ABRAHAM LINCOLN, 16th President of the United States, born (d: 1865); Only in a world that thinks that being Gay is an abnormal condition does the suggestion that a revered president might have been primarily Gay become an issue. C.A. Tripp went farther than any earlier study to present the greatest amount of evidence and the strongest argument currently available that Lincoln’s primary erotic response was that of a homosexual man in his posthumously published book, The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln.
Over the years, a number of other writers and scholars had argued that Lincoln was homosexual, but Tripp objected to the evidence, finding it unconvincing. He then set out to collect as much information as he could on Lincoln and explore the 16th president’s sexuality in all its dimensions and complexity. What he created was neither a work of sexual or biological reductionism, but a full-fledged character study and a significant effort to understand a complicated man, that placed Lincoln’s sexuality into a larger, more significant framework.
There are, as usual, the dismissals of his evidence as “misreadings” of the customs of another time. And yet the evidence of the relationship Lincoln had with his wife Mary is as obscure and subject to interpretation as are his relationships with the important men in his life and there is no problem accepting those vagueries. As any modern Gay man will attest, Lincoln may have functioned as a heterosexual, but his marriage does not preclude an intense homosexual drive.
From 1862 to 1863, President Lincoln was accompanied by a bodyguard from the Pennsylvania Bucktail Brigade named Captain David Derickson. Unlike Lincoln’s earlier male friend, Joshua Speed, Derickson was a prodigious father, marrying twice and siring ten children. Like Speed, however, Derickson became a close friend of the president and also shared his bed while Mary Todd was away from Washington. According to an 1895 regimental history written by one of Derickson’s fellow officers:
“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, sleeping in the same bed with him, and — it is said — making use of His Excellency’s night-shirt!”
Another source, the well-connected wife of Lincoln’s naval adjundant, wrote in her diary: “Tish says, ‘there is a Bucktail Soldier here devoted to the President, drives with him, & when Mrs L. is not home, sleeps with him.’ What stuff!” Derickson’s association with Lincoln ended with his promotion and transfer in 1863.
Sadly, Tripp died in May 2003, and we will never know how he would have defended his study of the sexual orientation of Abraham Lincoln. But any Gay man reading of Lincoln’s seduction of a 44-year old captain of the Pennsylvania Bucktails in the fall of 1862, will have little trouble with the remaining arguments. But it does give a whole new meaning to the term “rail-splitter” doncha think?