Inside the White House in War Times: Memoirs and Reports of Lincoln's Secretary

By William O. Stoddard; Michael Burlingame | Go to book overview

A Battle Summer

Georgetown is a kind of western suburb of the Capital. It is the sleepiest old village to be found, and when the war broke out it was dying of respectability. Since then it has been in a semi-comatose state, but it may revive some day. No other streets are paved with such cobble-stones. Every third stone is as large as a peck measure, with two-quart measures between, and it is an awful pavement to drive over, but it is worse to camp on. When you once lay down upon it, beside your rifle, those larger cobble-stones were a trial. Whatever led us to make so long an early morning stroll all over Georgetown, we are back again, and as short a way as any to get into the White House grounds from the avenue is the walk that runs midway between the War and Navy buildings toward the narrow gate near the conservatory. It is a warm morning. It was very warm in Georgetown, and all the way back, but the heat increases as you approach the White House. The air is denser, and the sun strikes down through it with peculiar power. It is telling upon Mr. Lincoln, this August weather, and there he is now, just beyond the gate, with his high silk hat in his hand, mopping his forehead with his pocket-handkerchief. He has been stopped by somebody on his way back from the War Office. She is an uncommonly black black woman! she is, and she stands right in his path, looking up into his face. She is not in a starved condition, by any means. She might weigh three hundred, and every pound of her is aware that she is looking into the face of the greatest man in the world. Perhaps she was never before sure that Abraham Lincoln was a reality, a human being--that is, apparently human, but he is now holding out a hand to her, and he is actually laughing. So is she, but she has not uttered a word. Her eyes roll wonderfully, and her smile is all over her face, and it takes elsewhere the semblance of an embodied chuckle; but all the words she ever knew have gone a wool-gathering.

"You look happy. Reckon you must be."

-89-

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