Was Abraham Lincoln a Apiritualist? by Nettie Colburn Maynard 1917



EARLY in 1864 we were the guests of Mr. and Mrs. Somes. Mrs. Somes seldom went into society, owing to the loss of her eldest son and her preference for home life. She was a lady of remarkable ability, refined and gentle manners, a devoted wife and mother, and a sincere Christian. My friend, Miss Ham1um, and I soon called at the White House, to pay our respects to the President and his wife, and were received with the greatest cordiality.

We remained but a short time, but were both particularly struck by Mr. Lincoln's careworn appearance. His old genial smile was the same, as he expressed the hope that we had come to spend the winter. A few days later Mrs. Somes received a note cordially inviting herself and husband to spend an evening at the White House, and requesting her to bring the young ladies, meaning Miss Hannum and myself. At first Mrs. Somes was inclined to refuse, but yielding to her husband's solicitation, and our wishes, she consented. In her note Mrs. Lincoln said she desired her to meet a friend, and wished to see if she (Miss Pinkie) would be able to tell who it was. We reached the Executive Mansion at half-past eight, and were ushered into the Red Parlour, where the madam received us with great kindness, and presented us in turn to a distinguished, soldierly-looking gentleman, who was wrapped in a long military cloak, completely concealing his person and every evidence of rank. She did not call him by name, apologising for not doing so, and saying she desired first to see if our friends could tell who he was, adding that she would duly present him afterwards. I saw that Mr. Somes recognised him instantly, but he gave no hint of his identity. My friend and myself re- moved our wraps, but Mrs. Somes declined, simply loosening hers. A pleasant half hour followed, when Mr. Lincoln joined us. After a cordial greeting all around, he wearily seated himself in an arm-chair and remarked, 'I am very busy and must forego the pleasure of conversation and ask our little friend here to see what can be given us to-night as briefly as may be, for my Cabinet is awaiting my return.”

Silence fell upon the group, and I was shortly entranced. What here follows was related to me on our return home by Mr. and Mrs. Somes and my friend. A strong, powerful presence seemed to have possession of me, directing first its entire attention to Mr. Lincoln. The substance of the remarks related to the condition of the Freedmen in and around Washington, declaring their condition deplorable in the extreme, that they were herding together like cattle in the open air, with little or no shelter, half fed and half clothed, while the manner of their existence was a reproach to the country, throwing down, as it did, all safeguards to morality and decency. A terrible picture was presented concerning the thousands thus rendered homeless and dependent upon the government, through the exigencies of war and the proclamation of Freedom.

While the spirits realised fully the many heavy cares resting upon the President, there was a duty to perform that could not be neglected-a duty that demanded immediate attention. They counselled him in the strongest terms to prove the truth of their statements, extravagant as they seemed, by appointing a special committee, whose duty it should be to investigate the condition of these people, and to receive their report in person, and on no account to receive it at second hand. They further advised that for this committee he should select men who were not burdened with other cares,


Was Abraham Lincoln a Spiritualist?

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that their minds might be given entirely to their work, for, if they did their duty well, he would see the necessity at once of organising a separate bureau to control and regulate all the affairs connected with the freedmen.

While I cannot, at this late day, give a more minute account of the instructions thus given, I have presented the main points. The powers controlling me then directed their attention to the gentleman in the military cloak. They at once addressed him as “General,” saying that his cloak did not disguise from their eyes the evidence of the noble sacrifice he had laid on his country's altar, nor the glittering stars he so merited, for he had royally won them by his patriotic devotion to his country. They extended my hand to him, which he accepted, rising and bowing with the same courtesy and dignity that characterised him towards all; and whatever may have been his private opinions concerning mediumship and Spiritualism, his manner was that of a courteous and true gentleman. A few words of greeting were then spoken to all-a final word of encouragement and strength spoken to the President - when the influence changed, and “Pinkie,” the little Indian maiden, took possession of my organism, and after greeting the President and Mrs. Lincoln in her usual manner, turned at once to the stranger, addressing him as “Crooked Knife,” her Indian name for him, thus giving to Mrs. Lincoln the test she I required, as it was thus ascertained that “Pinkie” recognised him as the General of whom she had often spoken in former circles when relating events that were taking place on distant battlefields.

While she was talking in her childish way, Mr. Lincoln excused himself, returning to his Cabinet meeting. When I awoke a half hour later, I found myself standing in front of the gentleman whom I had met that evening for the first time, and saw that his clear, piercing eyes were fixed wholly upon me. Mrs. Lincoln now hastened to cover my embarrassment by duly presenting us to all. This officer was Major-General Sickels (now Sheriff of New York City), who laid aside his cloak, revealing his whole uniform and a crutch which, until that moment had been concealed. This was the first and only time my friend and myself ever met this famous general, although, as I have stated, he and other generals were often mentioned in communications that were made by me to the President and his wife, while giving them tidings of the true state of affairs at the front, which communications were afterwards fully confirmed when reliable particulars were received. Of this I was assured on more than one occasion by Mrs. Lincoln.

It was after eleven o' clock when our carriage was announced, and as we departed the General stood by the side of Mrs. Lincoln, shaking hands with us in turn as we passed from their presence. I vividly recall the scene; the bright fire in the open grate, sending a genial warmth through the room; a large pyramid of flowers and palms in the centre of the apartment, giving a look of richness to the scene; while a marble bust of Mr. Lincoln, just received, and to which Mrs. Lincoln had called our attention earlier in the evening, stood in front of the large pier-glass, seeming almost lifelike in the shifting shadows made by the gas-light and waving palms. The scene was one never to be forgotten.

A Test Séance