the bearer of each report had barely escaped with his life.
Messengers bearing despatches to the President
and Secretary of War
were constantly arriving, but outsiders could gather nothing worthy of belief.
Having learned that Mr. Lincoln
was at the War Department we started thither, but found the building surrounded by a great crowd, all as much in the dark as we. Removing a short distance away we sat down to rest.
Presently Mr. Lincoln
and Mr. Nicolay
, his private secretary, came along, headed for the White House
It was proposed by my companions that as I was acquainted with the President
I should join him and ask for the news.
I did so, but he said that he had already told more than under the rules of the War Department he had any right to, and that, although he could see no harm in it, the Secretary of War
had forbidden his imparting information to persons not in the military service.
‘These war fellows,’ he said, complainingly, ‘are very strict with me, and I regret that I am prevented from telling you anything; but I must obey them, I suppose, until I get the hang of things.’
‘But, Mr. President
,’ I insisted, ‘if you cannot tell me the news, you can at least indicate its nature, that is, whether good or bad.’
The suggestion struck him favorably.
Grasping my arm he leaned over, and placing his face near my ear, said, in a shrill but subdued voice, ‘It's d — d bad.’
It was the first time I had ever heard him use profane language, if indeed it was profane in that connection; but later, when the painful details of the fight came in, I realized that, taking into consideration the time ”