Lincoln’s Yarns and Stories

The nomination was sent to the Senate and confirmed.

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

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,

Immediately after Mr. Lincoln's nomination for President at the
Chicago Convention, a committee, of which Governor Morgan, of New
York, was chairman, visited him in Springfield, Ill., where he
was officially informed of his nomination.

After this ceremony had passed, Mr. Lincoln remarked to the
company that as a fit ending to an interview so important and
interesting as that which had just taken place, he supposed good
manners would require that he should treat the committee with
something to drink; and opening the door that led into the rear,
he called out, "Mary! Mary!" A girl responded to the call, to
whom Mr. Lincoln spoke a few words in an undertone, and, closing
the door, returned again and talked with his guests. In a few
minutes the maid entered, bearing a large waiter, containing
several glass tumblers, and a large pitcher, and placed them upon
the center-table. Mr. Lincoln arose, and, gravely addressing the
company, said: "Gentlemen, we must pledge our mutual health in
the most healthy beverage that God has given to man--it is the
only beverage I have ever used or allowed my family to use, and I
cannot conscientiously depart from it on the present occasion. It
is pure Adam's ale from the spring." And, taking the tumbler, he
touched it to his lips, and pledged them his highest respects in
a cup of cold water. Of course, all his guests admired his
consistency, and joined in his example.

A few days before the President's death, Secretary Stanton
tendered his resignation as Secretary of War. He accompanied the
act with a most heartfelt tribute to Mr. Lincoln's constant
friendship and faithful devotion to the country, saying, also,
that he, as Secretary, had accepted the position to hold it only
until the war should end, and that now he felt his work was done,
and his duty was to resign.

Mr. Lincoln was greatly moved by the Secretary's words, and,
tearing in pieces the paper containing the resignation, and
throwing his arms about the Secretary, he said:

"Stanton, you have been a good friend and a faithful public
servant, and it is not for you to say when you will no longer be
needed here."

Several friends of both parties were present on the occasion, and
there was not a dry eye that witnessed the scene.

When the War was fairly on, many people were astonished to find
that "Old Abe" was a fighter from "way back." No one was the
victim of greater amazement than Jefferson Davis, President of
the Confederate States of America. Davis found out that "Abe" was
not only a hard hitter, but had staying qualities of a high
order. It was a fight to a "finish" with "Abe," no compromises
being accepted. Over the title, "North and South," the issue of
"Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper" of December 24th, 1864,
contained the cartoon, see reproduce on this page. Underneath the
picture were the lines:

"Now, Jeffy, when you think you have had enough of this, say so,
and I'll leave off." (See President's message.) In his message to
Congress, December 6th,

President Lincoln said: "No attempt at negotiation with the
insurgent leader could result in any good. He would accept of
nothing short of the severance of the Union."

Therefore, Father Abraham, getting "Jeffy's" head "in chancery,"
proceeded to change the appearance and size of the secessionist's
countenance, much to the grief and discomfort of the Southerner.
It was Lincoln's idea to re-establish the Union, and he carried
out his purpose to the very letter. But he didn't "leave off"
until "Jeffy" cried "enough."

In October, 1864, President Lincoln, while he knew his
re-election to the White House was in no sense doubtful, knew
that if he lost New York and with it Pennsylvania on the home
vote, the moral effect of his triumph would be broken and his
power to prosecute the war and make peace would be greatly
impaired. Colonel A. K. McClure was with Lincoln a good deal of
the time previous to the November election, and tells this story:

"His usually sad face was deeply shadowed with sorrow when I told
him that I saw no reasonable prospect of carrying Pennsylvania on
the home vote, although we had about held our own in the
hand-to-hand conflict through which we were passing.

"'Well, what is to be done?' was Lincoln's inquiry, after the
whole situation had been presented to him. I answered that the
solution of the problem was a very simple and easy one--that
Grant was idle in front of Petersburg; that Sheridan had won all
possible victories in the Valley; and that if five thousand
Pennsylvania soldiers could be furloughed home from each army,
the election could be carried without doubt.

"Lincoln's face' brightened instantly at the suggestion, and I
saw that he was quite ready to execute it. I said to him: 'Of
course, you can trust want to make the suggestion to him to
furlough five thousand Pennsylvania troops for two weeks?'

"'To my surprise, Lincoln made no answer, and the bright face of
a few moments before was instantly shadowed again. I was much
disconcerted, as I supposed that Grant was the one man to whom
Lincoln could turn with absolute confidence as his friend. I then
said, with some earnestness: 'Surely, Mr. President, you can
trust Grant with a confidential suggestion to furlough
Pennsylvania troops?'

"Lincoln remained silent and evidently distressed at the
proposition I was pressing upon him. After a few moments, and
speaking with emphasis, I said: 'It can't be possible that Grant
is not your friend; he can't be such an ingrate?'

"Lincoln hesitated for some time, and then answered in these
words: 'Well, McClure, I have no reason to believe that Grant
prefers my election to that of McClellan.'

"I believe Lincoln was mistaken in his distrust of Grant."

Lincoln was constantly bothered by members of delegations of
"goody-goodies," who knew all about running the War, but had no
inside information as to what was going on. Yet, they poured out
their advice in streams, until the President was heartily sick of
the whole business, and wished the War would find some way to
kill off these nuisances.

"How many men have the Confederates now in the field?" asked one
of these bores one day.

"About one million two hundred thousand," replied the President.

"Oh, my! Not so many as that, surely, Mr. Lincoln."

"They have fully twelve hundred thousand, no doubt of it. You
see, all of our generals when they get whipped say the enemy
outnumbers them from three or five to one, and I must believe
them. We have four hundred thousand men in the field, and three
times four make twelve,--don't you see it? It is as plain to be
seen as the nose on a man's face; and at the rate things are now
going, with the great amount of speculation and the small crop of
fighting, it will take a long time to overcome twelve hundred
thousand rebels in arms.

"If they can get subsistence they have everything else, except a
just cause. Yet it is said that 'thrice is he armed that hath his
quarrel just.' I am willing, however, to risk our advantage of
thrice in justice against their thrice in numbers."

General McClellan had little or no conception of the greatness of
Abraham Lincoln. As time went on, he began to show plainly his
contempt of the President, frequently allowing him to wait in the
ante-room of his house while he transacted business with others.
This discourtesy was so open that McClellan's staff noticed it,
and newspaper correspondents commented on it. The President was
too keen not to see the situation, but he was strong enough to
ignore it. It was a battle he wanted from McClellan, not

"I will hold McClellan's horse, if he will only bring us
success," he said one day.

G. H. Giddings was selected as the bearer of a message from the
President to Governor Sam Houston, of Texas. A conflict had
arisen there between the Southern party and the Governor, Sam
Houston, and on March 18 the latter had been deposed. When Mr.
Lincoln heard of this, he decided to try to get a message to the
Governor, offering United States support if he would put himself
at the head of the Union party of the State.

Mr. Giddings thus told of his interview with the President:

"He said to me that the message was of such importance that,
before handing it to me, he would read it to me. Before beginning
to read he said, 'This is a confidential and secret message. No
one besides my Cabinet and myself knows anything about it, and we
are all sworn to secrecy. I am going to swear you in as one of my

"And then he said to me in a jocular way, 'Hold up your right
hand,' which I did.

"'Now,' said he, consider yourself a member of my Cabinet."'

With the possible exception of President Washington, whose
political opponents did not hesitate to rob the vocabulary of
vulgarity and wickedness whenever they desired to vilify the
Chief Magistrate, Lincoln was the most and "best" abused man who
ever held office in the United States. During the first half of
his initial term there was no epithet which was not applied to

One newspaper in New York habitually characterized him as "that
hideous baboon at the other end of the avenue," and declared that
"Barnum should buy and exhibit him as a zoological curiosity."

Although the President did not, to all appearances, exhibit
annoyance because of the various diatribes printed and spoken,
yet the fact is that his life was so cruelly embittered by these
and other expressions quite as virulent, that he often declared
to those most intimate with him, "I would rather be dead than, as
President, thus abused in the house of my friends."

General "Joe" Hooker, the fourth commander of the noble but
unfortunate Army of the Potomac, was appointed to that position
by President Lincoln in January, 1863. General Scott, for some
reason, disliked Hooker and would not appoint him. Hooker, after
some months of discouraging waiting, decided to return to
California, and called to pay his respects to President Lincoln.
He was introduced as Captain Hooker, and to the surprise of the
President began the following speech:

"Mr. President, my friend makes a mistake. I am not Captain
Hooker, but was once Lieutenant-Colonel Hooker of the regular
army. I was lately a farmer in California, but since the
Rebellion broke out I have been trying to get into service, but I
find I am not wanted.

"I am about to return home; but before going, I was anxious to
pay my respects to you, and express my wishes for your personal
welfare and success in quelling this Rebellion. And I want to say
to you a word more.

"I was at Bull Run the other day, Mr. President, and it is no
vanity in me to say, I am a darned sight better general than you
had on the field."

This was said, not in the tone of a braggart, but of a man who
knew what he was talking about. Hooker did not return to
California, but in a few weeks Captain Hooker received from the
President a commission as Brigadier-General Hooker.

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.

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

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

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

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

So great was Lincoln's anxiety for the success of the Union arms
that he considered no labor on his part too arduous, and spent
much of his time in looking after even the small details.

Admiral Dahlgren was sent for one morning by the President, who
said "Well, captain, here's a letter about some new powder."

After reading the letter he showed the sample of powder, and
remarked that he had burned some of it, and did not believe it
was a good article--here was too much residuum.

"I will show you," he said; and getting a small piece of paper,
placed thereupon some of the powder, then went to the fire and
with the tongs picked up a coal, which he blew, clapped it on the
powder, and after the resulting explosion, added, "You see there
is too much left there."

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

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

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