Six Months at the White House/XIV
The examples given of the observations of two days, are fair illustrations of the usual White House routine, varied of course by official or diplomatic business, and a greater or less pressure of visitors, some of whom would linger in the anteroom day after day, waiting admission. The incidents of no two days could of course be alike. I shall never cease to regret that an additional private secretary could not have been appointed, whose exclusive duty it should have been to look after and keep a record of all cases appealing to executive clemency. It would have afforded full employment for one man, at least; and such a volume would now be beyond all price.
Just before leaving for Washington, I met a brother artist, who, upon learning of my proposed purpose, laid before me the details of an interesting case, concerning his only son, begging me to bring the circumstances to the President's knowledge. When the war broke out the young man in question was living at the South. Eventually driven into the Rebel service, he was improving his first opportunity to go over to the Union lines, when he was taken prisoner. His story was disbelieved, and he had been in prison for more than a year at Alton, Illinois. His father had spent many months in the endeavor to have him released, without success. So many formalities and technicalities were in the way that he became completely discouraged, and appealed to me as his last hope. The boy was very ill, and he feared if not speedily released, would soon die. Promising the father that I would bear the case in mind, I improved an opportunity, as soon as I felt sure of having found favor with the President, to speak to him about it. I believe it was on the private staircase, that, meeting him one evening, I ventured to introduce the subject. I assured him of the entire good faith and loyalty of both father and son. Of course he had never heard of the case before. Considering the subject a moment, he said, "Come up-stairs by-and-by, and I guess we can fix it up."
An hour later I entered his room, and gave him very briefly the particulars of the case; reading one or two letters from the young man to his father. "That will do," said the President, putting on his spectacles, and taking the letter out of my hand, he turned it over and wrote on the back of it, "Release this man upon his taking the oath. A. LINCOLN." "There," said he, "you can take that over to the War Department yourself, if you choose. You will find it all right."