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Wilson, Douglas L., ed.; Davis, Rodney O., ed.; Cannon, LeGrand B. 'LeGrand B. Cannon to William H. Herndon' in 'Herndon's Informants: Letters, Interviews, and Statements About Abraham Lincoln' . Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1998. [format: book], [genre: letter]. Permission: University of Illinois Press
Persistent link to this document: http://lincoln.lib.niu.edu/file.php?file=herndon678.html


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-- 679 --

It was my great good fortune to know something of Lincoln distinct from his official life. It is the outcome of [it?].

Intensely in earnest, I entered the service at the opening of the Rebellion as a Staff officer in the Regular Army and was assigned to the Department of Virginia with Head Quarters at Fort Monroe, Maj Genr Wool in command of the Dept. & I was honored by him as his Chief of Staff & enjoyed his entire confidence. it was the only Gate open for communication with the Rebel Govt. & Genl Wool was the Agent for much intercourse.

In the early stages of the war there was a want of harmony between the Army & Navy about us, which seriously embarrased Military Operations resulting in the President & Sect'y — Chase & Stanton coming to Fort Monroe to adjust Matters.

Domestic comforts were limited at Head Quarters & the President occupied my room & I was (in accordance with Military etiquett) assigned to him as "Aid in waiting" & Scty. Altho I had frequently Met the Pres. as "Bearer of Dispatches" I was not a little prejudiced & a good deal irritated at the levity which he was charged with indulgence in. In grave matters jesting & [frolicking?] seemed to me shocking, with such Vital Matters to settle & I confess to thinking of Nero.

But all this Changed when I came to know Lincoln & I very soon discerned that he had a Sad Nature & that it was a terrable burden & that his saddness did not originate in his great official responsibility. I had heard that his house was not pleasant, but did not know that their was More beyond it.

The day after Lincoln came to us. He said to me I suppose you have neither a Bible or a copy of Shakespeare here. I replyed that I had a Bible & the Genl. Shakespear & that he never missed a night without reading it. The Prest. asked wont he lend it to me, which of course I obtained.

The day following he read by himself in one of my offices some two hours, or more, entirely [alone?] I being engaged in a connecting room on duty. He interrupted & wished me to rest, & he would read to me. He read from MacBeth Lear & finally King John, & in reading the passage where Constance bewails the loss of her child to the King. [2] I noticed that he was deeply move, his voice trembled, laying the Book on the table, he said, did you ever dream of a lost friend & feel that you were haveing a direct communion with that friend & yet a conciousness that it was not a reality. My reply was, yes I think all may have had such an experience. He repleyd so do I dream of my Boy Willey. He was utterly overcome. His great frame shook & Bowing down on the table he wept as only such a man in the breaking down of a great sorrow could weep.

It is needless to say that — I wept in sympathy, & quitly left the Room, that he might recover without restraint.

Lincoln never again referred to his boy, but he made me feel that he had given me a sacred confidence & he ever after treated me with a tenderness, regard & confidence, that won my love, & I became to him & his memory almost an idoliter.

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Wilson, Douglas L., ed.; Davis, Rodney O., ed.; Cannon, LeGrand B. 'LeGrand B. Cannon to William H. Herndon' in 'Herndon's Informants: Letters, Interviews, and Statements About Abraham Lincoln' . Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1998. [format: book], [genre: letter]. Permission: University of Illinois Press
Persistent link to this document: http://lincoln.lib.niu.edu/file.php?file=herndon678.html
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