With Malice Toward None: The Life of Abraham Lincoln

How did Willie Lincoln’s death affect his father’s understanding of the war’s significance and his own purpose

willies death

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Lincoln was obsessed with death from an early age. He was not particularly religious, though he lived in a society where religion was the cornerstone of most communities. Lincoln was confronted with death at an early age when his mother died, and would ponder the mystery long hours, often going into a trance-like state. This constant rumination on death may have spurred Lincoln to stick to his personal and political beliefs: he understood how quickly life could be taken, and he wanted to live the best he could, while he could. He didn't want to compromise a moment of his precious time on earth. The Civil War pained him even more because he felt the loss of life heavily, as did other Americans at the time: brother against brother was a horrible way to leave the world. Lincoln unwittingly predicted his own assassination, claiming to have a dream the night before he died of a President's death in the White House. Mary Lincoln claimed to see Willie, her dead son, and countless battlefields across the nation were bathed in the blood of American soldiers. Lincoln's favorite poem was called "Mortality," and he spent many hours thinking about the mysteries of life and death.