Tag Archives: Military

What Is On My Mind Today? A Soldier, Priest and Courage

World War II Soldier

There was a soldier on an island in the Pacific during World War II wishing he was home and anywhere but there.  His military unit had been on that beach for over a week. They were staging for a big offensive against the heavily dug in Japanese.

This wasn’t the soldier’s first rodeo.  He had been in several tough fights and knew that this one was going to be no different and probably worse.

Engrossed in his thoughts, the soldier didn’t see the army’s priest walked up to him.  The priest had sought him out knowing that the soldier was a Christian, practiced the Catholic faith, and would soon be ordered to advance into battle.

The priest took his pastoral role very seriously and always tried to visit with soldiers before they were ordered into a fight.  This day was no different and by the pale anxious face of this soldier, the priest thought that the kid could use some company and sat down.

The priest looked at the boy and asked him if he was ready for confession.  The young man’s head reared back from the force of his laugh as he responded, “Father, I have been on this beach all week, I have had no opportunities to sin.”  Well, the priest thought about that and asked the soldier if he was sure.  The soldier was certain that the tally sheet of his soul was clean, at least for that week.

The priest wasn’t born yesterday, nor did he look like it, and knew that there were plenty of ways for young men to offend God when they were all gathered together far from home with nothing to lose and no promise of tomorrow.  The priest nodded and asked the soldier, “Is there anything that I can do for you?”

The priest did not have to wait long for the soldier’s answer. The young man blurted out that he feared his luck was running out.  He’d seen too many friends die. Soldiers that were stronger, smarter, better-trained and more faithful than he, had, had their numbers called.  He explained to the priest that with each battle, gun shot, artillery or grenade blast his fear grew.  Battles were becoming harder not easier. His courage had been used up and was gone.  So, yes, there was something the priest could do for him…could he have some courage?

The priest thought about the young man’s request.

He told the young man that everyone is afraid to die…even priests and good Christians.  Only the untruthful would say otherwise and bearing false witness is a confession-able sin. The priest reminded the soldier about the many times he had seen the priest under fire in harm’s way on battlefields ministering to the wounded, dying and performing last rites for the dead.  Right out in the open.  The priest told the soldier that there are times when he is practically paralyzed with fear.

Everyone feels fear the priest told the lad. Especially in situations that are dangerous or life-threatening. If someone tells you they are never afraid….they are lying. The brave and courageous are not fearless, they have just learned to control their response to fear.

The priest then told the young soldier how he finds courage in the face of death.  He repeats the Bible verse, “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me.” 

The soldier took the priest’s advice.

During an interview on television sporting a lopsided grin the soldier remembered repeating that biblical phrase hundreds, if not, thousands of times before the end of the World War II…which he survived.

The Twenty-third Psalm, that the priest provided to the soldier, is probably one of the most well-known verses of the Bible.  It was written thousands of years ago by King David…a brave and courageous soldier.  King David knew what it was like to be young, on a battlefield facing death.  However, the circumstances do not matter, King David’s poetic words have given generation after mortal generation peace, reassurance, hope and courage.

Psalm 23: 1-6

23 The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not want.

He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.

He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;

You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;

And I will dwell in the house of the Lord






Letters to My Grandchildren: Cat Warfare….Pearl Harbor Sneak Attack Cats!

Grandma Pat loves sharing history with youngsters. This letter to her grandchildren is about, “A day the will live in infamy,” December 7, 1941, the day Japan surprise attacked Pearl Harbor, Hawaii and the United States entered World War II.

The Swedish Farmer's Daughter

Dear Grandson,

Well there is finally a thin layer of ice on the pond behind our house.  It is much too soon to go on any ice…so STAY OFF THE ICE…until your dad says it’s safe.

Well I have decided to eat healthy this holiday season.  So every morning I have been eating cottage cheese with pineapple.  I love pineapple.  It is sweet and sour all at the same time.  Its yellow color reminds me of sunshine and the tropical island of Hawaii where it is grown.  I have never been there, but I am told it is just beautiful.

I do have a cousin who grew up in Hawaii. He lives out in California now.  He never could get used to the cold, snow and ice of Minnesota.  He is about the same age as your Great-Grandpa Larson.  This guy was amazing at Judo and was once a coach…

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What Is On My Mind Today? Memorial Day and Cupcakes


I was watching the news this weekend and there was a segment where a baker was demonstrating how to decorate cakes.  At the end of her demonstration, she showed off cupcakes that she had decorated especially for Memorial Day.  They were bright red, white and aqua blue.  Then, with chipper voice she joyously explained that the cupcake icing design resembled fireworks.

Memorial Day is not a day to hold celebrations, in truth, it is a yearly national funeral for our military dead.  It is a day of remembrance….of loss…not victory, freedom or national pride.  It is the day to think about all of those young men and women whose lives were cut short and whose beautiful bodies were torn, mutilated and so grievousness wounded that they could not survive their injuries.  Their trauma and deaths were horrific.

I have been reading the book, “Unbroken”.   This book is about World War II soldier Louis Zamperini, an Olympic runner, who spent much of World War II as a Japanese Prisoner of War after his plane was shot down over the Pacific Ocean.  The brutality of his war experiences are so vividly described as to, at times, seem to be frankly unbelievable.

I do believe them, because I have had the privilege of knowing many veterans both personally and professionally and their stories were oftentimes very similar to Mr. Zamperini’s.

For instance, take my friend El.  Now in his nineties, he is the last man left on this side of the turf from his army unit.  I first met El on a World War II Honorflight.  I was his caregiver and he was one of my folks.

That day as we chatted together, he mentioned that he had once been a Japanese prisoner of war for four hours.  I chuckled and said that nobody was a Japanese prisoner of war for a couple of hours, how did he manage that?

He then told me how this happened. His platoon had been ambushed, all of them were killed outright or wounded.  For the next several hours Japanese soldiers walked among those American boys, stabbing them with their bayonets to see if anyone was left alive. Any groan that was heard, was quickly followed by a gun shot. El always says the same thing, “Thank, God, I fell on my stomach and that my eyelids never fluttered.”

Then, there was Sid Schmuckler.  What a great name! Sid was quite a guy, at over 90 years of age, he still worked every day and drove himself to his office on Minnesota’s freeways in his station wagon.  Sid was a navy man and fought in the Pacific. He was a beach commander.

The night before an invasion was launched, he would go ashore to scout the position and help radio our soldiers ashore.  He was a beach commander on Iwo Jima and was in a few other very notable battles.

Sid could tell me about boys, who were just his age, that he had seen blown to bits just as matter of fact as if he was describing restaurant menu.  He did have this sad chuckle about the ironies of war that he had witnessed.

He once told me about this chaplain that was walking right down the beach on Iwo Jima as it was being heavily shelled and under constant fire by the enemy.  From behind their fortified breastworks, he and the soldiers with him screamed at the chaplain to get down!  The chaplain, as calm as if he was taking a Sunday stroll, just kept walking down that bomb pocked beach, stopping to check on each wounded, dying or dead soldier in his path.

As they were yelling at the chaplain, the boy next to Sid took a bullet to the head.  Still alive, it was immediately determined that his wound was mortal.  When the chaplain was much closer to Sid, he was grabbed and thrown behind the breastworks. Sid pointed at the young dying soldier and asked the chaplain, to give the Catholic boy last rites.

The chaplain quickly went about his business.  Just as he concluded, the young soldier breathed his last. As he closed the boy’s eyes the chaplain said, “I hope his Catholic mama never learns that a Rabi administered her son’s last rites.”  Before anyone could detain him, the chaplain quickly leaped from relative safety of the breastworks and continued his mission of mercy on that beach.

However, there was one war story that brought instant tears to Sid’s eyes.  He was back on his ship, the war nearly over, and they were smack dab in the middle of the entire Pacific armada with vast air power protecting the fleet.   American air superiority was so complete that even Kamikaze’s were no longer considered much of a threat.  He finally felt safe from the enemy.

The ship next to his was a hospital ship.  That evening, the deck of the hospital ship was brightly lit as the nurses and doctors operated feverishly to save the lives of wounded soldiers.

Sid was on the deck of his ship watching the hospital ship when one lone blip showed up on his ship’s radar.  It was determined that it had to be an American plane….it wasn’t. The Kamikaze pilot targeted the hospital ship.  His plane crashed onto the ship’s deck and burst into flames as it skidded across the top of the entire ship. I can still hear the despair in Sid’s voice as he described the horrific scene, “He killed all of the nurses, those girls, those girls, they all died!”

Memorial Day is set aside for us to think about human cost of war and to solemnly remember and honor our nation’s military dead and their families.

It is not about ……cupcakes

Just saying…..




What Is On My Mind Today? Ukrainian Easter Eggs and Doilies


I have always loved looking at Ukrainian Easter Eggs.  I know precisely where I saw an Ukrainian egg for the first time.  It was at my Great Aunt Doris’s farm home.

Someone had given her two Ukrainian eggs.  After she showed them to me, she often caught me looking at them.  I was mesmerized by the colors, perfect geometry, fine workmanship and artistry.

It wasn’t too many years after Uncle Ing died before Aunt Doris sold her farm and moved into town.  Those eggs went with her.  There behind the glass of her china cupboard in her dining room those eggs remained prominently on display.

During the winter of my freshman year in college, due to circumstances beyond my control, I lived with my Aunt Doris.  Many times she caught me admiring those eggs.   Well, Aunt Doris had no idea how to make Ukrainian eggs, so she decided that I should learn how to crochet lace doilies instead.  Both were symmetrical, required skill and a certain amount of artistry.   However, where those eggs beat doily making hands down, was in the department of color.

Not to be deterred, Aunt Doris produced a skein of bright gold crochet floss and said, “Here you go!.”  As she handed me a pattern book, string and crochet hook, I immediately forgot farm rule number one, panic never helps, and exclaimed that she must be dreaming if she thought I could make one of those complicated things. We had a good laugh and then she responded, “Nonsense, just focus on one stitch at a time and before you know it, your doily will be done.”

Sure enough, that is exactly how it went.  Never again was I ever intimated by a lace doily pattern.  Over the years I have probably made over a hundred doilies. Many of which were quite complicated.

I bet the one stitch at a time rule of Aunt Doris, could be translated to one stroke of paint at a time in Ukrainian egg making.  I do know that whenever I have had a major project or challenge in life, Aunt Doris’s doily management skills have often come to the rescue.

Whether it was getting legislation passed at the Capitol; project managing Minnesota’s World War II Memorial Dedication; formatting a four-hundred plus page statutory legislative manual; working on voter outreach; being a press secretary; being bedridden for years with Multiple Myeloma and a broken spine; or any number of other situations that have been thrust upon me in this life, staying focused on the present and not becoming overwhelmed by the future made all the difference between success or failure, and happiness or or distress.

If I added up all of the times I forced myself to focus on just one project, one event, one committee, one bill, one legislator, one candidate, one campaign, one press release, one voter, one constituent, one veteran, one child, one word, one sentence, one page, one chapter, one day, one step, one stair, one medical test, one round of chemo, one illness, and one pain, the sum total would be equivalent to a very strong person who has lived a remarkable life one stitch at a time.

Of course, there were moments when doily management skills were just not applicable. The horse was let out of the barn before you got there, kind of times. The Franken-Coleman Recount comes to mind. For those times I fell back on some good advice I once received from a young air force pilot who was trying his best to convince teenage Pat to accompany him on a ride in a jet.  He asked me if I was too scared to go with him? When I replied in the affirmative, he gave me the cutest grin and said, “What do you have to be afraid of?  All you have to do is hang on and remember to breathe.”

Grandma Pat Letter: Cat Warfare…What is Veterans Day?


Dear Kids,

Well it has been quite a week with the election and all.  Politics are always interesting and elections always have winners and losers.  Since, I worked in politics for many years, I have been on both the happy and sad side of election outcomes.  The important thing is that regardless of who won or lost the election we always are kind, respectful and considerate of those who may have voted differently than ourselves.  Nobody likes an obnoxious winner or a sore loser.  In politics and sports….good sportsmanship counts.

I just cannot believe this beautiful weather.  I have spent most of this week outside playing with my dogs.  Oliver is getting bigger all the time and Truman is just perfect as always.  I also have been thinking a lot about what I should write to you about this week regarding Cat Warfare.  Yesterday as I was speaking to an old veteran at the Toyota Dealership as grandpa and I waited for our car’s oil to be changed, grandpa sure did eat a lot of cookies, it occurred to me that I should tell you about something all of these letters have in common….cats and veterans.

I have had several very exciting jobs…being an aide to a State Senator, Press Secretary and Assistant Communications Director for Minnesota’s Secretary of State,  Committee Administrator for the House of Representative’s Committee of Government and Veterans Affairs, Acting Communications Director for the Minnesota Department of Veteran’s affairs and project manager for our state’s World War II Memorial Dedication.  That’s right your grandmother organized a party for over 27,000 people.

Of all the jobs I have had in politics and government management the ones I treasure the most were when I could help take care of veterans.  We have several veterans in our family.  As you know from a past Cat Warfare letter, you had a Great-Great Uncle Wendall who was killed in action in Korea.  Your second cousin Eugene was killed in action in that same war.  The young men were killed a month apart and are buried side by side in our hometown cemetery.  Your great-grandpa is a retired Navy veteran.  His other brother and brother-in-law were both World War II veterans.  Great-Great-Great Uncle Alfred…was a World War I veteran. Your great grandpa lives on Alfred’s farm.

World War I is where I need to begin to explain about Veterans Day.  As you may recall from your Sir Snaggle Puss letter, World War I was called the “War to End All Wars” and was fought in Europe.  It lasted from July 28, 1914 to November 11, 1918.  More than 70 million soldiers fought in the war.  Over nine million soldiers and seven million civilians died.

All of the world’s great economic powers took part in this war.  There were two opposing alliances.  The Allies, our side, included the British Empire, France, Italy, Japan, Russian Empire and United States.  Our enemy during WWI was the Central Powers Alliance that consisted of Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire.

This war was fought on the seas and on land in deep trenches.  Trench warfare as a military tactic was first proposed during the American Civil War by Confederate General James Longstreet.  He understood that battle tactics had grossly lagged behind the improvements in weaponry resulting in a horrific increase in battle casualties. So, by the time World War I came around men dug deep trenches for protection and defense.

Fighting in trenches had its own unique dangers such as poison gas attacks, and disease spread by the many rodents who took up residence with the soldiers in these filthy, muddy battle ditches.  To help protect soldiers from disease, over 500,000 cats were drafted into the service of their country and dispatched to the trenches.  Their job was to kill rats and mice.

Not only were cats sent to battle vermin in the trenches, they were also placed on navy ships. Whether they liked water or not, these sea-bound cats took their duty seriously and worked hard to keep their ships mouse and rat free.

Having cats on military ships was not new. The practice dates back to the times of the ancient Egyptians who already used cats to kill the rats and mice that spread disease and ate up their food during long voyages.  They also believed that cats were good luck charms.  During World War I cats such as “Togo”, “Pincher” and “Spark Plug”, became famous ship mascots.  One cat even became a hero by saving his soldier’s life…but that is another story.

The first Veterans Day was on November 11, 1919, and was called Armistice Day.  It observed the signing of the treaty that ended World War I, which took place in the 11th month, on the 11th day, at the 11 hour.  That is why Veterans Day is on November 11.

Both Europe and America set this day aside to remember theWorld War I war dead.  In 1926 Congress adopted a resolution proclaiming an annual observance with appropriate ceremonies.  A Congressional Act in 1938 made November 11 a legal holiday.  In 1945, Raymond Weeks, a World War II veteran, organized “National Veterans Day,” which included a parade and other activities.  He held his event on November 11, which was still called Armistice Day.  Weeks is known as the “Father of Veterans Day”.  Later, U.S. Representative Edward Rees of Kansas proposed a bill that would change Armistice Day to Veterans Day. In 1954, Congress passed the bill and President Eisenhower signed it into law proclaiming November 11 as Veterans Day.

Wearing a red poppy on your shirt in the United States is traditionally a symbol for Memorial Day, not Veterans Day.  If you wear a poppy it should be pinned onto the lapel of your shirt, over your heart with the leave pointing up to the position of 11 a.m. on a clock.  It is the symbol of war dead, because of a very sad poem written by a young military doctor named Major John McCrae.

Dr. McCrae was asked to conduct the funeral service for his friend Lieutenant Alexis Helmer who was killed by an artillery shell explosion. It is believed that the evening after his friend’s burial McCrae wrote the famous poem, “In Flanders Fields the Poppies Blow.”

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

All of our nation’s veterans are heroes and have earned our gratitude and respect. Veterans Day is a day to thank them for their service and sacrifice.  The difference between Veterans Day and Memorial Day is Veterans Day is when we honor both the living and the dead and Memorial Day is for remembering the brave souls who gave the lives on the field of battle.

Now, for the story about the hero cat of World War I who saved a soldier’s life.

Pitouchi was an orphaned kitten who was born in the battle trenches.  He was found and taken care of by Lieutenant Lekeux of the Belgian Army.  The cat and this soldier became inseparable.

One day Pitouchi’s human soldier was sent to spy on the enemy…the Germans.  The human saw that they were digging a new trench.  Pitouchi and his soldier hid in a hole made by a bomb explosion.  His human immediately began to sketch the new positions of the enemy, so he could warn his fellow soldiers.

The human become so focused on his work, he lost track of his surroundings and did not notice that several German soldiers were coming up to his location.  When he finally saw them, it was too late to run away.  So, this cat’s human decided to lay very still hoping not to be noticed.

Humans are big and Pitouchi quickly realized that his human’s idea was sure to fail.  The cat jumped out of the hole and landed on a broken piece of a tree.  This startled the German’s who fired two shots at the cat.  Both bullets missed Pitouchi and he jumped back into the hole with his beloved human.  The German soldiers laughed because they had been scared by a cat. They turned and walked away.  Pitouchi’s human finished his drawings and gave his life-saving hero of a cat a ride on his shoulder back to safety.

See it isn’t just dogs that are man’s best friend, cats, too, are very brave pets…even in a war zone.

Have a great week and if you see someone wearing a hat that says they’re a veteran, take time to thank them for their service. It will make your day and theirs. Tell that to your great grandpa and just watch him smile.

Love and lots of hugs,

Grandma Pat

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