Sunday, November 22, 2009

Sustaining The Army & Boosting Morale

42nd of 45 excerpts from Lincoln by David Herbert Donald:
As Grant and Sherman grappled with the enemy [in June 1864], Lincoln did what he could to sustain the army and to boost civilian morale. On every possible occasion -- even on such an unlikely one as the resumption of White House concerts by the Marine Band -- he asked his listeners to give three cheers for "Grant and all the armies under his command." Again and again, he expressed gratitude to the soldiers, to the officers, and especially to "that brave and loyal man," the "modest General at the head of our armies."

After his renomination, when the Ohio delegation serenaded him with a brass band, he responded: "What we want, still more than Baltimore conventions or presidential elections, is success under Gen. Grant," and he urged his hearers to bend all their energies to support "the brave officers and soldiers in the field."

He continued to have faith in Grant, but he was conscious of the swelling chorus of criticism of the general. Many doubted Grant's strategic ability and pointed out that in shifting his base to the James River he was simply was repeating what McClellan had done -- with far fewer casualties. . . .

The outcry against Grant made the President want to see for himself what was happening with the Army of the Potomac, and on June 20, accompanied by Tad, he made an unheralded visit to Grant's headquarters at City Point. Looking, as Horace Porter, one of Grant's aides, wrote, "very much like a boss undertaker" in his black suit, the President announced as he landed,: "I just thought I would jump aboard a boat and come down and see you. I don't expect I can do any good, and in fact I'm afraid I may do harm, but I'll put myself under your orders and if you find me doing anything wrong just send me [off] right away."

For the next two days he visited with Grant, Meade, Butler, and the troops. Much of the time he rode Grant's large bay horse, Cincinnati. Though he managed the horse well, he was, as Porter remembered, "not a very dashing rider," and as his trousers gradually worked up above his ankles, he gave "the appearance of a country farmer riding into town wearing Sunday clothes." As news of the president's arrival reached the troops, they gave cheers and enthusiastic shouts. . . .

Tired and sunburned, Lincoln returned to the White House on June 23, and Gideon Welles remarked that the trip had "done him good, physically, and strengthened him mentally." He took satisfaction in repeating what Grant had told him: "You will never hear of me farther from Richmond than now, till I have taken it . . . It may take a long summer day, but I will go in."

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