Page images
PDF
EPUB

of the McClellan ticket in that state, and renewed charges against the President of interfering in elections, with which he had thus refused to interfere.

No headway could be made, however, against Mr. Lincoln. The issue was too plain. Yet it is but just to say that it is doubtful whether the success of the McClellan ticket would have produced an immediate armistice. Results in a military point of view were too plainly in our hands, and the country was too thoroughly committed to the war for the re-establishment of the Union, to permit so disgraceful and ruinous a proceeding. But the democratic party had consented to place itself in the position it occupied, for the sake of winning power; and, when the people saw such men as Wood, and Long, and Pendleton, and Vallandigham, all pushing the fortunes of the democratic candidate, they lost faith in the party, and determined to support the administration, its policy, and its candidates. In the meantime, Grant, Sherman and Sheridan were leading on their victorious armies, and the political voice of these armies was almost unanimous for the republican nominees.

Before taking leave of the canvass, to record its results, it is simple justice to Mr. Lincoln to place by the side of the Tennessee case, his call for five hundred thousand men, made on the eighteenth of July, to be drafted after the fifth of September, if they should not be furnished previous to that date. His friends urged that the measure would be unpop ular, and that it might cost him his election. His reply to every representation of this kind was that the men were needed, that it was his duty to call for them, and that he should call for them, whatever the effect might be upon himself. Does any one believe that a man who could treat a great question like this so nobly and patriotically, would busy himself with small politics in Tennessee, or connive with any small politicians there, in a scheme for cheating patriotic men out of votes, for his own advantage ?

The day of election came at last, and resulted in an overwhelming majority of votes for Abraham Lincoln. Every

state that voted, except three, gave majorities for the republican candidates, and two of these three were old slave statesKentucky and Delaware. Only New Jersey among the northern states gave its vote for McClellan. West Virginia, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Louisiana supported Mr. Lincoln. The time had come, at last, of which he had spoken in Cooper Institute, more than four years before, when the republican party had ceased to be sectional, by obtaining support in the southern states. Mr. Lincoln's clear popular majority was 411,428, in a total vote of 4,015,902, which secured 212 of the 233 votes in the electoral college.

The President might well feel gratified with this result. His policy, motives, character and achievements had received the emphatic approval of the American people. “I am thankful to God for this approval of the people,” said he, on the night of his election, to a band of Pennsylvanians who had called upon him; and he added: “But, while deeply grateful for this mark of their confidence in me, if I know my heart, my gratitude is free from any taint of personal triumph. I do not impugn the motives of any one opposed to me. pleasure to me to triumph over any one; but I give thanks to the Almighty for this evidence of the people's resolution to stand by free government, and the rights of humanity.”

The election proved more than Mr. Lincoln's popularity; and this he understood. In subsequent remarks to the friendly political clubs of the District, he said: “It has demonstrated that a people's government can sustain a national election in the midst of a great civil war. Until now, it has not been known to the world that this was a possibility. It shows, also, how strong and sound we still are. * * * It shows, also, to the extent yet known, that we have more men now,

than we had when the war began. Gold is good in its place; but living, brave and patriotic men are better than gold.” To a friend he said: “Being only mortal, after all, I should have been a little mortified if I had been beaten in this canvass before the people; but that sting would have been more than compensated by the thought that the people had notified me

It is no

that all my official responsibilities were soon to be lifted off

my back.”

The election of Mr. Lincoln destroyed the last hope of the rebellion. There was to be no change of policy; and none could know better than the rebel leaders that that policy could not be long resisted. These leaders were little inclined to make peace; and it is doubtful whether their people would have permitted them to do so. They had promised their people independence; and the latter had fought with wonderful bravery and persistency for it. There was no way but to fight on, until the inevitable defeat should come.

For many days after the result of the election was known, Mr. Lincoln was burdened with congratulations; and yet, amid these disturbances, and the cares of office, which were onerous in the extreme, he found time to write the following letter:

" EXECUTIVE MANSION, Washington, Nov. 21, 1864. “Dear Madam:—I have been shown, in the files of the War Department, a statement of the Adjutant-general of Massachusetts, that you are the mother of five sons, who have died gloriously on the field of battle. I feel how weak and fruitless must be any words of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering to you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the republic they died to save. I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom. “Yours very sincerely and respectfully,

“ ABRAHAM LINCOLX. “ To Mrs. Bixby, Boston, Massachusetts."

From the day of the election to the close of the rebellion, the discordant political elements of the northern states subsided into silence and inaction. The election itself was attended with great dignity-almost, indeed, with solemnity. Men felt that they were deciding something more than a party question, and acted with reference to their responsibilities to

God and their country. The masses of the democratic party were more than satisfied with the result; and such of their leaders as were thoroughly loyal undoubtedly felt that a victory to them, under all the circumstances, would have been, in many respects, a misfortune. Among the subjects of national thanksgiving on the last Thursday in November—the day of Mr. Lincoln's appointment-certainly the result of the election was not least to be considered, or last to be remembered with devout gratitude.

CHAPTER XXVIII.

THE military operations of 1864 were of the most momentous importance. It was a year of intense activity in every đepartment; and, although there were great miscarriages and serious and perplexing disasters, the grand results were such as to show to the people of the whole country that the end was not far off, and that that end would leave the rebellion hopeless and helpless at the feet of the national power. Although the principal interest was attached to the operations of the two grand armies under Grant and Sherman, there were minor movements of subsidiary bodies, which attracted considerable attention.

Early in February, an expedition under General Gillmore's direction, for clearing Florida of insurgent forces, so as to enable the Union elements of the state to reorganize, resulted in a failure. At the same time, Sherman, proceeding from Vicksburg, with a strong infantry force, and General Smith, starting from Memphis, with a heavy force of cavalry, undertook a joint movement for the purpose of destroying rebel supplies and communications; but they failed in their plan of forming a junction, though they were quite successful in their work of destruction. Later in the month, Kilpatrick made his bold and dashing raid upon Richmond, blowing up the locks of the Kanawha canal, cutting railways and telegraphs, and penetrating within the outer defenses of the rebel capital. In March, the disastrous Red River expedition of General Banks occurred. Much damage was done to the

« PreviousContinue »