Monday, December 16, 2019

The winter before the war in Washington: The Civil War era recollections of Henry Laurens Dawes

Henry Laurens Dawes

This paper was presented to the Club by Henry Laurens Dawes on Monday evening, November 22, 1886, at a meeting of the Club he hosted at his home in Pittsfield, Dawes presented this paper about events in Washington, D.C. between Abraham Lincoln’s election in November, 1860 and his inauguration in March, 1861. 

Dawes (1816-1903) was a founding member of the Monday Evening Club in 1869 and remained a member until his death, hosting and presenting papers often.

As Dawes notes in the paper itself, “some of the incidents of those days [were] not recorded in the history of the time and … will soon be beyond recall if left alone to the memory of contemporaries and participants.” In this paper Dawes presents many details that only an eyewitness and participant could know.

According to notes on the manuscript, Dawes later presented this paper to the Wednesday Morning Club[1] (also of Pittsfield) on November 28, 1886; to the Social Senior Club of Ware, Mass. on November 20, 1888, and at a public meeting at South Congregational Church in Pittsfield on Saturday, May 10, 1890.

Judging by the manuscript (a copy which was obtained from the National Archives where the original is among its holdings of Dawes’s papers), for these subsequent presentations, Dawes made small edits and appears to have inserted some new passages. In transcribing the paper, we have generally included these changes, but have retained some passages that Dawes bracketed —‘ he appears to have intended to skip over for brevity. In other instances Dawes made changes for modesty — for example, changing “I” to “one of the committee” or the like. In those cases we’ve generally retained the original first person version. Because of these changes and interpolations made over time this final version differs somewhat from the original presentation to the Monday Evening Club.

The first half of this paper was published, under the same title, in the Atlantic Monthly of August, 1893. The text of that article very closely follows the manuscript text we have used here. A small portion of this article has been used here to fill in a gap where one or two pages of the original manuscript are missing. The second half is published here for the first time.

For the reader’s convenience we have added a few subheadlines not found in the original manuscript. For some events, dates have been added in brackets to help illuminate the timeline. A few spelling corrections and punctuation and capitalization changes have been made for clarity.

Thanks to Megan Hoffenberg for her transcription of the manuscript.

Looking back over the graves of more than a million brave men who, on the one side or the other, laid down their lives in the struggle for mastery which began at Washington in the winter of 1860-61, the recollection of the flippancy and air of lightness and almost sportiveness with which it was entered upon fills me with a shiver of amazement. How great things were trifled with as if they were playthings and great stakes were played for as boys play for pennies, no one could now, in the lurid light of subsequent events, ever be made to believe, had not his own eyes been the witness. Much that happened would have been impossible but for the impenetrable veil which shut out the future. What seemed to us before whose eyes they were enacted as absurdities, arrant nonsense, and which it is difficult to recall after thirty-five years, with a sober face, were in truth the beginnings of Andersonville and Gettysburg and the assasination of Lincoln. I sometimes think it almost wicked to hold up their ludicrous side to public gaze, in the light of such a terrible realization. It is with no purpose to belittle the great events, the beginnings of which I saw that winter, that I venture, for your entertainment if not instruction, to present some of the incidents of those days not recorded in the history of the time and which will soon be beyond recall if left alone to the memory of contemporaries and participants.

 Committee delegated to meet with the “ambassadors” of South Carolina

One of these incidents seemed at the time a genuine burlesque; yet it covered a trap into which it would have been much easier to put a foot than to get it out when once in. Mr. Lincoln was elected in November. Within a week after it was known South Carolina took steps to set up her independence as a sovereign state. She did not seem to have contemplated in the outset the possibility of armed resistance to the carrying out of her scheme but proceeded with the formal steps of ordinary legislation as if that alone on her part was sufficient to cut up this nation into sections and to set up the several parts into sovereignties with all the attributes of independent nationalities. It took her about three weeks to get her legislature together and create a convention, which passed an ordinance declaring in high-sounding phrase, South Carolina to be a free, independent and sovereign nation among the nations of the earth, with "full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce and to do all other acts and things which independent states may of right do."

One of the first acts of this new sovereignty was an attempt to negotiate a treaty with the United States. And so (within a month of the election), before the votes had been counted or a single step taken looking to the inauguration of Mr. Lincoln, this independent power which had sprung up in a night almost, in our very midst, waving a foreign flag in sight of United States forts and arsenals over all the United States property within her limits, appointed an embassy — ministers plenipotentiary — to proceed to the government of the United States and negotiate a treaty of peaceable surrender to her of the armed fortresses and other property of the United States found within the limits of her dominion when she woke up a sovereign. This embassy came on to Washington with a secretary of legation and credentials as formal and with a seal as large as ever certified our minister to the Court of St. James. They took a large house on K Street — the rent of which, it is said, they never paid — unfurled the flag of their embassy and prepared to present their credentials and to be received as ministers plenipotentiary of the new government of South Carolina, resident, as they were pleased to term it, in true diplomatic language, near the government of the United States of America. Most people in Washington looked upon the whole thing as a huge joke — as a harmless outcome of the vanity and pride of South Carolina. Not so with Mr. Buchanan[2]. The moment they presented their credentials he found himself in a dilemma. If he received them, even addressed them in the character they had put on, he at once recognized the sovereignty they assumed to represent. If he turned them out of doors, not to say arrested them for the treason they were committing, he would at once bring on that crisis which it was his prayer might and day might be averted till after the 4th of March. So he did neither, but referred the whole matter to Congress, and Congress referred it to a select committee of which I was one. (Alas, disease and death have left, me alone, but one, of that committee to recount today a few of the many incidents of its work, nowhere of record, and which are already too shadowy with me, I fear, to venture their recital.) The committee had subsequently many other more serious matters in charge, but this they never could treat otherwise than as a sublime farce, little dreaming themselves of what it was the beginning. They summoned these gentlemen before them just as they would any other American citizens. Instead of appearing themselves they sent their "secretary of legation," who communicated to the committee in very courteous but exceedingly formal manner that the committee had overlooked the fact, unintentionally, no doubt, that the gentlemen summoned to appear before the committee were ambassadors of a sovereign state residing, in their diplomatic character alone, near the United States government and acknowledging no other authority but that of the government whose commission they bore. (Ahem!) This was our first experience of this new-fledged eagle, and the bird had spread its wings for so lofty a flight at the first opportunity that we stood back in wonder and amazement, uncertain for the moment whether it would soar into the sun or come tumbling down at our feet. We were thus suddenly brought face to face with this new sovereignty flaunting its awful attributes before us, all embodied for the moment in the person of this secretary of legation, as he supposed himself to be — and not a very imposing personage at that. He was a very young man for one representing in his person the majesty of an independent government, apparently having hardly attained his majority, of very light hair and boyish face, with a moustache (after the imperial order), very rare in those days, which was a surprising success upon a face otherwise so downy. He wore patent leather shoes, light colored trousers in very large plaids, twirled on the tips of his fingers a cane with an apparently golden head turned over and finished in the hoof of a horse — in short a very dude of that day and fit to be the prototype of the race. Thus equipped and, hat in hand, he stood before us personating the new national sovereignty which had thus sprung into existence out of our very selves full-armed, like Minerva from the head of Jove. It was, of course, his first experience in diplomacy and he was evidently intent on making the most of it. One member of the committee was directed to examine him, and after a few formal inquiries he was asked what had brought him to Washington. What had brought him to Washington, he repeated, with an air of injured surprise. "You cannot be ignorant, sir, that the new sovereign State of South Carolina has sent ambassadors to negotiate a treaty of friendship and alliance with this neighboring government of the United States, with whom she is desirous of living on the most liberal terms of amity and good fellowship; and I have the honor to be the secretary of that legation, sir." As soon as the Committee could recover its breath a further inquiry, was ventured about the origin of this new government whose existence he had thus announced and the authority under which it had been created. With a look of supreme contempt or pity for our ignorance — one could hardly tell which — he proceeded to enlighten us. "South Carolina,” he proceeded to say, "when she consented to become one of the United States, had given up no part of her sovereignty; had only laid it away for future use whenever it seemed meet to her. She had now decreed to resume it, and that was sufficient. She had only put on again the vestments of her sovereignty, just as a man puts on the raiment he lays aside for some temporary use of others." It was so simple and easy a process that he expressed astonishment at our ignorance. A few more questions and the Committee gave up in despair the hope of even getting him down to earth or itself sufficiently off from it to comprehend their sudden and absolute metamorphosis. He then went on without specific questions to expound more at length the theory which had given birth to his government, and expatiated upon the enormity of the outrages his people expected would happen and had mapped out beforehand to happen when Lincoln should be inaugurated. He quoted Grotius and Vattel to prove that the United States forts and arsenals and other public property found within the limits of South Carolina when she became an independent power became ipso facts her property, and concluded with the assertion that the declaration of South Carolina upon the question of her independence and sovereignty was conclusive with her and she would tolerate no questioning it. The committee were quite overcome with his learning and equally overawed by his defiant attitude. They looked upon this first product of the new order of things as a real prodigy.
"And still they gazed, and still the wonder grew that one small head could carry all he knew."[3]

He however, took offense at what he considered some impertinent inquiries put to him by the committee about the government he represented, and, gathering up its dignity and sovereignty as well as he could, took them both with himself out of its profane presence and back to the nursery on K Street, and the committee saw no more of him. They were never able to get the real ambassadors before them, because, I suppose, neither Vattel[4] nor Grotius[5] nor any other writer on public law furnished any precedent for bringing such high public functionaries before any lesser body than the supreme authority of the State. (They lingered on, however, were adopted as representatives of the whole Confederacy by Jefferson Davis when he became their president, and hung about Washington under the burden of their mission and of their own importance till [Fort] Sumter was fired on [ April 12, 1861], when they took departure suddenly and with very much less ceremony and pomp than heralded their coming — and in a manner, too, more resembling an escape than the leave-taking of diplomatic representatives.)

Investigation of threats to the electoral process

The committee was subsequently charged with a much more serious duty, of which little beyond their printed report was ever made public. The public mind at Washington had become greatly excited by the belief that a conspiracy had been formed to seize the Capitol and Treasury, to get possession of the archives of the government and prevent the counting of the electoral vote and the declaration of the election of Lincoln — creating thereby chaos and anarchy out of which might come the establishments of the Confederacy as the government de facto, in the very halls of the national Capitol. Treason was known to be plotting to that end in the cabinet itself, and Mr. Buchanan was bewildered and nerveless. This committee was instructed to investigate the grounds for these apprehensions. It held its meetings with closed doors, and had Sen. Scott[6], the General of the Army, detailed to aid its investigations. Gen. Cass[7] had left the cabinet because he would not consort with traitors, and the thoroughly loyal and terribly energetic Stanton[8] had come in just in time to save Buchanan and as I have sometimes thought the nation itself. The first struggle this great hero had was with himself. Should he obey the rule which has hitherto and in ordinary times governed cabinets and honorable men, and keep secret what transpired in council, or should he disclose and thwart the machinations of treason wherever he saw them. He obeyed the higher law and the oath he had taken to support the constitution. Indeed, he had entered the cabinet for that very purpose. I called on him the evening after he had taken the oath of office [December 20, 1860] and he said to me: "I have today sworn to support the Constitution of the United States and so help me God, I will do it!" Putting himself in communication with this committee through Mr. Seward[9], whatever treasonable plans Thompson and Floyd[10] undertook in cabinet council and sought to involve the administration in were through this agency laid before the committee. Of course secrecy was absolutely necessary and the name of our informant was never attached to the communications we received. Yet those of the committee who could be relied upon were informed where such communications could be found and where they must be returned; and of the reliability of the information they contained. Some of these communications were found and read by us by the light of the street lamp at night, and then returned to the place of deposit — the information often giving us the cue to the next day’s investigations. The bold handwriting of these papers became afterward very familiar to us during the war as our intercourse with the war office became frequent. I remember distinctly reading one of these communications handed me by Mr. Howard[11], chairman of the committee, late one night, giving information of that famous cabinet meeting in which was disclosed the treason of Floyd in ordering the guns removed from Pittsburgh to arm Southern forts, and the abstraction of a million of Indian Trust funds from the custody of the government — when Stanton branded him as a traitor and a personal conflict was only avoided by the interference of the President. The next morning [December 29, 1860] Floyd himself appeared before the committee at its request for examination. A few questions disclosed to him that we were in possession of the secret and soon (before three o'clock) the news of his resignation and fight spread through the city.

At another time the loyalty of the Secretary of the Navy, through a Northern man, was suspected. The Pensacola navy yard and all the public property there had been surrendered to the Confederates without a blow. When this was known in cabinet the bad blood of the future Secretary of War boiled over and he demanded it as the act of a traitor or a coward. That night I read in the handwriting that had already become familiar these words: "There is a Northern traitor in the cabinet. Arrest him tonight. Pensacola has been given up. Stop him before it is too late." But the committee had no power to arrest. Power was still in hand either disloyal or paralyzed. Mr. Toucey[12], the Secretary of the Navy was, however, summoned before the committee and inquired of why a navy yard with all the guns and other property in it was surrendered to rebels without the firing of a gun. His answer sounds strangely enough in the light of the terrible carnage subsequently enacted so many times in defence of the territory and flag of the Union. "Pensacola was surrendered," said he, "as the only means of preserving the peace." "What," said one of the committee[13], "surrendered to the enemies of the country to preserve the peace, and that without firing a gun! I would have fired one at least as an experiment, if nothing more." The secretary looked up in horror and replied: " Why, Mr. Dawes, you haven't the slightest conception of the situation. There would certainly have been bloodshed if there had been a single gun fired. It was an interposition of Providence that the dire calamity of bloodshed was avoided." It was not thought then that Mr. Toucey was disloyal and no one now doubts his loyalty. But, like Mr. Buchanan, he strove at every hazard and at any cost to postpone the conflict till after the 4th of March, when the responsibility would rest on Mr. Lincoln. The House of Representatives, however, passed a resolution censuring him for this conduct, and his portrait, which hung among those of the governors on the walls of the Senate Chamber in the Capitol of Connecticut, was turned with the face to the wall, where it remained till after the war.

No conspiracy to prevent the counting of the electoral votes and declaring Lincoln elected was discovered in Washington if one ever existed then. Yet the existence of one was so generally believed and the excitement so great that extraordinary precautions were taken to guard against it. The method of procedure and the lack of confidence in the loyalty of Vice President Breckinridge[14], on whom alone the Constitution, it was contended by many, devolved the power to count the votes, all tended greatly to increase the anxiety. The certificates of the electoral vote from each State are kept till the appointed day [February 13, 1861], in two boxes in the custody of the Vice President, who, on that day, with a messenger carrying the two boxes, and followed by the senators, two and two, proceeds from the Senate Chamber through the corridors and rotunda, always crowded with people on either side flocking to witness the ceremony, to the Hall of the House, where, in the Speaker’s chair and in the presence of the two Houses and a crowded gallery he opens, and as many believed, alone counts the votes and declares the result. The ease with which desperadoes, mingling with the crowd, might fall upon the messenger as he passed through the corridors or rotunda and violently seize the boxes, or from the galleries of the House in like manner break up the proceedings, was apparent to anyone, and therefore armed policemen of the most reliable character and proved courage, to the number of several hundred, were secretly procured from Philadelphia, New York and other cities and were stationed in citizens’ dress along the passageways and in the galleries, prepared for any emergency. Happily there was no occasion to call upon them. The count and declaration of Mr. Lincoln's election proceeded without interruption, Mr. Breckinridge winning commendation for the dignity and propriety of his conduct, though his heart was so thoroughly with the rebels that he was among the earliest to join after their official duties were at an end. But the excitement and anxiety was intense from beginning to end of the proceeding, and the feeling of relief was almost visible in the countenance of the loyal men oppressed as they were by knowledge of treasonable designs, all the more alarming because imperfect and shadowy. The critical point in the formal proceeding had been safely passed. The oath of office on the coming fourth of March was all that remained of these formalities to clothe the President-elect with the insignia of the great office to which he had been called and to extinguish the hope of rebeldom to build some claims to a de facto rule upon information or defects discovered or erected in the several steps leading up, from the casting of their votes in December by the Electoral College, through the different stages presented by the Constitution and laws to the final consummation on the Eastern front of the Capitol.

Arrival of Lincoln in Washington

Startling events and occasions of intense excitement followed one another in such quick succession that relief from one seldom brought an hour's repose. We lived in the focus of all the elements out of which were to come order or disorder, no one could tell which — government or anarchy, peace or violence, personal security or personal peril. And so it was that hardly had the important step in the order of events — the counting of the votes and the official declaration that Mr. Lincoln was elected — been taken, and the surging tide of passion and terror partially subsided, when the unexpected and inexplicable broke over us filling the public mind with mingled emotions of wonder, anxiety, disappointment, and disgust. Mr. Lincoln had left Springfield for Washington a week earlier amid becoming and impressive ceremonies and with the prayers and parting blessings of thousands who had assembled to witness his departure. His journey had been attended all along the route with the most remarkable demonstrations and manifestations of interest and regard which had ever marked the passage of a President-elect from his home to the capital to assume the authority the people had conferred on him. It could not have been otherwise, for no President-elect ever before journeyed on a way so beset with perils and hedged about with difficulties, or to a mission so wrapped in impenetrable mystery and so burdened with new and unmeasured responsibilities. Forty millions of people, South as well as North, had lent the most intent ear to catch every word he uttered as the multitudes forced him to speak on the way. The words he had spoken were full of wisdom, indicated calmness of temperament and comprehension of the new and weighty responsibilities before him, and disclosed a devout reliance on a higher than human power for strength unto his day, and a self abnegation that counted his own life of little worth in comparison with the great work to which he had been called. The excitement and crowd increased as he journeyed, and greater preparations than ever before had been made for his reception upon an appointed day at the capital. Amid all this intensity of expectation and preparation, imagine the consternation and amazement which came over everyone when it was announced at the breakfast table on the morning before the appointed day, that Mr. Lincoln was already at Willard's Hotel [in Washington], that he had arrived at six o'clock that morning in the New York sleeper, in company with a stranger, and was met at the depot by only one man, his old friend Elihu B. Washburne[15]. A hostile penny sheet added to the wonder the feeling, also, of disappointment and disgust, by fabricating the story that he came disguised in a Scotch cap and cloak. There was a sudden and painful revulsion of feeling toward him which waited for neither reason nor explanation. Never idol fell so suddenly or so far — and that, while the fickle multitude was actually on its knees and vociferous in lip service. The outcry came near being: "Away with him!”[16] “He had sneaked into Washington." He was a coward." "The man afraid to come through Baltimore was not fit to be President." "Frightened at his own shadow." These and worse epithets greeted the purest, the bravest, the wisest and the most unselfish patriot of all who lived in his time, on the day he entered the capital of the nation he had come to save and to die for. And yet he had escaped, as by a hair's breadth, the fate which the Ruler of the Universe had ordered should not overtake him till he had finished a greater work than man in his own strength had ever yet achieved. While we were searching in vain for conspirators and assassins in and about Washington they had taken themselves to Baltimore  and, for greater safety and more effective work, had there perfected their plans to shoot Mr. Lincoln from among the crowd gathered to greet him on his arrival at the depot on his way to Washington, and, after making sure and thorough work with hand grenades, to escape to Mobile in a vessel waiting for them in the harbor. While the attention of all others was directed to the search about Washington for conspirators and assassins who, all believed, were concocting their foul plot somewhere, a detective of uncommon skill, following them to Baltimore, was pursuing his investigations secretly and silently in the city, unknown even to reporters — for we did not then, as now, live and move and have our being by their permission. He had become familiar with their place of meeting, had record of their names — eighteen in number — the part each was to perform, their leader, his character and nerve, and the minutest details of the plot. He laid these facts before Mr. Seward, and was sent by him, accompanied by Mr. Frederick A. Seward[17], to meet and lay them before Mr. Lincoln at Harrisburg. The result was that after a reception by the legislature in the afternoon he retired to his room at the hotel at six o'clock, very weary, for needed rest till the next morning, when the whole party were going by special train by way of Philadelphia and Baltimore, leaving Baltimore at 12 o’clock noon, to Washington. Immediately on arriving at his room Lincoln was taken, without knowledge of any one, to the depot and the electrician having first cut the telegraph wires, the detective accompanied him by special train, already provided, to Philadelphia just in time to take a belated train and sleeping, as any other passenger, for Washington. And thus he passed through Baltimore in perfect quiet at midnight while the conspirators were yet burnishing their weapons for his assassination at noon on the morrow. The Washington telegraph the next morning announced his safe arrival there both to the assassins in Baltimore and to his bewildered escort in Harrisburg. Several years after this, as history of the rebellion has since disclosed, and during the war, a desperate character in the rebellion was brought before the Richmond authorities for punishment for some heinous offence, and was saved by the intercession of a United States, ex-senator, Wigfall,[18] on the grounds of meritorious service as captain of this Baltimore band of conspirators for the murder of Lincoln.

To refute the charge that Mr. Lincoln was hiding, and to kindle anew as soon as possible the enthusiasm which had been so suddenly and ignorantly dampered, Mr. Seward hastened, without waiting for trunk or hair brush, to take him at once to the Capitol and present him to the senators and representatives and afterward to the people generally. It was thus I got my first sight of this immortal hero, then only an untried and untotored western politician. He was in a sorry plight enough when Mr. Seward escorted him into the hall. The House had heard of him in the Senate Chamber and were impatiently awaiting his arrival, with all eyes turned intently toward the door to catch the earliest possible glimpse of the future President appearing under circumstances so novel and mysterious. I had somehow wrought out unconsciously in my mind the great qualities of his soul and heart and head into a corresponding personality, and, in spite of all I had heard, was expecting to see a god. Never did god come tumbling down more suddenly and completely than did mine as the unkempt, ill-formed, loose-jointed and disproportioned figure of Mr. Lincoln appeared at the door. Weary, anxious, struggling to be cheerful, under a burden of trouble he must keep to himself, with thoughts far off or deep hidden, he was presented to the representatives of the nation over which he had been placed as chief magistrate. I have always thought that this scene should he perpetuated on canvas. It would be sure, in my opinion to make a resting-place where this hurrying people of ours would stop and ponder. From the Representatives Hall to the officials gathered on the balcony and thence to the multitude generally Mr. Lincoln was in turn introduced. He held constant receptions for many days thereafter at the parlors of Willard's Hotel. There I took my family and there he kissed my little daughter,[19] and settled her politics for life.

There that homely kindless of manner, which afterwards became so prominent and attractive an element in his personality, began early to overcome the dislike, and break through the prejudices that the manner of his entry into the capital had at first created, and soon drew the multitude to his rooms for a shake of his big hand, and for a word or sentence from his lips to carry away and ponder or repeat. Every thing about him — his ways not less than his looks, his methods with men not less than his speech — were all so unusual and so unlike anything ever seen or heard before in the surroundings or utterances of a President-elect at the threshold of presidential authority and responsibility, that he was taken at the outset to be a mystery, a character never entirely laid aside or dispelled. It was, however, the mystery of his position and not of his character, for no man was ever more frank or unreserved when the exercise of these qualities was safe, but reserved or otherwise, he never mystified or misled. If in those days no man could comprehend him it was because no man, as clearly as he did, comprehended what was before him. He seemed to see what was invisible to those of us who were crowding around him, and by spells, to be as one studying objects or phenomena that did not come within the vision or thought of others. When we came to know him better, in the days when trouble could no longer be hidden, and struggles with great problems revealed themselves in every line of his face, then we understood that deep and serious look which at times came over him in the midst of these handshakings, at first mistaken for absent-mindedness. Notwithstanding all these peculiarities, seen only in him, he won the hearts of all who came in contact with him. No one who saw him in those days has ever forgotten what he then saw and heard. The very youngest boy in the promiscuous crowd that flocked to see him at these informal receptions, is a middle-aged man today, all the better citizen because he remembers the good words of cheer with which Lincoln greeted him when he took his hand that day.

It was not deemed prudent to make known at that time the reasons for this strange arrival in Washington so disappointing to public expectation and in such utter disregard of the great preparations that had been made. Nor was it known till long after that an attempt was made to derail his train soon after it left Springfield or that a hand grenade was found in his car at Cincinnati. The President therefore bore in silence the ungenerous criticisms upon his conduct. But it was evident that the possibility of assassination was present with him much of the time thus early. At Trenton when called upon to define his policy in the pending crisis he replied, "I shall be obliged, one week from tomorrow to officially announce that policy, if I live till then, and if I do not it would be useless to announce it now.” And in a speech in Independence Hall he said that "rather than fail to maintain the principles first enunciated here I would rather suffer assassination."

The committee before spoken of were warned by these occurrences to take more pains than ever to prevent a renewal of such an attempt, especially on the day of the inauguration. They accordingly, without notice to any one, under guard, and cannon were placed in such position as to command every exposed position, and armed men were so posted in every part of the way from the White House to the Capitol as to completely protect the President from everything but a secret bullet. Thus was he with President Buchanan escorted from the Executive Mansion to the Capitol and back in safety.

The atmosphere in Washington between the election and the inauguration of Lincoln

Those who resided in Washington during this eventful winter can never forget the intense strain to which all social and other relations of life were subjected. Social intimacy, business relations, family ties, and all intercourse of the most ordinary and normal kind, between men and between women was broken off entirely except they were in harmony with the then prevailing prejudices against all Northern institutions and ideas. Southern women would pass by, without recognition and with most contemptuous manifestations of offensive insult, Northern ladies, their equals in official and social position, and with whom they had previously been on the most friendly social terms. There was — as it were — a great gulf fixed between Northern and Southern life — fixed by the South itself — for Northerners were careful, up to actual war upon the flag of the country, to maintain on their part a strict observance of all the requirements of social intercourse regardless of political opinions. But with Southerners — Southern women especially —  Southern sentiments became a bar to social life. This condition of things grew more and more intense and unendurable as the day of actual conflict approached — till months before the firing upon Sumpter, the loyal and the disloyal elements went to one side or the other of the dividing line and never crossed it afterword. I have seen Mrs. Jefferson Davis[20] herself, who was in the olden time, one of the most punctilious observers of etiquette stiffening herself up like a statue, after the bane of secession had poisoned the blood of the South — and looking neither to the right or left, lest she should recognise some Northern lady who was her equal everywhere, and whom till then she had been most free to treat as such.

The very atmosphere we breathed seemed all noxious and venomous life. It seemed to be especially directed, to discover ways of annoying and persecuting the negroes — great and small, men would fire off pistols in the street after dark at passing colored men, to amuse themselves by frightening them. I once at a later period saw a military officer in full uniform get off his horse, to chastise a negro digging in the street, because forsooth — he had the inpudence to hold up his hands and cry out at being nearly run over while at his work. The negro tried to escape by running up a flight of outside stairs. The officer pursued, cursing him for his impertinence — and literally tore his coat from his back. I interfered and got myself dammed for a "black republican" — but taking note of his rank and regiment. I assured him that he would hear from me again. I had the satisfaction of seeing him summoned, the next morning, before the War Department for his conduct, and he barely saved his shoulder straps, by apology and promise of amendment in the future. The little boys in the streets caught the spirit from their elders and amused themselves by tormenting the "[n-word]"[21] boys. One day I found my own son (Chester) then not five years old, having a messy time with some of the boys of the neighborhood — they had caught a little Negro and were [attacking] him with their handkerchiefs, into the corners of which they had tied little stones and they were shouting with delight, as the poor little fellow-jumped and shrieked, every time he was hit.

These are but illustrations of the spirit which pervaded all classes high and low —great and small.

Protecting Mr. Sumner after his return to the Senate

After the assault upon Mr. Sumner by Brooks of South Carolina for the speech he had delivered in the Senate upon the wickedness of slavery, he was forced for medical treatment to be absent from the Senate for a year.[22] On his return with somewhat invigorated health and strength and his old fire unabated, he prepared and delivered [on June 4, 1860] his great speech on "The Barbarism of Slavery," as he entitled it. Its delivery was a marked occasion. Mr. Sumner's friends were specially anxious for two things: that the slave power should see and understand that it had gained nothing by its cowardly assault upon him — in other words that the speech be in time and temper and boldness equal to the one which had brought down upon his head the murderous blows of the bully in defence of slavery; and also that Mr. Sumner should prove physically equal to the undertaking — of which there was grave doubt among his friends. The speech itself dispelled all solicitude on the first point, and time allayed apprehension that his health would suffer from the effort. The Massachusetts delegation in Congress partook of the general solicitude in respect to Mr. Sumner, and had, in addition a great state pride in their distinguished colleague as well as a determination that no harm should again come to him for the utterance of his views and advocacy of his principles, however bold and defiant he might choose to be. They held themselves ready for any emergency and talked pretty freely and bravely about the manner in which, had they been present, at the Brooks assault they would have vindicated the honor of their state and avenged the outrage upon her senator. They were all sincere in this. We all felt so.

At the time of the delivery of this speech upon "The Barbarism of Slavery," I was living with three of my colleagues, Mr. Gooch, Mr. Buffington and Mr. Alley[23], nearly across the city from Mr. Sumner's residence. About seven o'clock in the evening of that day Mr. Sumner's private secretary drove up in close carriage and requested to see the gentlemen of the house alone.

The others being absent, Mr. Gooch and myself held an interview with him, in which he stated in a hurried and somewhat excited manner that just before he had left Mr. Sumners's house, a large man, a stranger, apparently a little flushed by drinking, had called and stated to Mr. Sumner that, as the representative of a body of Southern gentlemen who had met to consider what the speech he had delivered that day required at their hands, he had come to demand an apology and if it was not given then he would return at ten o'clock the next day prepared to exact it. Getting no satisfaction, he left, saying that he would call again in the morning for it. Mr. Sumner, not knowing what all this indicated, and Mr. Johnson,[24] his secretary, both thinking another attack possible, wished to see us at his rooms. Mr. Gooch and myself, without communicating with the ladies of the family or leaving any word for our absent associates, accompanied Mr. Johnson to Mr. Sumner's rooms, where we remained all night, to the wonder and anxiety of the household we had so unceremoniously left. We found Mr. Burlingame already there and we three, with his private secretary, kept vigil over Mr. Sumner's life till morning. We discussed with him upon the appearance of his mysterious visitor and what he had said and done during his brief stay and speculated a good deal over the chances, till we finally concluded, Mr. Sumner and all, that a repetition of the Brooks assault might be attempted at any time and that the suggestion of ten o'clock the next morning was only a ruse to throw him off his guard. He was resolved to meet the consequences, whatever they might be, and his colleagues present were equally resolved to die, if need be, in his defence. Preparation was at once made for the worst. As Mr. Burlingame was the only one of us who had publicly proved his courage or had ever made any pretence of skill in arms, he was, by a sort of common consent, put in charge of all arrangements. The doors were at once locked from the street to the room we all occupied. Mr. Sumner was first put in position with due reference to the door and with no little reference to his surroundings if he fell, for even in this hour we were not wholly lost to classical propriety and the fitness of things. Mr. Burlingame, armed with the revolvers he always carried, next took his position where he could most surely bring down any man who might succeed in effecting an entrance. The rest of us, defenceless ourselves, took the places and undertook the parts assigned us as best we could and with such weapons as we could get hold of in the room. No ancient knight clad in steel ever posed more boldly, or stood firmer for his cause. Here it was proposed that we should patiently await the onset. And here we did wait, like so many puppets in a show, whiling away the time, which hung heavily on our hands, with such conversation as the proprieties of the solemn occasion demanded, changing our relative positions occasionally, as a further study of the situation and of his men seemed to our leader to require. Mr. Sumner was himself wonderfully cool and self-possessed for one waiting for the bludgeon or revolver, was remarkably entertaining in his conversation, rich in his classical quotations and abundant in his allusions to incidents in ancient history most resembling the present situation — finally deciding that the one most nearly parallel to it was the fall of Gracchus.[25] Then, taking down from the shelf the ever ready classical dictionary, he read us the account of that tragedy and, turning down the leaf, put the book back in its place with the remark that "this can easily be found here after, whatever may happen tonight."

The hours wove away very slowly and without disturbance till drowsiness began to creep over some of us not particularly anxious for the fray. A little after midnight, Mr. Sumner, either desirous of relieving his colleagues of the burden and peril, or seeing how heavy our eyelids were, suggested that there was in the city a man by the name of Wattles[26], from Kansas, a devoted friend of his, a giant in stature and strength and who had proved his courage in many a desperate encounter between Free State men and Border Ruffians at home. If word could be got to him he would certainly take upon himself the defence and he should feel safe and we might be relieved. He was stopping with a colored woman on the other side of the city whom Mr. Sumner had befriended and had done some special act of kindness for and who was devoted to him. Mr. Johnson alone of us all knew her residence and I was detailed to go with him and hunt up Wattles. The city was awfully still and the errand not the most inspiring, and my nerves were not then in their best estate. It was a long way before we reached the street where Wattles was to be found; and when we reached it, it turned out that Johnson didn't know the house by its number but only by his recollection of its location and appearance. The consequence was that we went calling up people a good deal at random, first on one side of the street and then on the other, and every time we rapped the echoes would rattle round our heads a great deal louder than any we made ourselves waking up some dog either inside or behind us which was sure to answer back with a frightful outcry. Then up would go windows, and heads in white would call out to know what we wanted, and as many as we could count on both sides of us would listen while we inquired for Wattles or apologized for the disturbance. We had well nigh roused the whole street and run the risk of arrest as prowling disturbers of the peace before Johnson recognized the voice of the woman we were in search of from an upper window, demanding to know our business. On being assured that we brought a message from Mr. Sumner, who wanted Wattles, she became at once communicative and anxious to serve us. Wattles had gone out in the early evening. When he returned she would send him immediately to Mr. Sumner. We could not bring Wattles with us, but retraced our steps without him and reported. As morning approached and no disturbance had as yet taken place we came to the conclusion that there would be no anticipation of the ten o'clock appointment. We began then to discuss the situation when that time should arrive. Ten o'clock was the hour for Mr. Sumner to go to the Capitol, and upon going at that hour, if alive, he was resolved. It might be that he was to be assaulted on the way and it might be that he was to fall in the very corridors of the Senate Chamber and by the pillars of the Capital. Be it so, but whatever was to come his duty was there and to its performance he should go. It was thereupon resolved that the rest of the delegation should be summoned to Mr. Sumner's room at half past nine and if, after hearing all the facts, they approve, Mr. Charles Francis Adams[27] then one of our number, should be requested to ride with Mr. Sumner to the Capitol, and that the rest of the delegation should act as escort on foot prepared for defence. It never occurred to either of us what a ridiculous figure we should cut as the procession moved slowly up Pennsylvania Avenue. Thus the matter was arranged and Mr. Gooch and myself, when morning came, repaired to our home for breakfast. We first reported to our two absent colleagues and our anxious wives at the breakfast table — and were met with an incredulous laugh. No amount of argument from us, who had never harbored a doubt ourselves, could convince the table that we had not been badly taken in. We, however, not shaken in the least, returned as soon as we had got our breakfast to Mr. Sumner's lodgings. As we approached I saw plainly that Wattles had arrived, for a giant of a man was pacing the sidewalk to and fro in front of the entrance like a sentry. One by one our colleagues dropped in before the appointed hour, each curious enough to know what had called him there. As Mr. Charles Francis Adams heard our story and our proposition that he should ride to the Capitol with Mr. Sumner in the carriage while the rest of us should walk by its side as an escort, and defence, he turned up his face in utter contempt and with an epithet of concentrated disgust, took his departure without another word. We were always left in doubt whether he failed us at this critical moment because he feared that the assassin might mistake him for Mr. Sumner in the carriage, or because he lacked confidence in the courage of the outside escort. One after another of our colleagues, not liking, I suppose, the part so resembling that of pall-bearers, followed him and we were soon left alone, looking at each other and wondering whether we had been sold or not. In the meantime the pacing of Wattles to and fro outside and the passing of so many people in and out began to attract attention, and the police took the matter in hand. They soon brought to light that the evening before a company of hot-headed Southerners, meeting for purposes of conviviality nearby, fell to discussing Mr. Sumner's speech and grew very much excited over it as the champagne went around, till one of them laid a wager that he could frighten Mr. Sumner into an apology for it, and went out to win his bet. It was some compensation, however, to those who watched all night for his bludgeon and revolver that to avoid arrest he was himself compelled to make the apology he boasted of his ability to exact.

And thus narrowly did I escape being an actor in a bloody tragedy and possibly a funeral oration and a striking epitaph.

Since writing the above paragraph, the news has come to us of the death of Mr. Adams on yesterday morning.[28] I shall be pardoned. I am sure in departing from the original scope of this paper to say that in the death of Charles Francis Adams is removed the last of those great men in civil life who met the shock of the Civil War, and held the republic in its public and diplomatic relations, as the great generals did its fortunes in the field, safe above the engulphing perils which the storm had raised. It was because of him in his service as minister to England, more than to any of the human agency, that the Confederacy never had recognition among the nations of earth, or credit abroad or flag on the high sees or place in a foreign port. His services to his country in its greatest need can never be measured or forgotten. Of the mental qualities and personal character which equipped him for the high functions and grave responsibilties resolved upon him, I do not presume to speak. In the highest places of trust in his native state, as one of her representatives in a congress in which republican institutions had their severest test and encountered their greatest peril, as the representative of his country at the court of St. James when its national life was played with by the crowned heads of Europe, and as a member of the great Court of Arbitration at Geneva, where nations as plaintiff and defendant, submitted to final judgment grievances heretofore settled only by the arbitrament of war — in all these he was great and accomplished great results.

[A gap exists in the manuscript at this point; one or more pages are missing. The narrative from this point covers an episode that took place on February 5, 1858.]

est were under discussion would this compact crowd hold its place from the opening of the doors in the morning till the adjournment in the late hours of the night and even to the gray of the next morning. Many of them would come armed and jeers and curses, with the cocking of pistols in the gallery, would sometimes be the audible response to sentiments uttered on the floor which met the disapproval of the mob assembled to overawe and cow the already too assertive spirit of the North.

In this excited and angry mood the House had been in heated debate all day, and by filibustering and other dilatory motions the session had been protracted past midnight. Members, much according to their several temperaments, some lounging, some dozing, some excited with liquor, and all out of temper, were gathered in disorderly groups, gesticulating in animated discussions or stretching themselves on sofas in different parts of the Hall, when Mr. Grow[29] of Pennsylvania, an ardent, restless, excitable Republican, never able to stay long in any one place, wandering over to the Democratic side of the House, found himself expressing quite freely his sentiments in a group of hot-headed Southerners, already exasperated to the utmost tension. Keitt[30] of South Carolina, of a long lank, shaky, ill-adjusted body, a fierce eye and big head crowned with a shock of hair like a sheaf of wheat — only black as tar — called out to him offensively: "What are you here for? Go to your own side of the House!" Grow asserted his right to go where he pleased, when Keith made a show of intention to assault him. Grow instantly felled him to the floor with a single blow upon the side of the head. In a moment the House was in an uproar. The Republicans left their seats and rushed to the scene, while the Democrats stood on the defensive and attempted to drive them back to their places. The melée was general and they fought with fists and chairs and anything their hands could get hold of, without anybody's knowing what it was all about or who began it. I had been myself in an argument with Reuben Davis[31] of Mississippi, who had come over to my seat a good deal excited with liquor and debate, and was trying to convince me what a mean cuss as he called him, a Yankee slave-driver was; and I was retorting that a Mississippi planter mobbing a Yankee from whose trunk he had first stolen a copy of Uncle Tom's Cabin was the meaner of the two. The next instant, without knowing how I came there, I found myself on the other side of the Hall standing between Rev. Owen Lovejoy[32], of Illinois and Otho R. Singleton[33] of Mississippi, glaring at each other like madmen and with fists drawn up ready to knock the breath out of each other, but more likely to knock it out of me. In the midst of this promiscuous fisticuff two members, C.C. Washburn[34] and Potter[35] of Wisconsin seemed to have hit at the same time Barksdale[36] of Mississippi in the head, one in front and the other at the side, which had the effect to knock his head out from under a wig which nobody up to that moment had detected him in wearing. All of a sudden the head of Barksdale, as white and bare as a sugarloaf and somehow much of the same shape, was seen towering up among the combatants, while its proprietor, unconscious of his dilapidated condition, red in the face and furious with rage, was dealing blows on every side with most praiseworthy impartiality. Nothing could have been more ridiculous than the figure he cut. Everybody stopped and gazed and wondered for a moment, then burst into a laugh, and the fight was at an end. All took themselves to their seats in a guffaw, save poor Barksdale, who got himself out of sight for repairs as soon as possible.

Recollections of some of the principal players during this period

I do not find myself able to picture the public life of Washington, during the winter proceeding the breaking out of the war as it then appeared to me — there is nothing now to which I can liken it. Who can describe Jefferson Davis as he then was? — the man so strangely put at the head of the conspiracy but who had barely ability enough to wreck it, a vain pompous rhetorician in the Senate, bedridden with narrow prejudices and hate of the North — opinionated, self-willed and consequently impracticable as an administrator, and the dupe of his own partialities, in his likes and dislikes of the men he used.

There was Benjamin[37] — the ablest of them all, looking every inch the Jew he was, short, thick set, with a hand as handsome as that of a woman, and a mouth as pretty, standing up, and in the most polished periods, talking about the original sovereignty of the States and laughing all over to himself, at the absurdity of his own logic, as applied to his own state of Louisiana, which never had any intermediate existence between a province of France, and a State of this Union.

Goombs[38] too — who wanted to call the roll of his slaves under the shadow of Bunker Hill, full of brain and gall, stood up tall, stout, brawny, with a heavy shock of black hair, like that on the head of a buffalo — large black firey eyes, and huge mouth from which poured out torrents of bitter denunciation whenever he opened it, and who afterward came within one vote of being the President of the Confederacy instead of Jefferson Davis.

Slidell[39] of Trent notoriety was one of the most dangerous of all the conspirators. Nobody else else looked like him. His face was as red raw beef, his hair white, soft as silk and very long, hung down a good deal over that red face of his, without any part in it. He was by birth a New Yorker, but of that class least to be trusted, a Northerner turned Southern. His ways were as unintelligible as his face. Mason of Virginia, the companion of Slidell on the Trent, whose chief claim to distinction was that he was a grandson of the great George Mason, was counted the fifth man in the conspiracy, though why, I never knew, except that he was the author of the infamous fugitive slave law, which roused the North at last, to assert its power for freedom. Mason was a large man bodily, otherwise light, with a florid skin, and thin long hair, always flowing back, as if the wind was flowing in his face, He wore that winter, to emphasise his hate of the North, a suit of course grey woolen home spun, which he thought was the entire product of Virginia.

Three, bold, able and patriotic men antagonized these men, on their own side of the Senate Chamber. Douglas[40] — the little giant — stout, thick set with hardly any neck, and massive head apparently set directly upon very broad shoulders. He would be taken anywhere as a leader, and was the best debater I ever heard, except perhaps Fessenden[41]. No man ever entered the lists with him, who did not find himself put on the defensive before he had as yet struck a blow himself. It was not that he always took such impregnable positions, but because he always set his antagonist to fortify his own caving foundations, and kept him busy with his own words. Stephen A. Douglas fought a grand battle that winter, with all the odds but justice and right against him in his party. When he could not save it he refused to compromise his own loyalty and tendered the support of a patriot to Lincoln, his old rival at home, even to an offer to serve in the army, if it came to war. His death in two short months after the inauguration of Lincoln, closed an already illustrious life, but one which to human view could ill be spared in the terrible emergencies which soon followed.

The great services Andrew Johnson rendered his country at this period were cast into the shade by his subsequent eccentric career. But no man dealt such heavy blows upon the heads of these conspirators as he did. He was of medium hard-knit iron frame, swarthy complexion, big nose, sunken eyes and jaws close set, as if he was biting a nail. He had no culture, his early education having been very imperfect, and his diction was barren of illustration or metaphor. But his utterances were like the blows of a sledge hammer. He fairly pounded his adversary. The South hated him beyond measure. It seemed to lash Southern Senators into a perfect fury, that one of their own number should step out and defy them. As he thundered his anathemas upon their treason they would almost literally foam and gnash their teeth, and in voices altogether too audible, would curse him to his face. Had he died when Douglas did, his fame would have been secure and his place in history an enviable one.

Sam Houston — the old hero of San Jacinto — was as true a patriot in all this struggle as lived. He did not debate much. He sat for the most part, wearing a spotted fawn skin vest, and fur trimmed coat, whittling into trinkets, for amusement, pieces of pine, and then giving them away to young ladies for keepsakes, but all the while, musing or philosophising. He had led a strange life. His early public career had been interrupted by a romantic love affair and years of exile and Indian life. Subsequently he led the Texans to victory over Santa Ana, and became president of their republic, And now he was a venerable Senator from that state — unimpassioned, sedate, deliberate and of great influence in the Southeast, all of which he threw on the side of the Union. The last words I remember to have heard him utter on the floor of the Senate, ought to be written in gold over the portals of his tomb. "I have followed the flag that floats over us in battle, my blood has been spilled in the cause of the Union it represents and may this right arm fall paralized by my side if ever lifted to strike it."[42]

Let me speak of two conspicuous characters on the other side of the chamber before I pass to other topics. Seward — the philosopher, orator, politician, statesman — small of stature and of frame too weak and delicate to hold up the big head it carried, exerted more influence than any other man in shaping and directing events on the Union side, as he had for years all northern political sentiment. He was not a great debater — but like Burke[43], the greatest orationist of his time, he wrote out beforehand, and read all his great speeches, and his political friends subscribed for them by the hundred thousand. Members of Congress would repair to his house every evening to frank[44] for him his speeches for distribution. Many a sultry night of the summer previous, till past midnight did I spend in my shirt sleeves, in his house writing my name on the speeches he was packing into the mail. One cannot write much of him that winter, all he had done at that time, great as it was, standing by itself was still so dwarfed by the greater events which followed, in which he bore so large a part, that it does not receive its due need of commendation. He was a great conversationalist, like McCauley, a winner and moulder of men. The friendships he enjoyed were strong and devoted. The enmities he incurred were bitter and implacable. He was at the same time an idol — and a bête noire.

William Pitt Fessenden[45] was the greatest debater I ever heard. He was keen as a razor, and cut all sophistries and shams through and through as with a scimitar. No one encountered him who did not bleed somewhere, and yet it was all done, secundum artem[46], and the victim hardly knew when it was done.

Personally he was popular, but as an opponent in debate, he was dreaded. He busied himself too much in making mincemeat of other men's projects — and too little in maturing his own. To what he approved however he contributed the most valuable aid in moulding and perfecting. He was all intellect, and a little distant and hard to approach — but true — sterling pure.

These great characters who filled in that time so large a space in public affairs and impressed each his individuality in different measure upon passing events, (all save Jefferson Davis) have already made up their record, and passed out of sight and into history, all for the instruction of coming generations, some as examples, and some as warnings.

I have spoken also of Gen. [Winfield] Scott as having been detailed to aid the Committee in their efforts to search out a conspiracy to prevent the inauguration of Mr. Lincoln. I saw very much of this distinguished military man, during that winter. I had previously been brought into somewhat peculiar political relations to him — when he was a candidate for the Presidency in 1852. I had been chosen a Scott delegate to the Whig National Convention at Baltimore, which ultimately nominated him as Whig Candidate for the Presidency, the only Scott delegate from Massachusetts, and I alone of all that delegation, voted for him fifty-three times before he was nominated. (I visited Washington for the first time a few days before that Convention, and was taken some notice of by the Scott Whigs, and was introduced to the General himself, as a rare specimen, a Scott Whig from Massachusetts! I have always thought that had he been elected I should have been considerable of a boss here at home, in the dispensing of patronage, and would have had post-offices enough, to have given every friend I had in North Adams and Pittsfield at least one.)

Gen. Scott occupied at that time miserably contracted, scantily furnished quarters in the old War Department building — not a whit better than my office, and in strange contrast to the spacious and gorgeously furnished apartments now occupied by the General of the Army. He was then in his prime, mentally and physically — tall as the tallest of the Plunketts[47], but much stouter, erect as a flag staff — the shoulder which won the bullet at Lundy's Lane a little dropped — sandy side whiskers on full sagging cheeks, proud, stately and vain. (He was quite disposed to patronize the young Whig who had called to pay his respects — indeed, I really basked in the sunshine of what I supposed would prove royal favor, till the election was over, when the bubble burst, and my expectations collapsed.) Gen. Scott was a great military man for his day, but a failure as a politician, though like many another distinguished man, he had more confidence in his own ability to succeed in the very things others thought him unfit for.

Accordingly he believed that he was greater as a politician than even as a military man. He had, however, on more than one occasion, rendered the country signal service in a semi-diplomatic capacity — notably in the troubles with England, growing out of the McLeod affair, and later those in reference to boundaries of the United States and British America. He was offered also, after peace with Mexico, the dictatorship of that country, with a large salary. So it must be admitted that he had great ability as a civilian, as well as a general. But as a politician he was always doing just the wrong thing. (I cannot refrain form relating here, one incident, of personal interest of which you will see the bearing. When I entered Congress in 1857, Gen. Scott persuaded me to appoint as cadet at West Point the son of an army officer who had his residence in my district, and who was a personal, as well as political friend of the General, and to repeat the appointment, after one failure. After a third such appointment, I gave up the advice of Army officers altogether, and gave the appointment to an Irish boy, of whom I had heard, in Cheshire, and whom I found there shoveling sand with his father, but who had never heard of West Point before. That Irish boy, with only the education afforded by the District School in Cheshire, entered the list at West Point and graduated among the first five in his class, and is now the accomplished and popular Captain Turtle of the Engineer Corps[48], and a member of the Mississippi River Commission. You have probably already recognised this gentleman as a brother of my own fellow townsman, Mr. William Turtle.)

At the time of the Committee investigation, mentioned, in 1861, Gen. Scott was 77 years of age, exceedingly corpulent, and very asthmatic. It was with great difficulty that he could get himself up the long flight of steps to the Committee room, and when he reached it was so out of breath as to require rest before doing any business. Though absolutely loyal — and exceedingly anxious and jealous to render all possible aid to the Committee — yet he was of little practical assistance. He never seemed able to understand the rebellion nor what was necessary to cope with it. He judged and measured all plans and methods as well in the preliminary investigations and preparations, as in actual war, by the science and methods of war when he won his great laurels — in the war of 1812, and in Mexico. He did not seem able at that late day to comprehend the new elements, and modifications of old ones, which the railroad and telegraph and recent inventions had forced into modern warfare, and it was too late for him to learn. The first battle of Bull Run was an illustration of this truth. It was all planned by him and according to old tests, admirably planned, but the rebel Johnston had by modern means — the telegraph and railroad — escaped an old veteran general who was placed by Scott near Winchester to watch him, and had joined Beauregard before it was known that he had moved at all, and thus turned Gen. Scott’s assured victory into defeat.

I applied to him for permission to pass through our lines and witness the battle. As he gave me the permission he said, "I am glad, Mr. Dawes, you are going out to see that battle. It is not probable that in the course of events you will ever have an opportunity to witness another, and this will be greater than any battle which has ever transpired on this continent. And our victory will be complete. Everything is so arranged and perfected that you will see a great triumph of our arms, and a decisive victory, as certainly as there is a battle. It cannot be otherwise, and it will settle the whole matter."

When the government came to be convinced for the reasons given, of the necessity to relieve him, and put younger blood and modern science in control of the army, great care was taken, so to do it, as not to hurt the feelings of the patriotic old warrior. But he failed entirely to appreciate the necessity for the change, and ever after, had a feeling which his proud spirit could not altogether conceal, that in his retirement from active service, injustice had been done him, with no corresponding benefit to the cause. He was a grand figure in his time, a great man whose little foibles and weaknesses, only made more conspicuous his great qualities. He never faltered when duty called — and he loved his country as a lover does his idol.

An equestrian statue to his memory and fame stands on 16th Street in Washington, that wide avenue which runs north from the front of the Executive Mansion, and where Massachusetts and Rhode Island Avenues cross each other about a half mile north of the President's House. A wicked cynic passing it one day, remarked, "Ever looking toward the White House but never reaching it!" — to which he got the spirited reply, "Rather too far north to be President."

I have indulged in these reminiscences of a period now a generation gone by, beyond even the personal recollection, if not the birth of most of those who hear me, not for the purpose of keeping alive animosities now happily disappearing, or calling back memories of the mourning and woe which once filled the land, already faint and fast fading out of the lives of a once stricken people, but that you may not fail to keep in mind the cost of the institutions under which you live, and prize them the more — that you may the better appreciate the citizenship you enjoy of a government saved from dissolution by the blood of the fathers and brothers of those among whom you live. And by the crowning sacrifice of the noblest and grandest of all the patriots who have ever served and died for their country.

[1] Founded by Dawes’s daughter Anna in 1879.

[2] James Buchanan, President from 1857 to 1861
[3] Dawes inserted this quote from the poem “The Deserted Village” by Oliver Goldsmith.
[4] Emer de Vattel (1714-1767) Swiss international lawyer, best known for his book The Law of Nations.
[5] Hugo Grotius (1583-1645), Dutch jurist, whose work on international law was entitled De jure belli ac pacis libri tres (On the Law of War and Peace: Three books).

[6] Winfield Scott (1786-1866), in 1860 serving as General of the Army, a native of Virginia. Lincoln also sent an envoy, Thomas S. Mather, to ascertain Scott’s loyalty, and Scott’s response was, “"I shall consider myself responsible for [Lincoln's] safety. If necessary, I shall plant cannon at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, and if any of the Maryland or Virginia gentlemen who have become so threatening and troublesome show their heads or even venture to raise a finger, I shall blow them to hell."
[7] Lewis Cass (1782-1866), Secretary of State under Buchanan. He resigned on December 14, 1860 in protest of Buchanan’s failure to act against the secession of Southern states and their seizure of federal assets.
[8] Edwin Stanton (1814-1869), sworn in on December 20, 1860 as Buchanan’s attorney general. He later served as Secretary of War under Lincoln.
[9] William H. Seward (1801-1872), Senator from New York 1849-1861; Secretary of State under Presidents Lincoln and Johnson 1861-1869.
[10] Jacob Thompson (1810-1885), Secretary of the Interior, and John Buchanan Floyd (1806-1863), Secretary of War. During the Civil War Thompson became inspector general of the Confederate States Army, and Floyd served as a Confederate general.
[11] William A. Howard (1830-1880), Representative from Michigan.
[12] Isaac Toucey (1792-1869)
[13] Apparently Dawes himself asked this question. In quoting Toucey’s reply, Dawes first wrote, “Why, Mr. Dawes…”, then struck out “Mr. Dawes” and replaced it with “Senator.”
[14] John Cabell Breckinridge (1821-1875) a native of Kentucky, Vice President 1857-1861.
[15] Elihu Benjamin Washburn (1816-1887), congressman from Illinois.
[16] From John 19:15, during the trial of Jesus by Pilate. Dawes originally wrote “Away with him! Crucify him!” but struck out the latter phrase.
[17] Frederick A. Seward (1830-1915), son of William H. Seward. At this time he was editor of the Albany (NY) Evening Journal. He carried to Lincoln in Baltimore a letter from Charles Pomeroy Stone (1824-1887), who, with several detectives, had gathered information about the plot against Lincoln.
[18] Louis Trezevant Wigfall (1816-1874), U. S. Senator from Texas 1859-1861; Confederate States Senator 1862-1865.

[19] Anna Laurens Dawes (1851-1838), author and suffragist.
[20] Varina Anne Banks Howell Davis (1826-1906).

[21] Dawes used the word in quotations.
[22] Charles Sumner (1811-1874), Senator from Massachusetts. In May, 1856, he delivered an anti-slavery speech entitled “Crime against Kansas” to which Southern Senators and Representatives took great offense. One of them, Preston Brooks (1819-1857), Representative from South Carolina, delivered such a severe beating (in the Senate chamber with a cane) to Sumner, several days after the speech, that Sumner needed several years to recuperate before he could return to the Senate, and suffered chronic pain for the rest of his life.
[23] Daniel Wheelwright Gooch (1820-1891; James Buffington (1817-1875); John Bassett Alley (1817-1896). All three were Representatives from Massachuetts
[24] Arnold K. Johnson.
[25] Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus (c. 169–164 – 133 BC), Roman politician murdered by conservative senators who opposed his plan to transfer land from wealthy landowners to poorer citizens.

[26] Augustus Wattles (1807-1876), abolitionist activist from Kansas, who was in Washington in connection with Congressional inquiries into John Brown’s raid at Harper’s Ferry.
[27] Charles Francis Adams (1808-1886), editor, writer, politician and diplomat, son of John Quincy Adams. At this time he was serving in the House of Representatives, but soon resigned in order to become ambassador to Great Britain.
[28] November 21, 1886, the day before the Monday Evening Club meeting at which this paper was first presented.
[29] Galusha Aaron Grow (1823-1907), representative from Pennyslvania.
[30] Laurence Massillon Keith (1824-1864), representative from South Carolina. Keitt had previously assisted Preston Brooks in 1956 in the caning of Sen. Sumner. Other accounts of his altercation with Grow do not mention that Grow “felled him to the floor” as described here by Dawes.
[31] Reuben O. Davis (1813-1890), representative from Mississippi.
[32] Owen Lovejoy (1811-1864), representative from Illinois, staunch abolitionist.
[33] Otho R. Singleton (1814-1889), representative from Mississippi.
[34] Cadwallader Colden Washburn (1818-1882), representative from Wisconsin.
[35] John Fox Potter (1817-1899), representative from Wisconsin.
[36] Williams Barksdale (1821-1863), representative from Mississippi.
[37] Judah Philip Benjamin (1811-1864), senator from Louisiana.
[38] Robert Augustus Toombs (1810-1885), senator from Georgia, later the first secretary of state of the Confederacy.
[39] John Slidell (1793-1871), senator from Louisiana. Appointed a Confederate commissioner to France, he sailed to Havana on a British mailboat, the R.M.S. Trent. The ship was intercepted by the U. S. Navy, and Trent and a fellow commissioner, James Murray Mason, were taken prisoner. Subsequently, Slidell and Mason were released because the capture was deemed contrary to maritime law and risked was with Britain. This became known as the Trent Affair.
[40] Stephen Arnold Douglas (1813-1861), senator from Illinois, Democratic candidate for president in the 1860 election.
[41] William Pitt Fessenden (1806-1869), senator from Maine.
[42] Houston was elected governor of Texas in 1859 but continued to serve in the Senate until the end of his term in early 1860. Following Lincoln’s election, Texas voted to secede. Houston proclaimed Texas once again independent, but refused to swear an oath of loyalty to the Confederacy, and was removed from office by the legislature. He continued to warn against war with the North, and died in 1863.
[43] Edmund Burke (1729-1797), Anglo-Irish statesman and philosopher.
[44] The franking privilege permits free postage for members of Congress by means of a signature on the envelope.
[45] William Pitt Fessenden (1806-1869), Senator from Maine.
[46] “according to the art”.
[47] The Plunkett family of Pittsfield, multi-generational members of the Monday Evening Club from 1869 until 2009.
[48] Thomas Turtle actually graduated fourth in the West Point class of 1867.

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