29 August 2010

Abraham Lincoln's Unofficial Bodyguard

Ward Hill Lamon (1828-1893) was a friend and self-appointed bodyguard for President Lincoln. He was absent the night Lincoln was assassinated, having been sent to Virginia by the president.

Lamon's association with Lincoln started in 1852 when they became law partners in Danville, Illinois. The partnership lasted until 1857 when Lamon became a prosecuting attorney.

Although Lamon was a Southern sympathizer, he campaigned for Lincoln. After Abraham Lincoln became president, Lamon represented himself as his bodyguard. He did this out of friendship and took himself so seriously that for more that three months after the inauguration, Lamon patrolled the grounds of the White House at night. Often he would wrap himself in a blanket and sleep on the floor in front of Lincoln's bedroom.

Lamon was not in Washington on the night of Lincoln's assassination. In a book he later wrote, Lamon says that he pleaded with the President "not to go out that night, particularly to the theater." After the assassination, Lamon accompanied the funeral procession to Springfield, IL.

An official bodyguard, John F. Parker of the Washington Metropolitan Police Force was on duty the night Lincoln went to Ford's Theater. He was the only armed guard on duty. He was armed but not ready. Parker couldn't hear the actors from his position at the top of the stairs with his back to the Presidential box, so he moved to the main floor where he could hear every word. When he go thirsty, he and the President's footman went to the saloon next door to Ford's Theater. If Parker had maintained his position outside the presidential box, the assassination by John Wilkes Booth could probably have been prevented. He was never punished for neglecting his duty and remained a White House guard for awhile.

One official bodyguard and one unofficial bodyguard. Neither was there at Ford's Theater that night to protect their President.