President Lincoln Attends Wedding of Kate Chase and William Sprague

November 12, 1863

The daughter of the secretary of the treasury married the young senator from Rhode Island as Salmon P. Chase’s home.  A few days later, journalist Noah Brooks wrote: “The whirl of dust of the bridal cortege, which went from secretary Chase’s to the railroad depot last night, has subsided — but not so the gentle flow and ebb of small talk which so grand an event as the marriage of Senator Sprague and Miss Kate Chase has created.  Who was there and who was not there; how the bride looked in her white velvet dress, real point lace veil and orange flowers; how the President went in solitary state and a white cravat and things; how Mrs. Lincoln did not go because she is yet in black wear and had an opportune chill betimes; how the President stayed two hours and a half ‘to take the cuss off’ the meagerness of the Presidential party…”

Presidential aide John Hay writes in his diary: “A very brilliant looking party.  Kate looked tired out and languid especially at the close of the evening when I went into the bridal chamber to say Goodnight.  She had lost all her old severity & formal stiffness of manner, & seemed to think she had arrived….The President came for a few minutes.”  A few days later, White House aide William O. Stoddard writes in an anonymous newspaper dispatch:”The social event of the past week was the wedding of Senator Sprague and Miss Chase.  Never did anything go off more neatly.  The ‘tableau,’ as they call it, at the marriage itself was charming; and the dress reception in the evening, and the informal one next day, were entirely pleasant.  Th presents were magnificent – silver, pearls, diamonds, &c., to the tune of a hundred thousand or so.”

“Lines of carriages filled the street outside the house, where a large crowd had gathered to see the dignitaries. ‘They were very good-natured, as large crowds generally are…As one [carriage] after the other discharged their inmates, some spicy and good-natured remarks were passed by the eager crowd in attendance,” wrote Alice Hunt Sokoloff in Kate Chase for the Defense.  “Among the five hundred guests at the reception were many who had come to see Kate sacrifice herself, as they thought, on the altar of her father’s ambition, and her own, convinced as they were that she was throwing herself away on a man she did not love for the sake of his money and what it could do to advance her father’s career.  Kate knew the ugly whispers about her marriage, the continuing stream of anonymous letters would have accomplished that if nothing else.”

President Lincoln writes Superintendent of Printing John D. Defrees: “Mr. Defrees — Please see this girl who works in your office, and find out about her brother, and come and tell me.”  Another document stated: “A poor girl in the employment of the Government printing-office had a brother impressed into the rebel service, and was taken prisoner by our forces. He desired to take the oath of allegiance, and to be liberated. She sought an interview with the President, who wrote the note, asking me to inquire into the facts, which I did, and the young man was liberated on the President’s order.”

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Published in: on November 12, 2013 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

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