Saturday, October 22, 2016

Diary of John Hay: April 18, 1861

The White House is turned into barracks. Jim Lane marshalled his Kansas warriors to-day at Willard's and placed them at the disposal of Major Hunter, who turned them to-night into the East Room. It is a splendid company, worthy such an armory. Besides the western jayhawkers, it comprises some of the best material of the east. Senator Pomeroy and old Anthony Bleecker stood shoulder to shoulder in the ranks. Jim Lane walked proudly up and down the ranks with a new sword that the Major had given him. The Major has made me his aid, and I labored under some uncertainty as to whether I should speak to privates or not.

. . . . All day the notes of preparation have been heard at the public buildings and the armories. Everybody seems to be expecting a son or brother or “young man” in the coming regiments.

To-night Edward brought me a card from Mrs. Ann S. Stephens expressing a wish to see the President on matters concerning his personal safety. As the Ancient was in bed, I volunteered to receive the harrowing communication. Edward took me to the little room adjoining the hall, and I waited. Mrs. Stephens, who is neither young nor yet fair to any miraculous extent, came in leading a lady, who was a little of both, whom she introduced as Mrs. Col. Lander. I was delighted at this chance interview with the Medea, the Julia, the Mona Lisa of my stage-struck days. After many hesitating and bashful trials, Mrs. Lander told the impulse that brought them. Some young Virginian, long-haired, swaggering chivalrous of course, and indiscreet friend, had come into town in great anxiety for a new saddle, and meeting her had said that he, and half a dozen others, including a dare-devil guerilla from Richmond, named Ficklin, would do a thing within forty-eight hours that would ring through the world. Connecting this central fact with a multiplicity of attendant details, she concluded that the President was either to be assassinated or captured. She ended by renewing her protestations of earnest solicitude, mingled with fears of the impropriety of the step. Lander has made her very womanly since he married her. Imagine Jean M. Davenport a blushing, hesitating wife!

They went away, and I went to the bedside of the Chief couché. I told him the yarn; he quietly grinned. Going to my room I met the Captain. He was a little boozy and very eloquent. He dilated on the troubles of the time, and bewailed the existence of a garrison in the White House, “to give éclat to Jim Lane!"

Hill Lamon  came in about midnight saying that Cash. Clay was drilling a splendid company at Willard's Hall, and that the town was in a general tempest of enthusiastic excitement. Which not being very new, I went to sleep.

SOURCES: Clara B. Hay, Letters of John Hay and Extracts from Diary, Volume 1, p. 8-11; The Diary Review: The witty, dapper Mr. Hay, posted July 1, 2015 and accessed October 21, 2016, which enabled me to fill in the names in the blanks in Clara B. Hay’s Letters sited above.

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