The New York Times Praises Lincoln’s Letter Read at Springfield, His Plainspoken Eloquence, and His Felicity of Thoughts
On September 7, the New York Times ran a short article entitled “The Right Man in the Right Place.” It concerned the important and powerful letter that President Lincoln sent his friend James C. Conkling for him to read aloud, four days earlier, at a rally in Lincoln’s home town, Springfield, Illinois. The article reads:
The President’s letter to the Springfield Convention receives the unqualified admiration of loyal men throughout the breadth of the land. . . .[N]othing could have been more true or more apt [than his letter]. Its hard sense, its sharp outlines, its noble temper, defy malice. Even the Copperhead gnaws upon it as vainly as did the viper upon the file.
Men talk about a courtly felicity of speech, and term it a rare accomplishment. So indeed it is. Nothing but high culture and the most patient practice confers it. Here is a felicity of speech far surpassing it, yet decidedly uncourtly. The most consummate rhetorician never used language more apt to the purpose; and still there is not a word in the letter not familiar to the plainest plowman. But what is still better than even felicity of expression, is felicity of thought. Not only the President’s language is the aptest expression of his ideas, but there is a similar fitness of his ideas to the occasion. He has a singular faculty of discovering the real relations of things, and shaping his thoughts strictly upon them, without external bias. In his own independent, and perhaps we might say very peculiar way, he invariably gets at the needed truth of the time. . . .
It is almost fearful to contemplate what might have been the consequences had we an Executive of different mould. . . . We have had many reasons to be thankful to heaven for its orderings in aid of our rightly acquitting ourselves toward this wicked rebellion; but for no one thing have we so great cause for gratitude as for the possession of a ruler who is so peculiarly adapted to the needs of the time as clear-headed, dispassionate, discreet, steadfast, honest ABRAHAM LINCOLN.
The New York Times Complete Civil War, pp. 269-70.
Union Takes Crucial City of Chattanooga, Tennessee
September 9, 1863. In September the focus of the war shifted to Tennessee. On September 2, Union forces captured Knoxville, cutting the Confederate rail link with Virginia. Shortly thereafter, Union troops under General William Rosecrans took the even more crucial city of Chattanooga. But just across the border into Georgia was the Confederate Army of Tennessee, which had evacuated Chattanooga. Its commander, General Braxton Bragg, was concentrating his forces with the intent of engaging and defeating Rosecrans when he ventured out from Chattanooga’s secure defenses. The bloody battle would happen near Chickamauga Creek.
Editor’s Note: All entries were submitted by Peter A. Gilbert, Executive Director, Vermont Humanities Council.