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A Short Life of Abraham Lincoln eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 508 pages of information about A Short Life of Abraham Lincoln.
considerable assemblage of citizens of Washington gathered at the Executive Mansion to celebrate the victory of Grant over Lee.  The rather long and careful speech which Mr. Lincoln made on that occasion was, however, less about the past than the future.  It discussed the subject of reconstruction as illustrated in the case of Louisiana, showing also how that issue was related to the questions of emancipation, the condition of the freedmen, the welfare of the South, and the ratification of the constitutional amendment.

“So new and unprecedented is the whole case,” he concluded, “that no exclusive and inflexible plan can safely be prescribed as to details and collaterals.  Such exclusive and inflexible plan would surely become a new entanglement.  Important principles may and must be inflexible.  In the present situation, as the phrase goes, it may be my duty to make some new announcement to the people of the South.  I am considering, and shall not fail to act when satisfied that action will be proper.”

Can any one doubt that this “new announcement” which was taking shape in his mind would again have embraced and combined justice to the blacks and generosity to the whites of the South, with Union and liberty for the whole country?

XXXV

Depreciation of Confederate Currency—­Rigor of Conscription—­Dissatisfaction with the Confederate Government—­Lee General-in-Chief—­J.E.  Johnston Reappointed to Oppose Sherman’s March—­Value of Slave Property Gone in Richmond—­Davis’s Recommendation of Emancipation—­Benjamin’s Last Despatch to Slidell—­Condition of the Army when Lee took Command—­Lee Attempts Negotiations with Grant—­Lincoln’s Directions—­Lee and Davis Agree upon Line of Retreat—­Assault on Fort Stedman—­Five Forks—­Evacuation of Petersburg—­Surrender of Richmond—­Pursuit of Lee—­Surrender of Lee—­Burning of Richmond—­Lincoln in Richmond

From the hour of Mr. Lincoln’s reelection the Confederate cause was doomed.  The cheering of the troops which greeted the news from the North was heard within the lines at Richmond and at Petersburg; and although the leaders maintained their attitude of defiance, the impression rapidly gained ground among the people that the end was not far off.  The stimulus of hope being gone, they began to feel the pinch of increasing want.  Their currency had become almost worthless.  In October, a dollar in gold was worth thirty-five dollars in Confederate money.  With the opening of the new year the price rose to sixty dollars, and, despite the efforts of the Confederate treasury, which would occasionally rush into the market and beat down the price of gold ten or twenty per cent. a day, the currency gradually depreciated until a hundred for one was offered and not taken.  It was natural for the citizens of Richmond to think that monstrous prices were being extorted for food, clothing, and supplies, when in fact they were paying no more than was reasonable.  To pay a thousand dollars for a barrel of flour was enough to strike a householder with terror but ten dollars is not a famine price.  High prices, however, even if paid in dry leaves, are a hardship when dry leaves are not plentiful; and there was scarcity even of Confederate money in the South.

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