Lincoln's Yarns and Stories
Colonel Alexander K. McClure
Part 4 out of 10
and substance, was about this: 'I would to God that such
Democracy as you folks here in Egypt have were not only almost,
but altogether, shaken out of, not only you, but all that heard
me this day, and that you would all join in assisting in shaking
off the shackles of the bondmen by all legitimate means, so that
this country may be made free as the good Lord intended it.'"
Said Ficklin in rejoinder: "Lincoln, I remember of reading
somewhere in the same book from which you get your Agrippa story,
that Paul, whom you seem to desire to personate, admonished all
servants (slaves) to be obedient to them that are their masters
according to the flesh, in fear and trembling.
"It would seem that neither our Savior nor Paul saw the iniquity
of slavery as you and your party do. But you must not think that
where you fail by argument to convince an old friend like myself
and win him over to your heterodox abolition opinions, you are
justified in resorting to violence such as you practiced on me
"Why, I never had such a shaking up in the whole course of my
life. Recollect that that good old book that you quote from
somewhere says in effect this: 'Woe be unto him who goeth to
Egypt for help, for he shall fall. The holpen shall fall, and
they shall all fall together.'"
DEAD DOG NO CURE.
Lincoln's quarrel with Shields was his last personal encounter.
In later years it became his duty to give an official reprimand
to a young officer who had been court-martialed for a quarrel
with one of his associates. The reprimand is probably the
gentlest on record:
"Quarrel not at all. No man resolved to make the most of himself
can spare time for personal contention. Still less can he afford
to take all the consequences, including the vitiating of his
temper and the loss of self-control. Yield larger things to which
you can show no more than equal right; and yield lesser ones,
though clearly your own.
"Better give your path to a dog than be bitten by him in
contesting for the right. Even killing the dog would not cure the
"THOROUGH" IS A GOOD WORD.
Some one came to the President with a story about a plot to
accomplish some mischief in the Government. Lincoln listened to
what was a very superficial and ill-formed story, and then said:
"There is one thing that I have learned, and that you have not.
It is only one word--'thorough.'"
Then, bringing his hand down on the table with a thump to
emphasize his meaning, he added, "thorough!"
THE CABINET WAS A-SETTIN'.
Being in Washington one day, the Rev. Robert Collyer thought he'd
take a look around. In passing through the grounds surrounding
the White House, he cast a glance toward the Presidential
residence, and was astonished to see three pairs of feet resting
on the ledge of an open window in one of the apartments of the
second story. The divine paused for a moment, calmly surveyed the
unique spectacle, and then resumed his walk toward the War
Seeing a laborer at work not far from the Executive Mansion, Mr.
Collyer asked him what it all meant. To whom did the feet belong,
and, particularly, the mammoth ones? "You old fool," answered the
workman, "that's the Cabinet, which is a-settin', an' them thar
big feet belongs to 'Old Abe.'"
A BULLET THROUGH HIS HAT.
A soldier tells the following story of an attempt upon the life
Mr. Lincoln "One night I was doing sentinel duty at the entrance
to the Soldiers' Home. This was about the middle of August, 1864.
About eleven o'clock I heard a rifle shot, in the direction of
the city, and shortly afterwards I heard approaching hoof-beats.
In two or three minutes a horse came dashing up. I recognized the
belated President. The President was bareheaded. The President
simply thought that his horse had taken fright at the discharge
of the firearms.
"On going back to the place where the shot had been heard, we
found the President's hat. It was a plain silk hat, and upon
examination we discovered a bullet hole through the crown.
"The next day, upon receiving the hat, the President remarked
that it was made by some foolish marksman, and was not intended
for him; but added that he wished nothing said about the matter.
"The President said, philosophically: 'I long ago made up my mind
that if anybody wants to kill me, he will do it. Besides, in this
case, it seems to me, the man who would succeed me would be just
as objectionable to my enemies--if I have any.'
"One dark night, as he was going out with a friend, he took along
a heavy cane, remarking, good-naturedly: 'Mother (Mrs. Lincoln)
has got a notion into her head that I shall be assassinated, and
to please her I take a cane when I go over to the War Department
at night--when I don't forget it.'"
NO KIND TO GET TO HEAVEN ON.
Two ladies from Tennessee called at the White House one day and
begged Mr. Lincoln to release their husbands, who were rebel
prisoners at Johnson's Island. One of the fair petitioners urged
as a reason for the liberation of her husband that he was a very
religious man, and rang the changes on this pious plea.
"Madam," said Mr. Lincoln, "you say your husband is a religious
man. Perhaps I am not a good judge of such matters, but in my
opinion the religion that makes men rebel and fight against their
government is not the genuine article; nor is the religion the
right sort which reconciles them to the idea of eating their
bread in the sweat of other men's faces. It is not the kind to
get to heaven on."
Later, however, the order of release was made, President Lincoln
remarking, with impressive solemnity, that he would expect the
ladies to subdue the rebellious spirit of their husbands, and to
that end he thought it would be well to reform their religion.
"True patriotism," said he, "is better than the wrong kind of
THE ONLY REAL PEACEMAKER.
During the Presidential campaign of 1864 much ill-feeling was
displayed by the opposition to President Lincoln. The Democratic
managers issued posters of large dimensions, picturing the
Washington Administration as one determined to rule or ruin the
country, while the only salvation for the United States was the
election of McClellan.
We reproduce one of these 1864 campaign posters on this page, the
title of which is, "The True Issue; or 'That's What's the
The dominant idea or purpose of the cartoon-poster was to
demonstrate McClellan's availability. Lincoln, the Abolitionist,
and Davis, the Secessionist, are pictured as bigots of the worst
sort, who were determined that peace should not be restored to
the distracted country, except upon the lines laid down by them.
McClellan, the patriotic peacemaker, is shown as the man who
believed in the preservation of the Union above all things--a man
who had no fads nor vagaries.
This peacemaker, McClellan, standing upon "the War-is-a-failure"
platform, is portrayed as a military chieftain, who would stand
no nonsense; who would compel Mr. Lincoln and Mr. Davis to cease
their quarreling; who would order the soldiers on both sides to
quit their blood-letting and send the combatants back to the
farm, workshop and counting-house; and the man whose election
would restore order out of chaos, and make everything bright and
THE APPLE WOMAN'S PASS.
One day when President Lincoln was receiving callers a buxom
Irish woman came into the office, and, standing before the
President, with her hands on her hips, said:
"Mr. Lincoln, can't I sell apples on the railroad?"
President Lincoln replied: "Certainly, madam, you can sell all
"But," she said, "you must give me a pass, or the soldiers will
not let me."
President Lincoln then wrote a few lines and gave them to her.
"Thank you, sir; God bless you!" she exclaimed as she departed
SPLIT RAILS BY THE YARD.
It was in the spring of 1830 that "Abe" Lincoln, "wearing a jean
jacket, shrunken buckskin trousers, a coonskin cap, and driving
an ox-team," became a citizen of Illinois. He was physically and
mentally equipped for pioneer work. His first desire was to
obtain a new and decent suit of clothes, but, as he had no money,
he was glad to arrange with Nancy Miller to make him a pair of
trousers, he to split four hundred fence rails for each yard of
cloth--fourteen hundred rails in all. "Abe" got the clothes after
It was three miles from his father's cabin to her wood-lot, where
he made the forest ring with the sound of his ax. "Abe" had
helped his father plow fifteen acres of land, and split enough
rails to fence it, and he then helped to plow fifty acres for
THE QUESTION OF LEGS.
Whenever the people of Lincoln's neighborhood engaged in dispute;
whenever a bet was to be decided; when they differed on points of
religion or politics; when they wanted to get out of trouble, or
desired advice regarding anything on the earth, below it, above
it, or under the sea, they went to "Abe."
Two fellows, after a hot dispute lasting some hours, over the
problem as to how long a man's legs should be in proportion to
the size of his body, stamped into Lincoln's office one day and
put the question to him.
Lincoln listened gravely to the arguments advanced by both
contestants, spent some time in "reflecting" upon the matter, and
then, turning around in his chair and facing the disputants,
delivered his opinion with all the gravity of a judge sentencing
a fellow-being to death.
"This question has been a source of controversy," he said, slowly
and deliberately, "for untold ages, and it is about time it
should be definitely decided. It has led to bloodshed in the
past, and there is no reason to suppose it will not lead to the
same in the future.
"After much thought and consideration, not to mention mental
worry and anxiety, it is my opinion, all side issues being swept
aside, that a man's lower limbs, in order to preserve harmony of
proportion, should be at least long enough to reach from his body
to the ground."
TOO MANY WIDOWS ALREADY.
A Union officer in conversation one day told this story:
"The first week I was with my command there were twenty-four
deserters sentenced by court-martial to be shot, and the warrants
for their execution were sent to the President to be signed. He
"I went to Washington and had an interview. I said:
"'Mr. President, unless these men are made an example of, the
army itself is in danger. Mercy to the few is cruelty to the
"He replied: 'Mr. General, there are already too many weeping
widows in the United States. For God's sake, don't ask me to add
to the number, for I won't do it.'"
GOD NEEDED THAT CHURCH.
In the early stages of the war, after several battles had been
fought, Union troops seized a church in Alexandria, Va., and used
it as a hospital.
A prominent lady of the congregation went to Washington to see
Mr. Lincoln and try to get an order for its release.
"Have you applied to the surgeon in charge at Alexandria?"
inquired Mr. Lincoln.
"Yes, sir" but I can do nothing with him," was the reply.
"Well, madam," said Mr. Lincoln, "that is an end of it, then. We
put him there to attend to just such business, and it is
reasonable to suppose that he knows better what should be done
under the circumstances than I do."
The lady's face showed her keen disappointment. In order to learn
her sentiment, Mr. Lincoln asked:
"How much would you be willing to subscribe toward building a
She said that the war had depreciated Southern property so much
that she could afford to give but little.
"This war is not over yet," said Mr. Lincoln, "and there will
likely be another fight very soon. That church may be very useful
in which to house our wounded soldiers. It is my candid opinion
that God needs that church for our wounded fellows; so, madam, I
can do nothing for you."
THE MAN DOWN SOUTH.
An amusing instance of the President's preoccupation of mind
occurred at one of his levees, when he was shaking hands with a
host of visitors passing him in a continuous stream.
An intimate acquaintance received the usual conventional
hand-shake and salutation, but perceiving that he was not
recognized, kept his ground instead of moving on, and spoke
again, when the President, roused to a dim consciousness that
something unusual had happened, perceived who stood before him,
and, seizing his friend's hand, shook it again heartily, saying:
"How do you do? How do you do? Excuse me for not noticing you. I
was thinking of a man down South."
"The man down South" was General W. T. Sherman, then on his march
to the sea.
COULDN'T LET GO THE HOG.
When Governor Curtin of Pennsylvania described the terrible
butchery at the battle of Fredericksburg, Mr. Lincoln was almost
The Governor regretted that his description had so sadly affected
the President. He remarked: "I would give all I possess to know
how to rescue you from this terrible war." Then Mr. Lincoln's
wonderful recuperative powers asserted themselves and this
marvelous man was himself.
Lincoln's whole aspect suddenly changed, and he relieved his mind
by telling a story.
"This reminds me, Governor," he said, "of an old farmer out in
Illinois that I used to know.
"He took it into his head to go into hog-raising. He sent out to
Europe and imported the finest breed of hogs he could buy.
"The prize hog was put in a pen, and the farmer's two mischievous
boys, James and John, were told to be sure not to let it out. But
James, the worst of the two, let the brute out the next day. The
hog went straight for the boys, and drove John up a tree, then
the hog went for the seat of James' trousers, and the only way
the boy could save himself was by holding on to the hog's tail.
"The hog would not give up his hunt, nor the boy his hold! After
they had made a good many circles around the tree, the boy's
courage began to give out, and he shouted to his brother, 'I say,
John, come down, quick, and help me let go this hog!'
"Now, Governor, that is exactly my case. I wish some one would
come and help me to let the hog go."
THE CABINET LINCOLN WANTED.
Judge Joseph Gillespie, of Chicago, was a firm friend of Mr.
Lincoln, and went to Springfield to see him shortly before his
departure for the inauguration.
"It was," said judge Gillespie, "Lincoln's Gethsemane. He feared
he was not the man for the great position and the great events
which confronted him. Untried in national affairs, unversed in
international diplomacy, unacquainted with the men who were
foremost in the politics of the nation, he groaned when he saw
the inevitable War of the Rebellion coming on. It was in humility
of spirit that he told me he believed that the American people
had made a mistake in selecting him.
"In the course of our conversation he told me if he could select
his cabinet from the old bar that had traveled the circuit with
him in the early days, he believed he could avoid war or settle
it without a battle, even after the fact of secession.
"'But, Mr. Lincoln,' said I, 'those old lawyers are all
"'I know it,' was his reply. 'But I would rather have Democrats
whom I know than Republicans I don't know.'"
READY FOR "BUTCHER-DAY."
Leonard Swett told this eminently characteristic story:
"I remember one day being in his room when Lincoln was sitting at
his table with a large pile of papers before him, and after a
pleasant talk he turned quite abruptly and said: 'Get out of the
way, Swett; to-morrow is butcher-day, and I must go through these
papers and see if I cannot find some excuse to let these poor
"The pile of papers he had were the records of courts-martial of
men who on the following day were to be shot."
"THE BAD BIRD AND THE MUDSILL."
It took quite a long time, as well as the lives of thousands of
men, to say nothing of the cost in money, to take Richmond, the
Capital City of the Confederacy. In this cartoon, taken from
"Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper," of February 21, 1863,
Jeff Davis is sitting upon the Secession eggs in the "Richmond"
nest, smiling down upon President Lincoln, who is up to his waist
in the Mud of Difficulties.
The President finally waded through the morass, in which he had
become immersed, got to the tree, climbed its trunk, reached the
limb, upon which the "bad bird" had built its nest, threw the
mother out, destroyed the eggs of Secession and then took the
nest away with him, leaving the "bad bird" without any home at
The "bad bird" had its laugh first, but the last laugh belonged
to the "mudsill," as the cartoonist was pleased to call the
President of the United States. It is true that the President got
his clothes and hat all covered with mud, but as the job was a
dirty one, as well as one that had to be done, the President
didn't care. He was able to get another suit of clothes, as well
as another hat, but the "bad bird" couldn't, and didn't, get
The laugh was on the "bad bird" after all.
GAVE THE SOLDIER HIS FISH.
Once, when asked what he remembered about the war with Great
Britain, Lincoln replied: "Nothing but this: I had been fishing
one day and caught a little fish, which I was taking home. I met
a soldier in the road, and, having been always told at home that
we must be good to the soldiers, I gave him my fish."
This must have been about 1814, when "Abe" was five years of age.
A PECULIAR LAWYER.
Lincoln was once associate counsel for a defendant in a murder
case. He listened to the testimony given by witness after witness
against his client, until his honest heart could stand it no
longer; then, turning to his associate, he said: "The man is
guilty; you defend him--I can't," and when his associate secured
a verdict of acquittal, Lincoln refused to share the fee to the
extent of one cent.
Lincoln would never advise clients to enter into unwise or unjust
lawsuits, always preferring to refuse a retainer rather than be a
party to a case which did not commend itself to his sense of
IF THEY'D ONLY "SKIP."
General Creswell called at the White House to see the President
the day of the latter's assassination. An old friend, serving in
the Confederate ranks, had been captured by the Union troops and
sent to prison. He had drawn an affidavit setting forth what he
knew about the man, particularly mentioning extenuating
Creswell found the President very happy. He was greeted with:
"Creswell, old fellow, everything is bright this morning. The War
is over. It has been a tough time, but we have lived it out,--or
some of us have," and he dropped his voice a little on the last
clause of the sentence. "But it is over; we are going to have
good times now, and a united country."
General Creswell told his story, read his affidavit, and said, "I
know the man has acted like a fool, but he is my friend, and a
good fellow; let him out; give him to me, and I will be
responsible that he won't have anything more to do with the
"Creswell," replied Mr. Lincoln, "you make me think of a lot of
young folks who once started out Maying. To reach their
destination, they had to cross a shallow stream, and did so by
means of an old flatboat. When the time came to return, they
found to their dismay that the old scow had disappeared. They
were in sore trouble, and thought over all manner of devices for
getting over the water, but without avail.
"After a time, one of the boys proposed that each fellow should
pick up the girl he liked best and wade over with her. The
masterly proposition was carried out, until all that were left
upon the island was a little short chap and a great, long,
gothic-built, elderly lady.
"Now, Creswell, you are trying to leave me in the same
predicament. You fellows are all getting your own friends out of
this scrape; and you will succeed in carrying off one after
another, until nobody but Jeff Davis and myself will be left on
the island, and then I won't know what to do. How should I feel?
How should I look, lugging him over?
"I guess the way to avoid such an embarrassing situation is to
let them all out at once."
He made a somewhat similar illustration at an informal Cabinet
meeting, at which the disposition of Jefferson Davis and other
prominent Confederates was discussed. Each member of the Cabinet
gave his opinion; most of them were for hanging the traitors, or
for some severe punishment. President Lincoln said nothing.
Finally, Joshua F. Speed, his old and confidential friend, who
had been invited to the meeting, said, "I have heard the opinion
of your Ministers, and would like to hear yours."
"Well, Josh," replied President Lincoln, "when I was a boy in
Indiana, I went to a neighbor's house one morning and found a boy
of my own size holding a coon by a string. I asked him what he
had and what he was doing.
"He says, 'It's a coon. Dad cotched six last night, and killed
all but this poor little cuss. Dad told me to hold him until he
came back, and I'm afraid he's going to kill this one too; and
oh, "Abe," I do wish he would get away!'
"'Well, why don't you let him loose?'
"'That wouldn't be right; and if I let him go, Dad would give me
h--. But if he got away himself, it would be all right.'
"Now," said the President, "if Jeff Davis and those other fellows
will only get away, it will be all right. But if we should catch
them, and I should let them go, 'Dad would give me h--!'"
FATHER OF THE "GREENBACK."
Don Piatt, a noted journalist of Washington, told the story of
the first proposition to President Lincoln to issue
interest-bearing notes as currency, as follows:
"Amasa Walker, a distinguished financier of New England,
suggested that notes issued directly from the Government to the
people, as currency, should bear interest. This for the purpose,
not only of making the notes popular, but for the purpose of
preventing inflation, by inducing people to hoard the notes as an
investment when the demands of trade would fail to call them into
circulation as a currency.
"This idea struck David Taylor, of Ohio, with such force that he
sought Mr. Lincoln and urged him to put the project into
immediate execution. The President listened patiently, and at the
end said, 'That is a good idea, Taylor, but you must go to Chase.
He is running that end of the machine, and has time to consider
"Taylor sought the Secretary of the Treasury, and laid before him
Amasa Walker's plan. Secretary Chase heard him through in a cold,
unpleasant manner, and then said: 'That is all very well, Mr.
Taylor; but there is one little obstacle in the way that makes
the plan impracticable, and that is the Constitution.'
"Saying this, he turned to his desk, as if dismissing both Mr.
Taylor and his proposition at the same moment.
"The poor enthusiast felt rebuked and humiliated. He returned to
the President, however, and reported his defeat. Mr. Lincoln
looked at the would-be financier with the expression at times so
peculiar to his homely face, that left one in doubt whether he
was jesting or in earnest. 'Taylor!' he exclaimed, 'go back to
Chase and tell him not to bother himself about the Constitution.
Say that I have that sacred instrument here at the White House,
and I am guarding it with great care.'
"Taylor demurred to this, on the ground that Secretary Chase
showed by his manner that he knew all about it, and didn't wish
to be bored by any suggestion.
"'We'll see about that,' said the President, and taking a card
from the table, he wrote upon it
"'The Secretary of the Treasury will please consider Mr.
Taylor's proposition. We must have money, and I think this a
good way to get it.
MAJOR ANDERSON'S BAD MEMORY.
Among the men whom Captain Lincoln met in the Black Hawk campaign
were Lieutenant-Colonel Zachary Taylor, Lieutenant Jefferson
Davis, President of the Confederacy, and Lieutenant Robert
Anderson, all of the United States Army.
Judge Arnold, in his "Life of Abraham Lincoln," relates that
Lincoln and Anderson did not meet again until some time in 1861.
After Anderson had evacuated Fort Sumter, on visiting Washington,
he called at the White House to pay his respects to the
President. Lincoln expressed his thanks to Anderson for his
conduct at Fort Sumter, and then said:
"Major, do you remember of ever meeting me before?"
"No, Mr. President, I have no recollection of ever having had
"My memory is better than yours," said Lincoln; "you mustered me
into the service of the United States in 1832, at Dixon's Ferry,
in the Black Hawk war."
In February, 1860, not long before his nomination for the
Presidency, Lincoln made several speeches in Eastern cities.
To an Illinois acquaintance, whom he met at the Astor House,
in New York, he said: "I have the cottage at Springfield,
and about three thousand dollars in money. If they make me
Vice-President with Seward, as some say they will, I hope
I shall be able to increase it to twenty thousand, and that
is as much as any man ought to want."
SQUASHED A BRUTAL LIE.
In September, 1864, a New York paper printed the following brutal
"A few days after the battle of Antietam, the President was
driving over the field in an ambulance, accompanied by Marshal
Lamon, General McClellan and another officer. Heavy details of
men were engaged in the task of burying the dead. The ambulance
had just reached the neighborhood of the old stone bridge, where
the dead were piled highest, when Mr. Lincoln, suddenly slapping
Marshal Lamon on the knee, exclaimed: 'Come, Lamon, give us that
song about "Picayune Butler"; McClellan has never heard it.'
"'Not now, if you please,' said General McClellan, with a
shudder; 'I would prefer to hear it some other place and time.'"
President Lincoln refused to pay any attention to the story,
would not read the comments made upon it by the newspapers, and
would permit neither denial nor explanation to be made. The
National election was coming on, and the President's friends
appealed to him to settle the matter for once and all. Marshal
Lamon was particularly insistent, but the President merely said:
"Let the thing alone. If I have not established character enough
to give the lie to this charge, I can only say that I am mistaken
in my own estimate of myself. In politics, every man must skin
his own skunk. These fellows are welcome to the hide of this one.
Its body has already given forth its unsavory odor."
But Lamon would not "let the thing alone." He submitted to
Lincoln a draft of what he conceived to be a suitable
explanation, after reading which the President said:
"Lamon, your 'explanation' is entirely too belligerent in tone
for so grave a matter. There is a heap of 'cussedness' mixed up
with your usual amiability, and you are at times too fond of a
fight. If I were you, I would simply state the facts as they
were. I would give the statement as you have here, without the
pepper and salt. Let me try my hand at it."
The President then took up a pen and wrote the following, which
was copied and sent out as Marshal Lamon's refutation of the
"The President has known me intimately for nearly twenty years,
and has often heard me sing little ditties. The battle of
Antietam was fought on the 17th day of September, 1862. On the
first day of October, just two weeks after the battle, the
President, with some others, including myself, started from
Washington to visit the Army, reaching Harper's Ferry at noon of
"In a short while General McClellan came from his headquarters
near the battleground, joined the President, and with him
reviewed the troops at Bolivar Heights that afternoon, and at
night returned to his headquarters, leaving the President at
"On the morning of the second, the President, with General
Sumner, reviewed the troops respectively at Loudon Heights and
Maryland Heights, and at about noon started to General
McClellan's headquarters, reaching there only in time to see very
little before night.
"On the morning of the third all started on a review of the Third
Corps and the cavalry, in the vicinity of the Antietam
battle-ground. After getting through with General Burnside's
corps, at the suggestion of General McClellan, he and the
President left their horses to be led, and went into an ambulance
to go to General Fitz John Porter's corps, which was two or three
"I am not sure whether the President and General McClellan were
in the same ambulance, or in different ones; but myself and some
others were in the same with the President. On the way, and on no
part of the battleground, and on what suggestions I do not
remember, the President asked me to sing the little sad song that
follows ("Twenty Years Ago, Tom"), which he had often heard me
sing, and had always seemed to like very much.
"After it was over, some one of the party (I do not think it was
the President) asked me to sing something else; and I sang two or
three little comic things, of which 'Picayune Butler' was one.
Porter's corps was reached and reviewed; then the battle-ground
was passed over, and the most noted parts examined; then, in
succession, the cavalry and Franklin's corps were reviewed, and
the President and party returned to General McClellan's
headquarters at the end of a very hard, hot and dusty day's work.
"Next day (the 4th), the President and General McClellan visited
such of the wounded as still remained in the vicinity, including
the now lamented General Richardson; then proceeded to and
examined the South-Mountain battle-ground, at which point they
parted, General McClellan returning to his camp, and the
President returning to Washington, seeing, on the way, General
Hartsoff, who lay wounded at Frederick Town.
"This is the whole story of the singing and its surroundings.
Neither General McClellan nor any one else made any objections to
the singing; the place was not on the battle-field; the time was
sixteen days after the battle; no dead body was seen during the
whole time the President was absent from Washington, nor even a
grave that had not been rained on since the time it was made."
"ONE WAR AT A TIME."
Nothing in Lincoln's entire career better illustrated the
surprising resources of his mind than his manner of dealing with
"The Trent Affair." The readiness and ability with which he met
this perilous emergency, in a field entirely new to his
experience, was worthy the most accomplished diplomat and
statesman. Admirable, also, was his cool courage and
self-reliance in following a course radically opposed to the
prevailing sentiment throughout the country and in Congress, and
contrary to the advice of his own Cabinet.
Secretary of the Navy Welles hastened to approve officially the
act of Captain Wilkes in apprehending the Confederate
Commissioners Mason and Slidell, Secretary Stanton publicly
applauded, and even Secretary of State Seward, whose long public
career had made him especially conservative, stated that he was
opposed to any concession or surrender of Mason and Slidell.
But Lincoln, with great sagacity, simply said, "One war at a
PRESIDENT LINCOLN'S LAST PUBLIC ADDRESS.
The President made his last public address on the evening of
April 11th, 1865, to a gathering at the White House. Said he
"We meet this evening not in sorrow, but in gladness of heart.
"The evacuation of Petersburg and Richmond, and the surrender of
the principal insurgent army, give hope of a righteous and speedy
peace, whose joyous expression cannot be restrained.
"In the midst of this, however, He from whom all blessings flow
must not be forgotten.
"Nor must those whose harder part gives us the cause of rejoicing
be overlooked; their honors must not be parceled out with others.
"I myself was near the front, and had the high pleasure of
transmitting the good news to you; but no part of the honor, for
plan or execution, is mine.
"To General Grant, his skillful officers and brave men, all
NO OTHERS LIKE THEM.
One day an old lady from the country called on President Lincoln,
her tanned face peering up to his through a pair of spectacles.
Her errand was to present Mr. Lincoln a pair of stockings of her
own make a yard long. Kind tears came to his eyes as she spoke to
him, and then, holding the stockings one in each hand, dangling
wide apart for general inspection, he assured her that he should
take them with him to Washington, where (and here his eyes
twinkled) he was sure he should not be able to find any like
Quite a number of well-known men were in the room with the
President when the old lady made her presentation. Among them was
George S. Boutwell, who afterwards became Secretary of the
The amusement of the company was not at all diminished by Mr.
Boutwell's remark, that the lady had evidently made a very
correct estimate of Mr. Lincoln's latitude and longitude.
CASH WAS AT HAND.
Lincoln was appointed postmaster at New Salem by President
Jackson. The office was given him because everybody liked him,
and because he was the only man willing to take it who could make
out the returns. Lincoln was pleased, because it gave him a
chance to read every newspaper taken in the vicinity. He had
never been able to get half the newspapers he wanted before.
Years after the postoffice had been discontinued and Lincoln had
become a practicing lawyer at Springfield, an agent of the
Postoffice Department entered his office and inquired if Abraham
Lincoln was within. Lincoln responded to his name, and was
informed that the agent had called to collect the balance due the
Department since the discontinuance of the New Salem office.
A shade of perplexity passed over Lincoln's face, which did not
escape the notice of friends present. One of them said at once:
"Lincoln, if you are in want of money, let us help you."
He made no reply, but suddenly rose, and pulled out from a pile
of books a little old trunk, and, returning to the table, asked
the agent how much the amount of his debt was.
The sum was named, and then Lincoln opened the trunk, pulled out
a little package of coin wrapped in a cotton rag, and counted out
the exact sum, amounting to more than seventeen dollars.
After the agent had left the room, he remarked quietly that he
had never used any man's money but his own. Although this sum had
been in his hands during all those years, he had never regarded
it as available, even for any temporary use of his own.
WELCOMED THE LITTLE GIRLS.
At a Saturday afternoon reception at the White House, many
persons noticed three little girls, poorly dressed, the children
of some mechanic or laboring man, who had followed the visitors
into the White House to gratify their curiosity. They passed
around from room to room, and were hastening through the
reception-room, with some trepidation, when the President called
"Little girls, are you going to pass me without shaking hands?"
Then he bent his tall, awkward form down, and shook each little
girl warmly by the hand. Everybody in the apartment was
spellbound by the incident, so simple in itself.
"DON'T SWAP HORSES"
Uncle Sam was pretty well satisfied with his horse, "Old Abe,"
and, as shown at the Presidential election of 1864, made up his
mind to keep him, and not "swap" the tried and true animal for a
strange one. "Harper's Weekly" of November 12th, 1864, had a
cartoon which illustrated how the people of the United States
felt about the matter better than anything published at the time.
We reproduce it on this page. Beneath the picture was this text:
JOHN BULL: "Why don't you ride the other horse a bit? He's the
best animal." (Pointing to McClellan in the bushes at the rear.)
BROTHER JONATHAN: "Well, that may be; but the fact is, OLD ABE is
just where I can put my finger on him; and as for the other
--though they say he's some when out in the scrub yonder--I never
know where to find him."
MOST VALUABLE POLITICAL ATTRIBUTE.
"One time I remember I asked Mr. Lincoln what attribute he
considered most valuable to the successful politician," said
Captain T. W. S. Kidd, of Springfield.
"He laid his hand on my shoulder and said, very earnestly:
"'To be able to raise a cause which shall produce an effect, and
then fight the effect.'
"The more you think about it, the more profound does it become."
"ABE" RESENTED THE INSULT.
A cashiered officer, seeking to be restored through the power of
the executive, became insolent, because the President, who
believed the man guilty, would not accede to his repeated
requests, at last said, "Well, Mr. President, I see you are fully
determined not to do me justice!"
This was too aggravating even for Mr. Lincoln; rising he suddenly
seized the disgraced officer by the coat collar, and marched him
forcibly to the door, saying as he ejected him into the passage:
"Sir, I give you fair warning never to show your face in this
room again. I can bear censure, but not insult. I never wish to
see your face again."
ONE MAN ISN'T MISSED.
Salmon P. Chase, when Secretary of the Treasury, had a
disagreement with other members of the Cabinet, and resigned.
The President was urged not to accept it, as "Secretary Chase is
to-day a national necessity," his advisers said.
"How mistaken you are!" Lincoln quietly observed. "Yet it is not
strange; I used to have similar notions. No! If we should all be
turned out to-morrow, and could come back here in a week, we
should find our places filled by a lot of fellows doing just as
well as we did, and in many instances better.
"Now, this reminds me of what the Irishman said. His verdict was
that 'in this country one man is as good as another; and, for the
matter of that, very often a great deal better.' No; this
Government does not depend upon the life of any man."
"STRETCHED THE FACTS."
George B. Lincoln, a prominent merchant of Brooklyn, was
traveling through the West in 1855-56, and found himself one
night in a town on the Illinois River, by the name of Naples. The
only tavern of the place had evidently been constructed with
reference to business on a small scale. Poor as the prospect
seemed, Mr. Lincoln had no alternative but to put up at the
The supper-room was also used as a lodging-room. Mr. Lincoln told
his host that he thought he would "go to bed."
"Bed!" echoed the landlord. "There is no bed for you in this
house unless you sleep with that man yonder. He has the only one
we have to spare."
"Well," returned Mr. Lincoln, "the gentleman has possession, and
perhaps would not like a bed-fellow."
Upon this a grizzly head appeared out of the pillows, and said:
"What is your name?"
"They call me Lincoln at home," was the reply.
"Lincoln!" repeated the stranger; "any connection of our Illinois
"No," replied Mr. Lincoln. "I fear not."
"Well," said the old gentleman, "I will let any man by the name
of 'Lincoln' sleep with me, just for the sake of the name. You
have heard of Abe?" he inquired.
"Oh, yes, very often," replied Mr. Lincoln. "No man could travel
far in this State without hearing of him, and I would be very
glad to claim connection if I could do so honestly."
"Well," said the old gentleman, "my name is Simmons. 'Abe' and I
used to live and work together when young men. Many a job of
woodcutting and rail-splitting have I done up with him. Abe
Lincoln was the likeliest boy in God's world. He would work all
day as hard as any of us and study by firelight in the loghouse
half the night; and in this way he made himself a thorough,
practical surveyor. Once, during those days, I was in the upper
part of the State, and I met General Ewing, whom President
Jackson had sent to the Northwest to make surveys. I told him
about Abe Lincoln, what a student he was, and that I wanted he
should give him a job. He looked over his memorandum, and,
holding out a paper, said:
"'There is County must be surveyed; if your friend can do the
work properly, I shall be glad to have him undertake it--the
compensation will be six hundred dollars.'
"Pleased as I could be, I hastened to Abe, after I got home, with
an account of what I had secured for him. He was sitting before
the fire in the log-cabin when I told him; and what do you think
was his answer? When I finished, he looked up very quietly, and
"'Mr. Simmons, I thank you very sincerely for your kindness, but
I don't think I will undertake the job.'
"'In the name of wonder,' said I, 'why? Six hundred does not
grow upon every bush out here in Illinois.'
"'I know that,' said Abe, 'and I need the money bad enough,
Simmons, as you know; but I have never been under obligation to a
Democratic Administration, and I never intend to be so long as I
can get my living another way. General Ewing must find another
man to do his work.'"
A friend related this story to the President one day, and asked
him if it were true.
"Pollard Simmons!" said Lincoln. "Well do I remember him. It is
correct about our working together, but the old man must have
stretched the facts somewhat about the survey of the county. I
think I should have been very glad of the job at the time, no
matter what Administration was in power."
IT LENGTHENED THE WAR.
President Lincoln said, long before the National political
campaign of 1864 had opened:
"If the unworthy ambition of politicians and the jealousy that
exists in the army could be repressed, and all unite in a common
aim and a common endeavor, the rebellion would soon be crushed."
HIS THEORY OF THE REBELLION.
The President once explained to a friend the theory of the
Rebellion by the aid of the maps before him.
Running his long fore-finger down the map, he stopped at
"We must drive them away from here" (Manassas Gap), he said, "and
clear them out of this part of the State so that they cannot
threaten us here (Washington) and get into Maryland.
"We must keep up a good and thorough blockade of their ports. We
must march an army into East Tennessee and liberate the Union
sentiment there. Finally we must rely on the people growing tired
and saying to their leaders, 'We have had enough of this thing,
we will bear it no longer.'"
Such was President Lincoln's plan for headingoff the Rebellion in
the summer of 1861. How it enlarged as the War progressed, from a
call for seventy thousand volunteers to one for five hundred
thousand men and $500,000,000 is a matter of well-known history.
RAN AWAY WHEN VICTORIOUS.
Three or four days after the battle of Bull Run, some gentlemen
who had been on the field called upon the President.
He inquired very minutely regarding all the circumstances of the
affair, and, after listening with the utmost attention, said,
with a touch of humor: "So it is your notion that we whipped the
rebels and then ran away from them!"
WANTED STANTON SPANKED.
Old Dennis Hanks was sent to Washington at one time by persons
interested in securing the release from jail of several men
accused of being copperheads. It was thought Old Dennis might
have some influence with the President.
The latter heard Dennis' story and then said: "I will send for
Mr. Stanton. It is his business."
Secretary Stanton came into the room, stormed up and down, and
said the men ought to be punished more than they were. Mr.
Lincoln sat quietly in his chair and waited for the tempest to
subside, and then quietly said to Stanton he would like to have
the papers next day.
When he had gone, Dennis said:
"'Abe,' if I was as big and as ugly as you are, I would take him
over my knee and spank him."
The President replied: "No, Stanton is an able and valuable man
for this Nation, and I am glad to bear his anger for the service
he can give the Nation."
STANTON WAS OUT OF TOWN.
The quaint remark of the President to an applicant, "My dear sir,
I have not much influence with the Administration," was one of
Lincoln's little jokes.
Mr. Stanton, Secretary of War, once replied to an order from the
President to give a colonel a commission in place of the
"I shan't do it, sir! I shan't do it! It isn't the way to do it,
sir, and I shan't do it. I don't propose to argue the question
with you, sir."
A few days after, the friend of the applicant who had presented
the order to Secretary Stanton called upon the President and
related his reception. A look of vexation came over the face of
the President, and he seemed unwilling to talk of it, and desired
the friend to see him another day. He did so, when he gave his
visitor a positive order for the promotion. The latter told him
he would not speak to Secretary Stanton again until he
"Oh," said the President, "Stanton has gone to Fortress Monroe,
and Dana is acting. He will attend to it for you."
This he said with a manner of relief, as if it was a piece of
good luck to find a man there who would obey his orders.
The nomination was sent to the Senate and confirmed.
IDENTIFIED THE COLORED MAN.
Many applications reached Lincoln as he passed to and from the
White House and the War Department. One day as he crossed the
he was stopped by a negro, who told him a pitiful story. The
President wrote him out a check, which read. "Pay to colored man
with one leg five dollars."
OFFICE SEEKERS WORSE THAN WAR.
When the Republican party came into power, Washington swarmed
with office-seekers. They overran the White House and gave the
President great annoyance. The incongruity of a man in his
position, and with the very life of the country at stake, pausing
to appoint postmasters, struck Mr. Lincoln forcibly. "What is
the matter, Mr. Lincoln," said a friend one day, when he saw him
looking particularly grave and dispirited. "Has anything gone
wrong at the front?" "No," said the President, with a tired
smile. "It isn't the war; it's the postoffice at Brownsville,
HE "SET 'EM UP."
Immediately after Mr. Lincoln's nomination for President at the
Chicago Convention, a committee, of which Governor Morgan, of New
York, was chairman, visited him in Springfield, Ill., where he
was officially informed of his nomination.
After this ceremony had passed, Mr. Lincoln remarked to the
company that as a fit ending to an interview so important and
interesting as that which had just taken place, he supposed good
manners would require that he should treat the committee with
something to drink; and opening the door that led into the rear,
he called out, "Mary! Mary!" A girl responded to the call, to
whom Mr. Lincoln spoke a few words in an undertone, and, closing
the door, returned again and talked with his guests. In a few
minutes the maid entered, bearing a large waiter, containing
several glass tumblers, and a large pitcher, and placed them upon
the center-table. Mr. Lincoln arose, and, gravely addressing the
company, said: "Gentlemen, we must pledge our mutual health in
the most healthy beverage that God has given to man--it is the
only beverage I have ever used or allowed my family to use, and I
cannot conscientiously depart from it on the present occasion. It
is pure Adam's ale from the spring." And, taking the tumbler, he
touched it to his lips, and pledged them his highest respects in
a cup of cold water. Of course, all his guests admired his
consistency, and joined in his example.
WASN'T STANTON'S SAY.
A few days before the President's death, Secretary Stanton
tendered his resignation as Secretary of War. He accompanied the
act with a most heartfelt tribute to Mr. Lincoln's constant
friendship and faithful devotion to the country, saying, also,
that he, as Secretary, had accepted the position to hold it only
until the war should end, and that now he felt his work was done,
and his duty was to resign.
Mr. Lincoln was greatly moved by the Secretary's words, and,
tearing in pieces the paper containing the resignation, and
throwing his arms about the Secretary, he said:
"Stanton, you have been a good friend and a faithful public
servant, and it is not for you to say when you will no longer be
Several friends of both parties were present on the occasion, and
there was not a dry eye that witnessed the scene.
"JEFFY" THREW UP THE SPONGE.
When the War was fairly on, many people were astonished to find
that "Old Abe" was a fighter from "way back." No one was the
victim of greater amazement than Jefferson Davis, President of
the Confederate States of America. Davis found out that "Abe" was
not only a hard hitter, but had staying qualities of a high
order. It was a fight to a "finish" with "Abe," no compromises
being accepted. Over the title, "North and South," the issue of
"Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper" of December 24th, 1864,
contained the cartoon, see reproduce on this page. Underneath the
picture were the lines:
"Now, Jeffy, when you think you have had enough of this, say so,
and I'll leave off." (See President's message.) In his message to
Congress, December 6th,
President Lincoln said: "No attempt at negotiation with the
insurgent leader could result in any good. He would accept of
nothing short of the severance of the Union."
Therefore, Father Abraham, getting "Jeffy's" head "in chancery,"
proceeded to change the appearance and size of the secessionist's
countenance, much to the grief and discomfort of the Southerner.
It was Lincoln's idea to re-establish the Union, and he carried
out his purpose to the very letter. But he didn't "leave off"
until "Jeffy" cried "enough."
DIDN'T KNOW GRANT'S PREFERENCE.
In October, 1864, President Lincoln, while he knew his
re-election to the White House was in no sense doubtful, knew
that if he lost New York and with it Pennsylvania on the home
vote, the moral effect of his triumph would be broken and his
power to prosecute the war and make peace would be greatly
impaired. Colonel A. K. McClure was with Lincoln a good deal of
the time previous to the November election, and tells this story:
"His usually sad face was deeply shadowed with sorrow when I told
him that I saw no reasonable prospect of carrying Pennsylvania on
the home vote, although we had about held our own in the
hand-to-hand conflict through which we were passing.
"'Well, what is to be done?' was Lincoln's inquiry, after the
whole situation had been presented to him. I answered that the
solution of the problem was a very simple and easy one--that
Grant was idle in front of Petersburg; that Sheridan had won all
possible victories in the Valley; and that if five thousand
Pennsylvania soldiers could be furloughed home from each army,
the election could be carried without doubt.
"Lincoln's face' brightened instantly at the suggestion, and I
saw that he was quite ready to execute it. I said to him: 'Of
course, you can trust want to make the suggestion to him to
furlough five thousand Pennsylvania troops for two weeks?'
"'To my surprise, Lincoln made no answer, and the bright face of
a few moments before was instantly shadowed again. I was much
disconcerted, as I supposed that Grant was the one man to whom
Lincoln could turn with absolute confidence as his friend. I then
said, with some earnestness: 'Surely, Mr. President, you can
trust Grant with a confidential suggestion to furlough
"Lincoln remained silent and evidently distressed at the
proposition I was pressing upon him. After a few moments, and
speaking with emphasis, I said: 'It can't be possible that Grant
is not your friend; he can't be such an ingrate?'
"Lincoln hesitated for some time, and then answered in these
words: 'Well, McClure, I have no reason to believe that Grant
prefers my election to that of McClellan.'
"I believe Lincoln was mistaken in his distrust of Grant."
JUSTICE vs. NUMBERS.
Lincoln was constantly bothered by members of delegations of
"goody-goodies," who knew all about running the War, but had no
inside information as to what was going on. Yet, they poured out
their advice in streams, until the President was heartily sick of
the whole business, and wished the War would find some way to
kill off these nuisances.
"How many men have the Confederates now in the field?" asked one
of these bores one day.
"About one million two hundred thousand," replied the President.
"Oh, my! Not so many as that, surely, Mr. Lincoln."
"They have fully twelve hundred thousand, no doubt of it. You
see, all of our generals when they get whipped say the enemy
outnumbers them from three or five to one, and I must believe
them. We have four hundred thousand men in the field, and three
times four make twelve,--don't you see it? It is as plain to be
seen as the nose on a man's face; and at the rate things are now
going, with the great amount of speculation and the small crop of
fighting, it will take a long time to overcome twelve hundred
thousand rebels in arms.
"If they can get subsistence they have everything else, except a
just cause. Yet it is said that 'thrice is he armed that hath his
quarrel just.' I am willing, however, to risk our advantage of
thrice in justice against their thrice in numbers."
NO FALSE PRIDE IN LINCOLN.
General McClellan had little or no conception of the greatness of
Abraham Lincoln. As time went on, he began to show plainly his
contempt of the President, frequently allowing him to wait in the
ante-room of his house while he transacted business with others.
This discourtesy was so open that McClellan's staff noticed it,
and newspaper correspondents commented on it. The President was
too keen not to see the situation, but he was strong enough to
ignore it. It was a battle he wanted from McClellan, not
"I will hold McClellan's horse, if he will only bring us
success," he said one day.
EXTRA MEMBER OF THE CABINET.
G. H. Giddings was selected as the bearer of a message from the
President to Governor Sam Houston, of Texas. A conflict had
arisen there between the Southern party and the Governor, Sam
Houston, and on March 18 the latter had been deposed. When Mr.
Lincoln heard of this, he decided to try to get a message to the
Governor, offering United States support if he would put himself
at the head of the Union party of the State.
Mr. Giddings thus told of his interview with the President:
"He said to me that the message was of such importance that,
before handing it to me, he would read it to me. Before beginning
to read he said, 'This is a confidential and secret message. No
one besides my Cabinet and myself knows anything about it, and we
are all sworn to secrecy. I am going to swear you in as one of my
"And then he said to me in a jocular way, 'Hold up your right
hand,' which I did.
"'Now,' said he, consider yourself a member of my Cabinet."'
HOW LINCOLN WAS ABUSED.
With the possible exception of President Washington, whose
political opponents did not hesitate to rob the vocabulary of
vulgarity and wickedness whenever they desired to vilify the
Chief Magistrate, Lincoln was the most and "best" abused man who
ever held office in the United States. During the first half of
his initial term there was no epithet which was not applied to
One newspaper in New York habitually characterized him as "that
hideous baboon at the other end of the avenue," and declared that
"Barnum should buy and exhibit him as a zoological curiosity."
Although the President did not, to all appearances, exhibit
annoyance because of the various diatribes printed and spoken,
yet the fact is that his life was so cruelly embittered by these
and other expressions quite as virulent, that he often declared
to those most intimate with him, "I would rather be dead than, as
President, thus abused in the house of my friends."
HOW "FIGHTING JOE" WAS APPOINTED.
General "Joe" Hooker, the fourth commander of the noble but
unfortunate Army of the Potomac, was appointed to that position
by President Lincoln in January, 1863. General Scott, for some
reason, disliked Hooker and would not appoint him. Hooker, after
some months of discouraging waiting, decided to return to
California, and called to pay his respects to President Lincoln.
He was introduced as Captain Hooker, and to the surprise of the
President began the following speech:
"Mr. President, my friend makes a mistake. I am not Captain
Hooker, but was once Lieutenant-Colonel Hooker of the regular
army. I was lately a farmer in California, but since the
Rebellion broke out I have been trying to get into service, but I
find I am not wanted.
"I am about to return home; but before going, I was anxious to
pay my respects to you, and express my wishes for your personal
welfare and success in quelling this Rebellion. And I want to say
to you a word more.
"I was at Bull Run the other day, Mr. President, and it is no
vanity in me to say, I am a darned sight better general than you
had on the field."
This was said, not in the tone of a braggart, but of a man who
knew what he was talking about. Hooker did not return to
California, but in a few weeks Captain Hooker received from the
President a commission as Brigadier-General Hooker.
KEPT HIS COURAGE UP.
The President, like old King Saul, when his term was about to
expire, was in a quandary concerning a further lease of the
Presidential office. He consulted again the "prophetess" of
Georgetown, immortalized by his patronage.
She retired to an inner chamber, and, after raising and
consulting more than a dozen of distinguished spirits from Hades,
she returned to the reception-parlor, where the chief magistrate
awaited her, and declared that General Grant would capture
Richmond, and that "Honest Old Abe" would be next President.
She, however, as the report goes, told him to beware of Chase.
A FORTUNE-TELLER'S PREDICTION.
Lincoln had been born and reared among people who were believers
in premonitions and supernatural appearances all his life, and he
once declared to his friends that he was "from boyhood
He at one time said to Judge Arnold that "the near approach of
the important events of his life were indicated by a presentiment
or a strange dream, or in some other mysterious way it was
impressed upon him that something important was to occur." This
was earlier than 1850.
It is said that on his second visit to New Orleans, Lincoln and
his companion, John Hanks, visited an old fortune-teller--a
voodoo negress. Tradition says that "during the interview she
became very much excited, and after various predictions,
exclaimed: 'You will be President, and all the negroes will be
That the old voodoo negress should have foretold that the visitor
would be President is not at all incredible. She doubtless told
this to many aspiring lads, but Lincoln, so it is avowed took the
TOO MUCH POWDER.
So great was Lincoln's anxiety for the success of the Union arms
that he considered no labor on his part too arduous, and spent
much of his time in looking after even the small details.
Admiral Dahlgren was sent for one morning by the President, who
said "Well, captain, here's a letter about some new powder."
After reading the letter he showed the sample of powder, and
remarked that he had burned some of it, and did not believe it
was a good article--here was too much residuum.
"I will show you," he said; and getting a small piece of paper,
placed thereupon some of the powder, then went to the fire and
with the tongs picked up a coal, which he blew, clapped it on the
powder, and after the resulting explosion, added, "You see there
is too much left there."
SLEEP STANDING UP.
McClellan was a thorn in Lincoln's side--"always up in the air,"
as the President put it--and yet he hesitated to remove him. "The
Young Napoleon" was a good organizer, but no fighter. Lincoln
sent him everything necessary in the way of men, ammunition,
artillery and equipments, but he was forever unready.
Instead of making a forward movement at the time expected, he
would notify the President that he must have more men. These were
given him as rapidly as possible, and then would come a demand
for more horses, more this and that, usually winding up with a
demand for still "more men."
Lincoln bore it all in patience for a long time, but one day,
when he had received another request for more men, he made a
"If I gave McClellan all the men he asks for," said the
President, "they couldn't find room to lie down. They'd have to
sleep standing up."
SHOULD HAVE FOUGHT ANOTHER BATTLE.
General Meade, after the great victory at Gettysburg, was again
face to face with General Lee shortly afterwards at Williamsport,
and even the former's warmest friends agree that he might have
won in another battle, but he took no action. He was not a
"pushing" man like Grant. It was this negligence on the part of
Meade that lost him the rank of Lieutenant-General, conferred
upon General Sheridan.
A friend of Meade's, speaking to President Lincoln and intimating
that Meade should have, after that battle, been made
Commander-in-Chief of the Union Armies, received this reply from
"Now, don't misunderstand me about General Meade. I am profoundly
grateful down to the bottom of my boots for what he did at
Gettysburg, but I think that if I had been General Meade I would
have fought another battle."
LINCOLN UPBRAIDED LAMON.
In one of his reminiscences of Lincoln, Ward Lamon tells how
keenly the President-elect always regretted the "sneaking in act"
when he made the celebrated "midnight ride," which he took under
protest, and landed him in Washington known to but a few. Lamon
"The President was convinced that he committed a grave mistake in
listening to the solicitations of a 'professional spy' and of
friends too easily alarmed, and frequently upbraided me for
having aided him to degrade himself at the very moment in all his
life when his behavior should have exhibited the utmost dignity
"Neither he nor the country generally then understood the true
facts concerning the dangers to his life. It is now an
acknowledged fact that there never was a moment from the day he
crossed the Maryland line, up to the time of his assassination,
that he was not in danger of death by violence, and that his life
was spared until the night of the 14th of April, 1865, only
through the ceaseless and watchful care of the guards thrown
MARKED OUT A FEW WORDS.
President Lincoln was calm and unmoved when England and France
were blustering and threatening war. At Lincoln's instance
Secretary of State Seward notified the English Cabinet and the
French Emperor that as ours was merely a family quarrel of a
strictly private and confidential nature, there was no call for
meddling; also that they would have a war on their hands in a
very few minutes if they didn't keep their hands off.
Many of Seward's notes were couched in decidedly peppery terms,
some expressions being so tart that President Lincoln ran his pen
LINCOLN SILENCES SEWARD.
General Farnsworth told the writer nearly twenty years ago that,
being in the War Office one day, Secretary Stanton told him that
at the last Cabinet meeting he had learned a lesson he should
never forget, and thought he had obtained an insight into Mr.
Lincoln's wonderful power over the masses. The Secretary said a
Cabinet meeting was called to consider our relations with England
in regard to the Mason-Slidell affair. One after another of the
Cabinet presented his views, and Mr. Seward read an elaborate
diplomatic dispatch, which he had prepared.
Finally Mr. Lincoln read what he termed "a few brief remarks upon
the subject," and asked the opinions of his auditors. They
unanimously agreed that our side of the question needed no more
argument than was contained in the President's "few brief
Mr. Seward said he would be glad to adopt the remarks, and,
giving them more of the phraseology usual in diplomatic circles,
send them to Lord Palmerston, the British premier.
"Then," said Secretary Stanton, "came the demonstration. The
President, half wheeling in his seat, threw one leg over the
chair-arm, and, holding the letter in his hand, said, 'Seward, do
you suppose Palmerston will understand our position from that
letter, just as it is?'
"'Certainly, Mr. President.'
"'Do you suppcse the London Times will?'
"'Do you suppose the average Englishman of affairs will?'
"'Certainly; it cannot be mistaken in England.'
"'Do you suppose that a hackman out on his box (pointing to the
street) will understand it?'
"'Very readily, Mr. President.'
"'Very well, Seward, I guess we'll let her slide just as she
"And the letter did 'slide,' and settled the whole business in a
manner that was effective."
BROUGHT THE HUSBAND UP.
One morning President Lincoln asked Major Eckert, on duty at the
White House, "Who is that woman crying out in the hall? What is
the matter with her?"
Eckert said it was a woman who had come a long distance expecting
to go down to the army to see her husband. An order had gone out
a short time before to allow no women in the army, except in
Mr. Lincoln sat moodily for a moment after hearing this story,
and suddenly looking up, said, "Let's send her down. You write
the order, Major."
Major Eckert hesitated a moment, and replied, "Would it not be
better for Colonel Hardie to write the order?"
"Yes," said Mr. Lincoln, "that is better; let Hardie write it."
The major went out, and soon returned, saying, "Mr. President,
would it not be better in this case to let the woman's husband
come to Washington?"
Mr. Lincoln's face lighted up with pleasure. "Yes, yes," was the
President's answer in a relieved tone; "that's the best way;
bring him up."
The order was written, and the man was sent to Washington.
NO WAR WITHOUT BLOOD-LETTING.
"You can't carry on war without blood-letting," said Lincoln one
The President, although almost feminine in his kind-heartedness,
knew not only this, but also that large bodies of soldiers in
camp were at the mercy of diseases of every sort, the result
being a heavy casualty list.
Of the (estimated) half-million men of the Union armies who gave
up their lives in the War of the Rebellion--1861-65--fullY
seventy-five per cent died of disease. The soldiers killed upon
the field of battle constituted a comparatively small proportion
of the casualties.
LINCOLN'S TWO DIFFICULTIES.
London "Punch" caricatured President Lincoln in every possible
way, holding him and the Union cause up to the ridicule of the
world so far as it could. On August 23rd, 1862, its cartoon
entitled "Lincoln's Two Difficulties" had the text underneath:
LINCOLN: "What? No money! No men!" "Punch" desired to create the
impression that the Washington Government was in a bad way,
lacking both money and men for the purpose of putting down the
Rebellion; that the United States Treasury was bankrupt, and the
people of the North so devoid of patriotism that they would not
send men for the army to assist in destroying the Confederacy.
The truth is, that when this cartoon was printed the North had
five hundred thousand men in the field, and, before the War
closed, had provided fully two million and a half troops. The
report of the Secretary of the Treasury which showed the
financial affairs and situation of the United States up to July,
1862. The receipts of the National Government for the year ending
June 30th, 1862, were $10,000,000 in excess of the expenditures,
although the War was costing the country $2,000,000 per day; the
credit of the United States was good, and business matters were
in a satisfactory state. The Navy, by August 23rd, 1862, had
received eighteen thousand additional men, and was in fine shape;
the people of the North stood ready to supply anything the
Government needed, so that, all things taken together,the "Punch"
cartoon was not exactly true, as the facts and figures abundantly
WHITE ELEPHANT ON HIS HANDS.
An old and intimate friend from Springfield called on President
Lincoln and found him much depressed.
The President was reclining on a sofa, but rising suddenly he
said to his friend:
"You know better than any man living that from my boyhood up my
ambition was to be President. I am President of one part of this
divided country at least; but look at me! Oh, I wish I had never
"I've a white elephant on my hands--one hard to manage. With a
fire in my front and rear to contend with, the jealousies of the
military commanders, and not receiving that cordial co-operative
support from Congress that could reasonably be expected with an
active and formidable enemy in the field threatening the very
life-blood of the Government, my position is anything but a bed
WHEN LINCOLN AND GRANT CLASHED.
Ward Lamon, one of President Lincoln's law partners, and his most
intimate friend in Washington, has this to relate:
"I am not aware that there was ever a serious discord or
misunderstanding between Mr. Lincoln and General Grant, except on
a single occasion. From the commencement of the struggle,
Lincoln's policy was to break the backbone of the Confederacy by
depriving it of its principal means of subsistence.
"Cotton was its vital aliment; deprive it of this, and the
rebellion must necessarily collapse. The Hon. Elihu B. Washburne
from the outset was opposed to any contraband traffic with the
"Lincoln had given permits and passes through the lines to two
persons--Mr. Joseph Mattox of Maryland and General Singleton of
Illinois--to enable them to bring cotton and other Southern
products from Virginia. Washburne heard of it, called immediately
on Mr. Lincoln, and, after remonstrating with him on the
impropriety of such a demarche, threatened to have General Grant
countermand the permits if they were not revoked.
"Naturally, both became excited. Lincoln declared that he did not
believe General Grant would take upon himself the responsibility
of such an act. 'I will show you, sir; I will show you whether
Grant will do it or not,' responded Mr. Washburne, as he abruptly
"By the next boat, subsequent to this interview, the Congressman
left Washington for the headquarters of General Grant. He
returned shortly afterward to the city, and so likewise did
Mattox and Singleton. Grant had countermanded the permits.
"Under all the circumstances, it was, naturally, a source of
exultation to Mr. Washburne and his friends, and of corresponding
surprise and mortification to the President. The latter, however,
said nothing further than this:
"'I wonder when General Grant changed his mind on this subject?
He was the first man, after the commencement of this War, to
grant a permit for the passage of cotton through the lines, and
that to his own father.'
"The President, however, never showed any resentment toward
"In referring afterwards to the subject, the President said: 'It
made me feel my insignificance keenly at the moment; but if my
friends Washburne, Henry Wilson and others derive pleasure from
so unworthy a victory over me, I leave them to its full
"This ripple on the otherwise unruffled current of their
intercourse did not disturb the personal relations between
Lincoln and Grant; but there was little cordiality between the
President and Messrs. Washburne and Wilson afterwards."
WON JAMES GORDON BENNETT'S SUPPORT.
The story as to how President Lincoln won the support of James
Gordon Bennett, Sr., founder of the New York Herald, is a most
interesting one. It was one of Lincoln's shrewdest political
acts, and was brought about by the tender, in an autograph
letter, of the French Mission to Bennett.
The New York Times was the only paper in the metropolis which
supported him heartily, and President Lincoln knew how important
it was to have the support of the Herald. He therefore, according
to the way Colonel McClure tells it, carefully studied how to
bring its editor into close touch with himself.
The outlook for Lincoln's re-election was not promising. Bennett
had strongly advocated the nomination of General McClellan by the
Democrats, and that was ominous of hostility to Lincoln; and when
McClellan was nominated he was accepted on all sides as a most
It was in this emergency that Lincoln's political sagacity served
him sufficiently to win the Herald to his cause, and it was done
by the confidential tender of the French Mission. Bennett did not
break over to Lincoln at once, but he went by gradual approaches.
His first step was to declare in favor of an entirely new
candidate, which was an utter impossibility. He opened a "leader"
in the Herald on the subject in this way: "Lincoln has proved a
failure; McClellan has proved a failure; Fremont has proved a
failure; let us have a new candidate."
Lincoln, McClellan and Fremont were then all in the field as
nominated candidates, and the Fremont defection was a serious
threat to Lincoln. Of course, neither Lincoln nor McClellan
declined, and the Herald, failing to get the new man it knew to
be an impossibility, squarely advocated Lincoln's re-election.
Without consulting any one, and without any public announcement:
whatever, Lincoln wrote to Bennett, asking him to accept the
mission to France. The offer was declined. Bennett valued the
offer very much more than the office, and from that day until the
day of the President's death he was one of Lincoln's most
appreciative friends and hearty supporters on his own independent
STOOD BY THE "SILENT MAN."
Once, in reply to a delegation, which visited the White House,
the members of which were unusually vociferous in their demands
that the Silent Man (as General Grant was called) should be
relieved from duty, the President remarked:
"What I want and what the people want is generals who will fight
battles and win victories.
"Grant has done this, and I propose to stand by him."
This declaration found its way into the newspapers, and Lincoln
was upheld by the people of the North, who, also, wanted
who will fight battles and win victories."
A VERY BRAINY NUBBIN.
President Lincoln and Secretary of State Seward met Alexander H.
Stephens, Vice-President of the Confederacy, on February 2nd,
1865, on the River Queen, at Fortress Monroe. Stephens was
enveloped in overcoats and shawls, and had the appearance of a
fair-sized man. He began to take off one wrapping after another,
until the small, shriveled old man stood before them.
Lincoln quietly said to Seward: "This is the largest shucking for
so small a nubbin that I ever saw."
President Lincoln had a friendly conference, but presented his
ultimatum that the one and only condition of peace was that
Confederates "must cease their resistance."
SENT TO HIS "FRIENDS."
During the Civil War, Clement L. Vallandigham, of Ohio, had shown
himself, in the National House of Representatives and elsewhere,
one of the bitterest and most outspoken of all the men of that
class which insisted that "the war was a failure." He declared
that it was the design of "those in power to establish a
despotism," and that they had "no intention of restoring the
Union." He denounced the conscription which had been ordered, and
declared that men who submitted to be drafted into the army were
"unworthy to be called free men." He spoke of the President as
Such utterances at this time, when the Government was exerting
itself to the utmost to recruit the armies, were dangerous, and
Vallandigham was arrested, tried by court-martial at Cincinnati,
and sentenced to be placed in confinement during the war,
General Burnside, in command at Cincinnati, approved the
sentence, and ordered that he be sent to Fort Warren, in Boston
Harbor; but the President ordered that he be sent "beyond our
lines into those of his friends." He was therefore escorted to
the Confederate lines in Tennessee, thence going to Richmond. He
did not meet with a very cordial reception there, and finally
sought refuge in Canada.
Vallandigham died in a most peculiar way some years after the
close of the War, and it was thought by many that his death was
the result of premeditation upon his part.
GO DOWN WITH COLORS FLYING.
In August, 1864, the President called for five hundred thousand
more men. The country was much depressed. The Confederates had,
in comparatively small force, only a short time before, been to
the very gates of Washington, and returned almost unharmed.
The Presidential election was impending. Many thought another
call for men at such a time would insure, if not destroy, Mr.
Lincoln's chances for re-election. A friend said as much to him
one day, after the President had told him of his purpose to make
such a call.
"As to my re-election," replied Mr. Lincoln, "it matters not. We
must have the men. If I go down, I intend to go, like the
Cumberland, with my colors flying!"
ALL WERE TRAGEDIES.
The cartoon reproduced below was published in "Harper's Weekly"
on January 31st, 1863, the explanatory text, underneath, reading
in this way:
MANAGER LINCOLN: "Ladies and gentlemen, I regret to say that the
tragedy entitled 'The Army of the Potomac' has been withdrawn on
account of quarrels among the leading performers, and I have
substituted three new and striking farces, or burlesques, one,
entitled 'The Repulse of Vicksburg,' by the well-known favorite,
E. M. Stanton, Esq., and the others, 'The Loss of the Harriet
Lane,' and 'The Exploits of the Alabama'--a very sweet thing in
farces, I assure you--by the veteran composer, Gideon Welles.
(Unbounded applause by the Copperheads)."
In July, after this cartoon appeared, the Army of the Potomac
defeated Lee at Gettysburg, and sounded the death-knell of the
Confederacy; General Hooker, with his corps from this Army opened
the Tennessee River, thus affording some relief to the Union
troops in Chattanooga; Hooker's men also captured Lookout
Mountain, and assisted in taking Missionary Ridge.
General Grant converted the farce "The Repulse of Vicksburg" into
a tragedy for the Copperheads, taking that stronghold on July
4th, and Captain Winslow, with the Union man-of-war Kearsarge,
meeting the Confederate privateer Alabama, off the coast of
France, near Cherbourg, fought the famous ship to a finish and
sunk her. Thus the tragedy of "The Army of the Potomac" was given
after all, and Playwright Stanton and Composer Welles were
vindicated, their compositions having been received by the public
with great favor.
"HE'S THE BEST OF US."
Secretary of State Seward did not appreciate President Lincoln's
ability until he had been associated with him for quite a time,
but he was awakened to a full realization of the greatness of the
Chief Executive "all of a sudden."
Having submitted "Some Thoughts for the President's
Consideration"--a lengthy paper intended as an outline of the
policy, both domestic and foreign, the Administration should
pursue--he was not more surprised at the magnanimity and kindness
of President Lincoln's reply than the thorough mastery of the
subject displayed by the President.
A few months later, when the Secretary had begun to understand
Mr. Lincoln, he was quick and generous to acknowledge his power.
"Executive force and vigor are rare qualities," he wrote to Mrs.
Seward. "The President is the best of us."
HOW LINCOLN "COMPOSED."
Superintendent Chandler, of the Telegraph Office in the War
Department, once told how President Lincoln wrote telegrams. Said
"Mr. Lincoln frequently wrote telegrams in my office. His method
of composition was slow and laborious. It was evident that he
thought out what he was going to say before he touched his pen to
the paper. He would sit looking out of the window, his left elbow
on the table, his hand scratching his temple, his lips moving,
and frequently he spoke the sentence aloud or in a half whisper.
"After he was satisfied that he had the proper expression, he
would write it out. If one examines the originals of Mr.
Lincoln's telegrams and letters, he will find very few erasures
and very little interlining. This was because he had them
definitely in his mind before writing them.
"In this he was the exact opposite of Mr. Stanton, who wrote with
feverish haste, often scratching out words, and interlining
frequently. Sometimes he would seize a sheet which he had filled,
and impatiently tear it into pieces."
HAMLIN MIGHT DO IT.
Several United States Senators urged President Lincoln to muster
Southern slaves into the Union Army. Lincoln replied:
"Gentlemen, I have put thousands of muskets into the hands of
loyal citizens of Tennessee, Kentucky, and Western North
Carolina. They have said they could defend themselves, if they
had guns. I have given them the guns. Now, these men do not
believe in mustering-in the negro. If I do it, these thousands of
muskets will be turned against us. We should lose more than we
Being still further urged, President Lincoln gave them this
"Gentlemen," he said, "I can't do it. I can't see it as you do.
You may be right, and I may be wrong; but I'll tell you what I
can do; I can resign in favor of Mr. Hamlin. Perhaps Mr. Hamlin
could do it."
The matter ended there, for the time being.
THE GUN SHOT BETTER.
The President took a lively interest in all new firearm
improvements and inventions, and it sometimes happened that, when
an inventor could get nobody else in the Government to listen to
him, the President would personally test his gun. A former clerk
in the Navy Department tells an incident illustrative.
He had stayed late one night at his desk, when he heard some one
striding up and down the hall muttering: "I do wonder if they
have gone already and left the building all alone." Looking out,
the clerk was surprised to see the President.
"Good evening," said Mr. Lincoln. "I was just looking for that
man who goes shooting with me sometimes."
The clerk knew Mr. Lincoln referred to a certain messenger of the
Ordnance Department who had been accustomed to going with him to
test weapons, but as this man had gone home, the clerk offered
his services. Together they went to the lawn south of the White
House, where Mr. Lincoln fixed up a target cut from a sheet of
white Congressional notepaper.
"Then pacing off a distance of about eighty or a hundred feet,"
writes the clerk, "he raised the rifle to a level, took a quick
aim, and drove the round of seven shots in quick succession, the
bullets shooting all around the target like a Gatling gun and one
striking near the center.
"'I believe I can make this gun shoot better,' said Mr. Lincoln,
after we had looked at the result of the first fire. With this he
took from his vest pocket a small wooden sight which he had
whittled from a pine stick, and adjusted it over the sight of the
carbine. He then shot two rounds, and of the fourteen bullets
nearly a dozen hit the paper!"
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