Lincoln and the Civil War in the Diaries and Letters of John Hay

Lincoln and the Civil War in the Diaries and Letters of John Hay

Lincoln and the Civil War in the Diaries and Letters of John Hay

Lincoln and the Civil War in the Diaries and Letters of John Hay

Excerpt

Six months before he was twenty-three years of age, John Hay arrived in Washington from Springfield, Illinois, with the Lincoln suite. On March 4, 1861, with the Lincoln family, he moved into the Executive Mansion as it was then usually called. Technically, on the government pay-roll, he was a clerk in the Interior Department assigned to duty in the office of the President of the United States. Actually he began his service as assistant to John G. Nicolay, only six years his senior, who, in turn, was Private Secretary to President Lincoln. Later he was "one of the President's secretaries" and eventually, although probably without warrant in law, he ventured to exercise the franking privilege, writing his name in place of the stamp in the upper right hand corner of the envelope. For four years of the American Civil War Hay and Nicolay worked together in the White House, and for much of the period slept together in the northeast corner room on the second floor, adjacent to the Executive Offices across the hall. Rarely has it been the fortune of two such young men to be placed in such intimate relations with great events and with great men.

In March, 1865, John Hay was appointed Secretary of Legation in Paris where he was associated first with John Bigelow with whom he formed a lasting and profitable friendship and then briefly with John A. Dix, who followed Bigelow as American minister. Hay remained in Paris about a year and a half. In June, 1867, he was appointed Chargé d'Affaires in Vienna following the indignant resignation of John Lothrop Motley as Minister. Upon the appointment of Motley's successor he resigned and returned to the United States. In June, 1869, he went to Madrid as Secretary of Legation to serve a little more than a year as the first assistant to General Daniel E. Sickles, the newly appointed American Minister. Thus, not only by frequent return to Washington, but also at his various posts in Europe which, as he wrote from Paris, suffered an '"inondation Générale" of American generals after the Civil . . .

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