| This Country of Ours|
|by H. E. Marshall|
|Stories from the history of the United States beginning with a full account of exploration and settlement and ending with the presidency of Woodrow Wilson. The 99 chapters are grouped under 7 headings: Stories of Explorers and Pioneers, Stories of Virginia, Stories of New England, Stories of the Middle and Southern Colonies, Stories of the French in America, Stories of the Struggle for Liberty, and Stories of the United States under the Constitution. Ages 10-14 |
LINCOLN—THE SLAVES ARE MADE FREE
 THE Federals rejoiced greatly at the successes of Grant and the
navy, and indeed they had need of success somewhere to keep up their
spirits, for on the whole things did not go well. George McClellan
was commander-in-chief, and although he drilled his army splendidly
he never did anything with it. He was a wonderful organiser, but
he was cautious to a fault, and always believed the enemy to be
far stronger than he really was.
He was at last dismissed, and was succeeded by one commander-in-chief
after another. Not none proved truly satisfactory. Indeed it was
not until the last year of the war, when Ulysses Grant took command,
that a really great commander-in-chief was found.
At the beginning of the war no matter who was leader the long campaigns
in Virginia ended in failure for the Federals. On the Confederate
side these campaigns were led first by Joseph E. Johnston, and then
by the great soldier, Robert E. Lee.
Lee came of a soldier stock, being the youngest son of "Light Horse
Harry Lee," who had won fame during the War of the Revolution. He
was a noble, Christian gentleman, and when he made his choice, and
determined to fight for the South, he believed he was fighting for
With Lee was Stonewall Jackson, his great "right hand," and perhaps
a finer soldier than Lee himself. His men adored him as they adored
no other leader. Like Cromwell
 he taught them to pray as well as
to fight. He never went into battle without commending his way to
God, and when he knelt long in prayer his men might feel certain that
a great fight was coming. He was secret and swift in his movements,
so swift that his troops were nicknamed "Jackson's foot cavalry."
Yet he never wore his men out. He thought for them always, and
however urgent haste might be he called frequent halts on his flying
marches, and made the men lie down even if it were only for a few
To conquer such leaders, and the men devoted to them, was no easy
matter, and it was not wonderful that the campaigns in Virginia
marked few successes for the Federals. At length the long series
of failures ended with a second, and for the Federals, disastrous,
battle of Bull Run. This was followed two days later by the battle of
Chantilly, after which the whole Federal army fell back to Washington.
Lee, rejoicing at his successes in Virginia, made up his mind then
to invade Maryland, which state he believed would readily join
the Confederacy. But he was disappointed. For if the Marylanders
had not much enthusiasm for the Union cause they had still less
for the Confederate, and the invaders were greeted with exceeding
coldness. Their unfailing good fortune, too, seemed to forsake
the Confederates, and the battle of Antietam, one of the fiercest
of the war, although hardly a victory for the Federals, was equal
to a defeat for the Confederates. For fourteen hours the carnage
lasted, and when at length night put an end to the slaughter
thousands lay dead on either side. Next day, having in a fortnight
lost half his army, Lee withdrew once more into Virginia.
Lincoln's chief object in carrying on the war was not to free
slaves, but to save the Union.
"My first object is to save the Union," he wrote, "and not either
to save or destroy slavery. If I could save the
 Union without
freeing any slave I would do it. If I could save it by freeing all
the slaves I would do it. And if I could save it by freeing some,
and leaving others alone I would also do that." Gradually, however,
Lincoln began to believe that the only way to save the Union was
to free the slaves.
Many people were impetuously urging him to do it. But Lincoln
would do nothing rash. It was a tremendous step to take, and the
question as to when would be the right moment to take it was, for
him, one of tremendous importance. So he prepared his Proclamation
of Emancipation and bided his time. Following his own good judgment
and the advice of one of his Cabinet he resolved not to announce
it so long as things were going badly with the North lest it should
be looked upon as the last measure of an exhausted government, a
cry for help. It was not to be sent forth into the world as "a last
shriek in the retreat," but as a companion to victory.
But victory was slow in coming. At length the great battle was
fought at Antietam. It was scarce a victory, for the Federals had
lost more men than had the Confederates. Yet it had to pass for
one. And a few days after it Lincoln issued his Proclamation of
Emancipation. In this he declared that in every state which should
be in arms against the Government on the 1st of January, 1863,
the slaves should be free forever more. This gave the rebel states
more than three months in which to lay down their arms and return
to their allegiance.
Meanwhile the war went on. In November General Ambrose E. Burnside
was appointed commander of the army of the Potomac. He accepted
the post unwillingly, for he did not think himself great enough to
fill it. It was soon proved that he was right.
On December 13th a great battle was fought at Fredericksburg in
Virginia. The weather had been very cold
 and the ground was covered
with frost and snow. But on the morning of the 13th, although a
white mist shrouded the land, the sun shone so warmly that it seemed
like a September day. Yet though the earth and sky alike seemed
calling men to mildness and peace the deadly game of war went on.
The centre of the Confederate army occupied some high ground known
as the Maryes Heights, and Burnside resolved to dislodge them. It
was a foolhardy attempt, for the hill was strongly held, the summit
of it bristled with cannon. Yet the order was given, and with
unquestioning valour the men rushed to the attack. As they dashed
onward the Confederate guns swept their ranks, and they were mowed
down like hay before the reaper. Still they pressed onward, and
after paying a fearful toll in dead and wounded they at length
reached the foot of the hill. Here they were confronted by a stone
wall so thick and strong that their fire had not the slightest effect
on it, and from behind which the Confederates poured a deadly hail
of bullets upon them.
Here the carnage was awful, yet still the men came on in wave after
wave, only to melt away as it seemed before the terrible fire of
the Confederates. "It was like snow coming down and melting on warm
ground," said one of their leaders afterwards.
Never did men fling away their lives so bravely and so uselessly.
A battery was ordered forward.
"General," said an officer, "a battery cannot live there."
"Then it must die there," was the answer.
And the battery was led out as dashingly as if on parade, although
the men well knew that they were going to certain death.
At length the short winter's day drew to a close, and darkness
mercifully put an end to the slaughter.
Then followed a night of pain and horror. The frost was intense,
and out on that terrible hillside the wounded lay
 beside the dead,
untended and uncared for, many dying from cold ere help could
reach them. Still and white they lay beneath the starry sky while
the general who had sent them to a needless death wrung his hands
in cruel remorse. "Oh, those men, Oh, those men," he moaned, "those
men over there. I am thinking of them all the time."
Burnside knew that he had failed as a general, and in his grief and
despair he determined to wipe out his failure by another attempt
next day. But his officers well knew that this would only mean more
useless sacrifice of life. With difficulty they persuaded him to
give up the idea, and two days later the Federal army crossed the
Rappahannock, and returned to their camp near Falmouth.
With this victory of Fredericksburg the hopes of the Confederates
rose high. They believed that the war would soon end triumphantly
for them, and that the South would henceforth be a separate republic.
There was no need for them, they thought, to listen to the commands
of the President of the North, and not one state paid any heed to
Lincoln's demand that the slaves should be set free.
Nevertheless on New Year's Day, 1863, Lincoln signed the great
Proclamation of Freedom.
He had first held a great reception, and had shaken hands with so
many people that his right hand was trembling. "If they find my
hand trembling," he said to the Secretary of State, as he took up
his pen, "they will say, 'He hesitated,' but anyway it is going to
Then very carefully and steadily he wrote his name. It was the
greatest deed of his life. "If my name is ever remembered," he
said, "it will be for this act, and my whole soul is in it."
And thus slavery came to an end. From the beginning of the war there
had been a danger that France and Britain might help the South.
Lincoln had now made that impossible by making the war one against
slavery as well as one
 for Union. For both France and Britain were
against slavery, and could not well help those who now fought to
Now that they were free, many negroes entered the army. At this the
Southerners were very angry, and declared that any negroes taken
prisoners would not be regarded as soldiers, but simply as rebellious
negroes, and would be punished accordingly. But in spite of their
anger many black regiments were formed, and proved themselves good
soldiers. And before the end of the war the Confederates, too, were
making use of Negro Soldiery. But this was cutting the ground from
under their own feet, and showing the injustice of slavery. For
as a Southerner said, "If a negro is fit to be a soldier he is not
fit to be a slave."
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