Noah Brooks (1830-1903), a merchant turned reporter, had known Lincoln in Illinois before moving to Sacramento CA and then on to Washington, DC. After 1862, he had personal access to Lincoln in his public and private life.
“Lincoln particularly liked a joke at the expense of the dignity of some high civil or military official. One day, not long before his second inauguration, he asked me if I had heard about Stanton’s meeting a picket on Broad River, South Carolina, and then told this story: ‘General Foster, then at Port Royal, escorted the secretary up the river, taking a quartermaster’s tug. Reaching the picket lines on the river, a sentry roared from the bank, ‘Who have you got on board that tug? The severe and dignified answer was, ‘The Secretary of War and Major-General Foster.’ Instantly the picket roared back, ‘We’ve got major-generals enough up here – why don’t you bring us up some hard-tack?’ The story tickled Lincoln mightily, and he told it until it was replaced by a new one.”
Brooks reported his observations on Lincoln’s last hours before his assassination:
“He was unusually cheerful that evening, and never was more hopeful and buoyant concerning the condition of the country. Speaker [Schuyler] Colfax and your correspondent were at the house just before he went out for the last time alive, and in his conversation he was full of fun and anecdotes, feeling especially jubilant at the prospect before us. The last words he said as he came out of the carriage were: ‘Grant thinks that we can reduce the cost of the army establishment at least a half million a day, which, with the reduction of expenditures of the Navy, will soon bring down our national debt to something like decent proportions, and bring our national paper up to a par, or nearly so, with gold; at least so they think.’”
Read LOADS more: Mr. Lincoln and Friends (a phenomenal website) at
Tomorrow, a tale of Lincoln as a lad. Rita Bay