A Celebration of Women Writers

"Part VII, Chapter 91." by Henrietta Elizabeth Marshall (1876-)
From: This country of ours; the story of the United States by Henrietta Elizabeth Marshall (1876-) New York, George H. Doran company, 1917.

Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom


CHAPTER 91
LINCOLN–THE END OF THE WAR–THE PRESIDENT'S DEATH

NO President ever took up his burden in a more great hearted fashion than Lincoln. No President ever faced the difficulties of his position with so much tenderness, and so much strength. But he felt his burdens lie heavy on his shoulders. Deep lines of pain were graven on his face, and to his sad eyes there came a deeper sadness. Yet he never lost heart, and even in the gravest moments he would pause to tell a funny story.

 

"I should break down otherwise," he said.

 

He had no anger against the south, only a deep pity, a deep desire to see the country one again. So, much as he longed for peace, he would listen to no proposal which did not mean peace with union. And, as Jefferson Davis declared that he would rather die than see North and South united, the war continued.

 

On the 1st of April a great battle was fought at Five Forks, a few miles from Petersburg. In this the Confederates were defeated, and more than five thousand were taken prisoner. The next day, true to his hammering policy, Grant ordered a great assault all along the lines before Petersburg. At daybreak the attack began, and again the Federals were victorious. All that brave men could do the Confederates did. But their valour availed them nothing. They were far outnumbered, and their line was pierced in many places.

Battle of Five Forks, April 1st

That morning President Davis was sitting in church at Richmond when a dispatch from Lee was brought to him. "My lines are broken," it said; "Richmond must be evacuated this evening."

 

Quickly and silently Jefferson Davis left the church. His day of power was over, and, with his Cabinet and officials, he fled from Richmond.

Jefferson Davis flees from Richmond;

Soon the news spread throughout the Southern capital, and panic seized upon the people. Warehouses, filled with tobacco and cotton, were set in flames. All that was evil in the city broke loose, the prison was emptied, rogues and robbers worked their will. Soon the streets were filled with a struggling mob of people, some bent on plunder, others on fleeing from the place of terror and turmoil.

 

The night passed in confusion and horror past description. Then the next day the Federals took possession of the distracted city, and in a few hours the tumult was hushed, the flames subdued, and something like order restored.

Federals enter Richmond

Meanwhile, without entering the city, Grant was hotly pursuing Lee and his army. The chase was no long one. Lee's army was worn out, ragged, barefoot and starving. Grant, with an army nearly three times as large, and well equipped besides, soon completely surrounded him north, south, east and west. Escape there was none.

 

"There is nothing left me but to go and see General Grant," said Lee, "and I would rather die a thousand deaths." But like the brave soldier he was, he faced what seemed to him worse than death rather than uselessly sacrifice gallant lives.

 

A few letters passed between the two great leaders, then they met in a private house at Appomattox Court House. The contrast between the two was great. Lee looked the Southern aristocrat he was. White-haired and tall, erect still in spite of his sixty years, he was dressed in splendid uniform, and wore a jeweled sword at his side. Grant, half a head shorter, fifteen years younger, seemed but a rough soldier beside him. He wore only the blue blouse of a private, and carried no sword, nothing betraying his rank except his shoulder straps.

 

It was Lee's first meeting with "Unconditional Surrender" Grant. But this time Grant drove no hard bargain. "I felt like anything rather than rejoicing at the downfall of a foe who had fought so long and valiantly," he said many years after. The war was over, and there was no need of severity. So officers and men alike were all released on the promise that they would not again take up arms against the United States. The officers were allowed to keep their swords, their horses and belongings. The privates also were allowed to keep their horses, for as Grant said, "they would need them for their spring ploughing."

Lee surrenders, April 9th

Everything being settled, Lee returned to his men to break the news to them. His face was stern and sad as he faced his worn and ragged troops. As he looked at them words failed him. "Men," he said, "we have fought through the war together, and I have done the best I could for you." Then he ceased. Tears blinded and choked him, sobs burst from the hardy men who had followed him joyfully to death. So they said farewell.

 

Grant on his side would allow no rejoicing in his camp, no firing of salutes. "The war is over," he said, "the rebels are our countrymen again." And indeed this was the end of the war, although for a week or two the Confederates elsewhere still held out.

 

When the news was heard throughout the country people went mad with joy. The great day of peace had come at last, and all the world went a-holidaying. People who were utter strangers to each other shook hands in the street, they laughed and cried, bonfires were lit and bells rung. Never had there been such rejoicing in the land. And among those who rejoiced none was more glad than the President.

Peace

"I thank God," he said, "that I have lived to see this day. It seems to me that I have been dreaming a horrid dream for five years. But now the nightmare is gone." And already his thoughts were turned to the binding up of the nation's wounds.

Lincoln's joy;

It was the 14th of April and he had promised to go to the theatre that evening. He did not want to go, but his presence had been announced in the papers, and thinking that the people would be disappointed if he failed to appear, he went.

 

It was about nine o'clock in the evening when the President entered his box with his wife and one or two friends. As soon as he appeared the people rose from their seats and cheered and cheered again, and the actors stopped their play until the audience grew calm again.

his reception by the people;

In a few minutes all was quiet once more, and for an hour the play went on. Then while everyone in the box was intent upon the stage a man crept softly through the door and stood beside the President. Suddenly a sharp pistol shot rang out, and without a groan the great President fell forward, dying.

he is shot;

His wicked work done, the man sprang from the box on to the stage shouting, "Sic semper tyrannis,"–"Thus let it ever be with tyrants." As he sprang his foot caught in the flag which draped the box. He fell with a crash and broke a bone in his leg. But in spite of the hurt he jumped up. Then fiercely brandishing a dagger and shouting, "the South is avenged," he disappeared.

 

The murderer was a man named John Wilkes Booth. He was a second rate and conceited actor having a vast idea of his own importance. With him and the small band of fanatics he ruled the leaders of the South had nothing whatever to do. Indeed, by his act he proved himself to be their worst enemy.

 

Now hurrying out of the theatre he mounted a horse which was held in readiness, and galloped away through the night.

 

Meanwhile the theatre was in wild confusion. "He has shot the President." "Hang him! shoot him!" cried a hundred voices. But the murderer was gone. Women wept, men swore, the confusion was unutterable.

 

Meanwhile the dying President was quickly carried into a house near. But nothing that love or science could do availed. The kind grey eyes were closed never to open again, the gentle voice was stilled forever. All night he lay moaning softly, then as morning dawned a look of utter peace came upon his face and the moaning ceased.

 

Deep silence fell upon every one around the bed. The Secretary of War was the first to break it.

 

"Now he belongs to the ages," he said.

"he belongs to the ages"

So the great President passed on his way. And the people mourned as they had mourned for no other man. As to the negroes they wept and cried aloud, and would not be comforted, for "Massa Linkum was dead," and they were left fatherless.

 

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Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom

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Celebration of Women Writers.
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Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom