Abraham Lincoln received daily dispatches from his generals in the field via telegraph which he monitored directly from the telegraph office. Those telegrams frequently gave the commander in chief information that led him to believe that the Union soldiers were always outnumbered.
This prompted a question from someone in the White House concerning the troop strength of the Confederate armies. Without flinching, Lincoln replied “1,200,000 according to my best authority.” The man who posed the question appeared astonished. He wondered where the president got that information.
The president replied “Yes sir. 1,200,000 – no doubt about it. You see, all of our generals when they get whipped say the enemy outnumbered them from three to five to one, and I must believe them. We have 400,000 men in the field. Three times four makes twelve. Don’t you see it? It is plain to be seen as the nose on a man’s face. At the rate things are now going with the great amount of speculation and the small crop of fighting, it will take a long time to overcome 1,200,000 rebels in arms.”
This was just another example of President Lincoln’s sharp and dry sense of humor. And another way for him to poke criticism to his generals who were making excuses instead of winning battles.
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