There is a great deal more to Abraham Lincoln than his presidency.
He was one of; many say the, greatest presidents the nation has ever had. He led the nation through its most trying era, the American Civil War.
He was handed a mess upon his arrival in Washington, the south was near rebellion, the economy was sketchy, and the capitol city was an ecological and social mess.
He brought his own problems with him as well.
Lincoln’s life prior to marriage is debated, discussed, and dissected by many. But, as most of it was not documented, decisive answers are few and far between.
He was to be married, but she died, he was grief-stricken some say, even throwing himself upon her grave in a fit of tears.
He had lovers, so say some.
And he supposedly lived with a man for eight years, causing some to say that he and Joshua Speed were lovers all that time.
I can’t say, I wasn’t there.
He did marry eventually, as we all know.
Mary Todd was born in the Bluegrass state’s Lexington, the fourth of seven children.
Her father was a banker, prominent in society and politics, and a slave holder. Mary grew UP in comfort, refinement, and wealth.
Her mother died when Mary was six years old, and two years later her father remarried. There were nine more children added to the brood bringing the number to 16. By most accounts, Mary’s relationship with her step-mother was “difficult.”
At an early age, Mary was shipped off to Madame Mantelle’s finishing school where she learned French and literature. She became fluent in French, studied dance, music, and “the social graces.”
She was regarded as witty and gregarious, and coming from a political family, all Whigs, she had a true grasp of politics.
The 14 room mansion in which the Todd’s resided became cramped for Mary and she moved to Springfield, Illinois to live with her sister Elizabeth.
She was popular with the local beaux, courted by the likes of Stephen Douglas and Honest Abe.
She chose the tall frontiersman over the little giant, and on November 4, 1842, married Lincoln in the parlor of her sister’s home.
She was 23, he was 33.
Some would later claim that Mary had a sense of the inevitable, and knew that Lincoln would be called to greatness.
Some would claim she wanted in for the ride.
Of course some would later claim she was in on the plot to murder him, but well, that’s just poppycock!
The Lincoln’s had four sons; Robert Todd, Edward Baker, William Wallace, and Thomas, known as Tad.
She would lose not only her husband, but three of her sons, Edward died of tuberculosis. She would lose Willie while Lincoln was in the White House to typhoid, and Tomas would fall to pneumonia or congestive heart failure in 1871, with Robert being the only one to outlive his mother.
Lincoln and Douglas not only rivaled over Mary, they became political rivals as we all learned in the 8th grade.
Lincoln gained fame for his position on slavery as he pursued an increasingly successful career as a circuit lawyer. Mary was often alone while Lincoln rode the circuit and supervised the home and children while supporting her husband socially and politically.
Throughout her adult life, Mary suffered from headaches, which medical professionals now feel were migraines.
And she suffered from depression and her headaches increased after a head injury from a carriage accident while in Washington.
Mood swings, fierce tempers, public outbursts and excessive spending were the norm, and folks today suspect she was bipolar.
There are others who feel she had pernicious anemia.
During her years a First Lady, she visited hospitals filled with wounded soldiers, wrote letters for them, and from time to time went with the President on visits to the front.
There were other times when she drove him from the White House to his haven, a cottage outside of Washington where he read, relaxed, and retreated from her rages.
She was also the consummate White House hostess, spending lavishly on social functions.
She was often criticized by Congress.
When the Civil War ended in April of 1865, Mary Todd Lincoln expected to finish out a second term as First Lady and retire to Illinois.
All that changed as she sat helplessly while and assassin shot her husband point blank ending his life and changing hers forever.
The last conversation the First Couple had consisted of her asking the President, “What will Miss Harris think of my hanging on to you so?” as she held his hand in Ford’s Theater.
His reply, “She won’t think a thing about it,” came seconds before John Wilkes Booth took his fatal shot at the President as she held his hand.
Taken to a home across the street from the theater, Lincoln’s son, Robert, sat with his father as his life ebbed away during the night.
Secretary of War, Edwin M. Stanton ordered Mary from the room as she was “unhinged with grief.”
As the nation grieved, Mary moved to Chicago with her two surviving sons, and was for a time forgotten.
In 1870, the US Congress granted Mary a life pension of $3,000 a year ($58,000 in today’s dollars.) The fight had been long and difficult.
Mary wrote doggedly to Congress insisting that she deserved a pension just as much as the thousands of war widows; after all, her husband was the fallen Commander in Chief.
In July of 1882, while living at her sister’s home once again, Mary collapsed, fell into a coma, and never regained consciousness.
She was 63.
Any love story told of Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln is pure speculation.
There are no letters, no diaries, and no tales to tell.