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This was one of the gloomiest periods of the war, and the President hardly dared tell the country what was needed. On June 28 he wrote to
“MY DEAR SIR: My view of the present condition of the war is about as follows:
"The evacuation of Corinth and our delay by the flood in the Chickahominy have enabled the enemy to concentrate too much force in Richmond for McClellan to successfully attack. In fact there soon will be no substantial rebel force anywhere else. But if we send all the force from here to McClellan, the enemy will, before we can know of it, send a force from Richmond and take Washington. Or if a large part of the Western army be brought here to McClellan they will let us have Richmond, and retake Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri, etc. What should be done is to hold what we have in the West, open the Mississippi, and take Chattanooga and East Tennessee without more. A reasonable force should in every event be kept about Washington for its protection. Then let the country give us a hundred thousand new troops in the shortest possible time, which, added to McClellan directly or indirectly, will take Richmond without endangering any other place which we now hold, and will substantially end the war. I expect to maintain this contest until successful, or till I die, or am conquered, or my term expires, or Congress or the country forsake me; and I would publicly appeal to the country for this new force were it not that I fear a general panic and stampede would follow, so hard it is to have a thing understood as it really is."
Under date of July 1, 300,000 volunteers were called for, and on July 3 Lincoln wrote a "confidential and private" letter to the governors, saying, among other things, " If I had 50,000 additional troops here now, I believe I could substantially close the war in two weeks."
DARK DAYS: EMANCIPATION
THIS summer of 1862 marks the beginning of the gloomiest year which the President had to meet. From a military and from a political point of view the outlook was almost equally dark, and in his family life Lincoln had been suffering from the loss of a little son, who died in the winter. More than one observer felt that his face grew suddenly older. Foreign affairs were still threatening. Volunteering had so nearly stopped that compulsory military service was a necessity. McClellan, after considerable fighting, had intrenched himself on the James River, where he seemed likely to accomplish nothing, complaining that he had but 50,000 men left with their colors, and that he needed 100,000 more. Lincoln went down himself to Harrison's Landing to see where the army of 160,000 men had gone. He concluded that sending troops to McClellan was about as effective as shovelling fleas across a barn, so few of them arrived. He also decided
that the military efforts had been futile enough to make an experiment in emancipation wise as a war measure, and it is said that he drew up the first draft of a proclamation on his return. Still, he hated to relinquish his idea of compensated emancipation, and kept trying to get it started in spite of the lack of interest shown by the border states in his scheme. They were either hostile or indifferent. Bates and Blair, the border members of the cabinet, were friendly, but lukewarm and sceptical. Meantime, the abolitionists were howling constantly for universal emancipation. Shrewd politicians were warning the President that such a step would lose many Northern states to the Republican party. To a committee of clergymen who called to argue in favor of a proclamation Lincoln said it would be about as effective as the Pope's bull against the comet. He knew that it could mean nothing unless it was followed by Union victory, and he feared that it might lose support in the border states. and cause desertions in the army. At the same time the omens were so dark that he was less settled against a step which so many thought meant salvation. This was one of the problems which led him half in earnest to suggest his resignation, a proposition which he made more than once in these hopeless days. To some senators who wished to muster slaves into the army he
said: "Gentlemen, I have put two hundred thousand muskets into the hands of loyal citizens of Tennessee, Kentucky, and western North Carolina. They have said they could defend themselves, if they had guns. I have given them the guns. Now, these men do not believe in mustering in the negro. If I do it, these two hundred thousand muskets will be turned against us. We should lose more than we should gain."
At a meeting July 22, however, he told his cabinet that he had called them merely for advice about a step on which he was already determined, which was emancipation by proclamation. The principal suggestion came from Seward, who said that if the step was taken after such reverses and in so depressed a time, the public would look upon it as the last measure of an exhausted government. "His idea,” Lincoln is quoted as saying, "was that it would be considered our last shriek, on the retreat." Lincoln, who had already had the same idea, at least at times, therefore put his draft aside, touching it up now and then, adding or changing a line, and waiting.
His tone in these dismal weeks is firm and gloomy. To a preacher who objected to the presence of the Union army in Louisiana, Lincoln wrote:
"I distrust the wisdom if not the sincerity of friends who would hold my hands while my enemies stab me.