By early 1864 the slaughter and carnage of war had stunned the Northern public into weariness, yet Lincoln stubbornly pushed Grant and Sherman on to subjugate the South. Jefferson Davis said of Lincoln’s war: “You would deny to us the one thing you exact for yourselves – the right of self government.”
Bernhard Thuersam, Chairman
North Carolina War Between the States Sesquicentennial Commission
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Remorseless Brutality and Northern Prosperity
“By early June 1864, war-weary Northerners began to suspect that they had been betrayed by rosy promises of victory, just as they had been disappointed in every spring since 1861. They had been led to believe that the armies of Generals Grant and Sherman . . . would finally achieve the triumph that had eluded the Federal armies through three years of slaughter.
As usual, the War Department sent forth cheerful bulletins about great “victories” and Northern newspapers emblazoned headlines: “Glorious Successes – Lee Terribly Beaten” [and] “Our Army in Full Pursuit of the Enemy Towards Richmond.”
In fact, Secretary Stanton deliberately withheld the truth that Grant’s forces had suffered horrendous losses in the wilderness, Spotsylvania, and Cold Harbor battles and that they had finally moved across the James River to about the same place where General McClellan had been two years before.
In the few weeks of direct frontal attacks on Richmond’s defenses Grant lost more than 50,000 men – killed, wounded, and missing – almost as many men as Lee had in his entire army. Other estimates of Union losses ran much higher. John Tyler, an officer with Lee’s staff, claimed the total was 70,000. “Grant has shown great skill and prudence combined with remorseless persistency and brutality.”
Eventually the enormous losses could no longer be concealed as the [Northern] people read the lengthening lists of killed and wounded in their newspapers, and boatloads of maimed soldiers arrived at the Washington waterfront from the killing fields of Virginia. Hidden among the seriously injured were hundreds of men only slightly hurt, along with “shirks, stragglers and bounty-jumpers” who forced their way into the boats, as Noah Brooks recorded this ugly truth in his dispatches to the Sacramento Union: “The number of “dead beats,” as the men call the shirks and stragglers in the army, has been, I am sorry to say, very large.”
Thurlow Weed observed a depressing scene in New York State: “Regiments are returning home, worn, weary, maimed and depleted. Our cities and villages swarm with skulking, demoralized soldiers.” Her also lamented that “there is a reckless, money-making spirit abroad which, profiting by our disasters, favors a long war.”
“The commercial metropolis of the Union is flushed with prosperity and riots in extravagance,” one newspaper found. “A war may be a fearful calamity, but the gay denizens of Manhattan don’t see it . . . there is a wasteful race for display between the gold gamblers, the blockade runners, and the shoddy aristocracy . . . Broadway presents the gaiety of a continued holiday.”
War profiteers made a vulgar display of their ill-gotten wealth . . . the war was only a dim and distant sound coming out of the South making no difference in their carefree lives, as long as they didn’t have to share personally in the mud and blood of the battlefield.”
They could hire substitutes for a few hundred dollars each and let the Irish, the Germans, and the freed slaves fill the ranks and endure the hardships of battle and risk their lives for the Union.”
(The Dark Intrigue, The True Story of a Civil War Conspiracy, Frank van der Linden, Fulcrum Publishing, 2007, pp. 112-114