Sunday, August 30, 2009

'Especially In Need Of Divine Help'

31st of 45 excerpts from Lincoln by David Herbert Donald:
By the summer of 1862, Lincoln felt especially in need of divine help. Everything, it seemed, was going wrong, and his hope for bringing a speedy end to the war was dashed. . . .

The lack of military success blocked Lincoln's plan to unite all the moderate elements in the country in a just, harmonious restoration of the Union. If there were any loyal elements in the Confederacy, they gave no evidence of hearing his promises speedily to restore their states to their place in the Union. In the North the growing body of antislavery opinion chafed at the President's slowness to act against slavery and complained that he was under the control of the proslavery border states. At the same time, his plan for gradual, compensated emancipation in the border states went nowhere; representatives of those states could not see why as loyal supporters of the Union they should bear the burden of emancipation, while the peculiar instititution was left intact in the Confederacy. Though Congress gave token support, in the amount of a half a million dollars, for the President's scheme to colonize the freed African-Americans outside the United States, nobody other than Lincoln himself, had much faith in this project. . . .

[O]n the day he got back from visiting [General Scott] at West Point, he ordered the consolidation of all the federal forces in northern Virginia, including Fremont's and Banks's forces as well as McDowell's, into the new Army of Virginia, and he appointed John Pope to command it. In a huff, Fremont declined to serve under Pope, whom he outranked, and went on inactive duty.

Behind Lincoln's decision was his growing belief that McClellan, for all his undoubted gifts as an organizer, would never fight a decisive battle to take Richmond. With painful anxiety, he continued to read the telegraphic dispatches from McClellan's headquarters, with their repeated excuses for not advancing and their constant complaints. The weather, wrote the general, was impossible; rains made mud bogs of the roads and repeatedly washed out all his bridges. Wryly Lincoln observed that the weather did little to restrict the movement of the Confederates, and he judged that McClellan believed, contrary to the Scriptures, that the rain fell more upon the just than the unjust. . . . Over and over, McClellan asked for -- indeed, demanded -- reinforcements and Lincoln patiently explained that all the forces at his disposal were already committed. But occasionally McClellan's demands became too importunate, and the President's temper snapped. He rejected the general's demand for 50,000 additional troops as "simply absurd."

McClellan bitterly protested "that the Gov[ernmen]t has not sustained this Army," and both he and General Randolph B. Marcy, his chief of staff, spoke ominously about the possibility of capitulation. "If I save this Army now," McClellan concluded in a message to Stanton on June 28, "I tell you plainly that I owe no thanks to you or any other persons in Washington -- you have done your best to sacrifice this army." These final sentences were so mutinous that the supervisor of the telegraph deleted them from the copies shown to the President and the Secretary of War, and they were not published until months later.

No comments: