Lincoln's Yarns and Stories
Colonel Alexander K. McClure
Part 8 out of 10
eight or ten miles, to relate to Mr. Lincoln this incident,
which, in her mind, had doubtless taken the form of a prophecy.
Mr. Lincoln placed the honest creature at her ease, chatted with
her of old times, and dismissed her in the most happy frame of
HOW THE TOWN OF LINCOLN, ILL., WAS NAMED.
The story of naming the town of Lincoln, the county seat of Logan
county, Illinois, is thus given on good authority:
The first railroad had been built through the county, and a
station was about to be located there. Lincoln, Virgil Hitchcock,
Colonel R. B. Latham and several others were sitting on a pile of
ties and talking about moving a county seat from Mount Pulaski.
Mr. Lincoln rose and started to walk away, when Colonel Latham
said: "Lincoln, if you will help us to get the county seat here,
we will call the place Lincoln."
"All right, Latham," he replied.
Colonel Latham then deeded him a lot on the west side of the
courthouse, and he owned it at the time he was elected President.
"OLD JEFF'S" BIG NIGHTMARE.
"Jeff" Davis had a large and threatening nightmare in November,
1864, and what he saw in his troubled dreams was the long and
lanky figure of Abraham Lincoln, who had just been endorsed by
the people of the United States for another term in the White
House at Washington. The cartoon reproduced here is from the
issue of "Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper" of December 3rd,
1864, it being entitled "Jeff Davis' November Nightmare."
Davis had been told that McClellan, "the War is a failure"
candidate for the Presidency, would have no difficulty whatever
in defeating Lincoln; that negotiations with the Confederate
officials for the cessation of hostilities would be entered into
as soon as McClellan was seated in the Chief Executive's chair;
that the Confederacy would, in all probability, be recognized as
an independent government by the Washington Administration; that
the "sacred institution" of slavery would continue to do business
at the old stand; that the Confederacy would be one of the great
nations of the world, and have all the "State Rights" and other
things it wanted, with absolutely no interference whatever upon
the part of the North.
Therefore, Lincoln's re-election was a rough, rude shock to
Davis, who had not prepared himself for such an event. Six months
from the date of that nightmare-dream he was a prisoner in the
hands of the Union forces, and the Confederacy was a thing of the
LINCOLN'S LAST OFFICIAL ACT.
Probably the last official act of President Lincoln's life was
the signing of the commission reappointing Alvin Saunders
Governor of Nebraska.
"I saw Mr. Lincoln regarding the matter," said Governor Saunders,
"and he told me to go home; that he would attend to it all right.
I left Washington on the morning of the 14th, and while en route
the news of the assassination on the evening of the same day
reached me. I immediately wired back to find out what had become
of my commission, and was told that the room had not been opened.
When it was opened, the document was found lying on the desk.
"Mr. Lincoln signed it just before leaving for the theater that
fatal evening, and left it lying there, unfolded.
"A note was found below the document as follows: 'Rather a
lengthy commission, bestowing upon Mr. Alvin Saunders the
official authority of Governor of the Territory of Nebraska.'
Then came Lincoln's signature, which, with one exception, that of
a penciled message on the back of a card sent up by a friend as
Mr. Lincoln was dressing for the theater, was the very last
signature of the martyred President."
THE LAD NEEDED THE SLEEP.
A personal friend of President Lincoln is authority for this:
"I called on him one day in the early part of the War. He had
just written a pardon for a young man who had been sentenced to
be shot for sleeping at his post. He remarked as he read it to
"'I could not think of going into eternity with the blood of the
poor young man on my skirts.' Then he added:
"'It is not to be wondered at that a boy, raised on a farm,
probably in the habit of going to bed at dark, should, when
required to watch, fall asleep; and I cannot consent to shoot him
for such an act.'"
"MASSA LINKUM LIKE DE LORD!"
By the Act of Emancipation President Lincoln built for himself
forever the first place in the affections of the African race in
this country. The love and reverence manifested for him by many
of these people has, on some occasions, almost reached adoration.
One day Colonel McKaye, of New York, who had been one of a
committee to investigate the condition of the freedmen, upon his
return from Hilton Head and Beaufort called upon the President,
and in the course of the interview said that up to the time of
the arrival among them in the South of the Union forces they had
no knowledge of any other power. Their masters fled upon the
approach of our soldiers, and this gave the slaves the conception
of a power greater than their masters exercised. This power they
called "Massa Linkum."
Colonel McKaye said their place of worship was a large building
they called "the praise house," and the leader of the "meeting,"
a venerable black man, was known as "the praise man."
On a certain day, when there was quite a large gathering of the
people, considerable confusion was created by different persons
attempting to tell who and what "Massa Linkum" was. In the midst
of the excitement the white-headed leader commanded silence.
"Brederen," said he, "you don't know nosen' what you'se talkin'
'bout. Now, you just listen to me. Massa Linkum, he ebery whar.
He know ebery ting."
Then, solemnly looking up, he added: "He walk de earf like de
HOW LINCOLN TOOK THE NEWS.
One of Lincoln's most dearly loved friends, United States Senator
Edward D. Baker, of Oregon, Colonel of the Seventy-first
Pennsylvania, a former townsman of Mr. Lincoln, was killed at the
battle of Ball's Bluff, in October, 1861. The President went to
General McClellan's headquarters to hear the news, and a friend
thus described the effect it had upon him:
"We could hear the click of the telegraph in the adjoining room
and low conversation between the President and General McClellan,
succeeded by silence, excepting the click, click of the
instrument, which went on with its tale of disaster.
"Five minutes passed, and then Mr. Lincoln, unattended, with
bowed head and tears rolling down his furrowed cheeks, his face
pale and wan, his breast heaving with emotion, passed through the
room. He almost fell as he stepped into the street. We sprang
involuntarily from our seats to render assistance, but he did not
"With both hands pressed upon his heart, he walked down the
street, not returning the salute of the sentinel pacing his beat
before the door."
PROFANITY AS A SAFETY-VALVE.
Lincoln never indulged in profanity, but confessed that when Lee
was beaten at Malvern Hill, after seven days of fighting, and
Richmond, but twelve miles away, was at McClellan's mercy, he
felt very much like swearing when he learned that the Union
general had retired to Harrison's Landing.
Lee was so confident his opponent would not go to Richmond that
he took his army into Maryland--a move he would not have made had
an energetic fighting man been in McClellan's place.
It is true McClellan followed and defeated Lee in the bloodiest
battle of the War--Antietam--afterwards following him into
Virginia; but Lincoln could not bring himself to forgive the
general's inaction before Richmond.
WHY WE WON AT GETTYSBURG.
President Lincoln said to General Sickles, just after the victory
of Gettysburg: "The fact is, General, in the stress and pinch of
the campaign there, I went to my room, and got down on my knees
and prayed God Almighty for victory at Gettysburg. I told Him
that this was His country, and the war was His war, but that we
really couldn't stand another Fredericksburg or Chancellorsville.
And then and there I made a solemn vow with my Maker that if He
would stand by you boys at Gettysburg I would stand by Him. And
He did, and I will! And after this I felt that God Almighty had
taken the whole thing into His hands."
HAD TO WAIT FOR HIM.
President Lincoln, having arranged to go to New York, was late
for his train, much to the disgust of those who were to accompany
him, and all were compelled to wait several hours until the next
train steamed out of the station. President Lincoln was much
amused at the dissatisfaction displayed, and then ventured the
remark that the situation reminded him of "a little story." Said
"Out in Illinois, a convict who had murdered his cellmate was
sentenced to be hanged. On the day set for the execution, crowds
lined the roads leading to the spot where the scaffold had been
erected, and there was much jostling and excitement. The
condemned man took matters coolly, and as one batch of
perspiring, anxious men rushed past the cart in which he was
riding, he called out, 'Don't be in a hurry, boys. You've got
plenty of time. There won't be any fun until I get there.'
"That's the condition of things now," concluded the President;
"there won't be any fun at New York until I get there."
PRESIDENT AND CABINET JOINED IN PRAYER.
On the day the news of General Lee's surrender at Appomattox
Court-House was received, so an intimate friend of President
Lincoln relates, the Cabinet meeting was held an hour earlier
than usual. Neither the President nor any member of the Cabinet
was able, for a time, to give utterance to his feelings. At the
suggestion of Mr. Lincoln all dropped on their knees, and
offered, in silence and in tears, their humble and heartfelt
acknowledgments to the Almighty for the triumph He had granted to
the National cause.
BELIEVED HE WAS A CHRISTIAN.
Mr. Lincoln was much impressed with the devotion and earnestness
of purpose manifested by a certain lady of the "Christian
Commission" during the War, and on one occasion, after she had
discharged the object of her visit, said to her:
"Madam, I have formed a high opinion of your Christian character,
and now, as we are alone, I have a mind to ask you to give me in
brief your idea of what constitutes a true religious experience."
The lady replied at some length, stating that, in her judgment,
it consisted of a conviction of one's own sinfulness and
weakness, and a personal need of the Saviour for strength and
support; that views of mere doctrine might and would differ, but
when one was really brought to feel his need of divine help, and
to seek the aid of the Holy Spirit for strength and guidance, it
was satisfactory evidence of his having been born again. This was
the substance of her reply.
When she had, concluded Mr. Lincoln was very thoughtful for a few
moments. He at length said, very earnestly: "If what you have
told me is really a correct view of this great subject I think I
can say with sincerity that I hope I am a Christian. I had
lived," he continued, "until my boy Willie died without fully
realizing these things. That blow overwhelmed me. It showed me my
weakness as I had never felt it before, and if I can take what
you have stated as a test I think I can safely say that I know
something of that change of which you speak; and I will further
add that it has been my intention for some time, at a suitable
opportunity, to make a public religious profession."
WITH THE HELP OF GOD.
Mr. Lincoln once remarked to Mr. Noah Brooks, one of his most
intimate personal friends: "I should be the most presumptuous
blockhead upon this footstool if I for one day thought that I
could discharge the duties which have come upon me, since I came
to this place, without the aid and enlightenment of One who is
stronger and wiser than all others."
He said on another occasion: "I am very sure that if I do not go
away from here a wiser man, I shall go away a better man, from
having learned here what a very poor sort of a man I am."
TURNED TEARS TO SMILES.
One night Schuyler Colfax left all other business to go to the
White House to ask the President to respite the son of a
constituent, who was sentenced to be shot, at Davenport, for
desertion. Mr. Lincoln heard the story with his usual patience,
though he was wearied out with incessant calls, and anxious for
rest, and then replied:
"Some of our generals complain that I impair discipline and
subordination in the army by my pardons and respites, but it
makes me rested, after a hard day's work, if I can find some good
excuse for saving a man's life, and I go to bed happy as I think
how joyous the signing of my name will make him and his family
and his friends."
And with a happy smile beaming over that care-furrowed face, he
signed that name that saved that life.
LINCOLN'S LAST WRITTEN WORDS.
As the President and Mrs. Lincoln were leaving the White House, a
few minutes before eight o'clock, on the evening of April 14th,
1865, Lincoln wrote this note:
"Allow Mr. Ashmun and friend to come to see me at 9 o'clock a.
m., to-morrow, April 15th, 1865."
WOMEN PLEAD FOR PARDONS.
One day during the War an attractively and handsomely dressed
woman called on President Lincoln to procure the release from
prison of a relation in whom she professed the deepest interest.
She was a good talker, and her winning ways seemed to make a deep
impression on the President. After listening to her story, he
wrote a few words on a card: "This woman, dear Stanton, is a
little smarter than she looks to be," enclosed it in an envelope
and directed her to take it to the Secretary of War.
On the same day another woman called, more humble in appearance,
more plainly clad. It was the old story.
Father and son both in the army, the former in prison. Could not
the latter be discharged from the army and sent home to help his
A few strokes of the pen, a gentle nod of the head, and the
little woman, her eyes filling with tears and expressing a
grateful acknowledgment her tongue, could not utter, passed out.
A lady so thankful for the release of her husband was in the act
of kneeling in thankfulness. "Get up," he said, "don't kneel to
me, but thank God and go."
An old lady for the same reason came forward with tears in her
eyes to express her gratitude. "Good-bye, Mr. Lincoln," said she;
"I shall probably never see you again till we meet in heaven."
She had the President's hand in hers, and he was deeply moved. He
instantly took her right hand in both of his, and, following her
to the door, said, "I am afraid with all my troubles I shall
never get to the resting-place you speak of; but if I do, I am
sure I shall find you. That you wish me to get there is, I
believe, the best wish you could make for me. Good-bye."
Then the President remarked to a friend, "It is more than many
can often say, that in doing right one has made two people happy
in one day. Speed, die when I may, I want it said of me by those
who know me best, that I have always plucked a thistle and
planted a flower when I thought a flower would grow."
LINCOLN WISHED TO SEE RICHMOND.
The President remarked to Admiral David D. Porter, while on board
the flagship Malvern, on the James River, in front of Richmond,
the day the city surrendered:
"Thank God that I have lived to see this!
"It seems to me that I have been dreaming a horrid dream for four
years, and now the nightmare is gone.
"I wish to see Richmond."
SPOKEN LIKE A CHRISTIAN.
Frederick Douglass told, in these words, of his first interview
with President Lincoln:
"I approached him with trepidation as to how this great man might
receive me; but one word and look from him banished all my fears
and set me perfectly at ease. I have often said since that
meeting that it was much easier to see and converse with a great
man than it was with a small man.
"On that occasion he said:
"'Douglass, you need not tell me who you are. Mr. Seward has
told me all about you.'
"I then saw that there was no reason to tell him my personal
story, however interesting it might be to myself or others, so I
told him at once the object of my visit. It was to get some
expression from him upon three points:
"1. Equal pay to colored soldiers.
"2. Their promotion when they had earned it on the battle-field.
"3. Should they be taken prisoners and enslaved or hanged, as
Jefferson Davis had threatened, an equal number of Confederate
prisoners should be executed within our lines.
"A declaration to that effect I thought would prevent the
execution of the rebel threat. To all but the last, President
Lincoln assented. He argued, however, that neither equal pay nor
promotion could be granted at once. He said that in view of
existing prejudices it was a great step forward to employ colored
troops at all; that it was necessary to avoid everything that
would offend this prejudice and increase opposition to the
"He detailed the steps by which white soldiers were reconciled to
the employment of colored troops; how these were first employed
as laborers; how it was thought they should not be armed or
uniformed like white soldiers; how they should only be made to
wear a peculiar uniform; how they should be employed to hold
forts and arsenals in sickly locations, and not enter the field
like other soldiers.
"With all these restrictions and limitations he easily made me
see that much would be gained when the colored man loomed before
the country as a full-fledged United States soldier to fight,
flourish or fall in defense of the united republic. The great
soul of Lincoln halted only when he came to the point of
"The thought of hanging men in cold blood, even though the rebels
should murder a few of the colored prisoners, was a horror from
which he shrank.
"'Oh, Douglass! I cannot do that. If I could get hold of the
actual murderers of colored prisoners I would retaliate; but to
hang those who have no hand in such murders, I cannot.'
"The contemplation of such an act brought to his countenance such
an expression of sadness and pity that it made it hard for me to
press my point, though I told him it would tend to save rather
than destroy life. He, however, insisted that this work of blood,
once begun, would be hard to stop--that such violence would beget
violence. He argued more like a disciple of Christ than a
commander-in-chief of the army and navy of a warlike nation
already involved in a terrible war.
"How sad and strange the fate of this great and good man, the
saviour of his country, the embodiment of human charity, whose
heart, though strong, was as tender as a heart of childhood; who
always tempered justice with mercy; who sought to supplant the
sword with counsel of reason, to suppress passion by kindness and
moderation; who had a sigh for every human grief and a tear for
every human woe, should at last perish by the hand of a desperate
assassin, against whom no thought of malice had ever entered his
"LINCOLN GOES IN WHEN THE QUAKERS ARE OUT"
One of the campaign songs of 1860 which will never be forgotten
was Whittier's "The Quakers Are Out:--"
"Give the flags to the winds!
Set the hills all aflame!
Make way for the man with
The Patriarch's name!
Away with misgivings--away
With all doubt,
For Lincoln goes in when the
Quakers are out!"
Speaking of this song (with which he was greatly pleased) one day
at the White House, the President said: "It reminds me of a
little story I heard years ago out in Illinois. A political
campaign was on, and the atmosphere was kept at a high
temperature. Several fights had already occurred, many men having
been seriously hurt, and the prospects were that the result would
be close. One of the candidates was a professional politician
with a huge wart on his nose, this disfigurement having earned
for him the nickname of 'Warty.' His opponent was a young lawyer
who wore 'biled' shirts, 'was shaved by a barber, and had his
clothes made to fit him.
"Now, 'Warty' was of Quaker stock, and around election time made
a great parade of the fact. When there were no campaigns in
progress he was anything but Quakerish in his language or
actions. The young lawyer didn't know what the inside of a
meeting house looked like.
"Well, the night before election-day the two candidates came
together at a joint debate, both being on the speakers' platform.
The young lawyer had to speak after 'Warty,' and his reputation
suffered at the hands of the Quaker, who told the many Friends
present what a wicked fellow the young man was--never went to
church, swore, drank, smoked and gambled.
"After 'Warty' had finished the other arose and faced the
audience. 'I'm not a good man,' said he, 'and what my opponent
has said about me is true enough, but I'm always the same. I
don't profess religion when I run for office, and then turn
around and associate with bad people when the campaign's over.
I'm no hypocrite. I don't sing many psalms. Neither does my
opponent; and, talking about singing, I'd just like to hear my
friend who is running against me sing the song--for the benefit
of this audience--I heard him sing the night after he was
nominated. I yield the floor to him:
"Of course 'Warty' refused, his Quaker supporters grew
suspicious, and when they turned out at the polls the following
day they voted for the wicked young lawyer.
"So, it's true that when 'the Quakers are out' the man they
support is apt to go in."
HAD CONFIDENCE IN HIM--"BUT--."
"General Blank asks for more men," said Secretary of War Stanton
to the President one day, showing the latter a telegram from the
commander named appealing for re-enforcements.
"I guess he's killed off enough men, hasn't he?" queried the
"I don't mean Confederates--our own men. What's the use in
sending volunteers down to him if they're only used to fill
"His dispatch seems to imply that, in his opinion, you have not
the confidence in him he thinks he deserves," the War Secretary
went on to say, as he looked over the telegram again.
"Oh," was the President's reply, "he needn't lose any of his
sleep on that account. Just telegraph him to that effect; also,
that I don't propose to send him any more men."
HOW HOMINY WAS ORIGINATED.
During the progress of a Cabinet meeting the subject of food for
the men in the Army happened to come up. From that the
conversation changed to the study of the Latin language.
"I studied Latin once," said Mr. Lincoln, in a casual way.
"Were you interested in it?" asked Mr. Seward, the Secretary of
"Well, yes. I saw some very curious things," was the President's
"What?" asked Secretary Seward.
"Well, there's the word hominy, for instance. We have just
ordered a lot of that stuff for the troops. I see how the word
originated. I notice it came from the Latin word homo--a man.
"When we decline homo, it is:
"So you see, hominy, being 'for man,' comes from the Latin. I
guess those soldiers who don't know Latin will get along with it
all right--though I won't rest real easy until I hear from the
Commissary Department on it."
HIS IDEA'S OLD, AFTER ALL.
One day, while listening to one of the wise men who had called at
the White House to unload a large cargo of advice, the President
interjected a remark to the effect that he had a great reverence
"This is not," President Lincoln explained, "because I am not an
educated man. I feel the need of reading. It is a loss to a man
not to have grown up among books."
"Men of force," the visitor answered, "can get on pretty well
without books. They do their own thinking instead of adopting
what other men think."
"Yes," said Mr. Lincoln, "but books serve to show a man that
those original thoughts of his aren't very new, after all."
This was a point the caller was not willing to debate, and so he
cut his call short.
LINCOLN'S FIRST SPEECH.
Lincoln made his first speech when he was a mere boy, going
barefoot, his trousers held up by one suspender, and his shock of
hair sticking through a hole in the crown of his cheap straw hat.
"Abe," in company with Dennis Hanks, attended a political
meeting, which was addressed by a typical stump speaker--one of
those loud-voiced fellows who shouted at the top of his voice and
waved his arms wildly.
At the conclusion of the speech, which did not meet the views
either of "Abe" or Dennis, the latter declared that "Abe" could
make a better speech than that. Whereupon he got a dry-goods box
and called on "Abe" to reply to the campaign orator.
Lincoln threw his old straw hat on the ground, and, mounting the
dry-goods box, delivered a speech which held the attention of the
crowd and won him considerable applause. Even the campaign orator
admitted that it was a fine speech and answered every point in
his own "oration."
Dennis Hanks, who thought "Abe" was about the greatest man that
ever lived, was delighted, and he often told how young "Abe" got
the better of the trained campaign speaker.
"ABE WANTED NO "SNEAKIN' 'ROUND."
It was in 1830, when "Abe" was just twenty-one years of age, that
the Lincoln family moved from Gentryville, Indiana, to near
Decatur, Illinois, their household goods being packed in a wagon
drawn by four oxen driven by "Abe."
The winter previous the latter had "worked" in a country store in
Gentryville and before undertaking the journey he invested all
the money he had--some thirty dollars--in notions, such as
needles, pins, thread, buttons and other domestic necessities.
These he sold to families along the route and made a profit of
about one hundred per cent.
This mercantile adventure of his youth "reminded" the President
of a very clever story while the members of the Cabinet were one
day solemnly debating a rather serious international problem. The
President was in the minority, as was frequently the case, and he
was "in a hole," as he afterwards expressed it. He didn't want to
argue the points raised, preferring to settle the matter in a
hurry, and an apt story was his only salvation.
Suddenly the President's fact brightened. "Gentlemen," said he,
addressing those seated at the Cabinet table, "the situation just
now reminds me of a fix I got into some thirty years or so ago
when I was peddling 'notions' on the way from Indiana to
Illinois. I didn't have a large stock, but I charged large
prices, and I made money. Perhaps you don't see what I am driving
Secretary of State Seward was wearing a most gloomy expression of
countenance; Secretary of War Stanton was savage and inclined to
be morose; Secretary of the Treasury Chase was indifferent and
cynical, while the others of the Presidential advisers resigned
themselves to the hearing of the inevitable "story."
"I don't propose to argue this matter," the President went on to
say, "because arguments have no effect upon men whose opinions
are fixed and whose minds are made up. But this little story of
mine will make some things which now are in the dark show up more
There was another pause, and the Cabinet officers, maintaining
their previous silence, began wondering if the President himself
really knew what he was "driving at."
"Just before we left Indiana and crossed into Illinois,"
continued Mr. Lincoln solemnly, speaking in a grave tone of
voice, "we came across a small farmhouse full of nothing but
children. These ranged in years from seventeen years to seventeen
months, and all were in tears. The mother of the family was
red-headed and red-faced, and the whip she held in her right hand
led to the inference that she had been chastising her brood. The
father of the family, a meek-looking, mild-mannered, tow-headed
chap, was standing in the front door-way, awaiting--to all
appearances--his turn to feel the thong.
"I thought there wasn't much use in asking the head of that house
if she wanted any 'notions.' She was too busy. It was evident an
insurrection had been in progress, but it was pretty well quelled
when I got there. The mother had about suppressed it with an iron
hand, but she was not running any risks. She kept a keen and wary
eye upon all the children, not forgetting an occasional glance at
the 'old man' in the doorway.
"She saw me as I came up, and from her look I thought she was of
the opinion that I intended to interfere. Advancing to the
doorway, and roughly pushing her husband aside, she demanded my
"'Nothing, madame,' I answered as gently as possible; 'I merely
dropped in as I came along to see how things were going.'
"'Well, you needn't wait,' was the reply in an irritated way;
'there's trouble here, an' lots of it, too, but I kin manage my
own affairs without the help of outsiders. This is jest a family
row, but I'll teach these brats their places ef I hev to lick the
hide off ev'ry one of them. I don't do much talkin', but I run
this house, an' I don't want no one sneakin' round tryin' to find
out how I do it, either.'
"That's the case here with us," the President said in conclusion.
"We must let the other nations know that we propose to settle our
family row in our own way, and 'teach these brats their places'
(the seceding States) if we have to 'lick the hide off' of each
and every one of them. And, like the old woman, we don't want any
'sneakin' 'round' by other countries who would like to find out
how we are to do it, either.
"Now, Seward, you write some diplomatic notes to that effect."
And the Cabinet session closed.
DIDN'T EVEN NEED STILTS.
As the President considered it his duty to keep in touch with all
the improvements in the armament of the vessels belonging to the
United States Navy, he was necessarily interested in the various
types of these floating fortresses. Not only was it required of
the Navy Department to furnish seagoing warships, deep-draught
vessels for the great rivers and the lakes, but this Department
also found use for little gunboats which could creep along in the
shallowest of water and attack the Confederates in by-places and
The consequence of the interest taken by Mr. Lincoln in the Navy
was that he was besieged, day and night, by steamboat
contractors, each one eager to sell his product to the Washington
Government. All sorts of experiments were tried, some being dire
failures, while others were more than fairly successful. More
than once had these tiny war vessels proved themselves of great
service, and the United States Government had a large number of
There was one particular contractor who bothered the President
more than all the others put together. He was constantly
impressing upon Mr. Lincoln the great superiority of his boats,
because they would run in such shallow water.
"Oh, yes," replied the President, "I've no doubt they'll run
anywhere where the ground is a little moist!"
"HOW DO YOU GET OUT OF THIS PLACE?"
"It seems to me," remarked the President one day while reading,
over some of the appealing telegrams sent to the War Department
by General McClellan, "that McClellan has been wandering around
and has sort of got lost. He's been hollering for help ever since
he went South--wants somebody to come to his deliverance and get
him out of the place he's got into.
"He reminds me of the story of a man out in Illinois who, in
company with a number of friends, visited the State penitentiary.
They wandered all through the institution and saw everything, but
just about the time to depart this particular man became
separated from his friends and couldn't find his way out.
"He roamed up and down one corridor after another, becoming more
desperate all the time, when, at last, he came across a convict
who was looking out from between the bars of his cell-door. Here
was salvation at last. Hurrying up to the prisoner he hastily
"'Say! How do you get out of this place?"
"TAD" INTRODUCES "OUR FRIENDS."
President Lincoln often avoided interviews with delegations
representing various States, especially when he knew the objects
of their errands, and was aware he could not grant their
requests. This was the case with several commissioners from
Kentucky, who were put off from day to day.
They were about to give up in despair, and were leaving the White
House lobby, their speech being interspersed with vehement and
uncomplimentary terms concerning "Old Abe," when "Tad" happened
along. He caught at these words, and asked one of them if they
wanted to see "Old Abe," laughing at the same time.
"Yes," he replied.
"Wait a minute," said "Tad," and rushed into his father's office.
Said he, "Papa, may I introduce some friends to you?"
His father, always indulgent and ready to make him happy, kindly
said, "Yes, my son, I will see your friends."
"Tad" went to the Kentuckians again, and asked a very dignified
looking gentleman of the party his name. He was told his name. He
then said, "Come, gentlemen," and they followed him.
Leading them up to the President, "Tad," with much dignity, said,
"Papa, let me introduce to you Judge --, of Kentucky;" and
quickly added, "Now Judge, you introduce the other gentlemen."
The introductions were gone through with, and they turned out to
be the gentlemen Mr. Lincoln had been avoiding for a week. Mr.
Lincoln reached for the boy, took him in his lap, kissed him, and
told him it was all right, and that he had introduced his friend
like a little gentleman as he was. Tad was eleven years old at
The President was pleased with Tad's diplomacy, and often laughed
at the incident as he told others of it. One day while caressing
the boy, he asked him why he called those gentlemen "his
friends." "Well," said Tad, "I had seen them so often, and they
looked so good and sorry, and said they were from Kentucky, that
I thought they must be our friends." "That is right, my son,"
said Mr. Lincoln; "I would have the whole human race your friends
and mine, if it were possible."
MIXED UP WORSE THAN BEFORE.
The President told a story which most beautifully illustrated the
muddled situation of affairs at the time McClellan's fate was
hanging in the balance. McClellan's s work was not satisfactory,
but the President hesitated to remove him; the general was so
slow that the Confederates marched all around him; and, to add to
the dilemma, the President could not find a suitable man to take
The latter was a political, as well as a military, factor; his
friends threatened that, if he was removed, many war Democrats
would cast their influence with the South, etc. It was,
altogether, a sad mix-up, and the President, for a time, was at
his wits' end. He was assailed on all sides with advice, but none
of it was worth acting upon.
"This situation reminds me," said the President at a Cabinet
meeting one day not long before the appointment of General
Halleck as McClellan's successor in command of the Union forces,
"of a Union man in Kentucky whose two sons enlisted in the
Federal Army. His wife was of Confederate sympathies. His nearest
neighbor was a Confederate in feeling, and his two sons were
fighting under Lee. This neighbor's wife was a Union woman and it
nearly broke her heart to know that her sons were arrayed against
"Finally, the two men, after each had talked the matter over with
his wife, agreed to obtain divorces; this they, did, and the
Union man and Union woman were wedded, as were the Confederate
man and the Confederate woman--the men swapped wives, in short.
But this didn't seem to help matters any, for the sons of the
Union woman were still fighting for the South, and the sons of
the Confederate woman continued in the Federal Army; the Union
husband couldn't get along with his Union wife, and the
Confederate husband and his Confederate wife couldn't agree upon
anything, being forever fussing and quarreling.
"It's the same thing with the Army. It doesn't seem worth while
to secure divorces and then marry the Army and McClellan to
others, for they won't get along any better than they do now, and
there'll only be a new set of heartaches started. I think we'd
better wait; perhaps a real fighting general will come along some
of these days, and then we'll all be happy. If you go to mixing
in a mixup, you only make the muddle worse."
"LONG ABE'S" FEET "PROTRUDED OVER."
George M. Pullman, the great sleeping-car builder, once told a
joke in which Lincoln was the prominent figure. In fact, there
wouldn't have been any joke had it not been for "Long Abe." At
the time of the occurrence, which was the foundation for the
joke--and Pullman admitted that the latter was on him--Pullman
was the conductor of his only sleeping-car. The latter was an
experiment, and Pullman was doing everything possible to get the
railroads to take hold of it.
"One night," said Pullman in telling the story, "as we were about
going out of Chicago--this was long before Lincoln was what you
might call a renowned man--a long, lean, ugly man, with a wart on
his cheek, came into the depot. He paid me fifty cents, and half
a berth was assigned him. Then he took off his coat and vest and
hung them up, and they fitted the peg about as well as they
fitted him. Then he kicked off his boots, which were of
surprising length, turned into the berth, and, undoubtedly having
an easy conscience, was sleeping like a healthy baby before the
car left the depot.
"Pretty soon along came another passenger and paid his fifty
cents. In two minutes he was back at me, angry as a wet hen.
"'There's a man in that berth of mine,' said he, hotly, 'and
he's about ten feet high. How am I going to sleep there, I'd like
to know? Go and look at him.'
"In I went--mad, too. The tall, lank man's knees were under his
chin, his arms were stretched across the bed and his feet were
stored comfortably--for him. I shook him until he awoke, and then
told him if he wanted the whole berth he would have to pay $1.
"'My dear sir,' said the tall man, 'a contract is a contract. I
have paid you fifty cents for half this berth, and, as you see,
I'm occupying it. There's the other half,' pointing to a strip
about six inches wide. 'Sell that and don't disturb me again.'
"And so saying, the man with a wart on his face went to sleep
again. He was Abraham Lincoln, and he never grew any shorter
afterward. We became great friends, and often laughed over the
COULD LICK ANY MAN IN THE CROWD.
When the enemies of General Grant were bothering the President
with emphatic and repeated demands that the "Silent Man" be
removed from command, Mr. Lincoln remained firm. He would not
consent to lose the services of so valuable a soldier. "Grant
fights," said he in response to the charges made that Grant was a
butcher, a drunkard, an incompetent and a general who did not
know his business.
"That reminds me of a story," President Lincoln said one day to a
delegation of the "Grant-is-no-good" style.
"Out in my State of Illinois there was a man nominated for
sheriff of the county. He was a good man for the office, brave,
determined and honest, but not much of an orator. In fact, he
couldn't talk at all; he couldn't make a speech to save his life.
"His friends knew he was a man who would preserve the peace of
the county and perform the duties devolving upon him all right,
but the people of the county didn't know it. They wanted him to
come out boldly on the platform at political meetings and state
his convictions and principles; they had been used to speeches
from candidates, and were somewhat suspicious of a man who was
afraid to open his mouth.
"At last the candidate consented to make a speech, and his
friends were delighted. The candidate was on hand, and, when he
was called upon, advanced to the front and faced the crowd. There
was a glitter in his eye that wasn't pleasing, and the way he
walked out to the front of the stand showed that he knew just
what he wanted to say.
"'Feller Citizens,' was his beginning, the words spoken quietly,
'I'm not a speakin' man; I ain't no orator, an' I never stood up
before a lot of people in my life before; I'm not goin' to make
no speech, 'xcept to say that I can lick any man in the crowd!'"
HIS WAY TO A CHILD'S HEART.
Charles E. Anthony's one meeting with Mr. Lincoln presents an
interesting contrast to those of the men who shared the
emancipator's interest in public affairs. It was in the latter
part of the winter of 1861, a short time before Mr. Lincoln left
for his inauguration at Washington. Judge Anthony went to the
Sherman House, where the President-elect was stopping, and took
with him his son, Charles, then but a little boy. Charles played
about the room as a child will, looking at whatever interested
him for the time, and when the interview with his father was over
he was ready to go.
But Mr. Lincoln, ever interested in little children, called the
lad to him and took him upon his great knee.
"My impression of him all the time I had been playing about the
room," said Mr. Anthony, "was that he was a terribly homely man.
I was rather repelled. But no sooner did he speak to me than the
expression of his face changed completely, or, rather, my view of
it changed. It at once became kindly and attractive. He asked me
some questions, seeming instantly to find in the turmoil of all
the great questions that must have been heavy upon him, the very
ones that would go to the thought of a child. I answered him
without hesitation, and after a moment he patted my shoulder and
"'Well, you'll be a man before your mother yet,' and put me
"I had never before heard the homely old expression, and it
puzzled me for a time. After a moment I understood it, but he
looked at me while I was puzzling over it, and seemed to be
amused, as no doubt he was."
The incident simply illustrates the ease and readiness with which
Lincoln could turn from the mighty questions before the nation,
give a moment's interested attention to a child, and return at
once to matters of state.
"LEFT IT THE WOMEN TO HOWL ABOUT ME."
Donn Piatt, one of the brightest newspaper writers in the
country, told a good story on the President in regard to the
refusal of the latter to sanction the death penalty in cases of
desertion from the Union Army.
"There was far more policy in this course," said Piatt, "than
kind feeling. To assert the contrary is to detract from Lincoln's
force of character, as well as intellect. Our War President was
not lost in his high admiration of brigadiers and major-generals,
and had a positive dislike for their methods and the despotism
upon which an army is based. He knew that he was dependent upon
volunteers for soldiers, and to force upon such men as those the
stern discipline of the Regular Army was to render the service
unpopular. And it pleased him to be the source of mercy, as well
as the fountain of honor, in this direction.
"I was sitting with General Dan Tyler, of Connecticut, in the
antechamber of the War Department, shortly after the adjournment
of the Buell Court of Inquiry, of which we had been members, when
President Lincoln came in from the room of Secretary Stanton.
Seeing us, he said: 'Well, gentlemen, have you any matter worth
"'I think so, Mr. President,' replied General Tyler. 'We had it
proven that Bragg, with less than ten thousand men, drove your
eighty-three thousand men under Buell back from before
Chattanooga, down to the Ohio at Louisville, marched around us
twice, then doubled us up at Perryville, and finally got out of
the State of Kentucky with all his plunder.'
"'Now, Tyler,' returned the President, 'what is the meaning of
all this; what is the lesson? Don't our men march as well, and
fight as well, as these rebels? If not, there is a fault
somewhere. We are all of the same family--same sort.'
"'Yes, there is a lesson,' replied General Tyler; 'we are of the
same sort, but subject to different handling. Bragg's little
force was superior to our larger number because he had it under
control. If a man left his ranks, he was punished; if he
deserted, he was shot. We had nothing of that sort. If we attempt
to shoot a deserter you pardon him, and our army is without
"The President looked perplexed. 'Why do you interfere?'
continued General Tyler. 'Congress has taken from you all
"'Yes,' answered the President impatiently, 'Congress has taken
the responsibility and left the women to howl all about me,' and
so he strode away."
HE'D RUIN ALL THE OTHER CONVICTS.
One of the droll stories brought into play by the President as an
ally in support of his contention, proved most effective.
Politics was rife among the generals of the Union Army, and there
was more "wire-pulling" to prevent the advancement of fellow
commanders than the laying of plans to defeat the Confederates in
However, when it so happened that the name of a particularly
unpopular general was sent to the Senate for confirmation, the
protest against his promotion was almost unanimous. The
nomination didn't seem to please anyone. Generals who were
enemies before conferred together for the purpose of bringing
every possible influence to bear upon the Senate and securing the
rejection of the hated leader's name. The President was
surprised. He had never known such unanimity before.
"You remind me," said the President to a delegation of officers
which called upon him one day to present a fresh protest to him
regarding the nomination, "of a visit a certain Governor paid to
the Penitentiary of his State. It had been announced that the
Governor would hear the story of every inmate of the institution,
and was prepared to rectify, either by commutation or pardon, any
wrongs that had been done to any prisoner.
"One by one the convicts appeared before His Excellency, and each
one maintained that he was an innocent man, who had been sent to
prison because the police didn't like him, or his friends and
relatives wanted his property, or he was too popular, etc., etc.
The last prisoner to appear was an individual who was not all
prepossessing. His face was against him; his eyes were shifty; he
didn't have the appearance of an honest man, and he didn't act
"'Well,' asked the Governor, impatiently, 'I suppose you're
innocent like the rest of these fellows?'
"'No, Governor,' was the unexpected answer; 'I was guilty of the
crime they charged against me, and I got just what I deserved.'
"When he had recovered from his astonishment, the Governor,
looking the fellow squarely in the face, remarked with emphasis:
'I'll have to pardon you, because I don't want to leave so bad a
man as you are in the company of such innocent sufferers as I
have discovered your fellow-convicts to be. You might corrupt
them and teach them wicked tricks. As soon as I get back to the
capital, I'll have the papers made out.'
"You gentlemen," continued the President, "ought to be glad that
so bad a man, as you represent this officer to be, is to get his
promotion, for then you won't be forced to associate with him and
suffer the contamination of his presence and influence. I will do
all I can to have the Senate confirm him."
And he was confirmed.
IN A HOPELESS MINORITY.
The President was often in opposition to the general public
sentiment of the North upon certain questions of policy, but he
bided his time, and things usually came out as he wanted them. It
was Lincoln's opinion, from the first, that apology and
reparation to England must be made by the United States because
of the arrest, upon the high seas, of the Confederate
Commissioners, Mason and Slidell. The country, however (the
Northern States), was wild for a conflict with England.
"One war at a time," quietly remarked the President at a Cabinet
meeting, where he found the majority of his advisers unfavorably
disposed to "backing down." But one member of the Cabinet was a
really strong supporter of the President in his attitude.
"I am reminded," the President said after the various arguments
had been put forward by the members of the Cabinet, "of a fellow
out in my State of Illinois who happened to stray into a church
while a revival meeting was in progress. To be truthful, this
individual was not entirely sober, and with that instinct which
seems to impel all men in his condition to assume a prominent
part in proceedings, he walked up the aisle to the very front
"All noticed him, but he did not care; for awhile he joined
audibly in the singing, said 'Amen' at the close of the prayers,
but, drowsiness overcoming him, he went to sleep. Before the
meeting closed, the pastor asked the usual question--'Who are on
the Lord's side?'--and the congregation arose en masse. When he
asked, 'Who are on the side of the Devil?' the sleeper was about
waking up. He heard a portion of the interrogatory, and, seeing
the minister on his feet, arose.
"'I don't exactly understand the question,' he said, 'but I'll
stand by you, parson, to the last. But it seems to me,' he added,
'that we're in a hopeless minority.'
"I'm in a hopeless minority now," said the President, "and I'll
have to admit it."
"DID YE ASK MORRISSEY YET?"
John Morrissey, the noted prize fighter, was the "Boss" of
Tammany Hall during the Civil War period. It pleased his fancy to
go to Congress, and his obedient constituents sent him there.
Morrissey was such an absolute despot that the New York City
democracy could not make a move without his consent, and many of
the Tammanyites were so afraid of him that they would not even
enter into business ventures without consulting the autocrat.
President Lincoln had been seriously annoyed by some of his
generals, who were afraid to make the slightest move before
asking advice from Washington. One commander, in particular, was
so cautious that he telegraphed the War Department upon the
slightest pretext, the result being that his troops were lying in
camp doing nothing, when they should have been in the field.
"This general reminds me," the President said one day while
talking to Secretary Stanton, at the War Department, "of a story
I once heard about a Tammany man. He happened to meet a friend,
also a member of Tammany, on the street, and in the course of the
talk the friend, who was beaming with smiles and good nature,
told the other Tammanyite that he was going to be married.
"This first Tammany man looked more serious than men usually do
upon hearing of the impending happiness of a friend. In fact, his
face seemed to take on a look of anxiety and worry.
"'Ain't you glad to know that I'm to get married?' demanded the
second Tammanyite, somewhat in a huff.
"'Of course I am,' was the reply; 'but,' putting his mouth close
to the ear of the other, 'have ye asked Morrissey yet?'
"Now, this general of whom we are speaking, wouldn't dare order
out the guard without asking Morrissey," concluded the President.
GOT THE LAUGH ON DOUGLAS.
At one time, when Lincoln and Douglas were "stumping" Illinois,
they met at a certain town, and it was agreed that they would
have a joint debate. Douglas was the first speaker, and in the
course of his talk remarked that in early life, his father, who,
he said, was an excellent cooper by trade, apprenticed him out to
learn the cabinet business.
This was too good for Lincoln to let pass, so when his turn came
to reply, he said:
"I had understood before that Mr. Douglas had been bound out to
learn the cabinet-making business, which is all well enough, but
I was not aware until now that his father was a cooper. I have no
doubt, however, that he was one, and I am certain, also, that he
was a very good one, for (here Lincoln gently bowed toward
Douglas) he has made one of the best whiskey casks I have ever
As Douglas was a short heavy-set man, and occasionally imbibed,
the pith of the joke was at once apparent, and most heartily
enjoyed by all.
On another occasion, Douglas made a point against Lincoln by
telling the crowd that when he first knew Lincoln he was a
"grocery-keeper," and sold whiskey, cigars, etc.
"Mr. L.," he said, "was a very good bar-tender!" This brought the
laugh on Lincoln, whose reply, however, soon came, and then the
laugh was on the other side.
"What Mr. Douglas has said, gentlemen," replied Lincoln, "is true
enough; I did keep a grocery and I did sell cotton, candles and
cigars, and sometimes whiskey; but I remember in those days that
Mr. Douglas was one of my best customers."
"I can also say this; that I have since left my side of the
counter, while Mr. Douglas still sticks to his!"
This brought such a storm of cheers and laughter that Douglas was
unable to reply.
"FIXED UP" A BIT FOR THE "CITY FOLKS."
Mrs. Lincoln knew her husband was not "pretty," but she liked to
have him presentable when he appeared before the public. Stephen
Fiske, in "When Lincoln Was First Inaugurated," tells of Mrs.
Lincoln's anxiety to have the President-elect "smoothed down" a
little when receiving a delegation that was to greet them upon
reaching New York City.
"The train stopped," writes Mr. Fiske, "and through the windows
immense crowds could be seen; the cheering drowning the blowing
off of steam of the locomotive. Then Mrs. Lincoln opened her
handbag and said:
"'Abraham, I must fix you up a bit for these city folks.'
"Mr. Lincoln gently lifted her upon the seat before him; she
parted, combed and brushed his hair and arranged his black
"'Do I look nice now, mother?' he affectionately asked.
"'Well, you'll do, Abraham,' replied Mrs. Lincoln critically. So
he kissed her and lifted her down from the seat, and turned to
meet Mayor Wood, courtly and suave, and to have his hand shaken
by the other New York officials."
EVEN REBELS OUGHT TO BE SAVED.
The Rev. Mr. Shrigley, of Philadelphia, a Universalist, had been
nominated for hospital chaplain, and a protesting delegation went
to Washington to see President Lincoln on the subject.
"We have called, Mr. President, to confer with you in regard to
the appointment of Mr. Shrigley, of Philadelphia, as hospital
The President responded: "Oh, yes, gentlemen. I have sent his
name to the Senate, and he will no doubt be confirmed at an early
date." One of the young men replied: "We have not come to ask for
the appointment, but to solicit you to withdraw the nomination."
"Ah!" said Lincoln, "that alters the case; but on what grounds do
you wish the nomination withdrawn?"
The answer was: "Mr. Shrigley is not sound in his theological
The President inquired: "On what question is the gentleman
Response: "He does not believe in endless punishment; not only
so, sir, but he believes that even the rebels themselves will be
"Is that so?" inquired the President.
The members of the committee responded, "Yes, yes.'
"Well, gentlemen, if that be so, and there is any way under
Heaven whereby the rebels can be saved, then, for God's sake and
their sakes, let the man be appointed."
The Rev. Mr. Shrigley was appointed, and served until the close
of the war.
TRIED TO DO WHAT SEEMED BEST.
John M. Palmer, Major-General in the Volunteer Army, Governor of
the State of Illinois, and United States Senator from the Sucker
State, became acquainted with Lincoln in 1839, and the last time
he saw the President was at the White House in February, 1865.
Senator Palmer told the story of his interview as follows:
"I had come to Washington at the request of the Governor, to
complain that Illinois had been credited with 18,000 too few
troops. I saw Mr. Lincoln one afternoon, and he asked me to come
again in the morning.
"Next morning I sat in the ante-room while several officers were
relieved. At length I was told to enter the President's room. Mr.
Lincoln was in the hands of the barber.
"'Come in, Palmer,' he called out, 'come in. You're home folks.
I can shave before you. I couldn't before those others, and I
have to do it some time.'
"We chatted about various matters, and at length I said:
"'Well, Mr. Lincoln, if anybody had told me that in a great
crisis like this the people were going out to a little one-horse
town and pick out a one-horse lawyer for President I wouldn't
have believed it.'
"Mr. Lincoln whirled about in his chair, his face white with
lather, a towel under his chin. At first I thought he was angry.
Sweeping the barber away he leaned forward, and, placing one hand
on my knee, said:
"'Neither would I. But it was time when a man with a policy
would have been fatal to the country. I have never had a policy.
I have simply tried to do what seemed best each day, as each day
"HOLDING A CANDLE TO THE CZAR."
England was anything but pleased when the Czar Alexander, of
Russia, showed his friendship for the United States by sending a
strong fleet to this country with the accompanying suggestion
that Uncle Sam, through his representative, President Lincoln,
could do whatever he saw fit with the ironclads and the munitions
of war they had stowed away in their holds.
London "Punch," on November 7th, 1863, printed the cartoon shown
on this page, the text under the picture reading in this way:
"Holding a candle to the * * * * *." (Much the same thing.)
Of course, this was a covert sneer, intended to convey the
impression that President Lincoln, in order to secure the support
and friendship of the Emperor of Russia as long as the War of the
Rebellion lasted, was willing to do all sorts of menial offices,
even to the extent of holding the candle and lighting His Most
Gracious Majesty, the White Czar, to his imperial bed-chamber.
It is a somewhat remarkable fact that the Emperor Alexander, who
tendered inestimable aid to the President of the United States,
was the Lincoln of Russia, having given freedom to millions of
serfs in his empire; and, further than that, he was, like
the victim of assassination. He was literally blown to pieces by
a bomb thrown under his carriage while riding through the streets
near the Winter Palace at St. Petersburg.
NASHVILLE WAS NOT SURRENDERED.
"I was told a mighty good story," said the President one day at a
Cabinet meeting, "by Colonel Granville Moody, 'the fighting
Methodist parson,' as they used to call him in Tennessee. I
happened to meet Moody in Philadelphia, where he was attending a
"The story was about 'Andy' Johnson and General Buell. Colonel
Moody happened to be in Nashville the day it was reported that
Buell had decided to evacuate the city. The rebels, strongly
re-inforced, were said to be within two days' march of the
capital. Of course, the city was greatly excited. Moody said he
went in search of Johnson at the edge of the evening and found
him at his office closeted with two gentlemen, who were walking
the floor with him, one on each side. As he entered they retired,
leaving him alone with Johnson, who came up to him, manifesting
intense feeling, and said:
"'Moody, we are sold out. Buell is a traitor. He is going to
evacuate the city, and in forty-eight hours we will all be in the
hands of the rebels!'
"Then he commenced pacing the floor again, twisting his hands and
chafing like a caged tiger, utterly insensible to his friend's
entreaties to become calm. Suddenly he turned and said:
"'Moody, can you pray?'
"'That is my business, sir, as a minister of the gospel,'
returned the colonel.
"'Well, Moody, I wish you would pray,' said Johnson, and
instantly both went down upon their knees at opposite sides of
"As the prayer waxed fervent, Johnson began to respond in true
Methodist style. Presently he crawled over on his hands and knees
to Moody's side and put his arms over him, manifesting the
"Closing the prayer with a hearty 'amen' from each, they arose.
"Johnson took a long breath, and said, with emphasis:
"'Moody, I feel better.'
"Shortly afterward he asked:
"'Will you stand by me?'
"'Certainly I will,' was the answer.
"'Well, Moody, I can depend upon you; you are one in a hundred
"He then commenced pacing the floor again. Suddenly he wheeled,
the current of his thought having changed, and said:
"'Oh, Moody, I don't want you to think I have become a religious
man because I asked you to pray. I am sorry to say it, I am not,
and never pretended to be religious. No one knows this better
than you, but, Moody, there is one thing about it, I do believe
in Almighty God, and I believe also in the Bible, and I say, d--n
me if Nashville shall be surrendered!'
"And Nashville was not surrendered!"
HE COULDN'T WAIT FOR THE COLONEL.
General Fisk, attending a reception at the White House, saw
waiting in the ante-room a poor old man from Tennessee, and
learned that he had been waiting three or four days to get an
audience, on which probably depended the life of his son, under
sentence of death for some military offense.
General Fisk wrote his case in outline on a card and sent it in,
with a a special request that the President would see the man. In
a moment the order came; and past impatient senators, governors
and generals, the old man went.
He showed his papers to Mr. Lincoln, who said he would look into
the case and give him the result next day.
The old man, in an agony of apprehension, looked up into the
President's sympathetic face and actually cried out:
"To-morrow may be too late! My son is under sentence of death! It
ought to be decided now!"
His streaming tears told how much he was moved.
"Come," said Mr. Lincoln, "wait a bit and I'll tell you a story;"
and then he told the old man General Fisk's story about the
swearing driver, as follows:
"The general had begun his military life as a colonel, and when
he raised his regiment in Missouri he proposed to his men that he
should do all the swearing of the regiment. They assented; and
for months no instance was known of the violation of the promise.
"The colonel had a teamster named John Todd, who, as roads were
not always the best, had some difficulty in commanding his temper
and his tongue.
"John happened to be driving a mule team through a series of
mudholes a little worse than usual, when, unable to restrain
himself any longer, he burst forth into a volley of energetic
"The colonel took notice of the offense and brought John to
"'John,' said he, 'didn't you promise to let me do all the
swearing of the regiment?'
"'Yes, I did, colonel,' he replied, 'but the fact was, the
swearing had to be done then or not at all, and you weren't there
to do it.'"
As he told the story the old man forgot his boy, and both the
President and his listener had a hearty laugh together at its
Then he wrote a few words which the old man read, and in which he
found new occasion for tears; but the tears were tears of joy,
for the words saved the life of his son.
LINCOLN PRONOUNCED THIS STORY FUNNY.
The President was heard to declare one day that the story given
below was one of the funniest he ever heard.
One of General Fremont's batteries of eight Parrott guns,
supported by a squadron of horse commanded by Major Richards, was
in sharp conflict with a battery of the enemy near at hand.
Shells and shot were flying thick and fast, when the commander of
the battery, a German, one of Fremont's staff, rode suddenly up
to the cavalry, exclaiming, in loud and excited terms, "Pring up
de shackasses! Pring up de shackasses! For Cot's sake, hurry up
de shackasses, im-me-di-ate-ly!"
The necessity of this order, though not quite apparent, will be
more obvious when it is remembered that "shackasses" are mules,
carry mountain howitzers, which are fired from the backs of that
much-abused but valuable animal; and the immediate occasion for
the "shackasses" was that two regiments of rebel infantry were at
that moment discovered ascending a hill immediately behind our
The "shackasses," with the howitzers loaded with grape and
canister, were soon on the ground.
The mules squared themselves, as they well knew how, for the
A terrific volley was poured into the advancing column, which
immediately broke and retreated.
Two hundred and seventy-eight dead bodies were found in the
ravine next day, piled closely together as they fell, the effects
of that volley from the backs of the "shackasses."
JOKE WAS ON LINCOLN.
Mr. Lincoln enjoyed a joke at his own expense. Said he: "In the
days when I used to be in the circuit, I was accosted in the cars
by a stranger, who said, 'Excuse me, sir, but I have an article
in my possession which belongs to you.' 'How is that?' I asked,
"The stranger took a jackknife from his pocket. 'This knife,'
said he, 'was placed in my hands some years ago, with the
injunction that I was to keep it until I had found a man uglier
than myself. I have carried it from that time to this. Allow me
to say, sir, that I think you are fairly entitled to the
THE OTHER ONE WAS WORSE.
It so happened that an official of the War Department had escaped
serious punishment for a rather flagrant offense, by showing
where grosser irregularities existed in the management of a
certain bureau of the Department. So valuable was the information
furnished that the culprit who "gave the snap away" was not even
"That reminds me," the President said, when the case was laid
before him, "of a story about Daniel Webster, when the latter was
"When quite young, at school, Daniel was one day guilty of a
gross violation of the rules. He was detected in the act, and
called up by the teacher for punishment.
"This was to be the old-fashioned 'feruling' of the hand. His
hands happened to be very dirty.
"Knowing this, on the way to the teacher's desk, he spit upon the
palm of his right hand, wiping it off upon the side of his
"'Give me your hand, sir,' said the teacher, very sternly.
"Out went the right hand, partly cleansed. The teacher looked at
it a moment, and said:
"'Daniel, if you will find another hand in this school-room as
filthy as that, I will let you off this time!'
"Instantly from behind the back came the left hand.
"'Here it is, sir,' was the ready reply.
"'That will do,' said the teacher, 'for this time; you can take
your seat, sir.'"
"I'D A BEEN MISSED BY MYSE'F."
The President did not consider that every soldier who ran away in
battle, or did not stand firmly to receive a bayonet charge, was
a coward. He was of opinion that self-preservation was the first
law of Nature, but he didn't want this statute construed too
liberally by the troops.
At the same time he took occasion to illustrate a point he wished
to make by a story in connection with a darky who was a member of
the Ninth Illinois Infantry Regiment. This regiment was one of
those engaged at the capture of Fort Donelson. It behaved
gallantly, and lost as heavily as any.
"Upon the hurricane-deck of one of our gunboats," said the
President in telling the story, "I saw an elderly darky, with a
very philosophical and retrospective cast of countenance,
squatted upon his bundle, toasting his shins against the chimney,
and apparently plunged into a state of profound meditation.
"As the negro rather interested me, I made some inquiries, and
found that he had really been with the Ninth Illinois Infantry at
Donelson. and began to ask him some questions about the capture
of the place.
"'Were you in the fight?'
"'Had a little taste of it, sa.'
"'Stood your ground, did you?'
"'No, sa, I runs.'
"'Run at the first fire, did you?
"'Yes, sa, and would hab run soona, had I knowd it war comin'."
"'Why, that wasn't very creditable to your courage.'
"'Dat isn't my line, sa--cookin's my profeshun.'
"'Well, but have you no regard for your reputation?'
"'Reputation's nuffin to me by de side ob life.'
"'Do you consider your life worth more than other people's?'
"'It's worth more to me, sa.'
"'Then you must value it very highly?'
"'Yes, sa, I does, more dan all dis wuld, more dan a million ob
dollars, sa, for what would dat be wuth to a man wid de bref out
ob him? Self-preserbation am de fust law wid me.'
"'But why should you act upon a different rule from other men?'
"'Different men set different values on their lives; mine is not
in de market.'
"'But if you lost it you would have the satisfaction of knowing
that you died for your country.'
"'Dat no satisfaction when feelin's gone.'
"'Then patriotism and honor are nothing to you?'
"'Nufin whatever, sat--I regard them as among the vanities.'
"'If our soldiers were like you, traitors might have broken up
the government without resistance.'
"'Yes, sa, dar would hab been no help for it. I wouldn't put my
life in de scale 'g'inst any gobernment dat eber existed, for no
gobernment could replace de loss to me.'
"'Do you think any of your company would have missed you if you
had been killed?'
"'Maybe not, sa--a dead white man ain't much to dese sogers, let
alone a dead nigga--but I'd a missed myse'f, and dat was de p'int
"I only tell this story," concluded the President, "in order to
illustrate the result of the tactics of some of the Union
generals who would be sadly 'missed' by themselves, if no one
else, if they ever got out of the Army."
IT ALL "DEPENDED" UPON THE EFFECT.
President Lincoln and some members of his Cabinet were with a
part of the Army some distance south of the National Capital at
one time, when Secretary of War Stanton remarked that just before
he left Washington he had received a telegram from General
Mitchell, in Alabama. General Mitchell asked instructions in
regard to a certain emergency that had arisen.
The Secretary said he did not precisely understand the emergency
as explained by General Mitchell, but had answered back, "All
right; go ahead."
"Now," he said, as he turned to Mr. Lincoln, "Mr. President, if I
have made an error in not understanding him correctly, I will
have to get you to countermand the order."
"Well," exclaimed President Lincoln, "that is very much like the
happening on the occasion of a certain horse sale I remember that
took place at the cross-roads down in Kentucky, when I was a boy.
"A particularly fine horse was to be sold, and the people in
large numbers had gathered together. They had a small boy to ride
the horse up and down while the spectators examined the horse's
"At last one man whispered to the boy as he went by: 'Look here,
boy, hain't that horse got the splints?'
"The boy replied: 'Mister, I don't know what the splints is, but
if it's good for him, he has got it; if it ain't good for him, he
ain't got it.'
"Now," said President Lincoln, "if this was good for Mitchell, it
was all right; but if it was not, I have got to countermand it."
TOO SWIFT TO STAY IN THE ARMY.
There were strange, queer, odd things and happenings in the Army
at times, but, as a rule, the President did not allow them to
worry him. He had enough to bother about.
A quartermaster having neglected to present his accounts in
proper shape, and the matter being deemed of sufficient
importance to bring it to the attention of the President, the
"Now this instance reminds me of a little story I heard only a
short time ago. A certain general's purse was getting low, and he
said it was probable he might be obliged to draw on his banker
for some money.
"'How much do you want, father?' asked his son, who had been
with him a few days.
"'I think I shall send for a couple of hundred,' replied the
"Why, father,' said his son, very quietly, 'I can let you have
"'You can let me have it! Where did you get so much money?
"'I won it playing draw-poker with your staff, sir!' replied the
"The earliest morning train bore the young man toward his home,
and I've been wondering if that boy and that quartermaster had
happened to meet at the same table."
ADMIRED THE STRONG MAN.
Governor Hoyt of Wisconsin tells a story of Mr. Lincoln's great
admiration for physical strength. Mr. Lincoln, in 1859, made a
speech at the Wisconsin State Agricultural Fair. After the
speech, in company with the Governor, he strolled about the
grounds, looking at the exhibits. They came to a place where a
professional "strong man" was tossing cannon balls in the air and
catching them on his arms and juggling with them as though they
were light as baseballs. Mr. Lincoln had never before seen such
an exhibition, and he was greatly surprised and interested.
When the performance was over, Governor Hoyt, seeing Mr.
Lincoln's interest, asked him to go up and be introduced to the
athlete. He did so, and, as he stood looking down musingly on the
man, who was very short, and evidently wondering that one so much
smaller than he could be so much stronger, he suddenly broke out
with one of his quaint speeches. "Why," he said, "why, I could
lick salt off the top of your hat."
WISHED THE ARMY CHARGED LIKE THAT.
A prominent volunteer officer who, early in the War, was on duty
in Washington and often carried reports to Secretary Stanton at
the War Department, told a characteristic story on President
Lincoln. Said he:
"I was with several other young officers, also carrying reports
to the War Department, and one morning we were late. In this
instance we were in a desperate hurry to deliver the papers, in
order to be able to catch the train returning to camp.
"On the winding, dark staircase of the old War Department, which
many will remember, it was our misfortune, while taking about
three stairs at a time, to run a certain head like a catapult
into the body of the President, striking him in the region of the
right lower vest pocket.
"The usual surprised and relaxed grunt of a man thus assailed
"We quickly sent an apology in the direction of the dimly seen
form, feeling that the ungracious shock was expensive, even to
the humblest clerk in the department.
"A second glance revealed to us the President as the victim of
the collision. Then followed a special tender of 'ten thousand
pardons,' and the President's reply:
"'One's enough; I wish the whole army would charge like that.'"
"UNCLE ABRAHAM" HAD EVERYTHING READY.
"You can't do anything with them Southern fellows," the old man
at the table was saying.
"If they get whipped, they'll retreat to them Southern swamps and
bayous along with the fishes and crocodiles. You haven't got the
fish-nets made that'll catch 'em."
"Look here, old gentleman," remarked President Lincoln, who was
sitting alongside, "we've got just the nets for traitors, in the
bayous or anywhere."
"Hey? What nets?"
"Bayou-nets!" and "Uncle Abraham" pointed his joke with his fork,
spearing a fishball savagely.
NOT AS SMOOTH AS HE LOOKED.
Mr. Lincoln's skill in parrying troublesome questions was
wonderful. Once he received a call from Congressman John Ganson,
of Buffalo, one of the ablest lawyers in New York, who, although
a Democrat, supported all of Mr. Lincoln's war measures. Mr.
Ganson wanted explanations. Mr. Ganson was very bald with a
perfectly smooth face. He had a most direct and aggressive way of
stating his views or of demanding what he thought he was entitled
to. He said: "Mr. Lincoln, I have supported all of your measures
and think I am entitled to your confidence. We are voting and
acting in the dark in Congress, and I demand to know--think I
have the right to ask and to know--what is the present situation,
and what are the prospects and conditions of the several
campaigns and armies."
Mr. Lincoln looked at him critically for a moment and then said:
"Ganson, how clean you shave!"
Most men would have been offended, but Ganson was too broad and
intelligent a man not to see the point and retire at once,
satisfied, from the field.
A SMALL CROP.
Chauncey M. Depew says that Mr. Lincoln told him the following
story, which he claimed was one of the best two things he ever
originated: He was trying a case in Illinois where he appeared
for a prisoner charged with aggravated assault and battery. The
complainant had told a horrible story of the attack, which his
appearance fully justified, when the District Attorney handed the
witness over to Mr. Lincoln, for cross-examination. Mr. Lincoln
said he had no testimony, and unless he could break down the
complainant's story he saw no way out. He had come to the
conclusion that the witness was a bumptious man, who rather
prided himself upon his smartness in repartee and, so, after
looking at him for some minutes, he said:
"Well, my friend, how much ground did you and my client here
The fellow answered: "About six acres."
"Well," said Mr. Lincoln, "don't you think that this is an
almighty small crop of fight to gather from such a big piece of
The jury laughed. The Court and District-Attorney and complainant
all joined in, and the case was laughed out of court.
"NEVER REGRET WHAT YOU DON'T WRITE."
A simple remark one of the party might make would remind Mr.
Lincoln of an apropos story.
Secretary of the Treasury Chase happened to remark, "Oh, I am so
sorry that I did not write a letter to Mr. So-and-so before I
President Lincoln promptly responded:
"Chase, never regret what you don't write; it is what you do
write that you are often called upon to feel sorry for."
A VAIN GENERAL.
In an interview between President Lincoln and Petroleum V. Nasby,
the name came up of a recently deceased politician of Illinois
whose merit was blemished by great vanity. His funeral was very
"If General --- had known how big a funeral he would have had,"
said Mr. Lincoln, "he would have died years ago."
DEATH BED REPENTANCE.
A Senator, who was calling upon Mr. Lincoln, mentioned the name
of a most virulent and dishonest official; one, who, though very
brilliant, was very bad.
"It's a good thing for B---" said Mr. Lincoln. "that there is
such a thing as a deathbed repentance."
NO CAUSE FOR PRIDE.
A member of Congress from Ohio came into Mr. Lincoln's presence
in a state of unutterable intoxication, and sinking into a chair,
exclaimed in tones that welled up fuzzy through the gallon or
more of whiskey that he contained, "Oh, 'why should (hic) the
spirit of mortal be proud?'"
"My dear sir," said the President, regarding him closely, "I see
no reason whatever."
...THE STORY OF LINCOLN'S LIFE...
When Abraham Lincoln once was asked to tell the story of his
life, he replied:
"It is contained in one line of Gray's 'Elegy in a Country
"'The short and simple annals of the poor.'"
That was true at the time he said it, as everything else he said
was Truth, but he was then only at the beginning of a career that
was to glorify him as one of the heroes of the world, and place
his name forever beside the immortal name of the mighty
Many great men, particularly those of America, began life in
humbleness and poverty, but none ever came from such depths or
rose to such a height as Abraham Lincoln.
His birthplace, in Hardin county, Kentucky, was but a wilderness,
and Spencer county, Indiana, to which the Lincoln family removed
when Abraham was in his eighth year, was a wilder and still more
The little red schoolhouse which now so thickly adorns the
country hillside had not yet been built. There were scattered
log schoolhouses, but they were few and far between. In several
of these Mr. Lincoln got the rudiments of an education--an
education that was never finished, for to the day of his death he
was a student and a seeker after knowledge.
Some records of his schoolboy days are still left us. One is a
book made and bound by Lincoln himself, in which he had written
the table of weights and measures, and the sums to be worked out
therefrom. This was his arithmetic, for he was too poor to own a
A YOUTHFUL POET.
On one of the pages of this quaint book he had written these four
lines of schoolboy doggerel:
His Hand and Pen,
He Will be Good,
But God knows when."
The poetic spirit was strong in the youngscholar just then for on
of the same book he had
written these two verses, which are supposed to have been
original with him:
"Time, what an empty vapor 'tis,
And days, how swift they are;
Swift as an Indian arrow
Fly on like a shooting star.
The present moment just is here,
Then slides away in haste,
That we can never say they're ours,
But only say they're past."
Another specimen of the poetical, or rhyming ability, is found in
the following couplet, written by him for his friend, Joseph C.
"Good boys who to their books apply,
Will all be great men by and by."
In all, Lincoln's "schooling" did not amount to a year's time,
he was a constant student outside of the schoolhouse. He read all
the books he could borrow, and it was his chief delight during
the day to lie under the shade of some tree, or at night in front
of an open fireplace, reading and studying. His favorite books
were the Bible and Aesop's fables, which he kept always within
reach and read time and again.
The first law book he ever read was "The Statutes of Indiana,"
and it was from this work that he derived his ambition to be a
MADE SPEECHES WHEN A BOY.
When he was but a barefoot boy he would often make political
speeches to the boys in the neighborhood, and when he had reached
young manhood and was engaged in the labor of chopping wood or
splitting rails he continued this practice of speechmaking with
only the stumps and surrounding trees for hearers.
At the age of seventeen he had attained his full height of six
feet four inches and it was at this time he engaged as a ferry
boatman on the Ohio river, at thirty-seven cents a day.
That he was seriously beginning to think of public affairs even
at this early age is shown by the fact that about this time he
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