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NO SOONER HAD LINCOLN returned from his May 7 visit to the troops than he was confronted by a colossal political uproar over the arrest and imprisonment of former Ohio congressman Clement Vallandigham on the charge of treason.

The arrest was ordered by General Burnside, who had assumed command of the Department of the Ohio after his replacement by Hooker. Responding to tumultuous peace demonstrations where speakers openly advocated the defeat of the Union’s cause, Burnside issued General Orders No. 38, proclaiming that “the habit of declaring sympathy for the enemy will not be allowed in this department.” All persons committing “treason, expressed or implied,” would be arrested and tried by a military court. In deliberate defiance, Vallandigham incited a large crowd to a frenzy with his passionate denunciations of a failed war. This demagogue of defeat railed that the conflict would end only if soldiers deserted en masse and the people acted to “hurl King Lincoln from his throne.”

After reading a transcript of Vallandigham’s remarks, Burnside sent his soldiers to arrest him at his home in the middle of the night. “The door resisted the efforts of the soldiers,” a local journalist wrote, “and Vallandigham flourished a revolver at the window, and fired two or three shots,” but the soldiers made their entry through a side entrance. With unprecedented speed, a military tribunal found him guilty and sentenced him to prison for the remainder of the war. His application for a writ of habeas corpus was denied. When the Chicago Times exacerbated the incident with its incendiary coverage, Burnside, on his own authority, shut the paper down.

Learning of these events in the morning newspaper, Lincoln found himself in a difficult position. While he later admitted that the news of the arrest brought him pain, he felt compelled to uphold Burnside. Nonetheless, he anticipated the damaging political fallout. Criticism came not only from Copperheads and Democrats but from loyal Republicans. Thurlow Weed deplored the arrest. Senator Trumbull warned Browning that if such arbitrary arrests continued, “the civil tribunals will be completely subordinated to the military, and the government overthrown.” A friend of Seward cautioned him that “by a large and honest portion of the community,” the arrest was considered an “invasion of a great principle—the right of free speech,” and that it might well precipitate civil war within the loyal states. Seward agreed. Indeed, in a moment of rare accord, every member of the cabinet united in opposition to the Vallandigham arrest.

Lincoln, searching for compromise, publicly supported Vallandigham’s arrest but commuted the sentence to banishment within the Confederate lines. There, it was playfully remarked, his Copperhead body could go “where his heart already was.” The New York Times recorded “general satisfaction” at the solution, which “so happily meets the difficulties of the case—avoiding the possibility of making him a martyr, and yet effectually destroying his power for evil.” Escorted by Union cavalry holding a flag of truce, Vallandigham was removed to Tennessee. In an act that further diminished his reputation, he quickly escaped to Canada. Meanwhile, Stanton revoked Burnside’s suspension of the Chicago Times and informed local officials that they were not to suppress newspapers.

Thus, Lincoln was able to maintain his support for General Burnside while minimizing any violation of civil liberties necessitated by war. Asked months later by a radical to “suppress the infamous ‘Chicago Times,’” Lincoln told her, “I fear you do not fully comprehend the danger of abridging the liberties of the people. Nothing but the very sternest necessity can ever justify it. A government had better go to the very extreme of toleration, than to do aught that could be construed into an interference with, or to jeopardize in any degree, the common rights of its citizens.”

After he dealt with Vallandigham, Lincoln’s next priority was to comfort Burnside. Upon hearing that the entire cabinet had opposed his action, the general had offered to resign. Lincoln not only refused the resignation but insisted that while “the cabinet regretted the necessity” of the arrest, once it was done, “all were for seeing you through with it.”

Finally, knowing that the public would ultimately be the judge of the administration’s actions on the home front, Lincoln began drafting a document that would put the complex matter of military arrests into perspective. He had contemplated the subject for months, but his delineation of his ideas assumed new urgency with the public outrage at the arrest of Vallandigham. “Often an idea about it would occur to me which seemed to have force and make perfect answer to some of the things that were said and written about my actions,” he later told a visitor. “I never let one of those ideas escape me, but wrote it on a scrap of paper.” Now he would have to cobble those scraps into a cogent argument that the American public would accept.

Furthermore, Lincoln needed the proper forum in which to present his ideas. It came in late May, when a meeting of New York Democrats passed a set of resolutions condemning his military arrests as unconstitutional. Lincoln’s extensive response to the Democratic resolutions took “less time than any other of like importance” because he had already “studied it from every side.” In early June, the president read his draft to the cabinet. “It has vigor and ability,” a delighted Welles noted. Blair advised the president to emphasize that “we are Struggling against a Conspiracy to put down popular Govt.” Blair realized that Lincoln had often reiterated this theme, but as Thomas Hart Benton used to say, the “ding dong” proved to be “the best figure in Rhetoric.”

The finished letter, addressed to New York Democrat Erastus Corning, was released to the New York Tribune on June 12. Conceding that in ordinary times, military arrests would be unconstitutional, Lincoln reminded his critics that the Constitution specifically provided for the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus “in cases of Rebellion or Invasion.” He went on to say that Vallandigham was not arrested for his criticism of the administration but “because he was laboring, with some effect, to prevent the raising of troops, to encourage desertions from the army, and to leave the rebellion without an adequate military force to suppress it.”

Pointing out that “long experience has shown that armies can not be maintained unless desertion shall be punished by the severe penalty of death,” Lincoln posed a question that was soon echoed by supporters everywhere: “Must I shoot a simple-minded soldier boy who deserts, while I must not touch a hair of a wiley agitator who induces him to desert? This is none the less injurious when effected by getting a father, or brother, or friend, into a public meeting, and there working upon his feelings, till he is persuaded to write the soldier boy, that he is fighting in a bad cause, for a wicked administration of a contemptable government, too weak to arrest and punish him if he shall desert.”

The president’s letter garnered extravagant praise throughout the North. “It is full, candid, clear and conclusive,” the New York Times affirmed. Even Democrats were impressed. While Edward Everett told Lincoln he would not have advocated Vallandigham’s arrest, he considered the president’s “defence of the step complete.” Supporters were thrilled. “It is a grand document, strong, plain, simple, without one sparkle of tinsel ornament,” Stoddard enthused, “yet dignified as becomes the ruler of a great people when the nation is listening to what he says. It should be printed in every Northern paper, and read by every citizen.” In fact, Lincoln took every step to ensure that his words would shape public opinion. Printed in a great variety of formats, the letter eventually reached an astonishing 10 million people in their homes and workplaces, on isolated farms and in the cities. And as the American people absorbed the logic of Lincoln’s argument, popular sentiment began to shift.

WITH THE APPROACH OF SUMMER, the tempers of the cabinet ministers grew shorter. Welles noted with disapproval that Stanton attended only half the cabinet meetings and said little when present. “Not unfrequently he has a private conference with the President in the corner of the room, or with Seward in the library,” griped Welles. Seward, too, would turn up when a session commenced, speak privately with the president, then leave his son, Fred Seward, to represent his department. Stanton, who claimed he would never raise “any important question, when an assistant is present,” was infuriated. Blair, frustrated by the superior access granted Seward and Stanton, often lingered after cabinet meetings in hopes of a private word with Lincoln.

“At such a time as this, it would seem there should be free, full and constant intercourse and interchange of views,” fumed Welles. Bates, also discontented, agreed. “There is now no mutual confidence among the members of the Govt.—and really no such thing as a C.[abinet] C.[ouncil],” he grumbled. “The more ambitious members, who seek to control—Seward—Chase—Stanton—never start their projects in C. C. but try first to commit the Prest., and then, if possible, secure the apparent consent of the members.” Chase found the lack of collective deliberation demeaning. “But how idle it seems to me to speculate on Military affairs!” he complained to David Dudley Field. “The President consults only Stanton & Halleck in the management of the War. I look on from the outside and, as well as I can, furnish the means.” If he were president, Chase assured Congressman Garfield, surely he “would have a system of information which should at least keep my Secretary of the Treasury advised of every thing of importance.”

More strongly than Chase, Blair decried the lack of more formal meetings, attributing the cabinet’s failings to the machinations of Seward and Stanton. They had also been responsible, he believed, for Lincoln’s unwillingness to replace Halleck, whom Blair despised, and restore McClellan. In Blair’s mind, both Seward and Chase were “scheming for the succession. Stanton would cut the President’s throat if he could.” Blair’s hatred for Stanton was so virulent that he refused to set foot in the War Department, the primary source of military information. Talking with Welles one evening at the depot, Blair admitted that Lincoln’s behavior puzzled him. “Strange, strange,” he exclaimed, “that the President who has sterling ability should give himself over so completely to Stanton and Seward.”

Certainly, Lincoln was not oblivious to the infighting of his colleagues. He remained firmly convinced, however, that so long as each continued to do his own job well, no changes need be made. Moreover, he had no desire for contentious cabinet discussions on tactical matters, preferring to rely on the trusted counsel of Seward and Stanton. Still, he understood the resentment this provoked in neglected members of his administration; and through many small acts of generosity, he managed to keep the respect and affection of his disgruntled colleagues.

Recognizing Blair’s desire for more personal influence, Lincoln kept his door open to both Monty and his father. Monty Blair, despite his frustrations, was ultimately loyal and had accomplished marvels as postmaster general, utterly transforming a primitive postal system without letter carriers, mailboxes on streets, or free delivery. Modernizing the postal service was particularly important for the soldiers, who relied on letters, newspapers, and magazines from home to sustain morale. To this end, Blair created a special system of army post offices, complete with army postmasters and stamp agents. His innovations provided the means for soldiers to send mail without postage so long as the recipient paid three cents on delivery of each letter. Even when foul weather and muddy roads made the delivery of mails to the army camps nearly impossible, inordinate efforts allowed the mail to get through.

Lincoln was also careful to reserve time for private conversation with Welles. He would often catch up with his “Neptune” on the pathway leading from the White House to the War and Navy Departments or call him aside as they awaited news in the telegraph office. In his written correspondence, the president was equally thoughtful. When he felt compelled to issue Welles an order regarding the instructions of naval officers at neutral ports, he assured Welles that “it is not intended to be insinuated that you have been remiss in the performance of the arduous and responsible duties of your Department, which I take pleasure in affirming has, in your hands, been conducted with admirable success.”

So, in the end, the feuding cabinet members, with the exception of Chase, remained loyal to their president, who met rivalry and irritability with kindness and defused their tensions with humor. A particularly bitter argument arose between Chase and Monty Blair when Blair claimed that the Fugitive Slave Law still applied in loyal states and should be employed to return a runaway to his owner; Chase demanded instead that the slave be placed into military service. Lincoln mediated the dispute, assuring them both that this very issue had long bedeviled him. “It reminded him,” Welles recorded in his diary, “of a man in Illinois who was in debt and terribly annoyed by a pressing creditor, until finally the debtor assumed to be crazy whenever the creditor broached the subject. I, said the President, have on more than one occasion, in this room when beset by extremists on this question, been compelled to appear to be very mad.”

During another tense session, Lincoln cited the work of the humorist Orpheus Kerr, which he especially relished, even though it often lampooned him and the members of the cabinet. “Now the hits that are given to you, Mr. Welles or to Chase I can enjoy, but I dare say they may have disgusted you while I was laughing at them. So vice versa as regards myself.”

WHILE WORKING TO SUSTAIN the spirits of his cabinet, Lincoln also tried to soothe the incessant bickering and occasional resentment among his generals. Learning that William Rosecrans, headquartered in Nashville, had taken umbrage at a note he had sent, Lincoln replied at once. “In no case have I intended to censure you, or to question your ability,” he wrote. “I frequently make mistakes myself, in the many things I am compelled to do hastily.” He had merely intended to express concern over Rosecrans’s action regarding a particular colonel. And when Lincoln felt compelled to remove General Samuel Curtis from command in Missouri, he assured him that his removal was necessary only “to somehow break up the state of things in Missouri,” where Governor Gamble headed one quarreling faction and Curtis another. “I did not mean to cast any censure upon you, nor to indorse any of the charges made against you by others. With me the presumption is still in your favor that you are honest, capable, faithful, and patriotic.”

Despite Lincoln’s diplomacy, the quarrels in Missouri continued, eliciting a note from Governor Gamble complaining that the language in one of Lincoln’s published letters had been “grossly offensive” to him. When Hay presented the note to Lincoln, he was told “to put it away.” Lincoln explained to Gamble that as he was “trying to preserve [his] own temper, by avoiding irritants, so far as practicable,” he had decided not to read what his secretary had described as a “cross” letter. Having made his point, Lincoln assured the wounded Gamble: “I was totally unconscious of any malice, or disrespect towards you, or of using any expression which should offend you.”

Lincoln’s patience had its limits, however. When Major General Robert H. Milroy railed about “the blind unreasoning hatred” of Halleck that he claimed had supposedly led to his suspension from command, Lincoln was unyielding. “I have scarcely seen anything from you at any time, that did not contain imputations against your superiors,” Lincoln replied. “You have constantly urged the idea that you were persecuted because you did not come from West-Point, and you repeat it in these letters. This, my dear general, is I fear, the rock on which you have split.”

Likewise, when Rosecrans grumbled that his request for a predated commission to secure a higher rank had been denied, Lincoln was unsympathetic: “Truth to speak, I do not appreciate this matter of rank on paper, as you officers do. The world will not forget that you fought the battle of ‘Stone River’ and it will never care a fig whether you rank Gen. Grant on paper, or he so, ranks you.”

As he was forced to deal with quarreling generals on almost every front, it is little wonder that Lincoln developed such respect and admiration for Ulysses S. Grant. Steadily and uncomplainingly, Grant had advanced toward Vicksburg, the Confederate stronghold whose capture would give the Union control of the Mississippi River and split the Confederacy. By the middle of May, after five successive victories, Grant had come within striking distance of Vicksburg. After two direct assaults against John Pemberton’s forces failed on May 19 and May 22, he settled into a siege designed to starve the Confederates out.

“Whether Gen. Grant shall or shall not consummate the capture of Vicksburg,” Lincoln wrote a friend on May 26, “his campaign from the beginning of this month up to the twenty second day of it, is one of the most brilliant in the world.” During the troubling weeks with Hooker’s army in the East, news from Grant’s army in the West had sustained Lincoln. In March, Stanton had sent Charles Dana, the newspaperman who would later become assistant secretary of war, to observe General Grant and report on his movements. Dana had developed a powerful respect for Grant that was evident in his long, detailed dispatches. Lincoln’s own estimation of his general steadily increased as reports revealed a terse man of character and action. Requesting that General Banks join forces with him in the final drive to open the Mississippi, Grant assured Banks that he “would gladly serve under him as his superior in rank or simply cooperate with him for the benefit of the common cause if he should prefer that course.”

Despite his growing regard for Grant, there were instances that required Lincoln to intervene with his most successful general. In a misguided effort to stop peddlers from illegally profiteering in cotton in areas penetrated by Union armies, Grant had issued an order expelling “the Jews, as a class,” from his department. The discriminatory order, which contained no provision for individual hearings or trials, forced all Jewish people to depart within twenty-four hours, leaving horses, carriages, and other valuables behind.

When a delegation of Jewish leaders approached Lincoln, it was clear that he was not fully informed about the matter. He responded to their plight with a biblical allusion: “And so the children of Israel were driven from the happy land of Canaan?” The delegation leader answered: “Yes, and that is why we have come unto Father Abraham’s bosom, asking protection.” Lincoln replied quickly: “And this protection they shall have at once.” He took his pen and wrote a note to Halleck, ordering immediate cancellation of the order. Halleck reluctantly complied after assuring Grant that “the President has no objection to your expelling traitors and Jew peddlers, which, I suppose, was the object of your order; but, as it in terms proscribed an entire religious class, some of whom are fighting in our ranks, the President deemed it necessary to revoke it.”

Lincoln was also confronted by continuing rumors of Grant’s relapse into excessive drinking. Tales of drunkenness were not confined to Grant. Elizabeth Blair heard that during the Battle of Chancellorsville, Hooker “was drunk all the time,” while Bates was told that “General H.[alleck] was a confirmed opium-eater,” a habit that contributed to his “watery eyes” and “bloated” appearance. In Grant’s case, the gossip reached Lincoln by way of the puritanical Chase, who had received a letter from Murat Halstead. The respected journalist warned Chase that Grant was “most of the time more than half drunk, and much of the time idiotically drunk.”

In fact, Lincoln and Stanton had already heard similar complaints. After dispatching investigators to look into General Grant’s behavior, however, they had concluded that his drinking did not affect his unmatched ability to plan, execute, and win battles. A memorable story circulated that when a delegation brought further rumors of Grant’s drinking to the president, Lincoln declared that if he could find the brand of whiskey Grant used, he would promptly distribute it to the rest of his generals!

WHILE THE SIEGE OF VICKSBURG tightened in the West, a deceptive quiet settled on the Rappahannock. After visiting Hooker’s headquarters in mid-May, Senators Wade and Chandler told Lincoln that the pickets on both sides of the river had resumed “their old pastime of bandying wit and repartee…‘I say Yank,’ shouted over one of the Rebels, ‘where is fightin’ Joe Hooker, now?’ ‘Oh, he’s gone to Stonewall Jackson’s funeral,’ shouted ‘Yank’ in reply.”

During this interlude on the Eastern front, Seward accompanied Frances and Fanny back to Auburn, where they were planning to spend the summer. For a few precious days, he entertained old friends, caught up on his reading, and tended his garden. The sole trying event was the decision to fell a favorite old poplar tree that had grown unsound. Frances could not bear to be present as it was cut, certain that she “should feel every stroke of the axe.” Once it was over, however, she could relax in the beautiful garden she had sorely missed during her prolonged stay in Washington. On June 1, when Seward boarded the train to return to the capital, Fanny wrote that their home seemed “very lonely” without him.

No sooner had Seward departed Auburn than Frances and Fanny began hearing troubling rumors that Lee intended to invade Washington, Maryland, or Pennsylvania. “We have again been anxious about Washington,” Fanny told her father. “Although I don’t consider myself a protection, Washington seems safer to me when I am there.” Reassuring his daughter, Seward noted that during his stay in Auburn, he, too, had remained “in constant uneasiness” over all manner of rumors that proved groundless upon his return to the capital. “Certainly the last thing that any one here thinks of, now-a-days, is an invasion of Washington.”

On Monday, June 8, Mary and Tad left the capital for a two-week vacation in Philadelphia, where they took a suite at the Continental Hotel. After they had gone, Welles spoke with Lincoln about a “delicate” matter concerning Mary. In the aftermath of Willie’s death the previous year, she had canceled the weekly Marine Band summer concerts on the White House lawn. Welles warned that if the public were deprived of the entertainment for yet another season, the “grumbling and discontent” of the previous summer would only increase. Lincoln hesitated at first. Willie had loved the weekly concerts with their picniclike festivities, but “Mrs. L. would not consent, certainly not until after the 4th of July.” When Welles persisted, Lincoln finally agreed to let him do whatever he “thought best.” That night, most likely unsettled by the conversation about Willie, Lincoln had a nightmare about Tad’s recently acquired revolver. “Think you better put ‘Tad’s’ pistol away,” he wired Mary the next morning. “I had an ugly dream about him.”

In the days that followed, reports that Lee’s army was heading north through the Shenandoah Valley to invade Maryland and Pennsylvania multiplied. On June 15, Seward sent a telegram to his son Will, suggesting he had better cut short his leave to return to his regiment in Washington. “Oh! what a disappointment!” Fanny lamented. Will had just arrived in Auburn for a twenty-day sojourn with both his own family and Jenny’s. Many plans would be canceled, including “a double family pic-nic to the Lake.” Writing to Frances that same day, Seward sought to set her mind at ease. Though it now seemed certain that Lee had crossed the Rappahannock, she must “not infer that there is any increase of danger for any of us in this change.” On the contrary, “the near approach of battles toward us brings disadvantages to the enemy, and adds to our strength.”

In similar fashion, Lincoln reassured Mary when a headline in a Northern paper blared: “Invasion! Rebel Forces in Maryland and Pennsylvania.” “It is a matter of choice with yourself whether you come home,” he told her. “I do not think the raid into Pennsylvania amounts to anything at all.” When each day brought reports of further Confederate advances, however, Mary decided to rejoin her husband in Washington.

“The country, now, is in a blaze of excitement,” Benjamin French recorded on June 18. “Some of the Rebel troops have crossed into the upper part of Pennsylvania, & the North is wide awake.” While Welles worried that “something of a panic pervades the city,” Lincoln remained quietly confident that the Union troops, fighting on home ground, would achieve the signal victory so long denied. Capitalizing on the intense patriotism inspired by the invasion, he called out a hundred thousand troops from the militias in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Ohio, and the new state of West Virginia.

“I should think this constant toil and moil would kill him,” French marveled, yet the resilient president seemed “in excellent spirits.” Inspired by Lincoln’s steadfast nature, French added, “the more I see of him the more I am convinced of his superlative goodness, truth, kindness & Patriotism.”

In the tense atmosphere of Washington, the committee charged with planning the Fourth of July celebrations considered suspending their preparations. “Don’t you stop!” Mary Lincoln ordered White House secretary William Stoddard, promising to personally help make the anniversary celebrations a success. Reflecting her husband’s unruffled confidence, she assured Stoddard of her husband’s certainty that “the crisis has come and that all the chances are on our side. This move of Lee’s is all he could ask for.”

Lincoln’s primary concern was that Hooker would again be “outgeneraled” by Lee. His worry escalated in the last weeks of June when he “observed in Hooker the same failings that were witnessed in McClellan after the Battle of Antietam. A want of alacrity to obey, and a greedy call for more troops which could not, and ought not to be taken from other points.” When Hooker delivered a prickly telegram asking to be relieved of command, Lincoln and Stanton replaced him with General George Meade, who had participated in the Peninsula Campaign, Second Bull Run, and Chancellorsville. The surprising move distressed Chase. He had long championed Hooker and had recently returned from spending the day with him in the field. When Lincoln informed his cabinet that the change was already accomplished, Welles noted that “Chase was disturbed more than he cared should appear.” The following day, Chase wrote to Kate, who was in New York. “You must have been greatly astonished for the relieving of General Hooker; but your astonishment cannot have exceeded mine.”

THREE DAYS LATER, in Pennsylvania, the three-day Battle of Gettysburg began. “The turning point of the whole war seems to be crowding itself into the present,” wrote John Nicolay. “It seems almost impossible to wait for the result. Hours become days and days become months in such a suspense.” If Lee achieved victory at Gettysburg, he could move on to Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington. His aura of invincibility might, it was feared, eventually lead the British and French to recognize the independence of the Confederacy and bring the war to an end.

Telegraph service from the front was “poor and desultory,” according to operator David Bates. Lincoln remained a constant fixture in the telegraph office, resting fitfully on the couch. At intervals, Stanton, Seward, Welles, and Senators Sumner and Chandler drifted in and out. Senator Chandler would “never forget the painful anxiety of those few days when the fate of the nation seemed to hang in the balance; nor the restless solicitude of Mr. Lincoln, as he paced up and down the room, reading dispatches, soliloquizing, and often stopping to trace the map which hung on the wall.” Sketched on the map were the generals and places that would later be engraved in history: James Longstreet and George Pickett, Winfield Hancock and Joshua Chamberlain, Little Round Top and Cemetery Ridge.

After inconclusive fighting on the first day, a dispatch from Meade on Thursday night, July 2, reported that “after one of the severest contests of the war,” the rebels had been “repulsed at all points.” Still, given recent reversals and the protracted uncertainty in the present, everyone held their breath. As of 9 p.m. the following night, the New York Times reported, “no reliable advices have been received here from the Pennsylvania battlefield. It is generally felt that this is the crisis of the war. Intense anxiety prevails.” At midnight, a messenger handed Welles a telegram from a Connecticut editor named Byington, who had left the battlefield a few hours earlier and reported that “everything looked hopeful.” Welles assured Lincoln that Byington was “reliable,” but the hours of uncertainty continued until shortly after dawn, July 4, when a telegram from Meade reported that the battle had been successfully concluded. The rebels were withdrawing after severe losses. Casualties were later calculated at 28,000, nearly a third of Lee’s army.

General Abner Doubleday described the tenacious fighting, which cost 23,000 Union lives, “as being the most desperate which ever took place in the world.” He told a reporter that “nothing can picture the horrors of the battlefield around the ruined city of Gettysburg. Each house, church, hovel, and barn is filled with the wounded of both armies. The ground is covered with the dead.”

On the morning of the Fourth of July, Lincoln issued a celebratory press release that was carried by telegram across the country. For young Fanny Seward, waiting anxiously in Auburn, the day had started as “the gloomiest Fourth” she had ever known. “No public demonstration here—No ringing of bells.” Everything changed in the late afternoon when the “extra” arrived, carrying the tidings of victory. Fireworks were set off to glorify simultaneously the country’s independence and the long-awaited victory.

In New York City, George Templeton Strong exulted in the colorful newspaper accounts of Lee’s retreat. “The results of this victory are priceless,” he wrote. “Government is strengthened four-fold at home and abroad. Gold one hundred and thirty-eight today, and government securities rising. Copperheads are palsied and dumb for the moment at least.”

Triumphant news from Vicksburg followed on the heels of victory at Gettysburg. Grant’s forty-six-day siege had finally forced Pemberton to surrender his starving troops. Welles had received the first tiding that Vicksburg had surrendered to Grant in a dispatch from Admiral David Porter. The bespectacled, “slightly fossilized” Welles hurried to the White House, dispatch in hand. Reaching the room where Lincoln was talking with Chase and several others, Welles reportedly “executed a double shuffle and threw up his hat by way of showing that he was the bearer of glad tidings.” Lincoln affirmed that “he never before nor afterward saw Mr. Welles so thoroughly excited as he was then.”

The elated president “caught my hand,” recorded Welles, “and throwing his arm around me, exclaimed: ‘what can we do for the Secretary of the Navy for this glorious intelligence—He is always giving us good news. I cannot, in words, tell you my joy over this result. It is great, Mr. Welles, it is great!’” With the fall of Vicksburg, as Linclon later said, “The Father of Waters again goes unvexed to the sea.”

Dana described the surrender in a telegram to Stanton the next day. “The rebel troops marched out and stacked arms in front of their works while Genl. Pemberton appeared for a moment with his staff upon the parapet of the central post…. No troops remain outside—everything quiet here. Grant entered the city at 11 o’clock and was rec’d by Pemberton,” whom he treated with great “courtesy & dignity.” Dana estimated the number of prisoners, for whom rations were being distributed, to be about thirty thousand.

Lincoln expressed his joyful appreciation to Grant in a remarkable letter. “I write this now as a grateful acknowledgment for the almost inestimable service you have done the country,” he began. He conceded that while he had approved most of the general’s maneuvers during the long struggle, he had harbored misgivings over Grant’s decision to turn “Northward East of the Big Black” instead of joining General Banks. “I now wish to make the personal acknowledgment that you were right, and I was wrong.”

Word of Vicksburg’s surrender unleashed wild celebrations throughout the North. In Washington, a large crowd, led by the 34th Massachusetts Regimental Band, formed at the National Hotel and marched to the White House to congratulate the president. Lincoln appeared before the cheering multitude, revealing the preliminary thoughts that would coalesce in his historic Gettysburg Address. “How long is it—eighty odd years—since on the Fourth of July for the first time in the history of the world a nation, by its representatives, assembled and declared as a self-evident truth that ‘all men are created equal.’” He went on to recall the signal events that had shared the anniversary of the nation’s birth, beginning with the twin deaths of Thomas Jefferson and John Adams on July 4, and ending with the Union’s twin victories at Gettysburg and Vicksburg on the same day. “Gentlemen,” the president declared, “this is a glorious theme, and the occasion for a speech, but I am not prepared to make one worthy of the occasion.” Instead, he spoke of the “praise due to the many brave officers and soldiers who have fought in the cause of the Union.”

The band played some patriotic airs, and the crowd pressed on to the War Department, where Stanton paid generous tribute to General Grant. Although several more speeches followed and songs were played, the people had not exhausted their euphoria. Marching to Lafayette Square, they joined another throng at Seward’s house, cheering for the secretary to appear. The indefatigable Seward happily obliged, delivering a long, animated speech tracing the conflict from its troubled early days to its recent triumphs, which, he assured them, foretold “the beginning of the end.”

The following day, little work was accomplished in the offices of government. In every building, Noah Brooks reported, the official bulletins were read “over and over again,” producing “cheer upon cheer from the crowds of officers and clerks.” On the streets, “Union men were shaking hands wherever they met, like friends after a long absence,” while the Copperheads had “retired to their holes like evil beasts at sunrise.”

The joyous occasion was marred for the Lincolns by a serious carriage accident that took place on the second day of the Gettysburg battle. As Rebecca Pomroy related the events, the Lincolns were returning to the White House from the Soldiers’ Home. Lincoln was riding on horseback while Mary followed behind in their carriage. The night before, presumably targeting the president, an unknown assailant had removed the screws fastening the driver’s seat to the body of the carriage. When the vehicle began to descend from a winding hill, the seat came loose, throwing the driver to the ground. Unable to restrain the runaway horses, Mary tried to leap from the carriage. She landed on her back, hitting her head against a sharp stone. The wound was dressed at a nearby hospital, but a dangerous infection set in that kept her incapacitated for several weeks. With the Battle of Gettysburg in full swing, Lincoln was unable to minister to Mary’s needs. He brought Mrs. Pomroy to the Soldiers’ Home to nurse his wife round the clock. Robert Lincoln believed that his mother “never quite recovered from the effects of her fall,” which exacerbated the debilitating headaches that she already endured.

IN THE WAKE OF the triumphs at Gettysburg and Vicksburg, Lincoln anticipated a quick end to the rebellion. General Meade, he told Halleck, had only to “complete his work, so gloriously prosecuted thus far, by the literal or substantial destruction of Lee’s army.” In the days that followed, both Halleck and Lincoln urged Meade to go after Lee, to attack him vigorously, to capture his army before he could escape into Virginia. Robert Lincoln later said that his father had sent explicit orders to Meade “directing him to attack Lee’s army with all his force immediately, and that if he was successful in the attack, he might destroy the order, but if he was unsuccessful he might preserve it for his vindication.” The order has never been found. If Meade did receive it, he nonetheless failed to move against Lee. As the days passed, Lincoln began “to grow anxious and impatient.”

Lincoln’s worst fears were realized on July 14, when he received a dispatch from Meade reporting that Lee’s army had escaped his grasp by successfully crossing the Potomac at Williamsport, Maryland, into Virginia. At the cabinet meeting that day, Stanton was reluctant to share the news, though his face clearly revealed that he “was disturbed, disconcerted.” Welles recorded that, when asked directly if Lee had escaped, “Stanton said abruptly and curtly he knew nothing of Lee’s crossing. ‘I do,’ said the President emphatically, with a look of painful rebuke to Stanton.” Lincoln revealed what he had learned and suggested that the cabinet meeting be adjourned. “Probably none of us were in a right frame of mind for deliberation,” Welles wrote. Certainly, he added, the president “was not.”

Lincoln caught up with Welles as his navy secretary was leaving and walked with him across the lawn. His sorrow that Lee had once again managed to escape was palpable. “On only one or two occasions have I ever seen the President so troubled, so dejected and discouraged,” Welles wrote. “Our Army held the war in the hollow of their hand & they would not close it,” Lincoln said later. “We had gone through all the labor of tilling & planting an enormous crop & when it was ripe we did not harvest it.”

Later that afternoon, Lincoln wrote a frank letter to General Meade. While expressing his profound gratitude for “the magnificent success” at Gettysburg, he acknowledged that he was “distressed immeasurably” by “the magnitude of the misfortune involved in Lee’s escape. He was within your easy grasp, and to have closed upon him would, in connection with our other late successes, have ended the war. As it is, the war will be prolonged indefinitely.” Before sending the letter, which he knew would leave Meade disconsolate, Lincoln held back, as he often did when he was upset or angry, waiting for his emotions to settle. In the end, he placed the letter in an envelope inscribed: “To Gen. Meade, never sent, or signed.”

Lincoln later told Connecticut congressman Henry C. Deming that Meade’s failure to attack Lee after Gettysburg was one of three occasions when “better management upon the part of the commanding general might have terminated the war.” The other two command failures he attributed to McClellan during the Peninsula Campaign and Hooker at Chancellorsville. Still, he acknowledged, “I do not know that I could have given any different orders had I been with them myself. I have not fully made up my mind how I should behave when minie-balls were whistling, and those great oblong shells shrieking in my ear. I might run away.”

Troubling events in New York City soon diverted the nation’s attention. For weeks, authorities had worried about the potential for violence on July 11. On that date, the names of all the men eligible for the first draft in American history would be placed in a giant wheel and drawn randomly until the prescribed quota was filled. The unpopular idea of coercing men to become soldiers had provided traction for Copperhead politicians. Speaking on July 4, Governor Seymour had told an immense crowd that the federal government had exceeded its constitutional authority by forcing men into an “ungodly conflict” waged on behalf of the black man. The antagonistic Daily News, read by the majority of working-class Irish, claimed that the purpose of the draft was to “kill off Democrats.”

A provision in the Conscription Act that allowed a draftee to either pay $300 or provide a substitute provoked further discontent. Both Stanton and Lincoln had objected to this feature of the bill, but Congress had insisted. Opponents of the draft gained powerful ammunition that this was “a rich man’s war and a poor man’s fight.” Still, the first day of the draft proceeded peacefully, leaving the city woefully unprepared for the violent uprising that accompanied the spinning of the wheel on the second day. “Scarcely had two dozen names been called,” the New York Times reported, “when a crowd, numbering perhaps 500,” stormed the building “with clubs, stones, brickbats and other missiles.” Entering through the broken windows, they stoned the drafting officers, smashed the giant wheel, shredded the lists and records, and then set the building on fire.

Returning to the street, the mob, composed mainly of poor Irish immigrants, turned its vengeance against anyone it encountered. “It seemed to be an understood thing,” the Times reporter noted, “that the negroes should be attacked wherever found, whether they offered any provocation or not. As soon as one of these unfortunate people was spied, whether on a cart, a railroad car, or in the street, he was immediately set upon by a crowd of men and boys.” Terror unfolded as the rioters beat their victims to death and then strung their bodies on trees. An orphanage for black children was burned to the ground, hundreds of stores were looted, and dozens of policemen lost their lives. More than a thousand people were killed or wounded.

The riots continued unchecked for five days, becoming “the all engrossing topic of conversation” in Washington. The inability of the authorities to restore law and order prompted Chase to announce his desire to “have the power for a week.” The mob violence finally ended when a regiment of soldiers, returning from Pennsylvania, entered the city. Although some advised Lincoln to suspend the draft indefinitely, he insisted that it go forward.

The turmoil in New York created foreboding throughout the North as other cities prepared to commence their own drafts. In the days preceding Auburn’s draft on July 23, Frances Seward lived “in daily apprehension of a riot.” In frequent letters to her husband, she reported that Copperheads were spreading “malicious stories” blaming Seward’s “higher law” for the riots in New York. Tensions in Auburn escalated when several Irishmen fought with blacks, resisted arrest, and threatened to destroy the Seward home. Frances awoke one morning to find that a large rock had been thrown into the room where she regularly sat to read. After discovering the damage, she advised her daughter-in-law to remove anything she considered valuable. “So that afternoon,” Jenny recalled, “I took my husband’s photograph down to my mother’s house, it being, to my mind, the most valuable thing that I possessed.”

From Washington, Seward sought to placate his wife. “Do not give yourself a thought about the house. There will hardly be any body desperate enough to do you personal harm, and if the country, in its unwonted state of excitement, will destroy our home, the sacrifice will be a small one for our country, and not without benefit.” Frances persevered, retaining her calm during these difficult days, as she had done years before during the trial of William Freeman. “As to personal injury,” she told her husband, “I fear more for the poor colored people than for others—They cannot protect themselves and few persons are willing to assist them.”

On the morning of Auburn’s draft, Frances reported to her son Fred that while everyone was “somewhat anxious,” she was feeling “more secure” since the local citizenry had organized a volunteer police force. The New York Times reported the successful results of the efforts in Auburn. “The best of order was observed and the best spirit was manifested” by the two thousand citizens who had gathered to witness the draft. As local officials addressed patriotic speeches to the crowd, the drafted men cheered for “The Union,” “Old Abe,” “The Draft,” and “Our recent victories.”

Even before such reassuring accounts reached him, Seward had predicted that the disturbances in New York, like a “thunder shower,” would “clear the political skies, of the storms” that the Copperheads had been “gathering up a long time.” His words proved prescient, for when the loss of life and property was tallied in the wake of the New York riots, public opinion turned against Governor Seymour. His incendiary Fourth of July speech was seen by many as a direct “incitement to the people to resist the government.” John Hay learned from a visiting New Yorker that Seymour was “in a terrible state of nervous excitement,” precipitated “both by the terrible reminiscence of the riots” and the virulent condemnation by the press for his handling of the situation. The news that Seymour had “lost ground immensely with a large number of the best men” engendered great satisfaction in the Lincoln administration. And when the draft was eventually resumed in New York City, everything went smoothly.

“The nation is great, brave, and generous,” Seward confidently told Frances. “All will go on well, and though not without the hindrance of faction at every step, yet it will go through to the right and just end. How differently the nation has acted, thus far in the crisis, from what it did in 1850 to 1860!”

Within twenty-four distressing hours, the president had learned of both Lee’s escape and the disgraceful riots in New York. Nonetheless, he was able to shake off his gloom within a matter of days. On Sunday morning, July 19, Hay reported that the “President was in very good humour.” He had written a humorous verse mocking the “pomp, and mighty swell” with which Lee had gone forth to “sack Phil-del.” While he remained fully cognizant of the consequences of Lee’s escape, he had willed himself to reconsider his outlook on General Meade and the Battle of Gettysburg. “A few days having passed,” he assured one of Meade’s commanding generals, “I am now profoundly grateful for what was done, without criticism for what was not done. Gen. Meade has my confidence as a brave and skillful officer, and a true man.”

Oddly enough, Lincoln’s good spirits that Sunday morning were due in part to the six straight hours he had spent with Hay the previous day reviewing one hundred courts-martial. Whereas the young secretary was “in a state of entire collapse” after the ordeal, Lincoln found relief and renewed vigor as he exercised the power to pardon. As they went through the cases, Hay marveled “at the eagerness with which the President caught at any fact which would justify him in saving the life of a condemned soldier.”

Confronted with soldiers who had been sentenced to death for cowardice, Lincoln typically reduced the sentence to imprisonment or hard labor. “It would frighten the poor devils too terribly, to shoot them,” he said. One case involved a private who was sentenced to be shot for desertion though he had later re-enlisted. Lincoln simply proposed, “Let him fight instead of shooting him.” Lincoln acknowledged to General John Eaton that some of his officers believed he employed the pardoning power “with so much freedom as to demoralize the army and destroy the discipline.” Although “officers only see the force of military discipline,” he explained, he tried to comprehend it from the vantage of individual soldiers—a picket so exhausted that “sleep steals upon him unawares,” a family man who overstayed his leave, a young boy “overcome by a physical fear greater than his will.” He liked to tell of a soldier who, when asked why he had run away, said: “Well, Captain, it was not my fault. I have got just as brave a heart as Julius [Caesar] but these legs of mine will always run away with me when the battle begins.”

Rather than fearing that he had overused his pardoning power, Lincoln feared he had made too little use of it. He could not bear the sound of gunshot on the days when deserters were executed. Only “where meanness or cruelty were shown” did he exhibit no clemency.

Yet even as he plowed through one court-martial after another, Lincoln’s humor remained intact. At one point, he was handed the case of a captain charged with “looking thro keyholes & over transoms at a lady undressing.” He laughingly suggested that the captain “be elevated to the peerage” so that he could be accorded the appropriate title “Count Peeper.”

THE SUMMER OF 1863 brought the hottest weather Washington had suffered in many years. “Men and horses dropping dead in the streets every day,” Hay reported to Nicolay, who had escaped to the Rocky Mountains. “The garments cling to the skin,” one resident observed, “shirt collars are laid low; moisture oozes from every object, standing in clammy exudation upon iron, marble, wood, and human flesh; the air is pervaded with a faint odor as of withered bouquets and dead mint juleps, and the warm steam of a home washing day is over everything.”

Stanton found the “hot, dusty weather, the most disagreeable” he had ever experienced. “Burning sun all day, sultry at night.” Ellen Stanton had escaped with her children for the summer, leaving her husband alone in Washington. Writing to her at a mountain retreat in Bedford, Pennsylvania, Stanton acknowledged that “all is silent and lonely, but there is consolation in knowing that you and the children are free from the oppressive heat and discomfort of Washington.”

“Nearly everybody except the members of the unfortunate Can’t-getaway Club has gone to the seaside or countryside,” Noah Brooks reported. “Truly the season is one of languor, lassitude, and laziness,” and even “the reporters have nearly all followed the example of better men and have likewise skeddadled from the heat.”

As soon as Mary felt well enough to travel, she, too, fled the capital with both Tad and Robert, commencing a two-month sojourn in New York, Philadelphia, and the White and Green Mountains. The cool breezes of New Hampshire and Vermont would prove beneficial to young Tad, whose health remained fragile, while the lure of a resort hotel in the mountains kept Robert by her side through most of August. A correspondent who caught up with her at “Tiptop,” Mount Washington, was delighted with her “very easy, agreeable” manner and her “very fair, cheerful, smiling face.”

Only a dozen short telegrams between the Lincolns remain from that summer. In these brief communications, Lincoln talked about the heat, shared news of the Kentucky elections, and asked her to let “dear Tad” know that his nanny goat had run away and left his father “in distress about it.” Only in mid-September, as the time drew near for Mary’s return, did Lincoln admit that he had missed her, repeating in two separate telegrams his eagerness to be reunited with her and with Tad. Mary understood that he was “not given to letter writing,” and so long as she was assured of his good health, she remained content.

The Lincolns’ undemonstrative communications stand in marked contrast to the effusive letters the Sewards exchanged all summer, openly sharing their feelings about the family, the war, and the country. “I wish I could gain from some other source the confidence with which you inspire me when I am with you,” Frances told her husband. “I need it in these disastrous times…. The loyalty of the people is now to be put to the test.” Seward urged her to be calm and confident: “Every day since the war broke out we have drawn on the people for a thousand men, and they have gone to the field.” To her husband, Frances acknowledged that while the country rejoiced over the victories at Gettysburg and Vicksburg, she despaired when she “read the lists of killed & wounded.” Only with Frances could the stalwart Seward reveal his own distress, confusion, and exhaustion.

While Lincoln spent hours writing letters to keep generals and politicians on an even keel, he apparently never found the solace Seward and Chase took in their extensive family correspondence. Nor did his wife and children write regularly. Tad, a slow learner, may not have developed the skill to easily compose letters. Robert, then entering his junior year at Harvard, surely was capable of penning descriptions of his days in the mountains. Very different in temperament, Lincoln and his eldest son never seemed to develop a close relationship. During Robert’s childhood, Lincoln had been absent for months at a time, traveling the circuits of both politics and law. At sixteen, Robert entered boarding school in New Hampshire, and he was a student at Harvard when his father became president. “Thenceforth,” Robert noted sadly, “any great intimacy between us became impossible. I scarcely even had ten minutes quiet talk with him during his Presidency, on account of his constant devotion to business.”

For Lincoln, it was enough to know that his wife and sons were happily ensconced at the Equinox House in Manchester, Vermont, then considered “a primary summer resort,” providing access to fishing, nature walks, gardens, swimming holes, concerts, croquet, archery, and excellent dining facilities. During the visit, Mary climbed a mountain, socialized with General Doubleday and his wife, and enjoyed the clear, refreshing air.

KATE CHASE WOULD REMEMBER the summer of 1863 less for its record-breaking heat than for her rekindled romance with William Sprague, elected earlier in the year to the U.S. Senate. When the young millionaire came to Washington to take his seat, he called on Kate, and their troubled past was soon forgotten. “We did again join hands, and again join fortunes,” Sprague later said. In early May, Sprague invited Kate to visit his estate in Providence, Rhode Island, so that she would meet his family and see his immense manufacturing company. Running at full tilt, the company’s 10,000 employees could turn out “35,000 pieces of print-cloth” weekly, with the 280,000 spindles and 28 printing machines in the factories. “I want to show you how to make calico from cotton,” he told Kate. “You are a statesman’s daughter, will doubtless be a statesman’s wife, and who if not you, should know how things are done, not how only they are undone or destroyed.”

Shortly after they returned to Washington, Sprague asked Chase for Kate’s hand in marriage. “The Gov and Miss Kate have consented to take me into their fold,” Sprague proudly reported to a friend in New York. Sprague’s adoration for Kate is clear from the flood of letters he wrote during the first months of their engagement. “The business which takes my time, my attention, my heart, my all,” he wrote, “is of a certain young lady who has become so entwined in every pulsation, that my former self has lost its identity.” Without her, he confessed, his life seemed “a wilderness, a blank.” He kept her miniature by his side and waited for her return letters “as a drowning man [seizing] at anything to sustain him.” A five-day separation seemed “an age” to him, so “strong a hold” had she gained upon his heart. Even when they were both in Washington, he sent her loving notes from his room at the Willard Hotel. “I am my darling up & in sympathy with the sunshine,” he wrote early one morning. And another morning, “I hope my darling you are up feeling fresh and happy. Knowing that you are so is happiness to me. I kiss you good morning and adieu.”

Kate’s attachment to Sprague, however, did not indicate a readiness to leave her father. Nor was Chase, despite his claims, prepared to relinquish his hold on Kate. The impending marriage set in motion a curious series of machinations as to where the young couple should reside. Still harboring the illusory hope that closer proximity to Lincoln would beget greater influence, Chase opened the discussion by suggesting that Kate and William “take the house just as it is and let me find a place suited to my purpose nearer the Presidents.” He assured Sprague that he was not among those fathers “who wish to retain the love & duty of daughters even in larger measure that they are given to their husbands.” On the contrary, he wrote, “I want to have Katie honor & love you with an honor & love far exceeding any due to me.”

Kate, however, was not persuaded by such protestations. She thought her father would be lost without her daily devotions and her consummate grace in orchestrating his social life. Under her supervision, the parties at the Chase mansion had become legendary. “Probably no woman in American history has had as brilliant a social career,” one journalist observed of Kate. “Even the achievements of Dolly Madison pale into insignificance compared with her successes.” Fanny Seward considered herself lucky to receive an invitation to one of Kate’s parties. “Scarcely a person there whom it was not a pleasure to meet,” she bubbled. “I don’t know whether it was Miss Chase being so charming herself that made the party pass so pleasantly, but I think so sweet a presence must have lent a charm to the whole.”

Unwilling to abandon her role in forwarding Chase’s dreams, Kate persuaded William that they should all reside under the same roof. Approaching her father, she insisted that both she and William desired a united household. Though Chase had undoubtedly longed for this very arrangement, he made a show of reluctantly abandoning his “idea of taking a house or apartment near the Presidents” to suit their wishes. “Life is short and uncertain and I am not willing to do anything which will grieve my children,” he wrote. “So I yield the point.” They agreed that Chase would continue to pay the rent and the servants while William would cover the food and entertainment, assume half the stable expenses, and renovate the house to suit the needs of both a senator and a cabinet official.

Recognizing “the delicate link which has so long united father & daughter,” Sprague wisely decided to “respect and honor” their relationship. “I am not afraid that the tenacious affection of a daughter will detract from that she owes to one she accepts for her life companion,” he wrote Kate. “I am not so silly as not to see & feel that it is a surer garuantee of a more permanent and enduring love.” While he bristled at the discovery that Kate allowed her father to read all of Sprague’s letters to her, he was gratified by the praise his writing drew from the ever critical Chase. “Katie showed me yesterday your letters to her,” Chase told William, “and I cannot refrain from telling you how much they delighted me.” Making no mention of misspellings or grammatical mistakes, as he usually did with Kate and Nettie, Chase assured Sprague that the “manly affection breathed in them satisfied me that I had not given my daughter to one [who] did not fully appreciate her, or to whom she could not give the full wealth of her affections.”

For Chase, William’s desire to assume “as much of the pecuniary burden as possible” was timely, indeed. The engagement allowed him to divest himself of his financial ties to the Cooke brothers, whose private loans and gifts had assisted him over the years. Recent months had brought mounting criticism over the virtual monopoly the Cookes enjoyed in the lucrative sale of Treasury bonds, but Chase had not felt free to dispense with the arrangement. On June 1, however, he informed Jay Cooke that his compensation for the sale of the bonds would henceforth be reduced. “I have a duty to the country to perform,” he sanctimoniously wrote, “which forbids me to pay rates which will not be approved by all right-minded men.” The following day, he returned a check for $4,200 that he had received from Cooke as profit on the sale of a stock that he had not paid for. “In order to be able to render most efficient service to our country it is essential for me to be right as well as seem right & to seem right as well as be right.”

Late in July, Chase joined Kate and Nettie for a few days’ vacation in Rhode Island, where Sprague had secured rooms near the shore at South Pier. With a carriage provided by Sprague and good dining in the resort hotels on Narragansett Bay, the hardworking secretary relaxed for the first time in months. Leaving the girls at the seashore, he returned to Washington on August 7. Alone in the big house, he complained to Nettie that his only companion was their dog, Nellie, who “comes to see me every evening after dinner and puts her nose up in my face in a sort of sympathetic way.” A sullen irritability is evident in his letters to both girls that summer. He chastised Nettie for her “somewhat ragged looking letter,” pointing out how much her carelessness pained him, and he reprimanded Kate for failing to inform him when she borrowed money for the vacation expenses.

In his loneliness, Chase resumed a warm correspondence with Charlotte Eastman, the widow of a former congressman. Handsome and intelligent, she had enjoyed a sporadic friendship with Chase over the years. When the relationship had promised to develop into a romance, however, Kate had disapproved, going “so far as to intercept her letters.” Chase had been unwilling to defy his daughter. Now, in Kate’s absence, the two wrote to each other again. With inviting detail, Mrs. Eastman described her house on the Massachusetts seashore. She evinced little hope that Chase would join her, however. She suspected that her letters gave him “little satisfaction, as they can do but nothing to advance the object for which it seems to me you live for—Now shall I be frank? and perhaps offend you and tell you I am jealous! and of whom and what, of your Ambition and through that of yourself; for dont Ambition make the worshipper the God of his own idolatry?”

“What a sweet letter you have sent me,” Chase replied from his desk at the Treasury. “I have read and reread it. What a charming picture you draw of the old house…. It made [me] half feel myself with you & quite wish to be…. I am so sorry that you & Katie—one so dear to me as a friend and the other as a daughter don’t exactly jee.” As for her remarks on his ambition, he acknowledged that he was, in fact, driven in ways that sometimes led him to neglect “duties of friendship & charity.” She should understand, however, that he would always “try to direct my ambition to public ends and in honorable ways.” It would amuse her to know, he concluded, how many times he had been interrupted while writing this letter, which he had to bring to a close in order to attend to the president.

While the heat enervated most of official Washington, Lincoln thrived on the long days, the relative freedom from office seekers, and the lack of family interference with his work. “The Tycoon is in fine whack,” John Hay reported on August 7. “I have rarely seen him more serene & busy. He is managing this war, the draft, foreign relations, and planning a reconstruction of the Union, all at once. I never knew with what tyrannous authority he rules the Cabinet, till now. The most important things he decides & there is no cavil. I am growing more and more firmly convinced that the good of the country absolutely demands that he should be kept where he is till this thing is over. There is no man in the country, so wise so gentle and so firm. I believe the hand of God placed him where he is.”

With Mary out of town, Lincoln found John Hay a ready companion. Smart, energetic, and amusing, the twenty-five-year-old Hay had become far more intimately connected to the president than his own eldest son. Their conversation moved easily from linguistics to reconstruction, from Shakespeare to Artemus Ward. Hay had a good sense of humor and, according to William Stoddard, could “tell a story better than most boys of his age.” Stoddard long recalled an occasion when he and Nicolay were rocked with laughter at one of Hay’s humorous tales. Hearing the noise, Lincoln came to the door. “His feet had made no sound in coming over from his room, or our own racket had drowned any foot-fall, but here was the President.” If the young secretaries feared that Lincoln would chastise them for the interruption, he quickly dissipated their concern. He sat down in a chair and demanded that Hay repeat his tale. When the story was done, “down came the President’s foot from across his knee, with a heavy stamp on the floor, and out through the hall went an uproarious peal of fun.”

On Sunday, August 9, Hay accompanied the president to Alexander Gardner’s photo studio at the corner of Seventh and D streets. The pictures taken that day do not reflect what Hay characterized as the president’s “very good spirits.” Rigidly posed, with one hand on a book and the other at his waist, Lincoln was forced to endure the lengthy process of the photograph, which almost invariably produced a grim, unsmiling portrait. Subjects would be required to sit absolutely still while the photographer removed the cap from the lens to expose the picture. “Don’t move a muscle!” the subject would be told, for the slightest twitch would blur the image. Moreover, since “contrived grinning in photographs had not yet become obligatory,” many faces, like Lincoln’s, took on a melancholy cast.

Lincoln retained his high spirits through much of the summer, buoyed by the thought that “the rebel power is at last beginning to disintegrate.” In his diary, Hay described a number of pleasant outings, including an evening journey to the Observatory. They viewed the moon and the star Arcturus through a newly installed telescope before driving out to the Soldiers’ Home, where Lincoln read Shakespeare to Hay—“the end of Henry VI and the beginning of Richard III till my heavy eye-lids caught his considerate notice & he sent me to bed.”

The route Lincoln traveled to and from the Soldiers’ Home took him down Vermont Avenue past the lodgings of Walt Whitman. “I see the President almost every day,” Whitman wrote. “None of the artists or pictures has caught the deep, though subtle and indirect expression of this man’s face. There is something else there. One of the great portrait painters of two or three centuries ago is needed.” Whitman proudly noted that “we have got so that we exchange bows, and very cordial ones. Sometimes the President goes and comes in an open barouche. The cavalry always accompany him, with drawn sabers. Often I notice as he goes out evenings—and sometimes in the morning, when he returns early—he turns off and halts at the large and handsome residence of the Secretary of War, on K Street.”

All summer, Stanton harbored hopes that he and Lincoln might escape to the mountains of Pennsylvania. “The President and I have been arranging to make a trip to Bedford,” he told Ellen, “but something always turns up to keep him or me in Washington. He is so eager for it that I expect we shall accomplish it before the season is over.” In fact, though Stanton finally joined his wife during the first week of September, Lincoln journeyed no farther that summer than the Soldiers’ Home.

The president was rarely alone, however. In addition to Hay and Stanton, he could rely on Seward for good companionship. John Hay witnessed a typically wide-ranging conversation between them as the three rode to the Capitol on August 13 to view a sculptural work, The Progress of Civilization, recently installed in the eastern pediment of the north wing of the Capitol. The conversation opened on the topic of slavery, slipped back to the time of the Masons and anti-Masons, then turned to the Mexican War. Both Seward and Lincoln agreed that “one fundamental principle of politics is to be always on the side of your country in a war. It kills any party to oppose a war.” As, indeed, Lincoln knew from his own experience in opposing the Mexican War.

The following day, Seward left for a two-week tour of upstate New York with foreign ministers, including those from England, France, Spain, Germany, and Russia. Seward had engineered the trip to counter the impression abroad that the lengthy war was starting to exhaust the resources of the North. With Seward as their guide, members of the diplomatic corps journeyed up the Hudson, stopping in Albany, Schenectady, and Coopers-town. They sailed on the Finger Lakes, visited Niagara Falls, and spent the night in Auburn, where they were joined by Seward’s neighbors and friends for a picnic on the lake.

“All seemed to be enjoying themselves very much,” Frances noted. Seward, extroverted as always, provided a sparkling commentary, excellent food, abundant drink, and good cheer. After months of tense wrangling over the status of the Confederacy, the European ministers saw a different side of Seward and enjoyed his easy camaraderie. “When one comes really to know him,” Lord Lyons reported to Lord Russell, “one is surprised to find much to esteem and even to like in him.”

More important, the tour allowed the skeptical ministers to witness the boundless resources of the North. “Hundreds of factories with whirring wheels,” Fred Seward wrote, “thousands of acres of golden harvest fields, miles of railway trains, laden with freight, busy fleets on rivers, lakes and canals”—all presaged the inevitable triumph of the Union. This clear perception of the Union’s strength contributed to the successful resolution of a troubling controversy with Great Britain and France. Since the previous autumn, the administration had been bedeviled by knowledge that the Confederacy had contracts with European shipbuilders for armored vessels vastly superior to anything in the Union fleet. For months, Seward had coupled diplomatic efforts with strident warnings of war should the ironclads leave Europe. Not until September, several weeks after the diplomatic tour, did he receive trustworthy assurances from the governments of England and France that the rams would not be delivered.

With Seward in upstate New York, Stanton in the mountains of Pennsylvania, Nicolay out west, and Hay setting out for a week’s vacation in Long Branch, New Jersey, Lincoln was left in relative solitude. “The White House,” Stoddard noted, “is deserted, save by our faithful and untiring Chief Magistrate, who, alone of all our public men, is always at his post.” Notwithstanding, Stoddard observed, “he looks less careworn and emaciated than in the spring, as if, living only for his country, he found his own vigor keeping pace with the returning health of the nation.”

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