Lincoln's work as a farm-hand was varied by two trips down the river to New Orleans. The opportunity had been offered to the young man by the neighbouring store-keeper, Gentry, to take part in the trip of a flat-boat which carried the produce of the county to New Orleans, to be there sold in exchange for sugar or rum. Lincoln was, at the time of these trips, already familiar with certain of the aspects and conditions of slavery, but the inspection of the slave-market in New Orleans stamped upon his sensitive imagination a fresh and more sombre picture, and made a lasting impression of the iniquity and horror of the institution. From the time of his early manhood, Lincoln hated slavery. What was exceptional, however, in his state of mind was that, while abominating the institution, he was able to give a sympathetic understanding to the opinions and to the prejudices of the slave-owners. In all his long fight against slavery as the curse both of the white and of the black, and as the great obstacle to the natural and wholesome development of the nation, we do not at any time find a trace of bitterness against the men of the South who were endeavouring to maintain and to extend the system.
"These were Lincoln and Seward. I was present at the Convention as a spectator and I knew this fact at the time, but it seemed to me at the beginning that Seward's chances were the better. One third of the delegates of Illinois preferred Seward and expected to vote for him after a few complimentary ballots for Lincoln. If there had been no Lincoln in the field, Seward would certainly have been nominated and then the course of history would have been very different from what it was, for if Seward had been nominated and elected there would have been no forcible opposition to the withdrawal of such States as then desired to secede. And as a consequence the Republican party would have been rent in twain and disabled from making effectual resistance to other demands of the South.
The care-worn face that none forgot,
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that their nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should this.
"Are you not overcautious when you assume that you cannot do what the enemy is constantly doing? Should you not claim to be at least his equal in prowess, and act upon the claim? As I understand, you telegraphed General Halleck that you cannot subsist your army at Winchester unless the railroad from Harper's Ferry to that point be put in working order. But the enemy does now subsist his army at Winchester, at a distance nearly twice as great as you would have to do, without the railroad last named. He now waggons from Culpeper Court House, which is just about twice as far as you would have to do from Harper's Ferry. He is certainly not more than half as well provided with waggons as you are.... Again, one of the standard maxims of war, as you know, is to 'operate upon the enemy's communications without exposing your own.' You seem to act as if this applies against you, but cannot apply it in your favour. Change positions with the enemy, and think you not he would break your communication with Richmond in twenty-four hours?... You are now nearer Richmond than the enemy is by the route you can and he must take. Why can you not reach there before him, unless you admit that he is more than your equal on a march? His route is the arc of a circle, while yours is the chord. The roads are as good on your side as on his ... If he should move northward, I would follow him closely, holding his communications. If he should prevent our seizing his communications and move towards Richmond, I would press closely to him, fight him, if a favourable opportunity should present, and at least try to beat him to Richmond on the inside track. I say 'Try'; if we never try, we shall never succeed.... If we cannot beat him when he bears the wastage of coming to us, we never can when we bear the wastage of going to him.... As we must beat him somewhere or fail finally, we can do it, if at all, easier near to us than far away.... It is all easy if our troops march as well as the enemy, and it is unmanly to say that they cannot do it."