President Lincoln Tests Rifle

August  17, 1863

President Lincoln, Robert Todd Lincoln and John Hay witness a test of the Spencer repeating rifle.  Christopher Spencer recalled: “Among my most pleasing recollections of the war times was a shooting match which I engaged in with President Lincoln.  I had been delegated by our company to present the president with one of the rifles, which I did on August 17, 1863.  On my arrival at the White House I was rushed immediately into the reception room, with my repeating rifle in my hand, and there I found the President alone.  I took the rifle from its cloth case and handed it to him.  He examined it carefully and handled it like one familiar with firearms.  He requested me to take it apart and how the ‘inwardness of the thing.’  After carefully examining and approving the gun, he asked me if I had any engagement for the following day [August 18], and requested me to come over about 2 o’clock, when, he said, ‘we will go out and see the thing shoot.”

President Lincoln writes Shakespearean actor James H. Hackett: “Months ago I should have acknowledged the receipt of your book, and accompanying kind note; and I now have to beg your pardon for not having done so.

For one of my age, I have seen very little of the drama.  The first presentation of Falstaff I ever saw was yours here, last winter or spring.  Perhaps the best compliment I can pay is to say, as I truly can, I am very anxious to see it again.  Some of Shakespeare’s plays I have never read; while others I have gone over perhaps as frequently as any unprofessional reader. Among the latter are Lear, Richard Third, Henry Eighth, Hamlet, and especially Macbeth.  I think nothing equals Macbeth.  It is wonderful. Unlike you gentlemen of the profession, I think the soliloquy in Hamlet commencing ‘O, my offence is rank’ surpasses that commencing ‘To be, or not be.’  But pardon this small attempt at criticism.  I should like to hear you pronounce the opening speech of Richard the Third.  Will you not soon visit Washington again?  If you do, please call and let me make your personal acquaintance.

Upon receiving Lincoln’s letter, Hackett issued a broadside printing entitled ‘A Letter from President Lincoln to Mr. Hacket,’ which bore the notice ‘Printed not for publication but for private distribution only, and its convenient perusal by personal friends.’ Seized upon by political enemies, the letter thus distributed was soon carried in the newspapers with sarcastic comments on the president’s lack of critical sense.

President Lincoln writes California Republican Frederick F. Low: “There seems to be considerable misunderstanding about the recent movement to take possession of the New-Almedan mine. It had no reference to any other mines or miners. In regard to mines and miners generaly, no change of policy by the government has been decided on, or even thought of, so far as I know. The New-Almedan mine was peculiar in this, that its occupants claimed to be the legal owners of it, on a Mexican grant, and went into court on the claim. The case found it’s way into the Supreme Court of the United States; and last term, in and by that court, the claim of the occupants was decided to be utterly fraudulent. Thereupon it was considered the duty of the government, by the Secretary of the Interior, the Attorney General, and myself, to take possession of the premises; and the Attorney General carefully made out the Writ, and I signed it. It was not obtained surreptitiously, although I suppose Gen. Halleck thought it had been, when he telegraphed, simply because he thought possession was about being taken by a Military order—while he knew no such order had passed through his hands, as General-in-Chief.”

The Writ was suspended, upon urgent representations from California, simply to keep the peace. It never had any direct or indirect reference to any mine, place, or person, except the New-Almedan mine, and the persons connected with it.

President Lincoln writes Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton: “The writer of the within is reliable. Dr. [William]  Chipley has a son at Camp Chase, captured in the Confed. Army, who is now only in his eighteenth year. I think the Sec. of War may safely bail him to his father, who is unquestionably loyal.

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Published in: on August 17, 2013 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

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