued on May 19. In it he said that
the resolution, which had been passed at his request, "now stands an
authentic, definite, and solemn proposal of the nation to the States and
people most interested in the subject-matter. To the people of these
States I now earnestly appeal. I do not argue; I beseech you to make the
arguments for yourselves. You cannot, if you would, be blind to the
signs of the times. I beg of you a calm and enlarged consideration of
them, ranging, if it may be, far above personal and partisan politics.
This proposal makes common cause for a common object, casting no
reproaches upon any. It acts not the Pharisee. The change it
contemplates would come gently as the dews from Heaven, not rending or
wrecking anything. Will you not embrace it? So much good has not been
done by one effort in all past time as in the providence of God it is
now your high privilege to do. May the vast future not have to lament
that you have neglected it!"

This eloquent and beautiful appeal sounds deeply moving in the ears of
those who read it in these days, so remote from the passions and
prejudices of a generation ago; but it stirred little responsive feeling
and no responsive action in 1862. In fact, the scheme was not

It may be--it probably must be--believed that compensated emancipation
and colonization could never have been carried out even if Northern
Republicans had been willing to pay the price and Southern slave-owners
had been willing to accept it, and if both had then cordially united in
the task of deporting the troublesome negro from the country. The vast
project was undoubtedly visionary; it was to be criticised, weighed, and
considered largely as a business enterprise, and as such it must be
condemned. But Mr. Lincoln, who had no capacity for business, was never
able to get at this point of view, and regarded his favorite plan
strictly in political and humanitarian lights. Yet even thus the general
opinion has been that the unfortunate negroes, finding themselves amid
the hard facts which must inevitably have attended colonization, would
have heartily regretted the lost condition of servitude. Historically
the merits of the experiment, which the Southern Unionists declined to
have put to the test of trial, are of no consequence; it is only as the
scheme throws light upon the magnanimity of Mr. Lincoln's temperament
and upon certain limitations of his intellect, that the subject is
interesting. That he should rid himself of personal vindictiveness and
should cherish an honest and intense desire to see the question, which
had severed the country, disposed of by a process which would make
possible a sincere and cordial reunion, may be only moderately
surprising; but it is most surprising to note the depth and earnestness
of his faith that this condition could really be reached, and that it
could be reached by the road which he had marked out. This confidence
indicated an opinion of human nature much higher than human nature has
yet appeared entitled to. It also anticipated on the part of the
Southerners an appreciation of the facts of the case which few among
them were sufficiently clear-minded to furnish. It is curious to observe
that Lincoln saw the present situation and foresaw the coming situation
with perfect clearness, at the same time that he was entirely unable to
see the uselessness of his panacea; whereas, on the other hand, those
who rejected his impracticable plan remained entirely blind to those
things which he saw. It seems an odd combination of traits that he
always recognized and accepted a fact, and yet was capable of being
wholly impractical.

In connection with these efforts in behalf of the slaveholders, which
show at least a singular goodness of heart towards persons who had done
everything to excite even a sense of personal hatred, it may not be
seriously out of place to quote a paragraph which does not, indeed,
bear upon slavery, but which does illustrate the remarkable temper which
Mr. Lincoln maintained towards the seceding communities. In December,
1861, in his annual message to this Congress, whose searching
anti-slavery measures have just been discussed, he said:--

"There are three vacancies on the bench of the Supreme Court.... I have
so far forborne making nominations to fill these vacancies for reasons
which I will now state. Two of the outgoing judges resided within the
States now overrun by revolt; so that if successors were appointed in
the same localities, they could not now serve upon their circuits; and
many of the most competent men there probably would not take the
personal hazard of accepting to serve, even here, upon the Supreme
Bench. I have been unwilling to throw all the appointments northward,
thus disabling myself from doing justice to the South on the return of
peace; although I may remark that to transfer to the North one which has
heretofore been in the South would not, with reference to territory and
population, be unjust."[3] To comment upon behavior and motives so
extraordinary is, perhaps, as needless as it is tempting.


[1] Also in the House Thaddeus Stevens and Lovejoy, and in the Senate
Sumner, did not vote.

[2] Lincoln's intimate personal and political friend, and afterward his

[3] Annual Message to Congress, December, 1861.



It is time now to return to the theatre of war in Virginia, where, it
will be remembered, we left the Confederate forces in the act of rapidly
withdrawing southward from the line of intrenchments which they had so
long held at Manassas. This unexpected backward movement upon their part
deprived the Urbana route, which McClellan had hitherto so strenuously
advocated, of its chief strategic advantages, and therefore reopened the
old question which had been discussed between him and Mr. Lincoln. To
the civilian mind a movement after the retreating enemy along the direct
line to Richmond, now more than ever before, seemed the natural scheme.
But to this McClellan still remained unalterably opposed. In the letter
of February 3 he had said: "The worst coming to the worst, we can take
Fort Monroe as a base and operate with complete security, although with
less celerity and brilliancy of results, up the Peninsula." This route,
low as he had then placed it in order of desirability, he now adopted as
the best resource, or rather as the only measure; and his judgment was
ratified upon March 13 by unanimous approval on the part of his four
corps commanders. They however made their approval dependent upon
conditions, among which were: that, before beginning the advance along
this line, the new rebel ram Merrimac (or Virginia), just finished at
Norfolk on the James River, should be neutralized, and that a naval
auxiliary force should silence, or be ready to aid in silencing, the
rebel batteries on the York River. In fact, and very unfortunately, the
former of these conditions was not fulfilled until the time of its
usefulness for this specific purpose was over, and the latter condition
was entirely neglected. It was also distinctly stipulated that "the
force to be left to cover Washington shall be such as to give an entire
feeling of security for its safety from menace." Keyes, Heintzelman and
McDowell conceived "that, with the forts on the right bank of the
Potomac fully garrisoned, and those on the left bank occupied, a
covering force, in front of the Virginia line, of 25,000 men would
suffice." Sumner said: "A total of 40,000 for the defense of the city
would suffice."[4] On the same day Stanton informed McClellan that the
President "made no objection" to this plan, but directed that a
sufficient force should be left to hold Manassas Junction and to make
Washington "entirely secure." The closing sentence was: "At all events,
move ... at once in pursuit of the enemy by some route." Thus at last
two important facts were established: that the route up the Peninsula
should be tried; and that the patience of the administration was

Though the enemy upon his retreat was burning bridges and destroying
railroads behind him, and making his possible return towards Washington
a slow, difficult process, which he obviously had no mind to undertake,
still this security of the capital rested as weightily as ever upon
Lincoln's mind. His reiteration and insistence concerning it made
perfectly plain that he was still nervous and disquieted about it,
though now certainly with much less reason than heretofore. But with or
against reason, it was easy to see that he was far from resting in the
tranquillity of conviction that Washington could never be so safe as
when the army of Virginia was far away upon the Peninsula. Nevertheless,
after the condition in its foregoing shape had been so strenuously
imposed by Mr. Lincoln and tacitly accepted by McClellan, the matter was
left as if definitely settled; and the President never demanded[5] from
the general any distinct statement concerning the numerical or specific
allotment of the available forces between the two purposes. The neglect
was disastrous in its consequences; and must also be pronounced both
blameworthy and inexplicable, for the necessity of a plain understanding
on the subject was obvious.

The facts seem to be briefly these: in his letter of February 3,
McClellan estimated the force necessary to be taken with him for his
campaign at 110,000 to 140,000 men, and said: "I hope to use the latter
number by bringing fresh troops into Washington." On April 1 he
reported[6] the forces left behind him as follows:--

At Warrenton, there is to be 7,780 men
At Manassas, there is to be 10,859 men
In the Valley of the Shenandoah 35,467 men
On the Lower Potomac 1,350 men
In all 55,456 men

He adds: "There will thus be left for the garrisons, and the front of
Washington, under General Wadsworth, 18,000 men, exclusive of the
batteries under instruction." New levies, nearly 4,000 strong, were also
expected. He considered all these men as properly available "for the
defense of the national capital and its approaches." The President, the
politicians, and some military men were of opinion that only the 18,000
ought to be considered available for the capital. It was a question
whether it was proper to count the corps of Banks in the Shenandoah
Valley. McClellan's theory was that the rebels, by the circumstances
attendant upon their present retreating movement, had conclusively
annulled any chance of their own return by way of Manassas. Banks
greatly outnumbered Stonewall Jackson, who had only about 15,000 men, or
less, in the Shenandoah Valley. Also Washington was now entirely
surrounded by satisfactory fortifications. McClellan, therefore, was
entirely confident that he left everything in good shape behind him. In
fact, it was put into even better shape than he had designed; for on
March 31 the President took from him Blenker's division of 10,000 men in
order to strengthen Fremont, who was in the mountain region westward of
the Shenandoah Valley. "I did so," wrote Mr. Lincoln, "with great
pain.... If you could know the full pressure of the case, I am confident
that you would justify it." It was unfortunate that the President could
not stand against this "pressure," which was not military, but
political. Fremont could do, and did, nothing at all, and to reinforce
him was sheer absurdity.[7] Against it McClellan protested almost
indignantly, but was "partially relieved by the President's positive and
emphatic assurance" that no more troops "should in any event be taken
from" him, or "in any way detached from [his] command."

Orders had been issued on February 27, to Mr. Tucker, assistant
secretary of war, to prepare means of transporting down the Potomac,
troops, munitions, artillery, horses, wagons, food, and all the vast
paraphernalia of a large army. He showed a masterly vigor in this
difficult task, and by March 17 the embarkation began. On April 2
McClellan arrived at Fortress Monroe. On the very next day he was
disturbed by the revocation of the orders which had left him in command
of that place and had allowed him to "draw from the troops under General
Wool a division of about 10,000 men, which was to be assigned to the
First Corps." Another and a serious disappointment also occurred at
once; he found that the navy could not be utilized for assisting in an
attack on Yorktown, or for running by it so as to land forces in rear of
it. He must therefore depend wholly upon his army to force a way up the
Peninsula. This he had stated to be an unsatisfactory alternative,
because it involved delay at Yorktown. Nevertheless, having no choice,
he began his advance on April 4. He had with him only 58,000 men; but
more were on the way, and McDowell's corps was to be brought forward to
join him as rapidly as transportation would permit. His total nominal
force was smaller than the minimum which, on February 3, he had named as
necessary; yet it was a fine body of troops, and he had lately said to
them: "The army of the Potomac is now a real army, magnificent in
material, admirable in discipline, excellently equipped and armed. Your
commanders are all that I could wish."

In two days he was before the fortifications which the rebels had
erected at Yorktown, and which stretched thence across the Peninsula to
the James River. He estimated the force behind these intrenchments,
commanded by General Magruder, at 15,000 to 20,000 men, easily to be
reinforced; in fact, it was much less. Thereupon, he set about elaborate
preparations for a siege of that city, according to the most thorough
and approved system of military science. He was afterward severely
blamed for not endeavoring to force his way through some point in the
rebel lines by a series of assaults.[8] This was what Mr. Lincoln wished
him to do, and very nearly ordered him to do; for on April 6 he sent
this telegram: "You now have over 100,000 troops with you.... I think
you better break the enemy's line from Yorktown to Warwick River at
once." An entry in McClellan's "Own Story," under date of April 8,
comments upon this message and illustrates the unfortunate feeling of
the writer towards his official superior: "I have raised an awful row
about McDowell's corps. The President very coolly telegraphed me
yesterday that he thought I had better break the enemy's lines at once!
I was much tempted to reply that he had better come and do it himself."
Thus is made evident the lamentable relationship between the President,
who could place no confidence in the enterprise and judgment of the
military commander, and the general, who had only sneers for the
President's incapacity to comprehend warfare. It so happened, however,
that the professional man's sarcasm was grossly out of place, and the
civilian's proposal was shrewdly right, as events soon plainly proved.
In fact what Mr. Lincoln urged was precisely what General Johnston
anticipated and feared would be done, because he knew well that if it
were done it would be of fatal effect against the Confederates. But, on
the other hand, even after the clear proof had gone against him,
McClellan was abundantly supplied with excuses, and the vexation of the
whole affair was made the greater by the fact that these excuses really
seemed to be good. His excuses always were both so numerous and so
satisfactory, that many reasonably minded persons knew not whether they
had a right to feel so angry towards him as they certainly could not
help doing. The present instance was directly in point. General Keyes
reported to him that no part of the enemy's line could "be taken by
assault without an enormous waste of life;" and General Barnard, chief
engineer of the army, thought it uncertain whether they could be carried
at all. Loss of life and uncertainty of result were two things so
abhorred by McClellan in warfare, that he now failed to give due weight
to the consideration that the design of the Confederates in interposing
an obstacle at this point was solely to delay him as much as possible,
whereas much of the merit of his own plan of campaign lay in rapid
execution at the outset. The result was, of course, that he did not
break any line, nor try to, but instead thereof "presented plausible
reasons" out of his inexhaustible reservoir of such commodities. It was
unfortunate that the naval cooeperation, which McClellan had expected,[9]
could not be had at this juncture; for by it the Yorktown problem would
have been easily solved without either line-breaking or reason-giving.

Precisely at this point came into operation the fatal effect of the lack
of understanding between the President and the general as to the
division of the forces. In the plan of campaign, it had been designed to
throw the corps of McDowell into the rear of Yorktown by such route as
should seem expedient at the time of its arrival, probably landing it at
Gloucester and moving it round by West Point. This would have made
Magruder's position untenable at once, long before the natural end of
the siege. But at the very moment when McClellan's left, in its advance,
first came into actual collision with the enemy, he received news that
the President had ordered McDowell to retain his division before
Washington--"the most infamous thing that history has recorded," he
afterward wrote.[10] Yet the explanation of this surprising news was so
simple that surprise was unjustifiable. On April 2, immediately after
McClellan's departure, the President inquired as to what had been done
for the security of Washington. General Wadsworth, commanding the
defenses of the city, gave an alarming response: 19,000 or 20,000
entirely green troops, and a woeful insufficiency of artillery. He said
that while it was "very improbable" that the enemy would attack
Washington, nevertheless the "numerical strength and the character" of
his forces rendered them "entirely inadequate to and unfit for their
important duty." Generals Hitchcock and Thomas corroborated this by
reporting that the order to leave the city "entirely secure" had "not
been fully complied with." Mr. Lincoln was horror-struck. He had a right
to be indignant, for those who ought to know assured him that his
reiterated and most emphatic command had been disobeyed, and that what
he chiefly cared to make safe had not been made safe. He promptly
determined to retain McDowell, and the order was issued on April 4.
Thereby he seriously attenuated, if he did not quite annihilate, the
prospect of success for McClellan's campaign. It seems incredible and
unexplainable that amid this condition of things, on April 3, an order
was issued from the office of the secretary of war, to stop recruiting
throughout the country!

This series of diminutions, says McClellan, had "removed nearly 60,000
men from my command, and reduced my force by more than one third.... The
blow was most discouraging. It frustrated all my plans for impending
operations. It fell when I was too deeply committed to withdraw.... It
was a fatal error."

Error or not, it was precisely what McClellan ought to have foreseen as
likely to occur. He had not foreseen it, however, and nothing mitigated
the disappointment. Unquestionably the act was of supreme gravity. Was
Mr. Lincoln right or wrong in doing it? The question has been answered
many times both Yea and Nay, and each side has been maintained with
intense acrimony and perfect good faith. It is not likely that it will
ever be possible to say either that the Yeas have it, or that the Nays
have it.[11] For while it is certain that what actually _did_ happen
coincided very accurately with McClellan's expectations; on the other
hand, it can never be known what _might have_ happened if Lincoln had
not held McDowell, and if, therefore, facts had not been what they were.

So far as Mr. Lincoln is concerned, the question, what military judgment
was correct,--that is, whether the capital really was, or was not,
absolutely secure,--is of secondary consequence. The valuation which he
set on that safety was undeniably correct; it certainly was of more
importance than McClellan's success. If he had made a mistake in letting
McClellan go without a more distinct understanding, at least that
mistake was behind him. Before him was the issue whether he should rest
satisfied with the deliberate judgment given by McClellan, or whether,
at considerable cost to the cause, he should make the assurance greater
out of deference to other advice. He chose the latter course. In so
doing, if he was not vacillating, he was at least incurring the evils of
vacillation. It would have been well if he could have found some quarter
in which permanently to repose his implicit faith, so that one
consistent plan could have been carried out without interference. Either
he had placed too much confidence in McClellan in the past, or he was
placing too little in him now. If he could not accept McClellan's
opinion as to the safety of Washington, in preference to that of
Wadsworth, Thomas, and Hitchcock, then he should have removed McClellan,
and replaced him with some one in whom he had sufficient confidence to
make smooth cooeperation a possibility. The present condition of things
was illogical and dangerous. Matters had been allowed to reach a very
advanced stage upon the theory that McClellan's judgment was
trustworthy; then suddenly the stress became more severe, and it seemed
that in the bottom of his mind the President did not thus implicitly
respect the general's wisdom. Yet he did not displace him, but only
opened his ears to other counsels; whereupon the buzz of contradictory,
excited, and alarming suggestions which came to him were more than
enough to unsettle any human judgment. General Webb speaks well and with
authority to this matter: "The dilemma lay here,--whose plans and advice
should he follow, where it was necessary for him to approve and
decide?... Should he lean implicitly on the general actually in command
of the armies, placed there by virtue of his presumed fitness for the
position, or upon other selected advisers? We are bold to say that it
was doubt and hesitation upon this point that occasioned many of the
blunders of the campaign. Instead of one mind, there were many minds
influencing the management of military affairs." A familiar culinary
proverb was receiving costly illustration.

But, setting the dispute aside, an important fact remains: shorn as he
was, McClellan was still strong enough to meet and to defeat his
opponents. If he had been one of the great generals of the world he
would have been in Richmond before May Day; but he was at his old trick
of exaggerating the hostile forces and the difficulties in his way. On
April 7 he thought that Johnston and the whole Confederate army were at
Yorktown; whereas Johnston's advance division arrived there on the 10th;
the other divisions came several days later, and Johnston himself
arrived only on the 14th.

On April 9 Mr. Lincoln presented his own view of the situation in this
letter to the general:--

"Your dispatches complaining that you are not properly sustained, while
they do not offend me, do pain me very much.

... "After you left I ascertained that less than 20,000 unorganized men,
without a single field battery, were all you designed to be left for the
defense of Washington and Manassas Junction, and part of this even was
to go to General Hooker's old position. General Banks's corps, once
designed for Manassas Junction, was diverted and tied up on the line of
Winchester and Strasburg, and could not leave it without again exposing
the upper Potomac and the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. This presented,
or would present, when McDowell and Sumner should be gone, a great
temptation to the enemy to turn back from the Rappahannock and sack
Washington. My implicit order that Washington should, by the judgment of
all the commanders of army corps, be left entirely secure, had been
neglected. It was precisely this that drove me to detain McDowell.

"I do not forget that I was satisfied with your arrangement to leave
Banks at Manassas Junction; but when that arrangement was broken up, and
nothing was substituted for it, of course I was constrained to
substitute something for it myself. And allow me to ask, do you really
think I should permit the line from Richmond, via Manassas Junction, to
this city, to be entirely open, except what resistance could be
presented by less than 20,000 unorganized troops? This is a question
which the country will not allow me to evade.

"There is a curious mystery about the number of troops now with you.
When I telegraphed you on the 6th, saying you had over a hundred
thousand with you, I had just obtained from the secretary of war a
statement taken, as he said, from your own returns, making 108,000 then
with you and en route to you. You now say you will have but 85,000 when
all en route to you shall have reached you. How can the discrepancy of
23,000 be accounted for?

"As to General Wool's command,[12] I understand it is doing for you
precisely what a like number of your own would have to do if that
command was away.

"I suppose the whole force which has gone forward for you is with you by
this time. And if so, I think it is the precise time for you to strike a
blow. By delay the enemy will relatively gain upon you,--that is, he
will gain faster by fortifications and reinforcements than you can by
reinforcements alone. And once more let me tell you, it is indispensable
to you that you strike a blow. I am powerless to help this. You will do
me the justice to remember I always insisted that going down the bay in
search of a field, instead of fighting at or near Manassas, was only
shifting, and not surmounting, a difficulty; that we would find the same
enemy, and the same or equal intrenchments, at either place. The country
will not fail to note, is now noting, that the present hesitation to
move upon an intrenched enemy is but the story of Manassas repeated.

"I beg to assure you that I have never written you or spoken to you in
greater kindness of feeling than now, nor with a fuller purpose to
sustain you, so far as, in my most anxious judgment, I consistently can.
But you must act."

McClellan, in consternation and almost despair at the repeated pruning
of his force, now begged for at least a part of McDowell's corps, which,
he said on April 10, was "indispensable;" "the fate of our cause depends
upon it." Accordingly Franklin's division was sent to him; and then,
after all this palaver, he kept it a fortnight on shipboard, until
Yorktown was evacuated!

On May 1 the President, tortured by the political gadflies in
Washington, and suffering painfully from the weariness of hope so long
deferred, telegraphed: "Is anything to be done?" A pitiful time of it
Mr. Lincoln was having, and it called for a patient fortitude surpassing
imagination. Yet one little bit of fruit was at this moment ripe for the
plucking! After about four weeks of wearisome labor the general had
brought matters to that condition which was so grateful to his cautious
soul. At the beginning of May he had reduced success to a certainty, so
that he expected to open fire on May 5, and to make short work of the
rebel stronghold. But it so happened that another soldier also had at
the same time finished his task. General Magruder had delayed the Union
army to the latest possible hour, he had saved a whole valuable month;
and now, quite cheerfully and triumphantly, in the night betwixt May 3
and May 4, he quietly slipped away. As it had happened at Manassas, so
now again the Federals marched unopposed into deserted intrenchments;
and a second time the enemy had so managed it that their retreat seemed
rather to cast a slur upon Union strategy than to bring prestige to the
Union arms.

McClellan at once continued his advance, with more or less fighting, the
rebels steadily drawing back without offering battle on a large scale,
though there was a sharp engagement at Williamsburg. He had not even the
smaller number of men which he had originally named as his requirement,
and he continued pertinaciously to demand liberal reinforcements. The
President, grievously harassed by these importunate appeals, declared to
McClellan that he was forwarding every man that he could, while to
friends nearer at hand he complained that sending troops to McClellan
was like shoveling fleas across a barnyard; most of them didn't get
there! At last he made up his mind to send the remainder of McDowell's
corps; not because he had changed his mind about covering Washington,
but because the situation had become such that he expected to arrange
this matter by other resources.

The fight at Williamsburg took place on May 5. McClellan pushed after
the retiring enemy, too slowly, as his detractors said, yet by roads
which really were made almost impassable by heavy rains. Two days later,
May 7, Franklin's force disembarked and occupied West Point. This
advance up the Peninsula now produced one important result which had
been predicted by McClellan in his letter of February 3. On May 8 news
came that the Confederates were evacuating Norfolk, and two days later a
Union force marched into the place. The rebels lost many heavy guns,
besides all the advantages of the navy yard with its workshops and
stores; moreover, their awe-inspiring ram, the Merrimac, alias the
Virginia, was obliged to leave this comfortable nestling-place, whence
she had long watched and closed the entrance to the James River. Her
commander, Tatnall, would have taken her up that stream, but the pilots
declared it not possible to float her over the shoals. She was therefore
abandoned and set on fire; and early in the morning of May 11 she blew
up, leaving the southern water-way to Richmond open to the Union
fleet.[13] It was a point of immense possible advantage. Later McClellan
intimated that, if he had been left free to act upon his own judgment,
he would probably have availed himself of this route; and some writers,
with predilections in his favor, have assumed that he was prevented from
doing so by certain orders, soon to be mentioned, which directed him to
keep the northerly route for the purpose of effecting a junction with
McDowell. But this notion seems incorrect; for though he doubtless had
the James River route under consideration, yet dates are against the
theory that he wished to adopt it when at last it lay open. On the
contrary, he continued his advance precisely as before. On May 16 his
leading columns reached White House; headquarters were established
there, and steps were immediately taken to utilize it as a depot and
base of supplies. The York River route was thus made the definitive
choice. Also the advance divisions were immediately pushed out along
the York River and Richmond Railroad, which they repaired as they went.
On May 20 Casey's division actually crossed the Chickahominy at Bottom's
Bridge, and the next day a large part of the army was in position upon
the north bank of that stream. Obviously these operations, each and all,
ruled out the James River route, at least as a part of the present plan.
Yet it was not until they were well under way, viz., on May 18, that the
intelligence reached McClellan, on the strength of which he and others
afterward assumed that he had been deprived of the power to select the
James River route. What this intelligence was and how it came to pass
must now be narrated.

By this time, the advance along the Peninsula had so completely
"relieved the front of Washington from pressure," that Mr. Lincoln and
his advisers, reassured as to the safety of that city, now saw their way
clear to make McDowell's corps, strengthened to a force of 41,000 men,
contribute actively to McClellan's assistance. They could not, indeed,
bring themselves to move it by water, as McClellan desired; but the
President ordered McDowell to move down from Fredericksburg, where he
now lay, towards McClellan's right wing, which McClellan was ordered to
extend to the north of Richmond in order to meet him. But, in the words
of the Comte de Paris, "an absurd restriction revealed the old mistrusts
and fears." For McDowell was strictly ordered not to uncover the
capital; also, with a decisive emphasis indicative of an uneasy
suspicion, McClellan was forbidden to dispose of McDowell's force in
contravention of this still primary purpose. Whether McDowell was under
McClellan's control, or retained an independent command, was left
curiously vague, until McClellan forced a distinct understanding.

Although McClellan, writing to Lincoln, condemned rather sharply the
method selected for giving to him the aid so long implored, yet he felt
that, even as it came to him, he could make it serve his turn. Though he
grumbled at the President's unmilitary ways, he afterward admitted that
the "cheering news" made him "confident" of being "sufficiently strong
to overpower the large army confronting" him. There was no doubt of it.
He immediately extended his right wing; May 24, he drove the
Confederates out of Mechanicsville; May 26, General Porter took position
at Hanover Junction only fifteen miles from McDowell's head of column,
which had advanced eight miles out of Fredericksburg. The situation was
not unpromising; but unfortunately that little interval of fifteen miles
was never to be closed up.

May 24, Mr. Lincoln wrote to McClellan, and after suggesting sundry
advisable movements, he said: "McDowell and Shields[14] both say they
can, and positively will, move Monday morning." Monday was the 26th. In
point of fact, McDowell, feeling time to be of great value, urged the
President to let him move on the morning of Sunday, the 25th; but Mr.
Lincoln positively refused; the battle of Bull Run had been fought on a
Sunday, and he dreaded the omen.[15] This feeling which he had about
days was often illustrated, and probably the reader has observed that he
seemed to like dates already marked by prestige or good luck; thus he
had convened Congress for July 4, and had ordered the general advance of
the armies for February 22; it was an indication of the curious thread
of superstition which ran through his strange nature,--a remnant of his
youth and the mysterious influence of the wilderness. But worse than a
superstitious postponement arrived before nightfall on Saturday. A
dispatch from Lincoln to McClellan, dated at four o'clock that
afternoon, said: "In consequence of General Banks's critical position, I
have been compelled to suspend General McDowell's movements to join you.
The enemy are making a desperate push upon Harper's Ferry, and we are
trying to throw General Fremont's force and part of General McDowell's
in their rear." The brief words conveyed momentous intelligence. It is
necessary to admit that Mr. Lincoln was making his one grand blunder,
for which there is not even the scant salvation of possible doubt. All
that can be said in palliation is, that he was governed, or at least
strongly impelled, by the urgent advice of the secretary of war, whose
hasty telegrams to the governors of several States show that he was
terror-stricken and had lost his head. Mr. Blaine truly says that
McDowell, thus suddenly dispatched by Mr. Lincoln upon a "fruitless
chase," "was doing precisely what the President of the Confederate
States would have ordered, had he been able to issue the orders of the
President of the United States." There is no way to mitigate the painful
truth of this statement, made by a civilian, but amply sustained by the
military authorities on both sides.[16]

The condition was this. The retention of McDowell's corps before
Washington published the anxiety of the administration. The Confederate
advantage lay in keeping that anxiety alive and continuing to neutralize
that large body of troops. Strategists far less able than the Southern
generals could not have missed so obvious a point, neither could they
have missed the equally obvious means at their disposal for achieving
these purposes. At the upper end of the valley of the Shenandoah
Stonewall Jackson had an army, raised by recent accretions to nearly or
quite 15,000 men. The Northern generals erelong learned to prognosticate
Jackson's movements by the simple rule that at the time when he was
least expected, and at the place where he was least wanted, he was sure
to turn up.[17] The suddenness and speed with which he could move a body
of troops seemed marvelous to ordinary men. His business now was to make
a vigorous dashing foray down the valley. To the westward, Fremont lay
in the mountains, with an army which checked no enemy and for the
existence of which in that place no reasonable explanation could be
given. In front was Banks, with a force lately reduced to about 5,000
men. May 14, Banks prudently fell back and took position in
Strasburg.[18] Suddenly, on May 23, Jackson appeared at Front Royal; on
the next day he attacked Banks at Winchester, and of course defeated
him; on the 25th Banks made a rapid retreat to the Potomac, and Jackson
made an equally rapid pursuit to Halltown, within two miles of Harper's
Ferry. The news of this startling foray threw the civilians of
Washington into a genuine panic, by which Mr. Lincoln was, at least for
a few hours, not altogether unaffected.[19] Yet, though startled and
alarmed, he showed the excellent quality of promptitude in decision and
action; and truly it was hard fortune that his decision and his action
were both for the worst. He at once ordered McDowell to move 20,000
troops into the Shenandoah Valley, and instructed Fremont also to move
his force rapidly into the valley, with the design that the two should
thus catch Jackson in what Mr. Lincoln described as a "trap."[20]
McDowell was dismayed at such an order. He saw, what every man having
any military knowledge at once recognized with entire certainty, and
what every military writer has since corroborated, that the movement of
Jackson had no value except as a diversion, that it threatened no
serious danger, and that to call off McDowell's corps from marching to
join McClellan in order to send it against Jackson was to do exactly
that thing which the Confederates desired to have done, though they
could hardly have been sanguine enough to expect it. It was swallowing a
bait so plain that it might almost be said to be labeled. For a general
to come under the suspicion of not seeing through such a ruse was
humiliating. In vain McDowell explained, protested, and entreated with
the utmost vehemence and insistence. When Mr. Lincoln had made up his
mind, no man could change it, and here, as ill fortune would have it,
he had made it up. So, with a heavy heart, the reluctant McDowell set
forth on his foolish errand, and Fremont likewise came upon his,--though
it is true that he was better employed thus than in doing nothing,--and
Jackson, highly pleased, and calculating his time to a nicety, on May 31
slipped rapidly between the two Union generals,--the closing jaws of Mr.
Lincoln's "trap,"--and left them to close upon nothing.[21] Then he led
his pursuers a fruitless chase towards the head of the valley,
continuing to neutralize a force many times larger than his own, and
which could and ought to have been at this very time doing fatal work
against the Confederacy. Presumably he had saved Richmond, and therewith
also, not impossibly, the chief army of the South. The chagrin of the
Union commanders, who had in vain explained the situation with entire
accuracy, taxes the imagination.

There is no use in denying a truth which can be proved. The blunder of
Mr. Lincoln is not only undeniable, but it is inexcusable. Possibly for
a few hours he feared that Washington was threatened. He telegraphed to
McClellan May 25, at two o'clock P.M., that he thought the movement down
the valley a "general and concerted one," inconsistent with "the purpose
of a very desperate defense of Richmond;" and added, "I think the time
is near when you must either attack Richmond, or give up the job and
come to the defense of Washington." How reasonable this view was at the
moment is of little consequence, for within a few hours afterward the
character of Jackson's enterprise as a mere foray became too palpable to
be mistaken. Nevertheless, after the President was relieved from such
fear for the capital as he might excusably have felt for a very brief
period, his cool judgment seemed for once in his life, perhaps for the
only time, to be disturbed. The truth is that Mr. Lincoln was a sure and
safe, almost an infallible thinker, when he had time given him; but he
was not always a quick thinker, and on this occasion he was driven to
think quickly. In consequence he not only erred in repudiating the
opinions of the best military advisers, but even upon the basis of his
own views he made a mistake. The very fact that he was so energetic in
the endeavor to "trap" Jackson in retreat indicates his understanding of
the truth that Jackson had so small a force that his prompt retreat was
a necessity. This being so, he was in the distinct and simple position
of making a choice between two alternatives, viz.: either to endeavor to
catch Jackson, and for this object to withhold what was needed by and
had been promised to McClellan for his campaign against Richmond; or,
leaving Jackson to escape with impunity, to pursue with steadiness that
plan which it was Jackson's important and perfectly understood errand to
interrupt. It is almost incredible that he chose wrong. The statement of
the dilemma involved the decision. Yet he took the little purpose and
let the great one go. Nor even thus did he gain this lesser purpose. He
had been warned by McDowell that Jackson could not be caught, and he was
not. Yet even had this been otherwise, the Northerners would have got
little more than the shell while losing the kernel. Probably Richmond,
and possibly the Southern army, fell out of the President's hand while
he tried without success to close it upon Jackson and 15,000 men.

The result of this civilian strategy was that McClellan, with his
projects shattered, was left with his right wing and rear dangerously
exposed. Jackson remained for a while a mysterious _bete noire_, about
whose force, whereabouts, and intentions many disturbing rumors flew
abroad; at last, on June 26, he settled these doubts in his usual sharp
and conclusive way by assailing the exposed right wing and threatening
the rear of the Union army, thus achieving "the brilliant conclusion of
the operations which [he] had so successfully conducted in the Valley of

Simultaneously with the slipping of Jackson betwixt his two pursuers on
May 31, General Johnston made an attack upon the two corps[22] which lay
south of the Chickahominy, in position about Seven Pines and Fair Oaks.
Battle was waged during two days. Each side claimed a victory; the
Southerners because they had inflicted the heavier loss, the
Northerners because ultimately they held their original lines and foiled
Johnston's design of defeating and destroying the Northern army in
detail. The result of this battle ought to have proved to McClellan two
facts: that neither in discipline nor in any other respect were the
Southern troops more formidable than his own; also that the Southerners
were clearly not able to overwhelm him with such superior numbers as he
had supposed; for in two days they had not been able to overwhelm much
less than half of his army. These considerations should have encouraged
him to energetic measures. But no encouragement could counteract the
discouragement inflicted by the loss of McDowell's powerful corps and
the consequent wrecking of his latest plan. Nearly to the end of June he
lay immovable. "June 14, midnight. All quiet in every direction,"--thus
he telegraphed to Stanton in words intended to be reassuring, but in
fact infinitely vexatious. Was he, then, set at the head of this great
and costly host of the nation's best, to rest satisfied with preserving
an eternal quietude,--like a chief of police in a disorderly quarter?
Still he was indefatigable in declaring himself outnumbered, and in
demanding more troops; in return he got assurances, with only the slight
fulfillment of McCall's division. Every two or three days he cheeringly
announced to the administration that he was on the verge of advancing,
but he never passed over the verge. Throughout a season in which
blundering seemed to become epidemic, no blunder was greater than his
quiescence at this time.[23] As if to emphasize it, about the middle of
June General Stuart, with a body of Confederate cavalry, actually rode
all around the Union army, making the complete circuit and crossing its
line of communication with White House without interruption. The foray
achieved little, but it wore the aspect of a signal and unavenged

In Washington the only powerful backing upon which McClellan could still
rely was that of the President, and he was surely wearing away the
patience of his only friend by the irritating attrition of promises ever
reiterated and never redeemed. No man ever kept his own counsel more
closely than did Mr. Lincoln, and the indications of his innermost
sentiments concerning McClellan at this time are rare. But perhaps a
little ray is let in, as through a cranny, by a dispatch which he sent
to the general on June 2: "With these continuous rains I am very anxious
about the Chickahominy,--so close in your rear, and crossing your line
of communication. Please look to it." This curt prompting on so obvious
a point was a plain insinuation against McClellan's military competence,
and suggests that ceaseless harassment had at last got the better of
Lincoln's usually imperturbable self-possession; for it lacked little of
being an insult, and Mr. Lincoln, in all his life, never insulted any
man. As a spot upon a white cloth sets off the general whiteness, so
this dispatch illustrates Lincoln's unweariable patience and
long-suffering without parallel. McClellan, never trammeled by respect,
retorted sharply: "As the Chickahominy has been almost the only obstacle
in my way for several days, your excellency may rest assured that it has
not been overlooked." When finally the general became active, it was
under the spur of General Jackson, not of President Lincoln. Jackson
compelled him to decide and act; and the result was his famous southward
movement to the James River. Some, adopting his own nomenclature, have
called this a change of base; some, less euphemistically, speak of it as
a retreat. According to General Webb, it may be called either the one or
the other with equal propriety, for it partook of the features of
each.[24] It is no part of the biographer of Lincoln to narrate the
suffering and the gallantry of the troops through those seven days of
continuous fighting and marching, during which they made their painful
way, in the face of an attacking army, through the dismal swamps of an
unwholesome region, amid the fierce and humid heats of the Southern
summer. On July 1 they closed the dread experience by a brilliant
victory in the desperate, prolonged, and bloody battle of Malvern Hill.

In the course of this march a letter was sent by McClellan to Stanton
which has become famous. The vindictive lunge, visibly aimed at the
secretary, was really designed, piercing this lesser functionary, to
reach the President. Even though written amid the strain and stress of
the most critical and anxious moment of the terrible "Seven Days," the
words were unpardonable. The letter is too long to be given in full, but
the closing sentences were:--

"I know that a few thousand more men would have changed this battle[25]
from a defeat to a victory. As it is, the government must not and cannot
hold me responsible for the result. I feel too earnestly to-night. I
have seen too many dead and wounded comrades to feel otherwise than that
the government has not sustained this army. If you do not do so now, the
game is lost. If I save this army now, I tell you plainly that I owe no
thanks to you or to any other persons in Washington. You have done your
best to sacrifice this army."[26] It was safe to write thus to Mr.
Lincoln, whose marvelous magnanimity was never soiled by a single act
of revenge; but the man who addressed such language to Stanton secured a
merciless and unscrupulous enemy forever.

Though, at the close of this appalling week, the troops at last were
conquerors on the banks of the James, they were in a position not
permanently tenable, and before they could rest they had to fall back
another march to Harrison's Landing. The rear guard reached this haven
on the night of July 3, and the army, thus at last safely placed and in
direct communication with the fleet and the transports, was able to
recuperate,[27] while those in authority considered of the future.
Certain facts were established: first, concerning the army,--that before
it met the baptism of heavy fighting it had been brought into a splendid
condition of drill and efficiency, and that by that baptism, so severe
and so long continued, it had come as near as volunteers could come to
the excellence of veterans and regulars; also that it was at least a
match for its opponents; and, finally, strange to say, it was very
slightly demoralized, would soon again be in condition for an advance,
and felt full confidence and strong affection for its commander.
Brilliant and enthusiastic tributes have been paid to these men for
their endurance amid disease and wounds and battle; but not one word too
much has been said. It is only cruel to think of the hideous price
which they had paid, and by which they had bought only the capacity to
endure further perils and hardship. Second, concerning McClellan; it was
to be admitted that his predictions as to points of strategy had been
fulfilled; that he had managed his retreat, or "change of base," with
skill, and had shown some qualities of high generalship; but it was also
evident that he was of a temperament so unenterprising and apprehensive
as to make him entirely useless in an offensive campaign. Yet the burden
of conducting a successful offense lay upon the North. Must Mr. Lincoln,
then, finally accept the opinion of those who had long since concluded
that McClellan was not the man for the place?

A collateral question was: What should be done next? McClellan,
tenacious and stubborn, was for persisting in the movement against Lee's
army and Richmond. He admitted no other thought than that, having paused
to gather reinforcements and to refresh his army, he should assume the
offensive, approaching the city by the south and southwest from the
James River base. Holding this purpose, he was impolitic in sending very
dolorous dispatches on July 4 and 7, intimating doubts as to his power
to maintain successfully even the defensive. Two or three days later,
however, he assumed a better tone; and on July 11 and 12 he reported
"all in fine spirits," and urged that his army should be "promptly
reinforced and thrown again upon Richmond. If we have a little more
than half a chance, we can take it." He continued throughout the month
to press these views by arguments which, though overruled at the time,
have since been more favorably regarded. Whether or not they were
correct is an item in the long legacy of questions left by the war to be
disputed over by posterity; in time, one side or the other may desist
from the discussion in weariness, but, from the nature of the case,
neither can be vanquished.

Whether McClellan was right or wrong, his prestige, fresh as it still
remained with his devoted troops, was utterly gone at Washington, where
the political host was almost a unit against him. The Committee on the
Conduct of the War had long been bitterly denouncing him; and he had so
abused the secretary of war that even the duplicity of Mr. Stanton was
unequal to the strain of maintaining an appearance of good
understanding. New military influences also fell into the same scale.
General Pope, the latest "favorite," now enjoying his few weeks of
authority, endeavored to make it clear to Mr. Lincoln that to bring
McClellan back from the Peninsula was the only safe and intelligent
course. Further, on July 11, President Lincoln appointed General Halleck
general-in-chief. It may be said, in passing, that the appointment
turned out to be a very bad mistake; for Halleck was as dull a man as
ever made use of grand opportunities only to prove his own
incompetence. Now, however, he came well recommended before Lincoln,
and amid novel responsibilities the merit of any man could only be known
by trial. Halleck did not arrive in Washington till near the end of the
month, then he seemed for a while in doubt, or to be upon both sides of
the question as to whether the army should be advanced or withdrawn; but
ultimately, in the contemptuous language of Mr. Swinton, he "added his
strident voice in favor of the withdrawal of the army from the
Peninsula." This settled the matter; for the President had decided to
place himself under the guidance of his new military mentor; and,
moreover, his endurance was worn out.

In the way of loyalty the President certainly owed nothing further to
the general. All such obligations he had exhaustively discharged. In
spite of the covert malicious suggestions and the direct injurious
charges which tortured the air of the White House and vexed his
judgment, he had sustained McClellan with a constancy which deserved
warm gratitude. This the general never gave, because he could never
forgive Mr. Lincoln for refusing to subordinate his own views to those
of such a military expert as himself. This point, it is true, Lincoln
never reached; but subject only to this independence of opinion and
action, so long as he retained McClellan in command, he fulfilled toward
him every requirement of honor and generosity. The movement across the
Peninsula, whatever construction might possibly be put upon it, seemed
in Washington a retreat, and was for the President a disappointment
weighty enough to have broken the spirit of a smaller man. Yet Lincoln,
instead of sacrificing McClellan as a scapegoat, sent to him on July 1
and 2 telegrams bidding him do his best in the emergency and save his
army, in which case the people would rally and repair all losses; "we
still have strength enough in the country and will bring it out," he
said,--words full of cheering resolution unshaded by a suspicion of
reproach, words which should have come like wine to the weary. The next
day, July 3, he sent a dispatch which even McClellan, in his formal
report, described as "kind:" "I am satisfied that yourself, officers,
and men have done the best you could. All accounts say better fighting
was never done. Ten thousand thanks for it." But when it came to
judgment and action the President could not alleviate duty with
kindness. To get information uncolored by passage through the minds of
others, he went down to Harrison's Landing on July 7, observed all that
he could see, and talked matters over. Prior to this visit it is
supposed that he had leaned towards McClellan's views, and had inclined
to renew the advance. Nor is it clearly apparent that he learned
anything during this trip which induced him to change his mind. Rather
it seems probable that he maintained his original opinion until General
Halleck had declared against it, and that then he yielded to General
Halleck as he had before yielded to General McClellan, though certainly
with much less reluctance. At the same time the question was not
considered wholly by itself, but was almost necessarily complicated with
the question of deposing McClellan from the command. For the
inconsistency of discrediting McClellan's military judgment and
retaining him at the head of the army was obvious.

Thus at last it came about that McClellan's plan lost its only remaining
friend, and on August 3 came the definite order for the removal of the
army across the Peninsula to Acquia Creek. The campaign against Richmond
was abandoned. McClellan could not express his indignation at a policy
"almost fatal to our cause;" but his strenuous remonstrances had no
effect; his influence had passed forever. The movement of the army was
successfully completed, the rear guard arriving at Yorktown on August
20. Thus the first great Peninsula campaign came to its end in
disappointment and almost in disaster, amid heart-burnings and
criminations. It was, says General Webb, "a lamentable failure,--nothing
less." There was little hope for the future unless some master hand
could control the discordant officials who filled the land with the din
of their quarreling. The burden lay upon the President. Fortunately his
good sense, his even judgment, his unexcitable temperament had saved him
from the appearance or the reality of partisanship and from any
entangling or compromising personal commitments.

In many ways and for many reasons, this story of the Peninsula has been
both difficult and painful to write. To reach the truth and sound
conclusions in the many quarrels which it has provoked is never easy,
and upon some points seems impossible; and neither the truth nor the
conclusions are often agreeable. Opinion and sympathy have gradually but
surely tended in condemnation of McClellan and in favor of Lincoln. The
evidence is conclusive that McClellan was vain, disrespectful, and
hopelessly blind to those non-military but very serious considerations
which should have been allowed to modify the purely scientific strategy
of the campaign. Also, though his military training was excellent, it
was his misfortune to be placed amid exigencies for which neither his
moral nor his mental qualities were adapted. Lincoln, on the other hand,
displayed traits of character not only in themselves rare and admirable,
but so fitted to the requirements of the times that many persons have
been tempted to conceive him to have been divinely led. But against this
view, though without derogating from the merits which induce it, is to
be set the fact that he made mistakes hardly consistent with the theory
of inspiration by Omniscience. He interfered in military matters; and,
being absolutely ignorant of military science, while the problems before
him were many and extremely perplexing, he blundered, and on at least
one occasion blundered very badly. After he has been given the benefit
of all the doubt which can be suggested concerning the questions which
he disposed of, the preponderance of expert authority shows a residuum
of substantial certainty against him. It is true that many civilian
writers have given their judgments in favor of the President's strategy,
with a tranquil assurance at least equal to that shown by the military
critics. But it seems hardly reasonable to suppose that Mr. Lincoln
became by mere instinct, and instantly, a master in the complex science
of war, and it is also highly improbable that in the military criticism
of this especial campaign, the civilians are generally right and the
military men are generally wrong. On the whole it is pleasanter as well
as more intelligent to throw out this foolish notion of miraculous
knowledge suddenly illuminating Mr. Lincoln with a thorough mastery of
the art of war. It is better not to believe that he became at once
endowed with acquirements which he had never had an opportunity to
attain, and rather to be content with holding him as a simple human
being like the rest of us, and so to credit our common humanity with the
inspiring excellence of the moral qualities displayed by him in those
months of indescribable trial.

How much of expectation had been staked upon that army of the Potomac!
All the Northern people for nearly a year kept their eyes fastened with
aching intensity upon it; good fortunes which befell elsewhere hardly
interrupted for a moment the absorption in it. The feeling was well
illustrated by the committee of Congress, which said that in the
history of this army was to be found all that was necessary for framing
a report on the Conduct of the War; and truly added that this army had
been "the object of special care to every department of the government."
It occurred to many who heard this language, that matters would have
gone better with the army if the political and civil departments had
been less lavish of care and attention. None the less the fact remained
that the interest and anticipation of the whole loyal part of the nation
were concentrated in the Virginia campaign. Correspondingly cruel was
the disappointment at its ultimate miscarriage. Probably, as a single
trial, it was the most severe that Mr. Lincoln ever suffered. Hope then
went through the painful process of being pruned by failure, and it was
never tortured by another equal mutilation. Moreover, the vastness of
the task, the awful cost of success, were now, for the first time,
appreciated. The responsibility of a ruler under so appalling a destiny
now descended with a weight that could never become greater upon the
shoulders of that lonely man in the White House. A solitary man, indeed,
he was, in a solitude impressive and painful to contemplate. Having none
of those unofficial counselors, those favorites, those privy confidants
and friends, from whom men in chief authority are so apt to seek relief,
Mr. Lincoln secretively held his most important thoughts in his own
mind, wrought out his conclusions by the toil of his own brain, carried
his entire burden wholly upon his own shoulders, and in every part and
way met the full responsibility of his office in and by himself alone.
It does not appear that he ever sought to be sustained or comforted or
encouraged amid disaster, that he ever endeavored to shift upon others
even the most trifling fragment of the load which rested upon himself;
and certainly he never desired that any one should ever be a sharer in
any ill repute attendant upon a real or supposed mistake. Silent as to
matters of deep import, self-sustained, facing alone all grave duties,
solving alone all difficult problems, and enduring alone all
consequences, he appears a man so isolated from his fellow men amid such
tests and trials, that one is filled with a sense of awe, almost beyond
sympathy, in the contemplation.


[4] This language was too vague to make known to us now what Sumner's
demand was; for one of the questions bitterly in dispute soon became:
what forces were properly to be regarded as available "for the defense
of the city."

[5] McClellan says that he offered to General Hitchcock, "who at that
time held staff relations with his excellency, the President, and the
secretary of war," to submit a list of troops, to be left for the
defense of Washington, with their positions; but Hitchcock replied that
McClellan's judgment was sufficient in the matter. McClellan's _Report_,
683. VOL. II.

[6] By letter to the adjutant-general, wherein he requested the
transmission of the information to the secretary of war. _Report of
Comm. on Conduct of the War_, ii. pt. i. 13. The addition in the
_Report_ is erroneous, being given as 54,456 instead of 55,456.

[7] See Comte de Paris, _Civil War in America_, i. 626, 627.

[8] See discussion by Swinton, _Army of Potomac_, 108 _et seq._

[9] Perhaps he was not justified in counting upon it with such apparent
assurance as he had done. Webb, _The Peninsula_, 37-42.

[10] General Webb says that this question is "the leading point of
dispute in the campaign and may never be satisfactorily set at rest."
But he also says: "To allow the general to remain in command, and then
cut off the very arm with which he was about to strike, we hold to have
been inexcusable and unmilitary to the last degree." Swinton condemns
the withholding McDowell (_Army of the Potomac_, 104), adding, with fine
magnanimity, that it is not necessary to impute any "really unworthy
motive" to Mr. Lincoln!

[11] It seems to me that military opinion, so far as I can get at it,
inclines to hold that the government, having let McClellan go to the
Peninsula with the expectation of McDowell's corps, ought to have sent
it to him, and not to have repaired its own oversight at his cost. But
this does not fully meet the position that, oversight or no oversight,
Peninsula-success or Peninsula-defeat, blame here or blame there, when
the President had reason to doubt the safety of the capital, he was
resolved, and rightly resolved, to put that safety beyond _possibility
of question_, by any means or at any cost. The truth is that to the end
of time one man will think one way, and another man will think another
way, concerning this unendable dispute.

[12] General Wool was in command at Fortress Monroe. It had been
originally arranged that General McClellan should draw 10,000 men from
him. But this was afterward countermanded. The paragraph in the
President's letter has reference to this.

[13] A slight obstruction by a battery at Drury's Bluff must have been
abandoned instantly upon the approach of a land force.

[14] Whose command had been added to McDowell's.

[15] Colonel Franklin Haven, who was on General McDowell's staff at the
time, is my authority for this statement. He well remembers the reason
given by Mr. Lincoln, and the extreme annoyance which the general and
his officers felt at the delay.

[16] "The expediency of the junction of this [McD.'s] large corps with
the principal army was manifest," says General Johnston. _Narr. 131._

[17] Jackson used to say: "Mystery, mystery, is the secret of success."

[18] The Comte de Paris is very severe, even to sarcasm, in his comments
on the President's orders to Banks (_Civil War in America_, ii. 35, 36,
and see 44); and Swinton, referring to the disposition of the armies,
which was well known to have been made by Mr. Lincoln's personal orders,
says: "One hardly wishes to inquire by whose crude and fatuous
inspiration these things were done." _Army of Potomac_, 123. Later
critics have not repeated such strong language, but have not taken
different views of the facts.

[19] Observe the tone of his two dispatches of May 25 to McClellan.
McClellan's _Report_, 100, 101.

[20] The Comte de Paris prefers to call it a "chimerical project."
_Civil War in America_, ii. 45. Swinton speaks of "the skill of the
Confederates and the folly of those who controlled the operations of the
Union armies." _Army of Potomac_, 122.

[21] Yet, if Fremont had not blundered, the result might have been
different. Comte de Paris, _Civil War in America_, ii. 47.

[22] The Third, under Heintzelman, and the Fourth, under Keyes.

[23] Even his admirer, Swinton, says that any possible course would have
been better than inaction. _Army of Potomac_, 140, 141.

[24] _The Peninsula_, 188. Swinton seems to regard it in the same light.
_Army of Potomac_, 147.

[25] Gaines's Mill, contested with superb courage and constancy by the
Fifth Corps, under Porter, against very heavy odds.

[26] McClellan's _Report_, 131, 132. See, also, his own comments on this
extraordinary dispatch; _Own Story_, 452. He anticipated, not without
reason, that he would be promptly removed. The Comte de Paris says that
the two closing sentences were suppressed by the War Department, when
the documents had to be laid before the Committee on the Conduct of the
War. _Civil War in America_, ii. 112. Another dispatch, hardly less
disrespectful, was sent on June 25. See McClellan's _Report_, 121.

[27] For a vivid description of the condition to which heat, marching,
fighting, and the unwholesome climate had reduced the men, see statement
of Comte de Paris, an eye-witness. _Civil War in America,_ ii. 130.



As it seems probable that Mr. Lincoln did not conclusively determine
against the plan of McClellan for renewing the advance upon Richmond by
way of Petersburg, until after General Halleck had thus decided, so it
is certain that afterward he allowed to Halleck a control almost wholly
free from interference on his own part. Did he, perchance, feel that a
lesson had been taught him, and did he think that those critics had not
been wholly wrong who had said that he had intermeddled ignorantly and
hurtfully in military matters? Be this as it might, it was in accordance
with the national character to turn the back sharply upon failure and
disappointment, and to make a wholly fresh start; and it was in
accordance with Lincoln's character to fall in with the popular feeling.
Yet if a fresh start was intrinsically advisable, or if it was made
necessary by circumstances, it was made in unfortunate company. One does
not think without chagrin that Grant, Sherman, Sheridan lurked
undiscovered among the officers at the West, while Halleck and Pope were
pulled forth to the light and set in the high places. Halleck was
hopelessly incompetent, and Pope was fit only for subordinate command;
and by any valuation which could reasonably be put upon McClellan, it
was absurd to turn him out in order to bring either of these men in. But
it was the experimental period. No man's qualities could be known except
by testing them; and these two men came before Lincoln with records
sufficiently good to entitle them to trial. The successes at the West
had naturally produced good opinions of the officers who had achieved
them, and among these officers John Pope had been as conspicuous as any
other. For this reason he was now, towards the close of June, 1862,
selected to command the "Army of Virginia," formed by uniting the corps
of Fremont, McDowell, and Banks.[28] Fremont resigned, in a pet at
having an officer who was his junior in the service placed over his
head; but he was no loss, since his impetuous temperament did not fit
him for the duties of a corps commander. He was succeeded by General
Sigel. The fusing of these independent commands, whose separate
existence had been a wasteful and jeopardizing error, was an excellent

General Pope remained in Washington a few weeks, in constant
consultation with the administration. How he impressed Lincoln one would
gladly know, but cannot. He had unlimited self-confidence, and he gave
it to be understood at once that he was a fighting man; but it showed an
astounding lack of tact upon his part that, in notifying the troops of
this, his distinguishing characteristic, he also intimated that it would
behoove them to turn over a new leaf now that he had come all the way
from the West in order to teach Eastern men how to win victories! The
manifesto which he issued has become famous by its folly; it was
arrogant, bombastic, little short of insulting to the soldiers of his
command, and laid down principles contrary to the established rules of
war. Yet it had good qualities, too; for it was designed to be
stimulating; it certainly meant fighting; and fortunately, though Pope
was not a great general, he was by no means devoid of military knowledge
and instincts, and he would not really have committed quite such
blunders as he marked out for himself in his rhetorical enthusiasm. On
the whole, however, the manifesto did harm; neither officers nor
soldiers were inclined to receive kindly a man who came presumably on
trial with the purpose of replacing McClellan, whom they loved with deep
loyalty; therefore they ridiculed part of his address and took offense
at the rest of it. Mr. Lincoln could hardly have been encouraged; but he
gave no sign.

On July 29 Pope left Washington and joined his army, near Culpepper. He
had not quite 45,000 men, and was watched by Jackson, who lay near
Gordonsville with a scant half of that number. On August 9 Banks was
pushed forward to Cedar Mountain, where he encountered Jackson and
attacked him. In "a hard-fought battle, fierce, obstinate, sanguinary,"
the Federals were worsted; and such consolation as the people got from
the gallantry of the troops was more than offset by the fact, which
became obvious so soon as the whole story was known, that our generals
ought to have avoided the engagement and were outgeneraled both in the
bringing it on and in the conducting it.

Greatly as Jackson was outnumbered by Pope, he could hope for no
reinforcements from Lee so long as McClellan, at Harrison's Landing,
threatened Richmond. But when gratifying indications showed the purpose
to withdraw the Northern army from the Peninsula the Southern general
ventured, August 13, to dispatch General Longstreet northward with a
strong force. Soon afterward he himself followed and took command. Then
for two or three days ensued a sharp matching of wits betwixt the two
generals. By one of those audacious plans which Lee could dare to make
when he had such a lieutenant as Jackson to carry it out, Jackson was
sent upon a rapid march by the northward, around the army of Pope, to
cut its communications. He did it brilliantly; but in doing it he
necessarily offered to Pope such an opportunity for fighting the
Southern forces in detail as is rarely given by a good general to an
adversary whom he fears. Pope would fain have availed himself of the
chance, and in the effort to do so he hurried his troops hither and
thither, mingled wise moves with foolish ones, confused his
subordinates, fatigued his men, and finally accomplished nothing.
Jackson retired safely from his dangerous position, rejoined the rest of
the Southern army, and then the united force had as its immediate
purpose to fight Pope before he could receive reinforcements from
McClellan's army, now rapidly coming forward by way of Washington. _E
converso_, Pope's course should have been to retire a day's march across
Bull Run and await the additional troops who could at once join him
there. Unfortunately, however, he still felt the sting of the ridicule
which his ill-starred manifesto had called forth, and was further
irritated by the unsatisfactory record of the past few days, and
therefore was in no temper to fall back. So he did not, but stayed and
fought what is known as the second battle of Bull Run. In the conflict
his worn-out men showed such constancy that the slaughter on both sides
was great. Again, however, the bravery of the rank and file was the only
feature which the country could contemplate without indignation. The
army was beaten; and retired during the evening of August 30 to a safe
position at Centreville, whither it should have been taken without loss
two days earlier.[29] Thus was fulfilled, with only a trifling
inaccuracy in point of time, the prediction made by McClellan on August
10, that "Pope will be badly thrashed within ten days."[30]

In all this manoeuvring and fighting the commanding general had shown
some capacity, but very much less than was indispensable in a commander
who had to meet the generals of the South. Forthwith, also, there broke
out a series of demoralizing quarrels among the principal officers as to
what orders had been given and received, and whether or not they had
been understood or misunderstood, obeyed or disobeyed. Also the enemies
of General McClellan tried to lay upon him the whole responsibility for
the disaster, on the ground that he had been dilatory, first, in moving
his army from Harrison's Landing, and afterward, in sending his troops
forward to join Pope; whereas, they said, if he had acted promptly, the
Northern army would have been too strong to have been defeated,
regardless of any incompetence in the handling of it. Concerning the
former charge, it may be said that dispatches had flown to and fro
between Halleck and McClellan like bullets between implacable duelists;
Halleck ordered the army to be transported, and McClellan retorted that
he was given no transports; it is a dispute which cannot be discussed
here. Concerning the other charge, it was also true that the same two
generals had been for some days exchanging telegrams, but had been
entirely unable to understand each other. Whose fault it was cannot
easily be determined. The English language was giving our generals
almost as much trouble as were the Southerners at this time; so that in
a few short weeks material for endless discussion was furnished by the
orders, telegrams, and replies which were bandied between Pope and
Porter, McClellan and Halleck. A large part of the history of the period
consists of the critical analysis and construing of these documents.
What did each in fact mean? What did the writer intend it to mean? What
did the recipient understand it to 'mean? Did the writer make his
meaning sufficiently clear? Was the recipient justified in his
interpretation? Historians have discussed these problems as theologians
have discussed puzzling texts of the New Testament, with not less
acerbity and with no more conclusive results. Unquestionably the
capacity to write two or three dozen consecutive words so as to
constitute a plain, straightforward sentence would have been for the
moment a valuable adjunct to military learning.

The news of the defeat brought dismay, but not quite a panic, to the
authorities in Washington. In fact, there was no immediate danger for
the capital. The army from the Peninsula was by this time distributed at
various points in the immediate neighborhood; and a force could be
promptly brought together which would so outnumber the Confederate army
as to be invincible. Yet the situation demanded immediate and vigorous
action. Some hand must seize the helm at once, and Pope's hand would not
do; so much at least was entirely certain. He had been given his own
way, without interference on the part of President or secretary, and he
had been beaten; he was discredited before the country and the army;
nothing useful could now be done with him. Halleck was utterly
demoralized, and was actually reduced to telegraphing to McClellan: "I
beg of you to assist me, in this crisis, with your ability and
experience." It was the moment for a master to take control, and the
President met the occasion. There was only one thing to be done, and
circumstances were such that not only must that thing be done by him,
but also it must be done by him in direct opposition to the strenuous
insistence of all his official and most of his self-constituted
advisers. It was necessary to reinstate McClellan.

It was a little humiliating to be driven to this step. McClellan had
lately been kept at Alexandria with no duty save daily to disintegrate
his own army by sending off to Washington and to the camp of his own
probable successor division after division of the troops whom he had so
long commanded. Greatly mortified, he had begged at least to be
"permitted to go to the scene of battle." But he was ignored, as if he
were no longer of any consequence whatsoever. In plain truth it was made
perfectly obvious to him and to all the world that if General Pope could
win a victory the administration had done with General McClellan. Mr.
Lincoln described the process as a "snubbing." Naturally those who were
known to be the chief promoters of this "snubbing," and to have been
highly gratified by it, now looked ruefully on the evident necessity of
suddenly cutting it short, and requesting the snubbed individual to
assume the role of their rescuer. McClellan's more prominent enemies
could not and would not agree to this. Three members of the cabinet even
went so far as formally to put in writing their protest against
restoring him to the command of any army at all; while Stanton actually
tried to frighten the President by a petty threat of personal
consequences. But this was foolish. The crisis was of the kind which
induced Mr. Lincoln to exercise power, decisively. On this occasion his
impersonal, unimpassioned temperament left his judgment free to work
with evenness and clearness amid the whirl of momentous events and the
clash of angry tongues. No one could say that he had been a partisan
either for or against McClellan, and his wise reticence in the past gave
him in the present the privilege of untrammeled action. So he settled
the matter at once by ordering that McClellan should have command
within the defenses of Washington.

By this act the President gave extreme offense to the numerous and
strenuous band with whom hatred of the Democratic general had become a
sort of religion; and upon this occasion even Messrs. Nicolay and Hay

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