Lincoln’s Premontions of Death



According to Ward Lamon, Marshal of Washington and a former law partner of Abraham Lincoln, three days before his assassination, Lincoln spoke about a strange dream that he had:

“About ten days ago, I retired very late. I had been up waiting for important dispatches from the front. I could not have been long in bed when I fell into a slumber, for I was weary. I soon began to dream. There seemed to be a death-like stillness about me. Then I heard subdued sobs, as if a number of people were weeping. I thought I left my bed and wandered downstairs. There the silence was broken by the same pitiful sobbing, but the mourners were invisible. I went from room to room; no living person was in sight, but the same mournful sounds of distress met me as I passed along. I saw light in all the rooms; every object was familiar to me; but where were all the people who were grieving as if their hearts would break? I was puzzled and alarmed. What could be the meaning of all this? Determined to find the cause of a state of things so mysterious and so shocking, I kept on until I arrived at the East Room, which I entered. There I met with a sickening surprise. Before me was a catafalque, on which rested a corpse wrapped in funeral vestments. Around it were stationed soldiers who were acting as guards; and there was a throng of people, gazing mournfully upon the corpse, whose face was covered, others weeping pitifully. ‘Who is dead in the White House?’ I demanded of one of the soldiers, ‘The President,’ was his answer; ‘he was killed by an assassin.’ Then came a loud burst of grief from the crowd, which woke me from my dream. I slept no more that night; and although it was only a dream, I have been strangely annoyed by it ever since.”
It is a striking account if true, and appropriate for a Halloween Day.  However, there are problems with it.  First, there was no contemporary mention of it in the aftermath of the assassination.  Surely Lamon would have mentioned such a prophetic statement by Lincoln at the time.  Second, during the time period in question when the dream purportedly occurred, the latter part of March, Lincoln was not at the White House but with the Army of the Potomac.  Third, the story didn’t appear in print until 1895, two years after Lamon’s death, in a book of reminiscences compiled by Lamon’s daughter.
However, I am inclined to believe it based upon this incident involving a Lincoln dream which is well authenticated.  Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy, made this notation in his diary regarding the cabinet meeting that occurred at noon on the day of  the assassination of Lincoln: (more…)
Published in: on October 31, 2022 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Lincoln’s Premontions of Death  
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Harry Truman’s Ghost Letter



A suitable topic for Halloween.  Harry Truman, soon after he became President, wrote a letter to his wife in which he referred to ghosts in the White House:


June 12, 1945

Dear Bess:- Just two months ago today, I was a reasonably happy and contented Vice-President. Maybe you can remember that far back too. But things have changed so much it hardly seems real.

I sit here in this old house and work on foreign affairs, read reports, and work on speeches — all the while listening to the ghosts walk up and down the hallway and even right in here in the study. The floors pop and the drapes move back and forth — I can just imagine old Andy and Teddy having an argument over Franklin. Or James Buchanan and Franklin Pierce deciding which was the more useless to the country. And when Millard Fillmore and Chester Arthur join in for place and show, the din is almost unbearable. But I still get some work done.

Hope the weather lets up and you will be able to do some work on the house. The Gibson boy should have been taken care of long ago. I’ll see what’s happened. I’m not able to do as many things for my friends now as I did when I was just a dirty organisation Democrat and a County Judge.

Guess you and Helen will have a grand time. Hope you do. We are working on Dr. Wallace. Glad everybody was in his right mind at the family party. Undoubtedly they were walking the straight and narrow for your mother. But I’m sure you had a nice time anyway.

That address mixed up is causing me some embarrassment (if that’s the way you spell that blushing word.) I addressed a letter to you at 4701 Conn. Ave. Independence Mo., and another one 219 North Delaware, Washington, D. C. Now it seems I sent one to the Rolands. The boys in the House here didn’t catch that one but they did the other two.

I’ll have Reathal attend to the chores you suggest. I haven’t seen her but twice since you left. She comes in after I go over to the office, usually goes out to lunch and doesn’t come back until I am gone again and then goes home before I get over here.

Had Charlie Ross and Rosenman to lunch yesterday. We worked on my San Francisco speech. ,that date is postponed until next week now on account of the slow wind-up and Gen. Eisenhower’s visit.

Write me when you can – I hope every day.

Lots of love.

Harry. (more…)

Published in: on October 30, 2022 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Harry Truman’s Ghost Letter  
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Bell, Book and Candle


Something for the weekend. Soundtrack to Bell, Book and Candle (1958).  Something of a lost classic now, Bell, Book and Candle was a fun comedic romp teaming up Jimmy Stewart and Kim Novak in a tale of sorcery in Manhattan.  A star studded supporting cast, including Jack Lemmon and Ernie Kovaks, added to the entertainment.  Over the decades the movie has become an interesting period piece of America in the late Fifties.  A good movie for a Halloween weekend.



Published in: on October 29, 2022 at 5:32 am  Comments Off on Bell, Book and Candle  
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October 28, 1863: Battle of Wauhatchie


Major General Ulysses S. Grant arrived at Chattanooga on October 23, 1863.  Major General William Rosecrans, who Grant relieved, placing in command of the Army of the Cumberland Major General George Thomas, presented Grant with a plan to reopen the supply lines to the besieged Army of the Cumberland in Chattanooga, devised by Brigadier General William F. “Baldy” Smith, chief engineer of the Army of the Cumberland.  Grant in his memoirs admitted that the plan was a good one, and, always unable to avoid taking a dig at Rosecrans who he disliked intensely, said he was surprised that it had not yet been implemented.

Opening up what would become known as “the cracker line involved the Army of the Cumberland seizing Brown’s Ferry and linking up with Major General Joseph Hooker’s two corps relief force sent from the Army of the Potomac that was advancing up Lookout Valley.  Brown’s Ferry on the Tennessee River was seized in a daring combined amphibious operation with one Union brigade landing from the river and another brigade linking up overland.  The attack occurred in darkness at 4:40 AM on the morning of October 27.  Phase one of operation cracker line was completed.

Phase two was accomplished the new day when Hooker’s two corps reached Brown’s Ferry.  The Union now controlled a good route into Chattanooga down which supplies could travel unmolested.

Longstreet began a counterattack shortly before midnight on October 28, 1863, to cut the rail line in Lookout Valley, making the battle of Wauhatchie one of the few night battles of the war.  The comedy of errors that ensued in the clumsily fought, on both sides, engagement underlined why generals rarely chose to fight at night.  Longstreet committed too few troops to the attack, only a brigade and a division, while Hooker left Geary’s division that occupied Wauhatchie Station, the key position of the battle without reinforcements, while he took  the bulk of his forces to make futile assaults on a Conferate hilltop position.  Geary held Wauhatchie Station, the hard fought battle there taking an immense personal toll on him with his son, an artillery lieutenant, dying in his arms, with the Confederates retreating due to a false report that Union troops were in their rear.  A true dog’s breakfast of a confused engagement.  Grant was disgusted at Hooker’s lack of skill in the battle and almost relieved him.  I am sure Grant’s mood was not improved when he read Hooker’s vainglorious report, which is set forth below: (more…)

October 27, 1864: Battle of Boydton Plank Road



The last significant military operation at Petersburg in 1864, the battle of Boydton Plank Road was  part of the efforts of the Army of the Potomac to cut the Confederate South Side Railroad that supplied Petersburg and Richmond from the west. This was no small effort, consisting of Winfield Scott’s corps, reinforced by infantry divisions from other corps and a cavalry division.

On October 27, 1864 Hancock crossed Hatcher’s Run creek and moved around the Confederate right flank heading for Burgess Mill.  General Henry Heth, commanding A.P. Hill’s corps due to the illness of Hill, interposed two divisions to stop Hancock.  Hancock made good progress when Meade ordered a hault to the offensive, concerned about a five mile gap developing between the Union left and Hancock.

Hancock retreated to Hatcher’s Run, only to find the ford now being held by Confederate cavalry.  Heth now went on the offensive, hoping to bag Hancock’s corps, isolated as it now was from the rest of the Union army.

Hancock kept calm, beat off the Confederate attacks and retreated across Hatcher’s Run during the night.  Union casualties were 1700 to 1300 Confederate.  Grant in his memoirs summed up this action and the closing down of operations around Petersburg for the remainder of the year: (more…)

Published in: on October 27, 2022 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on October 27, 1864: Battle of Boydton Plank Road  
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October 26, 1861: Pony Express Ceases Operation


An American legend, the Pony Express ceased operations on October 26, 1861.  Operating for only 18 months, the Pony Express delivered mail over 1900 rugged miles from San Francisco to Saint Joseph, Missouri in an astonishing 10 days.  Most of the riders were teenage boys, including a 14 year old boy, William Cody, future Medal of Honor recipient,   better known to history as Buffalo Bill.  These young men and boys quickly found themselves national heroes due to their iron determination to deliver the mail swiftly in spite of inclement weather, hostile indians and vast distances.  Each Pony Express rider received a Bible upon being hired and swore this oath: (more…)

Published in: on October 26, 2022 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on October 26, 1861: Pony Express Ceases Operation  
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October 25, 1983: Operation Urgent Fury Begins


It is strange to realize that events one has lived through are part now of the tapestry of history.  So it is  for me with Operation Urgent Fury, the US invasion of Grenada, which is now 39 years in the past.   Arising out of a murderous factional dispute in the New Jewel Movement, which had ruled Grenada since 1979, that led to the murder of Prime Minister Maurice Bishop and some of his cabinet on October 19, 1983, the invasion was a symbol that the US had recovered from its post Vietnam malaise, and was willing to use military force.  The Grenadian army imposed martial law and placed Governor-General Paul Scoon under arrest.  The Organization of East Caribbean States and Barbados and Jamaica appealed for assistance.

The Reagan administration was happy to oblige, eager for the excuse to root out Cuban influence from Grenada, Cuba and the New Jewel Movement being firm allies.  The invasion began on October 25.  Initial resistance was fierce from Cubans, but the massive superiority in troops and firepower of the 7,300 US and allied invasion force swiftly defeated all opposition.  Fidel Castro when interviewed about the invasion was asked what he would do, and admitted there was nothing the Cubans could do.

Cubans captured on Grenada were repatriated to Cuba.  US forces withdrew from Grenada by December 15, 1983.  The date of the invasion, October 25, is celebrated as a national holiday in Grenada which has been a democratic nation since that time. (more…)

Published in: on October 25, 2022 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on October 25, 1983: Operation Urgent Fury Begins  
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October 24, 1863: Lincoln to Halleck



In the fall of 1863 Lincoln was getting impatient.  After the Union victories at Gettysburg and Vicksburg Northern morale had risen and victory seemed to be in sight.  Then:  nothing.  Meade and the Army of the Potomac largely sat on their hands, even after it was learned that Lee had sent a third of his army to the West to help Bragg and the Army of Tennessee defeat the Army of the Cumberland at Chickamauga.  Now the Army of the Cumberland was loosely besieged in Chattanooga and Union efforts in the West were focused on breaking the siege.  To Lincoln it was a bitter pill, especially when he considered the elections of 1864.  Unless victory was clearly in sight at this time next year in 1864, Lincoln would lose and the Union be sundered.  Some of this frustration is clearly beneath the surface in this letter of October 24, 1863 where Lincoln attempts to prod General in Chief Henry Halleck to get the Army of the Potomac to go on the offensive: (more…)

Published in: on October 24, 2022 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on October 24, 1863: Lincoln to Halleck  
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October 23, 1918: Wilson Responds to the German Note of October 20, 1918

The Secretary of State to the Swiss Chargé (Oederlin)

Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your note of the 22d transmitting a communication under date of the 20th from the German Government and to advise you that the President has instructed me to reply thereto as follows:

Having received the solemn and explicit assurance of the German Government that it unreservedly accepts the terms of peace laid down in his address to the Congress of the United States on the 8th of January, 1918, and the principles of settlement enunciated in his subsequent addresses, particularly the address of the 27th of September, and that it desires to discuss the details of their application, and that this wish and purpose emanate, not from those who have hitherto dictated German policy and conducted the present war on Germany’s behalf, but from Ministers who speak for the Majority of the Reichstag and for an overwhelming majority of the German people; and having received also the explicit promise of the present German Government that the humane rules of civilized warfare will be observed both on land and sea by the German armed forces, the President of the United States feels that he cannot decline to take up with the Governments with which the Government of the United States is associated the question of an armistice.

He deems it his duty to say again, however, that the only armistice he would feel justified in submitting for consideration would be one which should leave the United States and the powers associated with her in a position to enforce any arrangements that may be entered into and to make a renewal of hostilities on the part of Germany impossible. The President has, therefore, transmitted his correspondence with the present German authorities to the Governments with which the Government of the United States is associated as a belligerent, [with the suggestion that, if those Governments are disposed to effect peace upon the terms and principles indicated, their military advisers and the military advisers of the United States be asked to submit to the Governments associated against Germany the necessary terms of such an armistice as will fully protect the interests of the peoples involved and ensure to the Associated Governments the unrestricted power to safeguard and enforce the details of the peace to which the German Government has agreed,] provided they deem such an armistice possible from the military point of view. Should such terms of armistice be suggested, their acceptance by Germany will afford the best concrete evidence of her unequivocal acceptance of the terms and principles of peace from which the whole action proceeds.

The President would deem himself lacking in candour did he not point out in the frankest possible terms the reason why extraordinary safeguards must be demanded. Significant and important as the constitutional changes seem to be which are spoken of by the German Foreign Secretary in his note of the 20th of October, it does not appear that the principle of a Government responsible to the German people has yet been fully worked out or that any guarantees either exist or are in contemplation that the alterations of principle and of practice now partially agreed upon will be permanent. Moreover, it does not appear that the heart of the present difficulty has been reached. It may be that future wars have been brought under the control of the German people, but the present war has not been; and it is with the present war that we are dealing. It is evident that the German people have no means of commanding the acquiescence of the military authorities of the Empire in the popular will; that the power of the King of Prussia to control the policy of the Empire is unimpaired; that the determinating initiative still remains with those who have hitherto been the masters of Germany. Feeling that the whole peace of the world depends now on plain speaking and straightforward action, the President deems it his duty to say, without any attempt to soften what may seem harsh words, that the nations of the world do not and cannot trust the word of those who have hitherto been the masters of German policy, and to point out once more that in concluding peace and attempting to undo the infinite injuries and injustices of this war the Government of the United States cannot deal with any but veritable representatives of the German people who have been assured of a genuine constitutional standing as the real rulers of Germany. If it must deal with the military masters and the monarchical autocrats of Germany now, or if it is likely to have to deal with them later in regard to the international obligations of the German Empire, it must demand, not peace negotiations, but surrender. Nothing can be gained by leaving this essential thing unsaid.

Accept [etc.]

Robert Lansing
Published in: on October 23, 2022 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on October 23, 1918: Wilson Responds to the German Note of October 20, 1918  
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Autumn Leaves


Something for the weekend.  Autumn Leaves (1945) composed by Joseph Kosma with English lyrics by Johnny Mercer.  Sung by the unforgettable Nat King Cole, it is a good welcome for Autumn, my favorite season of the year.


Published in: on October 22, 2022 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Autumn Leaves  
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