One hundred and fifty-two years ago in the Holy Week so fateful to our nation, General Grant arrived in Washington DC. Anxious to cut costs, he advised Secretary of War Stanton that military contracts for ordinance and most supplies could be canceled and that troops no longer needed to be recruited or drafted and Stanton issued the necessary order the same day. Grant after he became President appointed Stanton to the Supreme Court although Stanton died before he could join the Court. Grant and Stanton had had an up and down relationship during the War, typical of the relationships of most high Union officers with the mercurial Stanton. It is interesting to read Grant’s assessment of Stanton in his memoir:
He was a man who never questioned his own authority, and who always did in war time what he wanted to do. He was an able constitutional lawyer and jurist; but the Constitution was not an impediment to him while the war lasted. In this latter particular I entirely agree with the view he evidently held. The Constitution was not framed with a view to any such rebellion as that of 1861–5. While it did not authorize rebellion it made no provision against it. Yet the right to resist or suppress rebellion is as inherent as the right of self-defence, and as natural as the right of an individual to preserve his life when in jeopardy. The Constitution was therefore in abeyance for the time being, so far as it in any way affected the progress and termination of the war.
Abraham Lincoln had a busy day on April 13, on what turned out to be his last full day in this life, spending much of it in conference with Stanton and Grant, discussing the myriad tasks to accomplish in the winding up of the War and the advent of peace. Observers described Lincoln that day as being both weary and extremely happy, almost carefree. He had carried the burden of the War throughout his entire term of office and now that burden was in the process of being lifted from his shoulders.
In token of Union victory a Grand Illumination of Washington was held that evening, with public buildings, and most private houses, lighting each room, and the city was suffused with light and happy revelers. Men of the cloth were busy writing Easter sermons with the theme of gratefulness to God for the return of peace to the land. The sermons would mostly be rewritten after the events of Good Friday the next day.