Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Last Lincolns, The Rise & Fall of a Great American Family By: Charles Lachman

After reading Mrs. Lincoln by Catherine Clinton you may want to continue reading about the Lincoln family. The Last Lincolns, The Rise and Fall of a Great American Family tells not only the love story of Mary and Abraham Lincoln but the trials and tribulations that the family faced before and after Abraham Lincoln's assassination.

Mary and Abraham had four children- all boys, however only one, Robert Todd Lincoln lived to adulthood and married. Mary and Abraham lost two sons even before he was elected President of the United States. After Abraham's assassination Mary became completely "undone" and suffered psychologically and physically for years. She survived widowhood by spending money foolishly and asking Congress for financial support, which eventually she was given. She escaped to Europe for a self-imposed exile searching for comfort in spas and expensive resorts. She lost another son, Tad to a tragic illness which pushed Mary further into mental disarray. Her surviving son Robert Todd Lincoln, a lawyer, helped engineer his mother's commitment to an insane asylum here in Illinois. That act forever changed their relationship.

Robert and his wife Mary Harlan Lincoln had a family of their own. They too suffered the loss of a child when their only son Abraham Lincoln II, "Jack" died as a teenager. Robert contemplated a career in politics for some time, serving several minor posts for the United States, and eventually becoming President of the Pullman Company. Their daughter Mamie married a man sixteen years her senior and gave birth to her only child, a son, Lincoln Isham. To her parents disappointment, Jessie married three different times and had two children; Robert Todd Lincoln Beckwith and Peggy Beckwith.

Lincoln, Robert, and Peggy were the last direct descendants of Mary and Abraham Lincoln. Linc went on the marry but never had any children. Robert was married three times and although one of his wives had a son, the son was not Robert's. That court case was finally settled in 1986, one year after Robert's death . Peggy inherited her grandmother's estate Hildene but allowed it to fall into disrepair. Peggy never married.

This book is certainly well worth reading. You feel like you are indeed reading a family history, not one filled with glorious attributes, but real life challenges, disappointments, and rewards. Enjoy.

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