The raid made by the Confederate general, J. E. B. Stuart, in June 1862, around the Union army commanded by General McClellan, caused great anxiety in Washington. One of its results was the interruption of communication between the capital and the army of the Potomac. What this portended no one could affirm. That it suggested the gravest possibilities was felt by all.
While this feeling was dominating all circles, several gentlemen, myself among them, called on President Lincoln in order to be definitely advised about the condition of affairs as understood by him.
To our question: "Mr. President, have you any news from the army?" he sadly replied: "Not one word; we can get no communication with it. I do not know that we have an army; it may have been destroyed or captured, though I cannot so believe, for it was a splendid army. But the most I can do now is to hope that serious disaster has not befallen it."
This led to a somewhat protracted conversation relative to the general condition of our affairs. It was useless to talk about the Army of the Potomac; for we knew nothing concerning its condition or position at that moment. The conversation therefore took a wide range and touched upon the subject of slavery, about which much was said.
The President did not participate in this conversation. He was an attentive listener, gave no sign of approval or disapproval of the views which were expressed. At length one of the active participants remarked:
"Slavery must be stricken down wherever it exists in this country. It is right that it should be. It is a crime against justice and humanity. We have tolerated it too long. It brought war upon us. I believe that Providence is not unmindful of the struggle in which this nation is engaged. If we do not do right I believe God will let us go our own way to our ruin. But, if we do right, I believe He will lead us safely out of this wilderness, crown our arms with victory, and restore our now dissevered Union."
I observed President Lincoln closely while this earnest opinion and expression of religious faith was being uttered. I saw that it affected him deeply, and anticipated, from the play of his features and the sparkle of his eyes, that he would not let the occasion pass without making some definite response to it. I was not mistaken. Mr. Lincoln had been sitting in his chair, in a kind of weary and despondent attitude while the conversation progressed. At the conclusion of the remarks I have quoted, he at once arose and stood at his extreme height. Pausing a moment, his right arm outstretched towards the gentleman who had just ceased speaking, his face aglow like the face of a prophet, Mr. Lincoln gave deliberate and emphatic utterance to the religious faith which sustained him in the great trial to which he and the country were subjected. He said: "My faith is greater than yours. I not only believe that Providence is not unmindful of the struggle in which this nation is engaged; that if we do not do right God will let us go our own way to our ruin, and that if we do right He will lead us safely out of this wilderness, crown our arms with victory, and restore our dissevered union, as you have expressed your belief; but I also believe that He will compel us to do right in order that He may do these things, not so much because we desire them as that they accord with His plans of dealing with this nation, in the midst of which He means to establish justice. I think He means that we shall do more than we have yet done in furtherance of His plans, and He will open the way for our doing it. I have felt His hand upon me in great trials and submitted to His guidance, and I trust that as He shall further open the way I will be ready to walk therein, relying on His help and trusting in His goodness and wisdom."—From "Some Memories of Lincoln" by ex-Senator James F. Wilson, in North American Review.