By Erin Carlson Mast
One hundred and forty-six years ago today, President Lincoln, his wife Mary, and their youngest son, Tad, completed their move to a Cottage at the Soldiers’ Home. Lincoln had visited the Soldiers’ Home earlier in his presidency, but now they would be coming to call it home. They would stay through early November, and return in 1863 and 1864.
From Mary Lincoln’s letters, we know the Lincolns intended to move to the Soldiers’ Home in 1861, but never made it. Presumably, the attack on Fort Sumter and outbreak of the Civil War changed their plans. And her letters also confirm they were preparing to return in 1865. In fact, President Lincoln visited the Home just 1 day before he was shot by John Wilkes Booth at Ford’s Theater. A month later, Mary wrote to a friend:
“How dearly I loved the ‘Soldiers’ Home,’ & how little I supposed, one year since, that we would be so far removed from it, broken hearted….”
Still, the time the Lincolns lived at the Soldiers’ Home makes up a full quarter of his presidency. In that first summer the Lincolns lived here, Lincoln began working on his policy of emancipation, while in Lincoln’s last year at the Cottage, he was struggling with his campaign for reelection.