Captured by Abraham Lincoln for surrendering York

Arthur Farquhar recalled his capture by President Abraham Lincoln in the April 1922 issue of McClure’s magazine; a monthly publication sold widely throughout the United States.

York industrialist Arthur B. Farquhar was 24-years old when he initiated actions that resulted in the surrender of the Borough of York to thirty thousand Confederate troops; as they started to drive eastward through York County, Pennsylvania, in June of 1863. A few months after that event, Farquhar met with Abraham Lincoln and recalled that encounter with the President in his 1922 autobiography “The First Million the Hardest.”

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Parts of Farquhar’s autobiography received national exposure early in 1922, when published in the April 1922 issue of McClure’s; a monthly magazine. Named for co-founder Samuel Sidney McClure, the magazine was printed nationally from 1893 to 1929.

The Farquhar piece, is entitled “The Heart of America” in the April 1922 issue and other parts of his autobiography appears in subsequent issues under the same title. The April 1922 subheading is, “An intimate picture of life in Maryland before the Civil War: the author’s experiences when the Confederate armies invaded his home town: contacts with Lincoln and Grant.”

The lead article, in this Volume 54, Number 2 issue of McClure’s, continues later in the publication. Here I quote several paragraphs from the continuation on page 113; Farquhar’s recollections entitled: “Captured by Lincoln.”

“I shall never forget those days, being pointed out as ‘the man who had sold York’ to the Rebels, instead of the one of those who had saved it. The accusation was ridiculous and unjust but my indignation knew no bounds. I knew that I had helped save the city from possible ruin, not sold it. I determined to put the case before one whom I knew would be just—the President.”

“I went to Washington, talked over the whole matter with the President’s secretary, young John Hay—later our great Secretary of State—and whom I knew personally. He declared that I had done exactly right and deserved public commendation.”

“He tried to persuade me not to insist on seeing the President, who he said was overworked and very much worried, but on second thought told me that the President would leave the front door of the White House at half-past four to go to the War Department to meet some officers; that I could walk with him without taking up any of his time. …”

“Exactly at half-past four the President came out. … He remarked as we shook hands: ‘Well, sonny, what are you after?’ He did not smile, but he took my hand in his great, strong palm, placed the other on my shoulder, and looked down into my face. And then I told, or maybe I blurted out, my whole story. He said nothing at all, and, when I had finished, he started on his way.”

“I fell in beside him answering his inquiring look with: ‘I am going with you; I want your advice, and to know what you think of their action’ [earlier in the article, Farquhar discusses the action of Yorkers calling him “a rebel” to “something near to being a traitor”]. Thus we walked together although it took two of my steps to match his stride. …”

“And thus we walked up the steps to the War Department Building and through to a room where were already together the Secretary of War Stanton and perhaps half a dozen Generals. Stanton was personally known to me; my cousin, James Hollowell, being his private secretary. I had met him several times. The President, giving my had a squeeze, brought me before the Secretary as he said:”

“Stanton, I have captured that young chap who sold York, Pennsylvania, to the Rebels. What are we going to do with him?”

“Although President Lincoln’s voice, as he asked Secretary Stanton what he should do with me, gave no evidence that he was not asking a serious question and expecting a serious answer, I felt, nervous as I was, that he had already given his decision and I was not surprised when the Secretary answered just as gravely:”

“We ought to promote him.”

“And then he went on to say that by my action some millions of dollars’ worth of property probably had been saved at a trifling cost and that I deserved very high commendation. The President nodded at this, and, turning to me, said:”

“You were wise not to neglect an opportunity to be of service. Opportunity does not knock at a man’s door every day. The mistake you made was in worrying yourself over what people say about you. You should go through life doing what you believe to be right and not bother yourself over what people may say. They will soon forget their criticisms.”

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About Stephen H. Smith

Stephen H. Smith is a design engineer who worked at York International Corp. for 33 years before retiring several years ago to research and write books full time; his second career. The initial emphasis was on family history when he won a national award during 2002 for his first book “Barshingers in America." Positive feedback and that award were influential in his decision to retire early from engineering and start a retirement career.
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