The attack on Sumter placed upon the administration the duty of organising at once for the contest now inevitable the forces of the country. This work of organisation came at best but late because those who were fighting to break up the nation had their preparations well advanced. The first call for troops directed the governors of the loyal States to supply seventy-five thousand men for the restoration of the authority of the government. Massachusetts was the first State to respond by despatching to the front, within twenty-four hours of the publication of the call, its Sixth Regiment of Militia; the Seventh of New York started twenty-four hours later. The history of the passage of the Sixth through Baltimore, of the attack upon the columns, and of the deaths, in the resulting affray, of soldiers and of citizens has often been told. When word came to Washington that Baltimore was obstructing the passage of troops bound southward, troops called for the defence of the capital, the isolation of the government became sadly apparent. For a weary and anxious ten days, Lincoln and his associates were dreading from morning to morning the approach over the long bridge of the troops from Virginia whose camp-fires could be seen from the southern windows of the White House, and were looking anxiously northward for the arrival of the men on whose prompt service the safety of the capital was to depend. I have myself stood in Lincoln’s old study, the windows of which overlook the Potomac, and have recalled to mind the fearful pressure of anxiety that must have weighed upon the President during those long days; as looking across the river, he could trace by the smoke the picket lines of the Virginia troops. He must have thought of the possibility that he was to be the last President of the United States, that the torch handed over to him by the faltering hands of his predecessor was to expire while he was responsible for the flame. The immediate tension was finally broken by the appearance of the weary and battered companies of the Massachusetts troops and the arrival two days later, by the way of Annapolis, of the New York Seventh with an additional battalion from Boston.
It was, however, not only in April, 1861, that the capital was in peril. The anxiety of the President (never for himself but only for his responsibilities) was to be repeated in July, 1863, when Lee was in Maryland, and in July, 1864, at the time of Early’s raid.
We may remember the peculiar burdens that come upon the commander-in-chief through his position at the rear of the armies he is directing. The rear of a battle is, even in the time of victory, a place of demoralising influence. It takes a man of strong nerve not to lose heart when the only people with whom he is in immediate contact are those who through disability or discouragement are making their way to the rear. The sutlers, the teamsters, the wounded men, the panic-struck (and with the best of soldiers