Six Months at the White House/LXII

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The President's friend, the Hon. H.C. Deming of Connecticut, once ventured to ask him "if he had ever despaired of the country?" "When the Peninsula campaign terminated suddenly at Harrison's Landing," rejoined Mr. Lincoln, "I was as nearly inconsolable as I could be and live." In the same connection Colonel Deming inquired if there had ever been a period in which be thought that better management upon the part of the commanding general might have terminated the war? "Yes," answered the President, "there were three: at 'Malvern Hill,' when McClellan failed to command an immediate advance upon Richmond; at 'Chancellorville,' when Hooker failed to reenforce Sedgwick, after hearing his cannon upon the extreme right; and at 'Gettysburg,' when Meade failed to attack Lee in his retreat at the bend of the Potomac." After this commentary, the Congressman waited for an outburst of denunciation--for a criticism, at least--upon the delinquent officers; but be waited in vain. So far from a word of censure escaping Mr. Lincoln's lips; he soon added, that his first remark might not appear uncharitable: "I do not know that I could have given any different orders had I been with them myself. I have not fully made up my mind how I should behave when minie-balls were whistling, and those great oblong shells shrieking in my ear. I might run away."

The interview at which this conversation took place, occurred just after General Fremont had declined to run against him for the presidency. The magnificent Bible which the negroes of Baltimore had just presented to him lay upon the table, and while examining it, Colonel Deming recited the somewhat remarkable passage from the Chronicles: "Eastward were six Levites, northward four a day, southward four a day, and toward Assuppim, two and two. At Parbar westward, four at the causeway, and two at Parbar." The President immediately challenged his friend to find any such passage in his Bible. After it was pointed out to him, and he was satisfied of its genuineness, he asked the Congressman if he remembered the text which his friends had recently applied to Fremont, and instantly turned to a verse in the first of Samuel, put on his spectacles, and read in his slow, peculiar, and waggish tone: "And every one that was in distress, and every one that was in debt, and everyone that was discontented, gathered themselves unto him, and he became a captain over them, and there were with him about four hundred men."