Sunday, November 15, 2009

'In The Hands Of A Higher Power'

41st of 45 excerpts from Lincoln by David Herbert Donald:
Naming Grant to head the Union armies [in March 1864] won Lincoln a brief respite from pressure to produce a military victory, since everybody recognized that it would take a while for the new commander to take control and to develop a strategy. But there was no armistice in the political warfare as Radical and Conservative Republicans maneuvered for position. During the weeks before the Republican National Convention, Lincoln tried to maintain a cautious neutrality between rival wings of his party and to build bridges to the War Democrats. His tactics easily secured his renomination, but as reports poured in of the ghastly losses in Grant's Virginia campaign, his reelection remained in doubt. At times even he despaired, and increasingly he came to feel that the outcome of the war, and of his administration, was in the hands of a Higher Power. . . .

With a general-in chief who shared his determination to destroy the Confederate armies, Lincoln directed his own efforts to seeing that the Union forces were adequately supplied and constantly reinforced. Manpower was a constant problem. Many of the Union soldiers had enlisted for three-year terms, which would expire in 1864. Though Congress offered special inducements in the way of bounties and furloughs to those who would reenlist, at least 100,000 decided not to. When the casualties from the Wilderness campaign were added to this number, it was obvious that more recruits were needed. Since volunteering had virtually ceased, Lincoln on May 17 felt forced to draft an order for the conscription of 300,000 additional men.

The order was never issued because of May 18 the New York World and the Journal of Commerce published a [bogus] proclamation, purportedly originating in the White House, in which Lincoln announced that "with a heavy heart, but an undiminished confidence in our cause," he was ordering an additional draft of 400,000 men. This depressing news caused a flurry of speculation on Wall Street, and the price of gold, as measured in greenbacks, rose 10 percent . . .

The Lincoln administration came down heavily on the two newspapers. In an order drafted by Stanton, Lincoln directed the army to "take possession by military force" of the premises of the two offending papers and ordered the arrest of their editors and proprietors. Shortly afterward authorities discovered that [gold speculators] were responsible and the men were imprisoned in Fort Lafayette.

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