Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Abraham Lincoln and Women

Mary Todd Lincoln
Lucky in politics, unlucky in love may have been a good motto for Lincoln.

Lincoln’s first infatuation was with a young woman named Anne Rutledge. They met in 1835, shortly after he moved to New Salem. It is said Lincoln had a great fondness for her.

Unfortunately, Anne Rutledge died suddenly in August of 1835. She was twenty-two years old. Lincoln was heartbroken.

Lincoln’s next love interest was Mary Owen. She was a Kentucky girl, and Lincoln met her in 1836 when she was visiting her sister in New Salem. They had a short courtship that lasted less than a year.

Mary Todd came into Lincoln’s life in December of 1839. They were engaged in December of 1840, and planned on marrying the next year. Lincoln soon had second thoughts and broke off the engagement. They met again in 1842, and ended up tying the knot on November 4th of that year.

Lincoln Douglas Debates

Lincoln Douglas Debates at Knox College (from a 
1912 postcard)
The Lincoln Douglas Debates came about because of a rift in the Republican Party in 1857. Stephen Douglas had broken away from the Democratic Party in the summer of that year over the slavery issue.

Horace Greeley requested the Illinois Republicans keep the seat open for Douglas as he attempted to woo him into the party.

To Lincoln this was a personal affront. Lincoln wrote, “Greeley is not doing me right. I am a true Republican, and have been tried already in the hottest part of the fight; and yet I find him taking up Douglas, a veritable dodger, once a tool of the south, now its enemy.”

In June of 1858 the Republican State Convention meeting at Springfield nominated Lincoln as their candidate for senate.

It was at this convention Lincoln uttered these famous words,

“A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the house to fall – but I do expect it will cease to be free.”

After that Lincoln accused Buchan, Taney, Pierce, and Douglas of trying to legalize slavery both in the North and the South. It was a brilliant move that forced Douglas to come out and defend his position.

What followed was the Lincoln Douglas Debates.

To his friends Douglas confided, “I do not feel between you and me, that I want to go into this debate. The whole country knows me and has me measured. Lincoln, as regards myself, is comparatively unknown, and if he gets the best of this debate, and I want to say he is the ablest man the Republicans have got, I shall lose everything, and he will gain everything.”

The debates took place between August 21 and October 15, 1858, with the first one being held at Ottawa, Illinois.

Stephen Douglas could best be described as a stuffy pompous ass. He had a special car on the Illinois Central Railroad, and often times it sped by Lincoln while he was sidetracked waiting for his train to begin moving.

Douglas was met at each stop by a brass band and a 32 gun salute, one for each state in the Union. Lincoln was carried to his speech either on the shoulders of his followers (as was done at Ottawa) or drawn there atop a hay wagon. His followers were contemptuous of Douglas’s pompousness.

In the end, Lincoln lost the race for senator, but won the race for President. His greatest victory in the debates came during the second debate held at Freeport. Against the better judgment of his advisors, Lincoln posed Douglas the following question – “Can the people of a United States territory in any lawful way, against the wish of any citizen of the United States, exclude slavery from its limits prior to the formulation of a State Constitution?”

Douglas’s answer was slavery could be kept out of the territories by legislation other than a state constitution. It became known as “the Freeport Doctrine,” and two years later at the Democratic Presidential Convention of 1860, the South refused to support Douglas as a candidate because of it.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Lincoln Caricature: Abraham Lincoln in Scotch Cap and Kilt

Vanity Fair titled this cartoon "The Highland Fling."
It was their take on Lincoln sneaking into 
Washington to escape a supposed assassination
attempt in Baltimore in 1861.
This illustration is one one of several depicting Abraham Lincoln, and the Baltimore Plot (the supposed attempt to assassinate him before being inaugurated in 1861). Rumors ran across the country that Lincoln snuck into the capitol city under cover of darkness, disguised in a Scotch cap and cloak.

According to Lincoln's friend and bodyguard, Ward H. Lamon,
“Mr. Lincoln soon learned to regret the midnight ride. His friends reproached him, his enemies taunted him…He was convinced that he had committed a grave mistake in yielding to the solicitations of a professional spy [Pinkerton] and of friends to easily alarmed. He saw that he had fled from a danger that was purely imaginary.”

The cartoon pictured in this article was originally published in the March 9, 1861 issue of Vanity Fair,

Abraham Lincoln The Fifteenth of April

(Thought I would share the introduction to my new novel. Would love to get your feedback on it. What do you think of the concept? Does it work for you?

Let me know what you think.)

Editors Note

The extraordinary document you are about to read was purportedly written by Abraham Lincoln in the last month of his life.

How, I came by it, is now well known in most circles, but for those of you unacquainted with the details, I will give you a brief run down.

I have been fortunate enough to procure several rare documents on eBay over the years. Among them an 1822 paper detailing the autopsy of Napoleon Bonaparte written by his physician; a letter from George Washington, written during the darkest days at Valley Forge, suggesting to Congress that they should surrender the cause; a 1789 printing of the Declaration of Independence, printed side by side with Jefferson’s original notes, and beside it, an actual autograph by Thomas Jefferson.

But, this is by far, my most amazing discovery.

The bidding on eBay was fast and furious for this collection of Civil War memoirs. What caught my eye was the seller’s opening line,

…hand written manuscript, dated April 15th, 1865. First paragraph reads as follows, “Made a speech outside of the White House today (April 11). With the war over, Lee having surrendered just two days ago, I could finally speak my peace on the blacks. I expressed my opinion that we should embrace ‘the elective franchise for the colored man.’ That night, Mary told me she saw the actor, J. Wilkes Booth watching my talk.”

Note: Inscription on inside cover dated – March 15, 1865. A.L.

The letters, A. L. got my juices flowing. Lincoln signed most of his correspondence A. L.

Ever since the assassination there have been rumors of a Lincoln autobiography, but to my knowledge no one has ever laid eyes upon it.

My own knowledge of it was vague. Years ago, I’d read bits about it in the letters of John Hay, the President’s personal secretary. Several times he said he’d entered the President’s office, and each time, “Lincoln shuffled papers around, hiding something he was working on. At first, I thought it was a letter from Robert [Lincoln’s oldest son]; General Grant had given him leave from the battlefield to visit. But several more times I caught him hiding papers when I entered his office. Nicolay said the same thing had happened to him. He said he’d caught a few glimpses of it, and it looked like Abe was writing the story of the war.”

Nothing else was said.

 After acquiring the document, I showed it to several Lincoln experts. Like all experts, they were divided on its authenticity. Three of them said there was no doubt, that it was real. Three more, said the facts were incorrect in several places and the writing although very much like Mr. Lincoln’s, it could not be proven conclusively.

The date on the inscription was April 15th, the Great Man’s last day upon this earth. That, coupled with Mary Lincoln taking note of Booth in the audience, listening to Lincoln’s last speech is amazing enough. As I read on, Lincoln shared in great detail three separate attempts upon his life. His descriptions of his contemporaries are scathing; his faith in Grant, unshakeable; the details on some of the battlefields he visited – graphic and gory.

More startling, are his accounts of meetings with J. Wilkes Booth, at several White House receptions, early in his administration.

If only half of the information in this manuscript is accurate, it could cause a rewrite of the Civil War as we know it.

Lest I spill any more secrets, read on, and discover the details for yourself…

(Publication is scheduled for sometime in November or December)

It takes more than that to kill a Bull Moose!

The attempt on Theodore Roosevelt’s life came just after he had finished dinner at the Hotel Gilpatrick in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

The day was October 14, 1912.

Roosevelt was waving his hat to the crowd when a man came up out of nowhere, and fired a shot into the former President. The bullet struck Roosevelt in the chest. At first he didn’t think he was hit. But, when they checked him over in the car, there was blood on his shirt, and a bullet hole in his chest.

The shooter John Schrank, an unemployed New York saloon keeper had been stalking Roosevelt for weeks waiting for an opportunity to take his shot. A letter was later discovered on the gunman. It said, “To the people of the United States…In a dream I saw President McKinley sit up in his coffin pointing at a man in a monk’s attire in whom I recognized Theodore Roosevelt. The dead president said—‘This is my murderer—avenge my death.’” And, so he dogged the former President for thousands of miles, and took his shot.

For Roosevelt’s part, he was scheduled to make a campaign speech that night before thousands of people, and that he did, despite his doctors and advisors requests that he should immediately go to the hospital.

What saved his life was a fifty page speech he had, folded in two in his breast pocket, and a steel eye glass case. They slowed down the bullet just enough, so that Roosevelt wasn’t severely injured. The bullet went into the chest near his right nipple, and burrowed in about three inches deep. It was never removed, and remained in the former President’s body until the day he died.

That night at his speech Roosevelt told listeners, “It takes more than that to kill a Bull Moose!”

When Richard Lawrence Attempted to Assassinate Andrew Jackson

Richard Lawrence firing his pistol at Andrew Jackson in the Capitol Rotunda
Andrew Jackson has the distinction of being the first president to have an assassination attempt made against him.

Picture this: Sixty-three year old Andrew Jackson is walking across the Capitol Rotunda, when Richard Lawrence, an unemployed house painter moves to the front of the crowd, and fires two pistol shots into the President.

 By luck, both pistols misfire. The aging Jackson charges the attempted assassin, beating him to the ground.
That may be how it happened.

Another story says Davy Crockett was in the Rotunda that day and tackled the assassin bringing him to the ground.

Either story is pretty cool.

Talk about balls. Barrack Obama or George Bush would have pissed their pants if the same thing happened to them.

Jackson was no stranger to death or weapons. In his life time he fought two duels, faced down the Creek Indians, and ultimately fought the final battle of the War of 1812 at New Orleans.

(excerpt from my upcoming book - Bad Ass Presidents)

Baron Von Steuben at Valley Forge

Baron Von Steuben
A savior came to the army at Valley Forge in the form of a stubby, foul mouthed, Prussian drill master, Baron Friedrich Von Steuben.

The man chosen to whip America’s troops into shape didn’t speak a word of English, only German, and a smattering of French. Yet in less than six months he transformed Washington’s army into a well-disciplined fighting force.

A crazier sight was never seen.

Steuben trained the men in groups. He started with 100 men. When they were trained, he had them help train the other brigades. When things didn’t work out the way he wanted, which was often, he blasted the men with a string of curses in German and French. When he realized no one understood him, he got his aide Captain Benjamin Walker to curse them in English.

The local farmers were no help, either. Many of them held back cattle desperately needed by Washington’s troops hoping to make more money selling them in the spring. Others crossed the lines sneaking beef to the British in Philadelphia for a larger profit.

Of the 12,000 soldiers who went into winter quarters with Washington nearly a quarter died from disease, malnutrition, and the weather. A thousand more chose not to reenlist and returned home.

The only good news for Washington was the men who left Valley Forge with him were a better trained and more disciplined fighting force than any he’d had up until that point.

(excerpt from my new book - Bad Ass Presidents)

Duels of Andrew Jackson

Andrew Jackson fought at least three duels in his lifetime.

His first duel took place in 1788. The twenty-one year old Jackson was ridiculed by Revolutionary war hero Waightsill Avery, and demanded satisfaction. Clearer heads took charge by the time they met to fight, and both men agreed to miss when they fired.

Jackson’s next duel was with Tennessee Governor John Sevier in 1802. Jackson, who at this time was a judge on the Tennessee Supreme Court, accused the ex-governor of dealing in forged land warrants. Sevier burst into his chambers brandishing a sword, and demanded satisfaction. The duel was scheduled to be fought in Virginia, but never took place.

Jackson’s final duel took place at Harrison’s Mill, Kentucky where he faced down Charles Dickinson. The men stood twenty-four feet apart. Dickinson fired first, putting a ball in Jackson’s chest. To his surprise Jackson barely reacted. Instead, he leveled his pistol, took deliberate aim, and shot Charles Dickinson dead.

Zachary Taylor & The Defense of Fort Harrison

Defense of Fort Harrison in War of 1812
Zachary Taylor’s first test as a soldier occurred early in the War of 1812. No sooner had he taken command of Fort Harrison, a small stockade style fort on the Wabash River in Indiana, when a band of Indians from the Prophet’s town attacked.

The attack came about 11:00 pm. A shot rang out from a sentinel, and then a warning that the Indians had set fire to the lower blockhouse. Harrison ordered his men to water down the blockhouse to keep it from burning, and hurriedly built a breastwork so they could defend themselves when the Indians charged in. As daylight approached the defenders were able to return fire driving the Indians back.

When they discovered they couldn’t take the fort, the Indians faded away into the forests.

On the 16th the garrison was reinforced with six hundred mounted rangers and five hundred infantry led by Colonel Russell. Shortly after that Major General Hopkins arrived with another four thousand men.

On November 19th the army attacked the Prophet’s town, destroying everything – huts, cornfields, etc.

When he returned to Fort Harrison Taylor received notification President Madison had made him a brevet major for his services in the defense of the fort.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Elihu Root Secretary of War

By L. A. Coolidge

Elihu Root
In July, 1899, President McKinley faced a serious problem. The war with Spain had been fought and won. Within the short period of a year the United States had accepted the responsibility for the present control and future development of Cuba, Porto Rico and the Philippines. The regular army of the United States under emergency legislation was more than double in size what it had been a few months before. In­stead of being located at a few coast forti­fications and a few frontier posts, it was scattered in active service over half the globe. The War Department had suddenly de­veloped into the most important of all gov­ernment departments, with tasks before it far transcending any questions of mere mili­tary administration. Almost unconsciously and as a matter of administrative convenience, the War Department had become re­sponsible for the government of the islands which had formed the colonial dependencies of Spain—islands inhabited by millions of people of different races, religions, laws and traditions. It had become responsible for the proper inauguration of a new stage of national development—a task demanding great foresight great executive genius and extraordi­nary politi­cal wisdom. At that mo­ment the Secretary of War re­signed, and President McKinley found him­self confronted with the necessi­ty of choos­ing a suc­cessor.

The selec­tion was one which could not be light­ly made. The Presi­dent recognized that no ordinary man could meet all the requirements of the position. It may be doubted whether he really ex­pected to find a man who would be fully equal to the many exactions that would be made upon a new war secretary.

The best he could hope, after determining which of the functions of the department would be of greatest immediate importance, was to secure one who could be trusted to meet that pressing requirement. The most urgent question was that of the administra­tion of the new possessions, involving as it did the preservation of order and the substi­tution of an American system of government for the mediaeval systems which had pre­vailed for centuries under the rule of Spain. For this task he concluded that he needed first of all a lawyer of preeminent ability. He selected Elihu Root.