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Chapter 11: Lincoln

The funeral procession of the martyred president in New York city, April 25th, 1865


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On the life-mask of Abraham Lincoln

This bronze doth keep the very form and mould
Of our great martyr's face. Yes, this is he:
That brow all wisdom, all benignity;
That human, humorous mouth; those cheeks that hold
Like some harsh landscape all the summer's gold;
That spirit fit for sorrow, as the sea
For storms to beat on; the lone agony
Those silent, patient lips too well foretold.
Yes, this is he who ruled a world of men
As might some prophet of the elder day—
Brooding above the tempest and the fray
With deep-eyed thought and more than mortal ken,
A power was his beyond the touch of art
Or armed strength—his pure and mighty heart.


The second inaugural address

Delivered by Abraham Lincoln, March 4, 1864. this, the greatest of presidential inaugurals and one of the noblest papers ever penned by an American statesman, expresses well the largeness of soul which held a whole warring nation within his love, and has won for him the homage of a reunited people. Though delivered little more than a month before the closing scene at Appomattox, it voices no exultation in the triumph of a cause dear to his heart, but with infinite pity and a truly sublime magnanimity enters into the feelings of those who have lost.


Fellow-countrymen: At this second appearing to take the oath of the presidential office, there is less occasion for an extended address than there was at the first. Then a statement, somewhat in detail, of a course to be pursued, seemed fitting and proper. Now, at the expiration of four years, during which public declarations have been constantly called forth on every point and phase of the great contest [251]

Lincoln in June, 1860—two months after Volk made the life mask Gilder, whose poem opposite was inspired by the mask, was always particulary attracted to it, and kept a copy of it in his editorial sanctum at the Century Magazine offices.

In 1860, Lincoln had been a national figure only two years, since his campaign against Stephen A. Douglas for the Senate in Illinois. Indeed, his name meant little in the East till the early months of this very year. In February, he had appeared before a New York audience at Cooper Union to explain the purposes of the recently organized Republican party. The larger part of those present expected something ‘wild and woolly’—certainly nothing of much moment for the cultivated citizens of the East. When they saw the gaunt figure, six feet four inches tall, the large feet and clumsy hands, the jutting eyebrows and small blue eyes, the narrow forehead surmounted by the shock of unkempt hair—in a word, the man of the photograph on this page—the audience put him down for anything but a statesman. But he had not spoken long before it was plain that here stood a leader of the people indeed. The speech shaped the presidential campaign of that year. It resulted in giving Lincoln the Republican nomination at Chicago on May 16th, about a month before this photograph was made. When the ballot-boxes were opened on the first Tuesday of the following November, it was found that Abraham Lincoln was elected President of the United States. That meant war—and eventual Union of the warring elements.

 
[252] which still absorbs the attention and engrosses the energies of the nation, little that is new could be presented. The progress of our arms, upon which all else chiefly depends, is as well known to the public as to myself; and it is, I trust, reasonably satisfactory and encouraging to all. With high hope for the future, no prediction in regard to it is ventured.

On the occasion corresponding to this four years ago, all thoughts were anxiously directed to an impending Civil War. All dreaded it—all sought to avert it. While the inaugural address was being delivered from this place, devoted altogether to saving the Union without war, insurgent agents were in the city seeking to destroy it without war—seeking to dissolve the Union, and divide effects, by negotiation. Both parties deprecated war; but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive; and the other would accept war rather than let it perish. And the war came.

One eighth of the whole population were colored slaves, not distributed generally over the Union, but localized in the Southern part of it. These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that this interest was, somehow, the cause of the war. To strengthen, perpetuate, and extend this interest was the object for which the insurgents would rend the Union, even by war; while the Government claimed no right to do more than to restrict the territorial enlargement of it.

Neither party expected for the war the magnitude or the duration which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with, or even before, the conflict itself should cease. Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding. Both read the same Bible, and pray to the same God; and each invokes his aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces; but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered—that of neither has been answered fully.

The Almighty has his own purposes. ‘Woe unto the world because of offenses! for it must needs be that offenses come; but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh.’ If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through his appointed time, he now wills to [253]

Lincoln and his son ‘tad’ This photograph of Lincoln and little ‘Tad’ was taken in 1861, when the four years of war were yet to burden the heart of the great President. In 1865, only a few days before his assassination, Lincoln for the last time entered the Brady gallery in Washington, and again sat for his picture with ‘Tad.’ The scene is touching beyond words.

 
[254] remove, and that he gives to both North and South this terrible war, as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to him? Fondly do we hope—fervently do we pray—that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said, ‘The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.’

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 who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan — to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves, and with all nations.


O Captain! my Captain!

This not very characteristic production of the most individual of American poets was directly inspired by the assassination of Lincoln. Whitman had returned from his hospital service in Washington to his home in Brooklyn to complete the arrangements for printing Drum-Taps, his Civil war poems, at his own expense. He was with his mother on the morning of April 15, 1865, when the news came that the President had been shot the night before. In a letter he says: ‘mother prepared breakfast—and other meals afterward—as usual; but not a mouthful was eaten all day by either of us. We each drank half a cup of coffee; that was all. Little was said. We got every newspaper morning and evening, and the frequent extras of that period, and passed them silently to each other.’ though his Drum-Taps was already printing, he began at once his Lincoln dirge, when Lilacs last in the door-yard Bloom'd, and the shorter lyric here reprinted.


O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done,
The ship has weathered every rack, the prize we sought is won,
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring;
But O heart! heart! heart!
O the bleeding drops of red,
Where on the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead. [255]

Lincoln at Gettysburg.

The most important American address is brief:
Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great Civil War, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here. have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us, the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us;—that from these honored dead, we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion;—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

While Lincoln spoke at Gettysburg, in dedicationnovember 19, 1863

During the famous address in dedication of the cemetery


   
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O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up—for you the flag is flung—for you the bugle trills,
For you bouquets and ribboned wreaths—for you the shores a-crowding
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;
Here Captain! dear father!
This arm beneath your head!
It is some dream that on the deck
You've fallen cold and dead.

My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still,
My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will,
The ship is anchored safe and sound, its voyage closed and done,
From fearful trip the victor ship comes in with object won;
Exult O shores, and ring O bells!
But I, with mournful tread,
Walk the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.


Ode recited at the Harvard commemoration

The ode from which the two strophes below are selected is in some respects the highest achievement thus far in American literature. James Russell Lowell, who had already made his name in letters by the Yankee humor of the Biglow papers, had since 1855 been Smith Professor of modern Languages in Harvard University. It was very natural, therefore, that he should be selected to write the official ode for the commemoration services held by Harvard College on July 21, 1865, for its sons who had fallen during the war. After his acceptance of the honor he tried in vain to write the poem. Only two days before the celebration he told one of his friends that it was impossible, that he was dull as a [257]

Lincoln: the last sitting—on the day of Lee's surrender on April 9, 1865, the very day of the surrender of Lee at Appomattox, Lincoln, for the last time, went to the photographer's gallery. As he sits in simple fashion sharpening his pencil, the man of sorrows cannot forget the sense of weariness and pain that for four years has been unbroken. No elation of triumph lights the features. One task is ended — the Nation is saved. But another, scarcely less exacting, confronts him. The States which lay ‘out of their proper practical relation to the Union,’ in his own phrase, must be brought back into a proper practical relation. But this task was not for him. Only five days later the sad eyes reflected upon this page closed forever upon scenes of earthly turmoil. Bereft of Lincoln's heart and head, leaders attacked problems of reconstruction in ways that proved unwise. As the mists of passion and prejudice cleared away, both North and South came to feel that this patient, wise, and sympathetic ruler was one of the few really great man in history, and that he would live forever in the hearts of men made better by his presence during those four years of storm.

 
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a Nation in mourning—the Washington procession at Lincoln's funeral after his faithful service, Abraham Lincoln, the leader from whose wisdom and sympathy both North and South had most to hope, was not to survive the completion of his task. An assassin stole into his box at Ford's theater on the evening of April 14th, shot him in the back of the head, and leaping upon the stage escaped by a rear door. The next morning at seven o'clock the President was dead. The remains were taken to his home in Springfield, Illinois, along the route by which he had traveled in 1861, on his way to take the oath as President. This picture shows the solemn procession that moved toward the railway station in Washington.

 
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all present but the commander-in-chief the Grand review of the Army, May 23-24, 1865. as two hundred thousand troops marched in the bright May sunshine of 1865 down the main thoroughfare of the national capital, to the strains of martial music, waving their battle-rent flags amid the flashing of sabers and bayonets, one face was missing at the reviewing-stand. Lincoln, the commander-in-chief, who through four years of struggle had kept faith with his Army, was absent—dead by an assassin's bullet. Thus one of the mightiest armies ever gathered passed in final review ere it melted into the walks of civil life. No great victorious force ever turned so quickly and completely to the arts of peace.

 
[260] door-mat. But the next day, to use his own words, something gave him a jog, and the whole thing came out with a rush. Mrs. Lowell said that ‘he began it at ten o'clock. At four in the morning he came to her door and said: ‘it is done and I am going to sleep now.’ she opened her eyes to see him standing haggard, actually wasted by the stress of labor and the excitement which had carried him through a poem, full of passion and fire, of 523 lines in the space of six hours.’

the writing of the first strophe given below is thus described by Horace Scudder in his biography of Lowell, from which the above quotation is also taken: ‘the sixth stanza was not recited, but was written immediately afterward. It is so completely imbedded in the structure of the ode that it is difficult to think of it as an afterthought. It is easy to perceive that while the glow of composition and of recitation was still upon him Lowell suddenly conceived this splendid illustration and indeed climax of the utterance of the ideal which is so impressive in the fifth stanza. So free, so spontaneous is this characterization of Lincoln, and so concrete in thought, that it has been most frequently read, we suspect, of any single portion of the ode, and it is so eloquent that one likes to fancy the whole force of the ode behind it, as if Lowell needed the fire he had fanned to a white heat, for the very purpose of forging this last, firm-tempered bit of steel.’


Such was he, our Martyr-Chief,
Whom late the Nation he had led,
With ashes on her head,
Wept with the passion of an angry grief:
Forgive me, if from present things I turn
To speak what in my heart will beat and burn,
And hang my wreath on his world-honored urn.
Nature, they say, doth dote,
And cannot make a man
Save on some worn-out plan,
Repeating us by rote:
For him her Old-World moulds aside she threw,
And, choosing sweet clay from the breast
Of the unexhausted West,
With stuff untainted shaped a hero new,
Wise, steadfast in the strength of God, and true.
How beautiful to see
Once more a shepherd of mankind indeed,
Who loved his charge, but never loved to lead;
One whose meek flock the people joyed to be, [261]

Sends all her handmaid armies back to spin
: the return home of the sixteenth Massachusetts infantry, July 27, 1864
This scene of 1864, at the corner of Cambridge and Fourth Streets, East Cambridge, is in mournful contrast to the rejoicing which filled the nation the next year while Lowell was reading his ode in Harvard University. As these riders passed through Cambridge the Wilderness campaign had been fought, with little, apparently, accomplished to compensate for the fearful loss of life. Sherman was still struggling in the vicinity of Atlanta, far from his base of supplies, with no certainty of escaping an overwhelming defeat. Early had recently dashed into the outskirts of Washington. In fact an influential political party was about to declare the war a failure. So these Massachusetts troops returned with heavy hearts to be mustered out. Many of them reenlisted, to fight with the armies that captured Petersburg, and to be present at the surrender at Appomattox. Then they could return with those of whom Lowell sang: America ‘sends all her handmaid armies back to spin.’

 
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Not lured by any cheat of birth,
But by his clear-grained human worth,
And brave old wisdom of sincerity!
They knew that outward grace is dust;
They could not choose but trust
In that sure-footed mind's unfaltering skill,
And supple-tempered will
That bent like perfect steel to spring again and thrust.
His was no lonely mountain-peak of mind,
Thrusting to thin air o'er our cloudy bars,
A sea-mark now, now lost in vapors blind;
Broad prairie rather, genial, level-lined,
Fruitful and friendly for all human kind,
Yet also nigh to heaven and loved of loftiest stars.
Nothing of Europe here,
Or, then, of Europe fronting mornward still,
Ere any names of Serf and Peer
Could Nature's equal scheme deface
And thwart her genial will;
Here was a type of the true elder race,
And one of Plutarch's men talked with us face to face.
I praise him not; it were too late;
And some innative weakness there must be
In him who condescends to victory
Such as the Present gives, and cannot wait,
Safe in himself as in a fate.
So always firmly he:
He knew to bide his time
And can his fame abide,
Still patient in his simple faith sublime,
Till the wise years decide.
Great captains, with their guns and drums,
Disturb our judgment for the hour,
But at last silence comes;
These are all gone, and standing like a tower,
Our children shall behold his fame,
The kindly-earnest, brave, foreseeing man,
Sagacious, patient, dreading praise, not blame,
New birth of our new soil, the first American. [263]

“Not without a prouder tread
lift the heart and lift the head
”: soldiers at the dedication of the Bull Run monument, June 10, 1865
As if to give pictorial expression to Lowell's sonorous lines, these scenes of 1865 have been preserved. At the top is the Fifth Pennsylvania Heavy Artillery. A thousand men stepping forward as a single man to the strains of music to which they had marched over the Virginia hills, reveal the practised movements of the veteran. Below, some of the gaunt and hardened survivors of those four years look out at us. Tanned by long exposure, toughened by numberless days and nights in sunshine and storm, these are the men who returned home in 1865, adding their strength of character to the progress of their country, Each had earned the right to feel the lofty mood Lowell expressed in his Ode. Each could feel the ‘tumult of elation’ and the pride in motherland awaiting the morn of nobler day

 
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Not in anger, not in pride,
Pure from passion's mixture rude
Ever to base earth allied,
But with far-heard gratitude,
Still with heart and voice renewed,
To heroes living and dear martyrs dead,
The strain should close that consecrates our brave.
Lift the heart and lift the head!
Lofty be its mood and grave,
Not without a martial ring,
Not without a prouder tread
And a peal of exultation:
Little right has he to sing
Through whose heart in such an hour
Beats no march of conscious power,
Sweeps no tumult of elation!
'Tis no Man we celebrate,
By his country's victories great,
A hero half, and half the whim of Fate,
But the pith and marrow of a Nation
Drawing force from all her men,
Highest, humblest, weakest, all,
For her time of need, and then
Pulsing it again through them,
Till the basest can no longer cower,
Feeling his soul spring up divinely tall,
Touched but in passing by her mantle-hem.
Come back, then, noble pride, for 'tis her tower!
How could poet ever tower,
If his passions, hopes, and fears,
If his triumphs and his tears,
Kept not measure with his people?
Boom, cannon, boom to all the winds and waves!
Clash out, glad bells, from every rocking steeple!
Banners, advance with triumph, bend your staves!
And from every mountain-peak
Let beacon-fire to answering beacon speak,
Katahdin tell Monadnock, Whiteface he,
And so leap on in light from sea to sea,
Till the glad news be sent
Across a kindling continent, [265]

‘Where fell the brave’: dedicating the monument at Bull Run, on June 10, 1865 This shaft was erected by the officers and men of General William Gamble's Separate Cavalry Brigade, stationed at Fairfax Court House during the preceding winter and spring. It is twenty-seven feet high, made of chocolate-colored sandstone, and bears on its top a 100-pound shell. The shells on the pedestals at each corner are of similar size. The inscription reads—‘To the memory of the patriots who fell at Bull Run, July 21, 1861.’ The dedicatory exercises were conducted by the Rev. Dr. McCurdy, who read an appropriate service. After the singing of a special hymn for the occasion, the Fifth Pennsylvania Heavy Artillery executed a military parade and the Sixteenth Massachusetts Battery fired a salute. Judge Olin, who appears in white trousers and high hat, next delivered an eloquent address, and was followed by several generals. A little later in the day a second monument was dedicated on the field of Second Bull Run.

 
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‘Not in anger, not in pride: to heroes living and dear martyrs dead’ Dedication of First Bull Run Monument, June 10, 1865.—A little more than a month before Lowell read his lofty ode for the sons of Harvard who had fallen in the Civil War, the group here preserved by the camera assembled to do honor to the ‘dear martyrs’ who fell in the first great battle of the conflict. The site was on the hillside in front of the stone house, at the spot where on the afternoon of July 21, 1861, Ricketts and Griffin lost their batteries. In that battle the Federal forces had been entirely successful until early in the afternoon. Then the Confederates rallied on the brow of this hill, and the ground on which these men and women are gathered was the scene of a fierce struggle. The batteries were alternately captured by the Confederates and retaken by the Union forces, until the arrival of fresh troops in gray threw the Federal army into confusion and precipitated the panic of retreat. At the time [267] of this picture, four years later, both soldier and citizen are standing calmly in the sunshine of the peaceful June day. ‘Not in anger, not in pride’ do they look into our faces. At the left Judge Olin, with the cane, is standing behind a boy in a white shirt and quaint trousers who almost wistfully is gazing into the distance, as if the call of these mighty events had awakened in him a yearning for fame. To his left are Generals Thomas, Wilcox, Heintzelman, Dyer, and other veterans of many a hard-fought field who can feel the ‘march of conscious power’ of which Lowell speaks. And the women with the flaring crinoline skirts and old-fashioned sleeves certainly may join in the ‘far-heard gratitude’ this celebration was to express. After fifty years their emotions are brought home to the reader with the vividness of personal experience by the art of the photographer.

 
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Making earth feel more firm and air breathe braver:
‘Be proud! for she is saved, and all have helped to save her!
She that lifts up the manhood of the poor,
She of the open soul and open door,
With room about her hearth for all mankind!
The fire is dreadful in her eyes no more;
From her bold front the helm she doth unbind,
Sends all her handmaid armies back to spin,
And bids her navies, that so lately hurled
Their crashing battle, hold their thunders in,
Swimming like birds of calm along the unharmful shore.
No challenge sends she to the elder world,
That looked askance and hated; a light scorn
Plays o'er her mouth, as round her mighty knees
She calls her children back, and waits the morn
Of nobler day, enthroned between her subject seas.’

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