150th Regiment

Pennsylvania Volunteers
Company K

President Lincoln's Body Guard

The plans for taking the life of Mr. Lincoln, which were boldly pushed from the moment he left his home at Springfield, Illinois, to assume the duties of President, and which were only frustrated, on his journey, by the ingenious devices of the agents employed by General Scott, were not abandoned upon his arrival in Washington. The enemies of the government who were lurking in every part of the Federal Capital, were ever busy in their machinations for forcible abduction or assassination. It was accordingly deemed prudent by the military authorities, though Mr. Lincoln, in his honest simplicity, could never be brought to see the necessity of it, that a body of soldiers should be kept within easy call of the President's person. Two companies of regulars had been employed for that purpose, until about the time that the One Hundred and Fiftieth Regiment arrived in Washington. As the plots against the President thickened, it had been determined to change the guard, and the regulars were ordered to re-join their regiment.

In the campaigns of the preceding year, the original regiment of Bucktails had won a reputation for efficiency, gallantry, and devotion, which had attracted the attention of the whole country. In selecting troops for this guard to take the place of the regulars, men of like efficiency and devotion were sought, and General Martindale, Military Governor of Washington, ordered Colonel Stone to detail two companies from his new Bucktail Brigade for this purpose. Companies C and H, of the One Hundred and Fiftieth, were accordingly designated, and were ordered to proceed to the Soldiers' Home, the President's summer residence, and relieve the regulars. Being without a guide, and the officers of thesbe companies as well as their men being strangers in Washington, they proceeded to the Soldiers' Rest near the depot of the Baltimore and Washington Railway, instead of the Soldiers' Home, which was three miles out of the city. On arriving at the Rest, it was found that no orders had been issued for a change, and the troops on duty there refused to be relieved. Companies C and H accordingly returned and re-joined the regiment.

In the meantime the regulars had received marching orders, and had departed leaving the Home unguarded. The authorities becoming alarmed on account of the non-appearance of the companies which had been sent, ordered a new detail, and General Martindale dispatched Captain Lockwood of his staff to conduct the new command to its destination. Companies D and K, Captains H. W. Crotzer and D. V. Derickson, were sent and were duly installed, on duty as guard to the President. Company D not long afterwards was ordered to duty at the Soldiers' Rest with Company A, leaving Company leaving Company K alone at the Home.

The Home is situated about three miles north of the White House, the grounds for which had been purchased by the government a few years previous, and the buildings erected for a home for the disabled soldiers and sailors of the United States. The buildings are of stone, consisting of a main edifice and separate structures for the Military Governor, Surgeon, and Steward, and a mansion which has since been used as a summer residence for the President of the United States. This was now occupied by President Lincoln and his family. To keep constant guard, night and day, of this residencei its Commander accompanying; the President morning and night to and from the White House, whither the President went daily for the transaction of business, was the duty which the Company was required to perform. On the morning after his arrival, Captain Derickson was invited to breakfast with the President, after which he rode with him to the White House, the carriage being escorted by a detachment of cavalry from Scott's Nine Hundred, and returned with him in the evening. Supposing that the invitation to breakfast was a merely complimentary introduction to his duty, Captain Derickson did not report on the following morning until the President was ready to start.

In the course of the day the Captain was summoned to the mansion, and was requested to breakfast daily with the President, which he continued to do until the family returned, in the fall, to the White House. It was the custom of Mr. Lincoln at this time, on account of the great pressure of public business, to breakfast before the rest of the family was up, and to proceed immediately to his duties. Accordingly the Captain made it his practice to enter the President's room at a little atter six in the morning, and usually found him engaged in reading, either the Scriptures, or some work on the art of war, as Jomini or Hamley.

Upon the entrance of the Captain he would commence reading aloud and would offer comments and explanations, as he read. His whole demeanor and conversation in this intercourse showed him to be most magnanimous and kindly hearted. He never, spoke in terms of bitterness or severity of any one, but seemed desirous of believing every one else as earnest and honest as himself.

The President usually returned to the Home at about five o'clock in the evening, after which he was accustomed to work diligently in the composition of his State papers. He always carried his little portfolio, in which were the manuscripts upon which he was engaged, back and forth to the White House, and he sometimes discussed and conversed about points that troubled him on the way. In the beginning of November, the presidential family removed to the White House, and thither the Company went, encamping for the winter in the grounds near the mansion.

On Christmas Day the President and his wife walked in the part where the Company was quartered and it was drawn up to salute him. He spoke a few words complimenting the men upon their fine soldierly bearing, referred to the rapidity with which time was passing and great events transpiring, said that he had come to regard them as a part of his family, and more than this, that there had never been any family jars.

On the 1st of May, 1863, Captain Derickson resigned to accept the position of Provost Marshal of the Twentieth District of Pennsylvania, and was succeeded by Lieutenant Thomas Getchell. A strong desire was felt by the field officers that this Company should be ordered to the front to re-join the regiment, as the strength and efficiency of the command was, in a measure, impaired by its absence. This feeling was shared by a number of the men belonging to the Company, who had their desires gratified by being transferred to other companies. Applications were made to the President for this purpose, and he seemed desirous of complying with these requests, feeling that he had no necessity for a guard, and that so fine a body of men should not be kept from the ranks of the army, where they were so much needed; but the military authorities were inflexible, and he at once decided that so long as it should be deemed necessary to have any guard, he would have this Company of the Bucktails, and wrote an order to that effect, a lithograph of which is here presented.

When the rebel General Early invaded Maryland, in July, 1864, and approached Washington from the north, the Company was in the fortifications and was under fire, but suffered no loss. The President was in, the, trenches during the progress of the battle. The Company remained on duty alternately, winter and summer, at the White House and at the Home until the expiration of its term of service, in June, 1865, when it was mustered out.

Source:  Bates, Samuel P. History of the Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-1865 , Harrisburg, 1868-1871.






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