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Jesse Grant of southern Ohio, the son-in-law of Colonel Frederick Dent, a shouting Democrat of Missouri and a slaveholder besides, the only available man to beat Lee, Mrs. Grant hiring out her negro servant for her own most needful support, a little while before. But war and politics make strange bedfellows. There must be a new commander of the Army of the Potomac, five hundred thousand hesitating volunteers and conscripts slowly gathering under the unwelcome call of February 1, gathering at a score of training-camps in New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and the rest of the doubtful States. Time and tide would not wait.
The burly Stanton had gone to Louisville a little before Congress assembled, a train all to himself, to see and talk with Grant. The secretary and the general, none too friendly, met in a private room; they talked long and in solemn tones; they were to meet again at eight o'clock in the evening. The hour arrived, but there was no General Grant. The irascible and self-centered secretary paced the floor of his room; he sent out hasty agents to seek the indifferent Grant, the general not to be found. At eleven in the evening, the hero of Vicksburg appeared. He had been found, Stanton's intimate friend, Donn Piatt, said, at a place and in a condition not to be mentioned in a public report. How could Stanton recommend such a man, a Democrat and a slaveholder too? Did the reunion of a great country turn upon the answer to this twosided question?
Lincoln pondered, made inquiries, and told some of his uneasy con
science-keepers that he would like to get a little of the liquor the general drank-it seemed to make him fight. But would the general take the command of all the armies, win a great battle, and then, like McClellan, set up for the Democratic candidate? The presidential bee was abroad, the "New York Herald" already advocating Grant for the Democratic nomination! Horace Greeley, too, the busybody, had sent John R. Gilmore, the propagandist, to tempt Grant into the Republican fold with the suggestion of the presidency. It was not a light matter, Lincoln's great cause seeming to depend on the whims or the ambitions of mere men. Then Lincoln learned that Grant's most intimate friend in Chicago, J. R. Jones, a busy livery-stable man, might know what was under Grant's hat. Lincoln sent for Jones, and Jones, as he was leaving Chicago, took a letter from the post-office. It was from the stodgy general at Chattanooga, who reported that politicians pestered him about the White House. He had no patience with such. He was a fighting man. The letter safe in an inside pocket, Jones appeared at the White House, Lincoln ruminating, walking about the room, his wrinkled. face unrelieved. Surmising the cause, the visitor handed the president the precious letter. Lincoln's face eased; then it lighted up. "I like that kind of a general."
On the first of March Ulysses S. Grant was made commander-in-chief of all the armies, his own rôle to lead the attack upon Lee-it was no easy prospect, the little stoopy general from the West, his coat unbuttoned, his cap over his eyes, his boots none
too clean, silent, meditative, his unlucky past sometimes pestering him, father-in-law Dent always about, and father Grant not unwilling to supply the army with leather; but it was General Grant, nevertheless, "Unconditional surrender" his motto. Lee knew quickly of the appointment, Lee who had displaced a long series of Union commanders: McDowell and McClellan; Pope and McClellan again; poor Burnside and the bewildered Hooker; and then Meade who had won a victory without intending it. Now it was Grant, "who would fight." Would it be the last? As I read history, the chances were with Lee that spring and not with the courageous new commander of the Army of the Potomac. Grant said he was not a strategist; he did not study Jomini, the master; he did not care a great deal about topography a dangerous frame of mind, if Grant represented himself aright that spring. It was March, the country expectant, doubtful, Congress in a bad humor, though the Senate confirmed the appointment. The roads began to dry; and Lincoln issued a call for two hundred thousand more men on the first of April, all the hospitals in Washington, Baltimore, and Philadelphia providing more space and more beds, thousands and thousands of beds. LinLincoln had entered upon the war for the Union; he could not retreat, his democracy "here and all over the world" at stake.
As the day of encounter approached, the grape-vine telegraph told Lincoln, cleverest of interpreters, that the people were tired of the long bloodshed, opposed to the repeated calls for soldiers; the price of
wheat was high, and farmers liked their fields and firesides; the wages of mill-workers were high, and the workers were in a mood to resist the draft. Moreover the credit of the government declined every week, despite the efforts of Jay Cooke, his drives, and his expensive advertising. Horace Greeley indicated the feeling when he
"Why should not any man lend to his Government? If you have $1,ooo in greenbacks, you get five per cent interest in gold and a gold bond, 48 per cent on the currency loaned. If you have $1,000 in specie, you can get $1,600 in greenbacks, lend it to the Government and receive $80 a year interest in gold and $1,600 principal when your bond falls due.. Who can ask of his country better terms?"
Grant made ready to strike: David Hunter was in the Valley of Virginia, laying waste that fruitful source of Confederate supplies-Union commanders instructed to make ruthless campaigns; Benjamin F. Butler threatened from Norfolk with forty thousand men; Sherman had near a hundred thousand in front of Johnston, and Grant himself was ready to cross the Rapidan―a vast complex of moves and maneuvers all under the direction of the chief of the Army of the Potomac. On the fourth of May Grant crossed the river, marching southeast into the midst of the ghostly Wilderness, the bones of countless men and horses here as at second Bull Run scattered about or protruding from shallow graves, the skeletons of last year's conflict grinning at the beginners of another desperate attack upon the South. On
the fifth Lee struck at Grant's right flank with all the weight and drive of a Frederick II, regiments and divisions shrieking the famous Confederate yell as they dashed upon the Union flanks. Grant had never felt such a blow, and his army was in a position where it could neither use its heavy artillery nor employ all its force. By the middle of the day the Union cause seemed desperate, and Grant thought of retreat as he threw himself, in a paroxysm of fear and excitement, upon his camp bed, a dangerous retreat, and posted regiments to hold the way open; Lee anticipating such a move, had hastened men to bar the way. A little later the Union commander observed that the momentum of Lee's attack was waning. Longstreet had taken the wrong road; the battle could not be finished that day. On the morrow Grant was safe, but he lost eighteen thousand men.
Two days later Grant moved again toward Spotsylvania Court-House, on the way to Richmond. On the ninth Lee met the Union troops there, and from that day till the eighteenth of May there were desperate encounters, Grant losing again twelve to fifteen thousand men, dead, wounded, and missing. Gideon Welles says he went down the Potomac one day consumed with anxiety, and met great fleets of transports bringing the wounded and the prominent dead from the battle-fields, other transports carrying fresh recruits to fill the gaps in the Union lines. But neither Lincoln nor Grant could delay. On May 19 Grant moved toward Cold Harbor, south of the North Anna, where he fell upon Lee again with the weight of half his
army. He lost twelve thousand men in half an hour-the campaign had cost Grant fifty-four thousand men, Lee less than half as many! It was June 2, vague and disturbing rumors spreading over the North: the Associated Press announcing merely, "Heavy fighting in the Wilderness, three hundred and twenty-five men killed at Cold Harbor."
Grant was in doubt, his men angry, some of his ablest generals protesting. The stock-market tumbled in spite of assurances from Washington, tumbled till greenbacks were not worth forty cents on the hundred. The Union National Republican Convention was gathering in Baltimore, Thurlow Weed doing what he could to hold the "wild men" in check, the men who would defeat Lincoln and at the same time issue a challenge to the French emperor, just then setting up the government of Maximilian in Mexico. Foolish men, calling themselves patriots. The country could not stand the news from the front. It was not given. Lincoln was uneasy, his cabinet still at loggerheads. By a clever move Robert J. Breckenridge was designated to make the key-note speech; he proved a past master, lifting men out of their despairing moods. He reannounced the Lincoln plan of reconstruction. Governor William Dennison of Ohio. reëchoed the moderate views of Lincoln when he took his seat as chairman of the convention. The president's Southern delegations were there, arousing the ire of Thaddeus Stevens, who would have preferred their scalps. Chase's friends were not without hope that Lincoln would lose, Frémont hanging about hoping to be nominated. The decision came
when the vote was taken on the seating of the Tennessee delegation, led by Parson Brownlow. The delegation was at first denied a place. Then the Illinoisians reversed their attitude, as Illinois has done since at critical moments, and Lincoln became the master of the convention. The ten per cent delegations were not seated. It was not necessary. The president was renominated without recorded opposition, Andrew Johnson, the war Democrat of Tennessee, being named for the vice-presidency. It was a Lincoln victory, the first of the three he must win that summerthe irreconcilables returning to their places in Congress to renew their contest with the president on every item of his policy.
All eyes turned, if they had ever been averted, to the contest in Virginia. A despatch of a reporter that fifteen thousand new beds had been placed in the Washington hospitals gave the public deep concern, and slowly more and more of the casualty lists were published. Grant was denounced as "Butcher Grant," as if the killing of men were not the business of war. There was a growing demand that Grant be removed the Union army dared not attack again at once, some men charging that Grant had left a heap of dead bodies all the way to the Rapidan. Grant paused and gave the country time to read the news from Georgia. There, Union forces made slow but sure headway, though neither the officials at Washington nor the people at home seemed to grasp the meaning of Sherman's cautious work, Sherman already more than half-way to Atlanta-only fifteen or eighteen thousand men lost.
But nothing overcame the deepening gloom of the people and the press.
It was the moment for a masterstroke of Lee, by no means conquered. A strange inertia came upon him. He had been ill the preceding winter; after Spotsylvania he was again stricken, calling out upon his sickbed, "Grant must never pass us again, never." The illness of a general may be as fatal in war as the loss of an army. But I do not know that illness seriously affected Lee's movements that June. He surely miscalculated. Grant was his objective. Jefferson Davis warned him on June 9 that Grant might try to move south of the James River. Crossing the river in the face of a powerful enemy was no small feat. Grant sent two regiments toward Malvern Hill, where he might be supposed to cross; Lee sent similar detachments to the same neighborhood, and there was skirmishing and fighting. But at the moment, Grant was turning his columns southeast toward White House, where the Pamunkey becomes the York River. Thence the great army, with long trains of supplies, heavy guns, and droves of cattle, marched by long detour to the lower James from the twelfth to the fifteenth of June. On the latter day Grant began to cross the river at City Point; on the seventeenth his army was safe on the other side. Lee had not fired a gun; it was as great a feat as the move by which Grant had taken Vicksburg.
At the very moment that Grant made ready to change his base and cross the James, Lee planned the expedition of Jubal Early and John C. Breckenridge against Washington.
Early took his whole corps from Lee's army on the twelfth of June and made the spectacular march, through the Valley toward Washington and Baltimore, which cut off the capital from the rest of the North for a period of two days. Lee learned with surprise on June 18 that Grant was approaching Petersburg. The maneuvers and marches through northern Virginia by Early and Breckenridge that June and July were the useless price Lee paid for the escape of Grant. It was a fatal moment, though the people of the North were unaware of Grant's unaware of Grant's great success. If Lee had caught Grant in the act of crossing the James River the consequences must have been incalculable. The stars were beginning to point dimly to the ultimate success of Abraham Lincoln.
But while Lee allowed Grant to escape, Winter Davis and Thaddeus Stevens pressed through Congress the Reconstruction Bill on which President Johnson was to be wrecked a year and a half later: there was to be immediate emancipation of the slaves; a majority of Southerners were to be compelled to take an ironclad oath before any delegates could be seated in Congress; and the Southern States were to be compelled to accept the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution as a condition to any reconstruction at all-a drastic measure as compared with Lincoln's ten per cent plan. On the first of July Chase, still in harmony with the opposition in Congress, offered his resignation. The president accepted it, and Chase took his departure, leaving the Blairs unmolested. On the fourth the leaders of
Congress presented Lincoln with their bill. He refused to sign it, members of the House and Senate making earnest and threatening protest, the tide of opinion in the North running against Lincoln.
On the twenty-eighth of June there was an uproarious mass-meeting in Cooper Institute, Lincoln's name jeered and hissed in ominous fashion. Theodore Tilton, editor of the "Independent," shouted from the platform that Seward had been seen drunk at the recent Baltimore Sanitary Fair. Orestes Brown, associate of Wendell Phillips, confessed that he had voted for the president in 1860. Now any man "should vote to defeat Lincoln and the party of shoddy." In Maryland and Missouri and in the Middle West in general there was growing unrest, even neighborhood warfare. On the eighth of July Horace Greeley declared in the "Tribune": "There is danger of social convulsions; but courage, countrymen, it is but the darkness before dawn." At that moment Lincoln was calling for five hundred thousand men, which would make a million two hundred thousand out of a population of twenty million since February 1. And, as if to intensify the fears of the country, the president set the fourth of August for a day of national humiliation and prayer! It looked as if the renomination, which the "Independent" said was but a gift of the president to himself, would be the last of Lincoln's victories.
Meanwhile the Democrats had not been idle. In the city of Peoria, Illinois, there was a monster peace demonstration, Lincoln blamed for all the ills of the time. The friendly