Lincoln shook hands with the bedraggled Irishmen, offering encouragement. Bull Run was just one battle, not the war. Next time would be better, and there was certainly a place in the vast new American force for the immigrants. More than a nod to ethnic tolerance, Lincoln needed the nearly two million Irish in the country to fight for a splintered nation. Northern factory owners, businessmen and Main Street merchants weren't about to give up their livelihoods to risk death in the South. The farmers, from whose ranks the American revolutionists had drawn some of their best marksmen, were seasoned soldiers—available mainly in the winter, when fields were dormant but fighting was a logistical nightmare. The urban poor, the immigrants without trades, might have to form the backbone of the new Union Army. Whether then would die for this country was still an open question. To Lincoln's kind words, the Irish 69th gave a president they would never vote for a Gaelic cheer. He was moved, a crooked smile breaking the untertaker's face—"I confess I rather like it." Was there anything he could do for them? Be honest, he told the men. Meagher stepped forward. Since being thrown from his horse, and losing friends to combat, the shine of the orator was gone. He looked haggard, with lips tight, eyes clouded, a full half foot shorter than Lincoln.
"Mr. President, I have a cause of grievance."
"The morning I went to Colonel Sherman and he threatened to shoot me."
Lincoln tipped his head, puzzled. Unwilling to get in the middle of a spat between officers, he threw off a joke, with some truth to it. "If I were you," he said, "and he threatened to shoot, I would trust him." For one of the few times in his life Meagher was speechless. Still, the 69th was mustered out of duty for a few days leave to return home, as the Irish captain had requested. Lincoln would remember Thomas Francis Meagher.