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VIII THE FINAL CAMPAIGN
After this close escape, it was clear to Grant as it had been clear to Lincoln that whatever forces were concentrated before Petersburg, the line of advance for Confederate invaders through the Shenandoah must be blocked. General Sheridan was placed in charge of the army of the Shenandoah and the 19th corps, instead of returning to the trenches of the James, marched on from Washington to Martinsburg and Winchester.

In September, the commander in Washington had the satisfaction of hearing that his old assailant Early had been sent "whirling through Winchester" by the fierce advance of Sheridan. Lincoln recognised the possibility that Early might refuse to stay defeated and might make use, as had so often before been done by Confederate commanders in the Valley, of the short interior line to secure reinforcements from Richmond and to make a fresh attack. On the 29th of September, twenty days before this attack came off, Lincoln writes to Grant: "Lee may be planning to reinforce Early. Care should be taken to trace any movement of troops westward." On the 19th of October, the persistent old fighter Early, not willing to acknowledge himself beaten and understanding that he had to do with an army that for the moment did not have the advantage of Sheridan's leadership, made his plucky, and for the time successful, fight at Cedar Creek. The arrival of Sheridan at the critical hour in the afternoon of the 19th of October did not, as has sometimes been stated, check the retreat of a demoralised army. Sheridan found his army driven back, to be sure, from its first position, but in occupation of a well supported line across the pike from which had just been thrown back the last attack made by Early's advance. It was Sheridan however who decided not only that the battle which had been lost could be regained, but that the work could be done to best advantage right away on that day, and it was Sheridan who led his troops through the too short hours of the October afternoon back to their original position from which before dark they were able to push Early's fatigued fighters across Cedar Creek southward. Lincoln had found another man who could fight. He was beginning to be able to put trust in leaders who, instead of having to be replaced, were with each campaign gathering fresh experience and more effective capacity.

From the West also came reports, in this autumn of 1864, from a fighting general. Sherman had carried the army, after its success at Chattanooga, through the long line of advance to Atlanta, by outflanking movements against Joe Johnston, the Fabius of the Confederacy, and when Johnston had been replaced by the headstrong Hood, had promptly taken advantage of Hood's rashness to shatter the organisation of the army of Georgia. The capture of Atlanta in September, 1864, brought to Lincoln in Washington and to the North the feeling of certainty that the days of the Confederacy were numbered.

The second invasion of Tennessee by the army of Hood, rendered possible by the march of Sherman to the sea, appeared for the moment to threaten the control that had been secured of the all-important region of which Nashville was the centre, but Hood's march could only be described as daring but futile. He had no base and no supplies. His advance did some desperate fighting at the battle of Franklin and succeeded in driving back the rear-guard of Thomas's army, ably commanded by General Schofield, but the Confederate ranks were so seriously shattered that when they took position in front of Nashville they no longer had adequate strength to make the siege of the city serious even as a threat. Thomas had only to wait until his own preparations were completed and then, on the same day in December on which Sherman was entering Savannah, Thomas, so to speak, "took possession" of Hood's army. After the fight at Nashville, there were left of the Confederate invaders only a few scattered divisions.

It was just before the news of the victory at Nashville that Lincoln made time to write the letter to Mrs. Bixby whose name comes into history as an illustration of the thoughtful sympathy of the great captain:

"I have been shown in the files of the War Department a statement of the adjutant-general of Massachusetts that you are the mother of five sons who died gloriously on the field of battle. I feel how weak and fruitless must be any words of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming, but I cannot refrain from tendering to you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the Republic they died to save. I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost and the pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom."

In March, 1864, Lincoln writes to Grant: "New York votes to give votes to the soldiers. Tell the soldiers." The decision of New York in regard to the collection from the soldiers in each field of the votes for the coming Presidential election was in line with that arrived at by all of the States. The plan presented difficulties and, in connection with the work of special commissioners, it involved also expense. It was, however, on every ground desirable that the men who were risking their lives in defence of the nation should be given the opportunity of taking part in the selection of the nation's leader, who was also under the Constitution the commander-in-chief of the armies in the field. The votes of some four hundred thousand men constituted also an important factor in the election itself. I am not sure that the attempt was ever made to separate and classify the soldiers' vote but it is probable that although the Democratic candidate was McClellan, a soldier who had won the affection of the men serving under him, and the opposing candidate was a civilian, a substantial majority of the vote of the soldiers was given to Lincoln.

Secretary Chase had fallen into the habit of emphasising what he believed to be his indispensability in the Cabinet by threatening to resign, or even by submitting a resignation, whenever his suggestions or conclusions met with opposition. These threats had been received with patience up to the point when patience seemed to be no longer a virtue; but finally, when (in May, 1864) such a resignation was tendered under some aggravation of opposition or of criticism, very much to Chase's surprise the resignation was accepted.

The Secretary had had in train for some months active plans for becoming the Republican candidate for the Presidential campaign of 1864. Evidence had from time to time during the preceding year been brought to Lincoln of Chase's antagonism and of his hopes of securing the leadership of the party. Chase's opposition to certain of Lincoln's policies was doubtless honest enough. He had brought himself to believe that Lincoln did not possess the force and the qualities required to bring the War to a close. He had also convinced himself that he, Chase, was the man, and possibly was the only man, who was fitted to meet the special requirements of the task. Mr. Chase did possess the confidence of the more extreme of the anti-slavery groups throughout the country. His administration of the Treasury had been able and valuable, but the increasing difficulty that had been found in keeping the Secretary of the Treasury in harmonious relations with the other members of the administration caused his retirement to be on the whole a relief. Lincoln came to the conclusion that more effective service could be secured from some other man, even if possessing less ability, whose temperament made it possible for him to work in co-operation. The unexpected acceptance of the resignation caused to Chase and to Chase's friends no little bitterness, which found vent in sharp criticisms of the President. Neither bitterness nor criticisms could, however, prevent Lincoln from retaining a cordial appreciation for the abilities and the patriotism of the man, and, later in the year, Lincoln sent in his nomination as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Chase himself, in his lack of capacity to appreciate the self-forgetfulness of Lincoln's nature, was probably more surprised by his nomination as Chief Justice than he had been by the acceptance of his resignation as Secretary of the Treasury.

In July, 1864, comes a fresh risk of international complications through the invasion of Mexico by a French army commanded by Bazaine, seven years later to be known as the (more or less) hero of Metz. Lotus Napoleon had been unwilling to give up his dream of a French empire, or of an empire instituted under French influence, in the Western Hemisphere. He was still hopeful, if not confident, that the United States would not be able to maintain its existence; and he felt assured that if the Southern Confederacy should finally be established with the friendly co-operation of France, he would be left unmolested to carry out his own schemes in Mexico. He had induced an honest-minded but not very clearheaded Prince, Maximilian, the brother of the Emperor of Austria, to accept a throne in Mexico to be established by French bayonets, and which, as the result showed, could sustain itself only while those bayonets were available. The presence of French troops on American soil brought fresh anxieties to the administration; but it was recognised that nothing could be done for the moment, and Lincoln and his advisers were hopeful that the Mexicans, before their capital had been taken possession of by the invader, would be able to maintain some national government until, with the successful close of its own War, the United States could come to the defence of the sister republic.

The extreme anti-slavery group of the Republican party had, as indicated, never been fully satisfied with the thoroughness of the anti-slavery policy of the administration and Mr. Chase retained until the action of the convention in June the hope that he might through the influence of this group secure the Presidency. Lincoln remarks in connection with this candidacy: "If Chase becomes President, all right. I hope we may never have a worse man." From the more conservative wing of the Republican party came suggestions as to the nomination of Grant and this plan brought from Lincoln the remark: "If Grant takes Richmond, by all means let him have the nomination." When the delegates came together, however, in Baltimore, it was evident that, representing as they did the sober and well-thought-out convictions of the people, no candidacy but that of Lincoln could secure consideration and his nomination was practically unanimous.

The election in November gave evidence that, even in the midst of civil war, a people's government can sustain the responsibility of a national election. The large popular majorities in nearly all of the voting States constituted not only a cordial recognition of the service that was being rendered by Lincoln and by Lincoln's administration, but a substantial assurance that the cause of nationality was to be sustained with all the resources of the nation. The Presidential election of this year gave the final blow to the hopes of the Confederacy.

I had myself a part in a very small division of this election, a division which could have no effect in the final gathering of the votes, but which was in a way typical of the spirit of the army. On the 6th of November, 1864, I was in Libby Prison, having been captured at the battle of Cedar Creek in October. It was decided to hold a Presidential election in the prison, although some of us were rather doubtful as to the policy and anxious in regard to the result. The exchange of prisoners had been blocked for nearly a year on the ground of the refusal on the part of the South to exchange the coloured troops or white officers who held commissions in coloured regiments. Lincoln took the ground, very properly, that all of the nation's soldiers must be treated alike and must be protected by a uniform policy. Until the coloured troops should be included in the exchange, "there can," said Lincoln, "be no exchanging of prisoners." This decision, while sound, just, and necessary, brought, naturally, a good deal of dissatisfaction to the men in prison and to their friends at home. When I reached Libby in October, I found there men who had been prisoners for six or seven months and who (as far as they lived to get out) were to be prisoners for five months more. Through the winter of 1864-65, the illness and mortality in the Virginia prisons of Libby and Danville were very severe. It was in fact a stupid barbarity on the part of the Confederate authorities to keep any prisoners in Richmond during that last winter of the War. It was not easy to secure by the two lines of road (one of which was continually being cut by our troops) sufficient supplies for Lee's army. It was difficult to bring from the granaries farther south, in addition to the supplies required for the army, food for the inhabitants of the town. It was inevitable under the circumstances that the prisoners should be neglected and that in addition to the deaths from cold (the blankets, the overcoats, and the shoes had been taken from the prisoners because they were needed by the rebel troops) there should be further deaths from starvation.

It was not unnatural that under such conditions the prisoners should have ground not only for bitter indignation with the prison authorities, but for discontent with their own administration. One may in fact be surprised that starving and dying men should have retained any assured spirit of loyalty. When the vote for President came to be counted, we found that we had elected Lincoln by more than three to one. The soldiers felt that Lincoln was the man behind the guns. The prison votes, naturally enough, reached no ballot boxes and my individual ballot in any case would not have been legal as I was at the time but twenty years of age. I can but feel, however, that this vote of the prisoners was typical and important, and I have no doubt it was so recognised when later the report of the voting reached Washington.

In December, 1864, occurred one of the too-frequent cabals on the part of certain members of the Cabinet. Pressure was brought to bear upon Lincoln to get rid of Seward. Lincoln's reply made clear that he proposed to remain President. He says to the member reporting for himself and his associates the protest against Seward: "I propose to be the sole judge as to the dismissal or appointment of the members of my Cabinet." Lincoln could more than once have secured peace within the Cabinet and a smoother working of the administrative machinery if he had been willing to replace the typical and idiosyncratic men whom he had associated with himself in the government by more commonplace citizens, who would have been competent to carry on the routine responsibilities of their posts. The difficulty of securing any consensus of opinion or any working action between men differing from each other as widely as did Chase, Stanton, Blair, and Seward, in temperament, in judgment, and in honest convictions as to the proper policy for the nation, was an attempt that brought upon the chief daily burdens and many keen anxieties. Lincoln insisted, however, that it was all-important for the proper carrying on of the contest that the Cabinet should contain representatives of the several loyal sections of the country and of the various phases of opinion. The extreme anti-slavery men were entitled to be heard even though their spokesman Chase was often intemperate, ill-judged, bitter, and unfair. The Border States men had a right to be represented and it was all-essential that they should feel that they had a part in the War government even though their spokesman Blair might show himself, as he often did show himself, quite incapable of understanding, much less of sympathising with, the real spirit of the North. Stanton might be truculent and even brutal, but he was willing to work, he knew how to organise, he was devotedly loyal. Seward, scholar and statesman as he was, had been ready to give needless provocation to Europe and was often equally ill-judged in his treatment of the conservative Border States on the one hand and of the New England abolitionists on the other, but Seward was a patriot as well as a scholar and was a representative not only of New York but of the best of the Whig Republican sentiment of the entire North, and Seward could not be spared. It is difficult to recall in history a government made up of such discordant elements which through the patience, tact, and genius of one man was made to do effective work.

In February, 1865, in response to suggestions from the South which indicated the possibility of peace, Lincoln accepted a meeting with Alexander H. Stephens and two other commissioners to talk over measures for bringing the War to a close. The meeting was held on a gun-boat on the James River. It seems probable from the later history that Stephens had convinced himself that the Confederacy could not conquer its independence and that it only remained to secure the best terms possible for a surrender. On the other hand, Jefferson Davis was not yet prepared to consider any terms short of a recognition of the independence of the Confederacy, and Stephens could act only under the instructions received from Richmond. It was Lincoln's contention that the government of the United States could not treat with rebels (or, dropping the word "rebels," with its own citizens) in arms. "The first step in negotiations, must," said Lincoln, "be the laying down of arms. There is no precedent in history for a government entering into negotiations with its own armed citizens."

"But there is a precedent, Mr. Lincoln," said Stephens, "King Charles of England treated with the Cromwellians."

"Yes," said Lincoln, "I believe that is so. I usually leave historical details to Mr. Seward, who is a student. It is, however, my memory that King Charles lost his head."

It soon became evident that there was no real basis for negotiations, and Stephens and his associates had to return to Richmond disappointed. In the same month, was adopted by both Houses of Congress the Thirteenth Amendment, which prohibited slavery throughout the whole dominion of the United States. By the close of 1865, this amendment had been confirmed by thirty-three States. It is probable that among these thirty-three there were several States the names of which were hardly familiar to some of the older citizens of the South, the men who had accepted the responsibility for the rebellion. The state o............
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