By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Lincoln’s seduction of Derickson was more than successful. Tripp discovered a forgotten volume of Union Army history, an account of The Pennsylvania Volunteers, Second Regiment, Bucktail Brigade, published in 1895 by Derickson’s commander, Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Chamberlin, who was historian of the Bucktail Survivors Association, and in which he recounted:
"Captain Derickson, in particular, advanced so far in the President’s confidence and esteem that in Mrs. Lincoln’s absence he frequently spent the night at his cottage [at the summer White House], sleeping in the same bed with him, and — it is said — making use of his Excellency’s night-shirt! Thus began an intimacy that continued unbroken until the following spring, when Captain Derickson was appointed provost marshal of the Nineteenth Pennsylvania District, with headquarters in Meadville."
The Derickson-Lincoln affair was common gossip in Washington’s high society, as Tripp notes with a citation from the diary of the wife of Assistant Navy Secretary Gustavus Fox: "Tish says, Oh, there is a Bucktail soldier here devoted to the president, drives with him, and when Mrs. L is not home, sleeps with him. What stuff!"
Lincoln was very fond of witty, and quite often ribald, stories, a great many of them having anal references. When a friend once suggested that he should collect his stories and publish them in book form, Lincoln replied that he could not, for "such a book would Stink like a thousand privies."
Another Tripp rediscovery is a smutty, humorous poem written by Lincoln when he was a teenager — in which the future president describes a marriage between two boys! Here (with some of the spelling corrected for easier reading) is Lincoln’s gay-marriage poem:I will tell you a Joke about Jewel and Mary It is neither a Joke nor a Story For Rubin and Charles has married two girls But Billy has married a boy The girlies he had tried on every Side But none could he get to agree All was in vain he went home again And since that is married to Natty So Billy and Natty agreed very well And mama’s well pleased at the match The egg it is laid but Natty’s afraid The Shell is So Soft that it never will hatch But Betsy she said you Cursed bald head My Suitor you never Can be Beside your low crotch [slang for big penis] proclaims you a botch And that never Can serve for me
Tripp notes that the stanza beginning "The egg it is laid" suggests that "Abe was well aware of the term ‘jelly baby.’ Originally from Negro vernacular, the phrase soon came to be used by whites as well: slang denoting what uneducated folk imagined . . . as a ‘pregnancy’ from homosexual intercourse . . . As a poem, Lincoln’s rhyme of course is a mere trifle, except that it is perhaps the most explicit literary reference to actual homosexual relations in 19th-century America — more explicit certainly than anything Walt Whitman ever wrote about the ‘Love of comrades.’"
There is a great deal more to this book, which — as Lincoln scholar Jean Baker notes in her admiring preface — "is not a work of sexual or biological reductionism, but rather a significant effort to understand a complicated man." Among the many invaluable contributions is the chapter revealing that Lincoln’s supposed tragic "romance" with Ann Rutledge — often hyped by Hollywood retelling — was a myth invented after Lincoln’s death (this chapter is for the most part due to the research of Tripp’s faithful collaborator on the Lincoln project, the writer Lewis Gannett, who edited the book for publication). Many of Tripp’s findings come from finely argued circumstantial deductions — which will no doubt be seized upon by what Vidal has called the "scholar squirrels" of the considerable Lincoln industry, who have a lot of skin in the game. But it will take more than their usual regurgitations of the clichÃ© about the absence of central heating back in those days to explain Lincoln’s consistent, yearslong choice of male bed partners, a same-sex affinity that he acted on even as president.
Tripp completed The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln just two weeks before his own death. It is a tragedy that tawdry squabbles between the aging and irascible executor of Tripp’s estate and his publisher prevented the book’s publication before this year’s elections (it is now due out, after yet another postponement, in March). That is why, when — after assiduous and clandestine effort — we managed to obtain a copy of the book’s uncorrected proofs, we decided to break with book-chat conventions and, without authorization, make some of Tripp’s findings public here before November 2.
In a year in which those who claim Lincoln as their political progenitor are trying to introduce a ban on recognition of same-sex love into the Constitution that Lincoln loved so much and defended so well (and also into the constitutions of 11 states through referendums), it seemed to me that the voters had an overriding right to know how, in doing so, the Republicans and their Christian-right allies are wounding the martyr-president squarely in his heart of hearts.Doug Ireland can be reached through his blog, DIRELAND.