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tions at the time of his death. This, however, mere matter of form.
The question was really settled when Mr. Colfax announced the vote of the Representatives.1
1 Thirteenth Amendment. First: Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction. Second : Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
THE FALL OF RICHMOND, AND THE ASSASSINATION
OF PRESIDENT LINCOLN.
From the Capitol, where he had spoken his Inaugural on March 4, 1865, Mr. Lincoln came back to the White House with less than five weeks of life before him; yet for those scant weeks most men would have gladly exchanged their full lifetimes. To the nation they came fraught with all the intoxicating triumph of victory; but upon the President they laid the vast responsibility of rightly shaping and using success; and it was far less easy to end the war wisely than it had been to conduct it vigorously. Two populations, with numbers and resources amply enough for two powerful nations, after four years of sanguinary, relentless conflict, in which each side had been inspired and upheld by a faith like that of the first crusaders, were now to be reunited as fellow-citizens, and to be fused into a homogeneous body politic based upon universal suffrage.
As if this did not verge closely enough on the impossible, millions of
people of a hitherto servile race were suddenly established in the new status of freedom. plain that the problems which were advancing with
It was very
approaching peace were more perplexing than those which were disappearing with departing war. Much would depend upon the spirit and terms of the closing of hostilities.
If the limits of the President's authority were vague, they might for that very reason be all the more extensive; and, wherever they might be set, he soon made it certain that he designed to part with no power which he possessed. On the evening of March 3, he went up, as usual, to the Capitol, to sign bills during the closing hours of the last session of the Thirty-eighth Congress. To him thus engaged was handed a telegram from General Grant, saying that General Lee had suggested an interview between himself and Grant in the hope that, upon an interchange of views, they might reach a satisfactory adjustment of the present unhappy difficulties through a military convention. Immediately, exchanging no word with any one, he wrote:
"The President directs me to say that he wishes you to have no conference with General Lee, unless it be for the capitulation of General Lee's army, or on some minor or purely military matter. He instructs me to say that you are not to decide, discuss, or confer upon any political questions. Such questions the President holds in his own hands, and will submit them to no military conferences or conventions. Meanwhile, you are to press to the utmost your military advantages.”
This reply he showed to Seward, then handed it
to Stanton and ordered him to sign and dispatch it at once.
About this same time General Lee notified Mr. Davis that Petersburg and Richmond could not be held many more days. Indeed, they would probably have been evacuated at once, had not the capital carried so costly a freight of prestige as well as of pride. It was no surprising secret which was thus communicated to the chief rebel; all the common soldiers in the Confederate army had for a long while known it just as well as the general-inchief did; and they had been showing their appreciation of the situation by deserting and coming within the Union lines in such increasing numbers that soon General Grant estimated that the Confederate forces were being depleted by the equivalent of nearly a regiment every day. The civilian leaders had already suggested the last expedients of despair, - the enrolling of boys of fourteen years and old men of sixty - five, nay, even the enlistment of slaves. But there was no cure for the mortal dwindling. The Confederacy was dying of anæmia.
Grant understood the situation precisely as his opponents did. That Petersburg and Richmond were about to be his was settled.
But he was reaching out for more than only these strongholds, and that he could get Lee's army also was by no means settled. As March opened he lay down every night in the fear that, while he was sleeping, the evacuation might be furtively, rapidly, in
progress, and the garrison escaping. He dreaded that, any morning, he might awake to find delusive picket lines, guarding nothing, while Lee and his soldiers were already well in the lead, marching for the South. For him, especially, it was a period of extreme tension. Since the capture of Savannah and the evacuation of Charleston several weeks ago, Sherman with his fine army had been moving steadily northward. In front of Sherman was Johnston, with a considerable force which had been got together from the remnants of Hood's army and other sources.
At Bentonsville a battle took place, which resulted in Johnston's falling back, but left him still formidable. General Grant had not yet been able to break the Richmond and Danville railroad, which ran out from Richmond in a southwesterly direction; and the danger was that by this and the “South Side” railroad, Lee might slip out, join Johnston, and overwhelm Sherman before Grant could reach him. In time, this peril was removed by the junction of Schofield's army, coming from Wilmington, with that of Sherman at Goldsboro. Yet, even after this relief, there remained a possibility that Lee, uniting with Johnston, and thus leading a still powerful army of the more determined and constant veterans, might prolong the war indefinitely.
Not without good reason was Grant harassed by this thought, for in fact it was precisely this thing that the good soldier in Petersburg was scheming to do. The closing days of the month brought the