Edwin M. Stanton: His love story for the ages (Part 2)

DBF

Sergeant Major
Joined
Aug 6, 2016
(Part 2)

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It was during the middle of the 1850’s when Edwin Stanton met a young woman while attending St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Pittsburg Pennsylvania. Ellen Hutchinson was born on September 24, 1830 the daughter of Lewis and Eleanor Hutchinson. Her father was a wealthy merchant in Pittsburg. Ellen had been disappointed in a previous relationship and the couple began corresponding as Stanton was busy with his career as an attorney. When Ellen once wrote him: “no man falls in love after the age of twenty-five”; Stanton responded that this was not true and admitted to her “when illness forced him to lie idle in his room at the Monongahela House he passed the time by thinking of her”. {1} Despite their letters Ellen was wary of the much older Stanton and feared a future with him due to his obsession with his work. In addition she had observed some troubling personality characteristics in that he was inpatient and seemed indifferent when considering the feelings of others. Stanton addressed her issues when he wrote her:

“There is so much of the hard and repulsive in my (I will not say nature, for that I think is soft and tender) but in the temper and habit of life generated by adverse circumstances, that great love only can bear with and overlook.” {3}

Ellen was gifted with a temper which she was not afraid to use against her potential suitor. Although he promised to change his churlish behavior it would only last for a time before he slipped back into his old ways. At one point Ellen confronted him in a letter when she addressed his:

“cold feelings of anyone who could not contribute to his ‘selfish gratification’,” [and even going so far as accusing he] acted unkindly even toward those who could.” {1}

Stanton challenged her by declaring that he had changed his ways and only had one relapse while she could be harsh in her criticism of him. She was so angry that she refused to see him for days. It was at this point in their relationship Stanton mailed her an “awkward contract” in which he stipulated:

“that in case of future ‘differences’ they would not part ‘without a kiss of forgiveness and reconciliation’. He urged her to sign it and keep it, and she did, although it seemed to place the burden of forgiveness on her”. {1}

There is a consensus of opinion that perhaps this marriage was mutually beneficial for both parties. Edwin Stanton was getting a wealthy, young and attractive woman; Ellen was acquiring an influential attorney with connections that reached into the very center of the government. At some point the couple discovered any differences outweighed the advantages for on June 25, 1856 the “limping stocky bridegroom” (the result of a previous injury) and the “heavy satin gowned” bride stood before Reverend Edwin Van Deusen and were joined in marriage. The groom was forty-one and his bride twenty-five.

A honeymoon to Niagara Falls, Montreal, the White Mountains of New Hampshire and Nantucket Island was soon completed and the family moved to Washington, D.C. where Stanton hoped he would see “important” work with the Supreme Court. In time it was clear Stanton had found love again when he said that what he thought he had lost forever after the death of Mary he had found with Ellen “a love of the abiding sort”.​

* * *​

Within a year the couple celebrated the birth of their daughter, Eleanor Adams on May 9, 1857. It didn’t take long for some of Ellen’s earlier fears to come true. During President Buchanan’s term he asked Stanton to serve as his representative in California to assure his policies were carried out. This brought stress into the marriage as Ellen was anxious with being left behind in Washington where she had no friends. The new mother had suffered from a difficult delivery and fell ill after her daughter’s birth. Edwin Stanton only delayed his decision and in the end his career out-weighed his wife’s concerns and on February 19, 1858 he departed for California taking his eldest son. The summer of 1858 was a difficult time for Ellen. It was hot and humid in Washington and coupled with loneliness and worry that Stanton was missing all the “first” of his young daughter’s life. Stanton frequently included in his letters reminders of “the joy of returning to her arms” and to bask in her “sweet & gentle love”.

He did not returned until the following February. Within a year after his return the couple welcomed their second child Lewis on January 22, 1860. By the end of the year on December 20, Edwin Stanton stepped into the position of Attorney General for the United States in the Buchanan administration. He left the office upon the inauguration of President Abraham Lincoln on March 4, 1861.​

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The Stanton Home
Washington, D.C.

On October 17 of 1861 Ellen gave birth to another son James and within three months her husband was serving as the Secretary of War in President Lincoln’s cabinet. It was during the war the friendship developed between the two men. They also bonded when President and Mrs. Lincoln’s young son Willie died on February 20, 1862 and sadly their baby James Stanton died a few months later on July 10. This was a terrible blow for the Stanton’s as Lincoln’s secretary noted during a “pleasant little dinner” at the Stanton’s on August 30, 1862. Hay described Ellen as:​

“a ‘pretty’ woman, but as white and cold and motionless as marble, whose rare smiles seemed to pain her.” {1}

Of course Hay reminds his readers that this dinner took place seven weeks after the death of their beloved son James tragically passing away at only eight months old.

On June 28, 1863 the couple welcomed the birth of a daughter Bessie. Times were difficult for the anxious and nervous Ellen. Although there was a relationship between her husband and the president, Ellen and Mary Lincoln did not care for one another. No reason is given except for the usual charge that Mary Lincoln, being somewhat older than Ellen, was jealous. Ellen also had her share of critics. Washington society reported Ellen Stanton had a “freezing manner and repellent address” {1} making it difficult to cultivate friends.

Ellen was a loyal supporter for her husband throughout the 1860’s. During the difficult struggles with the war and the grief he suffered with the death of his friend Abraham Lincoln, it was Ellen that helped him during those dark days. After the war as he dealt with his problems in the Andrew Johnson administration it was Ellen that shielded her husband from negative news. While they were taking a trip during the period when turmoil reigned in the office of the Secretary of War and Stanton’s position was in question, Ellen wrote her step-son who was working at the office of War, if he not send depressing letters filled with news about the department.

On May 26, 1868 after President Johnson had been acquitted on his impeachment charges, Stanton submitted his letter of resignation as the Secretary of War. He left on May 28, a man in ill health and worn down from the stress of the last eight years, but still determined to make a living he argued a case before the Supreme Court. The year of 1869 brought Stanton a roller-coaster of health. At times he’d feel rejuvenated and at times not. On his fifty-fifth birthday President Grant gave him a nomination as associate justice of the Supreme Court and the next day he was confirmed by the Senate.​

“It may be truly said of him that his life and his talents were sacrificed on the altar of his country.”
“The Western Reserve Chronicle”
December 29, 1869
{3}

Ellen and his children were there when Stanton took his last breath. The scene on December 23, 1869 is described in the book “Lincoln’s Autocrat” by William Marvel:

“Stanton felt so weak that Ellen sent for the surgeon general. Her husband complained of pain on the back of his head, neck and upper spine, as though from meningitis, but once the sun set he began his nightly struggle for breath. Barnes found his pulse sluggish and later in the evening the constriction of his lungs gravitated to the heart. . . Toward midnight the pressure on his chest subsided enough that Barnes prepared to leave, while Ellen and the children started for bed. Before the doctor left the house the pain grew worse and Stanton gasped so strenuously for air that someone ran for the pastor of the Church of the Epiphany, and soon after he arrived Stanton lost consciousness. Ellen and the children returned to the bedside and they, Barnes, the minister and the governess remained there until sometime between three and four o’clock in the morning on Christmas Eve, when Barnes checked for a pulse, found none, and put a hand on Stanton’s chest. He felt nothing and pronounced his most famous patient dead.” {1}

On December 24, 1869 he passed away. He left behind his wife, sons, Edwin (twenty-seven), Lewis (nine) and his daughters, Eleanor (twelve) and as Stanton always referred to his youngest daughter “his darling” Bessie (six).

Ellen was faced with financial challenges after her husband’s death. A bill was introduced into the House of Representatives to give the family one year’s salary of an associate justice of the Supreme Court. Before it was passed, it was re-written to include only Ellen and her children leaving out Stanton’s eldest son and all his Ohio relatives. This along with the work of Samuel Hooper who raised $100,000 for the family sustained Ellen and her children. A year after his death Ellen moved to Philadelphia but for the next three years she suffered from ill health and died on November 17, 1873 from consumption. She was forty-three. Her step-son Eddie died in 1877 also from consumption. He was buried next to his mother. Ellen rests next to her husband. Lewis and Bessie both lived into their seventies; while daughter Eleanor died at fifty-three.​

* * *
For nearly twenty-two years of his fifty-five years he was blessed to share his life with women he loved and experienced the joy of fatherhood. From Mary Ann his first love it was near “perfection” with Ellen there were challenges complicated with the turmoil of the Civil War yet despite it all he was able to say he had found:​

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The Memorial Grave Stone of Edwin & Ellen StantonOak Hill Cemetery
Oak Hill Cemetery - Washington, D C
Wikipedia - CC {*}

President Abraham Lincoln had given his Secretary of War the moniker “Mars” after the Roman god of war, the most prominent military god in Roman mythology. Mars was also the father of “Cupid” the god of love in all its varieties and “Cupid” gave Edwin Stanton his “love story for the ages”.​

* * * * *



Sources
1. “Lincoln’s Autocrat - The Life of Edwin Stanton, by William Marve
2.
http://civilwaref.blogspot.com/2013/12/edwin-stanton-born-december-19-1814.html
3. “Western Reserve Chronicle” (Library of Congress)
4. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/8348545/ellen-stanton
All Photos Public Domain unless {*} Wikipedia Link to Photo

For further biographical information:

https://civilwartalk.com/threads/stanton-ellen-maria-hutchison.163747/#post-2135658
 

Lubliner

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Location
Chattanooga, Tennessee
Stanton has always been an impressive figure to me. Never really had much feeling toward other cabinet members to hold in high regard, except maybe Neptune. Lincoln's best friend I detested; a deceiver of pompous ambition, but I do appreciate the man due to Lincoln. Stanton was a work of marvel.
Lubliner.
 

Patrick H

Lt. Colonel
Joined
Mar 7, 2014
This has been a nice two-part series. I've never particularly liked Stanton--probably because I've never read much that was favorable to him. This series has really humanized him for me. Thanks for the research and the threads.
 

Lubliner

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Forum Host
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Nov 27, 2018
Location
Chattanooga, Tennessee
This has been a nice two-part series. I've never particularly liked Stanton--probably because I've never read much that was favorable to him. This series has really humanized him for me. Thanks for the research and the threads.
He really did get a bad review from contemporaries. But the cause of such ill-fame was due to his determination to make things right in the country,IMO.
Lubliner.
 

Cek3

Private
Joined
Apr 17, 2020
Stanton has always been an impressive figure to me. Never really had much feeling toward other cabinet members to hold in high regard, except maybe Neptune. Lincoln's best friend I detested; a deceiver of pompous ambition, but I do appreciate the man due to Lincoln. Stanton was a work of marvel.
Lubliner.
Who was Neptune; and who were you referring to as Abe’s best friend? Thanks
 

DBF

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Aug 6, 2016
Last edited:

Cek3

Private
Joined
Apr 17, 2020

DBF

Sergeant Major
Joined
Aug 6, 2016
Stanton has always been an impressive figure to me. Never really had much feeling toward other cabinet members to hold in high regard, except maybe Neptune. Lincoln's best friend I detested; a deceiver of pompous ambition, but I do appreciate the man due to Lincoln.
Hopefully Lubliner can tell you who was Lincoln's best friend.
 

Lubliner

1st Lieutenant
Forum Host
Joined
Nov 27, 2018
Location
Chattanooga, Tennessee
And so Welles was Lincoln’s best friend to which you refer?
William Seward. Lincoln had a jolly good time with him. Seward helped stabilize that morose side of Lincoln's character, and I appreciate the man for that. They caught some bad publicity after visiting the front sometime around Antietam. A bit too jolly on the carriage ride back to Washington after the losses. Why does critical publicity weigh so heavily on the scales of public persuasion?
Lubliner.
 
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