||written by Candace Fleming
an excerpt from the author's introduction ...
I'm an Illinois girl, raised in the very heart of the "land of Lincoln." Growing up, I often bicycled out to the old Lincoln place—the farm Abraham and his parents settled when they moved to the state back in 1830. I thought nothing of clambering over the rotting log cabin or exploring the crumbling root cellar. Sometimes, I rode the extra half mile to the Shiloh Cemetery to eat peanut butter crackers while leaning against stepmother Sarah's and father Tom's headstones. Other times, I pedaled over to the fairgrounds where Lincoln once debated Stephen A. Douglas, or I rested on the cool, green grass of the county courthouse—the same place Abraham had practiced law when riding the Eighth Circuit. Occasionally, I spent the night at my friend Emily's house. Lincoln had once slept in what later became her bedroom, and we often lay awake hoping to catch a glimpse of his ghost. Sometimes we asked our friend Karen to join us. Karen was a distant cousin of Lincoln, and I couldn't help but wonder if sharing a pizza with her was like sharing one with our sixteenth president. then, of course, there ws the annual field trip to Springfield; every October, my classmates and I boarded the school bus that would carry us along the Lincoln Heritage Trail to the state capital, some seventy miles away. Yet again, I traipsed through the Lincoln tomb. Encountering his bust outside the gravesite, I always rubbed his big bronze nose for good luck. At the Lincoln Souvenir Shop, I bought yet another stovepipe hat pencil sharpener. Then I climbed back on the bus and headed home, feeling as if I had just visited an old friend.
A few years ago, when my editor suggested I write a biography of Abraham Lincoln, I hesitated. Perhaps because Lincoln was so familiar to me, I'd never considered writing about him. Still, as I began reading books and articles, that old childhood feeling of connectedness began creeping over me. Suddenly, I longed to peel away the layers of myth and symbol and produce a close, intimate portrait of the man. More than anything, I wanted to reveal the real Abraham Lincoln. But how?
I dove into the wealth of Lincoln material—letters, diaries, newspapers—and encountered Mary. I admit I didn't know much about his wife when I first began this project. Certainly, I'd heard stories about her extravagant spending sprees, her violent temper tantrums, her time in an insane asylum. Yet few people know the whole truth that for all her faults, Mary Lincoln was brilliant and restless, her life a string of tragedies, her spirit amazingly resilient. She and her husband were so inextricably found that a Springfield friend once said, "they were like two pine trees that had grown so close their roots were forever intertwined."
Continued in the book on pages viii and ix ...