Grant possessed in superb degree the ability to think of the war in overall terms, however his grand plan of operations that ended the war was at least partly Lincoln's in concept (Williams). Grant conformed his strategy to Lincoln's known ideas: "hit the Confederacy from all sides with pulverizing blows and make enemy armies, not cities, his main objective" (Williams). Grant submitted the broad outlines of his plan to Lincoln and the President trusting in Grant, approved the design without seeking to know the details (Williams).
According to Williams, the 1864 command system embodied the brilliance of simplicity: "a Commander-in-Chief to lay down policy and grand strategy, a General-in-Chief to frame specific battle strategy, and a Chief of Staff to coordinate information" (Williams). Williams notes that it "contained elements that later would be studied by military leaders and students in many nations." And Lincoln, without fully realizing his part, "had made a large and permanent contribution to the story of command organization" (Williams).
Most personal opinions of Lincoln were favorable. New Salem resident Mentor Graham said that Lincoln "was a social man, though he did not seek company, it sought him" (Social). White House aide William O. Stoddard observed: "The President is eminently social in his disposition and so is Mrs. Lincoln, but there have been many things in the way of even official sociability since their arrival in Washington" (Social). And an editor who once visited Lincoln in June 1860 remarked, "I found him one of the most companionable men I have ever met. Frank, hearty and unassuming, one feels irresistibly drawn toward him. In his conversation and bearing he reflects the gentleman" (Social). Contemporary biographer Isaac Arnold wrote,
In conversation he was most interesting. Few were so well informed and fewer still so original, so impressive, and so fascinating. On every subject he had something new and striking to say; and with this there was so much genial humor, that he was attractive beyond comparison"
Chicago Evening Journal reporter Andrew Shuman, who was among the friends and journalist that traveled around the state during 1858, said that Lincoln "would tell stories himself, and draw out stories from others; and his laugh, though not the loudest, was always the heartiest" (Social).
Lincoln's debates with Stephen Douglas raised his political profile in the East and earned him an invitation to speak in New York in late February 1860 (Transition). Biographer Benjamin Thomas wrote that when Lincoln returned to Springfield after Eastern trip, Milton Hay, addressing him on behalf of the local Republican Club, declared that:
No inconsiderable portion of your fellow citizens in various portions of the county have expressed their preference for you as the candidate of the Republican party for the next Presidency....There are those around you sir who have watched with manly interest and pride your upward march from obscurity to distinction. There are those here who know something of the obstacles which have lain in your pathway. Our history is prolific in examples of what may be achieved by ability, persevereance and integrity...but in the long list of those who have thus from humblest beginnings won their way worthily to proud distinction there is not one can take precedence of the name of Abraham Lincoln" (Transition).
Lincoln's nomination was given a big boost at the Illinois Republican State Convention where John Hanks introduced the rails that he and Lincoln had both split, and thus the legend of the "Railsplitter" was born and the delegation to the national convention was selected (Transition).
In the January 01, 2002 issue of White House Studies, Max J. Skidmore states that scholars routinely rate Lincoln's presidency as the most outstanding in American history (Skidmore). As on scholar wrote as recently as 2000, Lincoln is "so much a part of what it means to be American that for us to know Abraham Lincoln is to know America at its core" (Skidmore). From the time of Lincoln's death, observers of American society have recognized his importance as a political symbol (Skidmore). Nearly fifty years ago, Lincoln scholar, David Donald, noted that by studying Lincoln legends the historian can gain a "more balanced insight into the workings of the American mind...Lincoln believed that there was more than personal satisfaction at stake in the 1864 election...He saw it as a test of the feasibility of democratic government" (Skidmore).
Skidmore notes that the Lincoln myth emerged abruptly, and took on a religious character, and seemed to affect different regions of the country the same way (Skidmore). An estimated one million people looked upon the dead martyr's face, and this, says Skidmore, was the stuff of myth and legend (Skidmore). Prairie farmers claimed that the brown thrush did not sing for a year after Lincoln's death, and watchmakers' clocks were henceforth set at 7:22 to forever mark the time of his death (Skidmore). Observers remarked on this unity and depth of feeling among the bereaved, and wondered whether the cause lay with the events Lincoln made or with the character of the man himself (Skidmore).
Even in the South, the Lincoln myth came to have some influence, and immediate reaction to his death ranged from rejoicing to regret (Skidmore). Nevertheless, "in the wake of the assassination, editors, generals, and public officials all across the South voiced the opinion that the region had lost its best friend" (Skidmore). The shock that Lincoln's assassination affected far more than Americans, notes Skidmore, for until the Emancipation Proclamation and the Gettysburg Address, British opinion had been "overwhelmingly unfriendly to President Lincoln, a mixture of calumny, contempt, and ridicule," however thereafter it had improved (Skidmore). Eventually, immense crowds of people throughout Great Britain would rally to celebrate Lincoln's declaration of freedom, thus making it impossible for any British government to intervene on behalf of the slaveholding Confederacy (Skidmore). Goldwin Smith, Professor of Modern History at Oxford, wrote an appreciative article in Macmillan magazine, remarking that Lincoln's reelection exhibited his strength with the people, and with the noble Second Inaugural Address his reputation soared (Skidmore).
Lincoln's death struck everywhere, said William Gladstone, "with a thrill of horror" (Skidmore). Lincoln's friend and advocate, John Bright, believed that no event had created such a sensation in fifty years, "The whole people positively mourn and it would seem as if again we were one nation with you, so universal is the grief" (Skidmore). The assassination of Lincoln touched the world's heart because "Lincoln was the human being he was, but it also impressed itself on the mind of the world because the nation's survival and triumph over this catastrophe proved the strength and resiliency of American democracy" (Skidmore). By the end of the century, the myth had been in place long enough that, as Hugh Brogan wrote, "scorn for the dead past, coexisting happily with automatic reverence for George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, was build into every American soul" (Skidmore). And another scholar wrote at the end of the twentieth century, that "Father Abraham had achieved such status ascribed to no other American statesman except the Founding Father par excellence, George Washington" (Skidmore).
During the early war years, it was common for neutral feelings to shift to opposition, in fact Lincoln himself assumed that he could not be re-elected and even wrote a note conceding the improbability, promising his cooperation with a new president-elect, and "asked his Cabinet members to endorse it, before putting it away in his desk." (Skidmore). Shortly before the election the situation changed sharply and suddenly, there was overwhelming support. Walt Whitman, who had seen Lincoln in New York, found himself captivated and may have reflected an early myth when he wrote:
underneath his outside smutched mannerism, and stories from third-class country barrooms... Mr. Lincoln keeps a fountain of first-class practical telling wisdom. I do not dwell on the supposed failures of his government; he has shown, I sometimes think, an almost supernatural tact in keeping the ship afloat at all"
If Americans remain inspired by Abraham Lincoln, then the chances are good that it will continue throughout the twenty-first century (Skidmore).
Abraham Lincoln. The White House. Retrieved November 09, 2005 at http://www.whitehouse.gov/history/presidents/al16.html
The Lincoln Institute. Retrieved November 09, 2005 at http://www.abrahamlincoln.org/
Skidmore, Max J. "Abraham Lincoln: world political symbol for the twenty-first century." White House Studies. November 01, 2002. Retrieved November 09, 2005 from HighBeam Research Library Web site.
Social Relationships. The Lincoln Institute. Retrieved November 09, 2005 at http://www.mrlincolnandfriends.org/inside.asp?pageID=25&subjectID=1
Transition to Presidency. The Lincoln Institute. Retrieved November 09, 2005 from http://www.mrlincolnandfriends.org/inside.asp?pageID=18&subjectID=1
Williams, Frank J. "Abraham Lincoln: the president who changed the role of commander-in-chief." White House Studies. January 01, 2002.…