Was Abraham Lincoln a Apiritualist? by Nettie Colburn Maynard 1917



DURING the latter part of February, and the month of March, I had a number of séances with President Lincoln and his wife; but, as there were no other witnesses, and as they did not inform me of the nature of the communications, I cannot speak as to their nature, but simply allude to the fact. These séances took place by appointment. At the close of one, Mrs. Lincoln would make an appointment, engaging me to come at a certain hour of the day, which usually would be in the vicinity of one 0' clock, the time when Mr. Lincoln usually partook of his luncheon, which generally occupied about half to three-quarters of an hour. There was another meeting with Mr. Lincoln which is interesting and of considerable value. Shortly after my return to Washington, and while visiting Major Chorpenning one evening, Mr. Somes called. After an exchange of compliments, he stated that he had been requested to have me attend a séance, and as the same was of a private character he was not at liberty to say more. We all suspected the truth, however, and I instantly made ready to accompany him.

After entering the carriage provided for the occasion, he informed us that our destination was the White House, explaining that while at the War Department that afternoon he had met Mr. Lincoln coming from Secretary Stanton's office. Mr. Somes bowed to the President and was passing onward when Mr. Lincoln stopped him, asking whether Miss Colburn was still in the city, and if so, whether it were possible to have her visit the White House that evening. Upon a re- ply in the affirmative to both questions, Mr. Lincoln remarked, “Please bring her to the White House at eight or nine o'clock, but consider the matter confidential.”

By the time Mr. Somes had completed his recital we were at the door of that historic mansion, and a servant who was evidently on the watch for us, quickly opened the door and we were hurried upstairs to the executive chamber, where Mr. Lincoln and two gentlemen were awaiting our coming. Mr. Lincoln gave an order to the servant, who retired, and a moment later Mrs. Lincoln entered. I am satisfied from what followed that she was summoned on my account to place me more at ease than otherwise, under the circumstances, would have been the case. Mr. Lincoln then quietly stated that he wished me to give them an opportunity to witness something of my “rare gift,” as he called it, adding, “you need not be afraid, as these friends have seen something of this before.”

The two gentlemen referred to were evidently military officers, as was indicated by the stripe upon their pantaloons, although their frock coats, buttoned to the chin, effectually concealed any insignia or mark of rank. One of these gentlemen was quite tall and heavily built, with auburn hair and dark eyes, and side whiskers, and of decided military bearing. The other gentleman was of average height, and I somehow received the impression that he was lower in rank than his companion. He had light brown hair and blue eyes, was quick in manner, but deferential towards his friend, whose confirmation he involuntarily sought or indicated by his look of half appeal while the conversation went on.

We sat quiet for a few moments before I became entranced. One hour later I became conscious of my surroundings, and was standing by a long table, upon \ which was a large map of the Southern States. In my hand was a lead pencil, and the tall man, with


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Mr. Lincoln, was standing beside me, bending over the map, while the younger man was standing on the other side of the table, looking curiously and intently at me. Somewhat embarrassed, I glanced around to note Mrs. Lincoln quietly conversing in another part of the room. The only remarks I heard were these: “It is astonishing,” said Mr. Lincoln, “how every line she has drawn conforms to the plan agreed upon.” “Yes” answered the older soldier, “it is very astonishing.” Looking up, they both saw that I was awake, and they instantly stepped back, while Mr. Lincoln took the pencil from my hand and placed a chair for me.

Then madam and Mr. Somes at once joined us, Mr. Somes asking, “Well, was everything satisfactory?” “Perfectly,” responded Mr. Lincoln; “Miss Nettie does not seem to require eyes to do anything,” smiling pleasantly. The conversation then turned, designedly, I felt, to commonplace matters.

Shortly afterwards, when about leaving, Mr. Lincoln said to us in a low voice, “It is best not to mention this meeting at present.” Assuring him of silence upon the question, we were soon again on our way to the majors.

Mr. Somes informed me that he heard enough in the opening remarks of the spirit to convince him that the power controlling knew why I had been summoned. He said I walked to the table unaided and requested that a pencil be handed me, after which the President requested Mr. Somes and Mrs. Lincoln to remain where they were at the end of the room. “In accordance with this request,” said Mr. Somes, “we paid no attention to what was being said or done, further than to notice you tracing lines upon the map, and once one of the gentlemen re-sharpened the pencil for you.” I never knew the purport of this meeting, nor can I say that Mr. Somes ever heard more regarding the strange affair. That it was important may be supposed, for those were not days for the indulgence of idle curiosity in any direction, nor was Mr. Lincoln a man to waste his time in giving exhibitions in occult science for the amusement of his friends.

The impressions left upon my mind could not be otherwise than gratifying, in finding myself the recipient of such unusual attentions, and, for the occasion, the central figure ill what appeared to be a mysterious and momentous consultation. Had it been simply an experiment to test my mediumship, Mr. Somes and Mrs. Lincoln would have been included in the group that gathered around the table. I am confident that my I services were appreciated, and that the spiritual guidance which found utterance through my lips was confirmatory of the plans which they had already prepared. As in this instance, so in many others, has this powerful aid been called upon and used to advantage, to further important national and personal interests, and accomplish results that simple human knowledge could not achieve. Mr. Lincoln's fancy for poetry and song inclined towards those melodies which appealed to his emotional nature, as is illustrated by his keen appreciation of Mrs. Laurie's Bonnie Doon, and his favourite poem, Why Should the Spirit of Mortal Be Proud? I remember hearing him refer to the touching poem upon an occasion of peculiar interest, at which time he recited apart of it applying the verses to the occasion in a very pleasant and happy manner. This incident is worthy of appearing in print:­

One morning in January, 1863, Mrs. Laurie desired me to go to the White House and inquire after Mrs. Lincoln's health. Mrs. Laurie had visited Mrs. Lincoln the previous day, and found her prostrated by one of her severe head- aches. It was about eleven


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o'clock when I called. Upon sending up my name and inquiry to Mrs. Lincoln, I was requested to walk upstairs to her rooms, where I found Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln, a gentleman, and two ladies. I was cordially received by Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln, and presented to the guests, whose names were not mentioned, and when I noticed their glances, I knew that they had been told I was a medium. After explaining my errand and being about to withdraw, Mrs. Lincoln asked whether I felt equal to the task of a séance. Noticing that all were expectant, I signified my willingness and reseated myself.

After Mrs. Lincoln had assisted me to remove my wraps, she requested that the friends present do the same. They declined. Whereupon the gentleman, who was their escort, laughingly remarked, as he indicated the lady nearest him: “It is useless to urge Anna, Mrs. Lincoln, for she thinks she looks better in her new bonnet.” To which Anna replied, “That she believed she did, and felt very proud of it.” Mr. Lincoln, who was seated, raised his hands with a comical gesture, and quoted apart of his favourite poem, Why Should the Spirit of Mortal Be Proud? The gentleman said, “You are familiar with that poem?” To which the President replied, “Perfectly; it is a favourite of mine; and, let me ask, what could be finer in expression than the lines: - “The maid on whose cheek, on whose brow, in whose eye,

Shone beauty and pleasure, - her triumphs are by; And the memory of those who loved and praised, Are alike from the minds of the living erased.' “ Continuing to the line:- “Have quietly mingled their bones in the dust.”

At this point I became unconscious, and awoke a half hour later to find the company betraying much emotion, and while recovering myself, they talked together in low tones, and in an animated manner. This was interrupted by Mr. Lincoln rousing himself with an effort, saying: “I must go, and am afraid I have already stayed too long.” Shaking hands with his visitors, he turned in his kind way to me, and, while warmly shaking my hand, said: “I thank you, Miss Nettie, for obliging us; we have deeply enjoyed our little circle.”

As he left the room, the others expressed the same sentiment; and as I was preparing to don my bonnet and shawl, Mrs. Lincoln requested me to wait. She rang the bell for the servant, who soon after returned with two beautiful bouquets, one of which she said was for Mrs. Laurie, the other for myself The party then shook hands with me, rising as they did so. I was treated by them with the same courtesy as would have been offered any friend or old acquaintance. -

I The reader will note the especial appropriateness of the poetical sally on the part of Mr. Lincoln.

“Until My Work Is Done”