Memoir of General Russell Hastings after the Civil War
From July 27, 1865 –to- June 19, 1878 CIVIL LIFE 1865, July 27th.After my discharge from the Army I took no steps for obtaining work, as I really was still a great invalid and knew I must wait for months to gain such strength as was needed. My wound did not heal and continued to discharge, requiring to be dressed three time each day. The Surgeons supposed that dead bone was the cause of the trouble, and not liking to cut about the knee, said, “as long as you are as comfortable as now let it alone.” This irritating condition continued for fifteen years, when the tip end of the ball came to the surface and was extracted. The wound then healed and has never opened since. The leg and foot of course have been weak, and much walking or standing causes suffering. Now, after nearly thirty six years I am rather a hearty invalid, if I take life easily, spending a large share of my time in an easy chair. In the Fall of 1865, the people of Lake County elected me to the Ohio Legislature of a term of two years. I was not one of the noted or conspicuous members, except in that I never made any speeches. I cannot talk when on my feet. The second winter of my terms 66-67, I went to Washington seeking a Government office. My Genl. Hayes was there as a member of Congress, so that during the two months I was there I was not without friends and earnest ones in the General and Mrs. Hayes.
My sisters Esther (Mrs. Compton) and Ruth were friends of President Johnson and his family, having become acquainted in East Tennessee before the War. I was frequently at the White House, always being very pleasantly received by Mrs. Stover (nee Johnson). President Johnson appointed me United States Marshal for the Northern District of Ohio, with headquarters at Cleveland. I thus became an officer of the U. S. Court and took charge of my office in April 1867. This was work I could well do and it was quite remunerative. I enjoyed the work and had many amusing and interesting incidents during my term. I held the office during Johnson’s and into President Grant’s administrations. I hold commissions for both.
The climate of Northern Ohio did not agree with me in my invalid condition, and my lungs began to show in that rigorous lake climate signs of weakening so I resigned, in 1872. About these days I had become very much interested in Miss Mary Adele Humphry of Saline, Mich., and on Dec. 4, 1872 we were married, at her home church, Methodist-Episcopal of which she was a member. She was the daughter of a farmer and at the time of our marriage was teaching in the village Grammer [Grammar] School. She was strikingly beautiful, so much so that strangers upon the street would turn to catch another glimpse of her beautiful face. She was a brunette, with almost black eyes and very dark brown hair inclined to curl. She was about five feet four inches tall and had a perfect figure. With a strong brain and sunny temperament she formed acquaintances rapidly and held her old friends. At the time of our marriage she was twenty-two and I thirty-seven. We began our honeymoon in Washington, and continued on through the following summer on the coast of Maine. In the Fall of 1873 I began to look about for a home and finally purchased a pretty house and grounds at Rockford, Illinois, where we set up housekeeping. On March 28th, 1874, our son Clive was born and the Mother died April 30th. She never had one sane moment during her last sickness. She was buried at Monroe, Michigan, the then home of her parents. My Mother and sisters Ruth and Mary came to Rockford and spent the summer, and carried the baby Clive to Willoughby for the following winter of 1874-5. While I went wandering off for that winter to the warmer climate of the southern states, spending most of the winter in New Orleans. For the next three summers we all went to Rockford; in winter returning to Willoughby while I ran away to a warmer climate, Bermuda Islands and Italy.
In 1877 President Hayes (my Colonel Hayes and former brigade commander) was on March 4th inaugurated President of the United States. How proud the old 23rd Regiment was that one of the members had risen to such distinction. Many of them gathered at Washington on Inauguration Day. I was still abroad making a trip through the Mediterranean. In October 1877, I went to Washington expecting to there spend the fall months, and after colder weather came on to go to Florida for the winter. Major Wm. McKinley, my chum on Hayes’ staff during the war had been elected to Congress from Ohio and finding him and his wife located at the Ebbitt House for the winter I naturally put up there. The young girl who was scraping lint and rolling bandages in 1861 at Columbus, Ohio was now one of the young ladies of the White House, now 27 years old. She being a favorite niece of President Hayes (not Mrs. Hayes as has often been written) was there in all her glory as chief assistant to Mrs. Hayes in all social affairs. I had heard several years before that there was such a person in existence, as with Hayes, who then was Governor of Ohio, I had attempted to call upon her at her father’s residence. (Wm. A. Platt of Columbus, O.) As we entered the house there seemed much confusion, and we were told that “Minnie” had seriously burned her hand while cleaning gloves with benzene. Of course I did not see her then, but eight years afterwards found her at the White House.
I called on the President directly after my arrival in Washington, in 1877, and being a stranger to the ushers had to sit in the anteroom and await my turn. Within a few moments Webb C. Hayes then his father’s secretary came through the room and recognizing me at once took me to the President. It being Cabinet day, I was, after the first greeting taken to the library, just off the Cabinet room, and requested to amuse myself for a time. This library during the Hayes administration was used quite as a family room. I had not been there very long when a young lady entered escorting several of her young lady acquaintances who seemingly were making a morning call. At the time they entered I was sitting in the deep recess of a window opening to the South and was partially screened by the curtain. I made noise enough to let them know I was there and kept my position, while the coterie took seats at the farther end of the room some forty feet away. I wished I had eyes in the back of my head so that I might see the quality of the people I could not help overhearing in their young lady chitchat. I did catch a glimpse of the young lady without a hat, and my mind reverted to the attempted call of eight years ago. I felt relieved when the young ladies went away.
Soon after the President came in and invited me to go down to lunch. I had so often lunched and dined with the Hayes family in the past ten years, both at Spiegel Grove and at Columbus, while he was Governor, that I felt much at home with them and was not prepared to find half a dozen or less young ladies, who were guests at the house. In the hurried invitations I did not catch all the names if I did any. I was seated next to Mrs. Hayes while nearby was the young lady I had seen in the library. Her hand was not scarred. I had a feeling that I wished it was. The family chat went on, each calling the other by the first name, Minnie, Maggie, Mary, Maria. What puzzled me most was that the President called my young lady Emily, while Webb called her Miley and the other Minnie. What manner of a girl was this having so many names, and Webb’s horrid nickname of “Miley”. I concluded these people were either relatives or friends, and I felt very much like an interloper and out of place.
The lunch was over at last and after a few moments in the Red Parlor the gathering broke up and I returned to the Ebbitt House. From Mrs. McKinley I learned somewhat about frightening young ladies. They were relatives either of the President or Mrs. Hayes. She all through the winter kept the house filled with young people and fun and frolic reigned all day and well into the night. Well the days rushed on. Seldom did a morning go by that Mrs. McKinley and I were not at the White House, now called by the grander name of Executive Mansion. Major McKinley was during the day occupied with his Congressional duties but in the evening he was free to go with his wife on a round of social calls or receptions. Whenever they went I was always made one of the party. We very frequently were found of an evening in the Red Parlor of the White House where Mrs. Hayes was always at home to her near friends who were living in Washington or were visiting the city for a few days. These nightly assemblies became quite noted, and happy was the person who had the unwritten permission to be present.
Sometimes the President graced the occasion for a few minutes, but his official duties more frequently called him to the Cabinet Room. The family usually went from the dinner table directly to the Red Parlor and Mrs. Hayes with her young lady guests grouped about her, seemed as queenly as any woman who ever wore a crown. Some evenings thirty to fifty people called, not the sycophants of Washington life but the noted and brilliant men and women of that day. The Cabinet Officers with their wives and daughters were frequently there. The Army and Navy Officers of note always made effort to be there if only for a moment, either going to or returning from dinners or receptions. The noted writers and artists of the day if in Washington sought this time to call and all told it was the most brilliant White House life known since the early days of the Republic. I expecially [especially] remember Secretaries, Evarts, Devins and Thompson, General Sherman, Admiral Porter, Mr. George Bancroft, Mr. Bierstadt, Mr. W. W. Story, Sir Edward and Lady Thornton, at that time of the British Legation, and during the short visit Lord Dufferin made in Washington when he was Governor General of Canada he was frequently seen at these assemblies.
I wish I had the power to make you appreciate the grace and subtle charm of Mrs. Hayes; the something that made her so wonderfully attractive to all classes of people. She had the gift of putting everyone about her at ease, and although they might be strangers to one another or from different walks of life she quickly put all in harmony and there was never any of that stiffness which with a less gracious of courteous hostess would have marred the gathering. She had a sunny temperament, and a musical ringing laugh that was very contagious. She had beautiful large dark eyes, high cheek-bone, a large mouth and fine regular teeth. Her hair, one of her chief beauties was blue-black, glossy and fine, and the becoming way in which she wore it was characteristic, and quite unlike the then-prevailing style of hair dressing. In all it’s [its] luxuriant abundance it was brushed smoothly down over the temples and brought over the ears with a puff upon a side-comb to the back coil, as seen in Huntingdon’s portrait now hanging in the Executive Mansion. Her face in repose was not beautiful but it lighted up in conversation, and the marvelous change of expression full of sympathy and responsiveness, especially the eyes lead people generally to speak of her as a beautiful woman.
At these evening assemblies the McKinleys and I were likely to be amongst the first to call and for a few moments there might be a chance to have one of the “court ladies” all to one’s self, but other callers soon coming in the mix up became general. The assemblies usually broke up at ten o’clock and then came another chance for the McKinley group as the President and Mrs. Hayes usually went to their room and with Mrs. McKinley as chaperone we young folks, I was only 42, all went to the library on the second floor, and very frequently Billy Crump, then head steward would lay out a light lunch on the table in the large hall upstairs. These were the moments when we could talk anything from rollicking fun to wise conceit.
Mrs. Hayes during the winter months had many afternoon receptions. These were grand affairs, and all the parlors of the house were thrown open to the guests. Mrs. Hayes received in the Blue Parlor and with her were always some notable dames of official position to assist, usually Cabinet ladies, while ranged behind her were the young ladies of the house and their especially invited firends [friends]. As the people came in by way of the Red Parlor they were introduced by Col. Casey then in charge of all such functions. Those intimate with the family, having the open sesame went behind the line and were greeted by the young ladies, while the others went on to the Green Parlor and from thence to the East Room. A few moments before the hour for the function to close, this coterie in the rear of Mrs. Hayes in the Blue Parlor broke up and circulated amongst the guests scattered about the many parlors. Sometimes the President came in for a few moments though not likely to do so. Gentlemen were not very numerous at Mrs. Hayes afternoon receptions.
The President held many Public Receptions to which all the world was bid. Mrs. Hayes usually stood with him in line, and everyone, white, black, or yellow, had a hearty grasp of the hand from the President and Mrs. Hayes. A thousand or more would pass in line and Mrs. Hayes white gloves would quickly lose shape and put on much color, but in this democratic republic I suppose such things must be. The numerous ushers had a serious time in keeping the crowd moving on, as many of the visitors wanted to air an opinion or thank the President or Mrs. Hayes for something. A pompous old gentleman might grasp the President’s hand and after a prolonged pump-handle shake say, “Mr. President I met you in 1866 in ---”, when an usher would whisper in his ear “Pass on please - -”, and where he had met the President, or what was said at the time would melt into thin air, and a disappointed, humbled and sometimes angered old face would pass on and out. But when this old gentleman had gone home to his little village he would probably boast of hiving been at the reception, of shaking the President’s hand and of having aired his opinions. Mrs. Hayes was more frequently greeted by the remark, “Thank you for the stand you have taken in reference to win in the White House”, or “Thank you for your temperance principles.” A proper remark to make in the right place and proper occasion, but if you of the thousand hand-shaker should take up that amount of time the reception would never be over. For one hour, hour and a half and sometimes two hours the President and Mrs. Hayes would stand and shake and suffer. No one was ever turned away, and the function had no fixed hour for ending, only closing when the last had been greeted.
The President’s dignified greeting and Mrs. Hayes winning smile were never lacking from beginning to end. Mrs. Hayes carried her well known temperance principles to the White House. Only once was there wine on the dinner table. This she yielded as a compromise to Secretary of State Evarts at the time it was necessary to give a State dinner to the Duke Alexis of Russia. All dinners after that were cold water dinners. The State dinner especially to the Diplomatic Corps were said to have been gorgeous. Such a display of flowers and abundance of the best cookery in the world was never known before or afterwards though the flowing bowl was absent. T
There was another assemblage at the White House that winter of which much was written and of which much quiet fun was made by the newspaper reporter. “The White House Sunday Evening sings”. Usually the President and Vice President see little of each other. To have much in evidence the man who is waiting to fill one’s shoes certainly would not be pleasant, so the President and Vice President usually each go their own way in their own line of duty seeing little of each other. In the Hayes Administration, Vice President William A. Wheeler and the President were very chummy and he was frequently at the White House. He was a widower of some sixty summers and passionately fond of psalm singing – his only dissipation, so each Sunday evening a few of the select met in the library and there was a revelry of sweet sounds and mingling of souls. The Vice – President furnished us liberally with “Presbyterian Hymn and Tune Book” and for some reason know only in the esoteries of mankind it always took two persons to hold one hymn book.
President Hayes had tendered to me the office of paying Pension Agent at Washington with a salary of six thousand dollars. This I declined as I did not care to be tied down to an office, especially in Washington with its malaria of the summer and pneumonia of the winter. My wedding with Miss Platt was fixed for the 19th of June 1878 and the place was to be the Executive Mansion. Much has been written about the White House weddings and the White House brides. Curious as it may seem, there have been comparatively few weddings at the White House, only nine, our being the eighth. They are as follows: President Madison’s administration:- Miss Martha Monroe, daughter of the President, was married in March 1820 to Samuel Gouverner, Private Secretary to the President. John Quincy Adams, Administration:- Miss Helen Johnson, a niece of Mrs. Adams to John Adams in the Blue Parlor in 1826. He was the son and Private Secretary to the President. President Jackson’s Administration:- In this administration there were two marriages in the White House. Miss Mary Lewis, daughter of a friend of President Jackson to M. Alphonse Joseph Yoer Pageot, Secretary to the French Legation and afterwards French Minister. Also - - Miss Easten of Tennessee, a niece of the President to Mr. Polk, kinsman of President Polk. Elizabeth Tyler, daughter of the President to William Waller of Virginia. The ceremony was soleminized [solemnized] in the East Room, January 31st, 1842. President Tyler was married during his administration, but it took place at the Ascension Church, New York City, and the reception was in the East Room, Executive Mansion, in June 1844. The President had first met is bride Miss Gardenier, a beautiful girl only twenty years old at one of his receptions in the East Room on the 22nd. Of February and the wedding was the following June. He was a widower having lived with his first wife twenty-nine years. Certainly a union of December and June. I hope she was happy. President Grant’s Administration:- Miss Nellie Grant, daughter of the President to Mr. Algernon Charles Frederick Sartoris in the East Room, May 21st, 1874. President Hayes’ Administration:- Miss Emily Platt, niece of the President to Genl. Russell Hastings, on June 19th. 1878, in the Blue Parlor.
This wedding in deference to the wishes of both bride and groom was as quiet as possible, but everything was done in the handsomest manner, for Miss Platt had been to President and Mrs. Hayes like a daughter and her own Mother, the only sister of the President having long been dead she spent much of her girlhood with them. She lived with them in the White House from the time they moved there until her marriage. The marriage was solemnized by Bishop Jagger of the Southern Diocese of Ohio. There were no bridesmaids and the guests were few in number. The Cabinet officers with their families and a few relatives of the bride and groom. There were also present a few members of Congress, amongst them Major William McKinley and his wife.
The newspaper reports described the decorations in the room as follows:- The Blue Parlor was decorated for the occasion with potted geraniums and fuschias in full bloom and foliage plants, and also with cut flowers and similax. From a horizontal bar across the south side of the room depended a very large marriage bell of white roses and other fine flowers. A rope of green hung on either side and in each festoon was a hoop of white flowers, in the centre of one were the bride’s initials “E. P.” and in the other those of the groom “R. H.”. There were many other floral decorations elsewhere on the first floor of the mansion. The Marine Band played the Mendelssohn wedding march as the bridal party entered and other selections later. The supper which was an elaborate one, was spread in the family dining room. The bride’s dress was an ivory tinted brocade and her veil was of tulle. The ceremony took place at seven o’clock in the evening and an elaborate supper followed, after which the President’s carriage whirled the bridal couple to the depot and the train for New York City.