Lincoln’s Sanctuary: Abraham Lincoln and the Soldiers’ Home by Matthew Pinsker
Crap. I read the wrong book. How did this happen? I’m a professional, for the love of Mike!
(photo credit: Library of Congress)
Here’s what I did: Before visiting Lincoln’s Cottage at the Soldiers’ Home, I read Lincoln’s Other White House: The Untold Story of the Man and His Presidency by Elizabeth Smith Brownstein. That was a mistake. It was a bit of a weird book, which felt more like an apology for Mary Lincoln and a collection of snapshot biographies of various generals than it did an in-depth look at Lincoln at the Soldiers’ Home. OK, I know that is snarky. But I truly was disappointed by that book.
This here book—Lincoln’s Sanctuary: Abraham Lincoln and the Soldiers’ Home by Matthew Pinsker—is the one I should have read. This one is the book about Lincoln and the Soldiers’ Home.
So now I’ve read it, and I’m glad.
Here’s our “Who Knew?!” fact of the day: Abraham Lincoln spent about 1/4 of his presidency residing at the Soldiers’ Home on the (then-)outskirts of Washington, D.C., since it provided relief from the sweltering heat of the city and afforded the family a modicum of privacy. During the summers of 1862, 1863, and 1864, Lincoln commuted from the Soldiers’ Home to the White House for work. (Check me here: Can a person commute on horseback?)
Not only does author Pinsker stay on topic, but his writing is very nice. This fellow can assemble quite a fine sentence, which makes this book a pleasure to read.
He also beautifully combines the public and private elements of Lincoln’s life to show the president as an actual human being. For example, Pinsker mentions the spans of time when Mary Lincoln was away, surmising about the effects of her absence on the president.
Truly, for any presidential history geek, a visit to the Lincoln Cottage is highly recommended. When I was there, an amazingly good tour guide led the small group through the house, and it was totally worth the price of admission. (In D.C., with all those free museums, it’s almost weird to pay admission to anything, but I tell you, this place is worth it!)