Let every American, every lover of liberty, every well wisher to his posterity, swear by the blood of the Revolution, never to violate in the least particular, the laws of the country; and never to tolerate their violation by others.

As the patriots of seventy-six did to the support of the Declaration of Independence, so to the support of the Constitution and Laws, let every American pledge his life, his property, and his sacred honor; let every man remember that to violate the law, is to trample on the blood of his father, and to tear the charter of his own, and his children's liberty.

Let reverence for the laws, be breathed by every American mother, to the lisping babe, that prattles on her lap; let it be taught in schools, in seminaries, and in colleges; let it be written in Primers, spelling books, and in Almanacs; let it be preached from the pulpit, proclaimed in legislative halls, and enforced in courts of justice. And, in short, let it become the political religion of the nation; and Let the old and the young, the rich and the poor, the grave and the gay, of all sexes and tongues, and colors and conditions, sacrifice unceasingly upon its altars.

While ever a state of feeling, such as this, shall universally, or even, very generally prevail throughout the nation, vain will be every effort, and fruitless every attempt, to subvert our national freedom.


- Abraham Lincoln, January 27, 1838
  Address Before the Young Men's Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Looking back at Lincoln: On April 2, 1865



On this day in 1865, Lincoln waited out the Battle of Petersburg, Virginia at Grant's Army Headquarters in City Point, Virginia.

A series of telegrams were sent between Lincoln and Grant, Lincoln and his wife Mary Todd (who had left for Washington aboard the steamer Monohasset,) and between Lincoln and Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, in Washington. Lincoln even spent part of the day watching the battle.

The Lincoln Log - which I love, and admittedly turn to on days when I want to make sure I haven't missed anything here - really sums it all up nicely, with links to each of the telegrams. It turns out to be a nice snapshot of what this day must have been like for Lincoln, as he awaited the outcome of the great, decisive battle.

From the Lincoln Log:

President remains at front. Mrs. Lincoln arrives in Washington on steamer "Monohasset."
Washington Star, 3 April 1865; Official Records—Armies 1, XLVI pt. 3, 446.

Lincoln goes ashore in barge ordered by Rear Adm. Porter.
Francis F. Browne, The Everyday Life of Abraham Lincoln (New York: Thompson, 1886), 689.

Rides out to entrenchments near battleground and watches fighting for short while. William H. Crook, "Lincoln's Last Day: New Facts Now Told for the First Time. Compiled and written down by Margarita S. Gerry," Harper's Monthly Magazine 115 (September 1907):519; Official Records—Armies 1, XLVI, pt. 3, 461.

Sends message 7:45 A.M. to Mrs. Lincoln: "This morning Gen. Grant, . . . telegraphs as follows. . . . 'The battle now rages furiously. . . . All now looks highly favorable.'" Abraham Lincoln to Mary Todd Lincoln, April 1865, CW, 8:381-82.

In afternoon telegraphs Mrs. Lincoln: "Gen. Grant telegraphs that he has Petersburg completely enveloped . . . suggests that I shall go out and see him . . . which I think I will do. Tad and I are both well."
Abraham Lincoln to Mary Todd Lincoln, 2 April 1865, CW, 8:384; Official Records—Armies 1, XLVI, pt. 3, 447-48.

At 11 A.M. telegraphs Sec. Stanton : "Despatches frequently coming in. All going finely." Abraham Lincoln to Edwin M. Stanton,2 April 1865, CW, 8:382.

At 2 P.M. sends Grant's report to Stanton: "'We are now closing around the works of the line immediately enveloping Petersburg. All looks remarkably well.'" Abraham Lincoln to Edwin M. Stanton, 2 April 1865, CW, 8:382-83.

At 8:15 P.M. telegraphs Grant: "Allow me to tender to you, and all with you, the nations grateful thanks for this additional, and magnificent success. At your kind suggestion, I think I will visit you to-morrow." Abraham Lincoln to Ulysses S. Grant, 2 April 1865, CW, 8:383.


And because telegrams alone cannot tell the entire story of this campaign and victory, here is the blow by blow of the last battle for Petersburg; the days leading to it and Lee's final evacuation on April 2nd, as presented by sonofthesouth.net:

It was near the close of March, 1865, before Grant was ready for a general movement against Lee. Early in December Warren had seized the Weldon road farther south than had yet been done. He destroyed it (Dec. 7) all the way to the Meherin River, meeting with little opposition. A few weeks later there was some sharp skirmishing between Confederate gunboats and National batteries near Dutch Gap Canal. A little later a movement was made on the extreme left of the Nationals to seize the Southside Railway and to develop the strength of Lee's right. The entire army in front of Petersburg received marching orders, and, on Feb. 6, the flanking movement began. After a sharp fight near Hatcher's Run, the Nationals permanently extended their left to that stream. Grant now determined to cut off all communication with Richmond north of that city. The opportunity offered towards the middle of February. Lee had drawn the greater portion of his forces from the Shenandoah Valley, and Sheridan, under instructions, made a grand cavalry raid against the northern communications with the Confederate capital, and especially for the seizure of Lynchburg. It was a most destructive march, and very bewildering to the Confederates.

This raid, the junction of the National armies in North Carolina, and the operations at Mobile and in Central Alabama satisfied Lee that he could no longer maintain his position, unless, by some means, his army might be vastly increased and new and ample resources for its supply obtained. He had recommended the emancipation of the slaves and making soldiers of them, but the slave interest was too powerful in the civil councils of the Confederacy to obtain a law to that effect. Viewing the situation calmly, he saw no hope for the preservation of his army from starvation or capture, nor for the existence of the Confederacy, except in breaking through Grant's lines and forming a junction with Johnston in North Carolina. He knew such a movement would be perilous, but he resolved to attempt it; and he prepared for a retreat from the Appomattox to the Roanoke. Grant saw symptoms of such a movement, and, on March 24, 1865, issued an order for a general forward movement on the 29th. On the 25th Lee's army attempted to break the National line at the strong point of Fort Steadman, in front of the 9th Corps. They also assailed Fort Haskell, on the left of Fort Steadman, but were repulsed. These were sharp but fruitless struggles by the Confederates to break the line. The grand movement of the whole National army on the 29th was begun by the left, for the purpose of turning Lee's right, with an overwhelming force. At the same time Sheridan was approaching the Southside Railway to destroy it. Lee's right entrenched lines extended beyond Hatcher's Run, and against these and the men who held them the turning column marched. General Ord, with three divisions of the Army of the James, had been drawn from the north side of that river and transferred to the left of the National lines before Petersburg. The remainder of Ord's command was left in charge of General Weitzel, to hold the extended lines of the Nationals, fully 35 miles in length.

Sheridan reached Dinwiddie Courthouse towards the evening of March 29. Early that morning the corps of Warren (5th) and Humphreys (2nd) moved on parallel roads against the flank of the Confederates, and, when within 2 miles of their works, encountered a line of battle. A sharp fight occurred, and the Confederates were repulsed, with a loss of many killed and wounded and 100 made prisoners. Warren lost 370 men. Lee now fully comprehended the perils that menaced him. The only line of communication with the rest of the Confederacy might be cut at any hour. He also perceived the necessity of strengthening his right to avert the impending shock of battle; likewise of maintaining his extended line of works covering Petersburg and Richmond. Not aware of the withdrawal of troops from the north side of the James, he left James Longstreet's corps, 8,000 strong, to defend Richmond. Robert E. Lee had massed a great body of his troops—some 15,000-at a point in front of the corps of Warren and Humphreys, the former on the extreme right of the Confederates. There Lee attempted (March 30) to break through the National lines, and for a moment his success seemed assured. A part of the line was pushed back, but Griffin's division stood firm and stemmed the fierce torrent, while Ayres and Crawford reformed the broken column.

Warren soon assumed the offensive, made a countercharge, and, by the aid of a part of Hancock's corps, drove back the Confederates. Lee then struck another blow at a supposed weak point on the extreme left of the Nationals, held by Sheridan. A severe battle ensued. Both parties lost heavily.On the evening of the same day all the National guns in front of Petersburg opened on the Confederate lines from Appomattox to Hatcher's Run.


Wright, Parke, and Ord, holding the entrenchments at Petersburg, were ordered to follow up the bombardment with an assault. The bombardment was kept up until 4 A.M. (April 2), and the assault began at daybreak. Parke carried the outer line of the Confederate works in his front, but was checked at an inner line. Wright drove everything before him to the Boydton plank road, where he turned to the left towards Hatcher's Run, and, pressing along the rear of the Confederate entrenchments, captured several thousand men and many guns. Ord's division broke the Confederate division on Hatcher's Run, when the combined forces swung round to the right and pushed towards Petersburg from the southwest. On the same day the Southside Railway was first struck at three points by the Nationals, who had driven the Confederates from their entrenchments and captured many. This achievement effectually cut off one of Lee's most important communications. Gibbon's division of Ord's command captured two strong redoubts south of Petersburg. In this assault Gibbon lost about 500 men. The Confederates were now confined to an inner line of works close around Petersburg. James Longstreet went to the help of Lee, and the latter ordered a charge to be made to recover some of the lost entrenchments. It failed; and so ended the really last blow struck for the defense of Richmond by Lee's army. General A. P. Hill, one of Lee's best officers, was shot dead while reconnoitering. Lee now perceived that he could no longer hold Petersburg or the capital with safety to his army. At 10.30 on Sunday morning (April 2) he telegraphed to the government at Richmond: "My lines are broken in three places; Richmond must be evacuated this evening." Then Lee's troops withdrew from Petersburg, and the struggle there ended.

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