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From Wit & Humor Of Abraham Lincoln, Gathered from Authentic Sources by Carleton B., Case, Chicago: Shrewesbury Publishing Co., 1916; pp. 100-158.

By Carleton B. Case

Part III.




“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 out with his fork, spearing a fishball savagely.



The Hon. Mr. Kellogg, representative from Essex County, N. Y., received a dispatch one evening from the army to the effect that a young townsman who had been induced to enlist through his instrumentality had, for a serious demeanor, been convicted by a court-martial and was to be shot the next day. Greatly agitated, Mr. Kellogg went to the Secretary of War and urged, in the strongest manner, a reprieve. Stanton was inexorable.

“Too many cases of this kind had been let off,” said he, “and it was time an example was made.”

Exhausting his eloquence in vain, Mr. Kellogg said:

“Well, Mr. Secretary, the boy is not going to be shot, of that I give you fair warning!”

Leaving the War Department, he went directly to the 101 White House, although the hour was late. The sentinel on duty told him that special orders had been given to admit no one whatever that night.

After a long parley, by pledging himself to assume the responsibility of the act, the Congressman passed in. Mr. Lincoln had retired, but indifferent to etiquette or ceremony, Judge Kellogg pressed his way through all obstacles to his sleeping apartment. In an excited manner he stated that the dispatch announcing the hour of execution had just reached him.

“This man must not be shot, Mr. President,” said he. “I can’t help what he may have done. Why, he is an old neighbor of mine; I can’t allow him to be shot!”

Mr. Lincoln had remained in bed, quietly listening to the protestations of his old friend (they were in Congress together). He at length said:

“Well, I don’t believe shooting will do him any good. Give me that pen.”

And so saying, “red tape” was unceremoniously cut, and another poor fellow’s life was indefinitely extended.



The President was at the battle of Fort Stevens, and standing in a very exposed position, he apparently had been recognized by the enemy. A young colonel of artillery, who appeared to be the officer of the day, finally decided to insist on the President removing to a safer location.

He walked to where the President was looking over the parapet, and said, “Mr. President, you are standing within range of four hundred rebel rifles. Please come 102 down to a safer place. If you do not, it will be my duty to call a file of men, and make you.”

“And you would do quite right, my boy!” said the President, coming down at once. “You are in command of the fort. I should be the last man to set an example of disobedience!”



A delegation of New York millionaires in 1862 waited on President Lincoln to request that he furnish a gunboat for the protection of New York harbor.

Mr. Lincoln, after listening patiently, said, “Gentlemen: the credit of the Government is at a very low ebb; greenbacks are not worth more than forty or fifty cents on the dollar; it is impossible for me, in the present condition of things, to furnish you a gunboat, and, in this condition of things, if I was worth half as much as you, gentlemen, are represented to be, and as badly frightened as you seem to be, I would build a gunboat and give it to the Government.”

They went away — but they did not build the gunboat.



Mr. Lovejoy, heading a committee of western men, discussed an important scheme with the President, and was then directed to explain it to Secretary Stanton. Upon presenting themselves to the Secretary, and showing the President’s order, the Secretary said, “Did Lincoln give you an order of that kind?” “He did, sir.” 103 “Then he is a d——d fool,” said the angry Secretary. “Do you mean to say that the President is a d——d fool?” asked Lovejoy, in amazement. “Yes, sir, if he gave you such as order as that.”

The bewildered Illinoisan betook himself at once to the President and related the result of the conference. “Did Stanton say I was a d——d fool?” asked Lincoln, at the close of the recital. “He did, sir, and repeated it.” After a moment’s pause, and looking up, the President said: “If Stanton said I was a d——d fool,” then I must be one, for he is nearly always right, and generally says what he means. I will slip over and see him.”



The President was feeling indisposed, and had sent for his physician, who upon his arrival informed the President that his trouble was either varioloid, or mild smallpox. “They’re all over me. Is it contagious?” said Mr. Lincoln. “Yes,” answered the Doctor, “very contagious, indeed.”

“Well,” said a visitor, “I can’t stop. I just called to see you.”

“Oh, don’t be in a hurry, sir,” placidly said the President.

“Thank you, sir; I’ll call again,” retreating abruptly.

“Some people,” said the Executive, looking after him, “said they could not take very well to my proclamation, but now, I am happy to say, I have something that everybody can take.”




Secretary Chase, when Secretary of the Treasury, had a disagreement, and the Secretary had resigned.

The President was urged not to accept it, as “Secretary Chase is to-day a national necessity,” his advisers said. “How mistaken you are!” he quietly observed. “Yet it is not strange; I used to have similar notions. No! if we should all be turned out to-morrow, and could come back here in a week, we should find our places filled by a lot of fellows doing just as well as we did, and in many instances better.

“As the Irishman said, ‘In this country one man is as good as another; and, for the matter of that, very often a great deal better.’ No; this Government does not depend upon the life of any man.”



Mr. Lincoln, on one occasion, narrated to Hon. Mr. Odell and others, with much zest, the following story about young Daniel Webster:

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 pantaloons.

“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 schoolroom 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.”



Dennis Hanks was once asked to visit Washington to secure the pardon of certain persons in jail for participation in copperheadism. Dennis went and arrived in Washington, and instead of going, as he said, to a “tavern,” he went to the White House. There was a porter on guard, and he asked:

“Is Abe in?“

“Do you mean Mr. Lincoln?” asked the porter.

“Yes; is he in there?” and brushing the porter aside he strode into the room and said, “Hello, Abe; how are you?”

And Abe said, “Well!” and just gathered him up in his arms and talked of the days gone by.

Oh, the days gone by! They talked of their boyhood days, and by and by Lincoln said:

“What brings you here all the way from Illinois?”

And then Dennis told him his mission, and Lincoln replied:

“I will grant it, Dennis, for old-times’ sake. I will send for Mr. Stanton. It is his business.”

Stanton came into the room, and strolled up and down, and said that the men ought to be punished more 106 than they were. Mr. Lincoln sat quietly in his chair and waited for the tempest to subside, and then quietly said to Stanton he would like to have the papers next day.

When he had gone Dennis said:

“Abe, if I were as big and ugly as you are, I would take him over my knee and spank him.”

Lincoln replied; “No, Stanton is an able and valuable man for this nation, and I am glad to bear his anger for the service he can give this nation.”



A delegation was pressing the claims of a gentleman as commissioner to the Sandwich Islands. Among the many points urged was that the applicant was in poor health. The President closed the interview with the good-natured remark: “Gentlemen, I am sorry to say that there are eight other applicants for that place, and they are all sicker than your man.”



An old lady from the country called on the President, her tanned face peering out from the interior of a huge sunbonnet. Her errand was to present Mr. Lincoln a pair of stockings of her own make a yard long.

Kind tears came to his eyes as she spoke to him, and then, holding the stockings one in each hand, dangling wide apart for general inspection, he assured her that 107 he should take them with him to Washington, where (and here his eyes twinkled) he was sure he should not be able to find any like them. The amusement of the company was not at all diminished by Mr. Boutwell’s remark, that the lady had evidently made a very correct estimate of Mr. Lincoln’s latitude and longitude.



Lincoln made the best of everything, and if he couldn’t get what he wanted he took what he could get. In matters of policy, while President he acted according to this rule. He would take perilous chances, even when the result was, to the minds of his friends, not worth the risk he had run.

One day at a meeting of the Cabinet, it being at the time when it seemed as though war with England and France could not be avoided, Secretary of State Seward and Secretary of War Stanton warmly advocated that the United States maintain an attitude, the result of which would have been a declaration of hostilities by the European Powers mentioned.

“Why take any more chances than are absolutely necessary?” asked the President.

“We must maintain our honor at any cost,” insisted Secretary Seward.

“We would be branded as cowards before the entire world,” Secretary Stanton said.

“But why run the greater risk when we can take a smaller one?” queried the President calmly. “The less risk we run the better for us. That reminds me of a story I heard a day or two ago, the hero of which was on the firing line during a recent battle, where the 108 bullets were flying thick. Finally his courage gave way entirely, and throwing down his gun, he ran for dear life.

“As he was flying along at top speed he came across an officer who drew his revolver and shouted, ‘Go back to your regiment at once or I will shoot you!’

“ ‘Shoot and be hanged,’ the racer exclaimed. ‘What’s one bullet to a whole hatful?’ ”



“EVERY man has his own peculiar and particular way of getting at and doing things,” said President Lincoln one day, “and he is often criticised because that way is not the one adopted by others. The great idea is to accomplish what you set out to do. When a man is successful in whatever he attempts, he has many imitators, and the methods used are not so closely scrutinized, although no man who is of good intent will resort to mean, underhanded, scurvy tricks.

“That reminds me of a fellow out in Illinois, who had better luck in getting prairie chickens than any one in the neighborhood. He had a rusty old gun no other man dared to handle; he never seemed to exert himself, being listless and indifferent when out after game, but he always brought home all the chickens he could carry, while some of the others, with their finely trained dogs and latest improved fowling-pieces, came home alone.

“ ‘How is it, Jake,’ inquired one sportsman, who, although a good shot, and knew something about hunting, was often unfortunate, ‘that you never come home without a lot of birds?’

“Jake grinned, half closed his eyes, and replied: 109 ‘Oh, I don’t know that there’s anything queer about it. I jes’ go ahead an’ git ’em.’

“ ‘Yes, I know you do; but how do you do it?’

“ ‘You’ll tell.’

“ ‘Honest, Jake, I won’t say a word. Hope to drop dead this minute.’

“ ‘Never say nothing, if I tell you?’

“ ‘Cross my heart three times.’

“This reassured Jake, who put his mouth close to the ear of his eager questioner and said, in a whisper:

“ ‘All you got to do is jes’ hide in a fence corner an’ make a noise like a turnip. That’ll bring the chickens every time.’ ”



Governor Blank went to the War Department one day in a towering rage:

“I suppose you found it necessary to make large concessions to him, as he returned from you perfectly satisfied,” suggested a friend.

“Oh, no,” the President replied, “I did not concede anything. You have heard how that Illinois farmer got rid of a big log that was too big to haul out, too knotty to split, and too wet and soggy to burn.

“ ‘Well, now,’ said he, in response to the inquiries of his neighbors one Sunday, as to how he got rid of it, ‘well, now, boys, if you won’t divulge the secret, I’ll tell you how I got rid of it — I plowed around it.’

“Now,” remarked Lincoln, in conclusion, “don’t’ tell anybody, but that’s the way I got rid of Governor Blank. I plowed all round him, but it took me three mortal hours to do it, and I was afraid every minute he’d see what I was at.”




During a public “reception,” a farmer from one of the border counties of Virginia told the President that the Union soldiers, in passing his farm, had helped themselves not only to hay, but his horse, and he hoped the President would urge the proper officer to consider his claim immediately.

Mr. Lincoln said that this reminded him of an old acquaintance of his, “Jack” Chase, a lumberman on the Illinois, a steady, sober man, and the best raftsman on the river. It was quite a trick to take the logs over the rapids; but he was skillful with a raft, and always kept her straight in the channel. Finally a steamer was put on, and “Jack” was made captain of her. He always used to take the wheel, going through the rapids. One day when the boat was plunging and wallowing along the boiling current, and “Jack’s” utmost vigilance was being exercised to keep her in the narrow channel, a boy pulled his coat-tail and hailed him with:

“Say, Mister Captain! I wish you would just stop your boat a minute — I’ve lost my apple overboard!”



A “high” private of the One Hundred and Fortieth Infantry Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteers, wounded at Chancellorsville, was taken to Washington. One day, as he was becoming convalescent, a whisper ran down the long row of cots that the President was in the building and would soon pass by. Instantly every boy in blue who was able arose, stood erect, hands to the side, ready to salute his Commander-in-Chief.


The Pennsylvanian stood six feet seven inches in his stockings. Lincoln was six feet four. As the President approached this giant towering above him, he stopped in amazement, and casting his eyes from head to foot and from foot to head, as if contemplating the immense distance from one extremity to the other, he stood for a moment speechless.

At length, extending his hand, he exclaimed, “Hello, comrade, do you know when your feet get cold?”



Ward Lamon told this story of President Lincoln, whom he found one day in a particularly gloomy frame of mind. Lamon said:

“The President remarked, as I came in, ‘I fear I have made Senator Wade, of Ohio, my enemy for life.’

“ ‘How?’ I asked.

“ ‘Well,’ continued the President, ‘Wade was here just now urging me to dismiss Grant, and, in response to something he said, I remarked, “Senator, that reminds me of a story.” ’

“ ‘What did Wade say?’ I inquired of the President.

“ ‘He said, in a petulant way,’ the President responded, ‘ “It is with you, sir, all story, story! You are the father of every military blunder that has been made during the war. You are on your road to hell, sir, with this government, by your obstinacy, and you are not a mile off this minute.” ’

“ ‘What did you say then?’

“ ‘I good-naturedly said to him,’ the President replied, “ ‘Senator, that is just about from here to the Capitol, is it not?” He was very angry, grabbed up his hat and cane, and went away.’ ”




President Lincoln was at all times an advocate of peace, provided it could be obtained honorably and with credit to the United States. As to the cause of the Civil War, which side of Mason and Dixon’s line was responsible for it, who fired the first shots, who were the aggressors, etc., Lincoln did not seem to bother about; he wanted to preserve the Union, above all things. Slavery, he was assured, was dead, but he thought the former slaveholders should be recompensed.

To illustrate his feelings in the matter he told this story:

“Some of the supporters of the Union cause are opposed to accommodate or yield to the South in any manner or way because the Confederates began the war; and, consequently, should be held responsible to the last stage for whatever may come in the future. Now this reminds me of a good story I heard once, when I lived in Illinois.

“A vicious bull in a pasture took after everybody who tried to cross the lot, and one day a neighbor of the owner was the victim. This man was a speedy fellow and got to a friendly tree ahead of the bull, but not in time to climb the tree. So he led the enraged animal a merry race around the tree, finally succeeding in seizing the bull by the tail.

“The bull, being at a disadvantage, not able to either catch the man or release his tail, was mad enough to eat nails; he dug up the earth with his feet, scattered gravel all around, bellowed until you could hear him for two 113 miles or more, and at length broke into a dead run, the man hanging onto his tail all the time.

“While the bull, much out of temper, was legging it to the best of his ability, his tormentor, still clinging to the tail asked, ‘Darn you, who commenced this fuss?’

“It’s our duty to settle this fuss at the earliest possible moment, no matter who commenced it. That’s my idea of it.”



President Lincoln had not been in the White House very long before Mrs. Lincoln became seized with the idea that a fine new barouche was about the proper thing for “the first lady in the land.” The President did not care particularly about it one way or the other, and told his wife to order whatever she wanted.

Lincoln forgot all about the new vehicle, and was overcome with astonishment one afternoon when, having acceded to Mrs. Lincoln’s desire to go driving, he found a beautiful barouche standing in front of the door of the White House.

His wife watched him with an amused smile, but the only remark he made was, “Well, Mary, that’s about the slickest ‘glass hack’ in town, isn’t it?”



“What made the deepest impression upon you?” inquired a friend one day, “when you stood in the presence of the Falls of Niagara, the greatest of natural wonders?”

“The thing that struck me most forcibly when I saw 114 the Falls,” Lincoln responded, with characteristic deliberation, “was, where in the world did all that water come from?”



An officer of low volunteer rank persisted in telling and re-telling his troubles to the President on a summer afternoon when Lincoln was tired and careworn.

After listening patiently, he finally turned upon the man, and, looking wearily out upon the broad Potomac in the distance, said in a peremptory tone that ended the interview:

“Now, my man, go away, go away. I cannot meddle in your case. I could as easily bail out the Potomac River with a teaspoon as attend to all the details of the army.”



An Ohio Senator had an appointment with President Lincoln at six o’clock, and as he entered the vestibule of the White House his attention was attracted toward a poorly clad young woman, who was violently sobbing. He asked her the cause of her distress. She said she had been ordered away by the servants, after vainly waiting many hours to see the President about her only brother, who had been condemned to death. Her story was this:

She and her brother were foreigners, and orphans. They had been in this country several years. Her brother enlisted in the army, but, through bad influences, 115 was induced to desert. He was captured, tried and sentenced to be shot — the old story.

The poor girl had obtained the signatures of some persons who had formerly known him, to a petition for a pardon, and alone had come to Washington to lay the case before the President. Thronged as the waiting-rooms always were, she had passed the long hours of two days trying in vain to get an audience, and had at length been ordered away.

The gentleman’s feelings were touched. He said to her that he had come to see the President, but did not know as he should succeed. He told her, however, to follow him upstairs, and he would see what could be done for her.

Just before reaching the door, Mr. Lincoln came out, and, meeting his friend, said good-humoredly, “Are you not ahead to time?” The gentleman showed him his watch, with the hand upon the hour of six.

“Well,” returned Mr. Lincoln, “I have been so busy to-day that I have not had time to get a lunch. Go in and sit down; I will be back directly.”

The gentleman made the young woman accompany him into the office, and when they were seated, said to her: “Now, my good girl, I want you to muster all the courage you have in the world. When the President comes back, he will sit down in that armchair. I shall get up to speak to him, and as I do so you must force yourself between us, and insist upon his examination of your papers, telling him it is a case of life and death, and admits of no delay.”

These instructions were carried out to the letter. Mr. Lincoln was at first somewhat surprised at the apparent forwardness of the young woman, but observing her distressed 116 appearance, he ceased conversation with his friend, and commenced an examination of the document she had placed in his hands.

Glancing from it to the face of the petitioner, whose tears had broken forth afresh, he studied its expression for a moment, and then his eye fell upon her scanty but neat dress. Instantly his face lighted up.

“My poor girl,” said he, “you have come here with no Governor, or Senator, or member of Congress to plead your cause. You seem honest and truthful; and you don’t wear hoopskirts — and I will be whipped but I will pardon your brother.” And he did.



President Lincoln was censured for appointing one that had zealously opposed his second term.

He replied: “Well, I suppose Judge E., having been disappointed before, did behave pretty ugly, but that wouldn’t make him any less fit for the place; and I think I have Scriptural authority for appointing him.

“You remember when the Lord was on Mount Sinai getting out a commission for Aaron, that same Aaron was at the foot of the mountain making a false god for the people to worship. Yet Aaron got his commission, you know.”



A gentleman, visiting a hospital at Washington, heard an occupant of one of the beds laughing and talking about the President, who had been there a short time before and gladdened the wounded with some of his 117 stories. The soldier seemed in such good spirits that the gentleman inquired:

“You must be very slightly wounded?”

“Yes,” replied the brave fellow, “very slightly — I have only lost one leg, and I’d be glad enough to lose the other, if I could hear some more of ‘Old Abe’s’ stories.”



A Union general, operating with his command in West Virginia, allowed himself and his men to be trapped, and it was feared his force would be captured by the Confederates. The President heard the report read by the operator, as it came over the wire, and remarked:

“Once there was a man out West who was ‘heading’ a barrel, as they used to call it. He worked like a good fellow in driving down the hoops, but just about the time he thought he had the job done, the head would fall in. Then he had to do the work all over again.

“All at once a bright idea entered his brain, and he wondered how it was he hadn’t figured it out before. His boy, a bright, smart lad, was standing by, very much interested in the business, and, lifting the young one up, he put him inside the barrel, telling him to hold the head in its proper place, while he pounded down the hoops on the sides. This worked like a charm, and he soon had the ‘heading’ done.

“Then he realized that his boy was inside the barrel, and how to get him out he couldn’t for his life figure out. General Blank is now inside the barrel, ‘headed in,’ and the job now is to get him out.”




Lincoln had been in the telegraph office at Springfield during the casting of the first and second ballots in the Republican National Convention at Chicago, and then left and went over to the office of the State Journal, where he was sitting conversing with friends while the third ballot was being taken.

In a few moments came across the wires the announcement of the result. The superintendent of the telegraph company wrote on a scrap of paper: “Mr. Lincoln, you are nominated on the third ballot,” and a boy ran with the message to Lincoln.

He looked at it in silence, amid the shouts of those around him; then rising and putting it in his pocket, he said quietly: “There’s a little woman down at our house would like to hear this; I’ll go down and tell her.”



Two ladies from Tennessee called at the White House one day and begged Mr. Lincoln to release their husbands, who were rebel prisoners at Johnson’s Island. One of the fair petitioners urged as a reason for the liberation of her husband that he was a very religious man, and rang the changes on this pious plea.

“Madam,” said Mr. Lincoln, “you say your husband is a religious man. Perhaps I am not a good judge of such matters, but in my opinion the religion that makes men rebel and fight against their government is not the genuine article; nor is the religion the right sort which reconciles them to the idea of eating their bread in the 119 sweat of other men’s faces. It is not the kind to get to heaven on.”

Later, however, the order of release was made. President Lincoln remarking, with impressive solemnity, that he would expect the ladies to subdue the rebellious spirit of their husbands, and to that end he thought it would be well to reform their religion.

“True patriotism,” said he, “is better than the wrong kind of piety.”



One day when President Lincoln was receiving callers a buxom Irish woman came into the office, and, standing before the President, with her hands on her hips, said:

“Mr. Lincoln, can’t I sell apples on the railroad?”

President Lincoln replied: “Certainly, madam, you can sell all you wish.”

“But,” she said, “you must give me a pass, or the soldiers will not let me.”

President Lincoln then wrote a few lines and gave them to her.

“Thank you, sir; God bless you!” she exclaimed as she departed joyfully.



It was in the spring of 1830 that “Abe” Lincoln, “wearing a jean jacket, shrunken buckskin trousers, a coonskin cap, and driving an ox-team,” became a citizen of Illinois. He was physically and mentally equipped for pioneer work. His first desire was to obtain a new 120 and decent suit of clothes, but, as he had no money, he was glad to arrange with Nancy Miller to make him a pair of trousers, he split four hundred fence rails for each yard of cloth — fourteen hundred rails in all. “Abe” got the clothes after a while.

It was three miles from his father’s cabin to her wood-lot, where he made the forest ring with the sound of his ax. “Abe” had helped his father plow fifteen acres of land, and split enough rails to fence it, and he then helped to plow fifty acres for another settler.



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 I 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. 121



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 case 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.

“ ‘Where 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, but 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-preservation 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?’

“ ‘Nuffin whatever, sa — 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 government 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 wid me.’

“I only tell this story,” concluded the President, “in order to illustrate the tactics of some of the 123 Union generals who would be sadly ‘missed’ by themselves, if no one else, if they ever got out of the Army.”



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 chaplain.”

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 opinions.”

The President inquired: “On what question is the gentleman unsound?”

Response: “He does not believe in endless punishment; not only so, sir, but he believes that even the rebels themselves will be finally saved.”

“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, 124 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.



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 with scorn.

“ ‘No,’ said he, ‘I’m not taking oats now. I take nothing but money.’ ”



“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 125 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 asked:

“ ‘Say! How do you get out of this place?’ ”



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.



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 127 would look better if he wore whiskers, and I mean to write and tell him so.”

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 time to answer my letter, will you allow your little girl to reply for you?”

Lincoln was much pleased with the letter, and decided to answer it, which he did at once, as follows:

“Springfield, Illinois, October 19, 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 present.

There was a large surging mass of people gathered 128 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 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 by him:

               “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 129 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 future holds.

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.



It was a cold, blusterous winter night, says Mr. C. C. Buel:

“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.’ ”



One day, when the President was with the troops who were fighting at the front, the wounded, both Union and Confederate, began to pour in.

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 poor child?”

“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-by words without reserve.

The President directed them copied, and ordered that they be sent that night, with a flag of truce, into the enemy’s lines.



Soon after the opening of Congress in 1861, Mr. Shannon, from California, made the customary call at the White House. In the conversation that ensued, 131 Mr. Shannon said: “Mr. President, I met an old friend of yours in California last summer, a Mr. Campbell, who had a good deal to say of your Springfield life.”

“Ah,” returned Mr. Lincoln, “I am glad to hear of him. Campbell used to be a dry fellow in those days,” he continued. “For a time he was Secretary of State. One day during the legislative vacation, a meek, cadaverous-looking man, with a white neck-cloth, introduced himself to him at his office, and, stating that he had been informed that Mr. C. had the letting of the hall of representatives, he wished to secure it, if possible, for a course of lectures he desired to deliver in Springfield.

“ ‘May I ask,’ said the Secretary, ‘what is to be the subject of your lectures?’

“ ‘Certainly,’ was the reply, with a very solemn expression of countenance. ‘The course I wish to deliver is on the Second Coming of our Lord.’

“ ‘It is of no use,’ said C.; ‘if you will take my advice, you will not waste your time in the city. It is my private opinion that, if the Lord has been in Springfield once, He will never come the second time!’ ”



President Lincoln, in company with General Grant, was inspecting the Dutch Gap Canal at City Point. “Grant, do you know what this reminds me of? Out in Springfield, Ill., there was a blacksmith who, not having much to do, took a piece of soft iron and attempted to weld it into an agricultural implement, 132 but discovered that the iron would not hold out; then he concluded it would make a claw hammer; but having too much iron, attempted to make an ax, but decided after working awhile that there was not enough iron left. Finally, becoming disgusted, he filled the forge full of coal and brought the iron to a white heat; then with his tongs he lifted it from the bed of coals, and thrusting it into a tub of water near by, exclaimed: ‘Well, if I can’t make anything else of you, I will make a fizzle, anyhow.’ ” “I was afraid that was about what we had done with the Dutch Gap Canal,” said General Grant.



When Lincoln was in the Black Hawk War as captain, the volunteer soldiers drank in with delight the jests and stories of the tall captain. Æsop’s Fables were given a new dress, and the tales of the wild adventures that he had brought from Kentucky and Indiana were many, but his inspiration was never stimulated by recourse to the whisky jug.

When his grateful and delighted auditors pressed this on him he had one reply: “Thank you, I never drink it.”



President Lincoln and Postmaster-General Blair were talking of the war. “Blair,“ said the President, “did you ever know that fright has sometimes proven a cure for boils?” “No, Mr. President, how is that?” “I’ll tell you. Not long ago when a colonel, 133 with his cavalry, was at the front, and the Rebs were making things rather lively for us, the colonel was ordered out to a reconnoissance. He was troubled at the time with a big boil where it made horseback riding decidedly uncomfortable. He finally dismounted and ordered the troops forward without him. Soon he was startled by the rapid reports of pistols and the helter-skelter approach of his troops in full retreat before a yelling rebel force. He forgot everything but the yells, sprang into his saddle, and made capital time over the fences and ditches tills safe within the lines. The pain from his boil was gone, and the boil, too, and the colonel swore that there was no cure for boils so sure as fright from rebel yells.”



At an informal Cabinet meeting, at which the disposition of Jefferson Davis and other prominent Confederates was discussed, each member of the Cabinet gave his opinion; most of them were for hanging the traitors, or for some severe punishment. President Lincoln said nothing.

Finally, Joshua F. Speed, his old and confidential friend, who had been invited to the meeting, said, “I have heard the opinion of your Ministers, and would like to hear yours.”

“Well, Josh,” replied President Lincoln, “when I was a boy in Indiana, I went to a neighbor’s house one morning and found a boy of my own size holding a coon by a string. I asked him what he had and what he was doing.

“He says, ‘It’s a coon. Dad cotched six last night, 134 and killed all but this poor little cuss. Dad told me to hold him until he came back, and I’m afraid he’s going to kill this one too; and oh, “Abe,” I do wish he would get away!’

“ ‘Well, why don’t you let him loose?’

“ ‘That wouldn’t be right; and if I let him go, Dad would give me h—. But if he got away himself, it would be all right.’

“Now,” said the President, “if Jeff Davis and those other fellows will only get away, it will be all right. But, if we should catch them, and I should let them go, ‘Dad would give me h—!’ ”



Among the men whom Captain Lincoln met in the Black Hawk campaign were Lieutenant-Colonel Zachary Taylor, Lieutenant Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederacy, and Lieutenant Robert Anderson, all of the United States Army.

Judge Arnold, in his “Life of Abraham Lincoln,” relates that Lincoln and Anderson did not meet again until some time in 1861. After Anderson had evacuated Fort Sumter, on visiting Washington, he called at the White House to pay his respects to the President. Lincoln expressed his thanks to Anderson for his conduct at Fort Sumter, and then said:

“Major, do you remember of ever meeting me before?”

“No, Mr. President, I have no recollection of ever having had that pleasure.”

“My memory is better than yours,” said Lincoln; “you mustered me into the service of the United 135 States in 1832, at Dixon’s Ferry, in the Black Hawk war.”



An amusing instance of the President’s preoccupation of mind occurred at one of his levees, when he was shaking hands with a host of visitors passing him in a continuous stream.

An intimate acquaintance received the usual conventional hand-shake and salutation, but perceiving that he was not recognized, kept his ground instead of moving on, and spoke again, when the President, roused to a dim consciousness that something unusual had happened, perceived who stood before him, and seizing his friend’s hand, shoot it again heartily, saying:

“How do you do? How do you do? Excuse me for not noticing you. I was thinking of a man down South.”

“The man down South” was General W. T. Sherman, then on his march to the sea.



Lincoln was a strong believer in the virtue of dealing honestly with the people.

“If you once forfeit the confidence of your fellow-citizens,” he said to a caller at the White House, “you can never regain their respect and esteem.

“It is true that you may fool all the people some of the time; you can even fool some of the people all the time; but you can’t fool all of the people all the time.”




When President Lincoln heard of the Confederate raid at Fairfax, in which a brigadier-general and a number of valuable horses were captured he gravely observed:

“Well, I am sorry for the horses.”

“Sorry for the horses, Mr. President!” exclaimed the Secretary of War, raising his spectacles and throwing himself back in his chair in astonishment.

“Yes,” replied Mr. Lincoln, “I can make a brigadier-general in five minutes, but it is not easy to replace a hundred and ten horses.”



Lincoln had been born and reared among people who were believers in premonitions and supernatural appearances all his life, and he once declared to his friends that he was “from boyhood superstitious.”

He at one time said to Judge Arnold that “the near approach of the important events of his life were indicated by a presentiment or a strange dream, or in some other mysterious way it was impressed upon him that something important was to occur.” This was earlier than 1850.

It is said that on his second visit to New Orleans, Lincoln and his companion, John Hanks, visited an old fortune-teller — a voodoo negress. Tradition says that “during the interview she became very much excited, and after various predictions, exclaimed: ‘You will be President, and all the negroes will be free.’ ”

That the old voodoo negress should have foretold 137 that the visitor would be President is not at all incredible. She doubtless told this to many aspiring lads, but Lincoln, so it is avowed, took the prophecy seriously.



The President, like old King Saul, when his term was about to expire, was in a quandary concerning a further lease of the Presidential office. He consulted again the “prophetess” of Georgetown, immortalized by his patronage.

She retired to an inner chamber, and, after raising and consulting more than a dozen of distinguished spirits from Hades, she returned to the reception-parlor, where the chief magistrate awaited her, and declared that General Grant would capture Richmond, and that “Honest Old Abe” would be next President.

She, however, as the report goes, told him to beware of Chase.



Cabinet meeting was called to consider our relations with England in regard to the Mason-Slidell affair. One after another of the Cabinet presented his views, and Mr. Seward read an elaborate dispatch, which he had prepared.

Finally Mr. Lincoln read what he termed “a few brief remarks upon the subject,” and asked the opinions of his auditors. They unanimously agreed that our side of the question needed no more argument than 138 was contained in the President’s “few brief remarks.”

Mr. Seward said he would be glad to adopt the remarks, and, giving them more of the phraseology usual in diplomatic circles, send them to Lord Palmerston, the British premier.

“Then,” said Secretary Stanton, “came the demonstration. The President, half wheeling in his seat, threw one leg over the chair-arm, and, holding the letter in his hand, said, “Seward, do you suppose Palmerston will understand our position from that letter, just as it is?”

“ ‘Certainly, Mr. President.’

“ ‘Do you suppose the London Times will?’

“ ‘Certainly.’

“ ‘Do you suppose the average Englishman of affairs will?’

“ ‘Certainly; it cannot be mistaken in England.’

“ ‘Do you suppose that a hackman out on his box (pointing to the street) will understand it?’

“ ‘Very readily, Mr. President.’

“ ‘Very well, Seward, I guess we’ll let her slide just as she is.’

“And the letter did ‘slide,’ and settled the whole business in a manner that was effective.”



During the rebellion the Austrian Minister to the United States Government introduced to the President a count, a subject of the Austrian government, who was desirous of obtaining a position in the American army. Being introduced by the accredited Minister of 139 Austria he required no further recommendation to secure the appointment; but, fearing that his importance might not be fully appreciated by the republican President, the count was particular in impressing the fact upon him that he bore that title, and that his family was ancient and highly respectable.

President Lincoln listened with attention, until this unnecessary commendation was mentioned; then, with a merry twinkle in his eye, he tapped the aristocratic sprig of hereditary nobility on the shoulder in the most fatherly way, as if the gentleman had made a confession of some unfortunate circumstance connected with his lineage, for which he was in no way responsible, and said:

“Never mind, you shall be treated with just as much consideration for all that. I will see to it that your bearing a title shan’t hurt you.”



To a curiosity-seeker who desired a permit to pass the lines to visit the field of Bull Run, after the first battle, Lincoln made the following reply: “A man in Cortlandt county raised a porker of such unusual size that strangers went out of their way to see it.

“One of them the other day met the old gentleman and inquired about the animal.

“ ‘Wall, yes,’ the old fellow said, ‘I’ve got such a critter, mi’ty big un; but I guess I’ll have to charge you about a shillin’ for lookin’ at him.’

“The stranger looked at the old man for a minute or so, pulled out the desired coin, handed it to him and 140 started to go off. ‘Hold on,’ said the other. ‘Don’t you want to see the hog?’

“ ‘No,’ said the stranger; ‘I have seen as big a hog as I want to see!’

“And you will find that fact the case with yourself, if you should happen to see a few live rebels there as well as dead ones.”



“Bap.” McNabb was famous for his ability in the raising and the purchase of roosters of prime fighting quality, and when his birds fought the attendance was large. It was because of the “flunking” of one of “Bap.’s” roosters that Lincoln was enabled to make a point when criticising McClellan’s unreadiness and lack of energy.

One night there was a fight on the schedule, one of “Bap.” McNabb’s birds being a contestant. “Bap.” brought a little red rooster, whose fighting qualities had been well advertised for days in advance, and much interest was manifested in the outcome. As the result of these contests was generally a quarrel, in which each man, charging foul play, seized his victim, they chose Lincoln umpire, relying not only on his fairness but his ability to enforce his decisions. Judge Herndon, in his “Abraham Lincoln,” says of this notable event:

“I cannot improve on the description furnished me in February, 1865, by one who was present.

“They formed a ring, and the time having arrived, Lincoln, with one hand on each hip and in a squatting position, cried, ‘Ready.’ Into the ring they toss their 141 fowls, ‘Bap.’s’ red rooster along with the rest. But no sooner had the little beauty discovered what was to be done than he dropped his tail and ran.

“The crowd cheered, while “Bap.,’ in disappointment, picked him up and started away, losing his quarter (entrance fee) and carrying home his dishonored fowl. Once arrived at the latter place he threw his pet down with a feeling of indignation and chagrin.

“the little fellow, out of sight of all rivals, mounted a woodpile and proudly flirting out his feathers, crowed with all his might. ‘Bap.’ looked on in disgust.

“ ‘Yes, you little cuss’ he exclaimed, irreverently, ‘you’re great on dress parade, but not worth a durn in a fight.’ ”

It is said, accordingly to Judge Herndon, that Lincoln considered McClellan as “great on dress parade,” but not so much in a fight.



The President was bothered to death by those persons who boisterously demanded that the War be pushed vigorously; also, those who shouted their advice and opinions into his weary ears, but who never suggested anything practical. These fellows were not in the army, nor did they ever take any interest, in a personal way, in military matters, except when engaged in dodging drafts.

That reminds me,” remarked Mr. Lincoln one day, “of a farmer who lost his way on the Western frontier. Night came on, an the embarrassments of his position were increased by a furious tempest which suddenly 14 burst upon him. To add to his discomfort, his horse had given out, leaving him exposed to all the dangers of the pitiless storm.

“The peals of thunder were terrific, the frequent flashes of lightning affording the only guide on the road as he resolutely trudged onward, leading his jaded steed. The earth seemed fairly to tremble beneath him in the war of elements. One bolt threw him suddenly upon his knees.

“Our traveler was not a prayerful man, but finding himself involuntarily brought to an attitude of devotion, he addressed himself to the Throne of Grace in the following prayer for his deliverance:

“ ‘O God! Hear my prayer this time, for Thou knowest it is not often that I call upon Thee. And, O Lord! if it is all the same to Thee, give us a little more light and a little less noise.’

“I wish,” the President said, sadly, “there was a stronger disposition manifested on the part of our civilian warriors to unite in suppressing the rebellion, and a little less noise as to how and by whom the chief executive office shall be administered.”



Some of Mr. Lincoln’s intimate friends once called his attention to a certain member of his Cabinet who was quietly working to secure a nomination for the Presidency, although knowing that Mr. Lincoln was to be a candidate for reëlection. His friends insisted that the Cabinet officer ought to be made to give up his Presidential aspirations or be removed from office. The situation reminded Mr. Lincoln of a story: “My 143 brother and I,” he said, “were once plowing corn, I driving the horse and he holding the plow. The horse was lazy, but on one occasion he rushed across the field so that I, with my long legs, could scarcely keep pace with him. On reaching the end of the furrow, I found an enormous chin-fly fastened upon him, and knocked him off. My brother asked me what I did that for. I told him that I didn’t want the old horse bitten in that way. ‘Why,’ said my brother, ‘that’s all that made him go.’ Now,” said Mr. Lincoln, “if Mr. —— has a Presidential chin-fly hitting him, I’m not going to knock him off, if it will only make his department go.”



President Lincoln, while eager that the United States troops should be supplied with the most modern and serviceable weapons, often took occasion to put his foot down upon the mania for experimenting with which some of his generals were afflicted. While engaged in these experiments much valuable time was wasted, the enemy was left to do as he thought best, no battles were fought, and opportunities for winning victories allowed to pass.

The President was an exceedingly practical man, and when an invention, idea or discovery was submitted to him, his first step was to ascertain how any or all of them could be applied in a way to be of benefit to the army. As to experimenting with “contrivances” which, to his mind, could never be put to practical use, he had little patience.

“Some of these generals,” said he, “experiment 144 so long and so much with new-fangled fancy notions that when they are finally brought to a head they are useless. Either the time to use them has gone by, or the machine, when put in operation, kills more than it cures.

“One of these generals, who has a scheme for ‘condensing’ rations, is willing to swear his life away that his idea, when carried to perfection, will reduce the cost of feeding the Union troops to almost nothing, while the soldiers themselves will get so fat that they’ll ‘bust out’ of their uniforms. Of course, uniforms cost nothing, and real fat men are more active and vigorous than lean, skinny ones, but that is getting away from my story.

“There was once an Irishman — a cabman — who had a notion that he could induce his horse to live entirely on shavings. The latter he could get for nothing, while corn and oats were pretty high-priced. So he daily lessened the amount of food to the horse, substituting shavings for the corn and oats abstracted, so that the horse wouldn’t know his rations were being cut down.

“However, just as he had achieved success in his experiment, and the horse had been taught to live without other food than shavings, the ungrateful animal ‘up and died,’ and he had to buy another.”



A gentleman states in a Chicago journal: “In the winter of 1864, after serving three years in the Union Army, and being honorably discharged, I made application for the post sutlership at Point Lookout. My 145 father being interested, we made application to Mr. Stanton, then Secretary of War.

“We obtained an audience, and were ushered into the presence of the most pompous man I ever met. As I entered he waved his hand for me to stop at a given distance from him, and then put these questions, viz.:

“ ‘Did you serve three years in the army?’

“ ‘I did, sir.’

“ ‘Were you honorably discharged?’

“ ‘I was, sir.’

“ ‘Let me see your discharge.’

“I gave it to him. He looked it over, then said:

“ ‘Were you ever wounded?’

“ ‘I told him yes, at the battle of Williamsburg, May 5, 1861.

“He then said: ‘I think we can give this position to a soldier who has lost an arm or leg, he being more deserving’; and he then said I looked heart and healthy enough to serve three years more. He would not give me a chance to argue my case.

“The audience was at an end. He waved his hand to me. I was then dismissed from the august presence of the Honorable Secretary of War.

“My father was waiting for me in the hallway, who saw by my countenance that I was not successful. I said to my father:

“ ‘Let us go over to Mr. Lincoln; he may give us more satisfaction.’

“ ‘He said it would do me no good, but we went over. Mr. Lincoln’s reception room was full of ladies and gentlemen when we entered.


“My turn soon came. Lincoln turned to my father and said:

“ ‘Now, gentlemen, be pleased to be as quick as possible with your business, as it is growing late.’

“My father then stepped up to Lincoln and introduced me to him. Lincoln then said:

“ ‘Take a seat, gentlemen, and state your business as quickly as possible.’

“There was but one chair by Lincoln, so he motioned my father to sit, while I stood. My father stated the business to him as stated above. He then said:

“ ‘Have you seen Mr. Stanton?’

“We told him yes, that he had refused. He (Mr. Lincoln) then said:

“ ‘Gentlemen, this is Mr. Stanton’s business; I cannot interfere with him; he attends to all these matters and I am sorry I cannot help you.

“He saw that we were disappointed, and did his best to revive our spirits. He succeeded well with my father, who was a Lincoln man, and who was a staunch Republican.

“Mr. Lincoln then said:

“ ‘Now, gentlemen, I will tell you what it is; I have thousands of applications like this every day, but we cannot satisfy all for this reason, that these positions are like office seekers — there are too many pigs for the teats.’

“The ladies who were listening to the conversation placed their handkerchiefs to their faces and turned away. But the joke of ‘Old Abe’ put us all in a good humor. We then left the presence of the greatest and 147 most just man who ever lived to fill the Presidential chair.”



The persistence of office-seekers nearly drove President Lincoln wild. They slipped in through the half-opened doors of the Executive Mansion; they dogged his steps if he walked; they edged their way through the crowds and thrust their papers in his hands when he rode; and, taking it all in all, they well-nigh worried him to death.

He once said that if the Government passed through the Rebellion without dismemberment there was the strongest danger of its falling prey to the rapacity of the office-seeking class.

“This human struggle and scramble for office, for a way to live without work, will finally test the strength of our institutions,” were the words he used.



On April 20th, a delegation from Baltimore appeared at the White House and begged the President that troops for Washington be sent around and not through Baltimore.

President Lincoln replied, laughingly: “If I grant this concession, you will be back to-morrow asking that no troops be marched ‘around’ it.”

The President was right. That afternoon, and again on Sunday and Monday, committees sought him, protesting that Maryland soil should not be “polluted” by the feet of soldiers marching against the South.


The President had but one reply: “We must have troops, and as they can neither crawl under Maryland nor fly over it, they must come across it.”



Dr. Jerome Walker, of Brooklyn, told how Mr. Lincoln once administered to him a mild rebuke. The doctor was showing Mr. Lincoln through the hospital at City Point.

“Finally, after visiting the wards occupied by our invalid and convalescing soldier,” said Dr. Walker, “we came to three wards occupied by sick and wounded Southern prisoners. With a feeling of patriotic duty, I said: ‘Mr. President, you won’t want to go in there; they are only rebels.’

“I will never forget how he stopped and gently laid his large hand upon my shoulder and quietly answered, ‘You mean Confederates!’ And I have meant Confederates ever since.

“There was nothing left for me to do after the President’s remark but to go with him through these three wards; and I could not see but that he was just as kind, his hand-shakings just as hearty, his interest just as real for the welfare of the men, as when he was among our own soldiers.”



In February, 1860, not long before his nomination for the Presidency, Lincoln made several speeches in Eastern cities. To an Illinois acquaintance, whom he met at the Astor House, in New York, he said:


“I have the cottage at Springfield, and about three thousand dollars in money. If they make me Vice-President with Seward, as some say they will, I hope I shall be able to increase it to twenty thousand, and that is as much as any man ought to want.”



Mr. Lincoln enjoyed the description of how this Congressman led the race from Bull’s run, and laughed at it heartily.

“I never knew but one fellow who could run like that,” he said, “and he was a young man out in Illinois. He had been sparking a girl, much against the wishes of her father. In fact, the old man took such a dislike to him that he threatened to shoot him if he ever caught him around his premises again.

“One evening the young man learned that the girl’s father had gone to the city, and he ventured out to the house. He was sitting in the parlor, with his arm around Betsy’s waist, when he suddenly spied the old man coming around the corner of the house with a shotgun. Leaping through a window into the garden, he started down a path at the top of his speed. He was a long-legged fellow, and could run like greased lightning. Just then a jack-rabbit jumped up in the path in front of him. In about two leaps he overtook the rabbit. Giving it a kick that sent it high in the air, he exclaimed: ‘Git out of the road, gosh dern you, and let somebody run that knows how.’

“I reckon,” said Mr. Lincoln, “that the long-legged Congressman, when he saw the rebel muskets, must have felt a good deal the that young fellow did when he saw the old man’s shotgun.”




Many applications reached Lincoln as he passed to and from the White House and the War Department. One day as he crossed the park he was stopped by a negro, who told him a pitiful story. The President wrote him out a check, which read: “Pay to colored man with one leg five dollars.”



When the Republican party came into power, Washington swarmed with office-seekers. They overran the White House and gave the President great annoyance. The incongruity of a man in his position and with the very life of the country at stake, pausing to appoint postmasters, struck Mr. Lincoln forcibly. “What is the matter, Mr. Lincoln,” said a friend one day, when he saw him looking particularly grave and dispirited. “Has anything gone wrong at the front?”

“No,” said the President, with a tired smile. “It isn’t the war; it’s the postoffice at Brownsville, Missouri.”



At a Saturday afternoon reception at the White House, many persons noticed three little girls, poorly dressed, the children of some mechanic or laboring man, who had followed the visitors into the White House to gratify their curiosity. They passed around from room to room, and were hastening through the reception-room, with some trepidation, when the President called to them:


“Little girls, are you going to pass me without shaking hands?”

Then he bent his tall, awkward form down, and shook each little girl warmly by the hand. Everybody in the apartment was spellbound by the incident, so simple in itself.



McClellan was a thorn in Lincoln’s side — “always up in the air,” as the President put it — and yet he hesitated to remove him. “The Young Napoleon” was a good organizer, but no fighter. Lincoln sent him everything necessary in the way of men, ammunition, artillery and equipment, but he was forever unready.

Instead of making a forward movement at the time expected, he would notify the President that he must have more men. These were given him as rapidly as possible, and then would come a demand for more horses, more this and that, usually winding up with a demand for still “more men.”

Lincoln bore it all in patience for a long time, but one day, when he had received another request for more men, he made a vigorous protest.

“If I gave McClellan all the men he asks for,” said the President, “they couldn’t find room to lie down. They’d have to sleep standing up.”



One night, about eleven o’clock, Colonel A. K. McClure, whose intimacy with President Lincoln was so great that he could obtain admittance to the Executive Mansion at any and all hours, called at the White 152 House to urge Mr. Lincoln to remove General Grant from command.

After listening patiently for a long time, the President, gathering himself up in his chair, said, with the utmost earnestness:

“I can’t spare this man; he fights!”

In relating the particulars of this interview, Colonel McClure said:

“That was all he said but I knew that it was enough, and that Grant was safe in Lincoln’s hands against his countless hosts of enemies. The only man in all the nation who had the power to save Grant was Lincoln, and he had decided to do it. He was not influenced by any personal partiality for Grant, for they had never met.

“It was not until after the battle of Shiloh, fought on the 6th and 7th of April, 1862, that Lincoln was placed in a position to exercise a controlling influence in shaping the destiny of Grant. The first reports from the Shiloh battle-field created profound alarm throughout the entire country, and the wildest exaggerations were spread in a floodtide of vituperation against Grant.

“The few of to-day who can recall the inflamed condition of public sentiment against Grant caused by the disastrous first day’s battle at Shiloh will remember that he was denounced as incompetent for his command by the public journals of all parties in the North, and with almost entire unanimity by Senators and Congressmen, regardless of political affinities.

“I appealed to Lincoln for his own sake to remove Grant at once, and in giving my reasons for it I simply voiced the admittedly overwhelming protest from the 153 loyal people of the land against Grant’s continuance in command.

“I did not forget that Lincoln was the one man who never allowed himself to appear as wantonly defying public sentiment. It seemed to me impossible for him to save Grant without taking a crushing load of condemnation upon himself; but Lincoln was wiser than all those around him, and he not only saved Grant, but he save him by such well-concerted effort that he soon won popular applause from those who were most violent in demanding Grant’s dismissal.”



Jefferson Davis insisted on being recognized by his official title as commander or President in the regular negotiation with the Government. This Mr. Lincoln would not consent to.

Mr. Hunter thereupon referred to the correspondence between King Charles the First and his Parliament as a precedent for a negotiation between a constitutional ruler and rebels. Mr. Lincoln’s face then wore that indescribable expression which generally preceded his hardest hits, and he remarked: “Upon questions of history, I must refer you to Mr. Seward, for he is posted in such things, and I don’t profess to be; but my only distinct recollection of the matter is, that Charles lost his head.”



Many amusing stories are told of President Lincoln and his gloves. At about the time of his third reception he had on a tight-fitting pair of white kids, which 154 he had with difficulty got on. He saw approaching in the distance an old Illinois friend named Simpson, whom he welcomed with a genuine Sangamon county (Illeenoy) shake, which resulted in bursting his white kid glove, with an audible sound. Then, raising his brawny hand up before him, looking at it with an indescribable expression, he said, while the whole procession was checked, witnessing this scene:

“Well, my old friend, this is a general bustification. You and I were never intended to wear these things. If they were stronger they might do well enough to keep out the cold, but they are a failure to shake hands with between old friends like us. Stand aside, Captain, and I’ll see you shortly.”

Simpson stood aside, and after the unwelcome ceremony was terminated he rejoined his old Illinois friend in familiar intercourse.



Lincoln said one day, just after one of his bragging generals had been soundly thrashed by the Confederates:

“These fellows remind me of the fellow who owned a dog which, so he said, just hungered and thirsted to combat and eat up wolves. It was a difficult matter, so the owner declared, to keep that dog from devoting the entire twenty-four hours of each day to the destruction of his enemies. He just ‘hankered’ to get at them.

“One day a party of this dog-owner’s friends thought to have some sport. These friends heartily disliked wolves, and were anxious to see the dog eat 155 up a few thousand. So they organized a hunting party and invited the dog-owner and the dog to go with them. They desired to be personally present when the wolf-killing was in progress.

“It was noticed that the dog-owner was not overenthusiastic in the matter; he pleaded a ‘business engagement,’ but as he was the most notorious and torpid of the town loafers, and wouldn’t have recognized a ‘business engagement’ had he met it face to face, his excuse was treated with contempt. Therefore he had to go.

“The dog, however, was glad enough to go, and so the party started out. Wolves were in plenty, and soon a pack was discovered, but when the ‘wolf-hound’ saw the ferocious animals he lost heart, and, putting his tail between his legs, endeavored to sling away. At last — after many trials — he was enticed into the small growth of underbrush were the wolves had secreted themselves, and yelps of terror betrayed the fact that the battle was on.

“Away flew the wolves, the dog among them, the hunting party following on horseback. The wolves seemed frightened, and the do was restored to public favor. It really looked as if he had the savage creatures on the run, as he was fighting heroically when last sighted.

“Wolves and dogs soon disappeared, and it was not until the party arrived at a distant farmhouse that news of the combatants was gleaned.

“ ‘Have you seen anything of a wolf-dog and a pack of wolves around here?’ was the question anxiously put to the male occupant of the house, who stood idly leaning upon the gate.


“ ‘Yep,’ was the short answer.

“ ‘How were they going?’

“ ‘Purty fast.’

“ ‘What was their position when you saw them?’

“ ‘Well,’ replied the farmer, in a most exasperatingly deliberate way, ‘the dog was a leetle bit ahead.’

“Now, gentlemen,” concluded the President, “that’s the position in which you’ll find most of these bragging generals when they get into a fight with the enemy. That’s why I don’t like military orators.”



General Grant told this story about Lincoln some years after the War:

“Just after receiving my commission as lieutenant-general the President called me aside to speak to me privately. After a brief reference to the military situation, he said he thought he could illustrate what he wanted to say by a story. Said he:

“ ‘At one time there was a great war among the animals, and one side had great difficulty in getting a commander who had sufficient confidence in himself. Finally they found a monkey by the name of Jocko, who said he thought he could command their army if his tail could be made a little longer. So they got more tail and spliced it on to his caudal appendage.

“ ‘He looked at it admiringly, and then said he thought he ought to have still more tail. This was added, and again he called for more. The splicing process was repeated many times until they had coiled Jocko’s tail around the room, filling all the space.


“ ‘Still he called for more tail, and, there being no other place to coil it, they began wrapping it around his shoulders. He continued to call for more, and they kept on winding the additional tail around him until its weight broke him down.’

“I saw the point, and, rising from my chair, replied, ‘Mr. President, I will not call for any more assistance unless I find it impossible to do with what I already have.’ ”



President Lincoln had great doubt as to his right to emancipate the slaves under the War power. In discussing the question, he used to liken 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.



Edward, the conservative but dignified butler of the White House, was seen struggling with Tad and trying to drag him back from the window from which was waving a Confederate flag captured in some fight and given to the boy. Edward conquered and Tad, rushing to find his father, met him coming forward to make, as it proved, his last speech.

the speech began with these words, “We meet this evening, not in sorrow, but in gladness of heart.” Having his speech written in loose leaves, and being 158 compelled to hold a candle in the other hand, he would let the loose leaves drop to the floor one by one. Tad picked them up as they fell, and impatiently called for more as they fell from his father’s hand.



During the afternoon the President signed a pardon for a soldier sentence 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.



He 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 was never a technical Christian.”

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