My Dear General--Everybody knows how strong were Mr. Lincoln's personal attachments, but it was somewhat peculiar how generally his interest in any individual extended itself to all his kith and kin. It was almost enough to have seen or heard of one of his old associates to secure a pleasant greeting, at least, at his hands.
I remember once having a personal report to make about a certain General officer, who had, I was persuaded, been sadly slandered, and whose brother was an active war-Democratic politician at the North, and rather a favorite with Mr. Lincoln. Before he would give me a chance to open my budget, he interrupted me with,
"Well, first, Stoddard, what do you think of Fred. [ Steele]? I want to know that first."
"Mr. President, General [ Steele] is an honest man, you may rely upon it."
"I am delighted to hear you say so. I rather thought he was, and was afraid they would make out something against him. You see, I don't know him, never saw him in my life; but I like his brother here first-rate. He is one of the best men, for a Democrat, we've got. I like him, and should have been very sorry to hear anything bad of his brother. Go on now, let's hear all about it."1
Fortunately I was able to make my position pretty clear by the time I got through, and was promptly ordered to the War Office to tell my story. Before I had completed it, a thing happened which I will put on record here as giving a glimpse of the real character of our great War Secretary.
I was sitting by Mr. Stanton in his private office, when a messenger from the telegraph room brought in a war-telegram and handed it to the Secretary. He read it through and gave it to me, saying:
"What do you think of that, Mr. Stoddard?"