His Great Interest in Soldiers

“Father Abraham”—“The Boys”—His Opinion expressed—Spoke from Experience—Would not Yield Care of Soldiers—Daily Routine—Night-work—Soldiers before Senators—A Soldier and his Mother—The Baby—Boy on the Ottawa—The Drummer Boy—A Mother Asks for a Son—The Handsomest Man—Rests in Pardoning the “Boys”—The Four Telegrams—Do him no Good to Shoot him—The Vermont “Boy”—Blood and Remission of Sins—Rebel Sympathizer—Shaking the Hands of 5,000 Soldiers—The Rebel Soldier—Extracts from Letters—Sorrow over Slain Soldiers—Dr. Holland's Words and Facts—His Praise of General Garfield—His Letter to a Mother—Interest in Soldiers' Aid Societies—Letter and Speeches—Joy over Relief for Soldiers—Pity for “Boys” in Rebel Prisons—Retaliation—Visiting Rebel Prisoners—The Penitent—Herndon's Eulogy—Climax of the Sacrifice

From the time of President Lincoln’s first call for troops, his life in the White House brought him into intimate relations with Union soldiers. At once he bestowed upon them his most tender regard, which they reciprocated with kindred heartiness. He was called by the endearing name of “Father Abraham” in the army; and they were called by him in the White House, “the boys.” Our presentation of his public career would be very deficient without special attention to his fatherly service in their behalf. The controlling thought of his mind on this subject was expressed in the following words:

“This extraordinary war in which we are engaged falls heavily upon all classes of people, but the most heavily upon the soldier. For it has been said, ‘all that a man hath will he give for his life’; and, while all contribute of their substance, the soldier puts his life at stake, and often yields it up in his country’s cause. The highest merit, then, is due to the soldier!”

He spoke somewhat from experience. His brief service in the “Black Hawk war,” where the provisions for personal comfort were small, made him familiar with the hardships of soldier-life. He knew from personal experience how many and great privations are inseparable from army service; and no doubt this knowledge intensified the natural love in his heart for the loyal and patriotic “boys in blue.”

Some public men claimed that the President ought not to be interrupted and annoyed by so many applications from soldiers and their friends,—that some one of the military commissions, or a special one, should relieve him of this burden. But he would consent to no such arrangement. The “boys” belonged to his family, and he would enjoy a fatherly watch over them. There was reason for the suggestion, since his daily duties as President occupied every moment of his time, and, as we have seen, worried and wearied him beyond measure. The reader can scarcely understand how he could devote any time at all to the soldiers, when he reads the following description of his daily work, as given by parties who saw him every day.

“Mr. Lincoln is an early riser, and he thus is able to devote two or three hours each morning to his voluminous private correspondence, besides glancing at a city paper. At nine he breakfasts; then walks over to the War Office to read such war telegrams as they give him, and to have a chat with General Halleck on the military situation, in which he takes a great interest. Returning to the White House, he goes through with his morning’s mail, in company with a private secretary, who makes a minute of the reply which he is to make; and others the President retains, that he may answer them himself. Every letter receives attention; and all which are entitled to a reply receive one, no matter how they are worded, or how inelegant the chirography may be. Tuesdays and Fridays are cabinet days; but, on the other days, visitors at the White House are requested to wait in the ante-chamber, and send in their cards. Sometimes, before the President has finished reading his mail, Louis will have a handful of paste-board; and, from the cards laid before him, Mr. Lincoln has visitors ushered in, giving precedence to acquaintances. Three or four hours do they pour in, in rapid succession, nine out of ten asking offices; and patiently does the President listen to their application. … The simple and natural manner in which he delivers his thoughts makes him appear to those visiting him like an earnest, affectionate friend. At four o’clock the President declines seeing any more company, and sometimes accompanies his wife in her carriage to take a ride. … He dines at six; and it is rare that some personal friends do not grace the round dining-table, where he throws off the cares of office, and reminds those who have been in Kentucky of the old-school gentlemen, who used to dispense generous hospitality there.”

  By PanEris using Melati.

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