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hours later. At this time Hooker received a disabling wound and retired, Meade succeeding to the command of the First Corps, and Sumner assuming the chief direction on the right. Sedgwick, severely wounded, was temporarily succeeded by Howard; Richardson, whose division had gained decided advantages, was killed, and Hancock succeeded him in command.
At I o'clock all the ground gained from the enemy had been lost, and Hooker's men had fallen back to the ground where they camped the night before. One of the main struggles had been for the possession of a cornfield and of the woods beyond (near the Dunker church), alternately gained and lost, until the open grounds were covered with dead and wounded of intermingled blue and gray. The three corps — Hooker, Mansfield, Sumner — had been engaged along a semicircular line a mile and a half in arc. Without fresh help the day might well have seemed lost at 1 o'clock; but just then Franklin arrived on the ground; Smith, with a bold dash, led his division quite across the fatal cornfield and into the woods beyond. Slocum's division came up directly after, and the important ground regained was firmly held to the last.
Burnside on the left had not crossed the bridge before him until after noon; and he was then two or three hours in gaining the heights from which his guns were to be made available and his infantry advance to the attack. These purposes had not been accomplished when he was heavily assailed by new forces, and driven back for a distance down the slope. A. P. Hill's division had arrived from Harper's Ferry, and the action in
this quarter, ending without glory to Burnside, kept open a line of retreat for the Confederates. Porter's reserve was given no part in the main affairs of the day.
Darkness arrested what seemed like an unfinished battle. McClellan reported his own losses in killed as 2,010, the wounded and missing bringing up the total to 12,467. The Confederates lost, according to War Records, 1,512 killed, and 7,816 wounded. Lee had a clearer sense of defeat than McClellan had of victory. The next day was given by the latter to burying the dead and caring for the wounded. More Union troops were meanwhile arriving. McClellan had ordered an attack at daylight on the 19th, but the enemy was found to have departed, securely crossing the Potomac near Shepherdstown.
Emancipation — Preliminary Proclamation.
Returning by steamboat from his visit to the Army of the Potomac at Harrison's Landing, the President had many hours for undisturbed meditation. The campaign against Richmond had ended in bitter disappointment. The war was assuming a magnitude quite beyond his earlier anticipations, and another large levy of soldiers had become necessary. The time was evidently at hand when he must use every means permissible to the Commander-in-chief in making war. He saw the possible advantages to be gained by radical and summary dealing with the vulnerable system at the base of the Southern Confederacy as clearly as any of his supporters, without losing sight, as some of them seemed to do, of the difficulties and entanglements in which such a policy might involve him. He abhorred slavery, and would gladly have ended it at once had that depended on his personal feeling or his sense of justice. But official obligation was paramount to individual inclination. It was a question of statesmanship he was now considering. Would a decree of emancipation, as a war expedient, make the Government stronger or weaker? Abolitionists and radical men were among his most earnest friends; they were formidable in numbers and
in their power of influencing public opinion at home through oratory, literature, journalism; and would not a bold anti-slavery advance gain favor with all people abroad? On the other hand, Union slave-owners, the controlling class in the Border Southern States, were also a power not to be lightly regarded; nor could conservative men in general be ignored. The commander of the Army of the Potomac had just written plainly his opinion that slavery should not be meddled with by the army, unless to preserve order, - that is, to protect it,except in the incidental and unavoidable way already in vogue; and he was but the mouthpiece of a formidable Opposition party about to contest in earnest for the possession of the Government.
How the President reasoned with himself on the subject during the memorable trip may be fairly inferred from his own words to an interviewing committee a few weeks later. The conclusion at which he arrived appears in the fact that before leaving the steamer he had completed the rough draft of his September proclamation, announcing the policy of Emancipation.* Once promulgated, its maintenance would be an inseparable element of the contest for the Union. As a mere paper manifesto, without being made an express motive in the war, and without the support of military success, it must, as he appropriately said, “necessarily be inoperative, like the Pope's bull against the comet.” Those who quoted the apt comparison as showing that he had no faith in its efficacy when he issued the proclamation, altogether
* This was later stated to the writer by President Lincoln, as noted at the time.
misconstrued his meaning, as the context in a conversation that will presently be given) plainly shows. The document was prepared to be used on what might seem to him the first fitting occasion, not expected to be remote.
One of the first to be taken into his confidence in this matter, after his return to Washington, was VicePresident Hamlin, to whom he submitted the proclamation as originally written, and who warmly approved the measure.
The President invited a conference with the Border State Congressmen almost immediately (July 12th), as before related, to urge them, without declaring his purpose, to prepare for the coming change. Only a few of the members responded with a timely appreciation of the President's regard for the interests of their constituents. At an earlier day he had recommended, and both houses had adopted, a resolution declaring in favor of Government aid, in the way of compensation for slaves, to any State that should voluntarily relinquish slavery. He now went further, sending to Congress, on the 14th of July, a draft of a bill to give legal effect to this expression. The bill would almost certainly have become a law, had the Border State members sustained it with anything like unanimity, or had not a large share of them, on the contrary, actually opposed its passage. But the opportunity was lost, never to return.
To individual members of his Cabinet, the President spoke of his purpose in regard to emancipation as early as the 13th of July, and especially to Mr. Seward, who appears to have regarded it with positive disfavor. About the ist of August, the proposed proclamation was brought to the notice of the assembled Cabinet.