Samuel Warren Fountain.

Abraham Lincoln, president of the United States March 4, 1861, to April 15, 1865 : ... Abraham Lincoln -- the man online

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Abraham Lincoln— The Man


Abraham Lincoln

.Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United Otates
Commander y of the State of Pennsylvania




Commandery of the State of Pennsylvania




March 4 1861, to April 15 1865

Born February 12 1809 in Hardin (La Rue) Co. Kentucky

Assassinated April 14 1865; died April 15 1865, at Washington D. C.

Enrolled by Special Resolution April 16 1865

"Abraham Lincoln — The Man"
Companion Brig. -General Samuel W. Fountain, U. S. A.

Digitized by the Internet Archive

in 2010 with funding from

The Institute of Museum and Library Services through an Indiana State Library LSTA Grant


By Companion Brig.-General Samuel W. Fountain, U. S. A.


Many years ago at a Fourth of July Celebration, I heard the Orator say,
"Liberty has not risen Venus like from the sea foam to smile upon us. The
smile of Liberty was won through struggle and death by those whose faces some
of us have seen and we are come in gratitude and pride to renew their pledges
and to take upon our lips the vow of devotion to the principles for which they held
it not hardship even to die." I recall with what awe and reverence I looked upon
the older people then present. Had they seen Washington, Patrick Henry,
Greene, Schuyler and others, who had fought for and gained our Independence?
I feel the same awe and admiration when I look upon our Companions here
tonight who may have seen Lincoln, The Emancipator, The Providential
Guardian of the American Union.

I did not see Lincoln but have always cherished stories about him — some
of them I may tell you tonight. None of them can be new. To speak of Lincoln
and to tell the truth one must quote, as I will tonight, from John Hay and others,
who have said things of Lincoln that appeal to me as illustrating his wisdom
as a statesman, vision as a leader, firmness and purity of character.

To speak of Lincoln we should first review in a brief way the conditions
surrounding him, what made him or how he made himself. We are told of his
boyhood days, spent in poverty and ignorance. Not till he was 18 years of age
did the spark that eventually flamed into a torch of genius show sign of its exist-
ence. John Hay in writing of Lincoln travestied the notion spread by a few
survivors that the pioneers enjoyed a glorious existence. They see it he says,
"through a rosy mist of memory, transfigured by the eternal magic of youth."
The sober fact is that the life was a hard one, with few rational pleasures, few
wholesome appliances. The strong ones lived and some even attained great
length of years; but to many, age came early and was full of infirmity and pain.


Private 140th Ohio Infantry May 2, 1864; discharged September 3, 1864.

Cadet U. S. Military Academy July 1, 1866. Second Lieutenant 8th U. S.
Cavalry June 15, 1870; First Lieutenant October 22, 1878; Captain April 11,
1889; Major 9th Cavalry February 2, 1901; Major and Assistant Adjutant
General February 28, 1901, to August 26, 1903; Lieut.-Colonel 13th Cavalry
August 26, 1903; transferred to 4th Cavalry August 28, 1903; vacated commission
April 10, 1905.

Brig.-General U. S. Army April 10, 1905; retired April II, 1905.


If we could go back to what our fore-fathers endured in clearing the Western
Wilderness, we could better appreciate our obligations to them. And he cites a
letter from Lincoln who, at the age of thirty-nine, calls himself an old man.

We must not, however, confuse the pioneers who blazed their way into
Indiana, Illinois and the Northwestern Territory with the successive waves of
immigrants which latterly have at times threatened to submerge our institutions.
The pioneers of Indiana and Illinois, on the other hand, whether they came from
Virginia through Kentucky or from Pennsylvania down the Ohio, or from New
England direct, had been nourished on certain common principles. Whether
they traced their descent from Roundhead or Cavalier, they believed in political
and religious liberty. They respected trial by jury and those other safe-guards
of the individual, which were the cornerstone of Anglo-Saxon justice. Their
fathers had fought in the Revolutionary War to uphold the proposition that
there should be no taxation without representation, and they themselves placed
passionate trust in popular government.

Young Abraham Lincoln, as bereft of opportunity for culture as any lad
in the country, had access to the Bible and "Pilgrim's Progress", Aesop's Fables
and "Robinson Crusoe," and, a little later, to Shakespeare, Burns and Black-
stone's Commentaries. With the Bible and Shakespeare one may acquire not
only the Anglo-Saxon tradition, but the World's supreme achievements in litera-

No doubt the settlers, men of energy and initiative, were too busy developing
the new country to pay much heed to books, but they recognized the need of
education in technical concerns and they had not wholly lost the respect for
learning as an ideal which had come down to them from their forebears. To
them the spoken word was the living word. Lawyers, politicians, preachers,
lecturers nourished among them. Politics which involved the interpretation of
the Constitution and fundamental conceptions of morals and humanity became
their vital interest. Should Slavery be allowed in the new communities? If not,
where draw the line of restriction? If the South persisted in slave holding, how
long could the Nation survive, half bound and half free? Was not the preserva-
tion of the Union more important than the propositions for or against Slavery?

However unequipped with refinements of civilization, a people which,
besides conquering for itself a home in the wilderness, was earnestly confronting
such questions, could not be charged with stagnation. Nowhere is the greatness
of America more finely revealed than in the life Story of Abraham Lincoln;
in that simple but heroic record of struggle and achievement the heart of America
speaks. His career is an illustration of the possibilities which America offers to
those who strive.

Let us for one moment compare two great Americans, two of the noblest
and grandest men our country has produced, Washington and Lincoln. They
were totally different in circumstance of birth and in fortune of after life, but
both were of high character, each put duty before ambition.

Washington was an aristocrat, a man of courtly graces, of demeanor, dignified
and exclusive, and one of the richest men of his time.


Lincoln was of humblest birth and lowliest station, without education
save what he wrung from a grinding, grudging life of daily toil, yet he also hewed
his way from the rails he split not alone to the President's chair, but to that far
higher seat to which none can climb save by moral worth and inward qualities
of honor and probity, a seat which they both attained.

The government and history of the United States are the sources from which
Lincoln drew his political ideas. When he was first elected President and on his
way to Washington to take office, he stopped at Philadelphia to deliver an
address in Independence Hall. In his address he said:

"All political sentiments I entertain have been drawn, so far as I am able
to draw them, from the sentiments which originated and were given to the world
from this Hall. I have never had a feeling politically that did not spring from
the sentiments embodied in the Declaration of Independence."

He declared his firm faith in the great American principle, that the will of
the majority must rule. Whoever rejects it does of necessity fly to anarchy or

He had learned from the rude pioneering experience of his youth the evils
and danger of lawlessness. He said with the conviction of one who knew well
whereof he spoke: "Let reverence for the law be breathed by every American
mother to the lisping babe that prattles on her lap; let it be taught in the schools,
in seminaries, in colleges; let it be written in primers, in spelling books and
almanacs; let it be preached from the pulpit, proclaimed in legislative halls, and
enforced in courts of justice. Let it become the political religion of the Nation."

He believed in honesty, preached it and practised it and early gained the
title of "Honest Abe," which clung to him all his life.

Another principle of conduct taught and practised by Lincoln was that work
is a good and not an evil, and that by the exercise of the faculties in daily work,
men attain to the best of which they are capable.

Lincoln believed that men could and should make continual progress.
With this in his mind, he said: "There is no such thing as a free man being fixed
for life in the condition of hired labor. . . The prudent, penniless beginner in
the world labors for wages a while, saves a surplus with which to buy tools or
land for himself, then labors on his own account for another while, and at length
hires another new beginner to help him. This is the just and generous and
prosperous system which opens the way to all, gives hope to all and consequent
energy and progress and improvement of condition to all."

Lincoln firmly believed in the rightousness of private property and in the
security of such possession as an encouragement to thrift and enterprise. To the
Workmen's Association he said:

"Property is the fruit of labor; property is desirable; it is a positive good
in the world. That some should be rich shows that others may become rich,
and hence is just encouragement to industry and enterprise. Let him who is
houseless not pull down the house of another, but let him work diligently and
build one for himself, thus by example assuring that his own shall be safe from
violence when built."


For us today the life and teachings of Abraham Lincoln are full of the highest
inspiration. In carrying out the great work that we have before us, that the world
may recover from the devastating conflict through which it has just passed, we
cannot do better than constantly remember these noble words from his second
inaugural address that have become a classic wherever the English tongue is

"With malice towards none; with charity to all; with firmness in the right,
as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in;
to bind up the Nation's wounds — to care for him who shall have borne the battle,
and for his widow and his orphan; to do all which may achieve and cherish a just
and lasting peace among ourselves and with all Nations."

How strangely silent as to many of our deepest and most abiding sentiments
would the political history of America appear to us today if it were deprived of
the sayings of Lincoln. In him we feel that our Country has spoken the inmost
truth of its political ideas. And so he will always appear to us as the embodi-
ment of those ideas.

When we see his face depicted, we think reverently of the long struggle by
which our freedom was maintained; when we read his words we are recalled to
those principles on which our freedom is based; when we gather to do him honor
we rededicate ourselves to the preservation and perfection of that freedom based
upon law whose worth and stability it was the privilege and glory of Abraham
Lincoln to have made manifest to the world.

Was Lincoln a military genius? I think not. Mr. Lincoln's great mind
might have mastered military science, but I do not think that he had given the
subject any study. Of course, he thought about field operations and the use of
guns on land and sea.

The following letter to General Grant shows that he planned campaigns
in his mind and compared them with what the army under its commanders
actually did.

Executive Mansion

Washington, July 13th, 1863.
Major General Grant,

My dear General:
I do not remember that you and I ever met personally. I write this now
as an acknowledgment for the almost inestimable service you have done the
country. I wish to say a word further. When you first reached the vicinity
of Vicksburg, I thought you should do, what you finally did — march the troops
across the neck, run the batteries with the transports, and then go below; and
I never had any faith, except a general hope that you knew better than I, that
the Yazoo expedition and the like, could succeed. When you got below and took
Port Gibson, Grand Gulf and vicinity, I thought you should go down the river
and join Banks; and when you turned northward, east of the Big Black, I feared
it was a mistake. I now wish to make the personal acknowledgment that you
were right and I was wrong.

Yours very truly,

A. Lincoln.



Perhaps he was a thorn in McClellan's side and an annoyance to Burnside,
Hooker and even our Meade. With Grant there was established a cordial
confidence, but not, so I have been told, till Mr. Lincoln visited Grant's Head-
quarters at Harrison's Landing just before the Overland Campaign of '64 and '65
was launched. Mr. Lincoln read to General Grant a plan of "On to Richmond."
The Army of the Potomac was to take position between the James and York
Rivers and march to Richmond while the Navy protected its flanks. General
Grant asked for the written plan, thanked the President for it and put it in his
pocket and that was as far as that plan of Campaign ever went. I hardly think
General Grant was right in treating the President's plan in such a silent but
effective manner. He should have told the President that General Lee would
put a strong line of troops well intrenched across the neck of land on the Richmond
side and then the Army of the Potomac would be bottled up.

Colonel Tunly, who was a Lieutenant in the Army at the breaking out of
the War, wrote an interesting sketch of his life and sent copies to his friends.
He describes his call upon Mr. Lincoln a few weeks after his first election.
Mr. Lincoln spoke freely about the threat of the South to secede, of his duty
to maintain the Union and his determination to do so even if he had to call upon
a force much larger than the entire Army and Navy, and suggested 75,000 men.
Tunly told him such a number could not do it, 250,000 men would not overawe
the South and might not be able to conquer them in the field. After his visit
Tunly realized that Mr. Lincoln had not expressed surprise at his figures.
His comment was that Mr. Lincoln had been figuring himself and had reached
such high numbers that he wanted them to be confirmed by a military man.

Some years ago in Kansas City I met Mr. Speed who knew Mr. Lincoln
and spoke of him with great affection and admiration. He said some people tell
you that Lincoln died at the peak of his fame; had he lived time would have
robbed him of the glamour that the adulation of the whole world had woven about
him. But that was not so; it was not possible to shake the solid base upon which
Lincoln's fame was built. Every word and act of Lincoln was true. There
was nothing artificial about him. How could such a reputation be attacked or
lessened? It would have grown in grandeur with the years.

Not too often and never too reverently can Americans pause to honor the
memory of Lincoln or express gratitude to the Almighty for his services to his
Country. Other men have reunited a divided Nation, or liberated an enslaved
race, or carried to conclusion a fratricidal war, or swept immoral institutions
from the earth by the exercise of consummate Statesmanship; but no man ever
combined and carried through, chiefly by the clarity of his mind and the purity
of his character, several such gigantic enterprises in half a decade. Washington
welded a handful of colonies into a Confederation of States; Lincoln fused them,
after they had fallen apart, into a self-conscious Nation.

Lincoln accomplished his stupendous task by transforming his instruments
into fellow workers, by inspiring his fellow workers with the passion for responsible
leadership, by dedicating himself and his associates to a mission of Divine sig-
nificance. Under Lincoln the Civil War was a Crusade for an ethical nationality;
under another it might have been a melodramatic carnival of hate and vengeance.
Yet when due meed of credit is given to each of his co-laborers, Lincoln stands


distinctly above them all in solitary strength and unique grandeur. The very
greatness of the men who shared with him the awful burden of the hour only
enhances his pre-eminence. He was the central star of a brilliant constellation;
but it was the power of his personality that held the lesser luminaries in their
place, furnished the light that they reflected and marked the course of the great
orbit they followed.

There must have been within him an influence mightier than the finest
constraints of humanity — "a power not ourselves, that makes for righteousness" —
which broke birth's invidious bar and overrode an unpropitious early environment
and marked him for a destiny that can be esteemed as nothing less than a Provi-
dential guardianship of the American Union. Ambition can make a Napoleon,
but not a Lincoln; for all ambition feeds on a presumption and must sooner or
later essay to do what mortal man cannot accomplish — and fail. Genius can
make a Beaconsfield, but not a Lincoln; for genius must always, by the very
variety of its skill, pass off many artificial things as natural and must ultimately
be the subject of apology. A coercive will, masterful and pertinacious, can
make a Bismarck, but not a Lincoln; for the untempered will, pushing sternly
towards its goal, is relentless, ruthless, heartless, unscrupulous and almost bar-
baric; it may strike the world with fear and wonder — not win it with love.

Rough hewn and elemental he may have been, yet there was about him an air
and grace of disposition which won, even in the passionate times of war, the love
of the world. Few who have wielded power have merited affection; awe and
superstition have given great rulers the adoration or subserviency of a people,
but seldom has one with the prerogatives of a despot built himself a shrine, as
Lincoln has, in the heart of the race. His tenure of high office was full of public
and private generosities, of magnanimous condescensions to human weakness,
of the charity that covers a multitude of sins, of the righteousness that corrects
a terrible wrong without leaving a heritage of hatred in the souls of those who
were disciplined.

He was a great man raised up by Providence at a time when his Country
needed so wise a Statesman, so far sighted a leader, so pure a man. He did not
know many happy days. As President he was weighted down by vast responsi-
bilities that seldom left him in sleep. He was essentially a religious man, with
a heart overflowing with confidence in the mercy of his Creator and the watch-
fulness of Heaven over the destiny of this republic. As time rolls by, his name
will grow in fragance and the nobility of his character stand out more clearly.
Let him be remembered, not as a partisan, but as a man who loved his Country
and his kind.




Online LibrarySamuel Warren FountainAbraham Lincoln, president of the United States March 4, 1861, to April 15, 1865 : ... Abraham Lincoln -- the man → online text (page 1 of 1)