John Hay was one of three Lincoln secretaries, along with John Nicolay and William Stoddard, and it was they who most likely revised the Gettysburg speech which was described as “a wet blanket,” for publication. Hay was a young man who idolized Lincoln from his prewar days, and was quickly admitted to his inner circle at president.
Converting Preachers into Devils
“On April 29 we have this entry [in Hay’s diary]: “Going to Nicolay’s room this morning, C. [Carl] Schurz and J. [James] Lane were sitting. Jim was at the window, filling his soul with gall by steady telescopic contemplation of a Secession flag impudently flaunting over a roof in Alexandria. ‘Let me tell you,’ said he to the elegant Teuton, ‘we have got to whip those scoundrels like hell, C. Schurz. They did a good thing stoning our men at Baltimore and shooting away the flag at Sumter. It has set the great North a-howling for blood, and they’ll have it.’
‘I heard,’ said Schurz, ‘you preached a sermon to your men yesterday.’
“No, sir! This is not a time for preaching. When I went to Mexico there were four preachers in my regiment. In less than a week I issued orders for them all to stop preaching and go to playing cards. In a month or so, they were the biggest devils and best fighters I had.’
‘An hour afterwards, C. Schurz told me he was going home to arm his [German] clansmen for the wars. He has obtained three months’ leave of absence from his diplomatic duties, and permission to raise a cavalry regiment. He will make a wonderful land pirate; bold, quick, brilliant and reckless. He will be hard to control and difficult to direct.’
Hay and Nicolay, drawn to Lincoln by his unusual geniality, little suspected at first that he was destined to be . . . the savior of the Republic.
Hay [later] referred to [Orville] Browning’s suggestion that the North should subjugate the South, exterminate the whites, set up a black republic, and protect the Negroes “while they raised our cotton.” Optimists predicted that at the first reverse the Southern Confederacy would collapse . . . The North, however, clamored for action. It felt the sting of the humiliation of Sumter and Baltimore and of more recent rebuffs: it believed that the Government was now strong enough to crush the Rebellion . . .
Monday, the 22nd of July, was one of the [most dismal] days Washington had ever seen. Before afternoon the news spread that the Rebels, having given up the pursuit [after victory at Manassas], were not about to attack the outposts; but everyone realized that the war, alternately dreaded and doubted for forty years, had come in earnest.”
(The Life of John Hay, Vol. I, William R. Thayer, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1908, excerpts pp. 102-105; 107-110)