President Lincoln Confined to Bed with Variloid

November 20, 1863

President Lincoln fell ill on the return from Gettysburg the previous day.  He  begins three weeks of bed rest for variloid. John Waugh wrote in Reelecting Lincoln: “The White House wasn’t put under quarantine, but it was turned into a minor smallpox hospital.  And the malady hung on longer than expected, nearly three weeks, with fever and severe headaches, and some unproductive days in and out of bed.  He was up and down, carrying a light workload, attended by his family physician, Robert King Stone.”

Michigan Senator Zachariah Chandler writes President Lincoln about more conservative Republicans seeking to influence his Annual Message to Congress.  President Lincoln reads the letter to colleagues: “Thurlow Weed and Gov Morgan & other distinguished Republicans are here [Washington] urging the President to take bold conservative ground in his message.’  I have been upon the stump more than two months this fall & have certainly talked to more than 200,000 people…& have yet to meet the first Republican or real War Democrat who stands by Thurlough Weed or Mr [Montgomery] Blair.  All denounce them….”   President Lincoln reads the letter to John Hay.   Hay describes the letter as “blackguarding Seward Weed Blair & entreating him [Lincoln] to stand firm and other trash which lunatics of that sort think is earnest and radical.”  In his reply, Lincoln writes: “Your letter of the 15th. marked ‘private’ was received to-day.  I have seen Gov. Morgan and Thurlow Weed, separately, but not together, within the last ten days; but neither of them mentioned the forthcoming message, or said anything, so far as I can remember, which brought the thought of the Message to my mind.

I am very glad the elections this autumn have gone favorably, and that I have not, by native depravity, or under evil influences, done anything bad enough to prevent the good result.

I hope to ‘stand firm’ enough to not go backward, and yet not go forward fast enough to wreck the country’s cause.

Former Senator Edward Everett, who gave the main speech at the dedication of the Gettysburg cemetery on November 19, writes President Lincoln: “Not wishing to intrude upon your privacy, when you must be much engaged, I beg leave, in this way, to thank you very sincerely for your guest thoughtfulness for my daughter’s accommodation on the Platform yesterday, & much kindness otherwise to me & mine at Gettysburg.

“Permit me also to express my great admiration of the thoughts expressed by you, with such eloquent simplicity & appropriateness, at the consecration of the cemetery.  I should be glad, if I could flatter myself that I came as near to the central idea of the occasion, in two hours, as you did in two minutes.  My son who parted from me at Baltimore & my daughter, concur in this sentiment…”

“I hope your anxiety for your child was relieved on your arrival.”

President Lincoln responds to Everett: “Your kind note of to-day is received.  In our respective parts yesterday, you could not have been excused to make a short address, nor a long one.  I am pleased to know that, in your judgment, the little I did say was not entirely a failure.  Of course I knew Mr. Everett would not fail; and yet, while the whole discourse was eminently satisfactory, and will be of great value, there were passages in it which transcended my expectation.  The point made against the theory of the general government being only an agency, whose principals are the States, was new to me, and, as I think, is one of the best arguments for the national supremacy. The tribute to our noble women for their angel-ministering to the suffering soldiers, surpasses, in its way, as do the subjects of it, whatever has gone before.”  He concludes: “Our sick boy, for whom you kindly inquire, we hope is past the worst.”

Lincoln talks to  Anna S. King about husband’s pending execution.  President Lincoln writes General George C. Meade: “An intelligent woman [in] deep distress, called this morning, saying her husband, a Lieutenant in the A.P. was to be shot next Monday for desertion; and putting a letter in my hand, upon which I relied for particulars, she left without mentioning a name, or other particular by which to identify the case.  On opening the letter I found it equally vague, having nothing to identify by, except her own signature, which seems to be ‘Mrs. Anna S. King’  I could not again find her.  If you have a case which you shall think is probably the one intended, please apply my despatch of this morning to it.”

President Lincoln seeks to pacify former Congressman John Crisfield regarding election day actions by the army.  He writes General Robert C. Schenck, Union commander in Maryland: “Major General Schenck will put on trial before a Military commission, Capt. Moore, mentioned within for having transcended General Order No. 53, in arresting the Judges of election, and for having hindered Arthur Crisfield, from voting, notwithstanding his willingness to take the oath in said order prescribed. Let Hon. John W. Crisfield be notified of time and place, and witnesses named by him as well as by Capt. Moore, be examined. Let time and place be reasonably convenient to witnesses, and full record kept & preserved.”

Presidential aide John Hay writes about the visit of Indiana Congressman Schuyler Colfax to the White House: “He is very sanguine about the Speakership: in fact almost absolutely certain about it.  He was talking to the President this evening about the matter Nicolay & I being present.  He says there is some fear that Gen Etheridge may attempt some outrageous swindle for the purpose of throwing out the Maryland votes by Gov. Bradford’s aid. But does not think it will succeed.

He then related an interview between himself and Montgomery Blair.  He had heard Blair was against him & so said he “I went to see Blair about it.  He said he was against me.  I said I was glad to know where he stood: that I remembered two years ago when Frank was a candidate, when I could have been elected I declined in Frank’s favor and worked for him that M. B. Then assured me that I should have their lifelong gratitude: that if this was a specimen of it I would give them a receipt in full.  He said matters had changed since then – that I was now running as Chase candidate.  I said I was not running as Presidential candidate at all: that the Presidential question should not be mixed up with the current questions of the day.  That I did not call on him except to ascertain his position and to tell him he was free from that debt of lifelong gratitude.  Now what I would not say to him, I will say to you, Mr. President.

“Don’t say anything to me you do not wish to say’ said the President.

Said Schuyler ‘I wish only to say that wherever I have been this summer I have seen the evidences of a very powerful popular feeling in your favor and that I think it will continue unless you do something to check it in your message or public utterances or acts this winter.

After a while Nicolay & I left them & they talked for an hour or so longer.  Colfax came out and talked freely for a while.  H does not fully commit himself but he talks fairly enough and I think will be all right in the coming fight.

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Published in: on November 20, 2013 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

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