Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap

At your service, Mr. Lincoln!

When Judge Davis realized that Thurlow Weed had made sure that plenty of folks were in Chicago to represent Seward, he turned to Ward Hill Lamon for help. Lamon was familiar with all aspects of Chicago society, and he knew . . . people.

One of the people he knew was Elmer Ellsworth. Ellsworth was getting his Chicago Zouave militia in shape to become the U. S. Zouave Cadets and tour the northeast in July. The group had already been the entertainment part of the convention festivities for the first day, which was devoted to acceptance of delegates and other organizational business. The Zouaves had been received with cheers and huzzahs, none more so than twenty-three year old Colonel Ellsworth himself.

Ellsworth was pleased to bring his men to the convention, and was eager to help his

Colonel Ellsworth–one of Lincoln’s Young Turks

friend Lincoln in any other possible way. Lamon informed him that there was certainly another way to assist–bring on the brass bands and marching units!  Ellsworth knew every militia unit in Chicago, and the bands that supported the marchers. It was Ellsworth, after all, who was giving Chicago–indeed, all Illinois–such a good name in the militia world, so he had a few chips he could call in. He assured Lamon that there would be plenty of marchers available, and music as well.

By the middle of the second day, it was beginning to look as if there might be time to call the first ballot. If this happened, Seward stood an excellent chance of getting the nomination right away. After all, there had been little time for the Lincoln men to do much politicking in just one night. Lamon quickly went to the company that was in charge of the printing chores for the convention.

Davis had made sure the printers knew Lamon, so when he walked in, ostensibly to “seehow it was going,” no one thought very much about it. Lamon gave the already-printed ballots a careful look, as if he was inspecting their accuracy. Then he spoke with the owner of the business. Lamon informed him that the ballots looked excellent, and that they were to be delivered on Friday morning–and only on Friday morning! There would be no ballots available with which to vote, even if a vote were to be called that afternoon.

Ward Hill Lamon, freshly shaved

Then, to help sweeten things a bit, Lamon ordered another several thousand passes for the Wigwam. You see, it was necessary to have a pass to get inside and watch the proceedings–security and all. Lamon smiled his lovely, encouraging smile, and said he’d just wait until they were done, as they had to be signed, etc. A little later, Ward Hill Lamon walked out of the printing office with several thousand unauthorized passes to the Wigwam in his satchel, having made sure that the ballots would only be delivered Friday morning, thus giving Team Lincoln another twenty-four hours to work for their candidate.

As the Thursday afternoon session of the convention wound down, the Seward forces were stirring. Their bands and cheering supporters had been in and out of the Wigwam all day, and it looked as if, with any luck, their man would be the nominee.

The platform had been written and finally adopted, and at about 6:00 PM, the FOS could smell blood. Weed had instructed his minions to yell and stamp their feet whenever Seward’s name was mentioned. A motion to adjourn was made, but struck down. Then . . . the chairman was forced to announce to the excited crowd that, in fact, no vote could be taken because (here it comes!) the printed ballots had not yet been delivered! Imagine that.

Another vote was taken to adjourn until 10:00 the next morning. This time it passed.




2 Responses to Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap

  1. Bring on the brass bands! That sums up Lamon in a nutshell. Meg, so glad you are writing about this fascinating episode. Not many Americans know that Lincoln’s nomination came about because of a dirty trick…. Regarding the picture of Lamon, where did you find that? I’ve seen every photo of Lamon and I’ve never seen that one.

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