William Richards Castle William Roscoe Thayer.

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numbers." But Lee was a fighter, and evincing supreme contempt
for the generalship of his enemy, decided to divide his own force.
On the evening of May 1, Lee and Stonewall Jackson might be seen
in conference, sitting on two old cracker boxes, Lee entrusting
to Jackson the execution of his plan to turn Hooker's right flank
and gain his rear.

Early on the morning of May 2, 1863, Jackson, ^' the great
flanker," started on a march which took him part way around the
Union army. Lee gave to his lieutenant two thirds of his infantry
and four fifths of his artillery, retaining the rest to demonstrate
against Hooker's center. Jackson's pale face and flashing eyes
showed his eagerness and intensity. ^ From his thin, compressed
lips came the command, * Press forward, press forward.' " He wore
dingy clothes and an old cap ; his men, ragged and rusty, carrying
tattered flags, appeared an *^ undisciplined rabble," but they
marched on in spite of the heat and suffering for want of water and
food. Completing his fifteen miles of march, he reached a point
west of the Union army, on the side of it directly opposite General
Lee's position, within the attacking distance of the Union right
flank, which was held by the Eleventh Corps. Jackson formed his
troops in battle array. ^ The men took their positions in silence,

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12 Lincoln in Some Phases of the Civil War. [September,

orders were transmitted in a low voice, the bugles were still ; the
soldiers abstained from saluting their general with their usual
cheers." The Union Eleventh Corps lay quietly in position, unsus-
pecting danger. Some of the men were getting supper ready, others
were eating or resting, some were playing cards. Shortly before
six o'clock the Confederate bugles sounded. Jackson hurled most
of his 31,000 upon the hapless 9000 of the Eleventh Corps, whose
first warning came from the wild rush of deer and rabbits driven
by the quick march of the Confederates through the wilderness.
Then they heard the ^^Bebel yell" and received a withering fire
from cannon and rifles. After a brief resistance they ran.

It was a dearly bought victory for tlie Confederates. Jackson,
busy in the endeavor to re-form his troops, who had fallen into
confusion from the charge through the thick and tangled wood,
and eager to discover Hooker's intentions, rode with his escort for-
ward beyond his line of battle. Fired upon by the Union troops,
they turned about and as they rode back in the obscurity of the
night were mistaken for Union horsemen and shot at by their own
soldiers; Jackson received a mortal wound.

Hooker, anxious and careworn, despondent at the rout of the
Eleventh Corps, was in mind and nerve unfit for the exercise of
his gpreat responsibility. The story of Sunday, the 8d of May, is
that of an incompetent commander in a state of nervous collapse
confronted by an able and alert general. Shortly after nine o'clock
in the morning, Hooker was knocked down and rendered senseless
by a cannon ball striking a pillar of the Chancellor House veranda
against which he was leaning ; but at that time the battle was practi-
cally lost. He recovered partially and did not relinquish the com-
mand ; recrossed the river safely and without molestation. He had
suffered a severe defeat and enormous loss.

When Lincoln received the telegram announcing the withdrawal
of the Army to the north side of the Rappahannock, he cried out,
" My God ! My God ! What will the country say I What will the
country say ! " On the same day Sumner came from the extremely
dejected President to Welles's office and ^' raising both hands ex-
claimed, ' Lost, lost, all is lost ! ' "

Chancellorsville proved Hooker's incompetence to command a
large army and would have justified his relief, but the President
remained his steadfast friend. He visited the army soon after the

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1915.] Lincoln in Some Phases of the Civil War. 13

battle, and, taking the view that no one was to blame and that it was
a disaster that could not be helped, so cheered up Hooker that the
General came to feel secure in his position and to show apparent
nnconoem at the distrust of him in the army. ^' The President,"
wrote Welles in his diary, ** has a personal liking for Hooker and
clings to him when others give way." When the General's defects
were put to him freely and with authority, Lincoln said, *^ I am
not disposed to throw away a gun because it missed fire once."

Lee^s success at Chancellorsville decided him on the invasion of
Pennsylvania, which he made in June, 1863. Hooker likewise ad-
vanced northward on the line east of Lee's which enabled him to
cover Washington. When the alarm at the invasion of Pennsyl*
vania was at its height, when every man in the North tremblingly
took up his morning newspaper and with a sinking heart watched
the periodical bulletins, the intelligence came that there had been
a change in commanders of the Army of the Potomac. Those in
authority depended for the salvation of Baltimore and Washington
on this army which the public, with its half -knowledge of the situ-
ation, also felt to be their mainstay. On account of a difference with
Halleck, the President's Chief-of-Staff, Hooker asked to be re-
lieved from his position. Lincoln made up his mind quickly, relieved
Hooker and appointed George G. Meade, a true soldier, in his
place. The quarrel between Hooker and Halleck was lucky for
the North. On July 1, 2, and 3, 1863, Meade at Gettysburg de-
feated Lee, forcing him to retreat into Virginia. ^^ Had Hooker
remained in command," wrote Halleck on July 11, ^*he would
have lost the army and the capital."

After Meade won the battle of Gettysburg and Grant captured
Yicksburg, in July, 1863, Lincoln's self-confidence grew, as he
naturally received credit for those victories. He was always a
hero to his private secretary John Hay, who, living in the White
House, saw him constantly under all circumstances. In August,
1863, Hay wrote, " The Tycoon," as he called Lincoln, " is in fine
whack. ... I never knew with what tyrannous authority he rules
the Cabinet until now. The most important things he decides and
there is no cavil. • • . There is no man in the country so wise, so
gentle, and so firm. I believe the hand of Gh>d placed him where
he is." A month later Hay returned to the subject in words that
History confirms. *^ The old man," as he now ciJled Lincoln, ^ sits

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14 Lincoln in Some Phases of ike CivU War. [September,

here and wields, like a backwoods Jupiter, the bolts of war and
the machinery of government with a hand equally steady and
equally firm."

The President had found the military ability which he sought in
General Grant. He detected it at the time of the capture of Donel-
Bon and therefore stood by the General after his surprise at Shiloh,
when he was the subject of much criticism and defamation. To one
who stated the general protest, Lincoln said, ^^ I canH spare this
man; he fights.^* Between Donelson and Yicksburg, Grant led a
chequered career, but when the command of the expedition against
Yicksburg fell to him he showed the stuff that was in him. from
January 80 to July 4, 1868, however, was a long while for the
impatient North, and slander and detraction of Grant were readily
believed. It was at this time that Lincoln said, ^^ I think Grant
has hardly a friend left except myself." With a cool brain and
steady judgment Grant formed a bold conception and he executed
it witJi promptness and unremitting energy ; the result was the
capture of Yicksburg, one of the most important Northern victo-
ries of the war. This led to Grant's winning the battle of Chat-
tanooga in the autumn, which gave the Northern people the first
genuine Thanksgiving they had celebrated since the commence-
ment of the Civil War. His assignment to the command of the
Armies of the United States and his place with the Army of the
Potomac followed. Just before Grant began his celebrated cam*
paign of attrition, John Hay gave a picture of Lincoln that is
worth recalling to mind : —

A little after midnight [Hay wrote], the President came into the office
laughing, with a volume of Hood's Works in his hand to show Nicolay and me
the little caricature, '< An Unfortunate Beeing," seemingly utterly unconscious
that he with his short shirt hanging about his long legs, and setting out behind
like the tail feathers of an enormous ostrich, was infinitely funnier than any-
thing in the book he was laughing at. What a man it is I Occupied all day
with matters of vast moment, deeply anxious about the fate of the greatest
army of the world, with his own fame and future hanging on the events of the
passing hour, he yet has such a wealth of simple honhommie and good-fellow-
ship that he gets out of bed and perambulates the house in his shirt to find us
that we may share with him the fun of poor Hood's queer little conceits.

This is the only reference I know of to Lincoln's reading Hood.
Shakespeare was his favorite and his state papers show a vital
knowledge of the Bible.

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1915.] Lincoln in Sime Phases of the CivU War. 15

Lincoln and Grant I Both were noble servants of the Republic.
In their relations, neither envy nor intrigue had a place. During
April, 1864, the time of the White House incident which Hay
has related. Grant was the most popular man in the United States.
Both parties and all factions vied with each other in his praise.
Vicksburg and Chattanooga were victories that bore down all de-
traction and raised the general who won them to a height of glory.
It is striking to contrast this almost universal applause of Grant
with the abuse of Lincoln by the Democrats, the caustic criticism
of him by some of the radical Bepublicans, and by others the
damning of him with faint praise.

In June the National Union, or Republican Convention, was to
meet to nominate a candidate for President, and of course Lincoln
desired the nomination. Nobody knows, he said, what the itching
for a second term is until he has had it. But zealous friends of
Grant without his connivance pressed him for the nomination, and
word of this came to Lincoln. *^ If he takes Richmond, let him
have it," he said.

Grant did not take Richmond during the year 1864. In fact
his offensive campaign against Lee of May and June resulted in
immense losses and failure, making a reconstitution and reorgan-
ization of the army necessary ; these were made during the many
weeks of inaction from June 18, 1864, to the spring of 1865.

Due to the blasting of the high hopes that accompanied Grant
in his advance on the Confederates was the gloom which pervaded
the North during July and August, 1864. One form of this was
the grave disaffection to Lincoln, now his party's candidate for
President, leading to a movement to induce him to withdraw.
While the Democratic Convention had not met, there was no
doubt that McClellan would be its candidate. During this period
of depression, Lincoln made a memorandum which was not dis-
closed until nearly three months later and which shows the domi-
nance of patriotism over self-interest.

TluB morning [he wrote on Angnst 23, 1864], as for some days past, it seems
probable that this Administration will not be reelected; then it will be my duty
to so codperate with the President-elect as to save the Union between the elec-
tion and the inangaration; as he will have secured his election on such ground
that he cannot possibly save it afterwards.

Farragut, Sherman, and Sheridan won signal victories and
Lincoln was triumphantly reelected.

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16 Lincoln in Some Phases of the Civil War. [September,

After the saspension of specie payments by the banks and the
Oovemment, at the end of 1861, the war was conducted on a paper
basis. United States Treasury notes were made a legal tender and
bonds were issued which could be bought with these notes, com-
monly known as greenbacks. Gold and silver disappeared entirely
from circulation and paper of different denominations down to
five cents took their place. It was a debauch of fiat money. The
expenses of the Government were enormous, and Chase, the able
Secretary of the Treasury, had trouble frequently in making both
ends meet. Apparently the darkest days, financially, of the war were
during 1864, when gold went as high as 285, and on one of them
Chase was asked ^^ What is the debt now in round numbers ? "
"About 12,600,000,000," was the reply. "How much more can
the country stand? " " If we do not suppress the rebellion," an-
swered Chase, " when it reaches 93,000,000,000 we shall have to
give it up." It must have been at this time that Chase went to
Lincoln, who knew nothing of finance or bu9iness, and asked,
"What can be done about it?" Lincoln perplexed, but with a
smile on his sad face, answered, " Well, Mr. Secretary, I don't
know, unless you give your paper mill another turn."

If a man have other qualities to make him supremely great,
nothing sets them off so well as magnanimity, and this quality
Lincoln possessed in a rare degree. His treatment of Chase is one
of those instances that make men wonder. Chase, holding the sec-
ond position in the Cabinet, was so swayed by his craving for the
presidency that he failed in loyalty to his chief ; he was the cen-
ter of disaffection ; making no secret of his contempt for the Pres-
ident's ability, he cavilled in public and in private at the work of
the Administration. He desired to use the offices in his depart-
ment to further his own ambition and clashed more than once
with the President, when he was unreasonable and Lincoln showed
a high degree of patience. Chase's weapon was the offer of his
resignation, and this was potent, as he had the confidence of the
financial interests. Threatening it once, yielding at another time
to Lincoln's persuasion to withdraw it, he on June 29, 1864, in a
fit of petulance over a difference regarding an appointment, re-
signed again, and this time Lincoln took him at his word and ac-
cepted his resignation. During the summer of 1864, when Lincoln,
now a candidate for reelection, was nearly weighed down by his

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1916.] Lincoln in Some Phases of the Civil War. 17

burden, Chase's sneers in conversation at the man in the White
House were persistent and oruel. It must be added, however, that
in the end he advocated from the stump Lincohi's reelection. In
October the actual Chief Justice of the United States Supreme
Court died and Chase was warmly pressed by his friends for the

The President's hesitation in not naming him at once came
from the fear that Chase's restless desire for the presidency might
prevent his making a dignified judge. During the interval when
all claims were being considered, Lincoln on one occasion showed
his sense of humor. One day, when his Secretary brought him a
letter from Chase, he said, '^ What is it about? " ^^ Simply a kind
and friendly letter," was the reply. Lincoln did not read it, but
said, ^^ File it with his other recommendations." While he had
sufiicient reason to turn against Chase, he was too great to be vin-
dictive or even unfriendly.

To a visit of Judge Hoar and Bichard H. Dana after his re-
election in November, 1864, we are indebted for his inmost feel-
ing. ^^ Mr. Chase is a very able man," said Lincoln. ^' He is a
very ambitious man and I think on the subject of the presidency
a little insane. He has not always behaved very well lately and
people say to me, ^ Now is the time to crush him out^ Well, I am
not in favor of crushing anybody out I If there is anything that a
man can do and do it well, I say let him do it. Give him a chance."
What a noble sentiment of man to man I What wisdom for the
conduct of affairs between nations I

On December 0, 1864, the President sent this word to the Sen-
ate : ^^ I nominate Salmon P. Chase, of Ohio, to be Chief Justice
of the Supreme Court of the United States." " I would," he said
confidentially, *' rather have swallowed my buckhorn chair than
to nominate Chase."

From November, 1864, until his death in April, 1865, Lincoln
had a greater hold on the Northern people than any man since
Washington. At the height of his fame he called his Cabinet to-
gether on Sunday evening, February 5, 1865, to receive an im-
pressive communication. This was when the Southern Confeder-
acy was tottering to her fall — only sixty-three days before Lee's
surrender to Grant. Lincoln proposed a message to Congress,

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18 Lincoln in Some Phases of the Civil War. [September,

recommending that they empower the President to pay to the
eleven slave States of the Southern Confederacy, then in arms
against the Union, and to the five slave States remaining in the
Union, four hundred million dollars as compensation for their
slaves, provided that all resistance to the national authority should
cease on April 1 next. The Cabinet disapproved unanimously this
project, and Lincoln with a deep sigh said, '^ You are all opposed,
to me and I will not send the message." But the proposal was
a marvellous instance of foresight. Had the Confederate States,
then on the brink of ruin, accepted it, there would have been an
immediate fraternal reunion after the Civil War. Had they de«
clined it, the President and Congress would have made a noble
record. The offer, however, was too wise and too generous for
poor human nature, and no one in authority could rise to the
height on which Lincoln dwelt. But many men now, when they
reflect on the events from 1865 to 1877, may well wish that the
offer had been made. The sublime words of Lincoln's second
inaugural are a fitting complement to the generous spirit he
showed during this Sunday meeting with his Cabinet.

There is another incident during this happy period of Lincoln's
life on which I love to dwell. On March 27, he visited Grant at
his headquarters to confer with him and Sherman regarding what
military operations were necessary in view of the approaching end
of the war. The two generals were agreed that one or the other
^^ would have to fight one more bloody battle and that it would
be the last.^^ Lincoln said more than once that there had been
enough of blood shed and asked if iinother battle could not be

On April 9, 1865, Lee surrendered to Grant and the war was
practicaUy at an end. Lincoln's few remaining days were full of
kind expressions to his prostrate foe. Had he lived, it is easy to
see that his policy of reconstruction would have been mercy and
consideration for the Southern people, wisdom in the gradual en-
franchisement of the colored men, based on educational and other

This, then, is Lincoln with his weaknesses and strength. He is
not, as Mommsen wrote of CaBsar, the " entire and perfect man "
who ^^ worked and created as never any mortal did before or after

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1916.] William Boscoe Thayer. 19

him." Verily Caesar created Ca&sarism for the modem world, the
autocracy of the superman. But was he or Lincoln the greater
benefactor of his own country ? Which is the better policy to
transmit to mankind, that of despotism or that of liberty? the
better injunction, Submit yourselves unto Caesar, or, Give every
man a chance ? In intellect Caesar and Lincoln are not to be com-
pared. We speak of the mighty Caesar, never of the mighty Lin-
coln. But nobody says ^^ Honest Julius," while ** Honest Old Abe "
will go down through the ages.

James Ford Rhodes^ h '01.


Thbee and twenty years ago, the Harvard Graduates^ Maga-
zine was an experiment concerning which some of us felt little
enthusiasm. There had been something like an unrecognized tra-
dition that the strength of Harvard should be based not on asser-
tion but on achievement ; to record, in semi-official guise, what
Harvard had done and what Harvard was doing and should do,
looked perilously like advertisement, of such temper as might
probably develop into blatant proclamation of self-esteem. When
the foundation of the Magazine was decided, but its name not yet
familiar, some scoffer suggested that, in deference to the spirit of
truth dear to Harvard, it might properly be named ^' The Trom-

Today the Graduates^ Magazine is not only an established
fact in our University tradition ; it is among the facts which touch
the sensibilities of Harvard men everywhere. They have come to
expect it, to welcome it, to care for it, as something peculiarly and
happily theirs. They turn to it with full confidence that they
shall find a candid, nowise arrogant record of what Harvard has
accomplished, has attempted, has hoped ; and the habit of years
now assures them that this record, in all its phases, will be suf-
fused with that impalpable, quenchless spirit which is our Har-
vard own. Quite to understand how deeply the Magazine has ap-
pealed and appeals to all who care for these things one must perhaps
have strayed away from Harvard itself. There — even to this day
— its utterances may now and then sound superfluously complac-

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20 William Roscoe Thayer. [September,

ent. The further one paases from the centre of our common Uni-
versity life the more surely one recognizes the purity of their
note. It has carried the Harvard spirit everywhere, to all who
love that spirit, in the more distant parts of our own country, in
ancestral Europe, in vast and patient Asia, in that other hemi-
sphere which is coming at last to be part of the historic world.

So one cannot be sure whether gratitude or regret be the domi-
nant phase of the feeling with which we accept the fact that the
man who has done Harvard this priceless service is to do it no
more. Like the magnanimous president of Harvard College uiu
der whose administration so much of his work was done, the editor
and the true founder of the Gradvjate%^ Magazine has retired
from his work in the fulness of his power, wise enough not to
wait till the inexorable time for retirement should enforce it, brave
enough to be serenely confident that others will faithfully try to
be worthy of the standard which he has fixed and of the example
which he has set. Something of this confidence we may all gladly
share, glad with him that he is henceforth to be free from the bur-
den which he has so long and so willingly borne for us. Yet this
gladness of ours must be modified by knowledge that no one else can
ever be for Harvard quite what William Roscoe Thayer has been.

And yet those who knew him best three and twenty years ago
can hardly have foreseen what record he would make. They knew
that he was a man of unusually decided character, of stainless in-
tegrity, but of uncompromising convictions. They knew that he
was an accomplished man of letters — journalist, poet, and student
of history. They knew as well that he was imperfectly patient
with differences of opinion. In all normal human beings there is
something of paradox. In Thayer this paradox was unusually pro-
nounced. Liberal to the core, he could rarely tolerate in others
any tendency which should smack of divergence from the liberal
convictions he seemed to confuse with absolute truth. He was
among those passionate lovers of freedom who never hesitate to
enforce freedom with a bludgeon. The one thing about him which
seemed final was that he was too sure of himself to bend himself
into complete agreement with anybody else ; and his head, though
clear, was not cool. Among the virtues which appeared beyond
his grasp were those perhaps timid but very useful qualities best
summarized as conciliatory.

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1915.] William Soscoe Thayer. 21

In the vista of three and twenty years we can now see him
otherwise. The deepest characteristic of the spirit fostered at Har-
vard throughout our two hundred and twenty-nine years of cor-
porate being is its trust in truth. No two Harvard generations
have ever seen truth in quite the same light ; no two Harvard
men can often have found themselves quite at one ; few of us can
instantly agree that the word — Veritas — spread on the open
books of our college shield means, wholly and only, the King James
Version of the English Bible ; but so long as Harvard has been
Harvard, and so long as Harvard shall be, Harvard men have
never ceased and can never cease their effort to seek the truth as
the truth may reveal itself to them. That is why we are richer in
leaders than in followers, in men than in movements, in individual
than in corporate energy. Our deepest orthodoxy is a noble heresy.

Online LibraryWilliam Richards Castle William Roscoe ThayerThe Harvard graduates' magazine → online text (page 3 of 103)