President Admits Curious Tourist Before Cabinet Meeting

February 19, 1864

Navy Secretary Gideon Welles writes in his diary: “As I went into the Cabinet-meeting a fair, plump lady pressed forward and insisted she must see the President – only for a moment – wanted nothing.  I made her request known to the President, who directed that she should be admitted.  She said her name was Holmes, that she belonged in Dubuque, Iowa, was passing East and came from Baltimore expressly to have a look at President Lincoln.  ‘Well, in the matter of looking at one another,’ said the President, laughing, ‘I have altogether the advantage.’  She wished his autograph, and was a special admirer and enthusiastic.”

During the afternoon, President Lincoln hosts a reception attended by some little people appearing in a stage production in Washington: including siblings Charles and Eliza Nestel of Indiana whose stage names are “Commodore Foote” and “Fairy Queen.”  At night, Lincoln goes to Grover’s Theatre to watch actor Edwin Booth.

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Published in: on February 19, 2014 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

President Replies to Governor John Andrews

February 18, 1864

President Lincoln rather sarcastically writes Massachusetts Governor John A. Andrews regarding his complaints: “Yours of the 12th. was received yesterday.  If I were to judge from the letter, without any external knowledge, I should suppose that all the colored people South of Washington were struggling to get to Massachusetts; that Massachusetts was anxious to receive and retain the whole of them as permanent citizens; and that the United States Government here was interposing and preventing this.  But I suppose these are neither really the facts, nor meant to be asserted as true by you.  Coming down to what I suppose to be the real facts, you are engaged in trying to raise colored troops for the U.S. and wish to take recruits from Virginia, through Washington, to Massachusetts for that object; and the loyal Governor of Virginia, also trying to raise troops for us, objects to your taking his material away; while we, having to care for all, and being responsible alike to all, have to do as much for him, as we have to do for you, if he was, by our authority, taking men from Massachusetts to fill up Virginia regiments.  No more than this has been intended by me; nor, as I think, by the Secretary of War.  There may have been some abuses of this, as a rule, which, if known, should be prevented in future.”

If, however, it be really true that Massachusetts wishes to afford a permanent home within her borders, for all, or even a large number of colored persons who will come to her, I shall be only too glad to know it.  It would give relief in a very difficult point; and I would not for a moment hinder from going, any person who is free by the terms of the proclamation or any of the acts of Congress.

President Lincoln begins to pick up support for renomination for president – today from the Baltimore Constitutional Convention.

Published in: on February 18, 2014 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Arkansas Reconstruction Preoccupies President Lincoln

February 17, 1864

President Lincoln writes to General Frederick Steele regarding reconstruction in Arkansas: “The day fixed by the Convention for the election is probably the best, but you, on the ground, and in consultation with gentlemen there, are to decide.  I should have fixed no day for an election — presented no plan for reconstruction — had I known the convention was doing the same things.  It is probably best that you merely assist the convention on their own plan, as to election day & all other matters.  I have already written and telegraphed this half a dozen times.”

The President also writes Arkansas unionist William Fishback: “When I fixed a plan for an election in Arkansas I did it in ignorance that your convention was doing the same work. Since I learned the latter fact, I have been constantly trying to yield my plan to them. I have sent two letters to Gen. Steele, and three or four despatches to you and others, saying that he—Gen. Steele—must be master, but that it will probably be best for him to merely help the convention on it’s own plan. Some single mind must be master, else there will be no agreement in anything, & Gen. Steele, commanding the Military, and being on the ground, is the best man to be that master. Even now, citizens are telegraphing me to postpone the election to a later day than either that fixed by the convention or by me. This discord must be silenced.”

Presidential aide John G. Nicolay writes to colleague John Hay: “I have been too infernally busy to write, which accounts for your not having received more letters from me.  A note came here a day or two ago from Gen. [Quincy] Gillmore saying you had gone to Florida, from which I infer that Gen. Gillmore saying you had gone to Florida, from which I infer that you are living in metaphorical clover while we poor devils are eating the husks of hard work in the national pig-sty.  Kick up your heels while you may!”

Although there is much doing in politics there is nothing decisive.  The treasury rats are busy night and day and becoming more and more unscrupulous and malicious.  They are circulating a scurrilous anonymous pamphlet to injure the Prest.  and today I was shown a circular signed by Pomeroy as ‘Chairman of the National Executive Committee[’] proposing a Chase organization throughout the country. The adherents of this faction in the House and Senate are malicious and bitter but dare not openly attack the Tycoon[.]  Winter Davis showed his teeth in the House yesterday, but got no backing except from two or three Members.  Things have been drifting along chaotically for two or three weeks, but active work must begin soon[.]  Defrees has gone to Indiana to look after matters there, and we shall probably have a good endorsement there.

Corruption and malice are doing their worst, but I do no think it is in the cards to beat the Tycoon.

The Pomeroy Circular stated in part: “Those in behalf of whom this communication is made have thoroughly surveyed the political field, and have arrived at the following conclusions:

“First, that even were the reelection of Mr. Lincoln desirable, it is practically impossible against the union of influences which will oppose him.

Second, that should he be reelected, his manifest tendency towards compromises and temporary expedients of policy will become stronger during a second term than it has been in the first, and the cause of human liberty, and the dignity and honor of the nation, suffer proportionately, while the war may continue to languish during his whole Administration, till the public debt shall become a burden too great to be borne.

Third, that the patronage of the Government through the necessities of the war has been so rapidly increased, and to such an enormous extent, and so loosely placed, as to render the ‘one-term principle’ absolutely essential to the certain safety of our republican institutions.”

“Fourth, that we find united in Hon. Salmon P. Chase more of the qualities needed in a President during the next four years than are combined in any other available candidate; his record, clear and unimpeachable, showing him to be a statesman of rare ability and an administrator of the very highest order, while his private character furnishes the surest obtainable guarantee of economy and purity in the management of public affairs.

“Fifth, that the discussion of the Presidential question, already commenced by the friends of Mr. Lincoln, has developed a popularity and strength in Mr. Chase unexpected even to his warmest admirers and while we are aware that this strength is at present unorganized, and in no condition to manifest its real magnitude, we are satisfied that it only needs systematic and faithful effort to develop it to an extent sufficient to overcome all opposing obstacles.  For these reasons the friends of Mr. Chase have determined on measures which shall present his claims fairly and at once to the country…”

Published in: on February 17, 2014 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Political Concerns Mount in Washington

February 16, 1864

Cabinet meeting is held at the White House – apparently without Secretary of Chase Salmon P. Chase, whose presidential nomination is being pushed by his friends in the Senate and House.  Illinois Secretary of State Ozias M. Hatch, a close Lincoln political associate, writes President Lincoln: “Several of the friends of General Oglesby, and Mr [State Auditor Jessee] Dubois, — Uncle Jesse — would dislike very much to see an ugly contest between them, before the convention, for the nomination as candidates for governor.

They now appear to be more prominent than other candidates, — both are qualified for the position, but one can be nominated. The succeeding four years may be as pregnant with great events as the last three years have been, — and it is of the utmost importance to the Government as well as to the State, that the interests of both, be entrusted to experienced hands, that they may have a safe delivery.

For one, I feel certain, that Illinois is loyal, and will demonstrate it, not only in the convention, but at the polls — in November: I am certain that Jesse desires the nomination much, — and knowing as I do, that there is no man more conversant, with the affairs, or interests, of the State than he is — I feel that they would be entirely safe, in his hands. Mistakes might be made — but I am certain, they would be few in number, and unimportant as to their effect. We are certain that you can, if you will, reconcile these difficulties, and hope you will do so. I say we, because I have conversed with many of our friends upon the subject.

President Lincoln writes Secretary of State William H. Seward on another political subject: “Hon. W. H. Wallace formerly of Washington Territory and now of Idaho, says that Elwood Evans, Secretary of Washington T. was appointed at his — Mr Ws recommendation, and that he has gone wholly over to the enemy, using the patronage to establish and uphold a paper to oppose & embarrass the Administration.”  Wallace was an attorney who had represented the territory of Washington in Congress before being appointed territorial governor of Idaho.

General Frederick Steele writes President Lincoln regarding Arkansas: “On what day have you ordered the Election in this State & do your instructions to me correspond with the action of the Convention?”

Published in: on February 16, 2014 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Chase and Lincoln Continue to Miss Each Other

February 15, 1864

President Lincoln and Salmon Chase have been trying to meet with each other regarding replacing Hiram Barney as collector of customs at New York, but illness has interfered.   After Lincoln unsuccessfully seeks to meet at the Treasury Department, Chase writes President Lincoln: “I thank you for your very kind note & the assurance it contains. I was coming to see you this morning; for really I do not suffer at all. My right eye won’t bear much light; but I can get on pretty well with the left– So I could come with no other inconvenience than having one eye under bandage. With the permission of your note, however, I will wait till tomorrow.”

Navy Secretary Gideon Welles writes in his diary regarding Chase’s presidential aspirations, which have been getting increasing publicity: “The movements of parties and partisans are becoming distinct.  I think there are indications that Chase intends to press his pretensions as a candidate, and much of the Treasury machinery and the special agencies have that end in view.” Welles writes in his diary:

“The President commenced his administration by yielding apparently almost everything to Seward, and Seward was opposed to Cabinet consultations.  He made it a point to have daily or more frequent interviews with the President, and to ascertain from him everything that was being done in the several Departments.  A different course was suggested and pressed by others, but Chase, who should, from his position and stand, have been foremost in the matter and who was most decidedly with us then, flinched and shirked the point.  He was permitted to do with his own Department pretty much as he pleased, and this reconciled him to the Seward policy in a great degree, though he was sometimes restless and desired to be better informed, particularly in regard to what was doing in the War Department.  Things, however, took such a course that the Administration became departmental, and the result was the President himself was less informed than he should was the President himself was less informed than he should have been and much less than he ardently craved to be, with either the War or Treasury.  The successive Generals-in-Chief he consulted constantly, as did Seward, and, the military measures being those of most absorbing interest, the President was constantly seeking and asking for information, not only at the Executive Mansion, but at their respective offices and headquarters.  Scott and McClellan, and Halleck, each influenced him more than they should have done, often in a wrong direction, for he better appreciated the public mind and more fully sympathized with it than any of his generals.  Neither of the three military men named entered into the great political questions of the period with any cordiality, or in fact with any correct knowledge or right appreciation of them.  Yet they controlled and directed military movements, and in some respect the policy of the government, far more than the Cabinet.”

President Lincoln writes to General Daniel E. Sickles: “I wish you to make a tour for me (principally for observation and information) by way of Cairo and New-Orleans, and returning by the Gulf and Ocean.  All Military Naval officers are to facilitate you with suitable transportation, and by conferring with you, and imparting, so far as they can, the information herein indicated, but you are not to command any of them.  You will call at Memphis, Helena, Vicksburg, New-Orleans, Pensacola, Key-West, Charleston-Harbor, and such intermediate points as you may think important.  Please ascertain at each place what is being done, if anything, for reconstruction–how the Amnesty proclamation works, if at all–what practical hitches, if any, there are about it–whether deserters come in from the enemy, what number has come in at each point since the Amnesty, and whether the ratio of their arrival is any greater since than before the Amnesty–what deserters report generally, and particularly, whether, and to what extent, the Amnesty is known within the rebel lines.  Also learn what you can as to the colored people–how they get along as soldiers, as laborers in our service, on leased plantations, and as hired laborers with their old masters, if there be such cases.  Also learn what you can about the colored people within the rebel lines.  Also get any other information you may consider interesting, and, from time to time, send me what you may deem important to be known here at once, and be ready to make a general report on your return.”

President Lincoln has another meeting with Judge Advocate Joseph Holt regarding military justice cases.  White House aide William O. Stoddard writes in an anonymous newspaper dispatch: “The weather her is like spring, warm and bright, with an unlimited supply of dust.  We have March before us yet, but in this latitude March is frequently entire ‘available’ for military purposes.”

Published in: on February 15, 2014 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Presidential Politics Heating Up

February 14, 1864

John W. Forney, Pennsylvania and Washington newspaper editor, writes President Lincoln from New York: “The condition of my health, greatly improved since I left Washington a week ago, has kept me in New York for several days. During my stay there I heard and saw sufficient to convince me that there is a determined opposition to your re-election in quarters unnecessary to point out to you. I regret that the most violent of those who lead in this movement are persons dependent on one branch of your administration.  But, in New York as in Philadelphia, you have the people at your back, and to them the party managers must yield. Here this feeling is overwhelming. As a slight sign of the times read the following editorial from our leading evening paper of yesterday:

The point in the admirable lecture of Mr. George William Curtis, last evening, which elicited the most spontaneous, universal and repeated outbursts of applause, was his noble defence of President Lincoln and his policy. The discourse, like everything Mr. Curtis has to say, was filled with graceful and forcible suggestions as to “The Way of Peace,” and the Musical Fund Hall never contained a larger, more intelligent or more attentive audience. But when the speaker vindicated the moderation, calm wisdom and ripe statesmanship of the President, the enthusiasm of every hearer was most cordial. He declared that Mr. Lincoln was true to his best instincts in countermanding the Emancipation orders of Fremont and Hunter, and that the time was just ripe when his own Proclamation of Freedom was issued. He maintained that no man in the world knew better than Mr. Lincoln the difference between fitful enthusiasm and the steady purpose of a great nation to vindicate its authority, and he maintained that were the Presidential election to take place next week Mr. Lincoln would again be chosen by a larger majority than any President has ever received.

These sentiments will meet with the most instantaneous recognition and endorsement in any local audience, and day by day it becomes clearer that our noble President sways the hearts of all true men as no man since Washington and Jackson has controlled them. No event in the future is more absolutely certain than that he will enjoy a four years term of Peace after a stormy one of War.

After the editorial from the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin, Forney concluded: “This the honest reflection of the popular will.  When I return I will show you some more striking proof of the movement to which I have referred.

Published in: on February 14, 2014 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

President Lincoln Reviews Upcoming Presidential Election

February 13, 1864

President Lincoln declines to interferes with the administration of Methodist churches.  He writes Methodist minister John Hogan: “As you see within, the Secretary of War modifies his order so as to exempt Missouri from it. Kentucky was never within it; nor, as I learn from the Secretary, was it ever intended for any more than a means of rallying the Methodist people in favor of the Union, in localities where the rebellion had disorganized and scattered them. Even in that view, I fear it is liable to some abuses, but it is not quite easy to withdraw it entirely, and at once.”

“AL interviews Gen. Judson Kilpatrick from Army of Potomac.

Attorney General Edward Bates writes: “Called on the President and had a private conversation, of some ½ hour, chiefly about the presidential election.  He is fully apprehensive of the schemes of the Radical leaders.  When I suggested some of their plots, he said they were almost fiendish.  He is also some of their plots, he said they were almost fiendish.  He is also some of their plots, he said they were almost fiendish.  He is also aware that they would strike him at once, if they durst; but they fear that the blow would be ineffectual, and so, they would fall under his power, as beaten enemies; and, for that only reason the hypocrit[e]s try to occupy equivocal ground – so that, when they fail, as enemies, they may still pretend to be friends.

He told me (what I partly knew before) that the extremists (Chase men?) Had called several caucuses in the hope of finding it safe to take open ground agst L’s re-nomination, but had never found one in three of the M.Cs that would go against him – <I tried to impress upon him the important fact, that they need him quite as much as he does them – that they are cunning and unscrupulous, and when they find that they dare not openly oppose him, their effort will then be to commit him to as many as possible, of their extreme measures, so as to drive off his other friends, until he is weakened down to their level, and it becomes safe to cast him off – I think he sees it plainly[.]

He told me also, that the Editor of the Mo. Democrat sometime ago, wrote a letter to Jim Lane, sharlpy censuring him for voting for the confirmation of Gen Schofield – and declaring that Lincoln must be defeat, at all hazards – But, that it is not prudent yet, to declare openly against him!!  This letter, Lane himself shewed to the President – Such is the faith that those knaves keep with each other!!

I remarked to him [Lincoln] that if he stood out manfully against the unprincipled designs of the Radicals, I thought it would be easy to bring all the old Whigs to his support – He answered– I suppose so, and added that many of the better sort of Democrats were in the brother, Judge Hall, M. [ember of] C.[ongress] that the Dem[ocrat]s of Mo. Would go for L.[incoln] of necessity, and that he, the Judge, wd. Have to take the pill, however bitter.

Upon the whole, the President seems very hopeful that the machinations of the Radicals will fail, and that, in the matter of the nomination, his friends will be able to counteract them effectually.

I rather think so myself.  My chief fear is that the President’s easy good nature will enable them to commit him to too many of will be too thin to stop the fire of their bad principles, and save the constitution and laws, from the universal conflagration, which their measures plainly portend.

After the afternoon reception, President Lincoln writes Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase: “On coming up from the reception, I found your note of to-day. I am unwell, even now, and shall be worse this afternoon. If you please, we will have an interview Monday.”

Presidential aide John G. Nicolay writes home to Joseph Holt: “In answer to your note of this morning the President requests me to say that he will again take up the Court Martial Cases on Monday morning at nine A.M. if you will be so kind as to come at that hour.”

Published in: on February 13, 2014 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

President Lincoln Preoccupied by New York Patronage

February 12, 1864

A cabinet meeting is held without much serious discussion, according to Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles.  Later President Lincoln writes Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase regarding the always-troublesome problem of Republican patronage in New York: “I have felt considerable anxiety concerning the Custom House at New-York.  Mr. Barney has suffered no abatement of my confidence in his honor and integrity; and yet I am convinced that he has ceased to be master of his position. A man by the name of Bailey, [2] whom I am unconscious of ever having seen, or even having heard of, except in this connection, expects to be, and even now assumes to be, Collector de facto, while Mr. Barney remains nominally so. This Mr. Bailey as I understand having been summoned as a witness to testify before a committee of the House of Representatives which purposed investigating the affairs of the New-York Custom-House, took occasion to call on the Chairman in advance, and to endeavor to smother the investigation, saying among other things, that whatever might be developed, the President would take no action, and the committee would thereby be placed unpleasantly. The public interest can not fail to suffer in the hands of this irresponsible and unscrupulous man.  I propose sending Mr. Barney Minister to Portugal, as evidence of my continued confidence in him; and I further propose appointing — Collector of the Customs at New-York. I wrote the draft of this letter two weeks ago, but delayed sending it for a reason which I will state when I see you.

Published in: on February 12, 2014 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Horse and Stable Issues Preoccupy White House

February 11, 1864

President Lincoln deals with the aftermath of the White House stable fire the previous night. He meets at the White House with U.S. Commissioner of Buildings Benjamin French.   Suspicion for the fire falls on Patterson McGee, a White House coachman who had been fire on the day of the fire. McGee is arrested.   Lincoln’s oldest son, Robert Todd Lincoln, writes presidential secretary John G. Nicolay:

It is my opinion that the Equine Quadrapeds you have had the honor to see me handle with such skill, had better have the benefit of a little more exercise before they are put into practical traction of vehicles of pleasure–

A man known as “Shanks” kindly offers me the use of his mare to return from the National Hotel on the evening of Feb 11th 1864.

I take this opportunity, Mr. Private Secretary, to renew to your Private Secretaryship the assurance of my most distinguished consideration….

President Lincoln writes Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton: n January 1863, the Provost Marshal at St. Louis, having taken the control of a certain Church from one set of men and given it to another, I wrote Genl [Samuel] Curtis on the subject as follows:

the U. S Government must not, as by this order, under take to run the Churches. When an individual in a church or out of it, becomes dangerous to the public interest, he must be checked; but the churches, as such, must take care of themselves. It will not do for the U. S. to appoint trustees, supervisors or other agents for the churches.2

Some trouble remaining in this same case, I, on the 22d of Dec. 1863, in a letter to Mr O. D. Filley, repeated the above language; and among other things added. “I have never interfered, nor thought of interfering as to who shall or shall not preach in any church; nor have I knowingly, or believingly, tolerated any one else to so interfere by my authority. If any one is so interfering by color of my authority, I would like to have it specifically made known to me — I will not have control of any church on any side.”

After having made these declarations in good faith, and in writing, you can conceive of my embarrassment at now having brought to me what purports to be a formal Order of the War Department, bearing date November 30th 1863, giving Bishop Ames4 control and possession of all the Methodist churches in certain Southern Military Departments, whose pastors have not been appointed by a loyal Bishop or Bishops, and ordering the Military to aid him against any resistance which may be made to his taking such possession and control-

Published in: on February 11, 2014 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

White House Stables Burn Down

February 10, 1864

For the second day in a row, President Lincoln reviews court martial cases in the morning.  Artist Francis B. Carpenter observed: “Wednesday morning was devoted to the continued examination of the court-martial cases, to the great vexation of a score of political applicants, whom I could hear impatiently pacing the floor of the hall and waiting-room. At one o’clock, however, the doors were thrown open, and the throng admitted and dismissed, as rapidly as possible. I was much amused and interested, later in the day, in a variety of characters who presented themselves. First was an elderly lady, plainly but comfortably dressed, whose son was a prisoner in Baltimore. Her story, spun out to some length, was briefly this: Her son had been serving in the Rebel army. He heard that his sister was lying dead at home, and his mother at the supposed point of death. He determined to see them, and succeeded in getting through our lines undiscovered. He found his mother better. Before he got ready o return, he became very ill himself. She said she hid him in the house until he recovered, and on his way back to his regiment he was captured. He was now anxious to take the oath, and his mother assured the President that he should henceforth “have nothing to do with the Rebels.” Mr. Lincoln sat quietly through the story, his face in half shadow. As she finished he said, with some impatience, — ” Now this is a pretty story to come to me with, isn’t it? Your son came home from fighting against his country; he was sick; you secreted him, nursed him up, and when cured, started him off again to help destroy some more of our boys. Taken prisoner, trying to get through our lines, you now want me to let him off upon his oath.” “Yes,” said the woman, not in the least disconcerted, “and I give you my word, Mr. President, he shall never have anything more to do with the Rebels — never — I was always opposed to his joining them.” “Your word,” rejoined Mr. Lincoln dryly, “what do I know about your word?” He finally took the application, and writing something upon the back of it, returned it to her with the words, “Now, I want you to understand that I have done this just to get rid of you!” “Oh,” said she, “Mr. President, I have always heard that you were such a kind-hearted man, and now I know it is true.” And so, with much apparent satisfaction, she withdrew.”

Next came a Methodist minister by the name of “G.,” claiming to be the son of the inventor of iron-clad gunboats. He had understood that the President appointed the hospital chaplains, and he greatly desired such a place. Mr. Lincoln replied rather curtly, that he could do nothing for him. “But I was told, sir, that these appointments were made by the President,” said the gentleman, very respectfully. “I will just tell you how that is,” was the answer; “when there are vacancies I appoint, not without.” The clergyman here alluded to his having left with the private secretary a war sermon which he had lately preached. Stepping out, he returned with the pamphlet, saying, as he handed it to the President, “I suppose, sir, you have little time to read anything of this kind; but I shall be very glad to leave it with you.” Upon this he bowed himself out, and the Sermon was carelessly tossed aside, never to be thought of again by Mr. Lincoln.

Subsequently the sermon fell into my hands. The only thing I remember about it was the practical application of a professional incident. The clergyman one day fell in with two soldiers fighting. One had the other down, and was severely handling him. Rebuking the men, the one underneath responded very heartily, “Plase your riverince, I am willing to give up this minute, solely out of respect for your riverince.” And so the preacher thought the South should be made to say “in regard to the Constitution.”

President Lincoln writes Edwin M. Stanton: “In January 1863, the Provost-Marshall at St. Louis, having taken the control of a certain church from one set of men and given it to another, I wrote Gen. Curtis on the subject, as follows:

“The U.S. Government must not, as by this order, undertake to run the churches.  When an individual, in a church or out of it, becomes dangerous to the public interest, he must be checked; but the churches, as such, must take care of themselves.  It will not do for the U.S. to appoint trustees, Supervisors, or other agents for the churches.’

Some trouble remaining in this same case, I, on the 22nd. of Dec. 1863, in a letter to Mr. O.D. Filley, repeated the above language; and, among other things, added ‘I have never interfered, nor thought of interfering as to who shall or shall not preach in any church; nor have I knowingly, or believingly, tolerated any one else to so interfere by my authority.  If any one is so interfering by color of my authority, I would like to have it specifically made known to me…I will not have control of any church on any side.’

After having made these declarations in good faith, and in writing, you can conceive of may embarrassment at now having brought to me what purports to be a formal order of the War Department, bearing date Nov. 30th.  1863, giving Bishop Ames control and possession of all the Methodists churches in certain Southern Military Departments, whose pastors have not been appointed by a loyal Bishop or Bishops, and ordering the Military to aid him against any resistance which may be made to taking such possession and control.  What is to be done about it?

At night, the White House stables catch fire.  Presidential aide John G. Nicolay writes: “Put crape on your hat.  Tonight at about 8:30, while Cooper was gone to his supper, the stables took fire and burned down.  The carriages & coupe alone were saved – everything else went – six horses, including the President’s, ours, and Tad’s two ponies, are ‘gone where the good horses go.’

Tad was in bitter tears at the loss of his ponies, and his heaviest grief was his recollection that one of them had belonged to Willie.

“Cooper thinks the stable must have been fired.  He had not been away from it an hour, and feels sure all was right when he left it.  Besides he says it was impossible for the fire to have caught from the gas.  Mrs. L. has discharged her coachman today, and Bob who is here suspects him of the work…”

Mr. Lincoln was particularly upset about the loss of deceased son’s Willie’s pony. According one of the army guards on duty, Smith Stimmel, he observed “the front door of the White House flew open with a jerk, and out came the President buttoning his coat around him, and said to me, “Where’s the fire, what’s burning?” I said, “It seems to be around in the vicinity of the stable.” With that he started off on a dog-trot down the steps and along the way leading to the stable. When he started to go to the fire, I thought to myself, “Old fellow, you are the man we are guarding, guess I’ll go along.” So I struck out on the double-quick and went with him, keeping close to his side; but he took such long strikes that his dog-trot was almost a dead run for me.

As soon as we got around where we could see what was burning, we saw that, sure enough, the White House stable was on fire. Quite a crowd had gathered by the time we got there, and the fire department was at work. Mr. Lincoln asked hastily if the horses had been taken out, and when told they had not, he rushed through the crowd and began to break open one of the large doors with his own hands; but the building was full of fire, and none of the horses could be saved. The ponies belonging to the little boys and the goats were all lost in the fire. It was a brick stable, and evidently had been burning for some time before it was discovered.

Another guard, Robert W. McBride, recalled: “After posting the sentinels, I went inside. Mr. Lincoln, with others, was standing in the East room, looking at the still burning stable. He was weeping. Little ‘Tad,’ his youngest son, explained his father’s emotion. His son Willie had died a short time before. He was his father’s favorite, and the stable contained a pony that had belonged to the dead boy. The thought of his dead child had come to his mind as soon as he learned the stables were on fire, and he had rushed out to try to save the pony from the flames.”

Published in: on February 10, 2014 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment