Lincoln’s Yarns and Stories

Lincoln thanked the clergyman, and laughed heartily.

The day of Lincoln's second nomination for the Presidency he
forgot all about the Republican National Convention, sitting at
Baltimore, and wandered over to the War Department. While there,
a telegram came announcing the nomination of Johnson as

"What," said Lincoln to the operator, "do they nominate a
Vice-President before they do a President?"

"Why," replied the astonished official, "have you not heard of
your own nomination? It was sent to the White House two hours

"It is all right," replied the President; "I shall probably find
it on my return."

The illustrated newspapers of the United States and England had a
good deal of fun, not only with President Lincoln, but the
latter's Cabinet officers and military commanders as well. It was
said by these funny publications that the President had set up a
guillotine in his "back-yard," where all those who offended were
beheaded with both neatness, and despatch. "Harper's Weekly" of
January 3rd, 1863, contained a cartoon labeled "Those
Guillotines; a Little Incident at the White House," the
personages figuring in the "incident" being Secretary of War
Stanton and a Union general who had been unfortunate enough to
lose a battle to the Confederates. Beneath the cartoon was the
following dialogue:

SERVANT: "If ye plase, sir, them Gilliteens has arrove."
MR. LINCOLN: "All right, Michael. Now, gentlemen, will you be
enough to step out in the back-yard?"

The hair and whiskers of Secretary of War Stanton are ruffled and
awry, and his features are not calm and undisturbed, indicating
that he has an idea of what's the matter in that back-yard; the
countenance of the officer in the rear of the Secretary of War
wears rather an anxious, or worried, look, and his hair isn't
combed smoothly, either.

President Lincoln's frequent changes among army commanders--
before he found Grant, Sherman and Sheridan--afforded an
opportunity the caricaturists did not neglect, and some very
clever cartoons were the consequence.

Consider the sympathy of Abraham Lincoln. Do you know the story
of William Scott, private? He was a boy from a Vermont farm.

There had been a long march, and the night succeeding it he had
stood on picket. The next day there had been another long march,
and that night William Scott had volunteered to stand guard in
the place of a sick comrade who had been drawn for the duty.

It was too much for William Scott. He was too tired. He had been
found sleeping on his beat.

The army was at Chain Bridge. It was in a dangerous neighborhood.
Discipline must be kept.

William Scott was apprehended, tried by court-martial, sentenced
to be shot. News of the case was carried to Lincoln. William
Scott was a prisoner in his tent, expecting to be shot next day.

But the flaps of his tent were parted, and Lincoln stood before
him. Scott said:

"The President was the kindest man I had ever seen; I knew him at
once by a Lincoln medal I had long worn.

"I was scared at first, for I had never before talked with a
great man; but Mr. Lincoln was so easy with me, so gentle, that I
soon forgot my fright.

"He asked me all about the people at home, the neighbors, the
farm, and where I went to school, and who my schoolmates were.
Then he asked me about mother and how she looked; and I was glad
I could take her photograph from my bosom and show it to him.

"He said how thankful I ought to be that my mother still lived,
and how, if he were in my place, he would try to make her a proud
mother, and never cause her a sorrow or a tear.

"I cannot remember it all, but every word was so kind.

"He had said nothing yet about that dreadful next morning; I
thought it must be that he was so kind-hearted that he didn't
like to speak of it.

"But why did he say so much about my mother, and my not causing
her a sorrow or a tear, when I knew that I must die the next

"But I supposed that was something that would have to go
unexplained; and so I determined to brace up and tell him that I
did not feel a bit guilty, and ask him wouldn't he fix it so that
the firing party would not be from our regiment.

"That was going to be the hardest of all--to die by the hands of
my comrades.

"Just as I was going to ask him this favor, he stood up, and he
says to me:

"'My boy, stand up here and look me in the face.'

"I did as he bade me.

"'My boy,' he said, 'you are not going to be shot to-morrow. I
believe you when you tell me that you could not keep awake.

"'I am going to trust you, and send you back to your regiment.

"'But I have been put to a good deal of trouble on your account.

"'I have had to come up here from Washington when I have got a
great deal to do; and what I want to know is, how are you going
to pay my bill?'

"There was a big lump in my throat; I could scarcely speak. I had
expected to die, you see, and had kind of got used to thinking
that way.

"To have it all changed in a minute! But I got it crowded down,
and managed to say:

"'I am grateful, Mr. Lincoln! I hope I am as grateful as ever a
man can be to you for saving my life.

"'But it comes upon me sudden and unexpected like. I didn't lay
out for it at all; but there is some way to pay you, and I will
find it after a little.

"'There is the bounty in the savings bank; I guess we could
borrow some money on the mortgage of the farm.'

"'There was my pay was something, and if he would wait until
pay-day I was sure the boys would help; so I thought we could
make it up if it wasn't more than five or six hundred dollars.

"'But it is a great deal more than that,' he said.

"Then I said I didn't just see how, but I was sure I would find
some way--if I lived.

"Then Mr. Lincoln put his hands on my shoulders, and looked into
my face as if he was sorry, and said; "'My boy, my bill is a very
large one. Your friends cannot pay it, nor your bounty, nor the
farm, nor all your comrades!

"'There is only one man in all the world who can pay it, and his
name is William Scott!

"'If from this day William Scott does his duty, so that, if I
was there when he comes to die, he can look me in the face as he
does now, and say, I have kept my promise, and I have done my
duty as a soldier, then my debt will be paid.

"'Will you make that promise and try to keep it?"

The promise was given. Thenceforward there never was such a
soldier as William Scott.

This is the record of the end. It was after one of the awful
battles of the Peninsula. He was shot all to pieces. He said:

"Boys, I shall never see another battle. I supposed this would be
my last. I haven't much to say.

"You all know what you can tell them at home about me.

"I have tried to do the right thing! If any of you ever have the
chance I wish you would tell President Lincoln that I have never
forgotten the kind words he said to me at the Chain Bridge; that
I have tried to be a good soldier and true to the flag; that I
should have paid my whole debt to him if I had lived; and that
now, when I know that I am dying, I think of his kind face, and
thank him again, because he gave me the chance to fall like a
soldier in battle, and not like a coward, by the hands of my

What wonder that Secretary Stanton said, as he gazed upon the
tall form and kindly face as he lay there, smitten down by the
assassin's bullet, "There lies the most perfect ruler of men who
ever lived."

One day during the Black Hawk War a poor old Indian came into the
camp with a paper of safe conduct from General Lewis Cass in his
possession. The members of Lincoln's company were greatly
exasperated by late Indian barbarities, among them the horrible
murder of a number of women and children, and were about to kill
him; they said the safe-conduct paper was a forgery, and
approached the old savage with muskets cocked to shoot him.

Lincoln rushed forward, struck up the weapons with his hands, and
standing in front of the victim, declared to the Indian that he
should not be killed. It was with great difficulty that the men
could be kept from their purpose, but the courage and firmness of
Lincoln thwarted them.

Lincoln was physically one of the bravest of men, as his company

Frank P. Blair, of Chicago, tells an incident, showing Mr.
Lincoln's love for children and how thoroughly he entered into
all of their sports:

"During the war my grandfather, Francis P. Blair, Sr., lived at
Silver Springs, north of Washington, seven miles from the White
House. It was a magnificent place of four or five hundred acres,
with an extensive lawn in the rear of the house. The
grandchildren gathered there frequently.

There were eight or ten of us, our ages ranging from eight to
twelve years. Although I was but seven or eight years of age, Mr.
Lincoln's visits were of such importance to us boys as to leave a
clear impression on my memory. He drove out to the place quite
frequently. We boys, for hours at a time played 'town ball' on
the vast lawn, and Mr. Lincoln would join ardently in the sport.
I remember vividly how he ran with the children; how long were
his strides, and how far his coat-tails stuck out behind, and how
we tried to hit him with the ball, as he ran the bases. He
entered into the spirit of the play as completely as any of us,
and we invariably hailed his coming with delight."

A man called upon the President and solicited a pass for

"Well," said the President, "I would be very happy to oblige, if
my passes were respected; but the fact is, sir, I have, within
the past two years, given passes to two hundred and fifty
thousand men to go to Richmond, and not one has got there yet."

The applicant quietly and respectfully withdrew on his tiptoes.

A certain United States Senator, who believed that every man who
believed in secession should be hanged, asked the President what
he intended to do when the War was over.

"Reconstruct the machinery of this Government," quickly replied

"You are certainly crazy," was the Senator's heated response.
"You talk as if treason was not henceforth to be made odious, but
that the traitors, cutthroats and authors of this War should not
only go unpunished, but receive encouragement to repeat their
treason with impunity! They should be hanged higher than Haman,
sir! Yes, higher than any malefactor the world has ever known!"

The President was entirely unmoved, but, after a moment's pause,
put a question which all but drove his visitor insane.

"Now, Senator, suppose that when this hanging arrangement has
been agreed upon, you accept the post of Chief Executioner. If
you will take the office, I will make you a brigadier general and
Public Hangman for the United States. That would just about suit
you, wouldn't it?"

"I am a gentleman, sir," returned the Senator, "and I certainly
thought you knew me better than to believe me capable of doing
such dirty work. You are jesting, Mr. President."

The President was extremely patient, exhibiting no signs of ire,
and to this bit of temper on the part of the Senator responded:

"You speak of being a gentleman; yet you forget that in this free
country all men are equal, the vagrant and the gentleman standing
on the same ground when it comes to rights and duties,
particularly in time of war. Therefore, being a gentleman, as you
claim, and a law-abiding citizen, I trust, you are not exempt
from doing even the dirty work at which your high spirit

This was too much for the Senator, who quitted the room abruptly,
and never again showed his face in the White House while Lincoln
occupied it.

"He won't bother me again," was the President's remark as he

Lincoln was a very quiet man, and went about his business in a
quiet way, making the least noise possible. He heartily disliked
those boisterous people who were constantly deluging him with
advice, and shouting at the tops of their voices whenever they
appeared at the White House. "These noisy people create a great
clamor," said he one day, in conversation with some personal
friends, "and remind me, by the way, of a good story I heard out
in Illinois while I was practicing, or trying to practice, some
law there. I will say, though, that I practiced more law than I
ever got paid for.

"A fellow who lived just out of town, on the bank of a large
marsh, conceived a big idea in the money-making line. He took it
to a prominent merchant, and began to develop his plans and
specifications. 'There are at least ten million frogs in that
marsh near me, an' I'll just arrest a couple of carloads of them
and hand them over to you. You can send them to the big cities
and make lots of money for both of us. Frogs' legs are great
delicacies in the big towns, an' not very plentiful. It won't
take me more'n two or three days to pick 'em. They make so much
noise my family can't sleep, and by this deal I'll get rid of a
nuisance and gather in some cash.'

"The merchant agreed to the proposition, promised the fellow he
would pay him well for the two carloads. Two days passed, then
three, and finally two weeks were gone before the fellow showed
up again, carrying a small basket. He looked weary and 'done up,'
and he wasn't talkative a bit. He threw the basket on the counter
with the remark, 'There's your frogs.'

"'You haven't two carloads in that basket, have you?' inquired
the merchant.

"'No,' was the reply, 'and there ain't no two carloads in all
this blasted world.'

"'I thought you said there were at least ten millions of 'em in
that marsh near you, according to the noise they made,' observed
the merchant. 'Your people couldn't sleep because of 'em.'

"'Well,' said the fellow, 'accordin' to the noise they made,
there was, I thought, a hundred million of 'em, but when I had
waded and swum that there marsh day and night fer two blessed
weeks, I couldn't harvest but six. There's two or three left yet,
an' the marsh is as noisy as it uster be. We haven't catched up
on any of our lost sleep yet. Now, you can have these here six,
an' I won't charge you a cent fer 'em.'

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