Saturday, March 16, 2019
By expanding war objectives to include abolition of slavery, the proclamation upped the stakes and guaranteed an uncompromising, winner-take-all struggle. "The Union party in the South is virtually destroyed," Halleck warned Grant. "There can be no peace but that which is forced by the sword." More than ever the war became a clash between two incompatible ways of life, an effort to remake the nation as well as save it. . . .
It was an amazing development: the lowly figure who had clerked in a Galena leather goods store now bore the weight of the republic on his shoulders. With voluntary enlistments dwindling and public discontent rising, the politically savvy Grant understood the urgent need for a smashing victory. "There is nothing left to be done but to go forward to a decisive victory," he later wrote. This was in my mind from the moment I took command in person at Young's Point." . . .
By nature and background, Abraham Lincoln was an eminently sober figure, having published as an adolescent his maiden newspaper article on the evils of alcohol. Whatever his worries about Grant's drinking, he could not afford to sacrifice this uniquely successful general. He showed wisdom and fortitude in facing down naysayers who brayed for Grant's dismissal, perhaps sensing their malice. "I think Grant has hardly a friend left, except myself," he said. Nevertheless, "what I want . . . is generals who will fight battles and win victories. Grant has done this, and I propose to stand by him." . . .
While both Grant and Sherman proved overly optimistic about the potential contrition of southern citizens, the North experienced a vicious backlash against emancipation during New York City draft riots in mid-July. In March, Congress had enacted legislation that allowed men to escape the draft by hiring substitutes or paying $300 bounties to the government. Those eligible for the draft in New York's poor Irish Democratic neighborhoods vented their class anger against Republicans rich enough to evade the war and racial prejudice against free blacks who threatened them with economic competition. The ugliest aspect of the riots, which took more than one hundred lives over four days, involved the outright murder of blacks on New York streets and the horrendous burning of the Colored Orphan Asylum. Lincoln refused to rescind the draft and brought troops fresh from victory at Gettysburg to restore order. . . .
Grant's clear sense of purpose enabled him to enlist the energies of a giant army to a common task. "For good sense, strong judgment and nerve, he cannot be surpassed," Wilson wrote. "He is a tower of strength."
-Ron Chernow, Grant