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1865 August 5: The Attempt to Poison Mr. Lincoln, and a Contest for “Left-Armed” Soldiers

August 9, 2015

The following two shorter articles comes from the August 5, 1865, issue of The Prescott Journal.

The Attempt to Poison Mr. Lincoln.

In a letter from Mrs. J. G. Swisshelm¹ to the Pittsburgh Commercial, is the following in relation to the alleged attempt to poison Mr. Lincoln [Abraham Lincoln], when “the cup was tried, and failed:”

On a visit to Mrs. Lincoln, the day she left for Chicago, I said to her that I had always expected slavery would poison Mr. Lincoln as it did Presidents Harrison [William Henry Harrison] and Taylor [Zachary Taylor].  The idea appeared new to her; and recalled the fact that her husband had been very ill for several days, from the effects of a dose of blue pills taken shortly before his second inauguration.  She said he was not well, and appearing to require his usual medicine, blue pills, she sent to the drug store in which Harrold was employed last, and got a dose and gave them to him at night before going to bed, and that the next morning his pallor terrified her.

“His face,” said she, pointing to the bed beside which she sat, “was white as that pillow case, as it lay just there,” she exclaimed, laying her head on the pillow—“white and such a deadly white” ;  as he tried to rise he sank back again, quite overcome!”

She described his anxiety to be up, there was so much to do, and her persistence and his oppressive languor keeping him in bed for several days.  Said he and she both thought, it is so strange that the pills should effect him in that way ;  they never had done so before, and both concluded they would get no more medicine there, as the attendant evidently did not understand making up prescriptions.  Could this have been the time spoken of in that letter produced on the trial, in which it is said the cup failed once?

I know an officer’s widow who spent some time with her husband in Georgia, while General Mitchell was in command.  She has told me of a pretended Union woman, in a small town where they were stationed, who kept a boarding house for Union officers ;  of the large number of invalids ;  soon the number of deaths attracted attention, and an investigation was ordered of the charge that this female fiend had been poisoning her boarders.  While the case was pending some order changed the troops occupying the town, and my informant never learned how the matter ended, but her description of the pallor of the victims so coincides with Mrs. Lincoln’s account of our Martyr’s appearance after the taking of the blue pills, that it has occurred to me those monsters may have some peculiar method of poisoning.

To the Left-Armed Soldiers of the Union.

There are many men now in hospitals, as well as at their homes, who have lost their right arms, or whose right arm is so disabled that they cannot write with it.  Penmanship is a necessary requisite to any man who wants a situation under the government, or in almost any business establishment.  As an inducement to the class of wounded and disabled soldiers here named to make an effort to fit themselves for lucrative and honorable positions, we offer the following premiums:

For the best specimen of left-handed penmanship…………………………………………………..$200

For the second best specimen………………………………………………………………………………..$150

For the third best specimen…………………………………………………………………………………..$100

For the fourth best specimen…………………………………………………………………………………..$50

The specimens of penmanship must be written on fine letter paper of the ordinary size, and not to be less than two nor more than seven pages.

The literary part of the work may be original or selected.  Brief essays on patriotic themes, and especially narratives of the writer’s experience in the service of the country, incidents or sketches of the war are preferred.

[There is a missing portion here where something was cut out]

Executive Committee [also missing] Employment, New York.

After the award shall have been made the editor of The Soldier’s Friend is to have the right to publish such of the contributions as may be best adapted for publication, and the manuscripts will be bound up and preserved as a memorial of the brave.

The manuscripts must be sent in on or before the 1st of October next.  Four months’ time will thus be allowed for the men wounded in the last battles near Richmond to enter the lists as competitors.

The manuscripts must be wrapped around a wooden roller, to avoid folding or crushing in transportation, and must be addressed to

.                     .WM. OLAND BOURNE,
Editor of The Soldier’s Friend, No. 12,
.   .Centre Street, New York.

1  Jane Grey Swisshelm (1815-1884) was an American journalist, publisher, abolitionist, and women’s rights advocate. Born Jane Grey Cannon, she married James Swisshelm in 1836 and, after divorcing him in 1857, moved to St. Cloud, Minnesota. She founded a string of newspapers in St. Cloud and wrote regularly on anti-slavery and women’s rights. When Abraham Lincoln was nominated for the presidency, Swisshelm spoke and wrote in his behalf. When the American Civil War began and nurses were wanted at the front, she was one of the first to respond. After the Battle of the Wilderness, she had charge of 182 badly wounded men, without surgeon or assistant, and saved them all.

In 1862, after the Dakota Conflict (Sioux Uprising) in Minnesota resulted in the deaths of hundreds of white settlers, Swisshelm was among those demanding that the Indians be punished. She toured major cities to raise public opinion about this issue end and, while in Washington, D.C., met with Edwin M. Stanton, a friend from Pittsburgh and then Secretary of War. He offered her a clerkship in the government. She sold her Minnesota paper and continued to work as an army nurse during the Civil War in the Washington area until her job became available. She became a friend of Mary Todd Lincoln. After the War, Swisshelm founded her final newspaper, the Reconstructionist. Her attacks on President Andrew Johnson led to her losing the paper and her government job.

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