Lincoln could not sympathize with those Union generals who were prone to indulge in high-sounding promises, but whose performances did not by any means come up to their predictions as to what they would do if they ever met the enemy face to face. He said one day, just after one of these braggarts had been soundly thrashed by the Confederates:
“These fellows remind me of the fellow who owned a dog which, so he said, just hungered and thirsted to combat and eat up wolves. It was a difficult matter, so the owner declared, to keep that dog from devoting the entire twenty-four hours of each day to the destruction of his enemies. He just ‘hankered’ to get at them.
“One day a party of this dog-owner’s friends thought to have some sport. These friends heartily disliked wolves, and were anxious to see the dog eat up a few thousand. So they organized a hunting party and invited the dog-owner and the dog to go with them. They desired to be personally present when the wolf-killing was in progress.
“It was noticed that the dog-owner was not over-enthusiastic in the matter; he pleaded a ‘business engagement,’ but as he was the most notorious and torpid of the town loafers, and wouldn’t have recognized a ‘business engagement’ had he met it face to face, his excuse was treated with contempt. Therefore he had to go.
“The dog, however, was glad enough to go, and so the party started out. Wolves were in plenty, and soon a pack was discovered, but when the ‘wolf-hound’ saw the ferocious animals he lost heart, and, putting his tail between his legs, endeavored to slink away. At last—after many trials—he was enticed into the small growth of underbrush where the wolves had secreted themselves, and yelps of terror betrayed the fact that the battle was on.
“Away flew the wolves, the dog among them, the hunting party following on horseback. The wolves seemed frightened, and the dog was restored to public favor. It really looked as if he had the savage creatures on the run, as he was fighting heroically when last sighted.
“Wolves and dog soon disappeared, and it was not until the party arrived at a distant farmhouse that news of the combatants was gleaned.
“‘Have you seen anything of a wolf-dog and a pack of wolves around here?’ was the question anxiously put to the male occupant of the house, who stood idly leaning upon the gate.
“‘Yep,’ was the short answer.
“‘How were they going?’
“‘What was their position when you saw them?’
“‘Well,’ replied the farmer, in a most exasperatingly deliberate way, ‘the dog was a leetle bit ahead.’
“Now, gentlemen,” concluded the President, “that’s the position in which you’ll find most of these bragging generals when they get into a fight with the enemy. That’s why I don’t like military orators.”