President Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln Quotes

Last Updated March 11, 2011

With Lincoln’s quotes first followed in alphabetical order of the person making the quote

“I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.”

Abraham Lincoln

Oct 3 1863

Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Day Proclamation  According to an April 1, 1864, letter from John Nicolay, one of President Lincoln’s secretaries, this document was written by Secretary of State William Seward, and the original was in his handwriting. On October 3, 1863, fellow Cabinet member Gideon Welles recorded in his diary that he complimented Seward on his work. A year later the manuscript was sold to benefit Union troops.

From “A Proclamation of Thanksgiving.”Abraham Lincoln Online. Retrieved from http://showcase.netins.net/web/creative/lincoln/speeches/thanks.htm

Originally From The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln. 8 volumes, Edited by Roy Basler. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1953

“My policy is to have no policy.”

Abraham Lincoln

Lincoln’s oft stated maxim

From McClellan’s War: The Failure of Moderation in the Struggle for the Union by Ethan Rafuse.  Bloomington IN:  Indiana University Press, 2005. page  126

Originally From “Abraham Lincoln and the American Pragmatic Tradition,” by David Donald. Lincoln Reconsidered Essays on the Civil War Era. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1956 page 128-43

“If there is a worse place than Hell, I am in it.”

Abraham Lincoln

Lincoln after the Battle of Fredericksburg

From Blue and Gray Diplomacy by Howard Jones. Chapel Hill:  The University of North Carolina Press, 2010. page  281

Originally From Battle Cry of Freedom:  The Civil War Era by James M. McPherson.  New York: Oxford University Press, 1988

Page 574

“I expect to maintain this contest until successful, or until I die or am conquered, or my term expires, or Congress or the country forsakes em.”

Abraham Lincoln

Jun 28 1862

Letter from Lincoln to Seward regarding his determination to end the rebellion

From The Maryland Campaign of September 1862 Vol. 1 South Mountain. Edited by Thomas Clemens. New York:  Savas Beatie, 2010. page  131

Originally From OR 3 (2) page 179-180

“if we never try we shall never succeed….It is all easy if our troops march as well as the enemy, and it is unmanly to say they cannot.”

Abraham Lincoln

Lincoln in a letter to McClellan urging him to press forward

From McClellan’s War: The Failure of Moderation in the Struggle for the Union by Ethan Rafuse.  Bloomington IN:  Indiana University Press, 2005. page  354

“Aint the old bugger lean?  Why he wouldn’t pay for skinning.”

A soldier

A soldier from the 9th New York Zouaves who observes Lincoln at the review at the Battle of Antietam

From Counter-Thrust From the Peninsula to the Antietam by Benjamin Franklin Cooling. Lincoln: University of Nebraska 2007.

page  273

“riding in an ambulance with some half dozen Western-looking politicians…with his long legs doubled up so that his knees almost stuck his chin, and grinning out the windows like a baboon.”

An officer

Oct 2 1862

An officer describes seeing Lincoln during his inspection of the Army

From McClellan’s War: The Failure of Moderation in the Struggle for the Union by Ethan Rafuse.  Bloomington IN:  Indiana University Press, 2005. page  344

“There was not the slightest enthusiasm on the part of the men; and how could there be for a President who did not show the smallest interest in them?

An officer

An officer describes seeing Lincoln during his inspection of the Army

From McClellan’s War: The Failure of Moderation in the Struggle for the Union by Ethan Rafuse.  Bloomington IN:  Indiana University Press, 2005. page  345

“His fingers itch to be into everything going on.”

Henry Halleck

Halleck describing Lincoln

From How the North Won by Herman Hattaway and Archer Jones. Urbana:  University of Illinois Press 1983. page  293

Originally From Halleck: Lincoln’s Chief of Staff by Stephen Ambrose. (Baton Rouge, 1962) page 110

“More than once I have been with him in out-of-the-way countryseats…and in the lack of sleeping accommodations, have spent the night in front of s stove listening to the unceasing flow of anecdotes from his lips….I could never quite make up my mind how many of them he had really heard before, and how many he invented on the spur of the moment….seldom refined, but…always to the point.”

George B. McClellan

McClellan describing his pre-war association with Abraham Lincoln, a counsel for the Illinois Central Railroad

From Hattaway, Herman and Archer Jones. How the North Won. Urbana:  University of Illinois Press 1983. page  86

Originally From McClellan’s Own Story by George B. McClellan. (New York: Webster, 1887) page 170, 176

“had nothing very particular to say, except some stories to tell, which were as usual very pertinent and some pretty good.  I never in my life met anyone so full of anecdote as our friend Abraham-he is never at a loss for a story apropos of any known subject or incident.”

George B. McClellan

Oct 16 1861

McClellan to his wife describing a meeting with Lincoln

From McClellan’s War: The Failure of Moderation in the Struggle for the Union by Ethan Rafuse.  Bloomington IN:  Indiana University Press, 2005. page  139

Originally From The Civil War Papers of George B. McClellan:  Selected Correspondence, 1860-1865, Edited by Steven W. Sears. New York:  Ticknor & Fields, 1989 page 106-07

“In out of the way county seats where some important case was being tried…in front of a stove listening to the unceasing flow of anecdotes from his lips.  He never was at a loss, and I could never quite make up my mind how many of them he really heard before and how many he invented on the spur of the moment.”

George B. McClellan

McClellan describing working with Lincoln as a counsel for the railroad.

From McClellan’s War: The Failure of Moderation in the Struggle for the Union by Ethan Rafuse.  Bloomington IN:  Indiana University Press, 2005. page  75

Originally From McClellan’s Own Story by George B. McClellan. (New York: Webster, 1887)

“Lincoln…very kind to me personally-told me he was convinced I was the best general in the country etc. He was very affable and I really think he does feel very kindly to me personally.  I showed him the battle fields & am sure he departed with a more vivid idea of the great difficulty of the task we had accomplished.”

George B. McClellan

McClellan to his wife regarding Lincoln’s visit to the Army after the Battle of Antietam

From McClellan’s War: The Failure of Moderation in the Struggle for the Union by Ethan Rafuse.  Bloomington IN:  Indiana University Press, 2005. page  346

“I got back very hot, very tired, and utterly disgusted, a feeling which I think was pretty general throughout the command.  There was not the slightest enthusiasm on the part of the men; and how could there be for a President who did not show the smallest interest in them.”

Charles S. Wainright Oct 2 1862

Wainright reporting on Lincoln’s no-show for the First Corps Review while at Sharpsburg to meet with McClellan

From A Diary of Battle The Personal Journals of Colonel Charles S. Wainright 1861-1865 by Charles Wainwright edited by Allan Nevins. New York:  De Capo Press, 1998. page  259

“It would be hard work to find the great man in his face or figure, and he is infinitely uglier than any of his pictures.”

Charles S. Wainright

Jan 15 1862

Wainwright describes Lincoln when he sees him at an opera

From A Diary of Battle The Personal Journals of Colonel Charles S. Wainright 1861-1865 by Charles Wainwright edited by Allan Nevins. New York:  De Capo Press, 1998. page  10

“We had got halfway there when we met the “great mogul” riding in an ambulance with some half dozen Western-looking politicians.  Republican simplicity is well enough, but I should have preferred to see the President of the United States traveling with a little more regard to appearances than can be afforded by a common ambulance, with his long legs doubled up so that his knees almost struck his chin, and grinning out of the windows like a baboon.  Mr. Lincoln not only is the ugliest man I ever saw, but the most uncouth and gawky in his manners and appearance.”

Charles S. Wainright

Oct 1 1862

Wainwright, a New York aristocrat who sees Lincoln at Sharpsburg after the battle

From A Diary of Battle The Personal Journals of Colonel Charles S. Wainright 1861-1865 by Charles Wainwright edited by Allan Nevins. New York:  De Capo Press, 1998. page  109

“When calm history comes to be written, Mr. Lincoln must appear as one of the smallest of men, ever harping on trifles.”

Charles S. Wainright Mar 13 1864

Wainwright on Lincoln’s apparent legacy.

From A Diary of Battle The Personal Journals of Colonel Charles S. Wainright 1861-1865 by Charles Wainwright edited by Allan Nevins. New York:  De Capo Press, 1998. page  331

“Sigel in the Valley too, had come to a full stop and has now been replaced by old Hunter.  Mr. Lincoln certainly does hold on to his fourth-rate men, however fond he may be of disgracing his best generals.”

Charles S. Wainright

May 31 1864

Wainwright on Lincoln’s appointments

From A Diary of Battle The Personal Journals of Colonel Charles S. Wainright 1861-1865 by Charles Wainwright edited by Allan Nevins. New York:  De Capo Press, 1998. page  395

“He is really the most unaffected, simple-minded, honest, frank man I have ever met.  I wish he had a little more firmness, thought I suppose the main difficulty with him is to make up his mind as to the best policy amongst the multitudes of advisers and advice.”

Alpheus Williams

Williams on Lincoln after meeting him at his visit to Sharpsburg

From “General McClellan’s Bodyguard.” by Brooks Simpson. The Antietam Campaign. Edited by Gary Gallagher  Chapel Hill:  The University of North Carolina Press,  1999. page  56

Originally From From the Cannon’s Mouth, by Alpheus Williams. Edited by Milo M Quaife. Detroit:  Wayne State University Press, 1959

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