On this day in 1861, London Times reporter William Russell wrote this account in his diary
after an encounter with President Abraham Lincoln at the residence of General George McClellan:
Calling on the General (McClellan - commander of the Army of the Potomac) the other night at his usual time of return, I was told by the orderly, who was closing the door, 'The General's gone to bed tired, and can see no one. He sent the same message to the President, who came inquiring after him ten minutes ago.'
This poor President! He is to be pitied; surrounded by such scenes, and trying with all his might to understand strategy, naval warfare, big guns, the movements of troops, military maps, reconnaissances, occupations, interior and exterior lines, and all the technical details of the art of slaying. He runs from one house to another, armed with plans, papers, reports, recommendations, sometimes good humoured, never angry, occasionally dejected, and always a little fussy. The other night, as I was sitting in the parlour at headquarters, with an English friend who had come to see his old acquaintance the General, walked in a tall man with a navy's cap, and an ill-made shooting suit, from the pockets of which protruded paper and bundles. 'Well,' said he to Brigadier Van Vliet, who rose to receive him, 'is George in?'
'Yes, sir. He's come back, but is lying down, very much fatigued. I'll send up, sir, and inform him you wish to see him.'
'Oh, no; I can wait. I think I'll take supper with him. Well, and what are you now, - I forget your name - are you a major, or a colonel, or a general?' 'Whatever you like to make me, sir.'
Seeing that General McClellan would be occupied, I walked out with my friend, who asked me when I got into the street why I stood up when that tall fellow came into the room.
'Because it was the President.'
'The President of what?'
'Of the United States.'
'Oh! come, now you're humbugging me. Let me have another look at him.'
He came back more incredulous than ever, but when I assured him I was quite serious, he exclaimed, 'I give up the United States after this.'
But for all that, there have been many more courtly presidents who, in a similar crisis, would have displayed less capacity, honesty, and plain dealing than Abraham Lincoln."
Labels: Abraham Lincoln, Civil War, Lincoln Bicentennial, On this day