Lincoln’s Yarns and Stories: “Got Down to the Raisins”

A. B. Chandler, chief of the telegraph office at the War Department, occupied three rooms, one of which was called “the President’s room,” so much of his time did Mr. Lincoln spend there. Here he would read over the telegrams received for the several heads of departments. Three copies of all messages received were made—one for the President, one for the War Department records and one for Secretary Stanton.

Mr. Chandler told a story as to the manner in which the President read the despatches:

“President Lincoln’s copies were kept in what we called the ‘President’s drawer’ of the ‘cipher desk.’ He would come in at any time of the night or day, and go at once to this drawer, and take out a file of telegrams, and begin at the top to read them. His position in running over these telegrams was sometimes very curious.

“He had a habit of sitting frequently on the edge of his chair, with his right knee dragged down to the floor. I remember a curious expression of his when he got to the bottom of the new telegrams and began on those that he had read before. It was, ‘Well, I guess I have got down to the raisins.’

“The first two or three times he said this he made no explanation, and I did not ask one. But one day, after he had made the remark, he looked up under his eyebrows at me with a funny twinkle in his eyes, and said: ‘I used to know a little girl out West who sometimes was inclined to eat too much. One day she ate a good many more raisins than she ought to, and followed them up with a quantity of other goodies. They made her very sick. After a time the raisins began to come.

“She gasped and looked at her mother and said: ‘Well, I will be better now I guess, for I have got down to the raisins.’”