Page images
PDF
EPUB

“Mr. President,” said William Barnard, “you will remember that Queen Esther, when she was going before Ahasuerus, relied upon divine assistance."

“Yes; and I, too, feel the need of divine assistance. I have sometimes thought I might be an instrument in the hands of God for accomplishing a great work, and I certainly am not unwilling to be. Perhaps, however, God's way of accomplishing the end may not be your way. It will be my endeavor, with a firm reliance upon the divine arm, to do my duty in the place to which I am called." ( ")

The President knew the people were beginning to distrust him. Charles Sumner, Senator from Massachusetts, was receiving letters from his friends, who said the President was not meeting the expectations of those who had elected him. He knew how true Mr. Lincoln was to his convictions. “If you are disposed to be impatient,” wrote Mr. Sumner to a friend, “at any seeming shortcoming, think, I pray you, of what he has done in a brief period, and from the past discern the promise of the future.” (")

General Lee prepared to move against McClellan. The Union army was divided.

He determined to fall upon the portion north of the Chickahominy and sever its railroad connections with York June 26, River. A series of battles followed the first at Gaines's Mill

and Cold Harbor, the last at Malvern Hill, on the banks of the James. (See “Drum-beat of the Nation.")

A heart - sickening, irritating despatch came (June 28th) from General McClellan to the Secretary of War:

* I am not responsible for this; and I say it with the earnestness of a general who feels in his heart the loss of every brave man who has been needlessly sacrificed to-day. I still hope to retrieve our fortunes, but to do this the Government must view the matter in the same earnest light that I do. You must send me very large reinforcements, and send them at once. I shall draw back to this side of the Chickahominy, and think I can withdraw all our material. Please understand that in this battle we have lost nothing but men, and those the best we have.

“In addition to what I have already said, I only wish to say to the President that I think he is wrong in regarding me as ungenerous when I said that my force was too weak. I merely intimated a truth which to-day has been too plainly proved. If, at this instant, I could dispose of ten thousand fresh men, I could gain a victory tomorrow. I know that a few thousand more men would have changed this battle from a defeat to a victory. As it is, the Government must not and cannot hold me responsible for the result.

“I feel too earnestly to-night. I have seen too many dead and wounded comrades to feel otherwise than that the Government has not sustained this army. If you do not do so now the game is lost.

"If I save this army now, I tell you plainly that I owe no thanks to you or to any other person in Washington. You have done your best to sacrifice this army.”

1862.

Three days later (July 1st) McClellan telegraphed:

“I need fifty thousand more men.

With them we will retrieve our fortunes."

Mr. Lincoln sent the following reply:

"It is impossible to reinforce you for present emergency. If we had a million men we could not get them to you in time. We have not the men to send. If you are not strong enough to face the enemy, you must find a place of security, and wait, rest, and repair.”

The President, anticipating disaster, and believing the people would sustain him, sent Secretary Seward to New York to arrange for calling out several hundred thousand men. Messages went over the wires to the Governors of all the loyal States. Quick and encouraging responses came from John A. Andrew, of Massachusetts; William A. Buckingham, of Connecticut; (“) Edwin D. Morgan, of New York;("') Andrew G. Curtin, of Pennsylvania ;() William Dennison, of Ohio; ('') and other chief magistrates. Each replied by telegraph that his State would cheerfully respond to the call of the President. The people had WILLIAM A. BUCKINGHAM. not lost faith in the Administration.

War Governor of Connecticut.) The President was greatly encouraged by the replies of the Governors. On July 2d he sent the following despatch to McClellan :

[graphic]

“ The idea of sending you fifty thousand, or any considerable force promptly, is absurd. If, in your frequent mention of responsibility, you have the impression that I blame you for not doing more than you can, please be relieved of such impression. I only beg that in like manner you will not ask impossibilities of me. If you think you are not strong enough to take Richmond just now, I do not ask you to try just now.

Save the army material and personnel, and I will strengthen it for the offensive again as fast as I can. The Governors of eighteen States offer me a new levy of three hundred thousand, which I accept."

The thought that so large a force was to be raised stimulated McClellan to ask that 100,000 be sent to him:

“To accomplish the great task of capturing Richmond and putting an end to the Rebellion, reinforcements should be sent me, rather much over than much less than one hundred thousand men. I beg that you will be fully impressed by the magnitude of the crisis in which we are placed.”

The army was at Harrison's Landing, protected by gunboats. The campaign for the capture of Richmond was over. It had been undertaken against the judgment of the President, who had seen that the Confederate army would be stronger at Richmond than at Centreville. It would have been easier for McClellan to strike a blow near Washington than in the enemy's country. No blow had been given; the Confederates had done the striking. The army still numbered more than 100,000. It was inactive and dispirited. There were rivalries and jealousies among the officers and a decline in discipline.

General McClellan, forgetting he was only commander of an army, and the President his commander-in-chief, wrote a long letter, instruct

ing Mr. Lincoln as to what ought and ought not to be done in July 7.

political affairs. “Let neither military disorder," it read, "political faction, nor foreign war shake your settled purpose to enforce the equal operation of the laws of the United States upon the people of

every State.”

The communication was offensive by its dictatorial tone. It informed Mr. Lincoln that a declaration of radical views in relation to slavery would rapidly disintegrate the army.

The President knew his powers and responsibilities under the Constitution, and did not need instruction from any general. No notice was taken of the letter. He visited the army, and was affectionately received by the soldiers. General McClellan had no plan. With a heavy

heart Mr. Lincoln returned to Washington. Shall we wonder that July 8.

he was depressed in spirit? The people had expected great things from the Army of the Potomac, but it had accomplished nothing. The tide of success which marked the opening of the campaign in the West was offset by the failure in the East. The “Copperheads,” as they were called—the men who opposed the war-rejoiced over the state of affairs. “You never can conquer the South,” they said. Many who had supported Mr. Lincoln began to question whether he had any serious intention of interfering with slavery. He had taken no notice of the action of McClellan when in West Virginia, or of Halleck in Missouri, excluding slaves from the lines of the Union armies.

On the other hand, he had set aside the proclamations of Fremont and that of Hunter, giving freedom to the slaves in their military departments. Very

[graphic][merged small]

few people comprehended the President's position. He had appealed to the members of Congress from the border Slave States to take action towards abolishing slavery in their respective States. Their indifference cut him to the heart. He would make one more effort. He would invite them to the White House and address them personally. Very earnest his appeal:

“The incidents of war cannot be avoided. If it continues, as it must if the object is not soon attained, the institution in your States will be extinguished by mere friction and abrasion. It will be gone, and you will have nothing valuable in lieu of it. Much of its value is gone already. ... How much better for you as seller, and the nation as buyer, to sell out and buy out that without which the war could never have been, than to sink both the thing to be sold and the price of it in cutting one another's throats !... I am pressed with a difficulty not yet mentioned-one which threatens division among those who, united, are none too strong. An instance is known to you. General Hunter is an honest man. He was, and I hope still is, my friend. I value him none the less for his agreeing with me in the general wish that all men everywhere could be free. He proclaimed all men free in certain States, and I repudiated the proclamation. He expected more good and less harm from the measure than I could believe would follow. Yet in repudiating it I gave dissatisfaction, if not offence, to many whose support the country cannot afford to lose. And this is not the end of it. The pressure in this direction is still upon me and is increasing. By conceding what now I ask, you can relieve me, and much more-even relieve the country in this important point. ... As you would perpetuate popular government for the best people in the world, I beseech you that you do not omit this.

“Our common country is in great peril, demanding the loftiest views and boldest action to bring speedy relief. Once relieved, its form of government is saved to the world, its beloved history and cherished memories are vindicated, and its happy future fully assured and rendered immeasurably grand. To you, more than to others, the privilege is given to assure that happiness and swell that grandeur, and to link your names therewith forever.”

What the President thus earnestly asked them to do was to vote a sum of money for purchasing the slaves in their respective States sufficient to fully compensate the owners. A majority submitted an elaborate reply. They thought freeing the slaves would not terminate the war or tend to restore the Union. So deeply concerned was the President that he drafted a bill for carrying out his plans, but a majority of the members from the border States regarded it as of no more value than a piece of blank paper. They maintained that under the constitutions of the States and under the Constitution of the United States they had a right to hold slaves, and they were not ready to give it up

Nine of the gentlemen were ready to co-operate with him in carrying out his plan, but with only a minority in favor of it nothing could be done.

It was Sunday. A day calm and peaceful, a mournful day to Secretary Stanton. Death had come to his home and taken an infant from the parents' arms.

The President and Secretaries Seward July 13.

and Welles were riding together in the funeral procession. The President broke the silence. He spoke of the disaster to the Army of the Potomac; the state of public opinion; the power of the Rebellion. He had given much thought to the question of issuing a Proclamation of Emancipation.

“ I have about come to the conclusion,” he said, “ that it is a military necessity, essential for the salvation of the nation. This is the first time I have ever mentioned it to any one. What do you think of it?"

« PreviousContinue »