Sarah E. Henshaw to Richard Yates


Sarah E. Henshaw to Richard Yates


Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum




The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum holds all rights and permissions.








Ottawa July 30th 1864.

Governor Yates! May God forever bless you! It is the "blessing of one who was ready to perish" that I invoke upon your head.

Mr. Bushnell brought me yesterday a letter from Col Loomis, containing a statement of all that you have done for my husband, including copies of Telegrams, Letters &c. It was sent under cover to Mr. Bushnell, and he had, of course, read it. I sat with it in my hand unconscious of its precious contents. "Jon ought to read it," he exclaimed. He took it from me, half-opened it to read it to me, folded it again and handed it back. "Such a letter!" he cried, and his fine countenance glowed with suppressed emotion---his eyes glistened---and I thought I saw tears in them. He left, and I then read the letter for myself. I understood his emotion then; but how shall I thank you! Language fails me. You have done more for my husband than I should have dared to ask, and you have, besides, amid all your heavy cares, sought to have me comforted also. Grace Greenwood was right. She told me how, with the press of manifold responsibilities, your lamp burned late at night, and shone into her chamber again, long before day, and yet how in

your kindness, and gentleness, no act of thoughtfulness for others was omitted. I have nothing to offer you but ten thousand thanks. I wish I could transmute them into votes. They should be yours while we both live.

My husband has borne all this as a man would, but the Battery-boys and I have been distressed together; they at the danger of losing their Captain, and I at the thought of seeing an undeserved stigma affixed upon him and upon my innocent children. But I feel safe now. My worst anguish is past. I have crept under your wing. I feel it over me---the protection of the most powerful Governor of the most powerful State of the North. The heart of my noble husband will not be stung to death by injustice. my children will not carry a blight with them through life. O my generous, glorious Governor---again God bless you!

I am going to take the liberty of telling you how my husband's enemies fared in regard to the charge of "drunkenness"---that convenient accusation, which hypocrites and Pharisees hurl, on occasion, at the head of almost every public man, who does not forswear the very usages of society. They could get no one to prove it. The boys declared that their Captain was the only officer they had, whom they had never seen unfit for duty from this cause, and among all the officers of Corps & Division, no one could be found who had ever seen or heard of the Captain's being intoxicated. So

the Lieutenants swore to it themselves---three of them---that on a certain day the Captain was so intoxicated as to be unfit for duty for two hours. Then the men came forward and proved, that on that very day these three Lieutenants were so intoxicated as to be unfit for duty and unable to judge of the condition of anyone, and that the Captain was "as sober as any man in the world."

And if you will be patient with me, I want to show you what a noble-hearted set of men these Battery-boys are. I think I wrote you of their pitiable condition, horses gone, guns taken away and given to an Ohio Battery, and they digging eight hours a day in the hot sun. The Lieutenants keep spies about the Camp and if any of them are found talking of the Captain, they are imprisoned in the Guard-House, or put on extra duty. Their Quarter-Master-Sergeant feels no responsibility now, and the food that he takes in, they often have to cart away and bury, it being pronounced by the physician unfit for human beings to eat. They have been trying lately to get up another petition to you, but they have been so threatened, abused, and punished on account of the first which you did receive, that they have to conduct everything with the greatest secrecy. In the midst of all these discouragements, they have clung to my husband's presence in the Department as some consolation, and have declared that if he left they would certainly mutiny, as no punishment could be worse than what they were

now enduring, and it would at least take them from the control of the Lieutenants. But about two weeks ago they were paid off, and they had heard meanwhile of the loss of our little boy---my husband's especial darling. The very day they were paid they made up a purse of between three and four hundred dollars and sent it to their Captain at Knoxville by one of their number, with messages, to go home if he could, and comfort himself and me, and, to make him easy, they would promise to bear everything with patience until he should be restored to them---of which they will not admit a doubt. And my husband on his part, refused, even in self defence, to introduce evidence proving cowardice on the part of some of the Lieutenants, because he would not injure the good name of the Battery. Illinois has some noble sons, and they are of them.

O Governor Yates! Again and again, God bless you! The sight or mention of your name has always stirred my heart with pride and exultation, and thankfulness, that God has given our glorious State such a glorious pilot through these stormy seas, and to that you have added the deepest gratitude, the warmest personal regard, now and henceforth.

Most gratefully yours,

Sarah E. Henshaw.

[Written vertically across the page] Sarah E. Henshaw Ottawa-as to her husband



Percent Completed




Original Format



“Sarah E. Henshaw to Richard Yates,” Chronicling Illinois, accessed January 24, 2019,