This Week's Story

President Lincoln finds laughter, tears, and worries in the White House.

This Week’s Story relives American history and the Bible through brief inspiring stories presented on mp3 audio recordings and text for reading.

Do you know President Lincoln?

People ask me, “Everett, how well do you know President Lincoln?”

That’s a tough question to answer! I guess you could say I know quite a bit about him. Sometimes we talk when he comes into the kitchen where I usually work. He’s friendly with the White House staff. They like him. You don’t have to be important to get his attention.

I try to watch him and listen to him when I serve in the dining room. His face is frequently sad, but not when he plays with his sons or tells a story. Then his face is a wonder—so lively! You want to get as close to him as you can.

Often he talks like country people. Wearing house slippers he may answer the front door and say, “Howdy. Come in and stay a spell.” His wife Mary gets irritated. She’s proper, although she can be sarcastic and cutting. The President is private about his personal feelings. That’s wise because he has to talk to many kinds of people. Some are his enemies.

The man has no privacy in the White House. His family are forever busting in on him. That includes his wife and two sons Willie and Tad.

Unless he leaves the White House people pack the entrance hall waiting to see him. He patiently meets with each one, whether the person has a complaint, is a visitor, or a tearful mother begging him to stop a military execution order for her son, which he usually does. Mr. President wants to know what the public thinks and he refuses to be cut off from the people. He wears himself out.

It’s good we have pets in the White House. When the President plays with them and his boys, we have laughter here. He needs relief from tension. I heard the President’s wife say cats are his hobby. He talks to Tabby and Dixie, even about his argumentative cabinet. I heard him murmur, “Dixie is smarter than my whole cabinet. And furthermore she doesn’t talk back!”

Two goats, Nanny and Nanko, also live here. Mrs. Lincoln doesn’t approve of them. One sleeps on Tad’s bed with him.

President Lincoln doesn’t get much sleep. He’s works late at night and is usually out of bed at dawn. In the late afternoon he and his wife often visit soldiers in their mess halls or at a military hospital.

The Civil War is going badly for the Union States. So far the Confederates have won most of the battles. Thousands of soldiers are dying on both sides. The President is struggling about what he should do concerning slavery. His first concern has been that the country would be united again. The Civil War has been going for ten months. Death and suffering are the President’s business every day.

Now it has come to the President’s family. Both Tad and Willie have typhoid fever. Today, February 20, 1862, Willie died at age eleven.

The President buried his head in his hands as Elizabeth Keckly, a former slave, washed and dressed Willie. She saw Mr. President’s body shake with grief. Then he walked down the hall and said to his secretary, “Well, Nicolay, my boy is gone—he is actually gone.” With tears falling he entered his office. Later he was heard to say, “It is hard, hard to have him die.” Poor Mrs. Lincoln cannot be comforted.

What will happen now? Will the United States become united again? How will the President and his wife survive their grief?

This is Barbara Steiner with research of a horrendous time in American history. Everett was created for this story. Please visit the website: thisweeksstory.com.

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