President Lincoln Almost Killed by French Navy

April 26, 1862

Accompanied by Secretary of State William H. Seward and Navy Commander John Dahlgren, visits the French frigate Gassendi  in the Potomac river.  As Assistant Secretary of State Frederick H. Seward recalled the visit: “Champagne and a brief conversation in the captain’s cabin came next; then a walk up and down her decks to look at her armament and equipment.  Though the surroundings were all new to Mr. Lincoln, he bore himself with his usual quiet, homely, unpretentious dignity on such occasions, and chatted affably with some of the officers who spoke English.  The visit over, we were escorted tot he side ladder, and re-embarked in our barge.

As Mr. Lincoln took his seat in the stern he said: ‘Suppose we row around her bows.  I should like to look at her build and rig from that direction.’  Captain Dahlgren of course shifted his helm accordingly.  The French officers doubtless had not heard or understood the President’s remark, and supposed were pulling off astern in the ordinary way.
We had hardly reached her bow, when, on looking up, I saw the officer of the deck pacing the bridge, watch in hand and counting off the seconds, ‘Un, deux, trois,’ and then immediately followed the flash and deafening roar of a cannon, apparently just over our heads.  Another followed, then another and another in rapid succession.  We were enveloped in smoke and literally “under fire” from the frigate’s broadside.  Captain Dalhgren sprang to his feet, his face aflame with indignation, as he shouted: ‘Pull like the devil, boys!  Pull like hell!”
They obeyed with a will, and a few sturdy strokes took us out of danger.  After he had resumed his seat and calmed down, I said in a low voice: ‘Of course those guns were not shotted, and we were below their range?”
He answered, gritting his teeth, “yes, but to think of exposing the President to the danger of having his head taken off by a wad!”
I did not know, until he explained, that the wadding blown to pieces by the explosion sometimes commences dropping fragments soon after leaving the gun.  Whether Mr. Lincoln realized the danger or not, I never knew.  He sat impassively through it, and made no reference to it afterwards.”

Published in: on April 26, 2012 at 12:24 pm  Leave a Comment  

The URI to TrackBack this entry is:

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: