Lincoln's Sanctuary: Abraham Lincoln and the Soldiers' Home
Lincoln spent more than one quarter of his presidency (all the fair weather months of 1862, '63 and '64) living not at the White House, but in a modest cottage on the grounds of the Soldiers' Home, a residence for disabled veterans just outside the capital in Maryland. Drawing on previously obscure manuscript resources--including the letters of soldiers assigned to guard Lincoln at his retreat--Dickinson College historian Pinsker does a first-rate job of illuminating this previously little-known slice of Lincoln's life. Here we have Lincoln with his guard down and his coat tossed over the back of a couch. He and his son Tad (Willie was dead by this time, and older son Robert visited only rarely) shared meals and stories with the soldiers bivouacked about the grounds. Company K Sgt. Charles Derickson recalled that Lincoln used to enjoy coming over to the soldiers' camp for a cup of""army coffee"" and a""plate of beans."" At one point, when the troops received defective socks, their complaints got the president's attention; a corrupt federal contractor wound up in prison. In addition to providing up-close-and-personal views of the soldiers'""friendly father Abraham,"" Pinsker also gives vivid accounts of the various moments in Lincoln's public life that occurred at or involved the Soldiers' Home, such as the writing of the Emancipation Proclamation and the firing of McClellan. All told, this account comprises that most rare of things: a book that actually adds to the Lincoln literature, telling us stories we haven't heard before.