Lincoln’s Yarns and Stories

"'Tad,' said he, half apologetically, 'is a peculiar child. He
was violently excited when I went to him. I said, "Tad, do you
know that you are making your father a great deal of trouble?" He
burst into tears, instantly giving me up the key.'"

When Lincoln's attention was called to the fact that, at one time
in his boyhood, he had spelled the name of the Deity with a small
"g," he replied:

"That reminds me of a little story. It came about that a lot of
Confederate mail was captured by the Union forces, and, while it
was not exactly the proper thing to do, some of our soldiers
opened several letters written by the Southerners at the front to
their people at home.

"In one of these missives the writer, in a postscript, jotted
down this assertion

"'We'll lick the Yanks termorrer, if goddlemity (God Almighty)
spares our lives.'

"That fellow was in earnest, too, as the letter was written the
day before the second battle of Manassas."

"The first time I ever remember seeing 'Abe' Lincoln," is the
testimony of one of his neighbors, "was when I was a small boy
and had gone with my father to attend some kind of an election.
One of the neighbors, James Larkins, was there.

"Larkins was a great hand to brag on anything he owned. This time
it was his horse. He stepped up before 'Abe,' who was in a crowd,
and commenced talking to him, boasting all the while of his

"'I have got the best horse in the country,' he shouted to his
young listener. 'I ran him nine miles in exactly three minutes,
and he never fetched a long breath.'

"'I presume,' said 'Abe,' rather dryly, 'he fetched a good many
short ones, though.'"

On May 3rd, 1862, "Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper" printed
this cartoon, over the title of "Sandbag Lincoln and the Old Man
of the Sea, Secretary of the Navy Welles." It was intended to
demonstrate that the head of the Navy Department was incompetent
to manage the affairs of the Navy; also that the Navy was not
doing as good work as it might.

When this cartoon was published, the United States Navy had
cleared and had under control the Mississippi River as far south
as Memphis; had blockaded all the cotton ports of the South; had
assisted in the reduction of a number of Confederate forts; had
aided Grant at Fort Donelson and the battle of Shiloh; the
Monitor had whipped the ironclad terror, Merrimac (the
Confederates called her the Virginia); Admiral Farragut's fleet
had compelled the surrender of the city of New Orleans, the great
forts which had defended it, and the Federal Government obtained
control of the lower Mississippi.

"The Old Man of the Sea" was therefore, not a drag or a weight
upon President Lincoln, and the Navy was not so far behind in
making a good record as the picture would have the people of the
world believe. It was not long after the Monitor's victory that
the United States Navy was the finest that ever plowed the seas.
The building of the Monitor also revolutionized naval warfare.

About a week after the Chicago Convention, a gentleman from New
York called upon the President, in company with the Assistant
Secretary of War, Mr. Dana.

In the course of conversation, the gentleman said: "What do you
think, Mr. President, is the reason General McClellan does not
reply to the letter from the Chicago Convention?"

"Oh!" replied Mr. Lincoln, with a characteristic twinkle of the
eye, "he is intrenching!"

>From the day of his nomination by the Chicago convention, gifts
poured in upon Lincoln. Many of these came in the form of wearing
apparel. Mr. George Lincoln, of Brooklyn, who brought to
Springfield, in January, 1861, a handsome silk hat to the
President-elect, the gift of a New York hatter, told some friends
that in receiving the hat Lincoln laughed heartily over the gifts
of clothing, and remarked to Mrs. Lincoln: "Well, wife, if
nothing else comes out of this scrape, we are going to have some
new clothes, are we not?"

In speaking of the many mean and petty acts of certain members of
Congress, the President, while talking on the subject one day
with friends, said:

"I have great sympathy for these men, because of their temper and
their weakness; but I am thankful that the good Lord has given to
the vicious ox short horns, for if their physical courage were
equal to their vicious disposition, some of us in this neck of
the woods would get hurt."

"I was speaking one time to Mr. Lincoln," said Governor Saunders,
of Nebraska, of a little Nebraskan settlement on the Weeping
Water, a stream in our State."

"'Weeping Water!' said he.

"Then with a twinkle in his eye, he continued.

"'I suppose the Indians out there call Minneboohoo, don't they?
They ought to, if Laughing Water is Minnehaha in their

Peter Cartwright, the famous and eccentric old Methodist
preacher, who used to ride a church circuit, as Mr. Lincoln and
others did the court circuit, did not like Lincoln very well,
probably because Mr. Lincoln was not a member of his flock, and
once defeated the preacher for Congress. This was Cartwright's
description of Lincoln: "This Lincoln is a man six feet four
inches tall, but so angular that if you should drop a plummet
from the center of his head it would cut him three times before
it touched his feet."

A gentleman was relating to the President how a friend of his had
been driven away from New Orleans as a Unionist, and how, on his
expulsion, when he asked to see the writ by which he was
expelled, the deputation which called on him told him the
Government would do nothing illegal, and so they had issued no
illegal writs, and simply meant to make him go of his own free

"Well," said Mr. Lincoln, "that reminds me of a hotel-keeper down
at St. Louis, who boasted that he never had a death in his hotel,
for whenever a guest was dying in his house he carried him out to
die in the gutter."

The day following the adjournment of the Baltimore Convention, at
which President Lincoln was renominated, various political
organizations called to pay their respects to the President.
While the Philadelphia delegation was being presented, the
chairman of that body, in introducing one of the members, said:

"Mr. President, this is Mr. S., of the second district of our
State,--a most active and earnest friend of yours and the cause.
He has, among other things, been good enough to paint, and
present to our league rooms, a most beautiful portrait of

President Lincoln took the gentleman's hand in his, and shaking
it cordially said, with a merry voice, "I presume, sir, in
painting your beautiful portrait, you took your idea of me from
my principles and not from my person."

Lincoln was married--he balked at the first date set for the
ceremony and did not show up at all--November 4, 1842, under most
happy auspices. The officiating clergyman, the Rev. Mr. Dresser,
used the Episcopal church service for marriage. Lincoln placed
the ring upon the bride's finger, and said, "With this ring I now
thee wed, and with all my worldly goods I thee endow."

Judge Thomas C. Browne, who was present, exclaimed, "Good
gracious, Lincoln! the statute fixes all that!"

"Oh, well," drawled Lincoln, "I just thought I'd add a little
dignity to the statute."

The joint debates between Lincoln and Douglas were attended by
crowds of people, and the arrival of both at the places of
speaking were in the nature of a triumphal procession. In these
processions there were many banners bearing catchphrases and
mottoes expressing the sentiment of the people on the candidates
and the issues.

The following were some of the mottoes on the Lincoln banners:

[Westward the star of empire takes its way;
The girls link on to Lincoln, their mothers were for Clay.] [Abe, the Giant-Killer.] [Edgar County for the Tall Sucker.] [Free Territories and Free Men,
Free Pulpits and Free Preachers,
Free Press and a Free Pen,
Free Schools and Free Teachers.] GIVING AWAY THE CASE.

Between the first election and inauguration of Mr. Lincoln the
disunion sentiment grew rapidly in the South, and President
Buchanan's failure to stop the open acts of secession grieved Mr.
Lincoln sorely. Mr. Lincoln had a long talk with his friend,
Judge Gillespie, over the state of affairs. One incident of the
conversation is thus narrated by the Judge:

"When I retired, it was the master of the house and chosen ruler
of the country who saw me to my room. 'Joe,' he said, as he was
about to leave me, 'I am reminded and I suppose you will never
forget that trial down in Montgomery county, where the lawyer
associated with you gave away the whole case in his opening
speech. I saw you signaling to him, but you couldn't stop him.

"'Now, that's just the way with me and Buchanan. He is giving
away the case, and I have nothing to say, and can't stop him.

Mr. Leonard Volk, the artist, relates that, being in Springfield
when Lincoln's nomination for President was announced, he called
upon Mr. Lincoln, whom he found looking smiling and happy. "I
exclaimed, 'I am the first man from Chicago, I believe, who has
had the honor of congratulating you on your nomination for
President.' Then those two great hands took both of mine with a
grasp never to be forgotten, and while shaking, I said, 'Now that
you will doubtless be the next President of the United States, I
want to make a statue of you, and shall try my best to do you

"Said he, 'I don't doubt it, for I have come to the conclusion
that you are an honest man,' and with that greeting, I thought my
hands in a fair way of being crushed.

"On the Sunday following, by agreement, I called to make a cast
of Mr. Lincoln's hands. I asked him to hold something in his
hands, and told him a stick would do. Thereupon he went to the
woodshed, and I heard the saw go, and he soon returned to the
dining-room, whittling off the end of a piece of broom handle. I
remarked to him that he need not whittle off the edges. 'Oh,
well,' said he, 'I thought I would like to have it nice.'"

During Lincoln's first and only term in Congress--he was elected
in 1846--he formed quite a cordial friendship with Stephen A.
Douglas, a member of the United States Senate from Illinois, and
the beaten one in the contest as to who should secure the hand of
Miss Mary Todd. Lincoln was the winner; Douglas afterwards beat
him for the United States Senate, but Lincoln went to the White

During all of the time that they were rivals in love and in
politics they remained the best of friends personally. They were
always glad to see each other, and were frequently together. The
disparity in their size was always the more noticeable upon such
occasions, and they well deserved their nicknames of "Long Abe"
and the "Little Giant." Lincoln was the tallest man in the
National House of Representatives, and Douglas the shortest (and
perhaps broadest) man the Senate, and when they appeared on the
streets together much merriment was created. Lincoln, when joked
about the matter, replied, in a very serious tone, "Yes, that's
about the length and breadth of it."

Lincoln couldn't sing, and he also lacked the faculty of musical
adaptation. He had a liking for certain ballads and songs, and
while he memorized and recited their lines, someone else did the
singing. Lincoln often recited for the delectation of his
friends, the following, the authorship of which is unknown:

The first factional fight in old Ireland, they say,
Was all on account of St. Patrick's birthday;
It was somewhere about midnight without any doubt,
And certain it is, it made a great rout.

On the eighth day of March, as some people say,
St. Patrick at midnight he first saw the day;
While others assert 'twas the ninth he was born--
'Twas all a mistake--between midnight and morn.

Some blamed the baby, some blamed the clock;
Some blamed the doctor, some the crowing cock.
With all these close questions sure no one could know,
Whether the babe was too fast or the clock was too slow.

Some fought for the eighth, for the ninth some would die;
He who wouldn't see right would have a black eye.
At length these two factions so positive grew,
They each had a birthday, and Pat he had two.

Till Father Mulcahay who showed them their sins,
He said none could have two birthdays but as twins.
"Now boys, don't be fighting for the eight or the nine;
Don't quarrel so always, now why not combine."

Combine eight with nine. It is the mark;
Let that be the birthday. Amen! said the clerk.
So all got blind drunk, which completed their bliss,
And they've kept up the practice from that day to this.

Senator John Sherman, of Ohio, introduced his brother, William T.
Sherman (then a civilian) to President Lincoln in March, 1861.
Sherman had offered his services, but, as in the case of Grant,
they had been refused.

After the Senator had transacted his business with the President,
he said: "Mr. President, this is my brother, Colonel Sherman, who
is just up from Louisiana; he may give you some information you

To this Lincoln replied, as reported by Senator Sherman himself:
"Ah! How are they getting along down there?"

Sherman answered: "They think they are getting along swimmingly;
they are prepared for war."

To which Lincoln responded: "Oh, well, I guess we'll manage to
keep the house."

"Tecump," whose temper was not the mildest, broke out on "Brother
John" as soon as they were out of the White House, cursed the
politicians roundly, and wound up with, "You have got things in a
h--l of a fix, and you may get out as best you can."

Sherman was one of the very few generals who gave Lincoln little
or no worry.

General Grant told this story about Lincoln some years after the

"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.

«- Previous | 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 | View All | Next -»

Be the first to comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.