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Boys in Blue

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In August of 1930, men who had fought for the Union during the Civil War and were able to make the trip to Cincinnati were at a convention for the "'Boys in Blue' who marched home with a Union victory in '65."

On this date in 1930, Smith Stimmel of Fargo was a candidate to be elected as the "new commander-in-chief" at the convention. In the end, he did not win this honor. However, he did help in a different role. When a play was presented at the convention showing Abraham Lincoln during the war, the actor playing the president was apparently a striking likeness -- so much so that one of the old soldiers fainted! The veteran noted, "I never in my life saw anyone look so much like Lincoln." The man was carried out, and Smith Stimmel was one of the first to help him.

Stimmel had a special connection to Lincoln. After joining the military at age 20 during the Civil War, he was appointed to the Union Light Guard and assigned to The White House. From December of 1863 until April 14, 1865, he was a bodyguard for the President. Following Lincoln’s assassination, Stimmel returned home to Ohio, attended Wesleyan University and became a lawyer. He moved to Fargo in 1882. In 1888, Stimel was elected president of the Territorial Council. He practiced law in the state ‘til 1921.

His trip back to Cincinnati for the Boys in Blue convention was memorable. The men were able to visit Ulysses S. Grant's gravesite and hear Grant’s grandson speak. The Bismarck Tribune also detailed a welcoming event, writing: "the gray-haired, faltering veterans again will hear the strains of martial music and receive the praise of public officials."

Smith had become a Lincoln expert of sorts, and later in life would speak and write about him. He was the last surviving member of Lincoln's personal bodyguard attachment when he passed away at the age of 92 in Fargo in 1935.

Dakota Datebook by Sarah Walker


The Bismarck Tribune: April 15, 1935, p1; August 25, 1930, p1; August 26, 1930, p6; August 28, 1930, p1; August 29, 1930, p8

Dakota Datebook is made in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, and funded by Humanities North Dakota, a nonprofit, independent state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the program do not necessarily reflect those of Humanities North Dakota or the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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