Abraham and Mary Lincoln: A House Divided is a six-part series. The complete program transcripts for each episode are on the following pages:
- Part 1: Ambition (below)
- Part 2: We Are Elected
- Part 3: Shattered
- Part 4: The Dearest of All Things
- Part 5: This Frightful War
- Part 6: Blind With Weeping
Narrator: In 1882, an old woman was living on a hill on the outskirts of Springfield, Illinois. She kept her curtains drawn, never went outside, never received visitors. Neighborhood children pointed up at her window and hurried past, frightened by "the crazy lady" in the upstairs room. Forty years before, she had been married in the parlor of this same house to a tall, awkward lawyer, and still wore his ring, inscribed with the words "Love is eternal." Once she had been the most eligible young woman in Springfield, the pampered daughter of Kentucky aristocrats,
Voice of Lincoln (David Morse): "My wife is as handsome as when she was a girl, and I a poor nobody then, fell in love with her, and what is more, I have never fallen out."
Narrator: He had been a dirt farmer's son, determined to make something of himself in law and politics.
Voice of Mary Lincoln (Holly Hunter): "He is to be President of the United States some day; if I had not thought so I never would have married him, for you can see he is not pretty."
Narrator: Their marriage survived sharp differences of personality and temperament, endured the deaths of children.
They reached the White House as partners. But the Civil War that tore the country apart, divided them as well. In the end, an assassin's bullet plunged Mary Lincoln into grief and madness and made Abraham Lincoln, the obscure prairie politician who had pledged to love her forever, into a legend.
Slate: Abraham and Mary Lincoln: A House Divided
Voice of a mother and child: In this temple as in the hearts of the people for whom he saved the Union the memory... memory of Abraham... Abraham Lincoln is enshrined... enshrined forever.
Linda Levitt Turner, Biographer: If you go to the Lincoln memorial and you look at that figure seated on a throne in this marble temple. I remember going as a child and thinking that's what God looked like.
Slate: Part One: Ambition
Narrator: The story of the 'real' Abraham Lincoln has receded so far into the nation's memory that what remains seems little more than a dream. The man Mary Lincoln knew and loved and mourned has faded into myth.
He was born February 12, 1809, in a cabin in the Kentucky wilderness, but Lincoln remembered little of his life there, and what he did remember, he didn't care to talk about.
Voice of Lincoln (David Morse): "It is a great piece of folly to attempt to make anything out of my early life. It can be condensed into a single sentence from Gray's Elegy, 'the short and simple annals of the poor.'"
Narrator: Lincoln's childhood world is mostly gone, except the land around Knob Creek and Sinking Spring Farm and the stories people still tell there.
Milburn Howard Jr., Knob Creek Farm: I have listened to tales about Lincoln my whole life. I listened to my aunts, my dad, everybody was some way or another talked about Lincoln all the time. My grandmother she was born 1885 and got to talk to a gentleman that his parents played with Abraham Lincoln and his sister when they lived here. And he told stories. Different people around here kind of passed them down. They may be twisted one way or another, but they're fairly accurate we think. We can't be gospel because there were not very many records back then.
Narrator: Neighbors remembered very little about Abraham's mother, Nancy Hanks Lincoln. Some said she used to sing him mournful Scottish ballads. Lincoln himself once told a friend that she was "an intellectual woman, sensitive, and somewhat sad."
Judy Osbourne, Knob Creek Farm: I don't think we know a lot about Lincoln's mother. I see her as a soft-spoken, reflective person. They claimed she was you know thin, she was tall, dark-haired. Those were descriptions that people that knew her gave. So you, you know, you assume then you get your own picture.
David Herbert Donald, Biographer: They all agreed that she was, quote, "intellectual." I don't know what that means in the old recollections. I think it meant that she must have thought about things carefully and talked rather well.
Charles B. Strozier, Historian: Her communication with Lincoln would seem to have been at an early age one of telling stories, it's certainly interesting that all of Lincoln's great writings were written to be read aloud. They're all basically oral communication... pieces of poetry, political poetry.
Narrator: Abraham's father, Thomas, could barely read or write. One neighbor remembered him "as a plain, unpretending, plodding man."
Year after year, Abraham watched his father work the fields, tied to the land, at the mercy of the seasons.
Milburn Howard Jr., Knob Creek Farm: It was tough, but it was tough for everybody at the time. You got to understand that there were several families all living on Knob Creek at the same time and they were all more or less equal. They were poor but they were equal. And probably they didn't realize they were poor because that's the way that it was on the frontier.
A boy would have a lot of responsibility then. I would imagine Lincoln would come back in this valley looking for berries, hickory nuts, walnuts, probably herbs, to make some of their medicine with. And ah, maybe swim and try to catch the chipmunks. I mean that's just what boys do. We run the hills. And he was there. I'm sure I stepped in his tracks many a time.
Narrator: The Lincoln cabin stood alongside a wilderness road. Abraham could listen to travelers tell stories of the wider world and see slaves driven South to be sold.
David Herbert Donald, Biographer: His mother and father were much opposed to slavery. They belonged to a fundamentalist Baptist group that was anti-slavery, and he undoubtedly got from them a sense that slavery was wrong even before he'd ever seen slaves or knew about slavery. He said later on that "There's never been a time when I was not anti-slavery." And I think that is true.
Narrator: When Abraham was seven and his older sister Sara was nine, the Lincolns packed their few belongings and set out in the dead of winter for Indiana. Thomas Lincoln had always disliked living in a slave state, and had grown weary of disputes over the ownership of his land.
David Herbert Donald, Biographer: It was a frontier area, so unsettled that there was no real road to the plot of ground that Thomas Lincoln laid claim to. He had to cut a path in effect for his family to follow.
Narrator: When they reached their wilderness claim, the Lincolns huddled around a fire, their nearest neighbor was more than a mile away. Abraham later remembered his terror of the wild animals prowling the undergrowth, the howling of wolves, and the scream of panthers.
Voice of Lincoln (David Morse): "The clearing away of surplus wood was the great task ahead. I, though very young, was large for my age and had an ax put into my hands at once, and I was almost constantly handling that most useful instrument."
Narrator: Life on the frontier was punishing: the ceaseless work, the isolation, and always the threat of sickness and death.
In 1818, a mysterious illness spread across the Indiana countryside and found its way into the Lincoln home. Nancy Hanks Lincoln was just 34 when she died. Abraham was nine.
Charles B. Strozier, Historian: He suffered deeply. This fed in his mind and spirit a kind of fatalism and a dark brooding.
Narrator: He never got over the loss. For the rest of his life, Abraham would struggle with depression.
Voice of Lincoln (David Morse): "She was my angel mother. All that I am, or hope ever to be, I owe to her."
Narrator: The same year that Abraham Lincoln's mother died, in 1818, Mary Todd was born, on December 13 in Lexington, Kentucky, surrounded by luxury the young Lincoln could scarcely have imagined.
Doris Kearns Goodwin, Historian: The world in which Mary Todd grew up could not have been more different from Abraham Lincoln's. She's living in a mansion with several parlors and a dining room, separate bedrooms, servants quarters, a coach house, a beautiful garden in the back. She's got all the clothes that she needs. And she's got all the material resources that one could have needed to feel herself a lucky young woman.
Narrator: Her father was a wealthy aristocrat, Robert Todd, a descendent of the Todds who had founded Lexington less than 50 years before.
Mary Genevieve Murphy, Todd family friend: There was a certain trait about all the Todds -- they were very proud people. And I know they used to say about them, God only had one D in his name, but the Todds had to have two.
Narrator: All that remains of Mary's mother, Eliza Todd, is a letter she wrote to her grandfather. Little more is known about her, except that she began having babies with what was then described as "becoming regularity."
The Todds had six children. Mary, the fourth, was said to be a lively, free-spirited, impetuous little girl. In 1825, Mary's mother died giving birth to her seventh child. Mary was only six years old and had already shown signs of a high-strung, sensitive nature.
Jean Harvey Baker, Biographer: So at six years old, she's motherless. She took this very hard, according to some of the family legends, and, indeed, she was going to take all of the deaths that littered her life's course very, very hard.
Narrator: Only weeks after Mary's mother's death, Robert Todd was looking for a new wife. Six months later, he proposed to Elizabeth Humphreys. The following year he married her, and began having still more children -- nine of them.
Jean Harvey Baker, Biographer: Step-mothering, I suppose, is never easy family business, but in the case of Robert Smith Todd's second wife it was a disaster. All of the first Todds hated her. Mary is certainly the most rebellious, and there are some family stories of Mary dressing up in her stepmother's clothes and her stepmother calling her "Satan's limb."
Charles B. Strozier, Historian: There were a lot of children in thathousehold and Mary felt lost. She seemed to have experienced the new mother as hateful and spiteful. Mary became full of rage, she became tantrumy. She couldn't find her place in this household. She was screaming, crying out for attention.
Narrator: Mary yearned for her father's attention most of all. She saw in his marriage a betrayal. In the chaos of an ever-increasing family, the little girl was bereft.
Doris Kearns Goodwin, Historian: You have a feeling with Mary that the wounds festered and for a young girl who loved attention, who craved attention and needed support, I think there was a great sense of loss that stayed with her the rest of her life.
Narrator: Mary would one day say that her whole childhood had been "desolate."
After Abraham's mother died, Thomas Lincoln seemed unable to care for his two grieving children. Overcome with misery, he went back to Kentucky leaving them behind in the care of a cousin. Six months later, he came home with a new wife, Sara Bush Johnston, recently widowed with three small children of her own.
David Herbert Donald, Biographer: She came upon this bedraggled little family in southern Indiana and looked at them and was just appalled. She went to work cleaning 'em up. She civilized the little family that had been really almost disintegrating, created a family where there'd been none before.
Narrator: Abraham flourished under his stepmother's care. Sara herself could not read or write, but she encouraged Abraham to get what education he could find in the Indiana backwoods. All told, Abraham had less than a year's formal schooling.
Voice of Lincoln (David Morse): "There were some schools, so called; but no qualification was ever required of a teacher, beyond readin', writin', and cipherin' to the rule of three.... There was absolutely nothing to excite ambition for education."
Narrator: But Abraham was ambitious. He taught himself, poring over whatever books and newspapers he could find. His stepmother remembered that he was unusual, he had to understand everything, repeated facts to himself until they were "fixed in his mind."
Charles B. Strozier, Historian: He always regarded himself as quite different from his peers and family, smarter than most of the other people in his environment. There are reports that he could write out documents for what were obviously mostly illiterate neighbors. He would come home from church, and he would stand on a stump and then repeat the minister's sermon but humorously to the delight of all the assembled children. So that you see a kind of a testing, a sort of an opportunity to be special and unique, which after all he was.
Narrator: "Abe would lay on his stomach by the fire and read out loud to me and Aunt Sarah," a cousin recalled. His father would come in and say, "See here, Abe, your mother can't work with you a botherin her like that," but Aunt Sarah always said it didn't bother her none, and she'd tell Abe to go on.
Charles B. Strozier, Historian: She was kind, she was gentle, and she played a really, really important role in carrying him through his adolescence. Psychologically, I think, Sarah Bush Johnson saved Lincoln's life.
Narrator: When Sara Lincoln was an old woman, someone asked her about her famous step-son. "I never gave him a cross word in all my life," she said. "His mind and mine -- what little I had -- seemed to move together in the same channel."
In the year 1828, when Abraham was 19, he got a chance to earn some money helping take a flatboat loaded with cargo down the Mississippi River to New Orleans. He stood six feet, four inches... strong and wiry, all arms and legs. That same year, his sister Sara had died in childbirth. One neighbor remembered he was moody: "witty, sad, and reflective by turns."
He'd never been to a big city. New Orleans would be like nothing he had ever seen. In New Orleans, Abraham saw for the first time human beings bought and sold. In Lexington, sights like that were nothing new to Mary Todd.
Mary Genevieve Murphy, Todd family friend: Mary would see slaves being chained and brought in a gang. And the auction was right there on Cheapside, was right next to the courthouse. So it was just a couple of blocks really from where they lived.
Narrator: For Mary, slaves were a constant presence.
Margaret Washington, Historian: She was raised since her mother died by her Mammy Sally who coddled her, dressed her, and doted on her. Mary Todd was the daughter of a slaveholder, a Whig banker, so she accepted slavery. She just simply thought it was part of life.
Narrator: Heated words about slavery and politics flew back and forth across the Todd dinner table. Robert Todd was a slave owner, but he argued against slavery. Mary took her father's part and made clear that she opposed slavery too.
Henry Clay was a frequent guest. Leader of the Whig party, Speaker of the House longer than any other man, he too deplored slavery. Clay burned with ambition to be President, and at 14, Mary was his fiery supporter.
Doris Kearns Goodwin, Historian: Mary felt that as long as she could go to the dinner table and respond in an interesting way to her father's conversations with his male friends, he would look at her, he would pay attention to her. So she developed very early on an undue sense of understanding and interest in politics, which must have made her a pretty interesting little figure.
Narrator: As Mary grew to womanhood, she appeared high-spirited, enjoyed parties and shopping for fashionable clothes.
Jean Harvey Baker, Biographer: What we have is an intelligent, well-dressed, somewhat spoiled young girl who was very popular with the boys. On the other hand, we have a young girl who stays in school longer than almost all American women do.
Doris Kearns Goodwin, Historian: She learned French, she learned English literature, had a classical kind of education.
Charles B. Strozier, Historian: She was always noted for quoting poetry, great pages of classical poetry. She had an impeccable Parisian accent. For young girls in her world, she was way ahead of them. Despite the emotional difficulties, easily getting lost in this huge household, she made something for herself.
Voice of Lincoln (David Morse): "Having just completed my twenty-first year, we left the old homestead in Indiana and came to Illinois. Our mode of conveyance was wagons drawn by ox-teams, and I drove one of the teams...."
"We settled a new place and built a log cabin, fenced and broke the ground, and raised a crop of sown corn upon it the same year. In the autumn all hands were greatly afflicted with ague and fever.... We remained, through the succeeding winter, which was the winter of the 'deep snow.'"
Narrator: Another difficult move to a new homestead, another grueling round of seasons -- this was not the life Abraham Lincoln imagined for himself.
Charles B. Strozier, Historian: Lincoln spent most of his early life trying to get beyond his humble origins. He seemed to have to position himself as better than, as separate from, and really not identified with in any way what his father represented -- the kind of ignorant past out of which he had come.
David Herbert Donald, Biographer: He simply did not like the life that his father lived. Whatever happened, he was not going to be like his father. He was going to do something to make a name for himself.
Douglas L. Wilson, Biographer: He had a sense of himself as being different from other people from the beginning. He doesn't like farm work. He doesn't make any bone about it. He wanted recognition. He aspires for something more.
Narrator: At 22, Lincoln left home for good -- and rarely saw his father again. He never looked back.
Voice of Lincoln (David Morse): "I was a friendless, uneducated, penniless boy... a piece of floating driftwood."
Narrator: Lincoln eventually came to rest at New Salem in central Illinois, population 100, the biggest town he had ever lived in.
Douglas L. Wilson, Biographer: He was a gawky fellow, ill-dressed, funny-looking, a rube they thought. He was rough-looking in a rough-looking crowd.
David Herbert Donald, Biographer: He simply looked like nothing they had ever seen.
Douglas L. Wilson, Biographer: A real hayseed. But, as soon as he started talking you were aware that he was very literate, he was well informed. To them he sounded educated.
Narrator: He went to work in a general store and gristmill, but that was only meant to be a stepping-stone. Just eight months after he got to town, he was running for the state legislature.
Voice of Lincoln (David Morse): "March 9, 1832 -- To the people of Sangamon County.
"I am young, and unknown to many of you. I was born, and have ever remained, in the most humble walks of life. I have no wealthy or popular relations to recommend me. If elected I shall be unremitting in my labors to compensate. But, if the good people in their wisdom shall see fit to keep me in the background, I have been too familiar with disappointments to be very much chagrined."
David Herbert Donald, Biographer: What was remarkable was that having just arrived in a community where he hadn't really established himself, he should think of himself as a state legislator. It tells something about a driving ambition that this young man had at an early age.
Doris Kearns Goodwin, Historian: Politics was his way of breaking out of that life that he didn't want to lead. It was the road for a young man to become something in life that other people would respect and understand. Politics was the world that was available to him. Other worlds weren't quite as easily available. That one was right within his reach.
Narrator: In 1832, Illinois politics was wide open, and Lincoln thought his chances were as good as any man's even though he had no education to speak and was just 23. He campaigned for "the improvement of the Sangamon river." He believed government should promote economic progress. If steamboats could reach New Salem, Lincoln argued, the little settlement could become a thriving port.
He never stood much of a chance. Running against older, better-known men, Lincoln lost. But almost all his New Salem neighbors voted for him. He won 277 of their 300 votes. Most people, who got to know Abraham Lincoln, liked him.
Voice of Mary Lincoln (Holly Hunter): "My ever dear Merce... we expect a very gay winter, evening before last my sister gave a most agreeable party, upwards of a hundred graced the festive scene."
Narrator: When she was 20, Mary Todd left behind the stepmother she so disliked and moved to the growing city of Springfield, Illinois. She moved into the hilltop home of her sister, who had married the son of the former governor. She was so charming, so flirtatious, her brother-in-law said, "she could make a bishop forget his prayers."
Linda Levitt Turner, Biographer: She was amusing and funny. She could quote from Shakespeare. She could quote from the poets, and she was steeped in politics.
Mary Genevieve Murphy, Todd family friend: In fact I think she intimidated some of the young men. She was so much smarter than most of them.
Linda Levitt Turner, Biographer: She didn't think she was pretty or attractive. She really wasn't. She was aware of her physical shortcomings, but she was attractive enough and young enough and sprightly and intelligent to be quite a sought after young woman.
Narrator: "She was a girl of much vivacity and conversation," one friend remembered, "but was subject to spells of mental depression. She was either in the garret or in the cellar."
At 23, Abraham Lincoln had lost his first election, but New Salem offered other possibilities. On the frontier, a man could try his hand at things, change his mind, scramble for a living.
Judge Frank J. Williams, Chair, the Lincoln Forum: New Salem was Lincoln's college campus. There was a village poet, two doctors, a debating society, small industry. He was able to serve in a variety of professions:
Narrator: Blacksmith, postmaster, surveyor, store-owner. He tried them all. And he became everyone's friend. He could beat anyone at weight lifting, wrestling, horseshoes.
Judge Frank J. Williams, Chair, the Lincoln Forum: And he loved to tell funny stories. And he called himself a retail dealer because he would take the funny stories from other people, from the humorists whose works he read, but he would tell them in such a way that he would have everyone else guffawing.
Charles B. Strozier, Historian: He just loved to tell jokes. I mean he brought stories, he was a great storyteller. He was a Paul Bunyanesque kind of figure. And it was an absolutely essential part of his character.
Doris Kearns Goodwin, Historian: You always have the feeling that Lincoln, without being in motion, was not a very attractive sort of fellow, that he was the homely person that people described him as, but the moment he started talking, the moment that voice attached to his heart and to his mind, he became something entirely different. His whole body would convulse with laughter, his gray eyes lit like a lantern. The people in that town grow to respect him. They see him as something more than the shuffling, penniless, gangly character that he appeared when he first walked on the streets.
Charles B. Strozier, Historian: It's hard to imagine that one wouldn't be attracted to the young Lincoln.
Narrator: Two years after his first try, he ran for state office again.
Voice of Lincoln (David Morse): "My politics are short and sweet, like the old woman's dance."
Narrator: This time, he won. From that moment on, politics would be his life. He was perfectly suited for it -- he spoke plainly and had a knack for making friends. He was a member of the Whig party now and was soon matching wits at the Illinois State Capital with the other law-makers, making speeches... and back room deals. But to pay the bills, he set out to become a lawyer in the same way he had got most of his schooling -- on his own.
He was a man of practical ambition, but he loved poetry, and spent hours brooding on lines from Shakespeare's tragedies:
Voice of Lincoln (David Morse):
"Come, sealing night,
Scarf up the tender eye of pitiful day,
And with thy bloody and invisible hand,
Cancel and tear to pieces that great bond
Which keeps me pale! Light thickens, and the crow
Makes wing to the rooky wood."
Narrator: Lincoln would later write that he pondered the meaning of life with such "intensity of thought" that he wore ideas "thread bare" and turned them "to the bitterness of death."
As Lincoln's neighbors remembered it, the rains never seemed to stop in the summer of 1835, the summer Abraham fell in love. He was already 26, shy, awkward around women. Her name was Ann Rutledge, the 22-year-old daughter of the New Salem innkeeper.
David Herbert Donald, Biographer: Abraham Lincoln had difficulties in his relationship with women. He liked Ann Rutledge perhaps the more because he knew she was engaged to another man. This meant that there was no danger in approaching her because she belonged to somebody else.
Narrator: The details have long since been forgotten, but as time went by, Lincoln and Anne seemed to be drawing closer together. Then, Anne became sick with what neighbors described as "brain fever" -- probably typhoid. It was said that she called Lincoln to her bedside. A few days later, she died.
Charles B. Strozier, Historian: He responded to the loss of what seems to have been his first love with great despair, because it had to have evoked the sudden and tragic loss of his mother. And he was adrift. He was really adrift.
Doris Kearns Goodwin, Historian: He went into a sustained period of melancholia, seemed even emotionally unbalanced by the loss, unable to function for a long period of time.
Narrator: His friends feared that he would never recover, that he might even kill himself. They were astonished to find the tough young man from the backwoods so tender-hearted, so undone by the loss.
Douglas L. Wilson, Biographer: He was strong, he was resilient, he could take on anybody. He wasn't afraid of anything, but he discovered something that really had the power to knock him for a loop. He had to cope with this vulnerability that he didn't even know he had.
Narrator: He told one friend he could not bear the idea of rain falling on Anne's grave.
When he was 28, Lincoln packed everything he owned into two saddlebags, borrowed a horse, and said goodbye forever to New Salem, the town that had given him his start. He was headed to the new Illinois state capital at Springfield. He had twice won re-election, become a Whig party leader, and had finally become a lawyer. He was, one friend remembered, "a rising man."
By the time she was 21, Mary Todd was one of the most popular young women in Springfield, courted by eager politicians and bright young lawyers, but she wanted more. She told her sister that she planned one day to be the "wife of a President." One evening at a party at her sister's house, Mary noticed a man, who said, "he wanted to dance with her in the worst way."
"And," she added, "he certainly did."
David Herbert Donald, Biographer: He is still somewhat uncouth, rather awkward, and ugly young man. But one who is ready to be accepted into the best social circles of the state capital.
Doris Kearns Goodwin, Historian: He sees her first dancing with a whole bunch of beaux surrounding her. She's sensual, she's talking, really the center of attention, and here he is, still the gangly character, unsophisticated about women, unsure about women, awkward around women. She's five feet tall. He's six-feet-four, a most unlikely physical couple.
Douglas L. Wilson, Biographer: She was a gentle lady, and he was just one step up from a rube. She had position in society, and he didn't -- he was still a wannabe.
Linda Levitt Turner, Biographer: Some even thought maybe he was courting her for financial advancement. But they had politics in common from the very beginning, and it got them over many a rough spot.
Narrator: In 1840, the Whigs nominated for President a Virginia aristocrat whose supporters liked to claim he lived in a log cabin -- William Henry Harrison. Lincoln stumped Illinois for him and again ran for the legislature, while Mary cheered them both on.
Voice of Mary Lincoln (Holly Hunter): "I've become quite a politician, a rather unladylike profession, yet at such a crisis, whose heart could remain untouched."
Linda Levitt Turner, Biographer: She loved politics for its own sake. Because Mary liked a challenge and she liked excitement. I don't think he could find too many young women who were willing to talk about politics.
Charles B. Strozier, Historian: It's no accident that she fell in love with Abraham Lincoln. She sensed both his ambitions and his capacity to realize those ambitions of which she would be a part.
Narrator: When the campaign was over, Lincoln had won, and so had his log cabin candidate William Henry Harrison.
By then, Lincoln's friendship with Mary Todd had ripened into something more. Lincoln, Mary's sister wrote, "would listen and gaze on Mary as if drawn by some superior power." He called her Molly, she called him Mr. Lincoln.
Doris Kearns Goodwin, Historian: They shared a love of poetry. One can imagine them reading poetry aloud to one another and really loving it. Not just reading it, but it touching some part of their heart. They shared a certain melancholy. They both had these emotional moods, these blackened periods. They shared a sense of loss in their mothers having died when they were young. She somehow saw the depths of this man. She saw inside of Lincoln.
Narrator: Not long after Election Day, Lincoln asked Mary to marry him, and she agreed. Then, just a few weeks later, he abruptly told her he had changed his mind. He wrote a friend that the thought of marriage was "indescribably horrible and alarming."
Charles B. Strozier, Historian: He was a very confused young man struggling for love and intimacy. This is not a man who easily established intimate relationships.
David Herbert Donald, Biographer: He did not know how to make close bonds with really anybody. He never told his private thoughts.
Doris Kearns Goodwin, Historian: He's terrified of getting married. His insecurity with women, his concern about intimacy, all made him, I think, just shy away from this commitment. There must have been a feeling that if he did give himself over to a woman again, as he had to his mother, as he had to Ann Rutledge, that perhaps the only result of that would be the loss of this woman that he loved.
Narrator: Lincoln again fell into a black depression. He spent days locked in his room, unable to move, unable to sleep.
Voice of Lincoln (David Morse): "I am now the most miserable man living. If what I feel were equally distributed to the whole human family, there would not be one cheerful face on the earth. Whether I shall ever be better I cannot tell, I awfully forebode I shall not. To remain as I am is impossible; I must die or be better."
Charles B. Strozier, Historian: They took the razors out of his room because they were afraid he was going to commit suicide. And he was in utter despair, utter and total despair.
Narrator: Mary eventually re-appeared in Springfield society. Lincoln did his best to avoid her.
Voice of Mary Lincoln (Holly Hunter): "He deems me unworthy of notice. I would that the case were different, that he would once more resume his station in society, that he should be himself again."
Narrator: Despite Lincoln's rejection, Mary waited.
Charles B. Strozier, Historian: There's absolutely no indication that he asked her to wait for him. On the contrary, there's every indication that he was not in touch with her at all and she waited through all of 1841 and half of 1842. She waited for an entire year-and-half for him to wrestle his demons to the ground before he would come back to her.
Narrator: On November 4, 1842, to everyone's surprise, Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd stood side by side and exchanged vows. They were beginning a marriage which would be, at times, even more turbulent than their courtship.
Voice of Lincoln (David Morse): "Nothing new here except my marrying, which to me is a matter of profound wonder."
My American Experience
Of America's first 25 presidents, who is your favorite? From George Washington to William McKinley, which of the new country's leaders most helped shape America in its first century of existence?