In April 1861, after Union troops at Fort Sumter were fired upon and forced to surrender, Lincoln called on the governors of every state to send detachments totaling 75,000 troops to recapture forts, protect the capital, and "preserve the Union," which in his view still existed intact despite the actions of the seceding states. Virginia, which had repeatedly warned Lincoln that it would not allow an invasion of its territory or join an attack on another state, responded by seceding, along with North Carolina, Tennessee, and Arkansas.
The slave states of Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland, and Delaware did not secede, and Lincoln urgently negotiated with state leaders there, promising not to interfere with slavery. After the fighting started, he had rebel leaders arrested in all the border areas and held in military prisons without trial. Over 18,000 were arrested, though none were executed. One, Clement Vallandingham, was exiled; but all of the remainder were released, usually after two or three months (see: Ex parte Merryman).
Main articles: Abraham Lincoln on slavery and Emancipation Proclamation
Lincoln met with his cabinet for the first reading of the Emancipation Proclamation draft on July 22, 1862. L-R: Edwin M. Stanton, Salmon P. Chase, Abraham Lincoln, Gideon Welles, Caleb B. Smith, William H. Seward, Montgomery Blair and Edward Bates
In July 1862, Congress moved to free the slaves by passing the Second Confiscation Act. The goal was to weaken the rebellion, which was led and controlled by slave owners. While it did not abolish the legal institution of slavery (the Thirteenth Amendment did that), the Act showed that Lincoln had the support of Congress in liberating slaves owned by rebels. This new law was implemented with Lincoln's "Emancipation Proclamation."
Lincoln is well known for ending slavery in the United States. In 1861 - 1862, however, he made it clear that the North was fighting the war to preserve the Union, not to abolish slavery. Freeing the slaves became, in late 1862, a war measure to weaken the rebellion by destroying the economic base of its leadership class. Abolitionists criticized Lincoln for his sluggishness over slavery per ses, but on August 22, 1862, Lincoln explained:
" I would save the Union. I would save it the shortest way under the Constitution. The sooner the national authority can be restored; the nearer the Union will be "the Union as it was." ... My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that.
The Emancipation Proclamation, announced on September 22 and put into effect on January 1, 1863, freed slaves in territories not under Union control. As Union armies advanced south, more slaves were liberated until all of them in Confederate hands (over three million) were freed. Lincoln later said: "I never, in my life, felt more certain that I was doing right, than I do in signing this paper." The proclamation made the abolition of slavery in the rebel states an official war goal. Lincoln then threw his energies into passage of the Thirteenth Amendment to permanently abolish slavery throughout the nation.
On September 23 and September 24, 1862, thirteen northern governors met in Altoona, Pennsylvania, at the Loyal War Governors' Conference to discuss the Proclamation and Union war effort. In the end, the state executives fully supported the president's Proclamation and also suggested the removal of General George B. McClellan as commander of the Union's Army of the Potomac.
For some time, Lincoln had been working on plans to set up colonies for the newly freed slaves. He commented favorably on colonization in the Emancipation Proclamation, but all attempts at such a massive undertaking failed. As Frederick Douglass observed, Lincoln was, "The first great man that I talked with in the United States freely who in no single instance reminded me of the difference between himself and myself, of the difference of color."
While Lincoln is usually portrayed bearded, he first grew a beard in 1860 at the suggestion of 11-year-old Grace Bedell
Lincoln believed in the Whig theory of the presidency, which left Congress to write the laws while he signed them, vetoing only those bills that threatened his war powers. Thus, he signed the Homestead Act in 1862, making millions of acres of government-held land in the West available for purchase at very low cost. The Morrill Land-Grant Colleges Act, also signed in 1862, provided government grants for agricultural universities in each state. The Pacific Railway Acts of 1862 and 1864 granted federal support for the construction of the United States' first transcontinental railroad, which was completed in 1869. Other important legislation involved economic matters, including the first income tax and higher tariffs. Also included was the creation of the system of national banks by the National Banking Acts of 1863, 1864, and 1865, which allowed the creation of a strong national financial system.
In 1862, Lincoln sent a senior general, John Pope, to put down the "Sioux Uprising" in Minnesota. Presented with 303 death warrants for convicted Santee Dakota who had massacred innocent farmers, Lincoln affirmed 39 of these for execution (one was later reprieved).
1864 election and second inauguration
After Union victories at Gettysburg, Vicksburg and Chattanooga in 1863, victory seemed at hand, and Lincoln promoted Ulysses S. Grant General-in-Chief (March 12, 1864). When the spring campaigns turned into bloody stalemates, Lincoln supported Grant's strategy of wearing down Lee's Confederate army at the cost of heavy Unioncasualties. With an election looming, he easily defeated efforts to deny his renomination. At the Convention, the Republican Party selected Andrew Johnson, a War Democrat from the Southern state of Tennessee, as his running mate in order to form a broader coalition. They ran on the new Union Party ticket uniting Republicans and War Democrats.
Lincoln, in stovepipe hat, with Allan Pinkerton and Gen. John McClernand at Antietam
Nevertheless, Republicans across the country feared that Lincoln would be defeated. Acknowledging this fears, Lincoln wrote and signed a pledge that, if he should lose the election, he would nonetheless defeat the Confederacy by an all-out military effort before turning over the White House:
" This morning, as for some days past, it seems exceedingly probable that this Administration will not be re-elected. Then it will be my duty to so co-operate with the President elect, as to save the Union between the election and the inauguration; as he will have secured his election on such ground that he cannot possibly save it afterwards.
Lincoln did not show the pledge to his cabinet, but asked them to sign the sealed