"War exists," he said, "notwithstanding all our efforts to avoid it, exists by the act of Mexico herself."
Some of the people, however, did not believe that Mexico was wholly to blame for beginning the war. And a young Congressman named Abraham Lincoln asked the President to state the exact spot on American territory where American blood had been spilled. This was called the "Spot resolution."
But in spite of any protest that was made war was declared, and volunteers came pouring in from every side.
The war lasted for a year and a half, and from the first the Mexicans had the worst of it. Throughout the whole war they never won a battle. Besides General Taylor's army the Mexicans soon had two more to fight. In the north General Kearney marched into New Mexico and took possession of it in the name of the United States. Then he marched into California and claimed that also. In the south the Commander-in-Chief, General Scott, landed at Vera Cruz. And after taking the town he marched triumphantly on, conquering everything on his way till he reached Mexico City, and the war was practically at an end.
It was not, however, until February of the following year that the treaty of peace was signed in Mexico and not till the 4th of July was it proclaimed in Washington. By it a great tract of land was given to the United States, stretching from the borders of Texas to the shores of the Pacific and from the present northern border of Mexico to Oregon.
Chapter 77 - Polk - The Finding of Gold
In return for the great tract of land ceded to the United States Mexico received 15 million dollars. But the Mexicans little knew what a golden land they were parting with, and what a bad bargain they were making. Nine days before the treaty was signed gold was found in California. But news traveled slowly in those days, and the treaty was signed before the Mexicans knew of the great discovery.
Some time before this a Swiss named Sutter had settled in the Sacramento Valley. He had prospered greatly, and had become a regular little potentate, ruling the whole district round.
He had thousands of horses and cattle, and hundreds of men worked for him, both white men and Indians. Now he wanted to build a saw mill and a man named Marshall, a settler from the East, undertook to build it for him.
Marshall was a moody, queer tempered man. But he was a good workman. So about fifty miles from Sutter's fort the saw mill was begun. Now one day while Marshall was walking beside the mill stream inspecting the work he saw something yellow and shining among the loose earth and gravel which was being carried down by the stream. At first he thought little about it, but as again and again he saw these shining grains he at length thought that they might be gold and picked some up.
Next morning he again went to inspect the mill stream and there he found a piece of the shining stuff bigger than any he had found the day before. Marshall picked up the piece, and when he felt it heavy in his hand he began to feel a little excited.
Could it really be gold? he asked himself. Marshall did not know much about gold, but he knew that it was heavy, and that it was fairly soft. So he bit and hammered it with stones, and finding that it was easily beaten out he at last decided that it was indeed gold.
So he mounted his horse and rode off to Sutter to tell him of his wonderful discovery. It was a pouring wet day in January, and when Marshall reached the fort he was soaked through. But he took no thought of that, and marching right into Sutter's office with something of an air of mystery asked for a private talk.
Sutter wondered what had brought Marshall back from the mill, and he wondered still more at the mysterious air.
Soon he understood. For Marshall took out a little bag, and emptying what it held into his hand, held it out to Sutter.
"I believe this is gold," he said.
"It certainly looks like it," said Sutter in surprise.
Then Marshall told how he had found it in the mill stream, and that he believed there were tons of it.
Sutter was a very great man in the countryside, and he had things which no one else dreamed of having. Among these was an Encyclopedia. So he looked up the article on gold and read it carefully. And then the two men tried all the tests they had at command, and at last came to the conclusion that the shining grains which Marshall had found were certainly gold.
Sutter would have been glad to keep the secret for a little time, at least until his mill was finished. But such a secret could not be kept. Soon every one round knew of the great discovery. The sawmill was left unfinished, the workmen went off to dig for gold, and everyone else followed their example.
The towns were deserted, shops and offices were shut up, houses were left half built, fields were left unploughed, horses and cattle roamed about uncared for. High and low, rich and poor, lawyers, doctors, labourers, threw down their tools or their pens, turned the key in the door, and departed for the gold fields.
Some went by sea, and those who could not get passage in ships hired any small craft which they could find. They put to sea in the most rotten or frail little boats, willing to brave any danger if only they might at length reach the land of gold.
Others went by land, some rode on horseback or drove in a wagon, others went on foot all the way, carrying with them nothing but a spade or shovel.
It was a mad rush for wealth. Every one as soon as he heard the wonderful news was seized with the gold fever. When ships came into port the sailors heard the news, and they deserted wholesale, and the ships were left to rock at anchor without a soul on board. Prisoners broke prison and fled to the gold fields. Warders followed, not to take them but to remain and dig. Newspapers could not be issued, because the printers had all run off; every industry was neglected except the making of spades and picks. And the price of these rose and rose till they could not be had for less than ten dollars apiece, and it is said that even fifty dollars was offered for one.
But in some places upon the gold fields picks and shovels were not needed, for all the men had to do was to pick at the seams with their pocket knives to get enough gold to make them rich.
At first it was only from California, Oregon and the Western settlements that men rushed to the gold fields. For although the telegraph had been discovered a short time before this there were neither telegraphs nor railroads in the West. But soon, in a wonderfully short time too, the news spread. It spread to the Eastern States, then to Europe, and from all over the world the rush came.
Every ship that would float put to sea. Many instead of going their usual routes sailed for California, the whale fisheries were neglected and the whalers took to mining. The fleets of all the world seemed to make for the shores of America.
Across the Continent, too long trains of lumbering wagons drawn by oxen slowly wound. They were tented over and were so huge that whole families lived in them, and they were given the name of prairie schooners. All day long they crawled along and as dusk fell they gathered into groups. Fires were lit, tents pitched for the night. Then early next morning the travelers would be astir again, and so day after day through lonely uninhabited wildernesses the caravans moved on.
In one unending stream great tented wagons, carts, carriages, horsemen or even walkers moved along, all going in the same direction, to the golden land of the West.
Many were the dangers these adventurous travelers had to brave. There were dangers from hostile Indians, and from wild animals, from lack of food and water, and above all from sickness. Cholera broke out in these slow-moving trains, and many a man who had set out gaily found a grave by the wayside, and never reached the land of his golden hopes.
The road too was strewn with broken down wagons, and the bones of oxen and horses, and many had to finish their weary journey on foot.
But in spite of all mischances hundreds and thousands reached the gold fields, and all over the Sacramento Valley, or wherever gold was found, little towns sprang up.
These were towns of wooden shanties and canvas tents. And whenever the gold gave out, or news came of some richer mine, the diggers would forsake the little town, and rush off somewhere else. And no sign of life would be left in the once busy valley save the weather-worn huts and the upturned earth. Some men made fortunes almost in a day, many returned home well off. But by far the greater number returned poorer than they came, and with their health shattered by the hardships of the life. Many more never returned at all, but found a nameless grave among the lonely valleys.
Others made fortunes again and again, and lost them as quickly as they made them. For though at first the men who went to the gold fields were for the most part young, and strong, and honest, the greed of gain soon brought all the riff-raff of the towns. Many men joined the throng who had no intention of working, and who but came to lure the gold away from those who had found it.
So gambling saloons, and drinking saloons, sprang up everywhere, and many a man left them poorer if not wiser. Murders became frequent, but men thought little about them. Every man went armed, and if he could not protect himself it was his own fault.
Theft was looked upon as a far worse sin. For everybody lived in frail wooden juts or open tents. They had no means of locking up their gold, and thought nothing of leaving it lying about quite unprotected. But when criminals and lowdown ruffians began to come things were changed; until at last many were afraid to have it known that they possessed gold lest they should be murdered for it.
Among the many who did not make fortunes out of the finding of gold were Marshall and Sutter. Neither of them was lucky as a miner and both of them died in poverty.
Chapter 78 - Taylor - Union or Disunion
Polk had no chance of being re-elected as President. For many people looked upon the war with Mexico as a great wrong, and as a stain upon the flag. So even although it had given to the United States California, and all its untold wealth, Polk was not forgiven for having brought the war about. And while the people were rushing from all corners of the globe to California, a new President was inaugurated.
This new President was no other than General Zachary Taylor, who had become famous during the Mexican war, for people did not blame him for the war. He had only obeyed orders as a soldier must and every one admired his bravery and skill.
He was a rough old soldier, and his men called him Old Rough and Ready. And when he first heard that people wanted to make him President, like Jackson, that other rough old soldier before him, he simply laughed at the idea.
"I am not vain enough to think that I am fit to be President," he said. "I would gladly see some other citizen more worthy chosen for that high office."
Old Rough and Ready was a soldier, and nothing but a soldier. He knew nothing at all about politics, and had never even voted. However when people insisted that he should be President, he began rather to like the idea, and at length consented to be a candidate, and was elected.
Because of the discovery of gold, thousands and thousands of people flocked to California. And although many returned to their homes again, many also remained in California, and made their homes in the new-found sunny land. So it came about that California was peopled faster than any other part of America, and in 1849, less than two years after the discovery of gold, it asked to be admitted to the Union as a state.
But before it was admitted a fierce battle had to be fought, for the Californians wanted the state to be admitted as a free state. Now part of California lay south of the Missouri Compromise Line, so the Southerners were angry, and declared that California must be divided into two, and that the Southern part must come into the Union as a slave state.
The Southerners felt that they had a right to be angry. For they had helped to bring on the Mexican War for the purpose of getting more territory south of the Missouri Compromise Line, so that they should be sure of slave states to balance the free states of the north. They had won the land, and now victory would be turned to defeat if the new states were admitted as free states.
So they threatened, as they had threatened before, to break away from the Union if they were not listened to.
No sooner was Taylor inaugurated than he had to turn his attention to this great matter. The Southerners were determined to use all their power to get their way, and Senator John Caldwell Calhoun, an old man, who for years had been a champion of slavery, determined to speak once more for the cause.
Calhoun was so old and ill that he could hardly walk, and he tottered into the Senate Chamber leaning on the arms of two friends. He was far too feeble to read his speech. So, pale and deathlike, he sat in his chair while a friend read it for him.
"The South must have a share in the new territory," he said. "If you of the North will not do this, then let our Southern States separate and depart in peace."
This was the great statesman's last word to his country. Three weeks later he lay dead. He was the greatest of Southern politicians. He really believed that slavery was a good thing, and that life in the South would be impossible without it. And loving his country deeply, he could not bear to think of its ruin.
"The South! the poor South! he murmured, as he lay dying. "God knows what will become of her."
The next great speech was made by Daniel Webster. Twenty years had come and gone since he made his first great speech for Union. Now thousands turned to him, begging him to reconcile the North and South. And on the day he made his speech, the Senate Chamber was packed from floor to ceiling.
"I speak today," he said, "not as a Massachusetts man, nor as a Northern man, but as an American, having no locality but America. I speak today for the preservation of the Union. Hear me for my cause."
But to the men burning with zeal against slavery his speech seemed lukewarm. "The law of Nature," he said, "settles forever that slavery cannot exist in California." It was a useless taunt and reproach to the slave holders to forbid slavery where slavery could not exist. He blamed the North for having fallen short in its duty to the South, and declared that the South had just cause for complaint.
Many applauded this speech, but to others it was like a blow in the face.
"Webster," cried one, "is a fallen star! Lucifer descending from heaven!"
A third great speech was made four days later by William H. Seward. He spoke whole-heartedly for union.
"Slavery must vanish from the Union," he said, "but it would vanish peacefully." He brushed aside as impossible the thought that any state should break away from the Union. "I shall vote for the admission of California directly," he said, "without conditions, without qualifications, and without compromise."
The Washington Monument
But still the debate went on. Summer came and on the 4th of July 1850, there was a great ceremony for the laying of the foundation stone of the Washington Monument.
The President was present and sat for hours in the blazing sun. Then feeling very tired he went home and drank iced milk and ate some cherries. That night he became very ill, and a few days later he died.
"I have tried to do my duty," he said. Then the brave and honest old soldier laid down his heavy burden and was at rest.
Once again a sad procession left the White House, and wound slowly through the streets lined with soldiers. Behind the funeral car was led the President's old war horse which he would never mount again. The people wept to see it, and the whole nation mourned for the brave old soldier who had tried to do his duty.
Chapter 79 - Fillmore - The Underground Railroad
The Vice-President, Millard Fillmore, now became President. He was the son of very poor parents; he had picked up an education how he could, and he was nineteen before he saw a history, or a map of his own country. But he was determined to become a lawyer. And after a hard struggle he succeeded. Then from step to step he rose, till he had now reached the highest office in the land.
Under the new President the debate over California still went on. But at length the matter was settled, and California was admitted as a free state. This was on the 9th of September, 1850, but the news did not reach California until October. For months the people had been waiting for an answer to their petition. And as the days went past they grew more and more impatient. But at last one morning San Francisco was filled with excitement for the Oregon was seen coming into harbour gaily decorated with flags.
With shouts of joy the people ran down to the wharf for they knew the Oregon would never come in with flags flying in such a way if she were not bringing good news.
And when they heard the news they laughed, and cried, and kissed each other in joy. Cannon were fired and bells rung, shops were shut, and every one went holidaying.
Messengers too were sent in every direction. Stage coaches with six-horse teams ran races to be the first to bring the news to outlying towns and villages. As the coaches dashed through villages men on them shouted the news, and the villagers would shout and laugh in return.
Then, leaping on their horses, they would ride off to tell some neighbour. So throughout the land the news was carried.
By the admission of California to the Union as a free state the non-slave states were greatly strengthened. But in some degree to make up for this, a very strict law about the arrest of runaway slaves was passed. This was called the Fugitive Slave Law and it was bad and cruel. For, by it, if a negro were caught even by some one who had no right to him, he had no chance of freedom. A negro was not allowed to speak for himself, and he was not allowed the benefit of a jury. Also any person who helped a slave to run away, or protected him when he had run away, might be fined.
The North hated the Bill but it was passed. Many people, however, made up their minds not to obey it. For conscience told them that slavery was wrong and conscience was a "higher Law." So when men came to the free states to catch runaway slaves they were received with anger, and everything was done to hinder them in their man-catching work. The Underground Railroad, too, became more active than ever.
This Underground Railroad was not a railroad, and it was not underground. It was simply a chain of houses about twenty miles or so apart where escaped slaves might be sure of a kindly welcome. The railroad was managed by men who felt pity for the slaves and helped them to escape. It went in direct roads across the States to Canada. The escaping slaves moved so secretly from one house to another that it almost seemed as if they must have gone underground. So the system came to be called the Underground Railroad, and the friendly houses were the stations.
Once a runaway slave reached one of these friendly houses or stations he would be hidden in the attic or cellar or some safe place. There he would be fed and cared for until night came again. Then the password would be given to him, and directions how to reach the next underground station. And, with the pole star for his guide, he would set out.
Arriving at the house in the dusk of early morning, before any one was astir he would knock softly at the door.
"Who's there?" would be asked.
Then the runaway would give the password in answer. Perhaps it would be "William Penn," or "a friend of friends," or sometimes the signal would be the hoot of an owl. And hearing it the master of the underground station would rise and let the "passenger" in.
Sometimes the slavers would come alone, sometimes in twos and threes or even more. As many as seventeen were hidden one day at one of the stations.
Thousands of slaves were in this way helped to escape every year. It was a dangerous employment for the station-masters, and many were found out and fined. They paid the fines, they did not care for that; and went on helping the poor slaves.
Most of the people connected with the underground railroad were white, but some were coloured. One of the most daring of these was Harriet Tubman. She helped so many of her countrymen to escape that they called her "Moses" because she had led them out of the land of bondage. She was nearly white, but had been a slave herself. And having escaped from that fearful bondage she now spent her life in trying to free others.
Again and again, in spite of the danger in being caught, she ventured into the Southern States to bring back a band of runaway slaves. And she was so clever and so full of resource that she always brought them safely away. More than once when she saw she was being tracked, she put herself and her little company into a train, taking tickets for them southwards. For she knew that no one would suspect them to be runaway slaves if they were traveling south. Then, when their track was covered, and danger of pursuit over, they all turned north again.
Harriet was both brave and clever, and when the Civil War broke out, she served as a scout for the Northern Army, earning the praise of those who employed her. She lived to be very old, and died not many years ago, happy to know that all her countrymen were free.
But although many slaves tried to run away, all slaves were not unhappy. When they had a kind master they were well taken care of, and lived in far greater comfort that if they had been free. In the more northerly of the slave states, such as Virginia, the slaves were generally household servants, and were treated in the most affectionate manner. It was farther south in the cotton growing districts, where slaves worked in gangs under the whip of the overseer who was often brutal, that the real misery was.
But even with the kindest of masters a slave could never feel safe. For that master might die or lose his money, and have to sell his slaves. Then husband and wife, parents and children might be sold to different masters, and never see each other again. The one would never know whether the other was happy or miserable, alive or dead. Or they might be sold down South to work in the rice swamps or the cotton fields. It was this that the happy, careless slave from the North most dreaded.
It was just at this time when the Fugitive Slave Law was being enforced, and the Underground Railroad was working nightly that "Uncle Tom's Cabin" was written and published. You all know the story of poor old Tom, of funny, naughty Topsy and all the other interesting people of the book. We look upon it now as merely a story-book. But it was much more than that. It was a great sermon and did more to make people hate slavery than any other book ever written.
It was read by hundreds and thousands of people, and soon the fame of it spread to every country in Europe, and it was translated into at least twenty languages. And even today when the work it was meant to do is done, hundreds of boys and girls still laugh at Topsy and feel very choky indeed over the fate of poor old Uncle Tom.
Chapter 80 - Pierce - The Story of "Bleeding Kansas"
In 1853 Fillmore's term of office came to an end and Franklin Pierce became President. He was only forty-eight, and was the youngest President who had been elected so far.
He was the son of a soldier who had fought in the Mexican War. But by profession he was a lawyer and not a soldier.
During the administration of Pierce another territory was added to the United States. This was a strip of land which now forms the south of New Mexico and Arizona. It was bought from Mexico in 1854 and, as James Gadsden arranged the treaty with the President of Mexico, it was called the Gadsden Purchase. With this purchase the territory of the United States as we know it today was completed. Only seventy years had passed since the Peace of Paris. But in these seventy years the country had made mighty strides and had been doubled and trebled. Instead of being merely a strip of land east of the Mississippi it now stretched from ocean to ocean.
The chief interest in this administration was still the slavery question. It had not been settled as some people thought it had been. But it slept, at least, until suddenly a senator names Douglas awoke it again by bringing in a bill to do away with the Missouri Compromise Line.
There was still a great deal of territory of the Louisiana Purchase waiting to be carved into states. Now said Douglas, "why make all this fuss about slavery or no slavery every time a new state wants to be admitted? Do away with this Missouri Compromise, and when there are enough people in a territory to allow of its being admitted as a state, let these people themselves decide whether they wish it to be a free state or a slave state."
The bill which Douglas brought in thus to do away with the Missouri Compromise was known as the Kansas-Nebraska Bill, as Douglas suggested calling the great unorganised territory Nebraska in the north and Kansas in the South.
Douglas was a Northern man, but he wanted to please the Southerners, and get them to vote for him as President. So he brought in this bill. It met the fierce opposition from the North, but it passed. The President alone had power to stop it. But he did not use his power.
Douglas had brought in the bill to make himself popular. But he made a great mistake. All over the North he was hated and cursed because of it. In town after town he was hanged in effigy, and then burned with every mark of scorn. He was reviled as a Judas, and some women living in a little Northern village sent him thirty pieces of silver.
In spite of this bill the Northerners were determined that slavery should not be extended. So even before the President had signed it men were hurring westward into Kansas. Claims were staked out, trees were felled, and huts built as if by magic. Settlers streamed in by hundreds every day. Some came of themselves, others were sent by societies got up to help settlers, and by the end of the year, two or three towns were founded.
But the slave holders were just as determined to make Kansas a slave state. So from Missouri, which was a slave state and bordered upon the Kansas Territory, thousands of slave owners came over the border and settled in Kansas.
They too found several towns, and there began a fierce struggle for the upper hand.
March 30th, 1855 was appointed by the Governor for the election of a council and House of Representatives for the Territory.
The "Free Staters" were already to vote in force. But the election was a farce. For when the day came, five thousand Missourians marched across the border. They were a wild, sunburned, picturesque mob. They had guns on their shoulders, revolvers stuck in their belts and bowie knives in their big top boots.
They took possession of the polling booths, and if the judges would not do as they wished, they were turned out.
"Do you live in Kansas?" asked a Judge
"Yes, I do," replied the Missourian, without a moment's hesitation.
"Does your family live in Kansas?" asked the judge, who knew the man was not speaking the truth.
"It is none of your business," replied the Missourian. "If you don't keep your impertinence to yourself, I'll knock your head from your shoulders."
So the judge gave it up, and every one who liked voted.
There were not three thousand voters in the Territory, but over six thousand votes were recorded, three-quarters of them being those unlawful votes of the Missourians. Thus said a learned gentleman, "It has been maintained by the sharp logic of the revolver and the bowie knife, that the people of Missouri are the people of Kansas!"
The Governor of Kansas was named Reeder. His sympathy was with the South. But he was an honest man, and when he saw the lawless way in which the Missourians were behaving, he resolved to see justice done. And although they threatened to hang him, he ordered new elections in the seven districts which dared to make a protest. But the new elections made little difference. Owing to the fact that so many of the people were disputing its result, this election did not settle the question whether Kansas were to be admitted as a slave or a free state, and it still remained a Territory. And as soon as the legislature met, the "Free State" members were promptly unseated, and the others had things all their own way.
The laws which this legislature drew up with regard to slaves were quite out of keeping with the needs and desires of free America.
If any person were to entice a slave away from his master they were to suffer death. If they hid and protected a slave, they might be imprisoned with hard labour for five years or more. And if any person declared that Kansas was not a slave territory, they were to be imprisoned with hard labour for at least two years.
These were only a few of the laws. But the Governor vetoed them all. That is, he refused to pass them, veto coming from a Latin word meaning "I forbid." This made the slave party angry and they asked the President to remove Reeder and send a new Governor. This the President had power to do, as Texas was still only a Territory and not a state.
The President was now quite on the side of the slave owners. So a new Governor was sent, but the struggle went on just as before. Both sides began to arm, and at length it came to bloodshed.
The town of Lawrence, which was a Free State town, was sacked by a mob of ruffians, and civil war in Kansas was begun.
In Kansas there was an old man named John Brown. He was a fierce old Puritan, and he believed that God had called him to fight slavery. And the only way of fighting it that he thought possible was to slay the slave-holders.
A few days after the sacking of Lawrence he set off with his sons and one or two others to teach the slave-holders a lesson. Blood had been spilled by them, and he was determined that for every free state man who had been murdered he would have a life of a slave-holder in revenge.
So in the dead of night he and his band attacked the farms of sleeping men, and, dragging them from their beds, slew them in cold blood. Before day dawned six or seven men had been thus slain.
When the Free Staters heard of this deed they were shocked. But it roused the Border Ruffians to fury. Armed companies of both sides marched through the country, and when they met, there was bloodshed. For three years Kansas was in a state of disorder and riot. Governor after governor came with friendly feelings to the South. But when they saw the actions of the slave party they resigned rather than support such injustice.
At length the slave party gained their end, but they were defeated. They were defeated by Douglas, that same man who had caused the Missouri Compromise to be done away with. Then he had blackened his name, now he redeemed it.
The President was ready to use all his power to force the admission of Kansas as a slave state. Douglas warned him to beware, and when the President persisted, he rose in his place, and made such a wonderful speech that the bill introduced by the slave-holders was defeated. And when at length Kansas was admitted to the Union in 1861, it was admitted as a free state.
Chapter 81 - Buchanan - The Story of the Mormons
THE President whom Douglas defied over the question of Kansas was not Pierce, for in 1857 his term of office came to an end and James Buchanan was elected as President. Like Pierce, he was a "Northern man with Southern principles," and he threw his lot with the slave-holders.
Like Pierce, he was a lawyer, and in ordinary times might have made a good President and have left an honoured name behind him. But he came into power at a most difficult and dangerous time. He was not big enough or strong enough for the task. And so his name is less honoured perhaps than that of any other President.
Besides Kansas, two more states were admitted into the Union during Buchanan's term of office. These were Minnesota in 1858 and Oregon in 1859. They both became states while the struggle over Kansas was going on. For in them there was no trouble over the slavery question, and they were both admitted as free states. Minnesota was part of the Louisiana Purchase together with the last little corner of the North-West Territory. Oregon was part of the Oregon country. These with Kansas now made thirty-four states. So there were now thirty-four stars in the flag.
It was at this time that what is known as the Mormon War took place.
Mormonism was a new religion founded by Joseph Smith. Joseph Smith was a shiftless, idle, jovial fellow, one of a large family as shiftless and idle as himself. He was very ignorant, but he had a wonderful imagination, and he could never tell the simplest happening of his everyday life without making a great story out of it.
When he grew to be a man he began to dream dreams and see visions, and at length he declared that a messenger from heaven had shown him where to find a golden book. No one else saw this golden book, because Smith had been warned by the angel that great punishment would fall upon him if he showed it to any one. He was, however, allowed to make a "translation" of what was written in the book. This he did, publishing it as "The Book of the Mormons" or "The Golden Bible." But it seems very likely that part of this so-called translation was really copied from a story written by a man named Spaulding which had never been published. A great deal of it was, however, copied from the Bible.
Smith, who was at this time living in the State of New York, now declared that the religion which had been revealed to him was the only true religion. He founded a Church of which he was head or "prophet" and under him were twelve apostles and other dignitaries. A few people soon joined him and gradually their numbers increased until at last they numbered several thousand.
They now became a community by themselves, they moved about from place to place, and at length settled in Illinois where they built a city called Nauvoo.
Smith had many revelations. If he wanted a horse or cart he had a revelation saying that it was to be given to him. If he wanted his followers to do anything, again he had a revelation saying it was to be done. So he ruled like an autocrat and did whatever he chose. And while at Nauvoo he had a revelation which said it was quite lawful for men to marry as many wives as they wanted.
Soon the people of Illinois began to dislike the Latter-day Saints, as they called themselves. For they stole horses and cattle and all sorts of things belonging to other settlers. And once anything was stolen by the Mormons, it was impossible to get it back. For if a stranger went to their city, and showed by his questions that he had come to look for something he had lost, he soon found himself followed by a Mormon who silently whittled a stick with a long sharp knife. Soon the man would be joined by another, also whittling a stick with a long knife. Then another and another would silently join the procession, until the stranger could stand it no longer and hastily departed homeward.
So as time went on the people grew more and more angry with the Mormons. And at length their anger burst into fury, and, in 1844, Smith and one of his brothers were lynched by the mob.
The Mormons were greatly cast down at the death of their Prophet, but they soon found a new leader in Brigham Young, one of the twelve apostles.
But this change of leader brought no peace between the Mormons and their neighbours. Complaints of theft grew more and more frequent. Both sides went about armed, murders were committed, and the settlers burned many of the Mormon farms.
At length the whole of the Mormons were expelled from Illinois, and one March day a great caravan started westward. Slowly day by day they moved onward through unknown wildernesses, making a road for themselves, and building bridges as they went, and only after long trials and hardships they reached the Great Salt Lake.
The land around was treeless and desolate, and the ground so hard that when they tried to plough it the ploughshare broke. Yet they decided to make their dwelling-place amid this desolation, and in 1847 the building of Salt Lake City was begun.
At the beginning, troubles and trials were many. But with hard work and skilful irrigation the desert disappeared, and fertile fields and fair gardens took its place.
The Mormons now laid claim to a great tract of land and called it the State of Deseret. And over this state Brigham Young ruled supreme.
In 1850, however, the United States organized it as a territory and changed the name to Utah. Utah is an Indian word meaning Mountain Home. Of this territory Brigham Young was Governor, but other non-Mormon officials were sent from Washington. Very soon there was trouble between the Mormons and these non-Mormon officials and, one after another, they returned to Washington saying that it was useless for them to remain in Utah. For with Brigham Young as governor it was impossible to enforce the laws of the United States, and that their lives even were in danger.
But when there was talk of removing Young from the post of Governor he was indignant. "I am and will be Governor," he said, "and no power can hinder it until the Lord Almighty says, 'Brigham, you need not be Governor any longer.'"
The Mormons were indignant at the false reports, as they considered them, of their doings which were spread abroad in the East. So they asked the President to send one or two visitors "to look about them and see what they can see, and return and report."
But instead of sending visitors President Buchanan appointed a new Governor, and sent a body of troops to Utah.
Thus began what is called the Mormon War. But there was never a battle fought. Although at first the Mormons prepared to resist, they changed their minds. And the Government troops marched into Salt Lake City without resistance. They found the city deserted, as nearly all the inhabitants had fled away. They soon returned, however, and "peace" was restored. But the submission was only one in form, and for many a long day there was trouble between the Government and the Territory of Utah.
Besides the main body of Mormons who founded Salt Lake City there is another band, followers of Joseph Smith's eldest son also called Joseph. They broke away from the first Mormons because they did not think it right to marry more than one wife, nor could they believe in all that "the prophet" taught his followers. Their chief city is Lamoni in Iowa where they live quiet industrious lives and are greatly respected by their neighbours.
This religion, founded so strangely, has spread very rapidly. In 1830 the church had only six members. Today there are more than three hundred thousand Mormons in the world, most of whom are in the United States.
Chapter 82 - Buchanan - The First Shots
Meanwhile a great man was coming into power. This was Abraham Lincoln. He was the son of very poor people and his earliest days were spent in the utmost poverty and want. His home in Kentucky was a wretched little log cabin without doors or windows, and the bare earth for a floor. But in spite of his miserable and narrow surroundings Lincoln grew up to be a great, broad-minded loveable man.
He was very anxious to learn, and he taught himself nearly all he knew, for in all his life he had only two or three months of school. The few books he could lay hands on he read again and again till he almost knew them by heart.
Lincoln grew to be a great, lanky, hulking boy. He had the strongest arm and the tenderest heart in the countryside, and was so upright in all his dealings that he earned the name of Honest Abe.
Everybody loved the ungainly young giant with his sad face and lovely smile, and stock of funny stories.
He began early to earn his living, and was many things in turn. He did all sorts of farm work, he split rails and felled trees. He was a storekeeper for a time, then a postmaster, a surveyor, a soldier. But none of these contented him; he was always struggling towards something better.
While keeping shop he began to study law, and when he was not weighing out pounds of tea and sugar he had his head deep in some dry book. While trying his hand at other jobs, too, he still went on studying law, and at length he became a lawyer.
Even before this he had taken great interest in politics and had sat in the Illinois House of Representatives, and at length in 1846 he was elected to Congress. But he only served one term in the House, after which he returned to his law business and seemed for a time to lose interest in politics.
But the passing of the Kansas-Nebraska Bill aroused him again. As a boy he had been to New Orleans. There he had seen the slave market. He had seen negro parents parted from their children, and sold to different masters. He had seen them chained like criminals, beaten and treated worse than beasts of burden, and from these sights he had turned away with an aching heart. "Boys," he said, to his companions, "let's get away from this. If ever I get a chance to hit that thing, I'll hit it hard."
And he did not forget what he had seen; the memory of it was a constant torment and a misery to him. And now the chance had come, and he hit "that thing" hard.
In 1858 he challenged Douglas, the author of the Kansas-Nebraska Bill, to go round the country with him and make speeches on the great subject of the day: Douglas to take one side of the question and Lincoln the other. It was a bold thing to do, for Douglas was considered the greatest speaker of the time, and Lincoln was scarcely known. But the speeches made Lincoln famous and henceforth many of the men in the North looked upon him as their leader. He wanted to have slavery done away with, but above all he loved his country. "A house divided against itself," he said, "cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure half-slave, half-free. I do not expect the Union to be divided. I do not expect the House to fall. But I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing, or all the other."
He had no bitterness against the South, for he loved his whole country, South as well as North. It was slavery he hated, not the slave-holders. But the slave-holders hated him and his ideas. So when in November, 1860, Lincoln was chosen President the Southern States declared that they would not submit to be ruled by him.
As you know, the new President is always chosen some months before the end of the last President's term. Lincoln was thus chosen in November, 1860, but did not actually become President till March, 1861.
So with Buchanan still President, several of the Southern States declared themselves free from the Union. South Carolina led the rebellion. Amid great excitement, a new declaration of independence was read, and union with the other states was declared to be at an end.
The example of South Carolina was soon followed. Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas all declared their union with the States at an end. They then joined together. And calling themselves the Confederate States, they elected a President, drew up a Constitution, and made ready to seize the Union forts and arsenals.
Meanwhile President Buchanan knew not what to do. He tried to steer both ways at once. He said the Southern States had no right to break away from the Union, but he also said that the Government had no power to force them to return. In reality, however, his heart was with the South, and he believed that the Southerners had just cause for anger. So the Southerners soon came to believe that the President would let them go their own way. Some of the Northerners, too, thought a division would be a good thing, or at least that disunion was better than war. "Let the slave states depart in peace," they said. But others would not hear of that, and were ready to fight to the last if only the Union might be preserved.
The country was fast drifting towards war; and soon the first shot was fired. Charleston, the harbour of South Carolina, was guarded by two forts, Fort Moultrie and Fort Sumter. Fort Moultrie was large, needing about seven hundred men to guard it properly, and Major Anderson, who was in command, had only sixty men under him. So, seeing that the people of South Carolina were seizing everything they could, and finding that the President would send him no help, he drew off his little force to Fort Sumter which could be more easily defended.
Again and again Major Anderson asked for more men, and at length an ordinary little passenger vessel was sent with two hundred and fifty men. But when the little ship steamed into Charleston harbour the Southerners fired upon it. And as it had no guns on board or any means of defence it turned and sped back whence it had come. Thus the first shots in the Civil War were fired on Jan. 9th, 1861.
Chapter 83 - Lincoln - From Bull Run to Fort Donelson
IN the midst of all this confusion the new President took his seat. The Southerners were so angry that it was feared that Lincoln would never be allowed to become President at all, but would be killed on his way to Washington. Yet he himself felt no fear, and he journeyed slowly from his home to Washington, stopping at many places, and making many speeches on the way. Day by day, however, his friends grew more and more anxious. Again and again they begged him to change his plans and go to Washington by some other way. But Lincoln would not listen to their entreaties. At length, however, they became so insistent that he yielded to them.
So instead of proceeding as he had intended, he left his party secretly, and with one friend turned back, and went to Washington by a different route. The telegraph wires were cut, so that had any traitor noticed this change of plan he could not tell his fellow conspirators. Thus, all unknown, Lincoln stole silently into the capital during the night. And great was the astonishment both of friend and foe when it was discovered that he was there.
Almost the first thing Lincoln had to do was to send relief to Major Anderson at Fort Sumter. So vessels were laden with food and sent off to the gallant little band.
But as soon as the Southerners heard the news they determined to take the fort before help could arrive. Soon a terrible bombardment began. Half a hundred cannon roared against the fort, shells screamed and fell, and the walls were quickly shattered. The barracks took fire, and after two days it became utterly impossible to resist longer.
So Major Anderson yielded, and with his brave company marched out with all the honours of war.
War was now begun in real earnest, although strange to say, in spite of the terrific firing, not a life had been lost on either side.
Both North and South now began to arm. But when the President called for troops four states scornfully refused to obey. These were Arkansas, Tennessee, North Carolina and Virginia, and instead of gathering troops to help the Government they joined the Confederates. Richmond, Virginia, was chosen as the capital and Jefferson Davis was made President of the Confederacy, which included eleven states.
In the west of Virginia, however, the people were loyal to the Union and it was here that the first great battles of the war were fought.
Life in this part of Virginia which lay beyond the Alleghenies was very different from life in Eastern Virginia. Western Virginia was not a land suitable for slaves, and for a long time the people had desired to part from Eastern Virginia. Now during the war they had their wish, and West Virginia became a separate state. In June, 1863, it was admitted to the Union as the thirty-fifth state.
The war which had now begun was the most terrible ever fought on American soil. For far more even than the War of Independence, it was a war of kindred. It made enemies of comrades and brothers. Men who had been dear friends suddenly found themselves changed into ruthless enemies, families even were divided against each other.
For four years this bitter war lasted, and counting all battles great and small there were at least two thousand, so we cannot attempt to follow the whole course of the great struggle.
The first blood was shed, strangely enough, on the anniversary of the battle of Lexington. On that day, 19th April, 1861, some Massachusetts soldiers were passing through Baltimore, when they were attacked by the mob. Pistols were fired from the houses, paving stones and bricks flew about. Several of the soldiers were killed, many more were wounded; and to protect themselves they fired on the mob, several of whom were killed also.
The greatest leader on the Federal side was General Ulysses S. Grant, and next to him came William T. Sherman and Philip H. Sheridan. But it was not until the war had been going on for some time that these soldiers came to the front, and at first all the fortune was on the side of the South.
General Albert S. Johnston was commander-in-chief of the Southern army by the two most famous Southern leaders were Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. Jackson. Jackson is best known by the nickname of Stonewall, which he received at Bull Run in West Virginia, the first great battle of the war.
It seemed as if the Federals were winning the battle, and some of the Confederates were driven backward. But Jackson and his men stood solid.
"See!" cried a general, "there is Jackson standing like a stone wall!" Thus Jackson got a new name, and the Confederates won the day.
"It was one of the best planned battles of the war," said Sherman afterwards, "but one of the worst fought. Both armies were fairly defeated, and whichever stood fast the other would have run."
Less than three weeks after Bull Run, the Federals met with another disaster at Wilson's Creek in Missouri. Here, after a desperate and gallant fight, they were defeated, and General Nathaniel Lyon, their brave leader, was killed.
These defeats were a great shock to the Federals. For they had thought that the war would be a short affair of three months or so, and that the Southern revolt would be easily put down. Now they knew themselves mistaken, and pulling themselves together, prepared for a long and bitter struggle.
For some months, however, after Bull Run and Wilson's Creek no battle of importance was fought. Then in the beginning of 1862 the war was carried into Kentucky where a stern fight for the great navigable rivers which flow through the state began. For just as in the War of Independence the holding of the Hudson Valley had been of importance so now the holding of the Mississippi Valley was of importance. If the Mississippi from Cairo to New Orleans could be strongly held by the Federals, the Confederacy would be cut in two, and thus greatly weakened. "The Mississippi," said Lincoln, "is the backbone of the rebellion; it is the key of the whole situation.
But to get possession of this key was no easy matter. Early in February two forts on the river Tennessee were taken by the Federals under General Grant. Then they marched upon Fort Donelson, a large and very strong fort on the Cumberland river. At the same time Commander Andrew H. Foote sailed up the river with a little fleet of seven gunboats to assist the army.
The weather was bitterly cold, and as the soldiers lay round the fort tentless and fireless, a pitiless wind blew, chilling them to the bone, and making sleep impossible. Foote with his gunboats had not yet arrived, but in the morning the attack on land was begun. Up the hill to the fort the Federals swept, only to be driven back by the fierce Confederate fire. Again and again they charged. Again and again they were driven back, leaving the hillside strewn with dead and dying. At length the dry leaves which covered the hillside took fire. Choked by the smoke, scorched by the flames the men could advance no more, and they sullenly retreated for the last time. The attack had failed.
That night the gunboats arrived, and soon the bombardment from the river began. But the firing from the fort was so fierce and well placed that before long two of the boats were disabled, and floated helplessly down the stream, and the others too withdrew till they were out of range of the Confederate guns.
There was joy that night in Fort Donelson. By land and water the Federals had been repulsed. The Confederates felt certain of victory.
But the Federals were by no means beaten, and next morning they renewed the fight as fiercely as ever. Yet again the Confederates swept all before them, and the right wing of the Federal army was driven from its position and scattered in flight. Victory for the Confederates seemed certain.
During this fight Grant had not been with the troops, for he had gone down the river to consult with Foote, who had been wounded the day before. About noon he returned, and when he heard of the disaster his face flushed hotly. But he was a man who rarely lost his temper, or betrayed his feelings. For a minute he was silent, crushing some papers he held in his hand. Then in his usual calm voice he said, "Gentlemen, the position on the right must be retaken."
And retaken it was.
General Charles F. Smith led the assault. He was an old soldier who had fought under Zachary Taylor in Texas where "Smith's light battalion" had become famous. White haired now, but still handsome and erect, he rode this day in front of his troops, once and again turning his head to cheer them onward. Bullets whizzed and screamed about him, but he heeded them not.
"I was nearly scared to death," said one of his men afterwards, "but I saw the old man's white moustache over his shoulder, and went on."
Hotter and hotter grew the fire, and the men hesitated and wavered. But the old general knew no fear. Placing his cap on the end of his sword, he waved it aloft.
"No flinching now, my lads," he cried. "This is the way. Come on!"
And on they came, inspired by the fearless valour of the old soldier. And when at length they had triumphantly planted their colours on the lost position, no efforts of the enemy could dislodge them.
Meanwhile another division under General Lew Wallace dashed up another hill with splendid elan, and when night fell, although the fort was still untaken, it was at the mercy of the attackers.
Supperless and fireless, the Federals cheerfully bivouacked upon the field, for they well knew that the morrow would bring them victory. But within the fort there was gloom. Nothing was left but surrender. It would be impossible to hold out even for half an hour, said General Buckner, the best soldier, although the youngest of the three generals in command. The other two generals agreed, but declared that they would not stay to be made prisoner. So in the night they silently crept away with their men.
Early next morning General Buckner, left alone in command, wrote to Grant proposing a truce in order to arrange terms of surrender.
Grant's answer was short and sharp. "No terms except unconditional and immediate surrender can be accepted," he said.
Bitter indeed were the feelings of the Confederate leader when he received this reply. But there was nothing left to him but to accept the terms. He was hopelessly outnumbered, and to fight longer would only mean the throwing away of brave lives uselessly. So he accepted what seemed to him the "ungenerous and unchivalrous terms" which Grant proposed, and surrendered the fort with all its guns and great stores of ammunition, and fourteen thousand men.
Up to this time Grand had hardly been heard of. He was a soldier indeed, and had fought in the Mexican War. But eight years before the outbreak of the rebellion he had left the army. During these years he had tried in many ways to make a living, but had succeeded in none, and at the beginning of the war he was almost a ruined man. Now he became famous, and his short and sharp "unconditional surrender" was soon a watchword in the Northern army. His initials too being U. S. he became henceforth known as Unconditional Surrender Grant.
Chapter 84 - Lincoln - The Story of the First Battle Between Ironclads
There was fighting too on sea as well as on land. The South sent out privateers to catch the merchant vessels of the North, and so bring ruin on their trade. But Lincoln replied by proclaiming a blockade of all Confederate ports.
This was a bold thing to do, for the coast to be watched was some three thousand miles long, and the Government had less than fifty ships to blockade it with. When the blockade was proclaimed, too, many of these ships were far away in foreign lands. The greatest navy yard, also, at Norfolk in Virginia, was in the hands of the Confederates, and was therefore not available for the building of new ships.
So at first the blockade amounted to little. But by degrees it took effect. Ships that had been far away returned, others of all sorts and sizes were bought, still others were built with the utmost speed.
Slowly but surely the iron hand of the North gripped the commerce of the South, and before the end of the war the Southern ports were shut off from all the world.
This was a disaster for the Southerners, for they depended almost entirely on their cotton trade with Europe. Now the cotton rotted on the wharves. There were no factories in the South, for manufactures could not be carried on with slave labour. So the Southerners depended entirely on the outside world for clothes, boots, blankets, iron, and all sorts of war material. Now they were cut off from the outside world, and could get none of these things.
But the Southerners did not meekly submit to be cut off from the world. They had hardly any ships of any kind, and none at all meant for war. But they had possession of the Government navy yard at Norfolk. There they found a half-finished frigate, and they proceeded to finish her, and turn her into an ironclad. When finished she was an ugly looking, black monster with sloping sides and a terrible iron beak, and she was given the name of the Merrimac.
At this time there were only about three ironclads in all the world. They belonged to Britain and to France, and had never yet been used in naval warfare. So when this ugly black monster appeared among the wooden ships of the North she created frightful havoc. It was one day in March that the black monster appeared in Hampton Roads where there was a little fleet of five Federal warships.
The Federal ships at once opened fire upon the uncouth thing. But to their surprise their shots fell harmlessly from its sides, and paying no heed to their guns it made straight for the Cumberland, and struck her such a terrible blow with her sharp beak that she sank with all on board. She went down gallantly flying her flag to the last.
The Merrimac then turned upon another ship named the Congress. The struggle between a wooden vessel and an ironclad was a hopeless one from the beginning. But the Congress put up a splendid fight, and only when the ship was afire did she give in.
It was dusk by now and the terrible Merrimac sheered off leaving the Congress a blazing wreck.
The Federals were filled with consternation. This horrible strange vessel would certainly return with daylight. And what chance had any wooden ship against it?
But help was near.
The Government also had been busy ship-building. A Swede named Ericsson had invented a new vessel which would resist cannon. This ship was just finished, and came into Hampton Roads almost immediately after the battle with the Merrimac. And when the Commander heard the news he took up his position beside the burning Congress, and waited for dawn.
This new vessel was called the Monitor, and a stranger vessel was never seen afloat. Its hull, which was ironclad, hardly showed above the water, and in the middle there was a large round turret. It looked, said those who saw it, more like a cheesebox on a raft than anything else.
Like a tiger hungry for prey the Merrimac came back next morning. The captain expected an easy victory, but to his surprise he found this queer little cheesebox between him and his victims. He would soon do for the impertinent little minnow, he thought, and he opened fire. But his shells might have been peas for all the effect they had, and the Monitor steamed on unhurt, until she was close to the Merrimac. Then she fired.
A tremendous duel now began which lasted three hours. The lumbering Merrimac tried to run down her enemy, but the quick little Monitor danced round and round, turning the turret now this way, now that, and firing how she pleased, like a terrier yapping at a maddened bull. And at length the Merrimac gave up the tussle, and sailed away.
This was the first battle ever fought between ironclads and it has been called a draw. But after all the honours were with the little Monitor, for she forced her big opponent to run away.
It might almost be said that this battle saved the Union, for it showed the Confederates that they would not have it all their own way on sea, and that if they were building ironclads the Federals were building them also. And indeed the Government built ships so fast that by the end of the war, instead of having only about forty they had over six hundred ship, many of them ironclad.
Chapter 85 - Lincoln - The Battle of Shiloh and the Taking of New Orleans
With Grant other successes soon followed the taking of Fort Donelson, and many places both in Kentucky and Tennessee fell into the hands of the Federals.
By the beginning of April Grant with an army of forty thousand men lay at Pittsburg Landing on the Tennessee River. At Corinth, about thirty miles to the south, the Confederates were gathered in equal force. But although the Confederates were so near and in such force the Federals took no heed. They had of late won so many easy victories that they had begun to think lightly of the foe. So no attempt was made to protect the Union army. No trenches were dug, and but few scouts were sent out to watch the movements of the enemy. The Confederate leader, General Johnston, therefore determined to creep up stealthily, and attack the Federals where they lay in fancied security.
As secretly as possible he left Corinth, and marched towards Pittsburg Landing. The weather had been wet, the roads were deep in mud, but in spite of dreadful difficulties for two days the army toiled silently on. At length on the night of Saturday the 5th of April they arrived within four miles of the Federal lines.
Here they halted for the night. The men had brought no tents, they dared light no fires lest they should be seen by the foe. So, weary, wet, and shivering they lay on the cold damp ground, awaiting the dawn, while secure in the comfortable shelter of their tents the Federals slept peacefully. So secure indeed did Grant feel his position to be that he was not with his army that night, but at Savannah some miles distant.
At daybreak the Federal camp was astir. Men were washing and dressing, some were cooking or eating breakfast, most of the officers were still abed, when suddenly the sound of shots broke the Sunday stillness, and the wild "rebel yell" rent the air.
A moment later the surrounding woods seemed to open and pour forth an army. With tremendous dash the Confederates flung themselves upon the half dressed, weaponless crowd of men who fled before them, or were bayoneted before they could seize their muskets. Thus the greatest battle that as yet had been fought on the continent of America was begun.
Soon the roar of cannon reached Grant at Savannah. He knew at once that a fierce battle had begun, and flinging himself on his horse he hurried back to the camp. At eight o'clock in the morning he arrived. But already it seemed as if his army was defeated. It was, however, to be no easy victory for the Confederates. Many of the Federals were only raw recruits, but after the first surprise and flight they rallied repeatedly, making many a stubborn stand against the onslaught of the foe, which from the first great charge of early dawn till darkness fell never seemed to slacken.
In many coloured uniforms, with many coloured pennons waving over them, the Confederates charged again and yet again. And with each charge the air was rent with their wild yell, which could be heard far and wide, even above the roar of the cannon. Bit by bit the Union army was pressed back. They fought doggedly as they went while from division to division rode Grant cheering them, directing them, urging them to greater and ever greater efforts.
Some of the fiercest fighting raged round the little log meeting house called Shiloh, and from this meeting house the battle takes its name. Sherman commanded here, and he held his untried men together with marvelous skill, handling them as no other commander on the field could have done, said Grant later.
On the Confederate side through the thickest of the battle rode Johnston. More than once his horse was shot under him, and his clothes were torn to pieces, but still through the fray he rode unharmed. At length a ball hit him in the thigh. He paid no heed. Still his tall soldierly figure dominated the battle, still his ringing voice cheered on his men. Then suddenly the voice grew faint, the tall figure bent, and a deathly whiteness overspread his cheeks.
"General, are you wounded?" asked one of his officers, anxiously.
"Yes," he answered, faintly, "and I fear badly."
They were his last words. Gently he was lifted from his horse and laid on the ground, and in a few minutes he died.
When the sun went down the Confederates claimed the victory. But if victory it was it was too dearly bought with the death of their commander-in-chief. Nor did the Federals own themselves beaten. They were dumbfounded and bleeding, but not shattered. They felt that the struggle was not over, and still facing each other the weary armies lay down to rest on the field, under the lashing rain, each side well aware that with the morrow would come the decisive contest.
All through the night the guns from the river boomed and crashed, and rain fell in torrents, adding to the discomforts of the wearied men, making sleep almost impossible.
When day dawned rain still fell in a cold and dismal drizzle. The Federals, however, rose cheerfully, for the inspiriting news that twenty-five thousand fresh troops had arrived ran through the lines. Before the sun had well risen the battle began again, but now the advantage was on the Federal side.
The Confederates fought bravely still. To and fro rode General Beauregard cheering on his men, but step by step they were driven backward, and by noon were in full retreat. Then as the Federals realized that the day was theirs cheer after cheer went up from their lines.
The second day's fighting had turned the battle of Shiloh into a victory for the Union, although not a decisive one. On the same day, however, the navy captured a strongly fortified island on the Mississippi called Island Number Ten, with its garrison of seven thousand men and large stores of guns and ammunition. This considerably increased the force of the victory of Shiloh, and gave the Federals control of the Mississippi Valley from Cairo to Memphis.
Meanwhile command of the lower Mississippi had also been wrested from the Confederates by General Benjamin F. Butler in command of the army, and Commander David Glasgow Farragut in command of the fleet.
Captain Farragut who was already sixty-three at this time was a Southerner by birth, but he had never faltered in his allegiance to the Union. "Mind what I tell you," he said to his brother officers, when they tried to make him desert his flag, "you fellows will catch the devil before you get through with this business." And so unshaken was his faith that he was trusted with the most important naval expedition of the war, the taking of New Orleans.
New Orleans is about a hundred miles from the mouth of the Mississippi and the Confederates, who were aware even more than the Federals of the importance of the great waterway, had from the very beginning done their utmost to secure it. Seventy-five miles below New Orleans two forts named Jackson and St. Phillips guarded the approaches to the city. These the Confederates had enormously strengthened, and had stretched a great chain between them from bank to bank, to prevent the passage of hostile ships. They had also gathered a fleet of ironclads and gunboats further to defend the city.
But in spite of all these defenses the Federals determined to take New Orleans and on the 18th of April the Union ships began to bombard the forts. The Confederates replied fiercely, and for four days the sky seemed ablaze and the earth shook. Then having succeeded in cutting the chain across the river Farragut determined to sail past the fort and take New Orleans.
At two o'clock in the morning the ships began to move. The night was dark but very still and clear, and soon the noise of slipping anchor cables warned the enemy of what was afoot. Then a very hail of shot and shell fell upon the Federal boats. Burning fire ships too were sent down upon them, and the red light of battle lit up the darkness. Yet through the baptism of fire the vessels held on their way undaunted. The forts were passed, the Confederate fleet disabled and put to flight, and Farragut sailed unhindered up the river.
At his approach, New Orleans was seized with panic. Filled with a nameless fear women and children ran weeping through the streets, business of every kind was at a standstill. The men, mostly grey-haired veterans and boys, turned the keys in their office doors, and hurried to join the volunteer regiments, bent on fighting to the last for their beloved city. Thousands of bales of cotton were carried to the wharves, and there set on fire, lest they should fall into the hands of the enemy. Ships too were set on fire, and cast loose, till it seemed as if the whole river front was wrapped in flames. Thirty miles away the glare could be seen in the sky, and at the sight even strong men bowed their heads and wept. For they knew it meant that New Orleans had fallen, and that the Queen of Southern cities was a captive.
But there was no fighting, for General Lovell who was in command of the city marched away with his army as soon as the Union ships appeared. The citizens who were left were filled with impotent wrath and despair. They felt themselves betrayed. They had been assured that the city would fight to the last. Now their defenders had marched away leaving them to the mercy of the conqueror.
The streets were soon filled with a dangerous, howling cursing mob man of them armed, all of them desperate. Yet calmly through it, as if on parade, marched two Federal officers, without escort of protection of any kind. The mob jostled them, shook loaded pistols in their faces, yelling and cursing the while. But the two officers marched on side by side unmoved, showing neither anger nor fear, turning neither to right nor to left until they reached the city hall, where they demanded the surrender of the city.
"It was one of the bravest deeds I ever saw done," said a Southerner, who as a boy of fourteen watched the scene.
By the taking of New Orleans Farragut won for himself great fame. His fame was all the greater because in his fleet he had none of the newly invented ironclads. With only wooden vessels he had fought and conquered. "It was a contest between iron hearts and wooden vessels, and iron clads with iron beaks, and the iron hearts won," said Captain Bailey who served in the expedition under Farragut.
After taking New Orleans Farragut sailed up the river and took Baton Rouge, the state capital. So at length the Federals had control of the whole lower river as far as Vicksburg. The upper river from Cairo was also secure to the Federals. Thus save for Vicksburg the whole valley was in their hands, and the Confederacy was practically cut in two.
But Vicksburg stood firm for the South. When called upon to surrender the governor refused. "I have to state," he said, "that Mississippians do not know, and refuse to learn, how to surrender to an enemy. If Commodore Farragut, or Brigadier General Butler, can teach them, let them come and try."
At the time soldiers enough could not be spared to help the fleet to take Vicksburg. So for the time being it was left alone.
Chapter 86 - Lincoln - The Slaves are Made Free
The Federals rejoiced greatly at the successes of Grant and the navy, and indeed they had need of success somewhere to keep up their spirits, for on the whole things did not go well. George McClellan was commander-in-chief, and although he drilled his army splendidly he never did anything with it. He was a wonderful organiser, but he was cautious to a fault, and always believed the enemy to be far stronger than he really was.
He was at last dismissed, and was succeeded by one commander-in-chief after another. Not none proved truly satisfactory. Indeed it was not until the last year of the war, when Ulysses Grant took command, that a really great commander-in-chief was found.
At the beginning of the war no matter who was leader the long campaigns in Virginia ended in failure for the Federals. On the Confederate side these campaigns were led first by Joseph E. Johnston, and then by the great soldier, Robert E. Lee.
Lee came of a soldier stock, being the youngest son of "Light Horse Harry Lee," who had won fame during the War of the Revolution. He was a noble, Christian gentleman, and when he made his choice, and determined to fight for the South, he believed he was fighting for the right.
With Lee was Stonewall Jackson, his great "right hand," and perhaps a finer soldier than Lee himself. His men adored him as they adored no other leader. Like Cromwell he taught them to pray as well as to fight. He never went into battle without commending his way to God, and when he knelt long in prayer his men might feel certain that a great fight was coming. He was secret and swift in his movements, so swift that his troops were nicknamed "Jackson's foot cavalry." Yet he never wore his men out. He thought for them always, and however urgent haste might be he called frequent halts on his flying marches, and made the men lie down even if it were only for a few minutes.
To conquer such leaders, and the men devoted to them, was no easy matter, and it was not wonderful that the campaigns in Virginia marked few successes for the Federals. At length the long series of failures ended with a second, and for the Federals, disastrous, battle of Bull Run. This was followed two days later by the battle of Chantilly, after which the whole Federal army fell back to Washington.
Lee, rejoicing at his successes in Virginia, made up his mind then to invade Maryland, which state he believed would readily join the Confederacy. But he was disappointed. For if the Marylanders had not much enthusiasm for the Union cause they had still less for the Confederate, and the invaders were greeted with exceeding coldness. Their unfailing good fortune, too, seemed to forsake the Confederates, and the battle of Antietam, one of the fiercest of the war, although hardly a victory for the Federals, was equal to a defeat for the Confederates. For fourteen hours the carnage lasted, and when at length night put an end to the slaughter thousands lay dead on either side. Next day, having in a fortnight lost half his army, Lee withdrew once more into Virginia.
Lincoln's chief object in carrying on the war was not to free slaves, but to save the Union.
"My first object is to save the Union," he wrote, "and not either to save or destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slaves I would do it. If I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it. And if I could save it by freeing some, and leaving others alone I would also do that." Gradually, however, Lincoln began to believe that the only way to save the Union was to free the slaves.
Many people were impetuously urging him to do it. But Lincoln would do nothing rash. It was a tremendous step to take, and the question as to when would be the right moment to take it was, for him, one of tremendous importance. So he prepared his Proclamation of Emancipation and bided his time. Following his own good judgment and the advice of one of his Cabinet he resolved not to announce it so long as things were going badly with the North lest it should be looked upon as the last measure of an exhausted government, a cry for help. It was not to be sent forth into the world as "a last shriek in the retreat," but as a companion to victory.
But victory was slow in coming. At length the great battle was fought at Antietam. It was scarce a victory, for the Federals had lost more men than had the Confederates. Yet it had to pass for one. And a few days after it Lincoln issued his Proclamation of Emancipation. In this he declared that in every state which should be in arms against the Government on the 1st of January, 1863, the slaves should be free forever more. This gave the rebel states more than three months in which to lay down their arms and return to their allegiance.
Meanwhile the war went on. In November General Ambrose E. Burnside was appointed commander of the army of the Potomac. He accepted the post unwillingly, for he did not think himself great enough to fill it. It was soon proved that he was right.
On December 13th a great battle was fought at Fredericksburg in Virginia. The weather had been very cold and the ground was covered with frost and snow. But on the morning of the 13th, although a white mist shrouded the land, the sun shone so warmly that it seemed like a September day. Yet though the earth and sky alike seemed calling men to mildness and peace the deadly game of war went on.
The centre of the Confederate army occupied some high ground known as the Maryes Heights, and Burnside resolved to dislodge them. It was a foolhardy attempt, for the hill was strongly held, the summit of it bristled with cannon. Yet the order was given, and with unquestioning valour the men rushed to the attack. As they dashed onward the Confederate guns swept their ranks, and they were mowed down like hay before the reaper. Still they pressed onward, and after paying a fearful toll in dead and wounded they at length reached the foot of the hill. Here they were confronted by a stone wall so thick and strong that their fire had not the slightest effect on it, and from behind which the Confederates poured a deadly hail of bullets upon them.
Here the carnage was awful, yet still the men came on in wave after wave, only to melt away as it seemed before the terrible fire of the Confederates. "It was like snow coming down and melting on warm ground," said one of their leaders afterwards.
Never did men fling away their lives so bravely and so uselessly. A battery was ordered forward.
"General," said an officer, "a battery cannot live there."
"Then it must die there," was the answer.
And the battery was led out as dashingly as if on parade, although the men well knew that they were going to certain death.
At length the short winter's day drew to a close, and darkness mercifully put an end to the slaughter.
Then followed a night of pain and horror. The frost was intense, and out on that terrible hillside the wounded lay beside the dead, untended and uncared for, many dying from cold ere help could reach them. Still and white they lay beneath the starry sky while the general who had sent them to a needless death wrung his hands in cruel remorse. "Oh, those men, Oh, those men," he moaned, "those men over there. I am thinking of them all the time."
Burnside knew that he had failed as a general, and in his grief and despair he determined to wipe out his failure by another attempt next day. But his officers well knew that this would only mean more useless sacrifice of life. With difficulty they persuaded him to give up the idea, and two days later the Federal army crossed the Rappahannock, and returned to their camp near Falmouth.
With this victory of Fredericksburg the hopes of the Confederates rose high. They believed that the war would soon end triumphantly for them, and that the South would henceforth be a separate republic. There was no need for them, they thought, to listen to the commands of the President of the North, and not one state paid any heed to Lincoln's demand that the slaves should be set free.
Nevertheless on New Year's Day, 1863, Lincoln signed the great Proclamation of Freedom.
He had first held a great reception, and had shaken hands with so many people that his right hand was trembling. "If they find my hand trembling," he said to the Secretary of State, as he took up his pen, "they will say, 'He hesitated,' but anyway it is going to be done."
Then very carefully and steadily he wrote his name. It was the greatest deed of his life. "If my name is ever remembered," he said, "it will be for this act, and my whole soul is in it."
And thus slavery came to an end. From the beginning of the war there had been a danger that France and Britain might help the South. Lincoln had now made that impossible by making the war one against slavery as well as one for Union. For both France and Britain were against slavery, and could not well help those who now fought to protect it.
Now that they were free, many negroes entered the army. At this the Southerners were very angry, and declared that any negroes taken prisoners would not be regarded as soldiers, but simply as rebellious negroes, and would be punished accordingly. But in spite of their anger many black regiments were formed, and proved themselves good soldiers. And before the end of the war the Confederates, too, were making use of Negro Soldiery. But this was cutting the ground from under their own feet, and showing the injustice of slavery. For as a Southerner said, "If a negro is fit to be a soldier he is not fit to be a slave."
Chapter 87 - Lincoln - Chancellorsville - The Death of Stonewall Jackson
Still the war went on, and still the North suffered many losses. Soon after the battle of Fredericksburg General Burnside resigned the command of the army of the Potomac. His place was taken by General Joseph Hooker, known to his men as "Fighting Joe." He was a tall and handsome man, brave, and dashing almost to rashness. "Beware of rashness, beware of rashness," said Lincoln, when he appointed him. "But with energy and sleepless vigilance go forward, and give us victories."
But not even "Fighting Joe" could bring victory to the North at once. He found the army disheartened, dwindling daily by desertion, and altogether in something like confusion. He was, however, a splendid organiser, and in less than two months he had pulled the army together and once more made it a terrible fighting machine. He declared it to be the finest army in the world, and full of pride in his men, and pride in himself, he set out to crush Lee.
Near the tiny hamlet of Chancellorsville the two armies met, and the four days' fighting which followed is known as the battle of Chancellorsville.
Everything seemed to favour the Federals. They had the larger army, they were encamped in a good position, and above all the men were full of admiration for, and trust in, 'Fighting Joe."
General Hooker's movements had been quick and sure, his plans well laid. But he had expected the enemy to "flee ingloriously" before him.
The enemy, however, did not flee, but showed a stubborn intention of fighting. Then Hooker's courage failed him. He seemed to lose his grip on things, and much to the surprise of his officers he left his high position and took a lower one.
"Great heavens," said General Meade, when he heard the order, "if we cannot hold the top of a hill we certainly cannot hold the bottom of it."
The first day of the battle passed without any great loss on either side. Night came, the fighting ceased, and the weary men lay down to rest. But for Lee and Jackson there was little sleep. Beneath a small clump of pine trees they sat on packing cases, with maps spread out before them. For Jackson was planning one of his quick and stealthy marches, intent on catching the Federals unawares where they least expected it. And Lee, seeing the indecision of the Federal leader, was nothing loath. He had grown bold even to rashness in proportion as Hooker had grown cautious.
"What exactly do you propose to do?" asked Lee, as he studied the map.
"Go around here," replied Jackson, as with his finger he traced a line on the map which encircled the whole right wing of the Federal army.
"With what force do you propose to make this movement?" asked Lee.
"With my whole corps," answered Jackson.
General Lee thought for a few minutes in silence. Then he spoke.
"Well, go on," he said.
He knew that it was a great gamble. The Federal army was twice as large as his own and yet Jackson proposed to cut it in two, and place the whole Federal army between the two halves. If the movement failed it would be a terrible failure. If it succeeded it would be a great success. It was worth the risk. So he said, "Go on."
As for Jackson he had no doubts. At Lee's words he rose, smiling, and eager.
"My troops will move at once, sir," he said, and with a salute he was gone.
Soon in the cool and lovely May morning Jackson's men were marching through what was known as the Wilderness. It was a forest of smallish trees, so thickly set that a man could hardly march through it gun on shoulder. The Federals saw the great column of men move off without misgivings, imagining them to be retreating. Soon they were lost to sight, swallowed up by the Wilderness.
Here and there through the wood narrow, unmade roads were cut, and along these hour after hour twenty-five thousand men moved ceaselessly and silently. Through the thick foliage there came to them faint echoes of the thundering guns, while close about them the cries of startled birds broke the stillness, and the timid, wild things of the woods scurried in terror before them. As the day went on the heat became stifling, and dust rose in clouds beneath the tramping feet. Still, choking, hot and dusty the men pressed on.
The soldiers of the right wing of the Federal army were resting about six o'clock that evening. Their arms were stacked, some were cooking supper, others were smoking or playing cards, when suddenly from the woods there came the whirr of wings, and a rush of frightened squirrels and rabbits, and other woodland creatures.
It was the first warning the Federals had of the approach of the enemy. They flew to arms, but it was already too late. With their wild yell the Confederates dashed into the camp. The Federals fought bravely, but they were taken both in front and rear, and were utterly overwhelmed.
Now and again a regiment tried to make a stand, only to be swept away by the terrific onslaught of the Confederates, and leaving half their number dead on the field they fled in panic. Still with desperate courage the Federal leaders sought to stem the onrush of the enemy and stay the rout.
"You must charge into those woods, and hold the foe until I get some guns into position," said General Pleasonton, turning to Major Peter Keenan.
"I will, sir," replied Keenan. Then calmly smiling, at the head of his handful of men he rode to certain death.
Ten minutes later he lay dead with more than half his gallant followers beside him. But his sacrifice was not in vain. For his desperate thrust had held the Confederates until the guns were placed, and the army saved from utter rout.
The sun went down on a brilliant victory for the Confederates. Yet the night brought disaster for them.
Eager to find out what the Federals were doing General Jackson rode out towards their lines in the gathering darkness. It was a dangerous thing to do, for he ran the risk of being picked off by their sharp-shooters. The danger indeed was so great that an officer of his staff tried to make him turn back. "General," he said, "don't you think that this is the wrong place for you?'
But Jackson would not listen. "The danger is all over," he said carelessly. "The enemy is routed. Go back and tell Hill to press right on."
Soon after giving this order Jackson himself turned, and rode back with his staff at a quick trot. But in the dim light his men mistook the little party for a company of Federals charging, and they fired. Many of his officers were killed, Jackson himself was sorely wounded and fell from his horse into the arms of one of his officers.
"General," asked some one, anxiously, "are you much hurt?"
"I think I am," replied Jackson. "And all my wounds are from my own men," he added sadly.
As tenderly as might be he was carried to the rear, and all that could be done was done. But Stonewall Jackson had fought his last victorious fight. Eight days later the Conqueror of all men laid his hand upon him, and he passed to the land of perfect Peace.