Lincoln’s Life Preserver

To stave off despair, the President relied on a sense of humor that was rich, self-deprecating—and surprisingly bawdy

A great “intensity of thought,” Abraham Lincoln once counseled his friend Joshua Speed, “will some times wear the sweetest idea thread-bare and turn it to the bitterness of death.” No aspect of Lincoln’s character has become more tangibly real in the literature than his melancholy.Read more »

When Congress Tried To Rule

Was it, as Navy Secretary Welles believed, “a conspiracy to overthrow the government”?

When in the spring of 1868 the Senate of the United States declared Andrew Johnson “not guilty” of the high crimes and misdemeanors charged against him by the House, Congressman Thaddeus Stevens predicted that never again would a serious effort be made to impeach an American President. What the sharp-spoken warrior from Pennsylvania was saying, of course, was that the failure to remove Johnson had set a precedent that future generations would hesitate to challenge.

Investigation: 1862

Suspected but not convicted, this General went to prison

The haze of a beautiful autumn hung over the Maryland countryside. The Northern soldiers holding the Potomac line above Washington in that fall of 1861 had never seen a region quite like it. They were delighted with the mild weather; they were impressed by the striking vistas of scenery that unrolled around their comfortable camps; they were intrigued by the queer, almost alien ways, of the white natives; and they were positively fascinated with the colored slaves who crept into the camps seeking refuge. Read more »