The German-Born Secretary Who Made Abraham Lincoln Great

John George Nicolay Devoted Himself to Burnishing the Memory of the 16th President—and Kept Him From Carrying Papers in His Hat

Less than a month after dark horse candidate Abraham Lincoln won the new Republican Party’s presidential nomination at its convention in Chicago, on May 18, 1860, he made a decision that would impact his campaign, his presidency, and his image for generations to come: He asked a 28-year-old German immigrant named John George Nicolay to be his campaign secretary.

Nicolay, who eventually became Lincoln’s private secretary, may not be well-known today, but he was one of the most significant people working behind the scenes in the Lincoln administration and his efforts …

Let’s Not Play ‘Gotcha’ With the Great Emancipator

If Lincoln Seems Like a Lukewarm Abolitionist, It’s Because He Was a Nuanced Radical

“I am naturally anti slavery,” Abraham Lincoln said in 1864. “If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong. I can not remember when I did not so think, and feel.” …

Did the End of the Civil War Mean the End of Slavery?

April 1865 Marked the Beginning of a New Battle for American Abolitionists

On the same morning that Abraham Lincoln died from an assassin’s bullet, noted abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison was quietly gloating by the Charleston, South Carolina graveside of John C. Calhoun. …

Where Lincoln Was President and Conqueror

The Commander-in-Chief’s Surprisingly Humble Journey into Richmond, Virginia, After the Confederacy’s Fall

April 4, 1865. The conqueror entered Richmond, Virginia, on a rowboat with his son Tad, after nearing the fallen city by military steamer. President Abraham Lincoln was escorted and guarded …

What Lincoln Was Thinking When He Freed the Slaves

The President Grappled for Months Over Whether Signing the Emancipation Proclamation Was ‘American’

The American Civil War was, among other things, an epic inheritance quarrel, with both sides claiming to be the legitimate heirs to the nation’s founding principles as articulated in the …

Prayers, Glittering Parties, and the Sudden Taste of Freedom

The Emancipation Proclamation Inspired New Year’s Celebrations That Endure to This Day

For young Ed McCree, enslaved on a thousand-acre Georgia cotton plantation, Christmas and New Year’s Day 150 years ago were like no other he had ever known. This child and …