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RECOLLECTIONS



OF



PRESIDENT LINCOLN



BY

MOSES GREELEY PARKER, M. D.
LOWELL, MASS.



RECOLLECTIONS OF PRESIDENT LINCOLN

DR. MOSES GREELEY PARKER S MEMORIAL DAY ADDRESS
IN DRACUT, 1914.

EXERCISES appropriate to the Memorial day Season were
held Sunday night at the "Yellow Meetinghouse" in Dracut,
(Mass) the principal historical address being given by Dr.
Moses Greeley Parker of Lowell, past president of the National So
ciety of Sons of the American Revolution, and a veteran of the
Civil War.

Dr. Parker spoke on his personal recollections of President
Lincoln, saying:

Ladies and Gentlemen:

I am greatly pleased to be asked to speak to you for I was born
in Dracut, grew up here and practised medicine among you.

One of the earliest things I remember is coming to this church
with my father and mother and sitting in a big box pew. I was so
little I could not see over it. This was in the "Old Yellow Meeting
house," which was later reconstructed, the upper part being used
for church services and the lower for town meetings, lyceums and
other gatherings.

You have invited me to give some personal recollections of
Abraham Lincoln, whom I had the honor of meeting on several
occasions.

I cannot think of this great man without associating him with
George Washington.

Washington was born to wealth Lincoln to poverty.

Washington was educated with great care Lincoln educated
himself.

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4 RECOLLECTIONS OF PRESIDENT LINCOLN PABKEB

Washington owned thousands of acres of land Lincoln not
one.

Washington owned 150 slaves Lincoln not one.

Washington liberated his slaves at his death Lincoln libera
ted all the slaves in the United States before his death.

They were both large men, Washington weighed two hundred
and twenty pounds, Lincoln was six feet two inches tall, without
his "high heels" (as he himself said). Both had large feet, large
hands, large hearts and large brains, with great good judgment
and farsightedness, and were by far the greatest Presidents this
country has ever seen.

That you may know how I came to meet President Lincoln I
propose to give you a short history of my army life. After attend
ing lectures at Long Island Medical College and Bellevue Medical
College in New York, I graduated from Harvard Medical College
in March, 1864. The next week I passed both the army and
navy medical examinations and was immediately assigned by
Surgeon General Dale to the fifty-seventh Massachusetts regi
ment, then in camp near Worcester.

While visiting the regiment and waiting for my uniform, Gen
eral Butler telegraphed to Dr. Kimball of Lowell, to send him three
surgeons, my name being introduced as one of these. I was trans
ferred to Fortress Monroe and was immediately mustered into the
United States service for three years as assistant surgeon of the
Second U. S. Colored cavalry and was ordered to join the regiment,
then in Dismal Swamp, between Norfolk and Suffolk, Va., under
command of Colonel Cole.

The first night I slept in a hammock overcoat and boots on.
It rained hard and in the morning there were from two to three
inches of water all over the swamp, making it impossible to re
main there longer. Colonel Cole ordered the regiment out on to
higher land even at the risk of bringing on an engagement, which

14



RECOLLECTIONS OF PRESIDENT LINCOLN PARKER 5

it did; and the fight at Bunch of Walnuts and the raid into Suffolk
followed; then back to Fortress Monroe for a review and march
up the peninsula, stopping long enough at Yorktown to see the old
revolutionary fortifications and those of recent date.

Next day we went on to Williamsburg, where we camped on
the old battlefield of 1862. Soon we were ordered up the peninsu
la to find the enemy. This we did on Chickahominy river, with
a small fort on the Richmond side. The two colored regiments
were drawn up in line of battle to charge, nearly a mile over a level
plain, a fort on the opposite side of the river.

Capt. Dollard had dismounted his company of colored cavalry,
forded the river higher up, and at a given signal from him the charge
was to be made. Meanwhile the colonel, some officers and order
lies were grouped on a small knoll to witness the advance. Soon
I heard a zip-zip-zip and said, "They are firing at us !" The colo
nel laughed, saying, "You are young and have not been under fire
much." I did not have to reply as our orderly then fell from his
horse, wounded. I had him carried on the safe side of the knoll
where the ambulance was, and I noticed that the colonel and all
followed "to see me dress the wound" and thereafter watched
the movement from this comparatively safe place!

We returned to Fortress Monroe with hundred of negroes fol
lowing our regiments and were immediately ordered up the James
river to Bermuda Hundred to join the Eighteenth army corps. On
the way up the river, we arrived at Wilson s Landing while it was
being attacked. Mattresses were piled around the pilot-house and
all were ordered to lie down flat on the decks. Then we ran the
firing line without loss and reinforced the fort. Soon the gunboats
came into position and commenced firing on the enemy, which
quickly ended the fight.

We reembarked the next day and landed at Bermuda Hundred,
becoming a part of the Eighteenth army corps under General Butler.

15



6 RECOLLECTIONS OF PRESIDENT LINCOLN PARKER

Here we marched to the front, dismounted and took position be
hind the breast works. While here, Fort Clifton opened fire on our
lines. Our gunboat, the Commodore Perry, in replying burst her
hundred-pound Parrott gun.

I was asked by the assistant surgeon of the gunboat to come
on board and assist him in dressing the wounded. One poor fel
low had his foot crushed so badly we had to perform Perigoff s
operation, i. e., cut off the foot and turn up the heel, making a
round heel stump to walk on. This did so well the naval medical
officer was promoted for the work, while I, being away from my
command without orders, might have been "cashiered" had any
of my men been wounded.

The gunboat was hit several times. One shell was stopped
by the tool chest from penetrating the boiler a most lucky escape.
Our next move was to assist Gen. (Baldy) Smith in his attack on
Petersburg, which was unsuccessful. Breast-works were thrown
up and a siege commenced.

I remained with my regiment (it being dismounted and serv
ing in the trenches in front of Petersburg) till after the explosion
of the mine, July 30th, 1864 a day long to be remembered.

I was ordered into the trenches at 3 o clock in the morning.
My colonel was taken ill and I remained with him until 7 a. m.,
then had to run the "dead line" some one hundred feet wide to
reach my place in the trenches in a gopher hole six feet square and
about one-half mile west of "the crater."

The regiment was supporting a mortar called the "Peters
burg Express," which threw a shell fifteen inches in diameter filled
with small balls, which, bursting high up in the air, sent a shower of
balls all over the city. So destructive was this that the Confeder
ates, at great risk, placed a cannon on the opposite side of the Ap-
pomattox river, enfilading our line, and sending a shell over us to

16



REDOLLECTIONS OF/ PRESIDENT LINCOLN PARKER 7

"the crater." Our mortar soon dropped a shell near this cannon,
which, bursting, silenced this rebel gun forever.

After this battle I was detached from my regiment and ordered
to the Eighteenth army corps base hospital, then established in
tents in our rear, on the south side of the Appomattox river.

The Eighteenth army corps when it left Fortress Monroe in
April, 1864, numbered 32,000 men and now after four months
fighting around Richmond and Petersburg could not muster 15,000
men fit for duty. Winter quarters for the sick and wounded must
be provided.

Surgeon General Suckley and Surgeon Fowler, my superior
officers, ordered Assistant Surgeon Parker to build a winter hospital
for the first division of the corps. I selected for the site a high
point of land on the north side of the Appomattox river, six miles
from Petersburg and eighteen miles from Richmond, called "Point
of Rocks."

It was a beautiful location on a high bluff overlooking the
river, and from it could be seen Fort Clifton, Petersburg and some
of the long line of breastworks that extended from Petersburg to
Richmond. We located the watertank on the highest point of
semi-circle around it with headquarters at the end.

We cut down the tall pine trees and used them for the log cab
ins and the sides of our hospital buildings, which were built five
logs high and using tent cloth for the roof. The building of a win
ter hospital from the timber lands of the enemy attracted atten
tion not only at General Grant s headquarters, but at Washington.

As Congress was about to appropriate a large sum of money
for the City Point hospital, Generals Grant and Butler both visited
the division hospital, and after looking it over, asked why we had
used cloth for covering in place of boards. They were told that
we could not get boards, as they were "all taken by the quarter-

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8 RECOLLECTIONS OF PRESIDENT LINCOLN- PARKER

masters to cover their mules; to which General Butler replied, "We
will see about that." The next morning I was greatly surprised to
receive an order turning over to Points of Rock hospital all boards
made the next two days.

I sent the order, with plenty of milk punch made from con
densed milk, to the mill, and never did men work better than these
men did the next two days.

The large appropriation for City Point hospital was reduced
and General Grant had board buildings put up covered with tar
red paper and heated with stoves. Doubtless this was one of the
reasons that President Lincoln wanted to see our hospital.

Accordingly, one morning about 11 o clock, President Lincoln
and his wife came on the little steamer "Greyhound" from City
Point, where they were visiting General Grant, and walked from
our landing to the hospital headquarters.

Being officer of the day, I had the honor of receiving the Presi
dent and a general introduction of officers followed. The Presi
dent looked over the hospital buildings without going into them.
He seemed anxious and careworn. He was very kind and genial
in his manner, and was carelessly dressed, wearing a tall hat, mak
ing his tall figure look even taller than any of our officers. He
moved easily and whenever he sat down he would cross his legs,
throwing one knee over the other, and then one leg would hang
down nearly parallel with the other, making this position of his
graceful, easy and natural. He said but little, was very thought
ful, and evidently wanted to be alone; for he soon left us, walking
to the Point of Rocks, (a high bluff) some twenty rods away, and
sat down under what was called the "Pocahontas Oak." There
he sat looking toward our line of breastworks. Sometimes he
placed his elbow on his knee and rested his head wearily on his
hand. Obviously he was thinking of something we knew not of.
He had, in fact, visited General Grant and probably knew what was

about to take place.

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RECOLLECTIONS OF PRESIDENT LINCOLN PARKER 9

Mrs. Lincoln, who was richly dressed in black silk, was rather
large, stout and very dignified in appearance. She had been es
corted through several of the hospital wards by some of the officers
wives.

When she returned to our headquarters, President Lincoln
joined her and the visit was over. By this time hundreds of con
valescent soldiers came out to see the President and his wife. When
they cheered him, President Lincoln simply raised his hat, bowed
and returned to the boat.

The following Sunday, about noon, not long after Davis had
left the morning service so suddenly on that eventful Sunday morn
ing in April, 1865, our telegraph operator came to me in a very ex
cited manner, saying, "You ought to know this," and he showed me
a copy of the following telegram that had just gone over our wire:

"Be prepared to open every gun on the line at three o clock
this afternoon." r g Grant

You can imagine, as well as we, what was to take place on
that memorable Sunday and only a few hours after Davis had so
hurriedly left the morning service.

The firing commenced a little after three o clock, but few guns
replied to the cannonade in our immediate front. The severe
fighting was on the extreme left of our line, near the Weldon rail
road, We could hear the constant booming of cannon in that di
rection and occasionally the rattle of musketry, telling that the
infantry was engaged and that the battle was for the possession of
the railroad, which our side finally obtained.

After dark of this same day came the most brilliant sight I
saw during the war; between eight and nine o clock in the evening,
apparently by a pre-arranged plan for order, the Confederates set
fire at the same time to their entire camp, (consisting of brush and
pine boughs winter covering for themselves and horses) extend-

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10 RECOLLECTIONS OF PRESIDENT LINCOLN PARKER

ing from Petersburg to Richmond, a distance of about twenty miles.
The flames shot up and illuminated the sky for miles around. It
was a grand and glorious sight for us, as it told the story of the
downfall of Richmond and the end of the rebellion.

The next time I saw President Lincoln and his wife was after
our nurses had been received by the President. The story is as
follows: One of our most energetic nurses, formerly Miss Joy of
Boston, then the wife of a major (and later to be Princess Salm-
Salm) and several other nurses wanted to see the President. They
went to Headquarters and asked General Sickles if they could meet
the President. The general arranged with President Lincoln to
receive them at two o clock that afternoon.

General Sickles was the first Democrat to shake the hand of
President Lincoln in the House of Representatives at Washington.
It happened in this way: When President Lincoln first visited
the House of Representatives the Republicans all came forward to
shake his hand, but the Democrats held aloof, retiring to one side
of the House. Then General Sickles spoke to the Democrats, say
ing, "Mr. Lincoln is President, gentlemen, and I am going down
to shake hands with him! You can do as you like!" This broke
the spell, they followed, and he was the first Democratic member
of the House to shake the hand of President Lincoln.

At the hour appointed the nurses, dressed in their best, ap
peared at General Sickles s tent and said, "We want to kiss the
President. Will it do?" "Oh, yes," said the gallant Sickles, "I
only wish I were he." "But he is so tall!" "Oh, he will accommo
date himself," said Sickles; and he did.

The last time I saw President Lincoln was in Davis s house at
Richmond the Tuesday following the fall of Richmond, and two
days after Jeff Davis had left so suddenly. President Lincoln evi
dently had the same desire we all had to see the inside of the city
of Richmond.

20



RECOLLECTIONS OF PRESIDENT LINCOLN PARKER 11

The President, apparently without fear, went up the James
river on a gunboat with Admiral Porter to within one mile of Rich
mond. Then he and the Admiral were rowed up in a small boat
and landed in the lower part of the city, and with only the sailors
that rowed the boat, walked into Richmond through the burned
district, which was still smoking and smouldering, having been
looted and set on fire by the Confederate soldiers before they left
the city.

All liquor found in the city was ordered to be destroyed. In
many cellars, barrels of the intoxicating stuff were found. These
were taken into the street, the heads of the barrels broken open and
their contents emptied into the gutter.

Soon the colored people discovered the President, and on bend
ed knee, with upraised hands, they and the poor whites shouted
"Glory to God! Glory to God!" "Praise de Lord!" "Massa
Linkum has come!" Soon so great a crowd gathered that the sol
diers had to be called upon to clear the streets, a carriage was ob
tained and the President was escorted through the city.

I was on horseback and saw President Lincoln in the carriage
in front of Libby prison, looking at that place of horror, now filled
with rebel prisoners, which the day before held our Union soldiers.
We all enjoyed this sight the tables were turned and we had the
fun of asking these "rebs" "how they liked it." Later in the day
I saw President Lincoln at Davis s house. Here he held an infor
mal reception. He was greatly pleased at the turn of events.

I was proud to be remembered and shall never forget his kind
and pleasant face and manner as he said when taking my hand,
"the war is nearly over." He seemed as if a great load had been
lifted from his shoulders since he was at the hospital a few days be
fore.

Eleven days after, this great and good man was assassinated
in Ford s Theatre at Washington.

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