"WE must not be enemies," said Lincoln when he took the oath of office on March 4, 1861. "Though passion may have strained, it must not break, our bonds of affection." But six weeks later, at daybreak on the 12th of April, a shell arched from the low sand hills of Charleston harbor towards the fort on which the eyes of the nation had been focussed for three long months. The hope of peace was shattered. War had begun.
Word of the bombardment of Fort Sumter reached Springfield that same evening, but not until the next day, a Saturday, did it become generally known. Then, as despatch followed despatch, all pretense of work was dropped. With faces grave and apprehensive, men formed groups before the newspaper bulletin boards and on the street corners. The next day the churches saw few worshipers, but the streets were filled with people. Already there was talk of organiz|ing troops. The Union was in danger, and the government must be sustained no matter what the cost.
On Monday, the 15th, Adjutant General Mather, in Gen|eral Orders No. 1, notified all Illinois militia to hold them|selves in readiness for service. The next day the President's proclamation calling for 75,000 volunteers to serve three months was published, and the Governor called a special session of the legislature for the following week. That night Page 263 thousands gathered at the State House to express their de|termination to preserve the Union. After the meeting had organized, and while the resolutions committee was at work, John A. McClernand rose to say that he had always been a Democrat, and was a Democrat now, but that this was no time for partizanship—all men must stand by their gov|ernment and their flag. When the cheers subsided Lyman Trumbull took the floor. He had heard talk of the govern|ment defending itself and its capital against the secessionists, and it made him sick! "Let us make them defend Mont|gomery and Charleston!" he thundered, and the cheers of the crowd carried to the limits of the town. Resolutions de|claring that it was the duty of every patriotic citizen to aid the government in all possible ways were passed with a shout.
The next morning the Governor called for six regiments to rendezvous at Springfield. Before the ink of the proclama|tion was dry, the music of fife and drum was heard on the capital's streets. At the headquarters of the Springfield Zouave Grays one man after another signed the muster roll. By afternoon, when the company was sworn into the state service, its ranks had increased from thirty to sixty; by night|fall it numbered 108, and enlistment was stopped. At the end of the next day thirty men had volunteered in a company which W. B. Sands was forming, the Germans and Irish were organizing, and the Young America Hose and Engine Company had voted to transform itself into a military unit. Jacob Bunn, N. H. Ridgely and the Springfield Marine and Fire Insurance Company had offered Governor Yates a loan of $100,000 to facilitate the organization and equip|ment of the troops. All day telegrams announcing the forma|tion of companies had poured into the State House.
Two days later, on the 19th, word spread that the eve|ning train from the north would bring the first troops to reach the capital under the Governor's call. An immense crowd gathered at the station. As the Lincoln Guards of Page 264 Lincoln stepped from the cars a wild shout rose. The fifes shrieked, the Springfield Zouaves formed in line, and behind them the Guards paraded the streets to the applause of the entire city.
Two days earlier the county fair grounds west of the city had been selected as the place of rendezvous and called Camp Yates. Here the Zouaves were already established, and here the Guards went into camp. The next morning two companies from Quincy made their appearance, and thereafter almost every train brought its contingent. At the end of a week 4,000 men were in camp. Rapidly as possible regiments were organized. First to be formed was the Seventh,1 which in|cluded the Zouave Grays and the National Guards, and the Grays swelled with pride when their own captain, John Cook, was elected colonel.
Even before the independent companies had been formed into regiments, movement to the field commenced. First to leave were two Quincy companies, two from Jacksonville, and Hopkins' Springfield Artillery, whose guns had boomed for so many political rallies in recent years. At the Great Western station the men were formed in line, sworn into the federal service, and the officers given their commissions. Amid the tears and farewells of relatives, the train started. Four days later, on the 27th, the departure of the Seventh touched Springfield even more deeply. Early in the morning word spread that the regiment was to entrain for Alton at ten o'clock. Long before that time the station was black with people. As they stood at ease on Jefferson Street the soldiers sang, the people cheered, and the air of a holiday prevailed. But when the train started a dead silence fell. Then cheers rang out again, but as the train faded into the distance many a face was wet with tears.
The constant arrival and departure of troops was excit|ing Page 265 enough, but when word was received that Douglas would reach the city on April 25th to address a joint session of the legislature, the town became almost delirious. On the day after the surrender of Fort Sumter the great Democrat had sought an interview with Lincoln, at the conclusion of which he had announced his determination to sustain the President, maintain the government and preserve the Union. Soon afterward he had started west. While he had spoken on the way, it was known that he was reserving a complete statement of his position for his Illinois constituents. Not merely Springfield, but the whole North, burned for his words.
That night the Hall of the House of Representatives was crowded to suffocation and hundreds packed the corridors. When Douglas entered, promptly at eight o'clock, the audience stood up and cheered, but when he rose to speak a few minutes later, the applause rocketed in volleys. Finally silence was secured, and once more the familiar voice was heard.
Secession, he declared, was unjustified and treasonable, and all men must support the government regardless of their party affiliations. "For the first time since the adoption of the Federal constitution," he declared, "a widespread con|spiracy exists to destroy the best government the sun of heaven ever shed its rays upon. Hostile armies are now marching upon the Federal capital, with a view of planting a revolutionary flag upon its dome; seizing the national archives; taking captive the president elected by the votes of the people, in the hands of secessionists and disunionists. A war of aggression and of extermination is being waged against the government established by our fathers. The boast has gone forth by the secretary of war of this revolutionary government, that on the first day of May the revolutionary flag shall float from the walls of the capitol at Washington, and that on the fourth day of July the revolutionary army Page 266 shall hold possession of the Hall of Independence in Phila|delphia.
"The simple question presented to us," he continued, "is whether we will wait for the enemy to carry out his boast of making war upon our soil; or whether we will rush as one man to the defence of the government and its capital, to defend it from the hands of all assailants who have threat|ened to destroy it! . . .
"So long as there was a hope of peaceful solution," he added sadly, "I prayed and implored for compromise. I can appeal to my countrymen with confidence that I have spared no effort, omitted no opportunity to adapt a peace|ful solution of all these troubles, and thus restore peace, happiness and fraternity to this country. When all proposi|tions of peace fail, there is but one course left for the patriot, and that is to rally under that flag which has waved over the Capitol from the days of Washington, and around the gov|ernment established by Washington, Jefferson, Hamilton and their compeers. . . .
"My friends, I can say no more. To discuss these topics is the most painful duty of my life. It is with a sad heart— with a grief that I have never before experienced, that I have to contemplate this fearful struggle; but I believe in my conscience that it is a duty we owe to ourselves and our children, and our God, to protect this government and that flag from every assailant, be he who he may."
As the speaker finished men wept and cheered by turns, and hundreds who, but a few months before, had looked upon him as the arch enemy of liberty, shouted in praise. Old Democrats who had broken with him on the slavery question rushed forward to shake his hand. "A triumphant call to arms in defense of country. Government and Con|stitutional Liberty," said the once-hostile Journal. "By his noble support of his country, Mr. Douglas has endeared himself to every loyal citizen in our broad land."
Page 267A few weeks later there came a day when the church bells were tolled, and business was suspended, and flags were low|ered to half mast, and crêpe drooped from hundreds of door handles. Douglas was dead. Exhausted by the strain of travel and speech-making, he had fallen an easy victim to disease. On June 7, the day of the funeral, business was again sus|pended, stores and public buildings were dressed in mourn|ing, and flags were again at half-mast. Except for a single cannon, booming at half-hour intervals, a Sabbath stillness prevailed. Sorrow pervaded Springfield, and the hearts of old friend and old foe alike were saddened.
Meanwhile, preparations for war were settling into a routine. At Camp Yates regiment after regiment was organ|izing, electing its officers, and departing for the Union lines in Missouri or at Cairo. Gradually the town was losing its zest in the spectacle. It is unlikely, therefore, that anyone paid much attention to an announcement in one of the papers in mid-June that "Capt. U. S. Grant, of Galena, and a West Point graduate," had been appointed to the command of the Twenty-First Illinois. Few citizens of the capital knew this quiet, ordinary-looking man who, two months earlier, had presented himself to Governor Yates with the simple state|ment that he was a West Point man who felt it his duty to offer his services in his country's need. Impressed by some intangible quality, Yates had given him a desk in his office. Before long he realized that the newcomer's knowledge of military routine was almost invaluable. Then, while Grant was visiting his father in Covington, Kentucky, trouble over discipline and promotions developed in the Twenty-First regiment. Yates offered his absent assistant the command, which was accepted at once. In a day or two the regiment was in hand, and on its way to the Missouri front.
By this time the conviction was spreading that three months, the period for which the first troops were called, would be altogether inadequate for the suppression of seces|sion. Page 268 New volunteers were signing for three years' service. In Springfield the roll of drums was heard on all sides, and nearly every hall in town was in use as a recruiting station. Nevertheless, it was not until the battle of Bull Run, on July 21, that full realization of the magnitude of the North's task sank in.
So far, the war had been a sort of exciting holiday. There had been a few casualties from illness, and the dramatic death of Elmer Ellsworth had caused a sharp pang of sorrow. But it was all far away, and perhaps one glorious Northern victory would mean the end. So, as McDowell's army ad|vanced, confidence rose. The enemy would not even stand and fight—victory was too easy! Then, with stunning sud|denness, came news of the Union defeat. Not since the bom|bardment of Fort Sumter had there been such excitement. All day, on July 22, throngs of anxious men stood uneasily in front of the bulletin boards. Only late at night, when the worst was definitely known, did the streets resume their customary quiet. By that time the unwelcome realization that this would be a war of years instead of months had taken firm possession.
Long-range measures were quickly adopted. One of these was the abandonment of Camp Yates and the establishment of a new concentration camp. Long before this the citizens had learned that close association with single men in bar|racks was not an unmixed blessing. Men from the camp were often drunk on the streets, brawls between them were fre|quent, and occasionally the townspeople themselves were threatened by bullies in uniform. Farmers west of the city complained of the disappearance of fruit, vegetables and fowls. On the other hand, the saloons and prostitutes had a demoralizing effect upon the men. Therefore the new camp, to be named Camp Butler in honor of the state treasurer, was to be established on Clear Lake, a safe distance east of the city. By early August it was ready for use.
Page 269Another measure was the expansion of munitions' manu|facture. Soon after the outbreak of the war Lamb's foundry started to cast artillery shot and to make musket cartridges. By mid-summer 150 hands, mainly boys and girls, were work|ing seven days a week, turning out 25,000 rifle cartridges and 400 gun cartridges a day. By fall a new building near the state arsenal (then located on North Fifth street) had been completed, more than two hundred people were employed, and the output had risen proportionately.
A third measure was the formation of soldiers' aid so|cieties, which undertook to supply extra bedding, undercloth|ing, delicacies, newspapers and magazines to the men in the camps, and to alleviate suffering among the sick and wounded. The men solicited money and supplies; the women and girls devoted many hours each week to sewing and knitting. But for a long time many held aloof. "I am sorry to say the democratic ladies have taken no interest as yet," Mrs. J. C. Conkling, one of the most active participants, wrote in the fall of 1861. "I think there is very little patriotism among our ladies." Nevertheless, as time went on, and the worthi|ness of the work was seen, personal and party animosities were dropped and most of the leading women of the town took part.
Thus, while the green troops drilled at Camp Butler and Springfield prepared for the inevitable battles of the future, months passed in relative quiet. Then, in November, came the battle of Belmont, and because several Illinois regiments were engaged, the first casualty lists of the war were pub|lished in Springfield newspapers. But not until February, 1862, when Grant attacked Forts Henry and Donelson, was the stark reality of war brought home.
Early in the morning of February 7 Governor Yates re|ceived a despatch announcing that Fort Henry had sur|rendered. Excitement spread like a prairie fire. In a short time the news was confirmed, the flag was unfurled above Page 270 the State House, and that night the guns at the arsenal barked out a national salute.
Ten days later came similar news from Fort Donelson. As the word spread flags were raised all over town, bells were pealed, and guns and cannon spoke in impromptu salute. In the afternoon, when an official report was received, the morning's jollification was repeated, and the six guns of Captain Cheney's artillery rattled the town's windows. That night there were bonfires around the square, and an im|mense meeting at the State House.
But there was deep anxiety too. Many Illinois regiments had taken part in the attack, and the lists of killed and wounded would be long. All night long the women of the Soldiers' Aid Society made bandages, and many a husband joined in the task. The next day a special train, with surgeons, nurses, and hospital supplies, left Springfield for Cairo. For weeks casualty lists were printed. "We can now realize that we are in the midst of War. . . ," Mrs. Conkling wrote. "The late victories in Kentucky created great joy here, but accompanied with great mourning. . . ."
One consequence of the battle of Fort Donelson was the reception at Camp Butler of large numbers of Confederate prisoners. On February 22 two thousand arrived, and hun|dreds more were received during the next few days. "Let us treat them not as rebels, but as prisoners of war," admon|ished the Illinois State Journal. "It is no part of magnanimity to crow over and, least of all, deride a conquered foe." This advice was not hard to follow, for the prisoners were young, ragged, tired of fighting, and responsive to sympathy. Often there were acquaintances, even relatives, among them. "We seem all at once in close contact with our southern friends," Mrs. Conkling wrote.
Six weeks later Springfield thrilled to the news of another victory. On the afternoon of April 9th came word that on the 6th and 7th there had been fighting at Pittsburgh Land|ing, Page 271 in Tennessee, and that the Union forces had been victorious. But later despatches left no doubt that the victory had been attained at a terrible cost. Yates, with other state officers, nurses and surgeons, left at once for the battlefield. In a few days casualty lists, long beyond anything that the people had so far seen, began to appear, and many a Spring|field family mourned the loss of a son or father.
For weeks editors and military critics wrangled over the responsibility for the slaughter and near-disaster. Finally, however, the movements of McClellan's Army of the Poto|mac diverted attention to the East. As his men landed on the peninsula southeast of Richmond and pressed forward to their goal, all Springfield watched with anxiety and hope. Finally, on the afternoon of July 2, a cannon barked in salute. One by one the bells of the town commenced to ring, and soon the Stars and Stripes was waving from every flagstaff. Richmond had fallen, and Springfield was beside itself with joy! Citizens wild with delight paraded the streets. All the fireworks in the city were engaged, and preparations were made for a torchlight procession and jubilee the like of which the prairie capital had never witnessed. While en|thusiasm was highest a despatch contradicting the news of the capture was received. Others of the same tenor followed. That night there was no procession. Instead, gloom as black as the night itself hung over the anxious men who stood be|fore the bulletin boards hoping against hope that the first glad news of the day would find final confirmation.
In the month which followed, the failure of McClellan's Peninsular campaign became clear. At the same time the determination grew that the war must be prosecuted even more relentlessly, and Springfield grimly prepared to furnish its share of the 600,000 volunteers for whom the President was calling. On July 21 seventy-seven citizens, headed by Richard Yates, published a call for a "war meeting" to be held at the State House the following day to encourage en|listment. Page 272 So large was the response that the meeting had to be transferred to the street in front of the court house. There, after appeals by Yates and other speakers, resolu|tions supporting the war, approving the new call for troops, and calling for the appointment of a committee of ten citizens to devise means of encouraging enlistment, were passed. The committee, appointed a few days later, promptly induced the county supervisors to appropriate $50,000 for bounties and the support of soldiers' families. Recruiting offices opened, and fife and drum sounded from morning until night. All over the state men responded with fervor. Camp Butler was filled to capacity, and Camp Yates was again pressed into service, to remain in use until the close of the war.
As the new levies poured in, confidence in the might of the North was gradually restored. Pope's defeat at the second battle of Bull Run gave mounting hopes a rough shock, but two weeks later the news of Antietam dispelled the gloom. At the first news of Union victory Yates ordered a salute of 100 guns, and on the next day, when confirmation came, flags flew from the housetops and the town was in "a state of exultant excitement."
So far, the war had been fairly well supported by the people of Springfield. Upon the outbreak of hostilities the Democratic Register was no less insistent than the Republi|can Journal that all men, regardless of party affiliation, join in the defense of the country. However, as the first violent enthusiasm faded, and the Republicans began to identify patriotism with adherence to their own organization, the Democrats cooled. Although continuing to urge enlistment and support of the army, they refused to surrender their own party organization, and insisted on their right to criti|cize the administration and to nominate candidates for office.
A few leaders—mainly men like John A. McClernand, who had gone into the army—abandoned the old party for Page 273 the "fusionists," or "Unionists," as the Republicans, with a scattering of War Democrats, preferred to be known, but the Democratic rank and file remained faithful. Aided by the administration's adoption of war measures of doubtful con|stitutionality, particularly military arrests and the suspension of habeas corpus, the party gained ground. At a county elec|tion in the fall of 1861 they carried all except two of their candidates into office and elected Democratic delegates to the constitutional convention which was to assemble early in 1862.
But as a whole, they supported the war. After the failure of the Richmond campaign, no one was more active than B. S. Edwards, the acknowledged leader of the Springfield Democracy, in urging response to Lincoln's call for troops. The overthrow of secession and the restoration of the Union were still, in their opinion, objectives worth their cost in men and money, no matter how much they might deprecate the methods by which the Republicans were attempting to at|tain them.
And then, five days after Antietam, Lincoln issued the Proclamation of Emancipation.
Dutifully, but with no great enthusiasm, the Republicans came to the defense of the President. "The President must and will be sustained," said the Journal. ". . . Those who refuse to support the Government in the exercise of its neces|sary and just authority are traitors and should be so treated, whatever name they may wear. True patriots of every name rally around the President, determined that the Union shall be preserved and the laws enforced."
The Democrats, on the other hand, flew to violent de|nunciation. To transform a war for the restoration of the Union to a crusade against slavery, and by an unconstitu|tional proclamation at that, was itself treason. "We trust that the people of the state, in the coming election," said the Register, "will meet the issue proposed, and in casting their Page 274 votes decide, in the choice of members of Congress especially, whether they approve or not, the proposed plan of grinding taxation for all time to come, to pay for freed negroes, the setting aside of the national constitution, and, in all human probability, the permanent disruption of the republic, a permanent standing army, endless civil war, the Africanization of the southern states, anarchy in the north, to end in despotism."
For the short remainder of the campaign then in progress the Democrats struck hard at the "abolitionism" of the ad|ministration. Before the issuance of the Proclamation the Republicans had had hopes of victory. In the summer they had so far recovered from their defeat of the preceding fall as to defeat the constitution which the Democratic convention had framed, and everywhere the signs were encouraging. In the Springfield district John T. Stuart, with Demo|cratic support, was admittedly a strong candidate for elec|tion to Congress, but the supporters of Leonard Swett, his opponent, foresaw victory, or at worst defeat by a narrow margin. The political cost of emancipation was soon ap|parent, however. Voters deserted the Union party by hun|dreds, with the result that in both Springfield and Sangamon County the Democratic candidates were elected by sizable majorities. Over the state as a whole the result was the same. Democrats replaced Republicans in the state offices to be filled and secured a majority in the general assembly.
When the legislature assembled in January, 1863, not only had opposition to emancipation become organized, but a definite movement looking toward peace had developed. One of the first moves of the leaders was to call a public meeting to express the views of the opposition. While speaker after speaker asserted that the constitution must be observed in peace as well as war, and that any departure from it would lead either to anarchy or to subserviency as ignominious as that against which the Revolutionary Fa|thers Page 275 had revolted, the resolutions committee, with John T. Stuart and C. H. Lanphier as local representatives, framed a blanket indictment. "The emancipation proclamation," the fruit of their labor read, ". . . is as unwarrantable in mili|tary as in civil law; a gigantic usurpation, at once converting the war . . . into a crusade for the sudden, unconditional and violent liberation of three millions of negro slaves; a result which would not only be a total subversion of the federal Union, but a revolution in the social organization of the southern states. . . . The proclamation invites ser|vile insurrection as an element in this emancipation crusade— a means of warfare, the inhumanity and diabolism of which are without example in civilized warfare, and which we de|nounce, and which the civilized world will denounce, as an ineffaceable disgrace to the American name." With the unan|imous adoption of this statement the meeting adjourned, with the promise to convene again three days later and consider the political situation in its more general phases.
On the night of January 8, 1863, the Democrats gathered again at the State House. Immediately a series of resolutions was presented. "Usurpations" of the administration were condemned, the creation of the state of West Virginia was characterized as "revolutionary," and a program for the re-establishment of peace was proposed. Let an armistice be declared so that a convention of representatives of all the states. North and South, could meet at Louisville and adjust the national difficulties, and let the Illinois legislature make the first move by appointing delegates at once. When H. K. S. Omelveny, speaking in support of the resolutions, declared that he was opposed to the further prosecution of the war, and in favor of the return of peace upon a basis which would secure to all the states their constitutional rights, he was cheered repeatedly. The resolutions were adopted by ac|clamation.
The public expression of opinions such as these brought Page 276 into the open many whose secret sympathies had long been with the South. Street fights between defenders of secession and outraged Unionists took place. One woman raised a Confederate flag above her house and with a loaded revolver in her hand, dared anyone to take it down. "You would be surprised . . . at the number of our ladies here that are wearing copperhead breastpins and even cents on their watch guards," Mrs. Conkling wrote to her son at college. "Since our traitorous legislature met secession principles and sym|pathy are boldly spoken of in our midst."
The Union men were not slow in countering with public demonstrations of their own. On the night after the ad|journed Democratic meeting all who favored "the uncondi|tional support of the Government of the United States against the efforts of traitors for its overthrow" were sum|moned to meet at the State House to counteract the "treason" meetings held there earlier in the week. There, from a stand hung with battle flags—among them the tattered banner of the old Zouave Grays—speakers asserted that the mainte|nance of the Union was threatened no less by armed rebellion than by "insidious and dangerous attempts of disloyal per|sons" in the North itself, and urged the meeting to condemn unequivocally "all disloyal language and acts derogatory of the Government." This the meeting did with a shout of ac|clamation. Then, with cheers for the Union, the soldiers in the field, Lincoln, Oglesby and Yates, it adjourned.
A week later the unconditional supporters of the Union were again called to the State House, and again the Hall of Representatives was crowded. After lengthy resolutions sup|porting the national and state administrations, the emancipa|tion proclamation and other war measures, and condemning any compromise with "rebels" were proposed for adoption, Colonel Noble of the Second Illinois Cavalry brought out volleys of cheers by stating that if traitors attempted a rev|olution at home, he would bring his regiment back to fight Page 277 them. "I have not a great while to live and it makes but little difference with me personally," he said; "but I want to leave the land with the old flag floating over it, with liberty and the Union preserved. I do not want to see one star taken from the flag, nor treason triumphant on one foot of the soil over which it ever waved!" The resolutions were adopted with a roar of approval.
As the weeks wore on and the legislature, intent upon adjourning as soon as its constitutional limit of six weeks was reached, spent its time in denouncing the war and the manner in which it was being conducted, tempers reached the snap|ping point. One day in February people on the streets outside the State House heard a harsh voice, tense with emotion, in outraged denunciation. In an instant the chamber was crowded. There, pounding his desk to splinters, was Isaac Funk of McLean County. "I can sit in my seat no longer and see so much by-playing going on," the old man shouted. "These men are trifling with the best interests of the country. They should have asses' ears to set off their heads, for they are traitors and secessionists at heart. . . . They deserve hanging, I say, the country would be better for swinging them up. . . . They have my sentiments: let them one and all make the most of them. I am ready to back up all I say, and I repeat it, to meet these traitors in any manner they may choose from a pin's point to the mouth of a cannon." As he finished, the crowded galleries cheered him to the echo, and Union men sought the reporter's notes so that the speech might be put into pamphlet form and sent broadcast over the country.
Four months later the State House was the scene of an|other sensation. At the regular legislative session the Demo|cratic majority, following the actions of the meeting held in January, had determined to urge an armistice and appoint commissioners to a national convention. Resolutions carry|ing out these objectives were passed by the House, and Page 278 failed of passage in the Senate only because of the with|drawal of the Republican members, who did not return to their seats until the regular business of the session—the ap|portionment and appropriation bills—came up. Then the assembly recessed until June. Convening on June 2, the Democratic majority prepared to push its program—the passage of an apportionment bill over the Governor's veto, a bill to prevent illegal arrests, a bill to prevent the immigra|tion of negroes, and other measures likely to embarrass their opponents. Again the Republicans resorted to obstruction. In the Senate a quorum was lacking, and as a result, the two houses were unable to agree upon adjournment. Thus mat|ters stood for two days. Suddenly, on the morning of the 10th, the Governor's secretary walked into the Hall of the House and commenced to read a proclamation proroguing the legislature because of the disagreement on adjournment. The speaker pounded with his gavel but the reading con|tinued, and in a few minutes the House dissolved in disorder. Wild rumors of violence flew about the town, but dissipated in talk. For two weeks the House formally remained in ses|sion, but finally the members saw the futility of the proceed|ing, and scattered to their homes.
Yates' action gave added seriousness to the Democratic mass meeting scheduled to be held at Springfield on June 17 to protest violation of the constitution and call for an end of the war. On the 16th thousands were already on hand, and from dawn until afternoon of the day itself cannon, drums and bands, signalizing the arrival of each delegation, sounded almost continuously. The Register claimed an at|tendance of 75,000; even the Journal conceded 15,000.
Six speakers' stands had been erected at the fair grounds. There S. S. Cox of Ohio, Daniel Voorhees of Indiana and other prominent Democrats supported the efforts of local leaders in denouncing Republican policies and measures. Resolutions condemning the national administration and Page 279 calling Yates' prorogation "a high-handed usurpation and exercise of arbitrary power" were passed, but the real sig|nificance of the meeting was expressed in a resolution passed at all stands, declaring that "the further offensive prosecu|tion of this war tends to subvert the Constitution and the government, and entail upon this nation all the disastrous consequences of misrule and anarchy. That we are in favor of peace upon the basis of a restoration of the Union, and for the accomplishment of which we propose a National Convention, to settle upon terms of peace, which shall have in view the restoration of the Union as it was, and the secur|ing by Constitutional amendments, such rights to the several States and the people thereof, as honor and justice demand."
Even Democratic anticipations were exceeded by the meeting. Rarely, if ever, had Springfield witnessed so large a gathering; never had seriousness and sobriety been more noticeable. Moreover, as an evidence of their fundamental loyalty, the visitors had subscribed more than $50,000 for the benefit of wounded soldiers. But to the Republicans the meeting was a shameful assemblage of "copperheads," a disgrace to Illinois. "A remarkable day in the history of our noble State," the Journal called it; "and if we mistake not, a memorable day in the history of the so-called Democratic party—a day from which they may date the commencement of its disintegration and ruin caused by the treasonable advice and acts of unscrupulous party leaders."
More effective, however, than mere denunciation in counteracting the movement for peace was the news which came over the wires early in July. For several days despatches describing terrific fighting at Gettysburg were received, but not until the 8th was the definite announcement of Union victory received. An hour later the surrender of Vicksburg was announced and confirmed. At five o'clock thirty-five guns were fired in honor of the Army of the Potomac, at six there was a salute for the Army of the Tennessee, at seven Page 280 another for the soldiers of Illinois, and from seven-thirty until eight all the bells in the city were rung. That night, while the State House square was bright with bonfires and rockets flashed above the city, the people gathered in front of the court house, listened to speakers extol the prowess of the Union armies, sang patriotic songs and cheered for the troops in the field. Partisan animosities were forgotten, and Democrat vied with Republican in celebrating the victories.
But the Union men were not content to let the bullets of the soldiers plead their cause. Challenged by the outspokenness of the advocates of peace, and heartened by victory in the field, they determined to prove the temper of the masses by a demonstration in comparison with which the Democratic meeting of June 17 would seem insignificant. On August 14 the call was issued. Signed by several hundred men from all parts of Illinois, it summoned "the Unconditional Union men of the State of Illinois, without regard to former party as|sociations, who are in favor of a vigorous prosecution of the war against this unholy and accursed rebellion; who are de|termined to sustain the Government in its endeavors to crush out treason; who intend to preserve the integrity of the Union at any cost of treasure and blood; who mean to transmit our free institutions unimpaired to our posterity; who believe that 'the further offensive prosecution of the war' is the only mode of securing the blessings of peace and maintaining our National honor, and who would rejoice to see the Old Fag floating over every citadel and fort and protecting every inch of territory of these United States," to meet in Springfield on September 3rd. Prominent speak|ers from other states were invited to be present, and the attendance of Lincoln himself was insistently sought.
On the morning of the appointed day Springfield was alive with a multitude which could be compared only with the great Republican demonstration by which, in 1860, the Page 281 nomination of Lincoln had been celebrated. As bands played, and drums rolled, and cannon boomed, and banners snapped in the wind, a procession formed, marched through the down|town streets, and turned towards the fair grounds. There, from five stands, Edward Everett, Schuyler Colfax, Zach|ariah Chandler, John A. Logan, John A. McClernand and many others aroused the great crowd to a high pitch. But the climax, at each stand, was the reading of the letter which Lincoln had sent when he had finally decided that attendance in person was impossible. Directed to his critics rather than his supporters, it was a magnificent defense of the Emancipa|tion Proclamation and the policy of using freed negroes in the Union armies. The conclusion, an emotional appeal of the sort of which Lincoln was a master, brought dead silence in the vast audience. "Peace," he said, "does not appear so distant as it did. I hope it will come soon, and come to stay; and so come as to be worth the keeping in all future time. It will then have been proved that among free men there can be no successful appeal from the ballot to the bullet, and that they who take such appeal are sure to lose their case and pay the cost. And then there will be some black men who can remember that with silent tongue, and clenched teeth, and steady eye, and well-poised bayonet, they have helped man|kind on to this great consummation, while I fear there will be some white ones unable to forget that with malignant heart and deceitful speech they strove to hinder it."
With a will the crowd shouted endorsement of the gov|ernment, the emancipation proclamation and the relentless prosecution of the war. That night thousands listened to speeches from the steps of the court house, marched in torch|light processions, and marvelled at the fireworks. Not until long after midnight did the streets of the capital resume their customary stillness.
To the double spur of victory and the renewed determina|tion of Union leaders, popular opinion began to respond. In Page 282 the states which held October elections large Union gains were registered. In Springfield there was rejoicing, and once more flags waved and cannon boomed. But there was also disgruntlement. The verdict of the elections, said the Register, "is against the very foundations of governmental law and strikes another blow at civil liberty in the century which gave it to us. . . . The rejoicing of the abolitionists today is a jubilee over the downfall of the nation; the sor|row of the democracy is mourning over the fate they are powerless for the time to prevent." But the direful comment was without effect, for at the November election the Union party carried their candidates for local offices to victory in city, county and state.
Union victories throughout the North focussed attention on the approaching presidential election. But before the pre|convention skirmishing attained importance, the return of the veteran regiments provided an interlude.
With the end of their three years of service approaching, veteran regiments were being offered a trip home and a thirty-day furlough in return for re-enlistment. First to reach Springfield was the town's favorite, the Seventh Illinois. On the afternoon of January 18, 1864, the firing of cannon and ringing of church bells heralded the approach of the train. The schools were dismissed immediately, and by the time the train pulled into the Great Western station the streets were crowded. As 360 men and officers disembarked and marched to the State House cheer after cheer rang in their ears, but there were tears too, for Shiloh, Corinth and many another Southern field had claimed 500 of their comrades. At the State House Yates and John Cook, the Seventh's first colonel, eulogized the regiment fulsomely, but at the first opportunity Colonel Rowett reminded the audience that his men had not eaten since the morning of the preceding day, and that he suspected they would prefer food to oratory. So the meeting broke up abruptly, and the Page 283 men sought the hotels and restaurants, where all they could eat was theirs without charge.
Three days later, when the Twenty-Sixth Illinois, with one Sangamon company, reached Springfield, a similar scene was enacted, except that this time the ladies were prepared, and had a "sumptuous repast" ready. A few days later the Tenth Cavalry, with three local companies, met a similar reception. After that a different regiment arrived every few days. The novelty wore off, but for various reasons the town remained in a state of constant excitement. At frequent in|tervals men who had been assured that nothing was too good for them decided to take the orators at their word. Small groups would march into a bar, order drinks, and smash the place when the bartender demanded payment. Others, inflamed with whiskey, indulged in deviltry just for the fun of it. A newspaper item furnishes a typical in|stance: "Last night at about 7 o'clock, a gang of soldiers numbering ten or fifteen, passed down Jefferson street, con|ducting themselves in a most disgraceful manner. They broke down the gate of the front yard fence at Gen. Anderson's residence, tore off the palings of Mr. Gather's fence, dam|aged the fence and gate in front of Mr. Maxcy's residence, and completely demolished the fence belonging to Mr. Samuel Runyon. It is also reported that considerable damage was done to the fence in front of Ida Johnson's house." And so it went throughout the spring. With frequent brawls, and even an occasional killing, the provost-marshal and his guard were the busiest men in Springfield.
One result of the disorder on the part of furloughed sol|diers was the development of a conviction that the city must provide some sort of accommodation for the uniformed men who were constantly passing through it. Accordingly, a committee secured $2,000 from the state sanitary commis|sion and made plans to build a soldiers' home on a lot near the Great Western station. But when property owners in Page 284 the vicinity protested, the matter lagged. Finally, after sev|eral attempts to secure a location, permission to use the gov|ernment lot at Sixth and Monroe streets2 was granted. In three weeks a frame building, with lounge and sleeping rooms, was completed. The Young Ladies' Soldiers' Aid Society opened it with a fair which the Journal pronounced "one of the most recherche3 and fashionable affairs which ever came off in this city," and which netted $1,400 for the benefit of sick and wounded soldiers.
By this time the presidential contest was gaining mo|mentum. The Democrats, assuming that Lincoln would be the nominee, were blasting at him without restraint. He was an "obscure lawyer" who "disgraced" the position in which an accident of politics had placed him; a "czar" who had "stricken down the last privilege of freemen"; a tyrant whose acts "are only paralleled, not transcended, in enormity by the infamies of Caligula or Dionysius of Syracuse." Weak, his head turned by power, he had set himself above the law and was fast turning a constitutional democracy into a mil|itary despotism.
Ordinarily this sort of thing, common enough in political campaigns, brought quick retort from the opposing party, but now the Republicans were silent. The truth is that long before 1864 the attachment of the Illinois leaders of the party to Lincoln had become at best lukewarm. Within a few months of Lincoln's inauguration Dubois was angered by the administration's coolness towards men he had recom|mended for office. Herndon complained of Lincoln's slow|ness in attacking slavery—"Does he suppose he can crush— squelch out this huge rebellion by pop guns filled with rose water?" Conkling thought the President weak and half|hearted. Baker of the Journal inveighed against the "dilly-dallying Page 285 of the Government with the Southern traitors." D. L. Phillips, the United States marshal, charged that Democrats were carrying off fat army contracts while the loyal men were ignored. Yates had spent himself in putting an Illinois army into the field, but had "no credit for it from Mr. Lincoln."
Late in 1863 a visitor to the capital summarized the at|titude of the Illinois Republican leaders. "While in Spring|field some time ago," he wrote, "it was more than intimated to me by a gentleman attached to the State Government that it might become necessary to nominate some other man than Mr. Lincoln at our next National Convention. . . . While hundreds have abiding confidence in the Patriotism of Mr. Lincoln, they have certain misgivings in regard to many things connected with his administration; hence the eyes of the masses are turning in all directions in search of suitable men whose devotion to the true principle involved in this great War is above suspicion."
Since this letter was written to Lyman Trumbull, there can be little doubt about the identity of at least one of the "suit|able men" whom the writer had in mind. That Trumbull was not entirely deaf to the promptings of ambition is evi|dent from a letter of his own, written in February, 1864. "The feeling for Mr. Lincoln's re-election seems to be very general," he said, "but much of it I discover is only on the surface. You would be surprised in talking with public men we meet here, to find how few when you come to get at their real sentiments are for Mr. Lincoln's re-election. There is distrust & fear that he is too undecided & inefficient to put down the rebellion. You need not be surprised if a re-action sets in before the nomination in favor of some man supposed to possess more energy, & less inclination to trust our brave boys in the hands, & under the leadership of Generals who have no heart in the war."
But they all reckoned without the master-politician in Page 286 the White House, for on June 8, 1864, the wires brought word that that day, at Baltimore, the Union Convention had unanimously nominated Lincoln on the first ballot. A salute was fired and rockets were set off. The next night, before a crowd assembled in front of the court house, J. C. Conkling and others laid aside their resentment and lack of faith and eulogized the nominee.
Now that their target was revealed, the Democrats at|tacked with increased bitterness. Typical of many pronounce|ments was a Register editorial of July 26: "The veriest child now knows that a vote for Abraham Lincoln is a vote for war, for murder, for the impoverishment of our people now and forever, because he will not abate one jot of his deter|mination to employ the armies of the Union to wipe out slavery. . . . Not another life need be wasted in this war; not another dollar of the people's money need be spent, if this President would but prefer the salvation of the Union and the restoration of peace to the accomplishment of schemes which he himself solemnly swore, two short years ago, he had neither the right nor the disposition to attempt."
(In comparison with what the editor had to say of the candidate for Governor, this was mild. "Elect Oglesby!" he snorted. "Talk of a 'short-boy,' a 'plug-ugly,' a harlot's 'fancy-man,' or any other synonym of all that is utterly abandoned or despicable, but for decency's sake, never men|tion Oglesby in connection with the chief-magistracy of Il|linois.")
Strong language, however, could not conceal the fact that many of the Democratic rank and file were slipping away from the leaders. For one thing, the party was fatally handi|capped by its delay in making a nomination. When a Dem|ocratic mass meeting was held in Springfield in mid-August trouble developed over the proposal to endorse in advance the nominee of the forth-coming convention, and outright schism was barely avoided. By the time McClellan was Page 287 finally selected, on August 29, so much valuable time had already passed that the Springfield Democrats did not even attempt a public demonstration.
On the other hand, military success played into the hands of the Union men. Grant was moving toward Richmond, at heavy cost, to be sure, but with grim determination, while Sherman was embarked upon the most spectacular move|ment of the war. With proper effort, victory at the polls could surely be made to follow success in the field. So the Union men threw themselves into the campaign with en|thusiasm. A wigwam was built on North Sixth Street, glee clubs sang campaign songs, and frequent meetings, with as many speeches as possible by War Democrats, were held. Rain spoiled the grand rally of the campaign, planned for October 5, but the achievements of Grant, Sheridan, Sher|man and Farragut proved to be more effective than political oratory, and a sweeping Union victory resulted.
By the narrowest of margins, Lincoln carried Springfield, but once again the county of Sangamon rejected him.4 In the national result, however, there was glory enough for the local Republicans. As soon as success was assured, they gathered in jubilation at the State House. When John M. Palmer declared that "for the leaders of the rebellion we had bullets and ropes; for the mass of the people forgive|ness," they cheered him to the echo. The Democrats, how|ever, were not inclined to let the celebrants completely escape their own lack of loyalty to their chief. The next day the Register tartly reminded them that Lincoln was the real choice of "the most insignificant minority," and that his election was evidence that party success, instead of national welfare, had been their goal.
The election over, military matters monopolized the in|terest of Springfield, along with the North in general. With Page 288 absorbed attention the people watched Sherman penetrate farther and farther into the South. There was rejoicing when Savannah fell into his hands, and bitter glee when Columbia and Charleston were taken. Meanwhile, under the eyes of an anxious nation, Grant pressed harder and harder on Rich|mond.
Finally, at eleven o'clock on the morning of April 3, 1865, came the news that had been awaited for four long years. Union troops were entering Richmond! Church bells, fire bells and cannon sounded the good news, while the people spread into the streets to greet each other in wild enthusiasm. That night bands played while rockets and bonfires lighted the sky. At last the triumph of the Union and an early peace were assured.
Just one week later came word of the end. When the wires announced Lee's surrender flags flew to their places as if by magic. In a short time business was suspended, and by com|mon impulse the entire city sought the streets and the State House square. As the crowds grew excitement became in|tense; cheers and singing mingled with the noise of the bells; impromptu processions marched and countermarched. Even the "Copperheads" joined in the rejoicing.
Early in the afternoon the Pioneer Fire Company, pre|ceded by a band, appeared in uniform. Soon the other fire companies joined them. Then a masked man in ragged regi|mentals led out a mule with a tattered rider, while to the rear straggled a forlorn-looking escort. On the mule's blanket was the inscription, "Jeff. Davis and Suite"; over his tail was the placard, "Lee's End." Hacks, buggies, wagons and drays carrying loads of singing, shouting men joined the parade and circled the square times without end.
At 6:30 a salute of twenty guns was the signal for a fire|works display limited only by the available supply. Then the fire companies, augmented by the Fenian Brotherhood, paraded with flaring torches. But the feature of the evening Page [unnumbered]