Henry C. Whitney

“He Played on a Boy’s Harp all the Way”

Posted on Updated on

Next day he made some arrangement about his horse and buggy, and took the train to fill an appointment somewhere up north-west. I saw him start for the train: being obliged to ride over two miles in an old dilapidated omnibus, he was the sole occupant of the nondescript conveyance he had somehow procured, and had in his hand a small french harp, which he was making most execrable music with. I rallied him on this, to which, stopping his concert, he replied, “This is my band; Douglas had a brass band with him in Peoria, but this will dome:” and he resumed his uncouth solo as the vehicle drove off: and the primitive strains, somewhat shaken up by the jolting conveyance, floated out upon the air till distance intervened.l

Quoted in Henry Clay Whitney, Life on the Circuit with Lincoln, introduction and notes by Paul M. Angle (Caldwell, Idaho: The Caxon Printers, 1940), pp.31

“He had Hidden the Loud”

Posted on Updated on

While coming in one day with the paper I met Dunaway, our host, coming down from our room, where he had been and still was searching anxiously for his gong, which some ruthless hand had, alas, abstracted. When I had reached the room I was in the presence of the culprit. Lincoln sat awkwardly in a chair tilted up after his fashion, looking amused, silly and guilty, as if he had done something ridiculous, funny and reprehensible.

The Judge was equally amused; but said to him: “Now, Lincoln, that is a shame. Poor Dunaway is the most distressed being. You must put that back,” etc., etc.

It seems that Lincoln, in passing through the dining-room, had seen the offending and noisy instrument; and in a mischievous freak had secreted it between the top and false bottom of a center table, and where no one would have thought of looking for it. But he and I immediately repaired to the dining-room and while I held the two contiguous doors fast Lincoln restored the gong to its accustomed place, after which he bounded up the stairs, two steps at a time, I following.

Quoted in Henry Clay Whitney, Life on the Circuit with Lincoln, introduction and notes by Paul M. Angle (Caldwell, Idaho: The Caxon Printers, 1940), pp.79

“If I Cannot Find some Excuse”

Posted on Updated on

I remember one day being in his room when he was sitting at his table with a large pile of papers before him, and after a pleasant talk he turned quite abruptly and said, ‘Get out of the way, Swett; to-morrow is butcher-day, and I must go through these papers and see if I cannot find some excuse to let these poor fellows off.’ The pile of papers he had were the records of courts martial of men who on the following day were to be shot. He was not examining the records to see whether the evidence sustained the findings; he was purposely in search of occasions to evade the law, in favor of life.

By William H. Herndon,Jesse W. Weik “Herndon’s Lincoln: A True Story of a Great Life” ,Douglas L. Wilson and Rodney O. Davis, editor, Herndon’s Informants, p. 165 (Leonard Swett’s 1877 revision of a January 17, 1866 letter to William H. Herndon).