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The Freeport Doctrine further alienated Douglas from southern Democrats and kindled their demand for a federal slave code in the territories. This issue split the Democratic party in , virtually assuring the election of a Republican president. The national visibility achieved by Lincoln in the debates caused his name to be increasingly mentioned as the possible Republican nominee.
On the basis of thorough research, Lincoln explicated the parallels between the Republican position on slavery and that of the Founding Fathers. His success at Cooper Union brought Lincoln numerous invitations to speak in New England on his way to visit his oldest son Robert Robert Todd Lincoln , who had enrolled at Phillips Exeter Academy for a year of preparatory work before entering Harvard.
All work in a free society was honorable. Slavery degraded manual labor by equating it with bondage. Free men who practiced the virtues of industry, thrift, self-discipline, and sobriety could climb the ladder of success. Lincoln returned from his eastern tour to find Illinois friends mounting a concerted effort for his nomination as president. The leading candidate was William H. Seward of New York. His chief liability was a reputation as an antislavery radical who could not carry the crucial lower North states of Illinois, Indiana, and Pennsylvania that the Republicans had lost in The strategy worked.
Seward led on the first ballot; Lincoln almost caught up on the second and won on the third. The ensuing four-party campaign was the most fateful in American history. The Democrats split into northern and southern parties, while a remnant of Whigs, mostly from the border states, formed the Constitutional Union party. Lincoln carried every free state except New Jersey, whose electoral votes he divided with Douglas, and thereby won the election despite garnering slightly less than 40 percent of the popular votes—no popular votes at all in ten southern states.
Between the election and his inauguration, Lincoln remained in Springfield, putting together an administration. He made no public statements despite panicky advice that he say something to reassure the South. He was already on record many times saying that he had no constitutional power and no intention to interfere with slavery in the states where it existed.
You think slavery is right and ought to be extended; while we think it is wrong and ought to be restricted. It was indeed the rub.
For most secessionists there was no turning back. Nevertheless, a host of compromise proposals emerged during the — session of Congress. The most important were embodied in constitutional amendments sponsored by Senator John J. Crittenden of Kentucky.
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Such a compromise would not only negate the chief plank of the Republican platform but would also step up the drive to acquire Cuba and other tropical territories suitable for slavery. Seward whom Lincoln had designated as secretary of state and some other Republicans seemed prepared to tilt toward compromise, but from Springfield came admonitions to stand firm. If we surrender, it is the end of us…. The Crittenden Compromise went down to defeat, but there is no reason to believe that the seven seceded states would have returned even if it had passed.
These states had seized all federal property within their borders except Fort Pickens on an island off Pensacola and Fort Sumter in Charleston harbor. A month before Congress adjourned and before Lincoln was inaugurated , delegates from the seven seceded states met at Montgomery, Alabama, and formed the Confederate States of America.
This hope was founded on an erroneous but widely shared assumption in the North that a silent majority of southerners were Unionists who had been swept along by the passions of the moment. But time was running out. The day after his inauguration, Lincoln learned that Major Robert Anderson , commander of the besieged federal garrison at Fort Sumter in Charleston harbor, had only supplies enough to last a few more weeks.
Fort Sumter was the flash point of tension. Charleston was proud of its reputation as the cradle of secession. Insisting that a sovereign nation could not tolerate a foreign fort in one of its harbors, Confederate leaders demanded the transfer of Fort Sumter to the Confederacy. For a month Lincoln endured sleepless nights and conflicting advice on what to do.
To give it up would constitute de facto if not de jure recognition of the Confederacy. On the other hand, it would preserve peace and keep the upper South in the Union. On 15 March a majority of the cabinet, with Seward as the strongest voice, counseled Lincoln to yield Fort Sumter. Lincoln explored the possibility of pulling out in return for an assurance from Virginia that it would remain in the Union. By the end of March, however, Lincoln had made the opposite decision. He let Seward know in no uncertain terms that he would be premier of his own administration.
The problem was how to do it. To send reinforcements prepared to shoot their way into the bay would surely provoke a war that Lincoln would be blamed for starting. Lincoln hit upon an ingenious solution. If the Confederates attacked the supply ships or the fort, they would suffer the onus of starting a war and would unite a divided North.
Davis did not hesitate; he ordered the Confederate guns to fire on Sumter. They did so on 12 April. And the war came. On 15 April Lincoln called out 75, militia to quell the rebellion, prompting four more states to secede. On 19 April Lincoln proclaimed a naval blockade of the Confederate coastline. From there the war escalated step by step on a scale of violence and destruction never dreamed of by those who fired the guns at Sumter.
On the Union side Lincoln was the principal architect of this escalation. He insisted on a policy of unconditional surrender. Sovereignty, the central issue of the war, was not negotiable.
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Between him and us the issue is distinct, simple, and inflexible. He borrowed books on military history and strategy from the Library of Congress and burned the midnight oil mastering them. Eleven times he visited troops at the front in Virginia or Maryland. The greatest frustrations he experienced were the failures of Union generals to act with the vigor and aggressiveness he expected of them. Perhaps one of the greatest satisfactions he experienced was the ultimate victory of commanders who had risen to the top in large part because Lincoln appreciated their vigor and aggressiveness.
In Union armies achieved limited but important successes by gaining control of Maryland, Missouri, part of Kentucky, and also much of western Virginia, which paved the way for the later admission of West Virginia as a new state. Union naval forces gained lodgments along the South Atlantic coast.
Lincoln then appointed year-old George B. McClellan commander of the Army of the Potomac and, from 1 November, general in chief of all Union armies. He repeatedly exaggerated enemy strength as an excuse for postponing offensive operations. I have never written you, or spoken to you, in greater kindness of feeling than now, nor with a fuller purpose to sustain you….
Lincoln already had his eye on a commander who had proved he could act. His name was Ulysses S.
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Grant , and he had captured Forts Henry and Donelson on the Tennessee and Cumberland rivers and then beat back a Confederate counteroffensive in the bloody battle of Shiloh, 6—7 April Other Union forces in the West also scored important victories in the spring of , capturing New Orleans and Memphis and gaining control of most of the Mississippi River. The Confederacy seemed doomed. Then the Union war machine went into reverse.
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By September Confederate counteroffensives in Virginia, Tennessee, and Kentucky took southern armies across the Potomac into Maryland and almost north to the Ohio River. This inversion stunned the northern people and caused home-front morale to plummet, but Lincoln did not falter. John G. Nicolay and John Hay , vol. Rosecrans as commander of the Army of the Ohio renamed the Army of the Cumberland.
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A week later he removed McClellan from command of the Army of the Potomac. Smith, Francis Preston Blair , p. Lincoln did not have any better luck with the next two commanders of the Army of the Potomac. Ambrose Burnside lost the disastrous battle of Fredericksburg, 13 December , and his successor Joseph Hooker fumbled several opportunities and lost the battle of Chancellorsville, 1—5 May Lincoln finally found a general who remained in command of that army for the rest of the war, George G.
Meade , whose skillful defensive tactics won the crucial battle of Gettysburg, 1—3 July Meade gravely disappointed Lincoln, however, with his failure to follow up that victory with a vigorous effort to trap and destroy Robert E. Upon reflection, he did not send this letter, but it expressed his sentiments, sharpened by contrast with his attitude toward Grant, who had captured Vicksburg on 4 July Unfounded rumors of excessive drinking and the appearance of aimless floundering in the early stages of the Vicksburg campaign had generated much criticism.
Lincoln nevertheless retained his faith in Grant. Grant followed up his victory at Vicksburg by driving the Confederates away from Chattanooga and into the mountains of northern Georgia. Congress created the rank of lieutenant general last held by George Washington. Lincoln promoted Grant to this rank in March and made him general in chief of all Union armies. For the first time Lincoln had a commanding general in whom he had full confidence, one who could take from his shoulders some of the burden of constant military oversight.
Lincoln wrote thus because he and Grant saw eye to eye on military strategy. In this war the Confederates had the advantage of fighting on the strategic defensive with interior lines that enabled them to shift reinforcements from inactive to active fronts unless the Union employed its superior numbers to attack on several fronts at once. Lincoln grasped this point better than many of his generals. Grant agreed.
He devised simultaneous Union advances on several fronts to prevent Confederates from shifting troops from one point to another. In the end this strategy won the war.