Democracy at War, Part I

Modern democratic war was the warfare of mass armies; the logical end, writes John Terraine, was a weapon of mass destruction.

On April 30th, 1864, President Lincoln addressed a letter to General Ulysses S. Grant, the general-in-chief of the armies of the United States.

Grant was about to commit the Army of the Potomac, the following day, to a crossing of the Rapidan River which would, as it turned out (and as he intended), be the beginning of the last campaign of the Civil War.

Lincoln wrote:

‘Not expecting to see you again before the spring campaign opens, I wish to express to you in this way my entire satisfaction with what you have done, so far as I understand it.

The particulars of your plans I neither know nor seek to know. You are vigilant and self-reliant, and pleased with this, I wish not to obtrude any constraints or restraints upon you.

While I am very anxious that any great disaster or capture of our men in great numbers shall be avoided, I know these points are less likely to escape your attention than they would be mine.

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