White House Attracts Cranks and Prophets

April 29, 1863

Presidential secretary John G. Nicolay writes home: “Very queer characters occasionally call on me here.  That you may be reassured in the prospect of a speedy crushing out of the rebellion, I must inform you of a new leader and agency about to take part in the contest.

The other morning my doorkeeper brought in a plain-looking but also very rational-looking man, ordinarily dressed, appearing, perhaps more than anything else to be a farmer.  I asked him to be seated, after which he at once, without circumlocution and in a very matter-of-fact and business-like way stated the object of his call.

‘I come here, said he, ‘about the business of the war we are in.  I am commissioned from On High to take the matter in hand and end it.  I have consulted with the Governor of ‘York state,’ and he has promised to raise as many men of the militia of that State as I need.  But as I didn’t want to proceed without authority I came on here to see Gen. Halleck.  I have had an interview him, and he told me he could not give me any men or assistance, that nobody but the President had any authority to act in the case.  I have therefore come to see the President to obtain his consent to begin the work.  Although no power is competent to stop or impede my progress, I desire to act with the approval of the authorities.  I shall take only two thousand  men, and shall go South, and get Jeff Davis and the other leaders of the rebellion and bring them here to be put in the lunatic asylum, — because they are plainly crazy, and if it is of no use to be fighting with crazy men.”

In reply I assured him that the President was so engaged that it would be impossible for him to gain the desired interview – that the President would give him no men, nor authority of any kind – and that whatever he did in the matter he must do on his own responsibility.  He appeared to be satisfied that I properly represented the President, and went away saying that he should write at once to the Governor of ‘York Sate{‘] to raise and organize his force for him, and proceed with his work.

“All this transpired with as much gravity and method as if it had been a little conference about any matter of routine business, and an observer would have thought that I was as crazy as the man himself, from the perfectly serious and natural manner in which both he and I talked the matter over.  Lunatics and visionaries are here so frequently that they cease to be strange phenomena to us, and I find the best way to dispose of them is to discuss and decide their mad projects as deliberately and seriously as any other matter of business.”

President Lincoln writes New Jersey Governor  W. A. Newell: “I have some trouble about Provost-Marshal in your first district. Please procure Hon. Mr. Starr to come with you and see me; or, come to an agreement with him, and telegraph me the result.”

Published in: on April 29, 2013 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

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