Saturday, August 13, 2011

Ward Hill Lamon, Unsung Hero

Ward Hill Lamon became a lawyer as a young man and got to be good friends with a rising Illinois politician almost twenty years his senior named Abaraham Lincoln. Lamon had the scholarship to be a lawyer. He also had the stature and personality to be an extremely formidable bodyguard. Apparently, he was one of the only men in the state who towered over Lincoln (who was 6’4”). Lamon did not share all of Lincoln’s political views (he had reservations about abolition), but when Lincoln became the president-elect, Lamon became Lincoln’s bodyguard en route to DC. ON the last leg of the trip from Springfield to Washington, only one man accompanied Lincoln, and that was Lamon, packing his suual two pistols, a bowie knife, and a blackjack. Lamon had originally hoped to be named to an ambassadorship, but Lincoln insisted on making Lamon the US Marshall for the District of Columbia.

Lamon frequently was quite literally on Lincoln’s side. On one occasion, some ill-intentioned southern sympathizer pretended to shake Lincoln’s hand, then tried to injure him by using a vice grip. Lincoln cried out in pain, Lamon cold-cocked the scoundrel. On another occasion, Lamon patrolled the White House grounds and found a suspicious character hiding in the White House shrubbery. The man made a suspicious move that turned out to be his last: Lamon hit the guy so hard he killed him. Later that evening, the Secret Service discovered the man was a southern sympathizer carrying pistols in his pockets.

Not everyone liked Lamon. Some contemporaries describe him as being self-important. But Lincoln’s secreatay reported being deeply touched when he looked down the White Housen hall to Lincoln’s bedroom the night he won re-election. Lamon was stretched out on the floor asleep. No doubt with two pistols close at hand. Ironically enough, in early April of 1865, Lincoln, sent Lamon on an errand to the recently captured Confederate capitol of Richmond, Virginia. Lamon’s last words to the President were a warning not to go out, especially not to the theater.

Lamon was a political ally to Lincoln as well as a physical protector, and he worked on Lincoln’s re-election campaign in 1864. Political songs were in vogue back then, and one verse went like this:

A great good man is Ward Hill Lamon;
Abe is Pythias; he is Damon;
He's the President's protector,
He's his political protector,
Ward Hill Lamon. Ward Hill Lamon.

No comments: