Lincoln's Yarns and Stories
Colonel Alexander K. McClure
Part 7 out of 10
"We can do it. The human heart is with us; God is with us.
"We shall never be able to declare that 'all States as States are
equal,' nor yet that 'all citizens are equal,' but to renew the
broader, better declaration, including both these and much more,
that 'all men are created equal.'"
HURRY MIGHT MAKE TROUBLE.
Up to the very last moment of the life of the Confederacy, the
London "Punch" had its fling at the United States. In a cartoon,
printed February 18th, 1865, labeled "The Threatening Notice,"
"Punch" intimates that Uncle Sam is in somewhat of a hurry to
serve notice on John Bull regarding the contentions in connection
with the northern border of the United States.
Lincoln, however, as attorney for his revered Uncle, advises
caution. Accordingly, he tells his Uncle, according to the text
under the picture
ATTORNEY LINCOLN: "Now, Uncle Sam, you're in a darned hurry to
serve this here notice on John Bull. Now, it's my duty, as your
attorney, to tell you that you may drive him to go over to that
cuss, Davis." (Uncle Sam considers.) In this instance, President
Lincoln is given credit for judgment and common sense, his advice
to his Uncle Sam to be prudent being sound. There was trouble all
along the Canadian border during the War, while Canada was the
refuge of Northern conspirators and Southern spies, who, at
times, crossed the line and inflicted great damage upon the
States bordering on it. The plot to seize the great lake cities--
Chicago, Milwaukee, Detroit, Cleveland, Buffalo and others--was
figured out in Canada by the Southerners and Northern allies.
President Lincoln, in his message to Congress in December, 1864,
said the United States had given notice to England that, at the
end of six months, this country would, if necessary, increase its
naval armament upon the lakes. What Great Britain feared was the
abrogation by the United States of all treaties regarding Canada.
By previous stipulation, the United States and England were each
to have but one war vessel on the Great Lakes.
SAW HIMSELF DEAD.
This story cannot be repeated in Lincoln's own language, although
he told it often enough to intimate friends; but, as it was never
taken down by a stenographer in the martyred President's exact
words, the reader must accept a simple narration of the strange
It was not long after the first nomination of Lincoln for the
Presidency, when he saw, or imagined he saw, the startling
apparition. One day, feeling weary, he threw himself upon a
lounge in one of the rooms of his house at Springfield to rest.
Opposite the lounge upon which he was lying was a large, long
mirror, and he could easily see the reflection of his form, full
Suddenly he saw, or imagined he saw, two Lincolns in the mirror,
each lying full length upon the lounge, but they differed
strangely in appearance. One was the natural Lincoln, full of
life, vigor, energy and strength; the other was a dead Lincoln,
the face white as marble, the limbs nerveless and lifeless, the
body inert and still.
Lincoln was so impressed with this vision, which he considered
merely an optical illusion, that he arose, put on his hat, and
went out for a walk. Returning to the house, he determined to
test the matter again--and the result was the same as before. He
distinctly saw the two Lincolns--one living and the other dead.
He said nothing to his wife about this, she being, at that time,
in a nervous condition, and apprehensive that some accident would
surely befall her husband. She was particularly fearful that he
might be the victim of an assassin. Lincoln always made light of
her fears, but yet he was never easy in his mind afterwards.
To more thoroughly test the so-called "optical illusion," and
prove, beyond the shadow of a doubt, whether it was a mere
fanciful creation of the brain or a reflection upon the broad
face of the mirror which might be seen at any time, Lincoln made
frequent experiments. Each and every time the result was the
same. He could not get away from the two Lincolns--one living and
the other dead.
Lincoln never saw this forbidding reflection while in the White
House. Time after time he placed a couch in front of a mirror at
a distance from the glass where he could view his entire length
while lying down, but the looking-glass in the Executive Mansion
was faithful to its trust, and only the living Lincoln was
The late Ward Lamon, once a law partner of Lincoln, and Marshal
of the District of Columbia during his first administration,
tells, in his "Recollections of Abraham Lincoln," of the dreams
the President had--all foretelling death.
Lamon was Lincoln's most intimate friend, being, practically, his
bodyguard, and slept in the White House. In reference to
Lincoln's "death dreams," he says:
"How, it may be asked, could he make life tolerable, burdened as
he was with that portentous horror, which, though visionary, and
of trifling import in our eyes, was by his interpretation a
premonition of impending doom? I answer in a word: His sense of
duty to his country; his belief that 'the inevitable' is right;
and his innate and irrepressible humor.
"But the most startling incident in the life of Mr. Lincoln was a
dream he had only a few days before his assassination. To him it
was a thing of deadly import, and certainly no vision was ever
fashioned more exactly like a dread reality. Coupled with other
dreams, with the mirror-scene and with other incidents, there was
something about it so amazingly real, so true to the actual
tragedy which occurred soon after, that more than mortal strength
and wisdom would have been required to let it pass without a
shudder or a pang.
"After worrying over it for some days, Mr. Lincoln seemed no
longer able to keep the secret. I give it as nearly in his own
words as I can, from notes which I made immediately after its
recital. There were only two or three persons present.
"The President was in a melancholy, meditative mood, and had been
silent for some time. Mrs. Lincoln, who was present, rallied him
on his solemn visage and want of spirit. This seemed to arouse
him, and, without seeming to notice her sally, he said, in slow
and measured tones:
"'It seems strange how much there is in the Bible about dreams.
There are, I think, some sixteen chapters in the Old Testament
and four or five in the New, in which dreams are mentioned; and
there are many other passages scattered throughout the book which
refer to visions. In the old days, God and His angels came to men
in their sleep and made themselves known in dreams.'
"Mrs. Lincoln here remarked, 'Why, you look dreadfully solemn; do
you believe in dreams?'
"'I can't say that I do,' returned Mr. Lincoln; 'but I had one
the other night which has haunted me ever since. After it
occurred the first time, I opened the Bible, and, strange as it
may appear, it was at the twenty-eighth chapter of Genesis, which
relates the wonderful dream Jacob had. I turned to other
passages, and seemed to encounter a dream or a vision wherever I
looked. I kept on turning the leaves of the old book, and
everywhere my eyes fell upon passages recording matters strangely
in keeping with my own thoughts--supernatural visitations,
dreams, visions, etc.'
"He now looked so serious and disturbed that Mrs. Lincoln
exclaimed 'You frighten me! What is the matter?'
"'I am afraid,' said Mr. Lincoln, observing the effect his words
had upon his wife, 'that I have done wrong to mention the subject
at all; but somehow the thing has got possession of me, and, like
Banquo's ghost, it will not down.'
"This only inflamed Mrs. Lincoln's curiosity the more, and while
bravely disclaiming any belief in dreams, she strongly urged him
to tell the dream which seemed to have such a hold upon him,
being seconded in this by another listener. Mr. Lincoln
hesitated, but at length commenced very deliberately, his brow
overcast with a shade of melancholy.
"'About ten days ago,' said he, 'I retired very late. I had been
up waiting for important dispatches from the front. I could not
have been long in bed when I fell into a slumber, for I was
weary. I soon began to dream. There seemed to be a deathlike
stillness about me. Then I heard subdued sobs, as if a number of
people were weeping.
"'I thought I left my bed and wandered down-stairs. There the
silence was broken by the same pitiful sobbing, but the mourners
were invisible. I went from room to room; no living person was in
sight, but the same mournful sounds of distress met me as I
passed along. It was light in all the rooms; every object was
familiar to me; but where were all the people who were grieving
as if their hearts would break? I was puzzled and alarmed. What
could be the meaning of all this?
"'Determined to find the cause of a state of things so
mysterious and so shocking, I kept on until I arrived at the East
Room, which I entered. There I met with a sickening surprise.
Before me was a catafalque, on which rested a corpse wrapped in
funeral vestments. Around it were stationed soldiers who were
acting as guards; and there was a throng of people, some gazing
mournfully upon the corpse, whose face was covered, others
"'"Who is dead in the White House?" I demanded of one of the
"'"The President," was his answer; "he was killed by an
"'Then came a loud burst of grief from the crowd, which awoke me
from my dream. I slept no more that night; and although it was
only a dream, I have been strangely annoyed by it ever since.'
"'That is horrid!' said Mrs. Lincoln. 'I wish you had not told
it. I am glad I don't believe in dreams, or I should be in terror
from this time forth.'
"'Well,' responded Mr. Lincoln, thoughtfully, 'it is only a
dream, Mary. Let us say no more about it, and try to forget it.'
"This dream was so horrible, so real, and so in keeping with
other dreams and threatening presentiments of his, that Mr.
Lincoln was profoundly disturbed by it. During its recital he was
grave, gloomy, and at times visibly pale, but perfectly calm. He
spoke slowly, with measured accents and deep feeling.
"In conversations with me, he referred to it afterwards, closing
one with this quotation from 'Hamlet': 'To sleep; perchance to
dream! ay, there's the rub!' with a strong accent upon the last
"Once the President alluded to this terrible dream with some show
of playful humor. 'Hill,' said he, 'your apprehension of harm to
me from some hidden enemy is downright foolishness. For a long
time you have been trying to keep somebody-the Lord knows who--
from killing me.
"'Don't you see how it will turn out? In this dream it was not
me, but some other fellow, that was killed. It seems that this
ghostly assassin tried his hand on some one else. And this
reminds me of an old farmer in Illinois whose family were made
sick by eating greens.
"'Some poisonous herb had got into the mess, and members of the
family were in danger of dying. There was a half-witted boy in
the family called Jake; and always afterward when they had greens
the old man would say, "Now, afore we risk these greens, let's
try 'em on Jake. If he stands 'em we're all right." Just so with
me. As long as this imaginary assassin continues to exercise
himself on others, I can stand it.'
"He then became serious and said: 'Well, let it go. I think the
Lord in His own good time and way will work this out all right.
God knows what is best.'
"These words he spoke with a sigh, and rather in a tone of
soliloquy, as if hardly noting my presence.
"Mr. Lincoln had another remarkable dream, which was repeated so
frequently during his occupancy of the White House that he came
to regard it is a welcome visitor. It was of a pleasing and
promising character, having nothing in it of the horrible.
"It was always an omen of a Union victory, and came with unerring
certainty just before every military or naval engagement where
our arms were crowned with success. In this dream he saw a ship
sailing away rapidly, badly damaged, and our victorious vessels
in close pursuit.
"He saw, also, the close of a battle on land, the enemy routed,
and our forces in possession of vantage ground of inestimable
importance. Mr. Lincoln stated it as a fact that he had this
dream just before the battles of Antietam, Gettysburg, and other
signal engagements throughout the War.
"The last time Mr. Lincoln had this dream was the night before
his assassination. On the morning of that lamentable day there
was a Cabinet meeting, at which General Grant was present. During
an interval of general discussion, the President asked General
Grant if he had any news from General Sherman, who was then
confronting Johnston. The reply was in the negative, but the
general added that he was in hourly expectation of a dispatch
announcing Johnston's surrender.
"Mr. Lincoln then, with great impressiveness, said, 'We shall
hear very soon, and the news will be important.'
"General Grant asked him why he thought so.
"'Because,' said Mr. Lincoln, 'I had a dream last night; and
ever since this War began I have had the same dream just before
every event of great national importance. It portends some
important event which will happen very soon.'
"On the night of the fateful 14th of April, 1865, Mrs. Lincoln's
first exclamation, after the President was shot, was, 'His dream
"Lincoln was a believer in certain phases of the supernatural.
Assured as he undoubtedly was by omens which, to his mind, were
conclusive, that he would rise to greatness and power, he was as
firmly convinced by the same tokens that he would be suddenly cut
off at the height of his career and the fullness of his fame. He
always believed that he would fall by the hand of an assassin.
"Mr. Lincoln had this further idea: Dreams, being natural
occurrences, in the strictest sense, he held that their best
interpreters are the common people; and this accounts, in great
measure, for the profound respect he always had for the
collective wisdom of plain people--'the children of Nature,' he
called them--touching matters belonging to the domain of
psychical mysteries. There was some basis of truth, he believed,
for whatever obtained general credence among these 'children of
"Concerning presentiments and dreams, Mr. Lincoln had a
philosophy of his own, which, strange as it may appear, was in
perfect harmony with his character in all other respects. He was
no dabbler in divination--astrology, horoscopy, prophecy, ghostly
lore, or witcheries of any sort.
EVERY LITTLE HELPED.
As the time drew near at which Mr. Lincoln said he would issue
the Emancipation Proclamation, some clergymen, who feared the
President might change his mind, called on him to urge him to
keep his promise.
"We were ushered into the Cabinet room," says Dr. Sunderland. "It
was very dim, but one gas jet burning. As we entered, Mr. Lincoln
was standing at the farther end of the long table, which filled
the center of the room. As I stood by the door, I am so very
short, that I was obliged to look up to see the President. Mr.
Robbins introduced me, and I began at once by saying: 'I have
come, Mr. President, to anticipate the new year with my respects,
and if I may, to say to you a word about the serious condition of
"'Go ahead, Doctor,' replied the President; 'every little
helps.' But I was too much in earnest to laugh at his sally at my
ABOUT TO LAY DOWN THE BURDEN.
President Lincoln (at times) said he felt sure his life would end
with the War. A correspondent of a Boston paper had an interview
with him in July, 1864, and wrote regarding it:
"The President told me he was certain he should not outlast the
rebellion. As will be remembered, there was dissension then among
the Republican leaders. Many of his best friends had deserted
him, and were talking of an opposition convention to nominate
another candidate, and universal gloom was among the people.
"The North was tired of the War, and supposed an honorable peace
attainable. Mr. Lincoln knew it was not--that any peace at that
time would be only disunion. Speaking of it, he said: 'I have
faith in the people. They will not consent to disunion. The
danger is, they are misled. Let them know the truth, and the
country is safe.'
"He looked haggard and careworn; and further on in the interview
I remarked on his appearance, 'You are wearing yourself out with
"'I can't work less,' he answered; 'but it isn't that--work
never troubled me. Things look badly, and I can't avoid anxiety.
Personally, I care nothing about a re-election, but if our
divisions defeat us, I fear for the country.'
"When I suggested that right must eventually triumph, he replied,
'I grant that, but I may never live to see it. I feel a
presentiment that I shall not outlast the rebellion. When it is
over, my work will be done.'
"He never intimated, however, that he expected to be
LINCOLN WOULD HAVE PREFERRED DEATH.
Horace Greeley said, some time after the death of President
"After the Civil War began, Lincoln's tenacity of purpose
paralleled his former immobility; I believe he would have been
nearly the last, if not the very last, man in America to
recognize the Southern Confederacy had its armies been
triumphant. He would have preferred death."
"PUNCH" AND HIS LITTLE PICTURE.
London "Punch" was not satisfied with anything President Lincoln
did. On December 3rd, 1864, after Mr. Lincoln's re-election to
the Presidency, a cartoon appeared in one of the pages of that
genial publication, the reproduction being printed here, labeled
"The Federal Phoenix." It attracted great attention at the time,
and was particularly pleasing to the enemies of the United
States, as it showed Lincoln as the Phoenix arising from the
ashes of the Federal Constitution, the Public Credit, the Freedom
of the Press, State Rights and the Commerce of the North American
President Lincoln's endorsement by the people of the United
States meant that the Confederacy was to be crushed, no matter
what the cost; that the Union of States was to be preserved, and
that State Rights was a thing of the past. "Punch" wished to
create the impression that President Lincoln's re-election was a
personal victory; that he would set up a despotism, with himself
at its head, and trample upon the Constitution of the United
States and all the rights the citizens of the Republic ever
The result showed that "Punch" was suffering from an acute attack
of needless alarm.
FASCINATED By THE WONDERFUL
Lincoln was particularly fascinated by the wonderful happenings
recorded in history. He loved to read of those mighty events
which had been foretold, and often brooded upon these subjects.
His early convictions upon occult matters led him to read all
books tending' to strengthen these convictions.
The following lines, in Byron's "Dream," were frequently quoted
"Sleep hath its own world,
A boundary between the things misnamed
Death and existence: Sleep hath its own world
And a wide realm of wild reality.
And dreams in their development have breath,
And tears and tortures, and the touch of joy;
They leave a weight upon our waking thoughts,
They take a weight from off our waking toils,
They do divide our being."
Those with whom he was associated in his early youth and young
manhood, and with whom he was always in cordial sympathy, were
thorough believers in presentiments and dreams; and so Lincoln
drifted on through years of toil and exceptional hardship--
meditative, aspiring, certain of his star, but appalled at times
by its malignant aspect. Many times prior to his first election
to the Presidency he was both elated and alarmed by what seemed
to him a rent in the veil which hides from mortal view what the
He saw, or thought he saw, a vision of glory and of blood,
himself the central figure in a scene which his fancy transformed
from giddy enchantment to the most appalling tragedy.
"WHY DON'T THEY COME!"
The suspense of the days when the capital was isolated, the
expected troops not arriving, and an hourly attack feared, wore
on Mr. Lincoln greatly.
"I begin to believe," he said bitterly, one day, to some
Massachusetts soldiers, "that there is no North. The Seventh
Regiment is a myth. Rhode Island is another. You are the only
And again, after pacing the floor of his deserted office for a
half-hour, he was heard to exclaim to himself, in an anguished
tone: "Why don't they come! Why don't they come!"
GRANT'S BRAND OF WHISKEY.
Lincoln was not a man of impulse, and did nothing upon the spur
of the moment; action with him was the result of deliberation and
study. He took nothing for granted; he judged men by their
performances and not their speech.
If a general lost battles, Lincoln lost confidence in him; if a
commander was successful, Lincoln put him where he would be of
the most service to the country.
"Grant is a drunkard," asserted powerful and influential
politicians to the President at the White House time after time;
"he is not himself half the time; he can't be relied upon, and it
is a shame to have such a man in command of an army."
"So Grant gets drunk, does he?" queried Lincoln, addressing
himself to one of the particularly active detractors of the
soldier, who, at that period, was inflicting heavy damage upon
"Yes, he does, and I can prove it," was the reply.
"Well," returned Lincoln, with the faintest suspicion of a
twinkle in his eye, "you needn't waste your time getting proof;
you just find out, to oblige me, what brand of whiskey Grant
drinks, because I want to send a barrel of it to each one of my
That ended the crusade against Grant, so far as the question of
drinking was concerned.
HIS FINANCIAL STANDING.
A New York firm applied to Abraham Lincoln, some years before he
became President, for information as to the financial standing of
one of his neighbors. Mr. Lincoln replied:
"I am well acquainted with Mr.-- and know his circumstances.
First of all, he has a wife and baby; together they ought to be
worth $50,000 to any man. Secondly, he has an office in which
there is a table worth $1.50 and three chairs worth, say, $1.
Last of all, there is in one corner a large rat hole, which will
bear looking into. Respectfully, A. Lincoln."
THE DANDY AND THE BOYS.
President Lincoln appointed as consul to a South American country
a young man from Ohio who was a dandy. A wag met the new
appointee on his way to the White House to thank the President.
He was dressed in the most extravagant style. The wag horrified
him by telling him that the country to which he was assigned was
noted chiefly for the bugs that abounded there and made life
"They'll bore a hole clean through you before a week has passed,"
was the comforting assurance of the wag as they parted at the
White House steps. The new consul approached Lincoln with
disappointment clearly written all over his face. Instead of
joyously thanking the President, he told him the wag's story of
the bugs. "I am informed, Mr. President," he said, "that the
place is full of vermin and that they could eat me up in a week's
time." "Well, young man," replied Lincoln, "if that's true, all
I've got to say is that if such a thing happened they would leave
a mighty good suit of clothes behind."
"SOME UGLY OLD LAWYER."
A. W. Swan, of Albuquerque, New Mexico, told this story on
Lincoln, being an eyewitness of the scene:
"One day President Lincoln was met in the park between the White
House and the War Department by an irate private soldier, who was
swearing in a high key, cursing the Government from the President
down. Mr. Lincoln paused and asked him what was the matter.
'Matter enough,' was the reply. 'I want my money. I have been
discharged here, and can't get my pay.' Mr. Lincoln asked if he
had his papers, saying that he used to practice law in a small
way, and possibly could help him.
"My friend and I stepped behind some convenient shrubbery where
we could watch the result. Mr. Lincoln took the papers from the
hands of the crippled soldier, and sat down with him at the foot
of a convenient tree, where he examined them carefully, and
writing a line on the back, told the soldier to take them to Mr.
Potts, Chief Clerk of the War Department, who would doubtless
attend to the matter at once.
"After Mr. Lincoln had left the soldier, we stepped out and asked
him if he knew whom he had been talking with. 'Some ugly old
fellow who pretends to be a lawyer,' was the reply. My companion
asked to see the papers, and on their being handed to him,
pointed to the indorsement they had received: This indorsement
"'Mr. Potts, attend to this man's case at once and see that he
gets his pay. A. L.'"
GOOD MEMORY OF NAMES.
The following story illustrates the power of Mr. Lincoln's memory
of names and faces. When he was a comparatively young man, and a
candidate for the Illinois Legislature, he made a personal
canvass of the district. While "swinging around the circle" he
stopped one day and took dinner with a farmer in Sangamon county.
Years afterward, when Mr. Lincoln had become President, a soldier
came to call on him at the White House. At the first glance the
Chief Executive said: "Yes, I remember; you used to live on the
Danville road. I took dinner with you when I was running for the
Legislature. I recollect that we stood talking out at the
barnyard gate while I sharpened my jackknife."
"Y-a-a-s," drawled the soldier, "you did. But say, wherever did
you put that whetstone? I looked for it a dozen times, but I
never could find it after the day you used it. We allowed as how
mabby you took it 'long with you."
"No," said Lincoln, looking serious and pushing away a lot of
documents of state from the desk in front of him. "No, I put it
on top of that gatepost--that high one."
"Well!" exclaimed the visitor, "mabby you did. Couldn't anybody
else have put it there, and none of us ever thought of looking
there for it."
The soldier was then on his way home, and when he got there the
first thing he did was to look for the whetstone. And sure
enough, there it was, just where Lincoln had laid it fifteen
years before. The honest fellow wrote a letter to the Chief
Magistrate, telling him that the whetstone had been found, and
would never be lost again.
SETTLED OUT OF COURT.
When Abe Lincoln used to be drifting around the country,
practicing law in Fulton and Menard counties, Illinois, an old
fellow met him going to Lewiston, riding a horse which, while it
was a serviceable enough animal, was not of the kind to be
truthfully called a fine saddler. It was a weatherbeaten nag,
patient and plodding, and it toiled along with Abe--and Abe's
books, tucked away in saddle-bags, lay heavy on the horse's
"Hello, Uncle Tommy," said Abe.
"Hello, Abe," responded Uncle Tommy. "I'm powerful glad to see
ye, Abe, fer I'm gwyne to have sumthin' fer ye at Lewiston co't,
"How's that, Uncle Tommy?" said Abe.
"Well, Jim Adams, his land runs 'long o' mine, he's pesterin' me
a heap an' I got to get the law on Jim, I reckon."
"Uncle Tommy, you haven't had any fights with Jim, have you?"
"He's a fair to middling neighbor, isn't he?"
"Only tollable, Abe."
"He's been a neighbor of yours for a long time, hasn't he?"
"Nigh on to fifteen year."
"Part of the time you get along all right, don't you?"
"I reckon we do, Abe."
"Well, now, Uncle Tommy, you see this horse of mine? He isn't as
good a horse as I could straddle, and I sometimes get out of
patience with him, but I know his faults. He does fairly well as
horses go, and it might take me a long time to get used to some
other horse's faults. For all horses have faults. You and Uncle
Jimmy must put up with each other as I and my horse do with one
"I reckon, Abe," said Uncle Tommy, as he bit off about four
ounces of Missouri plug. "I reckon you're about right."
And Abe Lincoln, with a smile on his gaunt face, rode on toward
THE FIVE POINTS SUNDAY SCHOOL.
When Mr. Lincoln visited New York in 1860, he felt a great
interest in many of the institutions for reforming criminals and
saving the young from a life of crime. Among others, he visited,
unattended, the Five Points House of Industry, and the
superintendent of the Sabbath school there gave the following
account of the event:
"One Sunday morning I saw a tall, remarkable-looking man enter
the room and take a seat among us. He listened with fixed
attention to our exercises, and his countenance expressed such
genuine interest that I approached him and suggested that he
might be willing to say something to the children. He accepted
the invitation with evident pleasure, and coming forward began a
simple address, which at once fascinated every little hearer and
hushed the room into silence. His language was strikingly
beautiful, and his tones musical with intense feeling. The little
faces would droop into sad conviction when he uttered sentences
of warning, and would brighten into sunshine as he spoke cheerful
words of promise. Once or twice he attempted to close his
remarks, but the imperative shout of, 'Go on! Oh, do go on!'
would compel him to resume.
"As I looked upon the gaunt and sinewy frame of the stranger, and
marked his powerful head and determined features, now touched
into softness by the impressions of the moment, I felt an
irrepressible curiosity to learn something more about him, and
while he was quietly leaving the room, I begged to know his name.
He courteously replied: 'It is Abraham Lincoln, from Illinois.'"
SENTINEL OBEYED ORDERS.
A slight variation of the traditional sentry story is related by
C. C. Buel. It was a cold, blusterous winter night. Says Mr.
"Mr. Lincoln emerged from the front door, his lank figure bent
over as he drew tightly about his shoulders the shawl which he
employed for such protection; for he was on his way to the War
Department, at the west corner of the grounds, where in times of
battle he was wont to get the midnight dispatches from the field.
As the blast struck him he thought of the numbness of the pacing
sentry, and, turning to him, said: 'Young man, you've got a cold
job to-night; step inside, and stand guard there.'
"'My orders keep me out here,' the soldier replied.
"'Yes,' said the President, in his argumentative tone; 'but your
duty can be performed just as well inside as out here, and you'll
oblige me by going in.'
"'I have been stationed outside,' the soldier answered, and
resumed his beat.
"'Hold on there!' said Mr. Lincoln, as he turned back again; 'it
occurs to me that I am Commander-in-Chief of the army, and I
order you to go inside.'"
WHY LINCOLN GROWED WHISKERS.
Perhaps the majority of people in the United States don't know
why Lincoln "growed" whiskers after his first nomination for the
Presidency. Before that time his face was clean shaven.
In the beautiful village of Westfield, Chautauqua county, New
York, there lived, in 1860, little Grace Bedell. During the
campaign of that year she saw a portrait of Lincoln, for whom she
felt the love and reverence that was common in Republican
families, and his smooth, homely face rather disappointed her.
She said to her mother: "I think, mother, that Mr. Lincoln would
look better if he wore whiskers, and I mean to write and tell him
The mother gave her permission.
Grace's father was a Republican; her two brothers were Democrats.
Grace wrote at once to the "Hon. Abraham Lincoln, Esq.,
Springfield, Illinois," in which she told him how old she was,
and where she lived; that she was a Republican; that she thought
he would make a good President, but would look better if he would
let his whiskers grow. If he would do so, she would try to coax
her brothers to vote for him. She thought the rail fence around
the picture of his cabin was very pretty. "If you have not time
to answer my letter, will you allow your little girl to reply for
Lincoln was much pleased with the letter, and decided to answer
it, which he did at once, as follows:
"Springfield, Illinois, October i9, 1860.
"Miss Grace Bedell.
"My Dear Little Miss: Your very agreeable letter of the fifteenth
is received. I regret the necessity of saying I have no daughter.
I have three sons; one seventeen, one nine and one seven years of
age. They, with their mother, constitute my whole family. As to
the whiskers, having never worn any, do you not think people
would call it a piece of silly affectation if I should begin it
now? Your very sincere well-wisher, A. LINCOLN."
When on the journey to Washington to be inaugurated, Lincoln's
train stopped at Westfield. He recollected his little
correspondent and spoke of her to ex-Lieutenant Governor George
W. Patterson, who called out and asked if Grace Bedell was
There was a large surging mass of people gathered about the
train, but Grace was discovered at a distance; the crowd opened a
pathway to the coach, and she came, timidly but gladly, to the
President-elect, who told her that she might see that he had
allowed his whiskers to grow at her request. Then, reaching out
his long arms, he drew her up to him and kissed her. The act drew
an enthusiastic demonstration of approval from the multitude.
Grace married a Kansas banker, and became Grace Bedell Billings.
LINCOLN AS A DANCER.
Lincoln made his first appearance in society when he was first
sent to Springfield, Ill., as a member of the State Legislature.
It was not an imposing figure which he cut in a ballroom, but
still he was occasionally to be found there. Miss Mary Todd, who
afterward became his wife, was the magnet which drew the tall,
awkward young man from his den. One evening Lincoln approached
Miss Todd, and said, in his peculiar idiom:
"Miss Todd, I should like to dance with you the worst way." The
young woman accepted the inevitable, and hobbled around the room
with him. When she returned to her seat, one of her companions
"Well, Mary, did he dance with you the worst way."
"Yes," she answered, "the very worst."
SIMPLY PRACTICAL HUMANITY.
An instance of young Lincoln's practical humanity at an early
period of his life is recorded in this way:
One evening, while returning from a "raising" in his wide
neighborhood, with a number of companions, he discovered a stray
horse, with saddle and bridle upon him. The horse was recognized
as belonging to a man who was accustomed to get drunk, and it was
suspected at once that he was not far off. A short search only
was necessary to confirm the belief.
The poor drunkard was found in a perfectly helpless condition,
upon the chilly ground. Abraham's companions urged the cowardly
policy of leaving him to his fate, but young Lincoln would not
hear to the proposition.
At his request, the miserable sot was lifted on his shoulders,
and he actually carried him eighty rods to the nearest house.
Sending word to his father that he should not be back that night,
with the reason for his absence, he attended and nursed the man
until the morning, and had the pleasure of believing that he had
saved his life.
HAPPY FIGURES OF SPEECH.
On one occasion, exasperated at the discrepancy between the
aggregate of troops forwarded to McClellan and the number that
same general reported as having received, Lincoln exclaimed:
"Sending men to that army is like shoveling fleas across a
barnyard--half of them never get there."
To a politician who had criticised his course, he wrote: "Would
you have me drop the War where it is, or would you prosecute it
in future with elder stalk squirts charged with rosewater?"
When, on his first arrival in Washington as President, he found
himself besieged by office-seekers, while the War was breaking
out, he said: "I feel like a man letting lodgings at one end of
his house while the other end is on fire."
A FEW "RHYTHMIC SHOTS."
Ward Lamon, Marshal of the District of Columbia during Lincoln's
time in Washington, accompanied the President everywhere. He was
a good singer, and, when Lincoln was in one of his melancholy
moods, would "fire a few rhythmic shots" at the President to
cheer the latter. Lincoln keenly relished nonsense in the shape
of witty or comic ditties. A parody of "A Life on the Ocean Wave"
was always pleasing to him:
"Oh, a life on the ocean wave,
And a home on the rolling deep!
With ratlins fried three times a day
And a leaky old berth for to sleep;
Where the gray-beard cockroach roams,
On thoughts of kind intent,
And the raving bedbug comes
The road the cockroach went."
Lincoln could not control his laughter when he heard songs of
He was fond of negro melodies, too, and "The Blue-Tailed Fly" was
a great favorite with him. He often called for that buzzing
ballad when he and Lamon were alone, and he wanted to throw off
the weight of public and private cares. The ballad of "The
Blue-Tailed Fly" contained two verses, which ran:
"When I was young I used to wait
At massa's table, 'n' hand de plate,
An' pass de bottle when he was dry,
An' brush away de blue-tailed fly.
"Ol' Massa's dead; oh, let him rest!
Dey say all things am for de best;
But I can't forget until I die
Ol' massa an' de blue-tailed fly."
While humorous songs delighted the President, he also loved to
listen to patriotic airs and ballads containing sentiment. He was
fond of hearing "The Sword of Bunker Hill," "Ben Bolt," and "The
Lament of the Irish Emigrant." His preference of the verses in
the latter was this:
"I'm lonely now, Mary,
For the poor make no new friends;
But, oh, they love the better still
The few our Father sends!
And you were all I had, Mary,
My blessing and my pride;
There's nothing left to care for now,
Since my poor Mary died."
Those who knew Lincoln were well aware he was incapable of so
monstrous an act as that of wantonly insulting the dead, as was
charged in the infamous libel which asserted that he listened to
a comic song on the field of Antietam, before the dead were
OLD MAN GLENN'S RELIGION.
Mr. Lincoln once remarked to a friend that his religion was like
that of an old man named Glenn, in Indiana, whom he heard speak
at a church meeting, and who said: "When I do good, I feel good;
when I do bad, I feel bad; and that's my religion."
Mrs. Lincoln herself has said that Mr. Lincoln had no faith--no
faith, in the usual acceptance of those words. "He never joined a
church; but still, as I believe, he was a religious man by
nature. He first seemed to think about the subject when our boy
Willie died, and then more than ever about the time he went to
Gettysburg; but it was a kind of poetry in his nature, and he
never was a technical Christian."
LAST ACTS OF MERCY.
During the afternoon preceding his assassination the President
signed a pardon for a soldier sentenced to be shot for desertion,
remarking as he did so, "Well, I think the boy can do us more
good above ground than under ground."
He also approved an application for the discharge, on taking the
oath of allegiance, of a rebel prisoner, in whose petition he
wrote, "Let it be done."
This act of mercy was his last official order.
JUST LIKE SEWARD.
The first corps of the army commanded by General Reynolds was
once reviewed by the President on a beautiful plain at the north
of Potomac Creek, about eight miles from Hooker's headquarters.
The party rode thither in an ambulance over a rough corduroy
road, and as they passed over some of the more difficult portions
of the jolting way the ambulance driver, who sat well in front,
occasionally let fly a volley of suppressed oaths at his wild
team of six mules.
Finally, Mr. Lincoln, leaning forward, touched the man on the
shoulder and said
"Excuse me, my friend, are you an Episcopalian?"
The man, greatly startled, looked around and replied:
"No, Mr. President; I am a Methodist."
"Well," said Lincoln, "I thought you must be an Episcopalian,
because you swear just like Governor Seward, who is a church
A CHEERFUL PROSPECT.
The first night after the departure of President-elect Lincoln
from Springfield, on his way to Washington, was spent in
Indianapolis. Governor Yates, O. H. Browning, Jesse K. Dubois, O.
M. Hatch, Josiah Allen, of Indiana, and others, after taking
leave of Mr. Lincoln to return to their respective homes, took
Ward Lamon into a room, locked the door, and proceeded in the
most solemn and impressive manner to instruct him as to his
duties as the special guardian of Mr. Lincoln's person during the
rest of his journey to Washington. Lamon tells the story as
"The lesson was concluded by Uncle Jesse, as Mr. Dubois was
commonly, called, who said:
"'Now, Lamon, we have regarded you as the Tom Hyer of Illinois,
with Morrissey attachment. We intrust the sacred life of Mr.
Lincoln to your keeping; and if you don't protect it, never
return to Illinois, for we will murder you on sight."'
THOUGHT GOD WOULD HAVE TOLD HIM.
Professor Jonathan Baldwin Turner was one of the few men to whom
Mr. Lincoln confided his intention to issue the Proclamation of
Mr. Lincoln told his Illinois friend of the visit of a delegation
to him who claimed to have a message from God that the War would
not be successful without the freeing of the negroes, to whom Mr.
Lincoln replied: "Is it not a little strange that He should tell
this to you, who have so little to do with it, and should not
have told me, who has a great deal to do with it?"
At the same time he informed Professor Turner he had his
Proclamation in his pocket.
LINCOLN AND A BIBLE HERO.
A writer who heard Mr. Lincoln's famous speech delivered in New
York after his nomination for President has left this record of
"When Lincoln rose to speak, I was greatly disappointed. He was
tall, tall, oh, so tall, and so angular and awkward that I had
for an instant a feeling of pity for so ungainly a man. He began
in a low tone of voice, as if he were used to speaking out of
doors and was afraid of speaking too loud.
"He said 'Mr. Cheerman,' instead of 'Mr. Chairman,' and employed
many other words with an old-fashioned pronunciation. I said to
myself, 'Old fellow, you won't do; it is all very well for the
Wild West, but this will never go down in New York.' But pretty
soon he began to get into the subject; he straightened up, made
regular and graceful gestures; his face lighted as with an inward
fire; the whole man was transfigured.
"I forgot the clothing, his personal appearance, and his
individual peculiarities. Presently, forgetting myself, I was on
my feet with the rest, yelling like a wild Indian, cheering the
wonderful man. In the close parts of his argument you could hear
the gentle sizzling of the gas burners.
"When he reached a climax the thunders of applause were terrific.
It was a great speech. When I came out of the hall my face was
glowing with excitement and my frame all a-quiver. A friend, with
his eyes aglow, asked me what I thought of 'Abe' Lincoln, the
rail-splitter. I said, 'He's the greatest man since St. Paul.'
And I think so yet."
BOY WAS CARED FOR.
President Lincoln one day noticed a small, pale, delicate-looking
boy, about thirteen years old, among the number in the White
The President saw him standing there, looking so feeble and
faint, and said: "Come here, my boy, and tell me what you want."
The boy advanced, placed his hand on the arm of the President's
chair, and, with a bowed head and timid accents, said: "Mr.
President, I have been a drummer boy in a regiment for two years,
and my colonel got angry with me and turned me off. I was taken
sick and have been a long time in the hospital."
The President discovered that the boy had no home, no father--he
had died in the army--no mother.
"I have no father, no mother, no brothers, no sisters, and,"
bursting into tears, "no friends--nobody cares for me."
Lincoln's eyes filled with tears, and the boy's heart was soon
made glad by a request to certain officials "to care for this
THE JURY ACQUITTED HIM
One of the most noted murder cases in which Lincoln defended the
accused was tried in August, 1859. The victim, Crafton, was a
student in his own law office, the defendant, "Peachy" Harrison,
was a grandson of Rev. Peter Cartwright; both were connected with
the best families in the county; they were brothers-in-law, and
had always been friends.
Senator John M. Palmer and General John A. McClelland were on the
side of the prosecution. Among those who represented the
defendant were Lincoln and Senator Shelby M. Cullom. The two
young men had engaged in a political quarrel, and Crafton was
stabbed to death by Harrison. The tragic pathos of a case which
involved the deepest affections of almost an entire community
reached its climax in the appearance in court of the venerable
Peter Cartwright. Lincoln had beaten him for Congress in 1846.
Eccentric and aggressive as he was, he was honored far and wide;
and when he arose to take the witness stand, his white hair
crowned with this cruel sorrow, the most indifferent spectator
felt that his examination would be unbearable.
It fell to Lincoln to question Cartwright. With the rarest
gentleness he began to put his questions.
"How long have you known the prisoner?"
Cartwright's head dropped on his breast for a moment; then
straightening himself, he passed his hand across his eyes and
answered in a deep, quavering voice:
"I have known him since a babe, he laughed and cried on my knee."
The examination ended by Lincoln drawing from the witness the
story of how Crafton had said to him, just before his death: "I
am dying; I will soon part with all I love on earth, and I want
you to say to my slayer that I forgive him. I want to leave this
earth with a forgiveness of all who have in any way injured me."
This examination made a profound impression on the jury. Lincoln
closed his argument by picturing the scene anew, appealing to the
jury to practice the same forgiving spirit that the murdered man
had shown on his death-bed. It was undoubtedly to his handling of
the grandfather's evidence that Harrison's acquittal was due.
TOOK NOTHING BUT MONEY.
During the War Congress appropriated $10,000 to be expended by
the President in defending United States Marshals in cases of
arrests and seizures where the legality of their actions was
tested in the courts. Previously the Marshals sought the
assistance of the Attorney-General in defending them, but when
they found that the President had a fund for that purpose they
sought to control the money.
In speaking of these Marshals one day, Mr. Lincoln said:
"They are like a man in Illinois, whose cabin was burned down,
and, according to the kindly custom of early days in the West,
his neighbors all contributed something to start him again. In
his case they had been so liberal that he soon found himself
better off than before the fire, and he got proud. One day a
neighbor brought him a bag of oats, but the fellow refused it
"'No,' said he, 'I'm not taking oats now. I take nothing but
NAUGHTY BOY HAD TO TAKE HIS MEDICINE.
The resistance to the military draft of 1863 by the City of New
York, the result of which was the killing of several thousand
persons, was illustrated on August 29th, 1863, by "Frank Leslie's
Illustrated Newspaper," over the title of "The Naughty Boy,
Gotham, Who Would Not Take the Draft." Beneath was also the text:
MAMMY LINCOLN: "There now, you bad boy, acting that way, when
your little sister Penn (State of Pennsylvania) takes hers like a
Horatio Seymour was then Governor of New York, and a prominent
"the War is a failure" advocate. He was in Albany, the State
capital, when the riots broke out in the City of New York, July
13th, and after the mob had burned the Colored Orphan Asylum and
killed several hundred negroes, came to the city. He had only
soft words for the rioters, promising them that the draft should
be suspended. Then the Government sent several regiments of
veterans, fresh from the field of Gettysburg, where they had
assisted in defeating Lee. These troops made short work of the
brutal ruffians, shooting down three thousand or so of them, and
the rioting was subdued. The "Naughty Boy Gotham" had to take his
medicine, after all, but as the spirit of opposition to the War
was still rampant, the President issued a proclamation suspending
the writ of habeas corpus in all the States of the Union where
the Government had control. This had a quieting effect upon those
who were doing what they could in obstructing the Government.
WOULD BLOW THEM TO H---.
Mr. Lincoln had advised Lieutenant-General Winfield Scott,
commanding the United States Army, of the threats of violence on
inauguration day, 1861. General Scott was sick in bed at
Washington when Adjutant-General Thomas Mather, of Illinois,
called upon him in President-elect Lincoln's behalf, and the
veteran commander was much wrought up. Said he to General Mather:
"Present my compliments to Mr. Lincoln when you return to
Springfield, and tell him I expect him to come on to Washington
as soon as he is ready; say to him that I will look after those
Maryland and Virginia rangers myself. I will plant cannon at both
ends of Pennsylvania avenue, and if any of them show their heads
or raise a finger, I'll blow them to h---."
"YANKEE" GOODNESS OF HEART.
One day, when the President was with the troops who were fighting
at the front, the wounded, both Union and Confederate, began to
As one stretcher was passing Lincoln, he heard the voice of a lad
calling to his mother in agonizing tones. His great heart filled.
He forgot the crisis of the hour. Stopping the carriers, he
knelt, and bending over him, asked: "What can I do for you, my
"Oh, you will do nothing for me," he replied. "You are a Yankee.
I cannot hope that my message to my mother will ever reach her."
Lincoln, in tears, his voice full of tenderest love, convinced
the boy of his sincerity, and he gave his good-bye words without
The President directed them copied, and ordered that they be sent
that night, with a flag of truce, into the enemy's lines.
WALKED AS HE TALKED.
When Mr. Lincoln made his famous humorous speech in Congress
ridiculing General Cass, he began to speak from notes, but, as he
warmed up, he left his desk and his notes, to stride down the
alley toward the Speaker's chair.
Occasionally, as he would complete a sentence amid shouts of
laughter, he would return up the alley to his desk, consult his
notes, take a sip of water and start off again.
Mr. Lincoln received many congratulations at the close, Democrats
joining the Whigs in their complimentary comments.
One Democrat, however (who had been nicknamed "Sausage" Sawyer),
didn't enthuse at all.
"Sawyer," asked an Eastern Representative, "how did you like the
lanky Illinoisan's speech? Very able, wasn't it?"
"Well," replied Sawyer, "the speech was pretty good, but I hope
he won't charge mileage on his travels while delivering it."
THE SONG DID THE BUSINESS.
The Virginia (Ill.) Enquirer, of March 1, 1879, tells this story:
"John McNamer was buried last Sunday, near Petersburg, Menard
county. A long while ago he was Assessor and Treasurer of the
County for several successive terms. Mr. McNamer was an early
settler in that section, and, before the town of Petersburg was
laid out, in business in Old Salem, a village that existed many
years ago two miles south of the present site of Petersburg.
"'Abe' Lincoln was then postmaster of the place and sold whisky
to its inhabitants. There are old-timers yet living in Menard who
bought many a jug of corn-juice from 'Old Abe' when he lived at
Salem. It was here that Anne Rutledge dwelt, and in whose grave
Lincoln wrote that his heart was buried.
"As the story runs, the fair and gentle Anne was originally John
McNamer's sweetheart, but 'Abe' took a 'shine' to the young lady,
and succeeded in heading off McNamer and won her affections. But
Anne Rutledge died, and Lincoln went to Springfield, where he
some time afterwards married.
"It is related that during the War a lady belonging to a
prominent Kentucky family visited Washington to beg for her son's
pardon, who was then in prison under sentence of death for
belonging to a band of guerrillas who had committed many murders
"With the mother was her daughter, a beautiful young lady, who
was an accomplished musician. Mr. Lincoln received the visitors
in his usual kind manner, and the mother made known the object of
her visit, accompanying her plea with tears and sobs and all the
customary romantic incidents.
"There were probably extenuating circumstances in favor of the
young rebel prisoner, and while the President seemed to be deeply
pondering the young lady moved to a piano near by and taking a
seat commenced to sing 'Gentle Annie,' a very sweet and pathetic
ballad which, before the War, was a familiar song in almost every
household in the Union, and is not yet entirely forgotten, for
"It is to be presumed that the young lady sang the song with more
plaintiveness and effect than 'Old Abe' had ever heard it in
Springfield. During its rendition, he arose from his seat,
crossed the room to a window in the westward, through which he
gazed for several minutes with a 'sad, far-away look,' which has
so often been noted as one of his peculiarities.
"His memory, no doubt, went back to the days of his humble life
on the Sangamon, and with visions of Old Salem and its rustic
people, who once gathered in his primitive store, came a picture
of the 'Gentle Annie' of his youth, whose ashes had rested for
many long years under the wild flowers and brambles of the old
rural burying-ground, but whose spirit then, perhaps, guided him
to the side of mercy.
"Be that as it may, President Lincoln drew a large red silk
handkerchief from his coatpocket, with which he wiped his face
vigorously. Then he turned, advanced quickly to his desk, wrote a
brief note, which he handed to the lady, and informed her that it
was the pardon she sought.
"The scene was no doubt touching in a great degree and proves
that a nice song, well sung, has often a powerful influence in
recalling tender recollections. It proves, also, that Abraham
Lincoln was a man of fine feelings, and that, if the occurrence
was a put-up job on the lady's part, it accomplished the purpose
all the same."
A "FREE FOR ALL."
Lincoln made a political speech at Pappsville, Illinois, when a
candidate for the Legislature the first time. A free-for-all
fight began soon after the opening of the meeting, and Lincoln,
noticing one of his friends about to succumb to the energetic
attack of an infuriated ruffian, edged his way through the crowd,
and, seizing the bully by the neck and the seat of his trousers,
threw him, by means of his strength and long arms, as one witness
stoutly insists, "twelve feet away." Returning to the stand, and
throwing aside his hat, he inaugurated his campaign with the
following brief but pertinent declaration
"Fellow-citizens, I presume you all know who I am. I am humble
Abraham Lincoln. I have been solicited by many friends to become
a candidate for the Legislature. My politics are short and sweet,
like the old woman's dance. I am in favor of the national bank; I
am in favor of the internal improvement system and a high
protective tariff. These are my sentiments; if elected, I shall
be thankful; if not, it will be all the same."
THREE INFERNAL BORES.
One day, when President Lincoln was alone and busily engaged on
an important subject, involving vexation and anxiety, he was
disturbed by the unwarranted intrusion of three men, who, without
apology, proceeded to lay their claim before him.
The spokesman of the three reminded the President that they were
the owners of some torpedo or other warlike invention which, if
the government would only adopt it, would soon crush the
"Now," said the spokesman, "we have been here to see you time and
again; you have referred us to the Secretary of War, the Chief of
Ordnance, and the General of the Army, and they give us no
satisfaction. We have been kept here waiting, till money and
patience are exhausted, and we now come to demand of you a final
reply to our application."
Mr. Lincoln listened to this insolent tirade, and at its close
the old twinkle came into his eye.
"You three gentlemen remind me of a story I once heard," said he,
"of a poor little boy out West who had lost his mother. His
father wanted to give him a religious education, and so placed
him in the family of a clergyman, whom he directed to instruct
the little fellow carefully in the Scriptures. Every day the boy
had to commit to memory and recite one chapter of the Bible.
Things proceeded smoothly until they reached that chapter which
details the story of the trial of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego
in the fiery furnace. When asked to repeat these three names the
boy said he had forgotten them.
"His teacher told him that he must learn them, and gave him
another day to do so. The next day the boy again forgot them.
"'Now,' said the teacher, 'you have again failed to remember
those names and you can go no farther until you have learned
them. I will give you another day on this lesson, and if you
don't repeat the names I will punish you.'
"A third time the boy came to recite, and got down to the
stumbling block, when the clergyman said: 'Now tell me the names
of the men in the fiery furnace.'
"'Oh,' said the boy, 'here come those three infernal bores! I
wish the devil had them!'"
Having received their "final answer," the three patriots retired,
and at the Cabinet meeting which followed, the President, in high
good humor, related how he had dismissed his unwelcome visitors.
LINCOLN'S MEN WERE "HUSTLERS."
In the Chicago Convention of 1860 the fight for Seward was
maintained with desperate resolve until the final ballot was
taken. Thurlow Weed was the Seward leader, and he was simply
incomparable as a master in handling a convention. With him were
Governor Morgan, Henry J. Raymond, of the New York Times, with
William M. Evarts as chairman of the New York delegation, whose
speech nominating Seward was the most impressive utterance of his
life. The Bates men (Bates was afterwards Lincoln's
Attorney-General) were led by Frank Blair, the only Republican
Congressman from a slave State, who was nothing if not heroic,
aided by his brother Montgomery (afterwards Lincoln's Postmaster
General), who was a politician of uncommon cunning. With them was
Horace Greeley, who was chairman of the delegation from the then
almost inaccessible State of Oregon.
It was Lincoln's friends, however, who were the "hustlers" of
that battle. They had men for sober counsel like David Davis; men
of supreme sagacity like Leonard Swett; men of tireless effort
like Norman B. Judd; and they had what was more important than
all--a seething multitude wild with enthusiasm for "Old Abe."
A SLOW HORSE.
On one occasion when Mr. Lincoln was going to attend a political
convention one of his rivals, a liveryman, provided him with a
slow horse, hoping that he would not reach his destination in
time. Mr. Lincoln got there, however, and when he returned with
the horse he said: "You keep this horse for funerals, don't you?"
"Oh, no," replied the liveryman. "Well, I'm glad of that, for if
you did you'd never get a corpse to the grave in time for the
DODGING "BROWSING PRESIDENTS."
General McClellan, after being put in command of the Army,
resented any "interference" by the President. Lincoln, in his
anxiety to know the details of the work in the army, went
frequently to McClellan's headquarters. That the President had a
serious purpose in these visits McClellan did not see.
"I enclose a card just received from 'A. Lincoln,'" he wrote to
his wife one day; "it shows too much deference to be seen
In another letter to Mrs. McClellan he spoke of being
"interrupted" by the President and Secretary Seward, "who had
nothing in particular to say," and again of concealing himself
"to dodge all enemies in shape of 'browsing' Presidents," etc.
"I am becoming daily more disgusted with this Administration--
perfectly sick of it," he wrote early in October; and a few days
later, "I was obliged to attend a meeting of the Cabinet at 8 P.
M., and was bored and annoyed. There are some of the greatest
geese in the Cabinet I have ever seen--enough to tax the patience
A GREENBACK LEGEND.
At a Cabinet meeting once, the advisability of putting a legend
greenbacks similar to the In God We Trust legend on the silver
coins was discussed, and the President was asked what his view
was. He replied: "If you are going to put a legend on the
greenback, I would suggest that of Peter and Paul: 'Silver and
gold we have not, but what we have we'll give you.'"
GOD'S BEST GIFT TO MAN.
One of Mr. Lincoln's notable religious utterances was his reply
to a deputation of colored people at Baltimore who presented him
a Bible. He said:
"In regard to the great book, I have only to say it is the best
gift which God has ever given man. All the good from the Savior
of the world is communicated to us through this book. But for
this book we could not know right from wrong. All those things
desirable to man are contained in it."
SCALPING IN THE BLACK HAWK WAR.
When Lincoln was President he told this story of the Black Hawk
The only time he ever saw blood in this campaign, was one morning
when, marching up a little valley that makes into the Rock River
bottom, to reinforce a squad of outposts that were thought to be
in danger, they came upon the tent occupied by the other party
just at sunrise. The men had neglected to place any guard at
night, and had been slaughtered in their sleep.
As the reinforcing party came up the slope on which the camp had
been made, Lincoln saw them all lying with their heads towards
the rising sun, and the round red spot that marked where they had
been scalped gleamed more redly yet in the ruddy light of the
sun. This scene years afterwards he recalled with a shudder.
For a while during the Civil War, General Fremont was without a
command. One day in discussing Fremont's case with George W.
Julian, President Lincoln said he did not know where to place
him, and that it reminds him of the old man who advised his son
to take a wife, to which the young man responded: "All right;
whose wife shall I take?"
OWED LOTS OF MONEY.
On April 14, 1865, a few hours previous to his assassination,
President Lincoln sent a message by Congressman Schuyler Colfax,
Vice-President during General Grant's first term, to the miners
in the Rocky Mountains and the regions bounded by the Pacific
ocean, in which he said:
"Now that the Rebellion is overthrown, and we know pretty nearly
the amount of our National debt, the more gold and silver we
we make the payment of that debt so much easier.
"Now I am going to encourage that in every possible way. We shall
have hundreds of thousands of disbanded soldiers, and many have
feared that their return home in such great numbers might
paralyze industry by furnishing, suddenly, a greater supply of
labor than there will be demand for. I am going to try to attract
them to the hidden wealth of our mountain ranges, where there is
room enough for all. Immigration, which even the War has not
stopped, will land upon our shores hundreds of thousands more per
year from overcrowded Europe. I intend to point them to the gold
and silver that wait for them in the West.
"Tell the miners for me that I shall promote their interests to
the utmost of my ability; because their prosperity as the
prosperity of the nation; and," said he, his eye kindling with
enthusiasm, "we shall prove, in a very few years, that we are
indeed the treasury of the world."
"ON THE LORD'S SIDE."
President Lincoln made a significant remark to a clergyman in the
early days of the War.
"Let us have faith, Mr. President," said the minister, "that the
Lord is on our side in this great struggle."
Mr. Lincoln quietly answered: "I am not at all concerned about
that, for I know that the Lord is always on the side of the
right; but it is my constant anxiety and prayer that I and this
nation may be on the Lord's side."
WANTED TO BE NEAR "ABE."
It was Lincoln's custom to hold an informal reception once a
week, each caller taking his turn.
Upon one of these eventful days an old friend from Illinois stood
in line for almost an hour. At last he was so near the President
his voice could reach him, and, calling out to his old associate,
he startled every one by exclaiming, "Hallo, 'Abe'; how are ye?
I'm in line and hev come for an orfice, too."
Lincoln singled out the man with the stentorian voice, and
"a particularly old friend, one whose wife had befriended him at
a peculiarly trying time, the President responded to his greeting
in a cordial manner, and told him "to hang onto himself and not
kick the traces. Keep in line and you'll soon get here."
They met and shook hands with the old fervor and renewed their
The informal reception over, Lincoln sent for his old friend, and
the latter began to urge his claims.
After having given him some good advice, Lincoln kindly told him
he was incapable of holding any such position as he asked for.
The disappointment of the Illinois friend was plainly shown, and
with a perceptible tremor in his voice he said, "Martha's dead,
the gal is married, and I've guv Jim the forty."
Then looking at Lincoln he came a little nearer and almost
whispered, "I knowed I wasn't eddicated enough to git the place,
but I kinder want to stay where I ken see 'Abe' Lincoln."
He was given employment in the White House grounds.
Afterwards the President said, "These brief interviews, stripped
of even the semblance of ceremony, give me a better insight into
the real character of the person and his true reason for seeking
GOT HIS FOOT IN IT.
William H. Seward, idol of the Republicans of the East, six
months after Lincoln had made his "Divided House" speech,
delivered an address at Rochester, New York, containing this
"It is an irrepressible conflict between opposing and enduring
forces, and it means that the United States must, and will,
sooner or later, become either entirely a slave-holding nation,
or entirely a free-labor nation."
Seward, who had simply followed in Lincoln's steps, was defeated
for the Presidential nomination at the Republican National
Convention of 1860, because he was "too radical," and Lincoln,
who was still "radicaler," was named.
SAVED BY A LETTER.
The chief interest of the Illinois campaign of 1843 lay in the
race for Congress in the Capital district, which was between
Hardin--fiery, eloquent, and impetuous Democrat--and Lincoln--
plain, practical, and ennobled Whig. The world knows the result.
Lincoln was elected.
It is not so much his election as the manner in which he secured
his nomination with which we have to deal. Before that
ever-memorable spring Lincoln vacillated between the courts of
Springfield, rated as a plain, honest, logical Whig, with no
ambition higher politically than to occupy some good home office.
Late in the fall of 1842 his name began to be mentioned in
connection with Congressional aspirations, which fact greatly
annoyed the leaders of his political party, who had already
selected as the Whig candidate E. D. Baker, afterward the gallant
Colonel who fell so bravely and died such an honorable death on
the battlefield of Ball's Bluff.
Despite all efforts of his opponents within his party, the name
of the "gaunt railsplitter" was hailed with acclaim by the
masses, to whom he had endeared himself by his witticisms, honest
tongue, and quaint philosophy when on the stump, or mingling with
them in their homes.
The convention, which met in early spring, in the city of
Springfield, was to be composed of the usual number of delegates.
The contest for the nomination was spirited and exciting.
A few weeks before the meeting of the convention the fact was
found by the leaders that the advantage lay with Lincoln, and
that unless they pulled some very fine wires nothing could save
They attempted to play the game that has so often won, by
"convincing" delegates under instructions for Lincoln to violate
them, and vote for Baker. They had apparently succeeded.
"The best laid plans of mice and men gang aft agley." So it was
in this case. Two days before the convention Lincoln received an
intimation of this, and, late at night, wrote the following
The letter was addressed to Martin Morris, who resided at
Petersburg, an intimate friend of his, and by him circulated
among those who were instructed for him at the county convention.
It had the desired effect. The convention met, the scheme of the
conspirators miscarried, Lincoln was nominated, made a vigorous
canvass, and was triumphantly elected, thus paving the way for
his more extended and brilliant conquests.
This letter, Lincoln had often told his friends, gave him
ultimately the Chief Magistracy of the nation. He has also said,
that, had he been beaten before the convention, he would have
been forever obscured. The following is a verbatim copy of the
"April 14, 1843.
"Friend Morris: I have heard it intimated that Baker is trying to
get you or Miles, or both of you, to violate the instructions of
the meeting that appointed you, and to go for him. I have
insisted, and still insist, that this cannot be true.
"Sure Baker would not do the like. As well might Hardin ask me to
vote for him in the convention.
"Again, it is said there will be an attempt to get instructions
in your county requiring you to go for Baker. This is all wrong.
Upon the same rule, why might I not fly from the decision against
me at Sangamon and get up instructions to their delegates to go
for me. There are at least 1,200 Whigs in the county that took no
part, and yet I would as soon stick my head in the fire as
"Besides, if any one should get the nomination by such
extraordinary means, all harmony in the district would inevitably
be lost. Honest Whigs (and very nearly all of them are honest)
would not quietly abide such enormities.
"I repeat, such an attempt on Baker's part cannot be true. Write
me at Springfield how the matter is. Don't show or speak of this
Mr. Morris did show the letter, and Mr. Lincoln always thanked
his stars that he did.
HIS FAVORITE POEM.
Mr. Lincoln's favorite poem was "Oh! Why Should the Spirit of
Mortal Be Proud?" written by William Knox, a Scotchman, although
Mr. Lincoln never knew the author's name. He once said to a
"This poem has been a great favorite with me for years. It was
first shown to me, when a young man, by a friend. I afterward saw
it and cut it from a newspaper and learned it by heart. I would
give a great deal to know who wrote it, but I have never been
able to ascertain."
"Oh! why should the spirit of mortal be proud?--
Like a swift-fleeing meteor, a fastflying cloud,
A flash of the lightning, a break of the wave,
He passeth from life to his rest in the grave.
"The leaves of the oak and the willow shall fade,
Be scattered around, and together be laid;
And the young and the old, and the low and the high,
Shall moulder to dust, and together shall lie.
"The infant a mother attended and loved;
The mother, that infant's affection who proved,
The husband, that mother and infant who blessed--
Each, all, are away to their dwellings of rest.
"The maid on whose cheek, on whose brow, in whose eye,
Shone beauty and pleasure--her triumphs are by;
And the memory of those who loved her and praised,
Are alike from the minds of the living erased.
"The hand of the king, that the sceptre hath borne,
The brow of the priest, that the mitre hath worn,
The eye of the sage, and the heart of the brave,
Are hidden and lost in the depths of the grave.
"The peasant, whose lot was to sow and to reap,
The herdsman, who climbed with his goats up the steep;
The beggar, who wandered in search of his bread,
Have faded away like the grass that we tread.
"The saint, who enjoyed the communion of heaven,
The sinner, who dared to remain unforgiven;
The wise and the foolish, the guilty and just,
Have quietly mingled their bones in the dust.
"So the multitude goes--like the flower or the weed
That withers away to let others succeed;
So the multitude comes--even those we behold,
To repeat every tale that has often been told:
"For we are the same our fathers have been;
We see the same sights our fathers have seen;
We drink the same stream, we view the same sun,
And run the same course our fathers have run.
"The thoughts we are thinking, our fathers would think;
>From the death we are shrinking, our fathers would shrink;
To the life we are clinging, they also would cling--
But it speeds from us all like a bird on the wing.
"They loved--but the story we cannot unfold;
They scorned--but the heart of the haughty is cold;
They grieved--but no wail from their slumber will come;
They joyed--but the tongue of their gladness is dumb.
"They died--aye, they died--and we things that are now,
That walk on the turf that lies o'er their brow,
And make in their dwellings a transient abode,
Meet the things that they met on their pilgrimage road.
"Yea! hope and despondency, pleasure and pain,
Are mingled together in sunshine and rain;
And the smile and the tear, the song and the dirge,
Still follow each other, like surge upon surge.
"'Tis the wink of an eye,--'tis the draught of a breath;--
>From the blossom of health to the paleness of death,
>From the gilded saloon to the bier and the shroud:--
Oh! why should the spirit of mortal be proud?"
President Lincoln had great doubt as to his right to emancipate
the slaves under the War power. In discussing the question, he
used to like the case to that of the boy who, when asked how many
legs his calf would have if he called its tail a leg, replied,
"five," to which the prompt response was made that calling the
tail a leg would not make it a leg.
A STAGE-COACH STORY.
The following is told by Thomas H. Nelson, of Terre Haute,
Indiana, who was appointed minister to Chili by Lincoln:
Judge Abram Hammond, afterwards Governor of Indiana, and myself
arranged to go from Terre Haute to Indianapolis in a stage-coach.
As we stepped in we discovered that the entire back seat was
occupied by a long, lank individual, whose head seemd to protrude
from one end of the coach and his feet from the other. He was the
sole occupant, and was sleeping soundly. Hammond slapped him
familiarly on the shoulder, and asked him if he had chartered the
coach that day.
"Certainly not," and he at once took the front seat, politely
giving us the place of honor and comfort. An odd-looking fellow
he was, with a twenty-five cent hat, without vest or cravat.
Regarding him as a good subject for merriment, we perpetrated
He took them all with utmost innocence and good nature, and
joined in the laugh, although at his own expense.
After an astounding display of wordy pyrotechnics, the dazed and
bewildered stranger asked, "What will be the upshot of this comet
Late in the evening we reached Indianapolis, and hurried to
Browning's hotel, losing sight of the stranger altogether.
We retired to our room to brush our clothes. In a few minutes I
descended to the portico, and there descried our long, gloomy
fellow traveler in the center of an admiring group of lawyers,
among whom were Judges McLean and Huntington, Albert S. White,
and Richard W. Thompson, who seemed to be amused and interested
in a story he was telling. I inquired of Browning, the landlord,
who he was. "Abraham Lincoln, of Illinois, a member of Congress,"
was his response.
I was thunderstruck at the announcement. I hastened upstairs and
told Hammond the startling news, and together we emerged from the
hotel by a back door, and went down an alley to another house,
thus avoiding further contact with our distinguished fellow
Years afterward, when the President-elect was on his way to
Washington, I was in the same hotel looking over the
distinguished party, when a long arm reached to my shoulder, and
a shrill voice exclaimed, "Hello, Nelson! do you think, after
all, the whole world is going to follow the darned thing off?"
The words were my own in answer to his question in the
stage-coach. The speaker was Abraham Lincoln.
THE "400" GATHERED THERE.
Lincoln had periods while "clerking" in the New Salem grocery
store during which there was nothing for him to do, and was
therefore in circumstances that made laziness almost inevitable.
Had people come to him for goods, they would have found him
willing to sell them. He sold all that he could, doubtless.
The store soon became the social center of the village. If the
people did not care (or were unable) to buy goods, they liked to
go where they could talk with their neighbors and listen to
stories. These Lincoln gave them in abundance, and of a rare
It was in these gatherings of the "Four Hundred" at the village
store that Lincoln got his training as a debater. Public
questions were discussed there daily and nightly, and Lincoln
always took a prominent part in the discussions. Many of the
debaters came to consider "Abe Linkin" as about the smartest man
in the village.
ONLY LEVEL-HEADED MEN WANTED.
Lincoln wanted men of level heads for important commands. Not
infrequently he gave his generals advice.
He appreciated Hooker's bravery, dash and activity, but was
fearful of the results of what he denominated "swashing around."
This was one of his telegrams to Hooker:
"And now, beware of rashness; beware of rashness, but, with
energy and sleepless vigilance, go forward and give us
HIS FAITH IN THE MONITOR.
When the Confederate iron-clad Merrimac was sent against the
Union vessels in Hampton Roads President Lincoln expressed his
belief in the Monitor to Captain Fox, the adviser of Captain
Ericsson, who constructed the Monitor. "We have three of the most
effective vessels in Hampton Roads, and any number of small craft
that will hang on the stern of the Merrimac like small dogs on
the haunches of a bear. They may not be able to tear her down,
but they will interfere with the comfort of her voyage. Her trial
trip will not be a pleasure trip, I am certain.
"We have had a big share of bad luck already, but I do not
believe the future has any such misfortunes in store for us as
you anticipate." Said Captain Fox: "If the Merrimac does not sink
our ships, who is to prevent her from dropping her anchor in the
Potomac, where that steamer lies," pointing to a steamer at
anchor below the long bridge, "and throwing her hundred-pound
shells into this room, or battering down the walls of the
"The Almighty, Captain," answered the President, excitedly, but
without the least affectation. "I expect set-backs, defeats; we
have had them and shall have them. They are common to all wars.
But I have not the slightest fear of any result which shall
fatally impair our military and naval strength, or give other
powers any right to interfere in our quarrel. The destruction of
the Capitol would do both.
"I do not fear it, for this is God's fight, and He will win it in
His own good time. He will take care that our enemies will not
push us too far,
"Speaking of iron-clads," said the President, "you do not seem to
take the little Monitor into account. I believe in the Monitor
and her commander. If Captain Worden does not give a good account
of the Monitor and of himself, I shall have made a mistake in
following my judgment for the first time since I have been here,
"I have not made a mistake in following my clear judgment of men
since this War began. I followed that judgment when I gave Worden
the command of the Monitor. I would make the appointment over
again to-day. The Monitor should be in Hampton Roads now. She
left New York eight days ago."
After the captain had again presented what he considered the
possibilities of failure the President replied, "No, no, Captain,
I respect your judgments as you have reason to know, but this
time you are all wrong.
"The Monitor was one of my inspirations; I believed in her firmly
when that energetic contractor first showed me Ericsson's plans.
Captain Ericsson's plain but rather enthusiastic demonstration
made my conversion permanent. It was called a floating battery
then; I called it a raft. I caught some of the inventor's
enthusiasm and it has been growing upon me. I thought then, and I
am confident now, it is just what we want. I am sure that the
Monitor is still afloat, and that she will yet give a good
account of herself. Sometimes I think she may be the veritable
sling with a stone that will yet smite the Merrimac Philistine in
Soon was the President's judgment verified, for the "Fight of the
Monitor and Merrimac" changed all the conditions of naval
After the victory was gained, the presiding Captain Fox and
others went on board the Monitor, and Captain Worden was
requested by the President to narrate the history of the
Captain Worden did so in a modest manner, and apologized for not
being able better to provide for his guests. The President
smilingly responded "Some charitable people say that old Bourbon
is an indispensable element in the fighting qualities of some of
our generals in the field, but, Captain, after the account that
we have heard to-day, no one will say that any Dutch courage is
needed on board the Monitor."
"It never has been, sir," modestly observed the captain.
Captain Fox then gave a description of what he saw of the
engagement and described it as indescribably grand. Then, turning
to the President, he continued, "Now standing here on the deck of
this battle-scarred vessel, the first genuine iron-clad--the
victor in the first fight of iron-clads--let me make a
confession, and perform an act of simple justice.
"I never fully believed in armored vessels until I saw this
"I know all the facts which united to give us the Monitor. I
withhold no credit from Captain Ericsson, her inventor, but I
know that the country is principally indebted for the
construction of the vessel to President Lincoln, and for the
success of her trial to Captain Worden, her commander."
HER ONLY IMPERFECTION.
At one time a certain Major Hill charged Lincoln with making
defamatory remarks regarding Mrs. Hill.
Hill was insulting in his language to Lincoln who never lost his
When he saw his chance to edge a word in, Lincoln denied
emphatically using the language or anything like that attributed
He entertained, he insisted, a high regard for Mrs. Hill, and the
only thing he knew to her discredit was the fact that she was
Major Hill's wife.
THE OLD LADY'S PROPHECY.
Among those who called to congratulate Mr. Lincoln upon his
nomination for President was an old lady, very plainly dressed.
She knew Mr. Lincoln, but Mr. Lincoln did not at first recognize
her. Then she undertook to recall to his memory certain incidents
connected with his ride upon the circuit--especially his dining
at her house upon the road at different times. Then he remembered
her and her home.
Having fixed her own place in his recollection, she tried to
recall to him a certain scanty dinner of bread and milk that he
once ate at her house. He could not remember it--on the contrary,
he only remembered that he had always fared well at her house.
"Well," she said, "one day you came along after we had got
through dinner, and we had eaten up everything, and I could give
you nothing but a bowl of bread and milk, and you ate it; and
when you got up you said it was good enough for the President of
the United States!"
The good woman had come in from the country, making a journey of
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