07.15.12 : The Life of Abraham Lincoln, From His Birth to His Inauguration as President, by Ward Hill Lamon (1828-1893), published in 1872.
About the Author
Ward Hill Lamon, called Hill by his friends, was an Illinois lawyer and friend of Abraham Lincoln, and Republican political supporter beginning not long before the Illinois Republican Party was created. Lamon purchased the temporary rights to use Herndon’s research on Lincoln’s life and then set to work, with help from Chauncey F. Black, writing the first reasonably accurate biography of Abraham Lincoln prior to his move east to become President. After returning the research papers to Herndon, William returned to work writing his own biography of his former law partner. Of the borrowing of Herndon’s research papers, Lamon wrote:
“Early in 1869, Mr. Herndon placed at my disposal his remarkable collection of materials the richest, rarest, and fullest collection it was possible to conceive. . .”
This book is well written and complete, consisting of 545 pages. Lamon’s involvement with President Lincoln as a bodyguard in Washington adds an interesting twist to the narrative, but the story does stop when the subject leaves Springfield. The publication of this book in 1872 precedes Herndon’s book by 16 years. It is faithful to the truth and was widely criticized after publication for making Lincoln appear strangely ordinary prior to becoming a lawyer. Yet, Lamon accepted Lincoln’s claim that he was born to Nancy and Thomas Lincoln on February 12, 1809, after they married, and that Thomas was his biological father. There is just one mention in this book of a fight between Thomas Lincoln and Abraham Enloe (Enlow), just a slight taste of what Herndon never uncovered — Herndon beat around the bushes extensively, but never chased out the fact that Abe’s biological father was Abraham Enloe of far-western North Carolina. This book is a must for any library of Lincoln biography.
Availability of this book
I obtained a used book, a reprint by University of Nebraska Press, a paperback published in 1999. Just make sure you get a complete book.