Six Months at the White House/LXXVIII
The Hon. Orlando Kellogg, of New York, was sitting in his room at his boarding-house one evening, when one of his constituents appeared,--a white-headed old man,--who had come to Washington in great trouble, to seek the aid of his representative in behalf of his son. His story was this: "The young man had formerly been very dissipated. During an absence from home a year or two previous to the war, he enlisted in the regular army, and, after serving six months, deserted. Returning to his father, who knew nothing of this, he reformed his habits, and when the war broke out, entered heart and soul into the object of raising a regiment in his native county, and was subsequently elected one of its officers. He had proved an efficient officer, distinguishing himself particularly on one occasion, in a charge across a bridge, when he was severely wounded,--his colonel being killed by his side. Shortly after this, he came in contact with one of his old companions in the 'regular' service, who recognized him, and declared his purpose of informing against him. Overwhelmed with mortification, the young man procured a furlough and returned home, revealing the matter to his father, and declaring his purpose never to submit to an arrest,--'he would die first.'" In broken tones the old man finished his statement, saying: "Can you do anything for us, Judge?--it is a hard, hard case!" "I will see about that," replied the representative, putting on his hat; "Wait here until I return." He went immediately to the White House, and fortunately finding Mr. Lincoln alone, they sat down together, and he repeated the old man's story. The President made no demonstration of particular interest until the Judge reached the description of the charge across the bridge, and the wound received. "Do you say," he interrupted, "that the young man was wounded?" "Yes," replied the congressman, "badly." "Then he has shed his blood for his country," responded Mr. Lincoln, musingly. "Kellogg," he continued, brightening up, "isn't there something in Scripture about the 'shedding of blood' being 'the remission of sins?'" "Guess you are about right there," replied the Judge. "It is a good 'point,' and there is no going behind it," rejoined the President; and taking up his pen, another "pardon"--this time without "oath," condition, or reserve--was added to the records of the War Office.
"Among a large number of persons waiting in the room to speak with Mr. Lincoln, on a certain day in November, '64, was a small, pale, delicate-looking boy about thirteen years old. The President saw him standing, looking feeble and faint, and said: 'Come here, my boy, and tell me what you want.' The boy advanced, placed his hand on the arm of the President's chair, and with bowed head and timid accents said: 'Mr. President, I have been a drummer in a regiment for two years, and my colonel got angry with me and turned me off. I was taken sick, and have been a long time in hospital. This is the first time I have been out, and I came to see if you could not do something for me.' The President looked at him kindly and tenderly, and asked him where he lived. 'I have no home,' answered the boy. 'Where is your father?' 'He died in the army,' was the reply. 'Where is your mother?' continued the President. 'My mother is dead also. I have no mother, no father, no brothers, no sisters, and,' bursting into tears, 'no friends--nobody cares for me.' Mr. Lincoln's eyes filled with tears, and he said to him, 'Can't you sell newspapers?' 'No,' said the boy, 'I am too weak; and the surgeon of the hospital told me I must leave, and I have no money, and no place to go to.' The scene was wonderfully affecting. The President drew forth a card, and addressing on it certain officials to whom his request was law, gave special directions 'to care for this poor boy.' The wan face of the little drummer lit up with a happy smile as he received the paper, and he went away convinced that he had one good and true friend, at least, in the person of the President."
No incident of this character related of the late President, is more profoundly touching in its tenderness and simplicity than that given to me the last evening I passed at the White House, in the office of the private secretary, by a resident of Washington, who witnessed the scene.
"I was waiting my turn to speak to the President one day, some three or four weeks since," said Mr. M----, "when my attention was attracted by the sad patient face of a woman advanced in life, who in a faded hood and shawl was among the applicants for an interview.
"Presently Mr. Lincoln turned to her, saying in his accustomed manner, 'Well, my good woman, what can I do for you this morning?' 'Mr. President,' said she, 'my husband and three sons all went into the army. My husband was killed in the fight at ----. I get along very badly since then, living all alone, and I thought I would come and ask you to release to me my oldest son.' Mr. Lincoln looked into her face a moment, and in his kindest accents responded, 'Certainly! certainly! If you have given us all, and your prop has been taken away, you are justly entitled to one of your boys!' He immediately made out an order discharging the young man, which the woman took, and thanking him gratefully, went away.
"I had forgotten the circumstance," continued M ----, "till last week, when happening to be here again, who should come in but the same woman. It appeared that she had gone herself to the front, with the President's order, and found the son she was in search of had been mortally wounded in a recent engagement, and taken to a hospital. She found the hospital, but the boy was dead, or died while she was there. The surgeon in charge made a memorandum of the facts upon the back of the President's order, and almost broken-hearted, the poor woman had found her way again into Mr. Lincoln's presence. He was much affected by her appearance and story, and said: 'I know what you wish me to do now, and I shall do it without your asking; I shall release to you your second son.' Upon this, he took up his pen and commenced writing the order. While he was writing the poor woman stood by his side, the tears running down her face, and passed her hand softly over his head, stroking his rough hair, as I have seen a fond mother caress a son. By the time he had finished writing, his own heart and eyes were full. He handed her the paper: 'Now,' said he, 'you have one and I one of the other two left: that is no more than right.' She took the paper, and reverently placing her hand again upon his head, the tears still upon her cheeks, said: 'The Lord bless you, Mr. Lincoln. May you live a thousand years, and may you always be the head of this great nation!'"
- Rev. Mr. Henderson, Louisville, Ky.
- Mr. Murtagh, of the Washington Republican.