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Washington’s Ruin, Lincoln’s Comportment

March 2023
1min read

DURING THE MONTH containing the birthdays of the two most revered Americans, it is interesting to read the following observations by a young man named Albert Macomber, who served with the Sanitary Commission in Washington, D. C., during the Civil War. They are taken from letters he wrote home in 1863 and appear here through the courtesy of his niece, Grace Goldsworthy of Alhambra, California:

“Off to the northeast of the new capital and about twenty rods from it, stands [an] old house. It is three stories high, with a sharp roof surmounted by an old-style chimney. The grounds about it—not over half an acre—are overgrown with trees of various kinds, so that it would be difficult to ride about on a horse. The north side of the mansion is made green by a covering of ivy. Back of the building stands an old shed, surrounded by rank grass. The building is yellow, bleached by the weather, the mortar partly crumbled away, giving the edifice a decayed look. It seems to be entirely deserted, the gate tied with a piece of old rope. And of the hundreds of persons who pass on their way to the depot, probably not one ever suspects that dilapidated pile of bricks to have been the residence of George Washington …

“We went to the theater the other night! Now don’t be shocked and I’ll tell you about it. In the afternoon papers I saw the announcement that the President would attend Grover’s in the evening and see Wallack do MacBeth. Accordingly, we did as everyone did and made a rush and found ourselves duly established in front of the President’s box. About the time the play began, he came stalking in with his little boy and a gentleman I don’t know. His outlandish gait would have marked him, if people hadn’t known he was coming. He paid not the slightest attention to the vociferous cheering kept up on his account. During the evening he kept himself in a very unpresidential manner and attracted as much attention as the players. Anon he would make some remark to the boy and set the audience to tittering. When some exciting event occurred, he leaned halfway out of the box, like some codger who had never seen a play, not like a dignified chief magistrate!”

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