Template:Infobox President This article details Abraham Lincoln's actions during the American Civil War. Lincoln, despite being little prepared for it by prior military experience, was first and foremost a war president. The nation was at peace for less than six weeks of his presidency and his was the only presidency that was entirely "bounded by the parameters of war". Lincoln was called on to handle both the political and military aspects of the war, and his leadership has to be evaluated based on his ability to balance these inseparable parts of the Union's efforts. He was a successful war president to the extent that he was able to control the revolutionary forces unleashed by his election and Southern secession, maintain the democratic principles that were the bedrock of the nation, and achieve a military victory. His assassination near the end of the war left the final challenge of reconstructing the nation to others, but Lincoln as early as 1863 established principles that he felt should shape this process.
Lincoln ran on a political platform opposing the policies of the Pierce and Buchanan administrations that would have preserved slavery for the foreseeable future. While acknowledging that only a state could outlaw slavery within its own borders, the Republican insistence on keeping slavery out of all territories would ultimately lead to the end of slavery in the entire nation since, in the minds of both most Northerners and most Southerners, the survival of slavery depended on its ability to expand. By his nature, Lincoln was open to political compromises, but, from his election to his assumption of office, he led his party in standing firm against any compromise on the territorial issues. After being sworn in as President he likewise refused to accept any resolution that would accept Southern secession from the Union.
- 1 Secession winter 1860–1861
- 2 Lincoln takes office
- 3 Fighting begins: 1861–1862
- 4 Emancipation Proclamation
- 5 Domestic measures
- 6 1864 election and second inauguration
- 7 Conducting the war effort
- 8 Home front
- 9 Reconstruction
- 10 Assassination
- 11 Notes
- 12 References
Secession winter 1860–1861[edit | edit source]
President-elect in Springfield[edit | edit source]
As Lincoln's election became more probable, secessionists made it clear that their states would leave the Union. With his election on November 6, 1860, South Carolina declared its secession on December 20, followed by Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas. State militias in the seceding states occupied federal forts and confiscated the contents of federal arsenals. The upper South (Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri, and Arkansas) rejected immediate secession, but threatened to exit if the federal government attempted to coerce the seceded states. President Buchanan announced that secession was illegal while denying that the government had any power to resist it. Lincoln would have no official ability to act until his scheduled inauguration on March 4, 1861.
Lincoln was in his hometown of Springfield on election day. He voted in mid-afternoon and spent the rest of the day discussing politics, primarily local, at the state capitol building. He took a few hours off at 5:00 to have dinner at home with his family. He returned to the capitol, but by 9:00 p.m. he had moved to the local telegraph office where he could observe first hand as the election returns were reported. It was after midnight before the final news reached Lincoln that he had carried New York and the election was his.
As Lincoln received visitors and mail in Springfield, people repeatedly expressed their concern about events in the South. Many expected Lincoln to somehow provide reassurances to the South that their interests were not being threatened. In a response to such an inquiry from the editor of the Democratic newspaper the Missouri Republican (its name went back to the Jackson era), Lincoln stated why he was reluctant to speak out:
The Republican newspapers now, and for some time past, are and have been republishing copious extracts from my many published speeches, which would at once reach the whole public if your class of papers would also publish them. I am not at liberty to shift my ground -- that is out of the question. If I thought a repetition would do any good I would make it. But my judgment is it would do positive harm. The secessionists, per se believing they had alarmed me, would clamor all the louder.
Realizing that on one hand soothing words on the rights of slaveholders would alienate the Republican base, while taking a strong stand on the indestructibility of the Union could further inflame southerners, Lincoln chose a policy of silence. He believed that, given enough time without any overt acts or threats to the South, southern unionists would carry the day and bring their states back into the Union.
At the suggestion of a southern merchant who contacted him, Lincoln did make an indirect appeal to the South by providing material for Lyman Trumball, a recognized Lincoln surrogate, to insert into his own public address. These words from Lincoln included, "I have labored in, and for, the Republican organization with entire confidence that whenever it shall be in power, each and all of the States will be left in as complete control of their own affairs respectively, and at as perfect liberty to choose, and employ, their own means of protecting property, and preserving peace and order within their respective limits, as they have ever been under any administration." Lincoln was identified by the press as the author of these words. Republicans praised it, Democrats assailed it, and the South largely ignored it.
Early military concerns[edit | edit source]
Shortly before the November election, the general-in-chief of the army, Winfield Scott, had prepared a memorandum for President Buchanan titled "Views suggested by imminent danger". Lincoln was provided a copy of the document. While believing that Lincoln's election would not lead to "any unconstitutional violence, or breach of law", Scott warned that there was a danger of "the seizure of a number of federal forts on the Mississippi River and on the Eastern coast -- including the vulnerable installations at Charleston harbor". Scott recommended that "all those works should be immediately so garrisoned as to make any attempt to take any one of them by surprise or coup de main ridiculous". Buchanan dismissed Scott's suggestions as provocative to the South. Lincoln however responded by thanking Scott for the information and his patriotism.
As the secession crisis deepened, Lincoln, along with much of the North, became concerned as southern states seized federal property. Reacting to a report that President Buchanan was about to surrender Fourt Moultrie in Charleston, Lincoln said, "If that is true, they ought to hang him". On December 21, through Congressman Elihu B. Washburne, he asked Scott "to be as well prepared as he can to either hold, or retake, the forts, as the case may require, at, and after the inauguration".
Cabinet selection[edit | edit source]
Seward[edit | edit source]
Lincoln began the process of constructing his cabinet on election night. Buchanan, in selecting his cabinet, had excluded the sizeable Douglas wing of the Democratic Party, and the cabinet never operated efficiently. Lincoln attempted to reach out to every faction of his party with a special emphasis on balancing anti-slavery former Whigs with former free-soil Democrats. It seems clear that his goal was not to create a "War Cabinet" (because he did not expect war), but to create a cabinet that would unite the party. Lincoln's eventual cabinet would include all of his main rivals for the Republican nomination. Lincoln did not shy away from surrounding himself with strong-minded men, even those whose credentials for office appeared to be much more impressive than his own.
On November 21, Lincoln took the train to Chicago where he would meet, for the first time, the new Vice President-elect Hannibal Hamlin. In addition to numerous public events, Lincoln met privately with Hamlin, Trumbull, and Donn Piatt, an Ohio editor and politician, to discuss the cabinet, and followed up with private meetings with just Hamlin.
William Seward had been Lincoln's chief political rival, and on December 8 Lincoln offered him the position of Secretary of State. Seward was both the best known and the most powerful Republican, and his association with the administration was seen as essential to achieving party unity. In the early 1850s Seward had built a reputation as a radical on the slavery issue, but by 1860 he was considered a centrist.
There was a delay in publicly announcing Seward's selection, and anti-Seward forces in New York exploited this delay to attack Seward's qualifications. Seward, unsure of whether he would be more effective inside or outside the new administration, sent Thurlow Weed to Springfield to get a feel for what influence Seward would have on Lincoln's decision-making. They met on December 20. Assured by Lincoln that Seward would have a proper role in the distribution of patronage, Seward accepted the post on December 28.
Search for southerners[edit | edit source]
Lincoln had discussed with Weed the possibility of nominating a southerner to the cabinet. Lincoln mentioned Montgomery Blair, and Weed countered with Henry Winter Davis of Baltimore or John A. Gilmer of North Carolina. John Minor Botts of Virginia also came up when the subject moved to having even a second Border or Southern representative. Lincoln followed up on the Gilmer suggestion by requesting that he come to Springfield; however Gilmer declined the visit and later declined a direct offer of a cabinet post offered in person by Seward. Southerners William A. Graham of North Carolina and James Guthrie of Kentucky also rejected feelers sent out by Lincoln. Longtime friend Joshua Speed from Kentucky may also have been considered.
On December 15, Lincoln did meet with Edward Bates of Missouri. Bates, a former conservative Whig, had been one of Lincoln's rivals for the presidential nomination. He accepted Lincoln's offer of Attorney-General. Bates said that he had declined a similar offer from Millard Fillmore in 1850, but the gravity of present events mandated that he accept. Lincoln requested that Bates devote some time to researching the legal and constitutional issues involving secession and southern efforts to censor the public mails. Bates' nomination was made public on December 21.
Montgomery Blair came from the best known political family in the North, if not the entire country. His father, Francis P. Blair, started the legacy when he was a close and influential advisor for President Andrew Jackson. As a Marylander, Lincoln felt Blair's addition would help to keep the Border States and Upper South from seceding. Blair was Lincoln's final choice for Postmaster General.
Simon Cameron[edit | edit source]
The most problematic selection made by Lincoln was that of Simon Cameron as the Secretary of War. Cameron was one of the most influential public leaders in the crucial political state of Pennsylvania, but he was also alleged to be one of the most corrupt. He was opposed within his own state by the faction led by Republican Governor-elect Andrew G. Curtin and Republican party chairman A. K. McClure. Cameron lieutenants went to Springfield two days after the election. They believed that Cameron had been promised a cabinet position at the Republican Convention and were surprised when they left Springfield without an offer from Lincoln. Lincoln carefully weighed the pros and cons of a Cameron appointment and met with Cameron in Springfield on December 28. Cameron returned to Pennsylvania with a letter from Lincoln stating that he would offer him either the Secretary of the Treasury or the Secretary of War. The letter was soon leaked to the press.
However, very shortly after Cameron left Springfield, Lincoln began to receive negative reports from across the country regarding Cameron's selection. McClure sent a long letter to Lincoln protesting his consideration of Cameron and, at Lincoln's invitation, met with the president-elect in Springfield on January 3, 1861 and presented Lincoln with documentation that disqualified Cameron from office. Lincoln, admitting his mistake, wrote to Cameron that "things have developed which make it impossible for me to take you into the cabinet." Lincoln offered Cameron the face-saving option of immediately and publicly declining the cabinet offers, assuring Cameron that "No person living knows, or has an intimation that I write this letter." Cameron did not reply to Lincoln but told Trumbull that he would not decline, leaving the onus on Lincoln.
Lobbying with Lincoln continued from all sides. He finally decided in early February that no decision would be made until he arrived in Washington. Once he did arrive, the competing factions realized that it was important to business interests that at least some Pennsylvanian be in Lincoln's cabinet. Cameron was then finally made Secretary of War. Historian William Gienapp believed that the final selection of Cameron for this soon-to-be-critical position was a clear indicator that Lincoln did not anticipate a civil war.
Salmon P. Chase[edit | edit source]
Lincoln contacted Seward's chief political rival, Salmon P. Chase of Ohio, and invited him to Springfield only after Seward had accepted the Secretary of State position. Chase was far more radical than either Lincoln or Seward, but this did not deter Lincoln. At their meeting on January 4 and 5, Lincoln was impressed with Chase, and they discussed the Secretary of Treasury position. The formal announcement, however, was not made until Lincoln was in Washington. Seward and Weed opposed the selection of Chase because of both his strong antislavery record and his opposition to any type of settlement with the South that could be considered appeasement for slaveholders. They would lobby against Chase right up to Lincoln's inauguration. Chase, a former Democrat, was also opposed by Republican protectionists.
Caleb Smith[edit | edit source]
Caleb Smith of Indiana was a former Whig representing the same type of midwestern constituency as Lincoln. His critics faulted him for some of his railroad ventures, accused him of being a Doughface, and questioned his intellectual capacity for a high government position. Among those who did support Smith were Weed and Seward, as well as close Lincoln advisor David Davis. In the end, Smith's selection for Secretary of the Interior had much to do with his campaign efforts on behalf of Lincoln and their friendship.
Gideon Welles[edit | edit source]
Gideon Welles of Connecticut was a former Jacksonian Democrat who had served in the Navy Department under President James K. Polk. Lincoln had delegated the selection of the New England position in his cabinet to Vice-president-elect Hamlin. At his meetings with Hamlin in Chicago, Lincoln asked him to co-ordinate his decision with Seward, but in addition to Welles the names of Charles Francis Adams, Nathaniel P. Banks, and Amos Tuck were considered. Adams was eliminated when Lincoln decided in December that a New Englander with a Democratic past was a better political fit. Tuck had less ambitious goals than the cabinet, and recommended Welles. Banks fell out of consideration for geographical reasons since prior to the election he had moved to Illinois to accept the presidency of the Illinois Central Railroad. Hamlin's recommendation, the recommendations of other influential Republicans, and Lincoln's favorable impression when he had met Welles in Hartford earlier in the year, led to his selection as Secretary of the Navy.
Compromise efforts[edit | edit source]
Initial efforts to compromise with, or appease, the South came from the Northern business community. Republican newspaper editors in New York, including Henry J. Raymond, James Warson Webb, and Thurlow Weed, proposed a variety of measures in November including compensation for fugitive slaves, the repeal of personal liberty laws, and restoration of the Missouri Compromise line. Lincoln's reaction was astonishment at the fact that "any Republican think, for a moment, of abandoning in the hour of victory, though in the face of danger, every point involved in the recent contest." Journalist Henry Villard dismissed the editors' reaction as merely "certain pangs of contrition" being felt by Wall Street as markets reacted negatively to Southern secession.
In December the focus on compromise moved to Washington. In the House of Representatives a committee of 33 was formed, while in the Senate a committee of 13 was established. Lincoln communicated with various Congressmen that there was room for negotation on issues such as fugitive slaves, slavery in the District of Columbia, the domestic slave trade, and other issues related to slavery. However he made it clear that he was unalterably opposed to anything which would allow the expansion of slavery into any new states. In 1854, Lincoln indicated he would have been satisfied with simply extending the Missouri Compromise line to the Pacific coast, but since then he had seen the aggressiveness by southerners to pursue territory in Cuba and Latin America in order to create more land for slaves.
On December 6, Lincoln wrote to Congressman Kellogg, on the House committee, that he should: "entertain no proposition for a compromise in regard to the extension of slavery. The instant you do, they have us under again; all our labor is lost, and sooner or later must be done over. Douglas is sure to be again trying to bring in his 'Pop. Sov.' Have none of it. The tug has to come & better now than later." On December 10 he wrote to Senator Trumbull in virtually identical terms.
When the Senate committee was considering the specifics of the Crittenden Compromise, Lincoln was under considerable pressure to accept it. Seward sent Weed to Springfield to lobby Lincoln directly. Lincoln resisted this and other overtures. The proposed compromise re-established the old Missouri Compromise line, creating the possibility of new slave states. This was the issue where Lincoln would stand firm.
Travel to Washington[edit | edit source]
On February 11, Lincoln boarded a special train that over the course of the next two weeks would take the President-elect to the nation's capital. Speaking to the crowd at the Springfield station, Lincoln bid farewell to his friends and supporters.
My friends -- No one, not in my situation, can appreciate my feeling of sadness at this parting. To this place, and the kindness of these people, I owe everything. Here I have lived a quarter of a century, and have passed from a young man to an old man. ...I now leave, not knowing when, or whether ever, I may return, with a task before me greater than that which rested upon Washington. Without the assistance of the Divine Being, who ever attended him, I cannot succeed. ... Trusting in Him ... let us confidently hope that all will yet be well. To His care commending you, as I hope in your prayers you will commend me, I bid you an affectionate farewell.
All of the major cities on the route scheduled receptions and formal public appearances. His speeches were mostly extemporaneous. Among his more eloquent efforts was a speech in Philadelphia's Independence Hall where he said:
I have never had a feeling politically that did not spring from the Declaration of Independence. . . It was not the mere matter of the separation of the colonies from the motherland; but something in that Declaration giving liberty, not alone to the people of this country, but hope to the world for all future time. It was that which gave promise that in due time, the weights should be lifted from the shoulders of all men, and that all should have an equal chance.
Equally impressively, he discussed George Washington and the legacy of the Revolution in Trenton before the New Jersey legislature:
I remember all the accounts there [in Weem's "Life of Washington"] given of the battle fields and struggles for the liberties of the country, and none fixed themselves upon my imagination so deeply as the struggle here at Trenton, New-Jersey. The crossing of the river; the contest with the Hessians; the great hardships endured at that time, all fixed themselves on my memory more than any single revolutionary event; and you all know, for you have all been boys, how these early impressions last longer than any others. I recollect thinking then, boy even though I was, that there must have been something more than common that those men struggled for; that something even more than National Independence; that something that held out a great promise to all the people of the world to all time to come; I am exceedingly anxious that this Union, the Constitution, and the liberties of the people shall be perpetuated in accordance with the original idea for which that struggle was made, and I shall be most happy indeed if I shall be an humble instrument in the hands of the Almighty, and of this, his almost chosen people, for perpetuating the object of that great struggle.
In the main Lincoln carried a message that he had no hostile intentions towards the South, that disunion was not acceptable, and he intended to enforce the laws and protect property.
Baltimore Plot[edit | edit source]
There was no Secret Service in Lincoln's day. His entire official security for the trip consisted of four army officers. Samuel M. Felton, the president of the Philadelphia, Wilmington & Baltimore Railroad, had hired detective Allan Pinkerton to investigate reports that secessionists might try to sabotage the railroad along Lincoln's route. In conducting his investigation Pinkerton obtained information that indicated to him that an attempt to assassinate Lincoln would occur in Baltimore. Lincoln first learned of the plot on the evening of February 21 in his Philadelphia hotel room when he met with Pinkerton and Felton.
In Baltimore, Lincoln would be required to change trains by moving from one railway station to another. Pinkerton said that when Lincoln arrived at the Calvert Street station a gang of armed secessionists would stage a diversion to distract the police, giving designated assassins an opportunity to kill an unguarded Lincoln. Pinkerton tried to convince Lincoln to cancel his stop at Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and to proceed secretly straight through Baltimore. Lincoln said he intended to raise the flag in Philadelphia's Independence Hall the next day and then fulfill his public commitments in Harrisburg. After that he would agree to go with Pinkerton.
Lincoln was also visited that night by Frederick Seward, the son of William Seward. A separate investigation initiated by General Scott had produced independent and corroborating evidence of a specific threat to Lincoln in Baltimore. The New York detectives that conducted this investigation wrote that "there is serious danger of violence to and the assassination of Mr. Lincoln in his passage through that city [Baltimore] should the time of passage be known." The detectives had heard "men declare that if Mr. Lincoln was to be assassinated they would like to be the men."
Lincoln did attend the Philadelphia and Harrisburg events before secretly leaving Harrisburg on the evening of February 22, arriving in the nation's capital the morning of the 23rd. He was accompanied only by his friend Ward Hill Lamon, Pinkerton, and a railroad superintendent. Lincoln was dressed in an overcoat, muffler, and soft wool hat. The unannounced departure from the published schedule as well as the unconventional (for Lincoln) dress led to critics accusing him of sneaking into Washington in disguise. The public humiliation was embarrassing both to Lincoln and to his supporters.
Lincoln takes office[edit | edit source]
Inauguration[edit | edit source]
Lincoln was aware that his inaugural address would be delivered in conditions that no other president had ever faced. He had started preparing it two weeks before he left Springfield but was aware that the political landscape was rapidly changing, possibly requiring changes in the speech up to the day of delivery. He departed from his normal speech-writing pattern by inviting others to comment on it while he was still writing it. Orville Browning had been given a copy during the trip to Washington, and Lincoln followed his advice to omit the overly aggressive phrase "to reclaim the public property and places which have fallen". Seward presented Lincoln with a six-page line-by-line written analysis of the speech, and Lincoln incorporated twenty-seven of Seward's specific recommendations.
The March 4 Inauguration day started out as overcast, but by noon the sun had broken through the clouds. Security at the Capitol Building, where his address would be delivered, was heavy. Two thousand volunteer soldiers organized by Colonel Charles P. Stone, 653 regular troops, and marines were on duty supplemented by local police, cavalry patrolling the streets, and sharpshooters located on the tops of buildings. Plain clothes detectives moved through the crowd that had started assembling at dawn. Lincoln, accompanied by the departing President Buchanan, arrived by carriage at the Capitol at 1:15 p.m. The crowd in the streets and on the Capitol grounds was around 40,000.
Lincoln was introduced to the crowd by his long-time friend, Oregon Senator Edward D. Baker. Lincoln's inaugural address began by attempting to reassure the South that he had no intention or constitutional authority to interfere with slavery in the southern states. He promised to enforce the fugitive slave laws and spoke favorably about a pending constitutional amendment that would preserve slavery in the states where it currently existed.
After these assurances, however, Lincoln declared that secession was "the essence of anarchy" and it was his duty to "hold, occupy, and possess the property belonging to the government". Focusing on those within the South who were still on the fence regarding secession, Lincoln contrasted "persons in one section or another who seek to destroy the Union as it exists" versus "those, however, who really love the Union". In his closing remarks he spoke directly to the seccessionists and emphasized the moral committment that he was undertaking.
The government will not assail you. You can have no conflict, without being yourselves the aggressors. You have no oath registered in Heaven to destroy the government, while I shall have the most solemn one to "preserve, protect, and defend it".
I am loath to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battle-field, and patriot grave, to every living heart and hearth-stone, all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.
Fort Sumter[edit | edit source]
As Lincoln assumed office an informal, uneasy truce had lasted for several months. Seven Deep South states had declared their secession, and the Union held, in the territory claimed by the new Confederate States of America, only Fort Sumter, Fort Pickens near Pensacola, Florida, and a couple of small forts in the Florida Keys. Any thoughts Lincoln might have had about using time to his advantage in addressing the crisis were shattered on March 5, the day after the inauguration, when he read a letter from Major Robert Anderson, the commander at Fort Sumter, stating that his troops would run out of provisions within four to six weeks.
On March 3 General Scott had written to Seward suggesting that Fort Sumter be abandoned. Scott saw four options for the administration—a full-scale military operation to subdue the South, endorsement of the Crittenden Compromise to win back the seceded states, the closure of southern ports and the collection of duties from ships stationed outside the harbors, or directing the seven southern states that had declared secession to "depart in peace".
Lincoln concentrated on the most immediate question of whether to maintain or abandon Fort Sumter. At a meeting on March 7, Scott and John G. Totten, the army's chief engineer, said that simply reinforcing the fort was not possible, although Welles and his top assistant Silas Stringham disagreed. Scott advised Lincoln that it would take a large fleet, 25,000 troops, and several months of training in order to defend the fort. On March 13 Montgomery Blair, the strongest proponent in the cabinet for standing firm at Fort Sumter, introduced Lincoln to his brother-in-law, Gustavus V. Fox. Fox presented a plan for a naval resupply and reinforcement of the fort. The plan had been approved by Scott during the last month of the previous administration, but Buchanan had rejected it. Scott had earlier advised Lincoln that it was too late for the plan to be successful, but the President was receptive to the proposed mission.
The Fox proposal was discussed at a cabinet meeting, and Lincoln followed up on March 15 by asking each cabinet member to provide a written answer to the question, "Assuming it to be possible to now provision Fort-Sumpter [sic], under all circumstances, is it wise to attempt it?" Only Blair gave his unconditional approval to the plan. No decision was reached, although Lincoln told at least one congressman that if he were forced to surrender Sumter, holding Fort Pickens would still make a symbolic point. In the meantime Lincoln personally dispatched Fox to Charleston to talk to Anderson and independently assess the situation. Lincoln also sent Illinois friends Stephen A. Hurlbut and Ward Lamon to the city on a separate intelligence-gathering mission. The recommendations that came back were that reinforcement was both necessary, since secessionist feeling ran high and threatened the fort, and feasible, despite Anderson's misgivings.
On March 28, however, Scott recommended that both Pickens and Sumter be abandoned, basing his decision more on political than military grounds. The next day a deeply agitated Lincoln presented Scott's proposal to the cabinet. Blair was now joined by Welles and Chase in supporting reinforcement. Bates was non-committal, Cameron was not in attendance, and Seward and Smith opposed resupply. Later that day Lincoln gave Fox the order to begin assembling a squadron to reinforce Fort Sumter.
The actual dispatch of the squadron was complicated by the failure of Lincoln, Welles, Seward, and the men on the ground preparing the expedition to communicate effectively. Assets needed for the Fort Sumter expedition were mistakenly directed to a separate mission to Fort Pickens, a mission that was plagued by faulty communication between Washington and the forces already in Florida. On April 6, with the Sumter mission ready to go, Lincoln sent State Department clerk Robert S. Chew to see South Carolina Governor Francis W. Pickens and read the following statement:
I am directed by the President of the United States to notify you to expect an attempt will be made to supply Fort-Sumpter [sic] with provisions only; and that, if such attempt be not resisted, no effort to throw in men, arms, or ammunition, will be made, without further notice, or in case of an attack upon the Fort.
The message was delivered to Pickens on April 8. The information was telegraphed that night to Confederate President Jefferson Davis in Richmond. The Confederate cabinet was already meeting to discuss the Sumter crisis, and on April 10 Davis decided to demand the surrender of the fort and bombard it if the demand was refused. The attack on the fort was initiated on April 12, and the fort surrendered the next day. The relief expedition sent by the Union arrived too late to intervene. The Civil War had begun.
Fighting begins: 1861–1862[edit | edit source]
After Union troops at Fort Sumter were fired upon and forced to surrender in April 1861, Lincoln called on governors of every state to send detachments totaling 75,000 troops to recapture forts, protect the capital, and "preserve the Union", which in his view still existed intact despite the actions of the seceding states. Virginia, which had repeatedly warned Lincoln it would not allow an invasion of its territory or join an attack on another state, then seceded, along with North Carolina, Tennessee and Arkansas.
Nevins argues that Lincoln made three serious mistakes at this point. He at first underestimated the strength of the Confederacy, assuming that 75,000 troops could end the insurrection in 90 days. Second, he overestimated the strength of Unionist sentiment in the South and border states; he assumed he could call the bluff of the insurrectionists and they would fade away. Finally he misunderstood the demands of Unionists in the border states, who warned they would not support an invasion of the Confederacy.Template:Request quote
The slave states of Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland, and Delaware did not secede, and Lincoln urgently negotiated with state leaders there, promising not to interfere with slavery in loyal states. After the fighting started, he had rebel leaders arrested in all the border areas and held in military prisons without trial; over 18,000 were arrested. None was executed; one — Clement Vallandigham — was exiled; all were released, usually after two or three months. See Ex parte Merryman.
Emancipation Proclamation[edit | edit source]
Congress in July 1862 moved to free the slaves by passing the Second Confiscation Act. The goal was to weaken the rebellion, which was led and controlled by slave owners. This did not abolish the legal institution of slavery (the 13th Amendment did that), but it shows Lincoln had the support of Congress in liberating the slaves owned by rebels. Lincoln implemented the new law by his "Emancipation Proclamation."
Lincoln is well known for ending slavery in the United States. In 1861-62, Lincoln made it clear that the North was fighting the war to preserve the Union and abolish slavery. Freeing the slaves became, in late 1862, a war measure to weaken the rebellion by destroying the economic base of its leadership class. Abolitionists criticized Lincoln for his slowness, but on August 22, 1862, Lincoln explained:
I would save the Union. I would save it the shortest way under the Constitution. The sooner the national authority can be restored; the nearer the Union will be "the Union as it was". ... My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to 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 save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that.
The Emancipation Proclamation, announced on September 22 and put in effect January 1, 1863, freed slaves in territories not under Union control. As Union armies advanced south, more slaves were liberated until all of them in Confederate hands were freed (over three million). Lincoln later said: "I never, in my life, felt more certain that I was doing right, than I do in signing this paper". The proclamation made abolishing slavery in the rebel states an official war goal. Lincoln then threw his energies into passage of the 13th Amendment to permanently abolish slavery throughout the nation.
Lincoln had for some time been working on plans to set up colonies for the newly freed slaves. He remarked upon colonization favorably in the Emancipation Proclamation, but all attempts at such a massive undertaking failed. As Frederick Douglass observed, Lincoln was, "The first great man that I talked with in the United States freely who in no single instance reminded me of the difference between himself and myself, of the difference of color".
Domestic measures[edit | edit source]
Lincoln believed in the Whig theory of the presidency, which left Congress to write the laws while he signed them, vetoing only bills that threatened his war powers. Thus, he signed the Homestead Act in 1862, making available millions of acres of government-held land in the west for purchase at very low cost. The Morrill Land-Grant Colleges Act, also signed in 1862, provided government grants for agricultural universities in each state. Lincoln also signed the Pacific Railway Acts of 1862 and 1864, which granted federal support to the construction of the United States' first transcontinental railroad, which was completed in 1869. Other important legislation involved money matters, including the first income tax and higher tariffs. Also included was the creation of the system of national banks by the National Banking Acts of 1863, 1864, and 1865 which allowed the creation of a strong national financial system.
Lincoln sent a senior general (John Pope) to put down the "Sioux Uprising" of August 1862 in Minnesota. Presented with 303 death warrants for convicted Santee Dakota who had massacred innocent farmers, Lincoln affirmed 39 of these for execution (one was later reprieved).
1864 election and second inauguration[edit | edit source]
After Union victories at Gettysburg, Vicksburg and Chattanooga in 1863, victory seemed at hand. Lincoln promoted Ulysses S. Grant General-in-Chief on March 12, 1864. When the spring campaigns all turned into bloody stalemates, Lincoln strongly supported Grant's strategy of wearing down Lee's army at the cost of heavy Union casualties. "I can't spare this man." he said. "He fights." Lincoln easily defeated efforts to deny his renomination, and selected Andrew Johnson, a War Democrat from the Southern state of Tennessee as his running mate in order to form a broader coalition. They ran on the new Union Party ticket; it was a coalition of Republicans and War Democrats.
Republicans across the country had the jitters in August, fearing that Lincoln would be defeated. Acknowledging those fears, Lincoln wrote and signed a pledge that, if he should lose the election, he would none the less defeat the Confederacy by an all-out military effort before turning over the White House:
This morning, as for some days past, it seems exceedingly probable that this Administration will not be re-elected. Then it will be my duty to so co-operate with the President elect, as to save the Union between the election and the inauguration; as he will have secured his election on such ground that he cannot possibly save it afterwards.
Lincoln did not show the pledge to his cabinet, but asked them to sign the sealed envelope.
Lincoln provided Grant with new replacements and mobilized the Union party to support Grant and talk up local support for the war. Sherman's capture of Atlanta in September ended defeatist jitters; the Democratic Party was deeply split, with some leaders and most soldiers openly for Lincoln; the Union party was united and energized, and Lincoln was easily re-elected in a landslide. He won all but two states, capturing 212 of 233 electoral votes.
On March 4, 1865, he delivered his second inaugural address, which was his favorite of all his speeches. At this time, a victory over the rebels was at hand, slavery was dead, and Lincoln was looking to the future.
Fondly do we hope — fervently do we pray — that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue, until all the wealth piled by the bond-man's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash, shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said "the judgments of the Lord, are true and righteous altogether." With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan — to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.
Conducting the war effort[edit | edit source]
The war was a source of constant frustration for the president, and it occupied nearly all of his time. Lincoln had a contentious relationship with General George B. McClellan, who became general-in-chief of all the Union armies in the wake of the embarrassing Union defeat at the First Battle of Bull Run and after the retirement of Winfield Scott in late 1861. Lincoln wished to take an active part in planning the war strategy despite his inexperience in military affairs. Lincoln's strategic priorities were twofold: first, to ensure that Washington, D.C., was well defended; and second, to conduct an aggressive war effort in hopes of ending the war quickly and appeasing the Northern public and press, who pushed for an offensive war. McClellan, a youthful West Point graduate and railroad executive called back to military service, took a more cautious approach. McClellan took several months to plan and execute his Peninsula Campaign, which involved capturing Richmond, Virginia by moving the Army of the Potomac by boat to the peninsula between the James and York Rivers. McClellan's delay irritated Lincoln, as did McClellan's insistence that no troops were needed to defend Washington, D.C. Lincoln insisted on holding some of McClellan's troops to defend the capital, a decision McClellan blamed for the ultimate failure of his Peninsula Campaign.
McClellan, a lifelong Democrat who was temperamentally conservative, was relieved as general-in-chief after releasing his Harrison's Landing Letter, where he offered unsolicited political advice to Lincoln urging caution in the war effort. McClellan's letter incensed Radical Republicans, who successfully pressured Lincoln to appoint fellow Republican John Pope as head of the new Army of Virginia. Pope complied with Lincoln's strategic desire for the Union to move towards Richmond from the north, thus guarding Washington, D.C. However, Pope was soundly defeated at the Second Battle of Bull Run during the summer of 1862, forcing the Army of the Potomac back into the defenses of Washington for a second time. Pope was sent to Minnesota to fight the Sioux.
Panicked by Confederate General Robert E. Lee's invasion of Maryland, Lincoln restored McClellan to command of all forces around Washington in time for the Battle of Antietam in September 1862. It was the Union victory in that battle that allowed Lincoln to release his Emancipation Proclamation. Lincoln relieved McClellan of command shortly after the 1862 midterm elections and appointed Republican Ambrose Burnside to head the Army of the Potomac, who promised to follow through on Lincoln's strategic vision for an aggressive offensive against Lee and Richmond. After Burnside was stunningly defeated at Fredericksburg, Joseph Hooker was given command, despite his idle talk about becoming a military strong man. Hooker was routed by Lee at Chancellorsville in May 1863 and relieved of command early in the subsequent Gettysburg Campaign.
After the Union victory at Gettysburg, Meade's failure to pursue Lee, and months of inactivity for the Army of the Potomac, Lincoln decided to bring in a western general: General Ulysses S. Grant. He had a solid string of victories in the Western Theater, including Vicksburg and Chattanooga. Earlier, reacting to criticism of Grant, Lincoln was quoted as saying, "I cannot spare this man. He fights". Grant waged his bloody Overland Campaign in 1864, using a strategy of a war of attrition, characterized by high Union losses at battles such as the Wilderness and Cold Harbor but by proportionately higher losses in the Confederate army. Grant's aggressive campaign eventually bottled up Lee in the Siege of Petersburg, took Richmond, and brought the war to a close in the spring of 1865.
Lincoln authorized Grant to destroy the civilian infrastructure that was keeping the Confederacy alive, hoping thereby to destroy the South's morale and weaken its economic ability to continue the war. This allowed Generals William Tecumseh Sherman and Philip Sheridan to destroy farms and towns in the Shenandoah Valley, Georgia, and South Carolina. The damage in Sherman's March to the Sea through Georgia totaled in excess of $100 million.
Lincoln had a star-crossed record as a military leader, possessing a keen understanding of strategic points (such as the Mississippi River and the fortress city of Vicksburg) and the importance of defeating the enemy's army, rather than simply capturing cities. However, he had limited success in motivating his commanders to adopt his strategies, until in late 1863 he found in Grant a man who shared his vision of the war. Only then was he able to insist on using black troops and to bring his vision to reality with a relentless pursuit of coordinated offensives in multiple theaters of war.
Lincoln showed a keen curiosity with military campaigning during the war. He spent hours at the War Department telegraph office, reading dispatches from his generals on many nights. He frequently visited battle sites and seemed fascinated by watching scenes of war. During Jubal A. Early's raid into Washington, D.C., in 1864, Lincoln had to be told to duck his head to avoid being shot while observing the scenes of battle.
Home front[edit | edit source]
Civil liberties suspended[edit | edit source]
During the Civil War, Lincoln appropriated powers no previous President had wielded: he used his war powers to proclaim a blockade, suspended the writ of habeas corpus, spent money without congressional authorization, and imprisoned 18,000 suspected Confederate sympathizers without trial. Nearly all of his actions, although vehemently denounced by the Copperheads, were subsequently upheld by Congress and the Courts.
Reconstruction[edit | edit source]
Reconstruction began during the war as Lincoln and his associates pondered the questions of how to reintegrate the Southern states back into the Union, and what to do with Confederate leaders and with the freed slaves. Lincoln was the leader of the "moderates" regarding Reconstruction policy, and usually was opposed by the Radical Republicans led by Thaddeus Stevens in the House and Charles Sumner and Benjamin Wade in the Senate (though he co-operated with those men on most other issues). Lincoln was determined to find a course that would reunite the nation as soon as possible and not permanently alienate the Southerners, and throughout the war Lincoln urged speedy elections under generous terms in areas behind Union lines. Critical decisions had to be made during the war, as state after state was reconquered. Of special importance were Tennessee, where Lincoln appointed Andrew Johnson as governor, and Louisiana, where Lincoln tried a plan that would restore the state when 10% of the voters agreed. The Radicals thought that policy was too lenient, and passed their own plan, the Wade-Davis Bill, in 1864. Lincoln vetoed Wade-Davis, and the Radicals retaliated by refusing to seat representatives elected from Louisiana, Arkansas, and Tennessee.
On April 9, 1865, General Lee surrendered at Appomattox Court House in Virginia; the war was effectively over. The other rebel armies surrendered and there was no guerrilla warfare. Lincoln went to Richmond to make a public gesture of sitting at Jefferson Davis's own desk, symbolically saying to the nation that the President of the United States held authority over the entire land. He was greeted at the city as a conquering hero by freed slaves, whose sentiments were epitomized by one admirer's quote, "I know I am free for I have seen the face of Father Abraham and have felt him". When a general asked Lincoln how the defeated Confederates should be treated, Lincoln replied, "Let 'em up easy."
Assassination[edit | edit source]
The assassination of Abraham Lincoln, one of the last major events in the Civil War, took place on Good Friday, April 14, 1865, when the President was shot while attending a performance of Our American Cousin at Ford's Theatre with his wife and two guests.
Lincoln's assassin, actor and Confederate sympathizer John Wilkes Booth, had also plotted with fellow conspirators, Lewis Powell and George Atzerodt to kill William H. Seward (then Secretary of State) and Vice-President Andrew Johnson respectively. Booth hoped to create chaos and overthrow the Federal government by assassinating Lincoln, Seward, and Johnson. Although Booth succeeded in killing Lincoln, the larger plot failed. Seward was attacked, but recovered from his wounds, and Johnson's would-be assassin fled Washington upon losing his nerve.
Notes[edit | edit source]
References[edit | edit source]
- Basler, Roy P. (1946). Abraham Lincoln: His Speeches and Writings.
- Basler, Roy P. (1953). Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln (9 vols.). New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.
- Burlingame, Michael. Abraham Lincoln: A Life. vol. 1 (2008) ISBN 978-0-8018-8993-6
- Current, Richard N. Lincoln and the First Shot. (1963) ISBN 0-88133-498-7
- Donald, David Herbert (1995). Lincoln. New York: Simon and Schuster.
- Foner, Eric (1970). Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men: The Ideology of the Republican Party before the Civil War.
- Gienapp, William A. Abraham Lincoln and Civil War America. (2002) ISBN 0-19-515099-6
- Goodwin, Doris Kearns (2005). Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-684-82490-6.
- Guelzo, Allen C. (1999). Abraham Lincoln: Redeemer President. Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans Pub. Co. ISBN 0-8028-3872-3. http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=99466893.
- Harris, William C. Lincoln's Rise to the Presidency. (2007) ISBN 978-0-7006-1520-9
- Holzer, Harold. Lincoln President-elect: Abraham Lincoln and the Great Secession Winter, 1860-1861. (2008) ISBN 978-0-7432-8947-4
- Holzer, Harold (2004). Lincoln at Cooper Union: The Speech That Made Abraham Lincoln President.
- Jaffa, Harry V. (2000). A New Birth of Freedom: Abraham Lincoln and the Coming of the Civil War. Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 0-8476-9952-8.
- Klein, Maury. Days of Defiance: Sumter, Secession, and the Coming of the Civil War. (1997) ISBN 0-679-44747-4
- McPherson, James M. (1991). Abraham Lincoln and the Second American Revolution.
- McPherson, James M. Tried by War: Abraham Lincoln as Commander in Chief. (2008) ISBN 978-1-59420-191-2
- Miller, William Lee (2002). Lincoln's Virtues: An Ethical Biography. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. ISBN 0-375-40158-X.
- Neely, Mark E. Jr, The Fate of Liberty: Abraham Lincoln and Civil Liberties (1992). Pulitzer Prize winner. online version
- Neely, Mark E. Jr. The Last Best Hope of Earth. (1993) ISBN 0-674-51125-5
- Paludan, Phillip Shaw. The Presidency of Abraham Lincoln. (1994) ISBN 0-7006-0671-8
- Sandburg, Carl (1974). Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years and The War Years. Harvest Books. ISBN 0156026112.
- Symonds, Craig L. Lincoln and His Admirals. (2008) ISBN 978-0-19-531022-1
- Thomas, Benjamin P. (1952). "Abraham Lincoln: A Biography". http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=25051697.
- Wills, Garry (1993). Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words That Remade America. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-671-86742-3.
- Wilson, Douglas L. (1999). Honor's Voice: The Transformation of Abraham Lincoln.
- Neeley (1993) p. 59; McPherson (1991) p. 65.
- Gienapp (2002) p. xi.
- Thomas (1952) pp. 403-404.
- Paludan pp. 34-35.
- McPherson (2008) p. 9; Thomas (1952) p. 229.
- Burlingame (2008) vol. 1 pp. 676–679; Holzer (2008) pp. 27–32.
- Thomas (1952) p. 226; Holzer (2008) p. 68.
- Thomas (1952) pp. 226-227; Holzer (2008) p. 75.
- Holzer (2008) p. 69; Gienapp (2002) pp. 74–75; Burlingame (2008) vol. 1 p. 702. Burlingame writes, "Lincoln's unwillingness to make a public declaration may have been a mistake. Such a document might have allayed fears in the Upper South and Border States and predisposed them to remain in the Union when hostilities broke out. But it might also have wrecked the Republican coalition and doomed his administration to failure before it began."
- Burlingame (2008) vol. 1 p. 701.
- Burlingame (2008) vol. 1 pp. 701–702; Thomas (1952) p. 27.
- Holzer (2008) p. 77.
- Holzer (2008) p. 78.
- Burlingame (2008) vol.1 p. 754.
- Burlingame (2008) vol.1 p. 755.
- Holzer (2008) pp. 59-60; McClintock (2008) p. 42.
- Paludan (1994) pp. 35-41; Gienapp (2002) pp. 75-76; Donald (1995) pp. 261-263.
- Goodwin (2005) p. xvi; Burlingame (2008) vol. 1 pp. 719-720. Goodwin writes, "Every member of this administration was better known, better educated, and more experieced in public life than Lincoln." Burlingame quotes Lincoln as saying, after he was advised not to select someone to a cabinet post that was "a great deal bigger" than Lincoln, "Well, do you know of any other men who think they are bigger than I am? I want to put then all in my cabinet."
- Holzer (2008) pp. 95ff.
- Paludan (1994) p. 37; Burlingame (2008) vol. 1 p. 737.
- Thomas (1952 pp. 232-233; Donald (1995) p. 263; Burlingame (2008) vol. 1 p. 722.
- Burlingame (2008) vol. 1 pp. 722-725; Donald (1995) p. 263; Holzer (2008) pp. 107–109. Burlingame indicates that Gilmer declined because of the inclusion of either Montgomery Blair or Salmon P. Chase in the cabinet. Donald writes that the refusal was related to the Republicans' failure to protect slavery in the territories. Holzer is the author who mentioned Speed, which he bases on a William Herndon interview with Speed after Lincoln's death.
- Burlingame (2008) vol. 1 p. 725–726; Paludan (1994) p. 42.
- Paludan (1994) p. 41.
- Burlingame (2008) vol. 1 p. 744–645.
- Paludan (1994) p. 43.
- Donald (1995) pp. 265-266; Burlingame (2008) vol. 1 pp. 726-728. Burlingame notes that Lincoln had some warnings concerning Cameron, but had "received an avalanche of pro-Cameron mail". McClure explains that Cameron's opponents were too complacent and "no one outside a small circle of Cameron's friends dreamed of Lincoln calling him to the Cabinet. Lincoln's character for honesty was considered a complete guarantee against such a suicidal act."
- Burlingame (2008) vol. 1 pp. 729-732.
- Burlingame (2008) vol. 1 p. 732.
- Burlingame (2008) vol. 1 pp. 733-737; Donald (1995) pp. 266-267.
- Gienapp (2002) p. 76.
- Donald (1995) p. 264; Paludan (1994) p. 37.
- Burlingame (2008) vol. 1 p. 737.
- Burlingame (2008) vol. 1 pp. 739-742; Paludan (1994) p. 42.
- Burlingame (2008) vol. 1 pp. 742-744; Paludan (1994) pp. 42-43.
- Burlingame (2008) vol. 1 pp. 694-695.
- Burlingame (2008) vol. 1 p. 695.
- Thomas (1952) pp. 229-230.
- Burlingame (2008) vol. 1 pp. 708-709.
- Burlingame (2008) vol. 1 p. 709.
- Burlingame (2008) vol. 1 pp. 712-718.
- Gienapp (2002) pp. 76-77.
- Thomas (1952) p. 241.
- Holzer (2008) p. 373.
- Gienapp (2002) p. 77.
- Holzer (2008) p.377.
- Holzer (2008) p.378.
- Holzer (2008) pp. 378-379.
- Harris (2007) p.317; Holzer (2008) p. 379-381.
- Gienapp (2002) p.77; Thomas (1952) pp. 243-244.
- White (2005) pp. 67-70; Wilson (2007) p. 45.
- Burlingame vol. 2 (2008) pp. 58-59.
- Burlingame vol. 2 (2008) p. 60; Gienapp (2002) p. 78.
- Gienapp (2002) p. 78; Miller (2008) pp. 9-10.
- White (2005) p. 85.
- Miller (2008) p. 25.
- Miller (2008) p. 25; Gienapp (2002) pp. 78-79; White (2005) pp. 87-90. White notes that the idea for the closing statement had been suggested by Seward. Lincoln, in turn, changed Seward's words into the memorable final version.
- Burlingame vol. 2 (2008) p. 61-62.
- McPherson (2008) p. 13.
- Burlingame vol. 2 (2008) p. 99; Grimsley (1995) p.27.
- Symonds (2008) pp.10-11.
- Burlingame vol. 2 (2008) pp. 99-101.
- Burlingame vol. 2 (2008) pp. 102-107.
- Burlingame vol. 2 (2008) pp. 108-110.
- Current (1963) pp. 103-107.
- Current (1963) p. 108. Current indicates that Lincoln meant "except in case of an attack.".
- Current (1963) p. 123.
- Klein (1999) pp. 399-400.
- Allan Nevins, The Improvised War, 1861-1862 (1959) p. 29.
- Letter to Horace Greeley, August 22, 1862.
- Lincoln addressed the issue of his consistency in an 1864 letter to Albert G. Hodges. Letter to Albert G. Hodges, April 4, 1864.
- Life and Times of Frederick Douglass, by Frederick Douglass, 1895.
- Mark Grimsley and Brooks D Simpson, eds. The Collapse of the Confederacy (2001) p. 80.
- Lincoln, Memorandum concerning his probable failure of re-election, August 23, 1864. Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, vol. 7, p. 514, (1953).
- Lincoln, Second inaugural address, March 4, 1865. From Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, vol. 8, p. 333, Rutgers University Press (1953, 1990).
- Donald (1995) ch. 20.
- Donald (1995)pp. 576, 580; "President Lincoln Enters Richmond, 1865", EyeWitness to History.