07 March 2010

ch.17: Dark Times for the Union Cause

The Union cause appeared next to hopeless after the failure of the Peninsula campaign in 1862. The northern people, Lincoln’s Cabinet, and the president himself were all depressed and apprehensive about the prospects of a military victory.

Fortunately, Lincoln managed to hold his resolve. As Doris Kearns Goodwin points out, he called for more troops, reorganized the command structure of the military, and supported Stanton (pictured above) even while the public wanted the Secretary of War fired. And of even more importance, the author writes that Lincoln still “refused to let a subordinate take the blame for his own decisions.”

But what really altered the historical landscape during these dark and gloomy days is that Lincoln began to solidify his ideas on emancipation. So far, he had been hesitant to make any statements about fighting for freedom or emancipating the slaves. He might have personally thought otherwise, but he had so many constituencies to ameliorate. Now, with the Union teetering, Lincoln began to write the Emancipation Proclamation. He was about to change the Union war aims—and also change history.     

1 comment:

  1. Yes, fortunately Lincoln was about to “change the Union war aims.” Isn’t it ironic? If not for the Union military reversals in the early part of the war, Emancipation may never have been implemented. Moreover, if the Confederacy had surrendered during this same period, it is, again, hard to imagine Emancipation taking place. One wonders if there wasn’t like some divine drama where none of the human players at the time of Fort Sumter could have possibly imagined the scenario of liberation that unfolded.

    Tim Utter

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