Post Reply 
Who wrote the lines of poetry "quoted" by Lincoln at the Soldiers' Home?
07-09-2021, 09:52 PM (This post was last modified: 07-09-2021 11:21 PM by Steve Whitlock.)
Post: #30
RE: Who wrote the lines of poetry "quoted" by Lincoln at the Soldiers' Home?
(07-09-2021 02:16 PM)Steve Whitlock Wrote:  
(07-09-2021 07:23 AM)RJNorton Wrote:  Thanks, David. I think the only question here is whether Francis Carpenter correctly quoted the San Francisco Bulletin article. I am very confident he did so, but I'd really like it if someone could possibly post the original article. It was published a month after Lincoln's assassination, so perhaps from the c. May 14, 1865, edition of the San Francisco Bulletin. The recollection is that of an anonymous woman from California.

Steve, in answer to your question, we are placing our trust in the memory of an anonymous visitor to Washington. I have no reason to question her memory from her time in Washington. Francis B. Carpenter obviously trusted her memory, and I do, too. Apparently there were other ladies present, but as far as I know, none of them provided recollections from that evening at the Soldiers' Home.

I did some looking last night and came across some references, including a newspaper article, but at the moment I'm on a short break while racing to complete mowing before thunderstorms get here in a few hours and over the weekend. I'll try to find it again when I finish, if Steve Williams doesn't beat me to it.
Roger and David,

The San Francisco Bulletin in it's 1865 form is unfortunately not part of my account. The newspaper article I saw last night was from 1924 (see attachment#1), 13 Sep 1924, Sat, Pg4, The Journal News, Hamilton, OH.

James King of William began publishing the Daily Evening Bulletin in San Francisco in October, 1855 and built it into the highest circulation paper of its time. He criticized a city supervisor named James P. Casey, who on the afternoon of the story about him ran in the paper, shot and mortally wounded King. Casey was lynched by the early vigilante committee. The Morning Call was established and began publishing in December 1856, and later merged with the Bulletin to become the long running Call-Bulletin.

There appear to be records, possibly at the SF Library, for the old newspapers. Unless I can find it online, or in a Family Tree, I may have to credit Mr. Carpenter with a correct account from his book. I have the original page images, but here is a transcription:

dent spent the nights of midsummer. More at leisure there than at the " shop," as he was in the habit
of calling his official chamber at the White House,
Mr. Lincoln sat down with the party for a leisurely
conversation. "I know," he said to Mr. Bowen,
"that you are a great admirer of Mr. Chase and
Mr. Seward. Now, I will tell you a circumstance
that may please you. Before sunset of election-day,
in 1860, I was pretty sure, from the despatches I
received, that I was elected. The very first thing
that I settled in my mind, after reaching this conclusion, was that these two great leaders of the
party should occupy the two first places in my
" The Soldier's Home," writes a California
lady,* who visited Mr. Lincoln there, "is a few miles
out of Washington on the Maryland side. It is situated on a beautifully wooded hill, which you ascend by
a winding path, shaded on both sides by wide-spread
branches, forming a green arcade above you. When
you reach the top you stand between'two mansions,
large, handsome, and substantial, but with nothing
about them indicative of the character of either.
That on your left is the Presidential country-house;
that directly before you, the' Rest' for soldiers who
are too old for further service. The'Home' only admitted soldiers of the regular army;
but in the graveyard near at hand there are num~* San Francisco Bulletin.

Page 224
berless graves —some without a spear of grass to
hide their newness - that hold the bodies of volunteers.
" While we stood in the soft evening air, watching the faint trembling of the long tendrils of waving willow, and feeling the dewy coolness that was
flung out by the old oaks above us, Mr. Lincoln
joined us, and stood silent, too, taking in the scene.
"'How sleep the brave, who sink to rest
By all their country's wishes blest,' -
he said, softly.
-" There was something so touching in the picture
opened before us, - the nameless graves, the solemn
quiet, the tender twilight air, but more particularly
our own feminine disposition to be easily melted, I
suppose, - that it made us cry as if we stood beside
the tomb of our own dead, and gave point to the
lines which he afterwards quoted: —
"' And women o'er the graves shall weep,
Where nameless heroes calmly sleep.'"
"Around the'Home' grows every variety of
tree, particularly of the evergreen class. Their
branches brushed into the carriage as we passed
along, and left with us that pleasant, woody smell
belonging to leaves. One of the ladies, catching a
bit of green from one of these intruding branches,
said it was cedar, and another thought it spruce.
"'Let me discourse on a theme I understand,'
said the President.'I know all about trees in

Page 225
right of being a backwoodsman. I'11 show you
the difference between spruce, pine, and cedar, and
this shred of green, which is neither one nor the
other, but a kind of illegitimate cypress.' He then
proceeded to gather specimens of each, and explain the distinctive formation of foliage belonging
to every species.'Trees,' he said,'are as deceptive in their likeness to one another as are certain
classes of men, amongst whom none but a physiognomist's eye can detect dissimilar moral features
until events have developed them. Do you know
it would be a good thing if in all the schools proposed and carried out by the improvement of modern thinkers, we could have a school of eJvents?'
"' A school of events?' repeated the lady he
"' Yes,' he continued,'since it is only by that
active development that character and ability can
be tested. Understand me, I now mean men, not
trees; they can be tried, and an analysis of their
strength obtained less expensive to life and human
interests than man's. What I say now is a mere
whiinsey, you know; but when I speak of a school
of events, I mean one in which, before entering
real life, students might pass through the mimic
vicissitudes and situations that are necessary to
bring out their powers and mark the calibre to
which they are assigned. Thus, one could select
from the graduates an invincible soldier, equal to
any position, with no such word as fail; a martyr

Page 226
to Right, ready to give up life in the cause; a
politician too cunning to be outwitted; and so on.
These things have all to be tried, and their sometime failure creates confusion as well as disappointment. There is no more dangerous or expensive
analysis than that which consists of trying a mall.'
"'Do you think all men are tried?.' was asked.
"'Scarcely,' said Mr. Lincoln,' or so many would
not fit their place so badly. Your friend, Mr.
Beecher, being an eloquent man, explains this well
in his quaint illustration of people out of their
sphere, the clerical faces he has met with in gay,
rollicking life, and the natural wits and good brains
that have*by a freak dropped into ascetic robes.'
"' Some men seem able to do what they wish in
any position, being equal to them all,' said some one.
"'Versatility,' replied the President,' is an injurious possession, since it never can be greatness. It
misleads you in your calculations from its very agreeability, and it inevitably disappoints you in any great
trust from its want of depth. A versatile man, to
be safe from execration, should never soar; mediocrity is sure of detection.'
" On our return to the city we had reached that
street — I forget its name-crossing which you
And yourself out of Maryland and in the District
of Columbia. Wondering at this visible boundary
that made certain laws and regulations apply to one
side of a street that did not reach the other, I lost
the conversatiofi, till I found it consisted of a dis

Page 227
cursive review of General McClellan's character, in
which I was directly appealed to to know if we had
not at one time considered him the second Napoleon
in California.
"I hastened to say that I had found, in travelling
in the New England States, more fervent admirers
of the Unready than I had ever known to expend
speculative enthusiasm upon him among us.
"'So pleasant and scholarly a gentleman can
never fail to secure personal friends,' said the President.' In fact,' he continued, kindly,' "Even his failings lean to virtue's side."
A keen sense of genius in another, and a reverence for it that forced expression, was out of place
at Seven Oaks, as beautiful things sometimes will
be. He was lost in admiration of General Lee, and
filled with that feeling, forebore to conquer him.
The quality that would prove noble generosity in a
historian, does not fit the soldier. Another instance
of the necessity for my suggestion being carried into
effect,' he added, smiling.
"When in New York a few months afterwards,
I heard the regular dinner-table conversation turn
on the' Nero who cracked jokes while Rome was
burning,' and the hundred and one wicked things
the McClellanites said of Mr. Lincoln, I recalled
the gentle verdict I had heard, and acknowledged
how bitterly a noble Christian gentleman may be
belied. It was after McClellan's speech at West

Page 228
Point, and his admirers were wild with enthusiasm
over the learning and classic taste it displayed.
The word'scholarly' rang from mouth to mouth in
characterizing it, - the very word Mr. Lincoln had
used months before in finding a merciful excuse for
his inefficiency.
"There is one little incident connected with this
visit to the Soldier's Home that remains with me as
connected with my home here. I had always noticed that the bare mention of our California cemetery filled the minds of those who heard it with a solemn sense of awe and sorrow, -' Lone Mountain!'
It seemed to rise before them out of the quiet sea, a
vast mausoleum from the hand of God, wherein to
lay the dead. I was not astonished, therefore, when
Mr. Lincoln alluded to it in this way, and gave, in
a few deep-toned words, a.eulogy on one of its most
honored dead, Colonel Baker. Having witnessed
the impressive spectacle of that glorious soldier's
funeral, I gave him the meagre outline one can
convey in words, of something which, having been
once seen, must remain a living picture in the
memory forever. I tried to picture the solemn hush
that lay like a pall on the spirit of the people while
the grand procession wound its mournful length
through the streets of the city out on that tearstained road to the gate of the cemetery, where the
body passed beneath the prophetic words of California's most eloquent soul,' Hither in future ages they
shall bring,' etc. When I spoke of' Starr King,' I saw

Page 229
how strong a chord I had touched in the great
appreciative heart I addressed; and giving a weak
dilution of that wondrous draught of soul-lit eloquence, that funeral hymn uttered by the priest of
God over the sacred ashes of the advocate and soldier of liberty, whose thrilling threnody seems yet
to linger in the sighing wind that waves the grass
upon the soil made sacred by the treasure it received
that day, I felt strangely impressed as'to the power
and grandeur of that mind, whose thoughts, at second-hand and haltingly given from memory, could
move and touch the soul of such a man as Abraham
Lincoln as I saw it touched when he listened. It
is the electric chain with which all genius and
grandeur of soul whatsoever is bound, - the freemasonry by which spirit hails spirit, though unseen.
Now they all three meet where it is not seeing
through a glass darkly, but in the light of a perfect
(lay." [SAW NOTE: Should be day.]
I included some extra stuff because I'm not sure how much was in the SF Bulletin article, and the ladies seem to be part of Lincoln's further commentary.

After looking at the book I see a line of bullets under "Where nameless heroes calmly sleep." That likely signals the end of the item from The SF Bulletin. I shouldn't have included anything after that.

Attached File(s) Thumbnail(s)
Find all posts by this user
Quote this message in a reply
Post Reply 

Messages In This Thread
RE: Who wrote the lines of poetry "quoted" by Lincoln at the Soldiers' Home? - Steve Whitlock - 07-09-2021 09:52 PM

Forum Jump:

User(s) browsing this thread: 2 Guest(s)