Adolphe Pineton, Marquis de Chambrun, was a French attorney who had married into the Lafayette family. Chambrun was out of sympathy with the government of Napoleon III. Nevertheless, he was given an informal diplomatic role by the French minister of foreign affairs to investigate the progress of the American Civil War. Chambrun arrived in the United States in February 1865 and in a remarkably short time became part of Mrs. Lincoln’s inner circle and thus was witness to a number of events, which he recorded in letters to his wife:
“On Tuesday [April 11], a tall colored man knocked at my door, bringing a bunch of flowers and a note. Both came from Mrs. Lincoln. She told me that her husband was to address the crowd the next evening from the White House window and asked me whether I would like to listen with her to his speech, from one of the adjacent ones. Naturally, I accepted and found myself at the Executive Mansion before and after Mr. Lincoln had finished his speech.
It was a great event and a remarkable discourse, in which the President underlined his political conceptions and offered to moderate between the opposing parties. This solution does not seem to please a large majority; but the coming days will show what can be made of this idea. The ceremony concluded, Mrs. Lincoln took me through the White House. When we came opposite the President’s door. She threw it open without knocking. There was Mr. Lincoln, stretched at full length, resting on a large sofa from his oratorical efforts.
When the President saw us enter, he rose impulsively, came forward and took my hand, which he held in his own a long time as though better to show his pleasure and affection at seeing me again. We exchanged several words on the subject of his address and the extremely moderate ideas which he had expressed therein. He spoke at length of the many struggles he foresaw in the future and declared his firm resolution to stand for clemency against all opposition.
I did not stay too long, in order to let him rest, and escorted Mrs. Lincoln down to the parlor where she habitually receives. A third person, Miss [Clara] Harris, daughter of one of the New York Senators, completed intimate trio. We talked at great length and on all sorts of subjects. Mrs. Lincoln, full of the triumphs of the last few days, spoke with quiet confidence of the future and showed great satisfaction and pride in her husband’s success.1
Chambrun recalled arriving back in Washington on April 9, 1865 with the Lincolns on their return from Richmond: “Our party dispersed on arriving at the Potomac wharf. Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln, Senator [Charles Sumner] and I drove home in the same carriage. As we drew near Washington, Mrs. Lincoln, who had hitherto remained silently looking at the town, said: ‘That city is full of enemies.’ The President on hearing this, retorted with an impatient gesture: ‘Enemies, never again must we repeat that word.”2
- Marquis de Chambrun, Impressions of Lincoln and the Civil War, pp. 92-94.
- Chambrun, Impressions of Lincoln and the Civil War, p. 84.