Mary Todd Lincoln's Seed Pearl Jewelry Suite

Open FREE Unlimited Store                   Join Our Newsletter

Origin of Name

The three-piece seed pearl jewelry suite, consisting of a necklace and two identical bracelets, was designed by Tiffany &Co. of New York, who were also commissioned in 1861 to design a presentational pitcher, for the inauguration of President Abraham Lincoln. This was a period in America, when seed pearl jewelry was at the height of its popularity, and was considered de rigueur for all formal occasions.

In keeping with the societal norms of the period, President Lincoln was compelled to purchase the seed pearl jewelry suite, from Tiffany &Co. in 1861, for his wife and first lady Mary Todd Lincoln, in anticipation of the President's inaugural ball, which she was expected to attend, attired in a manner befitting the occasion, and in keeping with her status as the first lady of the nation. A complete set or parure of seed pearl jewelry, consisting of a collar, pair of bracelets, a pair of earrings, one or two brooches and a large spray or corsage ornament, was sold by Tiffany's for around $1,000. In fact in 1855, a $1,000 seed pearl set was one of the principal exhibits of Tiffany's at the International Exposition held at the Crystal Palace, New York. President Lincoln, however went in for a less expensive demi-parure consisting of a necklace and a pair of bracelets only, that cost him only $530. The gown worn by the first lady for the inaugural ball cost $2,000. These sums of money were considered quite impressive in the late 19th-century, and critics and foes of the President and his wife, ridiculed them for the extravagant spending, at a time when the nation was deeply divided and on the verge of a civil war. The photograph of the first lady taken at the Washington studio of Mathew Brady shows her wearing the Tiffany's Seed Pearl Jewelry Suite.

Mary Todd Lincoln's Three-Piece Seed Pearl Jewelry Suite

Mary Todd Lincoln's Three-Piece Seed Pearl Jewelry Suite


Characteristics of Mary Todd Lincoln's Seed Pearl Jewelry Suite

The Necklace in the Seed Pearl Jewelry Suite is a Choker

The seed pearl jewelry suite was a demi-parure, consisting of a necklace and a pair of bracelets only. The necklace was undoubtedly a "choker"as seen in the photograph of the first lady, taken at Matthew Brady's Washington Studio. Under the modern system of classification of pearl necklaces a "choker"is a necklace with a range of length of 14-16 inches (35-40 cm).

The design adopted for the necklace, is a common motif for seed pearl jewelry at that time, the rosette motif. However, the rosette motifs in this case are oval shaped. There are 19 oval shaped rosettes on this necklace, of which 6 are larger rosettes and 13 are smaller rosettes. Out of the 6 larger rosettes, one is extra-large and forms the centerpiece of the necklace. The other five are identical in size, of which one forms the pendant to the necklace, and the remaining four are placed at symmetrical positions on the necklace, alternating with the smaller rosettes, two on each side. Thus, the arrangement of the first four rosettes, 1-2-3-4 on either side of the centerpiece, are small-large-small-large. The remaining 9 rosette on the necklace are all small rosettes. Thus altogether there are 8 + 9 + 1=18 rosettes on the necklace, and together with the rosette on the pendant, the total becomes 19.


The seed pearl choker, the main component of Mary Todd Lincoln's three-piece seed pearl jewelry suite

The seed pearl choker, the main component of Mary Todd Lincoln's three-piece seed pearl jewelry suite


Out of the 6 larger rosettes, the design of the largest rosette which forms the centerpiece of the necklace, is unique, consisting of three rows of seed pearls laid around a centerpiece made up of three larger pearls. The design is laid on oval-shaped mother-of-pearl plates. The larger pearls set as the centerpiece of the rosette are secured individually with horsehair to the mother-of-pearl plate. Seed pearls strung together with horsehair are then laid in rows around the centerpiece, and tied to the mother-of-pearl plate at several points. Three concentric rows of pearls are thus laid around the centerpiece, completing the rosette.

The five other larger rosettes also have three large pearls as their centerpiece, but only two rows of pearls in the rosette. The 13 smaller rosettes too have three large pearls as their centerpiece, but only a single row of pearls surrounding it. The mother-of-pearl, oval-shaped rosettes mounted with seed pearls, appear to be joined together by a ring and hook arrangement, and backed by metal strips, perhaps silver, for additional strength.


Characteristics of the Seed Pearl Bracelets

The same oval-shaped rosette motif is repeated in the design of the bracelets. The centerpiece of each bracelet, is a curved rectangular shaped silver plate, on which three mother-of-pearl rosettes are mounted;a central large oval shaped rosette, flanked by two smaller oval-shaped rosettes on either side. The central large oval-shaped rosette is the largest rosette in the entire suite, larger than the centerpiece of the necklace. The centerpiece of this rosette has three larger pearls, which are surrounded by four rows of seed pearls. The smaller rosettes flanking the central rosette, has only three rows of pearls surrounding the centerpiece. The jointed strap of the bracelet and the clasp are also made of silver. The mother-of-pearl rosettes being mounted on a silver plate, gives extra strength to the otherwise delicate seed pearl rosettes, and ensures its durability.


Close-up of a seed pearl bracelet, one of two identical bracelets in the suite

Close-up of a seed pearl bracelet, one of two identical bracelets in the suite


The features of the pearls on the necklace

The luster, brilliance and orient of the seed pearls are in keeping with their saltwater origins. The color of the pearls are white, the common color of pearls produced by the most prolific seed pearl producing oyster, Pinctada radiata. The shape of the pearls vary from round, to near-round, and button shapes. Being natural pearls one cannot expect to find all pearls to be of uniform size and shape. The size of the pearls are less than 2 mm in size, but could be less than 5 mm, as the definition of seed pearls had changed over the years. If the pearls are less than 2 mm in size, their weights are less than 1/4 of a grain each. If the pearls are less than 5 mm in size, their weights can be less than 3½grains each. The pearls have been drilled with a very fine hole, and strung together with horsehair, before they were mounted on the mother-of-pearl plates.


First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln, wife of President Abraham Lincoln wearing the Tiffany seed pearl jewelry suite. Photograph taken at the Washington studio of Mathew Brady.

First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln, wife of President Abraham Lincoln wearing the Tiffany seed pearl jewelry suite. Photograph taken at the Washington studio of Mathew Brady.  

Another image of Mary Todd Lincoln wearing the seed pearl jewelry suite

Another image of Mary Todd Lincoln wearing the seed pearl jewelry suite

History of the Mary Todd Lincoln's Seed Pearl Jewelry Suite

The Source of the Seed Pearls

The Gulf of Mannar was one of the sources of the seed pearls

Seed pearl jewelry became popular in Europe during the late Georgian period, in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, and the early Victorian period from 1837 to 1860. Seed pearls needed for the designing of this jewelry came from two main sources in the world at that time, viz. China and Madras in India. The origin of these pearls, is the saltwater pearl oyster, Pinctada radiata, the most prolific seed pearl producing oyster in the world, since ancient times. Even though Madras, was mentioned as a source of seed pearls in the past, Madras was actually the port under the control of the British, from where the seed pearls were exported. The waters off Madras, off the southeastern coast of India, had hardly any oyster resources for exploitation. The question next arises, from where did the seed pearls exported from Madras, originate ? These seed pearls actually originated from the Gulf of Mannar, one of the most ancient sources of pearls in the world, and the natural home of Pinctada radiata. The pearl banks of the Gulf of Mannar, were situated in the Kondaichchi Bay, on the Sri Lankan (Ceylon) side of the Gulf, and off the coast of Tinnelvelly, in Tuticorin on the Indian side of the Gulf. The pearls banks on the Sri Lankan side of the Gulf were much richer than the ones on the Indian side. In fact George Frederick Kunz in his book, "The Book of the Pearl,"states that the quantity of seed pearls obtained in the Ceylon pearl fishery exceeds that of any other fishery in any part of the world. The seed pearls produced in the Ceylon pearl fishery were purchased in bulk by the Indian Chetties, who carried them to Madras, from where they exported them to Europe, after drilling and stringing them with horsehair or silk. Tinnelvelly pearl fishery also produced substantial quantities of seed pearls, which also found their way to Madras, before they were exported.


The other source of seed pearls were the waters off the southern China coast and the coast of Japan

In China, seed pearls were produced by Pinctada species closely related to Pictada radiata, such as Pinctada fucata (Akoya pearl oyster) or Pinctada martensii (Akoya-gai pearl oyster), which occur off the waters of China, Korea and Japan. The seed pearls produced were drilled, strung together with horsehair and exported to Europe. According to Kunz, the Chinese seed pearls, were drilled with a fine drill hole, through which even a silk thread will not pass. Such seed pearls could be strung together only with horsehair. On the other hand, seed pearls exported from Madras, had a larger drill hole, through which silk or horsehair could pass. and either one of them could be used in stringing them.


History of the Usage of Seed Pearl Jewelry in America

Seed pearl jewelry were first introduced into America from Europe during the Federal period

Seed pearl jewelry were first introduced into America from Europe, during the Federal period, soon after the revolution. The symbolic meanings attached to seed pearl jewelry in Europe, were also adopted by the people of America, such as the qualities of purity and innocence associated with them, and the tradition of giving them as gifts to young girls on their 18th birthday, and to young brides at the time of their marriage. However, in America seed pearl jewelry eventually became popular among women of all age groups and became fashionable and accepted wear for all formal occasions in the mid-19th century. However, the trend continued in America until the end of the 19th-century, where as in Britain it died down in the mid-Victorian period in the 1860s, with the onset of the period of mourning for Queen Victoria's husband, Prince Albert, who died in 1861.


Seed pearl jewelry were first produced in America by Henry Dubosq in the 1820s or 1830s

Seed pearl jewelry were first produced in America in the 1820s or 1830s, by Henry Dubosq, who started an industry to produce seed pearl jewelry, after importing different types of seed pearl jewelry from Europe, and studying how they were made, by dismantling and reassembling them carefully using horsehair. Dubosq imported his seed pearl requirements from Europe initially in the form of strands strung with horsehair, but later imported his requirements directly from the source in China and Madras in India. Some of the pieces of seed pearl jewelry he designed even surpassed in beauty those designed in Europe. Tiffany's which set up their business in New York, America in 1837, as a stationary and fancy goods emporium, and later converted to a jewelry manufacturing and and selling firm in 1853, under Charles Tiffany, also began manufacturing seed pearl jewelry in keeping with the fashion trends of the day, and put out an exquisitely crafted seed pearl jewelry suite on display in 1855, which was one of the Principal exhibits at the Tiffany's stall, at the International Exposition held at the Crystal Palace, in New York.

President Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the United States

President Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the United States

Abraham Lincoln - A Short Biography

Abraham Lincoln is credited for successfully chartering the nation through the difficult period of the devastating civil war and permanently abolishing slavery in the United States

Ranked by scholars as one of the greatest of all U.S. Presidents, Abraham Lincoln, who was elected as the First Republican President of the United States in November 1860, served as its 16th President from 1861 to 1865, and is credited with successfully chartering the destinies of his country through one of its most tumultuous periods, that threatened the unity and territorial integrity of the nation. The crisis that faced the nation, during this period, known as the American Civil War, was the greatest internal crisis the nation had to deal with, since its founding in 1776, following the war of independence from Britain. He directed all his energies in executing the war against the breakaway Confederate States of America, appointing the most capable generals, and closely supervising the war effort. While the war effort against the breakaway states, was being successfully executed, he simultaneously began the introduction of legislation to abolish slavery in America, by first implementing the Emancipation Proclamation in January 1863, that freed slaves in territories not under Union control. As the Union armies advanced in the Southern States, they liberated the slaves held by their adversaries, and eventually over 3 million slaves held in the Confederate territory were freed. Thus, the Emancipation Proclamation enabled the abolition of slavery in the rebel states, to be made an official goal of the war, apart from its main objective, saving the Union. Lincoln then introduced the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, to permanently abolish slavery throughout the nation. He personally lobbied individual Congressmen for the Amendment, which was passed by the Congress in early 1865, shortly before his death. At the famous Gettysburg Address of November 19, 1863, delivered at the dedication of the Soldier's National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, Abraham Lincoln redefined the Civil War as a struggle not merely for the Union, but as a "new birth of freedom"that would bring true equality to all of its citizens, and that would also create a unified nation in which states' rights were no longer dominant. Fortunately, Abraham Lincoln was able to achieve both these objectives, before his untimely assassination, and lay a solid foundation to ensure that the government of the people, by the people and for the people would be consolidated, and shall not perish from the earth.

Lincoln with his cabinet in July, 1862 discussing the draft of the Emancipation Proclamation.

Lincoln with his cabinet in July, 1862 discussing the draft of the Emancipation Proclamation.

His Early Life

Abraham Lincoln was the descendant of an early English settler, Samuel Lincoln, from England, who settled in Massachusetts in 1637

Abraham Lincoln, was born on February 12, 1809, in a single-room log cabin to a family of farmers, in a farm in southeast Hardin County, Kentucky, known as the Sinking Spring Farm, owned by his father. His father Thomas Lincoln was a descendant of an early English settler, Samuel Lincoln from Hingham, England, who settled in Massachusetts in 1637.


The family migrated from Massachusetts to Kentucky in 1782, where his grandfather also known as Abraham Lincoln was killed in an Indian raid

His grandfather, also named Abraham Lincoln, migrated from Massachusetts to Kentucky in 1782, where he came to own large acreages of farmland, and met with an untimely death in 1786, ambushed and killed by an Indian raid. Thomas Lincoln his father was born in 1778, and was just 8 years old when his grandfather was killed. Thomas Lincoln married Nancy Hanks in 1806, and their first child, a daughter who was named Sarah, was born the following year.


Thomas Lincoln's second child, was born in 1809, in a log-cabin of the Sinking Spring farm and was named Abraham, in memory of his father who was killed in the Indian raid

In 1808, Thomas bought a farm called Sinking Spring, near Hodgenville, Kentucky, where he lived in a log cabin. Thomas Lincoln's second child, a son, was born on February 12, 1809, in the log cabin of this farm, and was named Abraham Lincoln in memory of his father, who was killed in the Indian raid. In the spring of 1811, the Lincoln family moved again to another farm on Knob Creek, ten miles from Sinking Spring, where a third child, a son, Thomas was born the following year, but died in infancy.


Lincoln attends school briefly in 1816, which was interrupted by the family migrating from Kentucky to Indiana

In 1815, at the age of six, young Abraham, attends a log school house, where he is exposed to the elementary skills of reading and writing. In 1816, Abraham briefly attends school, which was interrupted by the family migrating to the neighboring State of Indiana in the north, after crossing the Ohio River, where they settle in the backwoods of Indiana, starting a new life in Perry County.


The migration of the family from Kentucky to Indiana appears to be on moral grounds

Various reasons have been given for the family's migration from Kentucky to Indiana. One of them appears to be on moral grounds, being a family belonging to a fundamentalist Baptist Church, that preached high moral standards, that frowned upon alcohol consumption and dancing, and considered slavery to be cruel and inhuman. Thomas Lincoln disapproved of slavery on religious grounds and refused to engage slaves to operate his farms. Thus, he was compelled to operate at a disadvantage when compared to his neighbor's farms, and was finding it difficult to compete economically with farms operated by slaves. The teachings of the Church and his father's beliefs, conditioned young Abraham's mind against the evils of slavery, and explains the staunch anti-slavery stand taken by Abraham Lincoln, throughout his life.


A second reason given for migration was the difficulty in getting land deeds to prove ownership of property, in Kentucky

A second reason given for the family's migration from Kentucky to Indiana, was the difficulty faced in Kentucky, in getting land deeds to prove ones ownership of property. No proper U.S. survey had been conducted in Kentucky at that time, and farmers often found it difficult to prove title to their property. Land disputes were the order of the day with contending parties fighting for their properties in court, at great legal expense.


The shooting of a wild turkey by young Abraham in 1817, causes great remorse and guilt and the avoiding of hunting and fishing for the rest of his life. The incident brings out the soft disposition of Lincoln's character

In 1817 and 1818, at the age of 8 years and 9 years respectively, two significant events took place in young Abrahams life, one of which has a bearing on his character for the rest of his life. The first incident that took place in February 1817, was the shooting of a wild turkey by young Abraham Lincoln. After the killing of the turkey, Abraham showed great remorse and guilt over the killing, and avoided hunting and fishing for the rest of his life, and did not like killing animals, even for food. This incident and his subsequent behavior clearly brings out the soft disposition of his character, and his staunch opposition against cruelty to slaves, that shaped his future policies. Even the prosecution of the war against the breakaway States of the South, that necessarily entailed killing of human lives, would undoubtedly have caused great pain of mind for the sensitive Lincoln, even though he was compelled to choose this course of action to preserve the Union. In 1818, at the age of 9, young Abraham is kicked in the head by a horse, and knocked unconscious and believed to be dead for a short time. To what extent this incident would have had a bearing on his future life is not known.


Abraham Lincoln's mother dies of "milk sickness"in 1818, when he was 9 years old

In 1818, when Lincoln was 9 years old, his mother Nancy Hanks Lincoln, who was 34 years old died of "milk sickness,"a 19th-century disease that affected individuals who ate diary products or meat from a cow that has fed on white snakeroot plants. The cause of the sickness was not known at that time, that devastated many settlements in America, killing almost half the population of the settlements. Once, the cause of the disease was identified by Dr. Anna Pierce Hobbs Bixby (1808-1869), a campaign was begun to eradicate the white snakeroot plant from the area, that also eradicated the disease. After his mother's death, in 1819 his father, Thomas Lincoln married a widow, Sarah Bush Johnston. Thomas became stepfather to three of Sarah's children, and Sarah became stepmother to Abraham Lincoln. The void created in Abraham Lincoln's life by the death of his own mother, was filled by his stepmother, towards whom he develops a great affection.


Abraham Lincoln had only about 18 months of formal schooling with interruptions, and was mostly self-educated gathering knowledge mainly by reading borrowed books during his spare time

Abraham who was now around 10 years old helped his father in the farm, plowing and planting, and later also working for hire for neighbors. He was busy in the farm during spring and summer time, and attended school in the fall and winter. This had been his routine during his stay in Indiana with his family until 1830. During this period he became an avid reader, reading books during his free time, mostly borrowed from friends and neighbors. His formal education, with many interruptions, add up to only about 18 months. Thus, Abraham Lincoln was mostly self-educated, gathering knowledge mainly from books, which he read during his spare time.


At age 19, Abraham Lincoln makes a flatboat trip to New Orleans carrying farm produce, and observes a slave auction

In January, 1828, Lincoln lost his sister Sarah, the eldest in the family, who was married and died while giving birth to her child after her first pregnancy. In April of the same year, Lincoln who was now 19, together with his friend Allen Gentry, carried a flatboat of farm produce to New Orleans along the river Ohio and Mississippi. The trip was a successful one except for a bitter experience of fighting off a robbery attack by seven black men. For the first time in his life, Abraham Lincoln also had the opportunity to observe a slave auction at New Orleans. The attack by seven black men on Abraham Lincoln, did not prejudice his mind against the black race, and in later life he fights for their freedom and emancipation.


Thomas Lincoln again moves his family to Illinois in 1830, where they settle in Macon County

The year 1830, was again an year of instability for Abraham Lincoln and his family, as Thomas Lincoln decided to move again - probably fearing a milk sickness outbreak, which at that time was mistakenly believed to be contagious - this time to Illinois, covering a distance of 200 miles, where they settle on uncleared public land, along the Sangamon River near Decatur, in Macon County, Illinois.


Abraham Lincoln becomes independent of his parents family and settles in the village of New Salem

In 1831, Thomas Lincoln again relocates his family to Coles County in Illinois, but Abraham Lincoln refuses to move with the family, settling down instead in New Salem in Sangamon County

The following year Thomas Lincoln again relocated his family to a new homestead in Coles County, Illinois, but Abraham Lincoln refused to follow the family. Instead he struck out on his own, and settled in the village of New Salem in Sangamon County, where he worked as a clerk in the village store, and was given accommodation in the back of the store. Later in the year he again made a trip to New Orleans, accompanied by friends, carrying goods from New Salem, by flatboat along the Sangamon, Illinois and Mississippi Rivers. It was while in New Salem, that Abraham Lincoln, who was 6 feet 4 inches tall (1.93 meters) wrestled with a man named Jack Armstrong, a keen contest that resulted in a draw. Lincoln's craving for knowledge continued in New Salem, where he on his own learnt basic mathematics, read Shakespeare and Robert Burns, and participated in a local debating society, picking up the skills of debating. It was in New Salem that he made his first political speech, arguing in favor of developing navigation on the Sangamon River.


His early political career and self-education as a lawyer

Lincoln's political career begins in March 1832, at the age of 23 years when he sought election to the Illinois General Assembly

His interest in politics led him to seek election for the Illinois General Assembly in March 1832, when he was just 23 years old. However, soon afterwards the Black Hawk War breaks out, and Lincoln enlists in the army in April 1832, and is appointed Captain of his Rifle Company. He served 3 months in the army, but never got the opportunity to fight in a battle. His company is disbanded soon afterwards. Lincoln had enough time to campaign throughout the County, before the August 6, elections. He fought on a platform to develop navigation on the Sangamon River, but failed to be elected.


Lincoln is successfully elected to the Illinois General Assembly in 1834 and then again in 1836. He receives his license as a lawyer in 1836, after studying law on his own

In 1833, the village store where Lincoln worked went bankrupt. He then went into partnership with a friend William Berry, and purchased another village store in New Salem, which too failed, leaving him badly in debt. Lincoln is then appointed Post Master of New Salem, and in autumn of that year was appointed Deputy County Surveyor. In 1834, he ran again for the Illinois General Assembly as a member of the Whig Party, and was successfully elected on August 4, at the age of 24. He then realized the importance of having an educational qualification to advance his political career, and decided to study law, again on his own, by reading books on law. He was helped by John T. Stuart, a professional lawyer who allowed Lincoln the use of his law library. In August, 1836, Lincoln is re-elected to the Illinois General Assembly, and is now a leader of the Whig Party. He represented Sangamon County in the General Assembly. In September, 1836, Lincoln received his law license, and moved to Springfield, Illinois in April 1837, where he began to practice law with John T. Stuart, who helped him in his studies. Under the guidance of John T. Stuart, Lincoln turned out to be an able and successful lawyer, with a reputation of excellence in cross-examination and closing arguments.

Sketch of young Abraham Lincoln

Sketch of young Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln's illustrious career as a lawyer

From then on Lincoln's political and legal career make simultaneous progress, being re-elected to the Illinois General Assembly for a 3rd and 4th time, in 1838 and 1840 respectively, becoming the Whig Floor Leader in 1838. In 1837, Lincoln was one of those who initiated the move to shift the capital of Illinois from Vandalia to Springfield. One of the highlights of his legal career came in 1838, when he successfully defended Henry Truett in a famous murder case. His popularity as a successful lawyer further increased in 1839, when he traveled through nine counties in central and eastern Illinois, as a lawyer on the 8th Judicial circuit. In that year he was also admitted to practice in the United States Circuit Court. Another highlight of his legal career came in 1840, when Lincoln argued his first case before the Illinois Supreme Court. Lincoln initially represented transportation interests such as river and railroad transport, but later he appeared in all types of cases including criminal and murder trials. His most notable criminal case came in 1858, in which he successfully defended William Armstrong accused of the murder of James Preston Metsker. During his legal career Lincoln appeared 175 times in front of the Illinois Supreme Court, 51 times as soul counsel, out of which 31 were decided in his favor;statistics that prove his excellence as a lawyer.


Lincoln's marriage and family

Lincoln's first love interest

Lincoln's first love interest was Ann Rutledge, whom he met for first time, when he moved into New Salem in 1831. He was then 22 and she 18 years of age. By 1835, they were romantically involved, but unfortunately the same year on August 25, she died, probably of typhoid fever, at the age of 22.

His second romantic involvement

Lincoln's second romantic involvement was with Mary Owens of Kentucky, whom he met for the first time in 1834, when she visited her sister Elizabeth Abell, who was Lincoln's friend. Lincoln agreed to a match proposed by Elizabeth between him and her sister, and when Mary Owens returned to New Salem in November 1836, Lincoln courted her for sometime. However, in December 1836, Lincoln had an episode of severe depression, which perhaps interfered with their relationship, and both of them had second thoughts about continuing their relationship. Mary returned to Kentucky, and Lincoln moved to Springfield, after his recovery in April 1837, to begin his law practice with John T. Stuart. From Springfield Lincoln wrote to Mary, saying that he would not blame her if she broke off the relationship, but she never cared to reply, and the courtship was over.

Lincoln gets engaged to Mary Todd, but the engagement is broken before the marriage could take place

In December, 1839, Lincoln meets Mary Todd, a cousin of his partner John T. Stuart at a dance in Springield. In the fall of 1840, Lincoln gets engaged to Mary Todd, who hailed from a wealthy slave holding family, based in Lexington, Kentucky. The wedding was set for January 1, 1841, but Lincoln broke off the engagement before the marriage, probably due to another episode of depression he had during this period. In March, 1841, Lincoln entered into a new law partnership with Stephen T. Logan or William Herndon. In August 1841, Lincoln made a trip to Kentucky by steamboat, where he saw 12 slaves chained together. In 1842, Lincoln did not seek re-election to the State Legislature, after serving it for four consecutive terms, since 1834.

Lincoln meets Mary Todd again in the summer of 1842, and their marriage take place in November, 1842

In the summer of that year, Lincoln met Mary Todd at a party, and they resume their courtship. Then, on November 4, 1842, Lincoln who was 33 years old, married Mary Todd, who was 24, the marriage taking place in the Springfield mansion of Mary's married sister.

The marriage produces four sons of whom only the eldest son Robert Todd Lincoln survive into adulthood

On August 1, 1843, the couple had their first child, a son who was named Robert Todd Lincoln. In May, 1844, the Lincoln family moved to their own house in Springfield, which they purchased for $1,500. On March 10, 1846, a second son Edward Baker Lincoln was born, who died around 4 years later on February 1, 1850, possibly of tuberculosis. Their grief over the loss of Edward was somewhat lessened when a 3rd son was born on December 21, 1850, who was named William Wallace Lincoln. However, even Willie did not survive into adulthood, and died of fever, aged 11, on February 20, 1862, in Washington D.C. during President Lincoln's first term in office. A fourth son Thomas "Tad"Lincoln, was born on April 4, 1853, but he too died young at the age of 18, on July 16, 1871, in Chicago, six years after President Lincoln's assassination. Thus out of the four children, only the eldest son Robert Todd Lincoln, survived into adulthood.

The loss of most of her sons and her husband by assassination has a disastrous effect on Mary Todd Lincoln, who is committed to a mental asylum in 1875

The death of their sons had a deep effect on both Lincoln and Mary, but later the assassination of President Lincoln, had a disastrous effect on Mary Todd Lincoln, who found herself unable to cope with the loss of her husband and most of her children, ending up as a psychiatric patient, who was committed by her only living son Robert Lincoln to a mental health asylum in 1875.

President Abraham Lincoln reading a book with his last son, Thomas (Tad) Lincoln.

President Abraham Lincoln reading a book with his last son, Thomas (Tad) Lincoln.

Lincoln's entry into into National politics

Lincoln is elected to the U.S. House of Representatives for a 2-year term in 1846

Abraham Lincoln served the State Legislature of Illinois as member of the Whig Party, representing Sangamon County for four consecutive terms, from 1934 to 1842. In 1842, he did not seek re-election to the State Legislature. In 1843, he tried for the Whig nomination for election to the U.S. Congress, but was unsuccessful. In the 1844, Presidential election he campaigned on behalf of Whig candidate Henry Clay, whose policies and leadership qualities he always admired. On May 1, 1846, he was nominated as Whig candidate for the U.S. Congress, and was successfully elected to the U.S. House of Representatives on August 3, 1846.

Congressman Abraham Lincoln, 1947-1949

Congressman Abraham Lincoln, 1947-1949

Lincoln became a severe critic of President Polk, moving anti-war resolutions in the Congress at the time of the Mexican-American war

During his two year tenure as a House member, he remained a dedicated Whig, making eloquent speeches advocating his party policies, and toeing the party line at voting time on all crucial issues. He spoke out against the Mexican-American war, that began with a confrontation on territory disputed by Mexico and Texas, which he blamed on President Polk's desire for military glory, characterized by him as an attractive rainbow that rises in showers of blood. In a spot resolution introduced in the Congress, against the prosecution of the war, Lincoln pointed out that President Polk had insisted that Mexican soldiers had "invaded our territory and shed the blood of our fellow citizens on our own soil."Moving the resolution, Lincoln demanded that President Polk show Congress, the exact spot on which blood had been shed, and prove that the spot was on American soil. Congress neither enacted the resolution, nor even debate it. However, the introduction of the resolution, widely reported in the newspapers, resulted in drastic erosion of political support for Lincoln in his own district.


Lincoln declines offer of governorship of Oregon territory by President Zachary Taylor, and temporarily retires from politics until 1854

In the 1848 presidential election, Lincoln was a key supporter of Zachary Taylor's candidacy right from the beginning, campaigning for him in Maryland, and Boston, Massachusetts and then in Illinois. After Zachary Taylor's victory, Lincoln whose two-year term as House member ended in 1848, was offered the governorship for the Oregon territory, which he declined as the territory leaned heavily towards the democrats, and doubted whether they would elect him as governor or senator, after they were admitted to the Union. Lincoln then returned to Springfield, Illinois from Washington, and temporarily leaves politics, concentrating mainly on his law practice.

In early 1949, Lincoln had been working on a device to lessen the draft of a river craft by pushing horizontal floats into the water alongside the hull, the floats serving as temporary ballast tanks. On May 22, 1849, Abraham Lincoln was granted U.S. Patent No. 6,469 for a "device to buoy vessels over shoals."  Lincoln's idea was never commercialized, but he still created history by becoming the only person to hold a patent and serve as the President of the United States. He again resumed his travels in the 8th Judicial Circuit and covered over 400 miles in 14 counties in Illinois, and his reputation as an outstanding lawyer further increased. During this temporary period of retirement from politics, he suffered personal losses, such as the death of his second son Edward on February 1, 1850, and his father on January 17, 1851. There were also happy moments, such as the birth of his 3rd son, William Wallace Lincoln, on December 21, 1850, and his 4th son, Thomas "Tad"Lincoln on April 4, 1853.


Lincoln returns to national politics in 1854 in response to the Kansas-Nebraska Act

The Missouri Compromise of 1820 was an agreement reached between the pro-slavery and anti-slavery factions in the United States Congress, that placed limits on the extent of slavery, prohibiting slavery in the former Louisiana Territory north of the parallel, 36°30'N except within the boundaries of the proposed state of Missouri. In 1854, the Kansas-Nebraska Act effectively repealed the provisions of the Missouri Compromise, forbidding slavery in the former Louisiana Territory, north of the parallel 36°30'N. Democratic Senator of Illinois, Stephen A. Douglas, argued that in a democracy the people should be given the right to decide, whether to allow slavery in their territory, instead of decisions being imposed by the National Congress. This idea of popular sovereignty as a solution to the slavery impasse, was incorporated into the Kansas-Nebraska Act. The Act that was designed to perpetuate a system considered inhuman by Lincoln, aroused his anti-slavery feelings again, and prompted him to re-enter national politics, with greater determination than ever. with the ultimate goal of rooting out slavery and its evils from American society. Abraham Lincoln's landmark, "Peoria Speech"of October 16, 1854, clearly outlined his position on slavery, that he maintained for the next 6 years, until he won the presidency in 1660.

[The Act has a] declared indifference, but as I must think, covert real zeal for the spread of slavery, I cannot but hate it. I hate it because of the monstrous injustice of slavery itself. I hate it because it deprives our republican example of its just influence in the world —enables the enemies of free institutions, with plausibility, to taunt us as hypocrites —causes the real friends of freedom to doubt our sincerity, and especially because it forces so many really good men amongst ourselves into an open war with the very fundamental principles of civil liberty —criticizing the Declaration of Independence, and insisting that there is no right principle of action but self-interest


Lincoln's first failed attempt to gain entry into the U.S. Senate in 1854

In 1854, Lincoln was again elected to the Illinois State Legislature, but declined the seat, in order to run for the Senate as a Whig. In 1855, Lincoln led in the first six rounds of voting in the state legislature, to be elected as Senator, but later instructed his supporters to vote for Lyman Trumbull, to prevent the pro-Nebraska candidate, Joel Aldrich Matteson from winning. Trumbull was elected as Senator in the 10th round of voting. In 1856, Lincoln was the driving force behind the organization of the new Republican Party, drawing on remnants of the old Whig Party, and disenchanted Democratic, Free Soil and Liberty party members. At the Republican convention of 1856, Lincoln was placed second in the contest to win the party's nomination as vice-presidential candidate, receiving 110 votes, and bringing him national attention. Lincoln, campaigned in Illinois, for the Republican presidential candidate, John C. Fremont. In June, 1857, in Springfield, Lincoln spoke against the Dred Scott decision.


A second failed attempt to enter the U.S. Senate in 1858, enhances Lincoln's political reputation and national profile, that enabled him to present himself as a serious contender for the Republication nomination for the presidency in 1860

In June, 1858, Lincoln, accepting the Republican nomination for the Senate against Democrat Stephen A. Douglas, delivered his famous "House Divided"speech, at the Republican state convention at Springfield, that created an awareness of the dangers of disunity caused by the slavery debate, and helped to rally all Republicans across the North. In the run up to the election, Lincoln engaged Stephen A. Douglas, in a series of seven debates attended by big audiences, that has gone down as the most famous political debates in American History. The main theme of Lincoln's arguments, was that Slave Power, was threatening the values of republicanism, whereas that of Douglas was on the supremacy of democracy giving local settlers the right to decide whether to allow slavery or not in their territories. At the elections that followed, the Democrats won more seats in the state legislature than the Republicans, and the legislature re-elected Douglas to the Senate, by a vote of 54 to 46. Even though Lincoln failed to be elected to the Senate for a second time, the Lincoln-Douglas debates enhanced his political reputation and national profile, that paved the way for him to present a formidable challenge as a prospective presidential candidate in 1860.


Lincoln wins the Republican presidential nomination at the Republican National Convention held in Chicago on May 18, 1860

In February, 1860, Lincoln made a great impression on a New York audience, when he made one of the most important speeches of his career at the invitation of New York party leaders to give a speech at the Cooper Union grouping powerful republicans, at which he gave an indication that he would be a contender for the Republican presidential nomination. The Illinois Republican State Convention, held on May 9-10, 1860 in Decatur, endorsed Lincoln aspirations to run for the presidency. The Republican National Convention was held in Chicago on May 18, 1860, at which Lincoln won the Republican nomination as the presidential candidate, on the third ballot, beating other prospective candidates such as William H. Seward and Salmon P. Chase. Lincoln's success in winning the Republican nomination is attributed by historians to several causes, such as, his moderate stand on slavery compared to his other contenders, holding of the convention in Lincoln's home state, the lucky circumstances that favored him, and above all Lincoln's eloquence and skill as an experienced politician. Slave Power was blamed by Lincoln for tightening its grip on the national government with the Dred Scott decision, and the presidency of James Buchanan, that was disadvantageous to the Northern States, a viewpoint on which most Republicans agreed with Lincoln.

Stephen A. Douglas, Lincoln's rival at the Senatorial elections in 1858, with whom he participated in a series of debates, known as the Lincoln-Douglas debates, received the Democratic presidential nomination, as the candidate of the northern democrats. During the Democratic Convention, delegates from 11 slave states walked out, as they disagreed with Stephen Douglas' often advocated position on popular sovereignty. This breakaway Democratic faction put forward their own presidential candidate, John C. Breckinridge.

Abraham Lincoln in 1860

Abraham Lincoln in 1860

The presidential election campaign of 1860

Prior to winning the nomination Lincoln had made many landmark speeches, on several occasions, outlining his stand on many outstanding issues, including the slavery impasse, that faced the Union, and his speeches had been given wide publicity by all newspapers, and his debates with Stephen A. Douglas, published and widely circulated. The country was well aware of his stand on all major issues. In fact some of the southern states had already hinted that they would leave the Union if Lincoln was elected as President. However, the possibility of such a secession taking place had always been discounted by Lincoln and his republican supporters. Under the circumstances both the Republican Party and the presidential candidate, Lincoln felt, that there was no need for any more public speeches to expound his position. Moreover, a country-wide campaign by the candidate would have exposed him to the dangers inherent in such a campaign, including assassination.

The party therefore decided on an entirely different campaign strategy, that laid emphasis on other party leaders and campaign workers, taking on the responsibility of carrying out a nationwide campaign. Thousands of Republican speakers spoke at campaign rallies, attended by State leaders and organizers of the Republican Party, focusing on party policies, and on Lincoln's life story, emphasizing his childhood poverty, and extolling the virtues of the free American society that was taking shape, in keeping with the dream of the founders of the nation, that enabled a common farm boy, to work his way to the top, purely by his own efforts, that was subsequently referred to by historians, by the well known phrase "From the log-cabin to the White House."Abraham Lincoln was portrayed as an outcome of the American dream initiated by its founders. Tons of campaign posters and leaflets were produced and hundreds of newspaper editorials written. The total production of campaign literature by the Republican Party, dwarfed that of the combined opposition. A pamphlet produced by a Chicago Tribune writer, giving details of Lincoln's life, sold one million copies.


Abraham Lincoln is elected as the 16th President of the United States, on November 6, 1860

The culmination of the presidential election campaign of 1860, in which four candidates vied for the Presidency, was the election of Abraham Lincoln as the 16th President of the United States, on November 6, 1860. Lincoln was the first Republican to be elected as President, winning entirely on the strength of his support in the North. Although the turnout was very high, 82.2%, the results of the election reflected the deep divisions in the country. Lincoln won the free northern states. Northern Democrat Douglas won Missouri, and split New Jersey with Lincoln. John Bell of the new Constitutional Union Party, won Virginia, Tennessee and Kentucky, and Southern Democrat John Breckinridge won the rest of the southern states. Lincoln won only in two of the 996 counties in all the southern states. Lincoln received the highest number of popular votes, 1,866,452, followed by Douglas with 1,376,957 votes, Breckinridge with 849,781 votes, and Bell with 588,789 votes. The important electoral college votes went in favor of Lincoln, who obtained 180 electoral college votes, as opposed to 123 votes obtained by all his opponents combined together.


Secession begins even before the inauguration of the President-elect, Abraham Lincoln on March 4, 1861

As the election of Abraham Lincoln as president was confirmed, the Southern States made clear their intention to leave the Union. South Carolina gave the lead by leaving the Union on December 20, 1860, followed by Florida, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas. The seven breakaway states joined together to form a new nation, known as the Confederate States of America. The upper south, states bordering the northern states, such as Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri, and Arkansas, initially rejected the secessionist appeal. Both incumbent President Buchanan and President-elect Abraham Lincoln refused to recognize the Confederacy, which selected Jefferson Davis as their provisional President on February 9, 1861.


First inauguration of President Abraham Lincoln

In the meantime, preparations were taking place in Washington, for the inauguration of President Abraham Lincoln on March 4, 1861. President Lincoln arrived in Washington D.C. by train in disguise, evading possible assassins in Baltimore. The inauguration of President Abraham Lincoln took place on an inaugural platform in front of the United States, Capitol building. Extraordinary security measures were put in place to safeguard the President, that included sharpshooters watching the inaugural platform, while soldiers on horseback patrolled the surrounding area. In his first inaugural address, President Lincoln stressed on the perpetuity of the Union and the constitution. The United States Constitution he said aimed at forming a more perfect Union of states, and it would require the agreement of all parties to rescind it. He also sounded a conciliatory note, when he said that he supported the Corwin Amendment to the Constitution, which had been approved by the Congress the previous day. The amendment protected slavery in those states, where it already existed. Lincoln believed that the amendment would stave off secession, reunite the states and prevent certain war. He also wrote personally to every governor seeking their support in ratifying the Corwin Amendment.

President Abraham Lincoln's first inauguration in front of the U.S. Capitol building.

President Abraham Lincoln's first inauguration in front of the U.S. Capitol building.

Civil War begins on April 12, 1861 when Confederate forces attacked Union troops at Fort Sumter forcing their surrender

The failure of the Peace Conference of 1861, rendered legislative compromise virtually impossible. Lincoln still believed in a peaceful resolution of the crisis, and decided against taking any action against the South, unless the Unionists themselves were attacked first. On April 12, 1861, this finally happened, when Confederate forces opened fire at Union troops on Fort Sumter in Charleston, and forced them to surrender, heralding the beginning of the Civil War. On April 15, 1861, President Lincoln issues a proclamation calling detachments from States, still loyal to the Union, totaling 75,000 troops, and convening the Congress. He set the primary objectives of the mobilization as preserving the Union, protecting the capital and recapturing the forts that had fallen to Confederate troops. The issue of the proclamation precipitated the secession of borderline states, beginning with Virginia on April 17, and followed by North Carolina, Tennessee and Arkansas, within five weeks, increasing the number of states in the Confederacy to eleven. Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland and Delaware threatened secession, but Lincoln negotiated with their state leaders urgently, promising not to interfere with slavery already existing in their states. The President also issued the proclamation of blockade against the southern ports, and authorized the suspension of the Writ of Habeas Corpus. On April 19, as Union troops headed southwards towards Washington D.C. to protect the capital, angry secessionist mobs attacked them at Baltimore, Maryland, that resulted in the arrest of the Mayor of Baltimore and other Maryland politicians, who were imprisoned at Fort McHenry. Rebel leaders in other border areas were also arrested and held in military prisons without trial.


The Progress of the Civil War

General McClellan is appointed as commander of the Union army after the defeat of the Union forces at the first Battle of Bull Run on July 21, 1861

The first military engagement between the Union troops and Confederation troops took place on July 21, 1861 at Bull Run in northern Virginia, resulting in an embarrassing defeat for the Union troops, who withdrew to Washington. The consequences of this debacle was the resignation of Winfield Scott as the commander of the Union army, who was replaced by General McClellan on November 1, 1861, who was previously appointed as commander of the Army of the Potomac, on July 27, 1861.


President Lincoln takes an active part in planning out war strategy with his commanders

Lincoln, in spite of his lack of experience in military affairs took an active part in planning out war strategy, together with his commanders. He instructed his commanders to give priority to ensure that the capital Washington was well defended, and to conduct an aggressive campaign for a quick and decisive victory, that would satisfy the demands of the people of the northern states. Lincoln issued a General War Order on January 27, 1862, calling for an advance of Union troops beginning February 22, 1862.


General McClellan is removed as overall commander of Union troops, with Lincoln himself taking over temporary command. John Pope is appointed as commander of the Army of Virginia

However, a difference of opinion arose between President Lincoln and General McClellan on plans to attack and capture Richmond, the capital of the Confederation. While General McClellan advocated a more cautious approach, taking time to plan out an assault from the peninsula side, that involved landing troops by boat on the peninsula, known as the Peninsula Campaign;Lincoln preferred a movement of troops towards Richmond from the north, while keeping sufficient troops to defend the capital Washington. The clash of opinions resulted in the removal of General McClellan from overall command of the Union troops on March 11, 1862, with Lincoln himself taking direct command of the Union armies. Pressured by radical Republicans, Lincoln appointed John Pope, a Republican, as the head of the new Army of Virginia.


Confederate forces launch a surprise attack on the troops of General Ulysses S. Grant at Shiloh, on April 6, 1862

Then on April 6, 1862, Confederate forces launched a surprise attack on the troops of General Ulysses S. Grant, at Shiloh on the Tennessee River. In the battle that ensued 13,000 Union troops and 10,000 Confederate troops were killed or wounded. Following this second debacle, President Lincoln was pressurized to relieve Grant of his command, but successfully resists all pressures and retains his command.


The second Battle of Bull Run on August 29-30, 1862, under the command of General John Pope, also results in a humiliating defeat for the Union army

In late August 1862, Lincoln orders General John Pope to move his Army of Virginia towards Richmond from the north, one of Lincoln's own strategic initiatives, which the General complied with. The movement resulted in the second Battle of Bull Run in northern Virginia , on August 29 and 30, 1862. Pope's army was soundly defeated in this battle, partly blamed on General McClellan's failure to reinforce General Pope, whose Army of Virginia retreated to Washington. General John pope is then relieved of his command, by the President.


The Battle of Antietam on September 17, 1862, under the command of General McClellan is the first major victory for the Union troops after three consecutive debacles

The Union troops had now suffered three consecutive military defeats at the hands of the Confederate troops. However, President Lincoln was not discouraged and had complete faith in the capabilities of his troops and commanders. Despite his dissatisfaction with McClellan's failure to reinforce Pope, President Lincoln restored him to command all forces around Washington, to the utter dismay of his cabinet. Two days after this, on September 17, 1862, General Robert E. Lees' Confederate armies crossed the Potomac River into Maryland, leading to the Battle of Antietam, in which the Confederate armies were stopped by General McClellan and his numerically superior Union forces. By nightfall 26,000 men were killed, wounded or missing, and the first Union victory of the Civil War, has gone down as one of the bloodiest in American history.

President Abraham Lincoln with Major General John A. McClernand and Allan Pinkerton at Antietam, Maryland on October 3rd 1862

President Abraham Lincoln with Major General John A. McClernand and Allan Pinkerton at Antietam, Maryland on October 3rd 1862

The Chief architect of the Antietam victory, General McClellan is relieved of his command and replaced by Ambrose E. Burnside

The victory at Antietam was a booster for the sagging morale of Union troops. Lincoln himself elated by the resounding victory of the Union troops, issued a preliminary Emancipation Proclamation freeing the slaves in the rebel territories, on September 22, 1862, and gave notice that a permanent Emancipation Proclamation, would be issued in January. However, after the 1862 midterm elections, the chief architect of the landmark victory at Antietam, Democrat General McClellan was relieved of his command, and replaced by Republican Ambrose E. Burnside, as commander of the Army of the Potomac. This action by President Lincoln against a war hero, mainly instituted at the insistence of 13 Republican Governors, who met at the War Governor's Conference, prepared the ground for General McClellan to oppose him as the Democratic presidential candidate, two years later, in 1864, when he sought re-election for a second term. 


Following the defeat of the Union troops at Fredericksburg, Virginia, on December 13, 1862, Burnside is replaced by Joseph Hooker

Burnside worked in close collaboration with the President, but on December 13, 1862 his Army of the Potomac suffered a costly defeat at Fredericksburg in Virginia, in which 12,653 men were killed on the Union side, and 5.309 men on the Confederate side. On January 1, 1863, President Lincoln issued the final Emancipation Proclamation freeing all slaves in territories held by the Confederate states. On January 25, 1863, the President appointed Joseph Hooker as commander of the Army of the Potomac, replacing Burnside, and on January 29, 1863, General Grant was placed in command of the Army of the West, with orders to capture Vicksburg.


Joseph Hooker is defeated at the Battle of Chancellorsville in Virginia from May 1-4, 1863

Joseph Hooker's capabilities were tested from May 1 to 4, 1863, at the Battle of Chancellorsville in Virginia, in which he was routed by Lee, the Union suffering a loss of 17,000 killed, wounded and missing, and the Confederation losing 13,000. After continuing to command his troops for nearly 2 months, Hooker submitted his resignation, which was accepted.


George E. Meade who replaces Joseph Hooker deals a crushing blow on confederate troops at Gettysburg on June 28, 1863

On June 28, 1863, during the Gettysburg Campaign, the President appointed George E. Meade, as commander of the Army of the Potomac, replacing Hooker. Meade successfully led his troops during the campaign, and on July 3, 1863, the Confederate troops were defeated with heavy losses, at the Battle of Gettysburg. This was the second major victory for the Union forces, but Lincoln complained about Meade's failure to pursue Lee and capture him.


General Ulysses S. Grant defeats Confederate forces at Vicksburg and Chattanooga in the western theatre

One month later on July 4, 1863, General Grant commanding the Army of the West, captured Vicksburg, the last Confederate stronghold on the Mississippi. On September 19, 1863, the Union army again suffered reverses, when they were defeated at Chickamauga in Georgia. Chattanooga in Tennessee then came under Confederate siege, which was broken by Grant's troops of the Army of the West.


Lincoln's Gettysburg address on November 19, 1863, aimed at sustaining public support for the war effort

On November 19, 1863, President Lincoln delivered his famous Gettysburg Address, at a ceremony dedicating the battlefield in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania as a Soldier's National Cemetery. The aim of the address was to sustain public support for the war effort, after the public discontent caused by the March 3, 1863 Act, that introduced military conscription, to boost the ranks of the badly depleted Union Army;a discontent that was manifested by the New York Draft Riots of July 1863. The unpopular compulsory military conscription was later replaced by voluntary military service.


General Ulysses S. Grant is appointed as overall commander of the Union armies

On March 12, 1864, President Lincoln appointed General Ulysses S. Grant as overall commander of the Union armies, replacing George E. Meade. Grant was succeeded by William T. Sherman as commander in the west. Grant's appointment was based on his successes in the battle field in the western theatre, such as the Battles of Vicksburg and Chattanooga. In Ulysses S. Grant. Lincoln found a man who shared his vision of the war. Together, they pursued a series of coordinated offensives in multiple theatres, which after several initial setbacks, began to show results, and turn the tide of the war in favor of the Union Government, and finally carry it to successful conclusion. The initial battles waged by Grant, such as the Battles of Wilderness and Cold Harbor, resulted in high Union losses, but proportionately higher Confederate losses. Grant lost almost a third of his army, and the high casualty figures alarmed the nation. Lincoln was not discouraged, and he together with the Republican Party, made an all out effort to mobilize the support of the people for the war effort throughout the northern states. They gave grant all the support needed and replaced his losses. Abraham Lincoln received his nomination to run for the presidency for a second term on June 8, 1864. On July 18, 1864, he made an appeal for 500,000 volunteers for military service.

Brigadier General Ulysses S. Grant, General-in-Chief of the Union Army

Brigadier General Ulysses S. Grant, General-in-Chief of the Union Army

Grant from West Point to Appomattox

Grant from West Point to Appomattox

  • Graduated at West Point 1843 - Gen. Scott presenting diplomas
  • In the tower at Chapultepec 1847
  • Drilling his Volunteers 1861
  • Fort Donelson 1862
  • The Battle of Shiloh 1862
  • The Siege of Vicksburg 1863
  • The Battle of Chattanooga 1863
  • Commander-in-Chief 1864
  • The Surrender of Gen. Lee 1865

Lincoln and Grant adopt new strategy of destroying infrastructure to weaken morale and the economic ability of the south to continue fighting

On September 2, 1864, the army led by Sherman captured Atlanta. Later, on the advice of Grant, President Lincoln approved Sherman's March to the Sea. As a new war strategy, aimed at weakening southern morale and its economic ability to continue fighting, Lincoln also authorized Grant, to target Confederate infrastructure, such as railroads, bridges and plantations. The new strategy left a trail of destruction, as Sherman's army marched through Georgia, destroying plantations and towns, on their way to the sea. On October 19, 1864 forces led by General Philip H. Sheridan gave a decisive victory to the Union, in the Shenandoah Valley, destroying plantations and towns in the valley. On December 20, 1864, Sherman's forces reached Savannah in Georgia, leaving behind a path of destruction 60 miles wide, all the way from Atlanta.


The fall of the rebel headquarters Richmond, and the surrender of the Confederate army on April 9, 1865

On November 8, 1864, Abraham Lincoln is re-elected as president, with 55% of the popular vote and 212 of 233 electoral votes, a resounding victory that reflected the Presidents popularity, and an endorsement of his military actions. The military victories of Sherman and Sheridan without any doubt boosted Lincoln's chances of victory. Following Lincoln's resounding victory, the President and the united and energized Republican Party, went all out to mobilize support for the war effort, and provided Grant with everything he needed to bring the war to a speedy conclusion, including additional troops. The Confederacy on the other hand were unable to find replacements, and Lee's army shrank with every battle, forcing them to the trenches outside Petersburg, in Virginia, in the face of advancing Union troops. Grant's army relentlessly pounded the positions of Lee's army on the outskirts of Richmond, the Confederate capital. In the face of this relentless onslaught, Lees army finally crumbled and the city's defenses were breached, leading to its fall in early April, 1865. Finally, on April 9, 1865, the Confederate Army led by General Robert E. Lee surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House in Virginia. The symbolic surrender effectively ended the Civil War. Soon afterwards other rebel armies also followed suit, and all hostile military activity came to a close.


Lincoln's visit to Richmond soon after its fall

Just before the end of the war Lincoln visited Grant's headquarters at City Point, Virginia. During this visit he conferred with Grant and Sherman about ending hostilities. Lincoln also visited Richmond soon after its fall and was given a hero's welcome by the freed slaves of the city. While at Richmond, Lincoln made a symbolic gesture of sitting at Jefferson Davis' own desk, as if to say there was only a single president of the United States, who held authority over the entire land. Lincoln returned to Washington, on the evening of April 9, 1865, the day General Lee surrendered at Appomattox.


Lincoln's re-election in November 1984

The Republican Party and War Democrats form a new party known as the Union Party, under whose ticket Lincoln and Andrew Johnson contest the November 1864 presidential elections

Following the Union victories of Gettysburg, Vicksburg and Chattanooga in 1863, overall victory seemed only a matter of time. These victories and Lincoln's address at Gettysburg in November 1863, helped to sustain public support for the war effort, and gave a boost to Lincoln's efforts to seek re-nomination for a second term as president of the United States of America. Thus, Lincoln easily defeated efforts to deny his re-nomination. With a view of forming a broader coalition, the Republican Party also selected Andrew Johnson as Lincoln's running mate, a War Democrat from the southern state of Tennessee. In addition the Republican Party also agreed to the formation of a new party, known as the Union Party, that brought together Republicans and War Democrats, and under whose ticket both Lincoln and Johnson ran for election.


Both the Republicans and Lincoln himself were pessimistic about the outcome of the war and doubted whether Lincoln would be re-elected

Republican supporters across the country were pessimistic and feared that Lincoln would be defeated, for prosecuting an unpopular war, with enormous losses and casualties in its early stages. Lincoln himself doubted whether he would be really reelected, which led him to write and sign a pledge that, if he should lose the election, he would still defeat the confederacy before turning over the White House.


General George B. McClellan, the architect of the Antietam victory was the rival Democratic Party candidate who fought the election on his own merits

The Democratic Party was deeply divided into the war and peace factions. The peace faction of the party called the war a failure. However, the Democratic candidate, General George B. McClellan, the architect of the victory at the Battle of Antietam, the first major victory for the Union forces on September 17, 1862, supported the war and repudiated the position of the peace faction. General George B. McClellan seemed to fight the election on his own merits, based on his performance on the battle field, the injustice caused to him by Lincoln by his premature removal from the command of the army, which prolonged the war unnecessarily, and the benefits that would accrue to the nation at the time of a devastating Civil War, by having an ex-battlefield commander as the President and Commander-in-Chief of the nation.


The resounding military victories at Atlanta and the Shenandoah Valley before the elections gave a major boost to Lincoln's re-election by a landslide

Support for both candidates appeared to be evenly split at the beginning. However, the resounding victories achieved by Sherman in Atlanta and Sheridan in Shenandoah Valley, in September and October respectively, before the November 8 elections, tilted the balance in favor of Lincoln and gave a major boost to his chances of winning the elections. Lincoln was easily re-elected with a landslide victory, obtaining 55% of the popular vote and 212 of 233 electoral college votes. 


Lincoln's second inauguration

Lincoln's second inauguration was held on March 4, 1865, in a similar manner to his first inauguration, on a special platform erected for the purpose in front of the Capitol building in Washington D.C. in the presence of a large crowd, and special security measures in place. Lincoln's second inaugural address, one of the most famous of all his speeches, was delivered at a time when victory over the breakaway states was almost certain and slavery was almost dead. The chief note of his speech was reconciliation, healing the wounds of war, and reunification of a deeply divided nation. The following extract from his speech now inscribed on one wall of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. clearly demonstrates his line of thinking and his offer of peace with magnanimity :-

Fondly do we hope — fervently do we pray — that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. With malice toward none;with charity for all;with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in;to bind up the nation's wounds;to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan — to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.

President Abraham Lincoln delivering his second inauguration address.

President Abraham Lincoln delivering his second inauguration address.

President Lincoln's last public speech

President Lincoln made his last public speech on April 11, 1865 to a jubilant crowd gathered outside the White House, standing at the window over the building's main door, a place from where presidents traditionally gave speeches. At the beginning of his speech he stressed the importance of thanking God almighty, from whom all blessings flow, for saving and re-uniting the nation, and said a day of National Thanksgiving would be promulgated soon. He also stressed the importance of remembering and honoring the memory of those who sacrificed their lives in preserving the unity of the nation. President Lincoln was also humble enough to give full credit for the military victory to General Ulysses S. Grant, his officers and brave soldiers -"but no part of the honor, for plan or execution is mine. To General Grant, his skilful officers and brave men, all belongs."  However, the main theme of his speech was reconstruction, especially as it related to the state of Louisiana, which according to Lincoln would apply generally to other states too, but acknowledged that each state had its own great peculiarities, that no exclusive and inflexible plan could be safely prescribed for all of them, and might have to be dealt with on a case by case basis. Yet, he said that important principles must be inflexible. The most significant point he made in this speech was his unqualified support for black suffrage, the first time he openly advocated voting rights for blacks, a statement that sealed his fate.


President Lincoln's assassination 

Lincoln had hardly anytime for leisure during the period of the civil war

John Wilkes Booth, a white supremacist and Confederate spy and activist from Maryland, who was among the audience as President Lincoln made his last public speech at the White House, was incensed when the President suggested that blacks should be given voting rights, and vowed "that is the last speech he will make."During the period of the civil war President Lincoln had hardly any time for leisure, and was almost occupied round-the-clock with his advisers, receiving reports of the latest developments on the battlefield, and keeping in touch with his commanders. Lincoln spent hours at the War Department telegraph office, reading dispatches from the battlefield, and communicating with his generals when necessary. Twice a week he also met his cabinet in the afternoons, keeping them abreast of the latest developments in the battlefield. Occasionally, his wife would force him to take a carriage ride in order to give him a much-needed break after working for long hours.


Lincoln decides to attend the play "Our American Cousin"with his wife at the Ford's theatre on April 14, 1865. John Wilkes Booth hatches out his plan to assassinate the president.

After the end of the war on April 9, 1865, Lincoln had more time for leisure and relaxation with his family, and decided to attend the play "Our American Cousin"being staged at the Ford's Theatre. Booth learnt of the arrival of the President and the First Lady at the Ford's Theatre on Good Friday, April 14, 1865, to attend the play, and immediately laid out his plan to assassinate not only the President, but also the Vice President, Andrew Johnson and the Secretary of State, William H. Seward. While Booth took over the responsibility of assassinating the President, he assigned his co-conspirators for the other assassinations. Lincoln's main bodyguard Ward Hill Lamon was not available on that fateful day, yet Lincoln decided to attend the play as planned, with another lone bodyguard.On their last drive by carriage to the theatre Lincoln is reported to have told his wife, "I consider this day the war has come to a close. We must both be more cheerful in the future;between the war and the loss of our darling Willie, we have both been very miserable."


John Wilkes Booth sneaks into the balcony of the theatre and at an opportune moment when laughter of the audience reaches a maximum pitch, jumps into the President's box and fires at his head at point-blank range

President Lincoln and First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln were ushered into the enclosure reserved for state guests in the balcony, known as the state box, when they arrived at the theatre with their bodyguard. As the play started and the audience were deeply engrossed in what transpired on the stage, John Wilkes Booth, sneaked into the balcony and crept up behind the President's box. He waited for an opportune moment to unleash his evil plan, a funny moment in the play when the noise from the laughter of the audience would be at its maximum, hoping it would muffle the noise of the gunshot. When that moment came, he suddenly jumped into the box and aiming a single-shot 0.44-calibre pistol at the rear of Lincoln's head, fired at point-blank range. Lincoln's bodyguard was caught unawares, and moved swiftly towards Booth, and grappled with him, but was cut by Booth's knife. The assassin then jumped onto the stage and shouted in Latin "Sic semper tyrannis,"meaning "Thus always to tyrants,"and escaped from the theatre, in spite of a broken leg suffered in leaping. Federal agents launched a manhunt for Booth, and after 12 days he was traced to a Virginia barn house, where he was cornered and shot, and died soon after.

An artistic depiction of President Abraham Lincoln's assassination.

An artistic depiction of President Abraham Lincoln's assassination.

The President is mortally wounded and remains in coma for 9 hours, before passing away peacefully at 7.22 a.m. on April 15, 1865

The President slumped in his chair and was unconscious. An Army surgeon, Doctor Charles Leale summoned to the theatre assessed Lincoln's wound, and found it to be fatal. The President was then carried across the street from the theatre to the Peterson House, where he lay in coma, while he was attended to by other doctors. The U.S. Army Surgeon General Joseph K. Barnes was one of the specialist doctors who attended to the President. Dr. Barnes who used a probe to assess the wound found pieces of the skull and the bullet, lodged 6 inches inside his brain. President Lincoln remained in coma for 9 hours at Peterson House. He never regained consciousness and was pronounced dead at 7.22 a.m. on April 15, 1865, plunging the nation into a state of shock and mourning. Lincoln became the first President of the United States to be assassinated in office, His body lay in state in Washington, before it was carried to Springfield, Illinois, his home state. The body was carried by special train, accompanied by 300 mourners, and the casket of his son, William, in a grand funeral procession, through several states, before reaching Illinois, a distance of 1,654 miles (2,662 km.). Lincoln was buried in the Oak Ridge Cemetery in Springfield, where a tomb 177 feet (54 meters) tall was built.

President Abraham Lincoln's funeral train

President Abraham Lincoln's funeral train

President Lincoln's burial room

President Lincoln's burial room

Photo: Robert Lawton, C.C

President Abraham Lincoln's Tomb- Oakridge Cemetery, Springfield, Illinois

President Abraham Lincoln's Tomb- Oakridge Cemetery, Springfield, Illinois

Photo: Robert Lawton, C.C

Mary Todd Lincoln - A short biography

Her birth and family background

Mary Todd Lincoln, wife of Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States, was born on December 13, 1818, at Lexington Kentucky. She was the 4th of seven children born to Robert Smith Todd and Elizabeth Parker Todd, her other siblings consisting of three brothers and three sisters. Mary's father was of Irish origin, descended from Irish immigrants who settled in Pennsylvania. Mary's mother on the other hand, was of Scottish origin, descended from Scottish immigrants who also settled in Pennsylvania. The Todd family, who were among the pioneer settlers of Kentucky was a well-to-do slave-owning family in the region. Robert Smith Todd, who was a contemporary of Henry Clay and John Wesley Hunt, was a prominent Lexington businessman and politician. His business concerns in Lexington included a thriving grocery business and a cotton-manufacturing factory. He was also the president of the Lexington branch of the Bank of Kentucky. His involvement in politics led him to serve in the Kentucky General Assembly for 24 years. Elizabeth Parker died after giving birth to her 7th child in 1825. Mary was then six years old. In the following year Robert Smith remarried, taking as his wife Elizabeth Humphreys of Frankfort, Kentucky. This marriage produced nine children, and Elizabeth Humphreys assumed the role of mother and stepmother to a family of 16 children. Possibly because of the constraints placed in looking after nine of her own children, Elizabeth Humphreys relationship with her step-children suffered, and was said to be not so sympthetic.

Mary Todd Lincoln

Mary Todd Lincoln

Destiny prepared her for the role as the future wife of a president who would eliminate slavery and its associated evils

Growing up in an environment where slavery was practiced, and having household slaves of their own, Mary was exposed to the evils of slavery and came to abhor slavery at a very young age. In fact, in later life among her limited circle of friends, one of her closest was an ex-slave and black seamstress, Elizabeth Keckley. None in her household or her immediate environment would have ever suspected that her change in attitude to slavery, would one day be complementary to her future husbands efforts to root out this evil institution from American soil forever. As destiny would have it, Mary was being prepared for her future role as the wife of a president who would devote a significant part of his life, and later sacrifice it for the sake of eliminating slavery and the evils associated with it.


Mary's formal education from 1826 to 1839

Mary's father who believed that women should be given a sound education, admitted Mary to school at the relatively young age of 8 years. She began her formal education at the Shelby Female Academy, where she studied subjects like English grammar, literature and poetry, and also arithmetic and geography. She remained at Shelby until 1832, and she was now 14 years of age. It was in 1832, that she moved with her large family to their newly acquired two-storied, 14-room house, located at 578, West Main Street, Lexington, Kentucky. In the same year, Mary was sent to Madame Mentelle's Boarding School, a select academy for young ladies. She attended boarding school during weekdays, but returned home on the weekends. She remained at boarding school for five years until 1837, where she learnt to speak and write French, and studied dance, drama, music and social graces. After finishing boarding school, Mary moved to Springfield, Illinois, for a short holiday of three months, where she stayed with her sister Frances, who had married Dr. William S. Wallace. She then returned to Shelby Female Academy, which was now known as Dr. Ward's Academy, and did two years of advanced studies, most probably in cultural subjects.

Mary Todd Lincoln House in Lexington, Kentucky taken in 1948

Mary Todd Lincoln House in Lexington, Kentucky taken in 1948

Mary is courted by young lawyers like Stephen A. Douglas and Abraham Lincoln, but Lincoln captures her heart

In 1839, after finishing her schooling Mary returned to Springfield, to live with another sister, Elizabeth Edwards, who was married to Ninian W, Edwards, the son of a former Governor of Illinois. Trained in the social graces common to her class and time, Mary who was now 21, was an accomplished young lady with a ready wit, and sparkling personality, and was an excellent conversationalist. Mary also took a keen interest in politics, having mingled with influential political guests, back in her father's house in Lexington, that included Senator Henry Clay, the leader of the Whig Party, and three-time presidential candidate. These exceptional qualities, made Mary a popular young lady in Springfield society, whose company was sought after by young men, like the lawyer and politician Stephen A. Douglas, and later the young lawyer and junior partner of her cousin John Stuart's law firm, Abraham Lincoln, whom she met at a dance in December, 1839. Out of the two young lawyers and aspiring politicians, it was Abraham Lincoln who successfully captured young Mary's heart.


Mary goes down in history as the most accomplished young lady whose hand was sought by two young men, who later vied with each other for the presidency of the United States

Little was it realized then, that the two young lawyers who were aspiring for her love, would one day vie with one another for the highest elected post in the country, the presidency. Thus, young Mary has gone down in history as the most accomplished young lady whose hand was sought after, by two young men, who later vied with each other for the presidency of the United States. Mary also deserves the credit for displaying the wisdom and far sight at the young age of just 21, in picking the correct aspirant as her paramour, who would later become the president of the United States of America. Perhaps, the 13 years of her schooling in different disciplines in renowned academies and her mingling with politicians of repute at a young age, would have sharpened her intelligence in making the most appropriate choice as her future life partner;an intelligence that helped Mary to recognize Lincoln's intellectual depth and political ambition long before many others were able to do so.


Lincoln and Mary are engaged after a courtship of one year, but the engagement is broken off with Mary's consent just before the wedding was to take place on January 1, 1841

Mary was 21 and Abraham Lincoln nearly 10 years senior to her, when they first met in December, 1839. They fell in love, and after a courtship that lasted nearly an year, they were finally engaged in the fall of 1840. Mary's sister and brother-in-law did not approve of their relationship, but did not interfere with Mary's own decision. The wedding was fixed for January 1, 1841, but Lincoln broke off the engagement with Mary's consent, just before the marriage could take place. Various reasons have been ascribed by historians for Abraham Lincoln's sudden unexplained behavior, such as his financial instability and the periodic bouts of depression he used to suffer from, during this period.


Lincoln and Mary meet again in the summer of 1842, reconcile their differences, resume courtship again and finally get married on November 4, 1842

Soon after this, other significant changes were taking place in his personal life, such as going into a new law partnership with Stephen T. Logan in March 1841;taking a trip by steamboat to Kentucky in August 1841;temporary retirement from politics by not seeking re-election to the State Legislature in 1842, after serving for four consecutive terms. This was also a period during which Lincoln's legal career was making rapid progress, and he was becoming renowned as a successful lawyer, having been admitted to practice in the United States Circuit Court and the Illinois Supreme Court. In the summer of 1842, Lincoln met Mary Todd again at a party, and soon after that resume their courtship. During this period they made secret preparations for their wedding, and just days before the wedding, Mary informed her sister and brother-in-law, that they were getting married on November 4, 1842. Accordingly, the wedding of Abraham Lincoln and Mary Anne Todd, took place on November 4, 1842, at the Springfield mansion of Ninian W. Edwards and Elizabeth Edwards. Lincoln was nearly 34 years old and Mary 24 at the time of their marriage. Lincoln gave Mary a wedding ring engraved on its interior with the words "LOVE IS ETERNAL."a ring which she consciously wore for the rest of her life, and was buried with beside her husband, quite thin from wear, but the words "LOVE IS ETERNAL"still visible.


Lincoln and Mary live in rented quarters initially where their first child was also born, but later move into their own house, which Lincoln purchased for $1,500

Soon after their marriage Lincoln and Mary moved to a rented living quarters at the Globe Tavern in Springfield. With the modest income he was earning as a lawyer, this was the best he could afford at that moment. In marrying Lincoln, Mary had willingly sacrificed her life of relative ease and privilege, to become the wife of a working lawyer, whose legal career was just beginning to take shape. Mary had complete confidence in God and her husbands abilities, and knew very well, that her newfound poverty would only be short-lived, an a better life awaited her in the near future. On August 1, 1843, Mary gave birth to her first child, a son who was named Robert Todd Lincoln, while still living in their rented quarters. As Lincoln's legal practice boomed and his financial position improved, he purchased a house for $1,500 in Springfield, at the corner of Eighth and Jackson, and the family moved into this house in May 1844. This was the only home the Lincoln family would ever own in their lifetime and still stands today in Springfield, preserved as a national monument, known as the Lincoln Home National Historic Site. On March 10, 1846, Mary gave birth to a 2nd son Edward Baker Lincoln, who unfortunately died four years later, on February 1, 1850. However, the birth of a 3rd son, William Wallace Lincoln in the same year on December 21, lessened the grief of the family over the loss of their 2nd son. A fourth son, Thomas "Tad"Lincoln was born on April 4, 1853. Out of the four children born into the family, only the eldest son Robert Todd Lincoln, survived into adulthood.


Mary was a full-time mother not only looking after the children, but also doing the cooking, washing and cleaning of the house

Both Lincoln and Mary were known to be kind, indulgent and loving parents and Mary a very loving and caring mother, devoted to her husband and family. They had no servants or slaves in the family or nannies to look after the children. Mary was a full-time mother, not only looking after the children, but also doing the cooking, washing and cleaning of the house. Her most challenging periods were when Lincoln traveled out of Springfield as an Illinois circuit lawyer, when she was left alone in the house, to look after the children and manage the household. When Lincoln was around in Springfield and came home in the evenings, at least the responsibility of controlling the children was partially shared by him. At times when Lincoln's work as a lawyer kept him away from home for long periods, they kept in touch with each other by writing letters. Going to the theatre had been a favorite pastime for the family, and a welcome break for the children and Mary, after her monotonous household chores. When Abraham was elected to the U.S. Congress for a two-year term from December 1847 to December 1849, he moved with his wife and children to Washington D.C. where he first lived at Brown's hotel and then at Mrs. Anne G. Sprigg's boarding house, presently the site of the Library of Congress. This was a welcome change for both Mary and her children, and shows Lincoln's concern for the welfare of his family, while he pursued his political ambitions.


Besides looking after the family, Mary assisted her husband as a close political partner and a trusted political adviser

Mary could not offer any advise to Lincoln in his legal career, but was well suited to advise Lincoln on his political career, having taken an interest in politics since her childhood days

Apart from running the family Mary also assisted her husband in several other ways. In his legal career Mary could hardly offer him any advice, as she never had the opportunity of reading Law, during her 13 years of schooling. But she could well have assisted her husband in any legal clerical work, that involved preparing handwritten documents. Apart from that the best way she could have assisted her husband was to look after the children, so her husband could concentrate in preparing for his cases. Lincoln appeared to value her judgment, and once observed he had no reason to read a book after Mary had reviewed it for him.

In his political career Mary assisted her husband in many ways, as a close political partner, and a trusted political adviser. Mary's interest in politics started at a very young age, as she was born into the family of a politician. Mary's father had served as a member of the Kentucky State Legislature for 24 years, and the house in which she grew up was a frequent meeting place for politicians of the Whig Party. Mary mingled with these influential political guests, that also included Senator Henry Clay, the leader of the Whig Party, and three-time presidential candidate. Coincidentally, Abraham Lincoln was also a supporter of the Whig Party, having served as a member of the Illinois State Legislature for four consecutive terms from 1834 to 1842.


Instances of Mary's involvement in her husband's political career

Lincoln's support of the candidacy of Whig candidate Henry Clay in the 1844 presidential election on the advice of Mary, help him secure the Whig nomination for the U.S. Congress, on May 1, 1846

After getting married in November 1842, Lincoln sought to enter national politics in 1843, by seeking the Whig nomination for election to the U.S. Congress, but was unsuccessful. Mary appears to have played no small part in Lincoln's decision to seek nomination for the Congress. However, in the 1844 Presidential election the Whig Candidate was Henry Clay, who was well known to Mary, as a family friend. Thus, she was obliged to give all the support Henry Clay needed, in his campaign for the presidency. Hence, Mary undoubtedly would have exerted a lot of influence on Lincoln to campaign on behalf of the Whig candidate Henry Clay, who was known to her and her family. Lincoln himself would have had no reservations about supporting Senator Henry Clay, whose policies and leadership qualities he always admired. It was Lincoln's involvement in the presidential campaign of 1844, that helped him to secure the Whig nomination for the U.S. Congress on May 1, 1846. In the elections that followed, Abraham Lincoln was successfully elected to the U.S. House of Representatives on August 3, 1846, and served a two-year term in Congress from 1947 to 1949.


Lincoln declines the governorship of Oregon Territory offered by President Zachary Taylor on the advise of Mary Lincoln, who believed that accepting the position would remove him from a potential national position

Another instance in Lincoln's political career where Mary Lincoln exerted her influence on her husband as her trusted political adviser, was when Lincoln was offered the governorship of the faraway Oregon territory, by President Zachary Taylor in 1848, following his victory in the Presidential elections of that year as the candidate of the Whig Party. Abraham Lincoln actively supported Zachary Taylor's candidacy, campaigning for him in Maryland and Boston, in Massachusetts and then throughout the state in Illinois. When Lincoln sought an appointed position, after the presidential elections, it was Mary who handwrote his solicitation letters to Whig leaders. In response to the letters, when Lincoln was offered the Governorship of Oregon Territory, it was Mary who advised Lincoln against accepting the post, since it would remove him from a potential national position.


Assisting Lincoln in the re-organization and transition of the old Whig Party into the new Republican Party

Following Lincoln's return to national politics in 1954 in response to the Kansas-Nebraska Act, and his first failed attempt to gain entry into the U.S. Senate, Lincoln initiated moves to re-organize the Whig Party into the new Republican Party, bringing together remnants of old Whig Party members, disenchanted Democratic Party members and Free Soil and Liberty Party Members. Mary Lincoln took a keen interest in this re-organization, and assisted her husband in whatever way possible in achieving it. 


Attending the last of the famous Lincoln-Douglas debates on the topic of slavery

In his second attempt to win a Senate seat in 1858, Lincoln engaged his Democratic opponent Stephen A. Douglas, in a series of seven debates, attended by big audiences, and invariably the debates centered around the topic of slavery. Mary Lincoln attended the last of these famous debates held in Alton Illinois, in order to encourage her husband and watched him convincingly defeat his opponent Senator Stephen A. Douglas, her former suitor.  


Mary was responsible for Lincoln's moderate stand on slavery before and after the presidential election

Mary was chiefly responsible in softening her husband's stand on slavery, so as not to portray him as an abolitionist and radical, that would decrease his chances of election. Even after election, Abraham Lincoln adopted this moderate stand in order to avoid Civil War, and supported the Corwin Amendment that protected slavery in those states, where it already existed.


Mary supported her husband's election campaign by writing to influential political leaders of Kentucky explaining Lincoln's position on slavery, and giving press interviews

Mary also took an active part in supporting her husband's presidential candidacy, by writing to her former influential political friends in Kentucky, regarding Lincoln's views on slavery, correcting any misconceptions, and readily and willingly giving interviews to reporters who came to Springfield to cover Lincoln's campaign, discussing political issues with the ease of a seasoned politician.  


Mary Lincoln elevates the office of the First Lady to a vibrant social institution, helping to alleviate the sufferings caused by the civil war

After President Lincoln's inauguration on March 4, 1861, Mary assumed a prominent public role in her husband's presidency. Contrary to criticism that she was not suitable to assume a social leadership role, Mary Lincoln, transformed the position of the wife of the president, to a vibrant social institution, and for the first time in history, the president's wife was referred to as the "First Lady."Mary's own education and training helped disperse the image of frontier people as being ignorant and uncivilized. At the height of the Civil War, Mary made frequent visits to hospitals, taking food, flowers etc. to injured soldiers. She read to the soldiers and wrote them letters. In one instance she raised $1,000 for the Christmas dinner at a Military Hospital. Her son Tad, often accompanied her on these visits to see the soldiers. She also worked as a volunteer nurse in the Union Hospitals. She was involved in the organization of Sanitary Commission Fairs, which raised private donations to supplement Federal funds for the purchase of soldier's supplies, like blankets and other important materials. She also provided support for the Contraband Relief Association, which also raised private donations, for the housing, employment, clothing and medical care of recently freed slaves, and those who escaped to the North during the Civil War. She sometimes accompanied her husband when he toured Union army camps to consult with his commanders, boost the morale of the soldiers and review troops. All these good deeds she did without any undue publicity, and the country was largely unaware of her humanitarian work. This was because the press of the country was hostile towards her, and even if they knew of her good work, did not want to publish it, as they always wanted to portray her in bad light.


Contradictory reporting on Mary Lincoln by the Press, who always found fault with her, whether she was in the right or wrong

At the time Abraham Lincoln was elected as president, media reports described the new First Lady as plump and plain. Mary took such reports as an insult not just to her but her husband as well. When everything she wore was scrutinized and critiqued in the newspapers, Mary was convinced that she needed to go in for the finest in fashions in keeping with her status as the First Lady of the nation. It was in this context, that Abraham Lincoln was compelled to buy Mary a $2,000 gown and a $530 seed pearl demi-parure (the subject of this webpage) which she wore for the inauguration ball. When Mary appeared at the inauguration ball, as the best dressed lady that evening, the press changed the tune, and began criticizing her for her extravagance. Eventually, Mary got used to the ways of the press, and did what she felt was best for the august office held by her husband, and the nation. When she felt that the White House needed refurbishment, she applied to the Congress for the necessary funds and went ahead with the work, but was severely criticized when the expenditure exceeded the limit of $20,000 set by the Congress, by $6,000. Mary felt, the proper maintenance of the White House was important for the prestige of the Presidency and the stability and perpetuity of the Union. Again, whenever she entertained people in the White House, critics accused her of unpatriotic extravagance at the time of a Civil War. However, soon after her son Willie's death in 1862, when she went into a state of mourning, and curtailed her entertaining, they accused her of shirking her social responsibilities.


Possible reasons for the antagonism shown towards her by the media and the conservative people of the North

Mary was an unfortunate victim of northern prejudice of her southern background, and southern prejudice of her northern sympathies

Mary originated from Kentucky, a border state where slavery was permitted and practiced freely. As the nation itself was deeply divided into northern and southern states, opposing and supporting slavery, in some borderline states, the state itself was deeply divided between factions opposing and supporting slavery. In some of these states divisions took place within the same families. Kentucky, was one such state, where siblings of the same families fought each other in the Civil War. Mary's family was one such family, where six of her close relatives fought in the war, on the side of the Confederacy, and two of her step brothers and a brother-in-law were killed in action. When one of her stepbrothers died, Mary said, "He made his choice long ago. He decided against my husband, and through him against me. He has been fighting against us, and since he chose to be our deadly enemy, I see no special reason why I should bitterly mourn his death." Yet, when her brother-in-law Ben Hardin Helm, was killed in the Battle of Chickamauga, fighting for the Confederates, Lincoln and Mary took in his widow, her stepsister Emilie, to live with them in the White House. Mary on her part was staunchly behind her husband in his fight to save the Union and possibly abolish slavery. However, most Northerners felt she was a spy, as many of her relatives sided with the confederacy. The Southerners on the other hand felt, that Mary was a traitor, turning against her own roots. Thus, Mary was caught between northern prejudice of her southern background, and southern prejudice of her northern sympathies. Mary was well aware that she could do little to overcome these prejudices. What mattered most to her was her husband's trust and confidence, which was rock solid and unshakeable.


Another possible cause for the ill-will generated against her was her outspokenness and forceful articulation of her viewpoints whether on matters political or otherwise

Another possible reason for the antagonism shown towards her, was her courage in speaking out her mind on all issues, whether political or otherwise. Hitherto the First Ladies of United States had been demure, soft spoken and invisible, the way women were expected to behave in public at that time. This was the first time in the history of the United States that a First Lady, spoke out forcefully in English and sometimes in French, on all matters affecting the community and the country. The behavior of the First Lady, was total anathema to a generation of conservative Americans who liked their ladies to be reserved and soft spoken. This explains the enormous antagonism generated against her, and the severe criticism directed against her mostly on unfounded premises. 


Are the charges of extravagance and wasteful expenditure against Mary Lincoln justified ?  

One of the main criticisms leveled against Mary Lincoln was her extravagance and wasteful expenditure resulting from her numerous shopping sprees, that drove her family into great debt, and her insensitivity to the suffering of many families at the time of a civil war. An investigation of the causes of her irrational behavior is worthwhile in a historical context, bearing in mind that some of the criticisms leveled against her were unfounded, and precipitated by the prejudices of the people of the north and south.

As pointed out earlier one of the primary causes of her extravagance in the early stages of her life in the White House was unfair press criticism of her looks and appearances, her apparel and mode of dressing, etc. that convinced her, of the need to select the finest in fashions in order to project her image as the wife of the President of the nation. 

Subsequently, Mary herself viewed her investment on fashionable clothing as a necessary and deliberate effort to create a semblance of normalcy and stability to the outside world, in spite of the deep divisions within the nation, that would command respect not only for the President but also the Union. It was in this context that she continued to entertain people in the White House, in spite of an ongoing civil war.

Her extravagance towards the latter part of her life, after the assassination of the president, and during her stay with her son Robert Lincoln, in Chicago in 1875, such as spending lavishly on unnecessary items, like draperies which she never hung, and elaborate dresses which she never wore, as she wore only black after her husbands assassination, were clearly symptoms of a condition known as "Mania"in modern Psychiatry, one of the extremes of bipolar disorder, the other extreme being major "Depression."Wasteful expenditure of money, questionable business transactions, highly vocal arguments, abnormal social interaction, rapid speech and talkativeness, grandiose ideas and plans, over religiousness, decrease need for sleep are some of the characteristic symptoms of "Mania."Thus, some of the wasteful expenditure at least in the latter part of her stay in the White House, may be explained by the low level of prevalence of this condition known as "Hypomania"which subsequently manifested itself after the stressful conditions to which she was exposed, such as the loss of her beloved children and her husband.

Apart from this charge of extravagance her overall performance as the First Lady of the United States was excellent, that served to elevate the office to a vibrant social institution, rendering yeoman's service to the wounded and disabled soldiers at the height of the civil war, helping to boost their morale and look after their needs and the needs of their families, and looking after the needs of the freed slaves.


President Lincoln is assassinated on April 14, 1865, at Ford's Theatre, while Mary held his hand during the play, Our American Cousin

On that fateful day, April 14, 1865, which happened to be Good Friday, Mary and Lincoln attended the performance of the comedy, Our American Cousin, at Ford's Theatre in Washington. That night, as Mary held Lincoln's hand during the play, John Wilkes Booth, sneaked into the President's box where they were seated, and shot the President on the head at pointblank range from behind. The President was mortally wounded. As the President was carried across the street to the Petersen House, Mary accompanied him. Mary remained by her husband's bedside in Peterson House, throughout the night, along with her son Robert. The President passed away peacefully, on April 15, 1865 at 7.22 a.m. after remaining in coma for nine hours. The death of the president devastated Mary, from which she never recovered fully.


Mary left the White House with her children on May 23, 1865 and relocates to Chicago. Mary and Tad temporarily re-locate to Europe in 1868.

Mary Lincoln, who was deeply traumatized by her husband's murder, did not move out of the White House until May 23, 1865. Mary and the two children, Robert and Tad, relocated to Chicago. Mary's eldest son was now well on his way to becoming a successful lawyer like his father. In September 1868, after Robert got married, Mary and Tad left the United States, and temporarily relocated to Europe. They settled in Germany, where Tad went to school. They stayed in Europe for 3 years during which she visited several countries. Her arthritis began showing up while in Europe, and Mary was compelled to seek comfort in health spas.

Mary Todd Lincoln

Mary Todd Lincoln

The Congress grants Mary a life pension of $3,000 per annum on July 14, 1870. Mary and Tad return to the U.S. in May 1871, and Tad dies soon afterwards of a respiratory infection

While in Europe, she made an appeal to the Congress for the award of a presidential widow's pension. She wrote that as the wife of a former president who had successfully conducted the civil war and preserved the Union, and later sacrificed his life for the nation, she deserved a pension, just as much as the widows of soldiers killed in the war. The Congress accepted her appeal, and by an act approved July 14, 1870, granted Mrs. Mary Lincoln a life pension, as the widow of President Lincoln, in the amount of $3,000 per annum. In May 1871, an year after receiving the annual pension, she and her son returned to the United States. During their trans-Atlantic trip back home, 18-year old Tad had caught a cold, which became complicated after landing in the U.S. The infection became serious and developed into pneumonia and pleurisy, and Tad died on July 15, 1871.


Mary's desperate state after the loss of her beloved son, Tad Lincoln

The death of her beloved son Tad Lincoln who was just 18 years old, was a devastating blow to Mary Lincoln, after the loss of her husband six year earlier in 1865. This was the last great personal loss she could bear. She had now lost her father, mother, husband, and three of her children, Edward in 1850, Willie in 1862, and Thomas "Tad"in 1871. Besides the members of her immediate family, she had also lost three half-brothers and a brother-in-law in the civil war, who fought on the Confederate side, though the impact of their loss was less devastating. Mary is reported to have said, "One by one, I have consigned to their resting place my idolized ones, and now in this world there is nothing left for me but the deepest anguish and desolation."


Mary's previous history of mental instability 

Mary had suffered from severe headaches through out her adult life, believed to be persistent attacks of migraine. She had also suffered from bouts of depression previously after the deaths of two of her children and her husband. In July, 1863, she also suffered a severe head injury, when she was thrown from her carriage near Mount Pleasant Hospital. She had also shown signs of irrational behavior previously, during her days in the White House, such as outbursts of uncontrolled temper, sometimes in public against the President himself.


A new episode of mental instability triggered by Tad Lincoln's death

With a history of previous mental instability, the death of her last born child Tad Lincoln - who became very close and much attached to her, during her days of utter distraught soon after her husbands assassination - triggered a new episode of mental instability, with delusions, hallucinations, and irrational fears of people trying to kill her or steal from her or being thrown into a state of poverty, despite the fact she was receiving an annual pension. She had also irrational fears of her only surviving son Robert, being exposed to danger or being on the throes of death after serious illness. At one point it was feared that she would jump out of the window to escape a non-existent fire.


Mary Lincoln is admitted to a private psychiatric hospital for treatment on Robert Lincoln's initiative

Robert Lincoln was now concerned about his mother's safety and well-being, and he was reluctantly compelled to instigate an insanity hearing, with a view of seeking institutionalized treatment for her. A jury of 12 men declared Mary insane, and she was admitted to a private sanitarium known as Bellevue, located in the Fox River Valley, Batavia, Illinois, on May 20, 1875. Mary herself would not admit she was insane, and was outraged at the court decision. While in hospital she managed to contact her lawyer friends Mr. and Mrs. James Bradwell, and also wrote to the editor of Chicago Times, known for its sensational journalism. The nation was shocked and Robert motives were now being questioned. Mr. and Mrs. Bradwell instituted proceedings for her release from the Psychiatric Hospital, to the custody of her sister, living in Springfield, Illinois, stating that she was perfectly sane and was being held against her will.


Mary Lincoln is released from the Psychiatric hospital to the custody of her sister Elizabeth Edwards

The court agreed to this request, based on the assurances of the Director of Bellevue that she was well enough to go to Springfield to live with her sister. Mary was released from the Psychiatric hospital on September 19, 1875, and went to live with her sister Elizabeth Edwards, in the same house in Springfield where she had married Abraham Lincoln. In June 1876, a second jury declared her sane and competent to manage her own affairs.


Mary leaves for Europe where she lives for 4 years in France and returns to the United States in 1880

Soon after this she left for Europe, where she took up residence in Pau, France, She traveled to many countries in Europe, although she spent most of her time in France. Her health again began to decline and she visited health spas frequently. She is believed to have suffered from undiagnosed diabetes, spinal arthritis, and a recurrence of her migraine attacks. After a four-year stay in Europe, Mary again returned to the United States in 1880, and went back to live in her sister's  house in Springfield.


Mary's final days in her sister's house in Springfield. Robert visits his ailing mother in 1881. Mary finally passes away on July 16, 1882 at the age of 63

Mary lived all by herself in a shaded room in her sister's house. Her eyesight was failing due to cataract that affected both her eyes. Her health continued to deteriorate. In 1881, Robert visited her with his eldest daughter, and mother and son reconciled. The United States Government increased her pension to $5,000 in 1882, so that she would receive adequate care in her final days. Finally, on July 16, 1882, the 63-year old Mary Todd Lincoln, the wife of Abraham Lincoln, and former First Lady of the United States, passed away peacefully, at the home of her sister Elizabeth Edwards, in Springfield, Illinois. Her cause of death was given as paralysis in her death certificate, which is now believed to be as a result of a stroke. Mary Todd Lincoln was buried next to her husband and three sons at Oak Ridge Cemetery in Springfield, Illinois. She was buried with her wedding ring, thin from wear, but still bearing the words, "LOVE IS ETERNAL."


You are welcome to discuss this post/related topics with Dr Shihaan and other experts from around the world in our FORUMS (



Related :-

1) Mary Lucile Stevens Seed Pearl Parure

2) Seed Pearl Necklace at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

 3) Umm Kulthum's Multi-strand Pearl and Turquoise Necklace

4) Ceylon Pearl Necklace


External Links :-

1) Abraham Lincoln -

2) Mary Todd Lincoln -

3) First Lady Biography - Mary Lincoln -

 4) Mary Todd Lincoln's Jewelry -


Back to Famous Pearls

References :-

1) Abraham Lincoln -

2) Abraham Lincoln - From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

3) The History Place presents Abraham Lincoln -

4) Last Public Address by Abraham Lincoln - Washington D.C. April 11, 1865.

5) Important dates in the history of Tiffany &Co. - Tiffany &Co. Jewelry News.

6) Mary Todd Lincoln -

7) Mary Todd Lincoln - From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

8) First Lady Biography - Mary Lincoln -

9) Mary Todd Lincoln House -

10) Mary Todd Lincoln - Women in History,

11) Mary Todd Lincoln -(1818-1882) -

12) Mary Todd Lincoln's Jewelry -



Powered by Ultra Secure
Amazon (USA) Cloud Network


Dr Shihaan Larif
Founder Internet Stones.COM



Register in our Forums


Featured In












Blog & Education Feed



Articles Feed