Page images


Close of President Lincoln's First Term.-Order to Gen. Grant in regard to Peace Negotiations.-The Fourth of March.—Inauguration Ceremonies. Mr. Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address.- Contrasts. Cabinet Changes.-Indisposition of the President.-His Speech at the National Hotel on Negro Soldiers in the Rebel Armies.— He Visits Gen. Grant's Headquarters.-The Military Situation.— Conference with his Chief Generals.-Movement of the Forces under Meade and Sheridan.-Fighting near Dinwiddie Court House.Sheridan's Victory at the Five Forks.-Attack of Wright and Parke on the Lines before Petersburg.-The Sixth Corps Carry the Enemy's Works.-Petersburg Evacuated.-Pursuit of the Enemy.-Richmond Taken.-Dispatches of Mr. Lincoln.-The Nation's Joy.-Lee's Army Closely Pressed.-Captures at Sailor's Creek.-Surrender of Lee.Mr. Lincoln at Richmond.-His Visit to the City Point Hospital.— His Return to Washington.-Peace Rejoicings.-Speeches of Mr. Lincoln.-Important Proclamations.-Demand on Great Britain for Indemnity.--Closing Military Movements.-Reduction of the Army. Mr. Lincoln's Last Meeting with His Cabinet.-Celebration at Fort Sumter.

THE morning of the 4th of March, 1865, was dark with clouds and rain. The previous stormy night Mr. Lincoln, with the members of his Cabinet, remained at the President's room, in the north wing of the capitol, until a late hour, considering and signing bills which came thronging upon him, in the usual manner, during the closing hours of a Congress soon to be dissolved. The President had a somewhat care-worn look, but a cheerfulness of manner, manifesting itself in occasional pleasantry, or in the relation of some suggested incident or anecdote, as was his wont in his most seriously earnest moods. He had a genial word for occasional visitors, and a ready ear, as always, for whatever had any fair claim to his attention. Without a word as to the morrow, or as to the momentous hours of an eventful term of service now just

closing, his furrowed face spoke to the casual observer of sober thoughts, not unmingled with conscious satisfaction, in looking back upon the work of the four years of his unceasing watchfulness and assiduity in the service to which his country had called him. Some talked hopefully of brighter hours for the intended pageant of the coming day. To him, long used to more real and penetrating storms, the passing shadows and mists of a day seemed of no concern. More inspiring were the thoughts of an abiding calm and of the lasting sunshine of peace. But, again, he knew that with the close of the desolating strife of armed men in the field, a new struggle was to begin-one that must precede and accompany the evolution of order and repose from the chaos existing throughout the rebellious districts. For had he not clearly enunciated, four years ago, this undeniable truth: "Suppose you go to war, you can not fight always; and when, after much loss on both sides, and no gain on either, you cease fighting, the identical questions as to terms of intercourse are again upon you." In the angry commotion, excited by self-willed agitators, these persuasive words had passed unheeded. Battle had come, and had done its fearful work. The aggressors were about to yield to the national power they had defied. The "questions" at issue were already settled in part, yet much remained for the clear head, kind heart, and strong hand of the re-elected Chief Magistrate of the people.

While the President was thus waiting at the capitol, there came to the Secretary of War a telegraphic dispatch from Gen. Grant, announcing that the Rebel Gen. Lee had sought an interview with the Lieutenant-General, for the purpose of arranging terms of peace. It is now known that Lee had for several months despaired of any final success in the unholy work which he had deserted the United States Army to engage in, and that he prudently desired to end the war, accepting the best terms that could be made. This was a proposition to which Davis himself, then, as at the last moment, could only speak of with impatience. From his message to the Rebel Congress, however, it appears that the telegram to Gen. Grant, just mentioned, was sent with Davis' knowledge. He avers

that one of his Commissioners at the Hampton Roads Conference, suggested to President Lincoln that his objections to treating with the "Confederate Government," or with any State by itself, might be avoided by adopting the method sometimes employed of a military convention, to be entered into by the commanding generals of the armies of the two belligerents-almost a precise foreshadowing of the mode subsequently suggested to Gen. Sherman by Johnston and Breckinridge. This suggestion, Davis distinctly says, was not accepted by Mr. Lincoln. In the same message, Davis alleges that advances were afterward made by Gen. Ord to Longstreet, intimating the possibility of arriving at a satisfactory adjustment by means of a military convention, and that if Lec desired an interview on this subject, it would not be declined, if Lee were clothed with authority to act in the premises. He further states that Lee wrote to Gen. Grant, on the 2d of March, informing him that he was vested with the requisite authority for such negotiation.

It was Lee's letter, thus referred to, that formed the subject of Gen. Grant's dispatch to President Lincoln. This dispatch, Mr. Stanton informs us, "was submitted to Mr. Lincoln, who, after pondering a few minutes, took up his pen and wrote with his own hand the following reply, which he submitted to the Secretary of State and Secretary of War. It was then dated, addressed, and signed by the Secretary of War, and telegraphed to Gen. Grant:"

WASHINGTON, March 3, 1865, 12 P. M.

Lieutenant-General Grant:

The President directs me to say to you that he wishes you to have no conference with Gen. Lee, unless it be for the capitulation of Gen. Lee's army, or on some minor and purely military matter. He instructs me to say that you are not to decide, discuss, or confer upon any political question. Such questions the President holds in his own hands, and will submit them to no military conferences or conventions. Meantime you are to press to the utmost your military advantages. EDWIN M. STANTON, Secretary of War.

The morning of Saturday, the 4th of March, found the President again at his post at the capitol, while the world outside was still dismal with the continuing storm. Many thousands had come from far and near to witness the re-inauguration of a loved President. The condition of the skies and the streets was dismal. The procession, which would otherwise, perhaps, have surpassed any previous one in numbers and show, lost much of its attraction. Yet was there never a more numerous and sympathetic turn-out of the people at any like ceremony.

A committee to notify Mr. Lincoln, in a formal manner, of his re-election, had waited on him for that purpose, and Mr. Wilson, of Iowa, reported to the House, on the evening of the 1st of March, his response, which was in the following


Having served four years in the depths of a great and yet unended national peril, I can view this call to a second term in no wise more flattering to myself than as an expression of the public judgment that I may better finish a difficult work, in which I have labored from the first, than could any one less severely schooled to the task. In this view, and with assured reliance on that Almighty Ruler who has so graciously sustained us thus far, and with increased gratitude to the generous people for their continued confidence, I accept the renewed trust, with its yet onerous and perplexing duties and responsibilities.

As the hour of twelve arrived, and the two Houses of Congress were declared finally adjourned, the rain had ceased, and a vast throng of citizens, with battalions of soldiers, white and black, stood in front of the stand erected at the east front of the capitol, awaiting the approach of the procession from the Senate Chamber. Meanwhile, Hon. Andrew Johnson had taken the oath of office as Vice-President, in presence of the compact audience assembled on the floor and in the galleries of the Senate. The new Senate, called by the President to meet in special session for Executive business, had organized. At twenty-five minutes past twelve o'clock, Mr. Lincoln, having now closed the Presidential labors of his first term, entered

the Senate Chamber, accompanied by a committee of Senators and Representatives. The procession moved to the eastern portico in the following order: The Marshal of the District of Columbia; the Ex-Vice-President; the Supreme Court of the United States; the Sergeant-at-Arms of the Senate; the President of the United States, the President elect; the VicePresident and the Secretary of the Senate; the members of the Senate; the Diplomatic Corps; heads of Departments; Governors of States and Territories; the Mayors of Washington and Georgetown, and other persons admitted to the floor of the Senate Chamber.

As President Lincoln stepped upon the platform to address the many thousands present, the bright sunlight, hitherto obscured through all the morning, broke from the clouds, as if by miracle, and illuminated his face and form, as he bowed acknowledgment to the boisterous greeting of the people. With wonder and joy, the multitude, accepted the omen as something more than unmeaning chance. The long hours of rain and cloud were over. The city roofs and spires, the trees and lawns, the hills and woods farther away, and all the landscape around were gladdened as with the freshness of the first created light.

Standing in this presence, with a clear voice, mellowed by the emotion of the hour and by the slightly plaintive tone usually pervading his utterances, Mr. Lincoln delivered the following



At this second appearing to take the oath of the Presidential office, there is less occasion for an extended address than there was at the first. Then, a statement, somewhat in detail, of a course to be pursued, seemed fitting and proper. Now, at the expiration of four years, during which public declarations have been constantly called forth on every point and phase of the great contest which still absorbs the attention and engrosses the energies of the nation, little that is new could be presented. The progress of our arms, upon which all else chiefly depends, is as well known to the public as to myself; and it is, I trust, reasonably satisfactory and encouraging to all.


« PreviousContinue »