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A Democratic Levee

The Illustrated London News, vol. 40, no. 1133, p. 229.

March 1,1862

The Philadelphia Enquirer of Jan. 28 gives the following amusing account of a levée held by the new Federal Secretary of War, Mr. Stanton:—

The clock strikes ten, the awaiting crowd rush in as the doors swing open, and, being among them, we soon find ourselves in the presence of the Secretary. Now one stands in front of him, and with a smiling countenance he reaches out his hand, and, takes a hearty grip with a grey-haired man. "Well, Sir, what is your wish?" "My name is ——; my son fought at Springfield, and was wounded in the arm. He was on Fremont's staff, but is now without a commission. I want one for him, that he may again try his other arm here on the Potomac or in Missouri." "You shall have it, Sir," replied Mr. Stanton, and, turning to his secretary, he ordered him to note the case. "Return home," he added; "the papers will be sent you."

As the man attempted to thank him, he stepped to one side to two ladies who had just come in. "Madam, what can I do for you?" "Want a clerk-ship for my son; his father was killed at the battle of Belmont." Turning again, be noted the case, took the address, told the lady to send him a sample of her boy's writing, and he would care for him. The other was connected with a Minnesota regiment over the river, and had some complaint about the treatment she had received in camp from some of the officers. "Madam, you must go to the head-quarters of General M'Clellan." "I have been there, Sir, and they would not read my papers, or listen to my case." "Then give them to me, and I'll see why."

A small bright-eyed boy, alone, was trying to work his way through the crowd, and the Secretary turned to him and asked what he wanted. "I want my father got out, Sir. He was taken at Bull Bun, and has not come home with the rest." He gave his name and regiment; it was noted; and the Secretary, lifting him up, kissed him upon the forehead, and said, " Your father should be proud of such a noble boy, and I'll see that he is released."

A man with a half-military dress says he has been wronged by the examining board, and has been deprived of the command of his regiment (a Philadelphia cavalry regiment). "Sorry, Sir, if it is not all right. I cannot go back to investigate the acts of my predecessor." The Colonel insisted his case was a plain one, if he could be heard. "Well," said the Secretary, "If you will get the officers to reconsider it I will then listen to it."

An individual has some new invention for firearms. "Go to the Ordnance Department and get them to investigate it, and if they will recommend it I will be glad to see it adopted." A Colonel with a green uniform on has some passes he wants to read. "Are you an army officer?" "Yes, Sir." "Then you cannot be heard until to-morrow; come and see me then."

A large and well-dressed man wanted a word in private. "What about?" Some little matter about a contract he had for horses. "Cannot interfere, Sir; go to General Meigs. If there is anything wrong he will rectify it." Another succeeds in getting him off to the side of the room, and the conversation is inaudible until the Secretary replied, "No, Sir, on no account will I interfere in any contract while I am here for anything from a thimble up. There are men appointed to attend to that department, and I shall hold them to a strict accountability for every action."

Two soldiers wanted to be paid for the time they were in confinement at Richmond, having just been released, and presented a furlough they had received a week ago, and also an order for their pay for time and rations. "Why do you not take this to Major Beckwith, and have him attend to it?" "We did, Sir; and he says he has no order that will cover our case, and for want of 'forms' we are afraid we will be kept here until our time is up, and we want to go home and see the folks before going at it again." Turning to his secretary, he ordered him to write to Major Beckwith, and order him to report forthwith in writing why these men were not paid up, instead of being kept waiting. It was done; he signed it himself, and said,"Here, take that to him, and bring an answer."

After some other visitors are described, the account goes on:—

In came Major Beckwith, with the note sent by the returned prisoners. "Why are those men kept waiting?" "Because I have no order for their special case." "Mr.Wilson, issue an order that will cover all the prisoners that may be released in future, and allow them full pay for every day they are confined in rebel prisons. Major, I have just learnt there are over 150 now waiting for their pay; every man most be paid to-day, and speed them on to their homes."

A tall men wants a commission in the regular army. "Have you been in any battle yet, Sir?" "I was in the Mexican War." "That won't do; that is too far back." "I was at Great Bethel." "That is better. I will examine your record myself, and inform you if you are appointed."

A stout, healthy young man wanted a commission or clerkship. "Have you been in any battle?" "No, Sir." "Then it will be of no use to apply, for I shall make all my appointments from the list of heroes; those who fight the country's battles must be cared for first."

Another wanted an appointment as quartermaster. "There are my recommendations, Sir, and I would be glad if you can read, them." "I cannot do it now, I have not the time; but I will examine them." "Very well," replied the would-be-quartermaster; "just read them. If you have any better man, according to those papers, let him have the office; in that case I don't want it."

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