“There is an immobility here that exceeds all that any man can conceive of. It requires the lever of Archimedes to move this inert mass.” —Henry Wager Halleck, on the Army of the Potomac’s failure to pursue Lee following Antietam, October 1863.
“Why do men fight who were born to be brothers?” —James Longstreet, reflecting on his reunion at Appomattox with his old West Point friend, Ulysses S. Grant.
“I see the President almost every day. I see very plainly Abraham Lincoln’s dark brown face with its deep-cut lines, the eyes always to me with a deep latent sadness in the expression. None of the artists or pictures has caught the deep, though subtle and indirect expression of this man’s face. There is something else there. One of the great portrait painters of two or three centuries ago is needed.” —Walt Whitman, on Abraham Lincoln
“I should be glad if I could flatter myself that I came as near the central idea of the occasion, in two hours, as you did in two minutes.” –Edward Everett, keynote speaker at the dedication of the National Cemetery in Gettysburg, to Abraham Lincoln, in a letter written the day after Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.
“I am not here to pass civilities or compliments with you, but on other business. I have stood your meanness as long as I intend to. You have played the part of a damned scoundrel, and are a coward, and if you were any part of a man I would slap your jaws and force you to resent it. You may as well not issue any more orders to me, for I will not obey them… and as I say to you that if you ever again try to interfere with me or cross my path it will be at the peril of your life.” –Nathan Bedford Forrest to Braxton Bragg, after the Battle of Chickamauga
“Go on the roof on a hot summer day, talk to a half dozen degenerates, descend to the basement, drink tepid water full of iron rust, climb to the roof again, and repeat the process at intervals until [you are] fagged out, then go to bed with everything shut tight.” —A Union naval officer’s description to his mother of the tedium of blockade duty, 1863.
“It has been our cherished hope that when the great struggled in which we are engaged was past we might exhibit to the world the proud spectacle of a people… achieving their liberty and independence, after the bloodiest war of modern times, without a single sacrifice of civil rights to military necessity. But it can no longer be doubted that the zeal with which the people sprang to arms at the beginning of the contest has, in some parts of the Confederacy, been impaired by the long continuance and magnitude of the struggle…. Discontent, disaffection, and disloyalty are manifested among those who, through the sacrifices of others, have enjoyed quiet and safety at home. Public meetings have been held, in some of which a treasonable design is masked by a pretense of devotion to State sovereignty, and in others is openly avowed…. Secret leagues and associations are being formed. In certain localities, men of no mean position do not hesitate to avow their hostility to our cause and their advocacy of peace on the terms of submission. Disappointment and despondency will displace the buoyant fortitude which animates [our brave soldiers] now. Desertion, already a frightful evil, will become the order of the day. […] Loyal citizens will not feel the danger, and the disloyal must be made to fear it. The very existence of extraordinary powers often renders their exercise unnecessary. […] …To temporize with disloyalty in the midst of war is but to quicken it to the growth of treason. I therefore respectfully recommend that the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus be suspended.” –Jefferson Davis in a special message to the Confederate Congress on February 3, 1864
“The curse of God must have been on our people when we chose him out of so many noble sons of the South, who would have carried us safely through this Revolution.” –Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard, on Jefferson Davis
“You cannot qualify war in harsher terms than I will. War is cruelty, and you cannot refine it; and those who brought war into our country deserve all the curses and maledictions a people can pour out.” —William Tecumseh Sherman, Letter to the City Council of Atlanta, September 12, 1864.
“Lamon, that speech won’t scour. It is a flat failure and the people are disappointed.” —Abraham Lincoln to Ward Hill Lamon, after delivering the Gettysburg Address.