Lincoln’s Yarns and Stories

"This poem has been a great favorite with me for years. It was
first shown to me, when a young man, by a friend. I afterward saw
it and cut it from a newspaper and learned it by heart. I would
give a great deal to know who wrote it, but I have never been
able to ascertain."

"Oh! why should the spirit of mortal be proud?--
Like a swift-fleeing meteor, a fastflying cloud,
A flash of the lightning, a break of the wave,
He passeth from life to his rest in the grave.

"The leaves of the oak and the willow shall fade,
Be scattered around, and together be laid;
And the young and the old, and the low and the high,
Shall moulder to dust, and together shall lie.

"The infant a mother attended and loved;
The mother, that infant's affection who proved,
The husband, that mother and infant who blessed--
Each, all, are away to their dwellings of rest.

"The maid on whose cheek, on whose brow, in whose eye,
Shone beauty and pleasure--her triumphs are by;
And the memory of those who loved her and praised,
Are alike from the minds of the living erased.

"The hand of the king, that the sceptre hath borne,
The brow of the priest, that the mitre hath worn,
The eye of the sage, and the heart of the brave,
Are hidden and lost in the depths of the grave.

"The peasant, whose lot was to sow and to reap,
The herdsman, who climbed with his goats up the steep;
The beggar, who wandered in search of his bread,
Have faded away like the grass that we tread.

"The saint, who enjoyed the communion of heaven,
The sinner, who dared to remain unforgiven;
The wise and the foolish, the guilty and just,
Have quietly mingled their bones in the dust.

"So the multitude goes--like the flower or the weed
That withers away to let others succeed;
So the multitude comes--even those we behold,
To repeat every tale that has often been told:

"For we are the same our fathers have been;
We see the same sights our fathers have seen;
We drink the same stream, we view the same sun,
And run the same course our fathers have run.

"The thoughts we are thinking, our fathers would think;
>From the death we are shrinking, our fathers would shrink;
To the life we are clinging, they also would cling--
But it speeds from us all like a bird on the wing.

"They loved--but the story we cannot unfold;
They scorned--but the heart of the haughty is cold;
They grieved--but no wail from their slumber will come;
They joyed--but the tongue of their gladness is dumb.

"They died--aye, they died--and we things that are now,
That walk on the turf that lies o'er their brow,
And make in their dwellings a transient abode,
Meet the things that they met on their pilgrimage road.

"Yea! hope and despondency, pleasure and pain,
Are mingled together in sunshine and rain;
And the smile and the tear, the song and the dirge,
Still follow each other, like surge upon surge.

"'Tis the wink of an eye,--'tis the draught of a breath;--
>From the blossom of health to the paleness of death,
>From the gilded saloon to the bier and the shroud:--
Oh! why should the spirit of mortal be proud?"

President Lincoln had great doubt as to his right to emancipate
the slaves under the War power. In discussing the question, he
used to like the case to that of the boy who, when asked how many
legs his calf would have if he called its tail a leg, replied,
"five," to which the prompt response was made that calling the
tail a leg would not make it a leg.

The following is told by Thomas H. Nelson, of Terre Haute,
Indiana, who was appointed minister to Chili by Lincoln:

Judge Abram Hammond, afterwards Governor of Indiana, and myself
arranged to go from Terre Haute to Indianapolis in a stage-coach.

As we stepped in we discovered that the entire back seat was
occupied by a long, lank individual, whose head seemd to protrude
from one end of the coach and his feet from the other. He was the
sole occupant, and was sleeping soundly. Hammond slapped him
familiarly on the shoulder, and asked him if he had chartered the
coach that day.

"Certainly not," and he at once took the front seat, politely
giving us the place of honor and comfort. An odd-looking fellow
he was, with a twenty-five cent hat, without vest or cravat.
Regarding him as a good subject for merriment, we perpetrated
several jokes.

He took them all with utmost innocence and good nature, and
joined in the laugh, although at his own expense.

After an astounding display of wordy pyrotechnics, the dazed and
bewildered stranger asked, "What will be the upshot of this comet

Late in the evening we reached Indianapolis, and hurried to
Browning's hotel, losing sight of the stranger altogether.

We retired to our room to brush our clothes. In a few minutes I
descended to the portico, and there descried our long, gloomy
fellow traveler in the center of an admiring group of lawyers,
among whom were Judges McLean and Huntington, Albert S. White,
and Richard W. Thompson, who seemed to be amused and interested
in a story he was telling. I inquired of Browning, the landlord,
who he was. "Abraham Lincoln, of Illinois, a member of Congress,"
was his response.

I was thunderstruck at the announcement. I hastened upstairs and
told Hammond the startling news, and together we emerged from the
hotel by a back door, and went down an alley to another house,
thus avoiding further contact with our distinguished fellow

Years afterward, when the President-elect was on his way to
Washington, I was in the same hotel looking over the
distinguished party, when a long arm reached to my shoulder, and
a shrill voice exclaimed, "Hello, Nelson! do you think, after
all, the whole world is going to follow the darned thing off?"
The words were my own in answer to his question in the
stage-coach. The speaker was Abraham Lincoln.

Lincoln had periods while "clerking" in the New Salem grocery
store during which there was nothing for him to do, and was
therefore in circumstances that made laziness almost inevitable.
Had people come to him for goods, they would have found him
willing to sell them. He sold all that he could, doubtless.

The store soon became the social center of the village. If the
people did not care (or were unable) to buy goods, they liked to
go where they could talk with their neighbors and listen to
stories. These Lincoln gave them in abundance, and of a rare

It was in these gatherings of the "Four Hundred" at the village
store that Lincoln got his training as a debater. Public
questions were discussed there daily and nightly, and Lincoln
always took a prominent part in the discussions. Many of the
debaters came to consider "Abe Linkin" as about the smartest man
in the village.

Lincoln wanted men of level heads for important commands. Not
infrequently he gave his generals advice.

He appreciated Hooker's bravery, dash and activity, but was
fearful of the results of what he denominated "swashing around."

This was one of his telegrams to Hooker:

"And now, beware of rashness; beware of rashness, but, with
energy and sleepless vigilance, go forward and give us

When the Confederate iron-clad Merrimac was sent against the
Union vessels in Hampton Roads President Lincoln expressed his
belief in the Monitor to Captain Fox, the adviser of Captain
Ericsson, who constructed the Monitor. "We have three of the most
effective vessels in Hampton Roads, and any number of small craft
that will hang on the stern of the Merrimac like small dogs on
the haunches of a bear. They may not be able to tear her down,
but they will interfere with the comfort of her voyage. Her trial
trip will not be a pleasure trip, I am certain.

"We have had a big share of bad luck already, but I do not
believe the future has any such misfortunes in store for us as
you anticipate." Said Captain Fox: "If the Merrimac does not sink
our ships, who is to prevent her from dropping her anchor in the
Potomac, where that steamer lies," pointing to a steamer at
anchor below the long bridge, "and throwing her hundred-pound
shells into this room, or battering down the walls of the

"The Almighty, Captain," answered the President, excitedly, but
without the least affectation. "I expect set-backs, defeats; we
have had them and shall have them. They are common to all wars.
But I have not the slightest fear of any result which shall
fatally impair our military and naval strength, or give other
powers any right to interfere in our quarrel. The destruction of
the Capitol would do both.

"I do not fear it, for this is God's fight, and He will win it in
His own good time. He will take care that our enemies will not
push us too far,

"Speaking of iron-clads," said the President, "you do not seem to
take the little Monitor into account. I believe in the Monitor
and her commander. If Captain Worden does not give a good account
of the Monitor and of himself, I shall have made a mistake in
following my judgment for the first time since I have been here,

"I have not made a mistake in following my clear judgment of men
since this War began. I followed that judgment when I gave Worden
the command of the Monitor. I would make the appointment over
again to-day. The Monitor should be in Hampton Roads now. She
left New York eight days ago."

After the captain had again presented what he considered the
possibilities of failure the President replied, "No, no, Captain,
I respect your judgments as you have reason to know, but this
time you are all wrong.

"The Monitor was one of my inspirations; I believed in her firmly
when that energetic contractor first showed me Ericsson's plans.
Captain Ericsson's plain but rather enthusiastic demonstration
made my conversion permanent. It was called a floating battery
then; I called it a raft. I caught some of the inventor's
enthusiasm and it has been growing upon me. I thought then, and I
am confident now, it is just what we want. I am sure that the
Monitor is still afloat, and that she will yet give a good
account of herself. Sometimes I think she may be the veritable
sling with a stone that will yet smite the Merrimac Philistine in
the forehead."

Soon was the President's judgment verified, for the "Fight of the
Monitor and Merrimac" changed all the conditions of naval

After the victory was gained, the presiding Captain Fox and
others went on board the Monitor, and Captain Worden was
requested by the President to narrate the history of the

Captain Worden did so in a modest manner, and apologized for not
being able better to provide for his guests. The President
smilingly responded "Some charitable people say that old Bourbon
is an indispensable element in the fighting qualities of some of
our generals in the field, but, Captain, after the account that
we have heard to-day, no one will say that any Dutch courage is
needed on board the Monitor."

"It never has been, sir," modestly observed the captain.

Captain Fox then gave a description of what he saw of the
engagement and described it as indescribably grand. Then, turning
to the President, he continued, "Now standing here on the deck of
this battle-scarred vessel, the first genuine iron-clad--the
victor in the first fight of iron-clads--let me make a
confession, and perform an act of simple justice.

"I never fully believed in armored vessels until I saw this

"I know all the facts which united to give us the Monitor. I
withhold no credit from Captain Ericsson, her inventor, but I
know that the country is principally indebted for the
construction of the vessel to President Lincoln, and for the
success of her trial to Captain Worden, her commander."

At one time a certain Major Hill charged Lincoln with making
defamatory remarks regarding Mrs. Hill.

Hill was insulting in his language to Lincoln who never lost his

When he saw his chance to edge a word in, Lincoln denied
emphatically using the language or anything like that attributed
to him.

He entertained, he insisted, a high regard for Mrs. Hill, and the
only thing he knew to her discredit was the fact that she was
Major Hill's wife.

Among those who called to congratulate Mr. Lincoln upon his
nomination for President was an old lady, very plainly dressed.
She knew Mr. Lincoln, but Mr. Lincoln did not at first recognize
her. Then she undertook to recall to his memory certain incidents
connected with his ride upon the circuit--especially his dining
at her house upon the road at different times. Then he remembered
her and her home.

Having fixed her own place in his recollection, she tried to
recall to him a certain scanty dinner of bread and milk that he
once ate at her house. He could not remember it--on the contrary,
he only remembered that he had always fared well at her house.

"Well," she said, "one day you came along after we had got
through dinner, and we had eaten up everything, and I could give
you nothing but a bowl of bread and milk, and you ate it; and
when you got up you said it was good enough for the President of
the United States!"

The good woman had come in from the country, making a journey of
eight or ten miles, to relate to Mr. Lincoln this incident,
which, in her mind, had doubtless taken the form of a prophecy.
Mr. Lincoln placed the honest creature at her ease, chatted with
her of old times, and dismissed her in the most happy frame of

The story of naming the town of Lincoln, the county seat of Logan
county, Illinois, is thus given on good authority:

The first railroad had been built through the county, and a
station was about to be located there. Lincoln, Virgil Hitchcock,
Colonel R. B. Latham and several others were sitting on a pile of
ties and talking about moving a county seat from Mount Pulaski.
Mr. Lincoln rose and started to walk away, when Colonel Latham
said: "Lincoln, if you will help us to get the county seat here,
we will call the place Lincoln."

"All right, Latham," he replied.

Colonel Latham then deeded him a lot on the west side of the
courthouse, and he owned it at the time he was elected President.

"Jeff" Davis had a large and threatening nightmare in November,
1864, and what he saw in his troubled dreams was the long and
lanky figure of Abraham Lincoln, who had just been endorsed by
the people of the United States for another term in the White
House at Washington. The cartoon reproduced here is from the
issue of "Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper" of December 3rd,
1864, it being entitled "Jeff Davis' November Nightmare."

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