« PreviousContinue »
Sherman was effecting a closer junction of the corps of McPherson, Logan, and Blair. The general battle which followed was much more destructive than that of two days before, ending in Hood's defeat and retirement within his works.* The gallant McPherson, one of the most esteemed of the Union Generals, and one of the youngest to obtain so high a command, was killed in this engagement.
Sherman again set his cavalry at work on the enemy's communications south and west, disposing his main forces around the city without making any assault or a close investment. Howard succeeded McPherson as commander of the Army of the Tennessee; Stanley was given command of the Fourth Corps; Slocum took the place of Hooker, relieved at his own request; and Jefferson C. Davis succeeded Palmer in command of the Fourteenth Corps.
* Losses at “Peach-tree Creek”: Union—killed, 512; wounded, 2,010. Confederate-killed, 1,500; wounded, 6,000.
Dreads and Plottings — Democratic National Convention Nominates McClellan — Victories of Farragut, Sherman, and Sheridan.
Down to the close of August there had been no very inspiriting event of the war since the destruction of the Alabama. The protraction of the struggle was a sore disappointment. But dark as this immediate period seemed to many Union men, it must have been still darker to the eyes of discerning leaders of the Confederate cause. If gold quotations at the North had reached a perilous height, the paper money of the South had ceased to have a quotable value. The Confederates had been forced, reluctantly but finally, to abandon all hope of foreign intervention or recognition; their spasmodic efforts at invasion were unavailing; the blockade was strangling the Confederate semblance of national life; and two powerful Union armies had made their way, despite all resistance, to the very heart of their two largest States. Already sagacious General Lee foresaw that the end was near.
It is scarcely credible that there should have been, in these August days, such a weariness of heart, such a flagging of spirits, as some alleged to be widespread among those who had hitherto resolutely supported the Administration. Even optimistic Mr. Seward wrote soon after to a Government representative abroad: “The public mind here was very despondent. A complex campaign, which had been expected to be easy and short, sharp and decisive, had proved to be laborious, long, and sanguinary, without assurance of favorable result. . . . To European eyes our affairs wore at that time exactly the same gloomy and portentous aspect that they presented to our own.” " To replace the losses in Virginia, from the Wilderness onward, and to supply other needs, the President, with an eye to the salvation of the country rather than to the success of a political canvass over which a new and large call for troops seemed for the moment to cast an ominous shadow, issued a proclamation, on the 18th of July, calling for half a million more volunteers — the respective quotas of the States to be made up by draft, unless otherwise completed by the fifth day of the following September. If no one questioned that there was need of such a call, could any Republican leader who cared for the country seek to turn this act to his disadvantage in the canvass, or fail to stand by him all the more firmly at such an hour? It was just at this crisis, however, that a number of patriotic gentlemen took counsel together and devised the plan of saving the cause by bringing about another nomination. The Cleveland ticket, headed by General Fremont, still remained in the field. Could not both
the Baltimore and Cleveland nominations be annulled and another convention be held that would restore perfect harmony and insure success? With much secrecy this political plot was matured in the city of New York, and a call prepared for signatures, inviting good, loyal people, to whom these presents might come, to send delegates to a national convention to be held at Cincinnati, on the 28th of September, for “friendly consultation,” with a view “to concentrate the Union strength on some one candidate who commands the confidence of the country, even by a new nomination if necessary.” The existence of a scheme of this kind, in which Horace Greeley, Henry Winter Davis, and some others were engaged, was not a close secret at the time, notwithstanding the care taken for concealment. Many of the more interesting details came to light twenty-five years after through the publication of numerous letters of those who were in correspondence on the subject.* Of all the gentlemen concerned, Mr. Winter Davis was probably the most ardent and not the least efficient. His real base of operations was opposition to Executive interference in reconstruction. The President had, on the 8th of July, issued a proclamation, accompanied by the text of the Davis bill, stating his reasons for withholding his approval — not particularly as a healing measure, but as a matter of justice to himself and his supporters. He had in December “propounded a plan : for restoration,” but was then, as now, not prepared “to be inflexibly committed to any single plan of restoration,” as he would be “by a formal approval of this
* In the New York Sun, June 30, 1889.
bill.” He was “also unprepared to declare that the freeState constitutions and governments already adopted and installed in Arkansas and Louisiana shall be set aside and held for nought, thereby repelling and discouraging the loyal citizens who have set up the same, as to further effort, or to declare a constitutional competency in Congress to abolish slavery in the States,” though he was “sincerely hoping and expecting that a constitutional amendment abolishing slavery throughout the nation may be adopted.” He was, however, “fully satisfied with the system for restoration contained in the bill as one very proper plan for the loyal people of any State choosing to adopt it.” Nearly a month after the publication of this proclamation, Mr. Davis, joined by Senator Wade, issued a spirited manifesto, arraigning the President in strong terms for his course in this matter, charging motives of “personal ambition,” and asserting:
A more studied outrage on the legislative authority of the people has never been perpetrated. . . . He has already exercised this dictatorial usurpation in Louisiana, and defeated the bill to prevent its limitation. . . . But he must understand that our support is of a cause and not of a man; . . . and if he wishes our support, he must confine himself to his executive duties, to obey and execute, not make laws, to suppress by arms armed rebellion, and leave political reorganization to Congress.
Already there had evidently been some degree of preconcert among those who were later actively plotting for a new convention. On the 9th of August, Lieutenant-Governor May, of Michigan, wrote to Mr. Chase, apparently on this subject, receiving no reply until August 31st, when Chase said: “No such move