At one time when very lively scenes were being enacted in West Virginia, a Union general allowed himself and his command to be drawn into a dangerous position, from which it was feared he would be unable to extricate himself without the loss of his whole command. In speaking of this fiasco, Mr. Lincoln said: “General _____ reminds me of a man out West who was engaged in what they call heading a barrel. He worked diligently for a time driving down the hoops; but when the job seemed completed, the head would fall in, and he would have to do the work all over again. Suddenly, after a deal of annoyance, a bright idea struck him. He put his boy, a chunk of a lad, into a barrel to hold up the head while he pounded down the hoops. This worked like a charm. The job was completed before he once thought about how he was to get the little fellow out again. Now,” said Mr. Lincoln, “that is a fair sample of the way some people do business. They can succeed better in getting themselves and other corked up than in getting uncorked.”
Ward Hill Lamon, Recollections of Abraham Lincoln, p. 129-130.