From the Princeton (Minn.) Union, 3/12/1914, p. 8, c. 4

The President Thought He Had Shrunk In Size Overnight.

In “The Everyday Life of Abraham Lincoln” Mr. F. F. Browne includes an amusing anecdote told by Admiral Porter about the president’s short visit to the front in the latter part of March, 1865. Mr. Lincoln had changed his quarters from the River Queen to the Malvern, Admiral Porter’s flagship, which was then lying in the James river, near City Point. Admiral Porter says:

The Malvern was a small vessel with very poor cabin accommodations and was not at all fitted to receive high personages. She was a captured blockade runner. I offered the president my bed, but he positively declined it and chose to sleep in a small stateroom outside the cabin that my secretary occupied. It was only 6 feet long by 4 ½ feet wide, a very tiny place to hold the president of the united States, but Mr. Lincoln seemed pleased with it.

When he came to breakfast the next morning I asked how he had slept. “I slept well,” he answered, “but you can’t put a long sword in a short scabbard. I was too long for that berth.” Then I remembered that he was over six feet four inches and that the berth was only six feet! That day while we were away from the ship all the carpenters were put to work. They took down the stateroom partitions and enlarged the room to eight feet by six and a half feet. A mattress four feet wide was put in the new berth. Nothing was said to the president about the change in his quarters, but the next morning he came out of the room smiling and said, “A miracle happened last night. I shrank six inches in length and about a foot sideways. I got somebody else’s big pillow and slept in a better bed than I had on the River Queen.” He enjoyed it greatly, but I think if I had given him two fence rails to sleep on he would not have found fault. That was Abraham Lincoln in all things that related to his own comfort. He would never let you put yourself out for him under any circumstances.

Go to top