Army of Northern Virginia: February to September 1862

Lincoln Versus Horace Greeley

Where was Lincoln on the subject of emancipation?

The summer of 1862 was the critical time for his thoughts on that matter. Up until the spring of 1862, perhaps even until July, Lincoln continued to think a limited war was possible. By limited, he meant that a Northern victory would result in the North and the South shaking hands and agreeing that it all had been a mistake. Lincoln was far from alone in this. The letters of some of his advisers, and many of his troops in the field, indicate that a majority preferred to think of the war in this way.

Lincoln never revealed the full workings of his mind to a diary, but July 1862 seems to have been the critical month. The more that he examined the conflict, the more Lincoln became convinced that a limited war was impossible: this was a life-or-death struggle between two societies and two ways of life. One would have to prevail, and in so doing it would naturally alter the lifestyles of the other.


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