The Life, Public Services and State Papers of Abraham Lincoln

By Henry J. Raymond

Anecdotes and Reminiscences of President Lincoln


Many persons formed their impressions of the late President from  the stories in circulation attributed to him, and consequently supposed  him to have been habitually of a jocund, humorous disposition. There  was this element in his nature in a large degree, but it was the sparkle  and ripple of the surface. Underneath was a deep undercurrent of  sadness, if not melancholy. When most depressed, it was his way  frequently to seek relief in some harmless pleasantry. I recollect an  instance related to me, by a radical member of the last Congress. It  was during the dark days of 1862. He called upon the President early  one morning, just after news of a disaster. Mr. Lincoln commenced  telling some trifling incident, which the Congressman was in no mood  to hear. He rose to his feet, and said, "Mr. President, I did not  come here this morning to hear stories; it is too serious a time." Instantly the smile disappeared from Mr. Lincoln's face, who exclaimed,  "A-----, sit down! I respect you as an earnest, sincere man. You  cannot be more anxious than I am constantly, and I say to you now,  that were it not for this occasional vent, I should die!"

It has been the business of my life to study the human face, and I  have said repeatedly to friends that Mr. Lincoln had the saddest face I  ever attempted to paint. During some of the dark days of the spring  and summer of 1864, I saw him at times when his care-worn, troubled  appearance was enough to bring tears of sympathy into the eyes of  his most bitter opponents. I recall particularly one day, when, having  occasion to pass through the main hall of the domestic apartments, I  met him alone, pacing up and down a narrow passage, his hands behind him, his head bent forward upon his breast, heavy black rings  under his eyes, showing sleepless nights--altogether such a picture of  the effects of sorrow and care as I have never seen!

"No man," says Mrs. Stowe, "has suffered more and deeper, albeit  with a dry, weary, patient pain, that seemed to some like insensibility,  than President Lincoln." "Whichever way it ends," he said to her,  "I have the impression that I shan't last long after it is over."

After the dreadful repulse of Fredericksburg, he is reported to have  said: "If there is a man out of perdition that suffers more than I do,  I pity him."

The Honorable Schuyler Colfax, in his funeral oration at Chicago,  said of him:--

"He bore the nation's perils, and trials, and sorrows, ever on his  mind. You know him, in a large degree, by the illustrative stories  of which his memory and his tongue were so prolific, using them to  point a moral, or to soften discontent at his decisions. But this was  the mere badinage which relieved him for the moment from the heavy  weight of public duties and responsibilities under which he often  wearied. Those whom he admitted to his confidence, and with whom  he conversed of his feelings, knew that his inner life was checkered  with the deepest anxiety and most discomforting solicitude. Elated  by victories for the cause which was ever in his thoughts, reverses to  our arms cast a pall of depression over him. One morning, over two  years ago, calling upon him on business, I found him looking more  than usually pale and careworn, and inquired the reason. He replied,  with the bad news he had received at a late hour the previous  night, which had not yet been communicated to the press--he had  not closed his eyes or breakfasted; and, with an expression I shall  never forget, he exclaimed, 'How willingly would I exchange places  to-day with the soldier who sleeps on the ground in the Army of the  Potomac!'"

He may not have looked for it from the hand of an assassin, but he  felt sure that his life would end with the war long ago. "He told  me," says a correspondent of the Boston Journal, "that he was  certain he should not outlast the rebellion." It was in last July. As  will be remembered, there was dissension then among the Republican  leaders. Many of his best friends had deserted him, and were talking  of an opposition convention to nominate another candidate; and universal gloom was among the people.

The North was tired of the war, and supposed an honorable peace  attainable. Mr. Lincoln knew it was not--that any peace at that time  would be only disunion. Speaking of it, he said: "I have faith in the  people. They will not consent to disunion. The danger is, they are  misled. Let them know the truth, and the country is safe." He  looked haggard and careworn; and further on in the interview I remarked on his appearance, "You are wearing yourself out with work."  "I can't work less," he answered; "but it isn't that--work never  troubled me. Things look badly, and I can't avoid anxiety. Personally I care nothing about a re-election, but if our divisions defeat us, I  fear for the country." When I suggested that right must eventually  triumph; that I had never despaired of the result, he said, "Neither have I, but I may never live to see it. I feel a presentiment that I shall not outlast the rebellion. When it is over, my work will be done." 


Book Navigation Title Page Preface Illustrations Memorandum Table of Contents   ► Chapter I.   ► Chapter II.   ► Chapter III.   ► Chapter IV.   ► Chapter V.   ► Chapter VI.   ► Chapter VII.   ► Chapter VIII.   ► Chapter IX.   ► Chapter X.   ► Chapter XI.   ► Chapter XII.   ► Chapter XIII.   ► Chapter XIV.   ► Chapter XV.   ► Chapter XVI.   ► Chapter XVII.   ► Chapter XVIII.   ► Chapter XIX.   ► Chapter XX.   ► Chapter XXI. Anecdotes and Reminiscences of President Lincoln.   ► Mr. Lincoln's Sadness   ► His Favorite Poem   ► His Religious Experience   ► His Sympathy   ► His Humor, Shrewdness, and Sentiment   ► The Emancipation Proclamation Appendix. Letters on Sundry Occasions.   ► To Mr. Lodges, of Kentucky   ► To General Hooker   ► To John B. Fry   ► To Governor Magoffin   ► To Count Gasparin   ► The President and General McClellan   ► Warnings Against Assassination Reports, Dispatches, and Proclamations Relating to the Assassination.   ► Secretary Stanton to General Dix   ► The Death-Bed   ► The Assassins   ► Reward Offered by Secretary Stanton   ► Flight of the Assassins   ► The Conspiracy Organized in Canada   ► Booth Killed. Harold Captured   ► Reward Offered by President Johnson   ► The Funeral Official Announcements   ► Acting Secretary Hunger to Minister Adams   ► Acting Secretary Hunter to his Subordinates   ► Orders from Secretary Stanton and General Grant   ► Orders from Secretary "Welles   ► Order from Secretary McCulloch   ► Order from Postmaster-General Dennison   ► Proclamation by President Johnson of a Day of Humiliation and Mourning.   ► Secretary Stanton to Minister Adams   ► Important Letter from J. Wilkes Booth   ► Indictment of the Conspirators   ► The Finding of the Court