Three tiny kittens were crawling about the tent at the time. The mother had died, and the little wanderers were expressing their grief by mewing piteously. Mr. Lincoln picked them up, took them on his lap, stroked their soft fur, and murmured; “Poor little creatures, don’t cry; you’ll be taken good care of,” and turning to Bowers, said: “Colonel, I hope you will see that these poor little motherless waifs are given plenty of milk and treated kindly.” Bowers replied: “I will see, Mr. President, that they are taken in charge by the cook of our mess, and are well cared for.” Several times during his stay Mr. Lincoln was found fondling these kittens. He would wipe their eyes tenderly with his handker-chief, stroke their smooth coats, and listen to them purring their gratitude to him. It was a curious sight at an army headquarters, upon the eve of a great military crisis in the nation’s history, to see the hand which had affixed the signature to the Emancipation Proclamation, and had signed the commissions of all the heroic men who served the cause of the Union, from the general-in-chief to the lowest lieutenant, tenderly caressing three stray kittens. It well illustrated the kindness of the man’s disposition, and showed the childlike simplicity which was mingled with the grandeur of his nature.
Horace Porter, Campaigning with Grant (New York: Century Co., 1897; New York: Konecky & Konecky, 1992), p. 410.