Nov. 18 we started from Washington to go to the consecration of the Soldiers’ Cemetery at Gettysburg. On our train were the President, Seward, Usher and Blair; Nicolay and myself; Mercier and Admiral Reynaud; Bertinatti and Capt Isola, and Lt Martinez and Cora; Mrs. Wise; Wayne MacVeagh; McDougal of Canada; and one or two others. We had a pleasant sort of a trip. At Baltimore Schenck’s staff joined us.
Just before we arrived at Gettysburg, the President got into a little talk with McVeagh about Missouri affairs. MacV. talked radicalism until he learned that he was talking recklessly. The President disavowed any knowledge of the Edwards case; said that Bates said to him, as indeed he said to me, that Edwards was inefficient and must be removed for that reason.
At Gettysburg the President went to Mr. Wills who expected him, and our party broke like a drop of quicksilver spilt. MacVeagh, young Stanton and I foraged around for a while — walked out to the College, got a chafing dish of oysters, then some supper, and, finally, loafing around to the Court House where Lamon was holding a meeting of marshals, we found Forney, and went around to his place, Mr. Fahnestock’s, and drank a little whiskey with him. He had been drinking a good deal during the day, and was getting to feel a little ugly and dangerous. He was particularly bitter on Montgomery Blair. MacVeagh was telling him that he pitched into the Tycoon coming up, and told him some truths. He said the President got a good deal of that, from time to time, and needed it.
He says: — “Hay, you are a fortunate man. You have kept yourself aloof from your office.
I know an old fellow now seventy, who was Private Secretary to Madison. He thought there was something solemn and memorable in it. Hay has laughed through his term.”
He talked very strangely, referring to the affectionate and loyal support which he and Curtin had given to the President in Pennsylvania, with references from himself and others to the favors that had been shown the Cameron party whom they regard as their natural enemies. Forney seems identified now fully with the Curtain interest, though, when Curtin was nominated, he called him a heavy weight to carry, and said that Cameron’s foolish attack nominated him.
We went out after a while following the music to hear the serenades. The President appeared at the door, said half a dozen words meaning nothing, and went in. Seward, who was staying around the corner at Harper’s was called out, and spoke so indistinctly that I did not hear a word of what he was saying. Forney and MacVeagh were still growling about Blair.
We went back to Forney's room, having picked up Nicolay, and drank more whiskey. Nicolay sang his little song of the “Three Thieves,” and we then sang John Brown. At last we proposed that Forney should make a speech, and two or three started out, Stanton and Behan and Nicolay, to get a band to serenade him. I staid with him; so did Stanton and MacVeagh. He still growled quietly, and I thought he was going to do some thing imprudent. He said, “if I speak, I will speak my mind.” The music sounded in the street, and the fuglers came rushing up, imploring him to come down. He smiled quietly, told them to keep cool, and asked, “are the recorders there?” “I suppose so, of course,” shouted up the fugler. “Ascertain!” said the imperturbable Forney: “Hay, we'll take a drink.” They shouted and begged him to come down. The thing would be a failure; it would be his fault, etc. “Are the recorders congenial?” he calmly insisted on knowing. Somebody commended prudence. He said sternly, “I am always prudent.” I walked down stairs with him.
The crowd was large and clamorous. The fuglers stood by the door in an agony. The reporters squatted at a little stand in the entry. Forney stood on the threshold, John Young and I by him. The crowd shouted as the door opened. Forney said; “My friends these are the first hearty cheers I have heard to-night. You gave no such cheers to your President down the street. Do you know what you owe to that great man? You owe your country — you owe your name as American Citizens.”
He went on blackguarding the crowd for their apathy, and then diverged to his own record, saying he had been for Lincoln in his heart in 1860, — that open advocacy was not as effectual as the course he took — dividing the most corrupt organisation that ever existed — the pro-slavery Democratic party. He dwelt at length on this question, and then went back to the Eulogy of the President, that great, wonderful, mysterious, inexplicable man, who holds in his single hands the reins of the republic; who keeps his own counsels; who does his own purpose in his own way, no matter what temporising minister in his Cabinet sets himself up in opposition to the progress of the age.
And very much of this.
After him Wayne MacVeagh made a most touching and beautiful spurt of five minutes, and Judge Shannon of Pittsburg spoke effectively and acceptably to the people.
“That speech must not be written out yet,” says Young. “He will see further about it when he gets sober,” as we went up stairs. We sang John Brown and went home.
In the morning I got a beast and rode out with the President and suite to the Cemetery in the procession. The procession formed itself in an orphanly sort of way, and moved out with very little help from anybody; and after a little delay Mr. Everett took his place on the stand, — and Mr. Stockton made a prayer which thought it was an oration — and Mr. Everett spoke as he always does, perfectly; and the President, in a firm, free way, with more grace than is his wont, said his half dozen lines of consecration, — and the music wailed, and we went home through crowded and cheering streets. And all the particulars are in the daily papers.
I met Genl Cameron after coming in and he, MacVeagh and I, went down to dinner on board the U. C. R. R. Car. I was more than usually struck by the intimate jovial relations that exist between men that hate and detest each other as cordially as do those Pennsylvania politicians.
We came home the night of the 19th.
SOURCES: Clara B. Hay, Letters of John Hay and Extracts from Diary, Volume 1, p. 120-5; For the whole diary entry see Tyler Dennett, Editor, Lincoln and the Civil War in the Diaries and letters of John Hay, p. 119-22.