The Boys' Life of Abraham Lincoln
by Helen Nicolay
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There were others almost equally trying. There was General Fremont, who had been the Republican candidate for President in 1856. At the beginning of the war he was given a command at St. Louis and charged with the important duty of organizing the military strength of the northwest, holding the State of Missouri true to the Union, and leading an expedition down the Mississippi River. Instead of accomplishing all that had been hoped for, his pride of opinion and unwillingness to accept help or take advice from those about him, caused serious embarrassment and made unending trouble. The President's kindness and gentleness in dealing with his faults were as marked as they were useless.

There was the long line of commanders who one after the other tried and failed in the tasks allotted to them, while the country waited and lost courage, and even Mr. Lincoln's heart sank. His care and wisdom and sorrow dominated the whole long persistent struggle. That first sleepless night of his after the battle of Bull Run was but the beginning of many nights and days through which he kept unceasing watch. From the time in June, 1861, when he had been called upon to preside over the council of war that decided upon the Bull Run campaign, he devoted every spare moment to the study of such books upon the art of war as would aid him in solving the questions that he must face as Commander-in-Chief of the armies. With his quick mind and unusual power of logic he made rapid progress in learning the fixed and accepted rules on which all military writers agree. His mastery of the difficult science became so thorough, and his understanding of military situations so clear, that he has been called, by persons well fitted to judge, "the ablest strategist of the war." Yet he never thrust his knowledge upon his generals. He recognized that it was their duty, not his, to fight the battles, and since this was so, they ought to be allowed to fight them in their own way. He followed their movements with keenest interest and with a most astonishing amount of knowledge, giving a hint here, and a suggestion there, when he felt that he properly could, but he rarely gave a positive order.

There is not space to quote the many letters in which he showed his military wisdom, or his kindly interest in the welfare and success of the different generals. One of the most remarkable must however be quoted. It is the letter he wrote to General Joseph Hooker on placing him in command of the Army of the Potomac in January, 1863, after McClellan's many failures had been followed by the crushing defeat of the army under General McClellan's successor, General Burnside, at the battle of Fredericksburg, on December 13, 1862.

"I have placed you," he wrote on giving General Hooker the command, "at the head of the Army of the Potomac. Of course I have done this upon what appear to me to be sufficient reasons, and yet I think it best for you to know that there are some things in regard to which I am not quite satisfied with you. I believe you to be a brave and skilful soldier, which, of course, I like. I also believe you do not mix politics with your profession, in which you are right. You have confidence in yourself, which is a valuable, if not an indispensable quality. You are ambitious, which, within reasonable bounds, does good rather than harm; but I think that during General Burnside's command of the army you have taken council of your ambition and thwarted him as much as you could, in which you did a great wrong to the country, and to a most meritorious and honorable brother officer. I have heard, in such a way as to believe it, of your recently saying that both the army and the Government needed a dictator. Of course it was not for this, but in spite of it, that I have given you the command. Only those generals who gain successes can set up dictators. What I now ask of you is military success, and I will risk the dictatorship. The government will support you to the utmost of its ability, which is neither more nor less than it has done and will do for all commanders. I much fear that the spirit which you have aided to infuse into the army, of criticising their commander and withholding confidence from him, will now turn upon you. I shall assist you as far as I can, to put it down. Neither you nor Napoleon, if he were alive again, could get any good out of an army while such a spirit prevails in it. And now, beware of rashness. Beware of rashness, but with energy and sleepless vigilance go forward and give us victories."

Perhaps no other piece of his writing shows as this does how completely the genius of the President rose to the full height of his duties and responsibilities. From beginning to end it speaks the language and breathes the spirit of the great ruler, secure in popular confidence and in official authority.

Though so many of the great battles during the first half of the war were won by the Confederates, military successes came to the North of course from time to time. With such fine armies and such earnest generals the tide of battle could not be all one way; and even when the generals made mistakes, the heroic fighting and endurance of the soldiers and under-officers gathered honor out of defeat, and shed the luster of renown over results of barren failure. But it was a weary time, and the outlook was very dark. The President never despaired. On the most dismal day of the whole dismal summer of 1862 he sent Secretary Seward to New York with a confidential letter full of courage, to be shown such of the governors of free States as could be hastily summoned to meet him there. In it he said: "I expect to maintain this contest until successful, or till I die, or am conquered, or my term expires, or Congress or the country forsake me," and he asked for 100,000 fresh volunteers with which to carry on the war. His confidence was not misplaced. The governors of eighteen free States offered him three times the number, and still other calls for troops followed. Soon a popular song, "We are coming, Father Abraham, three hundred thousand strong," showed the faith and trust of the people in the man at the head of the Government, and how cheerfully they met the great calls upon their patriotism.

So, week after week and month after month, he faced the future, never betraying a fear that the Union would not triumph in the end, but grieving sorely at the long delay. Many who were not so sure came to him with their troubles. He was beset by night and by day by people who had advice to give or complaints to make. They besought him to dismiss this or that General, to order such and such a military movement; to do a hundred things that he, in his great wisdom, felt were not right, or for which the time had not yet come. Above all, he was implored to take some decided and far-reaching action upon slavery.


By no means the least of the evils of slavery was a dread which had haunted every southern household from the beginning of the government that the slaves might one day rise in revolt and take sudden vengeance upon their masters. This vague terror was greatly increased by the outbreak of the Civil War. It stands to the lasting credit of the negro race that the wrongs of their long bondage provoked them to no such crime, and that the war seems not to have suggested, much less started any such attempt. Indeed, even when urged to violence by white leaders, as the slaves of Maryland had been in 1859 during John Brown's raid at Harper's Ferry, they had refused to respond. Nevertheless it was plain from the first that slavery was to play an important part in the Civil War. Not only were the people of the South battling for the principle of slavery; their slaves were a great source of military strength. They were used by the Confederates in building forts, hauling supplies, and in a hundred ways that added to the effectiveness of their armies in the field. On the other hand the very first result of the war was to give adventurous or discontented slaves a chance to escape into Union camps, where, even against orders to the contrary, they found protection for the sake of the help they could give as cooks, servants, or teamsters, the information they brought about the movements of the enemy, or the great service they were able to render as guides. Practically therefore, at the very start, the war created a bond of mutual sympathy between the southern negro and the Union volunteer; and as fast as Union troops advanced and secession masters fled, a certain number found freedom in Union camps.

At some points this became a positive embarrassment to Union commanders. A few days after General Butler took command of the Union troops at Fortress Monroe in May, 1861, the agent of a rebel master came to insist on the return of three slaves, demanding them under the fugitive-slave law. Butler replied that since their master claimed Virginia to be a foreign country and no longer a part of the United States, he could not at the same time claim that the fugitive slave law was in force, and that his slaves would not be given up unless he returned and took the oath of allegiance to the United States. In reporting this, a newspaper pointed out that as the breastworks and batteries which had risen so rapidly for Confederate defense were built by slave labor, negroes were undoubtedly "contraband of war," like powder and shot, and other military supplies, and should no more be given back to the rebels than so many cannon or guns. The idea was so pertinent, and the justice of it so plain that the name "contraband" sprang at once into use. But while this happy explanation had more convincing effect on popular thought than a volume of discussion, it did not solve the whole question. By the end of July General Butler had on his hands 900 "contrabands," men, women and children of all ages, and he wrote to inquire what was their real condition. Were they slaves or free? Could they be considered fugitive slaves when their masters had run away and left them? How should they be disposed of? It was a knotty problem, and upon its solution might depend the loyalty or secession of the border slave States of Maryland, West Virginia, Kentucky and Missouri, which, up to that time, had not decided whether to remain in the Union or to cast their fortunes with the South.

In dealing with this perplexing subject. Mr. Lincoln kept in mind one of his favorite stories: the one on the Methodist Presiding Elder who was riding about his circuit during the spring freshets. A young and anxious companion asked how they should ever be able to cross the swollen waters of Fox River, which they were approaching, and the elder quieted him by saying that he made it the rule of his life never to cross Fox River until he came to it. The President, following this rule, did not immediately decide the question, but left it to be treated at the discretion of each commander. Under this theory some commanders admitted black people to their camps, while others refused to receive them. The curt formula of General Orders: "We are neither negro stealers nor negro catchers," was easily read to justify either course. Congress greatly advanced the problem, shortly after the battle of Bull Run, by passing a law which took away a master's right to his slave, when, with his consent, such slave was employed in service or labor hostile to the United States.

On the general question of slavery, the President's mind was fully made up. He felt that he had no right to interfere with slavery where slavery was lawful, just because he himself did not happen to like it; for he had sworn to do all in his power to "preserve, protect and defend" the government and its laws, and slavery was lawful in the southern States. When freeing the slaves should become necessary in order to preserve the Government, then it would be his duty to free them; until that time came, it was equally his duty to let them alone.

Twice during the early part of the war military commanders issued orders freeing slaves in the districts over which they had control, and twice he refused to allow these orders to stand. "No commanding general should do such a thing upon his responsibility, without consulting him," he said; and he added that whether he, as Commander-in-Chief, had the power to free slaves, and whether at any time the use of such power should become necessary, were questions which he reserved to himself. He did not feel justified in leaving such decisions to commanders in the field. He even refused at that time to allow Secretary Cameron to make a public announcement that the government might find it necessary to arm slaves and employ them as soldiers. He would not cross Fox River until he came to it. He would not take any measure until he felt it to be absolutely necessary.

Only a few months later he issued his first proclamation of emancipation; but he did not do so until convinced that he must do this in order to put down the rebellion. Long ago he had considered and in his own mind adopted a plan of dealing with the slavery question—the simple, easy plan which, while a member of Congress, he had proposed for the District of Columbia—that on condition of the slave-owners voluntarily giving up their slaves, they should be paid a fair price for them by the Federal government. Delaware was a slave State, and seemed an excellent place in which to try this experiment of "compensated emancipation," as it was called; for there were, all told, only 1798 slaves left in the State. Without any public announcement of his purpose he offered to the citizens of Delaware, through their representative in Congress, four hundred dollars for each of these slaves, the payment to be made, not all at once, but yearly, during a period of thirty-one years. He believed that if Delaware could be induced to accept this offer, Maryland might follow her example, and that afterward other States would allow themselves to be led along the same easy way. The Delaware House of Representatives voted in favor of the proposition, but five of the nine members of the Delaware senate scornfully repelled the "abolition bribe," as they chose to call it, and the project withered in the bud.

Mr. Lincoln did not stop at this failure, but, on March 6, 1862, sent a special message to the Senate and House of Representatives recommending that Congress adopt a joint resolution favoring and practically offering gradual compensated emancipation to any State that saw fit to accept it; pointing out at the same time that the Federal government claimed no right to interfere with slavery within the States, and that if the offer were accepted it must be done as a matter of free choice.

The Republican journals of the North devoted considerable space to discussing the President's plan, which, in the main, was favorably received; but it was thought that it must fail on the score of expense. The President answered this objection in a private letter to a Senator, proving that less than one-half day's cost of war would pay for all the slaves in Delaware at four hundred dollars each, and less than eighty-seven days' cost of war would pay for all in Delaware, Maryland, the District of Columbia, Kentucky and Missouri. "Do you doubt," he asked, that taking such a step "on the part of those States and this District would shorten the war more than eighty-seven days, and thus be an actual saving of expense?"

Both houses of Congress favored the resolution, and also passed a bill immediately freeing the slaves in the District of Columbia on the payment to their loyal owners of three hundred dollars for each slave. This last bill was signed by the President and became a law on April 16, 1862. So, although he had been unable to bring it about when a member of Congress thirteen years before, it was he, after all, who finally swept away that scandal of the "negro livery-stable" in the shadow of the dome of the Capitol.

Congress as well as the President was thus pledged to compensated emancipation, and if any of the border slave States had shown a willingness to accept the generosity of the government, their people might have been spared the loss that overtook all slave-owners on the first of January, 1863. The President twice called the representatives and senators of these States to the White House, and urged his plan most eloquently, but nothing came of it. Meantime, the military situation continued most discouraging. The advance of the Army of the Potomac upon Richmond became a retreat; the commanders in the West could not get control of the Mississippi River; and worst of all, in spite of their cheering assurance that "We are coming, Father Abraham, three hundred thousand strong," the people of the country were saddened and filled with the most gloomy forebodings because of the President's call for so many new troops.

"It had got to be midsummer, 1862," Mr. Lincoln said, in telling an artist friend the history of his most famous official act. "Things had gone on from bad to worse, until I felt that we had reached the end of our rope on the plan of operations we had been pursuing; that we had about played our last card, and must change our tactics or lose the game. I now determined upon the adoption of the emancipation policy, and without consultation with, or the knowledge of the cabinet, I prepared the original draft of the proclamation, and after much anxious thought, called a cabinet meeting upon the subject.... I said to the cabinet that I had resolved upon this step, and had not called them together to ask their advice, but to lay the subject-matter of a proclamation before them, suggestions as to which would be in order after they had heard it read."

It was on July 22 that the President read to his cabinet the draft of this first emancipation proclamation, which, after announcing that at the next meeting of Congress he would again offer compensated emancipation to such States as chose to accept it, went on to order as Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, that the slaves in all States which should be in rebellion against the government on January 1, 1863, should "then, thenceforward and forever be free."

Mr. Lincoln had given a hint of this intended step to Mr. Seward and Mr. Welles, but to all the other members of the cabinet it came as a complete surprise. One thought it would cost the Republicans the fall elections. Another preferred that emancipation should be proclaimed by military commanders in their several military districts. Secretary Seward, while approving the measure, suggested that it would better be postponed until it could be given to the country after a victory, instead of issuing it, as would be the case then, upon the greatest disasters of the war. "The wisdom of the view of the Secretary of State struck me with very great force," Mr. Lincoln's recital continues. "It was an aspect of the case that, in all my thought upon the subject, I had entirely overlooked. The result was that I put the draft of the proclamation aside, as you do your sketch for a picture, waiting for a victory."

The secrets of the administration were well kept, and no hint came to the public that the President had proposed such a measure to his cabinet. As there was at the moment little in the way of war news to attract attention, newspapers and private individuals turned a sharp fire of criticism upon Mr. Lincoln. For this they seized upon the ever-useful text of the slavery question. Some of them protested indignantly that the President was going too fast; others clamored as loudly that he had been altogether too slow. His decision, as we know, was unalterably taken, although he was not yet ready to announce it. Therefore, while waiting for a victory he had to perform the difficult task of restraining the impatience of both sides. This he did in very positive language. To a man in Louisiana, who complained that Union feeling was being crushed out by the army in that State, he wrote:

"I am a patient man, always willing to forgive on the Christian terms of repentance, and also to give ample time for repentance. Still, I must save this government if possible. What I cannot do, of course I will not do; but it may as well be understood, once for all, that I shall not surrender this game leaving any available card unplayed." Two days later he answered another Louisiana critic. "What would you do in my position? Would you drop the war where it is? Or would you prosecute it in future with elder-stalk squirts charged with rosewater? Would you deal lighter blows rather than heavier ones? Would you give up the contest leaving any available means unapplied? I am in no boastful mood. I shall not do more than I can, and I shall do all I can, to save the government, which is my sworn duty, as well as my personal inclination. I shall do nothing in malice. What I deal with is too vast for malicious dealing."

The President could afford to overlook the abuse of hostile newspapers, but he also had to meet the criticisms of over-zealous Republicans. The prominent Republican editor, Horace Greeley, printed in his paper, the "New York Tribune," a long "Open Letter," ostentatiously addressed to Mr. Lincoln, full of unjust accusations, his general charge being that the President and many army officers were neglecting their duty through a kindly feeling for slavery. The open letter which Mr. Lincoln wrote in reply is remarkable not alone for the skill with which he answered this attack, but also for its great dignity.

"As to the policy I 'seem to be pursuing,' as you say, I have not meant to leave anyone in doubt.... My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union, and what I forbear I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union. I shall do less whenever I shall believe what I am doing hurts the cause, and I shall do more whenever I shall believe doing more will help the cause. I shall try to correct errors when shown to be errors, and I shall adopt new views so fast as they shall appear to be true views. I have here stated my purpose according to my view of official duty, and I intend no modification of my oft-expressed personal wish that all men everywhere could be free."

He was waiting for victory, but victory was slow to come. Instead the Union army suffered another defeat at the second battle of Bull Run on August 30, 1862. After this the pressure upon him to take some action upon slavery became stronger than ever. On September 13 he was visited by a company of ministers from the churches of Chicago, who came expressly to urge him to free the slaves at once. In the actual condition of things he could of course neither safely satisfy them nor deny them, and his reply, while perfectly courteous, had in it a tone of rebuke that showed the state of irritation and high sensitiveness under which he was living:

"I am approached with the most opposite opinions and advice, and that by religious men, who are equally certain that they represent the Divine will.... I hope it will not be irreverent for me to say that if it is probable that God would reveal his will to others on a point so connected with my duty, it might be supposed he would reveal it directly to me.... What good would a proclamation of emancipation from me do, especially as we are now situated? I do not want to issue a document that the whole world will see must necessarily be inoperative, like the Pope's bull against the comet." "Do not misunderstand me.... I have not decided against a proclamation of liberty to the slaves; but hold the matter under advisement. And I can assure you that the subject is on my mind by day and night more than any other. Whatever shall appear to be God's will, I will do."

Four days after this interview the battle of Antietam was fought, and when, after a few days of uncertainty it was found that it could be reasonably claimed as a Union victory, the President resolved to carry out his long-matured purpose. Secretary Chase in his diary recorded very fully what occurred on that ever-memorable September 22, 1862. After some playful talk upon other matters, Mr. Lincoln, taking a graver tone, said:

"Gentlemen: I have, as you are aware, thought a great deal about the relation of this war to slavery, and you all remember that several weeks ago I read to you an order I had prepared on this subject, which, on account of objections made by some of you, was not issued. Ever since then my mind has been much occupied with this subject, and I have thought, all along, that the time for acting on it might probably come. I think the time has come now. I wish it was a better time. I wish that we were in a better condition. The action of the army against the rebels has not been quite what I should have best liked. But they have been driven out of Maryland, and Pennsylvania is no longer in danger of invasion. When the rebel army was at Frederick I determined, as soon as it should be driven out of Maryland, to issue a proclamation of emancipation, such as I thought most likely to be useful. I said nothing to anyone, but I made the promise to myself, and—[hesitating a little]—to my Maker. The rebel army is now driven out, and I am going to fulfil that promise. I have got you together to hear what I have written down. I do not wish your advice about the main matter, for that I have determined for myself. This I say, without intending anything but respect for any one of you. But I already know the views of each on this question.... I have considered them as thoroughly and carefully as I can. What I have written is that which my reflections have determined me to say. If there is anything in the expressions I use, or in any minor matter which any one of you thinks had best be changed, I shall be glad to receive the suggestions. One other observation I will make. I know very well that many others might, in this matter as in others, do better than I can; and if I was satisfied that the public confidence was more fully possessed by any one of them than by me, and knew of any constitutional way in which he could be put in my place, he should have it. I would gladly yield it to him. But, though I believe that I have not so much of the confidence of the people as I had some time since, I do not know that, all things considered, any other person has more; and however this may be, there is no way in which I can have any other man put where I am. I am here; I must do the best I can, and bear the responsibility of taking the course which I feel I ought to take."

It was in this humble spirit, and with this firm sense of duty that the great proclamation was given to the world. One hundred days later he completed the act by issuing the final proclamation of emancipation.

It has been a long-established custom in Washington for the officials of the government to go on the first day of January to the Executive Mansion to pay their respects to the President and his wife. The judges of the courts go at one hour, the foreign diplomats at another, members of Congress and senators and officers of the Army and Navy at still another. One by one these various official bodies pass in rapid succession before the head of the nation, wishing him success and prosperity in the New Year. The occasion is made gay with music and flowers and bright uniforms, and has a social as well as an official character. Even in war times such customs were kept up, and in spite of his load of care, the President was expected to find time and heart for the greetings and questions and hand-shakings of this and other state ceremonies. Ordinarily it was not hard for him. He liked to meet people, and such occasions were a positive relief from the mental strain of his official work. It is to be questioned, however, whether, on this day, his mind did not leave the passing stream of people before him, to dwell on the proclamation he was so soon to sign.

At about three o'clock in the afternoon, after full three hours of such greetings and handshakings, when his own hand was so weary it could scarcely hold a pen, the President and perhaps a dozen friends, went up to the Executive Office, and there, without any pre-arranged ceremony, he signed his name to the greatest state paper of the century, which banished the curse of slavery from our land, and set almost four million people free.


The way Mr. Lincoln signed this most important state paper was thoroughly in keeping with his nature. He hated all shams and show and pretense, and being absolutely without affectation of any kind, it would never have occurred to him to pose for effect while signing the Emancipation Proclamation or any other paper. He never thought of himself as a President to be set up before a multitude and admired, but always as a President charged with duties which he owed to every citizen. In fulfilling these he did not stand upon ceremony, but took the most direct way to the end he had in view.

It is not often that a President pleads a cause before Congress. Mr. Lincoln did not find it beneath his dignity at one time to go in person to the Capitol, and calling a number of the leading senators and representatives around him, explain to them, with the aid of a map, his reasons for believing that the final stand of the Confederates would be made in that part of the South where the seven States of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky and West Virginia come together; and strive in this way to interest them in the sad plight of the loyal people of Tennessee who were being persecuted by the Confederate government, but whose mountainous region might, with a little help, be made a citadel of Union strength in the very heart of this stronghold of rebellion.

In his private life he was entirely simple and unaffected. Yet he had a deep sense of what was due his office, and took part with becoming dignity in all official or public ceremonies. He received the diplomats sent to Washington from the courts of Europe with a formal and quiet reserve which made them realize at once that although this son of the people had been born in a log cabin, he was ruler of a great nation, and more than that, was a prince by right of his own fine instincts and good breeding.

He was ever gentle and courteous, but with a few quiet words he could silence a bore who had come meaning to talk to him for hours. For his friends he had always a ready smile and a quaintly turned phrase. His sense of humor was his salvation. Without it he must have died of the strain and anxiety of the Civil War. There was something almost pathetic in the way he would snatch a moment from his pressing duties and gravest cares to listen to a good story or indulge in a hearty laugh. Some people could not understand this. To one member of his cabinet, at least, it seemed strange and unfitting that he should read aloud to them a chapter from a humorous book by Artemus Ward before taking up the weighty matter of the Emancipation Proclamation. From their point of view it showed lack of feeling and frivolity of character, when, in truth, it was the very depth of his feeling, and the intensity of his distress at the suffering of the war, that led him to seek relief in laughter, to gather from the comedy of life strength to go on and meet its sternest tragedy.

He was a social man. He could not fully enjoy even a jest alone. He wanted somebody to share the pleasure with him. Often when care kept him awake late at night he would wander through the halls of the Executive Mansion, and coming to the room where his secretaries were still at work, would stop to read to them some poem, or a passage from Shakspere, or a bit from one of the humorous books in which he found relief. No one knew better than he what could be cured, and what must be patiently endured. To every difficulty that he could remove he gave cheerful and uncomplaining thought and labor. The burdens he could not shake off he bore with silent courage, lightening them whenever possible with the laughter that he once described as the "universal joyous evergreen of life."

It would be a mistake to suppose that he cared only for humorous reading. Occasionally he read a scientific book with great interest, but his duties left him little time for such indulgences. Few men knew the Bible more thoroughly than he did, and his speeches are full of scriptural quotations. The poem beginning "Oh, why should the spirit of mortal be proud?" was one of his favorites, and Dr. Holmes's "Last Leaf" was another. Shakespere was his constant delight. A copy of Shakespere's works was even to be found in the busy Executive Office, from which most books were banished. The President not only liked to read the great poet's plays, but to see them acted; and when the gifted actor Hackett came to Washington, he was invited to the White House, where the two discussed the character of Falstaff, and the proper reading of many scenes and passages.

While he was President, Mr. Lincoln did not attempt to read the newspapers. His days were long, beginning early and ending late, but they were not long enough for that. One of his secretaries brought him a daily memorandum of the important news they contained. His mail was so enormous that he personally read only about one in every hundred of the letters sent him.

His time was principally taken up with interviews with people on matters of importance, with cabinet meetings, conferences with his generals, and other affairs requiring his close and immediate attention. If he had leisure he would take a drive in the late afternoon, or perhaps steal away into the grounds south of the Executive Mansion to test some new kind of gun, if its inventor had been fortunate enough to bring it to his notice. He was very quick to understand mechanical contrivances, and would often suggest improvements that had not occurred to the inventor himself.

For many years it has been the fashion to call Mr. Lincoln homely. He was very tall, and very thin. His eyes were deep-sunken, his skin of a sallow pallor, his hair coarse, black, and unruly. Yet he was neither ungraceful, nor awkward, nor ugly. His large features fitted his large frame, and his large hands and feet were but right on a body that measured six feet four inches. His was a sad and thoughtful face, and from boyhood he had carried a load of care. It was small wonder that when alone, or absorbed in thought, the face should take on deep lines, the eyes appear as if seeing something beyond the vision of other men, and the shoulders stoop, as though they too were bearing a weight. But in a moment all would be changed. The deep eyes could flash, or twinkle merrily with humor, or look out from under overhanging brows as they did upon the Five Points children in kindliest gentleness. In public speaking, his tall body rose to its full height, his head was thrown back, his face seemed transfigured with the fire and earnestness of his thought, and his voice took on a high clear tenor tone that carried his words and ideas far out over the listening crowds. At such moments, when answering Douglas in the heat of their joint-debate, or later, during the years of war, when he pronounced with noble gravity the words of his famous addresses, not one in the throngs that heard him could say with truth that he was other than a handsome man.

It has been the fashion, too, to say that he was slovenly, and careless in his dress. This also is a mistake. His clothes could not fit smoothly on his gaunt and bony frame. He was no tailor's figure of a man; but from the first he clothed himself as well as his means allowed, and in the fashion of the time and place. In reading the grotesque stories of his boyhood, of the tall stripling whose trousers left exposed a length of shin, it must be remembered not only how poor he was, but that he lived on the frontier, where other boys, less poor, were scarcely better clad. In Vandalia, the blue jeans he wore was the dress of his companions as well, and later, from Springfield days on, clear through his presidency, his costume was the usual suit of black broadcloth, carefully made, and scrupulously neat. He cared nothing for style. It did not matter to him whether the man with whom he talked wore a coat of the latest cut, or owned no coat at all. It was the man inside the coat that interested him.

In the same way he cared little for the pleasures of the table. He ate most sparingly. He was thankful that food was good and wholesome and enough for daily needs, but he could no more enter into the mood of the epicure for whose palate it is a matter of importance whether he eats roast goose or golden pheasant, than he could have counted the grains of sand under the sea.

In the summers, while he was President, he spent the nights at a cottage at the Soldiers' Home, a short distance north of Washington, riding or driving out through the gathering dusk, and returning to the White House after a frugal breakfast in the early morning. Ten o'clock was the hour at which he was supposed to begin receiving visitors, but it was often necessary to see them unpleasantly early. Occasionally they forced their way to his bedroom before he had quite finished dressing. Throngs of people daily filled his office, the ante-rooms, and even the corridors of the public part of the Executive Mansion. He saw them all, those he had summoned on important business, men of high official position who came to demand as their right offices and favors that he had no right to give; others who wished to offer tiresome if well-meant advice; and the hundreds, both men and women, who pressed forward to ask all sorts of help. His friends besought him to save himself the weariness of seeing the people at these public receptions, but he refused. "They do not want much, and they get very little," he answered. "Each one considers his business of great importance, and I must gratify them. I know how I would feel if I were in their place." And at noon on all days except Tuesday and Friday, when the time was occupied by meetings of the cabinet, the doors were thrown open, and all who wished might enter. That remark of his, "I know how I would feel if I were in their place," explained it all. His early experience of life had drilled him well for these ordeals. He had read deeply in the book of human nature, and could see the hidden signs of falsehood and deceit and trickery from which the faces of some of his visitors were not free; but he knew, too, the hard, practical side of life, the hunger, cold, storms, sickness and misfortune that the average man must meet in his struggle with the world. More than all, he knew and sympathized with that hope deferred which makes the heart sick.

Not a few men and women came, sad-faced and broken-hearted, to plead for soldier sons or husbands in prison, or under sentence of death by court-martial. An inmate of the White House has recorded the eagerness with which the President caught at any fact that would justify him in saving the life of a condemned soldier. He was only merciless when meanness or cruelty were clearly proved. Cases of cowardice he disliked especially to punish with death. "It would frighten the poor devils too terribly to shoot them," he said. On the papers in the case of one soldier who had deserted and then enlisted again, he wrote: "Let him fight, instead of shooting him."

He used to call these cases of desertion his "leg cases," and sometimes when considering them, would tell the story of the Irish soldier, upbraided by his captain, who replied: "Captain, I have a heart in me breast as brave as Julius Caesar, but when I go into battle, Sor, these cowardly legs of mine will run away with me."

As the war went on, Mr. Lincoln objected more and more to approving sentences of death by court-martial, and either pardoned them outright, or delayed the execution "until further orders," which orders were never given by the great-hearted, merciful man. Secretary Stanton and certain generals complained bitterly that if the President went on pardoning soldiers he would ruin the discipline of the army; but Secretary Stanton had a warm heart, and it is doubtful if he ever willingly enforced the justice that he criticized the President for tempering with so much mercy.

Yet Mr. Lincoln could be sternly just when necessary. A law declaring the slave trade to be piracy had stood on the statute books of the United States for half a century. Lincoln's administration was the first to convict a man under it, and Lincoln himself decreed that the well-deserved sentence be carried out.

Mr. Lincoln sympathized keenly with the hardships and trials of the soldier boys, and found time, amid all his labors and cares, to visit the hospitals in and around Washington where they lay ill. His afternoon drive was usually to some camp in the neighborhood of the city; and when he visited one at a greater distance, the cheers that greeted him as he rode along the line with the commanding general showed what a warm place he held in their hearts.

He did not forget the unfortunate on these visits. A story is told of his interview with William Scott, a boy from a Vermont farm, who, after marching forty-eight hours without sleep, volunteered to stand guard for a sick comrade. Weariness overcame him, and he was found asleep at his post, within gunshot of the enemy. He was tried, and sentenced to be shot. Mr. Lincoln heard of the case, and went himself to the tent where young Scott was kept under guard. He talked to him kindly, asking about his home, his schoolmates, and particularly about his mother. The lad took her picture from his pocket, and showed it to him without speaking. Mr. Lincoln was much affected. As he rose to leave he laid his hand on the prisoner s shoulder. "My boy," he said, "you are not going to be shot to-morrow. I believe you when you tell me that you could not keep awake. I am going to trust you, and send you back to your regiment. Now, I want to know what you intend to pay for all this?" The lad, overcome with gratitude, could hardly say a word, but crowding down his emotions, managed to answer that he did not know. He and his people were poor, they would do what they could. There was his pay, and a little in the savings bank. They could borrow something by a mortgage on the farm. Perhaps his comrades would help. If Mr. Lincoln would wait until pay day possibly they might get together five or six hundred dollars. Would that be enough? The kindly President shook his head. "My bill is a great deal more than that," he said. "It is a very large one. Your friends cannot pay it, nor your family, nor your farm. There is only one man in the world who can pay it, and his name is William Scott. If from this day he does his duty so that when he comes to die he can truly say 'I have kept the promise I gave the President. I have done my duty as a soldier,' then the debt will be paid." Young Scott went back to his regiment, and the debt was fully paid a few months later, for he fell in battle.

Mr. Lincoln's own son became a soldier after leaving college. The letter his father wrote to General Grant in his behalf shows how careful he was that neither his official position nor his desire to give his boy the experience he wanted, should work the least injustice to others:

Executive Mansion,

Washington, January 19th, 1865.

Lieutenant-General Grant:

Please read and answer this letter as though I was not President, but only a friend. My son, now in his twenty-second year, having graduated at Harvard, wishes to see something of the war before it ends. I do not wish to put him in the ranks, nor yet to give him a commission, to which those who have already served long are better entitled, and better qualified to hold. Could he, without embarrassment to you, or detriment to the service, go into your military family with some nominal rank, I and not the public furnishing the necessary means? If no, say so without the least hesitation, because I am as anxious and as deeply interested that you shall not be encumbered as you can be yourself.

Yours truly,

A. Lincoln.

His interest did not cease with the life of a young soldier. Among his most beautiful letters are those he wrote to sorrowing parents who had lost their sons in battle; and when his personal friend, young Ellsworth, one of the first and most gallant to fall, was killed at Alexandria, the President directed that his body be brought to the White House, where his funeral was held in the great East Room.

Though a member of no church, Mr. Lincoln was most sincerely religious and devout. Not only was his daily life filled with acts of forbearance and charity; every great state paper that he wrote breathes his faith and reliance on a just and merciful God. He rarely talked, even with intimate friends, about matters of belief, but it is to be doubted whether any among the many people who came to give him advice and sometimes to pray with him, had a better right to be called a Christian. He always received such visitors courteously, with a reverence for their good intention, no matter how strangely it sometimes manifested itself. A little address that he made to some Quakers who came to see him in September, 1862, shows both his courtesy to them personally, and his humble attitude toward God.

"I am glad of this interview, and glad to know that I have your sympathy and prayers. We are indeed going through a great trial, a fiery trial. In the very responsible position in which I happen to be placed, being a humble instrument in the hands of our Heavenly Father as I am, and as we all are, to work out His great purposes, I have desired that all my works and acts may be according to His will, and that it might be so I have sought His aid; but if, after endeavoring to do my best in the light which he affords me, I find my efforts fail, I must believe that for some purpose unknown to me, He wills it otherwise. If I had had my way, this war would never have been commenced. If I had been allowed my way, this war would have been ended before this; but we find it still continues, and we must believe that He permits it for some wise purpose of His own, mysterious and unknown to us; and though with our limited understandings we may not be able to comprehend it, yet we cannot but believe that He who made the world still governs it."

Children held a warm place in the President's affections. He was not only a devoted father; his heart went out to all little folk. He had been kind to babies in his boyish days, when, book in hand, and the desire for study upon him, he would sit with one foot on the rocker of a rude frontier cradle, not too selfishly busy to keep its small occupant lulled and content, while its mother went about her household tasks. After he became President many a sad-eyed woman carrying a child in her arms went to see him, and the baby always had its share in gaining her a speedy hearing, and if possible a favorable answer to her petition.

When children came to him at the White House of their own accord, as they sometimes did, the favors they asked were not refused because of their youth. One day a small boy, watching his chance, slipped into the Executive Office between a governor and a senator, when the door was opened to admit them. They were as much astonished at seeing him there as the President was, and could not explain his presence; but he spoke for himself. He had come, he said, from a little country town, hoping to get a place as page in the House of Representatives. The President began to tell him that he must go to Captain Goodnow, the doorkeeper of the House, for he himself had nothing to do with such appointments. Even this did not discourage the little fellow. Very earnestly he pulled his papers of recommendation out of his pocket, and Mr. Lincoln, unable to resist his wistful face, read them, and sent him away happy with a hurried line written on the back of them, saying: "If Captain Goodnow can give this good little boy a place, he will oblige A. Lincoln."

It was a child who persuaded Mr. Lincoln to wear a beard. Up to the time he was nominated for President he had always been smooth-shaven. A little girl living in Chautauqua County, New York, who greatly admired him, made up her mind that he would look better if he wore whiskers, and with youthful directness wrote and told him so. He answered her by return mail:

Springfield, ILL., Oct. 19, 1860.

Miss Grace Bedelt,

My dear little Miss: Your very agreeable letter of the fifteenth is received. I regret the necessity of saying I have no daughter. I have three sons, one seventeen, one nine, and one seven years of age. They, with their mother, constitute my whole family. As to the whiskers, never having worn any, do you not think people would call it a piece of silly affectation if I were to begin now?

Your very sincere well-wisher,

A. Lincoln.

Evidently on second thoughts he decided to follow her advice. On his way to Washington his train stopped at the town where she lived. He asked if she were in the crowd gathered at the station to meet him. Of course she was, and willing hands forced a way for her through the mass of people. When she reached the car Mr. Lincoln stepped from the train, kissed her, and showed her that he had taken her advice.

The Secretary who wrote about the President's desire to save the lives of condemned soldiers tells us that "during the first year of the administration the house was made lively by the games and pranks of Mr. Lincoln's two younger children, William and Thomas. Robert the eldest was away at Harvard, only coming home for short vacations. The two little boys, aged eight and ten, with their western independence and enterprise, kept the house in an uproar. They drove their tutor wild with their good-natured disobedience. They organized a minstrel show in the attic; they made acquaintance with the office-seekers and became the hot champions of the distressed. William was, with all his boyish frolic, a child of great promise, capable of close application and study. He had a fancy for drawing up railway time-tables, and would conduct an imaginary train from Chicago to New York with perfect precision. He wrote childish verses, which sometimes attained the unmerited honors of print. But this bright, gentle and studious child sickened and died in February, 1862. His father was profoundly moved by his death, though he gave no outward sign of his trouble, but kept about his work, the same as ever. His bereaved heart seemed afterwards to pour out its fulness on his youngest child. 'Tad' was a merry, warm-blooded, kindly little boy, perfectly lawless, and full of odd fancies and inventions, the 'chartered libertine' of the Executive Mansion." He ran constantly in and out of his father's office, interrupting his gravest labors. Mr. Lincoln was never too busy to hear him, or to answer his bright, rapid, imperfect speech, for he was not able to speak plainly until he was nearly grown. "He would perch upon his father's knee, and sometimes even on his shoulder, while the most weighty conferences were going on. Sometimes, escaping from the domestic authorities, he would take refuge in that sanctuary for the whole evening, dropping to sleep at last on the floor, when the President would pick him up, and carry him tenderly to bed."

The letters and even the telegrams Mr. Lincoln sent his wife had always a message for or about Tad. One of them shows that his pets, like their young master, were allowed great liberty. It was written when the family was living at the Soldiers' Home, and Mrs. Lincoln and Tad had gone away for a visit. "Tell dear Tad," he wrote, "that poor Nanny Goat is lost, and Mrs. Cuthbert and I are in distress about it. The day you left, Nanny was found resting herself and chewing her little cud on the middle of Tad's bed; but now she's gone! The gardener kept complaining that she destroyed the flowers, till it was concluded to bring her down to the White House. This was done, and the second day she had disappeared and has not been heard of since. This is the last we know of poor Nanny."

Tad was evidently consoled by, not one, but a whole family of new goats, for about a year later Mr. Lincoln ended a business telegram to his wife in New York with the words: "Tell Tad the goats and Father are very well." Then, as the weight of care rolled back upon this greathearted, patient man, he added, with humorous weariness, "especially the goats."

Mr. Lincoln was so forgetful of self as to be absolutely without personal fear. He not only paid no attention to the threats which were constantly made against his life, but when, on July 11, 1864, the Confederate General Early appeared suddenly and unexpectedly before the city with a force of 17,000 men, and Washington was for two days actually in danger of assault and capture, his unconcern gave his friends great uneasiness. On the tenth he rode out, as was his custom, to spend the night at the Soldiers' Home, but Secretary Stanton, learning that Early was advancing, sent after him, to compel his return. Twice afterward, intent upon watching the fighting which took place near Fort Stevens, north of the city, he exposed his tall form to the gaze and bullets of the enemy, utterly heedless of his own peril; and it was not until an officer had fallen mortally wounded within a few feet of him, that he could be persuaded to seek a place of greater safety.


In the summer of 1863 the Confederate armies reached their greatest strength. It was then that, flushed with military ardor, and made bold by what seemed to the southern leaders an unbroken series of victories on the Virginia battlefields, General Lee again crossed the Potomac River, and led his army into the North. He went as far as Gettysburg in Pennsylvania; but there, on the third of July, 1863, suffered a disastrous defeat, which shattered forever the Confederate dream of taking Philadelphia and dictating peace from Independence Hall. This battle of Gettysburg should have ended the war, for General Lee, on retreating southward, found the Potomac River so swollen by heavy rains that he was obliged to wait several days for the floods to go down. In that time it would have been quite possible for General Meade, the Union commander, to follow him and utterly destroy his army. He proved too slow, however, and Lee and his beaten Confederate soldiers escaped. President Lincoln was inexpressibly grieved at this, and in the first bitterness of his disappointment sat down and wrote General Meade a letter. Lee "was within your easy grasp," he told him, "and to have closed upon him would, in connection with our other late successes, have ended the war. As it is, the war will be prolonged indefinitely. ... Your golden opportunity is gone and I am distressed immeasurably because of it." But Meade never received this letter. Deeply as the President felt Meade's fault, his spirit of forgiveness was so quick, and his thankfulness for the measure of success that had been gained, so great, that he put it in his desk, and it was never signed or sent.

The battle of Gettysburg was indeed a notable victory, and coupled with the fall of Vicksburg, which surrendered to General Grant on that same third of July, proved the real turning-point of the war. It seems singularly appropriate, then, that Gettysburg should have been the place where President Lincoln made his most beautiful and famous address. After the battle the dead and wounded of both the Union and Confederate armies had received tender attention there. Later it was decided to set aside a portion of the battlefield for a great national military cemetery in which the dead found orderly burial. It was dedicated to its sacred use on November 19, 1863. At the end of the stately ceremonies President Lincoln rose and said:

"Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

"Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

"But in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate—we cannot consecrate—we cannot hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion; that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

With these words, so brief, so simple, so full of reverent feeling, he set aside the place of strife to be the resting place of heroes, and then went back to his own great task—for which he, too, was to give "the last full measure of devotion."

Up to within a very short time little had been heard about Ulysses S. Grant, the man destined to become the most successful general of the war. Like General McClellan, he was a graduate of West Point; and also like McClellan, he had resigned from the army after serving gallantly in the Mexican war. There the resemblance ceased, for he had not an atom of McClellan's vanity, and his persistent will to do the best he could with the means the government could give him was far removed from the younger general's faultfinding and complaint. He was about four years older than McClellan, having been born on April 27, 1822. On offering his services to the War Department in 1861 he had modestly written: "I feel myself competent to command a regiment if the President in his judgment should see fit to intrust one to me." For some reason this letter remained unanswered, although the Department, then and later, had need of trained and experienced officers. Afterward the Governor of Illinois made him a colonel of one of the three years' volunteer regiments; and from that time on he rose in rank, not as McClellan had done, by leaps and bounds, but slowly, earning every promotion. All of his service had been in the West, and he first came into general notice by his persistent and repeated efforts to capture Vicksburg, on whose fall the opening of the Mississippi River depended. Five different plans he tried before he finally succeeded, the last one appearing utterly foolhardy, and seeming to go against every known rule of military science. In spite of this it was successful, the Union army and navy thereby gaining control of the Mississippi River and cutting off forever from the Confederacy a great extent of rich country, from which, up to that time, it had been drawing men and supplies.

The North was greatly cheered by these victories, and all eyes were turned upon the successful commander. No one was more thankful than Mr. Lincoln. He gave Grant quick promotion, and crowned the official act with a most generous letter. "I do not remember that you and I ever met personally," he wrote. "I write this now as a grateful acknowledgement for the almost inestimable service you have done the country. I wish to say a word further." Then, summing up the plans that the General had tried, especially the last one, he added: "I feared it was a mistake. I now wish to make the personal acknowledgement that you were right and I was wrong."

Other important battles won by Grant that same fall added to his growing fame, and by the beginning of 1864 he was singled out as the greatest Union commander. As a suitable reward for his victories it was determined to make him Lieutenant-General. This army rank had, before the Civil War, been bestowed on only two American soldiers—on General Washington, and on Scott, for his conquest of Mexico. In 1864 Congress passed and the President signed an act to revive the grade, and Grant was called to Washington to receive his commission. He and Mr. Lincoln met for the first time at a large public reception held at the Executive Mansion on the evening of March 8. A movement and rumor in the crowd heralded his approach, and when at last the short, stocky, determined soldier and the tall, care-worn, deep-eyed President stood face to face the crowd, moved by a sudden impulse of delicacy, drew back, and left them almost alone to exchange a few words. Later, when Grant appeared in the great East Room, the enthusiasm called forth by his presence could no longer be restrained, and cheer after cheer went up, while his admirers pressed about him so closely that, hot and blushing with embarrassment, he was forced at last to mount a sofa, and from there shake hands with the eager people who thronged up to him from all sides.

The next day at one o'clock the President, in the presence of the cabinet and a few other officials, made a little speech, and gave him his commission. Grant replied with a few words, as modest as they were brief, and in conversation afterward asked what special duty was required of him. The President answered that the people wanted him to take Richmond, and asked if he could do it. Grant said that he could if he had the soldiers, and the President promised that these would be furnished him. Grant did not stay in Washington to enjoy the new honors of his high rank, but at once set about preparations for his task. It proved a hard one. More than a year passed before it was ended, and all the losses in battle of the three years that had gone before seemed small in comparison with the terrible numbers of killed and wounded that fell during these last months of the war. At first Grant had a fear that the President might wish to control his plans, but this was soon quieted; and his last lingering doubt on the subject vanished when, as he was about to start on his final campaign, Mr. Lincoln sent him a letter stating his satisfaction with all he had done, and assuring him that in the coming campaign he neither knew, for desired to know, the details of his plans. In his reply Grant confessed the groundlessness of his fears, and added, "Should my success be less than I desire and expect, the least I can say is, the fault is not with you."

He made no complicated plan for the problem before him, but proposed to solve it by plain, hard, persistent fighting. "Lee's army will be your objective point," he instructed General Meade. "Where Lee goes there you will go also." Nearly three years earlier the opposing armies had fought their first battle of Bull Run only a short distance north of where they now confronted each other. Campaign and battle between them had swayed to the north and the south, but neither could claim any great gain of ground or of advantage. The final struggle was before them. Grant had two to one in numbers; Lee the advantage in position, for he knew by heart every road, hill and forest in Virginia, had for his friendly scout every white inhabitant, and could retire into prepared fortifications. Perhaps the greatest element of his strength lay in the conscious pride of his army that for three years it had steadily barred the way to Richmond. To offset this there now menaced it what had always been absent before—the grim, unflinching will of the new Union commander, who had rightly won for himself the name of "Unconditional Surrender" Grant.

On the night of May 4, 1864, his army entered upon the campaign which, after many months, was to end the war. It divided itself into two parts. For the first six weeks there was almost constant swift marching and hard fighting, a nearly equally matched contest of strategy and battle between the two armies, the difference being that Grant was always advancing, and Lee always retiring. Grant had hoped to defeat Lee outside of his fortifications, and early in the campaign had expressed his resolution "to fight it out on this line if it takes all summer"; but the losses were so appalling, 60,000 of his best troops melting away in killed and wounded during the six weeks, that this was seen to be impossible. Lee's army was therefore driven into its fortifications around the Confederate capital and then came the siege of Richmond, lasting more than nine months, but pushed forward all that time with relentless energy, in spite of Grant's heavy losses.

In the West, meanwhile, General William T. Sherman, Grant's closest friend and brother officer, pursued a task of almost equal importance, taking Atlanta, Georgia, which the Confederates had turned into a city of foundries and workshops for the manufacture and repair of guns; then, starting from Atlanta, marching with his best troops three hundred miles to the sea, laying the country waste as they went; after which, turning northward, he led them through South and North Carolina to bring his army in touch with Grant.

Against this background of fighting the life of the country went on. The end of the war was approaching, surely, but so slowly that the people, hoping for it, and watching day by day, could scarcely see it. They schooled themselves to a dogged endurance, but there was no more enthusiasm. Many lost courage. Volunteering almost ceased, and the government was obliged to begin drafting men to make up the numbers of soldiers needed by Grant in his campaign against Richmond.

The President had many things to dishearten him at this time, many troublesome questions to settle. For instance, there were new loyal State governments to provide in those parts of the South which had again come under control of the Union armies—no easy matter, where every man, woman and child harbored angry feelings against the North, and no matter how just and forbearing he might be, his plans were sure to be thwarted and bitterly opposed at every step.

There were serious questions, too, to be decided about negro soldiers, for the South had raised a mighty outcry against the Emancipation Proclamation, especially against the use of the freed slaves as soldiers, vowing that white officers of negro troops would be shown small mercy, if ever they were taken prisoners. No act of such vengeance occurred, but in 1864 a fort manned by colored soldiers was captured by the Confederates, and almost the entire garrison was put to death. Must the order that the War Department had issued some time earlier, to offset the Confederate threats, now be put in force? The order said that for every negro prisoner killed by the Confederates a Confederate prisoner in the hands of the Union armies would be taken out and shot. It fell upon Mr. Lincoln to decide. The idea seemed unbearable to him, yet, on the other hand, could he afford to let the massacre go unavenged and thus encourage the South in the belief that it could commit such barbarous acts and escape unharmed? Two reasons finally decided him against putting the order in force. One was that General Grant was about to start on his campaign against Richmond, and that it would be most unwise to begin this by the tragic spectacle of a military punishment, however merited. The other was his tender-hearted humanity. He could not, he said, take men out and kill them in cold blood for crimes committed by other men. If he could get hold of the persons who were guilty of killing the colored prisoners in cold blood, the case would be different; but he could not kill the innocent for the guilty. Fortunately the offense was not repeated, and no one had cause to criticize his clemency.

Numbers of good and influential men, dismayed at the amount of blood and treasure that the war had already cost, and disheartened by the calls for still more soldiers that Grant's campaign made necessary, began to clamor for peace—were ready to grant almost anything that the Confederates chose to ask. Rebel agents were in Canada professing to be able to conclude a peace. Mr. Lincoln, wishing to convince these northern "Peace men" of the groundlessness of their claim, and of the injustice of their charges that the government was continuing the war unnecessarily, sent Horace Greeley, the foremost among them, to Canada, to talk with the self-styled ambassadors of Jefferson Davis. Nothing came of it, of course, except abuse of Mr. Lincoln for sending such a messenger, and a lively quarrel between Greeley and the rebel agents as to who was responsible for the misunderstandings that arose.

The summer and autumn of 1864 were likewise filled with the bitterness and high excitement of a presidential campaign; for, according to law, Mr. Lincoln's successor had to be elected on the "Tuesday after the first Monday" of November in that year. The great mass of Republicans wished Mr. Lincoln to be reelected. The Democrats had long ago fixed upon General McClellan, with his grievances against the President, as their future candidate. It is not unusual for Presidents to discover would-be rivals in their own cabinets. Considering the strong men who formed Mr. Lincoln's cabinet, and the fact that four years earlier more than one of them had active hopes of being chosen in his stead, it is remarkable that there was so little of this.

The one who developed the most serious desire to succeed him was Salmon P. Chase, his Secretary of the Treasury. Devoted with all his powers to the cause of the Union, Mr. Chase was yet strangely at fault in his judgment of men. He regarded himself as the friend of Mr. Lincoln, but nevertheless held so poor an opinion of the President's mind and character, compared with his own, that he could not believe people blind enough to prefer the President to himself. He imagined that he did not want the office, and was anxious only for the public good; yet he listened eagerly to the critics of the President who flattered his hopes, and found time in spite of his great labors to write letters to all parts of the country, which, although protesting that he did not want the honor, showed his entire willingness to accept it. Mr. Lincoln was well aware of this. Indeed, it was impossible not to know about it, though he refused to hear the matter discussed or to read any letters concerning it. He had his own opinion of the taste displayed by Mr. Chase, but chose to take no notice of his actions. "I have determined," he said, "to shut my eyes, so far as possible, to everything of the sort. Mr. Chase makes a good Secretary, and I shall keep him where he is. If he becomes President, all right. I hope we may never have a worse man," and he not only kept him where he was, but went on appointing Chase's friends to office.

There was also some talk of making General Grant the Republican candidate for President, and an attempt was even made to trap Mr. Lincoln into taking part in a meeting where this was to be done. Mr. Lincoln refused to attend, and instead wrote a letter of such hearty and generous approval of Grant and his army that the meeting naturally fell into the hands of Mr. Lincoln's friends. General Grant, never at that time or any other, gave the least encouragement to the efforts which were made to array him against the President. Mr. Lincoln, on his part, received all warnings to beware of Grant in the most serene manner, saying tranquilly, "If he takes Richmond, let him have it." It was not so with General Fremont. At a poorly attended meeting held in Cleveland he was actually nominated by a handful of people calling themselves the "Radical Democracy," and taking the matter seriously, accepted, although, three months later, having found no response from the public, he withdrew from the contest.

After all, these various attempts to discredit the name of Abraham Lincoln caused hardly a ripple on the great current of public opinion, and death alone could have prevented his choice by the Republican national convention. He took no measures to help on his own candidacy. With strangers he would not talk about the probability of his reelection; but with friends he made no secret of his readiness to continue the work he was engaged in if such should be the general wish. "A second term would be a great honor and a great labor; which together, perhaps, I would not decline," he wrote to one of them. He discouraged officeholders, either civil or military, who showed any special zeal in his behalf. To General Schurz, who wrote asking permission to take an active part in the campaign for his reelection, he answered: "I perceive no objection to your making a political speech when you are where one is to be made; but quite surely, speaking in the North and fighting in the South at the same time are not possible, nor could I be justified to detail any officer to the political campaign... and then return him to the army."

He himself made no long speeches during the summer, and in his short addresses, at Sanitary Fairs, in answer to visiting delegations, and on similar occasions where custom and courtesy obliged him to say a few words, he kept his quiet ease and self-command, speaking heartily and to the point, yet avoiding all the pitfalls that beset the candidate who talks.

When the Republican national convention came together in Baltimore on June 7, 1864, it had very little to do, for its delegates were bound by rigid instructions to vote for Abraham Lincoln.

He was chosen on the first ballot, every State voting for him except Missouri, whose representatives had been instructed to vote for Grant. Missouri at once changed its vote, and the secretary of the convention read the grand total of 506 for Lincoln, his announcement being greeted by a storm of cheers that lasted several minutes.

It was not so easy to choose a Vice-President. Mr. Lincoln had been besieged by many people to make known his wishes in the matter, but had persistently refused. He rightly felt that it would be presumptuous in him to dictate who should be his companion on the ticket, and, in case of his death, his successor in office. This was for the delegates to the convention to decide, for they represented the voters of the country. He had no more right to dictate who should be selected than the Emperor of China would have had. It is probable that Vice-President Hamlin would have been renominated, if it had not been for the general feeling both in and out of the convention that, under all the circumstances, it would be wiser to select some man who had been a Democrat, and had yet upheld the war. The choice fell upon Andrew Johnson of Tennessee, who was not only a Democrat, but had been appointed by Mr. Lincoln military governor of Tennessee in 1862.

The Democrats at first meant to have the national convention of their party meet on the fourth of July; but after Fremont had been nominated at Cleveland and Lincoln at Baltimore, they postponed it to a later date, hoping that something in the chapter of accidents might happen to their advantage. At first it appeared as if this might be the case. The outlook for the Republicans was far from satisfactory. The terrible fighting and great losses of Grant's army in Virginia had profoundly shocked and depressed the country. The campaign of General Sherman, who was then in Georgia, showed as yet no promise of the brilliant results it afterward attained. General Early's sudden raid into Maryland, when he appeared so unexpectedly before Washington and threatened the city, had been the cause of much exasperation; and Mr. Chase, made bitter by his failure to receive the coveted nomination for President, had resigned from the cabinet. This seemed, to certain leading Republicans, to point to a breaking up of the government. The "Peace" men were clamoring loudly for an end of the war; and the Democrats, not having yet formally chosen a candidate, were free to devote all their leisure to attacks upon the administration.

Mr. Lincoln realized fully the tremendous issues at stake. He looked worn and weary. To a friend who urged him to go away for a fortnight's rest, he replied, "I cannot fly from my thoughts. My solicitude for this great country follows me wherever I go. I do not think it is personal vanity or ambition, though I am not free from these infirmities, but I cannot but feel that the weal or woe of this great nation will be decided in November. There is no program offered by any wing of the Democratic party but that must result in the permanent destruction of the Union."

The political situation grew still darker. Toward the end of August the general gloom enveloped even the President himself. Then what he did was most original and characteristic. Feeling that the campaign was going against him, he made up his mind deliberately the course he ought to pursue, and laid down for himself the action demanded by his strong sense of duty. He wrote on August 23 the following memorandum: "This morning, as for some days past, it seems exceedingly probable that this administration will not be reelected. Then it will be my duty to so cooperate with the President-elect as to save the Union between the election and the inauguration, as he will have secured his election on such ground that he cannot possibly save it afterward."

He folded and pasted the sheet of paper in such a way that its contents could not be seen, and as the cabinet came together handed it to each member successively, asking him to write his name across the back of it. In this peculiar fashion he pledged himself and his administration to accept loyally the verdict of the people if it should be against them, and to do their utmost to save the Union in the brief remainder of his term of office. He gave no hint to any member of his cabinet of the nature of the paper thus signed until after his reelection.

The Democratic convention finally came together in Chicago on August 29. It declared the war a failure, and that efforts ought to be made at once to bring it to a close, and nominated General McClellan for President McClellan's only chance of success lay in his war record. His position as a candidate on a platform of dishonorable peace would have been no less desperate than ridiculous. In his letter accepting the nomination, therefore, he calmly ignored the platform, and renewed his assurances of devotion to the Union, the Constitution, and the flag of his country. But the stars in their courses fought against him. Even before the Democratic convention met, the tide of battle had turned. The darkest hour of the war had passed, and dawn was at hand, and amid the thanksgivings of a grateful people, and the joyful salute of great guns, the real presidential campaign began. The country awoke to the true meaning of the Democratic platform; General Sherman's successes in the South excited the enthusiasm of the people; and when at last the Unionists, rousing from their midsummer languor, began to show their faith in the Republican candidate, the hopelessness of all efforts to undermine him became evident.


The presidential election of 1864 took place on November 8. The diary of one of the President's secretaries contains a curious record of the way the day passed at the Executive Mansion. "The house has been still and almost deserted. Everybody in Washington and not at home voting seems ashamed of it, and stays away from the President. While I was talking with him to-day he said: 'It is a little singular that I, who am not a vindictive man, should always have been before the people for election in canvasses marked for their bitterness. Always but once. When I came to Congress it was a quiet time; but always besides that the contests in which I have been prominent have been marked with great rancor.'"

Early in the evening the President made his way through rain and darkness to the War Department to receive the returns. The telegrams came, thick and fast, all pointing joyously to his reelection. He sent the important ones over to Mrs. Lincoln at the White House, remarking, "She is more anxious that I am." The satisfaction of one member of the little group about him was coupled with the wish that the critics of the administration might feel properly rebuked by this strong expression of the popular will. Mr. Lincoln looked at him in kindly surprise. "You have more of that feeling of personal resentment than I," he said. "Perhaps I have too little of it, but I never thought it paid. A man has not time to spend half his life in quarrels. If any man ceases to attack me, I never remember the past against him." This state of mind might well have been called by a higher name than "lack of personal resentment."

Lincoln and Johnson received a popular majority of 411,281, and 212 out of 233 electoral votes—only those of New Jersey, Delaware and Kentucky, twenty-one in all, being cast for McClellan.

For Mr. Lincoln this was one of the most solemn days of his life. Assured of his personal success, and made devoutly confident by the military victories of the last few weeks that the end of the war was at hand, he felt no sense of triumph over his opponents. The thoughts that filled his mind found expression in the closing sentences of the little speech that he made to some serenaders who greeted him in the early morning hours of November 9, as he left the War Department to return to the White House:

"I am thankful to God for this approval of the people; but while deeply grateful for this mark of their confidence in me, if I know my heart, my gratitude is free from any taint of personal triumph.... It is no pleasure to me to triumph over anyone, but I give thanks to the Almighty for this evidence of the people's resolution to stand by free government and the rights of humanity."

Mr. Lincoln's inauguration for his second term as President took place at the time appointed, on March 4, 1865. There is little variation in the simple but impressive pageantry with which the ceremony is celebrated. The principal novelty commented on by the newspapers was the share which the people who had up to that time been slaves, had for the first time in this public and political drama. Associations of negro citizens joined in the procession, and a battalion of negro soldiers formed part of the military escort. The central act of the occasion was President Lincoln's second inaugural address, which enriched the political literature of the nation with another masterpiece. He said:

"Fellow-countrymen: 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. With high hope for the future, no prediction in regard to it is ventured.

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