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ington was filled with the wounded who were brought up from the base at Acquia Creek, on the Potomac, and the hospitals, that now occupied churches and other public buildings at the capital, were crowded with the wounded and the dying. Congress was in session, and the politicians of both sides were alert to take advantage of this military reverse to press their several policies upon the attention of the President, Congress, and the country.
The year closed in gloom. The Rebels had succeeded in scaring McClellan from Richmond, although he had been within a few miles of the Rebel capital at one time. They had inflicted a severe blow upon the Army of the Potomac under Burnside; previous to which they had, so to speak, whipped Pope in detail while he was left to struggle against a superior force, his own army being unsupported and brought up in sections to the slaughter. Stonewall Jackson had swept the valley of the Shenandoah, eluding McDowell and Frémont and driving Banks across the Potomac. Nor was the military situation in the West much more hopeful. Buell had been forced back in Kentucky, and the Rebel General Bragg had entered that State and a provisional Rebel government had been organized at Frankfort, the capital of Kentucky, an event that was designed to encourage the Rebel element in the border States and the antiUnion element in the North, heretofore somewhat kept under. The cities of Louisville, Kentucky, and Cincinnati, Ohio, were menaced, and it was found needful to fortify them. At the end of December the combined Union forces under Generals Sherman
and McClernand made a vigorous assault upon the defences of Vicksburg, that city still holding the Mississippi for the Rebels, but were repulsed with much loss. A solitary gleam of light flashed up on the closing of the year, when Rosecrans fought the battle of Stone River, in which the Rebels were defeated with great loss, but were able, under General Bragg, to retreat to the southward.
Meanwhile, the party that hoped for peace on some other terms than those of the overthrow and punishment of the Rebels had been gaining ground. When the military successes of the Union cause were pronounced, these men kept silence. As soon as the tide of war went with the Rebels, the clamor for a cessation of hostilities and an ending of the sacrifice of life in battle grew loud. Lincoln was besieged, on the one hand, with demands for the reinstatement of McClellan and a more vigorous prosecution of the war, and on the other with importunities for an armistice, or truce, during which negotiations for a settlement should be carried on. There was another class who, while calling for more vigorous tactics on the
of the administration, were eager for a change of generals. Among others, General Banks was represented to be the favorite for whom the Army of the Potomac was anxiously waiting. The Peace Democrats, as they were called, grew more and more importunate for some attempt at settlement that should include leaving undisturbed the peculiar institution, slavery.
An interesting correspondence between Lincoln and Fernando Wood, Mayor of New York, took
place toward the end of 1862. This was the same Wood who, when Lincoln was first chosen President, had advocated the erection of New York into a free city and its neutrality as a belligerent. He now informed Lincoln that he was credibly informed that the Southern States would send representatives to Congress and resume their old-time relations, provided a full and general amnesty were proclaimed. In his reply, Lincoln said that he strongly suspected that Mr. Wood's information would prove to be without foundation.
“Nevertheless,” he said, “I thank you for communicating it to me. Understanding the phrase in the paragraph quoted, 'the Southern States would send representatives to the next Congress,' to be substantially the same as that 'the people of the Southern States would cease resistance, and would reinaugurate, submit to, and maintain the national authority, within the limits of such States, under the Constitution of the United States,' I say that in such case the war would cease on the part of the United States, and that if, within a reasonable time, a full and general amnesty were necessary to such an end, it would not be withheld.”
Wood had quoted from Lincoln's inaugural address and to this had added many arguments and protestations of the alleged loyal purposes and intentions of the Southern people. Lincoln passed by all these, and, returning to the phrases quoted by Wood from the inaugural, as above, gave these as the only reasonable basis on which any hope of an amnesty could be founded. Lincoln thought, and said,
that an amnesty would be forthcoming when the Rebels should cease to resist the Federal authority, not before. Wood urged that Lincoln ought to verify, if possible, the statement that the Rebels were ready to consider terms of adjustment and peace. This could only be done by opening a correspondence with the Southern leaders. Meantime, military operations must cease. To this Lincoln had but one reply: it was not the time to stop military operations for the purpose of opening negotiations. Here the correspondence ended. But the insistence of the Peace Democrats did not end here. With varying arguments and in various keys, they continued to demand a cessation of hostilities, even until the end of the war.
Congress was divided into factions. The Cabinet was not wholly harmonious. The loyal press of the country was bitter and arrogant in its criticisms of the administration. Mr. Greeley declared in favor of foreign intervention, and, in private conversations, reported to the President, deplored the fact that his favorite statesman, Secretary Chase, had not been placed at the head of the Army of the Potomac long before. In the army there were mutterings of discontent. General Hooker openly derided Burnside as "a butcher,” and declared that he had fought the battle of Fredericksburg on his “deportment." Others of the army began to say that the country needed a dictator, a military hero. An old officer of the army was arrested for saying publicly that the Army of the Potomac, with “little Mac" at its head, should “clean out Congress and the White House."
In the midst of these disquieting and depressing scenes and rumors, Lincoln alone was calm, resolute, and uncomplaining. He never for an instant relaxed his efforts to push the war; never faltered even in the face of what seemed inevitable defeat. To a sympathizing friend who asked how he was getting on with the prosecution of the war, he sadly and grimly said: “Oh, I am just pegging away.” And, long after, when the war was wellnigh over, and another friend congratulated him on his pluck and endurance in sticking to the work when all seemed hopeless, he said: “Well, there was nothing else to be done."
On the 26th of January, 1863, Lincoln wrote to General Hooker the following characteristic letter:
“WASHINGTON, D. C., January 26, 1863. ‘Major-General Hooker.
“GENERAL:— I have placed you at the head of the Army of the Potomac. Of course I have done this upon what appear to me to be sufficient reasons, and yet I think it best for you to know that there are some things in regard to which I am not satisfied with you. I believe you to be a brave and skilful soldier, which of course I like. I also believe that you do not mix politics with your profession, in which you are right. You have confidence in yourself, which is a valuable, if not indispensable quality. You are ambitious, which, within reasonable bounds, does good rather than harm; but I think that during General Burnside's command of the army you have taken counsel of your ambition and thwarted him as much as you could, in which you did a great wrong to the country and to a most meritorious and honorable brother officer. I have