Tag Archives: Lincoln assassination

A link to the assassination

To mark the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s assassination, here’s Steven Wilson of the Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum with one of the most special artifacts in the LMU collection.

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Doris Kearns Goodwin on the night Lincoln was assassination

Smithsonian.com features Doris Kearns Goodwin’s account of the Lincoln assassination from her bestseller Team of Rivals, along with an interactive map you can use to follow the evening’s events across Washington, D.C.

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Martha Hodes on ‘Mourning Lincoln’

At his blog, historian John Fea has posted a short interview with Martha Hodes about her new book Mourning Lincoln.  Hodes uses contemporary letters and diaries to examine the varied ways Americans responded to Lincoln’s assassination, and how these responses reflected different visions for the country’s future in the wake of the Civil War.

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Recreating Lincoln’s last ride

An Illinois man named David Kloke is commemorating the sesquicentennial of Lincoln’s assassination by building a full-scale replica of the president’s funeral train car. He hopes to recreate part of the 1865 funeral train’s journey, followed by an educational tour with stops across the country. You can learn more at the project’s official website.

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Could modern medicine have saved Lincoln’s life?

Maybe so, according to Philip Mackowiak’s fascinating piece of speculation in The Atlantic.  “Optimal management combining early mobilization, a multidisciplinary approach to treatment, and early aggressive rehabilitation might have saved Lincoln,” he writes.  “However, it could not have restored his neurological function to normal.  At best, he would have been left with several permanent neurological deficits,” such as lack of impulse control, partial paralysis, and problems with speaking and writing.

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Lincoln and his bodyguard

By Michael Lynch

If you didn’t get a chance to see Saving Lincoln in theaters, it’s available on DVD now.  Using actual period photographs for its settings, the movie explores the relationship between Abraham Lincoln and Ward Hill Lamon, the Virginia-born attorney who went from lawyer to presidential bodyguard.  Lamon isn’t as well-known as some of Lincoln’s other associates, but the two men had a remarkable and longstanding relationship.

They met in Illinois, where Lamon was admitted to the bar in 1851.  Although he was born a Southerner, Lamon joined the young Republican Party and played an instrumental role in securing Lincoln’s nomination in 1860, packing the convention hall with his friend’s supporters by printing up extra tickets.

It was during Lincoln’s inaugural train trip that Lamon’s stint as a self-appointed bodyguard began.  After detective Allan Pinkerton brought Lincoln word of a possible plot to assassinate the president-elect in Baltimore, an armed Lamon accompanied Lincoln as he passed through the city secretly by night.  Neither Pinkerton nor Lamon thought much of the other’s abilities; Pinkerton dismissed Lamon as a “brainless, egotistical fool,” while Lamon later claimed that the purported assassination plot was a sham.  (He reversed this opinion in some of his postwar writings.)

Lamon wanted a diplomatic post, but spent Lincoln’s presidential years as a U.S. Marshal of the District of Columbia.  In this position he managed to offend some powerful people, with some senators eventually demanding that he be fired.  Lincoln entrusted him with a number of delicate missions, including a controversial trip to Ft. Sumter before that installation fell to the Confederates.  Despite Lincoln’s wish to hold the fort, Lamon gave Southern authorities the impression that the Union was prepared to abandon it.  But if Lincoln was angry at Lamon’s handling of the Charleston trip—and some sources indicate that he was—it didn’t stop him from allowing his old friend to take responsibility for presidential security.  The burly Virginian often patrolled the White House grounds at night—armed to the teeth with a pistol, knife, and a set of brass knuckles—sometimes sleeping on the floor right outside Lincoln’s bedroom.

Perhaps one reason Lamon was so conscientious when it came to presidential security was the fact that Lincoln himself seemed so cavalier about it.  An exasperated Lamon wrote to him in 1864, “I regret that you do not appreciate what I have repeatedly said to you in regard to the proper police arrangements connected with your household and your own personal safety.…To-night, as you have done on several previous occasions, you went unattended to the theatre. When I say unattended, I mean that you went alone with Charles Sumner and a foreign minister, neither of whom could defend himself against an assault from any able-bodied woman in this city.”  Lincoln’s lifelong tendency toward fatalism probably contributed to his seeming indifference toward his safety.  He told associates that if someone wanted to take his life badly enough, there would be little anyone could do to stop it.  Lamon wasn’t on hand on the night one of Lincoln’s enemies finally got the chance to strike a fatal blow, having been sent on a mission to Richmond.

He returned to his legal practice after the war, setting his name to a poorly-received ghostwritten biography of Lincoln.  After Lamon died in 1893, his daughter assembled some of his material into a second book, published in 1895.  Some of his personal effects—his watch, marshal’s badge, and ashtray—are highlights of the collection of LMU’s Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum.

As its title implies, Saving Lincoln focuses on Lamon’s role as bodyguard, but it nicely balances the public and private aspects of Lincoln’s life in the White House.  Tom Amandes effectively conveys Lincoln’s affable side in a performance reminiscent of Sam Waterston’s portrayal in the TV adaptation of Gore Vidal’s Lincoln.  (History buffs may recall that Amandes spent two seasons playing Eliot Ness in The Untouchables.)  Lea Coco, Penelope Ann Miller, and Bruce Davison all give convincing turns as Lamon, Mary Todd Lincoln, and William Seward, respectively.  The film includes a few incidents that don’t usually make it into Lincoln movies, such as the controversy over Lamon’s performance of a traditional song during Lincoln’s visit to Antietam.  I’m glad to see it available in DVD format; anyone interested in history will find it well worth watching.

—Michael Lynch graduated from LMU with a degree in history, worked at the Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum as an assistant curator, and now teaches survey-level history courses on campus. He holds an M.A. in history from the University of Tennessee and blogs about historical topics at pastinthepresent.wordpress.com.

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Last contents of Lincoln’s pockets on display at Library of Congress

Visitors to the Library can see the items Lincoln had in his coat pockets the night he was shot: some newspaper clippings, two pairs of spectacles, a knife, wallet, watch fob, handkerchief, and a Confederate five-dollar bill.

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