for me, take that place? Your rank is one grade
too high;... but will you not serve the country, and
oblige me, by taking it voluntarily?” Kindly
consideration, however, was thrown away upon Fremont,
whose self-esteem was so great that he could not see
that he ought to be grateful, or that he must be subordinate.
He owed his appointment largely to the friendly urgency
of the Blair family; and now Postmaster-General Blair,
puzzled at the disagreeable stories about him, went
to St. Louis on an errand of investigation. Fremont
promptly placed him under arrest. At the same
time Mrs. Fremont was journeying to Washington, where
she had an extraordinary interview with the President.
“She sought an audience with me at midnight,”
wrote Lincoln, “and taxed me so violently with
many things that I had to exercise all the awkward
tact I have to avoid quarreling with her....
She more than once intimated that if General Fremont
should decide to try conclusions with me, he could
set up for himself.” Naturally the angry
lady’s threats of treason, instead of seeming
a palliation of her husband’s shortcomings, tended
to make his displacement more inevitable. Yet
the necessity of being rid of him was unfortunate,
because he was the pet hero of the Abolitionists, who
stood by him without the slightest regard to reason.
Lincoln was loath to offend them, but he felt that
he had no choice, and therefore ordered the removal.
He preserved, however, that habitual strange freedom
from personal resentment which made his feelings,
like his action, seem to be strictly official.
After the matter was all over he uttered a fair judgment:
“I thought well of Fremont. Even now I think
well of his impulses. I only think he is the
prey of wicked and designing men; and I think he has
absolutely no military capacity.” For a
short while General Hunter filled Fremont’s
place, until, in November, General Henry W. Halleck
was assigned to command the Department of Missouri.
In February, 1862, General Curtis drove the only regular
and considerable rebel force across the border into
Arkansas; and soon afterward, March 7 and 8, within
this latter State, he won the victory of Pea Ridge.
In Tennessee the vote upon secession had indicated
that more than two thirds of the dwellers in the mountainous
eastern region were Unionists. Mr. Lincoln had
it much at heart to sustain these men, and aside from
the personal feeling of loyalty to them it was also
a point of great military consequence to hold this
district. Near the boundary separating the northeastern
corner of the State from Kentucky, the famous Cumberland
Gap gave passage through the Cumberland Mountains for
the East Tennessee and Virginia Railroad, “the
artery that supplied the rebellion.” The
President saw, as many others did, and appreciated
much more than others seemed to do, the desirability
of gaining this place. To hold it would be to
cut in halves, between east and west, the northern
line of the Confederacy. In the early days a movement