The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln

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Free Press, Jan 11, 2005 - Biography & Autobiography - 384 pages
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The late C. A. Tripp, a highly regarded sex researcher and colleague of Alfred Kinsey, and author of the runaway bestseller The Homosexual Matrix, devoted the last ten years of his life to an exhaustive study of Abraham Lincoln's writings and of scholarship about Lincoln, in search of hidden keys to his character. In The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln, completed just weeks before he died, Tripp offers a full examination of Lincoln's inner life and relationships that, as Dr. Jean Baker argues in the Introduction, "will define the issue for years to come." Throughout this riveting work, new details are revealed about Lincoln's relations with a number of men. Long-standing myths are debunked convincingly -- in particular, the myth that Lincoln's one true love was Ann Rutledge, who died tragically young. Ultimately, Tripp argues that Lincoln's unorthodox loves and friendships were tied to his maverick beliefs about religion, slavery, and even ethics and morals. As Tripp argues, Lincoln was an "invert": a man who consistently turned convention on its head, who drew his values not from the dominant conventions of society, but from within.

For years, a whisper campaign has mounted about Abraham Lincoln, focusing on his intimate relationships. He was famously awkward around single women. He was engaged once before Mary Todd, but his fiancée called off the marriage on the grounds that he was "lacking in smaller attentions." His marriage to Mary was troubled. Meanwhile, throughout his adult life, he enjoyed close relationships with a number of men. He shared a bed with oshua Speed for four years as a young man, and -- as Tripp details here -- he shared a bed with an army captain while serving in the White House, when Mrs. Lincoln was away. As one Washington socialite commented in her diary, "What stuff!"

This study reaches far beyond a brief about Lincoln's sexuality: it is an attempt to make sense of the whole man, as never before. It includes an Introduction by Jean Baker, biographer of Mary Todd Lincoln, and an Afterword containing reactions by two Lincoln scholars and one clinical psychologist and longtime acquaintance of C.A. Tripp. As Michael Chesson explains in one of the Afterword essays, "Lincoln was different from other men, and he knew it. More telling, virtually every man who knew him at all well, long before he rose to prominence, recognized it. In fact, the men who claimed to know him best, if honest, usually admitted that they did not understand him." Perhaps only now, when conventions of intimacy are so different, so open, and so much less rigid than in Lincoln's day, can Lincoln be fully understood.

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Don't tell Ralph Reed or Jerry Falwell, but the Log Cabin Republicans are on to something big.The secret, according to the late Kinsey Institute sex researcher Tripp, was that Abraham Lincoln was gay ... Read full review

The intimate world of Abraham Lincoln

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The late psychologist and sex researcher Tripp (The Homosexual Matrix ) devoted over 20 years to studying Lincoln's private life. In this, his last work, he draws on his skills and the assumptions and ... Read full review

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About the author (2005)

Chapter One: "What Stuff!"

Virginia Woodbury Fox, the wife of Assistant Secretary of the Navy Gustavus V. Fox, traveled in high sociopolitical circles and kept a detailed diary noted for its specificity and impartiality from 1856 to 1876. She was a close Lincoln confidant, and her diary has become a much quoted source found throughout Lincoln literature. The Library of Congress files contain literally hundreds of her comments and references to them. Yet one of her notes has been overlooked, until very recently. It is an entry dated November 16, 1862: "Tish says, ''there is a Bucktail soldier here devoted to the President, drives with him, and when Mrs. L. is not home, sleeps with him.'' What stuff!"

"Tish" was Letitia McKean, a player in Washington''s fashionable society and the daughter of an admiral. It is unknown how she came by her information, but hearsay is likely. Should it be dismissed as such?

The Bucktail soldier was David V. Derickson. He was five-feet-nine-inches tall, with intense eyes, a strong nose, and thick black hair, and was from a socially prominent family in Meadville, Pennsylvania. He was a captain in the army. He was born on April 9, 1818. (He was nine years younger than Lincoln.) The military was well-known to the Derickson clan. The captain''s father was himself an officer, Capt. Samuel Derickson of the 137th Regiment Pennsylvania Militia (1787-1827). His middle brother, George, was killed in 1854 in the Mexican War. The youngest, Richard, held an array of state military posts, rising to become brigadier general of the state volunteers in 1849, and eventually signing up with Pennsylvania''s Erie Regiment as a private in the Civil War.

A scattered record offers some clues to the nature of the Lincoln-Derickson relationship, and attests that McKean''s rumor was more than mere hearsay. Margaret Leech''s 1941 Pulitzer Prize-winning Reveille in Washington, 1860-1865, includes one mention of Derickson on page 303:

[Lincoln] grew to like the Bucktails, especially Company K, with whose captain he became so friendly that he invited him to share his bed on autumn nights when Mrs. Lincoln was away from home. When the question arose about a guard at the White House on the family''s return to town, the President especially requested that Company K continue on duty. The congenial captain was presently transferred to another command, but the soldiers remained with the President throughout the war.

Ms. Leech never identified this "congenial captain," and she cryptically left the fellow almost as soon as she introduced him; all in a mere three sentences. Perhaps it was the off-handed manner in which it was presented or because she never named the captain that the incident comes across as unremarkable. Or maybe it was the suggestion that because the captain was transferred, he was no longer in the picture.

Leech''s bibliography references a rare and scholarly book that discusses Derickson in far more detail: History of the One Hundred and Fiftieth Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteers, Second Regiment, Bucktail Brigade. Published in 1895, it was written by Lt. Col. Thomas Chamberlin, immediate commanding officer to Capt. Derickson in Washington.

Every detail about Chamberlin points to his legitimacy as a historian. As he wrote in the preface to his book:

Nothing has been set down here without careful authentication and, where the memory of witnesses has clashed in respect to any important incident, everything possible has been done to reconcile disagreements and reach an actual fact....And if [my] book, which is truly a labor of love, have [sic] no other merit, it is at least, or aims to be, a faithful presentation of the truth. (italics in the original)

Chamberlin had graduated with high honors from Lewisburg College, his hometown school, in 1858 and had then gone on to graduate studies in both law and philosophy in Germany. When war came, he elected to serve as company captain in the Pennsylvania Reserves. He was wounded twice in combat, including at Gettysburg on July 1, 1863, which turned out to be the finish of his military career. It also left him partially disabled for the duration of his life, until 1917.

A sizable contingent of the Bucktail Survivors read Chamberlin''s history of the regiment. They congratulated him and even gave him an award for the quality and accuracy of his reporting.

Chapter 4 of his book discusses Lincoln and Derickson:

To him [Chamberlin] was immediately entrusted the care of companies at the Soldier''s Home, and up to the 22nd of October he visited them each day, inspecting the camp and guards and exercising the men in all the more important company and battalion movements. Here he several times witnessed the arrival of the President, who, after the onerous duties of the day at the White House, was driven to his summer retreat in an open carriage, accompanied by an insignificant detail of cavalry from "Scotts'' Nine Hundred." Here, too, he frequently met little Thomas Lincoln, vulgarly known as "Tad," who spent much of his time in the camp, in which he seemed to have a weighty sense of proprietorship.

The President was also not an infrequent visitor in the late afternoon hours, and endeared himself to his guards by his genial, kind ways. He was not long in placing the officers in his two companies at their ease in his presence, and Captains Derickson and Crozier were shortly on a footing of such marked friendship with him that they were often summoned to dinner or breakfast at the presidential board. Captain Derickson, in particular, advanced so far in the President''s confidence and esteem that in Mrs. Lincoln''s absence he frequently spent the night at his cottage, sleeping in the same bed with him, and -- it is said -- making use of his Excellency''s night-shirt! Thus began an intimacy which continued unbroken until the following spring, when Captain Derickson was appointed provost marshall of the Nineteenth Pennsylvania District, with head-quarters in Meadville.

With two independent mentions of Mrs. Lincoln''s absences, and Derickson''s bed-sharing, the matter clearly deserves scrutiny. The implications of Mary Lincoln''s absence, for starters, are perhaps different from what one might suppose. The Lincolns presumably had little if any sex for ten years, due to severe physical damage (probably vaginal tearing) that Mary had sustained while giving birth to Tad, with his especially large head, damage that made later sexual intercourse painful. As she herself confided to a friend, "My disease is of a womanly nature." Nor had the Lincolns shared the same bedroom for years; his many nighttime visits from friends and colleagues to discuss politics far into the night had long since caused Mary to want her own bedroom. Thus the importance of her absence during Derickson''s nighttime visits rested squarely on not wanting her to be present as a witness.

According to Lincoln Day By Day: A Chronology 1809-1865, Mrs. Lincoln left for New York and Boston on October 25, 1862, returning on November 27. Virginia Fox''s diary entry falls within this window. Before and after these dates, it is difficult to be certain of Mrs. Lincoln''s sleeping arrangements. And yet -- as is no surprise -- the nature of sexual attraction is such that its appetite is inclined to be whetted rather than blocked by impossible time slots and other barriers that would challenge or stand in its way.

The Lincoln-Derickson relationship had been discussed separately in 1895 in Ida M. Tarbell''s popular and widely read The Life of Abraham Lincoln, originally a series of pieces written for McClure''s magazine. Tarbell had discovered a four-thousand word memoir by Captain D. V. Derickson, published in the May 12, 1888, edition of the Meadville (Pennsylvania) Tribune-Republican, titled ABRAHAM LINCOLN''S BODYGUARD. The article left the distinct impression that Lincoln''s attraction to him began practically at first sight. Their first encounter at the Soldier''s Home on September 8, 1862, is described in several paragraphs by Tarbell, quoting Derickson at length, but cutting certain of his passages (restored here, in bold):

"The next morning after our arrival," says Mr. Derickson, "the President sent a messenger with a note to my quarters, stating that he would like to see the Captain of the Guard at his residence. I immediately reported. After an informal introduction and handshaking, he asked me if I would have any objection to riding with him to the city. I replied that it would give me much pleasure to do so, when he invited me to take a seat into his carriage. On our way to the city, he made numerous inquiries, as to my name, where I came from, what regiment I belonged to, etc. I told him my name and place of residence. He replied, ''Oh, I already know about you. We appointed you one of the internal revenue assessors a few days ago.'' He inquired how I got into military service, and I explained my situation to him. He told me how it came that my appointment as assessor was so long delayed.

"When we entered the city, Mr. Lincoln said he would call at General Halleck''s headquarters and get what news he had received from the Army during the night. I informed him that General Cullum, chief aide to General Halleck, was raised in Meadville and that I knew him when I was a boy. He replied, ''Then we must see both gentlemen.'' When the carriage stopped, he requested me to remain seated, and said he would bring the gentlemen down to see me, the office being on the second floor. In a short time the President came down, followed by the other gentlemen. When he introduced them to me, General Cullum recognized and

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