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Fremont in Missouri. About the arming of negroes
he was also cautious, for while there was a strong feeling for it in certain parts of the North there was equal hostility to it nearer the border. In the late fall General Butler had informed Lincoln that he thought there was too much politics in the war, and asked permission to raise volunteers and select their officers. In ninety days he enlisted in New England 6000 men, appointed officers who were all Democrats, and then called on the President before sailing for Ship Island, toward the end of February. Lincoln asked him not to interfere with the slavery question, as Fremont had done, “and as your man Phelps has been doing on Ship Island.”
“ May I not arm the negroes?”
“ But not to fight against their masters, but with them.”
By spring, however, General Hunter had organized a negro regiment, and by July Lincoln was ready to sign a bill permitting the enlistment of slaves of rebel owners; although to lessen the rage in the border states he delayed action under it for some time. He worked hard with members of Congress from the border states, to try to win them to his pet doctrines of compensation and colonization, but with little or no result.
This was one of the gloomiest periods of the war, and the President hardly dared tell the country what was needed. On June 28 he wrote to Seward :
“MY DEAR SIR: My view of the present condition of the war is about as follows:
“The evacuation of Corinth and our delay by the flood in the Chickahominy have enabled the enemy to concentrate too much force in Richmond for McClellan to successfully attack. In fact there soon will be no substantial rebel force anywhere else. But if we send all the force from here to McClellan, the enemy will, before we can know of it, send a force from Richmond and take Washington. Or if a large part of the Western army be brought here to McClellan they will let us have Richmond, and retake Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri, etc. What should be done is to hold what we have in the West, open the Mississippi, and take Chattanooga and East Tennessee without more. A reasonable force should in every event be kept about Washington for its protection. Then let the country give us a hundred thousand new troops in the shortest possible time, which, added to McClellan directly or indirectly, will take Richmond without endangering any other place which we now hold, and will substantially end the war. I expect to maintain this contest until successful, or till I die, or am conquered, or my term expires, or Congress or the country forsake me; and I would publicly appeal to the country for this new force were it not that I fear a general panic and stampede would follow, so hard it is to have a thing understood as it really is."
Under date of July 1, 300,000 volunteers were called for, and on July 3 Lincoln wrote a “confidential and private ” letter to the governors, saying, among other things, “If I had 50,000 additional troops here now, I believe I could substantially close the war in two weeks.”
DARK DAYS: EMANCIPATION
This summer of 1862 marks the beginning of the gloomiest year which the President had to meet. From a military and from a political point of view the outlook was almost equally dark, and in his family life Lincoln had been suffering from the loss of a little son, who died in the winter. More than one observer felt that his face grew suddenly older. Foreign affairs were still threatening. Volunteering had so nearly stopped that compulsory military service was a necessity. McClellan, after considerable fighting, had intrenched himself on the James River, where he seemed likely to accomplish nothing, complaining that he had but 50,000 men left with their colors, and that he needed 100,000 more. Lincoln went down himself to Harrison's Landing to see where the army of 160,000 men had gone. He concluded that sending troops to McClellan was about as effective as shovelling fleas across a barn, so few of them arrived. He also decided
that the military efforts had been futile enough to make an experiment in emancipation wise as a war measure, and it is said that he drew up the first draft of a proclamation on his return. Still, he hated to relinquish his idea of compensated emancipation, and kept trying to get it started in spite of the lack of interest shown by the border states in his scheme. They were either hostile or indifferent. Bates and Blair, the border members of the cabinet, were friendly, but lukewarm and sceptical. Meantime, the abolitionists were howling constantly for universal emancipation. Shrewd politicians were warning the President that such a step would lose many Northern states to the Republican party. mittee of clergymen who called to argue in favor of a proclamation Lincoln said it would be about as effective as the Pope's bull against the comet. He knew that it could mean nothing unless it was followed by Union victory, and he feared that it might lose support in the border states and cause desertions in the army. At the same time the omens were so dark that he was less settled against a step which so many thought meant salvation. This was one of the problems which led him half in earnest to suggest his resignation, a proposition which he made more than once in these hopeless days. To some senators who wished to muster slaves into the army he