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Lincoln's Sanctuary: Abraham Lincoln and the Soldiers' Home [Hardcover]

Matthew Pinsker
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)

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Book Description

September 4, 2003 0195162064 978-0195162066 First Edition
After the heartbreaking death of his son Willie, Abraham Lincoln and his family fled the gloom that hung over the White House, moving into a small cottage in Washington, D.C., on the grounds of the Soldiers' Home, a residence for disabled military veterans. In Lincoln's Sanctuary, historian Matthew Pinsker offers a fascinating portrait of Lincoln's stay in this cottage and tells the story of the president's remarkable growth as a national leader and a private man.
Lincoln lived at the Soldiers' Home for a quarter of his presidency, and for nearly half of the critical year of 1862, but most Americans (including many scholars) have not heard of the place. Indeed, this is the first volume to specifically connect this early "summer White House" to key wartime developments, including the Emancipation Proclamation, the firing of McClellan, the evolution of Lincoln's "Father Abraham" image, the election of 1864, and the assassination conspiracy. Through a series of striking vignettes, the reader discovers a more accessible Lincoln, demonstrating what one visitor to the Soldiers' Home described as his remarkable "elasticity of spirits." At his secluded cottage, the president complained to his closest aides, recited poetry to his friends, reconnected with his wife and family, conducted secret meetings with his political enemies, and narrowly avoided assassination attempts. Perhaps most important, he forged key friendships that helped renew his flagging spirits. The cottage became a refuge from the pressures of the White House, a place of tranquility where Lincoln could refresh his mind.
Based on research in rarely tapped sources, especially the letters and memoirs of people who lived or worked at the Soldiers' Home, Lincoln's Sanctuary offers the unexpected--a completely fresh view of Abraham Lincoln--through the window of a place that helped shape his presidency.

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

A three-mile horse ride from the White House, the Soldiers' Home (an asylum for disabled veterans) was the Lincoln family's summer retreat. Historian Pinsker here builds a chronicle of the happenings at the Soldiers' Home from the testimony of about 75 people who memorialized their interactions with Lincoln there, including, Pinsker says, a guard whose letters have not been used by previous Lincoln scholars. Although his presentation is indeed on the scholarly side, it does afford an intimate portrait of Lincoln, down to his fondness for padding around in slippers. Writing soberly, Pinsker allows such details to speak for themselves, and most interesting for general readers, they reveal Lincoln's lackadaisical attitude toward his security arrangements. Parallel to quotidian affairs at the Soldiers' Home, Pinsker delves into greater matters that unfolded there, such as Lincoln's receipt of military news or his evolution toward emancipation. Ostensibly for an academic audience, Pinsker's study nevertheless exhibits hooks for the enduring popular interest in every aspect of Lincoln's life. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; First Edition edition (September 4, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195162064
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195162066
  • Product Dimensions: 0.9 x 6.1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #699,270 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lincoln's Sanctuary in the Midst of the Storm of War October 12, 2005
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
In each of the years he served as President of the United

States (minus the 11 southern states which seceded launching the Civil War!) President Abraham Lincoln, his wife Mary and family would journey to the Soldiers Retirement Home about 4 miles from the White House. Son Robert would visit on his trips home from Harvard. Youngest Lincoln son Tad enjoyed the Soldiers' Home where he had a menagerie of pets; got to know the guard troops from Pennsylvania, New York and Ohio stationed there. Wife Mary was often vacationing in New England or shopping in New York.

In this atmosphere Lincoln enjoyed the camaraderie of soldiers; received visitors and enjoyed the company of Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton living in a nearby cottage.

It was in this location that the President agonized over his decision to issue the Emancipation Proclamation; decided to fire

George B. McClellan and help plan the 1864 presidential campaign.

Every day Lincoln would ride a horse to the White House surrounded by mounted cavalryman. His wife Mary fell from her carriage in July, 1863 while traveling to the home. She was seriously injured .

Pinsker tells us of plots against Lincoln's life. He may have even been fired upon by an unknown assassin according to a soldier who reported this incident in his postwar memoirs.

Matthew Pinsker has written an outstanding book adding to our knowledge of the heretofore little known Lincoln residence at the Soldiers Home. The Home is now a National Landmark and is being renovated and opened for the public. One can imagine how awed poet Walt Whitman was as he saw Lincoln on his daily ride from the White House to the Soldiers Home.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The First "Camp David" April 5, 2005
Format:Hardcover
This book was a wonderful find. I read it in two days on a business trip and found the writing style enjoyable, the research accurate and detailed while not at all overbearing, and the information very interesting. There are still very little details of the Lincoln's day to day activities at the Soldier's Home. None of the Lincoln's kept diaries and official documentation of purchases, visitors, and happenings were very casual compared to the entourage and details which follow a modern day president on vacation. But the author uncovered letters and diaries of the soldiers and visitors who were around the Lincoln's at this time and from these sources has discovered a wealth of information. The book parallels each of the decisive war time decisions made by Lincoln, and shows how his daily commute to the Soldiers Home from the White House and back, and the relaxing time spent with his family during summer nights and weekends, helped to shape some of his actions and achievements.

I recommend this book to anyone who wants to know more about Lincoln the person, with an interest in his politics and Civil War presidency. This book is a wonderful addition to the new writings on the Sixteenth President.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Something new about Lincoln December 11, 2003
By R. BULL
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book provides new information about Lincoln and his family, which is highly unusual for someone as researched as Lincoln. Based on letters and recollections of the people who saw him there, this book gives a picture of Lincoln in robe and slippers away from the chaos of the war time White House. A definate addition to what is known about Lincoln.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Joining Lincoln's family at the Soldiers' Home July 21, 2012
Format:Paperback
It still takes roughly the same amount of time to travel in car from the White House to Lincoln's family summer retreat, the Soldiers' Home, as it took on horseback in the 1860s: 30 minutes! This book details the events and happenings at the Soldiers' Home from the testimony of about 75 people who memorialized their interactions with Lincoln there. This year I was able to travel to Springfield, Illinois and learn much on Abraham Lincoln. This book is an incredible asset to any person studying Lincoln, the Civil War, or history in general. I enjoyed this book and the vast amounts of research and insight that went into it. The author writes well and it is loaded with footnotes.

Some facts on Lincoln:

He spent more than one quarter of his presidency in a modest cottage on the grounds of the Soldiers' Home, a residence for disabled veterans just outside the capital in Maryland.

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."

Here Lincoln worked on the writing of the Emancipation Proclamation and the firing of McClellan.

I work in DC and was delighted to hear about this `sanctuary' which is only miles away from where I work. And people can go there today, and tour it for a fee. I highly recommend it!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fun read with useful nuggets for Lincoln scholars February 16, 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I purchased this book because Amazon offered it at a minor discount - and I'm glad they did! It reads quickly and well, yet also provides decent insight into the Lincoln presidency and the role played by the Soldiers' Home, the presidential retreat. The book operates on many levels at once. It provides insight into the history of the Soldiers' Home, perspectives from the soldiers who guarded the Lincoln family there, and astute analysis of the president's day-to-day life during long summers at the Soldiers Home. The author does an excellent job of weighing and balancing historical information, artfully blending into the text his own assessment of different accounts' accuracy.

The most memorable part of this book is the incident of Fort Stevens, where Lincoln could not resist the temptation to view skirmishing between Union forces and Jubal Early's rebel raiders in July of 1864. The author separates legend from reality in this fascinating account of the only time a sitting American president has witnessed combat. The president's personal security was an ongoing theme vitally linked with his daily journeys between the Soldiers' Home and the White House. Pinsker describes numerous hair-raising incidents that suggested danger long before the fateful evening in Ford's Theater. Not a comprehensive biography of Lincoln, this title uses its limited theme to full advantage: by focusing on a narrow spectrum of the Lincoln story, he is able to bring the reader closer to the real man, his family, and his times than many other full-length biographies have ever done.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Well done!
Like that of the previous book I rated on
Lincoln's life and presidency. I found
Mr. Pinsker as enjoyable and historically
informative as the book done by... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Maxine Olaguera
4.0 out of 5 stars A gem
Very little is written about the summer White House of Lincoln, how it affected his views and cemented loyalties. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Linda White
5.0 out of 5 stars Forgotten information
A whole new angle to Abraham and Mary Lincoln's life. I had visited the Soldiers' Home and couldn't wait to get all the new details again in the book. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars Lincoln's Sanctuary: Abraham Lincoln and the Soldiers' Home
George Riggs had a cottage built in Washington City just a few miles north of the capital on a
hill in the peaceful countryside in 1842. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Mark A. Bowman
5.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting book
Not being a Lincoln scholar or a historian I have no idea about how well known is Lincoln 's life at the cottage. Read more
Published 10 months ago by W. Phillips
4.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting book !
I enjoyed this book as it provided a lot of detail that explains apparently random details that I knew from history. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars A different perspective on Lincoln.
I have many books about Abraham Lincoln and this one is one of the better titles that I have. It explores Lincoln's life at the Soldier's Home, his retreat from the pressures of... Read more
Published 10 months ago by Mary Oberlin
5.0 out of 5 stars Fresh approach to a much written about historical figure
New insight. Fresh approach. Very interesting and well written. Some new information about Lincoln and his family in a setting that was in a place well away from the White House... Read more
Published 10 months ago by Robert Stewart
5.0 out of 5 stars Great reading and insights
Amazing details of this place of repose for the President ... a place he needed to stay on an even keel during this traumatic time in our history. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Vic Bartlow
5.0 out of 5 stars Not Your Typical Lincoln Biography
This book gives some perspectives on President Lincoln and his relationships that are quite interesting. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Don
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