Friday, December 30, 2011

My Report to Congress

I was asked to compile a list of all the prisoners in the DC jails under my jurisdiction, including how long they were to be incarcerated and who made the arrest. My report showed that there were 187 prisoners and 51 runaway slaves.

Mr. Lincoln and Congress met to consider the surrender of Slidell and Mason from the Trent affair. And Mr. Lincoln authorized the purchase of 10,000 Spencer repeating rifles for the Union army.

Mr. Lincoln discussed my participation as a host for the party he and Mrs. Lincoln were hosting on January 1 at the White House.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Submission of a question to the senate

At the president's insistence, I offered the following letter to the Senate for their consideration.
"In obedience to the resolution of your Honorable body, a copy of which accompanies this, I have the honor to state that since I have held the office of Marshal of the District of Columbia, three persons claimed to be slaves, have been admitted into the jail of said District on the requests, respectively, of the persons claiming to be their owners; that this has been acquiesced in by me, upon an old and uniform custom here, based as I supposed upon some valid law, but of which supposed law I have made no investigation." signed Ward Hill Lamon

President Lincoln signed a bill to increase efficiency of navy. He also signed a bill to raise duty on tea, sugar, coffee, and molasses.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Congress Convenes in Regular Session

For the first time since the war started and following their special session which began on July 4, 1861, Congress convened on December 10, 1861. They heard a report early in session that the Union army, regular and volunteer, navy and marines now numberd 682,971 men.

One of their first votes was to move Mr. Mason and Mr. Slidell, rebel envoys to France and Britain and now incarcerated in Fort Lafayette, to solitary confinement. This was done in retaliation to the Confederate treatment of Colonel Michael Corcoran and Colonel Alfred Wood.

The whole Trent affair, incolving Mason and Slidell, was escalating in the British press.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Lincoln Delivers His Annual State of the Union Message to Congress

On December 3, President Lincoln delivered his annual State of the Union message to Congress. In his message he said "In the midst of unprecedented political troubles we have cause of great gratitude to God for unusual good health and most abundant harvests. You will not be surprised to learn that in the peculiar exigencies of the times our intercourse with foreign nations has been attended with profound solicitude, chiefly turning upon our own domestic affairs.
A disloyal portion of the American people have during the whole year been engaged in an attempt to divide and destroy the Union. A nation which endures factious domestic division is exposed to disrespect abroad, and one party, if not both, is sure sooner or later to invoke foreign intervention.
Nations thus tempted to interfere are not always able to resist the counsels of seeming expediency and ungenerous ambition, although measures adopted under such influences seldom fail to be unfortunate and injurious to those adopting them.

Friday, December 2, 2011

President Lincoln celebrates Thanksgiving in the White House

On Wednesday November 28, the Lincoln's celebrated Thanksgiving in the White House having dinner with his friend Joshua Speed and his wife. The following day President Lincoln read part of his upcoming message to Congress to his cabinet. The message was to be delivered on December 3.

Part of the annual message was published in the New York Herald, prompting and investigation as to who leaked the speech. Henry Wikoff, a European who was a friend of French leader Napoleon, was a suspect, as he had been sent to Washington by the Herald to be a secret correspondent. The president was embarrassed because Wikoff had been seen in close proximity to Mary Lincoln on several occasions.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Day of National Thanksgiving in the North

President Lincoln declared tomorrow a day of national thanksgiving in the North. He suggested prayer and gratefulness for the boys defending the country as they battled the rebels in various battles throughout the rebellious states.

The war had already lasted seven months. The ninety day recruits had either re-enlisted or gone home. New recruits arrived daily and training started upon their arrival. 

Mr. Lincoln kept up with the daily activities of the war by visiting the telegraph office on a daily basis. He read and reread acccounts from his generals. It wasn't too long before he realized that his men were always outnumbered and therefore frequently pushed ahead. They seemed to always be waiting for reinforcements.

He was excited to hear the news that Union forces now assumed exclusive control of both the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers. Up to that point those two rivers had been regarded as public right of ways.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Mr. Lincoln Gets Involved in the Trent Affair

Late last month, James Mason and John Slidell, two rebel diplomats sailed on the British mail steamer The Trent in an atempt to travel to France and England to try to get their support for the Confederacy. The envoys were prepared to convince the countries, who had already declared their neutrality,  that the Confederate States were a separate country rather that a loose confederation of rebellious states.

The Trent carried the two envoys first to Havana, Cuba and then prepared for sailing across the ocean. The union sloop San Jacinto intercepted The Trent on November 8 and captured the two men. Mason and Slidell were sent to New York where they were incarcerated at Fort Lafayette.

The British complained about the seizure. Mr. Lincoln consulted with Edward Bates, the Attorney General. Bates assured the president that the seizure of the Confedereate diplomats was legal.

Mr. Lincoln worried that the incident would bring the two foreign powers into the war, something he feared. He could not afford an international incident.

While the Queen continued to insure him of Britain's neutrality, the president had gotten reports from his staff that there was considerable evidence that Britain was desperate to get cotton from the South. It was believed that Britain was willing to run the blockade for the cotton, bringing guns and other supplies into rebal ports for an exchange of items that the rebels were desperate to receive.

Friday, November 11, 2011

As the President's Bodyguard, I Was Heavily Armed

Anyone who questioned my ability to guard President Lincoln didn't know me. At 6'4" and 260 pounds, my usual arsenal of weapons included two Cold .44 pistols, two Bowie knives, a set of brass knuckles, a black jack and a sword in the handle of my cane.  My fists were also weapons that I used frequently.

My weaknesses were hard luck stories, being too generous and extravagent, and lack of foresight. I always lived in the present. I told my daughter Dollie "not to be afraid of anything except smallpox and cats -- and that I could smell a cat in a room."

I recently had a incident in a dark alley in Washington City where I tried to arrest a man involved in a fight. The participants were told to stop that I was a federal police officcer. I showed my badge. One man stopped the other didn't. I told him three times he was under arrest. He came forward. I punched him in the facewith my fist. He was taken away by the medics. he never regained consciousness and later died.

I told Mr. Lincoln that I felt badly at how the event went down. He asked if I identied myself and showed my badge. I told him I had done both. The president told me next time to pick up a stick and use that, as it may not have hurt as much as the blow delivered by my fist.

Friday, November 4, 2011

General Fremont is Relieved of His Duties

The fued between President Lincoln and General John Fremont came to a head this week. In spite ot Fremont's victory at Lexington, the president was tired of Fremont's contuned attempts to emanciapte Missouri's slaves, in defiance of Mr. Lincoln's position on the matter, caused Fremont's dismissal. General David Hunter was assigned to take Fremont's place as commander of the division of Missouri.

Almost simultaneously, General Winfield Scott resigned his command of the U. S. Army, saying it was in the best interest of the country that he do so. The crusty old general who was a veteran of the war of 1812, the Blackhawk War, the Seminole War and the Mexican war and was now 75 years old, had been receiving criticism from the radicals in Congress. General McClellan was also very critical of General Scott. Ironically, Mr. Lincoln appointed General George McClellan to take Scott's duties as commander of the Union forces. The president praised General Scott's faithful service to the Union.

Mr. Lincoln also appointed a three man military commission to examine the financial affairs of the western department. Those appointed included Joseph Holt of Kentucky, David Davis of Illinois and Thomas Benton of Missouri. Judge Davis had been the circuit court judge for Mr. Lincoln and myself for the 8th circuit of Illinois. 

Friday, October 28, 2011

President Lincoln Mourns His Friend's Death

Mr. Lincoln received the news this week that his long time friend from Illinois, Colonel Edward D. Baker, was killed in the battle at Balls Bluff in Virginia. Ironically, Colonel Baker had spent the previous day with Mr. Linoln at the White House. Mary and Abraham Lincoln had so much love and respect for their long time friend, that they had named their second child, Edward Baker Lincoln (known as Willie) after their friend. On hearing the news Mr. Lincoln wept openly.

An official study of the battle originally called out General Charles Stone for sending in Baker's forces to be slaughtered as a preconcerted ploy arranged by the rebels.  General Stone was arrested and incarcerated.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Lincoln's Cabinet Takes a Tour

President Lincoln and his cabinet met on October 19, 1861. Then they went to the Naval Yard going then to Alexandria, Virginia where they toured the steamer Pensacola. They sailed on the Potomac River to inspect Fort Washington.

I visited Springfield, meeting with my father-in-law Judge Stephen Logan. I took his advice seriously that I needed to convince my wife Sally to join me in Washington City. Sally had been convinced that I would become President Lincoln's cousel to Paris, and was quite upset that instead I became U.S. Federal Marshal of the District of Columbia. Sally agreed that she would soon joined me in Washington City. She asked me to find a house for us. I was pleased that she would soon be joing me.

Upon my return to the White House, I met with Mr. Lincoln. He was pleased that Sally and I had worked out the disagreement, and that she would be joining me. He said that I was spending way too much time on my job, and that being with my wife would be good for my disposition.

Meanwhile, two neighbors from Mill Creek, Virginia, Belle Boyd and Molly Pultz, ened up the Old Capitol jail.  They were both charged with spying, as they were caught passing information to the rebels. 

Belle Boyd was a real problem. She sang rebel songs and had a poster of Jefferson Davis in her ceell. She was even caught flying the rebel flag out her prison window.  I talked to her several times, but with those encounters, I felt like I was on the losing end of the conversation both times.

As for Molly Pultz, whose parents owned the land butting up against the Lamon land in Mill Creek, I urged President Lincoln to release her to me, which he did. I vouched for her character. I really didn't think she would be back again. I sent her home with a mutual friend and a promise that I would nto see her again.

Friday, October 14, 2011

The President Reviews General McClellan's Troops

President Lincoln rode about three miles from the Capitol on October 8 to review the Union troops being trained by General George McClellan. This was not a unique experience.  Mr. Lincoln had reviewed local regiments two dozen different times up to this point.  He knew it was important to the troops morale that they see their commander-in-chief take a personal interest in their units.

The men, on the other hand, seemed to admire so much their president to the point that they didn't notice his awkwardness riding on his horse. And he certainly made riding any horse look uncomfortable and perhaps even funny. Horace Porter said the troops "were so lost in admiration of the man that the humorous aspect did not seem to strike them."

Mr. Lincoln loved all the cheers and salutes he got from his army. He was their friend. He wanted them to succeed as a whole, but he also was empathetic to the possibilities that they might be injured or killed defending the Union.

Friday, October 7, 2011

My Father-in-Law Requested a Visit to Springfield, Illinois

Judge Stephen Logan, my father-in-law, wrote at the end of September requesting that I visit him in Springfield, Illinois. I agreed, believing it was in my best interest to visit him and my wife Sally, who had not accompanied my to Washington City. I told him I thought I would visit in October.

I met with Mr. Lincoln followiing my completion of raising the Virginia Regiment, the Lamon Brigade. I asked him "by no means let my brigade be broken up -- or having its name changed. It will bring great dissatisfaction among my men. They are attached to me and I am to them." I also told the president that I personally thought that turning loose the slaves of the enemy was "the strongest card we could play."

My mother was quite upset that of her four boys, three had originally joined the Confederates and that I had joined the Union. I reminded her that she had always taught us to support the government. I am sure she meant that we should support the union, not the rebels.  My brother Robert, who had been arrested early in the war, was released to my custody and is now a deputy helping me perform my official duties.  Now in my mother's world, she had two boys on each side.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Criticism of My Behavior

As usual, Congressional opposition to President Lincoln were aimed directly at me, his personal bodyguard. Mr. Lincoln had warned me that this would happen.

Reports to the president included complaints that I was extravegant and excessive in my propensity to alcoholic beverages and eating, that I swore too much and that I smoked cigars to the extent that when one was nearly finished I used it to light the next one.

Admittedly these were problems, though minor ones. Mr. Lincoln was aware of my smoking, drinking and swearing. He didn't approve and often chided me about one or the other.  He also knew that I was willing to take a bullet for him, drop anything at any time day or night to aid him, and didn't do any of these to such an extent that it would interfere with my duties.

I smoked probably 15 cigars a day. So what?

I drank whiskey like water, but was also starting to grow fond of champaign and wines. Though my drinking was legendary, I swear I never drank enough that I couldn't recite "When you and I were young Maggie."

Friday, September 23, 2011

Maryland Legislators Arrested

In order to assure that the Maryland legislature didn't vote for succession and leave Washington City on an island and surrounded by the Confederate states, President Lincoln ordered the arrest of key legilators. They were incarcerated in the prison at Fort McHenry. When the state government met in Frederick on September 17, 1861 only eleven answered roll call. Without a quorem, there was no vote.

Several Baltimore residents were also jailed for secession leanings, along with the editor of the secessionist newspaper, The South and Baltimore Mayor George Brown for "complicity with those in armed rebellion against the government."

Secretary of War Simon Cameron said of the arrests "The passage of any act of secession by the Legislature of Maryland must be prevented. If necessary all or any part of the members must be arrested."

Ironically Maryland Governor Thomas Hicks and many of the regional newspapers supported the action of the Lincoln administration.

Friday, September 16, 2011

General Fremont Issue Comes to a Head

President Lincoln's attempt to get General Fremont to change his order (he had ordered that slaves confiscated in Missouri become freemen) failed. Fremont's wife brought the president letters from her husband saying that he refused to modify his order. Lincoln wrote back to General Fremont, this time demanding that the order be rescinded.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Ironclad Board Meets with the President

President Lincoln had been receiving reports that the Confederates were constructing the Virginia, an ironclad ship. Secretary of the Navy Giddeon Welles suggested the Union built several too.  Welles sosught designs from various firms.  When the Ironclad Board met and accepted a design offered by Swedish  engineer John Ericsson. The board thought the design too radical, but Mr. Lincoln did not agree.  After much discussion, Ericcson's design of a flat ship with a rotating turret was accepted.  That first ship was to be called the Moniter.

Meanwhile, in my excitement to raise troops for the Lamon brigade, I attempted to solicit men from Colonel Rowley's area of Pennsylvania.  The assistant adjutant general refused my request, saying that my men were to come only from Virginia.  The decision greatly irked me, but I pushed on to complete the task at hand, while secretly attempting to recruit additional men from Illinois.  

Friday, September 2, 2011

Fremont's Declaration Angers the President

On August 30, General John Fremont declared the slaves in rebellion in Missouri were to be freed. That upset President Lincoln, not only becaue the general failed to tell him (he learnedd in from the newspaper accounts) but because the president feared the message would cause the border states to flee and join the South.
The President wrote to General Fremont asking him to change his order. He said in his letter to the general "Allow me therefore to ask that you will by your own motion, modify (it) to conform to the Confiscation Act."
The president also celebrated the first naval victory. On August 27 a small Union fleet and about 1,000 troops attacked Fort Clark at Hatteras Inlet. After three hours of fighting, 700 Confederates surrendered along with two forts, without a single Union casualty.

Friday, August 26, 2011

President Lincoln's New Worry -- Troubles Brewing WIth the Spanish

President Lincoln met with representatives from the cities of Philadelphia, Boston and New York to help secure a $50,000,000 government loan to help finance the war. He continued to monitor troop action in Missouri.
Meanwhile General George McClellan, assure the president often that his men were in training, something they had not had much of prior to Manassas Junction/Bull Run, and would be much more prepared when they took the field. Mr. Lincoln was not patient waiting for General McClellan to take aggressive action against the sesesh states.
Supreme Court Justice John Catron, a supporter of slavery but a man who opposed secession, was expelled from Nashville, Tennessee because of his loyalty to the federal government.
Captain General of Cuba, Francisco Serrano y Dominguez, declared at this time that he would offer protection of rebel ships in the port of Cuba. And he gave them additional guarantees that were unfavorable to the saving of the Union. This caused a rift in foreign policy that President Lincoln thought might sour the relations between the United States and Spain. Mr. Lincoln feared that a disruption against Spain would bring other foreign nations into conflict, something he didn’t think the country could deal with at the present time.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Pro-treason Newspaper Denied Access to the Mails

Around this time, several newspapers including the Daily News, The New York Journal of Commerce, Freeman’s Journal , The Brooklyn Eagle, and the Day-Book, all considered pro-treason newspapers, were shut off and no longer allowed to use the U.S. mails to send their newspapers into the South. At the same time, government officials seized and shut down The Christian Observer in Philadelphia for similar reasons.
The government also arrested Charles J. Falkner, who had been sent by President James Buchanan to England. Faulkner was charged with treason and furnishing arms for the rebellion.
I spent much of the month organizing the First Virginia Volunteers in Williamsport, Maryland. They were made up mostly of boys from Virginia, just across the river from Williamsport. Mr. Lincoln had encouraged my efforts which ended up being eleven companies called the Lamon Brigade, which included four cavalry, six infantry and one light artillery company with two additional infantry uniots to be filled.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Confiscation Act Passes by Congress

In early August, just prior to their adjournment on the sixth, Congress passed the Confiscation Act, allowing for the confiscation of any property used to aid the Confederacy. The primary focus on the act was to allow for the confiscation of slaves.
Congress also acted to authorize items President Lincoln had already taken upon himself to do without authorization due to Congress being absent from the scene. Among those programs now given full authorization were his inaugurating of war, his initial calling of the troops, and his appropriations of funds needed to suppress the rebellion. All were heartily approved.
Mr. Lincoln monitored the war efforts from the War office where he could read the telegrams from the field at the instant they arrived.  He spent much of his time there. He also opened the White House to allow persons seeking federal appointments to walk in most any time and talk to him. He thought the public had a right to converse with the president.  All federal appointments were open for the first time in the country’s history to members of the Republican party.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Enforcing the Fugitive Slave Law Became My Charge

I had received word from my mother back in Mill Creek, Virginia that three of my brothers had joined the Confederate Army. I wrote back reminding her that she had always encouraged us to “obey the laws of our country and to support the Constitution and laws of the United States.”  I hoped that the time would never come when we had to lift our hands against each other.
In attempting to keep the Border States loyal, President Lincoln made it clear that he wanted the Fugitive Slave Law enforced fully. That became part of my job. Negroes from Maryland and those states close by in the south, saw Washington City as an ideal haven and fled here. I took them into my jails and held them, mostly for their protection. Our “accommodations” in the District jails became overcrowded with runaways, criminals and some military prisoners.
In our conversations, Mr. Lincoln reminded me that he had suggested that the District of Columbia ban slavery during his few short years in Congress, but that the measure was never been enacted.
About this time my brother, Robert, a Confederate soldier was captured and sent to my jail. After talking to him for several days, he saw the light. I arranged for his release. He would stay on in Washington City to become one of my assistants.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Lincoln Appoints George McClellan to Lead the Army

Although the great loss at Manassas Junction/Bull Run was very discouraging to many Washington City officials, President Lincoln was not one of them. He stood firm in his resolve that in the long run the Union Army would suppress the rebellion. He realized that after a bad start, the Union Army would recover and win, even if the struggle became long and drawn out.
Mr. Lincoln did fear however, if the tide was not turned quickly, that the people of the North might become discouraged and push for compromise and peace. He did have a large support base in his own party, but also realized that some were just backing the war as a means of securing additional revenue for themselves.
With the battle behind him, President Lincoln put General George McClellan in charge of the army. His appointment brought great enthusiasm to the soldiers who loved McClellan. His new duties however were compounded as the original 90 day enlistments were now up, and inexperienced soldiers came into his army. On July 24, 80,000 new Union volunteers were accepted into McClellan’s army.
On July 26, Congress finally voted to approve my appointment as U.S. Federal Marshal of the District of Columbia.  I had accepted my commission on April 12, but Congress had more important things to do in the meantime than to vote on political appointments.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Armies Clash at Manassas Junction, Virginia

Congress had approved the call up of 500,000 additional troops on July 16. Word from that same day was that a Negro, William Tilghman, killed three men and commandeered the rebel vessel S. J. Waring, and steered it safely into New York Harbor.
There was a great deal of commotion in Washington City yesterday as people who had taken their finest buggies to Manassas Junction to picnic as they watched the battle they thought would end the war, instead turned into a rout of the Union troops. Those returning to Washington City were in a panic, appalled by the brutality of the war and hoping that no blood had splashed on their fine attire.
Word from the field was that the Union army had won the early part of the day, but that Confederate reinforcements at the end turned the tide for the rebels. About 60,000 men were reportedly engaged – 20,000 Union and 40,000 Confederates. There were more than 5,000 killed and wounded in the battle.
This created great consternation and a shift in the political thinking, with Congressmen and Senators meeting with President Lincoln throughout the night to discuss the ramifications of the previous day’s actions.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Congress Authorizes Additional Troops

Congress continued to meet, but only considered bills concerning the military, naval and financial operations of the government in Washington City. Their Act of July 13 called for the closing of all ports, a measure that was a compromise from the original plan to blockade the ports. They were prepared within the next few days to authorize the call up of 500,000 additional Union soldiers. 
Some extreme Democrats tried to block any and all measures, but were voted down each time by overwhelming margins.  They sought peace negotiations throughout the entire session but got no support.
Meanwhile President Lincoln continued to treat the Confederate States of America as belligerents and their leadership as “quasi-government”, refusing to negotiate with states he considered in armed rebellion that he considered to be unconstitutional.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Congress Convenes in Special Session

General Patterson's Union army did indeed cross the Potomac River into Virginia on the early morning hours of July 2, 1861.They were met at Falling Waters by a Confederate army that retreated quickly as they were vastly outnumbered.

Congress convened for the first time in speical session on July 4, 1861. Prior to that, President Lincoln had almost no Congressional support. By that time he had declared war, raised troops, and spent money to support the war effort.

Now Congress needed to sanction his actions in a backhanded way, after he had already acted without authority. Mr. Lincoln would have argued, if needed, that what he did was done to save the Union. Hopefully that would not be needed.

W. H. Lamon

Friday, July 1, 2011

Invasion of Virginia to Begin Tonight

President Lincoln received a telegram informing him that General Patterson's men would begin crossing the Potomac River during the night tonight -- the first major inv asion of the war of Union soldiers entering onto the ground of the enemy.

Patterson's orders were to push the enemy out of Martinsburg, Virginia and then march his men further to Winchester, Virginia.

The President was excited to the point of telling me that he would wait up all night to read the dispatches at the telegraph office to track the action of Patterson and his men.

W. H. Lamon

Friday, June 24, 2011

Word of an Invasion of Union Troops into the South

Abraham Lincoln was apprised today that the Union Army, under General Robert Patterson, was amassing in southern Pennsylvania and would soon invade Virginia. The President was very excited about the plan, and felt that under Patterson, an old Mexican War veteran, the troops were in capable hands.

The men had been training in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. They would soon begin their march south into Maryland and cross the Potomac River in the first week of July.

Winfield Scott had been friends with Patterson, as both were around 70 years of age. Scott felt that the old timers had earned the right to lead the troops. He too thought Patterson was the right man for the job.

W. H. Lamon

Friday, June 17, 2011

President Lincoln Visits with A Long Line of Visitors

Each and every day, lines of people waited at teh White House in long lines to see Mr. Lincoln. Most were seeking political appointments, since all the polital jobs from post master on up turned over with the election of Mr. Lincoln as the first Republican President.

I avised Mr. Lincoln to limit stranger's access to him. But he was all baout being the President of the people, and therefore, he talked to every single person until he ws too tired to continue.

I did felt it dangerous to just let every "Tom, Dick and Harry" into the president's office. I asked that a log of names be kept and that each person be frisked to see if they had weapons. But he disagreed with all those suggestions. And he was the boss.

W. H. Lamon

Friday, June 10, 2011

Recruiting in Williamsport, Maryland

This past week I have been stationed at what has become known as Camp Lamon, my recruiting post where I was attemtpting to raise a Union regiment of Virginians. My appointment as U. S. Federal Marshal of the District of Columbia had not been authorize as Congress had not yet convened.

Williamsport, Maryland, being located just across the Potomac River from Virginia, made it convenient to send messengers into Virginia looking for recruits. As the word got out, more and more crossed the river to enlist.

It was through my recruiting that some confusion became obvious. I received correspondence to Colonel Lamon, Major Lamon and even General Lamon. To make things perfectly clear, the Governor of Illinois had given me the honorary title of Colonel. I was never anything beyond that, no matter what anyone else tells you.

I was not sure how long I would be allowed to recruit or when I would be expected back in Washington City.

W.H. Lamon

Friday, June 3, 2011

The Death of Steven A. Douglas Shocks Most Everyone

Abraham Lincoln talked today of the death of his arch-rival, yet strong supporter, Steven A. Douglas.  He and Douglas had clashed in the Lincoln-Douglas debates in Illinois in 1858. Douglas had won the U.S. Senate appointment Mr. Lincoln had wanted. Yer when Mr. Lincoln was elected President,  Douglas was one of the few members of Congress who was unshaken in his support for Mr. Lincoln.

What many people did not know or conveniently forgot, Mary Lincoln had been courted by Douglas before she married Mr. Lincoln. And at the Inaugural Ball, it was Mr. Douglas who escorted Mary into the event.

Mary Lincoln had told me that she married Abraham because someday he was going to be President of the United States. Obviously, in her great forsight, she did not think Douglas would achieve that position.

We will all miss "The Little Giant".

W. H. Lamon

Friday, May 27, 2011

Lincoln Mourns the Loss of His Friend, Colonel Ellsworth

It is a sad time at the White House.  Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln and I mourn the death of their our from Illinois, Colonel Ephraim Elmer Ellsworth, who was killed after taking down Confederate flag from the Marshall House Hotel in Alexandria, Virginia. Ellsworth was shot by the proprietor Captain Jackson. Jackson was then immediately shot and killed by Frank Brownwell, a member of Ellsworth’s New York Fire Zouaves.
Ellsworth had read law under Mr. Lincoln in Springfield, Illinois. Ellsworth and I had accompanied Mr. Lincoln when he voted in the presidential election on Nov. 6, 1860.  He had also been on the train with us when Mr. Lincoln rode from Springfield, Illinois to Washington City for his inauguration.
Mr. Lincoln had also been right that it wouldn’t be long before Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Roger B. Taney weighed in on his suspension of the writ of habeas corpus.  Taney had been appointed to his position by Andrew Jackson in 1837. The justice flew into a rage regarding Mr. Lincoln’s actions, condemning them. Taney was hardly impartial, as the President pointed out. Taney owned slaves at his home in Frederick, Maryland.
Mr. Lincoln responded by ordering Taney’s arrest. Mr. Lincoln swore out a warrant for Taney’s arrest and assigned the duties of taking the justice into custody to none other than me.
W. H. Lamon

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Additions to the Army and Navy Called Up

President Lincoln informed me that he was annoyed that  a Confederate flag flying from the top of a building in Alexandria could be seen out the window of his office. He asked me to see that the flag was removed. 
As I had already learned in my short time in Washington City, my duties included “and anything the president required of me.”
He had called up an additional 42,000 three year volunteers to help the 75,000 called up for ninety days. That initial call-up had produced 80,000 enlistees. Two hundred eight regiments were formed and had already been played in the field.
Although the country had boldly claimed that it was a “great maritime power”, the naval inventory included only 58 useable vessels with 1021 working guns. Meanwhile there had been a wholesale depletion on Naval officers, with resignations, men being dismissed or fleeing to the South.
Congress was also losing members to the newly formed Confederacy. All Senators and House members from the seceding states had resigned except one. Only John Edward Bouligny, a Congressman from New Orleans, Louisiana opposed secession and moved to Washington City so that he could continue to serve and support the Union.
W. H. Lamon

Friday, May 13, 2011

Trouble in Baltimore

President Lincoln was very troubled by the recent attempt by troops from Massachusetts who had been attacked in April while marching through Baltimore.  He ordered Pennsylvania units to guard the railroad north of town to prevent further problems. His additional order was to have future troops to come into Washington through Annapolis, Maryland instead of Baltimore.

He had been aware since his train trip through Baltimore in February of this year o the way to his Inauguration that southern sympathies were rampant in Maryland's largest city. The president was alsso aware that he could not let Maryland join the new Confederacy because then Washington City would be surrounded by the secessionists. He used Fort McHenry, where the Star Spangled Banner had been written by Francis Scott Key, as a prison, and herded Maryland and Baltimore officials as well as sympathetic members of the press into the prison for what he called "safe keeping."

Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Roger B. Taney, appointed in 1837 by Andrew Jackson, was furious at the president's decision to suspend habeas corpus. 

W. H. Lamon

Friday, May 6, 2011

My Early Days in Washington City

My early days in Washington were both very productive and very lonely. My new wife Sally was still back in Springfield, Illinois. She was quite unhappy with for two specific reasons. I had given her the impression that my young daughter Dollie would be coming with us. Dollie however was pretty stubborn and chose to live with her Aunt and Uncle Morgan who had raised her since the death of her mother and my first wife. Secondly, Sally had her heart set on my appointment as Counsel to Paris. Mr. Lincoln had other plans. Thus Sally chose to not accompany me to Washington City.
I sought accommodations in a neighborhood not far from the White House. I procured an annual lease on a small apartment and moved my meager belongings in. I would not be there much, but needed to have something if Sally changed her mind.
Meanwhile President Lincoln decided to open the White House to anyone and everyone. I didn’t think that was wise, but he reminded me that all federal jobs were now vacant. The majority of those in line were persons who wanted to meet the new President for the purpose of seeking postal appointments, port authority assignments or the like in their home town. For some reason Mr. Lincoln decided he needed to meet with each and every person and make the appointment himself.
Most of my day was overseeing the visitors and watching to see if I thought they were any danger to him. I was pretty sure that my two eyes alone could not avert a disastrous situation at the President’s home.
W. H. Lamon

Friday, April 29, 2011

My Appointment as Federal Marshal

I investigated the prison system in Washington City. My duties as United States Federal Marshal of the Districct of Columbia will include being the prisons’ administrator, feeding and transporting prisoners, and serving whatever other duties were assigned to me by the President. I would get a base salary and then expenses for whatever was needed in the feeding and transporting as needed.
The President wanted me close by in social settings at the White House, especially at times when there would be an important reception or dinner. Being a “social” dandy, I was certainly open to those additional duties. Mr. Lincoln was emphatic, saying that due to the importance of my position, I was not allowed to drink at those functions. That certainly put a damper on my enthusiasm for attending said events.
I also continued to keep an eye on Mr. Lincoln, as his self-appointed bodyguard. Washington City was full of scoundrels, not all of those being held in my jails. There were many southern sympathizers walking the streets, plus unfriendly politicians who had not been enamored by the Lincoln election, plus a whole list of other unsavory characters.  As my wife Sally would have said if she had been here, “this ain’t Paris.”
W. H. Lamon

Friday, April 22, 2011

President Lincoln Suspends the Writ of Habeas Corpus

Excitement was mounting in Washington. The first troops arrived to defend the capital on April 18, 1861, a fine group of 400 from the 25th Pennsylvania Volunteers and led by Colonel Henry L. Cake, a newspaper man from Northumberland. The following day, the president received the troubling news that the 6th Massachusetts regiment on its way to Washington City was attacked by a mob while passing through Baltimore, Maryland.  Three soldiers were killed and another eleven were wounded.  The troops fired in retaliation, killing eleven civilians and injuring many more.
As Mr. Lincoln was being pulled in every possible direction, needed here and there to make another split second decision, I tried to shelter him in the bowls of the White House for a few minutes at a time. 
I was sworn in as U.S. Federal Marshal to the District of Columbia, pending approval by the Senate that is not in session. I am to be in charge of the federal prisons and prisoners, and to report directly to Mr. Lincoln.
Today Mr. Lincoln suspended the writ of habeas corpus in the country. He said he thought it necessary in time of war. He expressed to me that he thought he would be hearing from Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Roger B. Taney on that subject in the not too distant future.
W. H. Lamon

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Bombardment of Fort Sumter -- The War Starts

April 12, 1861 is a day I will always remember. It was the day I was commissioned as the U.S. Federal Marshal of the District of Columbia. Other probably will also remember the day but for a very different reason.
In the early morning hours, before the sun came up, cannons started the bombardment of Major Anderson and his men at Fort Sumter in the Charleston harbor.  Thirty six hours later, the fort surrendered.  The war had begun.  It was only thirty-nine days into Mr. Lincoln’s presidency.
Mr. Lincoln did not have time to think about what might have been.  His leadership skills were being pressed to the limit. Congress did not meet until the fall. Technically only Congress could declare war.
On April 15, a call went out to all the states to send 75,000 men to help defend the Union. No one thought a war would be long and drawn out. Men were asked to enlist for 90 days. That seemed to me to be all that would be needed.
I personally think the attack on Fort Sumter woke a sleeping Northern population and quickly united them in purpose. The newspapers and the people blamed the South. The North, who seemed to be just hanging around, certain that there would be no war, were suddenly alarmed. Men and boys enlisted from every state to heed the president’s call.
I volunteered to raise a regiment myself. I was going to go into Maryland and try to raise a unit of Virginia boys willing to fight for the North.
W. H. Lamon

Friday, April 8, 2011

the President sent provisions to Fort Sumter -- Knowing the possible repercussions

Mr. Lincoln told me of a ship President Buchanan had sent to Fort Sumter in January, 1861 that was fired on and turned back by the South Carolina troops. That ship, The Star of the West, carried two hundred fifty soldiers to help reinforce Major Anderson’s eighty-five men.
Mr. Lincoln was determined to help Anderson and his men, but took a different tact. On the morning of April 4, 1861, President Lincoln gave the order to send provisions to the fort, and inform Governor Pickens that only provisions, not men, were being sent. That way, whatever Governor Pickens did in response would be deemed a provocative action. If the South fired first, they would be blamed to have started the war.
I was not real sure that Mr. Lincoln was not only counting on that, but that may have even been part of his plan. No matter what the South Carolinians did, Mr. Lincoln would have the upper hand.
Before leaving that meeting, Mr. Lincoln told me that I would be accepting my commission as U.S. Federal Marshal on April 12. I would be serving with him his entire four years as president. And that he wouldn’t actually be starting his job as marshal until July 26.
That evening I relaxed for the first time while in Washington City. I sat in the portico of the White House, within shouting distance of my friend the president, and softly strummed a tune on my banjo.  I thought perhaps the country was going to soon explode into a war, and that this night was perhaps the last time I could take a quite reprieve in preparation for the days ahead.
W. H. Lamon

Friday, April 1, 2011

Passing on the information from Fort Sumter to the President

Upon my return from Charleston, South Carolina and my visit to Fort Sumter, I passed on to Mr. Lincoln everything that I had seen and heard in Charleston.  The information, I could tell, was not comforting to the president. He paced back and forth in front of me, his hands clasp together behind his back, an action I had seen hundreds of times in the courtrooms of Illinois. I knew not to interrupt. 
I had known the man who was president since 1848. I knew that he often asked advice from all those around him, but rarely actually took it. He knew the decision at Charleston rested on his shoulders. He was the president. It was his decision and his alone. He was processing the pros and cons as I watched silently.
I was always amazed by how this man processed information. Thousands of times he asked the advice of the men around him. In court, he sought that input from other lawyers and his law partners. I got the feeling each and every time that it made no difference what that input was. Mr. Lincoln made up his own mind, often in complete opposition to what the majority had told him. Yet more often than not, what he decided on the subject turned out to be the most effective and fair decision.
He continued to march back and forth, negotiating as he did so expertly with others, only this time he appeared to me to be negotiating with himself. He was looking for a way to do what needed to be done while at the same time coming out on top.
It is my humble opinion (and I haven’t been drinking tonight) that before he wore a path in the carpet on the floor, he would figure this whole Fort Sumter out to his advantage.
W. H. Lamon

Friday, March 25, 2011

My Visit with Major Anderson at Fort Sumter

I arrived by train at the station in Charleston, South Carolina the morning of March 24, 1864. What I thought was to be a “secret” mission wasn’t quite what I thought. The first newspaper I picked up announced that Colonel Lamon was arriving from Washington City. (I am often called Colonel as just before I let Illinois the governor named me Colonel of a local Zouaves unit, an honorary title, for sure.)
The next morning I met with Governor Francis Perkins. I anticipated a give-and-take conversation. That’s not what happened at all. Governor Perkins informed me that “Nothing can prevent a war except acquiescence of the president of the United States in secession and his unalterable resolve not to attempt the reinforcement of the Southern forts. To think of South Carolina remaining any longer in the Union is simple preposterous. We have five thousand well-armed soldiers around this city. All the states are arming with great rapidity. This means war with all its consequences. Let your president attempt to reinforce Fort Sumter, and the tocsin of war will be sounded from every hill and valley.”
For once in my life, I had mostly “no comment.” I did ask to see Major Anderson. Governor Pickens provided me with a pass and an escort (which I could have done without) and passage on board the steamer Planter.  Major Anderson presented his situation as “tenuous”. He said that he and his 85 men would have to surrender within a month even if no shots were fired, because they would be out of food.
Upon returning to shore, I actually did meet with Mr. Huger, the postmaster, to act on the guise of my travel there.    
It was my intent in returning to Washington City, to inform the president that Major Anderson either had to be reinforced or evacuated.
W. H. Lamon

Friday, March 18, 2011

My Assignment to Visit South Carolina for the President

It seemed with each passing day, that war was imminent.  Mr. Lincoln polled his Cabinet members as to what their thoughts were on the situation at Fort Sumter in the Charleston, South Carolina harbor.
On the morning of March 16, 1861, Mr. Lincoln called me into his office.  He said the Cabinet couldn’t decide what needed to be done and on top of that, General Winfield Scott didn’t have the men to reinforce the fort. Scott recommended Mr. Lincoln abandon the fort.
Mr. Lincoln told me he needed me to travel to Charleston to be his “eyes and ears” and to assess the situation up close.  He made it quite clear that I was not to speak for him.
He ended our conversation with the following: “Hill, if Major Anderson evacuates Fort Sumter, then I shall have to evacuate the White House.” I think he said that because he wanted me to get the directions straight.
I was to carry a pass indicating that I had business with the postal authorities in Charleston. That was a guise. I was actually scheduled to meet with South Carolina Governor Pickens and even try to see Major Anderson at the fort. My duties were information gathering only. He made it very clear. I understood the assignment. And I prepared to leave.

Friday, March 11, 2011

My Appointment as U.S. Federal Marshal

I got a few minutes by myself following the Inauguration, and wandered the streets of the nation’s capital seeking a place to live.  I decided to seek a rental unit for now, because my wife Sallie was still pouting that she wasn’t able to go to Paris. I wasn’t sure what Paris looked like, but I am sure she would not be impressed by Washington City.
When I met with Mr. Lincoln, he told me that I was to be the United States Federal Marshal of the District of Columbia.  My job, he said, would include having authority over the jails and prisons and being the host of many of the town’s social functions. I would get a fair salary and would be allowed to enhance that with monies derived from transporting and feeding the prisoners. Best of all, Mr. Lincoln would be my sole supervisor. I would report directly to him, with no one else in the way. He assured me that he would also use me for “whatever was needed at the time”.
Not everyone was thrilled with me becoming U.S. Federal Marshal. Local politicians opposed the appointment because I was not a resident of the District. My hometown newspaper, the Bloomington  Pantagraph supported me, by saying in an editorial “Hill will make a good Marshal, we have no doubt. We believe was have never heard of his attempting anything he didn’t accomplish.”
The Washington Bar organization produced over 140 signatures supporting my appointment.
Mr. Lincoln, realizing that every federal job would now turn over since his was the first Republican administration, opened the White House to anyone and everyone. Lines formed as people filed in to see him all day, every day.  I urged that he let me at least check their persons for weapons, but Mr. Lincoln nixed the idea. “People of this country,” he reminded me, “have the right to bear arms.” Yes, but that being true, didn’t make my life any easier.
W. H. Lamon

Friday, March 4, 2011

The Inaguration of President Lincoln

The Inauguration on March 4, 1861 was another logistical nightmare.  Benjamin French asked me to be an assistant marshal for the event. Our job was to work with General Winfield Scott to use all the resources that we could muster to insure that no one would disrupt the ceremony.  That entailed posting sharp shooters on the roofs of buildings, having military personnel, some in uniform and others in civilian clothes, guarding the intersections and standing both on and in front of the platform where the president would speak.
Cavalry were assigned in front, in back and alongside the carriage that carried Mr. Lincoln and President Buchanan to the capitol.  I was uncomfortable with all the potentially disastrous situations. I was serious about being aware and alert and even took the day off from my usual proclivity toward alcoholic beverages.
Fortunately, the day went off without a hitch. Mr. Lincoln seemed comfortable with the new responsibility. Mrs. Lincoln took me aside and asked me if I remembered that she had predicted, probably a dozen years ago, that Mr. Lincoln would someday be President.  I certainly do remember.  She had told me, “He is to be President of the United States someday. If I had not thought so I never would have married him.”  
The day ended with the Inaugural Ball. I was exhausted, but encouraged that our intense planning had made the event safe for the chief executive.
The newspaper reporter writing about the event, mentioned that the presidential carriage was guarded by a cavalry troop that included “a giant, garbed in a coat of military cut, with two pistols and a bowie knife in his sash of red, mounted on a splendid horse in the center of the guards in the rear of the vehicle.”  The man he was describing was me.
W. H. Lamon

Friday, February 25, 2011

The President Elect is Warned about a Baltimore Plot

On Thursday evening, February 21, 1861, we stayed overnight at the Continental Hotel in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Following Mr. Lincoln’s speech, Governor Curtin of Pennsylvania met me in the lobby and asked if I was up to the task of guarding the president-elect. I showed him my armaments – two Colt 44 pistols, two Bowie knives, a black jack, a set of brass knuckles, and a hickory cane with a sword in the handle. “Yes, Mr. Governor. I am ready.”
Later that evening, railroad detective Allan Pinkerton met with us to inform Mr. Lincoln that his detectives in Baltimore had uncovered a plot to assassinate the newly elected President when his train passed through Baltimore.  Pinkerton said the plan was to distract the police at the scene when the train cars were being transferred between stations.  Assassins would carry out the dastardly deed when the police left his side.  Mr. Lincoln did not believe the reports and insisted that the train proceed on scheduled as listed in the newspapers.
I convinced Mr. Lincoln that we needed to take precautions, even if the information was incorrect.  I impressed upon him that his safety was a larger concern than the audience waiting to see him in the very unfriendly city of Baltimore. It was Mrs. Lincoln who finally urged him to allow me to sneak him through the city in the middle of the night. She trusted me.  Pinkerton himself had offered to do the job, but none of us trusted Pinkerton.
Mr. Lincoln wanted to fulfill his obligation in speaking to the state legislature of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, but agreed after that to follow my plan. The plan was simple. We would take the train, pass through the town in the middle of the night, and not let anyone know the details including Mrs. Lincoln. Part of the plan was to cut the telegraph wires from Harrisburg so no one could relay the information to the scoundrels who were waiting.
Mr. Lincoln gave his talk in Harrisburg the evening of February 22. While eating dinner, I gave the signal and Mr. Lincoln excused himself, saying he was not feeling well. I escorted him onto the Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore Railroad. We passed through Baltimore, transferring trains in the dead of the night, and made it safely to Washington, D.C.
Newspaper reports and cartoons in the following days showed Mr. Lincoln hidden by a shawl and being secreted through Baltimore. He was always embarrassed by the way he arrived at the nation’s capital. For my money, all that counted was that he arrived safely.
W. H. Lamon

Friday, February 18, 2011

Part II -- The train trip to Washington City

The train trip was intense. Because the itinerary had been published in all the newspapers, every town we travelled through was filled with people of all ages wanting to get a look at their new President, Abraham Lincoln.
Even out in the middle of nowhere, people waved as our train went past.  In the large cities, huge crowds waited at the depots. In my new role as bodyguard, the logistics were a nightmare. In every direction I saw someone who might harm my friend, before he was allowed to go through the inauguration to become our country’s leader.
I was alone in worrying about his safety. Meanwhile, Mr. Lincoln was surrounded by family and friends. Mrs. Lincoln, Robert, Willie and Tad all were on board and helped us celebrate the president-elect ‘s  52nd birthday in Cincinnati on February 12, 1861. Others on board included Mr. Lincoln’s personal physician, William Wallace; is personal secretaries, John Hay and John Nicolay; Illinois Governor Richard Yates;  Norman Judd; Major David Hunter; O.H. Browning;  Judge David Davis; John Pope; and Captain Elmer Ellsworth.
On February 13, we arrived in Columbus, Ohio.  There Mr. Lincoln spoke to the Ohio state legislature. That night we got the news that the Electoral College had made it official. The telegram from General Winfield Scott said it all. “The votes were counted peaceably. You are elected.”
Mr. Lincoln smiled at the news.  And then he told me in soft voice only I could hear.  “Now the work begins.”
W. H. Lamon

Friday, February 11, 2011

The train trip to Washington City

President-elect Abraham Lincoln decided to travel to Washington, D.C. by train to allow persons along the way to see their newly elected leader.  Before the train pulled out of the Great Western depot in Springfield at 8 .m. on February 11, 1861, Mr. Lincoln talked to the crowd. I was puzzled when he said “With these words I must leave you – for how long I know not. Friends, one and all, I must now bid you an affectionate farewell.”  It sounded to me like he didn’t think he’d ever return.
With that we started on a twelve day, 1900 mile trip involving twenty-three separate railroads. We would stop for a few minutes at every town we passed through, with overnights in major cities along the way.
That first night we stayed at the Bates Hotel in Indianapolis, Indiana. Several of Mr. Lincoln’s friends prepared to return home. They met with the president elect and wished him well. They cut locks from his hair for “posterity”. Then they cornered me in a room.
Jessie Dubois (who I knew as “Uncle Jessie”) got close to my face, looked me in the eye and shook his finger in my face. “Mr. Lamon,” he said. “We entrust the life of Abraham Lincoln to your keeping. If you don’t protect it, never return to Illinois for we will murder you on sight.” And they were not kidding.
On that evening I unofficially became the personal bodyguard of President Abraham Lincoln. As a man of stature, weighing 250 pounds and standing 6 feet 4 inches tall, I also knew that I was one of the few men in Abraham Lincoln’s life who he totally trusted.
I did not take my assignment lightly at all. I would have taken a bullet for my friend, if necessary. I was also one who would shoot first and ask questions later, if that was what was needed.
W. H. Lamon

Friday, February 4, 2011

Mr. Lincoln has other ideas for me

As the letters of support for me to become Minister of France continued to pile up on Abraham Lincoln’s desk in Springfield, I was asked to join him at his office. My wife Sallie was beside herself – very sure Mr. Lincoln was going to announce that he made the appointment. Her bags were packed to be shipped to Paris.
Mr. Lincoln didn’t mince words. But instead of announcing me as the new Minister of France, he said the following: “You know, Hill, that I will have little support in Washington. I am trying to pull together my political opponents for my Cabinet. I think they will agree to aid me with this difficult task. Congress does not meet until the fall. The country is in crisis. And I will be accepting the job as President of the United States, perhaps the most important position anywhere, with no experience handling even a small portion of the job. Please, Hill, tell me you will go with me.”
I was honored to be asked, while at the same time realizing that Mrs. Lamon would not find Washington, D.C. anywhere near as appealing as Paris, France. I did not let her feelings influence my decision. Right away I agreed to go to Washington with Mr. Lincoln.
Sallie’s response was not quite as enthusiastic. In fact, her words are not printable. She actually refused to go with me to Washington.
W. H. Lamon

Friday, January 28, 2011

The excitement of our friend Abraham Lincoln as President

Everyone in Springfield and its environs (including where I lived in Bloomington, Illinois) are all excited about “our favorite son” Abraham Lincoln as he prepares to leave to travel to Washington, D. C. to become President of the United States.
My wife, Sallie, daughter of Stephen Logan of Springfield, was even more excited about the possibility of my potential appointment as Minister of France, with an office and home in Paris.  Sallie, her father and his powerful political friends were lobbying hard for my appointment. It was to be my reward for what was known in politics as a “fat Favor.”  Their letters were full of compliments of my work especially during the Republican National Convention where Mr. Lincoln’s cronies pulled all stops to get their man, Abraham Lincoln, a long shot candidate, to victory.
Those letters of support did not mention all my activities at the convention including but not limited to finding Mr. Hersey the printer of tickets to the Wigwam, where the convention was being held. I paid Mr. Hersey out of my own pocket to print bogus tickets to the Wigwam. My colleagues, Alexander Conner, Henry Russel, Mr. Marshal and I forged names of Lincoln supporters onto the tickets. The following morning, the day of the election to name the Republican nominee, Seward’s supporters who had official passes to enter were turned away from the Wigwam, because the Lincoln men had already been seated.
When Mr. Lincoln found out about my shenanigans, he was not happy. If he had his way now, I am thinking I would become the Minister of some uninhabited island in the middle of the ocean.
W. H. Lamon