Andrew Johnson: A Study in Courage

By Lloyd Paul Stryker | Go to book overview

XXV
ABRAHAM LINCOLN OR THADDEUS STEVENS?

To no Chief Executive of the United States before or since have there befallen problems more perplexing than those now confronting Johnson. For four years the states had been tearing at each other's throats, and now that the Union soldiers had done their work, the stay-at-homes who had sat safely in the uninvaded North, were crying out for vengeance on the gallant vanquished. They longed to administer the Southern states as "conquered provinces."

"There should now," wrote Senator Sherman, "be literally no terms granted. We should not only brand the leading rebels with infamy, but the whole rebellion should wear the badge of the penitentiary, so that for this generation at least no man who has taken part in it would dare to justify or palliate it."1 These were the words of a "statesman!" Now listen to the language of a soldier,--the brother of the statesman. "The mass of the people south," wrote General Sherman, "will never trouble us again. They have suffered terrifically, and I now feel disposed to befriend them,--of course not the leaders and lawyers, but the armies who have fought and manifested their sincerity, though misled, by risking their persons. . . . It will be difficult for anyone to tread a straight path amid these new complications, but I will do my best. I perceive the politicians are determined to drive the Confederates into guerilla bands, a thing more to be feared than open organized war. They may fight it out, I won't. We could settle the war in three weeks by giving shape to the present disordered elements, but they may play out their game."2

On another occasion General Sherman wrote: "The South is broken and ruined and appeals to our pity. To ride the people

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