The Final Struggles: September 1864 to April 1865

Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address

What was the scene at Lincoln’s second inauguration?

On March 4, 1865, Lincoln and his Cabinet came before an immense crowd outside the newly completed Capitol to witness an extraordinary change. Though the war was not over, public sentiment was different from a year ago, and when compared to the scene on March 4, 1861, it was vastly different.

If Lincoln had been a vainglorious person given to boasting and pride, this was his opportunity to make the most of it. Over the preceding four years, he had presided over the greatest gathering of strength—military, political, and financial—ever seen in America, perhaps even in the Western world. No previous military contest—not even those of the Napoleonic Wars—had involved so many men fighting so fiercely. The final victory was not far off, and Lincoln could have basked in a mild orgy of self-congratulation. That he did not do so is yet another proof of his greatness and shrewdness as a statesman.


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