|Slavery in the United States||American West||Civil Rights Movement|
Abraham Lincoln, the son of a farmer, was born born near Hodgenville, Kentucky, on 12th February, 1809. Although his parents were virtually illiterate, and he spent only a year at school, he developed a love of reading. In March 1830, the Lincoln family moved to Illinois.
After helping his father clear and fence his father's new farm, Lincoln moved to New Salem, where he worked as a storekeeper, postmaster and surveyor. He took a keen interest in politics and supported the Whig Party. In 1834 Lincoln was elected to the Illinois State Legislature where he argued that the role of federal government was to encourage business by establishing a national bank, imposing protective tariffs and improving the country's transport system.
In his spare time Lincoln continued his studies and became a lawyer after passing his bar examination in 1836. There was not much legal work in New Salem and the following year he moved to Springfield, the new state capital of Illinois.
In November, 1842, Lincoln married Mary Todd, the daughter of a prosperous family from Kentucky. The couple had four sons: Robert Lincoln (1843-1926), Edward Baker Lincoln (1846-50), William Lincoln (1850-62) and Thomas Lincoln (1853-1871). Three of the boys died young and only Robert lived long enough to marry and have children.
In 1844 Lincoln formed a legal partnership with William Herndon. The two men worked well together and shared similar political views. Herndon later claimed that he was instrumental in changing Lincoln's views on slavery.
Lincoln's continued to build up his legal work and in 1850 obtained the important role as the attorney for the Illinois Central Railroad. He also defended the son of a friend, William Duff Armstrong, who had been charged with murder. Lincoln successfully undermined the testimony of the prosecution's star witness, Charles Allen, and Armstrong was found not guilty.
In the Illinois State Legislature Lincoln spoke against slavery but believed that Southern states had the right to maintain their current system. When Elijah Lovejoy, an anti-slavery newspaperman was killed, Lincoln refused to condemn lynch-law and instead criticized the extreme policies of the American Anti-Slavery Society.
In 1856 Lincoln joined the Republican Party and challenged Stephen A. Douglas for his seat in the Senate. Lincoln was opposed to Douglas's proposal that the people living in the Louisiana Purchase (Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Iowa, the Dakotas, Montana, and parts of Minnesota, Colorado and Wyoming) should be allowed to own slaves. Lincoln argued that the territories must be kept free for "poor people to go and better their condition".
Lincoln raised the issue of slavery again in 1858 when he made a speech at Quincy, Illinois. Lincoln commented: "We have in this nation the element of domestic slavery. The Republican Party think it wrong - we think it is a moral, a social, and a political wrong. We think it is wrong not confining itself merely to the persons of the States where it exists, but that it is a wrong which in its tendency, to say the least, affects the existence of the whole nation. Because we think it wrong, we propose a course of policy that shall deal with it as a wrong. We deal with it as with any other wrong, insofar as we can prevent it growing any larger, and so deal with it that in the run of time there may be some promise of an end to it."
Lincoln's speech upset Southern slaveowners and poor whites, who valued the higher social status they enjoyed over slaves. However, with rapid European immigration taking place in the North, they knew they had a declining influence over federal government. Their concern turned into outrage when in 1860 the Republican Party nominated Lincoln as its presidential candidate. Hannibal Hamlin of Maine, a Radical Republican, was selected as his running mate.
The Democratic Party that met in Charleston in April, 1860, were deeply divided. Stephen A. Douglas was the choice of most northern Democrats but was opposed by those in the Deep South. When Douglas won the nomination, Southern delegates decided to hold another convention in Baltimore and in June selected John Beckenridge of Kentucky as their candidate. The situation was further complicated by the formation of the Constitutional Union Party and the nomination of John Bell of Tennessee as its presidential candidate.
Lincoln won the presidential election with with 1,866,462 votes (18 free states) and beat Stephen A. Douglas (1,375,157 - 1 slave state), John Beckenridge (847,953 - 13 slave states) and John Bell (589,581 - 3 slave states).
Lincoln selected his Cabinet carefully as he knew he would need a united government to face the serious problems ahead. His team included William Seward (Secretary of State), Salmon Chase (Secretary of the Treasury), Simon Cameron (Secretary of War), Gideon Welles (Secretary of the Navy), Edward Bates (Attorney General), Caleb Smith (Secretary of the Interior) and Montgomery Blair (Postmaster General).
During his first administration he made only five changes to his Cabinet: Edwin M. Stanton (Secretary of War - 1862), John Usher (Secretary of the Interior - 1863), William Fessenden (Secretary of the Treasury - 1864), James Speed (Attorney General - 1864), William Dennison (Postmaster General - 1864), Henry McCulloch (Secretary of the Treasury - 1865) and James Harlan (Secretary of the Interior - 1865).
In the three months that followed the election of Lincoln, seven states seceded from the Union: South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas. Representatives from these seven states quickly established a new political organization, the Confederate States of America.
On 8th February the Confederate States of America adopted a constitution and within ten days had elected Jefferson Davis as its president and Alexander Stephens, as vice-president. Montgomery, Alabama, became its capital and the Stars and Bars was adopted as its flag. Davis was also authorized to raise 100,000 troops.
At his inaugural address, Abraham Lincoln attempted to avoid conflict by announcing that he had no intention "to interfere with the institution of slavery in the states where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so." He added: "The government will not assail you. You can have no conflict without yourselves being the aggressors."
President Jefferson Davis took the view that after a state seceded, federal forts became the property of the state. On 12th April, 1861, General Pierre T. Beauregard demanded that Major Robert Anderson surrender Fort Sumter in Charleston harbour. Anderson replied that he would be willing to leave the fort in two days when his supplies were exhausted. Beauregard rejected this offer and ordered his Confederate troops to open fire. After 34 hours of bombardment the fort was severely damaged and Anderson was forced to surrender.
On hearing the news Lincoln called a special session of Congress and proclaimed a blockade of Gulf of Mexico ports. This strategy was based on the Anaconda Plan developed by General Winfield Scott, the commanding general of the Union Army. It involved the army occupying the line of the Mississippi and blockading Confederate ports. Scott believed if this was done successfully the South would negotiate a peace deal. However, at the start of the war, the US Navy, had only a small number of ships and was in no position to guard all 3,000 miles of Southern coast.
On 15th April, 1861, Lincoln called on the governors of the Northern states to provide 75,000 militia to serve for three months to put down the insurrection. Virginia, North Carolina, Arkansas and Tennessee, all refused to send troops and joined the Confederacy. Kentucky and Missouri were also unwilling to supply men for the Union Army but decided not to take sides in the conflict.
Some states responded well to Lincoln's call for volunteers. The governor of Pennsylvania offered 25 regiments, whereas Ohio provided 22. Most men were encouraged to enlist by bounties offered by the state governments. This money attracted the poor and the unemployed. Many black Americans also attempted to join the army. However, the War Department quickly announced that it had "no intention to call into service of the Government any coloured soldiers." Instead, black volunteers were given jobs as camp attendants, waiters and cooks.
General Winfield Scott was seventy-five when the Civil War started so Lincoln persuaded him to retire and appointed General Irvin McDowell as head of the Union Army. Lincoln sent McDowell to take Richmond, the new base the Confederate government. On 21st July McDowell engaged the Confederate Army at Bull Run. The Confederate troops led by Joseph E. Johnston, Thomas Stonewall Jackson, James Jeb Stuart and Pierre T. Beauregard, easily defeated the inexperienced soldiers of the Union Army. The South had won the first great battle of the war and the Northern casualties totaled 1,492 with another 1,216 missing.
On 30th August, 1861, Major General John C. Fremont, commander of the Union Army in St. Louis, proclaimed that all slaves owned by Confederates in Missouri were free. Lincoln was furious when he heard the news as he feared that this action would force slave-owners in border states to join the Confederate Army. Lincoln asked Fremont to modify his order and free only slaves owned by Missourians actively working for the South. When Fremont refused, he was sacked and replaced by the more conservative, General Henry Halleck.
In November, 1861, Lincoln decided to appoint George McClellan, who was only 34 years old, as commander in chief of the Union Army. He developed a strategy to defeat the Confederate Army that included an army of 273,000 men. His plan was to invade Virginia from the sea and to seize Richmond and the other major cities in the South. McClellan believed that to keep resistance to a minimum, it should be made clear that the Union forces would not interfere with slavery and would help put down any slave insurrections.
In January 1862 the Union Army began to push the Confederates southward. The following month Ulysses S. Grant took his army along the Tennessee River with a flotilla of gunboats and captured Fort Henry. This broke the communications of the extended Confederate line and Joseph E. Johnston decided to withdraw his main army to Nashville. He left 15,000 men to protect Fort Donelson on the Cumberland River but this was enough and Grant had no difficulty taking this prize as well. With western Tennessee now secured, Lincoln was now able to set up a Union government in Nashville by appointing Andrew Johnson as its new governor.
George McClellan appointed Allan Pinkerton to employ his agents to spy on the Confederate Army. His reports exaggerated the size of the enemy and McClellan was unwilling to launch an attack until he had more soldiers available. Under pressure from Radical Republicans in Congress, Abraham Lincoln decided in January, 1862, to appoint Edwin M. Stanton as his new Secretary of War.
Soon after this Lincoln ordered George McClellan to appear before a committee investigating the way the war was being fought. On 15th January, 1862, McClellan had to face the hostile questioning of Benjamin Wade and Zachariah Chandler. Wade asked McClellan why he was refusing to attack the Confederate Army. He replied that he had to prepare the proper routes of retreat. Chandler then said: "General McClellan, if I understand you correctly, before you strike at the rebels you want to be sure of plenty of room so that you can run in case they strike back." Wade added "Or in case you get scared". After McClellan left the room, Wade and Chandler came to the conclusion that McClellan was guilty of "infernal, unmitigated cowardice".
As a result of this meeting Lincoln decided he must find a way to force George McClellan into action. On 31st January he issued General War Order Number One. This ordered McClellan to begin the offensive against the enemy before the 22nd February. Lincoln also insisted on being consulted about McClellan's military plans. Lincoln disagreed with McClellan's desire to attack Richmond from the east. Lincoln only gave in when the division commanders voted 8 to 4 in favour of McClellan's strategy. However, Lincoln no longer had confidence in McClellan and removed him from supreme command of the Union Army. He also insisted that McClellan left 30,000 men behind to defend Washington.
In May, 1862 General David Hunter began enlisting black soldiers in the occupied districts of South Carolina. He was ordered to disband the 1st South Carolina (African Descent) but eventually got approval from Congress for his action. Hunter also issued a statement that all slaves owned by Confederates in the area were free. Lincoln quickly ordered Hunter to retract his proclamation as he still feared that this action would force slave-owners in border states to join the Confederates.
Radical Republicans were furious and John Andrew, the governor of Massachusetts, said that "from the day our government turned its back on the proclamation of General Hunter, the blessing of God has been withdrawn from our arms." The actions of General David Hunter and Lincoln's reaction stimulated a discussion on the recruitment of black soldiers in the Northern press. Wendell Phillips asked, "How many times are we to save Kentucky and lose the war?" This debate was also taking place in the Cabinet, as Edwin M. Stanton was now advocating the creation of black regiments in the Union Army.
Horace Greeley, editor of the New York Tribune, one of the leaders of the anti-slavery movement, urged Lincoln to "convert the war into a war on slavery". Lincoln replied that he would continue to place the Union ahead of all else. "My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves, I would do it; and if I could do it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would also do that."
During the summer of 1862, George McClellan and the Army of the Potomac, took part in what became known as the Peninsular Campaign. The main objective was to capture Richmond, the base of the Confederate government. McClellan and his 115,000 troops encountered the Confederate Army at Williamsburg on 5th May. After a brief battle the Confederate forces retreated South.
McClellan moved his troops into the Shenandoah Valley and along with John C. Fremont, Irvin McDowell and Nathaniel Banks surrounded Thomas Stonewall Jackson and his 17,000 man army. First Jackson attacked John C. Fremont at Cross Keys before turning on Irvin McDowell at Port Republic. Jackson then rushed his troops east to join up with Joseph E. Johnson and the Confederate forces fighting McClellan.
General Joseph E. Johnston with some 41,800 men counter-attacked McClellan's slightly larger army at Fair Oaks. The Union Army lost 5,031 men and the Confederate Army 6,134. Johnson was badly wounded during the battle and General Robert E. Lee now took command of the Confederate forces.
Major General John Pope, the commander of the new Army of Virginia, was instructed to move east to Blue Ridge Mountains towards Charlottesville. It was hoped that this move would help McClellan by drawing Robert E. Lee away from defending Richmond. Lee's 80,000 troops were now faced with the prospect of fighting two large armies: McClellan (90,000) and Pope (50,000)
Joined by Thomas Stonewall Jackson, the Confederate troops constantly attacked McClellan and on 27th June they broke through at Gaines Mill. Convinced he was outnumbered, McClellan retreated to James River. Lincoln, frustrated by McClellan's lack of success, sent in Major General John Pope, but he was easily beaten back by Jackson.
George McClellan wrote to Abraham Lincoln complaining that a lack of resources was making it impossible to defeat the Confederate forces. He also made it clear that he was unwilling to employ tactics that would result in heavy casualties. He claimed that "ever poor fellow that is killed or wounded almost haunts me!" On 1st July, 1862, McClellan and Lincoln met at Harrison Landing. McClellan once again insisted that the war should be waged against the Confederate Army and not slavery.
Salmon Chase (Secretary of the Treasury), Edwin M. Stanton (Secretary of War) and vice president Hannibal Hamlin, who were all strong opponents of slavery, led the campaign to have George McClellan sacked. Unwilling to do this, Abraham Lincoln decided to put McClellan in charge of all forces in the Washington area.
George McClellan became a field commander again when the Confederate Army invaded Maryland in September. McClellan and Major General Ambrose Burnside attacked the armies of Robert E. Lee and Thomas Stonewall Jackson at Antietam on 17th September. Outnumbered, Lee and Jackson held out until Ambrose Hill and reinforcements arrived. It was the most costly day of the war with the Union Army having 2,108 killed, 9,549 wounded and 753 missing.
Although far from an overwhelming victory, Lincoln realized the significance of Antietam and on 22nd September, 1862, he felt strong enough to issue his Emancipation Proclamation. Lincoln told the nation that from the 1st January, 1863, all slaves in states or parts of states, still in rebellion, would be freed. However, to keep the support of the conservatives in the government, this proclamation did not apply to those border slave states such as Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky and Missouri that had remained loyal to the Union.
Lincoln now wanted George McClellan to go on the offensive against the Confederate Army. However, McClellan refused to move, complaining that he needed fresh horses. Radical Republicans now began to openly question McClellan's loyalty. "Could the commander be loyal who had opposed all previous forward movements, and only made this advance after the enemy had been evacuated" wrote George W. Julian. Whereas William P. Fessenden came to the conclusion that McClellan was "utterly unfit for his position".
Frustrated by McClellan unwillingness to attack, Lincoln recalled him to to Washington with the words: "My dear McClellan: If you don't want to use the Army I should like to borrow it for a while." On 7th November Lincoln removed McClellan from all commands and replaced him with Ambrose Burnside.
In January 1863 it was clear that state governors in the north could not raise enough troops for the Union Army. On 3rd March, the federal government passed the Enrollment Act. This was the first example of conscription or compulsory military service in United States history. The decision to allow men to avoid the draft by paying $300 to hire a substitute, resulted in the accusation that this was a rich man's war and a poor man's fight.
Lincoln was also now ready to give his approval to the formation of black regiments. He had objected in May, 1862, when General David Hunter began enlisting black soldiers into the 1st South Carolina (African Descent) regiment. However, nothing was said when Hunter created two more black regiments in 1863 and soon afterwards Lincoln began encouraging governors and generals to enlist freed slaves.
John Andrew, the governor of Massachusetts, and a passionate opponent of slavery, began recruiting black soldiers and established the 5th Massachusetts (Colored) Cavalry Regiment and the 54th Massachusetts (Colored) and the 55th Massachusetts (Colored) Infantry Regiments. In all, six regiments of US Colored Cavalry, eleven regiments and four companies of US Colored Heavy Artillery, ten batteries of the US Colored Light Artillery, and 100 regiments and sixteen companies of US Colored Infantry were raised during the war. By the end of the conflict nearly 190,000 black soldiers and sailors had served in the Union forces.
In December, 1862, Ambrose Burnside, commander of the Army of the Potomac, attacked General Robert E. Lee at Fredericksburg, Virginia. Sharpshooters based in the town initially delayed the Union Army from building a pontoon bridge across the Rappahnnock River. After clearing out the snipers the federal forces had the problem of mounting frontal assaults against troops commanded by James Longstreet. At the end of the day the Union Army had 12,700 men killed or wounded. The well protected Confederate Army suffered losses of 5,300. Ambrose Burnside wanted to renew the attack the following morning but was talked out of it by his commanders.
After the disastrous battle at Fredericksburg Burnside was replaced by Joseph Hooker. Three months later Hooker, with over 104,000 men, began to move towards the Confederate Army. In April, 1863, Hooker decided to attack the Army of Northern Virginia that had been entrenched on the south side of the Rappahonnock River. Hooker crossed the river and took up position at Chancellorsville.
Although outnumbered two to one, Robert E. Lee, opted to split his Confederate Army into two groups. Lee left 10,000 men under Jubal Early, while he and Thomas Stonewall Jackson on 2nd May, successfully attacked the flank of Hooker's army. However, after returning from the battlefield Jackson was accidentally shot by one of his own men. Jackson's left arm was successfully amputated but he developed pneumonia and he died eight days later.
On the 3rd May, James Jeb Stuart, who had taken command of Jackson's troops, mounted another attack and drove Hooker back further. The following day Robert E. Lee and Jubal Early and joined the attack on the Union Army. By 6th May, Hooker had lost over 11,000 men, and decided to retreat from the area.
Later that month Joseph E. Johnston ordered General John Pemberton to attack Ulysses S. Grant at Clinton, Mississippi. Considering this too risky, Pemberton decided to attack Grant's supply train on the road between Grand Gulf and Raymond. Discovering Pemberton's plans, Grant attacked the Confederate Army at Champion's Hill. Pemberton was badly defeated and with the remains of his army returned to their fortifications around Vicksburg. After two failed assaults, Grant decided to starve Pemberton out. This strategy proved successful and on 4th July, Pemberton surrendered the city. The western Confederacy was now completely isolated from the eastern Confederacy and the Union Army had total control of the Mississippi River.
During the summer of 1863 Robert E. Lee decided to take the war to the north. The Confederate Army reached Gettysburg, Pennsylvania on 1st July. The town was quickly taken but the Union Army, led by Major General George Meade, arrived in force soon afterwards and for the next two days the town was the scene of bitter fighting. Attacks led by James Jeb Stuart and James Longstreet proved costly and by the 5th July, Lee decided to retreat south. Both sides suffered heavy losses with Lee losing 28,063 men and Meade 23,049.
Lincoln was encouraged by the army's victories at Vicksburg and Gettysburg, but was dismayed by the news of the Draft Riots in several American cities. There was heavy loss of life in Detroit but the worst rioting took place in New York City in July. The mob set fire to an African American church and orphanage, and attacked the office of the New York Tribune. Started by Irish immigrants, the main victims were African Americans and activists in the anti-slavery movement. The Union Army were sent in and had to open fire on the rioters in order to gain control of the city. By the time the riot was over, nearly a 1,000 people had been killed or wounded.
In September, 1863, General Braxton Bragg and his troops attacked union armies led by George H. Thomas and William Rosecrans at Chickamuga. Thomas was able to hold firm but Rosecrans and his men fled to Chattanooga. Bragg followed and was attempting to starve Rosecrans out when union forces led by Ulysses S. Grant, Joseph Hooker and William Sherman arrived. Bragg was now forced to retreat and did not stop until he reached Dalton, Georgia.
Major General George Meade also followed the army of Robert E. Lee back south. Lee ordered several counter-attacks but was unable to prevent the Union Army advance taking place. Lee decided to dig in along the west bank of the Mine Run. Considering the fortifications too strong, Meade decided against an assault and spent the winter on the north bank of the Rapidan.
In March, 1864, Ulysses S. Grant was named lieutenant general and the commander of the Union Army. He joined the Army of the Potomac where he worked with George Meade and Philip Sheridan. They crossed the Rapidan and entered the Wilderness. When Lee heard the news he sent in his troops, hoping that the Union's superior artillery and cavalry would be offset by the heavy underbrush of the Wilderness. Fighting began on the 5th May and two days later smoldering paper cartridges set fire to dry leaves and around 200 wounded men were either suffocated or burned to death. Of the 88,892 men that Grant took into the Wilderness, 14,283 were casualties and 3,383 were reported missing. Robert E. Lee lost 7,750 men during the fighting.
On 7th May Ulysses S. Grant gave William Sherman the task of destroying the Confederate Army in Tennessee. Joseph E. Johnston and his army retreated and after some brief skirmishes the two sides fought at Resaca (14th May), Adairsvile (17th May), New Hope Church (25th May) the Kennesaw Mountain (27th June) and Marietta (2nd July). President Jefferson Davis was unhappy about Johnson's withdrawal policy and on 17th July replaced him with the more aggressive John Hood. He immediately went on the attack and hit George H. Thomas and his men at Peachtree Creek. He was badly beaten and lost 2,500 men. Two days later he took on William Sherman at the Battle of Atlanta and lost another 8,000 men.
Attempts to clear out the Shenandoah Valley by Major General Franz Sigel in May and Major General David Hunter in June, ended in failure. Major General Jubal Early, who defeated Hunter, was sent north with 14,000 men in an attempt to draw off troops from Grant's army. Major General Lew Wallace encountered Early by the Monacacy River and although defeated was able to slow his advance to Washington. His attempts to breakthrough the ring forts around the city ended in failure. Lincoln, who witnessed the attack from Fort Stevens, became the first president in American history to see action while in office.
In the summer of 1864 the supporters of the Union became more confident they would win the war. Politicians began to debate what should happen to the South after the war. Radical Republicans were worried that Lincoln would be too lenient on the supporters of the Confederacy. Benjamin Wade and Henry Winter Davis decided to sponsored a bill that provided for the administration of the affairs of southern states by provisional governors. They argued that civil government should only be re-established when half of the male white citizens took an oath of loyalty to the Union.
The Wade-Davis Bill was passed on 2nd July, 1864, with only one Republican voting against it. However, Lincoln refused to sign it. Lincoln defended his decision by telling Zachariah Chandler, one of the bill's supporters, that it was a question of time: "this bill was placed before me a few minutes before Congress adjourns. It is a matter of too much importance to be swallowed in that way." Six days later Lincoln issued a proclamation explaining his views on the bill. He argued that he had rejected it because he did not wish "to be inflexibly committed to any single plan of restoration".
The Radical Republicans were furious with Lincoln's decision. On 5th August, Benjamin Wade and Henry Winter Davis published an attack on Lincoln in the New York Tribune. In what became known as the Wade-Davis Manifesto, the men argued that Lincoln's actions had been taken "at the dictation of his personal ambition" and accused him of "dictatorial usurpation". They added that: "he must realize that our support is of a cause and not of a man."
In August, 1864, the Union Army made another attempt to take control of the Shenandoah Valley. Philip Sheridan and 40,000 soldiers entered the valley and soon encountered troops led by Jubal Early who had just returned from Washington. After a series of minor defeats, Sheridan eventually gained the upper hand. Grant now burnt and destroyed anything of value in the area and after defeating Early in another large-scale battle on 19th October, the Union Army took control of the Shenandoah Valley.
With the South on the verge of defeat, growing number of politicians in the North began to criticize Lincoln for not negotiating a peace deal with Jefferson Davis. Even former supporters such as Horace Greeley, editor of the New York Tribune, accused him of prolonging the war to satisfy his personal ambition. Others on the right, such as Clement Vallandigham, claimed that Lincoln was waging a "wicked war in order to free the slaves". Other critics such as Fernando Wood, the mayor of New York, advocated that if Lincoln did not change his policies the city should secede from the Union.
Leading members of the Republican Party began to suggest that Lincoln should replace Hannibal Hamlin as his running mate in the 1864 presidential election. Hamlin was a Radical Republican and it was felt that Lincoln was already sure to gain the support of this political group. It was argued that what Lincoln needed was the votes of those who had previously supported the Democratic Party in the North.
Lincoln's original choice as his vice-president was General Benjamin Butler. Butler, a war hero, had been a member of the Democratic Party, but his experiences during the American Civil War had made him increasingly radical. Simon Cameron was sent to talk to Butler at Fort Monroe about joining the campaign. However, Butler rejected the offer, jokingly saying that he would only accept if Lincoln promised "that within three months after his inauguration he would die".
It was now decided that Andrew Johnson, the governor of Tennessee, would make the best candidate for vice president. By choosing the governor of Tennessee, Lincoln would emphasis that Southern states status were still part of the Union. He would also gain the support of the large War Democrat faction. At a convention of the Republican Party on 8th July, 1864, Johnson received 200 votes to Hamlin's 150 and became Lincoln's running mate. This upset Radical Republications as Johnson had previously made it clear that he was a supporter of slavery.
The military victories of Ulysses S. Grant, William Sherman, George Meade, Philip Sheridan and George H. Thomas in the American Civil War reinforced the idea that the Union Army was close to bringing the war to an end. This helped Lincoln's presidential campaign and with 2,216,067 votes, comfortably beat General George McClellan (1,808,725) in the election.
By the beginning of 1865, Fort Fisher, North Carolina, was the last port under the control of the Confederate Army. Fort Fisher fell to a combined effort of the Union Army and the US Navy on 15th January. William Sherman, removed all resistance in the Shenandoah Valley and then marched to Southern Carolina. On 17th February, Columbia, the capital of South Carolina, was taken. Columbia was virtually burnt to the ground and some people claimed the damage was done by Sherman's men and others said it was carried out by the retreating Confederate Army.
In March, 1865, William Sherman joined Ulysses S. Grant and the main army surrounding Richmond. On 1st April Sherman attacked the Confederate Army at Five Forks. The Confederates, led by Major General George Pickett, were overwhelmed and lost 5,200 men. On hearing the news, Robert E. Lee decided to abandon Richmond and join Joseph E. Johnston and his forces in South Carolina.
President Jefferson Davis, his family and government officials, was forced to flee from Richmond. Soon afterwards the Union Army took the city and Lincoln arrived on 4th April. Protected by ten seamen, he walked the streets and when one black man fell to his knees in front of him, Lincoln told him: "Don't kneel to me. You must kneel to God only and thank him for your freedom." Lincoln travelled to the Confederate Executive Mansion and sat for a while in the former leader's chair before heading back to Washington.
Robert E. Lee, with an army of 8,000 men, probed the Union Army at Appomattox but faced by 110,000 men he decided the cause was hopeless. He contacted Ulysses S. Grant and after agreeing terms on 9th April, surrendered his army at Appomattox Court House. Grant issued a brief statement: "The war is over; the rebels are our countrymen again and the best sign of rejoicing after the victory will be to abstain from all demonstrations in the field."
At his Cabinet meeting on 14th April, Lincoln commented: "There are many in Congress who possess feelings of hate and vindictiveness in which I do not sympathize and cannot participate." He added that enough blood had been shed and would do what he could to prevent any "vengeful actions".
That night Lincoln went to Ford's Theatre with his wife, Mary Lincoln, Clara Harris and Major Henry Rathbone to see a play called Our American Cousin. Lincoln asked Thomas Eckert, chief of the War Department telegraph office, to be his bodyguard. However, Edwin M. Stanton refused permission for Eckert to go claiming he had an important task for him to perform that night. In fact, this was not true and Eckert spent the evening at home.
John Parker, a constable in the Washington Metropolitan Police Force, was detailed to sit on the chair outside the presidential box. During the third act Parker left to get a drink. Soon afterwards, John Wilkes Booth, entered Lincoln's box and shot the president in the back of the head. Booth then jumped to the stage eleven feet below. Despite fracturing his ankle, he was able to reach his horse and gallop out of the city.
Lincoln was taken to the White House but died early the next morning. Over the next few days Mary Surratt, Lewis Powell, George Atzerodt, David Herold, Samuel Mudd, Michael O'Laughlin, Edman Spangler and Samuel Arnold were all arrested charged with conspiring to murder Lincoln. Edwin M. Stanton, the Secretary of War, argued that they should be tried by a military court as Lincoln had been Commander in Chief of the army. Several members of the cabinet, including Gideon Welles (Secretary of the Navy), Edward Bates (Attorney General), Orville H. Browning (Secretary of the Interior), and Henry McCulloch (Secretary of the Treasury), disapproved, preferring a civil trial. However, James Speed, the Attorney General, agreed with Stanton and the new president Andrew Johnson, ordered the formation of a nine-man military commission to try the conspirators involved in the assassination of Lincoln.
The trial began on 10th May, 1865. The military commission included leading generals such as David Hunter, Lewis Wallace, Thomas Harris and Alvin Howe. Joseph Holt was chosen as the the government's chief prosecutor. During the trial Holt attempted to persuade the military commission that Jefferson Davis and the Confederate government had been involved in conspiracy.
Joseph Holt attempted to obscure the fact that there were two plots: the first to kidnap and the second to assassinate. It was important for the prosecution not to reveal the existence of a diary taken from the body of John Wilkes Booth. The diary made it clear that the assassination plan dated from 14th April. The defence surprisingly did not call for Booth's diary to be produced in court.
On 29th June, 1865 Mary Surratt, Lewis Powell, George Atzerodt, David Herold, Samuel Mudd, Michael O'Laughlin, Edman Spangler and Samuel Arnold were found guilty of being involved in the conspiracy to murder Lincoln. Surratt, Powell, Atzerodt and Herold were hanged at Washington Penitentiary on 7th July, 1865. Surratt, who was expected to be reprieved, was the first woman in American history to be executed.
The decision to hold a military court received further criticism when John Surratt, who faced a civil trial in 1867, was not convicted by the jury. Michael O'Laughlin died in prison but Samuel Mudd, Edman Spangler and Samuel Arnold were all pardoned by President Andrew Johnson in 1869.
(1) Annie L. Burton, Abraham Lincoln (1909)
In a little clearing in the backwoods of Harding County, Kentucky, there stood years ago a rude cabin within whose walls Abraham Lincoln passed his childhood. An "unaccountable" man he has been called, and the adjective was well chosen, for who account for a mind and nature like Lincoln's with the ancestry he owned? His father was a thriftless, idle carpenter, scarcely supporting his family, and with but the poorest living. His mother was an uneducated woman, but must have been of an entirely different nature, for she was able to impress upon her boy a love of learning. During her life, his chief, in fact his only book, was the Bible, and in this he learned to read. Just before he was nine years old, the father brought his family across the Ohio River into Illinois, and there in the unfloored log cabin, minus windows and doors, Abraham lived and grew. It was during this time that the mother died, and in a short time the shiftless father with his family drifted back to the old home, and here found another for his children in one who was a friend of earlier days. This woman was of a thrifty nature, and her energy made him floor the cabin, hang doors, and open up windows. She was fond of the children and cared for them tenderly, and to her the boy Abraham owed many pleasant hours.
As he grew older, his love for knowledge increased and he obtained whatever books he could, studying by the firelight, and once walking six miles for an English Grammar. After he read it, he walked the six miles to return it. He needed the book no longer, for with this as with his small collection of books, what he once read was his. He absorbed the books he read.
During these early years he did "odd jobs" for the neighbors. Even at this age, his gift of story telling was a notable one, as well as his sterling honesty. His first knowledge of slavery in all its horrors came to him when he was about twenty-one years old. He had made a trip to New Orleans, and there in the old slave market he saw an auction. His face paled, and his spirits rose in revolt at the coarse jest of the auctioneer, and there he registered a vow within himself, "If ever I have a chance to strike against slavery, I will strike and strike hard." To this end he worked and for this he paid "the last full measure of devotion."
(2) Abraham Lincoln, debate with Stephen Douglas in Alton, Illinois (15th October, 1858)
Stephen Douglas assumes that I am in favor of introducing a perfect social and political equality between the white and black races. These are false issues. The real issue in this controversy is the sentiment on the part of one class that looks upon the institution of slavery as a wrong, and of another class that does not look upon it as a wrong. One of the methods of treating it as a wrong is to make provision that it shall grow no larger.
(3) Abraham Lincoln, speech at Quincy, Illinois (1858)
We have in this nation the element of domestic slavery. The Republican Party think it wrong - we think it is a moral, a social, and a political wrong. We think it is wrong not confining itself merely to the persons of the States where it exists, but that it is a wrong which in its tendency, to say the least, affects the existence of the whole nation. Because we thing it wrong, we propose a course of policy that shall deal with it as a wrong. We deal with it as with any other wrong, insofar as we can prevent it growing any larger, and so deal with it that in the run of time there may be some promise of an end to it.
(4) The journalist, Henry Villard, described the Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas debate at Ottawa, Illinois, on 21st August, 1858.
The first joint debate between Douglas and Lincoln, which I attended, took place on the afternoon of August 21, 1858, at Ottawa, Illinois. It was the great event of the day, and attracted an immense concourse of people from all parts of the State.
Senator Douglas was very small, not over four and a half feet height, and there was a noticeable disproportion between the long trunk of his body and his short legs. His chest was broad and indicated great strength of lungs. It took but a glance at his face and head to convince one that they belonged to no ordinary man. No beard hid any part of his remarkable, swarthy features. His mouth, nose, and chin were all large and clearly expressive of much boldness and power of will. The broad, high forehead proclaimed itself the shield of a great brain. The head, covered with an abundance of flowing black hair just beginning to show a tinge of grey, impressed one with its massiveness and leonine expression. His brows were shaggy, his eyes a brilliant black.
Douglas spoke first for an hour, followed by Lincoln for an hour and a half; upon which the former closed in another half hour. The Democratic spokesman commanded a strong, sonorous voice, a rapid, vigorous utterance, a telling play of countenance, impressive gestures, and all the other arts of the practiced speaker.
As far as all external conditions were concerned, there was nothing in favour of Lincoln. He had a lean, lank, indescribably gawky figure, an odd-featured, wrinkled, inexpressive, and altogether uncomely face. He used singularly awkward, almost absurd, up-and-down and sidewise movements of his body to give emphasis to his arguments. His voice was naturally good, but he frequently raised it to an unnatural pitch.
Yet the unprejudiced mind felt at once that, while there was on the one side a skillful dialectician and debater arguing a wrong and weak cause, there was on the other a thoroughly earnest and truthful man, inspired by sound convictions in consonance with the true spirit of American institutions. There was nothing in all Douglas's powerful effort that appealed to the higher instincts of human nature, while Lincoln always touched sympathetic cords. Lincoln's speech excited and sustained the enthusiasm of his audience to the end.
(5) Henry Villard reported on the the Republican Party Convention in 1860. Villard supported William H. Seward and was surprised when Abraham Lincoln won the nomination.
I was enthusiastically for the nomination of William H. Seward, who seemed to me the proper and natural leader of the Republican Party ever since his great "irrepressible conflict" speech in 1858. The noisy demonstrations of his followers, and especially of the New York delegation in his favour, had made me sure, too, that his candidacy would be irresistible. I therefore shared fully the intense chagrin of the New York and other State delegations when, on the third ballot, Abraham Lincoln received a larger vote than Seward.
I had not got over the prejudice against Lincoln with which my personal contact with him in 1858 imbued me. It seemed to me incomprehensible and outrageous that the uncouth, common Illinois politician, whose only experience in public life had been service as a member of the State legislature and in Congress for one term, should carry the day over the eminent and tried statesman, the foremost figure, indeed, in the country.
(6) In his book, Life and Times, Frederick Douglass described the 1860 Presidential Election.
The presidential canvass of 1860 was three sided, and each side had its distinctive doctrine as to the question of slavery and slavery extension. We had three candidates in the field. Stephen A. Douglas was the standard bearer of what may be called the western faction of the old divided democratic party, and John C. Breckenridge was the standard-bearer of the southern or slaveholding, faction of that party. Abraham Lincoln represented the then young, growing, and united republican party. The lines between these parties and candidates were about as distinctly and clearly drawn as political lines are capable of being drawn. The name of Douglas stood for territorial sovereignty, or in other words, for the right of the people of a territory to admit or exclude, to establish or abolish, slavery, as to them might seem best. The doctrine of Breckenridge was that slaveholders were entitled to carry their slaves into any territory of the United States and to hold them there, with or without the consent of the people of the territory; that the Constitution of its own force carried slavery and protected it into any territory open for settlement in the United States. To both these parties, factions, and doctrines, Abraham Lincoln and the republican party stood opposed. They held that the Federal Government had the right and the power to exclude slavery from the territories of the United States, and that that right and power ought to be exercised to the extent of confining slavery inside the slave States, with a view to its ultimate extinction.
(7) Thomas Johnson, Twenty-Eight Years a Slave (1909)
In the year 1860, there was great excitement in Richmond over the election of Mr. Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States. The slaves prayed to God for his success, and they prayed very especially the night before the election. We knew he was in sympathy with the abolition of Slavery. The election was the signal for a great conflict for which the Southern States were ready. The question was: Shall there be Slavery or no Slavery in the United States? The South said: Yes, there shall be Slavery.
(8) James Garfield met Abraham Lincoln for the first time in 1861. He wrote a letter to Burke A. Hinsdale describing his thoughts on the man (17th February, 1861)
On the whole I am greatly pleased with the man. He clearly shows his want of culture - and the marks of western life. But there is no touch of affectation in him and he has a peculiar power of impressing you that he is frank, direct and thoroughly honest. His remarkable good sense, simple and condensed style of expression and evident marks of indomitable will, give me great hopes for the country.
(9) Abraham Lincoln, inaugural speech (4th March, 1861)
I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the states where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so.
I consider the Union is unbroken. I shall take care that the laws of the Union be faithfully executed in all States. There need be no bloodshed or violence; and there shall be none, unless it be forced upon the national authority.
The government will not assail you. You can have no conflict without yourselves being 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.
(10) Zachariah Chandler, letter to Henry W. Lord (27th October, 1861)
Lincoln means well but has no force of character. He is surrounded by Old Fogy Army officers more than half of whom are downright traitors and the other one half sympathize with the South. One month ago I began to doubt whether this accursed rebellion could be put down with a Revolution in the present Administration.
(11) Abraham Lincoln, speech on why he ordered General David Hunter to retract his proclamation (12th July, 1862)
General Hunter is an honest man. He was, and I hope, still is, my friend. I valued him none the less for his agreeing with me in the general wish that all men everywhere, could be free. He proclaimed all men free within certain states and I repudiated the proclamation. Yet in repudiating it, I gave dissatisfaction, if not offence, to many whose support the country can not afford to lose. And that is not the end of it. the pressure, in this direction, is still upon me, and is increasing.
(12) Horace Greeley, letter to President Abraham Lincoln (19th August, 1862)
I do not intrude to tell you - for you must know already - that a great proportion of those who triumphed in your election, and of all who desire the unqualified suppression of the rebellion now desolating our country, are solely disappointed and deeply pained by the policy you seem to be pursuing with regard to the slaves of the Rebels.
We think you are strangely and disastrously remiss in the discharge of your official and imperative duty with regard to the emancipating provisions of the new Confiscation Act. Those provisions were designed to fight slavery with liberty. They prescribe that men loyal to the Union, and willing to shed their blood in the behalf, shall no longer be held, with the nation's consent, in bondage to persistent, malignant traitors, who for twenty years have been plotting and for sixteen months have been fighting to divide and destroy our country. Why these traitors should be treated with tenderness by you, to the prejudice of the dearest rights of loyal men, we cannot conceive.
Fremont's Proclamation and Hunter's Order favoring emancipation were promptly annulled by you; while Halleck's Number Three, forbidding fugitives from slavery to Rebels to come within his lines - an order as unmilitary as inhuman, and which received the hearty approbation of every traitor in America - with scores of like tendency, have never provoked even your remonstrance.
(13) President Abraham Lincoln, letter to Horace Greeley (22nd August, 1862)
If there be those who would not save the Union unless they could at the same time destroy slavery. I do not agree with them. My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves, I would do it; and if I could do it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would also do that.
(14) Abraham Lincoln, proclamation (22nd September, 1862)
That on the 1st day of January, A.D. 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, including the military and naval authority thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons and will do no act or acts to repress such persons, or any of them, in any efforts they may make for their actual freedom.
(15) In his diary Walt Whitman wrote how he often saw Abraham Lincoln during the American Civil War (12th August, 1863)
I see the president almost every day, as I happen to live where he passes to or from his lodgings out of town. He never sleeps at the White House during the hot season, but has quarters at a healthy location some three miles north of the city, the Soldiers' Home, a United States military establishment. I saw him this morning about 8.30 coming in to business, riding on Vermont Avenue. He always has a company of twenty-five or thirty cavalry, with sabres drawn and held upright over their shoulders. They say this guard was against his personal wish, but he let his counselors have their way. Mr. Lincoln on the saddle generally rides a good-sized, easy-going grey horse, is dressed in plain black, somewhat rusty and dusty, wears a black stiff hat, and looks about as ordinary in attire, etc., as the commonest man. I see very plainly Abraham Lincoln's dark brown face, with the deep-cut lines, the eyes, always to me with a deep latent sadness in the expression.
(16) Abraham Lincoln, letter to James C. Conking, defending his decision to emancipate slaves being held in the Deep South (26th August, 1863)
I know, as fully as one can know the opinions of others, that some of the commanders of our armies in the field who have given us our most important successes believe the emancipation policy and the use of the colored troops constitute the heaviest blow yet dealt to the rebellion, and that at least one of these important successes could not have been achieved when it was but for the aid of black soldiers. Among the commanders holding these views are some who have never had any affinity with what is called Abolitionism or with the Republican Party politics, but who hold them purely as military opinions.
(17) Benjamin F. Butler, Autobiography and Reminiscences (1892)
In the spring of 1893, I had another conversation with President Lincoln upon the subject of the employment of negroes. The question was, whether all the negro troops then enlisted and organized should be collected together and made a part of the Army of the Potomac and thus reinforce it.
We then talked of a favourite project he had of getting rid of the negroes by colonization, and he asked me what I thought of it. I told him that it was simply impossible; that the negroes would not go away, for they loved their homes as much as the rest of us, and all efforts at colonization would not make a substantial impression upon the number of negroes in the country.
Reverting to the subject of arming the negroes, I said to him that it might be possible to start with a sufficient army of white troops, and, avoiding a march which might deplete their ranks by death and sickness, to take in ships and land them somewhere on the Southern coast. These troops could then come up through the Confederacy, gathering up negroes, who could be armed at first with arms that they could handle, so as to defend themselves and aid the rest of the army in case of rebel charges upon it. In this way we could establish ourselves down there with an army that would be a terror to the whole South.
Our conversation then turned upon another subject which had been frequently a source of discussion between us, and that was the effect of his clemency in not having deserters speedily and universally punished by death.
I called his attention to the fact that the great bounties then being offered were such a temptation for a man to desert in order to get home and enlist in another corps where he would be safe from punishment, that the army was being continually depleted at the front even if replenished at the rear.
He answered with a sorrowful face, which always came over him when he discussed this topic: "But I can't do that, General." "Well, then," I replied, "I would throw the responsibility upon the general-in-chief and relieve myself of of it personally."
With a still deeper shade of sorrow he answered: "The responsibility would be mine, all the same."
(18) Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg Address (19th November, 1863)
Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth upon this continent a new nation: conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war.
We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that this nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.
It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion, that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from this earth.
(19) Thaddeus Stevens, letter to Edward McPherson about Abraham Lincoln's proclamation after his rejection of the Wade-Davis Bill (10th July, 1864)
What an infamous proclamation! The president is determined to have the electoral votes of the seceded States. The idea of pocketing a bill and then issuing a proclamation as how far he will conform to it is matched only by signing a bill and then sending in a veto. How little of the rights of war and the law of nations our president knows.
(20) Benjamin Wade and Henry Winter Davis issued a joint statement in the New York Tribune after Abraham Lincoln vetoed the Wade-Davis Bill (5th August, 1864)
The bill directed the appointment of provisional government by and with the advice and consent of the Senate. The President, after defeating the law, proposes to appoint, without law and without the advice and consent of the Senate, military governors for the rebel States!
Whatever is done will be at his will and pleasure, by persons responsible to no law, and more interested to secure the interests and execute the will of the President than of the people; and the will of Congress is to be "held for naught unless the loyal people of the rebel States choose to adopt it."
The President must realize that our support is of a cause and not of a man and that the authority of Congress is paramount and must be respected; and if he wishes our support, he must confine himself to his executive duties - to obey and execute, not make the laws - to suppress by armed rebellion, and leave political reorganization to Congress.
(21) Sojourner Truth, letter to a friend about her meeting with President Abraham Lincoln (17th November, 1864)
Upon entering his reception room we found about a dozen persons in waiting, among them two coloured women. I had quite a pleasant time waiting until he was disengaged, and enjoyed his conversation with others; he showed as much kindness and consideration to the colored persons as to the white. One case was that of a colored woman who was sick and likely to be turned out of her house on account of her inability to pay her rent. The president listened to her with much attention, and spoke to her with kindness and tenderness.
He then congratulated me on my having been spared. Then I said, I appreciate you, for you are the best president who has ever taken the seat. He replied: "I expect you have reference to my having emancipated the slaves in my proclamation". But, said he, mentioning the names of several of his predecessors, "they were all just as good, and would have done just as I have done if the time had come."
(22) Gideon Welles went to Abraham Lincoln's bedside when he heard he had been shot. He later recorded his thoughts in his diary (15th April, 1865)
The night was dark, cloudy, and damp, and about six it began to rain. I remained in the room until then without sitting or leaving it, when, there being a vacant chair which someone left at the foot of the bed, I occupied it for nearly two hours, listening to the heavy groans and witnessing the wasting life of the good and great man who was expiring before me.
About 6 a.m. I experienced a feeling of faintness and, for the first time after entering the room, a little past eleven, I left it and the house, and took a short walk in the open air. It was a dark and gloomy morning, and rain set in before I returned to the house, some fifteen minutes later. Large groups of people were gathered every few yards, all anxious and solicitous. Some one or more from each group stepped forward as I passed to inquire into the condition of the President and to ask if there was no hope. Intense grief was on every countenance when I replied that the President could survive but a short time. The colored people especially - and there were at this time more of them, perhaps, than of whites - were overwhelmed with grief.
A little before seven. I went into the room where the dying President was rapidly drawing near the closing moments. His wife soon after made her last visit to him. The death struggle had begun. Robert, his son, stood with several others at the head of his bed. He bore himself well, but on two occasions gave way to overpowering grief and sobbed aloud, turning his head and leaning on the shoulder of Senator Sumner. The respiration of the President became suspended at intervals and at last entirely ceased at twenty-two minutes past seven.
(23) Elizabeth Keckley, Thirty Years a Slave (1868)
At 11 o'clock at night I was awakened by an old friend and neighbor, Miss M. Brown, with the startling intelligence that the entire Cabinet had been assassinated, and Mr. Lincoln shot, but not mortally wounded. When I heard the words I felt as if the blood had been frozen in my veins, and that my lungs must collapse for the want of air. Mr. Lincoln shot! the Cabinet assassinated!
I waked Mr. and Mrs. Lewis, and told them that the President was shot, and that I must go to the White House. We walked rapidly towards the White House, and on our way passed the residence of Secretary Seward, which was surrounded by armed soldiers, keeping back all intruders with the point of the bayonet.
We learned that the President was mortally wounded - that he had been shot down in his box at the theatre, and that he was not expected to live till morning; when we returned home with heavy hearts. I could not sleep. I wanted to go to Mrs. Lincoln, as I pictured her wild with grief; but then I did not know where to find her, and I must wait till morning. Never did the hours drag so slowly. Every moment seemed an age, and I could do nothing but walk about and hold my arms in mental agony.
Morning came at last, and a sad morning was it. The flags that floated so gaily yesterday now were draped in black, and hung in silent folds at half-mast. The President was dead, and a nation was mourning for him. Every house was draped in black, and every face wore a solemn look. People spoke in subdued tones, and glided whisperingly, wonderingly, silently about the streets.
The last time I saw him he spoke kindly to me, but alas! the lips would never move again. The light had faded from his eyes, and when the light went out the soul went with it. What a noble soul was his--noble in all the noble attributes of God! Never did I enter the solemn chamber of death with such palpitating heart and trembling footsteps as I entered it that day. No common mortal had died. The Moses of my people had fallen in the hour of his triumph. Fame had woven her choicest chaplet for his brow. Though the brow was cold and pale in death, the chaplet should not fade, for God had studded it with the glory of the eternal stars.
When I entered the room, the members of the Cabinet and many distinguished officers of the army were grouped around the body of their fallen chief. They made room for me, and, approaching the body, I lifted the white cloth from the white face of the man that I had worshipped as an idol--looked upon as a demi-god. Not-withstanding the violence of the death of the President, there was something beautiful as well as grandly solemn in the expression of the placid face. There lurked the sweetness and gentleness of childhood, and the stately grandeur of godlike intellect. I gazed long at the face, and turned away with tears in my eyes and a choking sensation in my throat. Ah! never was man so widely mourned before. The whole world bowed their heads in grief when Abraham Lincoln died.
(24) Reverend S. D. Brown, sermon in Troy (April, 1865)
God has a purpose in permitting this great evil. It is a singular fact that the two most favorable to leniency to the rebels, Lincoln and Seward, have been stricken. Other members of the Cabinet were embraced in the fiendish plan, but as to them, it failed.
(25) In her autobiography, Thirty Years a Slave, Elizabeth Keckley described an encounter between Mary Lincoln and John Parker, the man who should have been guarding Abraham Lincoln at the Ford's Theatre.
There were many surmises as to who was implicated with J. Wilkes Booth in the assassination of the President. A new messenger had accompanied Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln to the theatre on that terrible Friday night. It was the duty of this messenger to stand at the door of the box during the performance, and thus guard the inmates from all intrusion. It appears that the messenger was carried away by the play, and so neglected his duty that Booth gained easy admission to the box. Mrs. Lincoln firmly believed that this messenger was implicated in the assassination plot.
Soon after the assassination Mrs. Lincoln said to him fiercely: "So you are on guard tonight - on guard in the White House after helping to murder the President!"
"Pardon me, but I did not help to murder the President. I could never stoop to murder--much less to the murder of so good and great a man as the President."
"But it appears that you did stoop to murder."
"No, no! don't say that," he broke in. "God knows that I am innocent."
"I don't believe you. Why were you not at the door to keep the assassin out when be rushed into the box?"
"I did wrong, I admit, and I have bitterly repented it, but I did not help to kill the President. I did not believe that any one would try to kill so good a man in such a public place, and the belief made me careless. I was attracted by the play, and did not see the assassin enter the box."
"But you should have seen him. You had no business to be careless. I shall always believe that you are guilty. Hush! I shan't hear another word," she exclaimed, as the messenger essayed to reply. "Go now and keep your watch," she added, with an imperious wave of her hand. With mechanical step and white face the messenger left the room, and Mrs. Lincoln fell back on her pillow, covered her face with her hands, and commenced sobbing.
(26) Samuel Gompers, Seventy Years of Life and Labour (1925)
I remember very vividly the morning that brought the news of President Lincoln's death. It was Saturday. Like some cataclysm came the report that an assassin had struck down the great Emancipator. It seemed to me that some great power for good had gone out of the world. A master mind had been taken at a time when most needed. I cried and cried all that day and for days I was so depressed that I could scarcely force myself to work. I had heard Lincoln talked about in London. In the minds of the working people of the world Lincoln symbolized the spirit of humanity - the great leader of the struggle for human freedom.
(27) Carl Schurz wrote about the differences between Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson in his autobiography published in 1906.
It was pretended at the time and it has since been asserted by historians and publicists that Mr. Johnson's Reconstruction policy was only a continuation of that of Mr. Lincoln. This is true only in a superficial sense, but not in reality. Mr. Lincoln had indeed put forth reconstruction plans which contemplated an early restoration of some of the rebel states. But he had done this while the Civil War was still going on, and for the evident purpose of encouraging loyal movements in those States and of weakening the Confederate State government there. Had he lived, he would have as ardently wished to stop bloodshed and to reunite as he ever did. But is it to be supposed for a moment that, seeing the late master class in the South intent upon subjecting the freedmen again to a system very much akin to slavery, Lincoln would have consented to abandon those freemen to the mercies of that master class?