Most books about Abraham Lincoln end on April 14, 1865, the day he was assassinated at Ford’s Theatre. But that historic event takes place near the beginning of The Last Lincolns, a singular title in the vast output of Lincolnia and one of the most unusual books ever written on the sixteenth president and his family. Going far beyond that fateful day into uncharted territory, it’s a gripping page turner written by a TV producer with proven storytelling skills.
This absorbing American tragedy tells the largely unknown story of the acrimony that consumed the Lincolns in the months and years that followed the president’s murder. This was not a family that came together in mourning and mutual sadness; instead, they fell out over the anguished mental condition of the widowed Mary. In 1875, Robert—the handsome but resentful eldest Lincoln child—engineered her arrest and forcible commitment to an insane asylum. In each succeeding generation, the Lincolns’ misfortunes multiplied, as a litany of alcohol abuse, squandered fortunes, burned family papers, and outright dissipation led to the downfall of this once-great family.
Charles Lachman traces the story right up to the last generation of Lincoln descendants: great-grandson Bob Lincoln Beckwith, his estranged wife, Annemarie, and her son, Timothy Lincoln Beckwith. Bob, who was according to all medical evidence sterile, believes the son who bears the Lincoln name was the product of an adulterous affair. Annemarie, however, wanted the boy to be a “Lincoln,” putting the child in line for a vast inheritance. There’s even evidence—uncovered by Lachman for the first time—that a scheme to obtain possession of the Lincoln fortune was orchestrated by Bob Beckwith’s chauffer, who may have been the notorious outlaw and skyjacker, D.B. Cooper.
Published in advance of Abraham Lincoln’s 200th birthday in February 2009, The Last Lincolns provides an unforgettable glimpse into the personal legacy left by the man who could unite a nation…but not his own family. An Unusual Family History Reveals That:
-Abraham and Mary Lincoln were very lenient with their younger sons—and rarely imposed discipline on them.
-At age 12, young Tad Lincoln—whose education during the family’s White House years was very lax—could still not read.
-Eldest son Robert Lincoln objected to the intense attention the media paid to the Lincoln family.
-After her husband’s assassination, Mary Lincoln pleaded for financial assistance from family friends and people in government.
-Mary’s erratic behavior led Robert to swear out a warrant for her arrest and institutionalization.
This engaging book traces three generations of Abraham Lincoln's descendants in the century following his assassination. Lincoln was a larger than life historical figure, and Lachman, a journalist and novelist (In the Name of the Law), presents the lives of Mary Todd and their sons as dramatically as possible: Tad, the rambunctious prankster who grows into a serious, intelligent adolescent while exiled in Europe with his mother; Willie, the Lincolns' golden child, cut down in his youth by typhoid fever; and Robert, the most successful and complex of Lincoln's progeny, a soldier, lawyer, Secretary of War, and caretaker of his aging and increasingly unstable mother. Pulling together an enormous range of historical material, uncovering some little-known family stories-including tales of isolation, agoraphobia and swinging debauchery, as well as a possible connection to infamous, never-captured airplane hijacker D.B. Cooper-Lachman's chronicle is most notable for its liveliness, though more rigorous history buffs may balk at his novel-like prose. Those looking less for academic analysis than popular history-think Michael Shaara's The Killer Angels-will find much to enjoy in Lachman's family album. 16 pages b&w photos.