Narrator: As 1863 began, the war showed no sign of ending. Hundreds of thousands of Union troops were shivering in winter camp. Every day, more than 100 men deserted, and hundreds more were dying of disease. There was nothing Abraham Lincoln could do about any of it.
David Herbert Donald, Biographer: The Lincoln of 1863 was a badgered, harried, tired, and often desperately worried President. There was great criticism that he wasn't managing things well, and pretty much everybody had a feeling that he was incompetent.
Narrator: Open opposition to the war had begun to spread. Some in the North resented Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation: they did not want to fight a war to free black slaves. Many blamed Lincoln personally for all the Union casualties. One newspaper called him "an awful ass and a damn fool."
James M. McPherson, Historian: A prominent Republican said that "the President had hardly a friend here in Washington. If a National Convention were held now to re-nominate him, he wouldn't get a vote."
Voice of Lincoln (David Morse): "If there's a worse place than hell I am in it."
Narrator: A year after the death of her son Willy, Mary Lincoln was still mourning, still plagued by nausea and migraines.
Voice of Mary (Holly Hunter): "Only those who have passed through such bereavements can realize how the heart bleeds at the return of these anniversaries."
Narrator: Mary could no longer lift her over-burdened husband's spirits, and Lincoln, preoccupied and protective, did not share his burdens with her. They were moving in different worlds.
Slate: Abraham and Mary Lincoln: A House Divided
Slate: Part Five: This Frightful War
Narrator: A spring rain turned roads to mud as the mighty Union Army moved forward in Virginia. Lincoln badly needed a victory, and his new general had promised him one.
Joseph Hooker was known as "Fighting Joe" for the headstrong courage he'd shown during the Peninsula campaign and again at Antietam, and he was full of self-confidence. Lincoln hoped he had finally found a commander who understood that southern armies had to be destroyed, not just defeated.
Hooker had sent his army on a long secret march to trap Robert E. Lee's Confederates at a place called Chancellorsville. Union forces outnumbered the rebels two to one. "May God have mercy on General Lee," Hooker told the President "for I will have none."
The battle began at midday on May 2. Lincoln sat by the telegraph waiting for news. With only a shadowy picture of what was happening on the battlefield, he wired the army, "Where is General Hooker?" For four days, he heard almost nothing. Finally, he got his answer.
Robert E. Lee had routed the Federal Army and once again gotten away clean. "My God! My God!" Lincoln said. "What will the country say? What will the country say?"
Donald L. Miller, Historian: It's a low moment for the Union. And it's at moments like this he has to convince his country that it must stay in the field and carry this thing through. Lincoln said earlier in the war, I'm not leaving the table 'til the last card is played. Harriet Beecher Stowe once visited the President, and she came away and she said, you know he's a strong man, but he's not strong in an aggressive way. His strength is not like that of a cement buttress. She said his strength is that of a wire. She says a strong wire cable. And that wire cable gives and gives. There's Democratic pressure here, and Southern pressure there, and popular pressure here, but the wire holds.
Narrator: On the morning of July 2, 1863, Mary Lincoln was making her way by carriage to the White House from the Soldiers Home. Somewhere along the way, the carriage turned over. The driver and Mrs. Lincoln were both thrown to the ground. Mary cut her head on a rock. The wound soon became infected. A nurse had to stay with Mary round the clock for three weeks. She had always suffered from headaches; now, she would never again be free of them. Later, a rumor spread that someone had unscrewed the driver's seat in hopes of killing the President.
Lincoln had little time to comfort Mary; on the morning of her injury, two momentous battles were underway: General Ulysses S. Grant had been laying siege to the Mississippi river town of Vicksburg for more than six weeks; if Vicksburg fell Federal troops would control the Mississippi, the South's most important waterway -- and split the Confederacy in two. At the same time, General Robert E. Lee had invaded the North again with an army of 75,000 men and confronted Union forces at a Pennsylvania town called Gettysburg. Lee believed that if he could win here, he could carry the war deeper into Union territory and pressure Lincoln to make peace.
Donald L. Miller, Historian: Lee's blood was up. He thought that this was a chance to strike the blow that he needed to win the Civil War.
Narrator: To stop Lee, Lincoln turned to still another Commander, General George Gordon Meade. Meade was himself from Pennsylvania and could therefore be expected, Lincoln said, to "fight well on his own dunghill."
Meade's troops were well dug-in and commanded the high ground. Lee's men would be hard put to move them. Lincoln waited and worried. For two days, the confederates threw themselves against the Union lines. Again and again, they nearly broke through, but in the end, Union soldiers managed to hurl them back. Then, at about 1 p.m. on July 3, Confederate artillery shells began raining down on the Union center. In the distance, Lee's army was assembling for one more massive assault.
To the Union men, it looked like suicide. Confederate soldiers marching across a mile of open ground right into their guns. Union fire blew them to pieces.
Gettysburg was the bloodiest battle of the war: 51,000 men on both sides were killed, wounded, or captured in just three days. But Meade had won. The Confederate invasion of the North had been stopped, and Lee had suffered such losses that it seemed doubtful he would ever be able to mount another.
David Herbert Donald, Biographer: This victory marked a real turning point in the Civil War. Lee was obliged to retreat, and that was the last major invasion of the North.
Narrator: On the evening of July 4, the White House was lit with candles in honor of the victory at Gettysburg. And Vicksburg had surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant that morning.
When the Secretary of the Navy brought Lincoln the news, the President leaped up and hugged him. "I cannot tell you in words of my joy over this result," Lincoln said. "It is great! It is great...."
"If General Meade can complete his work the rebellion will be over."
But Lincoln soon received devastating news: Meade had failed to catch the crippled Confederate army.
Donald L. Miller, Historian: As Lincoln said later, we had them in the hollow of our hands, and we didn't close the hand.
Narrator: That evening, Robert Lincoln dropped by the President's office. He found his father alone, his head resting on his desk. When Lincoln looked up, his eyes were filled with tears.
Voice of Lincoln (David Morse): "If I had gone up there, I could have whipped them myself."
Narrator: By the summer of 1863, black soldiers had joined the struggle against the rebel armies. "The colored population," Lincoln said, "is the great available and yet unavailed of force for restoring the Union." The President was now encouraging the massive recruitment of black soldiers. He had once been reluctant even to consider enlisting them.
Margaret Washington, Historian: The question for him was would Northerners fight with black men? Would white Northerners fight with black men? He didn't think they would.
Narrator: But Lincoln had pledged in the Emancipation Proclamation to allow African Americans to fight, and he had kept his promise.
John Hope Franklin, Historian: If you read that portion of the Proclamation which invited blacks to join in the struggle, he's gonna enlist them as soldiers, and they're to be recruited and come in and fight for the Union.
Narrator: African American troops faced their first real test on a battlefield in Louisiana. Forty-four black soldiers died trying to take Port Hudson, 133 were wounded. Their valor moved Lincoln to begin to see black Americans in a new light.
Margaret Washington, Historian: He realizes that African Americans will fight. And I think it creates a new respect for African American manhood that Lincoln really didn't have before. He also, however, was aware of white attitudes. He had agreed that it would be best that African Americans be paid less. So again we are faced with this contradiction. He wanted to see them as equal, but he didn't feel the country was ready or perhaps he himself wasn't ready.
Narrator: That summer, Lincoln met, for the first time, with Frederick Douglass, the former slave who had become the best-known black spokesman in America.
Margaret Washington, Historian: Lincoln had never met an African American who was as erudite and as knowledgeable and as forward in his conversation as Frederick Douglass.
Narrator: Douglass urged equal treatment for African American fighting men -- equal pay and equal opportunity for promotion. Lincoln said he had to move with caution -- that the enlistmentment of black soldiers was still "a serious offense to popular prejudice."
"I was well satisfied with the man and with the educating tendency of the conflict," Douglass remembered, "though I was not entirely satisfied by his views." Lincoln could not seem to satisfy anyone.
Donald L. Miller, Historian: Even some of Lincoln's supporters use terms like, "Lincoln has the nigger on his mind." They thought this war was all about bringing the country back together, now it's become a war to liberate slaves.
Narrator: Meanwhile, Congress had passed a law calling for young men to be drafted.
David E. Long, Historian: Americans are going to be drafted to accomplish something that they do not support, and that is emancipation. When you combine emancipation and conscription together, you get a very violent mix.
Narrator: That summer, mobs of poor Irish immigrants enraged by the draft took over most of New York City's East Side for three days -- burning and looting, beating and lynching African Americans.
Margaret Washington, Historian: African Americans in New York City were incinerated. A black orphanage was burned to the ground. Policemen or anyone who tried to help them was also attacked. Irish immigrants don't want to fight to free black slaves who will challenge them for their jobs once they are freed.
Narrator: More than 100 people died before it was over. It had been the worst riot in the nation's history. Six days after the riots began, 600 soldiers in the all black Massachusetts 54th Regiment stormed Fort Wagner in Charleston Harbor. More than half were killed or wounded.
Voice of Lincoln (David Morse): "...There will be some black men who can remember that, with silent tongue and clenched teeth and steady eye and well-poised bayonet they have helped mankind on this great consummation; while, I fear there will be some white ones, unable to forget, that with malignant heart and deceitful speech they have strove to hinder it."
John Hope Franklin, Historian: He felt that if they're gonna fight for the Union, they had a stake in the Union in a very special way. And if blacks are going to be a part of the Union, then perhaps there are some things that they're entitled, like privilege and opportunity, maybe equality, maybe the franchise, that sort of thing. And I think those are the things which Lincoln began to think about almost immediately and seriously. He's inching along himself toward the notion that blacks can be citizens in every sense of the term.
Narrator: By August, Mary Lincoln had recovered from the carriage accident. She traveled North with her 10-year-old son Tad, away from the Washington heat and the fevers that accompanied it, to the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Lincoln sent her the latest news -- from the battlefield and from the home front, too:
Voice of Lincoln (David Morse): "August 8, 1863, My dear wife. All well as usual.... Tell dear Tad poor Nanny Goat is lost and I am in distress about it. The day you left, Nanny was found resting herself, and chewing her little cud on the middle of Tad's bed. But now she's gone!... The weather continues dry and excessively warm here.... But enough. Affectionately.... A. Lincoln"
Narrator: On November 18, 1863, Abraham Lincoln was on his way to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. He had not wanted to leave Washington. Tad had a raging fever, and Mary, who had already lost two of her boys to illness, was terrified.
Lincoln tried to push his concern about Tad from his mind. He had made a promise he was determined to keep. A military cemetery was to be dedicated on the Gettysburg battlefield, and Lincoln had been asked to say a few words there.
David Herbert Donald, Biographer: He was asked just to make a few appropriate remarks. It was not expected that he would say anything memorable because Edward Everett, the great Massachusetts orator, was going to speak for more than two hours and make the grand oration.
Narrator: That evening, while a crowd sang outside his window, the President worked over the speech he had been writing and rewriting.
Mark E. Neely Jr., Historian: He could make a document sound exactly as he thought it should sound. And he does it as a matter of conscious manipulation of language. Where did it come from? Less than a year's formal schooling, not quite sure exactly when he learned how to read and write. Didn't learn polished grammar until he's in his twenties. There is, it seems to me, no accounting for exactly how he grew, but that he did is beyond question.
Narrator: Late that evening, a messenger knocked on Lincoln's door. He handed the President a telegram.
Voice of Mary (Holly Hunter): "Honorable A. Lincoln. The Doctor has just left. We hope dear Taddie is slightly better. Will send you a telegram in the morning. Mrs. Lincoln"
Narrator: The relieved President went to sleep.
Cannon woke Gettysburg the next morning. Thousands watched Lincoln and the other dignitaries ride along the dirt road to the cemetery. Edward Everett spoke for an hour and 57 minutes. At two o'clock, Lincoln was introduced at last. He wanted to express in his own way the meaning of the sacrifices the Union men had made.
Charles B. Strozier, Historian: The ground was still soggy from bodies that were buried underneath it, and he wanted to consecrate it in terms of the suffering and the death and the blood and what the goals of the war by that point had become, namely preserving the Union and human equality.
Voice of Lincoln (David Morse): "Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new Nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. 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 that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this."
Margaret Washington, Historian: When Lincoln says, "Fourscore and seven years ago, our Fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal," then he is equating what's happening at that time with the founding of the Nation and the Declaration of Independence.
The Declaration of Independence proclaims that all men are created equal. And he is saying that equality was what the Civil War was about. And that the Nation was going through a catharsis of upholding what the Declaration of Independence stood for. And they were paying a very, very heavy price for it.
Voice of Lincoln (David Morse): "But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion-that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this Nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."
Narrator: He had spoken for only three minutes -- just 10 sentences, 272 words. But Lincoln had changed the meaning of the war.
Doris Kearns Goodwin, Historian: It was only after the war dragged on and on and on that he began to understand that the only way it would reach an end would be by having blood spent over and over again. And once he made that commitment he was driven to put the war on a higher moral ground. The war was not simply to reconcile the people from the South into the Union as it was, but rather as he expressed at Gettysburg it would be to create a wholly different, a new nation out of all the blood that had been spent. He gave the struggle a new meaning, he gave the country a new birth of freedom.
Narrator: In early December, a beautiful young woman in black arrived at the White House with her six-year-old daughter. She was Emily Todd Helm, Mary's younger half-sister, whose husband had been killed by Union fire just a few weeks earlier. She had tried to travel from her home in the deep South to her mother in Kentucky. But Northern soldiers stopped her, insisting she take an oath of allegiance to the Union. Out of loyalty to the memory of her husband, she refused. Lincoln wired the officer in charge: "Send her to me."
"Mr. Lincoln and my sister met me with the warmest affection," Emily wrote in her diary. "We were all too grief-stricken at first for speech. I have lost my husband, they have lost their fine little son Willy, and Mary and I have lost three brothers in the Confederate service. We could only embrace each other in silence and tears."
As the days passed, Mary and Emily comforted one another. They talked of old times and old friends, but carefully avoided talking about the war which divided them. "This frightful war comes between us like a barrier of granite," Emily wrote, "closing our lips but not our hearts."
Emily soon noticed that Mary was behaving strangely. "She seems very nervous and excitable," Emily wrote, "and once or twice when I have come into the room suddenly the frightened look in her eyes has appalled me."
Late one night, after everyone had gone to bed, Mary confided to her sister, that Willy's death had shattered her, but she had a consoling secret: the dead still lived.
Voice of Mary (Holly Hunter): "I want to tell you, Emily, that one may not be wholly without comfort when our loved ones leave us.... If Willy did not come to comfort me I would still be drowned in tears.... He lives, Emily! He comes to me every night and stands at the foot of my bed with the same sweet adorable smile he always had; he does not always come alone. Little Eddy is sometimes with him."
Narrator: "Sister Mary's eyes were wide and shining when she told me this," Emily wrote, "it is unnatural and abnormal, it frightens me." Lincoln convinced Emily to stay on as long as she could. He was frightened too. They continued to avoid talking about the war. It was the children, Emily's daughter Catherine and the Lincolns' son Tad, who broke the silence.
Mary Genevieve Murphy, Todd Family Friend: She and Tad were on the sitting room floor looking at a magazine. And Tad said, there was a picture of Lincoln, he said, oh here's the President. And Catherine said, no, that's not the President, Jeff Davis is President. And Tad jumped up and down and said, no, Lincoln is President, hooray for Lincoln. And she jumped up and said, hooray for Jeff Davis. And just, they were about to come to blows and Lincoln was standing in the doorway, so he came over with a chuckle and picked them up and put one on one leg, knee and one on the other and said, well Tad, you know who your President is, and as for Catherine, I'll just be her Uncle Lincoln.
Narrator: One night Emily and the Lincolns were joined for dinner by General Dan Sickles and the blunt-speaking Senator from New York, Ira Harris. Harris asked why when the country was calling upon all its sons to defend the Union, 20 year-old Robert Lincoln was not in the army. Mary said it was her fault: Robert wanted to go; the President had wanted him to go; she had insisted he stay in college. Harris had just one son and he was in the army, he said, turning to Emily, but if he had 20 sons he would want them all fighting rebels. "And if I had 20 sons," Emily shot back, "they should all be opposing yours!"
General Sickles, who had lost a leg at Gettysburg, told the President he "should not have that rebel in his house."
Voice of Lincoln (David Morse): "Excuse me, General Sickles. My wife and I are in the habit of choosing our own guests. We do not need from our friends either advice or assistance in the matter."
Narrator: The tragedy of the Civil War was being played out in the Lincolns' own home.
Doris Kearns Goodwin, Historian: The divisions of the war cut right into the heart of people's personal ties. Families were being broken apart, loved ones were being pushed in different directions. And two sisters who wanted only to express their sadness and their loss with one another were prevented from doing so.
Narrator: On December 14, Lincoln gave Emily a pass for her trip home and put his arms around her. "I hope you do not feel any bitterness," Lincoln told her, "or that I am in any way to blame for all this sorrow."
Lincoln hoped she would come back the following summer. It would help to calm Mary. "Her nerves," he said, "have gone to pieces."
"I believe if anything should happen to you or Robert or Tad," Emily told him, "it would kill her."
On March 8, 1864, the Lincolns were holding a reception in the East Room. General U.S. Grant arrived late. He had never met the President before, never even been to Washington. "Why, here is General Grant," Lincoln said. "This is a great pleasure I assure you!"
The next day, Lincoln made Grant a Lieutenant General -- the first man since George Washington to hold that rank -- and put him in charge of all the Union armies.
Grant had won important victories in the West, had taken Vicksburg, and, everywhere, he had shown a willingness to fight -- and keep fighting. But there were rumors that he drank too much and was too careless with the lives of his men. Lincoln paid no attention. The President hoped he had at last found the commander he'd been looking for since the war began.
David E. Long, Historian: Lincoln recognized that war brought out the bulldog in Grant. It brought out the tenacity. It brought out that aggression that was needed to command the Northern armies to victory in this war.
Narrator: Grant proposed an all-out assault on the Confederacy: several Union armies moving simultaneously to destroy the rebel forces.
Voice of Lincoln (David Morse): "I wish to express my entire satisfaction with your plans... so far as I can understand them. The particulars I neither know nor seek to know."
David Herbert Donald, Biographer: Grant's ideas about fighting the war were Lincoln's. As the war went on, Lincoln more and more realized that you can't just wait for Southern Unionists to bring the states back into Union, you can't just have one battle and call it over, you can't just maneuver and play games of strategy. You simply must bludgeon the Confederacy into surrender.
Narrator: On May 6th, Lincoln got word that Grant's massive army was marching south toward Richmond through the tangled Virginia forest known locally as "the Wilderness." Somewhere in the thickets ahead of him, Robert E. Lee and 65,000 Confederates were waiting. "If you see the President," Grant said, "tell him from me that whatever happens there will be no turning back."
There was no turning back. The seven weeks of fighting that followed were some of the most savage ever seen. The wilderness. Spotsylvania. Cold Harbor, where 7,000 Union soldiers were lost, most of them, in the first 30 minutes. In one week, Grant lost 32,000 men. By June, he had lost more men than were left in Lee's command.
Donald L. Miller, Historian: Grant brought a new conception of warfare. He stayed on Robert E. Lee's tail. He gets in close, like a boxer, like a body-puncher. He's carrying out Lincoln's wishes. Lincoln said wherever Lee goes, you go. All along the North possessed the resources to bring this war to closure. It was... what they lacked was the will to do it and the persons to execute the will. I think Lincoln had the will, and he found in someone like Grant the person who was able to execute the plan.
Narrator: As news of the terrible losses spread, the country was appalled. Even the President's wife was horrified. "Grant is a butcher," Mary Lincoln told her husband, "and not fit to be at the head of an army."
Donald L. Miller, Historian: Day after day, week after week, the casualties mount and mount and mount. We could never accept casualties like that today. Never. Never. We would never fight a war like that. Those casualties are unheard of in proportion to the population.
James M. McPherson, Historian: Lincoln said we outnumber the South by more than two to one, even if we suffer two casualties to their one, in the end they'll be more of us left then them.
Narrator: The President could not sleep. He paced the White House corridors, dark rings beneath his eyes. "I feel," he confided to a friend, "as though I shall never be glad anymore."
David Herbert Donald, Biographer: The streets of Washington were lined with ambulances full of wounded soldiers. Lincoln was obviously moved when he saw these. He told a friend "The weight of this, the sorrow of this is simply more than I can bear." If you look at Lincoln's photographs from this time, the furrowed brow, the tremendous lines down his face, the anguish in those eyes. It was not easy for him. It had a tremendous cost. But Lincoln accompanied his tenderness with a desperate ferocity about ends. The end here could only be done by force.
Donald L. Miller, Historian: Lincoln called for 300,000 more men to bring this thing to an end. And he called for 6,000 more men from Illinois. And this Illinois delegation who felt that their state had been bled dry already by the war. So they went to see the President at the White House. And basically they were saying to Lincoln, don't dip into our manpower pool for more troops, we've given enough to the country. Now these were the men who urged him to fortify Fort Sumter, the guys that are screaming for a war of terror, that are screaming for the suppression of the South.
Lincoln heard them out and turned to them, his face contorted with anger, and he said, "You urged this war, you urged not only a war, but a war of terror. Now you come here and tell me that you're not going to provide the troops I need to carry through the kind of war that you demanded? This is the price you have to pay for the policies you pressed on me. You go back to Illinois and send me those boys."
Narrator: By June 15, Grant's men had fought their way to within sight of Richmond. Then, the rebels stopped them at Petersburg. Grant had advanced 60 miles and lost 60,000 men -- three for every one Lee had lost. "Hold on with a bulldog grip," Lincoln wired him, "chew and choke as much as possible."
With the end of the war still nowhere in sight, calls for an end to the slaughter came from every quarter. The November presidential election was only four months away now, and Lincoln was being assailed once again as inept, uncaring -- a failure.
His prospects looked grim. The election hinged on Union victories, but Grant was dug-in at Petersburg and the Union troops under General William Tecumseh Sherman stalled as they drove toward Atlanta.
The Democrats were about to nominate the former Union Commander, George McClellan, still popular, still ambitious. Lincoln believed McClellan was likely to try to end the war by promising to rescind emancipation.
James M. McPherson, Historian: The Democrats thought that they had a real chance to win the 1864 election. Lincoln was a discredited leader. The North appeared to be no closer to winning the war.
Cartoons appeared in Democratic newspapers portraying Lincoln as a widow maker. That's what Democrats called him, "A Widow Maker." And, indeed, if the election had been held in August of 1864, when northern morale was at its low point, I'm convinced that Lincoln would not have been reelected.
The Democrats were calling for an immediate armistice and negotiations with the South. The President came under intense pressure to discuss peace with Jefferson Davis. Lincoln said, "I'm willing to talk to Jefferson Davis about peace, but here are my conditions: Reunion and Emancipation. I'm not going to back down."
David E. Long, Historian: People condemned Lincoln as the one reason why the war continued. Thousands of men are dying on a daily basis because this President is determined to free the slaves. "Mr. President, we didn't go to war to free the slaves in the first place. Why don't you give it up?"
Lincoln says, "Can't do that, the promise was made, and the promise having been made, it must be kept."
Voice of Lincoln (David Morse): "I desire so to conduct the affairs of this administration, that if at the end, when I come to lay down the reins of power, I have lost every friend on earth, I shall have at least one friend left and that friend shall be down inside me."
Narrator: Late one evening that summer, Mary Lincoln and Elizabeth Keckley, the seamstress who had become her confidante, sat together in Mary's room. The First Lady asked Mrs. Keckley if she thought Lincoln would be re-elected. Mrs. Keckley said that, despite everything, she did. Mrs. Lincoln seemed relieved.
Voice of Mary (Holly Hunter): "If he should be defeated, I do not know what would become of us all. To me, there is more at stake in this election than he dreams of."
Narrator: She had a terrible secret, she confessed. She had once again plunged herself thousands of dollars into debt.
Voice of Mary (Holly Hunter): "If my husband knew that I was involved to the extent that I am, the knowledge would drive him mad.... If he is re-elected I can keep him in ignorance of my affairs; but if he is defeated, then the bills will be sent in, and he will know all."
Doris Kearns Goodwin, Historian: With the country's future at stake in the 1864 election, Mary, who had once so cared about politics, who had been the anchor for Lincoln through his early political career, would now find herself so obsessively concerned about the spending that had catapulted out of control, that her only thought was, "He's got to win so that my bills will get paid and he will not find out what I have been doing."
Narrator: As election day drew nearer, Elizabeth Keckley remembered, Mrs. Lincoln was "almost crazy with anxiety and fear."
Charles B. Strozier, Historian: Nothing else seems to have mattered. She talked about it, she worried about it. That kind of obsession, it's a substitute for all of the other concerns in her life that she couldn't control, the public criticism, the distance of her husband, her own despair and her deep, deep continued mourning over the death of Willy.
Narrator: On August 19, Lincoln asked Frederick Douglass to come back to see him at the White House. He wanted Douglass to recruit black men for a daring secret mission -- to make their way into the deepest South and encourage African Americans still enslaved to escape to the Union side before Election Day. Lincoln was afraid that if he lost the Presidency, slavery's grip would be re-established in the South, and he wanted to get as many slaves to freedom as he possibly could. To Frederick Douglass, this proved that Lincoln's concern for slaves was far more than mere politics.
Margaret Washington, Historian: Douglass now saw Lincoln as the black man's President. He was the only President who had ever held audiences with African Americans, who had ever brought them in to tell them of his ideas. So he's the first President who recognizes African Americans as a people and as part of America.
Narrator: "In Lincoln's company," Douglass wrote, "I was never in any way reminded of my humble origin, or of my unpopular color. Lincoln was not only a great President, but a great man."
Three days after Frederick Douglass' visit, Lincoln stood on the White House lawn to review the men of the 166th Ohio Regiment, about to go home on leave after hard fighting in the Wilderness Campaign. Lincoln thanked them for their service and reminded them of the cause for which they fought.
Voice of Lincoln (David Morse): "It is not merely for today but for all time to come that we should perpetuate for our children's children this great and free government, which we have enjoyed all our lives. I beg you to remember this, not merely for my sake but for yours. I happen temporarily to occupy this big White House. I am a living witness that any one of your children may look to come here as my father's child has."
Narrator: But that August, it seemed unlikely that Thomas Lincoln's son would continue to occupy the White House for long. "I am going to be beaten," Lincoln told a friend, "and unless some great change takes place, badly beaten."
David E. Long, Historian: Lincoln believes he is going to lose this election. And if Lincoln loses that election, the South wins its independence, I think the future of the Nation was at stake. This was the most important election in American history.
Narrator: After more than three years of bloodshed the great issues of slavery and secession still hung in the balance.
My American Experience
Of America's first 25 presidents, who is your favorite? From George Washington to William McKinley, which of the new country's leaders most helped shape America in its first century of existence?