Until Every Drop of Blood Is Paid: A More Radical American Civil War

I saw an interesting YouTube video in my suggestiosn which I thought Red might enjoy looking at, if only to give some idea of how to maybe better distribute some of the state boundaries once thigns get further along. I don't know if it'd have a chance but it's at least interesting that dividing land based on watersheds was even considered.
It's arguable that a couple key components of the Big Switch between Republicans and Democrats started all the way in the mid-1870s, in the second term of Ulysses Grant from 1873-77.

1. The combination of the Coinage Act of 1873 and then Grant's surprise veto of the Inflation Act of 1874. This won Republicans the near-undying loyalty of Big Business and Business as a whole. These actions occurred during the Panic of 1873, a major economic recession that escalated without any intervention by the Grant Administration. Democrats then annihilated Republicans in the 1874 midterms (+14 in the Senate, +92 in the House), with Republican losses in every area of the country.

The Coinage Act also showed the more general tendency of both Democrats and Republicans to take actions to favor business in the industrial, postbellum era. Theodore Roosevelt was the only Republican to hint at a different direction, but he lost his chance at any long-term shift for Republicans by retiring in 1909. The one Democratic Administration of the late 1800s (Cleveland) mirrored the pro-business stances of Republicans (and re-enacted Grant's 1873 failure, severely damaging Democrats for a generation). The Democratic Party was very competitive in the post-Reconstruction era, but it had little ability or inclination to mobilize disaffected groups in US society on economics and all sorts of issues. So elections from 1876 to 1896 on economic issues almost saw the parties as mirror images of themselves fighting over very small-scale issues, while avoiding big picture problems. It almost sounds like the present day, but it was much worse then.

2. Republicans read a different lesson out of 1874 than economics. They concluded that further attempts to enforce civil rights for African-Americans in the South would result in Republican electoral defeat in the North. Grant began to abandon federal enforcement of civil rights in the South in 1875, the key moment arguably being the conservative Democratic coup d'etat in Mississippi, which overthrew the Adelbert Ames government with Grant standing aside.

Republicans did not immediately become "anti-civil rights" or something like that, as they still saw African-Americans as allies even if often condescendingly. Republicans in that post-Reconstruction era from 1876 to 1896 still proposed and pushed bold pro-civil rights legislation like the 1890 Lodge Bill to protect voters' rights. But it definitely began the shift to more of a stance where Republicans were basically willing to sacrifice 0 on any issue that they cared about to push civil rights legislation. And after the 1896 realignment, Republicans began to take African-American voters for granted and dream of making long-term gains in the South. This meant abandoning the more open pro-civil rights stances that they took before 1896. I think the famous dinner between Theodore Roosevelt and Booker Washington symbolized this change, as Roosevelt immediately retreated after it from taking anything more than tepid pro-civil rights stances. It's arguable that only Warren Harding, of the 6 Republican presidents from 1896 to 1932, took the more traditionally Republican pro-civil rights stances, with Herbert Hoover being the first to truly edge away from any at all.

And obviously, Democrats definitely did not flip to become "pro-civil rights", as most Democrats still held to their traditionally racist stances. Just like with #1, the late 1800s Democratic Party was not a great vehicle for mobilizing around disaffected groups to begin with, even before accounting for the whole identification with being the party of slavery. Only Republican complacency after 1896 began to create a possibility for a switch, and then the result for African-Americans who flipped in 1912 was Woodrow Wilson and betrayal. Wilson arguably delayed the great realignment by 20 years in doing so.

The key tendencies about the mid-1870s:

#1 - Republicans became the party of Big Business, which has held to the 21st century.
#2 - Republicans began to abandon its stance of being the party of Civil Rights, which has held to the 21st century.
I find an interesting post in the Chat forum regarding the evolution of the GOP towards its current form. Sadly, it began with Grant's Presidency.

I would like to add the extreme corruption problem under Grant.
I find an interesting post in the Chat forum regarding the evolution of the GOP towards its current form. Sadly, it began with Grant's Presidency.

I would like to add the extreme corruption problem under Grant.
yeah that along the lines I have been thinking and Big Business was one of the original building blocks of the party along with free labor and know nothings
Mark Twain for Christmas? I love it.
Probably isn’t Mark Twain.

If memory serves Twain actually briefly joined the Confederacy as a volunteer milita soldier in 1861 before deserting after two weeks. After that his older brother Orion got appointed secretary of Nevada territory by Lincoln, and Orion in turn recruited his younger brother as his own secretary assistant.

So overall, unless things changed ITTL with Orion Clements not being appointed by Lincoln or Twain deciding to join the Union and stay fighting for them, then it’s very likely Twain is already out west in Nevada working for his brother and as a reporter.
Probably isn’t Mark Twain.

If memory serves Twain actually briefly joined the Confederacy as a volunteer milita soldier in 1861 before deserting after two weeks. After that his older brother Orion got appointed secretary of Nevada territory by Lincoln, and Orion in turn recruited his younger brother as his own secretary assistant.

So overall, unless things changed ITTL with Orion Clements not being appointed by Lincoln or Twain deciding to join the Union and stay fighting for them, then it’s very likely Twain is already out west in Nevada working for his brother and as a reporter.
Yeah, that I named this character Samuel was not supposed to imply he is anybody famous. It being a side-story to someone else's timeline I thought it would be improper to invent details that @Red_Galiray would then be forced to either accept or conflict with. I knew the timeline had established that Grant's army was busy pacifying the Mississippi in December of 1863, and so I just made it about two small lives in that army, lives that might survive the war or both be ended within a month, by being so open-ended it doesn't leave Red in any binds. Besides, this Sam is explicitly stated to have family in Illinois and to have lived there before the war, Twain was from Missouri.
And if Grant still becomes President (and OTL he was smart enough to know that as the most famous and celebrated living American he just had to wait to be asked), then he too might still write his own memoirs. With a less troubled presidency, a more successful reconstruction, and if somehow he begins writing earlier before his cancer sets in, then it might stretch to a third volume to properly cover his political career. With both Lincoln and Grant, history would have a direct source from the Executive office across a full sixteen years of the country's most transformational period, and the number of memoirs by former American presidents worth reading would literally be doubled compared to OTL. Though I concede that the events leading up to Grant deciding to actually write his account of the war were so random and tragic that butterflies may mean he doesn't write them at all.
And if Lincoln and Grant do write their memoirs, it might mean future Presidents are encouraged to do the same.
Chapter 49: If It Takes Three Years More
As the dogwood bloomed in the summer of 1864, it seemed like the days of the Confederacy were counted. With Grant now as General in-chief, and a fiercer North that desired vengeance after the shock of the Red Night united behind him, it appeared that the next offensive would finally be the one that destroyed the Rebellion once and for all. If these summer campaigns succeeded, they would not only secure the integrity of the Union, but also make a Lincoln victory certain in the upcoming elections. If they failed, Lincoln’s defeat would also become inevitable, stopping the on-going Second American Revolution in its tracks, and perhaps even imperiling the Union itself. General Grant was fully aware of the titanic responsibility that fell on his shoulders; the men under him, from the heads of the main Union armies to the enlisted men, similarly appreciated the critical moment before them. However, the Confederate soldiers were just as decided to resist and beat back their foe. By that point, no one could be under any illusion that victory would be easily obtained or cheaply bought, and the grim awareness that this might be their final campaign followed the men as they marched l. Yet, they kept marching on.

The attention of both Rebels and Yankees was focused on the Virginia front, expecting that the inevitable clash between the Army of Northern Virginia and the Army of the Susquehanna would be the final decisive battle. Grant certainly intended to crush the Southerners as soon as possible. The General in-chief instructed Hancock that “Lee's Army will be your objective point . . . Wherever Lee goes, there will you go also.” Unfortunately for Hancock, this was not Grant’s only directive. Although he hadn’t officially moved his headquarters to the field, Grant would accompany the Army during the initial stages of the campaign, hovering over Hancock’s shoulder and continuously forwarding orders and suggestions, a control that galled Hancock. This was shown in Grant's rejection of Hancock’s plan, which would have the 90,000 bluecoats advance around the left of Lee's 49,000 rebels. But Grant was skeptical of the plan since it would not force Lee to face Hancock immediately. Instead of confronting him directly, Lee could attack Hancock’s exposed supply lines and then retreat behind his lines before Hancock caught him. Judging this approach insufficient for the goal of destroying Lee’s Army, Grant dismissed Hancock’s plan and imposed his own, which contemplated instead an advance around Lee’s right. Though he seethed at the decision, Hancock nonetheless accepted it.

On June 28th, the Army of the Susquehanna set forth, with both Hancock and Grant at its head. The awkward arrangement already was causing some tensions between the commanders, which Grant did not miss. Months ago, when prodded about coming to the East, Grant had demurred, observing that the Army of the Susquehanna had “able officers who have been brought up with that army and to import a commander to place over them certainly could produce no good”. Grant’s words proved prophetical, for he had not had the time to get to know the commanders of the Army of the Susquehanna and forge the same trust he had had with his previous subordinates. Instead, he was within generals that resented him for being “indoctrinated with the notion of the superiority of the western armies”, as Meade wrote. Hancock was the one that resented having to work in Grant’s shadow the most, causing serious problems in their working relation that largely explain the events that followed.

After three days of marching, the Union arrived at the north bank of the North Anna River, with Bayard’s cavalry fording it to the west of Lee’s fortifications. Stuart’s troopers detected the move and watched warily as the Federal force seemingly amassed for a swing to the left, the smoke of thousands of campfires clouding the sky. In truth, the cavalry divisions were working to deceive Lee – "fences, boards, and everything inflammable within our reach were set fire”, explained a Union soldier, all “to give the appearance of a vast force, just building its bivouac fires.” The great majority of the Yankees were instead preparing to swing to Lee’s right, towards the flat plains of the Peninsula where McClellan had once failed disastrously. Notwithstanding this bitter memory, the Peninsula offered several advantages, chiefly more secure supply lines and less easily defensible terrain compared to the North Anna or the Wilderness. Grant planned to cross the Pamunkey River, putting his Army between Lee and Richmond, something that would force the rebel commander to urgently leave his trenches to drive the Federals away. If Lee was caught in the middle of the move, then his destruction would be assured.

The fatal flaw in Grant’s plan was its complexity. To execute it, the Army of the Susquehanna would have to march at night through an unfamiliar area full of narrow roads. If Lee were to detect their true intentions, he would be able to retreat to safety much faster. Moreover, Hancock was inexperienced at managing a full army. Like many other talented corps commanders, he found out that commanding an army was very different from commanding a corps. Consequently, Hancock’s execution of Grant’s plan had unrealistic timetables and suffered from lack of coordination. “The most cruel and aggravating kind of a night march”, as a soldier described it, ensued, as “halts came, the men jamming up against each other just like cars on a freight train.” Some traffic jams took several hours to clear. By the morning of July 2nd, only one cavalry division had made it across the river, while most of the Army was still in the march. Later, Meade’s corps managed to cross the Pamunkey with Doubleday not too far behind. But it was already too late – Lee had realized the ruse and was moving swiftly to Atlee’s Station.


The Army of the Susquehanna on the march

Meade advanced cautiously to Ashland, named after the estate of its native son and Lincoln’s political beau, Henry Clay. A charming village developed as a mineral springs resort, Ashland possessed fanciful hotels and cottages, and a racetrack once used to train rebel cavalrymen. As the bluecoats explored the sights, Longstreet’s corps arrived suddenly, having been notified of their enemy’s presence by Stuart’s cavalry. Taking refuge in the bathhouses that wealthy planters had once enjoyed, Meade’s soldiers resisted Longstreet’s furious attack, but saw themselves outnumbered as more rebels arrived. Reluctantly, Meade looked to Doubleday for aid. Unfortunately, Doubleday and his troops had remained near the Pamunkey, waiting for further orders and the arrival of supply wagons that were trapped in traffic jams. The hungry and exhausted troops were unaware of the nearby struggle at Ashland, for a phenomenon known as an “acoustic shadow” carried the sounds of battle away. Only when a courier arrived did Doubleday realize that Meade was in trouble, and he rushed to the scene. At Ashland, Meade had been forced back, with several of his men trapped in the resort’s houses and hotels.

His top temper picked, Meade exploded in anger and accused Doubleday of deliberate tardiness. This comment would, in turn, inspire newspaper speculation that Doubleday had indeed refused to aid Meade as revenge for Meade’s actions during the Battle of North Anna. While the two Union generals bickered, Longstreet brought in further reinforcements and dug in to resist the expected counterattack. The preparations were such that, artillery chief E.P. Alexander boasted, “a chicken could not live on that field when we open on it.” When the Yankees advanced to try and rescue their trapped comrades, the result was the massacre Alexander prophesized. The once bucolic scenes of Ashland were transformed by the carnage, as men were reduced to blood splatters by the murderous fire. It was as “close to hell as the men could picture”, said a bluecoat, horrified at how the “roar of artillery mingled with the groans of the dying, adding a new terror to battle.” Finally, Meade and Doubleday retreated, and the soldiers trapped in the resort had no option but to surrender, resulting in a lopsided 4,200 Federal casualties to merely 1,900 rebel losses.

The bloody repulse at Ashland unnerved both Grant and Hancock. Giving no proof of his anxiety except for his usual puffing of cigars, Grant ordered Hancock to rush to Totopotomoy Creek, a natural defensive line thanks to its tall south banks. If the Union could seize it before Lee, it could force the rebels to fight for Richmond in the open. The movement involved a march close to Mechanicsville, where Lee had started the first attack of the Nine Days Battles that almost destroyed McClellan. The memories of defeat seemed to dampen the bluejacket’s spirits, while conversely the graybacks seemed in good cheer, one colonel leading his men by telling them “We’ve beaten them here before, and we’ll do it again”. The rebels won the race to Totopotomoy Creek, mocking their adversaries by hanging a banner that asked, “ready for another defeat?” Unwilling to attack their enemy directly and risk a repetition of the slaughter at the North Anna, Hancock instead ordered the right half of the Army to keep up the pressure on the rebel front while the left half swung around the left towards Bethesda Church.

Several factors conspired against the bluecoats at the moment. The main one was that Grant, who had accompanied the Army of the Susquehanna during the first movements, could not oversee the advance towards Bethesda Church as closely as he would have liked due to other important concerns that demanded his attention. Former General in-chief Henry Halleck had once complained of how his “right hand has been at times for the last few weeks very sore,” by filling the orders needed “To organize & send forward so many troops, with horses, forage, provisions, ammunition transportation, & to bring away & provide for so many wounded”. Even higher demands now came to Grant, who was also closely following the simultaneous campaigns in other theaters of war. His new aide, Adam Badeau, noted with admiration how “one man directed so completely four distinct armies, separated by thousands of miles.” Couriers came to and fro all the time bringing in telegrams and orders, that Grant had to dispatch, preventing him from overseeing the on-going campaign.

Thus, Hancock obtained his wish of greater independence, but instead of raising up to the occasion he seemed to shirk. Debate has raged through the years regarding Hancock’s performance, with many historians blaming his inexperience at overall command or wounds from North Anna that hadn’t healed properly. Instead of the hands-on leadership that earned him the adulation of his comrades, Hancock seemed slow and peevish, quarreling with subordinates, and seething at newspapers that treated Grant as the commander of the Army of the Susquehanna, when Hancock was still its official leader. Grant’s initial good impressions were quickly crumbling, and years later he would condemn Hancock as “a weak, vain man. He is the most selfish man I know. He could never endure to have anyone else receive any credit.” At the moment, a busy Grant trusted Hancock enough to execute the following phase of the campaign.


The Battle of Bethesda Church

Two Union corps under Generals Slocum and Gibbon had crossed the creek and were searching for a weak spot on Lee’s lines. Seeing in this an opportunity to strike back against “those people”, Lee decided to go on the offensive. Leaving Early at the creek, Lee directed Longstreet and Jackson to an attack against the advancing Federal left wing. The rebel stroke started later than expected, as both Confederate commanders were forced to rely in scouts to try and preserve the element of surprise. Still, Longstreet soon managed to engage Gibbon and Slocum, distracting them while Jackson advanced towards their flanks. The Yankee soldiers, many of them veterans of the Miracle of Manchester that had routed Jackson during the Battle of Union Mills, now saw their position reversed as Jackson was the one that attacked them furiously. Forlornly, Hancock admitted that the assault had “rolled them up like a wet blanket”. However, the rebels had made a grievous mistake by fighting on an open plain, and when they tried to capitalize on their success the Union artillery fired on their position. As if in revenge for Ashland, the rebels were slaughtered by the Yankee shells. “Our line melted away as if by magic”, wrote a Virginian. “Every brigade, staff and field officer was cut down, (mostly killed outright) in an incredibly short time.”

At the same time as the Bethesda action, Grant was still bogged down in administrative conflict. As reports arrived of rebel movements in Arkansas and Missouri, the latest being in the middle of its constitutional convention, Grant saw the limits of working from the field as he struggled with inadequate reports and material. Furthermore, the change of supply bases from Fredericksburg to the Peninsula had been mishandled. This meant a day without rations, which dismayed and embarrassed Grant. As General in-chief, Grant commanded “all the armies”, and, he observed, “I cannot neglect others by giving my time exclusively to the Army of the Susquehanna.” Reluctantly, Grant decided to return to Philadelphia to better coordinate the offensives in other theaters, leaving detailed instructions for Hancock and ordering him to send daily reports. Though he privately celebrated Grant’s departure, Hancock was still irritated by Grant’s “intromission”, and by the criticism of newspapers “which long for Reynolds, praise Grant, and condemn me at every opportunity”. When an officer asked, “what shall we do without General Grant?”, Hancock’s irritation bubbled to the surface, and he snapped that “the Army of the Susquehanna does not require General Grant's inspiration or anybody else's inspiration to make it fight!”

To try and reverse the misfortunes thus suffered, Hancock rode to the front, where the fight had shifted from Totopotomoy Creek south towards the crossroads of Cold Harbor. This, again, represented an opportunity to advance towards Richmond and force Lee to fight on the open. Bayard seized the intersection, but Lee had again shifted his army to block the route to the Confederate capital. The battles had again resulted in dreadful casualties, causing both sides to demand reinforcements. Lee’s petitions were the most urgent, for Hancock’s maneuvering had stretched his lines thinly from the Totopotomoy Creek to Bethesda Church to the new position at Cold Harbor. Hancock too asked for reinforcements, but the troops Grant could spare were the ”heavies” that guarded Washington and Western Maryland, artillery soldiers that had lackluster training and no battle experience. By contrast, the units Breckinridge rushed from the coast and surrounding areas were veterans. “While the available manpower pool in the North was much larger”, summarizes James McPherson, “Lee could more readily replace his losses with veterans than Hancock could during these crucial weeks”. The quality of the reinforcements sent played an important part in deciding the outcome of the battle.

Lee failed in his initial effort to push back Bayard’s troopers, which allowed the Federals under Charles Griffin to arrive and start an attack, lest Lee had time to dig in. Since the rebel reinforcements had not arrived yet, the Southern line started to disintegrate. An elated Griffin cheered on his men with "language not fit for Sunday school use", as one soldier remembered. By the late afternoon, Griffin had achieved a position at Gaines’ Mill, but he was isolated from the rest of the Army. Decided not to waste this opportunity, Hancock ordered Griffin to dig in and hold his position, while the rest of the Army of the Susquehanna started an all-out assault along Lee’s lines. These probes, unfortunately, were not successful, and the arrival of reinforcements allowed Lee to strike back against Griffin. With a powerful blow, Lee sent the Yankees fleeing, and Griffin was forced into a chaotic retreat to the Federal trenches at the crossroads. Lee’s charge was stopped there, being bloodily repulsed by Griffin and the belated reinforcements under Sedgwick.

As night fell, both Armies decided to pull back instead of renewing the attack. In his headquarters, Grant read Hancock’s reports with great intensity, smoking cigars and whittling sticks into small chips. Following the failure to overtake Lee, Hancock and his commanders had had a testy discussion, where Griffin irately insisted that had he been adequately supported he could have routed Lee. Hancock proposed to renew the attack in the morning before Lee was able to build up his fortifications even more. Grant’s instincts naturally inclined him towards this approach. Grant concurred on a renewed assault against Cold Harbor, telling Hancock that “Lee's army is really whipped”. Since “A battle with them outside of intrenchments cannot be had”, they should seize the opportunity at once and strike. “Our men feel that they have gained the morale over the enemy”, Grant asserted, “and will attack with confidence”. While they could continue with their southward push towards Petersburg, Grant believed that such a strategy would bring about only dismay in the North. If they instead attacked decisively, they may achieve the desired breakthrough to Richmond. With Grant’s agreement, Hancock then ordered an attack against Cold Harbor at dawn.


The Battle of Cold Harbor

While the Northerners contemplated their next move, Lee’s men had continued to build up impressive defensive works, going as far as pushing still recovering men from field hospitals to man the trenches. Attacking what one reporter described as "intricate, zig-zagged lines within lines, lines protecting flanks of lines, lines built to enfilade opposing lines . . . words within works and works without works”, would be difficult. But Grant and Hancock believed that their men had still fight in them and that their spirit would carry the day. This assertion seems doubtful, given that Cold Harbor, with its swampy terrain and natural thickets, was a powerful defensive position. More importantly, the spirit of the rebels remained unbroken, while the Federals did not attack with confidence. Several Northerners gave into despair, many pining small slips of paper with their information to the interior of their uniforms so that their corpses could be identified. When the order was given, 60,000 blue soldiers advanced into the Confederate works, being received by a murderous rain of fire that was “more like a volcanic blast than a battle”, according to one private. Despite temporary successes, including the capture of the first rebel lines, the Federals were unable to overcome the defensive positions, and were driven back. Some had to use the bodies of fallen comrades as sandbags. Hancock quickly called off the attack, but the two hours it lasted still costed over 5,000 men, to Lee’s 1,000. This was “the easiest victory ever granted to Confederate arms by the folly of Federal commanders”, sneered one of Lee’s commanders.

The scale of the disaster would eventually make “Cold Harbor” a synonym for senseless slaughter. An appalled Grant, upon receiving a report of the battle, would say that “I regret this assault more than any one I have ever ordered”. Sourly, Meade said that maybe Grant would now understand that “Virginia and Lee's army is not Tennessee and Johnston's army.” Lee himself expressed surprise, telling a member of his staff that “I do not know what General Grant meant by his attack this morning . . . It was too heavy for a feint, yet I hardly think he expected to break through here.” One Union officer noted how the horrors of Cold Harbor had impacted the soldiers, who “feel at present a great horror and dread of attacking earthworks again”. Following the disaster, Grant decided that the Army of the Susquehanna should advance towards Petersburg, to try and cut off the Confederate Capital from its lines of supply. But Hancock demurred. Raging privately at how “Grant butchered my men”, Hancock pleaded to allow the men to rest, holding that continuing such a campaign would shatter the Army. “Our men are tired and the attacks have not been made with the vigor and force which characterized our previous fighting”, Hancock argued, “if they had been, I think we should have been more successful.” Perhaps chastened by the Cold Harbor disaster, Grant accepted, wiring back that “We will rest the men and use the spade for their protection until a new vein has been struck.”

The campaign came to a temporary end then, producing great despondency throughout the North. Desperation reigned because it seemed like the campaign had completely bogged down with nothing to show except for the high casualties of Ashland and Bethesda Church, and the disastrous massacre at Cold Harbor. The balance was around 30,000 Federal casualties to 15,000 rebels, a by then familiar two-to-one ratio. “I see no bright spot anywhere,” despaired George Templeton Strong, only “humiliation and disaster. . . The blood and treasure spent on this summer's campaign have done little for the country.” The campaign seemed just a repetition of Mine Run and North Anna – furious, bloody fighting that accomplished little or nothing. The change in leadership hadn’t resulted in the immediate victory many people had hoped for, and as their expectations came crashing down a terrible pall of gloom settled over the North. In vain did pro-administration newspapers insist that this had been a victory because Lee’s army at last was put on the defensive and continuously driven back. Formerly oversanguine Yankees now grieved how Hancock and Grant’s vaunted generalship just turned out to be “launching men against breastworks”, and how each campaign only seemed to result “in the ruin and death of thousands of families”, as Benjamin Butler’s wife said in anguish. “Every hour is but sinking us deeper into bankruptcy and desolation”, a Chesnut newspaper concluded, while another proclaimed joyously that “Lincoln is deader than dead”.

Adding to Northern hopelessness was the seeming lack of progress in other fronts. After Virginia, Georgia was the Confederate state that commanded the greatest attention. The capture of Atlanta and payback for the humiliation at Marietta were chief priorities within the Union Army. Following the command kerfuffle that had greatly contributed to that defeat, General Thomas had been vindicated as the head of the Army of the Cumberland. Not through “scheming and politics”, declared General Palmer in a thinly veiled insult to Schofield, but through “bravery and deeds”. Lincoln was mortified by the entire controversy. He had not wanted to undermine Thomas, but merely to energize him, and he felt embarrassed that he had unwittingly fostered conflict by sending Schofield to Georgia. All corps commanders submitted reports praising Thomas and condemning Schofield. Perhaps they were being unfair on placing all the blame on Schofield, but the pressure was such that Lincoln saw no option but to restore the status quo of 1863, transferring Schofield to a minor post in Ohio while all of Tennessee and Georgia were placed back under Thomas. When Schofield protested, a weary Lincoln begged that “for your sake, for my sake, & for the country’s sake, you give your whole attention to the better work.”

Thomas thus had consolidated his power at the same time as the Confederate Army of Tennessee showed signs of sinking into deeper conflict. The backlash over Johnston’s removal Breckinridge had feared manifested almost immediately. James McPherson characterizes the removal of Johnston as “perhaps Breckinridge’s most divisive and fateful proceeding as commander in chief”. Senator Herschel Johnson declared that Johnston’s replacement did not “meet universal approval. It took the army & country by surprise, & produced momentary alarm.” This was a “masterpiece of understatement”, for the news actually caused great controversy within the Congress, where Tory congressmen denounced the decision day and night, attributing it to Breckinridge and Davis’ personal animosity towards Johnston. This “cold snaky hate” for the general would result in disaster, they prophesized. Within the Army, there were reports of soldiers who immediately deserted when they learned of Johnston’s removal, although there also were others that expressed shock at “Johnston falling back this far . . . I don't believe Johnston ever did or ever will fight.” At the end of the day, Breckinridge needed generals who would fight, and Johnston, who seemed ready to give up Atlanta without resistance, would not do. Another fateful result of the decision was that, now without command, Johnston returned to Richmond and entered its bitterly anti-Breckinridge circle of opposition politicians and scorned generals.


Similarly to McClellan, many men in the Army of Tennessee idolized Johnston because his cautious generalship preserved their lives.

On June 28th, simultaneously with the other Union offensives, Thomas and the Army of the Cumberland advanced once again to Marietta, planting himself before the Confederate line along the Lost, Pine and Brush mountains. His new opponent was Benjamin Franklin Cheatham. Born in a prominent Tennessee planter family, Cheatham had always dreamed of military glory but had had no experience before he joined the Army during the Mexican War, raising to the rank of colonel. When the war started, Cheatham had been in California, but he quickly travelled back to the Confederacy and assumed command of a Tennessee brigade. Known as a hard fighter and a hard drinker, Cheatham had served with some distinction, but had also frequently feuded with his commanders, including both Bragg and Johnston, the first accusing him of drunkenness at the disastrous Battle of Lexington. These rumors pursued him as he assumed command, dashing the hopes that he would finally be the one to bring cooperation to the chaotic Army of Tennessee. In Richmond, Senators commented that “nothing short of the success of Genl. Cheatham in closing the campaign, will procure a final verdict of approval.” Decided to earn such a verdict, Cheatham set to work on a counterstroke that would surpass even that of Marietta.

To do so, Cheatham pulled back from his line and sent fake deserters to Thomas’ headquarters with news that the rebels were disorganized and running away. Thomas, unfortunately for the Confederates, did not fall for the ruse, deciding against attacking Cheatham head-on in the Kennesaw Mountain defenses. Instead, Thomas swung to the left towards Kolb’s Farm, which should have been clear of enemy presence according to the deserters’ info. Instead, an alarmed Negley found several gray skirmishers. To constate their strength, Negley sent scouts forward, who immediately “came running back as though the devil himself was after them”, chased by Hood’s troops. Originally, this had been planned as a flank attack had Thomas swallowed the bait and assaulted Kennesaw Mountain. Despite the failure of the trap, the imprudent Hood still desired a battle, and so he went forward through the open field. This was a grievous mistake, for Negley’s artillery was able to massacre the unprotected rebels. In a preview of things to come, Hood’s brashness had resulted in a lopsided 2,000 rebel casualties to merely 700 Union losses.

Still, the attack showed already that Thomas was not facing Johnston anymore, and that any flanking attempt would be contested. Instead of a costly assault through this “terrible door of death”, Thomas decided to extend his trenches around Cheatham’s lines, which would force the rebels to either retreat or be trapped and destroyed. Continuous artillery barrages were unable to dislodge Thomas or delay his digging, especially when the superior Federal artillery gave it as good as it got. This duel only created “hundreds of little mounds . . . rising by the wayside day by day, as if to mark the footprints of the God of War as he stalks along through this beautiful country”, wrote poetically an Illinois Yankee. Finally conceding that there was no way to force Thomas to suicidally assault Kennesaw Mountain, and that he could not stop his digging, Cheatham retreated to Smyrma Station. This decision dismayed Hood, who believed that they ought to make a stand and that to retreat was “just repeating the old Johnston system”. After a pointed conversation Cheatham forced his irreverent subordinate to agree, but Hood still sent a secret report to Richmond expressing that "I regard it as a great misfortune to our country that we failed to give battle”. Then, rather tactlessly, he added “Please say to the President that I shall continue to do my duty cheerfully . . . and strive to do what is best for our country.”

By July 16, just a few days after the disaster at Cold Harbor, Thomas had forced the Confederates over the Chattahoochee River, close to the gates of Atlanta. He then crossed the river himself on July 20th, over Roswell and Power’s Ferry. Aside from a feeble attack by the Confederate cavalry it seemed that Cheatham would not contest the crossing. Half of Thomas’ Army had crossed by nightfall, and as they prepared to go to sleep rebel yells pierced the silent air. Throwing hardtack and salt pork to the side, or jumping from their tents, the Federal soldiers rushed to their hastily dug trenches to try and beat back the charging graybacks. Some, legend says, arrived in only their undergarments, for Cheatham had caught then just before they fell asleep. Confusing hand to hand combat ensued in that dark night. “We were so badly mixed up with old soldiers going forward, new soldiers going back, and Rebs running both ways”, testified a bluecoat. “I could not tell for several minutes who were prisoners, the Rebs or ourselves – each ordering the other to surrender.” Guided only by the flash of muskets and bayonets, Thomas’s reserves crossed the river and kept the Union line from breaking. Finally, the exhausted rebels yielded and retreated. For several moments the Yankees were unsure if they had actually won, but when they realized that the Southrons had retreated the Union bands started playing in joyous celebration.

Cheatham’s ambitious counterattack had failed. He had inflicted around 2,000 casualties on the Union side, but he had lost roughly the same number and failed to dislodge them from their beachhead. As the armies rested for the next two days, both commanders pondered their next move. The first Confederate line of defense extended from Peach Tree Creek to the hills east of Atlanta. If this line was breached, the Southerners could retreat to the second line at the city itself. Atlanta laid on high ground, protected by a series of fortifications the rebels had been building for several months already. Nonetheless, the fact that the foe was so close to Atlanta disquieted many civilians. “Nearly the whole Population is moving off, taking their negroes south,” reported one of them. “There will scarcely be any provisions raised about here this year, which will seriously effect us another year whether the war continues or not.” Some soldiers too were unnerved, after being told that the change in leadership would finally bring about the desired victory. “The truth is,” wrote a Georgia soldier, “we have run until I am getting out of heart & we must win a victory soon or the army will be demoralized”. But, he added, “all is in good spirits now & beleave we will make a stand & whip the yankees badley.”


The Battle of Power's Ferry

In Philadelphia, at the same time as he poured over Hancock’s reports, Grant closely followed Thomas’ campaign. The loyal Virginian did not want to start a lengthy siege, recognizing that giving the Confederates more time could only be a disadvantage for the Union. Grant concurred, directing Thomas instead to cut the Georgia railroad that connected Atlanta and Virginia. In the latter State, after Cold Harbor, Hancock had settled for a siege that, Grant worried, may allow Lee to send reinforcements to Cheatham to repeat the successes at the start of the year. If the railroad was cut it would be considerably harder for Lee to aid Cheatham and vice versa. Thomas concurred with Grant’s judgement, splitting his Army into three columns: Negley would advance towards Peach Tree Creek; Burnside to Decatur; and Palmer, with Sheridan as his reserves, would be in the middle. Again, Cheatham took no action at first, mainly because he could not be sure of Thomas’ intentions and didn’t have enough soldiers to man the entire first line. But after observing Negley and Palmer’s sluggish advance at the same time as Burnside wreaked havoc along the railroad, Cheatham realized that Thomas’ main objective was cutting him off from Richmond. This was an opportunity, the rebel commander decided.

The attack would be spearheaded by Hood, who would advance against Burnside while the rest of the Army held Thomas in check. To prevent an attack on the Peach Tree Creek, Cheatham had the bridges burned and called in the Georgia militia to man the positions Hood had left. Moving quietly, Hood reached the Federal corps, where Burnside’s scattered corps was more focused on tearing up he railroad, to the point that Burnside had taken the ill-thought decision of sending his cavalry away to tear up some farther away tracks. To preserve the element of surprise, Hood didn’t even conduct any reconnaissance. Still, this “outrageous gamble paid off”, and when the rebels burst out with furious yells and gleaming arms Burnside’s surprised soldiers, many of them still quite green conscripts, were “rolled up, trodden under foot, and swept away as the whirlwind drives the autumn leaves.” Unfortunately, Hood’s lack of reconnaissance made him waste precious time when he directed almost half of his force to a small bridge that way only defended by sick cavalrymen and musicians. Still, Burnside’s corps were being driven back across the line.

Proving that he “could move quickly enough when duty demanded it”, Thomas swiftly ordered Sheridan into the fight, and amassed artillery guns on the top of Bald Hill. The fire stopped the rebel advance for a few hours, allowing Thomas to pull back to a horseshoe-shaped line atop the ridge. When they got their own artillery into position, the rebels restarted the attack, both sides shooting with such “hellish speed” that “the gunpowder flashed the instant it touched the red-hot barrels”. Describing the scenes of battle, a Dixie veteran declared that “I never saw so many broken down and exhausted men in my life”. Due to the terrible fighting he “was as sick as a horse, and as wet with blood and sweat as I could be, and many of our men were vomiting with excessive fatigue, over-exhaustion, and sunstroke . . . our faces blackened with powder and smoke, and our dead and wounded piled indiscriminately around us.” Despite this punishment, Hood was sure that his troops could carry the day if Cheatham pressed the last reserves into battle. But Cheatham refused.

The exhaustion of the Confederate troops, alongside Palmer and Negley’s assault against Cheatham’s front, probably convinced him that the first line was in imminent peril. Skeptical of Hood’s vainglorious claims, Cheatham decided that he could not risk a breakthrough in his front, which could have disastrous consequences. Hood was instead ordered to pull back, and the fighting came to an end on July 24th as the entire Southern army retreated to the inner line of defense. The Battle of Atlanta had been a tactical Federal defeat, with the Army of the Cumberland suffering 3,700 casualties to Hood’s 2,300. Boasting of his victory, Hood at the same time complained bitterly of Cheatham’s timidity. To Richmond he argued that bolder generalship would have resulted in a complete rout, and this was apparently confirmed when Thomas pulled back. They could have “defeated and destroyed all the Federals on this side of the Ohio River. . . . I am eager . . . to take the initiative, but I regret to say that certain generals do not share my sentiments.” A comment by Breckinridge shows that Hood’s words had gotten to the President. Although he publicly congratulated “our brave regiments in their gallant defense of Atlanta”, he privately worried that “this was not a victory, but a lost opportunity”.

A closer analysis of the battle reveals that Hood’s expectations of a rout were wildly exaggerated, and that despite the tactical setback it constituted a Federal strategic triumph. Thomas had kept the casualty ratio below the two-to-one of the Virginia theater, despite the fact that Cheatham’s defenses were just as imposing as Lee’s, and had moreover succeeded in his objective of destroying the railroad. Now Atlanta was fed by a single vulnerable line, adding enormously to the woes of the rebel logistics. Maintaining his close position to Atlanta, alongside his numerical and material superiority, it seemed like a mere matter of time before Thomas would overwhelm the Confederates and take the city. This was punctuated by the comment of a rebel prisoner, who, when asked how many men were left to defend Atlanta, replied that there were “Enough for one or two more killings.” To try and reduce casualties that he could not afford, Cheatham decided to adopt a defensive strategy, building up Atlanta’s defenses even more and counterattacking only “if the opportunity presented itself”. This was, to Hood’s disappointment, just a reversal to Johnston’s strategy.


The Battle of Atlanta

Still, the fact that the Federals were better positioned at the end of the campaign was only apparent in hindsight. At the moment, sanguine Northerners expected a triumphal blow in that theater too, and Thomas’ Army seemed instead bogged down before strong fortifications. This was the same fate that befell the Army of the Susquehanna, which had spent the next few weeks after Cold Harbor sieging Lee’s position in an attempt to force him out without another bloody attack. Hancock’s resentment was only growing, as several newspapers blamed him for the slaughter at Cold Harbor and clamored for Grant to move his headquarter to the front. Apparently, Hancock came close to insubordination when he tried to send a telegram that placed all the blame on Grant and insisted, falsely, that he had been against the assault on the third day of Cold Harbor. Only Meade’s intervention convinced him not to send the ill-thought message, but Hancock still engaged in a war of words with several newspapers, undignified behavior that alarmed Grant.

At least Grant could take some solace in the greater success found by Sherman. Because he trusted Sherman, whereas he guarded some reserves about Hancock and Thomas, Sherman was given wide liberty in planning his operations. Sherman’s main objective would be the destruction of Cleburne’s Army of Mississippi. He was “to move against Cleburne's army, to break it up, and to get into the interior of the enemy's country as far as you can, inflicting all the damage you can against their war resources.” But before he could focus on Mobile, Sherman set his sights in Forrest, who continued to threaten Thomas’ lines. Despite all anti-guerrilla efforts, the 300 miles of rails remained vulnerable, and if cut they could cripple Thomas’ campaign. To prevent the rebel commanders from helping each other, Sherman planned to “follow Forrest to the death, if it cost 10,000 lives and breaks the Treasury. There never will be peace in Tennessee till Forrest is dead.” At the same time, Sherman wanted to keep up the pressure on Cleburne, to prevent him from slipping away to help Cheatham in his struggle against Thomas.

Sherman, then, contemplated a highly mobile campaign that would most of the time live off the land and pursue the foe furiously. These was some doubt in Philadelphia, where Stanton believed that “a misstep by General Sherman might be fatal to his army”. With unfailing faith in Sherman, Grant replied that “Such an army Sherman has, and with such a commander, it is hard to corner or capture.” On early June, Sherman set forward, dividing his Army into several marching columns. Sherman’s old corps, now under the charismatic John A. Logan, marched towards Pontotoc, while McPherson advanced to Tupelo and C.F. Smith to Montgomery. This division caused apprehension in Cleburne’s headquarters, which were deluged by request for reinforcements. Montgomery, the first Confederate capital, and Selma, an important industrial center, were especially threated by Sherman’s advance.

The rebels, simply put, did not have enough men to defend all the points under attack. Finally, Cleburne decided that the garrison in Mobile could hold out against Banks until Sherman had been driven away. Consequently, Cleburne and 12,000 men marched off to join Forrest at Okolona, while another division was sent to defend Montgomery. A first attempt to stop Sherman took place near Tupelo, where Cleburne and Forrest attacked “with their accustomed alacrity and courage”, intending to defeat Sherman before he could link up with McPherson. The battle seemed to start auspiciously, as Forrest managed to drive back the cavalry under William Sooy Smith. Sherman and Cleburne then poured their infantry into the struggle. But the Confederate assault then fizzled out when General Logan, “with fire in his eyes” and the “shriek of an eagle” arrived to lead a daring counterattack. “For God's sake men, don't disgrace your country!”, exclaimed Logan as he rallied those who had fallen to the back. Cheering “Black Jack, Black Jack!”, the corps stalled and then beat back the Confederate advance. At the same time, Union cavalry under Grierson and a USCT division arrived to reinforce Sherman. Threatened with being crushed between these two vices, the rebels were forced to retreat. With the road to Tupelo now open, Sherman pulled back for a better position.

Outside the city, Forrest and Cleburne discussed their next move. While Cleburne feinted on the Union front, Forrest advanced through the forests, running into McPherson’s guards. This was an opportunity eagerly awaited by the Black troops, who desired to avenge the comrades Forrest had slaughtered at Fort Pillow and in his numerous raids. Even though the Federals "opened upon me one of the heaviest fires I have heard during the war”, Forrest refused to retreat, telling a subordinate that “I will never retreat in the face of niggers”. Forrest believed that he was engaging most of the enemy’s army, and urged Cleburne to attack. Despite his misgivings, Cleburne accepted and “began our fatal march into the very jaws of death”, as a Kentuckian remembered. As Cleburne had feared, this was a trap, and as soon as the rebels approached several blue soldiers appeared an unleashed “a pandemonium of lead and steel and screams”. An excited Sherman exclaimed “Just what I wanted! It will save us the trouble, they’ll only beat their brains out, beat their brains out!” At the end, they had inflicted only 3,500 Union casualties at the price of 5,400 Southerners. Frutrated, Forrest decided to separate and continue with his old tactics, vowing to pursue Sherman and be “on all sides of him, attacking day and night. He shall not cook a meal or have a night’s sleep and I will wear his army to a frazzle before he gets out of the country.” Cleburne for his part returned to Montgomery, intending to defend the city from C.F. Smith’s ravaging invaders. Having beaten back the rebels, the pieces were all set, and Sherman was ready to make Alabama howl and show the South that war was hell.


The Battle of Tupelo

Sherman’s boldness, however, did little to calm Northern anxiety, for there were no reports of his advance during the next few weeks. The reports that were available only showed both Hancock and Thomas making seemingly no progress at all in their campaigns against Richmond and Atlanta. In truth, Thomas had made great progress by driving Cheatham to the gates of Atlanta, and Hancock had inflicted casualties proportionally as high on Lee and pinned him in defending Richmond. But this was cold comfort to most Yankees, while conversely the Southerners saw their own losses as “the price of Lee’s and Breckinridge's successful leadership,” boasted that the Union “had gained nothing whatever by the operation,” and that confidence in the Confederate Army and ultimate victory remained “as extensive as the Confederacy itself. It pervades every neighborhood and every family circle.” For both the Union and the Confederacy, the cities of Richmond, Atlanta and Mobile had come to be symbols of Southern defiance and determination, and as long as they stood the rebels could still trust in eventual victory, while Northern despair just grew. The New York Times dennounced “these terrible fits of despondency, into which we plunge after each of our reverses and disappointments,” insisting that victory would come soon. But most Northerners probably shared the apprehensions of a New York Yankee that feared that “we are on the eve of disaster.”

Lincoln refused to share in this despair. Though his Cabinet members found him “perceptably [sic], disappointed at the small measure of our success”, and horrified by the high casualties that, Lincoln himself said, had “carried mourning to almost every home, until it can almost be said that 'the heavens are hung in black,’” the President maintained his confidence in General Grant and the armies of the Union. He took satisfaction in Grant’s assurances that the Federals armies would never “retreat or find themselves farther from Richmond and Atlanta than now, till we have taken them . . . It may take a long summer day, but I will go in.” Lincoln reaffirmed his faith in a Philadelphia speech, where he declared that the North had “accepted this war for [the] worthy object . . . of restoring the national authority over the whole national domain . . . and the war will end when that object is attained. Under God, I hope it never will until that time. [Great Cheering] . . . General Grant is reported to have said, I am going through on this line if it takes all summer. [Cheers] . . . I say we are going through on this line if it takes three years more. [Cheers].” The following months would test whether the Northern people indeed possessed enough will to maintain the contest for three years more, or if they would surrender it in November.
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I beg to present to you, as a New Year's gift, the next update of the TL.

I hope it's not too confusing. There's just so much going on with all these simultaneous military offensives. As you can see, each campaign kind of stops in the middle, so next update is their conclusion. So wait a little longer, victory is just around the corner ;) A majority of this update, a per usual with my military updates, was done with @Arnold d.c's kind help.
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Awesome update! It was very fun to see the intricate military details and how everything is working together. Well things are, people aren't always. :)

There haven't been any generals killed in quite a while. Or at least not higher ranking ones. I thought we'd hear mention of one with Cleburne or Forest. I imagine a number of lower rankings have though.

The possibility of famine in the winter of 1864-5 is looming large also. It nay get worse than last time in that winter. They won't have to wait till the end of the war.
feilz ano Red! well Rojo

I wonder tho what's going on in the other side shows? Texas Louisiana and the Shenandoah for example?
As usual, here are the maps and some notes:
Maps of the Virginia Campaign
Maps of the Atlanta Campaign
Map of Sherman's Campaign

Unfortunately for Sherman's Campaign, I couldn't find an older version of the grand map and I'd be spoiling everything if I showed the actual map so...
Wait till next chapter:p

1. On the point of Grant's return to Philadelphia, it should be emphasized that Halleck was really important for letting Grant come to the frontlines. I imagine that nobody had the experience to simply fill in for Halleck's shoes for this campaign. Rawlins would certainly not be suitable given that Rawlins is more like Grant's secretary than a traditional chief of staff.

2. On Hancock, Hancock's injury, sustained at North Anna rather than Gettysburg, did sap a lot of vigor out of him and made him more careless. However, his quarreling is a historical feature. IOTL, he feuded with Hunt over artillery deployments in Gettysburg and to the end of their lives argued with each other over who was in the right. It got pretty bad in Sept'64 when they traded a series of insulting notes and telegrams until Army of the Potomac Chief of Staff Andrew Humphreys had to step in. Hancock also quarreled with his star subordinate John Gibbon over his conduct during the Wilderness. Hancock claimed that had Gibbon sent reinforcements in time, Longstreet's deadly flank attack on Hancock at the Wilderness would have failed. The problem with Hancock's statement is that Gibbon DID send reinforcements promptly but the requested reinforcements, which followed Hancock's exact specifications, weren't enough. Other division commanders and subordinates back up Gibbon's version of the story. Yet Hancock refused to let it go and that was the main reason John Gibbon left the II Corps. These quarrels actually continued into post-war and were not a good look.

3. On Atlanta, Thomas is fully actually on track with Sherman's OTL pace now, with the caveat that the Battle of Atlanta was a less positive affair than the OTL victory and Thomas' army is smaller than what Sherman had. The only railroad line left is the Macon & Western Railroad, where supplies were sent from Savannah and Alabama.
An observation on the TTL historiography; presumably a surviving Lincoln would mean that at some point he would be able to write his memoirs of his presidency. That in itself would be a huge change in the primary sources for the period of the civil war and Reconstruction, the guy right at the top being able to actually give his perspective. Part of the reason why there are so many goddamn books about Lincoln is because what he was thinking often could only at most be gleaned from what he said to other people, in circumstances where he often had to keep sweet different groups of people who dramatically disagree with each other.

Of course, there is legitimate reason why most presidential memoirs should be treated with skepticism, even one coming from 'Honest Abe', and we know the man to have decided against letting his full opinions be known if he thought it would just leave people feeling hurt and insulted (most famously his immense disappointment in Meade not catching Lee after Gettysburg) but a retired Lincoln who no longer has constituents to placate would be a quantum leap in direct sources on Lincoln and how he recollected the war and his changing opinions.

Also, someone of his emotional intelligence would know that with him being such a divisive figure and knowing his memoir would de facto double as a spiritual manifesto for a post-war America he could not spend much time shifting blame or morally revising himself, not to mention his vast body of existing speeches and writing that would be cross-referenced with his memoir.
Well said. In many ways because we are left to make our best guesses about Lincoln's motivations and decision-making, he was and remains a sketch for people to fill in the colors of their choice. That being said, he has long seemed to me to be one of the few genuinely good men (relative to the time, of course) to fill the presidency, on top of being the rare master politician capable of being all things to all people, and finally being perhaps the finest writer-president. As thoroughly as I enjoy Grant's Memoirs, for example, I have to imagine Lincoln's would be even more readable, their value to historians laid aside.

As an aside, it is great to see one of my favorite writers become interested in my favorite subject and collaborate with another in a truely excellent TL. Thanks to you both for providing all of us with such excellent material!
Well said. In many ways because we are left to make our best guesses about Lincoln's motivations and decision-making, he was and remains a sketch for people to fill in the colors of their choice. That being said, he has long seemed to me to be one of the few genuinely good men (relative to the time, of course) to fill the presidency, on top of being the rare master politician capable of being all things to all people, and finally being perhaps the finest writer-president. As thoroughly as I enjoy Grant's Memoirs, for example, I have to imagine Lincoln's would be even more readable, their value to historians laid aside.
Lincoln unfortunately wasn't a big fan of the abolitionist cause to the point that in the early years of the war he'd have escaped slaves sent back to their owners. Abolitionists had to drag Lincoln kicking and screaming to join the cause. And it was only when Lincoln saw the benefits of abolition as a good way to undermine the Confederate war effort that he actually embraced it.

Oh and that massacre 38 indigenous people he ordered.
Lincoln unfortunately wasn't a big fan of the abolitionist cause to the point that in the early years of the war he'd have escaped slaves sent back to their owners. Abolitionists had to drag Lincoln kicking and screaming to join the cause. And it was only when Lincoln saw the benefits of abolition as a good way to undermine the Confederate war effort that he actually embraced it.

Oh and that massacre 38 indigenous people he ordered.
I don't agree with that at all. Lincoln's administration adopted the policy of not returning slaves in early 1862, less than a year into his administration. The idea that Lincoln had to be "dragged kicking and screaming" is simply untrue.

As for his handling of the Dakota War of 1862, I would place it within the context of the time, as I explicitly said in my post. Originally, 303 were sentenced to death, and Lincoln pardoned or commuted the sentences of all but those 38. I would posit that few others at that time would do the same in his position.