The world had many lessons to learn from this great conflict, which liberated a subject people and changed the tactics of modern warfare; but the greatest lesson it taught the nations of waiting Europe was the conservative power of democracy—that a million men, flushed with victory, and with arms in their hands, could be trusted to disband the moment the need for their services was over, and take up again the soberer labors of peace.
Friends loaded these veterans with flowers as they swung down the Avenue, both men and officers, until some were fairly hidden under their fragrant burden. There was laughter and applause; grotesque figures were not absent as Sherman’s legions passed, with their “bummers” and their regimental pets; but with all the shouting and the laughter and the joy of this unprecedented ceremony, there was one sad and dominant thought which could not be driven from the minds of those who saw it—that of the men who were absent, and who had, nevertheless, richly earned the right to be there. The soldiers in their shrunken companies were conscious of the ever-present memories of the brave comrades who had fallen by the way; and in the whole army there was the passionate and unavailing regret for their wise, gentle, and powerful friend, Abraham Lincoln, gone forever from the house by the Avenue, who had called the great host into being, directed the course of the nation during the four years they had been fighting for its preservation, and for whom, more than for any other, this crowning peaceful pageant would have been fraught with deep and happy meaning.
The 14th of April—Celebration at Fort Sumter—Last Cabinet Meeting—Lincoln’s Attitude toward Threats of Assassination—Booth’s Plot—Ford’s Theater—Fate of the Assassins—The Mourning Pageant
Mr. Lincoln had returned to Washington, refreshed by his visit to City Point, and cheered by the unmistakable signs that the war was almost over. With that ever-present sense of responsibility which distinguished him, he gave his thoughts to the momentous question of the restoration of the Union and of harmony between the lately warring sections. His whole heart was now enlisted in the work of “binding up the nation’s wounds,” and of doing all which might “achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace.”