An Encounter With Lincoln

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Andy Cardinal

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About 20% of the Army of the Potomac was composed of "green" regiment's during the Maryland Campaign. In April, Stanton had closed the recruiting offices in the expectation that the war would soon be over. In July, Lincoln called for "300,000 more" men. Many of those new men arrived in Washington during the last week of August and would see their first action at South Mountain or Antietam.

The newly-raised 13th New Jersey reached the capital during the early morning hours of September 1. This was immediately after the full extent of Pope's defeat at Second Manassas became known. Washington was in near crisis at the time with the fear that the city would soon fall to Robert E. Lee's army.

Joseph Crowell of the 13th New Jersey was one of those new men. His account of his wartime experiences are a very interesting read (The Young Volunteer).

"Our first impression of the great capital were anything but pleasant," Crowell recalled. "It was in the middle of the night." After bivouacking for the night in a freight house, Crowell and a few comrades obtained permission to leave camp for two hours to visit "that Mecca of every true American," the capital building. Crowell and his comrades went into the rotunda. "With open-mouthed wonder, and mind filled with historical recollections thus so plainly brought face to face, I was gazing up toward the unfinished dome, when I felt a hearty slap on my shoulder," Crowell wrote. "Good morning, my boy!" Crowell turned to look. "Mind you, it was 6 o'clock in the morning," he recalled. "I was 'only a private.' But there at that early hour, standing in front of me, was a tall, gaunt figure whose features were familiar to every man and woman, every boy and girl, in the country." Crowell was stunned to see the figure of Abraham Lincoln. According to Crowell, Lincoln's face "wore an anxious look" as he waited for reinforcements to reach the capital. The President "was like a boy who cannot wait for daylight on Christmas morning, but surreptitiously gets up in his nightshirt to take a glance at his stocking by the mantlepiece."

After some small talk, Lincoln asked the still surprised Crowell his name, residence and occupation, "and seemed to take a remarkable interest in an obscure stranger -- nothing but a common private. He took my hand for a good-bye." When Crowell reminded him of the other men present, Lincoln said, "I did not intend to miss them." "Every soldier is my friend and my brother. We are all soldiers now, in a common cause. God bless you all."

After he "shook hands and had a pleasant word for every blue-coated recruit in the rotunda," Lincoln left in the company of two officers. "The familiar, friendly way in which the President had greeted us had captivated us entirely," Crowell reflected. "The magnificent, though unfinished capitol building had no attractions for us after that. We had seen and spoken to a real, live president, and from that moment every one of us felt like giving his life, if necessary, in defense of a country with such a ruler."
 
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Lincoln showed no partiality to any class or standing. No one was better then the others. This story shows him interacting with the common soldier who he did no know from Adam. One can feel the kindness he expressed to these young men. In his case a little poetic paraphrasing of his own words, "The World Will Note and Long Remember" Mr. Lincoln.
 
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James N.

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About 20% of the Army of the Potomac was composed of "green" regiment's during the Maryland Campaign. In April, Stanton had closed the recruiting offices in the expectation that the war would soon be over. In July, Lincoln called for "300,000 more" men. Many of those new men arrived in Washington during the last week of August and would see their first action at South Mountain or Antietam.

The newly-raised 13th New Jersey reached the capital during the early morning hours of September 1. This was immediately after the full extent of Pope's defeat at Second Manassas became known. Washington was in near crisis at the time with the fear that the city would soon fall to Robert E. Lee's army.

Joseph Crowell of the 13th New Jersey was one of those new men. His account of his wartime experiences are a very interesting read (The Young Volunteer).

"Our first impression of the great capital were anything but pleasant," Crowell recalled. "It was in the middle of the night." After bivouacking for the night in a freight house, Crowell and a few comrades obtained permission to leave camp for two hours to visit "that Mecca of every true American," the capital building. Crowell and his comrades went into the rotunda. "With open-mouthed wonder, and mind filled with historical recollections thus so plainly brought face to face, I was gazing up toward the unfinished dome, when I felt a hearty slap on my shoulder," Crowell wrote. "Good morning, my boy!" Crowell turned to look. "Mind you, it was 6 o'clock in the morning," he recalled. "I was 'only a private.' But there at that early hour, standing in front of me, was a tall, gaunt figure whose features were familiar to every man and woman, every boy and girl, in the country." Crowell was stunned to see the figure of Abraham Lincoln. According to Crowell, Lincoln's face "wore an anxious look" as he waited for reinforcements to reach the capital. The President "was like a boy who cannot wait for daylight on Christmas morning, but surreptitiously gets up in his nightshirt to take a glance at his stocking by the mantlepiece."

After some small talk, Lincoln asked the still surprised Crowell his name, residence and occupation, "and seemed to take a remarkable interest in an obscure stranger -- nothing but a common private. He took my hand for a good-bye." When Crowell reminded him of the other men present, Lincoln said, "I did not intend to miss them." "Every soldier is my friend and my brother. We are all soldiers now, in a common cause. God bless you all."

After he "shook hands and had a pleasant word for every blue-coated recruit in the rotunda," Lincoln left in the company of two officers. "The familiar, friendly way in which the President had greeted us had captivated us entirely," Crowell reflected. "The magnificent, though unfinished capitol building had no attractions for us after that. We had seen and spoken to a real, live president, and from that moment every one of us felt like giving his life, if necessary, in defense of a country with such a ruler."
Interesting - I have just read this very story, dialog, details and all, in the book I am now reading, War From The Inside by Frederick L. Hitchcock of the 132d Pennsylvania, written ca. 1902. Although he has quoted from at least one other writer, I'm pretty sure he attributes this experience to himself, so obviously there was a bit of plagiarism going on somewhere! Although only a lieutenant when the incident supposedly happened, Hitchcock went on to become a major in the 132d and later Colonel of a USCT regiment. What else do you know about Crowell and his wartime service?
 

Andy Cardinal

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That is interesting. Crowell was from Paterson New Jersey and worked as a printer before enlisting. He joined the q3th New Jersey in August 1862 and fought at Antietam. He was wounded at Chancellorsville. Afterward, he transferred to the Veteran Reserve Corps in November 1863 and was discharged in March 1866.

I don't know much about Crowell beyond what I've read in his book, which was published in 1906.

I've referenced Hitchcock's book but haven't yet read it cover to cover.... Do you remember where the story is located in the book? I'd like to compare the accounts.
 
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James N.

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That is interesting. Crowell was from Paterson New Jersey and worked as a printer before enlisting. He joined the q3th New Jersey in August 1862 and fought at Antietam. He was wounded at Chancellorsville. Afterward, he transferred to the Veteran Reserve Corps in November 1863 and was discharged in March 1866.

I don't know much about Crowell beyond what I've read in his book, which was published in 1906.

I've referenced Hitchcock's book but haven't yet read it cover to cover.... Do you remember where the story is located in the book? I'd like to compare the accounts.
Mea Culpa - Last night I searched in vain in Hitchcock totally failing to locate the story! I know I read it only a few days ago, but possibly it was this thread, and I mentally transposed it to my current book. If I find out otherwise, I'll post again. The experiences of their units were similar, raised in time for Antietam to be their first battle, and shot to pieces at the Sunken Roads there and at Fredericksburg.
 

Andy Cardinal

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Feb 27, 2017
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Ohio
Mea Culpa - Last night I searched in vain in Hitchcock totally failing to locate the story! I know I read it only a few days ago, but possibly it was this thread, and I mentally transposed it to my current book. If I find out otherwise, I'll post again. The experiences of their units were similar, raised in time for Antietam to be their first battle, and shot to pieces at the Sunken Roads there and at Fredericksburg.
Lol. I can't tell you how many times I read something and then lose track of where I've seen it.
 
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