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150 Years Ago: Saturday, May 25, 1861

Missouri and Union generals had come to an agreement days before regarding peace between the two sides. Meanwhile, Governor Claiborne Jackson was still in communication with the Confederate government. CSA Secretary of War Leroy Pope writes the Governor in response to a letter from May 5. Pope expresses his disappointment that Missouri has not been able to join their cause, as he had always felt Missouri would be a part of their movement. He and Davis will try their best to supply men and arms. He assures Jackson that they are making plans for Missouri’s defense, and laments the fact that he had let two former prisoners of war go free – Major Anderson and General Harney – who are now both serving the Union in the crucial states of Kentucky and Missouri. 

A state legislator from Maryland, John Merryman, is arrested for his attempts to hinder Union troops from moving between Baltimore and Washington. He is moved to Fort McHenry and his attorney immediately asks for a writ of habeas corpus. U.S. President Lincoln decides to suspend the writ; he had already done so along the railway lines between Baltimore and Washington, but this would now extend across the Union. 


Ellsworth Funeral (Source: Library of Congress)

A funeral service is held in the East Room of the White House for Colonel Elmer Ellsworth. It is a large military funeral that includes President Lincoln, his wife Mary and their two youngest children, Willie and Tad. One of the guards stationed by the coffin is Francis Brownell, whose quick action yesterday had resulted in the death of Ellsworth’s killer. The President and Mary weep openly. Julia Taft, a constant presence at the White House as she often watches after her brothers and the Lincoln children, wants desperately to talk with the President and tell him of the wonderful day she had spent with Ellsworth on May 23. She decides against it when someone tells her that the President can’t say or hear a word about Ellsworth without crying. She didn’t want to cause him any more grief. For Julia it was a difficult day, as she was asked by Major Watt, the White House head gardener, to put a wreath of white roses on Ellsworth’s breast. She had never seen a dead person before so even the idea made her lightheaded, but she did it anyway. During the service she was appalled to see Tad Lincoln and her brother Holly climb on the back of General Winfield Scott’s chair, only to fall back into the arms of some of his staff when Scott stands up. Mary Lincoln is presented with the secessionist flag that had been held in Ellsworth’s arms when he was shot, but it is such a tragic reminder that she will just put it in a dresser drawer, out of view.

After the funeral, President Lincoln writes a letter to Ellsworth’s parents:

To the Father and Mother of Col. Elmer E. Ellsworth

My Dear Sir and Madam,

In the untimely loss of your noble son, our affliction here is scarcely less than your own. So much of promised usefulness to one’s country, and of bright hopes for one’s self and friends, have rarely been so suddenly dashed as in his fall. In size, in years, and in youthful appearance a boy only, his power to command men was surpassingly great. This power combined with a fine intellect, an indomitable energy, and a taste altogether military, constituted in him, as seemed to me the best natural talent, in that department, I ever knew.

And yet he was singularly modest and deferential in social intercourse. My acquaintance with him began less than two years ago; yet through the latter half of the intervening period, it was as intimate as the disparity of our ages, and my engrossing engagements would permit. To me, he appeared to have no indulgences or pastimes; and I never heard him utter a profane or an intemperate word. What was conclusive of his good heart, he never forgot his parents. The honors he labored for so laudably, and in the sad end so gallantly gave his life, he meant for them, no less than for himself. In the hope that it may be no intrusion upon the sacredness of your sorrow, I have ventured to address you this tribute to the memory of my young friend, and your brave and early-fallen child.

May God give you that consolation which is beyond all earthly power.

Sincerely your friend in a common affliction,

A. Lincoln 

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