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“Is General McClellan in ?” he asked.
“He is, Mr. President,” the reply of a lieutenant. Several minutes passed, during which the only sound breaking the painful silence was the clicking of the telegraph.
“Will you please walk this way, Mr. President ?” said the lieutenant, returning from McClellan's apartment. A few minutes later, Mr. Lincoln, with his head bowed upon
his breast, his hands clasped to his heart, shuffling, tottering, reeling as if beneath a staggering blow, moved once more through the room. Never before had I seen such anguish on a human countenance as upon his face. He stumbled, but did not fall. He walked towards the White House, carrying not only the burden of the nation, but unspeakable private grief—the intelligence of the disaster at Ball's Bluff, and the death of his old-time friend, Colonel Edward Dickinson Baker. (See " Drum-beat of the Nation,” p. 117.) Very dear had been their friendship. They had practised law together in Springfield,“ ridden the circuit" side by side till the outbreak of the war with Mexico, in which Baker served as colonel. He had been elected Senator from Oregon. When the Rebellion began he raised a regiment at his own expense in New York and Pennsylvania. President Lincoln offered to make him a brigadier-general, but the offer was declined. I recalled a scene in the Senate a few weeks before his death. Senator Breckinridge, Vice-president under Buchanan, was bitterly opposing the prosecution of the war.
“War is separation; it is disunion-eternal disunion," he said. At this moment Colonel Baker, wearing his uniform, entered the chamber. He had not resigned his senatorship. He did not intend to remain, or notice what was going on, but stood for a moment as if riveted to the spot, then deliberately seated himself and looked into the face of the former Vice-president.
“We have,” Breckinridge went on,“ separation now; it will be worse as the war goes on. In addition to the moans and cries of widows and orphans, you will hear the cry of distress for the wants and comforts of life. ... The Pacific slope is now devoted, doubtless, to the Union; but if you increase the burdens of taxation, will they remain? You already see New England and the great North-west in a measure divided. Fight twelve months and you will have three confederacies, and a little longer and you will have four."
Colonel Baker arose. “ Mr. President,” he said, “what words are these? What their meaning? Are they not words of brilliant, polished treason? What would have been thought if, in another capital, another republic, in a yet more martial age, a Senator as grave— not more eloquent or dignified than the Senator from Kentucky, yet with the Roman purple flowing over his shoulders—had risen in his place, surrounded by all the illustrations of Roman glory, and declared that advancing Hannibal was just, and that Carthage ought to be dealt with in terms of peace? What would have been thought if, after the battle of Cannæ, a Senator had then risen in his place and denounced every levy of the Roman people, every expenditure of its treasure, and every appeal to the old recollections and the old glories?”
A voice was heard—that of William Pitt Fessenden, of Maine: “He would have been hurled from the Tarpeian Rock.”
“Does not the Senator from Kentucky know," continued Baker, “that every word he has uttered will be an inspiration to every Confederate ear? For myself, I have no such words to utter. For me, amid temporary defeat, disaster, disgrace, it seems that my duty calls me to utter another word—a word for bold, sudden, forward, determined war, according to the laws of war, advancing with all the past glories of the republic urging us on.”
“I warn Southern gentlemen," said Thaddeus Stevens, of Pennsylvania, " that if this war continues there will be a time when it will be declared a free nation, that every bondman of the South belonging to rebels—I confine it to them–shall be called upon to aid us in a war against their masters and to restore the Union."
Colonel Baker had obeyed the orders of his superior officer in an ill-planned movement resulting in disaster. A few hours after witnessing the agony of President Lincoln, I stood beside the body of the fallen commander, and beheld his face peaceful in death, and recalled the lines he had composed “ To a Wave:”
“ Dost thou seek a star with thy swelling crest
O Wave, that leavest thy mother's breast ?
“I too am a wave on the stormy sea ;
In Missouri and Virginia slaves were flocking to the Union Army. No argument was needed to convince them the war was being waged on their account—that the Stars and Stripes was the banner of freedom. They were ready to act as guides, use the spade and shovel,
drive teams, cook for officers and soldiers. We shall see as this biography goes on the gradual growth of the idea that slavery had caused the war, that it was in a great degree the strength of the Rebellion, and must be annihilated.
Senator Trumbull, of Illinois, introduced a bill in Congress which gave freedom to all slaves used by the rebels in carrying on the war. Senator Breckinridge, of Kentucky, and other members from the border Slave States opposed it. Those who advocated its passage said slaves were constructing fortifications, driving teams, and doing the drudgery in the Confederate armies without pay. It was the expectation of their freedom that led them to steal away from their cabins at night and enter the Union lines. The bill became a law.
General Fremont, () who had been Republican candidate for President in 1856, was military commander in Missouri, and proclaimed martial law, declaring slaves of rebels to be free men. The proclamation was hailed with joy by those who wanted to see slavery at once swept from the land, but it gave great offence to those who were prosecuting the war solely for the preservation of the Union. General Fremont had assumed an authority not conferred upon him by Congress, and the President was obliged to inform him and the public that the proclamation must be set aside. This act of President Lincoln was severely denounced by those who demanded the immediate abolition of slavery, and who saw only one phase of the struggle. There was another side which the President saw, and he made it very plain in a letter to one of his friends :
“ The proclamation is simply dictatorship. It assumes that a general may do anything he pleases-confiscate the lands and free the slaves of loyal people, as well as disloyal ones. ... I cannot assume this reckless position, nor allow others to assume it on my responsibility. ... What I object to is that as President I shall expressly or impliedly seize and exercise the legislative function of government. ... No doubt the thing was popular in some quarters. The Kentucky Legislature would not budge till the proclamation was modified, and General Anderson telegraphed me that on the news of General Fremont having actually issued deeds of manumission, a whole company of our volunteers threw down their arms and disbanded. I was so amazed to think that the very arms we had furnished Kentucky would be turned against us. I think that to lose Kentucky is nearly to lose the whole game. Kentucky gone, we cannot hold Missouri, nor, as I think, Maryland. These all against us, and the job on our hands is too large for us. On the contrary, if you will give up your restlessness for new positions and back me up manfully on the grounds upon which you and other kind friends gave me the election, we shall go through triumphantly."
The man whom divine Providence had called to be ruler of the nation knew that great ideas are of slow growth, and so, undisturbed by clamor of friend or foe, he chose the course which seemed to him best adapted for the ultimate welfare of the nation.
The setting aside of Fremont's proclamation marshalled Kentucky on the side of the Union, for which her sons were ready to lay down their lives. They had not advanced far enough to comprehend that slavery must be eradicated, root and branch, before there could be a restored Union. Only by the logic of events would they be able to understand it, and acquiesce in the edict which would give freedom to the slave.
A fleet of war-ships sailed from Fortress Monroe under the command of Admiral Dupont, also a large number of steamers carrying 12,000 soldiers under General W. T. Sherman. The captain of each vessel received a letter which he was not to open till after passing Capes Charles and Henry. None on board the fleet except Admiral Dupont and General Sherman knew their destination, but the morning after the fleet sailed, Mr. Benjamin, Confederate Secretary of War, was able to send a telegram to Governor Pickens, of South Carolina, informing him that it was bound for Port Royal. Confederate spies in Washington had furnished the information.
It was seen that the navy must have a harbor where the vessels blockading Charleston and Savannah could obtain coal and make re
pairs. The Confederates had erected two forts to defend itSept. 29.
Fort Walker, on Hilton Head, and Fort Beauregard, on the opposite shore. Fifty-two heavy cannon had been mounted.
Admiral Dupont had thirteen vessels. The frigate Wabash led in the attack, followed by the Susquehanna and the gunboats. The forts opened fire, but with little effect, the guns not being well aimed. Round and round in an ellipse sailed the ships, sending such a storm of shells into the forts that the troops soon fled in consternation. The fleet steamed on to Beaufort, from which the white inhabitants precipitately fled. When the gunboats reached the town the slaves were having a saturnalia: drinking costly wines and helping themselves to whatever suited their fancy. They did not run from the Union soldiers, but welcomed them as friends. So once more the old flag was waving in South Carolina, to the great joy of President Lincoln and the loyal people of the country.
The sympathy of England was seen at the beginning of the war by the haste with which the British Government recognized the Confederacy as a belligerent power. Jefferson Davis appointed James M. Mason, of Virginia, Minister to England, and John Slidell, of Louisiana,