Saturday was very exciting for the
family as Robert, the Lincoln's eldest son, came aboard the River Queen. Robert
was serving on General Grant's staff as a Captain, and he reported to his father
on the fighting at the front. He could not spend much time with his family, as
he had many other war duties to perform.
March 25, 1865 was also an
extremely busy day for the President. After Robert left, several officers,
including Rear Admiral David D. Porter walked with President Lincoln to General
Grant's headquarters. Lincoln and Grant toured the Petersburg front and met with
high-level army officials to plan the end of the war and start the process of
bringing the country back together once again.
Lincoln wanted to visit
actual fighting areas. He traveled by train to General George Meade's
headquarters where, during his visit, he actually saw evidence of fighting. He
saw many prisoners. He rode a horse through parts of the battlefield, viewed and
saw the burying of the dead. He saw the train cars of wounded. President Lincoln
was worn, weary and exhausted.
After returning to Grant's
headquarters, the President went to the telegraph tent to send a message to his
Secretary of War. While in the tent, he noticed three little kittens meowing and
wandering about. Mr. Lincoln picked them up, held them, and talked with them.
Cats were President Lincoln's hobby. He loved them. He stroked them until they
purred and they soothed him. Many times during Lincoln's life, reporters asked
Mrs. Lincoln what Mr. Lincoln does for relaxation and/or what is his hobby. She
often and simply answered, "Cats. My husband loves cats, and plays with them for
President Lincoln asked the
telegraph officer about the mother of the kittens. He learned the mother was
dead. Mr. Lincoln said the mother cannot grieve as many a poor mother is
grieving for a son lost in a battle.
The civil war was coming to a
close, as Grant's army began the final advance. There was the enormous task of
reuniting the country. As President Lincoln stroked the three little kitties, he
thanked God they could not understand this terrible strife which was happening
He asked Colonel Bowers of Grant's
staff to please take care of the poor little motherless waifs. Also, would he
please give them plenty of milk and treat them kindly. He gave Colonel Bowers
some money as Bowers promised him faithfully he would ask the cook to take good
care of them.
From March 25, 1865 until his
departure from City Point, Virginia, Mr. Lincoln worked very hard and performed
hundreds of Presidential duties. He met with General Grant, General Sheridan,
General Ord, General Sherman, and General Godfrey Weitzel. He heard many a
cannonade and musket firing at Petersburg and other nearby areas. He wrote many
reports, he sent and received many messages to and from Secretary of War Stanton
and Secretary of State, William H. Seward. He took many side trips such as to
Appomattox River to Point of Rocks, and toured Richmond, where he sat in
Jefferson Davis' chair. And, many times throughout the days at Grant's
headquarters Abraham Lincoln stopped by the sutler's tent and personally saw to
it that the kittens were fed and cared for.
Mr. Lincoln watched General
Sheridan's troops cross the river at Harrison's Landing in Virginia. He reviewed
General Ord's Malvern Hill division. He had lunch on Rear Admiral Porter's
flagship. He was able to follow the battles closely as Grant telegraphed him
often, keeping him abreast as to what was going on at the front.
Being afraid for his wife's
safety, Lincoln encouraged Mary to go back to Washington. She arrived in
Washington aboard the Monohasset, April 2. Tad stayed with his Father.
After receiving a telegraph from
Grant April 2, Lincoln telegraphs Secretary Stanton telling him Petersburg is
completely enveloped and all looks well. Lincoln thanks Grant for this
magnificent success and decides to visit Grant again. Lincoln receives a message
from General Weitzel. Weitzel took possession of Richmond and it was being
evacuated. Lincoln, Tad, Crook, Porter, Penrose manned by 12 sailors go on foot
to General Weitzel's headquarters, the house recently occupied by Jefferson
After more work and many more
meetings, discussing and planning details for the end of the war, President
Lincoln finally departed from City Point, Virginia at 11 p.m. Saturday, April 8,
1865. He believed he had spent two momentous weeks, probably two of the most
remarkable and interesting, almost inconceivable weeks of his life. He was
feeling better than he had felt during his entire presidency. Peace was at hand
and his United States of America was going to be preserved. Yes, Lee's troops
were going to surrender at Appomattox. The formal surrender ceremony was
scheduled for Wednesday, April 12, 1865 at the Appomattox Court House.
On April 11, 1865, President
Lincoln gave his last speech which was on reconstruction to a crowd gathered at
the White House. He spoke of adoptions of free-state constitutions, giving
equally of public schooling to black and white as well as empowering the
legislature to confer the elective franchise upon the colored man. It is
believed John Wilkes Booth was in the crowd.
While at Ford's Theater watching
the play, Our American Cousin, President Lincoln was shot 10:13 p.m. April 14,
1865. It was Good Friday. He died at 7:22 a.m., Saturday, April 15, 1865. The
President's Secretary of War, Edwin M. Stanton stated: "Now, he belongs to the
At his first
meeting with Lincoln, Colonel Horace Porter watched the President in the
telegraph tent at City Point, Virginia and years later recalled, "He would
wipe their eyes tenderly with his handkerchief, stroke their smooth coats,
and listen to them purring their gratitude to him." Now a General, Porter
thought this was quite a sight, as was reported in the New York Times
article of February 13, 1906: "Here I was at an army headquarters, upon
the eve of a great military crisis in the nation's history, to see the
hand which had affixed the signature to the Emancipation Proclamation and
had signed the commissions. . . from the general-in-chief to the lowest
lieutenant, tenderly caressing three stray kittens."