The Boys' Life of Abraham Lincoln HTML version

The Fourteenth Of April
Refreshed in body by his visit to City Point and greatly cheered by the fall of Richmond,
and unmistakable signs that the war was over, Mr. Lincoln went back to Washington
intent on the new task opening before him--that of restoring the Union, and of bringing
about peace and good will again between the North and the South. His whole heart was
bent on the work of "binding up the nation's wounds" and doing all which lay in his
power to "achieve a just and lasting peace." Especially did he desire to avoid the
shedding of blood, or anything like acts of deliberate punishment. He talked to his cabinet
in this strain on the morning of April 14, the last day of his life. "No one need expect that
he would take any part in hanging or killing these men, even the worst of them," he
exclaimed. Enough lives had been sacrificed already. Anger must be put aside. The great
need now was to begin to act in the interest of peace. With these words of clemency and
kindness in their ears they left him, never again to come together under his wise
Though it was invariably held in check by his vigorous common-sense, there was in Mr.
Lincoln's nature a strong vein of poetry and mysticism. That morning he told his cabinet
a strange story of a dream that he had had the night before--a dream which he said came
to him before great events. He had dreamed it before the battles of Antietam,
Murfreesboro, Gettysburg and Vicksburg. This time it must foretell a victory by Sherman
over Johnston's army, news of which was hourly expected, for he knew of no other
important event likely to occur. The members of the cabinet were deeply impressed; but
General Grant, who had come to Washington that morning and was present, remarked
with matter-of-fact exactness that Murfreesboro was no victory and had no important
results. Not the wildest imagination of skeptic or mystic could have pictured the events
under which the day was to close.
It was Good Friday, a day observed by a portion of the people with fasting and prayer,
but even among the most devout the great news of the week just ended changed this time
of traditional mourning into a season of general thanksgiving. For Mr. Lincoln it was a
day of unusual and quiet happiness. His son Robert had returned from the field with
General Grant, and the President spent an hour with the young captain in delighted
conversation over the campaign. He denied himself generally to visitors, admitting only a
few friends. In the afternoon he went for a long drive with Mrs. Lincoln. His mood, as it
had been all day, was singularly happy and tender. He talked much of the past and future.
After four years of trouble and tumult he looked forward to four years of quiet and
normal work; after that he expected to go back again to Illinois and practice law. He was
never more simple or more gentle than on this day of triumph. His heart overflowed with
sentiments of gratitude to Heaven, which took the shape, usual to generous natures, of
love and kindness to all men.
From the very beginning there had been threats to kill him. He was constantly receiving
letters of warning from zealous or nervous friends. The War Department inquired into
these when there seemed to be ground for doing so, but always without result. Warnings