Book reveals unique side of Abraham Lincoln

As one of the most recognized presidents in American history, Abraham Lincoln is remembered fondly as the gaunt, stately man with a tidy beard and stovepipe hat.

Many remember Lincoln simply as the man forever memorialized on our currency and in our nation’s Capitol. Still others see him as the strong Civil War leader who led the Union troops to victory, or as the president publicly assassinated for his strong political views.

With more than 60,000 books already in publication about this popular iconic figure, it could be argued that authors and historians are left with nothing new to say about Lincoln. But while so many accounts of his life and history exist, it’s often difficult to get an accurate read on the former president.

Who was Abraham Lincoln? What did his contemporaries think of him, and how did they feel about his untimely death? The answers to these questions, and more, are revealed for the first time in Rare Personal Accounts of Abraham Lincoln (Railsplitter Press, 2005), a new book that explores insights into Lincoln’s life that could only be made by those who had a personal connection to this famous leader.

To gain a new understanding of the president that hadn’t already been covered in the history books, author and Lincoln memorabilia collector John E. Boos traveled across the country in search of living Union Civil War veterans who had personal stories about Lincoln. From 1917 to 1940, Boos collected a large amount of stories and letters about the former president from those who had served as eyewitnesses to Lincoln’s life.

Many veterans were interviewed by Boos, but many non-veterans, like Henry Rathbone and H. Clay Ford, were also interviewed.

Boos’ work went unpublished for decades, until Lincoln memorabilia collectors Gene and Bill Snack acquired the letters. What they discovered were rare documents, previously unavailable to historians, that revealed Lincoln’s more intimate side.

Accounts of the president came from spectators present during Lincoln’s speeches, soldiers who met the leader while in battle and even high-ranking government officials close to the president.

“The interview style used by Boos was simple: He merely asked, ‘Did you know Lincoln?’” said William Feeheley of Railsplitter Publishing. “Even though individuals were unaware of others that were interviewed, stories with similar conclusions began to unfold.”

These stories express Lincoln’s oratorical ability, his values, the quality of his character and his influence on the lives of others. Some stories also shed new light on the Lincoln assassination and other historical events.

“The Rare Personal Accounts of Abraham Lincoln actually adds to Lincoln literature,” said John Reznikoff, the designated authenticator for American and Historical Autographs. “The book allows history to speak for itself.”

From the March 22-28, 2006, issue

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