Examining how Abraham Lincoln Saved the Union

Essay add: 30-09-2015, 11:09   /   Views: 416
Examining how Abraham Lincoln Saved the Union

Mourners of Abraham Lincoln’s death were not wrong in declaring him the “Savior of the Union.” His primary goal as president was to preserve the Union at any cost. Though “Honest Abe” may not have been particularly well educated on the subject of war when he entered the White House, he took time to study and learn it well. After recognizing that the Union was too feeble to fight in more than one war, he peacefully resolved any potential conflicts. By doing this the president was able to focus all his attention on the preservation of the Union. Through hard thinking and determination Lincoln was also able to formulate numerous ideas that led to a victory for the North. Lincoln was not about to let a Civil War split the Union apart.

When Lincoln first entered the White House in March of 1861 he had little knowledge of how successful he was to become. Most of his success can be credited to his determination to preserve the Union. He explained, “Life and limb must be protected; yet often a limb must be amputated to save a life; but a life is never wisely given to save a limb” (333). He was willing to do whatever needed to be done in order to save the Union. For instance, during the war Lincoln allowed any officer in command to suspend the writ of habeas corpus if necessary in order to deal with rebels. This suspension became extremely controversial because this writ gave everyone the right to due process in court and was guaranteed in the constitution. When confronted about this decision, Lincoln explained that he was more willing to let one law go unexecuted than to lose the Union. Lincoln’s determination also shows itself through his thoughtful reasoning. He recognized the need for action against seceding states, but did not want the North to be the aggressor in this conflict. In the early morning of April 12, Edmund Ruffin of the Confederacy fired the first shot on Fort Sumter, thus dubbing the South as the aggressor.

At this point Lincoln collected more troops and began waging war against the rebelling states. Though his generals often failed him during the beginning of the war, Lincoln learned from all their mistakes and even studied the art of war on his own. He refused to let his generals claim a victory for merely protecting the North. Lincoln believed that a victory only arose from annihilation of the South’s army and refused to allow any general to claim a victory without greatly injuring the Confederate army. Lincoln could not find a man who would go through with a plan to destroy the Confederate Army until he found General Ulysses Grant. Once Lincoln found people like Grant, he made a point to stick with them. Even when confronted by Pennsylvania’s governor and told to remove Grant, Lincoln refused, explaining, “I can’t spare this man… He fights” (315). Grant fought every battle long and hard until the South surrendered. Once, when asked for terms, Grant replied, “No term except an unconditional and immediate surrender can be accepted” (309). The North then found a champion in General “Unconditional Surrender” Grant. Lincoln liked Grant and appreciated his success so much that he later made him the lieutenant general.

Lincoln also recognized that one sure way to lose the war was to become involved with other conflicts simultaneously. With the Unions weak state, Lincoln had no desire for other altercations of any kind. For instance, Lincoln resolved a probable conflict with the British and the French by reconciling with them in a diplomatic manner after impressments of some of their commissioners had taken place. The British ship Trent; carrying James M. Mason, a confederate commissioner to England, and John Slidell, a commissioner to France; was interrupted as it left Havana, Cuba, by a shot from the United States ship San Jacinto. Captain Wilkes of the San Jacinto then took the two commissioners to Boston where they were imprisoned. When President Lincoln heard of this incident he was disgusted. He quickly apologized and ordered the immediate release of Mason and Slidell. He had no desire to anger England or France by the impressments of their commissioners and was able to swallow his pride in order to stay focused on the war. Another excellent example of Lincoln’s ability to remain focused on his cause is his tactful way of dealing with Vallandigham. Vallandigham, a lame duck congressman who denounced Lincoln and the war, was arrested for his attempts to encourage Union soldiers to desert the army. Lincoln did not want Vallandigham to become a martyr to the Copperheads and the Peace Democrats, but also refused to have Vallandigham encouraging desertion of his army. He therefore decided on a new form of punishment. On March 26 Lincoln banished Vallandigham to Confederate lines, thus keeping Vallandigham’s supporters contented, but at the same time removing a possible threat to the Northern army. Lincoln did such things in order to prevent further weakening of the already weak Union and in order that the North could focus its strength on the South.

Abraham Lincoln’s unyielding determination to preserve the Union can also be seen throughout his well-thought-out plans, the most famous of which is the Emancipation Proclamation. Lincoln recognized that he needed a victory to precede the proclamation in order to ensure its authority and improve northern confidence. Antietam, a Union victory resulting from McClellan obtaining a copy of Lee’s plan of operation, provided for the opportunity Lincoln was looking for. Though he had hoped for a better victory, he was running out of time and took this opportunity when he could. The Emancipation Proclamation served to facilitate the North’s efforts in countless ways. This proclamation freed all slaves in rebelling states, but said nothing of slaves in states remaining in the Union. The proclamation therefore hurt the South, but prevented the Border States from considering the Civil War a war against slavery, a conclusion that could lead them to secede. Even though the South did not follow this proclamation, it hurt them in many ways. The slaves themselves, encouraged by the proclamation, worked deliberately slower, thus producing less profit and causing their masters financial problems. Not to mention, many escaped slaves fled to the Union army.

By the conclusion of the war, almost 200,000 ex-slaves joined the Union army, no doubt helping the North on its way to victory. Though the proclamation was “not either to save or destroy slavery” (342), as seen by its omission of the states remaining in the Union and Lincoln’s support of the Fugitive Slave Law, it did cause more Northerners to support the war by adding a moral reason for the fighting. For this same reason, the Confederate States of America lost the support of many foreign countries, all of which were opposed to slavery. Lincoln explained that the Emancipation Proclamation was not an attempt to begin freeing slaves, but instead merely a military necessity. It successfully helped the North throughout the war. Later on, when the North began to grow weary of the war, Lincoln made sure to restore confidence by acting as if he was not worried and that the North was sure to win. He did this by continuing life as normal. For instance, the construction of the capitol continued throughout the war. Not to mention, during the war congress passed many acts encouraging westward movement. These include the Homestead Act, which gave 160 acres of land to American settlers who moved west, and the Pacific Railway Act, which encouraged people to build railroads by offering land as an incentive. There is no doubt that these acts and the Emancipation Proclamation helped restore at least some of the North’s confidence and even gave the North somewhat of an advantage.

Though many people thought Lincoln inept at winning the Civil War and some even proposed to have Lincoln replaced, he proved them all wrong by not only winning the war, but achieving “a peace worth keeping, not the sort that breeds another war” (405). His determination to preserve the Union played a role in his success, bringing forth not only the Emancipation Proclamation, but also sheltering the country from many possible conflicts. His good judgment helped him recognize important issues and deal with them accordingly. Lincoln’s leadership in turn helped the North win the Civil War, changing America’s way of life forever.

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