Part 9 out of 11
Meanwhile many Americans began to settle in Texas. The United States
Government began to feel sorry that they had given it up, and they
tried to buy it from the Mexicans. The Mexicans, however, refused
to sell it. But many men in the southern states became more and
more anxious to get Texas. Because they saw that if they did not
get some more territory free states would soon outnumber slave
states. For all the land south of the Missouri Compromise line had
been used up, the only part left being set aside as Indian Territory.
In the north on the other hand there was still land enough out of
which to carve four or five states.
All the Americans who had settled in Texas were slave holders. And
when Mexico abolished slavery Texas refused to do so. This refusal
of course brought trouble, and at length the Texans, declaring that
the government of Mexico was tyrannical, rose in rebellion against
Mexico, and declared themselves a republic.
But the Mexicans would not allow this great territory to revolt
without an effort to keep it. So they sent an army to fight the
Texans. The leader of the Mexican army was Santa Anna, the Mexican
President. The leader of the Texans was General Sam Houston.
Sam Houston was an adventurous American who a year or two before had
settled in Texas. He had had a varied life. He had been a soldier,
a lawyer, a Congressman, and finally Governor of a state. Then
he had suddenly thrown everything up, had gone to live among the
Indians, and was adopted into an Indian tribe.
While he was living with the Indians wild stories of his doings
were spread about. One story was that he meant to conquer Texas,
and make himself Emperor of that country. But Houston had really
no intention of founding a nation.
In the war with Texas the Mexicans were at first successful, and
the terrified people fled before them. But at the battle of San
Jacinto the Texans utterly defeated the Mexicans. The rout was
complete and the Mexicans fled in every direction, among them their
leader, Santa Anna.
Mounted on a splendid black horse he fled toward a bridge crossing
a river which flowed near. But when he reached the bridge he found
that the Texans had destroyed it. He was being hotly pursued by
the enemy. So without pausing a moment he spurred his horse into
the river, swam across, and to the surprise of his pursuers climbed
the steep cliff of the opposite side, and disappeared.
Darkness now fell and the Texans gave up the pursuit. But next morning
they set out again to scour the country in search of fugitives.
Meanwhile Santa Anna, having abandoned his horse and changed
his clothes in a forsaken cottage, was trying to make his way to
the Mexican border. Presently, however, one of the search parties
came upon a little man dressed in blue cotton coat and trousers,
a leather cap and red woolen slippers. He was a miserable looking
object, and when he saw the Texans approach, he tried to hide himself
in the grass. He was soon found, however, and when the Texans asked
him who he was he said he was a private soldier.
The Texans then told him to follow them to the camp. And when
he said he could not walk he mounted on one of their horses, and,
riding behind a Texan, he was led into camp.
The Texans had no idea who they had captured until they reached
their camp. Then when the Mexican prisoners saw the queer little
figure they exclaimed, "The President! the President!" Only then
did the Texans discover what a great man they had captured.
Houston had been wounded in the battle, and was lying on a mattress
under the tree when Santa Anna was led before him.
"I am General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna," said the prisoner, "and
a prisoner of war at your disposal."
Houston looked at him in silence, and then signed him to sit down
on a box which stood near. And there under the spreading branches
of the tree a truce was arranged, and Santa Anna wrote letters to
his generals telling them to cease fighting.
The Texans wanted to hang Santa Anna for his cruelties during the
war, but Houston saved him from their wrath, and after he had signed
a treaty acknowledging the independence of Texas he was set free.
Texas now declared itself a republic, and of this new State General
Sam Houston - "Old Sam Jacinto," as he was affectionately nicknamed
- was chosen President. The flag chosen for the Republic was blue
with a single yellow star in the middle, and from this flag Texas
came to be called the Lone Star State.
The Texans had declared themselves a free and independent nation.
But as a republic Texas was very small, and the Texans had no
intention of remaining a lonely insignificant republic. What they
desired was to join the United States. And very soon they asked to
be admitted to the Union.
But Texas lay south of the Missouri Compromise line, and although
small for an independent republic it was huge for a state, and
might be cut up into three or four. Therefore the people in the
North were very much against Texas being admitted to the Union as
it would increase the strength of the slave states enormously. But
the Southerners were determined to have Texas, and at last in 1845
it was admitted as a slave state. The two last states which had
been added to the Union, that it, Florida and Texas, were both
slave states. But they were soon balanced by two free states, Iowa
Iowa is an Indian name meaning "Sleepy Ones." The state was called
after a tribe of Indians of that name who were there when the
Frenchmen first explored the country. It was the first free state
to be carved out of the Louisiana Purchase.
Wisconsin was part of the Northwest Territory and was the last part
of it to be organised as a state. Like many other states Wisconsin
takes its name from its chief river, which means "Gathering Waters."
There are many lead mines in Wisconsin and these had been worked
in a poor sort of way by the Indians, and when white people began
to work them there was trouble between them and the Redmen.
At different times Red Bird and Black Hawk rose against the
whites, but both were defeated. At length the disputes were settled
by treaties with the Indians and the land began to be peopled by
Wisconsin is often called the Badger State. It got this name not
because badgers are to be found there, but because the lead miners,
instead of building houses, used to dig out caves in the hillsides
and live in them summer and winter. From this they were nicknamed
Badgers, and the state became known as the Badger State.
Besides Texas, another great territory was added to the States at
this time, and another boundary dispute between British America
and the United States was settled.
For many years both Britain and the United States had claimed the
Oregon Territory. The Americans claimed it by right of Captain
Gray's discovery of the Columbia River, and also by right of the
exploration of Lewis and Clark. The British claimed it by right of
the discoveries of Sir Alexander Mackenzie, and also on the ground
that it had been occupied by Hudson's Bay Company.
Three times attempts had been made to settle the boundary, but each
time the attempts had failed. At length the two countries agreed
to occupy it jointly. This arrangement was to come to an end by
either country giving a year's notice.
President Polk's appetite for land was huge. He wanted the whole of
Oregon for the United States. So in 1846 the joint agreement came
to an end, and new efforts for final settlement began.
Many others were as eager as the President to have the whole
of Oregon, and "Fifty-four Forty or Fight" became a battle-cry.
Fifty-four Forty was the imaginary line or parallel of latitude on
the north of the disputed territory. So that the cry "Fifty-four
Forty or Fight" meant that these hotspurs demanded the whole of
Oregon or war with Great Britain.
On the other hand some people thought a ridiculous fuss was being
made over an utterly useless piece of land.
"What do we want with it?" they said. "What are we to do with it?
How could a bit of land five thousand miles away ever become part
of the United States? It is absurd!"
Steam, said someone, would make it possible. Railways would bring
Oregon near to the seat of government.
"Steam!" cried the objectors. "Railways across the Rocky Mountains!
The British on their side did not want the whole of Oregon, but
they wanted the land as far south as the Columbia River.
However in the end both sides gave way a little. It was agreed to
halve the country, and the parallel 49 was taken as the boundary.
Thus another large territory was added to the States and the northern
frontiers peacefully settled from east to west.
But Polk's land hunger was not yet satisfied. He had half of Oregon,
he had the whole of Texas, but he wanted more. He waned California,
but California belonged to Mexico. He tried to buy it from Mexico,
but Mexico would not sell it. Polk, however, was determined to have
it. So determined was he that he made up his mind to fight for it,
if there was no other way of getting it.
It was easy to find an excuse for war. The boundaries of Texas were
very uncertain, and a tract of land lying east of the Rio Grande
River was claimed by both Texas and by Mexico. IN 1846 Polk sent
an army to take possession of this land.
General Zachary Taylor was in command of this expedition. And when
he arrived near the mouth of the Rio Grande and began to build a
fort the Mexicans were very angry. They sent him a message ordering
him to be gone in twenty-four hours.
Of course Taylor refused to go, and he began to blockade the river,
so as to stop trade with Mexico.
The Mexicans then made ready to fight, and next morning they attacked
and captured a scouting party of Americans.
When the news reached Washington there was great excitement.
"Mexico has passed the boundary of the United States," declared the
President, "has invaded our territory, and shed American blood on
"War exists," he said, "notwithstanding all our efforts to avoid
it, exists by the act of Mexico herself."
Some of the people, however, did not believe that Mexico was wholly
to blame for beginning the war. And a young Congressman named Abraham
Lincoln asked the President to state the exact spot on American
territory where American blood had been spilled. This was called
the "Spot resolution."
But in spite of any protest that was made war was declared, and
volunteers came pouring in from every side.
The war lasted for a year and a half, and from the first the
Mexicans had the worst of it. Throughout the whole war they never
won a battle. Besides General Taylor's army the Mexicans soon had
two more to fight. In the north General Kearney marched into New
Mexico and took possession of it in the name of the United States.
Then he marched into California and claimed that also. In the
south the Commander-in-Chief, General Scott, landed at Vera Cruz.
And after taking the town he marched triumphantly on, conquering
everything on his way till he reached Mexico City, and the war was
practically at an end.
It was not, however, until February of the following year that the
treaty of peace was signed in Mexico and not till the 4th of July
was it proclaimed in Washington. By it a great tract of land was
given to the United States, stretching from the borders of Texas
to the shores of the Pacific and from the present northern border
of Mexico to Oregon.
Chapter 77 - Polk - The Finding of Gold
In return for the great tract of land ceded to the United States
Mexico received 15 million dollars. But the Mexicans little knew
what a golden land they were parting with, and what a bad bargain
they were making. Nine days before the treaty was signed gold was
found in California. But news traveled slowly in those days, and
the treaty was signed before the Mexicans knew of the great discovery.
Some time before this a Swiss named Sutter had settled in the Sacramento
Valley. He had prospered greatly, and had become a regular little
potentate, ruling the whole district round.
He had thousands of horses and cattle, and hundreds of men worked
for him, both white men and Indians. Now he wanted to build a saw
mill and a man named Marshall, a settler from the East, undertook
to build it for him.
Marshall was a moody, queer tempered man. But he was a good workman.
So about fifty miles from Sutter's fort the saw mill was begun. Now
one day while Marshall was walking beside the mill stream inspecting
the work he saw something yellow and shining among the loose earth
and gravel which was being carried down by the stream. At first
he thought little about it, but as again and again he saw these
shining grains he at length thought that they might be gold and
picked some up.
Next morning he again went to inspect the mill stream and there
he found a piece of the shining stuff bigger than any he had found
the day before. Marshall picked up the piece, and when he felt it
heavy in his hand he began to feel a little excited.
Could it really be gold? he asked himself. Marshall did not know
much about gold, but he knew that it was heavy, and that it was
fairly soft. So he bit and hammered it with stones, and finding
that it was easily beaten out he at last decided that it was indeed
So he mounted his horse and rode off to Sutter to tell him of
his wonderful discovery. It was a pouring wet day in January, and
when Marshall reached the fort he was soaked through. But he took
no thought of that, and marching right into Sutter's office with
something of an air of mystery asked for a private talk.
Sutter wondered what had brought Marshall back from the mill, and
he wondered still more at the mysterious air.
Soon he understood. For Marshall took out a little bag, and emptying
what it held into his hand, held it out to Sutter.
"I believe this is gold," he said.
"It certainly looks like it," said Sutter in surprise.
Then Marshall told how he had found it in the mill stream, and that
he believed there were tons of it.
Sutter was a very great man in the countryside, and he had things
which no one else dreamed of having. Among these was an Encyclopedia.
So he looked up the article on gold and read it carefully. And then
the two men tried all the tests they had at command, and at last
came to the conclusion that the shining grains which Marshall had
found were certainly gold.
Sutter would have been glad to keep the secret for a little time,
at least until his mill was finished. But such a secret could not
be kept. Soon every one round knew of the great discovery. The
sawmill was left unfinished, the workmen went off to dig for gold,
and everyone else followed their example.
The towns were deserted, shops and offices were shut up, houses
were left half built, fields were left unploughed, horses and cattle
roamed about uncared for. High and low, rich and poor, lawyers,
doctors, labourers, threw down their tools or their pens, turned
the key in the door, and departed for the gold fields.
Some went by sea, and those who could not get passage in ships hired
any small craft which they could find. They put to sea in the most
rotten or frail little boats, willing to brave any danger if only
they might at length reach the land of gold.
Others went by land, some rode on horseback or drove in a wagon,
others went on foot all the way, carrying with them nothing but a
spade or shovel.
It was a mad rush for wealth. Every one as soon as he heard the
wonderful news was seized with the gold fever. When ships came into
port the sailors heard the news, and they deserted wholesale, and
the ships were left to rock at anchor without a soul on board.
Prisoners broke prison and fled to the gold fields. Warders followed,
not to take them but to remain and dig. Newspapers could not be
issued, because the printers had all run off; every industry was
neglected except the making of spades and picks. And the price of
these rose and rose till they could not be had for less than ten
dollars apiece, and it is said that even fifty dollars was offered
But in some places upon the gold fields picks and shovels were not
needed, for all the men had to do was to pick at the seams with
their pocket knives to get enough gold to make them rich.
At first it was only from California, Oregon and the Western
settlements that men rushed to the gold fields. For although
the telegraph had been discovered a short time before this there
were neither telegraphs nor railroads in the West. But soon, in
a wonderfully short time too, the news spread. It spread to the
Eastern States, then to Europe, and from all over the world the
Every ship that would float put to sea. Many instead of going
their usual routes sailed for California, the whale fisheries were
neglected and the whalers took to mining. The fleets of all the
world seemed to make for the shores of America.
Across the Continent, too long trains of lumbering wagons drawn
by oxen slowly wound. They were tented over and were so huge that
whole families lived in them, and they were given the name of prairie
schooners. All day long they crawled along and as dusk fell they
gathered into groups. Fires were lit, tents pitched for the night.
Then early next morning the travelers would be astir again, and so
day after day through lonely uninhabited wildernesses the caravans
In one unending stream great tented wagons, carts, carriages, horsemen
or even walkers moved along, all going in the same direction, to
the golden land of the West.
Many were the dangers these adventurous travelers had to brave.
There were dangers from hostile Indians, and from wild animals,
from lack of food and water, and above all from sickness. Cholera
broke out in these slow-moving trains, and many a man who had set
out gaily found a grave by the wayside, and never reached the land
of his golden hopes.
The road too was strewn with broken down wagons, and the bones
of oxen and horses, and many had to finish their weary journey on
But in spite of all mischances hundreds and thousands reached the
gold fields, and all over the Sacramento Valley, or wherever gold
was found, little towns sprang up.
These were towns of wooden shanties and canvas tents. And whenever
the gold gave out, or news came of some richer mine, the diggers
would forsake the little town, and rush off somewhere else. And
no sign of life would be left in the once busy valley save the
weather-worn huts and the upturned earth. Some men made fortunes
almost in a day, many returned home well off. But by far the
greater number returned poorer than they came, and with their health
shattered by the hardships of the life. Many more never returned
at all, but found a nameless grave among the lonely valleys.
Others made fortunes again and again, and lost them as quickly as
they made them. For though at first the men who went to the gold
fields were for the most part young, and strong, and honest, the
greed of gain soon brought all the riff-raff of the towns. Many
men joined the throng who had no intention of working, and who but
came to lure the gold away from those who had found it.
So gambling saloons, and drinking saloons, sprang up everywhere, and
many a man left them poorer if not wiser. Murders became frequent,
but men thought little about them. Every man went armed, and if he
could not protect himself it was his own fault.
Theft was looked upon as a far worse sin. For everybody lived in
frail wooden juts or open tents. They had no means of locking up
their gold, and thought nothing of leaving it lying about quite
unprotected. But when criminals and lowdown ruffians began to come
things were changed; until at last many were afraid to have it known
that they possessed gold lest they should be murdered for it.
Among the many who did not make fortunes out of the finding of gold
were Marshall and Sutter. Neither of them was lucky as a miner and
both of them died in poverty.
Chapter 78 - Taylor - Union or Disunion
Polk had no chance of being re-elected as President. For many
people looked upon the war with Mexico as a great wrong, and as a
stain upon the flag. So even although it had given to the United
States California, and all its untold wealth, Polk was not forgiven
for having brought the war about. And while the people were rushing
from all corners of the globe to California, a new President was
This new President was no other than General Zachary Taylor, who
had become famous during the Mexican war, for people did not blame
him for the war. He had only obeyed orders as a soldier must and
every one admired his bravery and skill.
He was a rough old soldier, and his men called him Old Rough
and Ready. And when he first heard that people wanted to make him
President, like Jackson, that other rough old soldier before him,
he simply laughed at the idea.
"I am not vain enough to think that I am fit to be President," he
said. "I would gladly see some other citizen more worthy chosen
for that high office."
Old Rough and Ready was a soldier, and nothing but a soldier.
He knew nothing at all about politics, and had never even voted.
However when people insisted that he should be President, he began
rather to like the idea, and at length consented to be a candidate,
and was elected.
Because of the discovery of gold, thousands and thousands of people
flocked to California. And although many returned to their homes
again, many also remained in California, and made their homes
in the new-found sunny land. So it came about that California was
peopled faster than any other part of America, and in 1849, less
than two years after the discovery of gold, it asked to be admitted
to the Union as a state.
But before it was admitted a fierce battle had to be fought, for
the Californians wanted the state to be admitted as a free state.
Now part of California lay south of the Missouri Compromise Line,
so the Southerners were angry, and declared that California must
be divided into two, and that the Southern part must come into the
Union as a slave state.
The Southerners felt that they had a right to be angry. For they
had helped to bring on the Mexican War for the purpose of getting
more territory south of the Missouri Compromise Line, so that they
should be sure of slave states to balance the free states of the
north. They had won the land, and now victory would be turned to
defeat if the new states were admitted as free states.
So they threatened, as they had threatened before, to break away
from the Union if they were not listened to.
No sooner was Taylor inaugurated than he had to turn his attention
to this great matter. The Southerners were determined to use all
their power to get their way, and Senator John Caldwell Calhoun, an
old man, who for years had been a champion of slavery, determined
to speak once more for the cause.
Calhoun was so old and ill that he could hardly walk, and he tottered
into the Senate Chamber leaning on the arms of two friends. He was
far too feeble to read his speech. So, pale and deathlike, he sat
in his chair while a friend read it for him.
"The South must have a share in the new territory," he said. "If
you of the North will not do this, then let our Southern States
separate and depart in peace."
This was the great statesman's last word to his country. Three weeks
later he lay dead. He was the greatest of Southern politicians.
He really believed that slavery was a good thing, and that life in
the South would be impossible without it. And loving his country
deeply, he could not bear to think of its ruin.
"The South! the poor South! he murmured, as he lay dying. "God
knows what will become of her."
The next great speech was made by Daniel Webster. Twenty years had
come and gone since he made his first great speech for Union. Now
thousands turned to him, begging him to reconcile the North and
South. And on the day he made his speech, the Senate Chamber was
packed from floor to ceiling.
"I speak today," he said, "not as a Massachusetts man, nor as a
Northern man, but as an American, having no locality but America.
I speak today for the preservation of the Union. Hear me for my
But to the men burning with zeal against slavery his speech seemed
lukewarm. "The law of Nature," he said, "settles forever that slavery
cannot exist in California." It was a useless taunt and reproach to
the slave holders to forbid slavery where slavery could not exist.
He blamed the North for having fallen short in its duty to the
South, and declared that the South had just cause for complaint.
Many applauded this speech, but to others it was like a blow in
"Webster," cried one, "is a fallen star! Lucifer descending from
A third great speech was made four days later by William H. Seward.
He spoke whole-heartedly for union.
"Slavery must vanish from the Union," he said, "but it would
vanish peacefully." He brushed aside as impossible the thought that
any state should break away from the Union. "I shall vote for the
admission of California directly," he said, "without conditions,
without qualifications, and without compromise."
The Washington Monument
But still the debate went on. Summer came and on the 4th of July
1850, there was a great ceremony for the laying of the foundation
stone of the Washington Monument.
The President was present and sat for hours in the blazing sun.
Then feeling very tired he went home and drank iced milk and ate
some cherries. That night he became very ill, and a few days later
"I have tried to do my duty," he said. Then the brave and honest
old soldier laid down his heavy burden and was at rest.
Once again a sad procession left the White House, and wound slowly
through the streets lined with soldiers. Behind the funeral car
was led the President's old war horse which he would never mount
again. The people wept to see it, and the whole nation mourned for
the brave old soldier who had tried to do his duty.
Chapter 79 - Fillmore - The Underground Railroad
The Vice-President, Millard Fillmore, now became President. He was
the son of very poor parents; he had picked up an education how he
could, and he was nineteen before he saw a history, or a map of his
own country. But he was determined to become a lawyer. And after
a hard struggle he succeeded. Then from step to step he rose, till
he had now reached the highest office in the land.
Under the new President the debate over California still went on.
But at length the matter was settled, and California was admitted
as a free state. This was on the 9th of September, 1850, but the
news did not reach California until October. For months the people
had been waiting for an answer to their petition. And as the days
went past they grew more and more impatient. But at last one morning
San Francisco was filled with excitement for the Oregon was seen
coming into harbour gaily decorated with flags.
With shouts of joy the people ran down to the wharf for they knew
the Oregon would never come in with flags flying in such a way if
she were not bringing good news.
And when they heard the news they laughed, and cried, and kissed
each other in joy. Cannon were fired and bells rung, shops were
shut, and every one went holidaying.
Messengers too were sent in every direction. Stage coaches with
six-horse teams ran races to be the first to bring the news to
outlying towns and villages. As the coaches dashed through villages
men on them shouted the news, and the villagers would shout and
laugh in return.
Then, leaping on their horses, they would ride off to tell some
neighbour. So throughout the land the news was carried.
By the admission of California to the Union as a free state the
non-slave states were greatly strengthened. But in some degree to
make up for this, a very strict law about the arrest of runaway
slaves was passed. This was called the Fugitive Slave Law and it
was bad and cruel. For, by it, if a negro were caught even by some
one who had no right to him, he had no chance of freedom. A negro
was not allowed to speak for himself, and he was not allowed the
benefit of a jury. Also any person who helped a slave to run away,
or protected him when he had run away, might be fined.
The North hated the Bill but it was passed. Many people, however,
made up their minds not to obey it. For conscience told them that
slavery was wrong and conscience was a "higher Law." So when men
came to the free states to catch runaway slaves they were received
with anger, and everything was done to hinder them in their man-catching
work. The Underground Railroad, too, became more active than ever.
This Underground Railroad was not a railroad, and it was not
underground. It was simply a chain of houses about twenty miles or
so apart where escaped slaves might be sure of a kindly welcome.
The railroad was managed by men who felt pity for the slaves and
helped them to escape. It went in direct roads across the States
to Canada. The escaping slaves moved so secretly from one house to
another that it almost seemed as if they must have gone underground.
So the system came to be called the Underground Railroad, and the
friendly houses were the stations.
Once a runaway slave reached one of these friendly houses or
stations he would be hidden in the attic or cellar or some safe
place. There he would be fed and cared for until night came again.
Then the password would be given to him, and directions how to
reach the next underground station. And, with the pole star for
his guide, he would set out.
Arriving at the house in the dusk of early morning, before any one
was astir he would knock softly at the door.
"Who's there?" would be asked.
Then the runaway would give the password in answer. Perhaps it
would be "William Penn," or "a friend of friends," or sometimes
the signal would be the hoot of an owl. And hearing it the master
of the underground station would rise and let the "passenger" in.
Sometimes the slavers would come alone, sometimes in twos and threes
or even more. As many as seventeen were hidden one day at one of
Thousands of slaves were in this way helped to escape every year.
It was a dangerous employment for the station-masters, and many
were found out and fined. They paid the fines, they did not care
for that; and went on helping the poor slaves.
Most of the people connected with the underground railroad were
white, but some were coloured. One of the most daring of these was
Harriet Tubman. She helped so many of her countrymen to escape that
they called her "Moses" because she had led them out of the land
of bondage. She was nearly white, but had been a slave herself. And
having escaped from that fearful bondage she now spent her life in
trying to free others.
Again and again, in spite of the danger in being caught, she
ventured into the Southern States to bring back a band of runaway
slaves. And she was so clever and so full of resource that she
always brought them safely away. More than once when she saw she
was being tracked, she put herself and her little company into
a train, taking tickets for them southwards. For she knew that no
one would suspect them to be runaway slaves if they were traveling
south. Then, when their track was covered, and danger of pursuit
over, they all turned north again.
Harriet was both brave and clever, and when the Civil War broke
out, she served as a scout for the Northern Army, earning the praise
of those who employed her. She lived to be very old, and died not
many years ago, happy to know that all her countrymen were free.
But although many slaves tried to run away, all slaves were not
unhappy. When they had a kind master they were well taken care of,
and lived in far greater comfort that if they had been free. In the
more northerly of the slave states, such as Virginia, the slaves
were generally household servants, and were treated in the most
affectionate manner. It was farther south in the cotton growing
districts, where slaves worked in gangs under the whip of the
overseer who was often brutal, that the real misery was.
But even with the kindest of masters a slave could never feel safe.
For that master might die or lose his money, and have to sell his
slaves. Then husband and wife, parents and children might be sold
to different masters, and never see each other again. The one would
never know whether the other was happy or miserable, alive or dead.
Or they might be sold down South to work in the rice swamps or the
cotton fields. It was this that the happy, careless slave from the
North most dreaded.
It was just at this time when the Fugitive Slave Law was being
enforced, and the Underground Railroad was working nightly that
"Uncle Tom's Cabin" was written and published. You all know the
story of poor old Tom, of funny, naughty Topsy and all the other
interesting people of the book. We look upon it now as merely a
story-book. But it was much more than that. It was a great sermon
and did more to make people hate slavery than any other book ever
It was read by hundreds and thousands of people, and soon the fame
of it spread to every country in Europe, and it was translated
into at least twenty languages. And even today when the work it
was meant to do is done, hundreds of boys and girls still laugh at
Topsy and feel very choky indeed over the fate of poor old Uncle
Chapter 80 - Pierce - The Story of "Bleeding Kansas"
In 1853 Fillmore's term of office came to an end and Franklin Pierce
became President. He was only forty-eight, and was the youngest
President who had been elected so far.
He was the son of a soldier who had fought in the Mexican War. But
by profession he was a lawyer and not a soldier.
During the administration of Pierce another territory was added
to the United States. This was a strip of land which now forms the
south of New Mexico and Arizona. It was bought from Mexico in 1854
and, as James Gadsden arranged the treaty with the President of
Mexico, it was called the Gadsden Purchase. With this purchase the
territory of the United States as we know it today was completed.
Only seventy years had passed since the Peace of Paris. But in
these seventy years the country had made mighty strides and had
been doubled and trebled. Instead of being merely a strip of land
east of the Mississippi it now stretched from ocean to ocean.
The chief interest in this administration was still the slavery
question. It had not been settled as some people thought it had
been. But it slept, at least, until suddenly a senator names Douglas
awoke it again by bringing in a bill to do away with the Missouri
There was still a great deal of territory of the Louisiana Purchase
waiting to be carved into states. Now said Douglas, "why make all
this fuss about slavery or no slavery every time a new state wants
to be admitted? Do away with this Missouri Compromise, and when there
are enough people in a territory to allow of its being admitted as
a state, let these people themselves decide whether they wish it
to be a free state or a slave state."
The bill which Douglas brought in thus to do away with the Missouri
Compromise was known as the Kansas-Nebraska Bill, as Douglas
suggested calling the great unorganised territory Nebraska in the
north and Kansas in the South.
Douglas was a Northern man, but he wanted to please the Southerners,
and get them to vote for him as President. So he brought in this
bill. It met the fierce opposition from the North, but it passed.
The President alone had power to stop it. But he did not use his
Douglas had brought in the bill to make himself popular. But he
made a great mistake. All over the North he was hated and cursed
because of it. In town after town he was hanged in effigy, and
then burned with every mark of scorn. He was reviled as a Judas,
and some women living in a little Northern village sent him thirty
pieces of silver.
In spite of this bill the Northerners were determined that slavery
should not be extended. So even before the President had signed
it men were hurring westward into Kansas. Claims were staked out,
trees were felled, and huts built as if by magic. Settlers streamed
in by hundreds every day. Some came of themselves, others were sent
by societies got up to help settlers, and by the end of the year,
two or three towns were founded.
But the slave holders were just as determined to make Kansas a slave
state. So from Missouri, which was a slave state and bordered upon
the Kansas Territory, thousands of slave owners came over the border
and settled in Kansas.
They too found several towns, and there began a fierce struggle
for the upper hand.
March 30th, 1855 was appointed by the Governor for the election of
a council and House of Representatives for the Territory.
The "Free Staters" were already to vote in force. But the election
was a farce. For when the day came, five thousand Missourians marched
across the border. They were a wild, sunburned, picturesque mob.
They had guns on their shoulders, revolvers stuck in their belts
and bowie knives in their big top boots.
They took possession of the polling booths, and if the judges would
not do as they wished, they were turned out.
"Do you live in Kansas?" asked a Judge
"Yes, I do," replied the Missourian, without a moment's hesitation.
"Does your family live in Kansas?" asked the judge, who knew the
man was not speaking the truth.
"It is none of your business," replied the Missourian. "If you don't
keep your impertinence to yourself, I'll knock your head from your
So the judge gave it up, and every one who liked voted.
There were not three thousand voters in the Territory, but over six
thousand votes were recorded, three-quarters of them being those
unlawful votes of the Missourians. Thus said a learned gentleman,
"It has been maintained by the sharp logic of the revolver and the
bowie knife, that the people of Missouri are the people of Kansas!"
The Governor of Kansas was named Reeder. His sympathy was with the
South. But he was an honest man, and when he saw the lawless way
in which the Missourians were behaving, he resolved to see justice
done. And although they threatened to hang him, he ordered new
elections in the seven districts which dared to make a protest. But
the new elections made little difference. Owing to the fact that
so many of the people were disputing its result, this election
did not settle the question whether Kansas were to be admitted as
a slave or a free state, and it still remained a Territory. And as
soon as the legislature met, the "Free State" members were promptly
unseated, and the others had things all their own way.
The laws which this legislature drew up with regard to slaves were
quite out of keeping with the needs and desires of free America.
If any person were to entice a slave away from his master they
were to suffer death. If they hid and protected a slave, they might
be imprisoned with hard labour for five years or more. And if any
person declared that Kansas was not a slave territory, they were
to be imprisoned with hard labour for at least two years.
These were only a few of the laws. But the Governor vetoed them
all. That is, he refused to pass them, veto coming from a Latin
word meaning "I forbid." This made the slave party angry and they
asked the President to remove Reeder and send a new Governor. This
the President had power to do, as Texas was still only a Territory
and not a state.
The President was now quite on the side of the slave owners. So
a new Governor was sent, but the struggle went on just as before.
Both sides began to arm, and at length it came to bloodshed.
The town of Lawrence, which was a Free State town, was sacked by
a mob of ruffians, and civil war in Kansas was begun.
In Kansas there was an old man named John Brown. He was a fierce old
Puritan, and he believed that God had called him to fight slavery.
And the only way of fighting it that he thought possible was to
slay the slave-holders.
A few days after the sacking of Lawrence he set off with his sons
and one or two others to teach the slave-holders a lesson. Blood
had been spilled by them, and he was determined that for every
free state man who had been murdered he would have a life of a
slave-holder in revenge.
So in the dead of night he and his band attacked the farms of sleeping
men, and, dragging them from their beds, slew them in cold blood.
Before day dawned six or seven men had been thus slain.
When the Free Staters heard of this deed they were shocked. But it
roused the Border Ruffians to fury. Armed companies of both sides
marched through the country, and when they met, there was bloodshed.
For three years Kansas was in a state of disorder and riot. Governor
after governor came with friendly feelings to the South. But when
they saw the actions of the slave party they resigned rather than
support such injustice.
At length the slave party gained their end, but they were defeated.
They were defeated by Douglas, that same man who had caused the
Missouri Compromise to be done away with. Then he had blackened
his name, now he redeemed it.
The President was ready to use all his power to force the admission
of Kansas as a slave state. Douglas warned him to beware, and
when the President persisted, he rose in his place, and made such
a wonderful speech that the bill introduced by the slave-holders
was defeated. And when at length Kansas was admitted to the Union
in 1861, it was admitted as a free state.
Chapter 81 - Buchanan - The Story of the Mormons
THE President whom Douglas defied over the question of Kansas
was not Pierce, for in 1857 his term of office came to an end and
James Buchanan was elected as President. Like Pierce, he was a
"Northern man with Southern principles," and he threw his lot with
Like Pierce, he was a lawyer, and in ordinary times might have
made a good President and have left an honoured name behind him.
But he came into power at a most difficult and dangerous time. He
was not big enough or strong enough for the task. And so his name
is less honoured perhaps than that of any other President.
Besides Kansas, two more states were admitted into the Union during
Buchanan's term of office. These were Minnesota in 1858 and Oregon
in 1859. They both became states while the struggle over Kansas
was going on. For in them there was no trouble over the slavery
question, and they were both admitted as free states. Minnesota
was part of the Louisiana Purchase together with the last little
corner of the North-West Territory. Oregon was part of the Oregon
country. These with Kansas now made thirty-four states. So there
were now thirty-four stars in the flag.
It was at this time that what is known as the Mormon War took place.
Mormonism was a new religion founded by Joseph Smith. Joseph Smith
was a shiftless, idle, jovial fellow, one of a large family as
shiftless and idle as himself. He was very ignorant, but he had a
wonderful imagination, and he could never tell the simplest happening
of his everyday life without making a great story out of it.
When he grew to be a man he began to dream dreams and see visions,
and at length he declared that a messenger from heaven had shown
him where to find a golden book. No one else saw this golden book,
because Smith had been warned by the angel that great punishment
would fall upon him if he showed it to any one. He was, however,
allowed to make a "translation" of what was written in the book.
This he did, publishing it as "The Book of the Mormons" or "The
Golden Bible." But it seems very likely that part of this so-called
translation was really copied from a story written by a man named
Spaulding which had never been published. A great deal of it was,
however, copied from the Bible.
Smith, who was at this time living in the State of New York, now
declared that the religion which had been revealed to him was the
only true religion. He founded a Church of which he was head or
"prophet" and under him were twelve apostles and other dignitaries.
A few people soon joined him and gradually their numbers increased
until at last they numbered several thousand.
They now became a community by themselves, they moved about from
place to place, and at length settled in Illinois where they built
a city called Nauvoo.
Smith had many revelations. If he wanted a horse or cart he had a
revelation saying that it was to be given to him. If he wanted his
followers to do anything, again he had a revelation saying it was
to be done. So he ruled like an autocrat and did whatever he chose.
And while at Nauvoo he had a revelation which said it was quite
lawful for men to marry as many wives as they wanted.
Soon the people of Illinois began to dislike the Latter-day Saints,
as they called themselves. For they stole horses and cattle and
all sorts of things belonging to other settlers. And once anything
was stolen by the Mormons, it was impossible to get it back. For if
a stranger went to their city, and showed by his questions that he
had come to look for something he had lost, he soon found himself
followed by a Mormon who silently whittled a stick with a long sharp
knife. Soon the man would be joined by another, also whittling a
stick with a long knife. Then another and another would silently
join the procession, until the stranger could stand it no longer
and hastily departed homeward.
So as time went on the people grew more and more angry with the
Mormons. And at length their anger burst into fury, and, in 1844,
Smith and one of his brothers were lynched by the mob.
The Mormons were greatly cast down at the death of their Prophet,
but they soon found a new leader in Brigham Young, one of the twelve
But this change of leader brought no peace between the Mormons and
their neighbours. Complaints of theft grew more and more frequent.
Both sides went about armed, murders were committed, and the settlers
burned many of the Mormon farms.
At length the whole of the Mormons were expelled from Illinois,
and one March day a great caravan started westward. Slowly day by
day they moved onward through unknown wildernesses, making a road
for themselves, and building bridges as they went, and only after
long trials and hardships they reached the Great Salt Lake.
The land around was treeless and desolate, and the ground so hard
that when they tried to plough it the ploughshare broke. Yet they
decided to make their dwelling-place amid this desolation, and in
1847 the building of Salt Lake City was begun.
At the beginning, troubles and trials were many. But with hard work
and skilful irrigation the desert disappeared, and fertile fields
and fair gardens took its place.
The Mormons now laid claim to a great tract of land and called
it the State of Deseret. And over this state Brigham Young ruled
In 1850, however, the United States organized it as a territory and
changed the name to Utah. Utah is an Indian word meaning Mountain
Home. Of this territory Brigham Young was Governor, but other
non-Mormon officials were sent from Washington. Very soon there was
trouble between the Mormons and these non-Mormon officials and,
one after another, they returned to Washington saying that it
was useless for them to remain in Utah. For with Brigham Young as
governor it was impossible to enforce the laws of the United States,
and that their lives even were in danger.
But when there was talk of removing Young from the post of Governor
he was indignant. "I am and will be Governor," he said, "and no
power can hinder it until the Lord Almighty says, 'Brigham, you
need not be Governor any longer.'"
The Mormons were indignant at the false reports, as they considered
them, of their doings which were spread abroad in the East. So they
asked the President to send one or two visitors "to look about them
and see what they can see, and return and report."
But instead of sending visitors President Buchanan appointed a new
Governor, and sent a body of troops to Utah.
Thus began what is called the Mormon War. But there was never a
battle fought. Although at first the Mormons prepared to resist,
they changed their minds. And the Government troops marched into
Salt Lake City without resistance. They found the city deserted,
as nearly all the inhabitants had fled away. They soon returned,
however, and "peace" was restored. But the submission was only
one in form, and for many a long day there was trouble between the
Government and the Territory of Utah.
Besides the main body of Mormons who founded Salt Lake City there
is another band, followers of Joseph Smith's eldest son also called
Joseph. They broke away from the first Mormons because they did not
think it right to marry more than one wife, nor could they believe
in all that "the prophet" taught his followers. Their chief city
is Lamoni in Iowa where they live quiet industrious lives and are
greatly respected by their neighbours.
This religion, founded so strangely, has spread very rapidly. In
1830 the church had only six members. Today there are more than
three hundred thousand Mormons in the world, most of whom are in
the United States.
Chapter 82 - Buchanan - The First Shots
Meanwhile a great man was coming into power. This was Abraham
Lincoln. He was the son of very poor people and his earliest days
were spent in the utmost poverty and want. His home in Kentucky
was a wretched little log cabin without doors or windows, and the
bare earth for a floor. But in spite of his miserable and narrow
surroundings Lincoln grew up to be a great, broad-minded loveable
He was very anxious to learn, and he taught himself nearly all he
knew, for in all his life he had only two or three months of school.
The few books he could lay hands on he read again and again till
he almost knew them by heart.
Lincoln grew to be a great, lanky, hulking boy. He had the strongest
arm and the tenderest heart in the countryside, and was so upright
in all his dealings that he earned the name of Honest Abe.
Everybody loved the ungainly young giant with his sad face and
lovely smile, and stock of funny stories.
He began early to earn his living, and was many things in turn. He
did all sorts of farm work, he split rails and felled trees. He was
a storekeeper for a time, then a postmaster, a surveyor, a soldier.
But none of these contented him; he was always struggling towards
While keeping shop he began to study law, and when he was not
weighing out pounds of tea and sugar he had his head deep in some
dry book. While trying his hand at other jobs, too, he still went
on studying law, and at length he became a lawyer.
Even before this he had taken great interest in politics and had
sat in the Illinois House of Representatives, and at length in
1846 he was elected to Congress. But he only served one term in
the House, after which he returned to his law business and seemed
for a time to lose interest in politics.
But the passing of the Kansas-Nebraska Bill aroused him again.
As a boy he had been to New Orleans. There he had seen the slave
market. He had seen negro parents parted from their children, and
sold to different masters. He had seen them chained like criminals,
beaten and treated worse than beasts of burden, and from these
sights he had turned away with an aching heart. "Boys," he said, to
his companions, "let's get away from this. If ever I get a chance
to hit that thing, I'll hit it hard."
And he did not forget what he had seen; the memory of it was a
constant torment and a misery to him. And now the chance had come,
and he hit "that thing" hard.
In 1858 he challenged Douglas, the author of the Kansas-Nebraska
Bill, to go round the country with him and make speeches on the
great subject of the day: Douglas to take one side of the question
and Lincoln the other. It was a bold thing to do, for Douglas was
considered the greatest speaker of the time, and Lincoln was scarcely
known. But the speeches made Lincoln famous and henceforth many of
the men in the North looked upon him as their leader. He wanted to
have slavery done away with, but above all he loved his country.
"A house divided against itself," he said, "cannot stand. I believe
this government cannot endure half-slave, half-free. I do not expect
the Union to be divided. I do not expect the House to fall. But I
do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing,
or all the other."
He had no bitterness against the South, for he loved his whole
country, South as well as North. It was slavery he hated, not the
slave-holders. But the slave-holders hated him and his ideas. So
when in November, 1860, Lincoln was chosen President the Southern
States declared that they would not submit to be ruled by him.
As you know, the new President is always chosen some months before
the end of the last President's term. Lincoln was thus chosen in
November, 1860, but did not actually become President till March,
So with Buchanan still President, several of the Southern States
declared themselves free from the Union. South Carolina led the
rebellion. Amid great excitement, a new declaration of independence
was read, and union with the other states was declared to be at an
The example of South Carolina was soon followed. Mississippi,
Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas all declared their
union with the States at an end. They then joined together. And
calling themselves the Confederate States, they elected a President,
drew up a Constitution, and made ready to seize the Union forts
Meanwhile President Buchanan knew not what to do. He tried to
steer both ways at once. He said the Southern States had no right
to break away from the Union, but he also said that the Government
had no power to force them to return. In reality, however, his heart
was with the South, and he believed that the Southerners had just
cause for anger. So the Southerners soon came to believe that the
President would let them go their own way. Some of the Northerners,
too, thought a division would be a good thing, or at least that
disunion was better than war. "Let the slave states depart in peace,"
they said. But others would not hear of that, and were ready to
fight to the last if only the Union might be preserved.
The country was fast drifting towards war; and soon the first shot
was fired. Charleston, the harbour of South Carolina, was guarded
by two forts, Fort Moultrie and Fort Sumter. Fort Moultrie was
large, needing about seven hundred men to guard it properly, and
Major Anderson, who was in command, had only sixty men under him.
So, seeing that the people of South Carolina were seizing everything
they could, and finding that the President would send him no help,
he drew off his little force to Fort Sumter which could be more
Again and again Major Anderson asked for more men, and at length
an ordinary little passenger vessel was sent with two hundred and
fifty men. But when the little ship steamed into Charleston harbour
the Southerners fired upon it. And as it had no guns on board or
any means of defence it turned and sped back whence it had come.
Thus the first shots in the Civil War were fired on Jan. 9th, 1861.
Chapter 83 - Lincoln - From Bull Run to Fort Donelson
IN the midst of all this confusion the new President took his seat.
The Southerners were so angry that it was feared that Lincoln would
never be allowed to become President at all, but would be killed on
his way to Washington. Yet he himself felt no fear, and he journeyed
slowly from his home to Washington, stopping at many places, and
making many speeches on the way. Day by day, however, his friends
grew more and more anxious. Again and again they begged him to change
his plans and go to Washington by some other way. But Lincoln would
not listen to their entreaties. At length, however, they became so
insistent that he yielded to them.
So instead of proceeding as he had intended, he left his party
secretly, and with one friend turned back, and went to Washington
by a different route. The telegraph wires were cut, so that had any
traitor noticed this change of plan he could not tell his fellow
conspirators. Thus, all unknown, Lincoln stole silently into the
capital during the night. And great was the astonishment both of
friend and foe when it was discovered that he was there.
Almost the first thing Lincoln had to do was to send relief to Major
Anderson at Fort Sumter. So vessels were laden with food and sent
off to the gallant little band.
But as soon as the Southerners heard the news they determined to
take the fort before help could arrive. Soon a terrible bombardment
began. Half a hundred cannon roared against the fort, shells screamed
and fell, and the walls were quickly shattered. The barracks took
fire, and after two days it became utterly impossible to resist
So Major Anderson yielded, and with his brave company marched out
with all the honours of war.
War was now begun in real earnest, although strange to say, in spite
of the terrific firing, not a life had been lost on either side.
Both North and South now began to arm. But when the President
called for troops four states scornfully refused to obey. These were
Arkansas, Tennessee, North Carolina and Virginia, and instead of
gathering troops to help the Government they joined the Confederates.
Richmond, Virginia, was chosen as the capital and Jefferson Davis
was made President of the Confederacy, which included eleven states.
In the west of Virginia, however, the people were loyal to the Union
and it was here that the first great battles of the war were fought.
Life in this part of Virginia which lay beyond the Alleghenies was
very different from life in Eastern Virginia. Western Virginia was
not a land suitable for slaves, and for a long time the people had
desired to part from Eastern Virginia. Now during the war they had
their wish, and West Virginia became a separate state. In June,
1863, it was admitted to the Union as the thirty-fifth state.
The war which had now begun was the most terrible ever fought on
American soil. For far more even than the War of Independence, it
was a war of kindred. It made enemies of comrades and brothers. Men
who had been dear friends suddenly found themselves changed into
ruthless enemies, families even were divided against each other.
For four years this bitter war lasted, and counting all battles
great and small there were at least two thousand, so we cannot
attempt to follow the whole course of the great struggle.
The first blood was shed, strangely enough, on the anniversary
of the battle of Lexington. On that day, 19th April, 1861, some
Massachusetts soldiers were passing through Baltimore, when they
were attacked by the mob. Pistols were fired from the houses,
paving stones and bricks flew about. Several of the soldiers were
killed, many more were wounded; and to protect themselves they
fired on the mob, several of whom were killed also.
The greatest leader on the Federal side was General Ulysses S. Grant,
and next to him came William T. Sherman and Philip H. Sheridan.
But it was not until the war had been going on for some time that
these soldiers came to the front, and at first all the fortune was
on the side of the South.
General Albert S. Johnston was commander-in-chief of the Southern
army by the two most famous Southern leaders were Robert E.
Lee and Thomas J. Jackson. Jackson is best known by the nickname
of Stonewall, which he received at Bull Run in West Virginia, the
first great battle of the war.
It seemed as if the Federals were winning the battle, and some
of the Confederates were driven backward. But Jackson and his men
"See!" cried a general, "there is Jackson standing like a stone
wall!" Thus Jackson got a new name, and the Confederates won the
"It was one of the best planned battles of the war," said Sherman
afterwards, "but one of the worst fought. Both armies were fairly
defeated, and whichever stood fast the other would have run."
Less than three weeks after Bull Run, the Federals met with another
disaster at Wilson's Creek in Missouri. Here, after a desperate
and gallant fight, they were defeated, and General Nathaniel Lyon,
their brave leader, was killed.
These defeats were a great shock to the Federals. For they had
thought that the war would be a short affair of three months or
so, and that the Southern revolt would be easily put down. Now they
knew themselves mistaken, and pulling themselves together, prepared
for a long and bitter struggle.
For some months, however, after Bull Run and Wilson's Creek no
battle of importance was fought. Then in the beginning of 1862 the
war was carried into Kentucky where a stern fight for the great
navigable rivers which flow through the state began. For just as in
the War of Independence the holding of the Hudson Valley had been
of importance so now the holding of the Mississippi Valley was of
importance. If the Mississippi from Cairo to New Orleans could be
strongly held by the Federals, the Confederacy would be cut in two,
and thus greatly weakened. "The Mississippi," said Lincoln, "is
the backbone of the rebellion; it is the key of the whole situation.
But to get possession of this key was no easy matter. Early in
February two forts on the river Tennessee were taken by the Federals
under General Grant. Then they marched upon Fort Donelson, a large
and very strong fort on the Cumberland river. At the same time
Commander Andrew H. Foote sailed up the river with a little fleet
of seven gunboats to assist the army.
The weather was bitterly cold, and as the soldiers lay round the
fort tentless and fireless, a pitiless wind blew, chilling them
to the bone, and making sleep impossible. Foote with his gunboats
had not yet arrived, but in the morning the attack on land was begun.
Up the hill to the fort the Federals swept, only to be driven back
by the fierce Confederate fire. Again and again they charged. Again
and again they were driven back, leaving the hillside strewn with
dead and dying. At length the dry leaves which covered the hillside
took fire. Choked by the smoke, scorched by the flames the men
could advance no more, and they sullenly retreated for the last
time. The attack had failed.
That night the gunboats arrived, and soon the bombardment from the
river began. But the firing from the fort was so fierce and well
placed that before long two of the boats were disabled, and floated
helplessly down the stream, and the others too withdrew till they
were out of range of the Confederate guns.
There was joy that night in Fort Donelson. By land and water the
Federals had been repulsed. The Confederates felt certain of victory.
But the Federals were by no means beaten, and next morning they
renewed the fight as fiercely as ever. Yet again the Confederates
swept all before them, and the right wing of the Federal army was
driven from its position and scattered in flight. Victory for the
Confederates seemed certain.
During this fight Grant had not been with the troops, for he had
gone down the river to consult with Foote, who had been wounded
the day before. About noon he returned, and when he heard of the
disaster his face flushed hotly. But he was a man who rarely lost
his temper, or betrayed his feelings. For a minute he was silent,
crushing some papers he held in his hand. Then in his usual calm voice
he said, "Gentlemen, the position on the right must be retaken."
And retaken it was.
General Charles F. Smith led the assault. He was an old soldier
who had fought under Zachary Taylor in Texas where "Smith's light
battalion" had become famous. White haired now, but still handsome
and erect, he rode this day in front of his troops, once and again
turning his head to cheer them onward. Bullets whizzed and screamed
about him, but he heeded them not.
"I was nearly scared to death," said one of his men afterwards,
"but I saw the old man's white moustache over his shoulder, and
Hotter and hotter grew the fire, and the men hesitated and wavered.
But the old general knew no fear. Placing his cap on the end of
his sword, he waved it aloft.
"No flinching now, my lads," he cried. "This is the way. Come on!"
And on they came, inspired by the fearless valour of the old soldier.
And when at length they had triumphantly planted their colours on
the lost position, no efforts of the enemy could dislodge them.
Meanwhile another division under General Lew Wallace dashed up
another hill with splendid elan, and when night fell, although the
fort was still untaken, it was at the mercy of the attackers.
Supperless and fireless, the Federals cheerfully bivouacked upon
the field, for they well knew that the morrow would bring them
victory. But within the fort there was gloom. Nothing was left
but surrender. It would be impossible to hold out even for half an
hour, said General Buckner, the best soldier, although the youngest
of the three generals in command. The other two generals agreed,
but declared that they would not stay to be made prisoner. So in
the night they silently crept away with their men.
Early next morning General Buckner, left alone in command, wrote
to Grant proposing a truce in order to arrange terms of surrender.
Grant's answer was short and sharp. "No terms except unconditional
and immediate surrender can be accepted," he said.
Bitter indeed were the feelings of the Confederate leader when
he received this reply. But there was nothing left to him but to
accept the terms. He was hopelessly outnumbered, and to fight longer
would only mean the throwing away of brave lives uselessly. So he
accepted what seemed to him the "ungenerous and unchivalrous terms"
which Grant proposed, and surrendered the fort with all its guns
and great stores of ammunition, and fourteen thousand men.
Up to this time Grand had hardly been heard of. He was a soldier
indeed, and had fought in the Mexican War. But eight years before
the outbreak of the rebellion he had left the army. During these
years he had tried in many ways to make a living, but had succeeded
in none, and at the beginning of the war he was almost a ruined
man. Now he became famous, and his short and sharp "unconditional
surrender" was soon a watchword in the Northern army. His initials
too being U. S. he became henceforth known as Unconditional Surrender
Chapter 84 - Lincoln - The Story of the First Battle Between
There was fighting too on sea as well as on land. The South sent
out privateers to catch the merchant vessels of the North, and so
bring ruin on their trade. But Lincoln replied by proclaiming a
blockade of all Confederate ports.
This was a bold thing to do, for the coast to be watched was some
three thousand miles long, and the Government had less than fifty
ships to blockade it with. When the blockade was proclaimed, too,
many of these ships were far away in foreign lands. The greatest
navy yard, also, at Norfolk in Virginia, was in the hands of the
Confederates, and was therefore not available for the building of
So at first the blockade amounted to little. But by degrees it
took effect. Ships that had been far away returned, others of all
sorts and sizes were bought, still others were built with the utmost
Slowly but surely the iron hand of the North gripped the commerce
of the South, and before the end of the war the Southern ports were
shut off from all the world.
This was a disaster for the Southerners, for they depended almost
entirely on their cotton trade with Europe. Now the cotton rotted
on the wharves. There were no factories in the South, for manufactures
could not be carried on with slave labour. So the Southerners depended
entirely on the outside world for clothes, boots, blankets, iron,
and all sorts of war material. Now they were cut off from the
outside world, and could get none of these things.
But the Southerners did not meekly submit to be cut off from the
world. They had hardly any ships of any kind, and none at all meant
for war. But they had possession of the Government navy yard at
Norfolk. There they found a half-finished frigate, and they proceeded
to finish her, and turn her into an ironclad. When finished she was
an ugly looking, black monster with sloping sides and a terrible
iron beak, and she was given the name of the Merrimac.
At this time there were only about three ironclads in all the
world. They belonged to Britain and to France, and had never yet
been used in naval warfare. So when this ugly black monster appeared
among the wooden ships of the North she created frightful havoc.
It was one day in March that the black monster appeared in Hampton
Roads where there was a little fleet of five Federal warships.
The Federal ships at once opened fire upon the uncouth thing. But
to their surprise their shots fell harmlessly from its sides, and
paying no heed to their guns it made straight for the Cumberland,
and struck her such a terrible blow with her sharp beak that she
sank with all on board. She went down gallantly flying her flag to
The Merrimac then turned upon another ship named the Congress. The
struggle between a wooden vessel and an ironclad was a hopeless
one from the beginning. But the Congress put up a splendid fight,
and only when the ship was afire did she give in.
It was dusk by now and the terrible Merrimac sheered off leaving
the Congress a blazing wreck.
The Federals were filled with consternation. This horrible strange
vessel would certainly return with daylight. And what chance had
any wooden ship against it?
But help was near.
The Government also had been busy ship-building. A Swede named
Ericsson had invented a new vessel which would resist cannon.
This ship was just finished, and came into Hampton Roads almost
immediately after the battle with the Merrimac. And when the
Commander heard the news he took up his position beside the burning
Congress, and waited for dawn.
This new vessel was called the Monitor, and a stranger vessel was
never seen afloat. Its hull, which was ironclad, hardly showed
above the water, and in the middle there was a large round turret.
It looked, said those who saw it, more like a cheesebox on a raft
than anything else.
Like a tiger hungry for prey the Merrimac came back next morning.
The captain expected an easy victory, but to his surprise he found
this queer little cheesebox between him and his victims. He would
soon do for the impertinent little minnow, he thought, and he opened
fire. But his shells might have been peas for all the effect they
had, and the Monitor steamed on unhurt, until she was close to the
Merrimac. Then she fired.
A tremendous duel now began which lasted three hours. The lumbering
Merrimac tried to run down her enemy, but the quick little Monitor
danced round and round, turning the turret now this way, now that,
and firing how she pleased, like a terrier yapping at a maddened
bull. And at length the Merrimac gave up the tussle, and sailed
This was the first battle ever fought between ironclads and it has
been called a draw. But after all the honours were with the little
Monitor, for she forced her big opponent to run away.
It might almost be said that this battle saved the Union, for it
showed the Confederates that they would not have it all their own
way on sea, and that if they were building ironclads the Federals
were building them also. And indeed the Government built ships so
fast that by the end of the war, instead of having only about forty
they had over six hundred ship, many of them ironclad.
Chapter 85 - Lincoln - The Battle of Shiloh and the Taking of New
With Grant other successes soon followed the taking of Fort Donelson,
and many places both in Kentucky and Tennessee fell into the hands
of the Federals.
By the beginning of April Grant with an army of forty thousand men
lay at Pittsburg Landing on the Tennessee River. At Corinth, about
thirty miles to the south, the Confederates were gathered in equal
force. But although the Confederates were so near and in such
force the Federals took no heed. They had of late won so many easy
victories that they had begun to think lightly of the foe. So no
attempt was made to protect the Union army. No trenches were dug,
and but few scouts were sent out to watch the movements of the
enemy. The Confederate leader, General Johnston, therefore determined
to creep up stealthily, and attack the Federals where they lay in
As secretly as possible he left Corinth, and marched towards
Pittsburg Landing. The weather had been wet, the roads were deep
in mud, but in spite of dreadful difficulties for two days the army
toiled silently on. At length on the night of Saturday the 5th of
April they arrived within four miles of the Federal lines.
Here they halted for the night. The men had brought no tents, they
dared light no fires lest they should be seen by the foe. So, weary,
wet, and shivering they lay on the cold damp ground, awaiting the
dawn, while secure in the comfortable shelter of their tents the
Federals slept peacefully. So secure indeed did Grant feel his
position to be that he was not with his army that night, but at
Savannah some miles distant.
At daybreak the Federal camp was astir. Men were washing and dressing,
some were cooking or eating breakfast, most of the officers were
still abed, when suddenly the sound of shots broke the Sunday
stillness, and the wild "rebel yell" rent the air.
A moment later the surrounding woods seemed to open and pour forth
an army. With tremendous dash the Confederates flung themselves
upon the half dressed, weaponless crowd of men who fled before them,
or were bayoneted before they could seize their muskets. Thus the
greatest battle that as yet had been fought on the continent of
America was begun.
Soon the roar of cannon reached Grant at Savannah. He knew at once
that a fierce battle had begun, and flinging himself on his horse
he hurried back to the camp. At eight o'clock in the morning
he arrived. But already it seemed as if his army was defeated. It
was, however, to be no easy victory for the Confederates. Many of
the Federals were only raw recruits, but after the first surprise
and flight they rallied repeatedly, making many a stubborn stand
against the onslaught of the foe, which from the first great charge
of early dawn till darkness fell never seemed to slacken.
In many coloured uniforms, with many coloured pennons waving over
them, the Confederates charged again and yet again. And with each
charge the air was rent with their wild yell, which could be heard
far and wide, even above the roar of the cannon. Bit by bit the
Union army was pressed back. They fought doggedly as they went
while from division to division rode Grant cheering them, directing
them, urging them to greater and ever greater efforts.
Some of the fiercest fighting raged round the little log meeting
house called Shiloh, and from this meeting house the battle takes
its name. Sherman commanded here, and he held his untried men
together with marvelous skill, handling them as no other commander
on the field could have done, said Grant later.
On the Confederate side through the thickest of the battle rode
Johnston. More than once his horse was shot under him, and his
clothes were torn to pieces, but still through the fray he rode
unharmed. At length a ball hit him in the thigh. He paid no heed.
Still his tall soldierly figure dominated the battle, still his
ringing voice cheered on his men. Then suddenly the voice grew faint,
the tall figure bent, and a deathly whiteness overspread his cheeks.
"General, are you wounded?" asked one of his officers, anxiously.
"Yes," he answered, faintly, "and I fear badly."
They were his last words. Gently he was lifted from his horse and
laid on the ground, and in a few minutes he died.
When the sun went down the Confederates claimed the victory. But
if victory it was it was too dearly bought with the death of their
commander-in-chief. Nor did the Federals own themselves beaten.
They were dumbfounded and bleeding, but not shattered. They felt
that the struggle was not over, and still facing each other the
weary armies lay down to rest on the field, under the lashing rain,
each side well aware that with the morrow would come the decisive
All through the night the guns from the river boomed and crashed,
and rain fell in torrents, adding to the discomforts of the wearied
men, making sleep almost impossible.
When day dawned rain still fell in a cold and dismal drizzle. The
Federals, however, rose cheerfully, for the inspiriting news that
twenty-five thousand fresh troops had arrived ran through the lines.
Before the sun had well risen the battle began again, but now the
advantage was on the Federal side.
The Confederates fought bravely still. To and fro rode General
Beauregard cheering on his men, but step by step they were driven
backward, and by noon were in full retreat. Then as the Federals
realized that the day was theirs cheer after cheer went up from
The second day's fighting had turned the battle of Shiloh into
a victory for the Union, although not a decisive one. On the same
day, however, the navy captured a strongly fortified island on the
Mississippi called Island Number Ten, with its garrison of seven
thousand men and large stores of guns and ammunition. This considerably
increased the force of the victory of Shiloh, and gave the Federals
control of the Mississippi Valley from Cairo to Memphis.
Meanwhile command of the lower Mississippi had also been wrested
from the Confederates by General Benjamin F. Butler in command of
the army, and Commander David Glasgow Farragut in command of the
Captain Farragut who was already sixty-three at this time was a
Southerner by birth, but he had never faltered in his allegiance to
the Union. "Mind what I tell you," he said to his brother officers,
when they tried to make him desert his flag, "you fellows will
catch the devil before you get through with this business." And so
unshaken was his faith that he was trusted with the most important
naval expedition of the war, the taking of New Orleans.
New Orleans is about a hundred miles from the mouth of the Mississippi
and the Confederates, who were aware even more than the Federals of
the importance of the great waterway, had from the very beginning
done their utmost to secure it. Seventy-five miles below New Orleans
two forts named Jackson and St. Phillips guarded the approaches
to the city. These the Confederates had enormously strengthened,
and had stretched a great chain between them from bank to bank,
to prevent the passage of hostile ships. They had also gathered a
fleet of ironclads and gunboats further to defend the city.
But in spite of all these defenses the Federals determined to take
New Orleans and on the 18th of April the Union ships began to bombard
the forts. The Confederates replied fiercely, and for four days
the sky seemed ablaze and the earth shook. Then having succeeded
in cutting the chain across the river Farragut determined to sail
past the fort and take New Orleans.
At two o'clock in the morning the ships began to move. The night
was dark but very still and clear, and soon the noise of slipping
anchor cables warned the enemy of what was afoot. Then a very hail
of shot and shell fell upon the Federal boats. Burning fire ships
too were sent down upon them, and the red light of battle lit up
the darkness. Yet through the baptism of fire the vessels held on
their way undaunted. The forts were passed, the Confederate fleet
disabled and put to flight, and Farragut sailed unhindered up the
At his approach, New Orleans was seized with panic. Filled with a
nameless fear women and children ran weeping through the streets,
business of every kind was at a standstill. The men, mostly
grey-haired veterans and boys, turned the keys in their office doors,
and hurried to join the volunteer regiments, bent on fighting to
the last for their beloved city. Thousands of bales of cotton were
carried to the wharves, and there set on fire, lest they should
fall into the hands of the enemy. Ships too were set on fire, and
cast loose, till it seemed as if the whole river front was wrapped
in flames. Thirty miles away the glare could be seen in the sky,
and at the sight even strong men bowed their heads and wept. For
they knew it meant that New Orleans had fallen, and that the Queen
of Southern cities was a captive.
But there was no fighting, for General Lovell who was in command
of the city marched away with his army as soon as the Union ships
appeared. The citizens who were left were filled with impotent wrath
and despair. They felt themselves betrayed. They had been assured
that the city would fight to the last. Now their defenders had
marched away leaving them to the mercy of the conqueror.
The streets were soon filled with a dangerous, howling cursing mob
man of them armed, all of them desperate. Yet calmly through it,
as if on parade, marched two Federal officers, without escort of
protection of any kind. The mob jostled them, shook loaded pistols
in their faces, yelling and cursing the while. But the two officers
marched on side by side unmoved, showing neither anger nor fear,
turning neither to right nor to left until they reached the city
hall, where they demanded the surrender of the city.
"It was one of the bravest deeds I ever saw done," said a Southerner,
who as a boy of fourteen watched the scene.
By the taking of New Orleans Farragut won for himself great fame.
His fame was all the greater because in his fleet he had none of
the newly invented ironclads. With only wooden vessels he had fought
and conquered. "It was a contest between iron hearts and wooden
vessels, and iron clads with iron beaks, and the iron hearts won,"
said Captain Bailey who served in the expedition under Farragut.
After taking New Orleans Farragut sailed up the river and took Baton
Rouge, the state capital. So at length the Federals had control
of the whole lower river as far as Vicksburg. The upper river from
Cairo was also secure to the Federals. Thus save for Vicksburg the
whole valley was in their hands, and the Confederacy was practically
cut in two.
But Vicksburg stood firm for the South. When called upon to
surrender the governor refused. "I have to state," he said, "that
Mississippians do not know, and refuse to learn, how to surrender
to an enemy. If Commodore Farragut, or Brigadier General Butler,
can teach them, let them come and try."
At the time soldiers enough could not be spared to help the fleet
to take Vicksburg. So for the time being it was left alone.
Chapter 86 - Lincoln - The Slaves are Made Free
The Federals rejoiced greatly at the successes of Grant and the
navy, and indeed they had need of success somewhere to keep up their
spirits, for on the whole things did not go well. George McClellan
was commander-in-chief, and although he drilled his army splendidly
he never did anything with it. He was a wonderful organiser, but
he was cautious to a fault, and always believed the enemy to be
far stronger than he really was.
He was at last dismissed, and was succeeded by one commander-in-chief
after another. Not none proved truly satisfactory. Indeed it was
not until the last year of the war, when Ulysses Grant took command,
that a really great commander-in-chief was found.
At the beginning of the war no matter who was leader the long campaigns
in Virginia ended in failure for the Federals. On the Confederate
side these campaigns were led first by Joseph E. Johnston, and then
by the great soldier, Robert E. Lee.
Lee came of a soldier stock, being the youngest son of "Light Horse
Harry Lee," who had won fame during the War of the Revolution. He
was a noble, Christian gentleman, and when he made his choice, and
determined to fight for the South, he believed he was fighting for
With Lee was Stonewall Jackson, his great "right hand," and perhaps
a finer soldier than Lee himself. His men adored him as they adored
no other leader. Like Cromwell he taught them to pray as well as
to fight. He never went into battle without commending his way to
God, and when he knelt long in prayer his men might feel certain that
a great fight was coming. He was secret and swift in his movements,
so swift that his troops were nicknamed "Jackson's foot cavalry."
Yet he never wore his men out. He thought for them always, and
however urgent haste might be he called frequent halts on his flying
marches, and made the men lie down even if it were only for a few
To conquer such leaders, and the men devoted to them, was no easy
matter, and it was not wonderful that the campaigns in Virginia
marked few successes for the Federals. At length the long series
of failures ended with a second, and for the Federals, disastrous,
battle of Bull Run. This was followed two days later by the battle of
Chantilly, after which the whole Federal army fell back to Washington.
Lee, rejoicing at his successes in Virginia, made up his mind then
to invade Maryland, which state he believed would readily join
the Confederacy. But he was disappointed. For if the Marylanders
had not much enthusiasm for the Union cause they had still less
for the Confederate, and the invaders were greeted with exceeding
coldness. Their unfailing good fortune, too, seemed to forsake
the Confederates, and the battle of Antietam, one of the fiercest
of the war, although hardly a victory for the Federals, was equal
to a defeat for the Confederates. For fourteen hours the carnage
lasted, and when at length night put an end to the slaughter
thousands lay dead on either side. Next day, having in a fortnight
lost half his army, Lee withdrew once more into Virginia.
Lincoln's chief object in carrying on the war was not to free
slaves, but to save the Union.
"My first object is to save the Union," he wrote, "and not either
to save or destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without
freeing any slaves I would do it. If I could save it by freeing all
the slaves I would do it. And if I could save it by freeing some,
and leaving others alone I would also do that." Gradually, however,
Lincoln began to believe that the only way to save the Union was
to free the slaves.
Many people were impetuously urging him to do it. But Lincoln
would do nothing rash. It was a tremendous step to take, and the
question as to when would be the right moment to take it was, for
him, one of tremendous importance. So he prepared his Proclamation
of Emancipation and bided his time. Following his own good judgment
and the advice of one of his Cabinet he resolved not to announce
it so long as things were going badly with the North lest it should
be looked upon as the last measure of an exhausted government, a
cry for help. It was not to be sent forth into the world as "a last
shriek in the retreat," but as a companion to victory.
But victory was slow in coming. At length the great battle was
fought at Antietam. It was scarce a victory, for the Federals had
lost more men than had the Confederates. Yet it had to pass for
one. And a few days after it Lincoln issued his Proclamation of
Emancipation. In this he declared that in every state which should
be in arms against the Government on the 1st of January, 1863,
the slaves should be free forever more. This gave the rebel states
more than three months in which to lay down their arms and return
to their allegiance.
Meanwhile the war went on. In November General Ambrose E. Burnside
was appointed commander of the army of the Potomac. He accepted
the post unwillingly, for he did not think himself great enough to
fill it. It was soon proved that he was right.
On December 13th a great battle was fought at Fredericksburg in
Virginia. The weather had been very cold and the ground was covered
with frost and snow. But on the morning of the 13th, although a
white mist shrouded the land, the sun shone so warmly that it seemed
like a September day. Yet though the earth and sky alike seemed
calling men to mildness and peace the deadly game of war went on.
The centre of the Confederate army occupied some high ground known
as the Maryes Heights, and Burnside resolved to dislodge them. It
was a foolhardy attempt, for the hill was strongly held, the summit
of it bristled with cannon. Yet the order was given, and with
unquestioning valour the men rushed to the attack. As they dashed
onward the Confederate guns swept their ranks, and they were mowed
down like hay before the reaper. Still they pressed onward, and
after paying a fearful toll in dead and wounded they at length
reached the foot of the hill. Here they were confronted by a stone
wall so thick and strong that their fire had not the slightest effect
on it, and from behind which the Confederates poured a deadly hail
of bullets upon them.
Here the carnage was awful, yet still the men came on in wave after
wave, only to melt away as it seemed before the terrible fire of
the Confederates. "It was like snow coming down and melting on warm
ground," said one of their leaders afterwards.
Never did men fling away their lives so bravely and so uselessly.
A battery was ordered forward.
"General," said an officer, "a battery cannot live there."
"Then it must die there," was the answer.
And the battery was led out as dashingly as if on parade, although
the men well knew that they were going to certain death.
At length the short winter's day drew to a close, and darkness
mercifully put an end to the slaughter.
Then followed a night of pain and horror. The frost was intense,
and out on that terrible hillside the wounded lay beside the dead,
untended and uncared for, many dying from cold ere help could
reach them. Still and white they lay beneath the starry sky while
the general who had sent them to a needless death wrung his hands
in cruel remorse. "Oh, those men, Oh, those men," he moaned, "those
men over there. I am thinking of them all the time."
Burnside knew that he had failed as a general, and in his grief and
despair he determined to wipe out his failure by another attempt
next day. But his officers well knew that this would only mean more
useless sacrifice of life. With difficulty they persuaded him to
give up the idea, and two days later the Federal army crossed the
Rappahannock, and returned to their camp near Falmouth.
With this victory of Fredericksburg the hopes of the Confederates
rose high. They believed that the war would soon end triumphantly
for them, and that the South would henceforth be a separate republic.
There was no need for them, they thought, to listen to the commands
of the President of the North, and not one state paid any heed to
Lincoln's demand that the slaves should be set free.
Nevertheless on New Year's Day, 1863, Lincoln signed the great
Proclamation of Freedom.
He had first held a great reception, and had shaken hands with so
many people that his right hand was trembling. "If they find my
hand trembling," he said to the Secretary of State, as he took up
his pen, "they will say, 'He hesitated,' but anyway it is going to
Then very carefully and steadily he wrote his name. It was the
greatest deed of his life. "If my name is ever remembered," he
said, "it will be for this act, and my whole soul is in it."
And thus slavery came to an end. From the beginning of the war there
had been a danger that France and Britain might help the South.
Lincoln had now made that impossible by making the war one against
slavery as well as one for Union. For both France and Britain were
against slavery, and could not well help those who now fought to
Now that they were free, many negroes entered the army. At this the
Southerners were very angry, and declared that any negroes taken
prisoners would not be regarded as soldiers, but simply as rebellious
negroes, and would be punished accordingly. But in spite of their
anger many black regiments were formed, and proved themselves good
soldiers. And before the end of the war the Confederates, too, were
making use of Negro Soldiery. But this was cutting the ground from
under their own feet, and showing the injustice of slavery. For
as a Southerner said, "If a negro is fit to be a soldier he is not
fit to be a slave."
Chapter 87 - Lincoln - Chancellorsville - The Death of Stonewall
Still the war went on, and still the North suffered many losses.
Soon after the battle of Fredericksburg General Burnside resigned
the command of the army of the Potomac. His place was taken by
General Joseph Hooker, known to his men as "Fighting Joe." He was
a tall and handsome man, brave, and dashing almost to rashness.
"Beware of rashness, beware of rashness," said Lincoln, when he
appointed him. "But with energy and sleepless vigilance go forward,
and give us victories."
But not even "Fighting Joe" could bring victory to the North at
once. He found the army disheartened, dwindling daily by desertion,
and altogether in something like confusion. He was, however, a
splendid organiser, and in less than two months he had pulled the
army together and once more made it a terrible fighting machine. He
declared it to be the finest army in the world, and full of pride
in his men, and pride in himself, he set out to crush Lee.
Near the tiny hamlet of Chancellorsville the two armies met, and
the four days' fighting which followed is known as the battle of
Everything seemed to favour the Federals. They had the larger army,
they were encamped in a good position, and above all the men were
full of admiration for, and trust in, 'Fighting Joe."
General Hooker's movements had been quick and sure, his plans well
laid. But he had expected the enemy to "flee ingloriously" before
The enemy, however, did not flee, but showed a stubborn intention
of fighting. Then Hooker's courage failed him. He seemed to lose
his grip on things, and much to the surprise of his officers he
left his high position and took a lower one.
"Great heavens," said General Meade, when he heard the order, "if
we cannot hold the top of a hill we certainly cannot hold the bottom
The first day of the battle passed without any great loss on either
side. Night came, the fighting ceased, and the weary men lay down
to rest. But for Lee and Jackson there was little sleep. Beneath
a small clump of pine trees they sat on packing cases, with maps
spread out before them. For Jackson was planning one of his quick