Quotes Suitable for Framing: Abraham Lincoln

Sunday, July 16, AD 2017

And, after that, the chunky man from the West,
Stranger to you, not one of the men you loved
As you loved McClellan, a rider with a hard bit,
Takes you and uses you as you could be used,
Wasting you grimly but breaking the hurdle down.
You are never to worship him as you did McClellan,
But at the last you can trust him.  He slaughters you
But he sees that you are fed.  After sullen Cold Harbor
They call him a butcher and want him out of the saddle,
But you have had other butchers who did not win
And this man wins in the end.

Stephen Vincent Benet, John Brown’s Body


“I appealed to Lincoln for his own sake to remove Grant at once, and, in giving my reasons for it, I simply voiced the admittedly overwhelming protest from the loyal people of the land against Grant’s continuance in command. I could form no judgment during the conversation as to what effect my arguments had upon him beyond the fact that he was greatly distressed at this new complication. When I had said everything that could be said from my standpoint, we lapsed into silence. Lincoln remained silent for what seemed a very long time. He then gathered himself up in his chair and said in a tone of earnestness that I shall never forget: ‘I can’t spare this man; he fights.‘”

Alexander McClure recalling a meeting with President Lincoln shortly after the Battle of Shiloh

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The Last Stand of the Black Horse Troop

Saturday, April 11, AD 2015

Something for the weekend.  I Am a Rebel Soldier sung by Waylon Jennings.  Stephen Vincent Benet in his epic poem on the Civil War, John Brown’s Body, follows, in part of his poem, a Confederate Georia cavalry unit in the Army of Northern Virginia, the Black Horse Troop.  On the way to Appomattox they met their destiny guarding the rear of their expiring Army.  I have always thought this was a fitting tribute to the men of that Army who endured to the end.

Wingate wearily tried to goad
A bag of bones on a muddy road
Under the grey and April sky
While Bristol hummed in his irony
“If you want a good time, jine the cavalry!
Well, we jined it, and here we go,
The last event in the circus-show,
The bareback boys in the burnin’ hoop
Mounted on cases of chicken-croup,
The rovin’ remains of the Black Horse Troop!
Though the only horse you could call real black
Is the horsefly sittin’ on Shepley’s back,
But, women and children, do not fear,
They’ll feed the lions and us, next year.
And, women and children, dry your eyes,
The Southern gentleman never dies.
He just lives on by his strength of will
Like a damn ole rooster too tough to kill
Or a brand-new government dollar-bill
That you can use for a trousers-patch
Or lightin’ a fire, if you’ve got a match,
Or makin’ a bunny a paper collar,
Or anythin’ else–except a dollar.

Old folks, young folks, never you care,
The Yanks are here and the Yanks are there,
But no Southern gentleman knows despair.
He just goes on in his usual way,
Eatin’ a meal every fifteenth day
And showin’ such skill in his change of base
That he never gets time to wash his face
While he fights with a fury you’d seldom find
Except in a Home for the Crippled Blind,
And can whip five Yanks with a palmleaf hat,
Only the Yanks won’t fight like that.

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3 Responses to The Last Stand of the Black Horse Troop

  • And with these things, bury the purple dream
    Of the America we have not been,
    The tropic empire, seeking the warm sea,
    The last foray of aristocracy
    Based not on dollars or initiative
    Or any blood for what that blood was worth
    But on a certain code, a manner of birth,
    A certain manner of knowing how to live,
    The pastoral rebellion of the earth
    Against machines, against the Age of Steam,
    The Hamiltonian extremes against the Franklin mean,
    The genius of the land
    Against the metal hand,
    The great, slave-driven bark,
    Full-oared upon the dark,
    With gilded figurehead,
    With fetters for the crew
    And spices for the few,
    The passion that is dead,
    The pomp we never knew,
    Bury this, too.

  • It is a crime Tom that a great poet like Stephen Vincent Benet is almost completely forgotten today.

  • Don, I am greatly indebted to you.

    I had no idea of who Stephen Vincent Benet was until you posted this here. I found the entire poem online here (http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks07/0700461.txt) and read about half of it – I will read it in its entirety later. I did some more research on him and found he had written By the Waters of Babylon. I was stunned! I had read that short story when I was nine or ten, and while it made an immense impression on me I did not recall the title or the author. I now have it on my kindle – thanks to you.

The Many Faces of Abe

Sunday, October 27, AD 2013

One of the many things that I find fascinating about Lincoln is how different he looked in most of his photographs.  All but one of the Lincoln photographs were taken during the last eleven years of his life, and they are an interesting study in contrasts.  This is especially intriguing since the subject of a photograph in Lincoln’s day had to sit absolutely still for at least 18 seconds, and I would think this would tend to flatten out any emotions that the subject was feeling at the time which might have altered his features.

I have studied Lincoln now for almost a half century and the complexity of the man is perhaps his most salient feature, and that shines through in his pictures.  A man known for his humble birth, but who hated the life of poverty and drudgery that he worked so hard to escape from.  Famous for reading before the embers of a fire place as a child, he read little as an adult beyond newspapers and a few choice books, but what he read he retained with a bear trap like grasp. A teller of humorous tales who was afflicted with deep melancholia.  No formal education to speak of, but the finest writer of prose ever to sit in the White House.  A deeply logical man who loved Euclid, he could understand the passions, the loves and the hates, that almost destroyed his nation.  A humane man who abhorred bloodshed, he presided over the bloodiest war in our history.  Viewed with suspicion by the abolitionists of his day, it was his fate to destroy slavery that had existed in what would be the United States for a quarter of a millennia.  Turn Lincoln over in your mind and new facets of the man spring up.

Stephen Vincent Benet in his epic poem on the Civil War, John Brown’s Body, captured some of the many Lincolns that appeared in the photographs:

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7 Responses to The Many Faces of Abe

  • Thanx for this, Donald. I notice that during Lincoln’s years as a young lawyer his suits look expensive yet ill-fitting, then they improve. I can’t help but wonder if that was when he got married.
    Mary Todd comes in for a lot of abuse but I’m sure she’s the one who made sure he was presentable when he left the house — or at least combed his hair for the photographer.

  • I shudder to think what Lincoln would have looked like without Mary. Like many wives she picked out her husband’s wardrobe and made sure he was at least somewhat presentable to the world. Mary does not get nearly enough credit for her taking care of her husband as well as she did.

  • Donald, I am not as thorough a student of history as you apparently are. Yet, I see a similar nobility in Davis and perhaps a little more so than both in Lee. Briefly in passing about myself, a positional Yankee but I am divided in sentiment.
    Most respectfully,
    The Walsh.

  • Jefferson Davis had much that was great about him. A brave man as his command of the Mississippi Rifles at Buena Vista indicated, he came close to success several times in his against the odds struggle to win independence for the Confederacy. He never asked for pardon for himself after the War while encouraging Southern young people to forget the past and to be good citizens of the United States.

    As for Lee, the post linked below indicates how I feel about him:


  • Donald: Thank you for your consideration of my humble opining. I, a weak and sinful man, sustained by unshaken faith alone, stand in awe of my betters, Lincoln, Lee and many others including perhaps you my unmet friend. ~The Walsh

  • “including perhaps you my unmet friend.”
    You have to remember that I am an attorney William. I therefore take an 80% penalty when compared to any non-attorney! 🙂

  • And, I, merely Irish, am at least genetically in the same boat. ‘Tis great fun. Praise God.

The Army of the Potomac

Tuesday, October 22, AD 2013

Army of the Potomac

Army of the Potomac, advancing army,

Alloy of a dozen disparate, alien States,

City-boy, farm-hand, bounty-man, first volunteer,

Old regular, drafted recruit, paid substitute,

Men who fought through the war from First Bull Run,

And other men, nowise different in look or purpose,

Whom the first men greeted at first with a ribald cry

“Here they come!  Two hundred dollars and a ka-ow!”

Rocks from New England and hickory-chunks from the West,

Bowery boy and clogging Irish adventurer,

Germans who learnt their English under the shells

Or didn’t have time to learn it before they died.

Confused, huge weapon, forged from such different metals,

Misused by unlucky swordsmen till you were blunt

And then reforged with anguish and bloody sweat

To be blunted again by one more unlucky captain

Against the millstone of Lee.



Good stallion,

Ridden and ridden against a hurdle of thorns

By uncertain rider after uncertain rider.

The rider fails and you shiver and catch your breath,

They plaster your wounds and patch up your broken knees,

And then, just as you know the grip of your rider’s hands

And begin to feel at home with his horseman’s tricks,

Another rider comes with a different seat,

And lunges you at the bitter hurdle again,

And it beats you again–and it all begins from the first,

The patching of wounds, the freezing in winter camps,

The vain mud-marches, the diarrhea, the wastage,

The grand reviews, the talk in the newspapers,

The sour knowledge that you were wasted again,

Not as Napoleons waste for a victory

But blindly, unluckily–

until at last

After long years, at fish-hook Gettysburg,

The blade and the millstone meet and the blade holds fast.

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The Army of Northern Virginia

Tuesday, October 22, AD 2013

Furling the Flag




Army of Northern Virginia, fabulous army,

Strange army of ragged individualists,

The hunters, the riders, the walkers, the savage pastorals,

The unmachined, the men come out of the ground,

Still for the most part, living close to the ground

As the roots of the cow-pea, the roots of the jessamine,

The lazy scorners, the rebels against the wheels,

The rebels against the steel combustion-chamber

Of the half-born new age of engines and metal hands.

The fighters who fought for themselves in the old clan-fashion.

Army of planters’ sons and rusty poor-whites,

Where one man came to war with a haircloth trunk

Full of fine shirts and a body-servant to mend them,

And another came with a rifle used at King’s Mountain

And nothing else but his pants and his sun-cracked hands,

Aristo-democracy armed with a forlorn hope,

Where a scholar turned the leaves of an Arabic grammar

By the campfire-glow, and a drawling mountaineer

Told dirty stories old as the bawdy world,

Where one of Lee’s sons worked a gun with the Rockbridge Battery

And two were cavalry generals.

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4 Responses to The Army of Northern Virginia

  • I wish more people would comment on this post. What, not enough Southerners reading this blog?

  • It is a beautiful tribute to the ragged boys in gray MR. My Union sympathies are beyond question, but I also agree with the Union officer who wrote home that Southerners were enduring hardships for their cause that had to be seen to be believed, and I further agree with Grant who said in his memoirs that never did men fight harder, certainly in American history, than did the Confederates.

  • This blog calls itself “American” Catholic, not “Northern” Catholic or “Yankee” Catholic. In my opinion, it wouldn’t hurt to have more pro-CSA voices on this blog (politically incorrect as they are). There were Catholics fighting on both sides of the conflict, after all.

  • MR, get us a person who is an orthodox Catholic, who writes well, is willing to write on a regular basis, and who is willing to defend the Lost Cause, but not slavery of course, and we will give consideration to adding him or her to the roster. Currently I am the only contributor who has a strong interest in the Civil War and who writes on the topic on a regular basis, and I am Union blue in my sympthies, although I would note that has not stopped me from saluting Confederate courage in many posts, including this post, and that I debate pro-Confederate commenters on a regular basis in the comboxes.

Sam Grant, the Beatles and the Internet

Saturday, October 15, AD 2011

I feel that we are on the eve of a new era, when there is to be great harmony between the Federal and Confederate. I cannot stay to be a living witness to the correctness of this prophecy; but I feel it within me that it is to be so. The universally kind feeling expressed for me at a time when it was supposed that each day would prove my last, seemed to me the beginning of the answer to “Let us have peace.”  

Ulysses S. Grant, written just before his death


Something for the weekend.  Quotations from Ulysses S. Grant to the Beatles song  In My Life.  A follow up to my post on Robert E. Lee, the Beatles and the Internet.  Another demonstration of what a wild and wacky place the internet truly is!


Few men in American history have gone from complete obscurity to being a  central figure in the life of the nation faster than Ulysses Simpson Grant.  Known as Sam Grant by his West Point friends, his first two initials making Sam an inevitable nickname, Grant had an unerring ability to fail at everything he put his hand to, except for war, his marriage and his last gallant race against the Grim Reaper, as he was dying of cancer, to finish his memoirs and provide financially for his wife and children.  Most great figures in our history have known success more than failure.  Not so Sam Grant.  He would encounter humiliating defeats throughout his life, from beginning to end.


At the beginning of the Civil War, he was a clerk, barely able to support his family.  Seemingly a dull plodder, but possessed of iron determination and an uncanny ability to never let the trees obscure the forest;  happily married and a firm believer in God, but subject to bouts of depression when he would grasp for the bottle;  the shabby little man who, incredibly, ended up winning the greatest war in American history.


His men didn’t hold him in awe as Lee’s men did Lee;  Grant was far too common and prosaic a figure for that.  However, they did respect him, as this section of Stephen Vincent Benet’s epic poem on the Civil War, John Brown’s Body, indicates:

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2 Responses to Sam Grant, the Beatles and the Internet

  • I have never made the time to look at them extensively or, even, carefully, but Grant’s memoirs have reputed, among critics and college academics (stuck with teaching ill-prepared and indifferent undergraduates to distinguish between “its” and “it’s” and “there” and “their” (and, even, “they’re” and imparting the trick of assembling complete sentences into a coherent paragraph) to be if not the pinnacle of, then among the very finest prose writing in American letters.
    So–he was good at two things.

  • True. Grant was a fine writer. Some people have accused Mark Twain, a former Confederate and friend of Grant, of ghost writing the memoirs but that is untrue. Twain gave Grant some help in getting the publishing deal for his memoirs, but that is all. Grant’s memoirs read like his written orders during the War: Crisp, direct and easy to understand.

John Brown: Problem Child of American History

Wednesday, March 16, AD 2011

Our history has its share of odd characters, but surely none odder than John Brown.  An Old Testament prophet somehow marooned in Nineteenth Century America, John Brown preached the wrath of God against slave holders and considered himself the bloody sword of the Almighty.  It is tempting to write off John Brown as a murderous fanatic, and he was certainly that, but he was also something more.

The American political process was simply unable to resolve the question of slavery.  Each year the anti-slavery and pro-slavery forces battered at each other with no head way made.  Bleeding Kansas was the result of Stephen A. Douglas’ plan to simply let the people of the territory resolve the issue.  Where ballots cannot, or will not, resolve a question of the first magnitude in a democracy, ultimately bullets will.   A man like Brown, totally dedicated to the anti-slavery cause, was only too willing to see violence resolve an issue that the politicians would not.

Brown attacked a great evil, American slavery, but he was also  a murderer, as the five pro-slavery men he had dragged from their houses at night and hacked to death at Pottawotamie in Kansas with home made swords would surely attest.   His raid on Harper’s Ferry was a crack-brained expedition that had absolutely no chance of success, and yet his raid helped bring about the huge war that would ultimately end slavery.

 After his mad and futile attempt to start a slave insurrection at Harper’s Ferry in 1859, Brown was tried and hung for treason against the state of Virginia.  He considered his trial and treatment quite fair and thanked the Court.  Brown impressed quite a few Southerners with the courage with which he met his death, including Thomas Jackson, the future Stonewall, who observed his execution. 

Brown of course lit the fuse for the Civil War.  He convinced many moderate Southerners that there were forces in the North all too ready to incite, in the name of abolition, a race war in the South.  The guns fired at Harper’s Ferry were actually the first shots of the Civil War.

Brown, as he stepped forward to the gallows, had a paper and pen thrust into his hand by a woman.  Assuming for the last time the role of a prophet, Brown wrote out, I, John Brown, am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty land will never be purged away but with blood.”

Abraham Lincoln commented on Brown at his Cooper’s Union  speech on February 27, 1860 and took pains to separate the Republican Party from Brown:

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12 Responses to John Brown: Problem Child of American History

  • John Brown was nothing more than a bloodthirty terrorist and fanatic. He threw gasoline into a fire that reasonable men on both sides were trying to quench. He was not a hero to be emulated, but a criminal to be abhorred. And he was a willing tool of the Northeastern establishment progressive group called the Secret Six, just like the Radicals of the 60’s were tools of the Communist Party.

  • Tell us how you really feel Stephen! 🙂 I readily agree with you that Brown was a terrorist. However, he was not a terrorist in order to establish a Communist state, or a Fascist state, or some other tyranny, but rather to help free a people held in bondage by his time for almost 250 years. When people are unwilling to agree to peaceful change to remedy a great evil, sooner or later men of blood and violence like Brown will appear on the scene to attempt to bring about the change by other means. This does not lessen the moral culpability of Brown for his actions. It does mean that we also have to look at the moral culpability of a great many people at that time who thought it was perfectly fine for people of a certain race to be owned as if they were so many cattle or hogs. The unwillingness of slave holders in the South to even listen to arguments in favor of gradual emancipation, made the advent of violent abolitionism such as practiced by John Brown inevitable.

  • “When people are unwilling to agree to peaceful change to remedy a great evil, sooner or later men of blood and violence like Brown will appear on the scene to attempt to bring about the change by other means… The unwillingness of slave holders in the South to even listen to arguments in favor of gradual emancipation, made the advent of violent abolitionism such as practiced by John Brown inevitable.”

    Let us hope and pray that history doesn’t repeat itself with respect to abortion.

  • Precisely what I have long thought also Jay.

  • Well intentioned? Maybe. Terrorist? Without a doubt. Was violence really necessary? Of course not! Slavery has existed throughout human history and there are more people in slavery today than ever. Some are direct slaves, mostly in the sex trade. Others, are slaves to tyranny and even more, I dare say all, are slaves to vice.

    Could these United States have purged the scourge of slavery without war and bloodshed? Probably, but as Aslan (C.S. Lewis) says, we can never know what would have happened. At the core was a racist ideology that black Africans were inferior to the white man, this is was as prevalent if not more so in the North as in the South. Is it true? Of course not; however, the African slaves were not well disposed, through no fault of their own, to be integrated into society in a role other than as slaves. To truly free African slaves, war was the worst way, what was needed was education. Eduction of the white Americans that black Africans were people just like them, only different and all are children of God. Eduction of the black slaves, which was undertaken by great men like Jackson. Slaves needed to be educated into knowledge of God, Christianity and the civil society of their respective states, so they could be self-supporting as freedmen.

    Of course, this would not do for those who merely want to conserve the status quo, or those who wish to keep mankind in perpetual revolution and turmoil. The money interests were too strong to prevent war and slavery gave the North, moral cover, for a disastrous war. Slavery is a blight on America’s history and is only made worse by liberal revolutionaries like John Brown.

    Harper’s Ferry is now in West Virginia, because those traitors and the Yankee government stole the land of the Commonwealth. Nevertheless, I live less than an hour from there and make frequent visits in the Spring and the Autumn. It is quite beautiful and there is tinge of sadness when one stands at the ammunition depot, although it is moved from the original location where Captain R. Lee put down the terrorist attack. Over the years I have noticed changes in the historical plaques. Brown the murderer, has been replaced by Brown the community-organizing, liberal, do gooder. Mentions of Lee are practically non-existent. Of course, for the revolution to roll on, we must re-write history.

    If this trend is not reversed, the revisionist history will lead all of us into slavery. Isn’t that ironic. Evil actions cannot bring about good results. We will all need to keep that in our hearts and minds, as the forces of social progress spin up the revolution in the form. The goal, as usual is slavery, but this time, we want happy slaves, who enjoy bread and circuses. We don’t need slaves to pick cotton in the fields, we need slaves to serve the consumer and be good corporate consumers themselves.

    Sadly, groupthink often leads to confusion. Instead of seeking fist the Kingdom of Heaven, we wish to turn stone into bread. Brown was not morally right, despite being against slavery – a moral evil, for he was seeking ‘social justice’ by any means necessary. We can only seek social justice if the first order of business is God’s Kingdom. Christ would have reprimanded Brown, get behind me Satan!

  • “Harper’s Ferry is now in West Virginia, because those traitors and the Yankee government stole the land of the Commonwealth.”

    Didn’t you know, AK, that secession can be justified as long is it’s for the right (i.e. politically correct) reasons?


    Speaking of stealing land, it’s hard for me to appreciate Arlington National Cemetery knowing that it was placed where it was out of spite for a great man.

  • “The money interests were too strong to prevent war and slavery gave the North, moral cover, for a disastrous war.”

    620,000 dead was a high price to pay, but not too high I think to end slavery and preserve the Union. Of course without secession, which was undertaken to protect slavery, as the Confederate states made quite clear at the time, there would have been no war.

    As for the creation of West Virginia, the Union government of Viriginia, under Francis Pierpont, the father of West Virginia, approved of it, thereby meeting the Constitutional requirement. The Confederate government of Virginia, by their own contention, did not recognize the authority of the United States Constitution and was thus hardly in a position to make an objection that would have to be recogized under the US Constitution. Rule one for any state that wishes to secede from the Union: Make very sure that a very large portion of your own state will not wish to secede from you.

  • Donald,

    The price was too high. Not that slavery was not to be ended, but it could have been done without war. It wasn’t. The cost in blood was too high. The cost in treasure was greater than the economic value of all the slaves. Too high. Of course, once war starts, it has to be finished. We should have done more to avoid war. Yet, freeing direct private slaves at the expense of making them and everyone else public slaves of the state can’t be seen as a good thing. In fact, it is a Communist idea.

    Preserving the Union is very important. Secession should not be taken lightly and only as a last measure. Yet, the battle for a federated system with diffused power and local autonomy instead of a national Leviathan is very important too. If we preserve the Union at the expense of the purpose of the Union, then what kind of union have we.

    As for so-called West Virginia, it was shady business and has done nothing but ill serve the Republic.

  • Slavery wasn’t abolished without war AK in the South. That is the key point. The issue had been debated since the American Revolution and it was clear as glass that the South would not voluntarily part with slavery.

    As for people being public slaves as a result of the Civil War, I think that proposition is not supported at all by history.

    The Union, the country, is what we make of it.

    The creation of West Virginia was shady, but I would submit no shadier than the secession of Virginia from the Union. Admit the right of secession, and I’ll be hanged if I can see a good reason as to why it should be limited only to states.

    A good overview of the birth of West Virignia is in the case of The State of Virginia v. The State of West Virginia.


  • Donald,

    The federal victory of the war set the precedent for a national government as opposed to a federal one – this is the beginning of tyranny and slavery. Sure there are other factors, but how else can you explain the state of the Union today? Unconstitutional legislation is the rule not the exception, massive debt, fiat money, intrusiveness of government into personal liberties and localities, perpetual warfare and welfare.

    The federal government is a creature of the states, Virginia being one of them and we voluntarily entered into the federal compact, so we may voluntarily leave if it becomes necessary. So-called west Virginia did not create Virginia, it is part of Virginia’s geography – no right of session at all.

    To be clear I am glad we have a Union; however, I am not at all pleased with having an illicit, illegitimate and unconstitutional national government run by a private banking cartel and these days anti-American, socialist revolutionaries.

  • Sure there are other factors, but how else can you explain the state of the Union today?

    The federal government – or national government – remained largely subservient to the states until well after the conclusion of the Civil War. It was not until the dawn of the Progressive era and the Wilson presidency that the idea that the federal government should take on further powers really blossomed, and indeed then the true expansion of federal powers didn’t get jumping until FDR.

    Unconstitutional legislation is the rule not the exception, massive debt, fiat money, intrusiveness of government into personal liberties and localities, perpetual warfare and welfare.

    All true, and all legacies of FDR and his followers, not Lincoln.

  • Paul, I do not lay the blame at the feet of Lincoln. No doubt that both Roosevelts, Wilson, Johnson, etc. are the figureheads of the progress toward the elimination of the American Republic. Yet, it was the Union victory that placed the strain on state’s sovereignty. Had the states maintained their proper power with sufficient checks against each other and the federal authority, progressivism would have had to seek another way to revolutionize a constitutional republic into a democracy cum corporatist oligarchy.

    To be clear, I think Lincoln was aware of this and his conviction to keep the Union trumped his ability to curb the money power and the coming age of ‘progressivism’. Who knows if things would have been different had he not been murdered. I rank Booth with Brown – terrorists.