Book Chat
Lincoln's Sanctuary
Abraham Lincoln and the Soldier's Home
Matthew Pinsker

This chat took place in the Civil War Home Chatroom on 01/23/06 and covered Chapters 3 & 4

1/23/2006 9:07 pm (et) Basecat: Welcome to the Monday Evening Book Chat. Tonight, we will be discussing Chapters 3 and 4 of Matthew Pinsker's book Lincoln's Sanctuary: Abraham Lincoln and the Soldiers' Home The floor is open for comments and /or questions about Chapter 3, Forever Free.

1/23/2006 9:10 pm (et) Basecat: As the book points out, and something I agree with, the loss at the Second Battle of Manassas was probably the most dire time Washington faced during the war. It is right to say and easy to believe the panic that must have ensued after the battle, because in reality that battle was almost in their front yards.

1/23/2006 9:13 pm (et) Basecat: As for Little Mac's role in this time of the war, reprehensible how he acted during Pope's Scrape, but that said, he deserves a lot of credit for getting the army regrouped and even prepared to give battle at Sharpsburg in a couple of weeks. What Little Mac did at this time is probably his one highlight of his service in the AotP.

1/23/2006 9:14 pm (et) Basecat: One can also see at this time the changing thought Abe was having on the direction of the war, and you can see the transformation of him becoming more involved in the Military aspects of the war. Very important time in his Presidency, IMHO.

1/23/2006 9:15 pm (et) Basecat: Will just add, this was not done by any pressure from anyone else, as gut feeling here is he just decided he had to do more to motivate the Union War effort.

1/23/2006 9:17 pm (et) Vickie: It seemed to me he didn't think things were moving along as fast as he would like with the war.

1/23/2006 9:17 pm (et) Babs: Don't mean to leave to leave you hanging out here alone, Base. I read this chapter way back yesterday morning, so I can't remember anything to say about it.

1/23/2006 9:18 pm (et) Vickie: The story about the drummer boy seeing Abe trying to "sneak" of without the cavalry was interesting. Tried to picture that

1/23/2006 9:18 pm (et) Basecat: Vickie, exactly, and he was done being patient. Hard for me to imagine that he waited as long as he did to get rid of Little Mac, but one can see he did so after the mid term elections, as he knew if he fired him before, it would have caused a major problem.

1/23/2006 9:18 pm (et) Vickie: Liked the story of Sgt Derickson being excited to "eat off the very plate & fork the President eats off"

1/23/2006 9:20 pm (et) Basecat: Interesting to see how he reacted to more guards being assigned to his protection. You can tell he hated that, and loved the story of relieving the 2 guards at the gate at Midnight two days in a row, using the privilege of being Commander and Chief..:)

1/23/2006 9:21 pm (et) Vickie: He felt having the guards would keep him from talking to the public along his rout from the capital I think.

1/23/2006 9:21 pm (et) mobile_96: Had to be amusing to see them trying to hide from Abe.

1/23/2006 9:22 pm (et) Vickie: Its these stories that make Abe and others come to life for me.

1/23/2006 9:23 pm (et) Vickie: The day to day things.

1/23/2006 9:23 pm (et) Basecat: Also found a comparison here, as like after the GB Address, he felt his message of Emancipation had fallen on deaf ears as well, and he became worried about the markets etc. after the Proclamation was released. Also interesting to note, that the letter written to him by The VP contradicts the earlier notion that Abe had told him all about it months before it was issued.

1/23/2006 9:24 pm (et) Basecat: Same here Vickie, and always find new things about him to learn about, as I am certainly finding as I go along reading the book here.

1/23/2006 9:24 pm (et) Babs: Really must read more about that VP. Johnson gets all the press.

1/23/2006 9:24 pm (et) Vickie: The portfolio that Abe carried back & forth from the soldiers home to the capital is at the museum in Springfield. So that would be the very case that he most likely carried the proclamation in.

1/23/2006 9:25 pm (et) Babs: Wow!

1/23/2006 9:25 pm (et) Basecat: Babs...Way different back then, and I don't think Abe had any say as to who would be the VP. Can see that he and Hamlin did not talk or spend that much time together.

1/23/2006 9:26 pm (et) Vickie: Next time we go to the museum that portfolio will have much more meaning when I see it:-)

1/23/2006 9:26 pm (et) Basecat: This one is for Mobile...and increases the respect I have for Gideon Welles, as he seemed to be the one cabinet member who did not panic after the 2nd Battle of Bull Run.

1/23/2006 9:26 pm (et) Babs: I must get down there.

1/23/2006 9:26 pm (et) mobile_96: He managed to stay cool most of the time.

1/23/2006 9:27 pm (et) Babs: Gov't snafus were typical then as now. I'm talking about the troops who went to Soldiers' Rest instead of the Soldiers' Home.

1/23/2006 9:28 pm (et) Basecat: Mobile...I can see that the more I read about him. Quietly, and IMHO, he was the rock of that Cabinet..

1/23/2006 9:28 pm (et) Basecat: Babs..:) and they stayed there...thus causing an overworked company to head to the Soldiers' Home.

1/23/2006 9:30 pm (et) Basecat: Just an aside...the 150th PA Regiment plays a big part in the Battle of Gettysburg as you know, and probably could have used the 2 companies they left behind to guard the President at the Battle.

1/23/2006 9:30 pm (et) ks: enters the chatroom.

1/23/2006 9:31 pm (et) Basecat: Evening ks..Just finishing up thoughts on Chapter 3..:)

1/23/2006 9:34 pm (et) mobile_96: Light thoughts tonight.

1/23/2006 9:35 pm (et) Basecat: Blabbed enough here Mobile..;)

1/23/2006 9:35 pm (et) ks: Difficult for me to have that "caught up" feeling here. ;) Any mention of appreciation for Pinsker's comments concerning authenticity of documents or accessing how reliable sources are? I've really enjoyed his analysis of these.

1/23/2006 9:35 pm (et) Babs: The narrative is pretty straightforward. Not much to bicker about.

1/23/2006 9:36 pm (et) Basecat: ks..Was gonna save my comments on the stuff in Chapter 4, which he uses, but does not analyze about the relationship Abe had the Captain.

1/23/2006 9:37 pm (et) Babs: KS, No mention of that this week, but as I said last week, I do like that he gives us the info as the the reliability of the sources.

1/23/2006 9:38 pm (et) Babs: I felt he analyzed it a bit.

1/23/2006 9:39 pm (et) ks: Okay. Agreed there. I sure don't mean to imply that Pinsker indulges in the psycho-babble that seems to be so prevalent in recent Lincoln works (IMVHO). I like how he presents the facts and possible scenarios and lets me draw my own conclusions. Plumb readable book, this is. ;)

1/23/2006 9:39 pm (et) Basecat: Babs...Not enough to my satisfaction, and then when I looked at the source he used about the relationship, well was not happy at all, as it comes from the author who speculates Abe was Gay, mostly on hearsay and selective quotes.

1/23/2006 9:40 pm (et) Vickie: What did you think of the story about him going to the camps where the blacks lived? I think he may have went there but cant picture him singing along with them.

1/23/2006 9:41 pm (et) ks: But Pinsker doesn't come to the same conclusion as that author. In fact he states how certain things (like sharing a bed) were very common in that day.

1/23/2006 9:41 pm (et) Basecat: Vickie, and in good voice as well...:) I can see him stopping there, but singing...That's a stretch. :)

1/23/2006 9:42 pm (et) Basecat: ks...True, but IMHO, he should have delved into that more deeply himself.

1/23/2006 9:42 pm (et) ks: I *can* picture it and would love for that to have been a true account. Very moving. But again Pinsker points out why it may not be a creditable account.

1/23/2006 9:42 pm (et) mobile_96: And glad he made that observation about how common bed sharing was at that time.

1/23/2006 9:43 pm (et) ks: Any other thoughts on Chapter 3, or be we ready to move on?

1/23/2006 9:43 pm (et) Basecat: Am ready to Move on up to the East Side ks..;)

1/23/2006 9:45 pm (et) ks:

Chapter 4
"Capt. D and his company"

That "D" being for Derickson... :)

 1/23/2006 9:47 pm (et) Babs: I liked the stories of Tad visiting the men. Sometimes accounts of Tad make him sound annoying (as I imagine he was at times). Here he sounded quite charming. I imagine some men homesick for their children enjoyed having him around.

1/23/2006 9:47 pm (et) ks: Rather amazing start on the chapter w/ the info on John Hay and his having figured out one of the keys to gaining influence in D.C., namely to stay near the President. Those dusty 30 minute rides to and from the Soldier's Home became very important time for young Hay.

1/23/2006 9:47 pm (et) Basecat: Well can see why the soldiers called him Father Abraham, as he "adopted" those who were guarding him while at the Soldiers' Home. Also loved his pacing at the Cavalry Camp, and those guys making comments loud, so he could hear their problems, and how he would walk over there and talk to them.

1/23/2006 9:48 pm (et) Basecat: Babs...They made him a 3rd LT..:) Like you I enjoyed that, and it also shows how important those men were to Tad, who lost his play pal in brother Willie.

1/23/2006 9:48 pm (et) Babs: Similar to office politics you see today. Finding way to manipulate the boss.

1/23/2006 9:49 pm (et) ks: I too enjoy those accounts, Babs. Reminds me of the MARY Todd reading we've done. ;) Especially enjoyed the account of Tad's driver being picked up for not having a proper pass and Tad intervening.

1/23/2006 9:49 pm (et) Vickie: Nice picture of Tad on his pony :-)

1/23/2006 9:50 pm (et) amhistoryguy: enters the chatroom.

1/23/2006 9:50 pm (et) Babs: As you know I have worked with "special needs" kids a lot. Some of them a can really be a joy and their loyalty is boundless.

1/23/2006 9:50 pm (et) ks: Actually so many accounts that you don't usually see about Lincoln like his inviting members of the company in for breakfast or dinner, or even on to the porch for a game of checkers.

1/23/2006 9:52 pm (et) Basecat: ks...It's good to read that he did find some time to just relax. Most of the books on Abe mention his not sleeping, and always working. You can tell that they formed a special bond with those out at the Home.

1/23/2006 9:53 pm (et) ks: Thoughts on this "spirit of camaraderie" and the affect it had on Lincoln at this point in his life?

1/23/2006 9:53 pm (et) mobile_96: Anyone here read Hay's book on Lincoln?

1/23/2006 9:53 pm (et) ks: Not I. That'd be another I wouldn't mind picking up.

1/23/2006 9:54 pm (et) Basecat: ks...To me, it shows how much he valued the soldiers, and how that respect for them was returned in full. Reminds me of Davis's book I read this past summer, as you can see just how much he cared about those soldiers in the Army.

1/23/2006 9:54 pm (et) mobile_96: Probably helped him make it thru this period, gave him a bit of relief when needed the most.

1/23/2006 9:56 pm (et) Babs: I think he was lonely. His old Illinois friends were gone physically or ideologically. He couldn't trust the politicians who had not so hidden agendas. Seems like a common soldier would be a more likely candidate as a true friend, Those guys just wanted good socks.

1/23/2006 9:56 pm (et) ks: That was "Lincoln's Men", right? Good book.

1/23/2006 9:57 pm (et) Basecat: BTW..Is it just me, but the whole Mary Todd thing irritates me...She goes off to NYC and Boston for a long time, and Pinsker tells how lonely Abe was, and was glad for the camaraderie, and then she writes that note wondering why he has not got in touch with her. Have a tough time with Mary Todd as you all know, and am trying to find something decent about her, but not doing so well on it.

1/23/2006 9:58 pm (et) ks: Pinsker makes the point that there were SO few opportunities for a president to relax, especially during war time.

1/23/2006 9:59 pm (et) Basecat: Yep...Lincoln's Men. Highly recommend it to all who have not read it.

1/23/2006 9:59 pm (et) Vickie: Base I was surprised that Mary left Abe at a time when he needed her to be there.

1/23/2006 10:00 pm (et) Basecat: Vickie...I don't mind that she left, but for that long?? And then to send that note...less I say the better..:)

1/23/2006 10:00 pm (et) ks: Basecat, you need to read Randall's book (the MRS. Randall). Mary Todd was self centered, sure. But she'd gone through a great deal with loss of children, being in the public eye and so highly criticized. I have a lot of empathy for her.

1/23/2006 10:00 pm (et) amhistoryguy: Evidence from many sources indicates just how much of a people person Lincoln was. "Lincoln in the Telegraph Office" is another example. Lincoln had a very warm relationship with the operators there, despite the disturbing news he often got.

1/23/2006 10:01 pm (et) Basecat: ks...I have empathy for her, but she brought a lot of this stuff on herself, and seemed to blame everyone under the sun except herself.

1/23/2006 10:01 pm (et) ks: I can loan you the book, Basecat. And if you put it in your reading rotation, you might make it to it in another 20 years or so. ;)

1/23/2006 10:02 pm (et) Basecat: ks....I do have a copy here...Bought it after your discussion on it...:) Will read it....eventually.;)

1/23/2006 10:02 pm (et) ks: Some people are that way. :) Easier to point a finger elsewhere. She was troubled, but I don't doubt she cared deeply for her husband. Anyway, we stray from Chapter 4 on Capt. D and Co.

1/23/2006 10:03 pm (et) Babs: They are both sad tortured souls. Mary was not as strong as Abe.

1/23/2006 10:03 pm (et) Vickie: Thing is, a lot of people back then went through the same things as Mary losing family members, but she didn't handle it well.

1/23/2006 10:03 pm (et) ks: That's what I believe to have been the situation, Babs.

1/23/2006 10:03 pm (et) Basecat: amhg, which is a good point. Most of those soldiers he could identify with, and shared the same backgrounds also.

1/23/2006 10:03 pm (et) ks: But none of them were the President's wife during the Civil War.

1/23/2006 10:04 pm (et) Vickie: Mary was to high strung for the position she held.

1/23/2006 10:05 pm (et) amhistoryguy: I'm sure that made the deaths of any of those soldiers more personal, Lincoln put himself in a position to feel the pain of war to a greater degree, by his personal interactions with soldiers.

1/23/2006 10:06 pm (et) Babs: Both Lincolns visited the hospitals which must have been very hard on them.

1/23/2006 10:06 pm (et) Vickie: That's what I like about Abe, his personal interactions with people.

1/23/2006 10:08 pm (et) ks: And did so without the fanfare or press coverage. We've read elsewhere about Mary Todd and how she might have been thought of more kindly had the press known of her visits and that been played up. But when she visited it was without fanfare and often bringing those bouquets of flowers from the White House gardens that she so loved.

1/23/2006 10:09 pm (et) Basecat: ks...Plus the Press back then was nutso...but then again, they still are I said earlier, some things never change..;)

1/23/2006 10:09 pm (et) ks: You know what I enjoyed the most in this chapter (and probably because of more recent usage of the term)? Reading that final sentence in the chapter about Lincoln being surrounded by his new "band of brothers", the men of his military guard.

1/23/2006 10:09 pm (et) Vickie: I'm sure it meant a lot to those she visited to, must have raised their spirits somewhat.

1/23/2006 10:10 pm (et) Basecat: A very apt description ks...and noticed that as well. That's what they were.

1/23/2006 10:11 pm (et) ks: Any other thoughts on this chapter? If not, I'll get the homework posted.

1/23/2006 10:12 pm (et) ks: Is Little Mac going to escape criticism here??!! ;) Ego personified....

1/23/2006 10:12 pm (et) Vickie: No other thoughts here

1/23/2006 10:12 pm (et) Basecat: Am thought out here ks...will just add it is a very good book, and I got my Little Mac shot in earlier..;)

1/23/2006 10:13 pm (et) Vickie: I'm am also enjoying this book very much :-)

1/23/2006 10:13 pm (et) Vickie: getting back into the routine of making notes again :-)

1/23/2006 10:14 pm (et) Vickie: Now if I can just remember what day it is ;-)

1/23/2006 10:14 pm (et) mobile_96: Its the one that ends in 'day' .

1/23/2006 10:14 pm (et) Basecat: It's Today Vickie..;)

1/23/2006 10:15 pm (et) ks: I need to get back in the note making routine, Vickie. Been so busy it's more like "fly by the seat of my pants"...and that's not pretty. ;)

1/23/2006 10:15 pm (et) Vickie: Base good glad to hear its still today

1/23/2006 10:16 pm (et) Basecat: ks...When did you get wings?? Have heard no bells recently..;)

1/23/2006 10:16 pm (et) ks: The reading for next week is posted on YODB and will be Chapters 5 and 6 which cover 1863.

1/23/2006 10:18 pm (et) ks: We also need to get in the routine of SUGGESTING SOME NEW NFFFL books for consideration. We don't even have a "NEXT", let alone a "NEXT, NEXT" listed on YODB. You know things like this tend to make Babs and I lose sleep at night. ;)