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Where was Lamon?

Pass written for Ward Hill Lamon
Pass written for Ward Hill Lamon

That is a direct quote from Lincoln’s Secretary of State, Edwin Stanton, when he heard that Abraham Lincoln had been shot at Ford’s Theater on April 14, 1865. “Where was Lamon?” Stanton was searching for Ward Hill Lamon, Lincoln’s personal bodyguard.

The war had ended with the surrender of General Robert E. Lee to General Ulysses S. Grant on Palm Sunday, April 9, 1865.

On Tuesday, April 11, 1865, Mr. Lincoln wrote a pass, sending Lamon to Richmond to start meetings for reconstruction. Lamon, who had been with Mr. Lincoln since the 8th Circuit of Illinois in the late 1840s, protested. He told Mr. Lincoln that Washington was still a very dangerous place with plenty of scoundrels who might still harm the president.

Mr. Lincoln insisted that Lamon leave that evening. Mr. Lamon, in turn, pleaded to the president that he should stay in the White House while his personal bodyguard was out of town. He implored the president to stay away from places such as the theater, which Lamon found to be a dangerous place.

Mr. Lincoln was very good at listening to Lamon’s suggestions and the suggestions of his Cabinet members. But Mr. Lincoln was also very good at ignoring advice and deciding what he might do without considering anyone’s suggestions. In this case, Mr. Lincoln ignored Mr. Lamon’s warnings and went to Ford’s Theater on Good Friday, that same week.

The rest they say is history.

Lamon’s response to Mr. Lincoln’s death was as follows: “As God is my judge, I believe if I had been in the city, it would not have happened and had it, I know, that the assassin would not have escaped town.”

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