The Life of Abraham Lincoln (Arnold)/Chapter XXII
|←Chapter XXI||The Life of Abraham Lincoln by
|Chapter XXII. Grant and Sherman.
General Grant Comes to the Potomac.-- Sherman Goes Through Dixie to the Ocean.-- Fort McAllister Taken.-- Savannah Falls.-- The Alabama is Sunk.-- Farragut Captures Mobile.
Again must the reader return with us to the fields of war. Grand marches are yet to be made, bloody battles to be fought, carnage, suffering, desolation, and death must yet be encountered in their utmost horror before the end of the great drama is reached. But the result of it all is, to the intelligent reader, no longer doubtful.
In the West, victory had of late everywhere attended the Union flag, the capture of Vicksburg and Port Hudson having been followed by the brilliant victory of Missionary Ridge and Lookout Mountain. But in the East, the case was far different. The defeat of the rebel forces at Gettysburg had been so crushing that, had the Union armies followed up their advantages, the war might have been brought to a more speedy termination. Instead of this, Lee was permitted, to the great mortification and grief of the President, to recover from his defeat, to re-cross the Potomac, and to occupy his former lines. But the time was near when the conduct of military operations was to be entrusted to the able hands of the hero of Vicksburg, and when reverses would no longer alternate with the successes of the Northern armies.
Early after the opening of the Thirty-eighth Congress, Washburne, of Illinois, the ever faithful friend of Grant, and to whom this great soldier was more indebted for opportunities to serve his country than to any other man, brought forward a bill creating the office of Lieutenant General. It was the wish of the friends of that law that the great soldier who had achieved such signal success in the valley of the Mississippi should take the high position of commander, under the President, of all the armies of the United States. On the 22d of February, 1864, the President approved the act, and sent the name of Grant to the Senate as Lieutenant General. On the 2d of March the nomination was confirmed, and the President immediately requested the General's presence at Washington. Up to this time Grant had not, during the war, visited the capital. He was personally unknown to the President, the Secretary of War, and most of the members of Congress. This unsolicited appointment found him at his post of duty, and, with a modesty and generosity towards his most trusted lieutenant, General Sherman, as rare as it was honorable, he said: "I think Sherman better entitled to the position than I am." He arrived at the capital on the 8th of March, and in the evening attended a levee at the White House. He entered the reception room unannounced, and almost a stranger. He was instantly recognized by the President, and the Western soldier was never more cordially welcomed. As soon as it was known that he was present, the pressure of the crowd to see the hero of Vicksburg was so great, that he was forced to shelter himself behind a sofa. So irrepressible was the desire to see him, that Secretary Seward finally induced him to mount a sofa, that this curiosity might be gratified. When parting from the President, he said, "This has been rather the warmest campaign I have witnessed during the war."
On the next day, at the Executive Mansion, the President in person, and in the presence of a few friends, presented him his commission, saying:
"General Grant: The nation's appreciation of what you have done, and its reliance upon you for what remains to be done in the existing great struggle, are now presented with this commission, constituting you Lieutenant General in the army of the United States. With this high honor devolves upon you also a corresponding responsibility. As the country herein trusts you, so, under God, it will sustain you. I scarcely need to add, that with what I here speak for the nation, goes my own hearty personal concurrence." To this General Grant made the following reply:
"Mr. President: I accept the commission with gratitude for the high honor conferred. With the aid of the noble armies that have fought on so many fields for our common country, it will be my earnest endeavor not to disappoint your expectations. I feel the full weight of the responsibilities now devolving on me, and I know that if they are met, it will be due to those armies, and above all to the favor of that Providence which leads both nations and men."
After visiting the army of the Potomac, he returned to Washington, and after an interview with the President and Secretary of War in regard to his plans, prepared to leave for the West. Mrs. Lincoln, sharing in the universal gratitude and admiration felt for him, and desirous of showing him some attention, invited him to meet a brilliant party at dinner that evening. He received the invitation at the close of this important interview with the President. The General said: "Mrs. Lincoln must excuse me. I must be in Tennessee at a given time." "But we can't excuse you," said the President. "Mrs. Lincoln's dinner without you, would be Hamlet with Hamlet left out." "I appreciate the honor Mrs. Lincoln would do me," said the General, "but time is very important now--and really--Mr. Lincoln, I have had enough of this show business." This was a remark Mr. Lincoln could well appreciate and with which he could fully sympathize. General Grant went to the West without waiting for the dinner.
General Sherman, on the recommendation of General Grant, was assigned to the command of the military division of Mississippi. General Grant, on the 17th of March, assumed command of the armies of the United States, and announced that his headquarters would be in the field, and until further orders, with the army of the Potomac. From this time there was unity of purpose--each army cooperating and acting under one far-seeing executive head. From this time on, there was energy in attack, rapidity in pursuit, and everywhere a fit man in the fittest place for him. Grant bad the very great advantage of having subordinates who enjoyed his most perfect confidence, and who reposed the most perfect faith in him. Henceforth rivalries and jealousies were, to a great extent, banished from the armies of the republic. Nothing had given Mr. Lincoln more anxiety than the rivalries and quarrels among his generals. From the time that Grant assumed command as Lieutenant General, this annoyance to a great extent ceased. Sherman was justly regarded as Grant's right arm. Grant and Sherman, at the head of the armies of the East and the West, had perfect confidence in each other and in the President, and he in them. A great load of responsibility was lifted from his shoulders.
On the 30th of April, the President wrote a letter to Grant, in which he says:
"You are vigilant and self-reliant, and pleased with this, I wish not to obtrude any restraints or constraints upon you... If there be anything wanting in my power to give, do not fail to let me know. And now, with a brave army and a just cause, may God sustain you."
With these words Lincoln sent Grant to the field. General Grant's plan is clearly and simply stated by him. He said:
"The armies in the East and West acted independently and without concert, like a balky team, no two ever pulling together; enabling the enemy to use to a great advantage his interior lines of communication for transporting troops from East to West, re-enforcing the army most vigorously pressed, and to furlough large numbers, during seasons of inactivity on our part, to go to their homes and do the work of producing for the support of their armies. It was a question whether our numerical strength and resources were not more than balanced by these disadvantages and the enemy's superior position."
"From the first I was firm in the conviction that no peace could be had that would be stable and conducive to the happiness of the people, both North and South, until the military power of the rebellion was entirely broken, I therefore determined; first, to use the greatest number of troops practicable against the armed force of the enemy; preventing him from using the same force at different seasons against first one and then another of our armies, and the possibility of repose for refitting and producing necessary supplies for carrying on resistance. Second, to hammer continuously against the armed force of the enemy and his resources, until by mere attrition, if in no other way, there should be nothing left to him but an equal submission with the loyal section of our common country to the Constitution and laws of the land."
The campaign in Virginia opened on the 4th of May. With the army of the Potomac under Meade, re-enforced by the Ninth Corps, under Burnside, Grant started by the overland route for Richmond. When he pitched his tent on the banks of the Rapidan, he found the two hostile armies grimly and proudly confronting each other. Each army was in high spirits. Each could look with pride upon a long list of victories inscribed on its battle flags. Every one realized that the rebel army of Northern Virginia carried upon its standard the fate of the Confederacy, and now there came from the valley of the Mississippi the brilliant and hitherto invincible hero of the West, to test his genius and his fortunes against the great leader of the rebellion. It was believed the crisis was at hand. But while the Confederates were nearly exhausted in men and money and credit, the military resources of the Union did not seem to be seriously lessened. Men swarmed in Northern towns, cities, and states; and labor, and every branch of industry was stimulated to the utmost activity by the war. Meade, as has been stated, had under Grant the immediate command of the army of the Potomac, which was divided into three corps, under Hancock, commanding the Second; Warren, the Fifth, and Sedgwick, the Sixth. Hancock, perhaps the most capable and brilliant of all McClellan's subordinates, was the model of a hero. He had that fine martial bearing, that personal gallantry and magnetism which made him the idol of his soldiers. Warren was a rapid, clear thinker, and ready alike on the field and in council. Sedgwick was an able, experienced, steadfast soldier, perfectly certain to do his whole duty wherever placed. Under them was a long list of brave and intelligent officers, whose names will live in history.
At midnight, on the 3d of May, the Union troops began to move, and on the 4th the whole army was across the Rapidan. On the 5th and 6th were fought the bloody battles of the Wilderness. On the 7th, Grant began to move by the flank towards Spotsylvania Court House. Lee, being on the inner and shorter line, reached there first. On the 9th, 10th and 11th, there was continual maneuvering and fighting. On the 11th Grant sent to Washington a dispatch, saying: "Our losses have been heavy, as well as those of the enemy, and I propose to fight it out on this line if it takes all summer."
The armies fought again on the 12th, and again at North Anna, and at Cold Harbor. During these weeks of May and early June, there was constant fighting and marching, and great loss of life, and during all these furious and persistent struggles, the losses were greater to the Union than to the rebel forces. Lee was on the inner and shorter line, knew the ground perfectly, and could choose the time and place of attack. Grant had fought his way to the Chickahominy, but he had not taken Richmond, nor destroyed the brave army of Northern Virginia.
Those of the wounded of the Union army who could be moved were brought on steamboats to Washington, where a large number of great field hospitals covered the hills overlooking the capital. These wounded came in appalling numbers. The line of ambulances, moving from the steamers to the hospitals, was often one and two miles long, and unbroken from wharf to hospital. The President, whose sympathy for human suffering was most tender, could often be seen with Mrs. Lincoln in his carriage driving slowly along this line of sufferers, speaking kind and cheering words, and personally seeing that every want and need was supplied.
During these long days of terrible slaughter the face of the President was grave and anxious, and he looked like one who had lost the dearest member of his own family. I recall one evening late in May, when I met the President in his carriage driving slowly towards the Soldiers' Home. He had just parted from one of those long lines of ambulances. The sun was just sinking behind the desolate and deserted hills of Virginia; the flags from the forts, hospitals, and camps drooped sadly. Arlington, with its white colonnade, looked like what it was--a hospital. Far down the Potomac, towards Mount Vernon, the haze of evening was gathering over the landscape, and when I met the President his attitude and expression spoke the deepest sadness. He paused as we met, and pointing his hand towards the line of wounded men, he said: "Look yonder at those poor fellows. I cannot bear it. This suffering, this loss of life is dreadful." Recalling a letter he had written years before to a suffering friend whose grief he had sought to console, I reminded him of the incident, and asked him: "Do you remember writing to your sorrowing friend these words: 'And this too shall pass away. Never fear. Victory will come.'" "Yes," replied he, "victory will come, but it comes slowly."
General Butler commanded a force on the James River. On the 5th of May he took possession of City Point and Bermuda Hundred. On the 16th, he was attacked, and forced back between the James and the Appomatox. Here, the enemy erecting fortifications in his front, he was, as General Grant said, "bottled up."
Grant now resolved to move his army to the south of the James. Meanwhile, General Hunter had marched up the valley of the Shenandoah, routed the enemy at Piedmont, and from thence marched on Lynchburg, which he reached on the 16th of June. Lee had sent a large force from Richmond to meet Hunter. Breckenridge occupied the defences of Lynchburg, and was joined by Early, and they compelled Hunter to retreat by way of the Kanawha. General Early then, with twelve thousand veterans, marched down the valley towards Maryland. General Lew Wallace gathered a small force and placed himself at Monocacy in Early's front, to protect Baltimore and Washington. Wallace could only delay the advance of Early, but Grant had despatched the Sixth Corps under Wright, and the Nineteenth from Fortress Monroe, and they arrived in time to prevent an attack upon the capital. But so near were the enemy that the country home of Montgomery Blair, the Postmaster General, was plundered and burned, and "Silver Spring," the residence of Francis P. Blair, was for a short time occupied by the rebel General Breckenridge. These residences were only about seven miles from the White House. Lincoln, from Fort Stephens, witnessed the repulse of Early's troops, and this was the last attempt of the rebels to capture the capital. They retired into their old retreat, and there remained a menace to Washington.
Grant now determined to drive Early out of this rich and productive valley, and leave it in a condition to be no longer useful in furnishing supplies to the enemy. There had been many Union commanders in the Shenandoah, but none who had achieved a complete success. Grant now selected Sheridan to execute the decisive campaign he had planned. On the 19th of September, Sheridan attacked Early at Opequon, and drove him from the field with a loss of four thousand men. From this day Maryland was never more in danger of invasion. Sheridan pursued Early to the passes of the Blue Ridge Mountains, destroying the railroads, and on his return destroyed everything in the way of provisions and forage, droye off the stock, and left the rich and beautiful valley a desolate waste. Rendering, in his own words, "the whole country from the Blue Ridge" untenable for a rebel army.
On the morning of the 19th of October, Early crossed the mountains, and, in the absence of Sheridan, surprised and drove from the field the left of the Union army. Retreating in confusion, and with heavy loss, the Union troops were rallied near Middletown, and made a stand. At this juncture, Sheridan, who had been at Winchester, and there heard the heavy guns, came dashing forward at the full speed of his horse. Arriving on the field, his magnetic presence, heroic bearing, and indomitable will, inspired his troops with fresh courage and enthusiasm. Passing rapidly along his lines, he arranged them in time to repel a heavy attack. Immediately following the repulse, he attacked with great impetuosity in turn, recapturing the guns and prisoners that Early had taken. The rebel army was broken, routed, and destroyed, the remnants of it only escaping during the night. Thus ended the war in the Shenandoah, and Sheridan's victory at Cedar Creek was the last of the many battles fought in the valley.
Sheridan's ride to the battle-field, and the battle itself, have been made the theme of one of the most spirited poems of the war. No name on the records of either army of those who fought in this famed valley can compare with Sheridan's, unless it be that of Stonewall Jackson.
We will leave Grant preparing to invest Petersburg, and follow the victorious standards of Sherman on the other side of the Alleghanies. He opened the campaign on the 6th of May, 1864, and on the 2d of September entered Atlanta. In the graphic language of his report dated September 8th, he says: "On the first of May our armies were lying in garrison seemingly quiet, from Knoxville to Huntsville, and our enemy lay behind his Rocky-Faced barrier at Dalton, proud, defiant, and exultant."
The rebels had recovered from their defeat at Mission Ridge, their ranks were again filled up, and a new commander, General Johnston, second to none for skill and sagacity, was now at the head of their army. "All at once," says Sherman, "our armies assumed life and action, and appeared before Dalton. Threatening Rocky Face, we threw ourselves upon Reseca, and the rebel army escaped by the rapidity of his retreat... He took post at Allatoona, but we gave him no rest, and by our circuit towards Dallas and subsequent movement, gained the Allatoona Pass. Then followed the eventful battles about Kenesaw, and the escape of the enemy across the Chattahooche; the crossing of the Chattahooche, and the breaking of the Augusta Road was most handsomely executed. At this stage of our game, our enemies became dissatisfied with their old and skillful commander, and selected one (Hood) more rash and bold. New tactics were adopted. Hood boldly, on the 20th of July, fell on our right at Peach Tree Creek, and lost. On the 22d, he struck our extreme left, and was severely punished, and finally, on the 28th, he repeated the attempt on our right, and this time must have become satisfied, for since that time he has remained on the defensive." Sherman then drew his lines about Atlanta, and, on the 2d of September, obtained possession of that important railroad and military position. In this short, brilliant, and decisive campaign, in an attack by Hood on the 22d of July, the brave and accomplished McPherson was killed. The President, who had watched these successful movements with the greatest interest, issued a general order of thanks to Sherman and his gallant officers and soldiers, in which he justly says: "This campaign will be ever famous in the annals of war."
Far from his base of supplies, General Sherman deemed it a military necessity to remove the inhabitants of Atlanta so that it should be occupied exclusively for military purposes. General Hood and the mayor of Atlanta protested against this order for removal. In reply, General Sherman said:
"The use of Atlanta for warlike purposes is inconsistent with its character as a home for families. There will be no manufactures, commerce, or agriculture here for the maintenance of families, and sooner or later, want will compel the inhabitants to go. Why not go now, when all the arrangements are completed for the transfer, instead of waiting till the plunging shot of contending armies will renew the scenes of the past month... You cannot qualify war in harsher terms than I will. War is cruelty, and you cannot refine it; and those who brought war on our country, deserve all the curses and maledictions a people can pour out. I know I had no hand in making this war, and I know I will make more sacrifices to-day than any of you to secure peace. But you cannot have peace and a division of our country. If the United States submits to a division now, it will not stop, but will go on till we reap the fate of Mexico, which is eternal war. The United States does and must assert its authority wherever it has power; if it relaxes one bit to pressure, it is gone, and I know that such is not the national feeling. This feeling assumes various shapes. but always comes back to that of the Union; once admit the Union; once more acknowledge the authority of the national government, and instead of devoting your houses, and streets, and roads to the dread uses of war, I and this army become at once your protectors and supporters, shielding you from danger, let it come from whatever quarter it may."
This reply of Sherman is written with great vigor, and shows that he could use the pen with as much ability as the sword. Meanwhile, Hood, with the hope of compelling Sherman to retire to the North, moved to the right of Atlanta, towards Tennessee. But Sherman proposed to Grant to destroy Atlanta and the railroads leading to it, and boldly strike through the enemy's country to the sea. Grant evidently at first thought the enterprise very hazardous, if not rash, and in reply, on the 11th of October, he telegraphed to Sherman: "Hood will probably strike for Nashville... If there is any way of getting at Hood's army I would prefer that, but I must trust to your judgment... I am afraid Thomas, with such lines of road as he has to protect, could not prevent Hood from going North." On the same day, Sherman telegraphed to Grant from Kingston, Georgia: "We cannot remain here on the defensive... I would prefer making a wreck of the roads and the country from Chattanooga to Atlanta, including the latter city, sending back my wounded, and with my effective army move through Georgia, smashing things to the sea." To this Grant on the same day replied: "If you are satisfied the trip to the sea can be made, holding the line of the Tennessee River firmly, you may make it." And so the bold and adventurous Sherman cut loose from his communications in the rear, cut the wires of the telegraph and started for the sea, which he must reach or perish.
But before we follow the path of this enterprising soldier, let us see what were the fortunes of Hood. Thomas was being strengthened. Hood, following Schofield, who was marching towards Thomas, attacked him at Franklin, but was repulsed with serious loss. Thomas and Schofield formed a line of battle in front of Nashville, and, on the 15th of January, Thomas attacked Hood, and after a fierce and bloody conflict, continuing through two days, the Confederates broke and fled in confusion, the Union army capturing several thousand prisoners, and a vast amount of small arms and artillery. The soldiers of Hood were scattered or captured, and never again appeared in the field as an army organization. Some fragments of his army escaped, and under Johnston, surrendered to Sherman in the spring of 1865, at the final surrender of Johnston.
Where now was Sherman? Jefferson Davis prophesied that Sherman's army, then in the heart of the Confederacy, would meet the fate of the army of Napoleon when it invaded Russia. "Our cavalry and our people," said the rebel leader, "will harass and destroy this army, as did the Cossacks that of the French, and the Yankee General, like Napoleon, will escape with only a body guard."
But this "Yankee General," at whom Davis so arrogantly sneered, marched at pleasure through his Confederacy, and soon Davis himself, as the result, became first a fugitive, and then a captive, and his empire based on slavery crumbled into ruins.
Sherman marched eastward towards Macon, destroying railroads and everything which could be of service to the Confederacy. He reached Milledgeville, the capital of Georgia, in November, without any serious opposition. By the 12th of December he had reached and invested Savannah. Lincoln had sent Admiral Dahlgren with a fleet, to find and cooperate with Sherman. To open communication with the fleet it was necessary to capture Fort McAllister, which commanded the approaches from the sea on the south side of the city. On the 13th of December, General Hazen assaulted and captured the Fort, a boat was sent to the fleet, General Sherman went on board, and sent a despatch to Washington announcing his arrival and his complete success. On the 20th, Hardee, in command of Savannah, abandoned the city, Sherman took possession, and sent to the President a despatch saying: "I present to you as a Christmas gift the City of Savannah, with one hundred and fifty guns, plenty of ammunition, and about twenty-five thousand bales of cotton."
Thus ended this grand march to the sea, a part of the romance of history. With the overwhelming force of the avalanche Sherman descended from the North, crushing everything in his path from the mountains to the sea. And now it only remained for this Northwestern army to turn again to the North, and, cooperating with the veterans of Grant, to crush the remaining fragments of the rebellion.
Nothing occurred during the war which more incensed the American people than the ravages upon their commerce by English built cruisers sailing under the rebel flag. Avoiding armed antagonists, they long roamed the sea with impunity, robbing and destroying American merchantmen, and finding refuge and protection, and often supplies, in neutral ports, especially those of Great Britain. Among the most destructive of these cruisers were the Alabama, the Florida, and the Georgia. Early in June, 1864, the Alabama, after a successful cruise, put in to Cherbourg, France. The Kearsarge, Captain John A. Winslow, immediately sailed for that port, and waited for the Alabama to put to sea. The Alabama, having made the most careful preparation for the conflict, on the 19th of June steamed out of the harbor to meet her foe. As she came out she opened fire at long range. The Kearsarge made no reply, but steamed directly for her antagonist. Arriving at close quarters, she opened a tremendous fire, and in a short time the Alabama surrendered. Captain Semmes, her commander, and her other officers abandoned their ship, and were picked up and carried to England by the English yacht Deerhound. The Alabama in a few moments went down, even before all the wounded could be saved. Of this gallant fight, Admiral Farragut, in a letter to his son, says: "It was fought like a tournament in full view of thousands of French and English, with full confidence on the part of all but the Union people that we would be whipped... I would sooner have fought that fight than any ever fought on the ocean." The Florida and the Georgia were both captured during the year. Neither the sinking of the Alabama, nor the payment by the English government to the Americans of the Alabama claims, have entirely removed from the people of this republic their indignation towards the English for their unfriendly conduct in permitting, while professing friendship to our government, the Alabama and other rebel cruisers to be fitted out in their ports.
In the same summer of 1864, Admiral Farragut was in command of the national squadron off Mobile. The city was supposed to be able to defy any attack. It was defended by Forts Gaines, Morgan, and Powell, by water batteries and earth-works, by torpedoes, and by the iron-clad ram Tennessee, which it was supposed could destroy any fleet which should attempt its capture. But with Farragut there was nothing impossible. He made his preparations for attack on the 5th of August. "Strip your vessels and prepare for the conflict," said he. As he went into close action, the grand old Admiral stood in the port-rigging of the flag-ship, a few ratlins up, standing on, and steadying himself by the ropes, and, as the smoke increased, he ascended the rigging step by step, until he found himself above the futtock-bands, and holding on to the shrouds. Captain Drayton, seeing the perilous position of the Admiral, and seeing that if wounded he would fall into the sea, sent a sailor with a line to secure him. The sailor took a lead line, and fastening it around the Admiral, made it fast to the shrouds. "For," said the sailor, "I feared he would fall overboard if anything should carry away, or he should be struck." And thus lashed to the shrouds, in a position above the smoke, and where he could see the fight, the Admiral fought the most brilliant naval battle of the war. Captain Craven, of the Tecumseh, eager to engage the Tennessee, pressed rapidly on, struck a torpedo, and went down with nearly all on board. Farragut, from his lofty position, saw his brave comrades go down by his side, and at the same moment the Brooklyn, leading the fleet, and discovering the line of torpedoes across the channel, began to back water.
"What's the trouble?" was shouted through a trumpet to the Brooklyn.
"Torpedoes," was shouted back in reply.
"Damn the torpedoes!" said Farragut.
"Go ahead, full speed," he shouted to his own captain. And away went the flag-ship, the Hartford, passing the Brooklyn, and leading the fleet to victory, at a moment when hesitation would have been fatal. This brilliant victory by Farragut was followed by the surrender of Mobile, and the forts, on being invested by General Granger, soon also surrendered.
The President issued a proclamation of thanksgiving and gratitude to God. He was now buoyant with hope, and began to realize an early termination of the war.
- McPherson's History of the Rebellion, p. 425.
- Sheridan's Ride, by Thomas Buchanan Read.
- See Life of Farragut, p. 403.
- Life of Farragut, p. 417.