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Memoirs of a Bodyguard to President Lincoln

Posted 2/20/17 (Mon)

On this Presidents’ Day, it’s appropriate we highlight a book with North Dakota connections by a bodyguard to President Abraham Lincoln.

Sergeant Smith Stimmel witnessed the most pivotal events of Lincoln’s first two years in office. A member of the elite Union Light Guard assigned to the White House as a member of Lincoln’s personal mounted escort, Stimmel’s duties brought him in close personal contact with the President on an almost daily basis.  More than half a century later, the former bodyguard recorded his recollections of the events surrounding the death of Abraham Lincoln in his memoirs, Personal Reminiscences of Abraham Lincoln: “President Lincoln flatly refused to have a military guard with him when he went to places of entertainment or to church in the city. He said that when he went to such places, he wanted to go as free and unencumbered as other people, and there was no military guard with him the night of his assassination.”

After Stimmel was discharged from duty in the fall of 1865, he earned a degree in law before moving his family and law practice to Fargo in 1882.  He served in the then-Dakota Territory legislature as Senate president, helping lead North Dakota to statehood in 1889. He also managed a farm near Casselton. Stimmel died on April 14, 1935, seventy years to the day of Lincoln’s assassination. The last surviving member of the original Union Light Guard, he is buried in Riverside Cemetery in Fargo.

This book is a fascinating personal account of a unique perspective on Lincoln with anecdotes you won't find anywhere else about the man.  

 

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