The Grace of Lincoln’s Whiskers

Saturday, February 16, 1861

Lincoln’s trip to his capitol was an indirect route. Entering the state of New York, he found himself in the town of Westfield, home of Grace Bedell. Ms. Bedell, who was only 11 years old, had written to Lincoln on October 15, 1860 about an ingenious way for Lincoln to get himself elected: “I have got 4 brothers and part of them will vote for you any way and if you let your whiskers grow I will try and get the rest of them to vote for you you would look a great deal better for your face is so thin. All the ladies like whiskers and they would tease their husbands to vote for you and then you would be President.”

Lincoln made no promises when he replied four days later: “As to the whiskers, having never worn any, do you not think people would call it a piece of silly affectation if I were to begin it now?”

So as he addressed the crowd in Westfield from his train car, he brought up Ms. Bedell, telling them that she suggested he grow whiskers and “acting partly upon her suggestions, I have done so.” He then said that he would like to meet her. A boy in the crowd knew her and pointed her out, “there she is, Mr. Lincoln!”

Grace Bedell was blushing as they walked towards each other. She held in her hands a bouquet of roses in the hope that she could meet the President-Elect. Lincoln bent down and picked up the small girl and gave her a kiss.

Flushed with excitement and embarrassment, Grace ran home and hid under her covers, forgetting to give Lincoln the flowers.

Lincoln’s train stopped in Buffalo for the night, where the now usual throngs of cheering crowds greeted him.1


Jefferson Arrives in Montgomery

Confederate President-Elect, Jefferson Davis, after a long and tiring journey from Vicksburg, Mississippi, arrived at his new capitol, Mobile, Alabama, ready to take over as head of the Provisional Confederate government. It was evening when he arrived at the Exchange Hotel on Commerce Street.

He delivered a fiery speech in the street to a crowd of his new fellow countrymen, declaring that the “time for compromise has now passed, and the South is determined to maintain her position, and make all who oppose her smell Southern powder and feel Southern steel if coercion is persisted in. We ask nothing, we want nothing; we will have no complications…. Our separation from the old Union is now complete. No compromise, no reconstruction is now to be entertained.”

“If war should come,” he later spoke from his balcony, “if we must again baptize in blood the principles for which our fathers bled in the Revolution, we shall show that we are not degenerate sons.”

In two days he would be inaugurated.2

  1. Lincoln President-Elect by Harold Holzer. []
  2. Life of Jefferson Davis: With a Secret History of the Southern Confederacy, Gathered “Behind the Scenes in Richmond.” by Edward Alfred Pollard, National Pub. Co., 1869. []
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