Book Chat
Lincoln's Sanctuary
Abraham Lincoln and the Soldier's Home
Matthew Pinsker

This chat took place in the Civil War Home Chatroom on 02/13/06 and covered the Conclusion

2/13/2006 9:14 pm (et) ks: Tonight we conclude Pinsker's book, "Lincoln's Sanctuary: Abraham Lincoln and the Soldier's Home". We *could* have covered this chapter last week, but I was inclined to stretch it out a bit and savor the Conclusion. ;)

"There is something else there"

The Lincolns have left the Soldiers' Home and we're in the final days of the war. Good time to reflect upon that "something else" that Whitman saw in Lincoln's spirit and how it was nurtured/released/expressed?? at his "sanctuary". Go for it. ;)

2/13/2006 9:17 pm (et) Basecat: Thing that sticks out to me, as for the most part everything about Abe is considered "Holy", that it would take all of these years to finally renovate the Home, and open it up to the public. It's a very important part of his Presidency, and am relieved that we all will now have the chance to wander the grounds out there when we next visit the DC area.

2/13/2006 9:19 pm (et) Vickie: I was surprised too Base that the home wasn't renovated years ago.

2/13/2006 9:20 pm (et) Basecat: Will also say, am sure Abe was gratified to have the Home for his retreat, as just from reading about the insane goings on at the White House would have driven him crazy. Notice, for the most part when he was in DC proper, he spent more time at the War Department than he did at his office and residence in the White House.

2/13/2006 9:20 pm (et) ks: Vickie, I didn't even know the place existed until I started seeing ads for it's renovation. Had no idea.

2/13/2006 9:21 pm (et) mobile_96: Think too many people are worried about battlefield preservation to consider something like the soldiers home.

2/13/2006 9:22 pm (et) Basecat: Plus, the White House conjured up bad memories. Deaths of Ellsworth and his son Willie tarnished that place for him and the family. The Willie saga is a no brainer, but Ellsworth was the first CW Soldier who had a wake at the White House, and that affected Abe very much during the early part of the war, especially because of the friendship he had with him.

2/13/2006 9:23 pm (et) Vickie: Robert shut off access to Lincolns personal and public papers because biographers were tarnishing the great pres. image with offensive stories. I wonder what Robert would thing of some of the story's biographers are coming up with today.

2/13/2006 9:23 pm (et) Basecat: Mobile...I agree...and while I knew that the home was there, I had no clue just how disrepaired it had become over the years.

2/13/2006 9:24 pm (et) mobile_96: Probably roll over in his grave.

2/13/2006 9:24 pm (et) Vickie: I had heard of the home before but didn't realize Lincoln spent so much time there.

2/13/2006 9:24 pm (et) ks: Something which has stood out to me time and again as we've read this book is how little security was offered the President and family. We live in a very different world now and it's hard to imagine a time that was so casual that Lincoln was actually ridiculed for caution or resisted caution himself.

2/13/2006 9:25 pm (et) Basecat: Vickie. That's a good question, and to me Robert is tough to figure out. Some might say that he needed to go to an asylum as well, as it is obvious the relationship between him and his parents were definitely strained. Do know when the Lincoln Memorial was dedicated in DC, Robert had quite a hand in the whole process of it.

2/13/2006 9:25 pm (et) mobile_96: I don't think many ever did Vickie, even Welles diary doesn't really indicate the actual amount of time.

2/13/2006 9:25 pm (et) ks: If you've not checked out the website for the home, take a look at .

2/13/2006 9:26 pm (et) Vickie: I've always thought Robert was the most sain of the whole family, he was lucky to get away to school.

2/13/2006 9:27 pm (et) Basecat: ks...That has bothered me as well, but that is from my thought process of now. Tend to think no one back then ever considered that a President of the US would be murdered while in office...and some crazy attitudes about bravery back then. Wish I could recall a recent book, that printed a load of hate mail and death threats that Abe received while in the White House.

2/13/2006 9:28 pm (et) Vickie: And what they call an asylum makes it sound like they locked Mary up. And that wasn't so, she lived in the doctors home and had a very nice room tho she kept it dark. And they took her for carriage rides and such. That's not what I would consider locked up.

2/13/2006 9:29 pm (et) Basecat: Vickie...Just my opinion, but I do think Robert was not happy being sent to Harvard. He wanted to do his duty and fight in the war, but his Mom was scared that something would happen to him, and finally did not relent until the war was nearly over.

2/13/2006 9:29 pm (et) ks: Even the Soldiers' Home was called an asylum for a time, wasn't it? I thought we read that.

2/13/2006 9:29 pm (et) mobile_96: And something that should be footnoted in works on Mary.

2/13/2006 9:29 pm (et) Vickie: He may not have been happy going to Harvard but it got him away from the craziness of home.

2/13/2006 9:30 pm (et) Basecat: Not trying to be funny, but it seems every town back then had an "asylum"...Heck...Gettysburg even had one...People back then had different ideas about sanity and insanity. Look at Sickles, but I digress.;)

2/13/2006 9:31 pm (et) Basecat: Vickie...Tend to think it was more of the craziness with his Mom. But that's just my opinion.

2/13/2006 9:31 pm (et) ks: Craziness of home and, probably more importantly, away. That's a common thing for a young man or woman to want at that point in leave the nest. :)

2/13/2006 9:31 pm (et) Babs: There was also another place called the Military Asylum. It's on a map in the book. I would like to figure it all out and know which one my gg-uncle was after second Bull Run.

2/13/2006 9:32 pm (et) mobile_96: Problem is, we don't know if they meant insane asylum or something closer to a nursing home.

2/13/2006 9:32 pm (et) Vickie: Right ks just a normal thing for someone that age to do ,leave the nest.

2/13/2006 9:32 pm (et) Basecat: Mobile true...they sent all types of cases there, from poor folk to criminals etc...

2/13/2006 9:32 pm (et) mobile_96: Suspect that was recovery hospital for wounded soldiers.

2/13/2006 9:33 pm (et) Basecat: Out of sight and out of mind philosophy, IMHO.

2/13/2006 9:33 pm (et) ks: Oh? I can't recall reading anything that has implied that Robert had more problems with his Mother than with his Father. I really believe Mary gets a bad wrap and unfair treatment.

2/13/2006 9:33 pm (et) Babs: Mobile, I believe the one in Washington was... oh what you just said.

2/13/2006 9:33 pm (et) Vickie: They called the residents of the soliders home"inmates".

2/13/2006 9:34 pm (et) Basecat: ks...Was talking about his wanting to fight in the Army and his Mom not letting him do so. Bothered Robert immensely.

2/13/2006 9:34 pm (et) Vickie: From that book we read about Mary and she was running down halls of motels half naked screaming while Robert was there.

2/13/2006 9:35 pm (et) Basecat: Problem with his Dad was that in this instance he backed his wife on the decision, and only relented when the war was nearing the end.

2/13/2006 9:35 pm (et) mobile_96: Which can make reading of that era confusing, if you don't try to consider the way language was used back then.

2/13/2006 9:35 pm (et) Vickie: No wonder he had her "locked" up.

2/13/2006 9:35 pm (et) Basecat: Mobile...which is a problem here for me, as I can't understand those people in many instances..:)

2/13/2006 9:36 pm (et) Basecat: Or even spell their generic name correctly...people..;)

2/13/2006 9:37 pm (et) ks: He had her declared insane because he was afraid she would dissipate her estate. The only way he could get control of it out of her hands in order to protect her interests was to have her declared legally insane.

2/13/2006 9:38 pm (et) Basecat: Another thing I liked about the book, is the chronology section in the back of the book...A good idea, and thought a well used one.

2/13/2006 9:38 pm (et) Vickie: Well if I saw my mother running down halls half naked screaming that would scare the bajeebers out of me.

2/13/2006 9:40 pm (et) Basecat: Vickie...Sign of the times...after all it was the 60s..;)

2/13/2006 9:40 pm (et) Vickie: I think maybe Abe and Robert didn't mean to be so distant from each other, Abe had his hands full with war.

2/13/2006 9:40 pm (et) ks: :) Hmm...the book I read said she once "left her room without being properly dressed" and Robert put his arm around her to lead her back to her room. No mention here of "half naked" or screaming until she screamed "You are going to murder me." to Robert at the time. Different spin on it, huh?

2/13/2006 9:41 pm (et) Vickie: Either way ks she was a bit out of her mind at the time.

2/13/2006 9:41 pm (et) ks: Anyway, that's a tangent away from discussion of the Soldiers' home. :) So what were some of the real "ahas" of the book that have stuck with you all?

2/13/2006 9:42 pm (et) Basecat: ks...I loved the fact of the camaraderie of Abe and the soldiers who were stationed at the Home when he was there. You can tell that is was very much appreciated by the Soldiers, and by Abe as well.

2/13/2006 9:42 pm (et) ks: She was unstable, yes. It's MHO that too much is made of the supposed crazy Mary Todd Lincoln. She's gotten a bad wrap and much of that due to Herndon.

2/13/2006 9:43 pm (et) ks: BTW read this elsewhere:
John Wiley & Sons, Inc. published Lincolnís Other White House: The Untold Story of the Man and his Presidency by Elizabeth Smith Brownstein in September 2005. Brownstein uses diaries, letters, and eyewitness accounts of President Lincoln's life at the Soldiers' Home to provide an intimate portrayal of Lincoln the husband, father, commander-in-chief, and beloved president.

2/13/2006 9:43 pm (et) Babs: Straying a bit longer on a tangent... I agree with Vickie about Robert and Abe not wanting to be distant from each other. They just didn't know how to be close. It's a guy thing.

2/13/2006 9:44 pm (et) Basecat: You ever wonder if Herndon was secretly in love with Mary, and when she rebuffed him...he planned on getting "even"? Just a thought here from the Fountain of misinformation...;)

2/13/2006 9:45 pm (et) Basecat: ks...Have not seen that book here, but will be on the lookout for it.

2/13/2006 9:46 pm (et) ks: No, I've never thought that. Mary couldn't stand him and he seemed to detest her as well. :) I have a fine book or two I'd be happy to loan you sometime, Basecat. REALLY like the one by Ruth Painter Randall. ;) I believe I've said that a time or ten.

2/13/2006 9:46 pm (et) Vickie: wonder if we could ever have a DC muster :-)

2/13/2006 9:47 pm (et) Basecat: Another thing about the book, boy did those folks enjoy having the White House and at the Soldier's home. Safe to say the art of picnicking is lost on this generation...It's now called Tailgating. :)

2/13/2006 9:47 pm (et) Basecat: ks...Just got the Randall book via eBay last month...On the to read schedule here...

2/13/2006 9:47 pm (et) ks: I'd not even heard of it until I found info about it on the National Trust site. Vickie, I'd love to have a DC muster, but can you imagine the nightmare logistics would be there? We'd HAVE to have a bus in order to stay together and arrive places in any kind of decent time frame. Also the guide could work the crowd while we traveled.

2/13/2006 9:47 pm (et) Basecat: Vickie...Hoping for a Springfield Muster first...but that's just me..:)

2/13/2006 9:48 pm (et) ks: Me too!! I want a muster in SPRINGFIELD.

2/13/2006 9:48 pm (et) Vickie: yes Springfield would be good :-)

2/13/2006 9:48 pm (et) Vickie: close too ;-)

2/13/2006 9:49 pm (et) Vickie: Lots to do in Springfield

2/13/2006 9:49 pm (et) Basecat: That said...DC Muster would be great, and we did sorta have a mini one during the Bull Run Muster a few years back...Hard to believe I went to the White House with all of my VP Candidates,;)

2/13/2006 9:49 pm (et) mobile_96: Works for me too.

2/13/2006 9:49 pm (et) ks: I mention this to MAP every time I have her ear or can slip it in an email. Others could do the same. ;) So *subtle* we could be.

2/13/2006 9:51 pm (et) Vickie: Springfield I think would be an easy muster for MAP to plan.

2/13/2006 9:51 pm (et) Vickie: Since they know the area so well :-)

2/13/2006 9:51 pm (et) ks: :) Yes, she's stated that, Vickie.

2/13/2006 9:51 pm (et) Vickie: And there would be no problem filling 3 days there

2/13/2006 9:54 pm (et) ks: We're on tangents all over the place now (but all Lincoln related...sort of). :) Any closing thoughts aside from the FACT that Pinsker did a marvelous job with this book?? ;)

2/13/2006 9:55 pm (et) Basecat: Two things here ks...He wrote a fine story of the home, and to me he deserves kudos for giving proceeds from the book to help with the restoration of the Cottage.

2/13/2006 9:56 pm (et) Babs: I'm glad that Lincoln had this sanctuary. Maybe it helped him maintain a bit of sanity in that time of madness.

2/13/2006 9:56 pm (et) Basecat: Babs...I truly believe the home was the impetus for Camp David.

2/13/2006 9:56 pm (et) mobile_96: Agree Babs, allowed him more family time than DC would ever have.

2/13/2006 9:57 pm (et) Babs: That afterword made it sound like the book was commissioned by the home. Like some one thought, "If we are going to open this place to the public, some of them might want to buy a book on the subject."

2/13/2006 9:58 pm (et) ks: From what we read, it was sanctuary to all of the family. That quote from Mary is on the website as well "How dearly I loved the 'Soldiers' Home' ..."

2/13/2006 9:59 pm (et) mobile_96: Had the same thought Babs.

2/13/2006 9:59 pm (et) Basecat: Know he lives near Gettysburg...would be interesting if we could get him to stop by at Muster.

2/13/2006 9:59 pm (et) ks: My impression was more along the lines of "If we're going to get OTHERS to kick in funds to help restore this place, we'd better get a book out there so they KNOW about the place." :)

2/13/2006 10:00 pm (et) ks: I had the same thought, Basecat. Now that's scary. :)

2/13/2006 10:01 pm (et) Basecat: ks...Does not hurt to ask..:)

2/13/2006 10:03 pm (et) ks: Speaking of muster, the website is being updated. You'll find the Accommodations page is up and other pages have taken on a new look. I was working on Itinerary today and am glad I didn't finish. Have had updates from MAP tonight with changes on said itinerary. Look for those to go up within next 24 hours.

2/13/2006 10:04 pm (et) Basecat: ks...any truth that the Gettysburg Philharmonic is playing at the Ball? ;)

2/13/2006 10:05 pm (et) Vickie: yipeeee Itinerary coming soon :-)

2/13/2006 10:05 pm (et) Basecat: Or that ABC will be filming this for their next reality show Dancing with the Musterers?? ;)

2/13/2006 10:06 pm (et) ks: Also I can announce two of the guides. 2 out of 3 contracts have been signed. Day 1 will be with Gary Kross. Day 2 will find us touring with Tim Smith.

2/13/2006 10:06 pm (et) Vickie: Oh I like the new look of the muster site.

2/13/2006 10:06 pm (et) ks: Dancing with the Musterers. :) Now talk about scary...

2/13/2006 10:06 pm (et) ks: Thanks, Vickie. I found that Currier & Ives print on a clip art site and even am using it legally. ;)

2/13/2006 10:07 pm (et) Basecat: Very good guides ks...

2/13/2006 10:08 pm (et) Babs: The new book starts in two weeks, right?

2/13/2006 10:08 pm (et) ks: "Name the Muster" looks like a big HERSHEY bar. Have to get that formatted as well. I stayed up waaay too late last night.

2/13/2006 10:09 pm (et) ks: I believe that's the plan, Babs. I make something up and put it on YODB. ;)

2/13/2006 10:09 pm (et) Babs: mmmm HERSHEY bar

2/13/2006 10:10 pm (et) ks: The Title for the Accommodations page actually came from GenP btw. Thought that was clever. ;)

2/13/2006 10:10 pm (et) Basecat: Babs...Drive by Hershey every time I head to Gettysburg...yet have never stopped there.

2/13/2006 10:11 pm (et) ks: Look UP to the title section of your screen when you access the page. ;)

2/13/2006 10:12 pm (et) Babs: I drive by Buchanan's birthplace every time I head to Gettysburg... yet have never stopped there. Guess we are too anxious to get to the burg.

2/13/2006 10:12 pm (et) Basecat: Babs...Have yet to stop there either, but am planning to eventually...Right off of 81 as you know.

2/13/2006 10:13 pm (et) ks: I've stayed in Hershey, PA but can't say I've "seen" it. Everyone seemed to be heading for the amusement park.

2/13/2006 10:14 pm (et) Basecat: BTW..There is a hge National Cemetery located just North of Harrisburg which I have yet to stop by at either.

2/13/2006 10:14 pm (et) Babs: Heading out. Thanks for another great book I never would have gotten around to reading on my own.

2/13/2006 10:14 pm (et) Basecat: Enjoyed it as well Babs. Take Care.