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298. Henry C. Whitney (statement for William H. Herndon).

[November 1866?]

About one week after the 1st Bull Run I made a call upon Mr. Lincoln having no business except to give him some presents which the Nuns at the "Osage" Mission School had sent to him — A Cabinet meeting had just adjourned; Stackpole told me to go right to his room. Lincoln was writing on a card — an old gentleman was with him; when he had concluded he read the writing aloud; it was something like this: "Sec'y Chase — the bearer Mr. ___ wants to be appointed ___ of Baltimore — if you find his recommendations to be


suitable and I believe them to have been very good the fact that he is a Methodist and is urged by them ought not to make against him as they complain of us some". Said I, "the Rebels do that" "Yes", Said he, "but not in that way, Whitney" — The old gentleman retired with the card and Sec. Seward came in — Says Lincoln (rather sportively) before he got seated, "Well Governor, what now? Seward stated his case, which related to New Mexico — Says Lincoln — "Oh! I see, they have not got either a Governor nor Goverment: well you see Jim Lane — the Secretary is his man and he must hunt him up" — Seward then left, under the impression, as I thought, that Lincoln wanted to get rid of him and diplomacy. Several other parties were announced — Lincoln stated that he was busy and could not see them; he was as playful and sportive as a child — told me all sorts of anecdotes — dealt largely in anecdotes of Chas. Jas. Fox; — asked all about several odd characters that we both knew in Illinois. Gen. James was announced — : "Well as he is a feller what makes cannings" (cannon), (James sent word that he must leave town that P.M. and positively must see Lincoln before he went), "I must see him — tell him when I get through with Whitney I'll see him — ". No more announcements were made and James left about 5 o'clock declaring that Lincoln was a fool and had got closeted with a damned old hoosier from Ills. and was telling dirty stories while the country was going to hell. Lincoln got his maps of the seat of war and gave me a full history of the preliminary talk and steps about the Battle of Bull Run — he, L., was opposed to the battle and explained to Gen. Scott by those very maps how the enemy could by the aid of the R.R's. reinforce their armies at Manassas Gap until they had brought every man there, keeping us at bay meanwhile — L. showed to him our paucity of R.R. advantages at that point, and their plentitude; but Scott was obstinate and would not hear of the possibility of defeat, and now "You see I was right, and Scott now knows it, I reckon." "My plan was and still is, to make a strong feint against Richmond and distract their forces before attacking Manasses." Said I — are you going to do it yet? Says he — That is the problem that Gen'l McCellan is now trying to work out. He then told me of the plan he had recommended to McC. — to send Gun Boats up one of the Rivers (not the James) in the direction of Richmond and divert them there while the main attack was made at Manassas. Said I, — I expect McClellan will be your successor — . Said he, "I am perfectly willing if he will only put an end to this war" — : he then gave me his theory of the rebellion by aid of the Map: "We must drive them away from here (Manassas Gap) and clean them out of this part of the State so as they can't threaten us here and get into Maryland; then we must keep up as good a blockade as we can, of their ports; then we must march an Army into East Tennessee and liberate the union sentiment there, and then let the thing work; we must then rely upon the people getting tired and saying to their leaders — 'we have had enough of this thing,' of course we can't conquer them if they are determined to hold out against us." In reply to a question about the blockade, he said — "The coast is so long that I can't keep up a very good blockade;" — then he said — "The great trouble about this whole thing is that Union men at the South won't fight for their rights." He told me of his last interview with Douglas; "He came rushing


in one day and Said he had just got a telegraph dispatch from some friends in Ills. urging him to come out and help get things right in Egypt, and that he would go, or stay in Washington, just where I thought he could do the most good — I told him to do as he choose, but that he could probably do best in Ills., upon that he just shook hands with me and hurried away to catch the next train." I seized a good oppertunity to say of Judge Davis — "I expect you'll appoint him Supreme Judge — anyway" — he at once grew sad and said nothing until I changed the subject. I never saw Lincoln in so jolly a mood — he ought to have been busy too, as Congress was about to adjourn — : he said to me — "My business just now is to make Generals". At another time I wanted a line from him to the Pay Master General, asking a favor for me. I went to his house at breakfast time and found a crowd — hence I went into his room at once and found him just come in — I stated my business; he said, "let us go right over and get it done" — I said — I don't want you to go; "but I can do it better by going — " he said: he never was more radiant — . I took advantage of it to say "Mr Lincoln, Wm Houston — a brother of Sam Houston — is here wanting that little clerkship" — he frowned like a bear and said — "don't bother me about Bill Houstin he has been here sitting on his a — s all summer, waiting for me to give him the best office I've got — "; "but," said I, "if he will select a small clerkship" — "I hain't got it," roared Lincoln with more impatience and disgust than I ever saw manifested by him: Said I, "that ends it" — and he at once became cheerful and jolly and we started on. Lincoln and I were at Centralia Fair the day after the debate at Jonesboro — night came on and we were tired, having been on the fair ground all day — the train was due at mid-night — everything was full — I managed to get a chair for Lincoln in the Ills. Cen. R.R. Supt. office — but small politicians would intrude so that he could scarcely get a moments sleep — the train came and was filled instantly — I got a seat at the door for L. and myself; he was worn out and had to meet Douglas next day at Charleston; an empty car, called a "Saloon" car was hitched on to the rear of the train and locked up. I asked the Conductor, who knew Lincoln and myself well, (we were both Atty's of the Road) if Lincoln could not ride in that car as he was exhausted &c., and the conductor refused. I afterwards got in by stratagem. At this same time McClellan was in person taking Douglas around in a special car and Special Train, and that was the indignant treatment that Lincoln got from the Ills. Cen. R.R. — every interest of that Road and every employee was against Lincoln and for Douglas. During the sitting of the 1st Phila. Convention in '56, Lincoln was attending a special term of Court in our County —. Davis, L., and my self roomed to-gether — at noon I would get the Chicago paper — one day the telegraph showed that Dayton was nominated Vice President — that "Lincoln" received ____ votes; Davis and I thought it was our Lincoln — but Lincoln said he thought it was the other great man of the same name from Mass. — Davis and I were impatient for next days news, and it showed that it was our Lincoln; but the main subject of the news was not apparently at all moved by the prominence given him — The next day after that, when I came to our room


with the mail L. looked guiltily foolish and also amused; it transpired that in coming through the parlor where the gong was, to get to our room, L. had hid it in a Centre Table and the Landlord was looking all around for it, and was then at the Stable hunting it. L. and I went to the parlor together and while I held the door shut he replaced it, and then went up the stairs to the room three steps at a time. He once told me of you — that "he had taken you in as a partner, supposing that you had system and would keep things in order, but that you would not make much of a lawyer, but that he found that you had no more system than he had, but that you were a fine lawyer, so that he was doubly disappointed." As late as '57, he once said to me while we were going together to a speech making, — "I wish it was over" — upon my expressing my surprise, he said — "when I have to make a speech, I always want it over" —

Huntington Library: LN2408, 2:426 — 33



1. Possibly sent with the previous item. In H&W (1889) a footnote on this account states: "This interview with Lincoln was written out during the war, and contains many of his peculiarities of expression" (545).

2. Thomas Stackpole was at various times an engineer, watchman, and steward at the White House.

3. Marginal note by Ward Hill Lamon: This is not true L.