Andrew Johnson: A Study in Courage

By Lloyd Paul Stryker | Go to book overview

XXII
"ENEMIES! WE MUST NEVER SPEAK OF THAT"

"OUR country is now environed with perils which it is our duty calmly to contemplate."1 Thus wrote Jefferson Davis to the Confederate Congress on March 13th, 1865. "Recent military operations of the enemy," he continued, "have been successful in the capture of some of our sea ports, in interrupting some of our lines of communication and in devastating large districts of our country. These events have had the natural effect of encouraging our foes and dispiriting many of our people. The Capital of the Confederate States is now threatened, and is in greater danger than it has heretofore been during the war."2

The end was approaching and yet "the more profound the study of the last days of the Confederacy, the firmer will be the conviction that the best management was required of the North to assure the end of the war in the spring of 1865."3 The Southerners were fighting with the fierce courage of desperation. They knew what Thaddeus Stevens and his followers had in store for them; they anticipated the carpet-bag régime in the "conquered provinces,"--negro domination over white men. "There remains then, for us no choice but to continue the contest to a final issue," wrote Jefferson Davis on March 13th, "for the people of the Confederacy can be but little known to him who supposes it possible that they would ever consent to purchase at the cost of degradation and slavery, permission to live in a country garrisoned by their own negroes and governed by officers sent by the conquerors to work over them."4

Lincoln had at last found his generals, Sherman, Sheridan and Grant, but he wanted to be personally present at the finish. His reasons for this were thus recorded by Welles on March 23rd: "The President has gone to the front. . . . There is no doubt

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