Joseph Thomas.

Universal pronouncing dictionary of biography and mythology (Volume 2) online

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. . . You can have no conflict without being yourselves
the aggressors. You have no oath registered in heaven
to destroy the government, while I shall have the most
solemn one to ' preserve, protect, and defend' it." Mr.
Lincoln did not deny that the laws of the Federal gov-
ernment, and even the Constitution itself, might perhaps
bear unequally and hardly upon some sections of the
country ; but he thought that all grievances of this kind
would be far more likely to be properly redressed through
a calm and friendly appeal to the sense of justice in the
people than by violence or war.

It was enough, however, for the slave-holding party
that he denied not merely the expediency but the right
of any State or sectional combination of States to se-
cede. This was considered equivalent to a declaration
of war ; and active preparations for the coming struggle
were at once commenced throughout the seceded States.
The moderate, reasonable, and conciliatory tone of the
In augural had. it cannot be doubted, a most happy effect,
not only in uniting and consolidating, so to speak, the
public sentiment of the North, but also in encouraging
all those in the border States who, whatever may have
been their views in relation to slavery, had not yet cast
off all attachment to the national flag and the Federal
Union. Fort Sumter, in the harbour of Charleston, was
occupied by a United States garrison, under the com-
mand of Major Anderson. General Beauregard, on the
part of the Southern Confederacy, demanded its sur-
render. To this demand, which was made on the nth
of April, Major Anderson at once replied that his "sense
of honour and his obligations to his government prevented
his compliance." Early on the I2th an attack on the fort
was commenced, and kept up with the utmost fury with
shells and red-hot cannon-balls, in consequence of which
Major Anderson, after a gallant resistance of thirty-three
hours, was at length obliged to evacuate the place, which
he did on the morning of the I4th. The bombardment
of Fort Sumter was the first aggressive act committed
on either side. It produced a deep and intense excite
ment throughout the Northern States, breaking down
for a time all party distinctions, and uniting the whole
people in an earnest, unfaltering purpose to support the
government.^ The President, justly regarding this un-
provoked attack upon a United States fort as the com-
mencement of actual war, issued on the next day (April
15) a proclamation directing both Houses of Congress
to meet in extra session on the 4th of July following,
and calling out " the militia of the several States of the
Union, to the aggregate number of 75,000," for the pur-
pose of supporting the authority and enforcing the laws
of the Federal Union. It was not, however, merely for
maintaining the authority of the government that troops
were needed, but for the defence of the national capital
itself. The President of the Southern Confederacy had
declared, more than a month before, that whenever war
should commence the North and not the South should
be the battle field ; and the recent attack on Fort Sumtei
was a sufficient proof that no veneration for the national
Hag nor any lurking scruples of any kind would be likely
to prevent the carrying out of that threat if it were pos-
sible to accomplish it All the Northern States responded
to the demand of President Lincoln with the utmost
alacrity and zeal. Massachusetts be it said to her
immortal honour was the first in the field. The
next day after the issue of the proclamation, her Sixth
regiment left Boston for the national capital. Two
more regiments set out within forty-eight hours. The
Sixth regiment was attacked (April 19) in Baltimore
by a mob carrying a secession flag, and several of
the soldiers were killed or severely wounded. Gov-
ernor Hicks having united with Mayor Brown, of Balti-

The very next day after Major Anderson had evacuated the ruiiu
of Fort Sumter, a leading journal of New York (the " Tribune") aptly
and forcibly observed, " Fort Sumter is lost, but freedom is savea
. . . It is hard to lose Sumter: it is a consolation to know that io
losing it we have gained a united people."

i, 5, i, 6, u, y, long; a, 4, 6, same, less prolonged; a, e, I. 6. ii, y, short; a, e, i, p, obscure; far, fill, fat; met; not; good; moon:




more, in urging, for prudential reasons, that no more
troops should be brought through that city, it was ar-
ranged that those needed for the defence of Washington
should in future be sent thither by way of Annapolis.
On the igth of April President Lincoln issued a procla-
mation blockading the ports of the seceded States. The
excitement caused by the bombardment of Fort Sumter,
which tended so powerfully to unite public sentiment at
the North, appeared to have produced a still greater
effect in the Southern States, where the enthusiasm
of the people was inflamed almost to frenzy by what
seemed the brilliant success of the Confederates, in re-
ducing so quickly a fortress which was regarded as one
of the strongest in the United States, though it was at
that time feebly garrisoned and supplied with provisions
for a few days only. Yielding to this whirlwind of ex-
citement, the legislature of Virginia, on the i;th of
April, (three days after the taking of Fort Sumter,)
passed an ordinance of secession by a vote of 88 to 55.
Not long after, the State Convention of North Carolina,
elected during the excitement which followed the cap-
ture of Sumter, passed unanimously an ordinance of

The most active preparations were made on both sides
for the contest which was now inevitable. In the seceding
States more than a hundred thousand troops had been
raised, of which the larger portion had been marched
towards the Northern border. The greatness of the force
arrayed against the government made an additional sup-
ply of troops necessary for the security of the national
capital. A second proclamation was issued on the 3d
of May, calling into the United States service a large
numbe'r of volunteers, and greatly increasing the force
both of the army and navy. The difficulties surrounding
the new administration were rendered still more for-
midable by the precipitate action of the French and
English governments, which, as soon as information was
received that hostilities had actually begun in America,
determined, in concert, to acknowledge the Southern
Confederacy as a belligerent power.

In accordance with the proclamation of the I5th of
April, Congress met in extra session, July 4, 1861. In
the message which on that occasion the President ad-
dressed to the Senators and representatives, after re-
viewing the condition of the country and explaining
the course of the government, he proceeds to say,

"It is thus seen that the assault upon and reduction
of Fort Sumter was in no sense a matter of self-defence
upon the part of the assailants. They well knew thai
the garrison in the fort could by no possibility commit
aggression upon them. They knew, they were expressly
notified, that the giving of bread to the few brave anc
hungry men of the garrison was all which would on that
occasion be attempted, unless themselves, by resisting
so much, should provoke more. They knew that this
government desired to keep the garrison in the fort, not
to assail them, but to maintain visible possession, anc
thus to preserve the Union from actual and immediate
dissolution, trusting, as before stated, to time, discussion
and the ballot-box for final adjustment ; and they assailec
and reduced the fort for precisely the reverse object, tc
drive out the visible authority of the Federal Union anc
thus force it to immediate dissolution. ... In this act
discarding all else, they have forced upon the country
the distinct issue, 'immediate dissolution or blood.'

"And this issue embraces more than the fate ol
these United States. It presents to the whole family ol
man the question whether a constitutional republic 01
democracy a government of the people by the sam<
people can or cannot maintain its territorial integritj
against its own domestic foes. . . .

" It was with the deepest regret that the Executivi
found the duty of employing the war-power in defence
of the government forced upon him. He could but per
form this duty or surrender the existence of the govern
ment. . . . As a private citizen, the Executive could n-
have consented that these institutions should perish
much less could he, in betrayal of so vast and so sacret
a trust as these free people have confided to him. He
felt that he had no right to shrink, or even to count thi
chances of his own life, in what might follow."

There were a few members in both Houses who in-
isted that any employment of the war-power against
he rebels was unconstitutional ; but the general senti-
ment of Congress fully sustained the President in the
ourse he had taken. On July 15, Mr. McClernand, a
democratic member from Illinois, offered a resolution
ledging the House to vote any amount of money and
ny number of men necessary to suppress the rebellion
and restore the authority of the government. This reso-
ution was adopted with but five dissenting votes. The
pirited action of Congress seemed to inspire the people
everywhere throughout the North with renewed hope
and confidence. Towards the latter part of June, a large
ebel force had occupied a strong position on Bull Run
Creek, near Manassas. It was resolved on the part of
he Federal government to attack and drive back this
brce ; and the belief was generally entertained that a
single decided success on the part of the Union armies
would put an end to the war. The Federal forces, com-
manded by General McDowell, made an attack upon
the position of the rebels on the 2ist of July ; but they
met with a disastrous defeat, and were driven back in
O reat disorder towards Washington. Then, for the first
'ime, the Northern States realized the greatness of the
conflict which was before them. They then understood
low great were the advantages possessed by the Con-
'ederates in consequence of their having been for years
preparing for war. No inconsiderable portion of their
:roops had been thoroughly disciplined under excellent
officers, while many of the Northern troops had scarcely
any discipline at all. Add to this that a large proportion
of the best and most experienced officers in the regular
army of the United States had resigned their commis-
sions and joined the Confederate cause. All the prin-
cipal Confederate officers, with scarcely an exception,
lad been educated at the national military academy at
West Point, and had afterwards held important positions
n the regular army. It may suffice to cite the names of
Generals Joseph E. and Albert Sydney Johnston, Jeffer-
ion Davis, the President of the Southern Confederacy,
and General Robert E. Lee, regarded, at the time of the
breaking out of the rebellion, as by far the ablest officer
in the United States army, General Scott having become
through age and infirmities unequal to the duties of the
field. But the disaster of Bull Run damped the hopes
of the Unionists for a moment only. After the first
surprise was over, its effect was to rouse the courage and
determination of the people to the highest point. Vol-
unteers flocked by thousands to join the national army.
From the time of Lincoln's inauguration, through all the
anxious months of the spring and summer of 1861, Gene-
ral Scott had retained his position as commander of the
armies of the United States, and had given the govern-
ment the benefit of his wisdom and experience and the
support of his great influence and unwavering loyalty.
At length, on the 3ist of October, in consequence of ill
health and advancing age, he applied to the secretary of
war to be released from active service. He was accord-
ingly placed upon the list of retired officers of the army
of the United States, but retaining his full pay, according
to a special provision passed by Congress in the summer
session. At the recommendation of General Scott, Gene-
ral McClellan, who had obtained marked distinction by
his success during the summer of 1861 in clearing
Western Virginia of rebel troops, was called to Wash-
ington and appointed to the command of the Federal
forces. He at once commenced a thorough reorganiza-
tion of the army, and before many months brought it
into a state of high and efficient discipline. Unfortunately,
his sympathies were rather with the moderate slave-
holders than with the staunch supporters of the govern-
ment, and, when it became necessary to sacrifice slavery
in order to save the republic, he could not nerve himself

.0 the task. In a war of a different kind, requiring simply
vigilance, skill, and the spirit of conciliation, he might
have earned enduring laurels. But the Confederates had
gone too far to be won back by conciliation. As nothing
could satisfy them short of breaking up the Union, so
nothing was left for the Federal government, if it would
escape general disruption and utter ruin, but to suppress
the rebellion by force of arms.

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Explanations, p. 23.*



The forces under the immediate command ot General
McClellan having remained inactive during most of the
winter of 1861-62, President Lincoln issued on the 2?th
of January, 1862, an order that on the 22d of February a
general movement against the insurgents should be made
by the land and naval forces of the United States. Gene-
ral McClellan at first objected, in a letter to the secre-
tary of war, to the plan of operations which he had been
directed to pursue. At length, on the I3th of March, a
council of war was held, in which it was decided to ad-
vance against Richmond from Fortress Monroe. The
army was conveyed by water down the Potomac and
Chesapeake Bay to the mouth of James River. Soon
after the commencement of the campaign, General
McCleilan began to complain that he was not properly
supported by the Executive at Washington. Advancing
into the heart of a hostile country, where his enemies,
by means of the railroads, which they could completely
control, might concentrate, at a very short notice, all their
available force at or near the point of threatened attack,
it behooved him, undoubtedly, to use great circumspec-
tion. Unhappily, the extreme precautions which he took
against a doubtful or contingent peril had no other effect
than to surround him with real dangers of the most for-
midable character. His movements were so slow and
hesitating that the Confederates not only had time to
assemble their forces from distant points and erect ex-
tensive fortifications, but even to raise and discipline
large reinforcements of fresh troops. Had he early in
April advanced with his army against Yorktown, he
would have met with a feeble resistance, and might, in
all probability, have pushed on at once to the conquest
of Richmond. But he decided to approach it by a regular
siege ; extensive earthworks were thrown up, and the
campaign was protracted into the hottest part of the
summer. His troops, compelled to encamp among the
swamps adjacent to theChickahominy, perished in great
numbers from disease. At last, after a series of sangui-
nary but indecisive conflicts, the army was forced to
retreat It was moved in August from James River by
water to Aqui'a Creek, on the Potomac, some forty miles
below Washington. About the same time the army of
General Pope, affer several days of hard fighting near
Manassas and Centreville, was driven back with heavy
loss upon Washington. There was perhaps no darker
period during the whole war than that in which the
summer of 1862 came to a close ; and we may safely say
that no one throughout the land felt more deeply the
reverses and sufferings of his countrymen than President

On the 2d of September, General McClellan took
command of all the available troops for the defence of
the capital. General Lee, having crossed the Potomac
(September 5) into Maryland, was attacked and de-
feated by McClellan at Antietam on the i6th and I7th
of September. He retreated into Virginia, and was not
pursued. Early in October McClellan was ordered to
cross the Potomac and give battle to the enemy or drive
him southward ; but, having delayed his advance for
about three weeks, he was removed from his command,
by an order dated November 5. General Burnside, who
succeeded McClellan as commander of the army of the
Potomac, attacked (December 13) General Lee, then
occupying a strongly-fortified position at Fredericks-
burg, and was repulsed with severe loss. Again, on the
2d and 3d of May, 1863, General Hooker was worsted
by General Lee in a very hard-fought battle at Chancel-
lorsville. The great and repeated disasters experienced
by the Union armies from the beginning of the war, but
more particularly those of the summer of 1862, appear
to have prepared the people of the Northern States for
the adoption of a more radical policy on the part of the
government. At first it had been the aim of the Execu-
tive to preserve the Union with all the provisions of the
Constitution as it was originally adopted. But, the slave-
holders having by their rebellion forfeited all claim to
the protection of that instrument, it might become ex-
pedient or necessary to assail them on the side where
they were confessedly weakest, viz., through the institu-
tion of slavery. President Lincoln had been censured
by some for not taking a more decided position on the

subject of slavery at the commencement of the war ; but
he had very strong reasons for the line of policy which
he had hitherto thought proper to pursue. So powerful
was the influence, so plausible the arguments, brought
by the Confederates to bear upon the border States, that
it was only with the greatest difficulty that Maryland,
Kentucky, Tennessee, and Missouri could be prevented
from following Virginia and North Carolina and joining
the rebellion. If, then, the Federal government, with
those States standing neutral or divided, was able to re-
establish its authority only after years of conflict and the
loss of hundreds of thousands of lives, what might have
been the issue had those four populous and warlike
States from the very commencement of the war been
closely and firmly united with the Confederacy? Had
President Lincoln at once, on the breaking out of the
rebellion, attempted the overthrow of slavery, there is
reason to believe that all the above-named States would
have arrayed themselves against the government, and
the theatre of war, instead of being almost exclusively
confined to the territory of the slave States, would, in all
probability, have been extended to the adjacent free
States, to Pennsylvania and Ohio, if not still farther.
Nor would this have been the only misfortune ; such an
attempt would, it can scarcely be doubted, have divided
the people in many of the free States, and prevented
them from giving the government that cordial and united
support so indispensable to the Union cause in such a

The conscientious and anxious desire evinced by the
President to respect the constitutional rights of every
section of the country, if it produced no favourable influ-
ence upon the minds of the Confederates, had at least
the effect of gaining over to his cause multitudes of his
political opponents in the Northern as well as in the bor-
der States ; so that tens of thousands who had opposed
his election in 1860 became, before the close of his first
Presidential term, of the number of his most cordial
supporters. He considered it, indeed, to be not merely
expedient, but to be his imperative duty, to weigh care-
fully all the circumstances by which he was surrounded.
A religious or moral reformer may very properly content
himself with merely proclaiming and expounding great
truths, and then leave the minds of men to embrace
them, as they may be prepared to do so. But he who,
being placed at the head of a government, neglects to
consider the question whether his measures are prac-
ticable, or whether they are or are not adapted to the
actual condition and wants of the people, can have no
claim to the name of statesman, although he may pos-
sibly merit that of a far-seeing reformer or philanthropist.

To some, who were urging him to issue at once a
proclamation of emancipation, intimating that they fel.
assured it was the will of God that he should do so,
Lincoln replied, "I hope it will not be irreverent for me
to say that, if it is probable that God would reveal his
will to others on a point so connected with my duty, it
might be supposed he would reveal it directly to me ;
for, unless I am more deceived in myself than I often
am, it is my earnest desire to know the will of Providence
in this matter ; and if I can learn what it is, I will do it."
At another time he said, "There are 50,000 bayonets in
the Union army from the border slave States. It would
be a serious matter if, in consequence of a proclamation
such as you desire, they should go over to the rebels.
. . . Every day increases their Union feeling." He dili-
gently sought every opportunity of informing himself re-
specting the condition of public sentiment, especially in
regard to the question of emancipation. A great change
in the minds of the people had undoubtedly taken place
in this respect, not only in the North, but also in several
of the slave Stales. After mature deliberation, being at
length satisfied that the welfare of the country would be
promoted by such a measure, and that public senti-
ment would sustain it, he issued (September 22, 1862) a
proclamation of emancipation, in which it was declared
that on the first day of January, 1863, "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,

a. e, I, 6, u, y, long: a, e, 6, same, less prolonged; a, e, I, 6, u, y, short; a, e, i, 9, obscure; far, fill, fat; met; not; good; moon-




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, 01
any of them, in any efforts they may make for theii
actual freedom."

After the battle of Chancellorsville the tide of success
seemed to turn in favour of the Union cause. This is
not the place to go into any detailed account of the
movements of the different armies. It may suffice briefly
to notice a few of the principal battles which constituted,
so to speak, turning-points in the history of the war, and
which had an immediate and important influence in
bringing it to a close.

On the 3d of July, 1863, the army of the Potomac,
under General Meade, defeated the rebel forces, com-
manded by General Lee, in a great battle (which had
lasted three days) near Gettysburg, in Pennsylvania.
On the 4th of the same month, General Grant cap-
tured Vicksburg, after a long and most obstinate defence
on the part of the garrison, and in spite of the strenuous
efforts of the Confederate general Joseph E. Johnston to
raise the siege. The number of Confederate troops
paroled at Vicksburg was about 27,000, of whom only
15,000 were fit for duty. "This," says Mr. Greeley,
" was the heaviest single blow ever given to the muscu-
lar resources of the rebellion ; and no other campaign
in the war equals in brilliancy of conception and general
success in execution that which resulted in the capitula-
tion of Vicksburg." As Commander Farragut, suj ported
by a land-army under General Butler, had already (April,
1862) taken possession of New Orleans, the conquest
of Vicksburg gave to the Unionists the command of the
Mississippi throughout its entire length.

The courage, skill, and, above all, the unconquerable
energy displayed by General Grant in the siege and
capture of Vicksburg, seemed to point him out to the
government as pre-eminently qualified to conduct a wai
in which a wise foresight, an untiring vigilance, and an
indefatigable activity were equally necessary to success.
There was another point also wherein, to adopt the
language of Mr. Greeley, " his fitness for the chief
command was decided, if not pre-eminent ; and that
was an utter disbelief in the efficacy of any rose-water
treatment of the rebellion." On the 1st of March, 1864,

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Online LibraryJoseph ThomasUniversal pronouncing dictionary of biography and mythology (Volume 2) → online text (page 93 of 425)