Lincoln’s Yarns and Stories

Davis had been told that McClellan, "the War is a failure"
candidate for the Presidency, would have no difficulty whatever
in defeating Lincoln; that negotiations with the Confederate
officials for the cessation of hostilities would be entered into
as soon as McClellan was seated in the Chief Executive's chair;
that the Confederacy would, in all probability, be recognized as
an independent government by the Washington Administration; that
the "sacred institution" of slavery would continue to do business
at the old stand; that the Confederacy would be one of the great
nations of the world, and have all the "State Rights" and other
things it wanted, with absolutely no interference whatever upon
the part of the North.

Therefore, Lincoln's re-election was a rough, rude shock to
Davis, who had not prepared himself for such an event. Six months
from the date of that nightmare-dream he was a prisoner in the
hands of the Union forces, and the Confederacy was a thing of the

Probably the last official act of President Lincoln's life was
the signing of the commission reappointing Alvin Saunders
Governor of Nebraska.

"I saw Mr. Lincoln regarding the matter," said Governor Saunders,
"and he told me to go home; that he would attend to it all right.
I left Washington on the morning of the 14th, and while en route
the news of the assassination on the evening of the same day
reached me. I immediately wired back to find out what had become
of my commission, and was told that the room had not been opened.
When it was opened, the document was found lying on the desk.

"Mr. Lincoln signed it just before leaving for the theater that
fatal evening, and left it lying there, unfolded.

"A note was found below the document as follows: 'Rather a
lengthy commission, bestowing upon Mr. Alvin Saunders the
official authority of Governor of the Territory of Nebraska.'
Then came Lincoln's signature, which, with one exception, that of
a penciled message on the back of a card sent up by a friend as
Mr. Lincoln was dressing for the theater, was the very last
signature of the martyred President."


A personal friend of President Lincoln is authority for this:

"I called on him one day in the early part of the War. He had
just written a pardon for a young man who had been sentenced to
be shot for sleeping at his post. He remarked as he read it to

"'I could not think of going into eternity with the blood of the
poor young man on my skirts.' Then he added:

"'It is not to be wondered at that a boy, raised on a farm,
probably in the habit of going to bed at dark, should, when
required to watch, fall asleep; and I cannot consent to shoot him
for such an act.'"

By the Act of Emancipation President Lincoln built for himself
forever the first place in the affections of the African race in
this country. The love and reverence manifested for him by many
of these people has, on some occasions, almost reached adoration.
One day Colonel McKaye, of New York, who had been one of a
committee to investigate the condition of the freedmen, upon his
return from Hilton Head and Beaufort called upon the President,
and in the course of the interview said that up to the time of
the arrival among them in the South of the Union forces they had
no knowledge of any other power. Their masters fled upon the
approach of our soldiers, and this gave the slaves the conception
of a power greater than their masters exercised. This power they
called "Massa Linkum."

Colonel McKaye said their place of worship was a large building
they called "the praise house," and the leader of the "meeting,"
a venerable black man, was known as "the praise man."

On a certain day, when there was quite a large gathering of the
people, considerable confusion was created by different persons
attempting to tell who and what "Massa Linkum" was. In the midst
of the excitement the white-headed leader commanded silence.
"Brederen," said he, "you don't know nosen' what you'se talkin'
'bout. Now, you just listen to me. Massa Linkum, he ebery whar.
He know ebery ting."

Then, solemnly looking up, he added: "He walk de earf like de

One of Lincoln's most dearly loved friends, United States Senator
Edward D. Baker, of Oregon, Colonel of the Seventy-first
Pennsylvania, a former townsman of Mr. Lincoln, was killed at the
battle of Ball's Bluff, in October, 1861. The President went to
General McClellan's headquarters to hear the news, and a friend
thus described the effect it had upon him:

"We could hear the click of the telegraph in the adjoining room
and low conversation between the President and General McClellan,
succeeded by silence, excepting the click, click of the
instrument, which went on with its tale of disaster.

"Five minutes passed, and then Mr. Lincoln, unattended, with
bowed head and tears rolling down his furrowed cheeks, his face
pale and wan, his breast heaving with emotion, passed through the
room. He almost fell as he stepped into the street. We sprang
involuntarily from our seats to render assistance, but he did not

"With both hands pressed upon his heart, he walked down the
street, not returning the salute of the sentinel pacing his beat
before the door."

Lincoln never indulged in profanity, but confessed that when Lee
was beaten at Malvern Hill, after seven days of fighting, and
Richmond, but twelve miles away, was at McClellan's mercy, he
felt very much like swearing when he learned that the Union
general had retired to Harrison's Landing.

Lee was so confident his opponent would not go to Richmond that
he took his army into Maryland--a move he would not have made had
an energetic fighting man been in McClellan's place.

It is true McClellan followed and defeated Lee in the bloodiest
battle of the War--Antietam--afterwards following him into
Virginia; but Lincoln could not bring himself to forgive the
general's inaction before Richmond.

President Lincoln said to General Sickles, just after the victory
of Gettysburg: "The fact is, General, in the stress and pinch of
the campaign there, I went to my room, and got down on my knees
and prayed God Almighty for victory at Gettysburg. I told Him
that this was His country, and the war was His war, but that we
really couldn't stand another Fredericksburg or Chancellorsville.
And then and there I made a solemn vow with my Maker that if He
would stand by you boys at Gettysburg I would stand by Him. And
He did, and I will! And after this I felt that God Almighty had
taken the whole thing into His hands."

President Lincoln, having arranged to go to New York, was late
for his train, much to the disgust of those who were to accompany
him, and all were compelled to wait several hours until the next
train steamed out of the station. President Lincoln was much
amused at the dissatisfaction displayed, and then ventured the
remark that the situation reminded him of "a little story." Said

"Out in Illinois, a convict who had murdered his cellmate was
sentenced to be hanged. On the day set for the execution, crowds
lined the roads leading to the spot where the scaffold had been
erected, and there was much jostling and excitement. The
condemned man took matters coolly, and as one batch of
perspiring, anxious men rushed past the cart in which he was
riding, he called out, 'Don't be in a hurry, boys. You've got
plenty of time. There won't be any fun until I get there.'

"That's the condition of things now," concluded the President;
"there won't be any fun at New York until I get there."

On the day the news of General Lee's surrender at Appomattox
Court-House was received, so an intimate friend of President
Lincoln relates, the Cabinet meeting was held an hour earlier
than usual. Neither the President nor any member of the Cabinet
was able, for a time, to give utterance to his feelings. At the
suggestion of Mr. Lincoln all dropped on their knees, and
offered, in silence and in tears, their humble and heartfelt
acknowledgments to the Almighty for the triumph He had granted to
the National cause.

Mr. Lincoln was much impressed with the devotion and earnestness
of purpose manifested by a certain lady of the "Christian
Commission" during the War, and on one occasion, after she had
discharged the object of her visit, said to her:

"Madam, I have formed a high opinion of your Christian character,
and now, as we are alone, I have a mind to ask you to give me in
brief your idea of what constitutes a true religious experience."

The lady replied at some length, stating that, in her judgment,
it consisted of a conviction of one's own sinfulness and
weakness, and a personal need of the Saviour for strength and
support; that views of mere doctrine might and would differ, but
when one was really brought to feel his need of divine help, and
to seek the aid of the Holy Spirit for strength and guidance, it
was satisfactory evidence of his having been born again. This was
the substance of her reply.

When she had, concluded Mr. Lincoln was very thoughtful for a few
moments. He at length said, very earnestly: "If what you have
told me is really a correct view of this great subject I think I
can say with sincerity that I hope I am a Christian. I had
lived," he continued, "until my boy Willie died without fully
realizing these things. That blow overwhelmed me. It showed me my
weakness as I had never felt it before, and if I can take what
you have stated as a test I think I can safely say that I know
something of that change of which you speak; and I will further
add that it has been my intention for some time, at a suitable
opportunity, to make a public religious profession."

Mr. Lincoln once remarked to Mr. Noah Brooks, one of his most
intimate personal friends: "I should be the most presumptuous
blockhead upon this footstool if I for one day thought that I
could discharge the duties which have come upon me, since I came
to this place, without the aid and enlightenment of One who is
stronger and wiser than all others."

He said on another occasion: "I am very sure that if I do not go
away from here a wiser man, I shall go away a better man, from
having learned here what a very poor sort of a man I am."

One night Schuyler Colfax left all other business to go to the
White House to ask the President to respite the son of a
constituent, who was sentenced to be shot, at Davenport, for
desertion. Mr. Lincoln heard the story with his usual patience,
though he was wearied out with incessant calls, and anxious for
rest, and then replied:

"Some of our generals complain that I impair discipline and
subordination in the army by my pardons and respites, but it
makes me rested, after a hard day's work, if I can find some good
excuse for saving a man's life, and I go to bed happy as I think
how joyous the signing of my name will make him and his family
and his friends."

And with a happy smile beaming over that care-furrowed face, he
signed that name that saved that life.

As the President and Mrs. Lincoln were leaving the White House, a
few minutes before eight o'clock, on the evening of April 14th,
1865, Lincoln wrote this note:

"Allow Mr. Ashmun and friend to come to see me at 9 o'clock a.
m., to-morrow, April 15th, 1865."

One day during the War an attractively and handsomely dressed
woman called on President Lincoln to procure the release from
prison of a relation in whom she professed the deepest interest.

She was a good talker, and her winning ways seemed to make a deep
impression on the President. After listening to her story, he
wrote a few words on a card: "This woman, dear Stanton, is a
little smarter than she looks to be," enclosed it in an envelope
and directed her to take it to the Secretary of War.

On the same day another woman called, more humble in appearance,
more plainly clad. It was the old story.

Father and son both in the army, the former in prison. Could not
the latter be discharged from the army and sent home to help his

A few strokes of the pen, a gentle nod of the head, and the
little woman, her eyes filling with tears and expressing a
grateful acknowledgment her tongue, could not utter, passed out.

A lady so thankful for the release of her husband was in the act
of kneeling in thankfulness. "Get up," he said, "don't kneel to
me, but thank God and go."

An old lady for the same reason came forward with tears in her
eyes to express her gratitude. "Good-bye, Mr. Lincoln," said she;
"I shall probably never see you again till we meet in heaven."
She had the President's hand in hers, and he was deeply moved. He
instantly took her right hand in both of his, and, following her
to the door, said, "I am afraid with all my troubles I shall
never get to the resting-place you speak of; but if I do, I am
sure I shall find you. That you wish me to get there is, I
believe, the best wish you could make for me. Good-bye."

Then the President remarked to a friend, "It is more than many
can often say, that in doing right one has made two people happy
in one day. Speed, die when I may, I want it said of me by those
who know me best, that I have always plucked a thistle and
planted a flower when I thought a flower would grow."

The President remarked to Admiral David D. Porter, while on board
the flagship Malvern, on the James River, in front of Richmond,
the day the city surrendered:

"Thank God that I have lived to see this!

"It seems to me that I have been dreaming a horrid dream for four
years, and now the nightmare is gone.

"I wish to see Richmond."

Frederick Douglass told, in these words, of his first interview
with President Lincoln:

"I approached him with trepidation as to how this great man might
receive me; but one word and look from him banished all my fears
and set me perfectly at ease. I have often said since that
meeting that it was much easier to see and converse with a great
man than it was with a small man.

"On that occasion he said:

"'Douglass, you need not tell me who you are. Mr. Seward has
told me all about you.'

"I then saw that there was no reason to tell him my personal
story, however interesting it might be to myself or others, so I
told him at once the object of my visit. It was to get some
expression from him upon three points:

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