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Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations. 1989.

NUMBER: 1180
AUTHOR: Abraham Lincoln (1809–65)
QUOTATION: I could as easily bail out the Potomac River with a teaspoon as attend to all the details of the army.
ATTRIBUTION: Attributed to President ABRAHAM LINCOLN by General James B. Fry.—Allen Thorndike Rice, Reminiscences of Abraham Lincoln, chapter 22, p. 393 (1886).

This supposedly had been part of Lincoln’s response to a young volunteer soldier who had come to Lincoln’s office asking his help with a grievance. The story has been repeated in numerous books on Lincoln: Alexander K. McClure, “Abe” Lincoln’s Yarns and Stories, p. 162 (1904); Ida M. Tarbell, The Life of Abraham Lincoln, vol. 2, p. 153 (1917); and Caroline T. Harnsberger, The Lincoln Treasury, p. 14 (1950).
SUBJECTS: Military affairs