Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Diary of John Hay: Friday, April 19, 1861

Early this morning I consulted with Major Hunter as to measures proper to be taken in the matter of guarding the house. He told me that he would fulfil any demand I should make. The forenoon brought us news of the destruction of Government property at Harper's Ferry. It delighted the Major, regarding it as a deadly blow at the prosperity of the recusant Virginia.

I called to see Joe Jefferson, and found him more of a gentleman than I had expected. A very intellectual face, thin and eager, with large, intense blue eyes, the lines firm, and the hair darker than I had thought. I then went to see Mrs. Lander, and made her tell her story all over again “just by way of a slant.” Miss Lander the sculptor was there. I liked Jean M. more and more. Coming up, I found the streets full of the bruit of the Baltimore mob,1 and at the White House was a nervous gentleman who insisted on seeing the President to say that a mortar battery has been planted on the Virginia heights, commanding the town. He separated himself from the information and instantly retired. I had to do some very dexterous lying to calm the awakened fears of Mrs. Lincoln in regard to the assassination suspicion.

After tea came Partridge and Petherbridge from Baltimore. They came to announce that they had taken possession of the Pikesville Arsenal in the name of the Government — to represent the feeling of the Baltimore conservatives in regard to the present imbroglio there, and to assure the President of the entire fidelity of the Governor and the State authorities. The President showed them Hick’s and Brown’s despatch, which (said) “Send no troops here. The authorities here are loyal to the Constitution. Our police force and local militia will be sufficient;” meaning as they all seemed to think, that they wanted no Washington troops to preserve order; but, as Seward insists, that no more troops must be sent through the city. Scott seemed to agree with Seward & his answer to a despatch of inquiry was: “Governor Hicks has no authority to prevent troops from passing through Baltimore.” Seward interpolated, “no right.” Partridge and Petherbridge seemed both loyal and hopeful. They spoke of the danger of the North being roused to fury by the bloodshed of to-day and pouring in an avalanche over the border. The President most solemnly assured them that there was no danger. “Our people are easily influenced by reason. They have determinded to prosecute this matter with energy, but with the most temperate spirit. You are entirely safe from lawless invasion.”

Wood came up to say that young Henry saw a steamer landing troops off Fort Washington. I told the President. Seward immediately drove to Scotts’.

About midnight we made a tour of the house. Hunter and the Italian exile Vivaldi were quietly asleep on the floor of the East Room, and a young and careless guard loafed around the furnace fires in the basement; good looking and energetic young fellows, too good to be food for gunpowder, —if anything is.

Miss Dix called to-day to offer her services in the hospital branch. She makes the most munificent and generous offers.

1 Abraham Lincoln, iv, 123. The attack on the Sixth Massachusetts Regiment took place in Baltimore towards noon this day.

SOURCES: Clara B. Hay, Letters of John Hay and Extracts from Diary, Volume 1, p. 11-13: Tyler Dennett, Lincoln and the Civil War in the Diaries and Letters of John Hay, p. 3-4.

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