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.
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 TaylorCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved