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They would cover it with iron, and transform the frigate into a vessel more powerful than any craft afloat.
Mr. Gustavus V. Fox, who had accepted the position of Assistant Secretary of the Navy, called upon the President. 66 We must not let the rebels get ahead of us in such an important matter as plating vessels with iron," said Mr. Lincoln. (*)
“ Naval officers doubt the stability of armored ships. They think that the amount of iron needed to make them effective would send them to the bottom," said Mr. Fox.
“Is not that a sum in arithmetic? On our Western rivers we can figure how many tons will sink a flat-boat. Can't your clerks do the same for an armored vessel ???
“ I suppose they can; but there are other difficulties. With such a weight a single shot piercing the armor would sink the vessel so quickly that no one could escape," said Mr. Fox.
“Now, as the very object of the armor is to get something that the best projectile cannot pierce, that objection does not appear to be sound,” Mr. Lincoln replied.
Mr. Fox was greatly impressed, and an investigation for building iron-clad vessels was begun at once. A few weeks later Captain Ericsson exhibited some plans of a craft, the like of which had never been seen—a hull wholly below water, carrying a revolving iron-clad turret. President Lincoln, after hearing the explanation of Ericsson and looking over the plans, remarked, “ As the darkey said in putting on his boot and finding a thistle in it, “I reckon dars someting in dar.'” o
The plans were accepted. The result was seen at Hampton Roads eight months later, The memorable battle between the Merrimac and the Monitor revolutionized naval architecture.
The great crowd of place-hunters increased. Every morning they flocked to the White House to gain an audience with the Presidenteach applicant with his package of recommendations—to be postmaster in some country town, or a consul to a foreign port, or some position as agent for the purchase of supplies. The President, with all the great questions of the hour pressing upon him, did not lose his patience with this swarm of gadflies. With unfailing humor he brushed them away.
“I am like a man who is busy letting rooms at one end of his house, which is on fire at the other end,” he said. ("')
Not feeling well, he sent for a physician. “You are having a mild attack of the small-pox,” said the doctor.
“ Tell all the office-seekers to come at once, for now I have something that I can give them,” the President gleefully replied. (")
Two applicants for a post-office came with their packages of recommendations signed by ministers, doctors, selectmen, and citizens generally.
“Put them on the scales and see which is the heaviest. The one which weighs the most gets it,” said the President. He did not doubt that both were qualified for the position.
Many of the officers in the army, especially those educated at West Point, were very conservative in their views of slavery. They were ready to fight to maintain the Union, but did not desire there should be any interference with slavery. General George B. McClellan, appointed by the Governor of Ohio to command the troops from that State sent to West Virginia, issued a proclamation to the people of that section.
“Understand one thing clearly," he said. “Not only will we abstain from all interference with your slaves, but we will, on the contrary, crush with an iron hand any attempt at insurrection on their
No occasion had arisen for his giving expression to such a sentiment. There was no sign of an uprising of the slaves against their masters. It indicated his desire to protect slavery. The Vice-president of the Confederacy, Alexander H. Stephens, had said that African slavery was " the corner-stone of the Confederacy.” The great majority of those who supported Mr. Lincoln knew the slave-holders brought about the war; they did not relish the uncalled-for expression by McClellan.
General Benjamin F. Butler, in command at Fortress Monroe, took a far different view of the question. A slave named Luke, who had been working upon Confederate fortifications, escaped to the Union lines. His master, Colonel Mallory, came to reclaim bim.
“There is no authority for sending Luke back to his master,” said Captain Tyler, a subordinate officer.
“How so?” Butler asked.
“ The case is this,” Tyler replied. “Luke's master sent him to be employed in constructing the Confederate fortifications. That made Luke contraband of war, and liable to be confiscated to the United States in case he should ever be found in our lines. His master cannot claim him, because he is only property. The United States cannot hold him, because, as a government, we do not recognize slavery as a national institution. Luke is free, and never can again be legally a slave.”
General Butler was a lawyer. He was quick to comprehend the statement. The time had come when he could strike a blow at the corner-stone of the Confederacy.
“I am greatly embarrassed,” he wrote to the Secretary of War, " by the number of slaves that are coming in from the surrounding country and seeking protection within the lines of my camp. I have determined to regard them as contraband of war, and to employtheir labor at a fair compensation, against which should be charged their support.” “ The Government approves of your course," replied the Secretary.
"You are not to interfere between master and slave on the one May 30.
hand, nor surrender slaves who may come within your lines.” Under the decision of General Butler the “corner-stone” began to crumble. We have seen that the President did not believe in the sud
den and immediate abolition of slavery. He thought it would not be well for the country. We shall see further on how time and the sequence of events enabled him at the right time to abolish slavery.”
Sad news came to the President from Chicago: the death of Senator Douglas, his old political opponent, yet his hearty supporter
in the crucial hour at the June 3.
beginning of the war. Ву his patriotic action Douglas had turned the great multitude of his followers to the support of Mr. Lincoln.
Once more Congress was in session, called by the President. During all the turmoil, commotion, and the consideration of great questions,
he found time to write a July 4.
message detailing the events from the time of his inauguration. He asked for an army of 400,000 men and for $400,000,000. They
were granted. The pulse of the DOUGLAS MONUMENT.
country was beating high. More than 30,000 troops had gathered at Washington - men who were to serve three months. Another large army had gathered at Harper's Ferry. “On to Richmond !” the cry.
A like activity in the South had organized two large Confederate armies: one at the Manassas Junction, under Beauregard; one in the Shenandoah Valley, under General Johnston. The Confederates had been swept out of West Virginia and Missouri. Eastern Tennessee had declared for the Union. President Lincoln earnestly desired to send a body of troops to aid in holding that section of the State. Judge Robertson and another gentleman hastened to Washington to protest against the marching of Union troops across Kentucky. The President heard what they had to say: That Kentucky must be neutral. If Union troops were to enter the State, Confederates would do the same. Both parties must be kept out.
“Gentlemen,” said Mr. Lincoln, “my position in regard to your State is like that of the man who one night found that a rattlesnake had crawled into bed where his children were sleeping. What should he do? Leave the snake to bite the children the moment they stirred ? If he struck a blow it might kill them. He could not leave them to certain death. He must strike, even if in so doing he were to kill them. So it is with me. I know Kentucky and Tennessee are infested with the enemies of the Union, but I know that there are thousands of patriots in both, who will be persecuted even unto death unless the strong hand of the Government is interposed for their protection and rescue. We must go in. The old flag must be carried into Tennessee at whatever hazard."
At heart the gentlemen were Secessionists, and went home greatly chagrined over the result of their mission. ("")
The term of service of many regiments would expire before the end of July. The time had come for a movement of the troops. The Northern people expected to see the army under Beauregard swept aside, the Union soldiers marching into Richmond, and Jefferson Davis fleeing southward. President Lincoln did not share in the general enthusiasm. Through life he had accustomed himself to look at both sides of a case. In his law practice he had endeavored to see what his opponent could do, and to shape his own course accordingly. He knew there was little difference between the men of the North and the South; that both were brave, both would fight, both endure.
The advance, the battle, the stealing away of Johnston from the Shenandoah, the failure of Patterson to prevent the junction of Johnston with Beauregard, the arrival of Johnston's last brigade when the battle was going against Beauregard, the panic of the Union troops, their
drifting back to Washington, is given in the history of the war. July 19.
(See “Drum-beat of the Nation.") No one in Washington-official or private citizen—could feel more keenly than the President the mortification of the disaster.
Mr. Lincoln saw that General Scott was too old and feeble to organize a great army. Whom should he appoint? General McDowell had been defeated. General Patterson had failed to accomplish what was expected of him. The only officer who had won distinction was General McClellan, in command of the Ohio troops in West Virginia. General Rosecrans, in command of a brigade, planned and executed a movement at Laurel Mountain, resulting in victory which had been much glorified by McClellan's despatch:
Garnett and forces routed. His army demolished. Garnett killed. We have annihilated the enemy in Western Virginia. Have lost thirteen killed and not more than forty wounded. We have killed in all at least two hundred of the enemy, and the prisoners will amount to at least one thousand. Have taken seven guns in all. The troops defeated are the crack troops of Eastern Virginia, aided by Georgians, Tennesseeans, and Carolinians. Our success is complete, and secession is killed in this country.” (13)
It was such a bulletin as Napoleon was accustomed to issue to awaken enthusiasm. The despatch brought McClellan prominently into notice. He was looked upon as a great commander. By the advice of General Scott, the President called him to Washington to organize the troops arriving in that city and make preparations for a vigorous campaign.
He established his headquarters in an elegant mansion and appointed a large staff. His coming, however, did not diminish the troubles. experienced by the President, but increased them.
McClellan informed General Scott there were 100,000 Confederate troops at Manassas, and urged that all available regiments be hurried to Washington regardless of other localities. He wanted a very large section of the Northern States merged into one department and placed under his own control. (") He intimated to the President that General Scott was remiss in his duties and incompetent to command. (16) venerable lieutenant-general could not condescend to reply to a letter which he regarded as very offensive and insulting. lle asked the President to retire him from further service.
Mr. Lincoln endeavored to restore amicable relations between the