Robert Cummings Schenck

Robert Cummings Schenck (1809-1890)

Born in Franklin, Ohio, October 4, 1809, and attended rural schools – and was graduated from Miami University, Oxford, Ohio, in 1827. Schenck became a professor at Miami for 2 years, studied law and practiced in Dayton. He was elected to the Ohio House – then the United States Congress from 1843-1851.

Schenck served in Congress with Lincoln – and it was here that Lincoln witnessed Schenck’s outstanding public speaking ability. During Lincoln’s run for the presidency in 1860, Schenck was invited to campaign for Lincoln in Illinois. Lincoln then invited Schenck to his home in Springfield for a victory celebration. Schenck remembered the occasion and the menu consisting mostly of deserts.

Schenck was considered as a potential member in Lincoln’s cabinet. Instead Lincoln chose a generalship for Mr. Schenck, who had no military experience. The meeting conversation went along these recited lines: “Good Morning Mr. Schenck – Good Morning Mr. President. We are having a devil of a time just now Schenck. Can you fight? I don’t know sir, but I can try. And I’m sure you will succeed. You have it in your blood, and I am going to give you a chance to try. You will be made a brigadier general”. Schenck served admirably until he was wounded at 2nd Bull Run – shot in the wrist and carried off the field. He demanded that his sword not be left behind. Under heavy fire the sword was recovered.

President Lincoln visited Schenck in the army hospital as he began his recovery. Schenck’s hand/arm wound caused him to lose most of his use of that limb. Lincoln chose Schenck to be the military administrator of Maryland (called the middle department) – and he served well in that capacity. When Lincoln went to Gettysburg to make his historic speech, the President’s train stopped at Baltimore and Schenck joined the party. At Gettysburg Schenck paraded before Lincoln in the dedication and sat on the speakers’ platform as Lincoln delivered the speech. Schenck resigned from the army in order to take a seat in the lower House of Congress to which he had been elected from the third Ohio Congressional District in 1863– defeating the Copperhead candidate Clement L. Valandingham.

Schenck was in Washington when Lincoln was assassinated – and assisted in keeping order and calm during this terrible time. He was a member of the Congressional Delegation to the Lincoln funeral – and attended all the funerals excepting Indianapolis. After his service in Congress Schenck became America’s minister to London. It was during this time that he wrote a booklet on draw poker. President Grant selected Schenck to help draw up the terms for The Treaty of Washington – still considered a landmark in international conciliation. Schenck lived with his daughters in Washington D.C. when he died – and is buried in Woodland Cemetery in Dayton, Ohio.

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