Mrs. Lincolns Dilemma

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For reasons beyond her control, she was late in arriving. Not only was she late, but during her carriage ride with Julia Grant to the review, the carriage hit a ditch and Mary banged her head forcefully against the roof. By the time she arrived, she openly expressed her anger and irritation to her husband, not sensitive to the fact that others were within earshot and witnessing her tantrum. Most felt a sadness for Lincoln at that point. He took her anger with calmness and dignity. Mary regretted her behavior that day and returned to the White House with a heavy heart.

The Lincolns returned to the White House and Lincoln was exposed to another one of his dreams. In this one, he was wandering through the halls of the White House and he came upon the East Room. There was a coffin with a corpse inside. He asked the soldier in attendance, "Who is dead in the White House? Regardless, Lincoln expressed his desire that they both look to the future. Now that the war was over, they needed to focus on each other and nurture their relationship.

Close Reading –Lincoln’s Letter to Eliza Browning | History Civil War & Reconstruction

Having lost her mother at the impressionable age of five created a deep void within Mary Todd Lincoln from which she never recovered. That, coupled with her inability to accept the deaths of sons Eddie and Willie, led to perpetual depression and anxiety that she tried to cure with frequent shopping excursions and trying to win the love and affection of those around her.

In the end, she may have assembled quite a collection of beautiful wares, but it cost her the respect of her admirers. Some, knowing her fondness for her brothers accused her of traitorous behavior during the war. Little did Mary know that although the war was coming to a close, her battles were just beginning.

Dickinson College, Spring 2016

On Good Friday, April 14, , Mary and Lincoln took a carriage ride where they rekindled their relationship with intimate conversation. The presidential party arrived at the theatre late, but became happily situated inside the freshly-decorated presidential box as the orchestra played Hail to the Chief. When the applause died down, the play began. About an hour and a half into the performance, Mary intimately slipped her hand into her husband's and leaned over to ask of him what the others in their group would think of her bold display of affection.

The Insanity Files: The Ordeal of Mary Todd Lincoln

Before she could absorb his response, a man entered the box and pointed a revolver to the back of the president's head and pulled the trigger. Lincoln slumped over. Mary's screams echoed throughout the theatre and those who witnessed the shooting never forgot the wretched moans that came from Mary over the next few moments. Lincoln was quickly removed from the theatre and taken to a private home across the street. A hysterical Mary and her companion Clara followed closely behind, their gowns spattered with Major Rathbone's blood from a saber wound he'd received while trying to subdue Boothe.

Lincoln's unresponsive body was laid on a bed in a second-floor bedroom and Mary clung to him begging for a response. The men in attendance were unable tolerate Mary's hysteria and at a time when she should have been consoled and allowed to remain at her husband's side, she was forcibly removed from the room and taken to a downstairs parlor. For the next nine hours, she anxiously awaited her husband's death. Robert, who'd been fetched to the home earlier, divided his time between consoling his mother and sitting beside his father's lifeless body.

Mary was finally permitted another visit with her husband and collapsed. By the time she was revived, her husband was dead. She later wrote of his death, "I often think it would have been some solace to me and perhaps have lessened the grief, which is now breaking my heart—if my idolized had passed away, after an illness, and I had been permitted to watch over him and tend him to the last," then she could have, " Mary did not attend her husband's funeral and had no family members from Springfield come to her side during this difficult period.

She became bedridden for the next 40 days and refused callers who came to offer their sympathy, which in turn created talk of her impropriety in dealing with her husband's death. President Andrew Jackson was anxious to settle into the White House and his new role; however, he patiently waited for Mary to leave the White House. During her period of confinement, she was oblivious to the goings on around her; the White House staff took advantage of her preoccupation and began looting valuable items.

The following year, the Congressional Committee on House Appropriations investigated the thefts and whether Mary had a hand in the disappearance of these items. She was cleared of any involvement. Mary began to contemplate her future. Most suggested she return to Springfield, but to return to Springfield where she'd enjoyed so much gaiety with her husband was out of the question. It was also the place where she'd lost Eddie. She finally decided on Chicago and on the same day that the Union chose to celebrate their victory in war, Mary, Robert and Tad boarded a train for Chicago. Alas, all is over with me.

First Lady Biography: Mary Lincoln

It was there that while walking the shores of Lake Michigan she allowed herself to think of her husband and grieve. For the most part, she became a recluse and allowed few people into her world and for those she did interact with, they concluded that Mary was still very much consumed by the events of the evening her husband was assassinated. Today, we recognize her behavior as post traumatic stress disorder. Robert remained active and busied himself by accepting a position as an apprentice in a law firm. Robert refused to join the two feeling that their new accommodations were dreary, in actuality, he was trying to distance himself from his mother.

Creditors began knocking on her door to collect debts incurred during her White House years. To pay off some of the debts, she sold her gowns, and returned jewelry and other items to the place of purchase. She refinanced the remaining debt with a wealthy financier, at a very high-interest rate. She hired Alex Williamson to handle her financial affairs and try to raise contributions for the Mary Lincoln fund. Through his efforts, Mary was able to pay off the vast amount of her debts—although many frowned upon her methods.

Regardless, she was proud of her accomplishment. But her accomplishment was overshadowed by the fact that other war-time widows were receiving much more in contributed funds than she was receiving. It was another blow to her already wounded self. Washington Street in Chicago. The purchase, she hoped, would bring her family back together under one roof. Robert did not support her in this purchase, especially since she didn't have the funds, only a promise. Sure enough, Simon Cameron's interest in Mary waned after he'd won a senatorial nomination.

Mary was frustrated by the broken vow and took it upon herself to secure the necessary funds.

Other Than That, Mrs. Lincoln…

She sought out those individuals whose careers had been helped by her husband. Robert became irritated at his mother's "begging" and his opinion of her soon fell in alignment with her critics. Unable to afford the house, Mary rented it out and became a vagabond. She felt, "No place is home for me. Her public humiliation continued. He called the marriage of the Lincoln's "a domestic hell For the last 23 years of his life, Mr. Lincoln had no joy. It was during this time that others came to her defense and denied the claims made by Herndon, who was considered an irresponsible alcoholic.

Robert also came to his mother's defense during this time and tried to persuade Herndon to drop the story, but he was unsuccessful. In , Mary packed her belongings in what she termed "poor boxes" and traveled—for the first time in her life unaccompanied. Mary made her way to the spas in Racine, Wisconsin where she took advantage of their therapeutic affect.

While there, she began to feel better and seemed to garner a clearer sense of her predicament. She formulated a plan to raise money that included selling her entire White House wardrobe. She no longer needed the clothes as she'd taken to wearing widow's garb since her husband's death. She immediately journeyed to New York where she planned the sale under the alias Mrs. Clarke, but it was only a matter of days until her identity was discovered and she was blasted in the press once again. The sale was a fiasco. She returned to Chicago in time to read the Chicago Journal's coverage: "The most charitable construction that Mary Lincoln's friends can put on her strange course is that she is insane.

Robert Todd Lincoln Robert was becoming increasingly embarrassed by his mother's actions. Later that year, Mary learned through a newspaper article that her late husband's estate was ready for disbursement. Neither Robert, nor David Davis who was handling the affair, bothered to tell her. This infuriated her since she'd had given up her house on Washington Street because her requests to Davis for an additional income to afford the house were rejected, yet her son's request for more money had been awarded.

He'd even received extra money to decorate his bachelor's quarters. Wishing to leave the United States and all the humiliation, both public and private, Mary and year-old Tad boarded a steamer in bound for Europe—but not before attending the wedding between Robert and Mary Harlan. For the next two years, Frankfurt Germany became home to Mary. There, her eccentricities were seen for just that, and not insanity. She was liked and even admired abroad. In , she became a grandmother and although the relationship with Robert was strained, Mary passed advice freely on to her daughter-in-law about marriage and motherhood.

Attend operas and concerts," she advised. Her life became leisurely and when she wasn't sending lavish gifts to both her daughter-in-law and granddaughter, she was reading books and walking alongside the Main. She journeyed to Baden-Baden to enjoy the sulfurous baths, followed by Nice where she enjoyed the climate. Back in Frankfurt, Mary was surprised and delighted to receive a visit from her old friend Sally Orne.

The two spent the ensuing days together reminiscing. Mary's lighthearted nature reappeared briefly and apparently the two women made so much noise in Mary's room with their giggling and talking that "a gentleman next door knocked several times, during the night, saying ladies I should like to sleep some. Lincoln is partially deranged, having seen her recently it may be proper for me to say to you that I have watched her closely by day and night for weeks and fail to discover any evidence of aberration of mind in her, and I believe her mind to be as clear now as it was in the days of her greatest prosperity and I do believe it is unusually prolonged grief that has given rise to such a report.

By early , there was friction between the two Marys and Mary chose to move into Clifton House. It was there Tad became very ill with what was initially diagnosed as a cold. But his lungs quickly filled with fluid and on July 15th, he died of "compression of the heart. In fact, 10 days after Tad's death, Robert left for the Rocky Mountains where he remained in seclusion for a month. The locale was a favored place for men who were suffering from "nervous" disorders. Robert would later express that he'd been "all used up" after his brother's death. Soon, Mary was no longer welcome in Robert's house—it may have been because she learned of her daughter-in-law's struggle with alcoholism.

Mary, who now despised the 14th and 15th day of each month—anniversary dates of Lincoln's death and Tad's death, respectively, turned more and more to spiritualists and mediums to find comfort. She then traveled to Waukesha, Wisconsin and settled near the health spas next to Lake Michigan. In , Mary traveled to Canada.

In , she desired warmth and traveled to Green Cove, Florida. As the 10th anniversary of her husband's death neared, Mary had a premonition that Robert was dying. Hastily, she left for Chicago where she was relieved to find him in good heath, but angry at her for all the ridiculous fuss.

Mary's anxieties during the anniversary of her husband's death played out in unusual ways. She shopped for items she didn't need and then purchased the item in large quantities. At one point, she ordered eight pairs of lace curtains for windows she didn't have, and patiently awaited their arrival.

When a knock came at her door, expecting the caller to be delivery the curtains, she opened the door and was surprised to find two uniformed men and an attorney, the same attorney who'd nominated her husband for president in It was then Mary learned she was being charged with lunacy and was directed to attend a trial immediately where a jury would deliberate her sanity. Mary told the men, "You mean to say I am crazy—I am much obliged to you but I am abundantly able to take care of myself.

Where is my son Robert? It was later Mary learned it was Robert who took out the warrant for her arrest as a lunatic. In fact, he hired Pinkerton men to follow her throughout her travels and meetings with mediums and spiritualists. He'd also questioned her doctors, maids, waiters and store clerks and then petitioned them to testify against her. One by one, they did so and concurred with Robert's assessment his mother was insane. Mary had a poor defense, one that was appointed to her by Robert, and it was prearranged the attorney would not provide her a defense that was in her best interest.

It only took the all-male jury 10 minutes to return a verdict: guilty of insanity. Her sentence was to hand over her bonds, give control of her money to a court-appointed conservator, and accept detainment in a private asylum in Batavia, IL. If Mary's trial had been held modern day, she would never have been charged with lunacy—maybe eccentricity—but not lunacy.

Mary was being condemned for being ahead of her time. On May 20, , she was admitted to Bellevue and from the moment she passed through its doors, she was planning her exit—not her escape, but her legal exit. She wrote letter after letter trying to secure an attorney to represent her, but this was difficult since all of her mail was censored. While Myra worked on the outside, Mary worked on the inside and prearranged with her sister Elizabeth that she would reside at her home in Springfield after her release. Initially, Elizabeth agreed until Robert stepped in and applied pressure to Elizabeth to deny Mary's request.

He even concocted several stories to further declare his mother's lunacy and was able to sway Elizabeth to his side. Myra privately met with Elizabeth and set the record straight and Elizabeth held firm in her offer to Mary to join them. Judge Bradwell sent a letter to Bellevue threatening habeas corpus. Robert continued to pay doctors with Mary's money for their prognosis, which of course supported his theory his mother was insane. Regardless, Mary was finally released to her sister and made the trip back to Springfield.

Robert still held her funds and refused to send her money—not even for a new bonnet to wear to church. Mary was cheerful and sociable at her sister's home, but she continued to fight Robert for her property and money. She felt as long as he held both, she would not be free. She knew Robert was still pursuing his quest to have her committed so she thought to bargain with him.

She made him an offer that if he would place her money in a Springfield bank, she would release to him the contents of her current will, naming him and his daughter heirs to her estate. There was a veiled threat amid her words that if he did not comply, she would disinherit him. Finally, Robert complied. On June 15, another jury found her "restored to reason and capable to manage and control her estate. With the new ruling, Mary wasted no time in forwarding a letter to her son where she demanded the immediate return of all her personal belongings that he was in possession.

She signed the letter Mrs. She also returned all the items that Robert had given to her, which didn't amount to much. The gift-giving had been obviously one-sided. The former First Lady had no claim on the White House, and as she dragged her feet—with occasional pauses to spar with a group of prominent Illinois men who planned to bury Lincoln in a dramatic tomb in Springfield—she became the object of mockery.

Finally, she left the White House and settled down in a hotel in Chicago. Mary had never been well loved in Washington. As First Lady, she had raised eyebrows with her pointed opinions and spending habits. Mary came from wealth and shopped for herself, her family and her new home with abandon. She was given a generous budget for redecorating the White House, but overspent it and fell under scrutiny for her extravagant wardrobe and purchases that were widely mocked, especially as the nation endured the privations of the Civil War.

She might be characterized as a compulsive shopper today. Now that Mary was a widow, the shopkeepers who had been eager to extend her credit came knocking. Desperate, Mary moved to a cheaper hotel as her expenses mounted. Mary Todd Lincoln As a widow, Mary could no longer wear her extravagant ball gowns or other clothing…so why not sell them?

Mary and the dressmaker Keckley headed to the city under assumed names with trunks filled with clothing and jewelry. Alexander Todd was killed at Baton Rouge. Samuel Todd was killed in the Battle of Shiloh. David Todd was wounded at Vicksburg. Her half-sister Emilie Helm's husband was a Confederate general killed at Chickamauga. The husbands of her half-sisters, Martha White and Elodie Dawson were ardent supporters of the Confederacy. Lincoln was also an adherent of spiritualism, believing the living could be in contact with the dead.

Education: Shelby Female Academy , , later known as Dr. Ward's Academy where she studied grammar, geography, arithmetic, poetry, literature; Madame Mentelle's Boarding School , , learned to speak and write French, penmanship, dancing, singing; Dr. With her father's close friendship to Kentucky political leader Henry Clay of the Whig Party, Mary Todd developed a voracious interest in politics and political issues.

As evidenced by one of her earliest letters, she supported the presidential candidacy of Whig William Henry Harrison. While she was trained in the social graces common to her class and time, the level of education she received was unusual. She studied widely and deeply a variety of subjects including the works of Victor Hugo, Shakespeare, astronomy. According to legend, her maternal grandmother aided slaves seeking freedom through the "Underground Railroad" and Mary Todd's later support of abolition is believed to have originated with the influence of this grandmother.

Marriage: 23 years old, married , November 4 to Abraham Lincoln, lawyer , in the front parlor of the home of Mary Todd's sister Elizabeth and her husband Ninian Edwards, Springfield, Illinois. On , January 1, Abraham Lincoln broke his initial engagement to Mary Todd several months after she had accepted.

For the first two years of their marriage, they lived at the Globe Tavern in Springfield. In , they purchased their first and only home at Eight and Jackson Streets in Springfield. Congressman in Washington and she made the unusual move to relocate there for a time, living with him and their first child in a boardinghouse. Her primary focus was raising her family and often did the cooking and cleaning of their home. She nevertheless took an active role in promoting his political career. When he began seeking an appointive position, it was Mary Lincoln who handwrote his solicitation letters to Whig leaders.

When he was offered the governorship of the faraway Oregon territory, she successfully advised against his accepting the post since it would remove him from a potential national position.

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