網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

“This morning, as for some days past, it seems exceedingly probable that this administration will not be reelected. 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."

If Lincoln were defeated by the Democratic candidate, who had not then been named, the successful nominee must have been pledged to a line of policy which would be destructive of the Union. So, having pledged himself to co-operation with the President-elect, whoever he might be, Mr. Lincoln folded the sheet on which he had written the memorandum above quoted, and, having pasted its edges, requested each member of his Cabinet to sign his name on the back thereof, none but the President knowing the contents of the paper. In November, when Lincoln had been re-elected, he recalled to the minds of his Cabinet ministers this incident, reminding them that it had occurred at a time when his administration, pending the nomination of the Democratic candidate, “had no adversary, and seemed to have no friends.” Then the paper was unsealed, and the ministers present for the first time saw how singularly the President had pledged himself and them to a loyal and sincere acceptance of the result of the Presidential election, whatever that result might be.

It may be truly said of Lincoln that, in spite of his alleged slowness, he never took one backward step. Each step was taken with great care, but, having put his foot down,” he was immovable. Neverthe

less, in considering any important move, he consulted with his Cabinet ministers frankly and fully, not as some generals held councils of war, abiding by the vote of the majority of those present, but hearkening to the council and pursuing his own course afterwards. The most striking instance of his openness to arguments opposed to his own convictions is that of the proposed payment of a large sum of money to the Rebel States for the extinguishment of slavery within their borders. The President had calculated that this payment would end the war and save many precious lives. He submitted his plan to the Cabinet at a meeting held in February, 1865, very soon after the celebrated conference between himself and the Rebel commissioners at Hampton Roads. To his great surprise, the members of the Cabinet were unanimously opposed to the proposed scheme. They did not believe Congress would be willing to consent to paying the Rebel States for the freeing of their slaves; and it was urged that if the scheme were made public and failed of consummation it would result in harm. According to the report of those present, Lincoln sadly said: “You are all opposed to me, and I will not send the message.' The document, which was in the form of a message to Congress recommending the plan here outlined, was folded by the President, and indorsed with the simple statement that the plan therein contained had been unanimously disapproved by the Cabinet. This was Lincoln's simple way of disposing of a matter which he felt he could not undertake to carry through without the concurrence of his constitutional advisers.

CHAPTER XXVII.

END OF A STRANGE EVENTFUL HISTORY.

Symptoms of a Collapse of the Confederacy-Lee Seeks a Parley with

Grant—The Fall of Richmond-Flight of the Rebel Government
-Lincoln in the Former Rebel Capital-He Goes to the Front-
The Surrender of Lee-Great Joy of the People—The National
Capital in a Frenzy of Delight-Lincoln's Last Public Speech-
His Death and Funeral-Conclusion.

THE spring of 1865 opened with every prospect of

a speedy and complete ending of the rebellion. Sherman's march to the sea had once more rent the dying Confederacy, even morc disastrously than the opening of the Mississippi had previously split it into two large fragments. Everywhere, on land and sea, the arms of the Union had been crowned with victory. Sherman's movements in the Carolinas had compelled the abandonment of Charleston. The capture of Fort Fisher by General Terry had virtually closed the last Atlantic port against possible supplies from abroad for the Rebel forces. The scattered remnants of their armies were forced to concentrate and rally around Lee for the defence of the Rebel capital, and on the 3d of March, the day before the second inauguration of Lincoln, news reached him that Lee had at last sought an interview with Grant for the purpose of seeing if any terms of peace could be considered. True to their settled

purpose, and desperate to the last, the Rebels sought to make peace for themselves and retain something more than would be exacted by a conqueror. Lincoln ordered the Secretary of War to send a message to Grant, directing him to hold no conference with Lee, except for the purpose of receiving a capitulation of his army, or on some other purely military matter. There must be no discussion of any political question. Such matters the President would hold in his own hands; and, meantime, Grant must press to the utmost his military advantages.

On the 27th of March a conference of Lincoln, Grant, and Sherman was held on board of a steamer lying in the James River, near Grant's head-quarters, at which the final and decisive measures of the campaign were discussed. Lincoln was informed that one more fierce and bloody battle would be necessary; at that prospect his humane spirit revolted, and he exclaimed: "Must blood be shed? Cannot this bloody battle be avoided?” It was avoided, as Lincoln had hoped and prayed, by Lee's despairing and unconditional surrender. Sheridan, who had been manquvring far to Grant's left, by dint of ten days' rapid marching and almost incessant fighting, had cut off the last avenue of Lee's escape southward with the Army of Virginia, the last prop of the Confederacy, and had made its surrender merely a matter of a few days, at the furthest. Closely followed by Grant, Sheridan had now drawn a line completely around Lee's army. Lee sent an imperative message to Richmond ordering three hundred thousand rations for his starving army. The message fell into

Sheridan's hands, and he sent it on with the intention of waylaying and capturing the supplies. This was accomplished, and the Rebel forces were without food. The Rebel lines were everywhere drawn in, their forces operating to the north of the James being now joined to the main army. Petersburg fell into the hands of the victorious Union troops, and on Sunday morning, April rd, the tolling of the bells of Richmond sounded the kneli of the rebellion, while the rolling of the drums called the citizens of the Rebel capital t) raliy and take the places of soldiers withdrawn forever. J fferson Davis, seeing that all was lost, fled in disguise southward, but was subsequently captured and sent to Fortress Monroe, a prisoner.

On Monday morning, April 3d, the Federal troops, under command of General Weitzel, hoisted the flag of the Union over the building in Richmond that had been occupied by the Rebel congress, and the political power of the Confederacy vanished. Lincoln was at City Point, near Grant's old head-quarters, waiting for the final and great result of all these military movements. Accompanied by Tad, he entered the fallen capital of the Confederacy as soon as possible after the news of its downfall reached him. The scene of his entry has been often described as a triumphal one; but no representative of a conquering force ever moved with less ceremony and pomp. Unattended, save by a boat's crew from a gunboat near at hand, and leading his little boy by the hand, Lincoln entered the late capital of the Rebel Confederacy, over which the national ensign now

« 上一頁繼續 »