Mary Todd Lincoln

   Posted by: David   in Uncategorized

Mary Todd Lincoln

It is often said, “There are no atheist in fox holes.” A similar adage might be made of Spiritualism. In times of war, when parents are losing children and wives husbands, Spiritualism looks really good. Arguably there was no bloodier time in the history of the United States than the time of the Civil War.

According to Nancy Rubin Stewart in her book already reviewed in this forum, The Reluctant Spiritualist, Mary Todd Lincoln “became one of Spiritualism’s strongest advocates,” (p. 245). A brief look at Mary’s life might help us understand why.

Mary Todd Lincoln pictured below:


Can you imagine what it might have been like to be the first family during the civil war? Every American President knows his share of heartache and pain as evidenced by the way they age while in office if nothing else but Abraham Lincoln led the United States through an unprecedented civil war. Mary Todd Lincoln, his wife, stood at his side during these most turbulent years in our nation’s history.

Mary Ann Lincoln was born on December 13, 1818 and she crossed to the other side on July 16, 1882. She served as the First Lady of the United States from 1861 to 1865. She came from a large Kentucky family. She had six siblings by her maternal mother. Her mother crossed over when Mary was only six. Her father remarried and had nine children by Mary’s stepmother.

Mary was well educated. She spoke French fluently. She studied literature, dance, music, and drama. She dated Abraham’s political opponent Stephen Douglas but she married Abraham. She and Abraham had four sons. Only one of her sons outlived her. And, of course, she was sitting next to her husband at Ford’s Theatre when he was shot and killed.

Of her four sons it was William Wallace Lincoln, she called him Willie, which died during her husband’s presidency. He was 12 when he died of typhoid fever.

It is likely that Mary had an interest in Spiritualism long before Willie’s death. It is hard for us to imagine what the dawn of Spiritualism was like. Within ten years of its birth in 1848, the religion filled every community in almost every nation.

While conservative Christian leaders opposed it then as they do today, many saw no conflict between their Christian faith and the basic tenants of Spiritualism. For some, it was a parlor game, an evening of entertainment, for others it was a source of comfort. Spiritualism provided a way to connect with people much loved that now “lived” on the other side but were not beyond reach as the grave suggests.

As the war raged around her, and people she knew and loved died not the least of which being her young son Willie, Mary reached out to the other side. It is well documented that she held seances in the White House.

With the help of a medium, probably Nettie Colburn Maynard, Mary was able to connect with her son. It was a connection that lasted such that she said, “He comes to me every night and stands at the foot of my bed, with the same sweet, adorable smile he always had.”

In his great work The History of Spiritualism by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (creator of Sherlock Holmes); he said there was “an event where spirit intervention proved to be of importance in the world’s history. This was the instance of the inspired messages which determined the action of Abraham Lincoln at the supreme moment of the Civil War.”

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle went on to say that Nettie Colburn Maynard “was a powerful trance medium, and she visited Washington in the winter of 1862…Mrs. Lincoln sent a carriage to bring the medium to see the President.”

In her own words, Nettie Colburn Maynard said that “For more than an hour I was made to talk to him, and I learned from my friends afterward that it was upon matters that he seemed fully to understand, while they comprehended very little until that portion was reached that related to the forthcoming Emancipation Proclamation.

“He was charged with the utmost solemnity and force of manner not to abate the terms of its issue, and not to delay its enforcement as a law beyond the opening of the year; and he was assured that it was to be the crowning event of his administration and his life; and that while he was being counseled by strong parties to defer the enforcement of it, hoping to supplant it by other measures and to delay action, he must in no wise heed such counsel, but stand firm to his convictions and fearlessly perform the work and full the mission for which he had been raised up by an overruling Providence.

“Those present declared that they lost sight of the timed girl in the majesty of the utterance, the strength and force of the language, and the importance of that which was conveyed, and seemed to realize that some strong masculine spirit force was giving speech to almost divine commands.

“I shall never forget the scene around me when I regained consciousness. I was standing in front of Mr. Lincoln, and he was sitting back in his chair, with his arms folded upon his breast, looking intently at me. I stepped back, naturally confused at the situation – not remembering at once where I was; and glancing around the group, where perfect silence reigned. It took me a moment to remember my whereabouts.

“A gentleman present then said in a low tone, “Mr. President, did you notice anything peculiar in the method of address?” Mr. Lincoln raised himself, as if shaking off his spell. He glanced quickly at the full-length portrait of Daniel Webster, that hung above the piano, and replied, ‘Yes, and it is very singular, very!” with a marked emphasis.

“Mr. Somes said: “Mr. President, would it be improper for me to inquire whether there has been any pressure brought to bear upon you to defer the enforcement of the Proclamation?”

“To which the President replied: “Under these circumstances that question is perfectly proper, as we are all friends smiling upon the company. It is taking all my nerve and strength to withstand such a pressure.”

“At this point the gentlemen drew around him, and spoke together in low tones, Mr. Lincoln saying least of all. At last he turned to me, and laying his hand upon my head, uttered these words in a manner that I shall never forget: “My child, you possess a very singular gift; but that it is of God, I have no doubt. I thank you for coming here to-night. It is more important than perhaps any one present can understand. I must leave you all now; but I hope I shall see you again. He shook me kindly by the hand, bowed to the rest of the company, and was gone. We remained an hour longer, talking with Mrs. Lincoln and her friends, and then returned to Georgetown, Such was my first interview with Abraham Lincoln, and the memory of it is as clear and vivid as the evening on which it occurred.”

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle argued in his history that this event “not only strengthened the President in taking a step which raised the whole moral tone of the Northern armies and put something of the crusading spirit into the men, but a subsequent message urged Lincoln to visit the camps, which he did with the best effect upon the moral of the army,”


The Reluctant Spiritualist by Nancy Rubin Stuart

The History of Spiritualism by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Wikipedia Mary Todd Lincoln
Accessed Saturday, August 24, 2013

History of the 1800s on About dot com
Accessed: Monday, August 12, 2013

Mary Todd Lincoln’s Ghost Sightings and Seances
Accessed: Monday, August 12, 2013

Roger Norton
Accessed Monday, August 12, 2013

Mr. Lincoln’s White House
Accessed Saturday, August 24, 2013

This entry was posted on Saturday, August 24th, 2013 at 2:57 pm and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

Comments are closed at this time.