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The conquerors, founders and makers of Illinois were of this blood and lineage, with all the fighting instincts of their remote Danish and Norman ancestors, still alive and flaming. From the days of George Rogers Clark and his starved and ragged handful of heroic Virginians, on down through the days of Harrison, Old Tippecanoe, to Edwards and Pope, Moore and Wilson, assistants in organizing the territory, to Bond the first Governor of the State, on through Coles, Edwards, Duncan, Carlin, Yates, Oglesby, Palmer, Cullom, Fifer, Tanner, to Yates again, and last but not least, to Deneen, the present Chief Executive of the State, the strain continues unbroken, save by Reynolds and Ford of Pennsylvania, French of New Hampshire, Matteson of New York and Altgeld from the German Father-land. For more than thirty years after Edwards, or until 1841, when “Long John Wentworth" appeared in Congress, from Cook County and Chicago, the State in its relation to the nation was for the most part, Southern Illinois. The great names of Edwards, Bond, Cook and McLean will readily be recalled and are a fine balance against the coming of the inevitable Yankee in later days, in the persons of those great men, whose names are writ large on the pages of the history of Illinois, and the nation-Stephen A. Douglas, “The Little Giant,” and Lyman Trumbull.
It is a most interesting fact that the pro-slavery leaders in the great contest of 1824 over the absorbing question as to the nullification of the Ordinance of 1787, dedicating the North-west Territory, the gift of Virginia, to freedom and directly involving the question as to whether the new State of Illinois should be slave or free, were arrayed, on the side of slavery, men like Elias Kent Kane, Judge Theophilus W. Smith, both of New York, and the two Reynolds', John and Thomas of Pennsylvania. Over against them, leaders in behalf of freedom, were that great Virginian, Edward Coles, and that brilliant son of Kentucky, Daniel P. Cook. Back of them were eighteen members of the legislature from slave holding states.
AND FREEDOM WON.
In that later and most tremendous struggle, over the far greater question as to whether the nation could live half slave and half free, it was fated that this stock and strain should again furnish to freedom's cause, its final mighty leader-Abraham Lincoln.
Of course, while Northern Illinois was a wilderness, Southern Illinois was the State. But by 1842, when Thomas Ford of Ogle-like Reynolds a Pennsylvanian, but from his youth a citizen of Illinois, and a pupil of Daniel P. Cook, was elected Governor over Duncan, the men of Northern Illinois began to assert themselves, but be it observed they never had a Senator until they called Douglas from Quincy and later Trumbull from
Belleville and last of all, that gallant and greatest Egyptian, General John A. Logan from Chicago, but late of Jackson, the very heart of Egypt.
It was natural and to be expected in the Black Hawk War and in the war with Mexico—a war of conquest waged in the interests of the South, that Southern Illinois should have taken the contract to do the fighting for the rest of the State, and should have borne the heat and burden of the day. Its Illinois hero, dead on the bloody field of Buena Vista, was Hardin of Morgan-of Kentucky and Virginia ancestry, Colonel of the First Illinois.
The historic names of Warren, Oglesby, Logan, Lawler, Haynie and Hicks appear upon the pages of its history, in training, doubtless, for their subsequent noble careers in the Civil War, as bright and honorable and glorious as any that appear upon its shining pages.
But by 1861, fifteen years later, Northern Illinois had grown by leaps and bounds. The center of population had shifted far northward from Kaskaskia and Vandalia and carried with it the political power of the State. And yet the blood of old Virginia still guided the ship of state and dominated its political fortunes. Richard Yates, the elder and greater, was Governor. Lincoln, the Kentuckian, was President.
Where all have patriotically toiled and suffered and many have bled and died in a great cause, comparisons are, to say the least, unkind if not odious. I do not challenge them. No more do I fear them. And yet, invidious and unfair comparisons have been made between Democratic Southern Illinois, as it surely was then, and Republican Northern Illinois, greatly to the prejudice and cruelly unjust to the former. Except Edwards and St. Clair, Southern Illinois was not Republican and most emphatically was not for Lincoln. “If that be treason, make the most of it.”
In the great Presidential contest of 1860, Gallatin, my native county, gave Lincoln 221 votes, Douglas 1,020, Bell 88 and Breckenridge 13. Its total vote—and there were in those momentous days no "stay-athomes”—was 1,342. Yet it sent to the War for the Union 1,361 as good soldiers as ever shouldered a musket. It furnished, in addition, five colonels for as many full-blooded Egyptian Regiments, the 18th Lawler, 29th Reardon, 54th Harris, 56th Kirkham and 120th McKeiag. Michael Kelly Lawler, its indomitable hard-fighting brigadier general and James Harrison Wilson, its rough-riding major general, who, in his 27th year, in the last months of the war, was at the head of the . largest and mightiest cavalry force ever organized under one command in the Western hemisphere and one of the largest in the history of any
After defeating Forrest at Franklin and turning Hood's flank at Nashville, it rode again rough-shod over Forrest, the greatest cavalry leader of the South, over the strongly fortified city of Selma—the Foundry City of the Confederacy-into and through Montgomery, its first Capital-battered down or charged over the fortifications of West Point, and Columbus, Georgia-burned rebel iron clads, destroyed the last resources of the Confederacy, rode down Howell Cobb, crushed the last hope of the rebellion and put an end to all danger of dreaded
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guerilla war-fare by the capture of Jefferson Davis himself. It was Grant who wrote to Sherman: “I send you Wilson to command your cavalry. He will add 50 per cent to its efficiency.” Can you imagine higher praise? It was Sherman who said to Joe Johnson, who had just surrendered: “Wilson's blood is up and he will be hard to hold.”
And may I say in this presence, as to old comrades and friends, it was Wilson's Virginia blood—the blood of the fighting Gordons and the Harrisons.
The little county of Hardin gave Lincoln only 107 votes, Douglas 499, Bell 62—in all 668 votes. It sent 569 fighting men to the war and furnished two sturdy colonels, one of whom Lucian Greathouse of the 48th has written opposite his name on Fame's immortal roll: “Killed in Action, July 22, 1863.”
Pope gave Lincoln 127 votes, Douglas 1,202, Bell, 83, Breckenridge 1. In all, 1,413 votes. It gave to the cause of the Union 1,253 good men and true, two colonels and one gallant brigadier general (Raum).
Massac gave Lincoln 121 votes, Douglas 873, Bell 84—in all 1,078. It furnished 880 soldiers tried and true!
Pulaski, Lincoln 220 votes, Douglas 550, Bell 45, Breckenridge 40; total, 855; and furnished 643 brave soldiers.
Alexander, Lincoln 106 votes, Douglas 684, Bell 178, Breckenridge 79; total, 1,047 and 1,358 soldiers. It rounded out its fine record by furnishing a most useful and efficient brigadier general (Haynie).
Johnson County gave Lincoln but 40 votes against 1,563 for Douglas, but it furnished 1,426 trusty soldiers. My correspondent states the figures somewhat differently, but I give them as they appear in history and fully agree with my comrade's conclusion that it was indeed " fair showing down here, where Northern Illinois people thought we were all disloyal."
Jackson County gave Lincoln only 315 votes against 1,556 for Douglas. But it gave to the Union 1,422 fighting men AND LOGAN.
Saline gave Lincoln 100 votes, Douglas 1,338 and sent forth 1,280 sturdy men of war.
White, doing better for Lincoln than any other border county, gave him 756 votes against 1,549 for Douglas. According to my correspondent, the county sent 2,250 of her gallant young men to the war. According to history, 1,984. Either set of figures are enough to quicken the pulse of patriotism and to silence the tongue of slander. The names of Orlando Burrell, Crebs, Whiting, Graham, and Trafton, her hard-fighting rough-riding leaders, are an inspiration to her youth in all future generations. Her volunteers appear in thirty-five regiments from the 8th to the 148th Infantry and from the 5th to the 14th Cavalry.
There was not a county in all Egypt giving a large majority of its votes to Douglas—hardly one in all Southern Illinois in its largest limit, that did not do equally or nearly as well. And yet men of intelligence who ought to know better, and for whom, with the records of the Adjutant General's office open to them, ignorance is no excuse, have written and spoken of Southern Illinois as “a section of the State which furnished thousands of soldiers to the Confederate Army.” The lie or slanderous misrepresentation often repeated, though probably not willfully or intentionally, is no less false than it is unjust and cruel. The only troops that went South into the rebel army from all Egypt, were a mere handful of boys, not a half company, seduced by a certain swashbuckler captain from Maryland. Some of them were spared to repent in sack-cloth and ashes and after awhile, finding their way home, made amends by serving gallantly on the Union side. The two counties (Williamson and Franklin) from which these men went or are alleged to have gone, sent more than 3,000 soldiers to fight the battles of freedom and the Union.
It is high praise and to the eternal credit of Edwards and St. Clair, the only two Republican Counties in Egypt, to say that they did better than the average Northern County and as well but no better than Williamson and Franklin.
Finally there were 3,538 DRAFTED MEN from Illinois and yet not ONE from Egypt. Every call and the whole quota under each was promptly filled by enthusiastic volunteers.
After Douglas' most eloquent and weighty declarations in April, 1861, here in this City and later at Chicago, in favor of the Union, and which proved to be at once, his dying words and decisive of the ultimate issue of the War, there were no longer any adverse weighty influences against enlistment either in Southern Illinois or elsewhere in the North. Nor were his splendid speeches more needed in Egypt than in other parts of Illinois, notably the central portion and generally throughout the whole North-land.
Both Leader and people have suffered alike from partisan phrase maker and the over-zealous historian. I borrow from the “Unpublished Memoirs"* of my distinguished brother, General James Harrison Wilson, the thoughts about Douglas that follow :
It has always appeared to me that the biographers of Mr. Lincoln, Nicolay and John Hay, went out of their way often to slur and belittle Douglas in order, apparently, to exalt their great Chief. In fact this only served to depreciate Mr. Lincoln. “Arts of the demagogue, “vicious methods,"'"quibbling," "success above principle," "plausible but delusive” are among the odious and unkind phrases applied by them in the course of their review of the points of contact between these two really great men. It is true they are not always unkind. Indeed, they concede Mr. Douglas' great ability and at times laud him highly, but always with the effect to leave the impression that he was actuated by motives less lofty and that he moved on a distinctly lower moral plane than Mr. Lincoln. They seem to have forgotten that in all the arts of the mere politician their wily Chief had served a full apprenticeship at the trade and could easily and did give Mr. Douglas large odds and beat him at the game. They pass by, at the end, the great and inestimable service rendered by Douglas to the cause of the Union in his last days with slight or inadequate mention and could find no place for quotation from his two masterly and decisive speeches following his last personal conference with Mr. Lincoln in Washington April 14, 1861. It is hardly too much to say of these speeches that they were decisive of the success of the North in the impending conflict and that they were incomparably the greatest individual service rendered to the country by any public man, not even excepting Mr. Lincoln, in the crucial days following the attack on Fort Sumpter. In their far reaching results they have rarely been equaled and never surpassed by any forensic effort ancient or modern.
* Since published by Appleton: “Under the Old Flag."
At Springfield, April 25, 1861, before a joint session of the two houses of the Legislature, over which the present venerable, then the young and rising Shelby M. Cullom presided ,Mr. Douglas, in the very greatest speech of his life, aroused his great audience to a frenzy of patriotic enthusiasm when at the height of his eloquent appeal for the Union he said:
“When hostile armies are marching under new and odious banners against the government of our Country, the shortest way to peace is the most stupendous and unanimous preparation for war."
Of this speech Senator Cullom, a most competent judge, has since said: “Never, in all my experience in public life, before or since, have I been so impressed by a speaker.” Another says: "His eloquence, his earnestness and power were such as to fairly transfigure him,” while men and women were carried off their feet in an hysterical wave of patriotism. Later in Chicago in June, a few days before his death, in the last effort of his life, arousing the wildest enthusiasm of a vast audience and throughout the whole North, he said:
“There are only two sides to the question. Every man must be for the United States or against it. There can be no neutrals in this warONLY PATRIOTS and TRAITORS."
Of this Horace White says: “That speech hushed the breath of treason in every corner of the State.” And he might have added, it swept away for the time, party lines, unified the whole North, and brought to the unwavering support of Mr. Lincoln and the Union cause the million and nearly four hundred thousand devoted, enthusiastic and loyal friends and followers of one who had fairly earned thereby the right to be acclaimed: “The Little Giant.” His was truly one of the mightiest and most potential minds in all the galaxy of American statesmen. A month afterwards he was in his grave. He was only forty-eight years old.
Since the above was written the attention of the venerable William Jayne of Springfield, Illinois, has been called to the subject. He was Mr. Lincoln's special friend-present at his wedding, and was appointed by him Governor of Dakota, and has always been a staunch Republican. He is one of the few surviving old friends of Mr. Lincoln, hale and hearty at eighty-four years of age. He did not hesitate to tell me, when interviewed: “I heard that speech in the State House April 25, 1861. There would have been war in Illinois but for Douglas. Justice has never been done to his memory. He was a great man and a true patriot.”
1 Chicago Wigwam speech, New York Tribune, June 13, 1861. 2 Life of Lincoln, Herndon & Weik, Vol. II, pp. 126-7.