Six Months at the White House/LXVI
The 22d of February, 1865, Lieutenant Cushing of the Navy reached Washington, from the fleet at Wilmington, with the news of the capture of Fort Anderson. This gallant officer, only twenty or twenty-one years of age, had greatly distinguished himself by planning and successfully accomplishing the destruction of the rebel ram Savannah, also in the construction of the "bogus" monitor which played so effectual a part in the capture of Fort Anderson. He was introduced to the President by the Secretary of the Navy, and was received in the most cordial manner. Sitting down for an hour's talk, Mr. Lincoln, who was in high spirits over the late military successes, sparkled with humor. Temporarily upon the wall of the room was a portrait of himself recently painted for Secretary Welles by a Connecticut artist friend. Turning to the picture, Mr. Welles remarked that he thought it a successful likeness. "Yes," returned the President, hesitatingly; and then came a story of a western friend whose wife pronounced her husband's portrait, painted secretly for a birthday present, "horridly like;" "and that," said he, "seems to me a just criticism of this!" The liability to "mistakes," so many instances of which had occurred during the war, both on land and sea, was illustrated by reference to a charitably disposed woman, with a very indifferent face, who, while visiting the rooms of the Young Men's Christian Association, or a similar institution, caught sight of her own reflection in a concealed looking-glass, upon which she retired in great confusion, saying she would have nothing more to do with an institution which one could not visit without meeting disreputable characters.
Lieutenant Cushing related a circumstance showing the estimation in which General Sherman was held by the rebel privates. A deserter of this class had lately fallen into his hands. "Our boys," said he, speaking of the Rebels, "say General Sherman never makes but one speech. When ready for a movement, he says: 'Now boys, let's get ready to go;' and they get ready," said the deserter, "on both sides."
"There is a good deal of mother-wit in some of those fellows," rejoined Mr. Lincoln, much amused. "That puts me in mind of a conversation between two opposing pickets, just after Hooker fell back across the Rappahannock, after the battle of Chancellorville. 'Where's Old Joe?' called out a 'butternut' one frosty morning. 'Gone to Stonewall Jackson's funeral,' was the ready reply. 'What is the reason you "Johnnies" never have any decent clothes?' hallooed the 'Union' boy back. 'We-uns don't put on our best to kill hogs in,' was the retort."
I was sitting in the President's office with Mr. G. B. Lincoln, of Brooklyn, and the Hon. John A. Bingham, of Ohio,--who were there by appointment of the President,--the Sunday evening before the reinauguration, when Mr. Lincoln came in through the side passage which had lately been constructed, holding in his hand a roll of manuscripts.
"Lots of wisdom in that document, I suspect," said he; "it is what will be called my 'second inaugural,' containing about six hundred words. I will put it away here in this drawer until I want it."
Seating himself by the open grate, he commenced conversation in a familiar and cheerful mood, referring to his early life in Illinois. Nothing, he said, had ever gratified him so much as his first election to the legislature of that State, just after his return from the Black-Hawk war. In the election district a large majority were Democrats, and he was known as a "talking Whig." Nevertheless, he said, in a vote of two hundred, he received all but three.