Army of Northern Virginia: February to September 1862

Lincoln Versus Horace Greeley

Was this the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?

Not quite. Lincoln was, in his reply to Greeley, as candid as he could be, but there were, in fact, entangling webs that he did not admit to.

Very few historians would argue with the plain fact that Lincoln and the Union men of 1861 fought primarily to save the Union. The flag-waving of April 1861 as well as the letters of hundreds of Northern men clearly show this to be the case. But by the summer of 1862, that initial enthusiasm had waned and was nearly exhausted. Lincoln, who had an unerring eye where popular sentiment was concerned, knew that the war had to be enlarged in some respect, or else he would get no more volunteers. Therefore, although preservation of the Union was clearly his number-one goal, Lincoln had, by the summer of 1862, come around to the idea of some sort of emancipation. Whether this meant compensation for the former slaveholders or some sort of colonization scheme, under which African Americans would be returned to Africa, remained to be seen.


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