Sunday, July 2, 2017

Diary of John Hay: November 8, 1864

The house has been still and almost deserted to-day. Everybody in Washington, not at home voting, seems ashamed of it and stays away from the President.

I was talking with him to-day. He said:— “It is a little singular that I, who am not a vindictive man, should have always been before the people for election in canvasses marked for their bitterness:— always but once. When I came to Congress it was a quiet time. But always besides that, the contests in which I have been prominent have been marked with great rancor. . . . .”

During the afternoon few despatches were received. At night, at seven o'clock, we started over to the War Department to spend the evening. Just as we started we received the first gun from Indianapolis showing a majority of 8,000 there, a gain of 1,500 over McClellan’s vote. The vote itself seemed an enormous one for a town of that size, and can only be accounted for by considering the great influx, since the war, of voting men from the country into the State centres where a great deal of army business is done. There was less significance in this vote on account of the October victory which had disheartened the enemy and destroyed their incentive to work.

The night was rainy, steamy and dark. We splashed through the grounds to the side door where a soaked and smoking sentinel was standing in his own vapor with his huddled-up frame covered with a rubber cloak. Inside, a half-dozen idle orderlies; up-stairs the clerks of the telegraph. As the President entered, they handed him a despatch from Forney claiming ten thousand Union majority in Pennsylvania. “Forney is a little excitable.” Another comes from Felton, Baltimore, giving 15,000 in the city, 5,000 in the State. “All Hail, Free Maryland. That is superb!” A message from Rice to Fox, followed instantly by one from Sumner to Lincoln, claiming Boston by 5,000, and Rice’s and Hooper’s elections by majorities of 4,000 apiece. A magnificent advance on the chilly dozens of 1862.

Eckert came in, shaking the rain from his cloak, with trousers very disreputably muddy. We sternly demanded an explanation. He had done it watching a fellow-being ahead, and chuckling at his uncertain footing. Which reminded the Tycoon of course. The President said:— “For such an awkward fellow, I am pretty surefooted. It used to take a pretty dexterous man to throw me. I remember, the evening of the day in 1858, that decided the contest for the Senate between Mr. Douglas and myself, was something like this, dark, rainy and gloomy. I had been reading the returns and had ascertained that we had lost the legislature, and started to go home. The path had been worn hog-backed, and was slippery. My foot slipped from under me, knocking the other one out of the way, but I recovered myself and lit square; and I said to myself: It's a slip and not a fall?’”

The President sent over the first fruits to Mrs. Lincoln. He said, “She is more anxious than I.”

We went into the Secretary's room. Mr. Welles and Fox soon came in. They were especially happy over the election of Rice , regarding it as a great triumph for the Navy Department. Says Fox, “There are two fellows that have been specially malignant to us. Hale and Winter Davis, and retribution has come over them both.” “You have more of that feeling of personal resentment than I,” said Lincoln. “Perhaps I may have too little of it, but I never thought it paid. A man has not time to spend half his life in quarrels. If any man ceases to attack me, I never remember the past against him. It has seemed to me recently that Winter Davis was growing more sensible to his own true interests, and has ceased wasting his time by attacking me. I hope, for his own good, he has. He has been very malicious against me, but has only injured himself by it. His conduct has been very strange to me. I came here his friend, wishing to continue so. I had heard nothing but good of him; he was the cousin of my intimate friend Judge Davis. But he had scarcely been elected when I began to learn of his attacking me on all possible occasions. It is very much the same with Hickman. I was much disappointed that he failed to be my friend. But my greatest disappointment of all has been with Grimes. Before I came here I certainly expected to rely upon Grimes more than any other one man in the Senate. I like him very much. He is a great strong fellow. He is a valuable friend, a dangerous enemy. He carries too many guns not to be respected on any point of view. But he got wrong against me, I do not clearly know how, and has always been cool and almost hostile to me. I am glad he has always been the friend of the Navy, and generally of the Administration.”

. . . Towards midnight we had supper. The President went awkwardly and hospitably to work shovelling out the fried oysters. He was most agreeable and genial all the evening, in fact. . . . Capt. Thomas came up with a band about half past two, and made some music. The President answered from the window with rather unusual dignity and effect, and we came home.

SOURCES: Clara B. Hay, Letters of John Hay and Extracts from Diary, Volume 1, p. 238-42; Michael Burlingame & John R. Turner Ettlinger, Editors, Inside Lincoln’s White House: The Complete Civil War Diary of John Hay, p. 243-6

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