Stanton: The Life and Times of Lincoln's Secretary of War

By Benjamin P. Thomas; Harold M. Hyman | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXI
DISCORD

NOW THAT Lincoln's assassins had been brought to justice, Stanton again contemplated resigning from the cabinet. But a sense of duty not yet completed compelled him to accede to the new President's request and hang on for the present. There was still a great deal to be done in connection with the vast military machine he had helped to create.

An immediate question was the speed with which it should be pruned of its volunteers. The impatient Republic demanded that all its citizen- soldiers be allowed to return home, but too many uncertainties faced Stanton concerning the nature and extent of the Army's responsibilities during the coming months. With Congress not in session, it would be impossible to raise new regular regiments at once. Therefore, he decided, a portion of the highly trained volunteers, especially the officers, must stay in service.

During the spring months of 1865, Stanton returned a large share of the wartime enlisted volunteers to civilian life. Substantial demobilization was achieved so smoothly that it surprised many contemporaries. When Lieber inscribed a copy of his book Civil Liberty to Stanton, he noted that the returning veterans, "instead of threatening liberty," were strengthening it by contributing their skills and energies to the spectacular growth of the nation. A military class had not developed out of the war, as Lieber had feared it might, and it was to Stanton's credit that civilian authority had retained its control over the wartime military galaxy.

Stanton now had to reorganize the Army; from the single wartime task of crushing the rebellion, it had to turn to the varied needs of peace. One part of the Army would have to deal with training and

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