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he labored for so laudably, and for which in the sad end he
so gallantly gave his life, he meant for them no less than for

In the hope that it may be no intrusion upon the sacred- *^
ness of your sorrow, I have ventured to address you this
tribute to the memory of my young friend and your brave
and early fallen child.

May God give you that consolation which is beyond all
earthly power.

Sincerely your friend in a common affliction,

A. Lincoln.


This was the first of a great number of personal
griefs that the war brought upon Lincoln. A few
months later, Colonel Edward D. Baker, the friend
who had introduced him at the inauguration, was killed
in battle at Ball's Bluff. As there came to the Presi-
dent from day to day the news of defeat and disaster
on many battlefields, it found him overborne by the
sorrow of the people and bearing the suffering of others
upon a heart already heavy with its own grief. When
the report of a battle was looked for, he would wait aU
through the night for news of the outcome, or hurry
through the darkness to the telegraph-office in the War
Department Building to learn the news and talk it over
with his advisers. To him the report of a battle was the
story of so many of his own people, his friends, who
were suffering in his service. When he heard of a sol-
dier's death, he thought first of what that death meant
at home, and in every way he could, he tried to make
the sorrow of it easier to bear.

Most of the soldiers who fought for the Union were
mere boys. Many of their colonels and generals were
less than thirty years old. In the heart of the President
they were his boys in blue, whom he loved as he loved
his own Robert and Willie and Tad ; and in their hearts
he was the " Father Abraham " for whom they prayed,
and to whom they sang their rallying song, " We are
coming. Father Abraham."

He went to the hospitals so often to cheer the
wounded that the high officials thought he was neglect-
ing the business of his office. A story is told of his
stopping beside a young soldier's death-bed to write
a last letter to the father and mother of the boy. At
the foot of the brave little note he added as a sort of
comfort to the sufferer, " This letter was written by


Abraham Lincoln," and as he turned to leave, asked
if he could do anything more. The boy reached a
trembling hand toward him and said : " I '11 not live
over an hour or two. Can't you hold my hand until it 's
all over ? "

When the army was in camp in northern Virginia,
he found comfort in visiting the boys and watching
them drill, and when in the fortune of war they came
to the Washington hospitals, wasted with disease or
broken with wounds, he visited them there and brought
them the comfort of a father's gentle touch and cheer-
ing word.

He wrote many letters of sympathy to friends and
sometimes to strangers to whom the war had brought
some personal loss. In one of these letters he said to
the daughter of a friend who had died : —

Dear Fanny, — In this sad world of ours sorrow comes
to all, and to the young it comes with bittered agony because
it takes them unawares. The older have learned ever to ex
pect it. . . . You cannot now realize that you will ever feet
better. Is not this so ? And yet it is a mistake. You are
sure to be happy again. To know this, which is certainly
true, will make you some less miserable now. I have had
experience enough to know what I say, and you need only
to believe it to feel better at once. The memory of your
dear father, instead of an agony, will yet be a sad, sweet feel-
ing in your heart, of a purer and holier sort than you have
known before.

Your sincere friend,

A. Lincoln.

To a mother whose five sons had died for their coun-
try he wrote this letter : —

Dear Madam, — I have been shown in the files of the
War Department a statement of the Adjutant-General of
Massachusetts that you are the mother of five sons who have


died gloriously on the field of battle. I feel how weak and
fruitless must be any words of mine which should attempt
to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming.
But I cannot refrain from tendering to you the consolation
that may be found in the thanks of the Republic they died
to save. I pray that our heavenly Father may assuage the
anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished
memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that
must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar
of freedom.

Yours very sincerely and respectfully,

Abraham Lincoln.

When, after a year of the horrors of war, death en-
tered his own household and took his eight-year-old boy
Willie, his nature changed greatly. The lines of care
deepened about his eyes and mouth. In a few months
he had grown to be an old man. He slept scarcely at
all. Those who saw him from day to day said that his
was the saddest face they had ever seen. To one of
his associates he once said, "I shall never be happy



It would be a mistake to believe that President
Lincoln allowed sorrow to overwhelm him. He had
learned through long experience to meet it with a smil-
ing face. There were times when no one else dared to
be either hopeful or happy. His stories and his jokes
were the despair of his counselors. " Why can't the
President be serious?" they exclaimed in their impa-
tience. Because he interrupted a council of state to
tell a story or read a page that he thought funny from
" Artemus Ward, His Book," shallow men called him
heartless. " I tell you," he said, " I simply must do it.
If I could not laugh, I should die. It is my safety-

Life in the White House had little privacy. During
the first three years the conduct of the war was directed
from there. In the White House the cabinet held its
meetings, to agree, and quite as often to disagree, over
what should be done. To the White House came letters
and telegrams by the thousand, from people in distress,
from applicants for office, from politicians, inventors,
abolitionists, and " cranks." Men came with schemes
for ending the war or for enriching themselves. Those
with grievances sought the President for redress. Fa-
vors and privileges of all sorts were demanded. But
most of all, and at all hours of the day and night, came
appeals for the pardon of unhappy soldiers condemned
to death for sleeping on duty or for running away from
military service. The President had given strict orders


to turn no one back who came with appeals for a soldier's
life ; and against the protest of the head of the army
he granted innumerable prayers of this sort, giving as
his excuse, " I believe this boy can serve his country
better living than dead."

Most of the demands upon him were unnecessary,
for people in difficulty naturally turned to him as the
only person who would hear them. One instance is
told of a Kentuckian who demanded the President's
help to reclaim a runaway slave. With such a request
at such a time Lincoln had no patience. " You remind
me," he exclaimed, "of a small boy on a St. Law-
rence steamer. Just as they were in the midst of the
rapids at the most dangerous point, the boy rushed
to the pilot and said, ' Say, Mr. Captain, I wish
you would stop this boat ; I 've lost my apple over-
board.' "

The President was very fond of John Hay, his young
secretary, who lived in the White House, and who saved
him from many an unpleasant meeting, and from many
a wearing duty. In the long sleepless nights the Presi-
dent was wont to court rest from his anxieties by going
across the White House in his night-clothes to sit on
the edge of John Hay's bed and read to him for hours
at a time from Shakespeare's plays or from the poems
of Holmes and Hood and Burns.

The Lincoln boys, eight and ten years old, went
wherever they liked about the building, bursting into
the cabinet-room while affairs of vast importance were
under discussion, and climbing over their good-natured
father's giant frame as if it were their play-hour and
the austere Secretary of War and his fellow statesmen
were intruders. Mr. Hay has told of the comradeship
that prevailed between Lincoln and his two younger


sons. " The two little boys, with their Western inde-
pendence and enterprise, kept the house in an uproar.
They drove their tutor wild with their good-natured
disobedience : they organized a minstrel show in the
attic ; they made acquaintance with the office-seekers,
and became the hot champions of the distressed. Tad
was a merry, warm-blooded, kindly little boy, perfectly
lawless, and full of odd fancies. . . . Sometimes, escap-
ing from the domestic authorities, he would take refuge
in that sanctuary [his father's office] for the whole
evening, dropping to sleep at last on the floor, when the
President would pick him up and carry him tenderly
to bed."

Once, when hope of success for the Union cause
seemed far away, the President issued a proclamation
setting apart a day of fasting and prayer, and asking
" all the people to abstain on that day from their or-
dinary secular pursuits and to unite, at their several
places of worship and their respective homes, in keep-
ing the day holy to the Lord." When little Tad Lin-
coln was told that this meant going without food for a
whole day, he began to be afraid that he might starve.
For some days before the fast-day, and with the utmost
secrecy, he busied himself with hiding in the carriage-
house scraps of food from the table and the kitchen.
The discovery of his storehouse of provisions enraged
the small boy, but amused his father greatly. " If he
grows to be a man," the President said with a laugh,
" Tad will be what the women all dote on — a good

One of the President's secretaries has described the
part Tad took in one of his father's White House
speeches. " From a point of concealment behind the
window drapery, I held a light while he read, drop-


ping the pages of bis written speech, one by one, upon
the floor as he finished them. Little Tad . . . scram-
bled around on the floor, importuning his father to
give him ' another paper,' as he collected the sheets of
paper fluttering from the President's hand. Outside
was a vast sea of faces, illuminated by the lights that
burned in the festal array of the White House, and
stretching far out into the misty darkness."

On another occasion, when Secretary Stanton play-
fully made Tad a lieutenant in the army. Tad threw
the White House into an uproar by assuming full
military authority. He had a lot of firearms sent over,
discharged the guard, mustered aE the house-servants,
drilled them with the muskets, and put them on guard.
When the confusion he had created was reported to
President Lincoln, he treated it as a joke, sent Tad
to bed, and then relieved the novel guardsmen from

The Lincoln children's dogs and cats and goats
seemed to get their share of the busy President's
thoughts. When there were new puppies or kittens in
the family, he announced it in all seriousness to his
visitors. When Tad was away with his mother, tele-
grams kept the boy posted as to the welfare of his
pets. In one of these dispatches the President said,
" Tell Tad the goats and father are very well, espe-
cially the goats." In one of his letters to Mrs. Lin-
cohi he wrote : " Tell dear Tad poor ' Nanny goat ' is
lost and Mrs. Cuthbert and I are in distress about it.
The day you left, Nanny was found resting herself and
chewing her little cud on the middle of Tad's bed ;
but now she 's gone. The gardener kept complaining
that she destroyed the flowers, till it was concluded to
bring her down to the White House. . . . The second



day she disappeared and has not been heard of since.
This is the last we know of poor Nanny." In a later
dispatch he telegraphed his wife, " All well, includ-
ing Tad's pony and the goats."

Once in a while the boys would succeed in enticing
their father into the grounds, where they would play
ball with him, and in high glee keep him running the
bases with his giant strides. For the children he was
willing to do anything.

A boy of thirteen had displayed unusual courage
in the gunboat service and sought the President's help
in getting into the Naval Academy. He bowed to the
President and began to teU his story when he was
interrupted by Mr. Lincoln's hearty, " Bless me !
is that the boy who did so gallantly in those two
great battles? Why, I feel that I should bow to him
and not he to me." When the President found the
boy was a few months too young to have his wish,
he put his hand affectionately on his shoulder and
said to him : " Now, my boy, go home and have good
fun until fall. It is about the last holiday you will

Another boy of thirteen had been a drummer and
had lost his place because he had offended his colonel.
Sick and disheartened, he was waiting to see if the
President would not give him another chance. Lincoln
asked him where he lived and who his parents were.
" I have no mother, no father, no brothers, no sisters,
and no friends — nobody cares for me." The Presi-
dent wrote on a card an order " to care for this poor
boy," and sent him away happy.

Through all the years, with the wisdom and foresight
of a statesman, he had kept the childlike spirit. The
little children, who knew nothing of his trials, came to


him for help and comfort as freely as if he belonged to

In the crowds that hung about the doorway of his
private office the woman who brought a baby with her
always managed to get a hearing. The little folk who
attended his receptions he singled out for some special
word of kindness, stopping the rapidly moving proces-
sion until he could take a baby into his arms, or " shake
hands with this little man." A boy of seven, who was
brought to the White House and introduced to Mr.
Lincoln as the son of one of the great Union generals,
remembers with what tenderness the tall President
laid a tired hand on his head as he said : " My boy, I
hope you will live to be as good a man as I know your
father is."

At one of the big receptions three timid little girls
followed the long line of visitors to where Mr. Lincoln
stood, and then suddenly lost their courage. The Presi-
dent noticed them and called out, " Little girls, are you
going to pass me without shaking hands ? "

To one of the youngsters at Springfield whose state-
ment that he had talked to Abraham Lincoln had been
disputed, the President found time to write : —

Executive Mansion, March 19, 1861.
Whom it may concern : I did see and talk with George
Evans Patten, last May, at Springfield, Illinois.


A. Lincoln.

This interest in the happiness of children Abraham
Lincoln had always shown. He did not hesitate to
sacrifice the dignity of his high place and the comfort
and convenience of a very busy man to give pleasure to
any child that needed him.


In the old days, when Lincoln was one of the lead-
ing lawyers of the State, he noticed a little girl of
ten who stood beside a trunk in front of her home cry-
ing bitterly. He stopped to learn what was wrong, and
was told that she was about to miss a long-promised
visit to Decatur because the wagon had not come for
her. " You need n't let that trouble you," was his cheer-
ing reply. " Just come along with me and we shall
make it all right." Lifting the trunk upon his shoulder,
and taking the little girl by the hand, he went through
the streets of Springfield a half-mile to the railway
station, put her and her trunk on the train, and sent
her away with a happiness in her heart that is still

George Pickett, who had known Lincoln in Illinois,
years before, joined the Southern army and by his
conspicuous bravery and ability had become one of
the great generals of the Confederacy. Toward the
close of the war, when a large part of Virginia had
fallen into the possession of the Union army, the
President called at General Pickett's Virginia home.
The general's wife, with her baby on her arm, met him
at the door. She herself has told the story for us.
" ' Is this George Pickett's home ? ' he asked. With
all the courage and dignity I could muster I replied,
' Yes, and I am his wife and this is his baby.' ' I am
Abraham Lincoln.' ' The President ! ' I gasped. I had
never seen him, but I knew the intense love and rev-
erence with which my soldier always spoke of him.
The stranger shook his head and replied, * No ; Abra-
ham Lincoln, George's old friend.' The baby pushed
away from me and reached out his hands to Mr. Lin-
coln, who took him in his arms. As he did so an ex-
pression of rapt, almost divine tenderness and love


lighted up the sad face. It was a look that I have never
seen on any other face. The baby opened his mouth
wide and insisted upon giving his father's friend a
dewy kiss. As Mr. Lincoln gave the little one back to
me he said, ' Tell your father, the rascal, that I forgive
him for the sake of your bright eyes.' "



In the earlier years of Lincoln's life he believed that
fate directed the affairs of men and determined their
success or failure for them. But as he grew older, he
came to feel that Providence had intrusted to him a
great duty toward mankind, and that in some way, thus
far undiscovered, he was to have a part in bringing
freedom to the slaves. In the campaigns with Douglas,
ambitious though he was, he found himself less inter-
ested in his own personal success than he was in bring-
ing the people to see the wickedness of slavery. When
he came to the presidency it was with a feeling that
it was God who had put upon him the burden of sav-
ing the Union, and that the efforts of men and, least
of all, his own efforts, had little to do with the results.
To his mind the contest with slavery, and, later on,
the war to save the Union, were a single death-struggle
between right and wrong, in which he was chosen to
execute God's will in God's own good time. It was for
this reason that he gave no thought to his own safety,
traveling unprotected except when Secretary Stanton
forced a guard upon him, and when he made his visits
to the front, walking unconcernedly within easy range
of the Confederate guns. It was his faith that God
would use him as long as he was needed, and would let
him die whenever his work was finished.

This attitude toward Providence he wrote down, in
the fall of 1862, when there seemed to be no hope that
war would come to an early end : " The will of God


prevails. In great contests each party claims to act in
accordance with the will of God. Both may be, and one
must be, wrong. God cannot be for and against the
same thing at the same time. In the present Civil War
it is quite possible that God's purpose is something dif-
ferent from the purpose of either party ; and yet the
human instrumentalities, working just as they do, are
of the best adaptation to effect his purpose. I am almost
ready to say that this is probably true ; that God wills
this contest and wills that it shall not end yet. By His
mere great power on the minds of the now contestants
He could have either saved or destroyed the Union
without a human contest. Yet the contest began. And,
having begun, He could give the final victory to either
side any day. Yet the contest proceeds."

During 1861 and 1862 the loyal States stood by
him faithfully, sending troops by hundreds of thou-
sands as rapidly as he called for them. Upon the ques-
tion of freeing the slaves they continued to disagree.
The war was a war to preserve the Union ; upon that
all could stand together, Kentucky and Maryland and
Missouri, as well as the free States of the North. But
in the background the problem of what to do with
the slaves loomed large. Hundreds of thousands of
negroes in the South were helping the enemies of the
Union, supporting the families of the soldiers in rebel-
lion while their masters fought, and digging the trenches
and building the fortifications to enable their masters
to prolong the war. The time was rapidly approaching
when this use of the slaves must be stopped. If only
the President would set them free, men said, the end
would soon come. But emancipation could not come so
long as it would offend the loyal border States. Day
by day the anti-slavery feeling grew stronger in the


North, and day after day abolition committees and del-
egations waited on the President to urge him to act.
At the same time other loyal people just as earnestly
warned him of the mischief that such a step would

The President found a strong reason for emanci-
pation in the effect it would have upon the feeling of
England, for with all their sympathy with the South,
the English were distinctly hostile to slavery. Lincoln
knew that if ever the success of the South came to
mean the perpetuation of slavery, English sympathy
would shift toward the Union side.

During the summer of 1862, it became plain that
emancipation could not be put off much longer. The
military necessity of taking from the enemy the power
to use negro labor in aid of the rebellion became more
and more evident, even to the loyal people on the bor-
der. Lincoln, having made up his mind to free the
slaves, kept his own counsel, waiting for the fit time to
come, and bearing in silence the criticism of the anti-
slavery people.

To Horace Greeley, editor of the New York Tribune^
who, under the title, " The Prayer of Twenty Millions,"
had printed a savage attack on him for delaying to free
the slaves, he wrote : " I would save the Union. I
would save it the shortest way under the Constitution.
... If I could save the Union without freeing any
slave, I would do it ; and if 1 could save it by freeing
all the slaves, I would do it ; and if I could save it by
freeing some and leaving others alone, I would also do
that. ... I have here stated my purpose according
to my view of official duty ; and I intend no modifi-
cation of my oft-expressed personal wish that all men
everywhere could be free."


This is the answer he made to a committee of church
people who came to him to urge him to act : " I am
approached with the most opposite opinions and advice,
and that by religious men who are equally certain that
they represent the divine wiU. ... I hope it will not
be irreverent for me to say that if it is probable that
God would reveal His will to others on a point so con-
nected with my duty, it might be supposed He would
reveal it directly to me ; for, unless I am more deceived
in myself than I often am, it is my earnest desire to
know the will of Providence in this matter. And if I
can learn what it is, I will do it."

Meanwhile he had made his decision. He went into
the cabinet meeting one July afternoon with a volume
of Artemus Ward in his hand and commenced the
deliberations by reading aloud a page of flippant non-
sense that angered Secretary Stanton and seemed to
the rest to be inexcusably out of place. Becoming sud-
denly serious, he said : " When the rebel army was at
Frederick, I determined as soon as it should be driven
out of Maryland to issue a proclamation of emancipa-
tion. I said nothing to any one : but I made the pro-
mise to myself, and " — hesitating for a moment — "to
my Maker. The rebel army is now driven out and I
am going to fulfill that promise."

In September there came a Union victory in the bat-
tle of Antietam, and at once the Emancipation Procla-
mation was published, giving freedom to all who should
be slaves, within the enemy's country on January 1,
1 863. The proclamation closed with this prayer : "And
upon this act, sincerely believed to be an act of justice
warranted by the Constitution, upon military necessity,
I invoke the considerate judgment of mankind and the
gracious favor of Almighty God."


No sooner were the slaves in the Confederate States
set free than it became necessary to organize negro
regiments. Many in the North who had been slow to
approve of emancipation opposed the arming of the
black men. The feeling against it ran high in the North,
whUe in the South, President Davis and the Confeder-
ate Congress threatened the officers of negro regiments
with death. To a Union mass meeting, held at Spring-
field, Illinois, in August, 1863, the President sent a

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Online LibraryCharles W. (Charles Washington) MooresThe life of Abraham Lincoln for boys and girls (Volume c.5) → online text (page 8 of 9)