Last night, I read an interesting article on John Hay and John Nicolay, Lincoln’s two personal secretaries. The article wasn’t so much about Lincoln, but about Hay and Nicolay’s famous biography of him. What impressed me most was the number of Lincoln’s contemporaries who didn’t think him a great man, and who thought he wasn’t a particularly good president. About both, I strongly disagree.
Again in the article, I read of the first weeks of the war, and Lincoln pacing the White House floor at night, worrying about the Union volunteers and why they hadn’t arrived in Washington. I guess Lincoln’s critics wouldn’t have worried. Instead, they would have gone briskly about their way, governing the country, not caring about a rebelling army camped only miles from Washington.
Every time I read of Lincoln and the beginning of his administration, I think again of his greatness and how he held the country together. Surely he floundered, but his critics never stopped to realize that the entire country was floundering. Lincoln was the one who righted himself first and moved on to win the war.
Too, I was reminded again of the blogger who wrote that McClellan was reluctant to get his men’s skirts dirty. How could you write something so silly? I’m sure the writer never served in the ranks; he or she never heard the order come down to stand by. McClellan was not a great general, but he hated to lose any of his men. I’ve always like generals like him and George Thomas. They might have been military men, but every man in their armies was important to them.