The Vice President Flees

Branded a traitor by the government he once served, John C. Breckinridge ran a perilous race for freedom rather than risk capture by the North

The weather in the Straits of Florida was turbulent in June of 1865. Throughout that spring the Caribbean boiled from one storm after another, but this latest one was particularly severe. Ocean-going steamers delayed their departures because of it, yet, in its very center, six desperate men bailed and prayed in a sailboat barely seventeen feet long.Read more »

Lincoln Saves A Reformer

The Navy and contractor Smith accused each other of fraud. The Navy won—until the President took a hand

The way of the reformer is hard. The way ofthat idealistic David who slings his polished stones at the Goliath of military bureaucracy is trebly hard. He needs a firm heart and strong friends. Franklin W. Smith, the principal in a celebrated naval court-martial during the Civil War, found one such just and farseeing advocate in Abraham Lincoln. Read more »

“Better For Us To Be Separated”

For some men the only solution to the dilemma of blacks and whites together was for the blacks to go back where they came from

When, on August 14, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln spoke to a visiting “committee of colored men” at the White House, it was already becoming clear that one result of the War Between the States would be the freeing of millions of slaves. Slavery was toppling under the blows of war, and in just another month the President would issue the preliminary version of the Emancipation Proclamation. The “colored men” whom Lincoln addressed were free already; some of them had been free all their lives.

Another Assassination, Another Widow, Another Embattled Book

Just about a hundred years ago, there was another shattering presidential assassination, another desperately unhappy (albeit very different) widow, and another well-meaning but indiscreet intimate who wrote a book that someone named Robert would have liked to suppress. The book that outraged Robert Todd Lincoln was called Behind the Scenes; Or, Thirty Years a Slave, and Four Years in the White House.

An American In Paris

Faced with war, famine, and bloody revolution, a political wheel horse turned into a first-class ambassador.

“On the 10th day of September, 1877, I left Paris for home, going to Havre and then taking the steamer to pass over to Southampton where I was to take the German steamer for New York. After a reasonably good passage to New York we reached what was thereafter to be our home at Chicago, on the 23rd of September, 1877. It was on the 17th day of March, 1869, that … Mr.Read more »

ASSASSINATION!

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Had there been a Warren Commission exactly a century ago, when Abraham Lincoln was shot, its report might have read like the somber, moving, and impressively researched book from which the following narrative is taken

Journey’s End: 1865

Two humble memories—a brakeman‘s and a carpenter’s—bring back the human moments of a nation’s tragedy

In the fall of 1864 William S. Porter, a young man from the sleepy southern Illinois town of Jerseyville, was mustered out of service with the 145th Illinois Infantry. He was just sixteen, but the war had left a man’s lines in his face. A few days after his discharge he became a brakeman on the Chicago and Alton Railroad—riding on the tops of trains, setting hand brakes and couplings. From the swaying roofs of boxcars and coaches he watched the prairie roll past, in sunlight and starlight, all the way from Chicago to St. Louis.Read more »

Faces From The Past—IV

The crowd began collecting early at the Winter Garden. All over the city billboards proclaimed the evening’s benefit as one of the great performances of the age, and lower Broadway had a holiday air of excitement. Men were dying in the trenches in Petersburg, Virginia; Sherman’s men, in the capital of Georgia, were lighting their campfires with Confederate money; but in New York the three sons of the great Booth were treading the boards together for the first time.

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Lincoln Takes Charge

His shrewd handling of the Radical Republican bid for power at the end of 1862 established him as the unquestioned leader of the Union

The North sustained its most tragic single defeat in the Civil War on December 13, 1862, when waves of blue infantry under General Ambrose E. Burnside, in assault after assault, were flung back from the heights behind Fredericksburg, Virginia. The total battle casualties of the Union Army reached nearly thirteen thousand; never were men left in bloody windrows by a more senseless and futile operation. As the news and casualty lists fell upon the Union, the press, politicians, and public burst out in clamorous denunciation of the Administration.

New York’s Bloodiest Week

The draft riots of 1863 turned a great city into a living hell.

We shall have trouble before we are through,” George Templeton Strong, a wealthy New Yorker and staunch friend of Lincoln, warned in his diary one July morning in 1863. Yet the first nationwide military draft, authorized by Congress on March 3 to fill the critically depleted ranks of the Union Army, began in a festive mood.