How I Met Lincoln

Some distinguished enthusiasts reveal just how they fell under his powerful spell

Although Lincoln’s birthday has disappeared from our calendar of national holidays (swallowed up into the convenient but somehow unsatisfying Presidents’ Day), there is no dampening of enthusiasm among America’s “Lincoln people.” During this, his 190th anniversary year, the Lincoln field is enjoying a renaissance. New books and film projects abound, and Lincoln people remain as impassioned as before and more diverse than ever. Read more »

Is Lincoln Here?

A stereo view discovered in a California flea market may show the President-elect embarked on a momentous journey

It was, up to that point, the photo opportunity of the century.

Here was the nation’s President-elect, Abraham Lincoln, visiting Independence Hall in Philadelphia en route to his inauguration—the defender of the Union seeking inspiration at the cradle of American independence. Adding resonance was the sacred day: Washington’s Birthday, February 22, 1861.


It was, up to that point, the photo opportunity of the century. Read more »

The Truth About The Lincoln Bedroom “too Ricketty To Venerate”

For generations, Americans reserved their most fervent “landmark reverence” for those rooms that could boast George Washington— not Abraham Lincoln—slept here. Read more »

The Return Of The Peacemakers

The great emancipator and the liberator of Kuwait get together in the newest White House portrait


From the moment he was first inspired to paint it, George Peter Alexander Healy harbored huge ambitions for the canvas he entitled The Peacemakers . The artist longed for it to be universally embraced as “a true historical picture,” cherished as the emblem of sectional reconciliation following the bloody Civil War.

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The San Patricios

Most of them were American soldiers who fought with skill, discipline, and high courage against a U.S. Army that numbered Ulysses Grant in its ranks. The year was 1847.

The court-martial of Capt. John O’Reilly was one of twenty-nine convened by the United States Army at the San Angel prison camp in Mexico on August 28, 1847: thirty-six other men of O’Reilly’s San Patricio Battalion faced courts-martial on that same day at nearby Tacubaya. Read more »

The Forgotten Triumph Of The Paw Paw

Unloved and unlovely, the fragile boats of the “Tinclad Navy” ventured, Lincoln said, “wherever the ground was a little damp,” and made a contribution to the Western war that has never been sufficiently appreciated

In the late summer and autumn of 1864 two brothers, Norman and George Carr, aged twenty-two and twenty-four respectively, left their upstate New York home of Union Springs to join the United States Navy. The motives that sent them may have been complex. Their father, who operated sail- and steamboats on Lake Cayuga, had previously kept them out of military service by paying for substitutes.Read more »

Who’s Who?

A historian of American portraits tells how he determines whether a picture is authentic—and why that authenticity matters

More than any other features, our faces are what mark us as unique individuals. Superficially our faces are who we are. Together with names they identify us with the lives we have lived; they are our perpetual calling cards. Our interest in and curiosity about faces is a natural phenomenon, and if we are to feel a kinship with our national heritage, it matters that we recognize the faces of our American icons. Read more »

Westward on the Old Lincoln Highway

The nation’s first transcontinental motor route can still be experienced in all its obsolescent charm.

I had been driving across Pennsylvania’s hills and valleys for five hours when suddenly my destination for the evening appeared ahead. On a high, level clearing in the state’s mountainous southwest quarter, just beyond the immaculate little town of Bedford, stood the Lincoln Motor Court, a roadside lodging almost exactly the way it looked when travelers passed by in Hudson Hornets and Studebaker Land Cruisers. Read more »

How Did Lincoln Die?

Everyone knows that the ball John Wilkes Booth fired into Abraham Lincoln’s brain inflicted a terrible, mortal wound. But when a prominent neurosurgeon began to investigate the assassination, he discovered persuasive evidence that Lincoln’s doctors must share the blame with Booth’s derringer. Without their treatment the President might very well have lived. Read more »

Clio And The Clintons

An Interview With the President and the First Lady

On a busy Wednesday morning last August, President and Mrs. Clinton found an hour to speak with me in the Oval Office of the White House. Defense Secretary William Perry and Attorney General Janet Reno were preparing for a live noontime conference in the West Wing press room to announce new legal policy regarding Cuban refugees; the taken-for-dead crime bill would finally pass the fol- lowing day; the tumult over the future of the President’s health-care proposals was still very much in the air.Read more »