« PreviousContinue »
with which Lincoln carried out his Union policy and over which he towered in what became transcendent statesmanship the head, the heart, the genius of the war. He never, for one moment, changed his course, but kept it fixed upon the Union, no matter what the winds and tides, the
currents and cross-currents were. Thus, while so many lesser minds were busy with flotsam and jetsam of the controversial storm, his own serener soul was already beyond the far horizon, voyaging toward the one sure haven for the Ship of State.
But Lincoln was more than the principal civilian war statesman: he was the constitutional Commander-in-Chief of all the Union forces, afloat and ashore. He was responsible not only for raising, supplying, and controlling them, but for their actual command by men who, in the eyes of the law, were simply his own lieutenants. The problem of exercising civil control without practicing civilian interference, always and everywhere hard, and especially hard in a civil war, was particularly hard in his case, in view of public opinion, the press, his own war policy, and the composition of his Cabinet. His solution was by no means perfect; but the wonder is that he reached it so well in spite
of such perverting factors. He began with the mere armed mob that fought the First Bull Run beset with interference. He ended with Farragut, Grant, and Sherman, combined in one great scheme of strategy that included Mobile, Virginia, and the lower South, and that, while under full civil control, was mostly free from interference with its naval and military work-except at the fussy hands of Stanton.
The fundamental difference between civil control, which is the very breath of freedom, and civilian interference, which means the death of all efficiency, can be quite simply illustrated by supposing the proverbial Ship of State to be a fighting man-of-war. The People are the owners, with all an owner's rights; while their chosen Government is their agent, with all an agent's delegated power. The fighting Services, as the word itself so properly implies, are simply the People's servants, though they take their orders from the Government. So far, so good, within the limits of civil control, under which, and which alone, any national resources — in men, money, or material-can lawfully be turned to warlike ends. But when the ship is fitting out, still more when she is out at sea, and most of all when she is fighting, then she should be
handled only by her expert captain with his expert crew. Civilian interference begins the moment any inexpert outsider takes the captain's place; and this interference is no less disastrous when the outsider remains at home than when he is on the actual spot.
Lincoln and Stanton were out of their element in the strategic fight with Lee and Stonewall Jackson, as the next chapter abundantly proves. But they will bear, and more than bear, comparison with Davis and Benjamin, their own special "opposite numbers." Benjamin, when Confederate Secretary of War in '62, nearly drove Jackson out of the service by ordering him to follow the advice of some disgruntled subordinates who objected to being moved about for strategic reasons which they could not understand. To make matters worse, Benjamin sent this precious order direct to Jackson without even informing his immediate superior, "Joe" Johnston, or even Lee himself. Thus discipline, the very soul of armies, was attacked from above and beneath by the man who should have been its chief upholder. Luckily for the South things were smoothed over, and Benjamin learnt something he should have known at first.
Davis had none of Lincoln's diffidence about his own capacity for directing the strategy of armies.
He had passed through West Point and commanded a battalion in Mexico without finding out that his fitness stopped there. He interfered with Lee and Jackson, sometimes to almost a disabling extent. He forced his enmity on "Joe" Johnston and superseded him at the very worst time in the final campaign. He interfered more than ever just when Lee most required a free hand. And when he did make Lee a real Commander-in-Chief the Southern cause had been lost already. Lincoln's war statesmanship grew with the war. Davis remained as he was.
Lincoln had to meet the difficulties that always occur when professionals and amateurs are serving together. How much Lincoln, Stanton, professionals, and amateurs had to do with the system that was evolved under great stress is far too complex for discussion here. Suffice it to say this: Lincoln's clear insight and openness of mind en- abled him to see the universal truth, that, other things being equal, the trained and expert professional must excel the untrained and inexpert amateur. But other things are never precisely equal; and a war in which the whole mass-manhood is concerned brings in a host of amateurs. Lincoln was as devoid of prejudice against the
regular officers as he was against any other class of men; and he was ready to try and try again to find a satisfactory commander among them, in spite of many failures. The plan of campaign proposed by General Winfield Scott (and ultimately carried out in a modified form) was dubbed by wiseacre public men the "Anaconda policy"; witlings derided it, and the people were too impatient for anything except "On to Richmond!" Scott, unable to take the field at seventy-five, had no second-incommand. Halleck was a very poor substitute later on. In the meantime McDowell was chosen and generously helped by Lincoln and Stanton. But after Bull Run the very people whose impatience made victory impossible howled him down.
Then the choice fell on McClellan, whose notorious campaign fills much of our next chapter. There we shall see how refractory circumstances, Stanton's waywardness among them, forced Lincoln to go beyond the limits of civil control. Here we need only note McClellan's personal relations with the President. Instead of summoning him to the White House Lincoln often called at McClellan's for discussion. McClellan presently began to treat Lincoln's questions as intrusions, and one day sent down word that he was too tired to see the