The gaunt man, Abraham Lincoln, lives his days.
For a while the sky above him is very dark.
There are fifty thousand dead in these last, bleak months
And Richmond is still untaken.
The papers rail,
Grant is a butcher, the war will never be done.
The gaunt man’s term of office draws to an end,
His best friends muse and are doubtful.
Stephen Vincent Benet, John Brown’s Body
By the beginning of August 1864 Lincoln began to suspect that he was going to lose re-election and the Union was going to lose the War. Grant, at an immense cost in blood, had pushed Lee back to Richmond and Petersburg, but both cities still were controlled by the Confederates and Lee’s army was still a force to be reckoned with. The North was still reeling from Early’s victories in the Shenandoah, his daring raid on Washington and his burning of Chambersburg on July 30. In the West the Confederate Army of Tennessee still clung to Atlanta, and the Confederacy still controlled almost all of its heartland. The War seemed to be entering a stalemate, and if it remained so until November, Lincoln would be a one term president and the Union would be permanently sundered. With that on his mind, Lincoln sent a warning telegram to Grant. Lincoln never lost his faith in Grant, but clearly he wanted Grant to understand that unless victories were forthcoming the Union was in peril. Ironically, in this telegram Lincoln approves Sheridan being place in command in the Shenandoah, and it was Sheridan’s string of victories in the fall that probably ensured Lincoln’s re-election: →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading
Earlier this week I referred in this thread to General Sheridan’s quip about Hell and Texas. Here is the background story on Sheridan’s comparison of the Hot Place and the Hot State.
Phil Sheridan could be a nasty piece of work on duty. A bantam Irish Catholic born in Albany, New York on March 6, 1831, to Irish immigrants, Sheridan carved a career in the Army by sheer hard work and a ferocious will to win. He had a hard streak of ruthlessness that Confederates, Indians and the many officers he sacked for incompetence could attest to. His quote, “If a crow wants to fly down the Shenandoah, he must carry his provisions with him.” after he ordered the burning of crops in the Shenandoah Valley in 1864 to deny them to Confederate troops indicated just how hard a man he could be when waging war.
Off duty he was completely different. He had the traditional Irish gift of gab and in social settings was charming and friendly.
After the Civil War he commanded an army of 50,000 troops in Texas to send a none-too-subtle hint to the French who had used the opportunity of the Civil War to conquer Mexico that it was time for them to leave. The French did, with the Austrian Archduke Maximillian they had installed as Emperor of Mexico dying bravely before a Mexican firing squad. During his stay in Texas Sheridan made his famous quip about Texas. It was swiftly reported in the newspapers:
“14 April 1866, Wisconsin State Register, pg. 2, col. 3:
GEN. SHERIDAN, after his recent Mexican tour, states his opinion succinctly and forcibly, as follows: “If I owned h-ll and Texas, I would rent Texas and live at the other place!”
“19 April 1866, The Independent, pg. 4:
But these states are not yet reduced to civil behavior. As an illustration, Gen. Sheridan sends word up from New Orleans, saying, “If I owned Texas and Hell, I would rent Texas and live in Hell.” This is the opinion of a department commander.”
“15 May 1866, Idaho Tri-Weekly Statesman (Boise, ID), pg. 7?, col. 3:
GEN. SHERIDAN does not have a very exalted opinion of Texas as a place of resident. Said he lately, “If I owned hell and Texas, I would rent Texas and live at the other place.” In former times, before Texas was “re-annexed,” Texas and the other place were made to stand as opposites. Thus, when Col. Crockett was beaten in his Congressional district, he said to those who defeated him, “You may go to hell, and I’ll go to Tex!” which he did, and found a grave.”