But Lincoln overlooked Lamon’s shortcomings and appointed him marshal of Washington City. He stood by Lamon when members of Congress attacked him for his job performance. He also endured the controversy Lamon created when he embarked on a questionable recruiting drive in the early months of the Civil War, garbed in a major general’s uniform. Lamon explained the uniform by declaring he expected his commission would soon be coming.
The two friends remained loyal to each other until the evening in 1865 when Lincoln’s life ended at the hands of an assassin. Had Lamon been present that night, the tragedy might have been averted. No one was more concerned with Lincoln’s safety than was Lamon.
Since that fateful day in April 1865, history has not been kind to Lamon, as historians pore over the letters, diaries, and records of his era. But one fact remains undisputed — he was Abraham Lincoln’s best friend. For Ward Hill Lamon, that may have been enough.
Donald Richter’s column appears every other week in the Commercial-News. He is a member of the Vermilion County Museum Board.