I hope Santa is good to you.
Some of my favourite Civil War stories are those involving cunning and wit, and this story about the “dummy ironclad” is one of the best. Shelby Foote tells it better, but this rendition imparts the ingenuity even if it doesn’t compare in the storytelling.
The story of Grace Bedell’s letter to Lincoln is famous, of course, but I think this is the first time I’ve ever seen the contents. It’s delightful to think of Lincoln growing his iconic beard after laughing himself silly at the advice of this little spin doctor.
I have got 4 brothers and part of them will vote for you any way and if you let your whiskers grow I will try and get the rest of them to vote for you you would look a great deal better for your face is so thin. All the ladies like whiskers and they would tease their husbands to vote for you and then you would be President.
A fun short piece by James Thurber from the “If It Had Happened Otherwise” series. Well seeing Rawlins wasn’t mentioned. I doubt he would’ve stood for any of this.
The morning of the ninth of April, 1865, dawned beautifully. General Meade was up with the first streaks of crimson in the sky. General Hooker and General Burnside were up and had breakfasted, by a quarter after eight. The day continued beautiful. It drew on. toward eleven o’clock. General Ulysses S. Grant was still not up. He was asleep in his famous old navy hammock, swung high above the floor of his headquarters’ bedroom. Headquarters was distressingly disarranged: papers were strewn on the floor; confidential notes from spies scurried here and there in the breeze from an open window; the dregs of an overturned bottle of wine flowed pinkly across an important military map.
In my research of the Lieber Code, I stumbled across this fabulous anecdote: Napoleon Bonaparte as that possum you just can’t flush out of your barn eaves.
Lieber, named Franz when he was born in Prussia at the turn of the century, knew war from an early age. The specter of Napoleon hung over his whole childhood: “Boys, clean your rifles,” Lieber recalled his father saying when Napoleon escaped from Elba. “He is loose again.”
I found this absolutely delightful anecdote in John F. Marszalek’s Sherman: A Soldier’s Passion for Order – a biography which looks pretty damn great based on a quick flip through.
“Some time after Grant was elected President I went to call on him at the White House. I had been struck with the number and speed of his horses, and with the delight it seemed to give him to be in their company. So I said to him, ‘General, fine horses seem to have become a fad with you.’
“‘Well, Sherman,’ said he, “we all must have our fads these days. It seems to have become the fashionable thing. I have all my life been intensely fond of good horseflesh. In my youth I hadn’t the means to indulge this fancy. Later in life I had not the time. Now, when for the first time I have both the money and the leisure, I am indulging it and enjoying it to the full.’
“‘Well, general,’ said I, ‘I suppose I’ll have to be getting a fad myself I never have had one, and if I have one now I don’t know it. Let me see — let me see: what shall it be? I have it! You may drive your fast horses, and I will kiss all the pretty girls. Ha! ha! that shall be my fad.'”
Sherman is always thought of as The Destroyer, so it was hilarious to read about this later-years campaign, which by all accounts, he undertook with as much gusto as the destruction of the South.
The anecdote and many stolen-kiss followups can be found in this free online book (added to the Library), which sure seems to be a must-read for Sherman buffs like me, born 150 years too late to snare a kiss from the old rascal in person.
It’s nice to take the odd day off from thoughts of war, maimings, destruction and death to poke some fun at the Civil War. I spotted this tshirt today and felt the need to share it.
A friend posted this on Facebook, and I thought immediately of George McClellan. Unfortunately, with no updates to the blog since last week, I’ve become McClellan-ish myself. Apologies – long hours at the new job are keeping me from my reading. I’d joke about hoping for a change in commanders, but the thought of a Burnside-ian period is even less appealing!
I’m rehashing the Thaddeus Stevens links I shilled earlier on the blog, but fans of Lincoln’s wit will enjoy this particular article. Lincoln wasn’t the only one in his day with a sharp tongue.
When he served as a lawyer in Gettysburg, Stevens greeted an adverse judicial decision by shuffling papers and grumbling loudly. The judge said he could fine Stevens for “manifesting contempt of court.”
“Manifesting contempt of court, your Honor?” exclaimed Stevens. “Sir, I am doing my best to conceal it.”
I was particularly gratified to see this quote, which I’ve long known but been unable to attribute. It’s positively Shavian:
Stevens did not like all Republicans, however. He thought poorly of fellow Lancastrian Simon Cameron. He told Abraham Lincoln to watch out for Cameron after the president made him Secretary of War.
Lincoln protested: “You don’t mean to say you think that Cameron would steal?”
“No,” said Stevens, “I don’t think he would steal a red-hot stove.”
The remark got back to Cameron, who demanded a retraction.
So Stevens went to Lincoln and offered this “retraction”: “I believe I told you he would not steal a red-hot stove. I will now take that back.”
This is not a website I ever dreamed I’d be linking to, but the World Wrestling Entertainment blog has a feature on Lincoln’s wrestling history. With the accompanying photo, I couldn’t resist reposting it.
“It may have been under the rules that Lincoln would have won the match,” White explained. “But what really endeared Lincoln to this group of young men was that Lincoln didn’t want to win the match when he was obviously the stronger and better wrestler.” Instead, the two men agreed to simply shake hands out of respect. “It spoke volumes about the kind of person Lincoln became,” White said.