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to conquer the South." On asking Smith if he agreed, Smith answered: "I will tell you a secret; for I am sure it won't be divulged. These views were rejected by the Government during the conference at Fairfax Court House at the beginning of the month." Jackson thereupon shook Smith's hand, saying, “I am sorry, very sorry, and, mounting Little Sorrel without another word, rode sadly away.
Jefferson Davis probably, and some of his Cabinet possibly, understood what Lee, "Joe" Johnston, Beauregard, Smith, and Jackson so strongly urged. But they feared the outcry that would assuredly be raised by people in districts denuded of troops for the grand concentration elsewhere. So they remained passive when they should have been active, and, trying to strengthen each separate part, fatally weakened the whole.
Meanwhile the North was collecting the different elements of warlike force and changing its Secretary of War. Cameron was superseded by Stanton on the fifteenth of January. Twelve days later Lincoln issued the first of those military orders which, as we have just seen, he afterwards told Grant that the impatience of the loyal North compelled him to issue, though he knew some were
certainly, and all were possibly, wrong. This first order was one of the certainly wrong. McClellan's unready masses were to begin an unlimited mud march through the early spring roads of Virginia on the twenty-second of February, in honor of Washington's birthday. A reconnoitering staff officer reported the roads as being in their proper places; but he guessed the bottom had fallen out. So McClellan was granted some delay.
His grand total was now over two hundred thousand men. The Confederate grand total was estimated at a hundred and fifteen thousand by the civilian detectives whom the Federal Government employed to serve in place of an expert intelligence staff. The detective estimate was sixty-five thousand men out. The real Confederate strength at this time was only fifty thousand. There was little chance of getting true estimates in any other way, as the Federal Government had no adequate cavalry. Most of the few cavalry McClellan commanded were as yet a mere collection of men and horses, quite unfit for reconnoitering and testing an enemy's force.
McClellan's own plan, formed on the supposition that the Confederates held the Bull Run position with at least a hundred thousand men,
involved the transfer of a hundred and fifty thousand Federals by sea from Washington to Fortress Monroe, on the historic peninsula between the York and James rivers. Then, using these rivers as lines of communication, his army would take Richmond in flank. Lincoln's objection to this plan was based on the very significant argument that while the Federal army was being transported piecemeal to Fortress Monroe the Confederates might take Washington by a sudden dash from their base at Centreville, only thirty miles off. This was a valid objection; for Washington was not only the Federal Headquarters but the very emblem of the Union cause a sort of living Stars and Stripes — and Washington lost might well be understood to mean almost the same as if the Ship of State had struck her colors.
On the ninth of March the immediate anxiety about Washington was relieved. That day came news that the Monitor had checkmated the Merrimac in Hampton Roads and that "Joe" Johnston had withdrawn his forces from the Bull Run position and had retired behind the Rappahannock to Culpeper. On the tenth McClellan began a reconnoitering pursuit of Johnston from Washington. Having found burnt bridges and other signs of
CAPTAINS OF THE CIVIL WAR
me, Sir!" Lincoln looked the two men over, and then, in a stage whisper every listener could hear, said: "Well, if I were you, and he threatened to shoot me, I wouldn't trust him; for I'm sure he'd do it." Both Services were not only pleased with the "rise" Lincoln took out of a too inquisitive politician but were much reassured by its model discretion. This importunate politician so badgered Lincoln about the real destination of McClellan's transports that Lincoln at last promised to tell everything he could if the politician would promise not to repeat it. Then, after swearing the utmost secrecy, the politician got the news: "They are going to sea."
The whole home front as well as the Services were touched to the heart by tales of Lincoln's kindness in his many interviews with the warbereaved; and letters like these spoke for themselves to every patriot in the land:
EXECUTIVE MANSION, November 21, 1864.
Mrs. BIXBY, Boston, Massachusetts.
DEAR MADAM: I have been shown in the files of the War Department a statement of the Adjutant-General of Massachusetts that you are the mother of five sons who have died gloriously on the field of battle. I feel how weak and fruitless must be any words of mine
which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering to you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the Republic they died to save. I pray that our heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.
Yours very sincerely and respectfully,
Nor did the Lincoln touch stop there. It even began to make its quietly persuasive way among the finer spirits of the South from the very day on which the Second Inaugural closed with words which were the noblest consummation of the prophecy made in the First. This was the prophecy: "The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone, all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature." And this the consummation: "With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him