Mrs. Lincoln's Best Attended Seance; April !863, The Alabama Sails Across The Crimson Sal

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JPK Huson 1863

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OH the Seat of Power! Looking over our nation's capitol, citizens liked to imagine all these marble and granite tributes to power were represented by men of solid thought and wise counsel. Word had spread of Mrs. President's inclination towards the faddish Spiritualism, popular in a day when so many lost loved ones. Then a reporter was bafflingly permitted entre, at this 1863 session.

April, 1863 and once again papers were abuzz, all about ' Behind the doors ', at Lincoln's White House. Not, mind you, over a story reported by Boston Saturday Evening Gazette's, Prior Melton, on Mrs. President's séance, attended by Melton. Spiritualism, more fad than ' religion ' swept the country. Men and women, self proclaimed Spiritualists, channeled voices of those departed for the benefit, and entertainment of those living.

Objection to this one seemed centered on which spirits and was Lincoln's cabinet, and Lincoln himself communicating with a lot of very bad, un-Heavenly types? How funny was that? Well, and if Mrs. President Lincoln had anything to do with it, would it pull the entire country down into- well, the dark place?

A Charles E. Shockle arrived at the White House, bringing Melton for his front row seat. You can find various accounts in today's blogs and books. Really cannot beat what was originally written in papers.

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Different papers slightly altered the story. Snipped from several.

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The following is interesting. Scoffed also before remembering whose ship pulled Semmes to safety.... and freedom. Deer Hound was not registered in France.

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Seemed a little weird!


I cannot find Charles E. but haven't given up. There are a few ' Shockles ', in Washington territory later and different spellings but of Charles E., nothing. Well, Spiritualists my have combined a certain showmanship with their gift, and chose stage names. ' Shockle ' seems scarcely memorable.

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You're unclear why there is no record of Charles E. returning or Stanton and Welles attending another séance. I can see Lincoln drawn to it, and his quick silver mind enjoying the whole thing hugely- but Stanton? Welles, well, not as likely to stand on his dignity but you just cannot imagine him happily seated in the Crimson Saloon that evening.

But I'll be that Alabama thing bugged him for the rest of his life.
 
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JPK Huson 1863

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Spiritualism sessions at the Lincoln White House! Who knew!

Right? There's always been some snark about poor Mary- who really was just following one of those hotter-than-wildfire fads of the era and fair enough. She'd lost 2 children and the war was robbing her of family, rapidly. Must have seemed like hope? Never knew Welles and Stanton sat in or that it all became so extensive!
 
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JPK Huson 1863

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Had to come find this after reading Mary wasn't alone holding seances in the White House in @DBF 's thread on the topic. Hadn't heard of another!

I just stopped by yet another cemetery- sometimes a Find a Grave photo request is near where I live so try to find these graves for relatives. There was a mother, father and 4 children all in a row. Children and father died during the same week- mother two decades later. You could see where someone with that kind of loss would be attracted to the idea her family wasn't gone. Whether or not you believe in this stuff it must have been comforting for them to do so.
 

DBF

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I too was surprised to learn that Mary Lincoln was not the 1st First Lady to have a séance in the White House. Jane Pierce was desperate to contact her son that had recently died in a train accident so she called in “The Fox Sisters”. It is certain that Margaretta was one of the sisters that were at the séance and possibly another sister accompanied her.

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(Public Domain)

The sisters are referred to as “The founders of Spiritualism”. Interesting in 1854, the United States was entering the debate of this movement when Illinois Senator, James Shields and Massachusetts Senator, Charles Sumner:

“presented a petition signed by 15,000 Americans requesting the appointment of a scientific commission to study spiritualist phenomena. Ultimately, in an executive session, there was a pleasant debate during which senators suggested that the petition be referred to one of several possible groups — including the committees on foreign relations, on military affairs or on post offices and post roads — the last because of the possibility of establishing spiritual telegraph between the material and spiritual worlds. In the end the petition was tabled.” *

It was Margaretta, who later in life, would admit that their work was all done with trickery. But it appears for a time for these 2 First Ladies found some relief from their deep grief over the lost of their adorable little boys.


*https://www.historynet.com/the-fox-sisters-spiritualisms-unlikely-founders.htm
 
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