Another interesting incident occurred at this Cabinet meeting in connection with Secretary Seward. The President had written the important part of the proclamation in these words: "That on the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever FREE; and the Executive Government of the United States, including the military and naval authority thereof, will recognize the freedom of such persons, and will do no act or acts to repress such persons, or any of them, in any efforts they may make for their actual freedom." "When I finished reading this paragraph," remarked Lincoln, "Mr. Seward stopped me, and said, 'I think, Mr. President, that you should insert after the word "recognize" "and maintain."' I replied that I had already fully considered the import of that expression in this connection, but I had not introduced it, because it was not my way to promise what I was not entirely sure that I could perform, and I was not prepared to say that I thought we were exactly able to maintain this. But Seward insisted that we ought to take this ground, and the words finally went in."
The special Cabinet meeting to which Lincoln here refers was one of uncommon interest even in that day of heroic things. An account of it is given by Secretary Welles, who was present. "At the Cabinet meeting of September 22," says Mr. Welles in his Diary, "the special subject was the Proclamation for emancipating the slaves after a certain date, in States that shall then be in rebellion. For several weeks the subject has been suspended, but the President says never lost sight of. In taking up the Proclamation, the President stated that the question was finally decided, the act and the consequences were his, but that he felt it due to us to make us acquainted with the fact and to invite criticism on the paper which he had prepared. There were, he had found, not unexpectedly, some differences in the Cabinet, but he had, after ascertaining in his own way the views of each and all, individually and collectively, formed his own conclusions and made his own decisions. In the course of the discussion on this paper, which was long, earnest, and, on the general principle involved, harmonious, he remarked that he had made a vow, a covenant, that if God gave us the victory in the approaching battle, he would consider it an indication of Divine will, and that it was his duty to move forward in the cause of emancipation. It might be thought strange, he said, that he had in this way submitted the disposal of important matters when the way was not clear to his mind what he should do. God had decided his questions in favor of the slaves. He was satisfied it was right; and he was confirmed and strengthened in his action by the vow and the results. His mind was fixed, his decision made, but he wished his paper announcing his course to be as correct in terms as it could be made without any change in his determination. He read the document. One or two unimportant amendments suggested by Seward were approved. It was then handed to the Secretary of State to publish to-morrow."
The discussion of Emancipation brought up at once the problem of what should be done with the freed negroes. The very next day after the preliminary proclamation was issued (September 23, 1862), the President presented the matter to the assembled Cabinet. Deportation was considered, and some of those present urged that this should be compulsory. The President, however, would not consider this; the emigration of the negroes, he said, must be voluntary, and without expense to themselves. It was proposed to deport the freedmen to Costa Rica, where a large tract of land (known as the Chiriqui Grant) had been obtained from the government of Central America. Lincoln favored this in a general way. He "thought it essential to provide an asylum for a race which we had emancipated but which could never be recognized or admitted to be our equals," says Mr. Welles. But there was some doubt as to the validity of the title to the Costa Rica lands, and the matter was dropped.
In his second annual message to Congress, transmitted to that body in December, 1862, Lincoln touched, in conclusion, upon the great subject of Emancipation, in these words of deep import:
I do not forget the gravity which should characterize a paper addressed to the Congress of the nation by the Chief Magistrate of the nation. Nor do I forget that some of you are my seniors, nor that many of you have more experience than I in the conduct of public affairs. Yet I trust that in view of the great responsibility resting upon me, you will perceive no want of respect to yourselves in any undue earnestness I may seem to display.... The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew.
Fellow citizens, we cannot escape history. We of this Congress and this administration will be remembered in spite of ourselves. No personal significance, or insignificance, can spare one or another of us. The fiery trial through which we pass will light us down, in honor or dishonor, to the latest generation. We say we are for the Union. The world will not forget that we say this. We know how to save the Union. The world knows we do know how to save it. We—even we here—hold the power and bear the responsibility. In giving freedom to the slave we assure freedom to the free—honorable alike in what we give and what we preserve. We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best hope of earth. Other means may succeed, this could not fail. The way is plain, peaceful, generous, just—a way which, if followed, the world will forever applaud, and God must forever bless.
An immense concourse attended the reception at the White House on the first day of 1863, and the President stood for several hours shaking hands with the endless train of men and women who pressed forward to greet him. The exhausting ceremonial being ended, the proclamation which finally and forever abrogated the institution of slavery in the United States was handed to him for his signature. "Mr. Seward," remarked the President, "I have been shaking hands all day, and my right hand is almost paralyzed. If my name ever gets into history, it will be for this act, and my whole soul is in it. If my hand trembles when I sign the proclamation, those who examine the document hereafter will say I hesitated." Then, resting his arm a moment, he turned to the table, took up the pen, and slowly and firmly wrote, ABRAHAM LINCOLN. He smiled as, handing the paper to Mr. Seward, he said, "That will do." A few hours after, he remarked: "The signature looks a little tremulous, for my hand was tired; but my resolution was firm. I told them in September that if they did not return to their allegiance I would strike at this pillar of their strength. And now the promise shall be kept, and not one word of it will I ever recall."
The text of the great Emancipation Proclamation is as follows:
Whereas, on the 22d day of September, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-two, a proclamation was issued by the President of the United States, containing, among other things, the following, to-wit:
That on the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, all persons held as slaves within any States or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward and forever free; and the Executive Government of the United States, including the military and naval authority thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons, and will do no act or acts to repress such persons, or any of them, in any efforts they may make for their actual freedom.
That the Executive will, on the first day of January aforesaid, by proclamation, designate the States and parts of States, if any, in which the people thereof respectively shall then be in rebellion against the United States; and the fact that any State, or the people thereof, shall on that day be in good faith represented in the Congress of the United States, by members chosen thereto at elections wherein a majority of the qualified voters of such State shall have participated, shall, in the absence of strong countervailing testimony, be deemed conclusive evidence that such State, and the people thereof, are not then in rebellion against the United States.
Now, therefore, I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, by virtue of the power in me vested as Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States in time of actual armed rebellion against the authority and Government of the United States, and as a fit and necessary war measure for suppressing said rebellion, do, on this first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and in accordance with my purpose so to do, publicly proclaimed for the full period of one hundred days, from the day first above mentioned, order and designate as the States and parts of States wherein the people thereof respectively are this day in rebellion against the United States, the following, to-wit: Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana (except the parishes of St. Bernard, Plaquemines, Jefferson, St. John, St. Charles, St. James, Ascension, Assumption, Terre Bonne, Lafourche, Ste. Marie, St. Martin, and Orleans, including the city of New Orleans), Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia (except the forty-eight counties designated as West Virginia, and also the counties of Berkeley, Accomac, Northampton, Elizabeth City, York, Princess Anne, and Norfolk, including the cities of Norfolk and Portsmouth), and which excepted parts are for the present left precisely as if this proclamation were not issued.
And by virtue of the power and for the purpose aforesaid, I do order and declare that all persons held as slaves within said designated States and parts of States are and henceforward shall be FREE; and that the Executive Government of the United States, including the military and naval authorities thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of said persons.
And I hereby enjoin upon the people so declared to be free to abstain from all violence, unless in necessary self-defense; and I recommend to them that, in all cases when allowed, they labor faithfully for reasonable wages.
And I further declare and make known that such persons, of suitable condition, will be received into the armed service of the United States to garrison forts, positions, stations, and other places, and to man vessels of all sorts in said service.
And upon this act, sincerely believed to be an act of justice, warranted by the Constitution, upon military necessity, I invoke the considerate judgment of mankind and the gracious favor of Almighty God.
In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my name, and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.
Done at the City of Washington, this first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the independence of the United States the eighty-seventh.
By the President: ABRAHAM LINCOLN.
WILLIAM H. SEWARD, Secretary of State.
It is stated that Lincoln gave the most earnest study to the composition of the Emancipation Proclamation. He realized, as he afterwards said, that the proclamation was the central act of his administration and the great event of the nineteenth century. When the document was completed a printed copy of it was placed in the hands of each member of the Cabinet, and criticisms and suggestions were invited. Mr. Chase remarked: "This paper is of the utmost importance, greater than any state paper ever made by this Government. A paper of so much importance, and involving the liberties of so many people, ought, I think, to make some reference to Deity. I do not observe anything of the kind in it." Lincoln said: "No, I overlooked it. Some reference to Deity must be inserted. Mr. Chase, won't you make a draft of what you think ought to be inserted?" Mr. Chase promised to do so, and at the next meeting presented the following: "And upon this act, sincerely believed to be an act of justice, warranted by the Constitution, upon military necessity, I invoke the considerate judgment of mankind and the gracious favor of Almighty God." When Lincoln read the paragraph, Mr. Chase said: "You may not approve it, but I thought this, or something like it, would be appropriate." Lincoln replied: "I do approve it; it cannot be bettered, and I will adopt it in the very words you have written."
To a large concourse of people who, two days after the proclamation was issued, assembled before the White House, with music, the President said: "What I did, I did after a very full deliberation, and under a heavy and solemn sense of responsibility. I can only trust in God I have made no mistake." That he realized to the full the gravity of the step before taking it is shown again in an incident related by Hon. John Covode, who, calling on the President a few days before the issue of the final proclamation, found him walking his room in considerable agitation. Reference being made to the forthcoming proclamation, Lincoln said with great earnestness: "I have studied that matter well; my mind is made up—it must be done. I am driven to it. There is to me no other way out of our troubles. But although my duty is plain, it is in some respects painful, and I trust the people will understand that I act not in anger but in expectation of a greater good."
Mr. Ben. Perley Poore makes the interesting statement that "Mr. Lincoln carefully put away the pen which he had used in signing the document, for Mr. Sumner, who had promised it to his friend, George Livermore, of Cambridge, the author of an interesting work on slavery. It was a steel pen with a wooden handle, the end of which had been gnawed by Mr. Lincoln—a habit that he had when composing anything that required thought."
In response to a request of the ladies in charge of the Northwestern Fair for the Sanitary Commission, which was held in Chicago in the autumn of 1863, Lincoln conveyed to them the original draft of the proclamation; saying, in his note of presentation, "I had some desire to retain the paper; but if it shall contribute to the relief or comfort of the soldiers, that will be better." The document was purchased at the Fair by Mr. Thomas B. Bryan, and given by him to the Chicago Historical Society. It perished in the great fire of October, 1871.
More than a year after the issue of the Emancipation Proclamation, Lincoln, in writing to a prominent Kentucky Unionist, gave a synopsis of his views and course regarding slavery, which is so clear in statement, and so forceful and convincing in logic, that a place must be given it in this chapter.
I am naturally anti-slavery. If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong. I cannot remember when I did not so think and feel; and yet I have never understood that the Presidency conferred upon me an unrestricted, right to act officially upon this judgment and feeling. It was in the oath I took that I would, to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States. I could not take the office without taking the oath. Nor was it my view that I might take an oath to get power, and break the oath in using the power. I understood, too, that in ordinary civil administration this oath even forbade me to practically indulge my primary abstract judgment on the moral question of slavery. I had publicly declared this many times and in many ways. And I aver that, to this day, I have done no official act in mere deference to my abstract judgment and feeling on slavery. I did understand, however, that my oath to preserve the Constitution to the best of my ability imposed upon me the duty of preserving, by every indispensable means, that Government—that Nation of which that Constitution was the organic law. Was it possible to lose the nation and yet preserve the Constitution? By general law, life and limb must be protected; yet often a limb must be amputated to save a life; but a life is never wisely given to save a limb. I felt that measures, otherwise unconstitutional, might become lawful, by becoming indispensable to the preservation of the Constitution, through the preservation of the nation. Right or wrong, I assumed this ground, and now avow it. I could not feel that, to the best of my ability, I had even tried to preserve the Constitution, if, to save slavery, or any minor matter, I should permit the wreck of government, country, and constitution, altogether. When, early in the war, General Fremont attempted military emancipation, I forbade it, because I did not then think it an indispensable necessity. When a little later, General Cameron, then Secretary of War, suggested the arming of the blacks, I objected, because I did not yet think it an indispensable necessity. When, still later, General Hunter attempted military emancipation, I again forbade it, because I did not yet think the indispensable necessity had come. When, in March and May and July, 1862, I made earnest and successive appeals to the border States to favor compensated emancipation, I believed the indispensable necessity for military emancipation and arming the blacks would come, unless averted by that measure. They declined the proposition; and I was, in my best judgment, driven to the alternative of either surrendering the Union, and with it the Constitution, or of laying strong hand upon the colored element. I chose the latter. In choosing it, I hoped for greater gain than loss; but of this I was not entirely confident. More than a year of trial now shows no loss by it in our foreign relations, none in our home popular sentiment, none in our white military force, no loss by it anyhow or anywhere. On the contrary, it shows a gain of quite a hundred and thirty thousand soldiers, seamen, and laborers. These are palpable facts, about which, as facts, there can be no cavilling. We have the men; and as we could not have had them without the measure.
And now let any Union man who complains of the measure, test himself by writing down in one line that he is for subduing the rebellion by force of arms; and in the next, that he is for taking three hundred and thirty thousand men from the Union side, and placing them where they would be but for the measure he condemns. If he cannot face his case so stated, it is only because he cannot face the truth.
I attempt no compliment to my own sagacity. I claim not to have controlled events, but confess plainly that events have controlled me. Now, at the end of three years' struggle, the nation's condition is not what either party or any man devised or expected. God alone can claim it. Whither it is tending seems plain. If God now wills the removal of a great wrong, and wills also that we of the North, as well as you of the South, shall pay fairly for our complicity in that wrong, impartial history will find therein new causes to attest and revere the justice and goodness of God.
Yours truly, A. LINCOLN
President and People—Society at the White House in 1862-3—The President's Informal Receptions—A Variety of Callers—Characteristic Traits of Lincoln—His Ability to Say No when Necessary—Would not Countenance Injustice—Good Sense and Tact in Settling Quarrels—His Shrewd Knowledge of Men—Getting Rid of Bores—Loyalty to his Friends—Views of his Own Position—"Attorney for the People"—Desire that they Should Understand him—His Practical Kindness—A Badly Scared Petitioner—Telling a Story to Relieve Bad News—A Breaking Heart beneath the Smiles—His Deeply Religious Nature—The Changes Wrought by Grief.
In a work which is not intended to cover fully the events of a great historic period, but rather to trace out the life of a single individual connected with that period, much must be included which, although not possessing special historical significance, cannot be overlooked in a personal study of the subject of the biography. Lincoln's life as President was by no means made up of Cabinet meetings, official messages and proclamations, or reviews of armies; interspersed with these conspicuous acts was a multitude of less heroic but scarcely less interesting details, with incidents and experiences humorous or sad, but all, even the most trivial, being expressions of the life and character of the man whom we are seeking to portray.
"Society," as now understood at the national capital, had but little existence during the war. At the White House there were the usual President's receptions, which were quite public in character and were largely attended. Aside from these democratic gatherings there was little enough of gaiety. The feeling that prevailed is shown by an incident that occurred during the winter of 1862-3, when a good deal of clamor was raised over a party given by Mrs. Lincoln, at which, it was asserted, dancing was indulged in; and Mrs. Lincoln was severely censured for what was regarded as inexcusable frivolity. Hon. A.G. Riddle, who was present on the occasion referred to, states positively that there was no dancing; the party was a quiet one, intended only to relieve the rather dull and formal receptions. But the President was pained by the rumors that "fashionable balls" were permitted at the White House in war-time; and the party was not repeated.
It was the custom of President Lincoln to open, twice a week, the doors of his office in the Executive Mansion for the admission of all visitors who might wish to speak with him. These brief interviews, quite devoid of ceremony, seemed to reveal the man in his true character, and to set forth the salient traits that fitted him for his great position, and endeared him so greatly to the popular heart. They showed how easily accessible he was to all classes of citizens, how readily he could adapt himself to people of any station or degree, how deep and true were his human sympathies, how quickly and keenly he could discriminate character, and how heartily he detested meanness and all unworthy acts and appliances to compass a selfish or sordid end. On these occasions, as may well be imagined, many curious incidents occurred. Lincoln was usually clad "in a black broadcloth suit, nothing in his dress betokening disregard of conventionality, save perhaps his neat cloth slippers, which were doubtless worn for comfort. He was seated beside a plain cloth-covered table, in a commodious arm-chair." As each visitor approached the President he was greeted with an encouraging nod and smile, and a few moments were cordially given him in which to state the object of the visit; the President listening with the most respectful and patient attention, and deciding each case with tact, sympathy, and good humor. "His Yes," says Mr. Riddle, "was most gracious and satisfactory; his No, when reached, was often spoken by the petitioner, and left only a soothed disappointment. He saw the point of a case unerringly. He had a confidence in the homely views and speech of the common people, with whom his heart and sympathies ever were."
At these informal meetings with people who usually wanted some favor from him, no case was too trivial to receive his attention. Taking advantage of the opportunity, there came one day, says Mr. C. Van Santvoord, "a sturdy, honest-looking German soldier, minus a leg, who hobbled up to the President on crutches. In consideration of his disabled condition, he wanted some situation about Washington, the duties of which he might be able to discharge; and he had come to the President, hoping that he would provide the desired situation for him. On being interrogated as to how he had lost his leg, he answered that it was the effect of a wound received in battle, mentioning the time and the place. 'Let me look at your papers,' said Mr. Lincoln. The man replied that he had none, and that he supposed his word would be sufficient. 'What!' exclaimed the President, 'no papers, no credentials, nothing to show how you lost your leg! How am I to know that you did not lose it by a trap after getting into somebody's orchard?' This was spoken with a droll expression which amused the bystanders, all except the applicant, who with a very solemn visage earnestly protested the truth of his statement, muttering something about the reasons for not being able to produce his papers. 'Well, well,' said the President, 'it is a little risky for an army man to be wandering around without papers to show where he belongs and what he is, but I will see what can be done for you.' And taking a blank card from a little pile of similar blanks on the table, he wrote some lines upon it, addressed it, and handing it to the man bade him deliver it to a certain quartermaster, who would attend to his case."
The President could, however, be emphatic and even severe when necessary on such occasions. One day, we are told, "he was approached by a man apparently sixty years of age, with dress and manner which showed that he was acquainted with the usages of good society, whose whole exterior, indeed, would have favorably impressed people who form opinions from appearances. The object of his visit was to solicit aid in some commission project, for the success of which Mr. Lincoln's favor was regarded as essential. The President heard him patiently, but demurred against being connected with or countenancing the affair, suggesting mildly that the applicant would better set up an office of the kind described, and run it in his own way and at his own risk. The man pleaded his advanced years and obscurity as a reason for not attempting this, but said if the President would only let him use his name to advertise and recommend the enterprise, he would then, he thought, need nothing more. At this the eyes of the President flashed with sudden indignation, and his whole aspect and manner underwent a portentous change. 'No!' he broke forth, with startling vehemence, springing from his seat under the impulse of his emotion. 'No! I'll have nothing to do with this business, nor with any man who comes to me with such degrading propositions. What! Do you take the President of the United States to be a commission broker? You have come to the wrong place; and for you and every one who comes for such purposes, there is the door!' The man's face blanched as he cowered and slunk away confounded, without uttering a word. The President's wrath subsided as speedily as it had risen."
Another example of Lincoln's power to dispose summarily of people who tried his patience too far is given by Secretary Welles, who records that a Mrs. White—a sister or half-sister of Mrs. Lincoln—made herself so obnoxious as a Southern sympathizer in Washington in 1864, that the President sent her word that "if she did not leave forthwith she might expect to find herself within twenty-four hours in the Old Capitol Prison."
With all his kindness and desire to do what was asked of him, Lincoln could not be persuaded to consent to anything which he felt to be distinctly wrong, regardless of any unfavorable consequences which his refusal might bring upon himself. When the members of Congress from Minnesota, late in 1862, called on him in a body to urge him to order the execution of three hundred Indian prisoners, captured in their State and charged with great atrocities, he positively refused, although realizing that it might cost him the support of those members of the House, which he greatly needed at that time.
"The President is always disposed to mitigate punishments and grant favors," says a member of his Cabinet. "As a matter of duty and friendship, I one day mentioned to him the case of Laura Jones, a young lady residing in Richmond and there engaged to be married, who came up three years ago to attend her sick mother and had been unable to pass through the lines and return. A touching appeal was made by the poor girl, who truly says her youth is passing. The President at once said he would give her a pass. I told him her sympathies were with the secessionists. But he said he would let her go; the war had depopulated the country and prevented marriages enough, and if he could do a kindness of this sort he would do it."
Another applicant for a pass through the lines was less fortunate than the one just noted. One day, in the spring of 1862, a gentleman from some Northern city entered Lincoln's private office, and earnestly requested a pass to Richmond. "A pass to Richmond!" exclaimed the President. "Why, my dear sir, if I should give you one it would do you no good. You may think it very strange, but there's a lot of fellows between here and Richmond who either can't read or are prejudiced against every man who totes a pass from me. I have given McClellan and more than two hundred thousand others passes to Richmond, and not a single one of 'em has got there yet!"
Lincoln sometimes had a very effective way of dealing with men who asked troublesome or improper questions. A visitor once asked him how many men the rebels had in the field. The President replied, very seriously, "Twelve hundred thousand, according to the best authority." The interrogator blanched in the face, and ejaculated, "Good heavens!" "Yes, sir, twelve hundred thousand—no doubt of it. You see, all of our generals, when they get whipped, say the enemy outnumbered them from three or five to one, and I must believe them. We have four hundred thousand men in the field, and three times four makes twelve. Don't you see it?"
Among the many illustrations of the sturdy sense and firmness of Lincoln's character, the following should be recorded: During the early part of 1863 the Union men in Missouri were divided into two factions, which waged a bitter controversy with each other. General Curtis, commander of the military district comprising Missouri, Kansas, and Arkansas, was at the head of one faction, while Governor Gamble led the other. Their differences were a source of great embarrassment to the Government at Washington, and of harm to the Union cause. The President was in constant receipt of remonstrances and protests from the contesting parties, to one of which he made the following curt reply:
Your despatch of to-day is just received. It is very painful to me that you, in Missouri cannot, or will not, settle your factional quarrel among yourselves. I have been tormented with it beyond endurance, for months, by both sides. Neither side pays the least respect to my appeals to reason. I am now compelled to take hold of the case.
The President promptly followed up this warning by removing General Curtis, and appointing in his place General Schofield, to whom he soon after addressed the following letter:
EXECUTIVE MANSION, WASHINGTON, May 27, 1863.
GENERAL J.M. SCHOFIELD.
DEAR SIR: Having removed General Curtis and assigned you to the command of the Department of the Missouri, I think it may be of some advantage to me to state to you why I did it. I did not remove General Curtis because of my full conviction that he had done wrong by commission or omission. I did it because of a conviction in my mind that the Union men of Missouri, constituting, when united, a vast majority of the people, have entered into a pestilent, factious quarrel among themselves; General Curtis, perhaps not of choice, being the head of one faction, and Governor Gamble that of the other. After months of labor to reconcile the difficulty, it seemed to grow worse and worse, until I felt it my duty to break it up somehow, and as I could not remove Governor Gamble, I had to remove General Curtis. Now that you are in the position, I wish you to undo nothing merely because General Curtis or Governor Gamble did it, but to exercise your own judgment, and do right for the public interest. Let your military measures be strong enough to repel the invaders and keep the peace, and not so strong as to unnecessarily harass and persecute the people. It is a difficult role, and so much greater will be the honor if you perform it well. If both factions, or neither, shall abuse you, you will probably be about right. Beware of being assailed by one and praised by the other.
Yours truly, A. LINCOLN.
Firm and unyielding as he was when necessity compelled him to be, Lincoln was by nature a peace-maker, and was ever anxious that personal differences be adjusted happily. In his efforts to this end he never failed to show tact and shrewdness, and would if necessary sacrifice his own preferences in the interests of peace and harmony. A characteristic instance of the exercise of these traits occurred in connection with the Missouri troubles just referred to. General Schofield's course in command of his department proved satisfactory, and he had been nominated for a Major-General's commission. He was, however, a somewhat conservative man, and in spite of his efforts to carry out the President's injunctions of impartiality, he had given offense to certain Missouri radicals, who now opposed his promotion, and were able to exert sufficient influence in the Senate to prevent the confirmation of his appointment as a Major-General. The Missouri delegation appealed to the more radical Senators, and the nomination was "hung up" for about six weeks. Lincoln was very desirous that it should be confirmed, and the Missouri Congressmen were equally bent on its defeat. In this dilemma, Lincoln sent for Senator Zack Chandler of Michigan, and proposed a compromise. "General Rosecrans," said he, "has a great many friends; he fought the battle of Stone River and won a brilliant victory, and his advocates begin to grumble about his treatment. Now, I will tell you what I have been thinking about. If you will confirm Schofield in the Senate, I will remove him from the command in Missouri and send him down to Sherman. That will satisfy the radicals. Then I will send Rosecrans to Missouri, and that will please the latter's friends. In this way the whole thing can be harmonized." As soon as the Senate grasped the plan of the President there was no longer any opposition to the confirmation of Schofield. He was sent to join Sherman in the South, Rosecrans was appointed to the command in Missouri, and everything worked harmoniously and pleasantly as the President had predicted and desired.
Secretary Welles remarks that "the President was a much more shrewd and accurate observer of the characteristics of men—better and more correctly formed an estimate of their power and capabilities—than the Secretary of State or most others. Those in the public service he closely scanned, but was deliberate in forming a conclusion adverse to any one he had appointed. In giving or withdrawing confidence he was discriminating and just in his final decision, careful never to wound unnecessarily the sensibilities of any of their infirmities, always ready to praise, but nevertheless firm and resolute in discharging the to him always painful duty of censure, reproof, or dismissal." As an instance of this sure judgment of the abilities and characters of men, Mr. Welles gives an anecdote relating to the naval movement under Admiral Du Pont, against Charleston, S.C. "One day," says Mr. Welles, "the President said to me that he had but slight expectation that we should have any great success from Du Pont. 'He, as well as McClellan,' said Mr. Lincoln, 'hesitates—has the slows. McClellan always wanted more regiments; Du Pont is everlastingly asking for more gun-boats—more iron-clads. He will do nothing with any. He has intelligence and system and will maintain a good blockade. You did well in selecting him for that command, but he will never take Sumter or get to Charleston. He is no Farragut, though unquestionably a good routine officer, who obeys orders and in a general way carries out his instructions.'" The outcome of events proved the soundness of Lincoln's judgment.
Loyalty to his friends was always a strong trait of Lincoln's character. It was put to the proof daily during his life in Washington. Mr. Gurdon S. Hubbard, in a brief but interesting memorial, relates one or two interviews held with the President, in which the simplicity of his character and his fidelity to old friendships appear very conspicuously. Mr. Hubbard's acquaintance with Lincoln was of long standing. "I called on him in Washington the year of his inauguration," says Mr. Hubbard, "and was alone with him for an hour or more. I found him greatly changed, his countenance bearing an expression of great mental anxiety. The whole topic of our conversation was the war, which affected him deeply.... Two years after, I again visited Washington, and went to the White House to pay my respects, in company with my friend Thomas L. Forrest. It was Saturday; and, as usual, about six o'clock the band from the navy-yard appeared and began to play. The President, with Adjutant-General Thomas, was seated on the balcony. The crowd was great, marching compactly past the President, the men raising their hats in salutation. As my friend and myself passed he said to me, 'The President seems to notice you—turn toward him.' 'No,' I said, 'I don't care to be recognized.' At that instant Mr. Lincoln started from his seat, advancing quickly to the iron railing, and leaning over, beckoning with his long arm, called: 'Hubbard! Hubbard! come here!' I left the ranks and ascended the stone steps to the gate of the balcony, which was locked, General Thomas saying, 'Wait a moment, I will get the key.' 'Never mind, General,' said Mr. Lincoln, 'Hubbard is used to jumping—he can scale that fence.' I climbed over, and for about an hour we conversed and watched the large crowd, the rebel flag being in sight on Arlington Heights. This was the last time I ever saw his face in life."
It was noted by those about Lincoln during his residence at the White House that he usually avoided speaking of himself as President or making any reference to the office which he held. He used some such roundabout phrase as "since I came into this place," instead of saying "since I became President." The war he usually spoke of as "this great trouble," and he almost never alluded to the enemy as "Confederates" or "the Confederate Government." He had an unconquerable reluctance to appear to lead public opinion, and often spoke of himself as the "attorney for the people." Once, however, when a Senator was urging on him a certain course which the President was not disposed to pursue, the Senator said, "You say you are the people's attorney. Now, you will admit that this course would be most popular." "But I am not going to let my client manage the case against my judgment," Lincoln replied quickly. "As long as I am attorney for the people I shall manage the case to the best of my ability. They will have a chance to put me out by and by if my management is not satisfactory."
The President was so tormented by visitors seeking interviews for every sort of frivolous and impertinent matter, that he resorted sometimes, in desperation, to curious and effective inventions to rid himself of the intolerable nuisance. At one time, when he was importuned by some influential people to interfere to prevent the punishment of certain persons convicted of fraudulent dealings with the government—a class of cases too common at that time—the President wrote Secretary Welles that he desired to see the records of the case before it was disposed of. Upon Mr. Welles calling upon him with the desired information, the President said, as if by way of apology, "There was no way to get rid of the crowd that was upon me but by sending you a note." On another occasion, when he had been quite ill, and therefore less inclined than usual to listen to these bores, one of them had just seated himself for a long visit, when the President's physician happened to enter the room, and Lincoln said, holding out his hands, "Doctor, what are these blotches?" "That's varioloid, or mild small-pox," said the doctor. "They're all over me. It is contagious, I believe," said Lincoln. "Very contagious, indeed!" replied the doctor. "Well, I can't stop, Mr. Lincoln; I just called to see how you were," said the visitor. "Oh, don't be in a hurry, sir!" placidly remarked the Executive. "Thank you, sir; I'll call again," replied the visitor, executing a masterly retreat from the White House. "Some people," said the President, looking after him, "said they could not take very well to my proclamation; but now, I am happy to say, I have something that everybody can take."
Among the innumerable nuisances and "cranks" who called on Lincoln at the White House, were the many who sought to win his favor by claiming to have been the first to suggest his nomination as President. One of these claimants, who was the editor of a weekly paper published in a little village in Missouri, called one day, and was admitted to Lincoln's presence. He at once began explaining that he was the man who first suggested Lincoln's name for the Presidency, and pulling from his pocket an old, worn, defaced copy of his paper, exhibited to the President an item on the subject. "Do you really think," said Lincoln, "that announcement was the occasion of my nomination?" "Certainly," said the editor, "the suggestion was so opportune that it was at once taken up by other papers, and the result was your nomination and election." "Ah, well," said Lincoln, with a sigh, and assuming a rather gloomy countenance, "I am glad to see you and to know this; but you will have to excuse me, I am just going to the War Department to see Mr. Stanton." "Well," said the editor, "I will walk over with you." The President, with that apt good nature so characteristic of him, took up his hat and said, "Come along." When they reached the door of the Secretary's office, Mr. Lincoln turned to his companion and said, "I shall have to see Mr. Stanton alone, and you must excuse me," and taking him by the hand he continued, "Good-bye. I hope you will feel perfectly easy about having nominated me; don't be troubled about it; I forgive you."
A gentleman who, after the dreadful disaster at Fredericksburg, called at the White House with news direct from the front, says that Lincoln appeared so overwhelmed with grief that he was led to remark, "I heartily wish I might be a welcome messenger of good news instead,—that I could tell you how to conquer or get rid of these rebellious States." Looking up quickly, with a marked change of expression, Lincoln said: "That reminds me of two boys in Illinois who took a short cut across an orchard, and did not become aware of the presence of a vicious dog until it was too late to reach either fence. One was spry enough to escape the attack by climbing a tree; but the other started around the tree, with the dog in hot pursuit, until by making smaller circles than it was possible for his pursuer to make, he gained sufficiently to grasp the dog's tail, and held with desperate grip until nearly exhausted, when he hailed his companion and called to him to come down. 'What for?' said the boy. 'I want you to help me let this dog go.' If I could only let them go!" said the President, in conclusion; "but that is the trouble. I am compelled to hold on to them and make them stay."
In speaking of Lincoln's fortitude under his trials and sufferings, Mrs. Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote: "Although we believe he has never made any religious profession, we see evidence that in passing through this dreadful national crisis he has been forced by the very anguish of the struggle to look upward, where any rational creature must look for support. No man has suffered more and deeper, albeit with a dry, weary, patient pain, that seemed to some like insensibility. 'Whichever way it ends,' he said to the writer, 'I have the impression that I sha'n't last long after it's over.' After the dreadful repulse of Fredericksburg, his heavy eyes and worn and weary air told how our reverses wore upon him; and yet there was a never-failing fund of patience at bottom that sometimes rose to the surface in some droll, quaint saying or story, that forced a laugh even from himself."
The care and sorrow which Lincoln was called upon to endure in the responsibilities of his high position graved their melancholy marks on each feature of his face. He was a changed man. A pathetic picture of his appearance at this time is given by his old friend, Noah Brooks, whose description of him as he appeared in 1856, on the stump in Ogle County, has already been given a place in these pages. "I did not see Lincoln again," says Mr. Brooks, "until 1862, when I went to Washington as a newspaper correspondent from California. When Lincoln was on the stump in 1856, his face, though naturally sallow, had a rosy flush. His eyes were full and bright, and he was in the fulness of health and vigor. I shall never forget the shock which the sight of him gave me six years later in 1862, I took it for granted that he had forgotten the young man whom he had met five or six times during the Fremont and Dayton Campaign. He was now President, and was, like Brutus, 'vexed with many cares.' The change which a few years had made was simply appalling. His whiskers had grown and had given additional cadaverousness to his face as it appeared to me. The light seemed to have gone out of his eyes, which were sunken far under his enormous brows. But there was over his whole face an expression of sadness, and a far-away look in the eyes, which were utterly unlike the Lincoln of other days. I was intensely disappointed. I confess that I was so pained that I could almost have shed tears."
Lincoln's Home-life in the White House—Comfort in the Companionship of his Youngest Son—"Little Tad" the Bright Spot in the White House—The President and his Little Boy Reviewing the Army of the Potomac—Various Phases of Lincoln's Character—His Literary Tastes—Fondness for Poetry and Music—His Remarkable Memory—Not a Latin Scholar—Never Read a Novel—Solace in Theatrical Representation—Anecdotes of Booth and McCullough—Methods of Literary Work—Lincoln as an Orator—Caution in Impromptu Speeches—His Literary Style—Management of his Private Correspondence—Knowledge of Woodcraft—Trees and Human Character—Exchanging Views with Professor Agassiz—Magnanimity toward Opponents—Righteous Indignation—Lincoln's Religious Nature.
Of the two sons left to Lincoln after the death of Willie in 1862, Robert, the older, was a student in Harvard College until appointed to service on the staff of General Grant; and "Little Tad," or Thomas, the youngest, was the only one remaining in the White House during the last hard years. He was ten years old in 1863, a bright and lovable child, with whom his father was associated in constant and affectionate companionship. The boy was much with him in his walks and journeys about Washington, and even in his visits to the army in the field. The father would often gain a brief respite from his heavy cares by sharing in the sports and frolics of the light-hearted boy, who was a general favorite at the White House, where he was free to go and come at will. No matter who was with the President, or how intently he might be absorbed, little Tad was always welcome. "It was an impressive and affecting sight," says Mr. Carpenter, an inmate of the White House for several months, "to see the burdened President lost for the time being in the affectionate parent, as he would take the little fellow in his arms upon the withdrawal of visitors, and caress him with all the fondness of a mother for the babe upon her bosom." Hon. W.D. Kelley, a member of Congress at that time, says: "I think no father ever loved his children more fondly than he. The President never seemed grander in my sight than when, stealing upon him in the evening, I would find him with a book open before him, with little Tad beside him. There were, of course, a great many curious books sent to him, and it seemed to be one of the special delights of his life to open those books at a time when his boy could stand beside him, and they could talk as he turned over the pages, the father thus giving to the son a portion of that care and attention of which he was ordinarily deprived by the heavy duties pressing upon him." Tad lived to be eighteen years old, dying in Chicago in 1871. It was well said of him that he "gave to the sad and solemn White House the only comic relief it knew."
When President Lincoln visited General Hooker's headquarters with the Army of the Potomac, just before the battle of Chancellorsville, little Tad went with him, and rode with his father and General Hooker through the grand reviews that were held. "Over hill and dale," says a member of the Presidential party, "dashed the brilliant cavalcade of the General-in-Chief, surrounded by a company of officers in gay attire and sparkling with gold lace, the party being escorted by the Philadelphia Lancers, a showy troop of soldiers. In the midst, or at the head, rose and fell, as the horses galloped afar, the form of Lincoln, conspicuous by his height and his tall black hat. And ever on the flanks of the hurrying column flew, like a flag or banneret, Tad's little gray riding-cloak. The soldiers soon learned of Tad's presence in the army, and wherever he went on horseback he easily divided the honors with his father. The men cheered and shouted and waved their hats when they saw the dear face and tall figure of the good President, then the best-beloved man in the world; but to these men of war, far away from home and children, the sight of that fresh-faced and laughing boy seemed an inspiration. They cheered like mad."
There were various phases of Lincoln's character, as manifested during his life in the White House, that afford material for an interesting study. It has been said of him that he lacked imagination. This was certainly not one of the faculties of his mind which had been largely cultivated. He relied more upon the exercise of reason and logic, in all his intellectual processes, than upon fancy or imagination. Still, there are often striking figures of speech to be met with in his writings, and he had a great fondness for poetry and music. He had studied Shakespeare diligently in his youth, and portions of the plays he repeated with singular accuracy. He had a special liking for the minor poems of Thomas Hood and of Oliver Wendell Holmes. Dr. Holmes, writing in July, 1885, says that of all the tributes received by him, the one of which he was most proud was from "good Abraham Lincoln," who had a great liking for the poem of "The Last Leaf," and "repeated it from memory to Governor Andrew, as the Governor himself told me." Mr. Arnold says: "He had a great love for poetry and eloquence, and his taste and judgment were excellent. Next to Shakespeare among the poets, his favorite was Burns. There was a lecture of his upon Burns full of favorite quotations and sound criticisms." His musical tastes, says Mr. Brooks, who knew him well, "were simple and uncultivated, his choice being old airs, songs, and ballads, among which the plaintive Scotch songs were best liked. 'Annie Laurie,' 'Mary of Argyle,' and especially 'Auld Robin Gray,' never lost their charm for him; and all songs which had for their theme the rapid flight of time, decay, the recollections of early days, were sure to make a deep impression. The song which he liked best, above all others, was one called 'Twenty Years Ago'—a simple air, the words to which are supposed to be uttered by a man who revisits the playground of his youth. I remember that one night at the White House, when a few ladies were with the family, singing at the piano-forte, he asked for a little song in which the writer describes his sensations when revisiting the scenes of his boyhood, dwelling mournfully on the vanished joys and the delightful associations of forty years ago. It is not likely that there was much in Lincoln's lost youth that he would wish to recall; but there was a certain melancholy and half-morbid strain in that song which struck a responsive chord in his heart. The lines sank into his memory, and I remember that he quoted them, as if to himself, long afterward."
Lincoln's memory was extraordinarily retentive, and he seemed, without conscious effort, to have stored in his mind almost every whimsical or ludicrous narrative which he had read or heard. "On several occasions," says Mr. Brooks, "I have held in my hand a printed slip while he was repeating its contents to somebody else, and the precision with which he delivered every word was marvellous." He was fond of the writings of "Orpheus C. Kerr" and "Petroleum V. Nasby," who were famous humorists at the time of the Civil War; and he amused himself and others in the darkest hours by quoting passages from these now forgotten authors. Nasby's letter from "Wingert's Corners, Ohio," on the threatening prospects of a migration of the negroes from the South, and the President's "evident intenshun of colonizin' on 'em in the North," he especially relished. After rehearsing a portion of this letter to his guests at the Soldiers' Home one evening, a sedate New England gentleman expressed surprise that he could find time for memorizing such things. "Oh," said Lincoln, "I don't. If I like a thing, it just sticks after once reading it or hearing it." He once recited a long and doleful ballad, something like "Vilikins and his Dinah," the production of a rural Kentucky bard, and when he had finished he added with a laugh, "I don't believe I have thought of that before for forty years." Mr. Arnold testifies that "although his reading was not extensive, yet his memory was so retentive and so ready that in history, poetry, and in general literature, few if any marked any deficiency. As an illustration of the powers of his memory, may be related the following: A gentleman called at the White House one day, and introduced to him two officers serving in the army, one a Swede and the other a Norwegian. Immediately he repeated, to their delight, a poem of some eight or ten verses descriptive of Scandinavian scenery, and an old Norse legend. He said he had read the poem in a newspaper some years before, and liked it, but it had passed out of his memory until their visit had recalled it. The two books which he read most were the Bible and Shakespeare. With these he was perfectly familiar. From the Bible, as has before been stated, he quoted frequently, and he read it daily, while Shakespeare was his constant companion. He took a copy with him almost always when travelling, and read it at leisure moments."
Lincoln was never ashamed to confess the deficiencies in his early education. A distinguished party, comprising George Thompson, the English anti-slavery orator, Rev. John Pierpont, Oliver Johnson, and Hon. Lewis Clephane, once called upon him, and during the conversation Mr. Pierpont turned to Mr. Thompson and repeated a Latin quotation from the classics. Mr. Lincoln, leaning forward in his chair, looked from one to the other inquiringly, and then remarked, with a smile, "Which, I suppose you are both aware, I do not understand."
While Edwin Forrest was playing an engagement at Ford's Theatre, Mr. Carpenter spoke to the President one day of the actor's fine interpretation of the character of Richelieu, and advised him to witness the performance. "Who wrote the play?" asked the President of Mr. Carpenter. "Bulwer," was the reply. "Ah!" he rejoined; "well, I knew Bulwer wrote novels, but I did not know he was a play-writer also. It may seem somewhat strange to say," he continued, "but I never read an entire novel in my life. I once commenced 'Ivanhoe,' but never finished it."
Among the few diversions which Lincoln allowed himself in Washington was an occasional visit to the theater to witness a representation of some good play by a favorite actor. He felt the necessity of some relaxation from the terrible strain of anxiety and care; and while seated behind the screen in a box at the theatre he was secure from the everlasting importunities of politicians and office-seekers. He could forget himself and his problems while watching the scenes on the mimic stage before him. He enjoyed the renditions of Booth with great zest; yet after witnessing "The Merchant of Venice" he remarked on the way home: "It was a good performance, but I had a thousand times rather read it at home, if it were not for Booth's playing. A farce or a comedy is best played; a tragedy is best read at home." He was much pleased one night with Mr. McCullough's delineation of the character of "Edgar," which the actor played in support of Edwin Forrest's "Lear." He wished to convey his approval to the young actor, and asked Mr. Brooks, his companion at the moment, with characteristic simplicity, "Do you suppose he would come to the box if we sent word?" Mr. McCullough was summoned, and, standing at the door of the box in his stage attire, received the thanks of the President, accompanied with words of discriminating praise for the excellence of his delineation.
With his keen sense of humor, Lincoln appreciated to the utmost the inimitable presentation of "Falstaff" by a well-known actor of the time. His desire to accord praise wherever it was merited led him to express his admiration in a note to the actor. An interchange of slight civilities followed, ending at last in a singular situation. Entering the President's office late one evening, Mr. Brooks noticed the actor sitting in the waiting-room. Lincoln inquired anxiously if there were anyone outside. On being told, he said, half sadly, almost desperately, "Oh, I can't see him; I can't see him! I was in hopes he had gone away." Then he added, "Now, this illustrates the difficulty of having pleasant friends in this place. You know I liked him as an actor, and that I wrote to tell him so. He sent me a book, and there I thought the matter would end. He is a master of his place in the profession, I suppose, and well fixed in it. But just because we had a little friendly correspondence, such as any two men might have, he wants something. What do you suppose he wants?" I could not guess, and Lincoln added, "Well, he wants to be consul at London. Oh, dear!"
Lincoln was not a ready writer, and when preparing documents or speeches of special importance he altered and elaborated his sentences with patient care. His public utterances were so widely reported and so mercilessly discussed that he acquired caution in expressing himself without due preparation. It is stated, on what seems sufficient authority, that his Gettysburg speech, brief and simple as it is, was rewritten many times before it finally met his approval. He began also to be guarded in responding to demands for impromptu speeches, which were constantly being called for. Mr. Brooks relates that "once, being notified that he was to be serenaded, just after some notable military or political event, he asked me to come to dinner, 'so as to be on hand and see the fun afterward,' as he said. He excused himself as soon as we had dined, and while the bands were playing, the crowds cheering and the rockets bursting outside the house, he made his reappearance in the parlor with a roll of manuscript in his hand. Perhaps noticing a look of surprise on my face, he said, 'I know what you are thinking about. You think it mighty queer that an old stump-speaker like myself should not be able to address a crowd like this outside without a written speech. But you must remember that in a certain way I am talking to the country, and I have to be mighty careful. Now, the last time I made an off-hand speech, in answer to a serenade, I used the phrase, as applied to the rebels, "turned tail and ran." Some very nice Boston folks, I am grieved to hear, were very much outraged by that phrase, which they thought improper. So I resolved to make no more impromptu speeches if I could help it.'"
In all Lincoln's writings, even his most important state papers, his chief desire was to make himself clearly understood by the common reader. He had a great aversion to what he called "machine writing," and used the fewest words possible to express his meaning. He never hesitated to employ a homely expression when it suited his purpose. In his first message the phrase "sugar-coated" occurred; and when it was printed, Mr. Defrees, the Public Printer, being on familiar terms with the President, ventured an objection to the phrase—suggesting that Lincoln was not now preparing a campaign document or delivering a stump speech in Illinois, but constructing an important state paper that would go down historically to all coming time; and that therefore he did not consider the phrase "sugar-coated" as entirely a becoming and dignified one. "Well, Defrees," replied Lincoln, good-naturedly, "if you think the time will ever come when the people will not understand what 'sugar-coated' means, I'll alter it; otherwise, I think I'll let it go."
On the same subject, Mrs. Harriet Beecher Stowe says: "Our own politicians were somewhat shocked with his state papers at first. 'Why not let us make them a little more conventional, and file them to a classical pattern?' 'No,' was his reply, 'I shall write them myself. The people will understand them.' 'But this or that form of expression is not elegant, not classical.' 'The people will understand it,' has been his invariable reply. And whatever may be said of his state papers as compared with the classic standards, it has been a fact that they have always been wonderfully well understood by the people, and that since the time of Washington the state papers of no President have more controlled the popular mind. One reason for this is that they have been informal and undiplomatic. They have more resembled a father's talk to his children than a state paper. They have had that relish and smack of the soil that appeal to the simple human heart and head, which is a greater power in writing than the most artful devices of rhetoric. Lincoln might well say with the apostle, 'But though I be rude in speech, yet not in knowledge, but we have been thoroughly made manifest among you in all things.' His rejection of what is called 'fine writing' was as deliberate as St. Paul's, and for the same reason—because he felt that he was speaking on a subject which must be made clear to the lowest intellect, though it should fail to captivate the highest. But we say of Lincoln's writing, that for all true manly purposes there are passages in his state papers that could not be better put; they are absolutely perfect. They are brief, condensed, intense, and with a power of insight and expression which make them worthy to be inscribed in letters of gold."
Hon. William J. Bryan, certainly a competent judge of oratory, says of Lincoln as an orator: "Brevity is the soul of wit, and a part of Lincoln's reputation for wit lies in his ability to condense a great deal into a few words. He was epigrammatic. His Gettysburg speech is the world's model in eloquence, elegance, and condensation. He was apt in illustration—no one more so. A simple story or simile drawn from every-day life flashed before his hearers the argument that he wanted to present. He made frequent use of Bible language, and of illustrations drawn from Holy Writ. It is said that when he was preparing his Springfield speech of 1858 he spent hours in trying to find language that would express the central idea—that a republic could not permanently endure part free and part slave. Finally a Bible passage flashed through his mind, and he exclaimed, 'I have found it—a house divided against itself cannot stand.' Probably no other Bible passage ever exerted as much influence as this one in the settlement of a great controversy."
Lincoln was a tireless worker, and delegated no duties to others which he could perform himself. His health seemed to bear the strain of his terrible burdens wonderfully well. There are but few references anywhere to his being incapacitated by illness. One such reference occurs in Welles's Diary, dated March 14, 1865: "The President was somewhat indisposed, but not seriously ill. The members [of the Cabinet] met in his bedroom." His correspondence was extensive and burdensome, and as a rule he wrote his most important letters with his own hand, frequently going to the trouble of taking copies, which were filed with careful order in a cabinet, the interior of which was divided into pigeon-holes. These pigeon-holes, as Mr. Brooks tells us, "were lettered in alphabetical order, but a few were devoted to individuals. Horace Greeley had a pigeon-hole by himself; so did each of several generals who wrote often to him. One compartment, labelled 'W. & W.,' excited much curiosity, but I never asked what it meant, and one night, being sent to the cabinet for a letter which the President wanted, he said, 'I see you looking at my "W. & W." Can you guess what that stands for?' Of course it was useless to guess. 'Well,' said he, with a roguish twinkle of the eye, 'that's Weed and Wood—Thurlow and Fernandy.' Then he added, with an indescribable chuckle, 'That's a pair of 'em.' When asked why he did not have a letter-book and copying-press, he said, 'A letter-book might be easily stolen and carried off, but that stock of filed letters would be a back-load.'"
A lady who once rode with Lincoln, in the Presidential carriage, to the Soldiers' Home, gives some interesting details concerning his knowledge of woodcraft. "Around the 'Home,'" says this lady, "grows every variety of tree, particularly of the evergreen class. Their branches brushed into the carriage as we passed along, and left with us that pleasant woodsy smell belonging to fresh leaves. One of the ladies, catching a bit of green from one of these intruding branches, said it was cedar, and another thought it spruce. 'Let me discourse on a theme I understand,' said the President. 'I know all about trees, by right of being a backwoodsman. I'll show you the difference between spruce, pine, and cedar, and this shred of green, which is neither one nor the other, but a kind of illegitimate cypress.' He then proceeded to gather specimens of each, and explain the distinctive formation of foliage belonging to every species. 'Trees,' he said, 'are as deceptive in their likeness to one another as are certain classes of men, amongst whom none but a physiognomist's eye can detect dissimilar moral features until events have developed them. Do you know it would be a good thing if in all the schools proposed and carried out by the improvement of modern thinkers, we could have a school of events?' 'A school of events?' repeated the lady addressed. 'Yes,' he continued, 'since it is only by that active development that character and ability can be tested. Understand me, I now mean men, not trees; they can be tried, and an analysis of their strength obtained less expensive to life and human interests than man's. What I say now is a mere whim, you know; but when I speak of a school of events, I mean one in which, before entering real life, students might pass through the mimic vicissitudes and situations that are necessary to bring out their powers and mark the calibre to which they are assigned. Thus, one could select from the graduates an invincible soldier, equal to any position, with no such word as fail; a martyr to right, ready to give up life in the cause; a politician too cunning to be outwitted; and so on. These things have all to be tried, and their sometime failure creates confusion as well as disappointment. There is no more dangerous or expensive analysis than that which consists of trying a man.'"
Among Lincoln's callers one Sunday evening, was the distinguished scientist Louis Agassiz. The two men were somewhat alike in their simple, shy, and unpretending nature, and at first felt their way with each other like two bashful schoolboys. Lincoln began conversation by saying to Agassiz, "I never knew how to pronounce your name properly; won't you give me a little lesson at that, please?" Then he asked if the name were of French or Swiss derivation, to which the Professor replied that it was partly of each. That led to a discussion of different languages, the President speaking several words in different languages which had the same root as similar words in our own tongue; then he illustrated that by one or two anecdotes. But he soon returned to his gentle cross-examination of Agassiz, and found out how the Professor studied, how he composed, and how he delivered his lectures; how he found different tastes in his audiences in different portions of the country. When afterwards asked why he put such questions to his learned visitor, he said, "Why, what we got from him isn't printed in the books; the other things are." But Lincoln did not do all the questioning. In his turn, Agassiz asked Lincoln if he had ever engaged in lecturing. Lincoln gave the outline of a lecture, which he had partly written years before, to show the origin of inventions and prove that there is nothing new under the sun. "I think I can show," said he, "at least, in a fanciful way, that all the modern inventions were known centuries ago." Agassiz begged that Lincoln would finish the lecture sometime. Lincoln replied that he had the manuscript somewhere in his papers, "and," said he, "when I get out of this place, I'll finish it up, perhaps."
So great was Lincoln's magnanimity, and so keen his sense of justice, that he never allowed personal considerations to influence his official acts. It is probably true that it was easy for him to forgive an injury; but he was incapable of using his position as President to gratify his private resentments. It was once represented to him that a recent appointee to an important office had been bitterly opposed to him politically. "I suppose," said he, "the Judge did behave pretty ugly; but that wouldn't make him any less fit for this place, and I have a Scriptural authority for appointing him. You recollect that while the Lord on Mount Sinai was getting out a commission for Aaron, that same Aaron was at the foot of the mountain making a false god, a golden calf, for the people to worship; yet Aaron got his commission, you know." At another time, when remonstrated with upon the appointment to place of one of his former opponents, he said: "Nobody will deny that he is a first-rate man for the place, and I am bound to see that his opposition to me personally shall not interfere with my giving the people a good officer." And on another similar occasion, when remonstrated with by members of his Cabinet, he said: "Oh, I can't afford to punish every person who has seen fit to oppose my election. We want a competent man in this office, and I know of no one who could perform the duties better than the one proposed."
With all his self-abnegation, Lincoln could be stern when the occasion warranted it. As an illustration the following incident is related: An officer who had been cashiered from the service, forced himself several times into Lincoln's presence, to plead for a reversal of his sentence. Each time he read a long argument attempting to prove that he had received unjust treatment. The President listened to him patiently; but the facts, on their most favorable showing, did not seem to him to sanction his interference. In the last interview, the man became angry, and turning abruptly said: "Well, Mr. President, I see you are determined not to do me justice!" This was too much, even for the long-suffering Lincoln. Manifesting, however, no more feeling than that indicated by a slight compression of the lips, he quietly arose, laid down a package of papers he held in his hands, and then, suddenly seizing the disgraced officer by the coat collar, he marched him forcibly to the door, saying, as he ejected him into the passage, "Sir, I give you fair warning never to show yourself in this room again. I can bear censure, but not insult!" In a whining tone the man begged for his papers, which he had dropped. "Begone, sir," said the President, "your papers will be sent to you. I wish never to see your face again!"
Much has been said about Lincoln's views on religion. Like many other great men, he was not what might technically be called a Christian. He was a religious man in spirit and by nature; yet he never joined a church. Mrs. Lincoln says that he had no religious faith, in the usual acceptation of the word, but that religion was a sort of poetry in his nature. "Twice during his life," she said, "he seemed especially to think about it. Once was when our boy Willie died. Once—and this time he thought of it more deeply—was when he went to Gettysburg." But whatever his inner thoughts may have been, no man on earth had a firmer faith in Providence than Abraham Lincoln. Perhaps he did not himself know just where he stood. He believed in God—in immortality. He did not believe in eternal punishment, but was confident of rest and peace after this life was over. He may not have felt certain of the divine origin of all parts of the Bible, but he valued its precepts, and his whole life gave evidence of faith in a higher power than that of man. Mr. Nicolay, his secretary, testifies that "his nature was deeply religious, but he belonged to no denomination; he had faith in the eternal justice and boundless mercy of Providence, and made the Golden Rule of Christ his practical creed." And Dr. Phillips Brooks, in an eloquent and expressive passage, calls him "Shepherd of the people—that old name that the best rulers ever craved. What ruler ever won it like this President of ours? He fed us faithfully and truly. He fed us with counsel when we were in doubt, with inspiration when we sometimes faltered, with caution when we would be rash, with calm, clear, trustful cheerfulness through many an hour when our hearts were dark. He fed hungry souls all over the country with sympathy and consolation. He spread before the whole land feasts of great duty and devotion and patriotism on which the land grew strong. He fed us with solemn, solid truths. He taught us the sacredness of government, the wickedness of treason. He made our souls glad and vigorous with the love of Liberty that was in his. He showed us how to love truth, and yet be charitable; how to hate wrong and all oppression, and yet not treasure one personal injury or insult. He fed all his people, from the highest to the lowest, from the most privileged down to the most enslaved. 'He fed them with a faithful and true heart.'"
Trials of the Administration in 1863—Hostility to War Measures—Lack of Confidence at the North—Opposition in Congress—How Lincoln felt about the "Fire in the Rear"—Criticisms from Various Quarters—Visit of "the Boston Set"—The Government on a Tight-rope—The Enlistment of Colored Troops—Interview between Lincoln and Frederick Douglass—Reverses in the Field—Changes of Military Leaders—From Burnside to Hooker—Lincoln's First Meeting with "Fighting Joe"—The President's Solicitude—His Warning Letter to Hooker—His Visit to the Rappahannock—Hooker's Self-confidence the "Worst Thing about Him"—The Defeat at Chancellorsville—The Failure of our Generals—"Wanted, a Man."
It is impossible, without a close study of the inner history of the war and of the acts of the administration, to conceive of the harassing and baffling difficulties which beset President Lincoln's course in every direction, and of the jealous, narrow, and bitter opposition which his more important measures provoked. As the struggle advanced he found in his front a solid and defiant South, behind him a divided and distrustful North. What might be called the party of action and of extreme measures developed a sharp hostility to the President. He would not go fast enough to suit them; they thought him disposed to compromise. They began by criticizing his policy, and his methods of prosecuting the war; from this they passed rapidly to a criticism of the President himself. In the affectionate admiration felt for him now, people have forgotten how weak and poor and craven they found him then. So far had this disapproval and hostility gone, that early in 1863 we find Mr. Greeley searching everywhere for a fitting successor to Lincoln for the Presidency at the next term. There were but few men in high official station in Washington who at that time unqualifiedly sustained him. In the House of Representatives there were but two members who could make themselves heard, who stood actively by him. This matter, long since forgotten, must be recalled to show clearly the President's straits, and his action and bearing amidst his difficulties. It should be remembered that party lines, which disappeared at the beginning of the war, were again clearly drawn; and the Democratic wing of Congress, under the leadership of Vallandigham of Ohio, actively opposed many of the necessary measures for the prosecution of the war. The cry had already been raised in Congress, "The South cannot be subjugated"; and every fresh disaster to the national arms was hailed as proof of the assertion.
The effect of this abuse and opposition was exceedingly painful to Lincoln. He said: "I have been caused more anxiety, I have passed more sleepless nights, on account of the temper and attitude of the Democratic party in the North regarding the suppression of the rebellion than by the rebels in the South. I have always had faith that our armies would ultimately and completely triumph; but these enemies in the North cause me a great deal of anxiety and apprehension. Can it be that there are opposing opinions in the North as to the necessity of putting down this rebellion? How can men hesitate a moment as to the duty of the Government to restore its authority in every part of the country? It is incomprehensible to me that men living in their quiet homes under the protection of laws, in possession of their property, can sympathize with and give aid and comfort to those who are doing their utmost to overthrow that Government which makes life and everything they possess valuable."
In January, 1863, a party of distinguished gentlemen from Boston visited the national capital, in order to confer with the President on the workings of the emancipation policy. They made the visit chiefly at the suggestion of Ralph Waldo Emerson, who during all the trying years of the war never lost faith in Lincoln's honesty and sense of justice. Secretary Stanton made no secret of his opposition to these gentlemen, who were spoken of rather slightingly as "that Boston set." The "Boston set" were uncompromising abolitionists, and nothing would satisfy them but immediate and aggressive measures for enforcing the policy of emancipation. As it was the President's instinct to feel his way slowly in pushing on the great measures necessary to the safe guidance of the nation in its perilous crisis, they were naturally dissatisfied with his conservative methods and tendencies. The visitors—including Senator Wilson, Wendell Phillips, Francis W. Bird, Elizur Wright, J.H. Stephenson, George L. Stearns, Oakes Ames, and Moncure D. Conway—called on the President one Sunday evening, at the White House. "The President met us," says Mr. Conway, "laughing like a boy, saying that in the morning one of his children had come to inform him that the cat had kittens, and now another had just announced that the dog had puppies, and the White House was in a decidedly sensational state. Some of our party looked a little glum at this hilarity; but it was pathetic to see the change in the President's face when he presently resumed his burden of care. We were introduced by Senator Wilson, who began to speak of us severally, when Mr. Lincoln said he knew perfectly who we were, and requested us to be seated. Nothing could be more gracious than his manner, or more simple. The conversation was introduced by Wendell Phillips, who, with all his courtesy, expressed our gratitude and joy at the Proclamation of Emancipation, and asked how it seemed to be working. The President said that he had not expected much from it at first, and consequently had not been disappointed; he had hoped, and still hoped, that something would come of it after awhile. Phillips then alluded to the deadly hostility which the proclamation had naturally excited in pro-slavery quarters, and gently hinted that the Northern people, now generally anti-slavery, were not satisfied that it was being honestly carried out by all of the nation's agents and Generals in the South. 'My own impression, Mr. Phillips,' said the President, 'is that the masses of the country generally are dissatisfied chiefly at our lack of military successes. Defeat and failure in the field make everything seem wrong.' His face was now clouded, and his next words were somewhat bitter. 'Most of us here present,' he said, 'have been nearly all our lives working in minorities, and many have got into a habit of being dissatisfied.' Several of those present having deprecated this, the President said, 'At any rate, it has been very rare that an opportunity of "running" this administration has been lost.' To this Mr. Phillips answered, in his sweetest voice: 'If we see this administration earnestly working to free the country from slavery and its rebellion, we will show you how we can "run" it into another four years of power.' The President's good humor was restored by this, and he said: 'Oh, Mr. Phillips, I have ceased to have any personal feeling or expectation in that matter—I do not say I never had any—so abused and borne upon as I have been.' ... On taking our leave we expressed to the President our thanks for his kindly reception, and for his attention to statements of which some were naturally not welcome. The President bowed graciously at this, and, after saying he was happy to have met gentlemen known to him by distinguished services, if not personally, and glad to listen to their views, added, 'I must bear this load which the country has intrusted to me as well as I can, and do the best I can with it.'"
To another self-constituted delegation—this time from the West—who called at the White House one day, excited and troubled about some of the commissions or omissions of the administration, the President, after hearing them patiently, replied: "Gentlemen, suppose all the property you were worth was in gold, and you had put it in the hands of Blondin to carry across the Niagara river on a rope; would you shake the cable, or keep shouting out to him, 'Blondin, stand up a little straighter!—Blondin, stoop a little more—go a little faster—lean a little more to the north—lean a little more to the south'? No! you would hold your breath as well as your tongue, and keep your hands off until he was safe over. The Government is carrying an immense weight. Untold treasures are in their hands. They are doing the very best they can. Don't badger them. Keep silence, and we'll get you safe across."
In 1863 the Government, following logically the policy of the Emancipation act, began the experiment of introducing colored soldiers into our armies. This caused not only intense anger at the South, but much doubt and dissatisfaction at the North. To discuss some of the practical and difficult questions growing out of this measure, Frederick Douglass, the most distinguished representative of the race which America had so long held in chains, was presented to the President. The account of the conference, given by Douglass, is singularly interesting. He says: "I was never more quickly or more completely put at ease in the presence of a great man than in that of Abraham Lincoln. He was seated, when I entered, in a low arm-chair, with his feet extended on the floor, surrounded by a large number of documents and several busy secretaries. The room bore the marks of business, and the persons in it, the President included, appeared to be much overworked and tired. Long lines of care were already deeply written on Mr. Lincoln's brow, and his strong face, full of earnestness, lighted up as soon as my name was mentioned. As I approached and was introduced to him, he arose and extended his hand, and bade me welcome. I at once felt myself in the presence of an honest man—one whom I could love, honor, and trust, without reserve or doubt. Proceeding to tell him who I was and what I was doing, he promptly but kindly stopped me, saying: 'I know who you are, Mr. Douglass; Mr. Seward has told me all about you. Sit down; I am glad to see you.' I urged, among other things, the necessity of granting the colored soldiers equal pay and promotion with white soldiers, and retaliation for colored prisoners killed by the enemy. Mr. Lincoln admitted the justice of my demand for equal pay and promotion of colored soldiers, but on the matter of retaliation he differed from me entirely. I shall never forget the benignant expression of his face, the tearful look of his eye, and the quiver in his voice, when he deprecated a resort to retaliatory measures. 'Once begun,' said he, 'I do not know where such a measure would stop.' He said he could not take men out and kill them in cold blood for what was done by others. 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. Afterwards we discussed the means most desirable to be employed outside the army to induce the slaves in the rebel States to come within the Federal lines. The increasing opposition to the war in the North, and the mad cry against it because it was being made an abolition war, alarmed Mr. Lincoln, and made him apprehensive that a peace might be forced upon him which would leave still in slavery all who had not come within our lines. What he wanted was to make his proclamation as effective as possible in the event of such a peace. He said, in a regretful tone, 'The slaves are not coming into our lines as rapidly and numerously as I had hoped.' I replied that the slaveholders knew how to keep such things from their slaves, and probably very few knew of his proclamation. 'Well,' he said, 'I want you to set about devising some means of making them acquainted with it, and for bringing them into our lines.' What he said showed a deeper moral conviction against slavery than I had ever seen before in anything spoken or written by him. I listened with the deepest interest and profoundest satisfaction, and, at his suggestion, agreed to undertake the organizing of a band of scouts, composed of colored men, whose business should be, somewhat after the original plan of John Brown, to go into the rebel States beyond the lines of our armies, carry the news of emancipation, and urge the slaves to come within our boundaries."
Frederick Douglass once remarked that Lincoln was one of the few white men he ever passed an hour with who failed to remind him in some way, before the interview terminated, that he was a negro. "He always impressed me as a strong, earnest man, having no time or disposition to trifle; grappling with all his might the work he had in hand. The expression of his face was a blending of suffering with patience and fortitude. Men called him homely, and homely he was; but it was manifestly a human homeliness. His eyes had in them the tenderness of motherhood, and his mouth and other features the highest perfection of a genuine manhood."
As though the political difficulties that beset President Lincoln in the first half of 1863 were not discouragement enough, they were attended by disheartening reverses to our arms. It will be remembered that on the removal of General McClellan from command of the Army of the Potomac, in November, 1862, General Burnside succeeded him. The change proved an unfortunate one. General Burnside was an earnest and gallant soldier, but was not equal to the vast responsibilities of his new position. It is said, to his credit, that he was three times offered the command of the Army of the Potomac, and three times he declined. Finally it was pressed upon him by positive orders, and he could no longer, without insubordination, refuse it. In addressing General Halleck, after his appointment, he said: "Had I been asked to take it, I should have declined; but being ordered, I cheerfully obey." After his fearful defeat at Fredericksburg (December 13, 1862), he said: "The fault was mine. The entire responsibility of failure must rest on my shoulders." By his manly and courageous bearing, and the strong sincerity of his character, he retained the respect and sympathy of the President and of the country. He immediately retired from command of the Army of the Potomac, which, under his brief leadership, had fought the most bloody and disastrous battle in its history.
General Joseph Hooker, the fourth commander of the heroic but unfortunate Army of the Potomac, was appointed to that position by President Lincoln in January, 1863. The two men had met briefly early in the war, when Hooker, then living in California, hastened to Washington to offer his services to the Government; but for some reason General Scott disliked him, and his offer was not accepted. After some months, Hooker, giving up the idea of getting a command, decided to return to California; but before leaving he called to pay his respects to the President. He was introduced as "Captain Hooker." The President, being pressed for time, was about to dismiss him with a few civil phrases; when, to his surprise, Hooker began the following speech: "Mr. President, my friend makes a mistake. I am not 'Captain Hooker,' but was once 'Lieutenant-Colonel Hooker' of the regular army. I was lately a farmer in California. Since the rebellion broke out I have been trying to get into the service; but I find I am not wanted. I am about to return home; but before going, I was anxious to pay my respects to you, and to express my wishes for your personal welfare and success in quelling this rebellion. And I want to say one word more. I was at Bull Run the other day, Mr. President, and it is no vanity in me to say am a d——d sight better general than you had on that field." This was said, not in the tone of a braggart, but of a man who knew what he was talking about; and, as the President afterward said, he appeared at that moment as if perfectly able to make good his words. Lincoln seized his hand, making him sit down, and began an extended chat. The result was that Hooker did not return to California, but in a few weeks Captain Hooker was Brigadier-General Hooker. He served with distinction under McClellan in the Peninsular campaign and at Antietam, and commanded the right wing of the army at Fredericksburg. He had come to be known as "Fighting Joe Hooker," and was generally regarded as one of the most vigorous and efficient Generals of the Union army.
Such was the man who, in one of the darkest hours of the Union cause, was selected to lead once more the Army of the Potomac against the enemy. This army, since its defeat at Fredericksburg, had remained disorganized and ineffective. Its new commander, unlike his predecessor Burnside, was full of confidence. The President, made cautious by experience, deemed it his duty to accompany the appointment by some timely words of warning; and accordingly he addressed to General Hooker the following frank, manly, and judicious letter.
EXECUTIVE MANSION WASHINGTON, D.C. January 26, 1863.
GENERAL:—I have placed you 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 satisfied with you. I believe you to be a brave and skilful soldier, which of course I like. I also believe that you do not mix politics with your profession, in which you are right. You have confidence in yourself, which is a valuable if not 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 counsel with 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 success can be dictators. What I now ask from 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 criticizing their commander and withholding confidence from him, will now turn upon you. I shall assist you, as far as I can, to pull 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.
Yours very truly, A. LINCOLN.
In all Lincoln's writings there are few things finer than this letter. In its candor and friendliness, its simplicity and deep wisdom, and its clearness of expression, it is almost perfect; and the President's deep solicitude for the safety of the army and anxiety for its success give a pathetic touch to the closing sentences. This solicitude found partial relief in a personal inspection of the Army of the Potomac, which was made in April, just before the battle of Chancellorsville, and occupied five or six days. The President was accompanied by Attorney-General Bates, Mrs. Lincoln, his son Tad, and Mr. Noah P. Brooks. The first night out was spent on the little steamer which conveyed the party to their destination. After all had retired to rest except the anxious President and one or two others, Lincoln gave utterance to his deep-seated apprehensions in the whispered query to his friend, "How many of our monitors will you wager are at the bottom of Charleston Harbor?" "I essayed," writes Mr. Brooks, "to give a cheerful view of the Charleston situation. But he would not be encouraged. He then went on to say that he did not believe that an attack by water on Charleston could ever possibly succeed. He talked a long time about his 'notions,' as he called them; and at General Halleck's headquarters next day, the first inquiries were for 'rebel papers,' which were usually brought in from the picket lines. These he examined with great anxiety, hoping that he might find an item of news from Charleston. One day, having looked all over a Richmond paper several times without finding a paragraph which he had been told was in it, he was mightily pleased to have it pointed out to him, and said, 'It is plain that newspapers are made for newspaper men; being only a layman, it was impossible for me to find that.'"
The out-door life, the constant riding, and the respite from the monstrous burdens at the capital, appeared to afford mental and physical benefit to the worn President. But in answer to a remark expressing this conviction, he replied sadly, "I don't know about 'the rest' as you call it. I suppose it is good for the body. But the tired part of me is inside and out of reach." "He rode a great deal," says Mr. Brooks, "while with the army, always preferring the saddle to the elegant ambulance which had been provided for him. He sat his horse well, but he rode hard, and during his stay I think he regularly used up at least one horse each day. Little Tad invariably followed in his father's train; and, mounted on a smaller horse, accompanied by an orderly, the youngster was a conspicuous figure, as his gray cloak flew in the wind while we hung on the flanks of Hooker and his generals."
General Hooker was now planning his great movement against Richmond, and talked freely of the matter with the President, In the course of a conversation, Lincoln casually remarked, "If you get to Richmond, General." But Hooker interrupted him with—"Excuse me, Mr. President, but there is no 'if' in the case. I am going straight to Richmond, if I live!" Later in the day, Lincoln, privately referring to this self-confidence of the General, said to Mr. Brooks, rather mournfully, "It is about the worst thing I have seen since I have been down here." In further illustration of Hooker's confidence in himself, Mr. Brooks says: "One night, Hooker and I being alone in his hut, the General standing with his back to the fireplace, alert, handsome, full of courage and confidence, said laughingly, 'The President says you know about that letter he wrote me on taking command.' I acknowledged that the President had read it to me. The General seemed to think that the advice was well-meant, but unnecessary. Then he added, with that charming assurance which became him so well, 'After I have been to Richmond, I am going to have that letter printed.'" But all that came of Hooker's confidence, after three months of elaborate preparation, was a grand forward movement into Virginia and another bloody and humiliating defeat for the heroic but unfortunate army under his command.
The first of May, 1863, the Army of the Potomac under Hooker met the Army of Northern Virginia under Lee and Jackson, near Chancellorsville, Virginia. It was here that Jackson executed his brilliant and successful flank movement around the Union right, ensuring a victory for his side but losing his own life. After a contest of several days, involving the fruitless sacrifice of thousands of gallant soldiers, Hooker's army fell back and recrossed the Rappahannock.[G]
The news of this fresh disaster was an almost stunning shock to President Lincoln. During the progress of the battle he was under a cruel strain of anxiety and suspense. Secretary Welles, who was with him a part of the time, says: "He had a feverish eagerness for facts; was constantly up and down, for nothing reliable came from the front." Mr. Noah Brooks relates that in company with an old friend of Lincoln's he was waiting in one of the family rooms of the White House. "A door opened and Lincoln appeared, holding an open telegram in his hand. The sight of his face and figure was frightful. He seemed stricken with death. Almost tottering to a chair, he sat down; and then I mechanically noticed that his face was of the same color as the wall behind him—not pale, not even sallow, but gray, like ashes. Extending the despatch to me, he said, with a hollow, far-off voice, 'Read it—news from the army.' The telegram was from General Butterfield, I think, then chief of staff to Hooker. It was very brief, simply saying that the Army of the Potomac had 'safely recrossed the Rappahannock,' and was now at its old position on the north bank of that stream. The President's friend, Dr. Henry, an old man and somewhat impressionable, burst into tears,—not so much, probably, at the news as on account of its effect upon Lincoln. The President regarded the old man for an instant with dry eyes, and said, 'What will the country say? Oh, what will the country say?' He seemed hungry for consolation and cheer, and sat a little while talking about the failure. Yet it did not seem that he was disappointed so much for himself, but that he thought the country would be."