When most people think of Abraham Lincoln, they think of him toiling away in the White House, occasionally making his way to the adjoining War Department to check telegraph news from the front. Few know that Lincoln and his family actually spent much of the summers of 1862, 1863 and 1964 living at the “Soldier’s Home” and commuting daily to the White House.
Matthew Pinsker writes a charming book about the Soldiers’ Home, or what many refer to as the Lincoln Cottage. It was one of a few cottages next to what was originally known as the Military Asylum, a institution for disabled army veterans who could not support themselves. By commuting the 3 miles or so to and from the “cottage” Lincoln could get away from the hot, smelly swampland not far from the White House and reconnect with his family in a more pleasant atmosphere. The book goes beyond simply reiterating the major themes of most Lincoln biographies and puts those weighty events and decisions in the context of his surroundings. As with the White House, Lincoln was extremely accessible to the public, not uncommonly shuffling down the stairs in his slippers late at night to confer with members of his cabinet, Congressional leaders, or just friends of friends who wanted to meet him.
The book is well written and a pleasant change from the normal Lincoln biography. It provides stellar insights into Lincoln’s well being and thinking on some of the critical issues facing him during the long and difficult war. Proceeds from the sale of the book, which was published in 2003, go to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the organization responsible for renovating and reopening the Lincoln Cottage in 2009.
David J. Kent is an avid Lincolnophile and the author of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity. You can order a signed copy directly from me, download the ebook at barnesandnoble.com, and find hard copies exclusively at Barnes and Noble bookstores.