Charles W. (Charles Washington) Moores.

The life of Abraham Lincoln for boys and girls (Volume c.5) online

. (page 7 of 9)
Online LibraryCharles W. (Charles Washington) MooresThe life of Abraham Lincoln for boys and girls (Volume c.5) → online text (page 7 of 9)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

necticut, Secretary of the Navy ; Caleb B. Smith of
Indiana, Secretary of the Interior ; Montgomery Blair
of Maryland, Postmaster-General. Of these seven
men, upon whose loyal support and wise advice the
success of his administration as President was so
largely to depend, he had no real knowledge. The first
four were chosen because in the nominating convention
at Chicago they had been his prominent rivals for the
presidency. Bates of Missouri, and Blair of Maryland,
he had chosen because they were from slave States
and so could help him in the effort that he knew must
be made to keep the slave States that bordered upon
Mason and Dixon's Line loyal to the Union. Among
them all, not one was his personal friend ; and yet it
was to them he must look for guidance in the struggle
he was now entering.

At noon, James Buchanan, the retiring President,
worn and broken with the cares of state, and glad to
escape the responsibilities of war, called at Lincoln's
hotel and the two drove together to the Capitol. The
day was clear and beautiful, and the streets and public
places were thronged. A peaceful revolution was tak-
ing place. James Buchanan, the friend of the slave
power, who without protest had allowed the South to
take possession of the nation's forts and arsenals, was
courteously escorting to the inauguration Abraham
Lincoln, the champion of the Union, who on his part
was pledged to reclaim from the seceding States the
property which Buchanan had permitted them to take.
Close beside their carriage rode a guard of mounted
soldiery. At every corner, on the housetops, and even
underneath the platform on which the two Presidents
were U stand, there were armed men. On a hilltop


near by a company of artillery commanded the scene.
It was a peaceful revolution, but the spirit of war was
in the air. " All thoughts were anxiously directed to
an impending civil war. All dreaded it ; all sought to
avert it. While the inaugural address was being de-
livered, devoted altogether to saving the Union without
war, insurgent agents were in the city seeking to de-
stroy it without war. . . . Both parties deprecated war ;
but one of them would make war rather than let the
nation survive ; and the other would accept war rather
than let it perish. And the war came." Thus Lincoln
described the situation four years later. Many of the
troops that guarded the presidential party wore citi-
zens' clothes, and the day, to all outward seeming,
gave no signs of the feeling that stirred every man's
heart. The excitement was intense. As far as the eye
could see, southward into Virginia and northward into
Maryland, there was slave territory, and on every side
there was hostility toward all that the new President

As Lincoln rose to deliver his inaugural address
there was a moment of embarrassment. He held a
gold-headed cane in one hand and his printed speech
in the other. When he took off his new high hat, he
did not know what to do with it. He is said to have
remarked in his droll way, as he looked up at the mar-
ble columns of the Capitol, " I don't see any nail on
those columns to hang this on." Just then Stephen A.
Douglas, for so many years his rival, stepped forward
and took the hat, as he remarked with a smile, " If I
can't be President, at least I can hold his hat."

Lincoln's old-time friend, Edward D. Baker, who
with Lincoln and Douglas had practiced law on the
Illinois circuit twenty years before, and was now a


Senator from Oregon, introduced him to the audience
of over a hundred thousand people that had gathered
by the east portico of the Capitol. The speech, read
in a clear tenor voice, was heard throughout the vast
throng, and the next morning was discussed in every
household in the land. The South as well as the North
had been waiting to learn what the President would do.
Would he let the " wayward States depart in peace,"
as one of his advisers had urged ? Would he carry war
into the South, and compel the seceding States to yield
to the federal power? Or would he wait until the South
should strike the first blow? The world listened eagerly
to this first expression of his purposes toward the South.
The speech left no one in doubt either as to the Presi-
dent's intention to maintain the authority of the gov-
ernment and defend it against all assaults, or as to his
firm determination that if war was to come, the South
must strike the first blow. To the South he said : " In
your hands, my dissatisfied fellow countrymen, and not
in mine, is the momentous issue of civil war. The gov-
ernment will not assail you. 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.' " Nor was there any doubt of
his kindly feeling toward his " dissatisfied fellow coun-
trymen," for in the face of threats and violence, he was
still able to reason with them and beg them to wait
patiently a little longer in the assurance that their
rights under the Constitution and the laws would be as
secure now as ever they had been.

The closing words of the address, written by Presi-
dent Lincoln upon the suggestion of Secretary Seward,
have become almost as familiar to the American people


as the Gettysburg oration : " I am loath to close. We
are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies.
Though passion may have strained, it must not break
our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory,
stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave, to
every living heart and hearthstone, all over this broad
land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again
touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of
our nature."

He turned to the venerable Chief Justice of the
United States, Roger B. Taney, and with his hand upon
the Bible slowly repeated the oath : " I, Abraham Lin-
coln, do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute
the office of President of the United States, and will,
to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend
the Constitution of the United States."



The day, which had opened fair, now became bleak.
Buchanan drove with Lincoln from the Capitol to the
White House, and there bade the new President good-
by. As Lincoln entered into the possession of the bare
and comfortless mansion that for four years — the rest
of his life — was to be his home, he felt more keenly
than ever the pang of loneliness that had been his most
familiar experience. He soon found himself in the
midst of a mob of the idly curious that roamed about
the place as if it belonged to them. An army of office-
seekers that already had begun to make his life a bur-
den were camping there from daybreak until they were
put out at night, watching eagerly for a chance inter-
view and fairly thrusting their applications and petitions
into his pockets. The trouble and anxiety that the
approach of war had brought, bore heavily upon him.
The persistency of the men who sought offices at his
hands at this distressing time was so great that the
President exclaimed, " I feel just like a man who is
trying to rent out apartments in one end of his house
while fire is raging in the other."

There is no loneliness to compare with that of one
who finds himself in the midst of a multitude from
whom he is unable to escape and who will give him
neither sympathy nor peace. The country was divided.
The nation's arms had been sent to Southern forts and
arsenals, and its soldiers to the far-away Indian fron-
tier. The government service was in the hands of men


whom he neither knew nor trusted. How many of them
were at heart hostile to the Union, no one could tell.
How soon the armies of the Confederate States might
march across the Potomac and make the city of Wash-
ington the capital of the new slave republic, he could
only conjecture. He knew that the regular army of the
United States had been scattered, and that there were
only a few hundred soldiers in Washington to guard
the capital. Its commander. General Winfield Scott,
was seventy-five years old and too feeble now for active
service. Seven States, with seven millions of people,
had declared their independence. The fate of the other
slave States, particularly of Virginia and Maryland,
within whose borders the city of Washington lay, hung
in the balance. Every effort was being made at Rich-
mond and at Baltimore, by Southern conspirators and
those in sympathy with the slave Confederacy, to draw
these two border States into the secession movement.
There was only a faint hope that they might remain
loyal to the Union. A rash word or an unwise step
would drive Virginia and Maryland, and possibly Del-
aware and Kentucky and Missouri, into the Confed-
eracy, and plunge the country into war, and that, too,
at a time when there were no troops at hand to defend
the capital, and the government was without arms or
ammunition or money or credit.

This was the situation as President Lincoln saw it
on the day he entered the White House. It was a time
that called for patience and wisdom. He saw now still
more clearly the truth of his prophetic words at Indian-
apolis, that the question of preserving the liberties of
the country was not with politicians, nor with office-
seekers, nor with Presidents, but with the people. And
he saw more clearly than any of his advisers that he


could not hope to save the Union unless he could win
the confidence of the people and command their help
in all that he had to do. He resolved to treat the South
with all possible patience, and to wait for the South to
strike the first blow. Trusting the people as he did, he
felt sure that if the South should fire on the flag, the
North would unite to resist the attack. It is interesting
to imagine in what different ways the other great men
of that day would have met the difficulties that Lincoln
settled with such wise forbearance ; how Seward would
have declared war not only against the rebellious States,
but against the European powers as well ; how Thaddeus
Stevens would have proclaimed the slaves free from
the very beginning and so lost the support of Delaware
and Maryland and Kentucky and Missouri ; how Gen-
eral Scott would have recognized the Confederacy as
an independent nation ; and how Stephen A. Douglas
would have gone boldly into the heart of the South and
pronounced its leaders traitors worthy of death ; and
how, in the plans of all these counselors who differed
with Lincoln so often, there was a certainty of ruin,
while the only hope of saving the Union proved to be in
the slow and cautious policy of Lincoln, which permit-
ted him to act only after he had learned all there was to
be learned, and, after taking counsel, had made up his
mind what course the people wanted him to pursue.

The day after the inauguration brought him face to
face with a question which he must soon answer. If he
answered it in one way, the Union would be dissolved
and the Constitution which he had just promised
" to preserve, protect, and defend " would be set at
naught-, if he answered it in the only other way, the
South would declare war.

Within a little island fortification in Charleston


Harbor, known as Fort Sumter, Major Robert Ander-
son and a hundred and twenty-eight men upheld the
authority of the national government, and from its
flagstaff each day flung to the breeze the flag of the
United States. They were really prisoners within its
walls, for across the bay five thousand Confederate
soldiers under General Beauregard were encamped
beneath the flag of the Palmetto State awaiting the
command to open fire. Within the fort the provisions
were almost gone. The governor of South Carolina had
forbidden President Buchanan to come to Sumter's re-
lief. But President Lincoln had said in his inaugural
address that the power confided to him would be used
" to hold, occupy, and possess the property and places
belonging to the government," and that " the declared
purpose of the Union " was " to defend itself." Fort
Sumter belonged to the national government, and its
men had reached a point where they must either desert
their place of duty or face starvation. On March 5,
President Lincoln received word from Major Anderson
that there were only provisions enough to last a week, and
that unless help came soon the fort must be abandoned.
What was President Lincoln to do ? Should he send
food to Anderson and his men ? Or must the flag be
hauled down?

Lincoln determined to find out if possible just what
the feeling of the people of South Carolina was, and
whether they would plunge the country into war rather
than allow the handful of Union soldiers in Charleston
Harbor to be fed. The President's former law partner,
Ward H. Lamon, a Virginian by birth, offered to go to
Charleston and see what the people there were likely
to do if the President should make good his inaugural
pledge of holding all "places belonging to the govern-


ment." It was a dangerous journey. Secretary Seward
tried to prevent it, insisting that Lamon could not
come back alive ; and yet it was of the utmost impor-
tance to know the whole situation at once. Lamon
was eager to go, and the President said, " By Jing ! I '11
risk him. Go, Lamon, and God bless you ! Bring back a
palmetto if you can't bring good news." Lamon went.
He soon learned the temper of the South, and reported
to the President all that he had discovered. Lincoln
then put to each member of the cabinet this question :
" Assuming it to be possible to now provision Fort
Sumter, under all the circumstances is it wise to attempt
it ? " General Scott, the commander of the army, had
already advised against it, and now all but one of the
President's cabinet were agreeing with General Scott.
In the face of this, the President determined to hold
the fort. A vessel was made ready and sent to Charles-
ton, and, according to promise, Governor Pickens was

Before the vessel containing food for the besieged
men reached the harbor, General Beauregard ordered
an attack on the little fort. For two days Major An-
derson and his half-starved men kept up a brave but
hopeless defense. At last the flag, torn by hostile bul-
lets, was lowered. The little garrison, holding out as
long as it could without food or ammunition, surren-
dered. A new and strange banner was raised over
Sumter. " And the war came."

On Sunday morning, April 14, 1861, the news
flashed to every village in the land, " Sumter has been
fired on. Sumter has fallen." From that moment the
flag of the Union, that had been only a decoration,
became a sacred thing, that brought tears to men's eyes
as they saw it outlined against the sky.


The next morning the President issued a proclama-
tion calling for seventy-five thousand troops and con-
vening a special session of Congress to meet on July 4.
In this proclamation he said : " I appeal to all loyal
citizens to . . . aid this effort to maintain the honor,
the integrity, and the existence of our ' National Union '
and the perpetuity of popular government, and to
redress wrongs already long enough endured." Many
loyal men of the country responded instantly. Within
a week, camps were established and men and boys from
every station in life were taking their first lessons in
military science and getting ready to fight for the flag.
The streets in every city echoed the tramp of marching
men, and every wind carried to anxious ears the rattle
of the drum and the scream of the bugle. And so was
created the volunteer army which, before peace came
again, numbered nearly three millions of men.

The war, long threatened, had begun ; and of the army
of the Union, soon to become the greatest army that
the world ever knew, Abraham Lincoln, whose military
training had been confined to an eight weeks' campaign
against Indians that he never saw, became the com-

The news that Fort Sumter had fallen put an end
at once to party differences in the North. Democrats
and Republicans forgot politics and became Union
men. Stephen A. Douglas, Senator from Illinois, and
both in Congress and among the people the leader of
the Democratic party, hurried to the White House to
offer his help to President Lincoln in putting down
the rebellion. It was the one thing that the President
needed most. Lincoln and Douglas, rivals no longer
but loyal friends, spent three hours together on that
fateful Sunday evening planning to save the Union.


Senator Douglas gave to the newspapers as soon as
he left the White House the information that " Mr.
Douglas called on the President this evening and had
an interesting conversation on the present condition
of the country. The substance of the conversation was
that . . . Mr. Douglas . . . was prepared to sustain
the President in the exercise of all his constitutional
functions to preserve the Union, and maintain the
government, and defend the federal capital." From
that meeting, the last that ever took place between
the two friends, Douglas went to Illinois to rally the
people of that State, and especially the Democrats, to
Lincoln's support. To the legislature on April 25,
1861, he made his last great public address, for he
died a few weeks later. " Whenever our government
is assailed," he declared, " the shortest way to peace is
the most stupendous preparation for war." He closed
by saying : " It is with a sad heart, with a grief that
I have never before experienced, that I have to con-
template this fearful struggle ; but I believe, in my
conscience, that it is a duty we owe to ourselves, our
children, and our God, to protect this government and
that flag from every assailant, be he who he may."

It was the last message of a great man. Its effect
was instantaneous. Not only in Illinois, but through-
out the North, the men of the nation gave evidence to
their President that they would stand by him and
defend the Union until the flag should float in peace
over every foot of soil.

A people's sorrow

The attack on Fort Sumter was a call to arms,
South as well as North. The chief difference was that
it found the South ready, while it took the North by
surprise. Southern orators charged that in sending
bread to Sumter, Lincoln had " invaded sacred soil "
and was trying to " coerce " a sovereign State. On
April 17, Virginia, by the vote of a bare majority,
joined the Confederacy ; and in May Tennessee, also
by a close vote, and Arkansas and North Carolina fol-
lowed. The Confederate States of America, eleven in
number, with Jefferson Davis of Mississippi as Presi-
dent, and Alexander H. Stephens of Georgia as Vice-
President, had organized what they dreamed would
become a new republic, with the right to buy and sell
and hold human beings as slaves under national pro-
tection as its chief principle of government, and the
fear of losing that right through Lincoln's election its
only reason for being.

The Confederate leaders had hoped to unite all the
slave States, but they were doomed to disappointment.
Maryland and Kentucky and Missouri remained loyal,
although among their citizens many showed their sym-
pathy with the South by enlisting and marching with
" the boys in gray." To keep these border States loyal
was Lincoln's constant purpose, while many were the
efforts to break them away from his firm yet sympa-
thetic hold.

The different States, in proportion to their popula-


tion, began at once to organize their soldiers into regi-
ments and put them under the command of the Presi-
dent, to be trained for war. To the city of Washing-
ton, defenseless on the Virginia border, the first troops
hastened, reaching the capital four days after the
President's call went forth. The city was practically
in a state of siege. Barricades of all kinds had been
put up about the public buildings. Famine was threat-
ening, and the people were in terror lest a few of the
Southern regiments, already in camp and awaiting
marching orders, should move against the city. Wait-
ing through the weary night for the Massachusetts and
New York regiments to reach Washington, Lincoln
walked the corridors of the White House alone, repeat-
ing to himself the despairing cry, " Why don't they
come ? Why don't they come ? "

The conduct of the war presented many problems to
the President and his military advisers. The Confeder-
ate coast-line from the Potomac to the Mexican bor-
der, many thousands of miles long, was blockaded, and
had to be watched to prevent the South from getting
provisions or arms or relief from abroad. The border-
line of Virgdnia and Tennessee and Arkansas must
be guarded lest injury be done to the Northern cities,
particularly Washington and Baltimore and Philadel-
phia. The Mississippi River, with the Ohio opening
the way into the great Middle West, must be patrolled
by war-boats and guarded by forts and military camps.
With the same vigilance must they watch the Potomac
on the east and the Cumberland and the Tennessee
rivers on the west. At all hazards Washington, the
national capital, must be kept in safety.

Three general fields of military actiArity seemed to
open : the capture of Richmond, the new Confederate


capital; the establishment, through the army, of the
federal authority among the loyal Union people of east-
ern Tennessee by way of the Tennessee River ; and
the capture of the Confederate fortifications along the
Mississippi, so as to open the " Father of Waters " to
free passage by Union vessels. To carry out this plan
of warfare required the building-up and training of a
larger army than the world had yet known. It required
four years in camp and on the march, on the battle-
field, in attack, and on retreat, until the South, whose
troops were fewer and whose wealth was less, should
at last be worn out and cry, " Enough."

The story of the four years of waiting and fighting
cannot be told here. Lincoln, as commander-in-chief of
army and navy and President of the United States,
had it all to oversee and direct. The sorrows it brought
were his sorrows, and its hourly cares and anxieties
were his.

One member of the little party that had traveled
with Lincoln from Springfield to Washington was
young Elmer Ellsworth, who, when the war broke out,
was made colonel of a regiment of zouaves. While
passing through Alexandria, Virginia, with his regi-
ment, Colonel Ellsworth saw a Confederate flag float-
ing from the roof of a hotel. He dashed up the stairs
and, tearing the flag from its staff, started back to the
street. On the stairway he was shot and killed. The
reckless courage he had shown and the cruelty of his
untimely death made the men of the North stiU more
eager to fight for the flag for whose honor Colonel
Ellsworth had died.

When the President was aroused in the early dawn
and told the news, he stood by the window in silence
looking across the Potomac toward Alexandria, while


the tears streamed down his face. Turning toward the
bearers of the heart-breaking tidings he said slowly :
" So this is the beginning — murder ! Ah, my friends,
what shall the end be ? " On the next day, in the midst
of his overwhelming labors, he found time to write with
his own hand this letter to the father and mother whose
boy had been killed : —

May 25, 1861.

My dear Sir and Madam, — In the untimely loss of
your noble son, our affliction here is scarcely less than your
own. So much of promised usefulness to one's country, and
of bright hopes for one's self and friends, have rarely been
so suddenly dashed as in his fall. In size, in years, and in
youthful appearance a boy only, his power to command men
was surpassingly great. This power, combined with a fine
intellect, an indomitable energy, and a taste altogether mil-
itary, constituted in him, as seemed to me, the best natural
talent in that department I ever knew.

And yet he was singularly modest and deferential in social
intercourse. My acquaintance with him began less than two
years ago ; yet through the latter half of the intervening
period it was as intimate as the disparity of our ages and my
engrossing engagements would permit. To me he appeared
to have no indulgences or pastimes ; and I never heard him
utter a profane or an intemperate word. What was conclu-
sive of his good heart, he never forgot his parents. The honors

1 2 3 4 5 7 9

Online LibraryCharles W. (Charles Washington) MooresThe life of Abraham Lincoln for boys and girls (Volume c.5) → online text (page 7 of 9)