FRANKED FOR THEM.
A SOLDIER’S STORY OF PRESIDENT LINCOLN AND BOYS IN BLUE.
An Envelope That Is More Valuable Than the Best Stamp In Any Collection — The Soldier Who Wouldn’t Tell Lincoln a Lie.
“Let this go. A. LINCOLN.”
Unless it has been destroyed there is a home in Fond du Lac county, Wis., a soldier letter in an envelope bearing the above words, signed by the great war president.
Frank King was a Lamartine boy, fresh from the farm, and a character our whole company took to kindly from the first.
When the army was camped in Virginia, near Washington, the winter of 1861-2, it was a common practice with the soldiers, when they got a pass, to visit the city to buy a package of envelopes and call at the capitol, send in for their senator or representative and get him to frank them.
One of our boys came back to camp in high feather. He had two packages of envelopes — one franked by Senator James R. Doolittle, now a Chicago lawyer, the other by the late Senator T.O. Howe, who succeeded Captain James as postmaster general in President Arthur’s cabinet. For 20 years senators and members have been giving a good deal of their time to helping soldiers with their pension claims. If they have done it as willingly and pleasantly as they used to frank envelopes for the boys, they must be pretty nearly angels.
“You fellows, there, are making a big blast over getting a couple of senators to frank your envelopes,” said Frank King. “Just you wait till you see me come back from Washington with the president’s name on some letter covers.”
Within a few days Frank King and Harry Dunn, who for years after the war was a Chicago business man, went to the city. They called at the White House. It was easier to see the president then than it is now. At certain hours of the day a soldier could reach the chief executive with fully as much ease as a senator can in these later years.
King was the ringleader. Approaching the guard, he said: “We want to see Mr. Lincoln. Please stand aside and let us pass.”
“Who are you, and what is your business?”
“You tell old Abe we have charge of a regiment over on Arlington Heights and want to see him on an important matter. He’ll let us in.”
“Where are your shoulder straps?”
“We came over in our everyday clothes. Come, we are in a hurry. Let us go in and see Mr. Lincoln.”
The parley had attracted the attention of the president. The door swung open and the good natured chief of the nation smiled upon the cheeky young fellows and bade them step right in.
“What can I do for you, my men?”
“Mr. Lincoln, I want you to frank these envelopes,” said King.
“Better get your congressman to do that.”
“I’d much rather have you do it, Mr. Lincoln. The folks at home would like to see your name on my letters.”
“I’ll fix one of them. Take the rest to your congressman. Who is he?
“I don’t know.”
“Where is your home?”
“Lamartine, Fond du Lac county, Wis.”
“That is my friend Scott Sloan’s district. You go to Mr. Sloan. He will fix the rest of them.”
The president shook hands with the two privates, asked them to be brave soldiers and wished them a safe return to their western homes.
Frank couldn’t make his tentmates believe that the president had written:
“Let this go. A. Lincoln.” But the next day he wrote a letter to his father. The name of Lincoln was personally examined by all of the neighbors.
In January, 1864, our regiment was in Washington on the way home, having re-enlisted — “veteranized,” as they call it. In company with two others I went to the White House. The president shook hands with us, thanked us for swearing in for three years more and expressed the hope that we would have a nice visit on our veteran furlough.
“Mr. President,” said Jones — Ed Jones — “you franked a letter for one of the boys in our company, Frank King. I wish you would frank one for me.”
“Odd as it may seem, you are the second soldier to make such a request. So both are of the same company? Very well.”
On Jones’ envelope he wrote “A. Lincoln, President,” and as he handed it back he asked what had become of that other man who had asked him to pass a letter.
“He was killed at Gettysburg.”
I shall never forget the look of sadness in the president’s face when the answer was given, and it had not disappeared when we left the room.
“Jones, what did you tell him about King for? Did you see how it pained him?
“What did he ask about him for? Do you suppose I was going to lie to a man I would die for? was Jones’ indignant reply.
– Chicago Times-Herald.
Edwardsville Intelligencer (Edwardsville, Illinois) Jan 15, 1897
Image (by Dale Gallon,) from Perfect Frames Military Gallery
U.S. Civil War Soldier Records and Profiles
Name: Frank King
Residence: Fond Du Lac, Wisconsin
Enlistment Date: 22 Jun 1861
Side Served: Union
State Served: Wisconsin
Service Record: Enlisted as a Private on 22 June 1861.
Enlisted in Company E, 6th Infantry Regiment Wisconsin on 22 Jun 1861.
Killed Company E, 6th Infantry Regiment Wisconsin on 1 Jul 1863 at Gettysburg, PA.