He is a statesman and an orator, and his response emphasizes a request already brought you by a committee from a public meeting of dispirited citizens, that the celebration should be given up. It was a more hopeful assembly which in the first place determined to have one, and made you chairman of the general Fourth of July Committee. You now repeat to the despondent statesman the reply you made to the representative of the wet-blanket meeting:
"Sir, there will be a Fourth of July celebration in Washington this year, if we can hear Lee's cannon all the while, and if we adjourn from the speaker's stand to the trenches!"
The Mall below the White House is a capital place for a speaker's stand, and the Commissioner of Public Buildings gives you permission to do anything you please with it. So does the President. You have secured the Marine Band, of course. It is accustomed to play upon the White House grounds and does not care what day it may be. General Martindale, in command of the city, is an old friend, and he is full of Fourth of July.
"My dear boy! Certainly! I've a lot of batteries and cavalry and infantry to move up the river. I'll fix you. Give you another band, too. Go ahead! Going to have it on the White House grounds? Best place in the world for Fourth of July this year. Meade's going to whip Lee out of his boots!"
Other preparations go on apace, but the summer days grow lurid with intense heat and the pressure of terrible suspense. The White House seems a furnace, and the entire city takes on more perfectly than ever before the air belonging to its real character of a frontier post in peril of capture by the enemy.
"If Meade is defeated, he will strike at Baltimore and we shall be cut off?"
"No, Mrs. Lincoln, all that's left of him after beating Meade will be too lame to march as far as Baltimore."