Was Abraham Lincoln a Apiritualist? by Nettie Colburn Maynard 1917



I should have mentioned that many of the evenings that I had spent in Washington had been most agreeably filled with séances at Mr. Foster’s or at Mr. Laurie’s in Georgetown. Mrs. Belle Miller, Mr. Laurie’s daughter, was one of the most powerful physical mediums I have ever met. While she played the piano it would rise with apparent ease, and keep perfect time, rising and falling with the music. By placing her hand on the top of the piano it would rise clear from the floor, though I have seen as many as five men seated on it at the time. Mr. and Mrs. Laurie were both fine mediums, and I have met many prominent people during my visits there, who, though not professing to be Spiritualists, made no secret of their desire to investigate the subject.

The object of my stay in Washington was well known to them all, and the liveliest interest was shown in the progress I made.

One o’clock came. Mr. Betts and myself, leaving Mr. Laurie’s office, went to General Heintzelman’s headquarters. Captain DeKalb, with a red spot burning on either cheek, and eyes whose light was better suited to a battlefield than his quiet office, met us, and handed me the missing paper, and in a tone that did not conceal his exultation, remarked, “ There is your paper, madam; it has been rejected.” I felt for a moment as though I had been struck a blow, and could not speak. At last I faltered, “Why has the application been rejected?” Bowing in a half mocking way, he said,” Because it did not come through in the regular form.”

I felt this was a paltry excuse; that in some way he had defeated my labours, because I had unwittingly been the cause of a reprimand from his chief. Mr. Betts attempted to ask some particulars, when DeKalb spoke to him in a most ungracious way, and he turned and left us alone in the office. With the rejected paper in my hand I found my way to the street, and but for the kindly support of my old friend I think I should have fallen. The labour of three weeks was lost - my brother in the hands of the kindly colonel who could no longer keep him. I was dizzy, benumbed, and momentarily could not think. My old friend said to me, “Let us go to the Secretary.” “No,” I said, “it is useless. What can he do?” In my ignorance I did not know, even yet, the all­potent influence of the War Office.

At this moment, standing in the street, blinded by my tears and kindly protected by my old friend, I heard a voice distinctly say, “Go directly to the Assistant secretary.” Above the noise of the street these words were as plain as if they had been spoken by Mr. Betts himself. I looked up and told him what I had heard. He said, “It confirms my views; let us go at once.” We did so, and Mr. Tucker was fortunately alone. He came forward to meet me and his quick eye detected the traces of tears upon my face. He kindly placed a chair for me and listened while Mr. Betts told him the story. He asked me for the paper and I gave it to him. Going to his desk he took up a blank sheet lying there, and wrote something upon it, folded it and placed it with the paper, brought the two to me and put them in my hands, saying kindly, “Take these downstairs to Adjutant-General Townsend’s office and hand them to him.” I could only bow my head in acknowledgment; I was too full to speak, not knowing what to hope or fear.


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Mr. Betts accompanied me, and we soon found the Adjutant-General’s office. I entered with anything but a steady step, I fear, and going to the railing behind which sat a fine-looking man busily engaged in writing, I timidly waited until he should look up. I shall always remember the fine, clear-cut face of this man, as all my hopes were centred in him, though I did not know the nature of the paper I held in my hand. At last he laid down his pen and turning towards me courteously inquired my business. I presented the papers, and Mr. Betts informed him that Assistant-Secretary Tucker had sent me to him. He, without a word, read what the Secretary had written, opened the other paper, took another from his desk, wrote busily for a few moments, kept the papers I had handed him, and placing the one he had written in my hands, smiled pleasantly, and said “I hope your brother will soon recover his health,” and bade me a pleasant “good afternoon.”

I did not realise until I was on the walk outside and was eagerly reading what I held in my hand that my victory was won. The paper was a furlough granting brother twenty days’ leave of absence. ISSUED BY SPECIAL ORDER OF THE WAR DEPARTMENT. I could scarcely stand from excitement. Mr. Betts told me to go at once to Mr. Foster’s and rest, and he would go to Alexandria and bring brother to Washington.

In a few hours brother presented himself. The next step was to undertake to get him a pass, as I had exhausted thus far all I had received for my labours in Baltimore. Applying at the Connecticut Committee rooms for a pass, they refused to grant it on the score that his furlough was a special order of the War Department. I next tried to obtain his back pay, long overdue, but in this I failed. We then thought he would have to remain a week of the precious twenty days in Washington until I could fill my last Sunday’s engagement in Baltimore. I did not reveal to the many friends I had made during the month the financial situation in which I found myself placed, or no doubt they would have quickly come to my relief. Mrs. Laurie called and told my brother to wait a day or two, and she felt she could obtain the needed pass.

Knowing my father and eldest brother were encamped at Upton’s Hills, Virginia, but a few miles from Washington, I proposed to brother that we engage a livery team and drive over and see them. By three o’clock in the afternoon we drove into the little settlement of log cabins where the Twenty-second Connecticut Regiment was encamped. The welcome folds of its regimental flag were flying from the flagstaff as we drew up in the midst, and I scarcely had time to think of inquiring, when my father came towards the carriage, attracted by the curiosity of the moment, never dreaming who was awaiting him. I had not permitted mother to communicate to him my presence in Washington nor the work I was doing. Had I dropped from the skies at his feet he could not have been more astounded when he recognised us both. My eldest brother soon joined us, and it would be impossible to convey an idea of the scene of rejoicing that followed. My father took us into his neat log cabin. I hastily told my story of my work in Washington, and my father’s pride and pleasure in my work were my crowning reward. I told him of the people I had met, the kindness shown me, and the circles that had been held, and he at once asked if I felt able to have a little sitting there in the cabin. Of course, I was only too glad to afford him this pleasure. The first spirit friend who presented himself to greet my father was his old friend “Dr. Bamford,” reminding him of his prediction months before, when he informed him that the next time he would have the pleasure of speaking with him through his daughter “it would be upon Virginia soil.”


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As a medium I have had many strange experiences, been in many novel situations, and gathered up many pleasant memories that now brighten my later days; but there are none that stand out more startlingly clear nor furnish greater pleasure than to recollect that scene in the rude cabin in the heart of a camp of soldiers; my father and two brothers seated with me -hand joined in hand- as we waited to receive the blessing of the angels and the encouraging words from loved ones gone before. I shall always remember the look on my father’s face when I awoke from my trance on that occasion. Tears that were no shame to his manhood were on his cheeks; and while the sound of the drum and fife was in our ears he blessed me for the comfort I had brought to him “as a messenger of the unseen life.”

Another half hour and words of parting were spoken, and my brother and myself were on our way to Washington, where we arrived in safety. Here we found that Mrs. Laurie had obtained a pass from the Connecticut Committee through the influence of some friends in the office; and all was in readiness for my brother’s departure for home. A friend was at Mr. Laurie’s, awaiting us, and he desired brother to accompany him that evening to the theatre, hoping it might brighten his depressed spirits, as he was not to leave for Albany until the following evening. The next day I was busy making preparations to return to Baltimore, intending to go that far with brother as I still had one Sunday to speak in that city. At noon it chanced that Mr. Foster inquired by what route my brother would go to Albany from the city of New York. I said I did not know and asked him to get his pass and see what it might reveal. He went to his overcoat and thrusting his hand into his pocket found it empty. A hurried search, a still more excited one, and the truth was apparent - the precious furlough and transportation paper were lost. He had not seen it since he handed it to the officer at the theatre who passed through the crowd calling upon all soldiers present to show their passes. It was returned to him, and he placed it in his breast pocket and had not thought of it again. It was lost, lost beyond recall!

Words were powerless to describe the condition of mind I was in when I fully realised this fact. I knew not which way to turn. Without his precious papers he was liable at any moment to be taken as a deserter. It seemed to me that I could not try again; and, prostrate in body and mind, the day was spent in tears and vain regrets. My brother was completely prostrated by this blow. He had no idea how the paper had been taken from him; though he remembered being wedged in the crowd, and someone putting their arms about him as if to move him on one side to allow a group of ladies to pass. It must have been at this time that his pocket was picked. Mr. Foster informed the proper authorities at once, but it availed nothing.

When we fully realised that these precious papers were lost, and my heart had sunk like lead in my breast, I was controlled by a little messenger of my spirit circle, named “Pinkie”, who assured us in her own unique manner that it was all right, and that this day was most important, as we would realise, and that, “the brave lad should have another furlough.” I could derive but little comfort, however, from these assurances; for I was face to face with the fact that I had exhausted nearly all my resources, and I knew not how to seek again the kind secretary who had assisted me so well. At six o’clock that evening we would have been at the depot, and by seven on our way northward; but of course we could now do nothing. Our friends could only sympathise with us and wait for some suggestions.

First Meeting With Lincoln