Lincoln’s Yarns and Stories: “What’s-His-Name” Got There

General James B. Fry told a good one on Secretary of War Stanton, who was worsted in a contention with the President. Several brigadier-generals were to be selected, and Lincoln maintained that “something must be done in the interest of the Dutch.” Many complaints had come from prominent men, born in the Fatherland, but who were fighting for the Union.

“Now, I want Schimmelpfennig given one of those brigadierships.”

Stanton was stubborn and headstrong, as usual, but his manner and tone indicated that the President would have his own way in the end. However, he was not to be beaten without having made a fight.

“But, Mr. President,” insisted the Iron War Secretary, “it may be that this Mr. Schim—what’s-his-name—has no recommendations showing his fitness. Perhaps he can’t speak English.”

“That doesn’t matter a bit, Stanton,” retorted Lincoln, “he may be deaf and dumb for all I know, but whatever language he speaks, if any, we can furnish troops who will understand what he says. That name of his will make up for any differences in religion, politics or understanding, and I’ll take the risk of his coming out all right.”

Then, slamming his great hand upon the Secretary’s desk, he said, “Schim-mel-fen-nig must be appointed.”

And he was, there and then.