Grandma Pat Letters: Cat Warfare….Lincoln Loved Cats, People and Our Union…..Political Cat Fight–November 8, 1864

                           Abraham Lincoln in 1861                                  Dixie 

Dear Kids:

Howdy, I hope your week is going well and that you are pacing yourself with homework and Valentine treats.  Too much of either can make kids your age feel sick.  Actually, there are days when I feel sick just listening to all of the  political bickering on the news.  It’s probably best that video games were invented so you kids can avoid the never ending foolishness.

Although, in my day, we were just stuck watching the news. It was considered educational. We even had tests on it in school. They called it current events.  Which was nonsensical as many of us farm kids had no time to read newspapers and magazines.  Or, listen to the radio or watch television, because we had chores to do. In all of the years of taking current events tests I do not believe there was ever a question on grain futures.  Silly city teachers!

There was the barn radio that was on when we milked the cows, but the adults kept it on a high shelf out of reach of us kids, less there be any thoughts of channel changing.  Only WCCO was allowed on in the barn, as any type of rock and roll music instantly dried up a cow’s milk and could be the end of the entire farming operation. Farm reports and grain trading were the only news worth hearing.  And, of course there was great excitement when WCCO announced it’s “Good Neighbor” each day.  I am sad to report, I never made the cut.

Anyway, its hard to concentrate on what is coming out of a radio when you are either dodging or cleaning up what comes out of a cow’s butt.

Watching the evening news on black and white television, was the closest thing us country kids got to theater, except for the Wonderful World Of Disney on Sunday nights, the women’s fall church sale planning committee, and the twice a year high school plays where the village’s homemade Halloween costumes were hauled out and put to good use for a second time.

Of course, if the play theme was unwholesome, the costumes too scary or displayed too much bare skin you could count on a descriptive encore review provided by Pastor in his sermon.  Too frisky, frightful or fleshy is always a call for remorse, reform and repentance.  Then, too, the point was always made that Abraham Lincoln was assassinated in a theater on Good Friday, April 14.

The worst part about television viewing in those days was that we did not have remotes.  Actually, we were the remotes.  If your parent or larger sibling wanted to change a channel you had to get up and do it.  Hard times….hard times.

There are always hard times.  Hard times will come and they will go.  One of the worst of times however is war. There are different types of wars. This week’s Cat Warfare letter is about a different kind of war…politics.  There is an old saying that all is fair in love, war and politics.  No rules at all. I can answer your questions on the war and politics, but any other questions should be directed to your dad.

Politics and elections can sometimes feel like a war and can seem almost scary.  This past election seems to have divided our nation more so that many in recent memory.  However, this country is not even a little bit as divided as when our nation’s voters cast their ballots on Election Day….November 8, 1864.

 President and Vice President Canidates Republican and Democratic 1864 

The election of 1864 was the first held during a time of war since 1812.  Even worse, we were at war with ourselves. By the time of this election, this nation had survived three long and bloody years of Civil War. The Civil War was fought over the issue of black slavery and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.  Lincoln once said that if anyone liked the idea of slavery, he’d like to be the first one to try it on them. The north fought to end the abomination of human slavery and the south fought to keep it.

When first elected in the fall of 1860, Abraham Lincoln, tried to appeal to southern political leadership to work together to avoid a war between the states, but the south just would not have it.  Shortly, after he was sworn in as President, the south, on April 12, 1861, opened fire on Fort Sumter and the war began.

The first three years of the Civil War did not go well for the north or for Lincoln.  The south, because of superior generals and very enthusiastic and brave soldiers, seemed to win battle after battle.  The loss of life was absolutely appalling.  It wasn’t until July of 1863 that the war started to turn for the north when the city of Vicksburg surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant and General George Meade won a battle in a small town in Pennsylvania called Gettysburg.

To give you an idea of just how bloody Civil War battles were.  The number of men wounded and killed at just one battle, Gettysburg, would have filled the seats at old Metrodome to almost capacity…over 51,000.  It was said that on some Civil War battlefields the dead lay so thick that you could walk from body to body and never touch the ground.

                  Confederate and Union Army Dead at Gettysburg

In his second inaugural address Lincoln gave meaning to the horrendous loss of life during the war when he said that God, “gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense (slavery) came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? (Justice) Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgements of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”  Yes, Lincoln believed in God.  The Nation’s sin of slavery was paid for in soldier’s blood.

There were many empty chairs in homes throughout the north. As the time neared for Lincoln to seek re-election it was obvious to him that he faced two wars Civil and Political.

Lincoln, as much as he is loved now, during his lifetime had far more haters than supporters.  When he first entered the oval office, even his own cabinet members thought that he was not experienced or smart enough to be president.  The decisions he made to save our nation were oftentimes made alone and were highly criticized by “friend” and foe alike.   Lincoln had very few people in his life that were a comfort to him.  Even his wife was a big pain in the butt.

      Campaign Art from Lincoln’s Time 

When Lincoln left Springfield, Illinois after being elected President the first time, he decided to leave his dog, Fido, with friends.  When he got to Washington D.C., Secretary of State William Seward, who also thought Lincoln fell far short of qualities needed to be president, gave Lincoln two kittens.  It has been noted that this kind, thoughtful man was often seen in the company of his two pet cats Tabby and Dixie.

Lincoln positively doted on these two cats. Once he was caught by his wife feeding Tabby from the table during a formal White House dinner.  She later scolded Lincoln saying that it was, “shameful in front of guests.” Lincoln replied, “If the gold fork was good enough for former President James Buchanan, I think it is good enough for Tabby.”

Visitors to Lincoln during those dark war years recall how he would pet and talk to those cats for up to an hour at a time.  He once commented that his cat Dixie was smarter than his whole cabinet and what he liked even better was that she did not talk back.

While his cats may not have talked back to Lincoln, it must have seemed to him that everyone else did.  By 1864, Lincoln felt that there was no way that he would win the election, and that if the country were to be saved he would have to accomplish that after the election was lost, but before he left office.

The race for president that year started out as basically a three-way race between Lincoln, John C. Fremont and General George McClellan.  Lincoln of course was a Republican.  However, a group of Republicans who did not think Lincoln could win, formed a party called the Radical Democracy Party.  They nominated John C. Fremont as their candidate.  George McClellan was the Democratic Candidate and ran on a “Peace” platform that would have retained slavery to end the war.

     General George McClellan, Lincoln’s popular good-looking Democratic opponent 

The summer of 1864 had not been a good one for the north.  The confederates had won several major battles.  The public thought that General Grant was a butcher because of high battle casualties and blamed Lincoln for putting him in charge of all of the Union Armies.  “Peace at all costs” offered by the Democrats looked pretty darn good to many Union voters.

McClellan was thought to be the heavy favorite to win and Fremont’s campaign was off to a good start, taking many potential votes from Lincoln.  Then, Fremont read the Democrat’s political platform and decided that they must be beaten at all costs.  This famous former explorer and Union general who certainly had a personal axe to grind against Lincoln, Fremont had lost his military command for insubordination by Lincoln. Fremont put his country before all of his personal feelings and ambitions and threw his support to Lincoln.

Selflessness is always the mark of a true patriot.  Fremont and his supporters wholeheartedly joined with War Democrats and Republicans to form the National Union Party, with Lincoln at the head of the ticket.  Bet, you had never heard of the National Union Party before…had ya?

fremontGeneral John C. Fremont, another good-looking young general. 

With the full strength of the National Union Party, whose slogan was, “Don’t change horses in the middle of a stream,” behind Lincoln; General William T. Sherman’s capture of the city of Atlanta, Georgia, on September 2; and the introduction of absentee ballot voting which was used so that soldiers at the war front could vote,  Lincoln won the election in a landslide.

Twenty-five states participated in the 1864 election.  Eleven states were still in rebellion.  People living in the newest states of Kansas, West Virginia and Nevada voted in their first presidential election.  The states of Tennessee and Louisiana who had seceded, but had already been re-conquered by Union armies voted for electors, but Congress did not count those votes.

The most amazing and humbling part of this election for Lincoln was that the men who had borne the misery of battle…the soldiers….voted for him by a margin of greater than three to one.

Lincoln would live to see the end of the war…just barely.  Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered to General U.S. Grant on Palm Sunday, April 9, 1865.  Lincoln would be shot by John Wilkes Booth at Ford’s Theater on Good Friday, April 14 at 10:15 p.m.  He would die the following Saturday morning April 15 at 7:22 a.m.  Lincoln was 56 years-old when he died…younger than both grandpa and me.

Throughout his life Abraham Lincoln was noted for his extraordinary kindness.  Shortly before his death, he went to visit the soldiers who had just recaptured the confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia.  On that visit he stayed on a boat with the Admiral of the Navy, David Porter.

Admiral Porter later fondly recalled seeing the president “tenderly caressing three stray kittens.  It well illustrated the kindness of the man’s disposition, and showed the childlike simplicity which was mingled with the grandeur of his nature.”  As Lincoln was petting the cat’s fur, he was overheard telling them, “Kitties, thank God you are cats, and can’t understand the terrible strife that is going on.”  He then continued the meeting with his military officers.  When the meeting was over, before Lincoln left the tent, he turned to a young colonel and said, “I hope you will see that these poor little motherless waifs are given plenty of milk and treated kindly.”

It has always struck me as odd that the Civil War started and ended during the same week of April.  It began at Ft. Sumter on April 12 of 1861, and for me ended with Lee’s surrender on April 9 and Lincoln’s death on April 15, 1865.   How such a kind man, as Abraham Lincoln would end up being in charge of such an awful bloody war, is beyond me.  Thank God, though that he was!   Funny how things work out sometimes.

Lincoln  oldt
            One of the last pictures taken of Abraham Lincoln, with his son Tad.
Notice how much older he looks in just five years. 

I hope you get outside this weekend to enjoy this winter weather that we are having. The snow and the bright blue sky is so beautiful!

Sending lots of hugs and kisses,

Grandma Pat


One thought on “Grandma Pat Letters: Cat Warfare….Lincoln Loved Cats, People and Our Union…..Political Cat Fight–November 8, 1864

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