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Abraham Lincoln by George Haven Putnam

The General and the planter sat on the piazza


It

soon became evident that there was no real basis for negotiations, and Stephens and his associates had to return to Richmond disappointed. In the same month, was adopted by both Houses of Congress the Thirteenth Amendment, which prohibited slavery throughout the whole dominion of the United States. By the close of 1865, this amendment had been confirmed by thirty-three States. It is probable that among these thirty-three there were several States the names of which were hardly familiar to some of the older citizens of the South, the men who had accepted the responsibility for the rebellion. The state of mind of these older Southerners in regard more particularly to the resources of the North-west was recalled to me years after the War by an incident related by General Sherman at a dinner of the New England Society. Sherman said that during the march through Georgia he had found himself one day at noon, when near the head of his column, passing below the piazza of a comfortable-looking old plantation house. He stopped to rest on the piazza with one or two of his staff and was received by the old planter with all the courtliness that a Southern gentleman could show, even to an invader, when doing the honours of his own house. The General and the planter sat on the piazza, looking at the troops below and discussing, as it was inevitable under the circumstances that they must discuss, the causes of the War.

"General," said the planter, "what troops

are those passing below?" The General leans over the piazza, and calls to the standard bearers, "Throw out your flag, boys," and as the flag was thrown out, he reports to his host, "The 30th Wisconsin."

"Wisconsin?" said the planter, "Wisconsin? Where is Wisconsin?"

"It is one of the States of the North-west," said Sherman.

"When I was studying geography," said the planter, "I knew of Wisconsin simply as the name of a tribe of Indians. How many men are there in a regiment?"

"Well, there were a thousand when they started," said Sherman.

"Do you mean to say," said the planter, "that there is a State called Wisconsin that has sent thirty thousand men into your armies?"

"Oh, probably forty thousand," answered Sherman.

With the next battalion the questions and the answers are repeated. The flag was that of a Minnesota regiment, say the 32d. The old planter had never heard that there was such a State.

"My God!" he said when he had figured out the thousands of men who had come to the front, from these so-called Indian territories, to maintain the existence of the nation, "If we in the South had known that you had turned those Indian territories into great States, we never should have gone into this war." The incident throws a light upon the state of mind of men in the South, even of well educated men in the South, at the outbreak of the War. They might, of course, have known by statistics that great States had grown up in the North-west, representing a population of millions and able themselves to put into the field armies to be counted by the thousand. They might have realised that these great States of the North-west were vitally concerned with the necessity of keeping the Mississippi open for their trade from its source to the Gulf of Mexico. They might have known that those States, largely settled from New England, were absolutely opposed to slavery. This knowledge was within their reach but they had not realised the facts of the case. It was their feeling that in the coming contest they would have to do only with New England and the Middle States and they felt that they were strong enough to hold their own against this group of opponents. That feeling would have been justified. The South could never have been overcome and the existence of the nation could never have been maintained if it had not been for the loyal co-operation and the magnificent resources of men and of national wealth that were contributed to the cause by the States of the North-west. In 1880, I had occasion, in talking to the two thousand students of the University of Minnesota, to recall the utterance of the old planter. The students of that magnificent University, placed in a beautiful city of two hundred and fifty thousand inhabitants, found it difficult on their part to realise, amidst their laughter at the ignorance of the old planter, just what the relations of the South had been before the War to the new free communities of the North-west.


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