Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

Abraham Lincoln, Vol. II by John T. Morse

Part 2 out of 7

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.7 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

seem more inclined to apologize for their idol than to defend him. In
point of fact, nothing can be more misplaced than either apology or
defense, except criticism. Mr. Lincoln could have done no wiser thing.
He was simply setting in charge of the immediate business the man who
could do that especial business best. It was not a question of a battle
or a campaign, neither of which was for the moment imminent; but it was
a question of reorganizing masses of disorganized troops and getting
them into shape for battles and campaigns in the future. Only the
intensity of hatred could make any man blind to McClellan's capacity for
such work; and what he might be for other work was a matter of no
consequence just now. Lincoln simply applied to the instant need the
most effective help, without looking far afield to study remote
consequences. Two remarks, said to have been made by him at this time,
indicate his accurate appreciation of the occasion and the man: "There
is no one in the army who can man these fortifications and lick these
troops of ours into shape half so well as he can." "We must use the
tools we have; if he cannot fight himself, he excels in making others
ready to fight."

On September 1 Halleck verbally instructed McClellan to take command of
the defenses of Washington, defining this to mean strictly "the works
and their garrisons." McClellan says that later on the same day he had
an interview with the President, in which the President said that he had
"always been a friend" of the general, and asked as a favor that the
general would request his personal friends among the principal officers
of the army to give to General Pope a more sincere and hearty support
than they were supposed to be actually rendering.[31] On the morning of
September 2, McClellan says, "The President informed me that Colonel
Keelton had returned from the front; that our affairs were in a bad
condition; that the army was in full retreat upon the defenses of
Washington, the roads filled with stragglers, etc. He instructed me to
take steps at once to stop and collect the stragglers; place the works
in a proper state of defense, and go out to meet and take command of the
army, when it approached the vicinity of the works, then to place the
troops in the best position,--committing everything to my hands." By
this evidence, Mr. Lincoln intrusted the fate of the country and with it
his own reputation absolutely to the keeping of McClellan.

McClellan was in his element in fusing into unity the disjointed
fragments of armies which lay about in Virginia like scattered ruins.
His bitterest tractors have never denied him the gift of organization,
and admit that he did excellent service just now for a few days. But
circumstances soon extended his field of action, and gave detraction
fresh opportunities. General Lee, in a bold and enterprising mood,
perhaps attributable to the encouraging inefficiency of his Northern
opponents, moved up the banks of the Potomac and threatened an irruption
into Maryland and even Pennsylvania. It was absolutely necessary to
watch and, at the right moment, to fight him. For this purpose McClellan
was ordered to move along the north bank of the river, but under strict
injunctions at first to go slowly and cautiously and not to uncover
Washington. For General Halleck had not fully recovered his nerve, and
was still much disquieted, especially concerning the capital. Thus the
armies drew slowly near each other, McClellan creeping forward, as he
had been bidden, while Lee, with his usual energy, seemed able to do
with a thousand men more than any Northern general could do with thrice
as many, and ran with exasperating impunity those audacious risks which,
where they cannot be attributed to ignorance on the part of a commander,
indicate contempt for his opponent. This feeling, if he had it, must
have received agreeable corroboration from the clumsy way in which the
Federals just at this time lost Harper's Ferry, with General Miles's
garrison. The Southern troops, who had been detailed against it, rapidly
rejoined General Lee's army; and again the people saw that the South
had outmarched and outgeneraled the North.

With all his troops together, Lee was now ready to fight at the
convenience or the pleasure of McClellan, who seemed chivalrously to
have deferred his attack until his opponent should be prepared for it!
The armies were in presence of each other near where the Antietam
empties into the Potomac, and here, September 17, the bloody conflict
took place.

The battle of Antietam has usually been called a Northern victory. Both
the right and the left wings of the Northern army succeeded in seizing
advanced positions and in holding them at the end of the fight; and Lee
retreated to the southward, though it is true that before doing so he
lingered a day and gave to his enemy a chance, which was not used, to
renew the battle. His position was obviously untenable in the face of an
outnumbering host. But though upon the strength of these facts a victory
could be claimed with logical propriety, yet the President and the
country were, and had a right to be, indignant at the very
unsatisfactory proportion of the result to the means. Shortly before the
battle McClellan's troops, upon the return to them of the commander whom
they idolized, had given him a soul-stirring reception, proving the
spirit and confidence with which they would fight under his orders; and
they went into the fight in the best possible temper and condition. On
the day of the battle the Northern troops outnumbered the Southerners
by nearly two to one; in fact, the Southern generals, in their reports,
insisted that they had been simply overwhelmed by enormous odds against
which it was a marvel of gallantry for their men to stand at all. The
plain truth was that in the first place, by backwardness in bringing on
the battle, McClellan had left Lee to effect a concentration of forces
which ought never to have been permitted. Next, the battle itself had
not been especially well handled, though perhaps this was due rather to
the lack of his personal attention during its progress than to errors in
his plan. Finally, his failure, with so large an army, of which a part
at least was entirely fresh, to pursue and perhaps even to destroy the
reduced and worn-out Confederate force seemed inexplicable and was

The South could never be conquered in this way. It had happened, on
September 12, that President Lincoln heard news apparently indicating
the withdrawal of Lee across the Potomac. He had at once sent it forward
to McClellan, adding: "Do not let him get off without being hurt." Three
days later, he telegraphed: "Destroy the rebel army if possible." But
McClellan had been too self-restrained in his obedience. He had, indeed,
hurt Lee, but he had been very careful not to hurt him too much; and as
for destroying the rebel army, he seemed unwilling to enter so lightly
on so stupendous an enterprise. The administration and the country
expected, and perfectly fairly expected, to see a hot pursuit of
General Lee. They were disappointed; they saw no such thing, but only
saw McClellan holding his army as quiescent as if there was nothing more
to be done, and declaring that it was in no condition to move!

It was intolerably provoking, unintelligible, and ridiculous that a
ragged, ill-shod, overworked, under-fed, and beaten body of Southerners
should be able to retreat faster than a great, fresh, well-fed,
well-equipped, and victorious body of Northerners could follow. Jackson
said that the Northern armies were, kept in too good condition; and
declared that he could whip any army which marched with herds of cattle
behind it. But the North preferred, and justly, to attribute the
inefficiency of their troops to the unfortunate temperament of the
commander. Mr. Lincoln looked at the unsatisfactory spectacle and held
his hand as long as he could, dreading perhaps again to seem too forward
in assuming control of military affairs. Patience, however, could not
endure forever, nor common sense be always subservient to technical
science. Accordingly, on October 6, he ordered McClellan to cross the
Potomac, and either to "give battle to the enemy, or to drive him
south." McClellan paid no attention to the order. Four days later the
Confederate general, Stuart, with 2000 cavalry and a battery, crossed
into Maryland and made a tour around the Northern army, with the same
insolent success which had attended his like enterprise on the
Peninsula. On October 13 the President wrote to McClellan a letter, so
admirable both in temper and in the soundness of its suggestions that it
should be given entire:--

"MY DEAR SIR,--You remember my speaking to you of what I called your
over-cautiousness. Are you not over-cautious when you assume that you
cannot do what the enemy is constantly doing? Should you not claim to be
at least his equal in prowess, and act upon the claim?

"As I understand, you telegraphed General Halleck that you cannot
subsist your army at Winchester, unless the railroad from Harper's Ferry
to that point be put in working order. But the enemy does now subsist
his army at Winchester at a distance nearly twice as great from railroad
transportation as you would have to do without the railroad last named.
He now wagons from Culpepper Court House, which is just about twice as
far as you would have to do from Harper's Ferry. He is certainly not
more than half as well provided with wagons as you are. I certainly
should be pleased for you to have the advantage of the railroad from
Harper's Ferry to Winchester; but it wastes all the remainder of autumn
to give it to you, and, in fact, ignores the question of _time_, which
cannot and must not be ignored.

"Again, one of the standard maxims of war, as you know, is 'to operate
upon the enemy's communications as much as possible without exposing
your own.' You seem to act as if this applies _against_ you, but cannot
apply in your _favor_. Change positions with the enemy, and think you
not he would break your communication with Richmond within the next
twenty-four hours? You dread his going into Pennsylvania. But if he does
so in full force, he gives up his communication to you absolutely, and
you have nothing to do but to follow and ruin him; if he does so with
less than full force, fall upon and beat what is left behind, all the

"Exclusive of the water line, you are now nearer Richmond than the enemy
is, by the route that you _can_, and he _must_ take. Why can you not
reach there before him, unless you admit that he is more than your equal
on a march? His route is the arc of a circle, while yours is the chord.
The roads are as good on yours as on his.

"You know I desired, but did not order you, to cross the Potomac below,
instead of above, the Shenandoah and Blue Ridge. The idea was that this
would at once menace the enemy's communications, which I would seize, if
he would permit. If he should move northward, I would follow him
closely, holding his communications. If he should prevent our seizing
his communications, and move towards Richmond, I would press closely to
him, fight him if a favorable opportunity should present, and at least
try to beat him to Richmond on the inside track. I say, try; if we never
try, we shall never succeed. If he makes a stand at Winchester, moving
neither north nor south, I would fight him there, on the idea that if
we cannot beat him when he bears the wastage of coming to us, we never
can when we bear the wastage of going to him. This proposition is a
simple truth, and is too important to be lost sight of for a moment. In
coming to us, he tenders us an advantage which we should not waive. We
should not so operate as to merely drive him away. As we must beat him
somewhere, or fail finally, we can do it, if at all, easier near to us
than far away. If we cannot beat the enemy where he now is, we never
can, he again being within the intrenchments of Richmond.

"Recurring to the idea of going to Richmond on the inside track, the
facility for supplying from the side away from the enemy is remarkable,
as it were by the different spokes of a wheel extending from the hub
towards the rim; and this, whether you moved directly by the chord or on
the inside arc, hugging the Blue Ridge more closely. The chord line, as
you see, carries you by Aldie, Haymarket, and Fredericksburg, and you
see how turnpikes, railroads, and finally the Potomac, by Acquia Creek,
meet you at all points from Washington. The same, only the lines
lengthened a little, if you press closer to the Blue Ridge part of the
way. The Gaps through the Blue Ridge, I understand to be about the
following distances from Harper's Ferry, to wit: Vestala, five miles;
Gregory's, thirteen; Snicker's, eighteen; Ashby's, twenty-eight;
Manassas, thirty-eight; Chester, forty-five; and Thornton's,
fifty-three. I should think it preferable to take the route nearest the
enemy, disabling him to make an important move without your knowledge,
and compelling him to keep his forces together for dread of you. The
Gaps would enable you to attack if you should wish. For a great part of
the way you would be practically between the enemy and both Washington
and Richmond, enabling us to spare you the greatest number of troops
from here. When, at length, running for Richmond ahead of him enables
him to move this way, if he does so, turn and attack him in rear. But I
think he should be engaged long before such point is reached. It is all
easy if our troops march as well as the enemy, and it is unmanly to say
they cannot do it. This letter is in no sense an order."

A general who failed to respond to such a spur as this was not the man
for offensive warfare; and McClellan did not respond. Movement was as
odious to him now as it ever had been, and by talking about shoes and
overcoats, and by other dilatory pleas, he extended his delay until the
close of the month. It was actually the second day of November before
his army crossed the Potomac. Another winter of inaction seemed about to
begin. It was simply unendurable. Though it was true that he had
reorganized the army with splendid energy and skill, and had shown to
the Northern soldiers in Virginia the strange and cheerful spectacle of
the backs of General Lee's soldiers, yet it became a settled fact that
he must give place to some new man. He and Pope were to be succeeded by
a third experiment. Therefore, on November 5, 1862, the President
ordered General McClellan to turn over the command of the army to
General Burnside; and on November 7 this was done.

This action, taken just at this time, called forth a much more severe
criticism than would have attended it if the removal had been made
simultaneously with the withdrawal from the Peninsula. By what motive
was Mr. Lincoln influenced? Not very often is the most eager search
rewarded by the sure discovery of his opinions about persons. From what
we know that he did, we try to infer why he did it, and we gropingly
endeavor to apportion the several measures of influence between those
motives which we choose to put by our conjecture into his mind; and
after our toilful scrutiny is over we remain painfully conscious of the
greatness of the chance that we have scarcely even approached the truth.
Neither diary nor letters guide us; naught save reports of occasional
pithy, pointed, pregnant remarks, evidence the most dubious, liable to
be colored by the medium of the predilections of the hearer, and to be
reshaped and misshaped by time, and by attrition in passing through many
mouths. The President was often in a chatting mood, and then seemed not
remote from his companion. Yet while this was the visible manifestation
on the surface, he was the most reticent of men as to grave questions,
and no confidant often heard his inmost thoughts. Especially it would
be difficult to name an instance in which he told one man what he
thought of another; a trifling criticism concerning some single trait
was the utmost that he ever allowed to escape him; a full and careful
estimate, never.

Such reflections come with peculiar force at this period in his career.
What would not one give for his estimate of McClellan! It would be worth
the whole great collection of characters sketched by innumerable friends
and enemies for that much-discussed general. While others think that
they know accurately the measure of McClellan's real value and
usefulness, Lincoln really knew these things; but he never told his
knowledge. We only see that he sustained McClellan for a long while in
the face of vehement aspersions; yet that he never fully subjected his
own convictions to the educational lectures of the general, and that he
seemed at last willing to see him laid aside; then immediately in a
crisis restored him to authority in spite of all opposition; and shortly
afterward, as if utterly weary of him, definitively displaced him.
Still, all these facts do not show what Lincoln thought of McClellan.
Many motives besides his opinion of the man may have influenced him. The
pressure of political opinion and of public feeling was very great, and
might have turned him far aside from the course he would have pursued if
it could have been neglected. Also other considerations have been
suggested as likely to have weighed with him,--that McClellan could do
with the army what no other man could do, because of the intense
devotion of both officers and men to him; and that an indignity offered
to McClellan might swell the dissatisfaction of the Northern Democracy
to a point at which it would seriously embarrass the administration.
These things may have counteracted, or may have corroborated, Mr.
Lincoln's views concerning the man himself. He was an extraordinary
judge of men in their relationship to affairs; moreover, of all the men
of note of that time he alone was wholly dispassionate and non-partisan.
Opinions tinctured with prejudices are countless; it is disappointing
that the one opinion that was free from prejudice is unknown.[32]


[28] The consolidation, and the assignment of Pope to the command, bore
date June 26, 1862.

[29] This campaign of General Pope has been the topic of very bitter
controversy and crimination. In my brief account I have eschewed the
view of Messrs. Nicolay and Hay, who seem to me if I may say it, to have
written with the single-minded purpose of throwing everybody's blunders
into the scale against McClellan, and I have adopted the view of Mr.
John C. Ropes in his volume on _The Army under Pope_, in the Campaigns
of the Civil War Series. In his writing it is impossible to detect
personal prejudice, for or against any one; and his account is so clear
and convincing that it must be accepted, whether one likes his
conclusions or not.

[30] _Own Story_, 466.

[31] Pope retained for a few days command of the army in camp outside
the defenses.

[32] McClure says: "I saw Lincoln many times during the campaign of
1864, when McClellan was his competitor for the presidency. I never
heard him speak of McClellan in any other than terms of the highest
personal respect and kindness." _Lincoln and Men of War-Times_, 207.



The chapter which has been written on "Emancipation and Politics" shows
that while loyalty to the Union operated as a bond to hold together the
people of the North, slavery entered as a wedge to force them asunder.
It was not long before the wedge proved a more powerful force than the
bond, for the wedge was driven home by human nature; and it was
inevitable that the men of conservative temperament and the men of
progressive temperament should erelong be easily restored to their
instinctive antagonism. Of those who had been stigmatized as "Northern
men with Southern principles," many soon found their Southern
proclivities reviving. These men, christened "Copperheads," became more
odious to loyal Northerners than were the avowed Secessionists. In
return for their venomous nickname and the contempt and hatred with
which they were treated, they themselves grew steadily more rancorous,
more extreme in their feelings. They denounced and opposed every measure
of the government, harangued vehemently against the war and against all
that was done to prosecute it, reviled with scurrilous and passionate
abuse every prominent Republican, filled the air with disheartening
forecasts of defeat, ruin, and woe, and triumphed whenever the miserable
prophecies seemed in the way of fulfillment. General Grant truly
described them as auxiliaries to the Confederate army, and said that the
North would have been much better off with a hundred thousand of these
men in the Southern ranks, and the rest of their kind at home thoroughly
subdued, as the Unionists were at the South, than was the case as the
struggle was actually conducted. In time the administration found itself
forced, though reluctantly, to arrest and imprison many of the
ringleaders in this Northern disaffection. Yet all the while the
Copperheads resolutely maintained their affiliations with the Democratic
party, and though they brought upon it much discredit which it did not
deserve, yet they could not easily be ejected from it. Differences of
opinion shaded into each other so gradually that to establish a line of
division was difficult.

Impinging upon Copperheadism stood the much more numerous body of those
who persistently asserted their patriotism, but with equal persistence
criticised severely all the measures of the government. These men
belonged to that well-known class which is happily described as being
"for the law, but ag'in the enforcement of it." They were for the Union,
but against saving it. They kept up a disapproving headshaking over
pretty much everything that the President did. With much grandiloquent
argument, in the stately, old-school style, they bemoaned the breaches
which they charged him with making in the Constitution. They also hotly
assumed the role of champions of General McClellan, and bewailed the
imbecility of an administration which thwarted and deposed him.
Protesting the purest and highest patriotism, they were more evasive
than the outspoken Copperheads, and as their disaffection was less
conspicuous and offensive, so also it was more insidious and almost
equally hurtful. They constituted the true and proper body of Democracy.

In a fellowship, which really ought not to have existed, with these
obstructionists, was the powerful and respectable body of war Democrats.
These men maintained a stubborn loyalty to the old party, but prided
themselves upon being as hearty and thorough-going war-men as any among
the Republicans. A large proportion of the most distinguished generals,
of the best regimental officers, of the most faithful soldiers in the
field, were of this political faith. The only criticism that Republicans
could reasonably pass upon them was, that they did not, in a political
way, strengthen the hands of the government, that they would not uphold
its authority by swelling its majorities, nor aid its prestige by giving
it their good words.

Over against this Democracy, with its two very discordant wings, was
arrayed the Republican party, which also was disturbed by the ill-will
of those who should have been its allies; for while the moderate
Abolitionists generally sustained the President, though only imperfectly
satisfied with him, the extreme Abolitionists refused to be so
reasonable. They were a very provoking body of pure moralists. They
worried the President, condemned his policy, divided the counsels of the
government, and introduced injurious personal enmities and partisanship
with reckless disregard of probable consequences. To a considerable
extent they had the same practical effect as if they had been avowed
opponents of the Republican President. They wished immediately to place
the war upon the footing of a crusade for the abolition of slavery.
Among them were old-time Abolitionists, with whom this purpose was a
religion, men who had hoped to see Seward the Republican President, and
who said that Lincoln's friends in the nominating convention had
represented a "superficial and only half-hearted Republicanism." Beside
these men, though actuated by very different and much less honorable
motives, stood many recruits, some even from the Democracy, who were so
vindictive against the South that they desired to inflict abolition as a

All these critics and dissatisfied persons soon began to speak with
severity, and sometimes with contempt, against the President. He had
said that the war was for the Union; but they scornfully retorted that
this was to reduce it to "a mere sectional strife for ascendency;" that
"a Union, with slavery spared and reinstated, would not be worth the
cost of saving it." It was true that to save the Union, without also
removing the cause of disunion, might not be worth a very great price;
yet both Union and abolition were in serious danger of being thrown away
forever by these impetuous men who desired to pluck the fruit before it
was ripe, or rather declared it to be ripe because they so wanted to
pluck it.

It is not, here and now, a question of the merits and the usefulness of
these men; undoubtedly their uncompromising ardor could not have been
dispensed with in the great anti-slavery struggle; it was what the steam
is to the engine, and if the motive power had been absent no one can say
how long the United States might have lain dormant as a slave-country.
But the question is of their present attitude and of its influence and
effect in the immediate affairs of the government. Their demand was for
an instant and sweeping proclamation of emancipation; and they were
angry and denunciatory against the President because he would not give
it to them. Of course, by their ceaseless assaults they hampered him and
weakened his hands very seriously. It was as an exercise of the
President's war-power that they demanded the proclamation; and the
difficulty in the way of it was that Mr. Lincoln felt, and the great
majority of Northern men were positive in the opinion, that such a
proclamation at this time would not be an honest and genuine exercise of
the war-power, that it would be only falsely and colorably so called,
and that in real truth it would be a deliberate and arbitrary change of
the war from a contest for Union to a contest for abolition. Mr. Lincoln
could not _make_ it a war measure merely by _calling_ it so; it was no
mere matter of political christening, but distinctly a very grave and
substantial question of fact. It may be suspected that very many even of
the Abolitionists themselves, had they spoken the innermost conviction
of their minds, would have admitted that the character of the measure as
a wise military transaction, pure and simple, was very dubious. It was
certain that every one else in all the country which still was or ever
had been the United States would regard it as an informal and misnamed
but real change of base for the whole war. No preamble, no _Whereas_, in
Mr. Lincoln's proclamation, reciting as a fact and a motive that which
he would have known, and ninety-nine out of every hundred loyal men
would have believed, not to be the true fact and motive, could make the
rest of his proclamation lawful, or his act that of an honest ruler.
Accordingly no pressure could drive him to the step; he preferred to
endure, and long did endure, the abuse of the extreme Abolitionists, and
all the mischief which their hostility could inflict upon his
administration. Yet, in truth, there was not in the North an
Abolitionist who thought worse of the institution of slavery than did
the man who had repeatedly declared it to be "a moral, a social, and a
political evil." Referring to these times, and the behavior of the
Abolitionists, he afterward wrote:[33]--

"I am naturally anti-slavery. If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong.
I cannot remember when I did not so think and feel, and yet I have never
understood that the presidency conferred upon me an unrestricted right
to act officially upon this judgment and feeling. It was in the oath I
took that I would, to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and
defend the Constitution of the United States. I could not take the
office without taking the oath. Nor was it my view that I might take an
oath to get power, and break the oath in using the power. I understood,
too, that in ordinary civil administration this oath even forbade me to
practically indulge my primary abstract judgment on the moral question
of slavery. I had publicly declared this many times, and in many ways.
And I aver that, to this day, I have done no official act in mere
deference to my abstract judgment and feeling on slavery. I did
understand, however, that my oath to preserve the Constitution to the
best of my ability imposed upon me the duty of preserving, by every
indispensable means, that government,--that nation, of which that
Constitution was the organic law. Was it possible to lose the nation and
yet preserve the Constitution? By general law, life and limb must be
protected, yet often a limb must be amputated to save a life; but a
life is never wisely given to save a limb. I felt that measures,
otherwise unconstitutional, might become lawful by becoming
indispensable to the preservation of the Constitution through the
preservation of the nation. Right or wrong, I assumed this ground, and
now avow it. I could not feel that, to the best of my ability, I had
even tried to preserve the Constitution, if, to save slavery or any
minor matter, I should permit the wreck of government, country, and
Constitution all together. When, early in the war, General Fremont
attempted military emancipation, I forbade it, because I did not then
think it an indispensable necessity. When, a little later, General
Cameron, then secretary of war, suggested the arming of the blacks, I
objected because I did not yet think it an indispensable necessity.
When, still later, General Hunter attempted military emancipation, I
again forbade it, because I did not yet think the indispensable
necessity had come."

None could deny that the North could abolish slavery in the South only
by beating the South in the pending war. Therefore, by his duty as
President of the Union and by his wishes as an anti-slavery man, Mr.
Lincoln was equally held to win this fight. Differing in opinion from
the Abolitionists, he believed that to turn it, at an early stage, into
a war for abolition rather than to leave it a war for the Union would be
to destroy all hope of winning. The step would alienate great numbers at
the North. The "American Society for promoting National Unity" had
lately declared that emancipation "would be rebellion against Providence
and destruction to the colored race in our land;" and it was certain
that this feeling was still widely prevalent in the loyal States. In
July, 1862, General McClellan said, warningly, that a declaration of
radical views on the slavery question would rapidly disintegrate and
destroy the Union armies. Finally, it seemed hardly doubtful that fatal
defections would take place in the Border States, even if they should
not formally go over to the Confederacy. No man saw the value of those
Border States as Mr. Lincoln did. To save or to lose them was probably
to save or lose the war; to lose them and the war was to establish a
powerful slave empire. Where did abolition come in among these events?
It was not there!

[Illustration: Simon Cameron]

Painfully, therefore, untiringly, with all the skill and tact in his
power, Mr. Lincoln struggled to hold those invaluable, crucial States.
His "border-state policy" soon came to be discussed as the most
interesting topic of which men could talk wherever they came together.
Savage were the maledictions which emancipationists uttered against it,
and the intensity of their feeling is indicated by the fact that, though
that policy was carried out, and though the nation, in due time,
gathered the ripe and perfect fruit of it both in the integrity of the
country and the abolition of slavery, yet even at the present day many
old opponents of President Lincoln, survivors of the Thirty-seventh
Congress, remain unshaken in the faith that his famous policy was "a
cruel and fatal mistake."

By the summer of 1862 the opinions and the action of Mr. Lincoln in all
these matters had brought him into poor standing in the estimation of
many Republicans. The great majority of the politicians of the party and
sundry newspaper editors, that is to say, those persons who chiefly make
the noise and the show before the world, were busily engaged in
condemning his policy. The headquarters of this disaffection were in
Washington. It had one convert even within the cabinet, where the
secretary of the treasury was thoroughly infected with the notion that
the President was fatally inefficient, laggard, and unequal to the
occasion. The feeling was also especially rife in congressional circles.
Mr. Julian, than whom there can be no better witness, says: "No one at a
distance could have formed any adequate conception of the hostility of
Republican members toward Mr. Lincoln at the final adjournment [the
middle of July], while it was the belief of many that our last session
of Congress had been held in Washington. Mr. Wade said the country was
going to hell, and that the scenes witnessed in the French Revolution
were nothing in comparison with what we should see here." If most of the
people at the North had not had heads more cool and sensible than was
the one which rested upon the shoulders of the ardent "Ben" Wade, the
alarming prediction of that lively spokesman might have been fulfilled.
Fortunately, however, as Mr. Julian admits, "the feeling in Congress was
far more intense than [it was] throughout the country." The experienced
denizens of the large Northern cities read in a critical temper the
tirades of journalist critics, who assumed to know everything. The
population of the small towns and the village neighborhoods, though a
little bewildered by the echoes of denunciation which reached them from
the national capital, yet by instinct, or by a divine guidance, held
fast to their faith in their President. Thus the rank and file of the
Republican party refused to follow the field officers in a revolt
against the general. No better fortune ever befell this very fortunate
nation. If the anti-slavery extremists had been able to reinforce their
own pressure by the ponderous impact of the popular will, and so had
pushed the President from his "border-state policy" and from his general
scheme of advancing only very cautiously along the anti-slavery line, it
is hardly conceivable either that the Union would have been saved or
that slavery would have been destroyed.

On August 19, 1862, the good, impulsive, impractical Horace Greeley
published in his newspaper, the New York "Tribune," an address to the
President, to which he gave an awe-inspiring title, "The Prayer of
20,000,000 of People." It was an extremely foolish paper, and its title,
like other parts of it, was false. Only those persons who were agitators
for immediate emancipation could say amen to this mad prayer, and they
were far from being even a large percentage of "20,000,000 of people."
Yet these men, being active missionaries and loud preachers in behalf of
a measure in which they had perfect faith, made a show and exerted an
influence disproportioned to their numbers. Therefore their prayer,[34]
though laden with blunders of fact and reasoning, fairly expressed
malcontent Republicanism. Moreover, multitudes who could not quite join
in the prayer would read it and would be moved by it. The influence of
the "Tribune" was enormous. Colonel McClure truly says that by means of
it Mr. Greeley "reached the very heart of the Republican party in every
State in the Union;" and perhaps he does not greatly exaggerate when he
adds that through this same line of connection the great Republican
editor "was in closer touch with the active loyal sentiment of the
people than [was] even the President himself." For these reasons it
seemed to Mr. Lincoln worth while to make a response to an assault
which, if left unanswered, must seriously embarrass the administration.
He therefore wrote:--

"DEAR SIR,--I have just read yours of the 19th instant, addressed to
myself through the New York 'Tribune.'

"If there be in it any statements or assumptions of fact which I may
know to be erroneous, I do not now and here controvert them.

"If there be any inferences which I believe to be falsely drawn, I do
not now and here argue against them.

"If there be perceptible in it an impatient and dictatorial tone, I
waive it in deference to an old friend, whose heart I have always
supposed to be right.

"As to the policy 'I seem to be pursuing,' as you say, I have not meant
to leave any one in doubt. I would save the Union. I would save it in
the shortest way under the Constitution.

"The sooner the national authority can be restored, the nearer the Union
will be,--the Union as it was.

"If there be those who would not save the Union, unless they could at
the same time save slavery, I do not agree with them.

"If there be those who would not save the Union, unless they could at
the same time destroy slavery, I do not agree with them.

"_My paramount object is to save the Union, and not either to save or
destroy slavery_.

"If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it.
And if I could save it by freeing all the slaves, I would do it. And if
I could save it by freeing some, and leaving others alone, I would also
do that.

"What I do about slavery and the colored race, I do because I believe it
helps to save the Union, and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not
believe it would help to save the Union.

"I shall do less whenever I believe what I am doing hurts the cause, and
shall do more whenever I believe doing more will help the cause.

"I shall try to correct errors when shown to be errors, and I shall
adopt new views so fast as they shall appear to be true views.

"I have here stated my purpose, according to my view of official duty,
and I intend no modification of my oft-expressed personal wish, that all
men everywhere could be free."

This reply, placing the Union before all else, did "more to steady the
loyal sentiment of the country in a very grave emergency than anything
that ever came from Lincoln's pen." It was, very naturally,
"particularly disrelished by anti-slavery men," whose views were not
modified by it, but whose temper was irritated in proportion to the
difficulty of meeting it. Mr. Greeley himself, enthusiastic and
woolly-witted, allowed this heavy roller to pass over him, and arose
behind it unaware that he had been crushed. He even published a retort,
which was discreditably abusive. A fair specimen of his rhetoric was his
demand to be informed whether Mr. Lincoln designed to save the Union "by
recognizing, obeying, and enforcing the laws, or by ignoring,
disregarding, and in fact defying them." Now the precise fact which so
incensed Mr. Greeley and all his comrades was that the President was
studiously and stubbornly insisting upon "recognizing, obeying, and
enforcing the laws;" and the very thing which they were crying for was a
step which, according to his way of thinking, would involve that he
should "ignore, disregard, and defy" them. They had not shrunk from
taking this position, when pushed toward it. They had contemned the
Constitution, and had declared that it should not be allowed to stand in
the way of doing those things which, in their opinion, ought to be done.
Their great warrior, the chieftain of their forces in the House of
Representatives, Thaddeus Stevens, was wont to say, in his defiant
iconoclastic style, that there was no longer any Constitution, and that
he was weary of hearing this "never-ending gabble about the sacredness
of the Constitution." Yet somewhat inconsistently these same men held as
an idol and a leader Secretary Chase; and he at the close of 1860 had
declared: "At all hazards and against all opposition, the laws of the
Union should be enforced.... The question of slavery should not be
permitted to influence my action, one way or the other." Later, perhaps
he and his allies had forgotten these words. Still many persons hold to
the opinion that the emancipationists did not give Mr. Lincoln fair

On September 13 a body of clergymen from Chicago waited upon Mr. Lincoln
to urge immediate and universal emancipation. The occasion was made
noteworthy by his remarks to them.

"I am approached with the most opposite opinions and advice, and that by
religious men, who are equally certain that they represent the Divine
will. I am sure that either the one or the other class is mistaken in
that belief, and perhaps, in some respect, both. I hope it will not be
irreverent for me to say that, if it is probable that God would reveal
his will to others on a point so connected with my duty, it might be
supposed He would reveal it directly to me; for, unless I am more
deceived in myself than I often am, it is my earnest desire to know the
will of Providence in this matter. And if I can learn what it is, I will
do it! These are not, however, the days of miracles, and I suppose it
will be granted that I am not to expect a direct revelation. I must
study the plain physical facts of the case, ascertain what is possible,
and learn what appears to be wise and right. The subject is difficult,
and good men do not agree.

... "What good would a proclamation of emancipation from me do,
especially as we are now situated? I do not want to issue a document
that the whole world will see must necessarily be inoperative, like the
Pope's bull against the comet! Would my word free the slaves, when I
cannot even enforce the Constitution in the rebel States? Is there a
single court, or magistrate, or individual that would be influenced by
it there? And what reason is there to think it would have any greater
effect upon the slaves than the late law of Congress, which I approved,
and which offers protection and freedom to the slaves of rebel masters
who come within our lines? Yet I cannot learn that that law has caused a
single slave to come over to us.

... "Now, then, tell me, if you please, what possible result of good
would follow the issuing of such a proclamation as you desire?
Understand, I raise no objections against it on legal or constitutional
grounds, for, as commander-in-chief of the army and navy, in time of
war, I suppose I have a right to take any measure which may best subdue
the enemy; nor do I urge objections of a moral nature, in view of
possible consequences of insurrection and massacre at the South. I view
this matter as a practical war measure, to be decided on according to
the advantages or disadvantages it may offer to the suppression of the

... "Do not misunderstand me because I have mentioned these objections.
They indicate the difficulties that have thus far prevented my action in
some such way as you desire. I have not decided against a proclamation
of liberty to the slaves, but hold the matter under advisement. And I
can assure you that the subject is on my mind, by day and night, more
than any other. Whatever shall appear to be God's will I will do. I
trust that in the freedom with which I have canvassed your views I have
not in any respect injured your feelings."

Whether or not the clerical advisers winced under the President's irony,
at least they must have appreciated the earnestness and sincerity with
which he considered the subject.

All this while that newspaper writers, religious teachers, members of
Congress, and political busy-bodies generally were tirelessly
enlightening Mr. Lincoln concerning what was right, what was wise, what
was the will of the people, even what was the will of God, he was again
quietly making good that shrewd Southerner's prophecy: he was "doing his
own thinking;" neither was he telling to anybody what this thinking was.
Throngs came and went, and each felt called upon to leave behind him
some of his own wisdom, a precept, advice, or suggestion, for the use of
the President; perhaps in return he took away with him a story which was
much more than full value for what he had given; but no one found out
the working of the President's mind, and no one could say that he had
influenced it. History is crowded with tales of despots, but it tells of
no despot who thought and decided with the tranquil, taciturn
independence which was now marking this President of the free American
Republic. It is a little amusing for us, to-day, to know that while the
emancipationists were angrily growling out their disgust at the ruler
who would not abolish slavery according to their advice, the rough draft
of the Emancipation Proclamation had already been written. It was
actually lying in his desk when he was writing to Greeley that letter
which caused so much indignation. It had been communicated to his
cabinet long before he talked to those Chicago clergymen, and showed
them that the matter was by no means so simple as they, in their
one-sided, unworldly way, believed it to be.

It is said to have been on July 8 that the President wrote this rough
draft, on board the steamboat which was bringing him back from his visit
to McClellan at Harrison's Landing. He then laid it away for the days
and events to bring ripeness. By his own statement he had for some time
felt convinced that, if compensated emancipation should fail,
emancipation as a war measure must ensue. Compensated emancipation had
now been offered, urged, and ill received; therefore the question in his
mind was no longer _whether_, but _when_ he should exercise his power.
This was more a military than a political question. His right to
emancipate slaves was strictly a war-power; he had the right to exercise
it strictly for the purpose of weakening the enemy or strengthening his
own generals; he had not the right to exercise it in the cause of
humanity, if it would not either weaken the enemy or strengthen his own
side. If by premature exercise he should alienate great numbers of
border-state men, while the sheet of paper with his name at its foot
would be ineffectual to give actual liberty of action to a single black
man in the Confederacy, he would aid the South and injure the
North,--that is to say, he would accomplish precisely the reverse of
that which alone could lawfully form the basis of his action. The
question of _When_, therefore, was a very serious one. At what stage of
the contest would a declaration of emancipation be hurtful to the
Southern and beneficial to the Northern cause?

Schuyler Colfax well said that Mr. Lincoln's judgment, when settled,
"was almost as immovable as the eternal hills." A good illustration of
this was given upon a day about the end of July or beginning of August,
1862, when Mr. Lincoln called a cabinet meeting. To his assembled
secretaries he then said, with his usual simple brevity, that he was
going to communicate to them something about which he did not desire
them to offer any advice, since his determination was taken; they might
make suggestions as to details, but nothing more. After this imperious
statement he read the preliminary proclamation of emancipation. The
ministers listened in silence; not one of them had been consulted; not
one of them, until this moment, knew the President's purpose; not even
now did he think it worth while to go through any idle form of asking
the opinion of any one of them.[36] He alone had settled the matter, and
simply notified them that he was about to do the most momentous thing
that had ever been done upon this continent since thirteen British
colonies had become a nation. Such a presentation of "one-man-power"
certainly stood out in startling relief upon the background of popular
government and the great free republican system of the world!

One or two trifling verbal alterations were made. The only important
suggestion came from Mr. Seward, who said that, in the "depression of
the public mind consequent upon our repeated adverses," he feared that
so important a step might "be viewed as the last measure of an exhausted
government, a cry for help; the government stretching forth its hands to
Ethiopia, instead of Ethiopia stretching forth her hands to the
government." He dreaded that "it would be considered our last shriek on
the retreat." Therefore he thought it would be well to postpone issuing
the proclamation till it could come before the country with the support
of some military success. Mr. Lincoln, who had not committed himself
upon the precise point of time, approved this idea. In fact, he had
already had in mind this same notion, that a victory would be an
excellent companion for the proclamation. In July Mr. Boutwell had said
to him that the North would not succeed until the slaves were
emancipated, and Mr. Lincoln had replied: "You would not have it done
now, would you? Had we not better wait for something like a victory?"
This point being accordingly settled to the satisfaction of all, the
meeting then dissolved, with the understanding that the secret was to be
closely kept for the present; and Mr. Lincoln again put away his paper
to await the coming of leaden-footed victory.

For the moment the prospects of this event were certainly sufficiently
gloomy. Less than three weeks, however, brought the battle of Antietam.
As a real "military success" this was, fairly speaking, unsatisfactory;
but it had to serve the turn; the events of the war did not permit the
North to be fastidious in using the word victory; if the President had
imprudently been more exacting, the Abolitionists would have had to wait
for Gettysburg. News of the battle reached Mr. Lincoln at the Soldiers'
Home. "Here," he says, "I finished writing the second draft. I came to
Washington on Saturday, called the cabinet together to hear it, and it
was published on the following Monday, the 22d of September, 1862."

The proclamation was preliminary or monitory only, and it did not
promise universal emancipation. It stated that, on January 1, 1863, "all
persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State,
the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United
States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free;" also, that "the
Executive will, on the first day of January aforesaid, by proclamation,
designate the States and parts of States, if any, in which the people
thereof respectively shall then be in rebellion against the United

The measure was entirely Mr. Lincoln's own. Secretary Chase reports that
at the cabinet meeting on September 22 he said: "I must do the best I
can, and bear the responsibility of taking the course which I feel I
ought to take." It has been said that he acted under a severe specific
pressure, emanating from the calling of the famous conference of
governors at Altoona. This, however, is not true. On September 14
Governor Curtin invited the governors of loyal States to meet on
September 24 to discuss the situation and especially the emergency
created by the northward advance of General Lee. But that this meeting
was more than a coincidence, or that the summons to it had any influence
in the matter of the proclamation, is disproved by all that is known
concerning it.[37] The connection with the battle is direct, avowed, and
reasonable; that with the gubernatorial congress is supposititious and
improbable. Governor Curtin says distinctly that the President, being
informed by himself and two others that such a conference was in
preparation, "did not attempt to conceal the fact that we were upon the
eve of an emancipation policy," in response to which statement he
received from his auditors the "assurance that the Altoona conference
would cordially indorse such a policy." As matter of fact, at the
meeting, most of the governors, in a sort of supplementary way, declared
their approval of the proclamation; but the governors of New Jersey,
Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky, and Missouri would not unite in this
action. If further evidence were needed upon this point, it is furnished
by the simple statement of President Lincoln himself. He said: "The
truth is, I never thought of the meeting of the governors at all. When
Lee came over the Potomac I made a resolve that, if McClellan drove him
back, I would send the proclamation after him. The battle of Antietam
was fought Wednesday, but I could not find out until Saturday whether we
had won a victory or lost a battle. It was then too late to issue it on
that day, and on Sunday I fixed it up a little, and on Monday I let them
have it." Secretary Chase, in his Diary, under date of September 22,
1862, gives an account in keeping with the foregoing sketch, but casts
about the proclamation a sort of superstitious complexion, as if it were
the fulfillment of a religious vow. He says that at the cabinet meeting
the President said: "When the rebel army was at Frederick, I determined,
as soon as it should be driven out of Maryland, to issue a proclamation
of emancipation, such as I thought most likely to be useful. I said
nothing to any one; but I made the promise to myself, and (hesitating a
little) to my Maker. The rebel army is now driven out, and I am going to
fulfill that promise." About an event so important and so picturesque
small legends will cluster and cling like little barnacles on the solid
rock; but the rock remains the same beneath these deposits, and in this
case the fact that the proclamation was determined upon and issued at
the sole will and discretion of the President is not shaken by any
testimony that is given about it. He regarded it as a most grave
measure, as plainly it was; to a Southerner, who had begged him not to
have recourse to it, he replied: "You must not expect me to give up this
government without playing my last card."[38] So now, on this momentous
twenty-second day of September, the President, using his own judgment in
playing the great game, cast what he conceived to be his ace of trumps
upon the table.

The measure took the country by surprise. The President's secret had
been well kept, and for once rumor had not forerun execution. Doubtless
the reader expects now to hear that one immediate effect was the
conciliation of all those who had been so long reproaching Mr. Lincoln
for his delay in taking this step. It would seem right and natural that
the emancipationists should have rallied with generous ardor to sustain
him. They did not. They remained just as dissatisfied and distrustful
towards him as ever. Some said that he had been _forced_ into this
policy, some that he had drifted with the tide of events, some that he
had waited for popular opinion at the North to give him the cue, instead
of himself guiding that opinion. To show that he was false to the
responsibility of a ruler, there were those who cited against him his
own modest words: "I claim not to have controlled events, but confess
plainly that events have controlled me." Others, however, put upon this
language the more kindly and more honest interpretation, that Mr.
Lincoln appreciated that both President and people were moved by the
drift of events, which in turn received their own impulse from an agency
higher than human and to which they must obediently yield. But whatever
ingenious excuses were devised by extremists for condemning the man who
had done the act, the Republican party faithfully supported the act
itself. In the middle of December the House passed a resolution
ratifying the President's policy as "well adapted to hasten the
restoration of peace," and "well chosen as a war measure."

The President himself afterward declared his "conviction" that, had the
proclamation been issued six months earlier, it would not have been
sustained by public opinion; and certainly it is true that
contemporaneous political occurrences now failed to corroborate the
soundness of those assertions by which the irreconcilable
emancipationist critics of Mr. Lincoln had been endeavoring to induce
him to adopt their policy earlier. They themselves, as Mr. Wilson
admits, "had never constituted more than an inconsiderable fraction" of
the whole people at the North. He further says: "At the other extreme,
larger numbers received it [the proclamation] with deadly and outspoken
opposition; while between these extremes the great body even of Union
men doubted, hesitated.... Its immediate practical effect did perhaps
more nearly answer the apprehensions of the President than the
expectations of those most clamorous for it. It did, as charged, very
much 'unite the South and divide the North.'"

In the autumn of 1862 there took place the elections for Representatives
to the Thirty-eighth Congress. The most ingenious sophist could hardly
maintain that strenuous anti-slavery voters, who had been angry with the
government for backwardness in the emancipation policy, ought now to
manifest their discontent by voting the Democratic ticket. If there
should be a Democratic reaction at the polls it could not possibly be
construed otherwise than as a reaction against anti-slavery; it would
undeniably indicate that Congress and the administration had been too
hostile rather than too friendly towards that cause of the strife, that
they had outstripped rather than fallen behind popular sympathy. It soon
became evident that a formidable reaction of this kind had taken place,
that dissatisfaction with the anti-slavery measures and discouragement
at the military failures, together, were even imperiling Republican
ascendency. Now all knew, though some might not be willing to say, that
the loss of Republican ascendency meant, in fact, the speedy settlement
of the war by compromise; and the South was undoubtedly in earnest in
declaring that there could be no compromise without disunion. Therefore,
in those elections of the autumn months in 1862 the whole question of
Union or Disunion had to be fought out at the polls in the loyal States,
and there was an appalling chance of its going against the Unionist
party. "The administration," says Mr. Blaine, "was now subjected to a
fight for its life;" and for a while the fortunes of that mortal combat
wore a most alarming aspect.

The Democracy made its fight on the ground that the anti-slavery
legislation of the Republican majority in the Thirty-seventh Congress
had substantially made abolition the ultimate purpose of the war. Here,
then, they said, was a change of base; were or were not the voters of
the loyal States willing to ratify it? Already this ground had been
taken in the platforms of the party in the most important Northern
States, before Mr. Lincoln issued his proclamation. Was it unreasonable
to fear that this latest and most advanced step would intensify that
hostility, stimulate the too obvious reaction, and aggravate the danger
which, against his judgment,[39] as it was understood, Congress had
created? Was it not probable that Mr. Blair was correct when he warned
the President that the proclamation would "cost the administration the
fall elections"? Naturally it will be asked: if this was a reasonable
expectation, why did the President seize this critical moment to ally
the administration with anti-slavery? Mr. Blaine furnishes a probable
explanation: "The anti-slavery policy of Congress had gone far enough to
arouse the bitter hostility of all Democrats, who were not thoroughly
committed to the war, and yet not far enough to deal an effective blow
against the institution." The administration stood at a point where
safety lay rather in defying than in evading the ill opinion of the
malcontents, where the best wisdom was to commit itself, the party, and
the nation decisively to the "bold, far-reaching, radical, and
aggressive policy," from which it would be impossible afterward to turn
back "without deliberately resolving to sacrifice our nationality."
Presumably the President wished to show the people that their only
choice now lay between slavery on the one hand and nationality on the
other, so that, of the two things, they might take that one which they
deemed the more worthy. The two together they could never again have.
This theory tallies with the well-known fact that Mr. Lincoln was always
willing to trust the people upon a question of right and wrong. He never
was afraid to stake his chance upon the faith that what was
intrinsically right would prove in the long run to be politically safe.
While he was a shrewd politician in matters of detail, he had the wisdom
always in a great question to get upon that side where the inherent
morality lay. Yet, unfortunately, it takes time--time which cannot
always be afforded--for right to destroy prejudice; the slow-grinding
mill of God grinds sometimes so slowly that man cannot help fearing that
for once the stint will not be worked out; and in this autumn of 1862
there was one of these crises of painful anxiety among patriots at the

Maine held her election early in September, and upon the vote for
governor a Republican majority, which usually ranged from 10,000 to
19,000, was this year cut down to a little over 4000; also, for the
first time in ten years, a Democrat secured a seat in the national House
of Representatives. Then came the "October States." In that dreary month
Ohio elected 14 Democrats and 5 Republicans; the Democrats casting, in
the total, about 7000 more votes than the Republicans. Indiana sent 8
Democrats, 3 Republicans. In Pennsylvania the congressional delegation
was divided, but the Democrats polled the larger vote by about 4000;
whereas Mr. Lincoln had had a majority in the State of 60,000! In New
York the famous Democratic leader, Horatio Seymour, was elected governor
by a majority of nearly 10,000. Illinois, the President's own State,
showed a Democratic majority of 17,000, and her congressional delegation
stood 11 Democrats to 3 Republicans. New Jersey turned from
Republicanism to Democracy. Michigan reduced a Republican majority from
20,000 to 6000. Wisconsin divided its delegation evenly.[40] When the
returns were all in, the Democrats, who had had only 44 votes in the
House in the Thirty-seventh Congress, found that in its successor they
would have 75. Even if the non-voting absentees in the army[41] had been
all Republicans, which they certainly were not, such a reaction would
have been appalling.

Fortunately some other Northern States--New England's six, and Iowa,
Kansas, Minnesota, California, and Oregon--held better to their
Republican faith. But it was actually the border slave States which, in
these dark and desperate days, came gallantly to the rescue of the
President's party. If the voters of these States had seen in him a
radical of the stripe of the anti-slavery agitators, it is not
imaginable that they would have helped him as they now did. Thus was his
much maligned "border-state policy" at last handsomely vindicated; and
thanks to it the frightened Republicans saw, with relief, that they
could command a majority of about twenty votes in the House. Mr. Lincoln
had saved the party whose leaders had turned against him.

Beneath the dismal shadow of these autumnal elections the
Thirty-seventh Congress came together for its final session, December 1,
1862. The political situation was peculiar and unfortunate. There was
the greatest possible need for sympathetic cooeperation in the Republican
party; but sympathy was absent, and cooeperation was imperfect and
reluctant. The majority of the Republican members of Congress
obstinately maintained their alienation from the Republican President;
an enormous popular defection from Republicanism had taken place in its
natural strongholds; and Republican domination had only been saved by
the aid of States in which Republican majorities had been attainable
actually because a large proportion of the population was so disaffected
as either to have enlisted in the Confederate service, or to have
refrained from voting at elections held under Union auspices. Therefore,
whether Mr. Lincoln looked forth upon the political or the military
situation, he beheld only gloomy prospects. But having made fast to what
he believed to be right, he would not, in panic, cast loose from it. In
the face of condemnation he was not seen to modify his course in order
to conciliate any portion of the people; but, on the contrary, in his
message he returned to his plan which had hitherto been so coldly
received, and again strenuously recommended appropriations for gradual,
compensated emancipation and colonization. The scheme had three especial
attractions for him: 1. It would be operative in those loyal States and
parts of States in which military emancipation would not take effect.
2. In its practical result it would do away with slavery by the year
1900, whereas military emancipation would now free a great number of
individuals, but would leave slavery, as an institution, untouched and
liable to be revived and reinvigorated later on. 3. It would make
emancipation come as a voluntary process, leaving a minimum of
resentment remaining in the minds of slaveholders, instead of being a
violent war measure never to be remembered without rebellious anger.
This last point was what chiefly moved him. He intensely desired to have
emancipation effected in such a way that good feeling between the two
sections might be a not distant condition; the humanity of his
temperament, his passion for reasonable dealing, his appreciation of the
mischief of sectional enmity in a republic, all conspired to establish
him unchangeably in favor of "compensated emancipation."

For the accomplishment of his purpose he now suggested three articles of
amendment to the Constitution. He spoke earnestly; for "in times like
the present," he said, "men should utter nothing for which they would
not willingly be responsible through time and eternity." Beneath the
solemnity of this obligation he made for his plan a very elaborate
argument. Among the closing sentences were the following:--

"The plan would, I am confident, secure peace more speedily, and
maintain it more permanently, than can be done by force alone; while
all it would cost, considering amounts, and manner of payment, and times
of payment, would be easier paid than will be the additional cost of the
war, if we rely solely upon force. It is much, very much, that it would
cost no blood at all.

... "Is it doubted, then, that the plan I propose, if adopted, would
shorten the war, and thus lessen its expenditure of money and of blood?
Is it doubted that it would restore the national authority and national
prosperity, and perpetuate both indefinitely? Is it doubted that we
here--Congress and Executive--can secure its adoption? Will not the good
people respond to a united and earnest appeal from us? Can we, can they,
by any other means so certainly or so speedily assure these vital
objects? We can succeed only by concert. It is not 'Can _any_ of us
_imagine_ better?' but; 'Can we _all do_ better?' Object whatsoever is
possible, still the question recurs, 'Can we do better?' The dogmas of
the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is
piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our
case is new, so we must think anew and act anew. We must disenthrall
ourselves, and then we shall save our country.

"Fellow citizens, _we_ cannot escape history. We, of this Congress and
this administration, will [shall] be remembered in spite of ourselves.
No personal significance, or insignificance, can spare one or another
of us. The fiery trial through which we pass will light us down, in
honor or dishonor, to the latest generation. We _say_ we are for the
Union. The world will not forget that we say this. We know how to save
the Union. The world knows we do know how to save it. We--even _we
here_--hold the power and bear the responsibility. In _giving_ freedom
to the _slave_ we _assure_ freedom to the _free_,--honorable alike in
what we give and what we preserve. We shall nobly save, or meanly lose,
the last, best hope of earth. Other means may succeed; this could not
fail. The way is plain, peaceful, generous, just,--a way which, if
followed, the world will forever applaud, and God must forever bless."

Beautiful and impressive as was this appeal, it persuaded few or none.
In fact, no effort on the President's part now, or at any time, could
win much approval for his plan. Not many were ever pleased by it; but
afterward, in the winter of 1863, many members of the Thirty-eighth
Congress were willing, without believing in it, to give him a chance to
try it in Missouri. Accordingly a bill then passed the House
appropriating $10,000,000 to compensate slave-owners in that State, if
abolition of slavery should be made part of its organic law. The Senate
made the sum $15,000,000 and returned the bill to the House for
concurrence. But the representatives from Missouri were tireless in
their hostility to the measure, and finally killed it by parliamentary
expedients of delay.

This was a great disappointment to Mr. Lincoln. While the measure was
pending he argued strenuously with leading Missourians to induce them to
put their State in the lead in what he hoped would then become a
procession of slave States. But these gentlemen seemed to fear that, if
they should take United States bonds in payment, they might awake some
morning in these troublous times to find their promiser a bankrupt or a
repudiationist. On the other hand, such was the force of habit that a
slave seemed to them very tangible property. Mr. Lincoln shrewdly
suggested that, amid present conditions, "_bonds_ were better than
_bondsmen_," and "two-legged property" was a very bad kind to hold. Time
proved him to be entirely right; but for the present his argument,
entreaty, and humor were all alike useless. Missouri would have nothing
to do with "compensated emancipation;" and since she was regarded as a
test case, the experiment was not tried elsewhere. So it came to pass
afterward that the slaveholders parted with their slaves for nothing
instead of exchanging them for the six per cent. bonds of the United

* * * * *

The first day of January, 1863, arrived, and no event had occurred to
delay the issue of the promised proclamation. It came accordingly. By
virtue of his power as commander-in-chief, "in time of actual armed
rebellion,... and as a fit and necessary war measure for suppressing
said rebellion," the President ordered that all persons held as slaves
in certain States and parts of States, which he designated as being then
in rebellion, should be thenceforward free, and declared that the
Executive, with the army and navy, would "recognize and maintain the
freedom of said persons." The word "maintain" was inserted at Seward's
suggestion, and somewhat against Mr. Lincoln's wish. He said that he had
intentionally refrained from introducing it, because it was not his way
to promise what he was not entirely _sure_ that he could perform. The
sentence invoking the favor of God was contributed by Secretary Chase.
The paper was signed after the great public reception of New Year's Day.
Mr. Lincoln, as he took the pen, remarked to Mr. Seward that his
much-shaken hand was almost paralyzed, so that people who, in time to
come, should see that signature would be likely to say: "He hesitated,"
whereas, in fact, his whole soul was in it. The publication took place
late in the day, and the anti-slavery critics grumbled because it was
not sent out in the morning.

The people at large received this important step with some variety of
feeling and expression; but, upon the whole, approval seems to have far
outrun the dubious prognostications of the timid and conservative class.
For the three months which had given opportunity for thinking had
produced the result which Mr. Lincoln had hoped for. It turned out that
the mill of God had been grinding as exactly as always. Very many who
would not have advised the measure now heartily ratified it. Later,
after men's minds had had time to settle and the balance could be fairly
struck, it appeared undeniable that the final proclamation had been of
good effect; so Mr. Lincoln himself said.

It is worth noting that while many Englishmen spoke out in generous
praise, the rulers of England took the contrary position. Earl Russell
said that the measure was "of a very strange nature," "a very
questionable kind," an act of "vengeance on the slave-owner," and that
it did no more than "profess to emancipate slaves, where the United
States authorities cannot make emancipation a reality." But the English
people were strongly and genuinely anti-slavery, and the danger of
English recognition of the Confederacy was greatly diminished when the
proclamation established the policy of the administration.

The proclamation contained a statement that ex-slaves would be "received
into the armed service of the United States." Up to this time not much
had been done in the way of enlisting colored troops. The negroes
themselves had somewhat disappointed their friends by failing to take
the initiative, and it became evident that they must be stirred by
influences outside their own race. The President now took the matter in
hand, and endeavored to stimulate commanders of Southern departments to
show energy concerning it. By degrees successful results were obtained.
The Southerners formally declared that they would not regard either
negro troops or their officers as prisoners of war; but that they would
execute the officers as ordinary felons, and would hand over the negroes
to be dealt with by the state authorities as slaves in insurrection.
Painful and embarrassing questions of duty were presented by these
menaces. To Mr. Lincoln the obvious policy of retaliation seemed
abhorrent, and he held back from declaring that he would adopt it, in
the hope that events might never compel him to do so. But on July 30 he
felt compelled, in justice to the blacks and those who led them, to
issue an order that for every Union soldier killed in violation of the
laws of war a rebel soldier should be executed; and for every one
enslaved a rebel soldier should be placed at hard labor on the public
works. Happily, however, little or no action ever became necessary in
pursuance of this order. The Southerners either did not in fact wreak
their vengeance in fulfillment of their furious vows, or else covered
their doings so that they could not be proved. Only the shocking
incident of the massacre at Fort Pillow seemed to demand stern
retaliatory measures, and even this was, too mercifully, allowed
gradually to sink away into neglect.[42]

[Illustration: Lincoln Submitting the Emancipation Proclamation to His


[33] To A.G. Hodges, April 4, 1864, N. and H. vi. 430; and see Lincoln
to Chase, September 2, 1863; _ibid._ 434.

[34] "It was," says Mr. Arnold, "full of errors and mistaken inferences,
and written in ignorance of many facts which it was the duty of the
President to consider." _Life of Lincoln_, 254. But, _per contra_, Hon.
George W. Julian says: "It was one of the most powerful appeals ever
made in behalf of justice and the rights of man." _Polit. Recoil._ 220.
Arnold and Julian were both members of the House, and both
thorough-going Abolitionists. Their difference of opinion upon this
letter of Mr. Greeley illustrates well the discussions which, like the
internecine feuds of Christian sects, existed between men who ought to
have stood side by side against the heretics and unbelievers.

[35] For views contrary to mine, see Julian, _Polit. Recoil._ 221.

[36] The story that some members of the cabinet were opposed to the
measure was distinctly denied by the President. Carpenter, _Six Months
in the White House_, 88.

[37] For interesting statements about this Altoona conference see
McClure, _Lincoln and Men of War-Times_, 248-251.

[38] Blaine, i. 439.

[39] It was understood that he had not favored the principal
anti-slavery measures of the Thirty-seventh Congress, on the ground
measures of the Thirty-seventh Congress, on the ground that they were

[40] The foregoing-statistics have been taken from Mr. Elaine, _Twenty
Years of Congress_, i. 441-444.

[41] Later, legislation enabled the soldiers in the field to vote; but
at this time they could not do so.

[42] For account of these matters of retaliation and protection of
negroes, see N. and H. vol. vi. ch. xxi.



The clouds of gloom and discouragement, which shut so heavily about the
President in the autumn of 1862, did not disperse as winter advanced.
That dreary season, when nearly all doubted and many despaired, is
recognized now as an interlude between the two grand divisions of the
drama. Before it, the Northern people had been enthusiastic, united, and
hopeful; after it, they saw assurance of success within reach of a
reasonable persistence. But while the miserable days were passing, men
could not see into the mysterious future. Not only were armies beaten,
but the people themselves seemed to be deserting their principles. The
face and the form of the solitary man, whose position brought every part
of this sad prospect fully within the range of his contemplation, showed
the wear of the times. The eyes went deeper into their caverns, and
seemed to send their search farther than ever away into a receding
distance; the furrows sank far into the sallow face; a stoop bent the
shoulders, as if the burden of the soul had even a physical weight. Yet
still he sought neither counsel, nor strength, nor sympathy from any
one; neither leaned on any friend, nor gave his confidence to any
adviser; the problems were his and the duty was his, and he accepted
both wholly. "I need success more than I need sympathy," he said; for it
was the cause, not his own burden, which absorbed his thoughts. The
extremists, who seemed to have more than half forgotten to hate the
South in the intensity of their hatred of McClellan, had apparently
cherished a vague faith that, if this procrastinating spirit could be
exorcised, the war might then be trusted to take care of itself. But
after they had accomplished their purpose they were confronted by facts
which showed that in this matter, as in that of emancipation, the
President's deliberation was not the unpardonable misdoing which they
had conceived it to be. In spite of McClellan's insolent arrogance and
fault-finding, his unreasonable demands, and his tedious squandering of
invaluable time, Mr. Lincoln, being by nature a man who contemplated the
consequence of an action, did not desire to make a vacancy till he could
fill it with a better man. "I certainly have been dissatisfied," he
said, "with Buell and McClellan; but before I relieved them I had great
fears I should not find successors to them who would do better; and I am
sorry to add I have seen little since to relieve those fears." One
bloody and costly experiment had already failed at Manassas. Two others
were soon to result even more disastrously; and still another leader
was to be superseded, before the "man of destiny" came. McClellan had
thrown away superb opportunities; but to turn him out was not to fill
his place with an abler man.

On the evening of November 7, 1862, the dispatch came which relieved
McClellan and put Burnside in command. The moment was not well chosen.
McClellan seemed in an unusually energetic temper. He had Lee's army
divided, and was conceivably on the verge of fighting it in detail.[43]
On the other hand, Burnside assumed the charge with reluctance and
self-distrust. A handsome, popular gentleman, of pleasing manners and
with the prestige of some easily won successes, he had the misfortune to
be too highly esteemed.

The change of commanders brought a change of scheme, which was now to
advance upon Richmond by way of Fredericksburg. When this was submitted
to the President he said that it might succeed if the movement was
rapid, otherwise not. The half of this opinion which concerned success
was never tested; the other half was made painfully good. Instead of
rapidity there was great delay, with the result that the early days of
December found Lee intrenching strongly upon the heights behind
Fredericksburg on the south bank of the Rappahannock, having his army
now reunited and reinforced to the formidable strength of 78,288 men
"present for duty." Burnside lay upon the north bank, with 113,000 men,
but having exchanged the promising advantages which had existed when he
took command for very serious disadvantages. He had the burden of
attacking a position which he had allowed his enemy not only to select
but to fortify. Happily it is not our task to describe the cruel and
sanguinary thirteenth day of December, 1862, when he undertook this
desperate task. When that night fell at the close of a fearful combat,
which had been rather a series of blunders than an intelligent plan,
10,208 Federal soldiers were known to be lying killed or wounded, while
2145 more were "missing." Such was the awful price which the brave
Northern army had paid, and by which it had bought--nothing! Nothing,
save the knowledge that General Burnside's estimate of his capacity for
such high command was correct. Even the mere brutal comparison of
"killed and wounded" showed that among the Confederates the number of
men who had been hit was not quite half that of the Federal loss. The
familiar principle, that in war a general should so contrive as to do
the maximum of injury to his adversary with a minimum of injury to
himself, had been directly reversed; the unfortunate commander had done
the maximum of injury to himself with the minimum of injury to his foe.

The behavior of Burnside in so bitter a trial was such as to attract
sympathy. Yet his army had lost confidence in his leadership, and
therefore suffered dangerously in morale. Many officers whispered their
opinions in Washington, and, as usual, Congress gave symptoms of a
desire to talk. Influenced by these criticisms and menacings, on
December 30 the President ordered Burnside not to enter again upon
active operations without first informing him. Burnside, much surprised,
hastened to see Mr. Lincoln, and learned what derogatory strictures were
in circulation. After brief consideration he proposed to resign. But Mr.
Lincoln said: "I do not yet see how I could profit by changing the
command of the army of the Potomac; and, if I did, I should not wish to
do it by accepting the resignation of your commission." So Burnside
undertook further manoeuvres. These, however, did not turn out well, and
he conceived that a contributing cause lay in the half-heartedness of
some of his subordinates. Thereupon he designed against them a defensive
or retaliatory move in the shape of an order dismissing from the service
of the United States four generals, and relieving from command four
others, and one colonel. This wholesale decapitation was startling, yet
was, in fact, soundly conceived. In the situation, either the general,
or those who had lost faith in the general, must go. Which it should be
was conclusively settled by the length of the list of condemned. The
President declined to ratify this, and Burnside's resignation inevitably
followed. His successor was the general whose name led the list of those
malcontent critics whom he had desired to displace, and was also the
same who had once stigmatized McClellan as "a baby." Major-General
Joseph Hooker, a graduate of West Point, was now given the opportunity
to prove his own superiority.

The new commander was popularly known as "Fighting Joe." There was
inspiration in the nickname, and yet it was not quite thus that a great
commander, charged with weighty responsibility, should be appropriately
described. Upon making the appointment, January 26, 1863, the President
wrote a letter remarkable in many points of view:--

"GENERAL,--I have placed you at the head of the army of the Potomac. Of
course, I have done this upon what appears to me to be sufficient
reasons; and yet I think it best for you to know that there are some
things in regard to which I am not quite satisfied with you. I believe
you to be a brave and skillful soldier,--which, of course, I like. I
also believe you do not mix politics with your profession,--in which you
are right. You have confidence in yourself,--which is a valuable, if not
an indispensable quality. You are ambitious,--which, within reasonable
bounds, does good rather than harm; but I think that, during General
Burnside's command of the army, you have taken counsel of your ambition
and thwarted him as much as you could, in which you did a great wrong to
the country, and to a most meritorious and honorable brother officer. I
have heard, in such way as to believe it, of your recently saying that
both the army and the government needed a dictator. Of course, it was
not for this, but in spite of it, that I have given you the command.
Only those generals who gain successes can set up as dictators. What I
now ask of you is military success, and I will risk the dictatorship.
The government will support you to the utmost of its ability,--which is
neither more nor less than it has done and will do for all commanders. I
much fear that the spirit which you have aided to infuse into the army,
of criticising their commander and withholding confidence from him, will
now turn upon you. I shall assist you as far as I can to put it down.
Neither you nor Napoleon, if he were alive again, could get any good out
of an army while such a spirit prevails in it. And now, beware of
rashness. Beware of rashness, but, with energy and sleepless vigilance,
go forward and give us victories."

Hooker was of that class of generals who show such capacity as
lieutenants that they are supposed to be capable of becoming independent
chiefs, until their true measure is ascertained by actual trial. In two
months he had restored to good shape an army which he had found
demoralized and depleted by absenteeism, and at the end of April he had
under him about 124,500 men. He still lay on the north bank of the
Potomac, facing Lee's army in its intrenchments about Fredericksburg.
His plan of campaign, says General Doubleday, was "simple, efficacious,
and should have been successful." Diverting the attention of Lee, he
threw the chief part of his army across the Rappahannock several miles
above Fredericksburg; then, marching rapidly to Chancellorsville, he
threatened the left flank and rear of the Confederates. Pushing a short
distance out upon the three roads which led from Chancellorsville to
Fredericksburg, he came to the very edge and brink, as it were, of
beginning a great battle with good promise of success. But just at this
point his generals at the front were astounded by orders to draw back to
Chancellorsville. Was it that he suddenly lost nerve in the crisis of
his great responsibility?[44] Or was it possible that he did not
appreciate the opportunity which he was throwing away? No one can say.
Only the fact can be stated that he rejected the chance which offended
Fortune never offers a second time. Back came the advanced columns, and
took position at Chancellorsville, while Lee, who had not the Northern
habit of repudiating fair opportunity, pressed close upon them.

On May 1 manoeuvring for position and some fighting took place. On
Saturday, May 2, a brilliant flanking movement by "Stonewall" Jackson
wrecked the Federal right. But the dangerous Southerner, accidentally
shot by his own soldiers, was carried from the field a dying man. Upon
Sunday, May 3, there was a most sanguinary conflict. "The Federals
fought like devils at Chancellorsville," said Mahone. Still it was again
the sad and wearisome story of brave men so badly handled that their
gallantry meant only their own slaughter. The President had expressly
urged Hooker to be sure to get all his troops at work. Yet he actually
let 37,000 of them stand all day idle, not firing a shot, while their
comrades were fighting and falling and getting beaten. On May 4, Hooker,
whose previous "collapse" had been aggravated by a severe personal hurt,
"seemed disposed to be inactive;" and Lee seized the chance to turn upon
Sedgwick, who was coming up in the rear of the Confederates, and to
drive him across the river. General Hooker now made up his mind that he
had been beaten; and though a majority of his corps commanders were
otherwise minded and were for renewing the conflict, he returned to the
northern bank, leaving behind him his wounded soldiers, 14 guns, and
20,000 stand of arms. Another ghastly price had been paid to settle
another experiment and establish the value of another general. The North
lost in killed and wounded 12,197 men, with 5000 others "missing," and
found out that General Hooker was not the man to beat General Lee. The
Confederate loss was 10,266 killed and wounded, 2753 missing.

The days in which the news from Chancellorsville was spreading among the
cities and villages of the North were the darkest of the war. In those
countless households, by whose generous contributions the armies had
been recruited, the talk began to be that it was folly, and even
cruelty, to send brave and patriotic citizens to be slaughtered
uselessly, while one leader after another showed his helpless
incompetence. The disloyal Copperheads became more bodeful than ever
before; while men who would have hanged a Copperhead as gladly as they
would have shot a Secessionist felt their hearts sink before the
undeniable Southern prestige. But the truth was that Pope and Burnside
and Hooker, by their very defeats, became the cause of victory; for the
elated Southerners, beginning to believe that their armies were
invincible, now clamored for "invasion" and the capture of Washington.
Apparently General Lee, too, had drunk the poison of triumph, and
dreamed of occupying the national capital, Baltimore, and Philadelphia,
and dictating the terms of peace to a disheartened North. The
fascinating scheme--the irretrievable and fatal blunder--was determined

To carry out this plan Swell's corps was covertly moved early in June
into the Shenandoah Valley. Hooker, anticipating some such scheme, had
suggested to Mr. Lincoln that, if it were entered upon, he should like
to cross the river and attack the Southern rear corps in Fredericksburg.
The President suggested that the intrenched Southerners would be likely
to worst the assailants, while the main Southern army "would in some way
be getting an advantage northward." "In one word," he wrote, "I would
not take any risk of being entangled upon the river, like an ox jumped
half over a fence and liable to be torn by dogs front and rear, without
a fair chance to gore one way or kick the other." Yet, very soon, when
the attenuation of Lee's line became certain, Lincoln sent to Hooker one
of his famous dispatches: "If the head of Lee's army is at Martinsburg,
and the tail of it on the plank road between Fredericksburg and
Chancellorsville, the animal must be very slim somewhere. Could you not
break him?" But the "animal" was moving rapidly, and the breaking
process did not take place.

Hooker now conceived a plan seductive by its audacity and its possible
results. He proposed by a sudden movement to capture Richmond,
presumably garrisoned very scantily, and to get back before Lee could
make any serious impression at the North. It _might_ have been done,
and, if done, it would more than offset all the dreary past; yet the
risk was great, and Mr. Lincoln could not sanction it. He wrote: "I
think Lee's army, and not Richmond, is your sure objective point. If he
comes towards the Upper Potomac, follow on his flank and on his inside
track, shortening your lines while he lengthens his; fight him, too,
when opportunity offers. If he stays where he is, _fret him, and fret

This was good strategy and was adopted for the campaign. Ewell's corps
crossed the Upper Potomac, and on June 22 was in Pennsylvania. The
corps of Longstreet and Hill quickly followed, and Lee's triumphant
army, at least 70,000 strong, marched through the Cumberland Valley to
Chambersburg and Carlisle, gathering rich booty of herds and grain as
they went, with Harrisburg as an immediate objective, Philadelphia in no
remote distance, Baltimore and Washington in a painfully distinct
background. The farmers of western Pennsylvania, startled by the
spectacle of gray-coated cavalry riding northward towards their state
capital, cumbered the roads with their wagons. The President called from
the nearest States 120,000 militia. General Hooker, released from his
waiting attitude by the development of his adversary's plan, manoeuvred
well. He crossed the Potomac at Edwards' Ferry, June 25-26, and drew his
forces together at Frederick. It was then decided to move northward and
to keep Lee as well to the westward as possible, thereby reserving, for
the bearing of future events, the questions of cutting the Confederate
communications or bringing on a battle.

An unfortunate element in these critical days was that Halleck and
Hooker disliked each other, and that their ideas often clashed. Mr.
Lincoln was at last obliged to say to Hooker: "To remove all
misunderstanding, I now place you in the strict military relation to
General Halleck of a commander of one of the armies to the
general-in-chief of all the armies. I have not intended differently; but
as it seems to be differently understood, I shall direct him to give
you orders, and you to obey them." At the same time he wrote him a
"private" letter, endeavoring to allay the ill-feeling. He closed it
with words of kindness, of modesty, and with one of his noble appeals
for subjection of personal irritation and for union of effort on behalf
of the country:--

"I believe you are aware that, since you took command of the army, I
have not believed you had any chance to effect anything till now. As it
looks to me, Lee's now returning towards Harper's Ferry gives you back
the chance that I thought McClellan lost last fall. Quite possibly I was
wrong both then and now; but, in the great responsibility resting upon
me, I cannot be entirely silent. Now, all I ask is that you will be in
such mood that we can get into our action the best cordial judgment of
yourself and General Halleck, with my poor mite added, if, indeed, he
and you shall think it entitled to any consideration at all."

The breach, however, could not be closed. Hooker, finding his army
seriously weakened by the withdrawal of the two years' and the nine
months' troops, asked for the garrison of Harper's Ferry, which seemed
useless where it was. Halleck refused it, and, June 27, Hooker requested
to be relieved of the command. His request was instantly granted, and
Major-General George G. Meade was appointed in his place. Swinton says
that command was given to Meade "without any lets or hindrances, the
President expressly waiving all the powers of the executive and the
Constitution, so as to enable General Meade to make, untrammeled, the
best dispositions for the emergency." One would like to know the
authority upon which so extraordinary a statement is based; probably it
is a great exaggeration, and the simple fact would prove to be that,
since the situation was such that new developments were likely to occur
with much suddenness, the President wisely and even necessarily placed
the general in full control, free from requirements of communication and
consultation. But to represent that Mr. Lincoln abdicated his
constitutional functions is absurd! Be this as it may, the fact is that
the appointment brought no change of plan. For three days the armies
manoeuvred and drew slowly together. Finally it was betwixt chance and
choice that the place and hour of concussion were determined. The place
was the village of Gettysburg, and the time was the morning of July 1.

Then ensued a famous and most bloody fight! During three long, hot days
of midsummer those two great armies struggled in a desperate grapple,
and with not unequal valor, the Confederates fiercely assailing, the
Federals stubbornly holding, those historic ridges, and both alike,
whether attacking or defending, whether gaining or losing ground, always
falling in an awful carnage of dead and wounded. It was the most
determined fighting that had yet taken place at the East, and the names
of Cemetery Ridge, Little Round Top, and Culp's Hill are written deep
in blood in American memories. When the last magnificent charge of the
Southerners was hurled back in the afternoon of July 3, the victory was
decided. The next day Lee began to send away his trains, his wounded and
prisoners. It is indeed true that during the day he held his army in
position on Seminary Ridge, hoping that Meade would attack, and that,
with an exchange of their relative parts of assailants and defenders, a
change of result also might come about. But Meade made no advance, and
with the first hours of darkness on the evening of July 4 the Southern
host began its retreat.

The losses at Gettysburg were appalling. The estimate is 2834 killed,
13,709 wounded, 6643 missing, a total of 23,186 on the Federal side; the
figures were only a trifle less on the Confederate side. But if such
bloodshed carried grief into many a Northern household, at least there
was not the cruel thought that life and limb, health and usefulness, had
been sacrificed through incompetence and without advantage to the cause.
It was true that the Northern general ought to have won, for he
commanded more troops,[45] held a very strong defensive position, and
fought a strictly defensive battle. But such had been the history of the
war that when that which _ought_ to be done _was_ done, the people felt
that it was fair cause for rejoicing. Later there was fault-finding and
criticism; but that during so many days so many troops on unfamiliar
ground should be handled in such a manner that afterward no critic can
suggest that something might have been done better, hardly falls among
possibilities. The fact was sufficient that a most important and
significant victory had been won. On the battlefield a stone now
undertakes to mark the spot and to name the hour where and when the
flood tide of rebellion reached its highest point, and where and when it
began its slow and sure ebb. Substantially that stone tells the truth.
Nevertheless the immediately succeeding days brought keen, counteracting
disappointment. Expectation rose that the shattered army of Lee would
never cross the Potomac; and the expectation was entirely reasonable,
and ought to have been fulfilled. But Meade seemed to copy McClellan
after Antietam. Spurred on by repeated admonitions from the President
and General Halleck, he did, on July 10, catch up with the retreating
army, which was delayed at Williamsport on the north bank of the river
by the unusually high water. He camped close by it, and received
strenuous telegrams urging him to attack. But he did not,[46] and on
the night of July 13 the Southern general successfully placed the
Potomac between himself and his too tardy pursuer. Bitter then was the
resentment of every loyal man at the North. For once the President
became severe and sent a dispatch of such tenor that General Meade
replied by an offer to resign his command. This Mr. Lincoln did not
accept. Yet he was too sorely pained not to give vent to words which in
fact if not in form conveyed severe censure. He was also displeased
because Meade, in general orders, spoke of "driving the invaders from
our soil;" as if the whole country was not "_our soil_"! Under the
influence of so much provocation, he wrote to General Meade a letter
reproduced from the manuscript by Messrs. Nicolay and Hay. It is true
that on cooler reflection he refrained from sending this missive, but it
is in itself sufficiently interesting to deserve reading:--"I have just
seen your dispatch to General Halleck, asking to be relieved of your
command because of a supposed censure of mine. I am very grateful to you
for the magnificent success you gave the cause of the country at
Gettysburg; and I am sorry now to be the author of the slightest pain to
you. But I was in such deep distress myself that I could not restrain
some expression of it. I have been oppressed nearly ever since the
battle of Gettysburg by what appeared to be evidences that yourself and
General Couch and General Smith were not seeking a collision with the
enemy, but were trying to get him across the river without another
battle. What these evidences were, if you please, I hope to tell you at
some time when we shall both feel better. The case, summarily stated, is
this: You fought and beat the enemy at Gettysburg; and, of course, to
say the least, his loss was as great as yours. He retreated; and you did
not, as it seemed to me, pressingly pursue him; but a flood in the river
detained him till, by slow degrees, you were again upon him. You had at
least twenty thousand veteran troops directly with you, and as many more
raw ones within supporting distance, all in addition to those who fought
with you at Gettysburg, while it was not possible that he had received a
single recruit; and yet you stood and let the flood run down, bridges be
built, and the enemy move away at his leisure without attacking him. And
Couch and Smith,--the latter left Carlisle in time, upon all ordinary
calculation, to have aided you in the last battle at Gettysburg, but he
did not arrive. At the end of more than ten days, I believe twelve,
under constant urging, he reached Hagerstown from Carlisle, which is not
an inch over fifty-five miles, if so much; and Couch's movement was very
little different.

"Again, my dear general, I do not believe you appreciate the magnitude
of the misfortune involved in Lee's escape. He was within your easy
grasp, and to have closed upon him would, in connection with our other
late successes, have ended the war. As it is, the war will be prolonged
indefinitely. If you could not safely attack Lee last Monday, how can
you possibly do so south of the river, when you can take with you very
few more than two thirds of the force you then had in hand? It would be
unreasonable to expect, and I do not expect [that] you can now effect
much. Your golden opportunity is gone, and I am distressed immeasurably
because of it.

"I beg you will not consider this a prosecution or persecution of
yourself. As you had learned that I was dissatisfied, I have thought it
best to kindly tell you why."

* * * * *

There was an odd coincidence during this momentous first week in July.
During the preceding winter Mr. Lincoln had been exceedingly bothered by
certain Democrats, notably that gentleman of unsavory repute, Fernando
Wood, who had urged upon him all sorts of foolish schemes for
"compromising" or "settling the difficulties,"--phrases which were
euphemisms of the peace Democracy to disguise a concession of success to
the South. The President endured these sterile suggestions with his
wonted patience. But toward the close of June, Alexander H. Stephens,
Vice-President of the Confederacy, was seized with the notion that, if
he should go to Washington on a personal mission to Mr. Lincoln,
purporting to be about prisoners of war, he might then "indirectly ...
turn attention to a general adjustment." Accordingly he set forth on his
way to Fortress Monroe; but very inopportunely for his purposes it fell
out that the days of his journey were the very days in which General
Lee was getting so roughly worsted at Gettysburg. So it happened that it
was precisely on the day of the Southern retreat, July 4, that he
notified the admiral in Hampton Roads that he was the "bearer of a
communication in writing from Jefferson Davis, commander-in-chief of the
land and naval forces of the Confederate States, to Abraham Lincoln,
commander-in-chief of the land and naval forces of the United States;"
and he asked for leave to proceed to Washington. But his ingenious
phraseology was of no avail. Mr. Lincoln said: "The request of A.H.
Stephens is inadmissible. The customary agents and channels are adequate
for all needful communication and conference between the United States
forces and the insurgents." Thus the shrewd instinct of the Northerner
brought to naught a scheme conceived in the spirit of the old-time
Southern politics, a scheme which was certainly clever, but which,
without undue severity, may also be called a little artful and
insidious; for Mr. Stephens himself afterward confessed that it had, for
its ulterior purpose, "not so much to act upon Mr. Lincoln and the then
ruling authorities at Washington as through them, when the
correspondence should be published, upon the great mass of the people in
the Northern States." The notion, disseminated among the people, that
Mr. Lincoln would not listen to proposals for peace, would greatly help
malcontents of the Fernando Wood school.

It is necessary now to turn from the Eastern field of operations to the
Middle and Western parts of the country, where, however, the control
exercised by Mr. Lincoln was far less constant than at the East. After
the series of successes which culminated at Corinth, the Federal good
fortune rested as if to recuperate for a while. A large part of the
powerful army there gathered was carried away by Buell, and was soon
given occupation by General Bragg. For Jefferson Davis had long chosen
to fancy that Kentucky was held in an unwilling subjection to the Union,
and from this thralldom he now designed to relieve her, and to make the
Ohio River the frontier of Secession. Accordingly cavalry raids in
considerable force were made, Cincinnati was threatened, and General
Bragg, with a powerful army, started northward from Gainesville. At the
same time the Federals left Murfreesboro', and the two armies raced for
Louisville. Bragg, with a handsome start, should have won, but on
September 29, 1862, Buell entered the city ahead. The winning of the
goal, however, was not the end. Two hostile armies, which had come so
far and got so close together, were bound to have a fight. This took
place at Perryville, October 8, with the result that on the next day
Bragg began a rapid retreat. He had brought 20,000 stand of arms for the
Kentuckians who were to flock to his camp; but they had not flocked, and
the theory of Kentuckian disloyalty was no longer tenable.

So soon as Bragg was out of Kentucky, Halleck, probably at the
instigation of the President, recurred to the project of a campaign in
Eastern Tennessee. Buell said that it was not feasible, and since by
this opinion he placed himself at odds with the authorities at
Washington, he asked to be relieved from his command. At the close of
October, Major-General William S. Rosecrans succeeded him. But the new
commander would not, any more than his predecessor, fall in with
Halleck's schemes, and what Cist contemptuously describes as "Halleck's
brilliant paper campaign into East Tennessee" did not take place.

General Rosecrans took command of the army at Bowling Green, November 2,
1862. Bragg fell back to Murfreesboro', in Tennessee, and the city of
Nashville, now in Federal possession, became the gage of battle. On
December 26 Rosecrans moved out from that city towards Murfreesboro',
and on January 2, 1863, the battle of Stone's River took place. It was
desperately contested, and the losses were heavy. At the close of the
day the advantage rested with the Confederates; but it was
inconsiderable, and both sides considered the battle only begun. On the
next day, however, Bragg found such dangerous demoralization among his
troops that he decided to withdraw. Although he always persisted in
describing himself as the victor in the engagement, yet he now left his
wounded in the hospitals, and fell back to Shelbyville. In these
positions, not far apart, the two armies lay for a long while watching
each other; there were a few raids and small encounters, but
substantially, during the first six months of 1863, quietude reigned in
the region which they dominated.

But quietude was not what the government wished, and Mr. Lincoln and
General Halleck soon fell into much the same relationship with Rosecrans
which they had previously occupied towards McClellan. Whenever Rosecrans
had taken the field he had shown himself a skillful strategist and an
able commander in battle; but his propensity seemed to be to remain in
quarters, and thence to present extravagant exactions, and to conduct
endless disputes with the President and the general-in-chief. He seemed
like a restive horse, the more he was whipped and spurred the more
immovably he retained his balking attitude. Mr. Lincoln was sorely tried
by this obstinacy, and probably had been pushed nearly to the limits of
his patience, when at last Rosecrans stirred. It was on June 24 that he
set his army in motion to settle with Bragg those conclusions which had
been left open for half a year. With this purpose he moved upon
Shelbyville, but when he arrived there he found that Bragg had gone back
to Tullahoma; and when he pushed on to Tullahoma, Bragg had left there
also. Thus it came to pass that on the same famous Fourth of July on
which Lee started to get out of Pennsylvania, Bragg in like manner was
getting over the southern boundary line of Tennessee and putting the
mountain range between himself and the pursuing Federal commander. The
converging lines of Federal good luck came together on this great day of
the nation, in a way that touches the superstitious chord; for still
farther west another and a momentous event was taking place.

General Grant, at Corinth, had been pondering a great scheme which he
meant to undertake so soon as his scanty army should be sufficiently
reinforced. If Richmond had an artificial value as a token of final
triumph, the Mississippi River had scarcely less value of a practical
character. Vicksburg and Port Hudson cut out a mid-section of about 200
miles of the great stream, which section still remained under
Confederate control. Vicksburg was General Grant's objective point. Even
to conceive the capture of this stronghold seemed in itself evidence of
genius; no mere pedant in warfare could have had the conception. Every
difficulty lay in the way of the assailant. The Confederates had spared
no skill, no labor, no expense in fortifying the town; yet after all had
been done that military science could do, human achievement counted for
little in comparison with the surpassing arrangements of Nature. If what
she intended could be inferred from what she had done, she clearly had
designed this town to be through all time a veritable "virgin fortress;"
she had made for its resting-place a great bluff, which jutted
insolently out into the channel of the Mississippi River, and upon the
summit of which the cluster of buildings resembled rather an eyrie of
eagles than a place of human habitation; the great stream, as if
confounded by the daring obstruction, before it could recover its
interrupted course spread itself far over the surrounding country in a
tangle of bayous and a vast expanse of unwholesome, impassable swamp;
the high ridges which lay inland around the place were intersected by
frequent long, deep, and precipitous ravines, so that by this side also
hostile approach had apparently been rendered impossible. Nevertheless,
that one of the Northern generals to whom nothing ever seemed
impossible, having cast the eye of desire upon this especial spot, now
advanced upon it, and began operations in his silent, enduring,
pertinacious way, which no men and no intrenchments could permanently
withstand. His lieutenant, Sherman, made one desperate assault,--not, as
it seemed, because there was a possibility of taking the place, but
rather to demonstrate that it could not be taken. Then slower and more
toilsome methods were tried. It was obvious that a siege must be
resorted to; yet it was not easy to get near enough even to establish a

General Grant had early decided that the city would remain impregnable
until by some means he could get below it on the river and approach it
from the landward side. Ingenious schemes of canals were tried, and
failed. Time passed; the month of April was closing, and all that had
been done seemed to amount to nothing better than an accumulation of
evidence that the Confederacy had one spot which the Federals could
never touch. At last ingenuity was laid aside for sheer daring. The
fleet, under Admiral Porter, transported the army down-stream, athwart
the hostile batteries, and set it ashore on the east bank, below the
fortifications. Yet this very success seemed only to add peril to
difficulty. The Confederates, straining every nerve to save the place,
were gathering a great force in the neighborhood to break up the
besieging army. With a base of supplies which was substantially useless,
in a hostile country, with a powerful army hovering near him, and an
unapproachable citadel as his objective, Grant could save himself from
destruction only by complete and prompt success. Desperate, indeed, was
the occasion, yet all its exorbitant requirements were met fully,
surely, and swiftly by the commander and the gallant troops under him.
In the task of getting a clear space, by driving the Confederates from
the neighborhood for a considerable distance around, the army penetrated
eastward as far as Jackson, fighting constantly and living off the
country. Then, returning westward, they began the siege, which, amid
hardship and peril and infinite difficulty, was pushed with the
relentless vigor of the most relentless and most vigorous leader of the
war. At last, on July 3, General Pemberton, commanding within the city,
opened negotiations for a surrender. He knew that an assault would be
made the next day, and he knew that it must succeed; he did not want to
illustrate the Fourth of July by so terrible a Confederate loss, so
magnificent a Federal gain. Yet he haggled over the terms, and by this
delay brought about a part of that which he had wished to avoid. It was
due to his fretfulness about details, that the day on which the Southern
army marched out and stacked their arms before the fortifications of
Vicksburg, and on which the Northern army, having generously watched the
operation without a cheer, then marched in and took possession of the
place, was that same Fourth of July on which two other defeated generals
were escaping from two other victorious Northern armies.

In a military point of view this campaign and siege have been pronounced
by many competent critics the greatest achievement of the war; but the
magnificent and interesting story must, with regret, be yielded to the
biographer of Grant; it does not belong to the biographer of Lincoln.
The whole enterprise was committed to Grant to be handled by him without
let or hindrance, and it was conducted by him from beginning to end
without interference, and almost even without suggestion. Yet this very
fact was greatly to the credit of the administration. In the outset the
President passed judgment upon the man; and it was a correct judgment.
Afterward he stood to it gallantly. In the middle of the business, when
the earlier expedients went wrong, a great outcry against Grant arose.
Editors and politicians, even the secretary of the treasury himself,
began to hound the President with importunate demands for the
displacement of a general whom they fervently alleged to be another of
the incompetents; in short, there was the beginning of just such a
crusade as that which had been made against McClellan. But by this time
the President had had opportunity to measure the military capacity of
editors and politicians, and he was not now so much disquieted by their
clamor as he once had been. He simply, in his quiet way, paid no
attention to them whatsoever. Only when one of them reiterated the
gossip about Grant being drunk at Shiloh, he made his famous reply, that
he should like to send to some other generals a barrel of the whiskey
which Grant drank. In a word, the detractors of the silent general made
little impression on the solitary President, who told them shortly and
decisively: "I can't spare this man; he fights." They wholly failed to
penetrate the protecting fence which the civilian threw around the
soldier, and within the shelter of which that soldier so admirably
performed the feat which more than any other illustrates the national
arms. Certainly the President comes in for his peculiar share of the
praise. When the news came to Mr. Lincoln he wrote to General Grant this

"July 16, 1863.

"My DEAR GENERAL,--I do not remember that you and I ever met personally.
I write this now as a grateful acknowledgment for the almost
inestimable services you have done the country.

"I wish to say a word further. When you reached the vicinity of
Vicksburg, I thought you should do what you finally did,--march the
troops across the neck, run the batteries with the transports, and thus
go below; and I never had any faith, except in a general hope that you
knew better than I, that the Yazoo Pass expedition and the like would

"When you got below and took Port Gibson, Grand Gulf, and vicinity, I
thought you should go down the river and join General Banks; and when
you turned northward, east of the Big Black, I feared it was a mistake.
I now wish to make a personal acknowledgment that you were right and I
was wrong."

Immediately after the ceremony of surrender was over Sherman marched
away with a strong force to find and fight Johnston's army. But that
general, shunning the conflict, moved so far southward into Mississippi
that pursuit was imprudent during the hot season.

While Grant was finishing the siege of Vicksburg, General Banks was
besieging Port Hudson, which lay at the southern end of the rebel
section of the river. The fall of the northern post rendered the
southern one untenable, and it was surrendered on July 9. Henceforth the
great river was a safe roadway for unarmed craft flying the stars and

It is time now to go back to Tennessee. By the close of the first week
in July, 1863, the Confederate force was established in Chattanooga, and
thus the hostile armies were "placed back in the relative positions
occupied by them prior to Bragg's advance into Kentucky, a little less
than one year previous." But though the Southern general had reached his
present position by a retreat at the end of a disappointing enterprise,
the issue of final success was still an open one between him and
Rosecrans, with many advantages on his side. He had a large army in the
heart of a mountainous region, with the opportunity to post it in
positions which ought to be impregnable. Moreover, he received fresh
troops under Johnston; and later the inaction of Meade in Virginia
encouraged Lee to send to him a considerable force under Longstreet,
himself no small reinforcement. These arrived just on the eve of the
impending battle.

Meantime Mr. Lincoln was sorely exercised at his inability to make his
generals carry out his plans. He desired that Burnside should move down
from the north and unite with Rosecrans, and that then the combined
force should attack Bragg promptly. But Rosecrans lay still for about
six weeks, to repair losses and fatigue, and again played the part of
the restive steed, responding to the President's spur only with
fractious kickings. It was August 16 when he moved, but then he showed
his usual ability in action. The march was difficult; yet, on September
6, he had his whole force across the Tennessee and in the mountains
south of Chattanooga. Burnside, meanwhile, had advanced to Knoxville,
but had stopped there, and was now, greatly to Mr. Lincoln's
bewilderment and annoyance, showing activity in every direction except
precisely that in which he was directed to move.

At last, after much fruitless manoeuvring, the collision took place, and
for two days there was fierce and stubborn fighting on the famous
battlefield of Chickamauga. On the second day, September 20, Longstreet,
commanding the Confederate left, thoroughly defeated the Federal right
and centre and sent them in precipitate flight to Chattanooga.
Rosecrans, overwhelmed amid the rush of fugitives, and thinking that all
was lost, also hastened thither to take charge of the fragments. In
truth all would have been lost, had it not been for Thomas. This able
and resolute commander won in this fight the rhetorical but well merited
name of "the Rock of Chickamauga." Under him the Federal left stood
immovable, though furiously assailed by odds, and tried by the rout of
their comrades. At nightfall these troops, still in position, covered
the withdrawal to Chattanooga.

Rosecrans, badly demoralized, gave the President to understand that
there had been a terrible disaster, and the President, according to his
custom in such trying moments, responded with words of encouragement and
an instant effort to restore morale. Mr. Lincoln always cheered his
generals in the hour of disaster, which he seemed to regard only as the
starting-point for a new advance, the incentive to a fresh exertion.
Yet, in fact, there had not been a disaster, but only a moderate
worsting of the Federal army, resulting in its retirement a trifling
distance to the place whence its opponents had just marched out. The
issue between the two generals was still as open after Rosecrans's
misfortune as it had been after the previous misfortunes of Bragg.
Already there was a new question, who would win that coming battle which
plainly was close at hand. The curtain had only gone down on an act; the
drama itself had not been played out.

Bragg advanced to besiege Chattanooga, and Rosecrans's communications
were so imperfect that his troops were put on short rations. On the
other hand, Mr. Lincoln bestirred himself vigorously. He promptly sent
Sherman from the West, and Hooker from the East, each with considerable
reinforcements, en route for the beleaguered town. Also he saw plainly
that, whether by fault or misfortune, the usefulness of Rosecrans was
over, and on October 16 he put Thomas in place of Rosecrans,[47] and
gave to General Grant the command of the Military Division of the
Mississippi, including the Departments of the Ohio, the Cumberland, and
the Tennessee. Grant at once telegraphed to Thomas to hold Chattanooga
at all hazards; to which Thomas replied: "We will hold the town till we
starve!" Grant well knew that they were already getting very hungry. He
showed his usual prompt energy in relieving them; and a little fighting
soon opened a route by which sufficient food came into the place.

It was now obvious that the decisive conflict between the two armies,
which had so long been striving for the advantage of strategic position,
and fighting in hostile competition, was at last to occur. Each had its
distinctive advantage. The Federals were led by Grant, with Sherman,
Thomas, Sheridan, and Hooker as his lieutenants,--a list which may
fairly recall Napoleon and his marshals. On the other hand, the
Southerners, lying secure in intrenched positions upon the precipitous
sides and lofty summits of Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge, seemed
invulnerably placed. It does not belong to this narrative to describe
the terrific contest in which these two combatants furiously locked
horns on November 24 and 25. It was Hooker's brave soldiers who
performed the conspicuous feat which was conclusive of victory. Having,
by command, stormed the first line of rifle-pits on the ascent, upon the
Confederate left, they suddenly took the control into their own hands;
without orders they dashed forward, clambered upward in a sudden and
resistless access of fighting fury, and in an hour, emerging above the

Book of the day:
Facebook Google Reddit StumbleUpon Twitter Pinterest