“I was mustered into the service of the United States from the 2d day of January, 1861, on the special requisition of the General-in-Chief, and thus was the first of two and a half millions called into the military service of the Government to defend it against secession,” wrote Charles P. Stone, recalling the events of exactly 150 years ago today.
The hero of The First Assassin, Col. Charles P. Rook, is loosely based on Col. Charles P. Stone.
My account of how Rook returns to military service to protect Abraham Lincoln is adapted from Stone’s account of how Gen. Winfield Scott brought him back into service. Some of the dialogue is verbatim. Here’s Stone:
[Scott] looked at his watch, rose, and said: “I must be with the President in a quarter of an hour,” and ordered his carriage. He walked up and down the dining-room, but suddenly stopped and faced me, saying: “How is the feeling in the District of Columbia? What proportion of the population would sustain the Government by force, if necessary?”
“It is my belief, General,” I replied, “that two-thirds of the fighting stock of this population would sustain the Government in defending itself, if called upon. But they are uncertain as to what can be done or what the Government desires to have done, and they have no rallying-point.”
The general walked the room again in silence. The carriage came to the door, and I accompanied him toward it. As he was leaving, he turned suddenly, looked me in the face, placed his hand on my shoulder, and said:
“These people have no rallying-point. Make yourself that rallying-point!”
From The First Assassin:
After a time, the old general announced that he had a meeting with President Buchanan. Rook walked him down to his carriage. At the door, Scott paused.
“Our most immediate problem is that many of the citizens of the District of Columbia would like to defend the government and their next president—but they have no rallying point. There is nothing to bring them together.”
“What may be done?” asked Rook.
“Make yourself that rallying point,” Scott replied, stepping outside the door and into his carriage. From the vehicle, Rook heard him repeat his words: “Make yourself that rallying point!”
Three days later, Rook was mustered back into military service with the job of organizing the District’s security and protecting the president-elect.
Charles Pomeroy Stone (1824-1887)