Lincoln's Personal Life HTML version
The Jacobin Club
The keen Englishman who had observed the beauty of the Virginian woods on "Bull Run
Sunday," said, after the battle was lost, "I hope Senator Wilson is satisfied." He was
sneering at the whole group of intemperate Senators none of whom had ever smelled
powder, but who knew it all when it came to war; who had done their great share in
driving the President and the generals into a premature advance. Senator Wilson was one
of those who went out to Manassas to see the Confederacy overthrown, that fateful
Sunday. He was one of the most precipitate among those who fled back to Washington.
On the way, driving furiously, amid a press of men and vehicles, he passed a carriage
containing four Congressmen who were taking their time. Perhaps irritated by their
coolness, he shouted to them to make haste. "If we were in as big a hurry as you are,"
replied Congressman Riddle, scornfully, "we would."
These four Congressmen played a curiously dramatic part before they got back to
Washington. So did a party of Senators with whom they joined force& This other party,
at the start, also numbered four. They had planned a jolly picnic--this day that was to
prove them right in hurrying the government into battle!- -and being wise men who knew
how to take time by the forelock, they had taken their luncheon with them. From what is
known of Washington and Senators, then as now, one may risk a good deal that the
luncheon was worth while. Part of the tragedy of that day was the accidental break-up of
this party with the result amid the confusion of a road crowded by pleasure-seekers, that
two Senators went one way carrying off the luncheon, while the other two, making the
best of the disaster, continued southward through those beautiful early hours when
Russell was admiring the scenery, their luncheon all to seek. The lucky men with the
luncheon were the Senators Benjamin Wade and Zachary Chandler. Senator Trumbull
and Senator Grimes, both on horseback, were left to their own devices. However, fortune
was with them. Several hours later they had succeeded in getting food by the wayside and
were resting in a grove of trees some distance beyond the village of Centerville.
Suddenly, they suffered an appalling surprise; happening to look up, they beheld
emerging out of the distance, a stampede of men and horses which came thundering
down the country road, not a hundred yards from where they sat. "We immediately
mounted our horses," as Trumbull wrote to his wife the next day, "and galloped to the
road, by which time it was crowded, hundreds being in advance on the way to Centerville
and two guns of Sherman's battery having already passed in full retreat.
We kept on with the crowd, not knowing what else to do. We fed our horses at
Centerville and left there at six o'clock. . . . Came on to Fairfax Court House where we
got supper and, leaving there at ten o'clock reached home at half past two this morning. . .
. I am dreadfully disappointed and mortified."
Meanwhile, what of those other gay picnickers, Senator Wade and Senator Chandler?
They drove in a carriage. Viewing the obligations of the hour much as did C. C. Clay at
the President's reception, they were armed. Wade had "his famous rifle" which he had
brought with him to Congress, which at times in the fury of debate he had threatened to
use, which had become a byword. These Senators seem to have ventured nearer to the
front than did Trumbull and Grimes, and were a little later in the retreat At a "choke-up,"
still on the far side of Centerville, their carriage passed the carriage of the four