Lincoln and His Generals Seek Guidance From Beyond the Grave

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It is well known that Abraham Lincoln and his wife Mary Todd consulted a medium after the death of their son Willie, who died at the age of eleven. The medium they consulted was Mrs. Cranston Laurie, the wife of a statistician in the Post Office Department.

Lincoln also consulted Mrs. Laurie’s protege, young Nettie Colburn, later Mrs. William P. Maynard. In her book Was Abraham Lincoln a Spiritualist? (Philadelphia, 1891), Mrs. Maynard relates that  she was invited to the White House by Rep. Daniel E. Somes of Maine:

“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 a servant, who retired, and a moment later Mrs. Lincoln entered. I am satisfied by 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 toward 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 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 embarassed, 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 on our way…”

I found this passage in a 1959 paperback (Garrett Publications) called True Experiences in Communicating with the Dead edited by Martin Ebon.