Mary's Loyalty to the Union
Mary was occasionally accused of having greater loyalty to the Confederacy than to the Union. These accusations were based on the actions of her slaveholding Kentucky relatives. Lincoln offered a commission to the husband of one of Mary's half sisters, Ben Hardin Helm, only to have him reject it and then join the Confederate Army. He was one of six of Mary's relatives who served the Confederacy. When Helm died in battle, Lincoln provided a pass for his widow to cross the lines. He also granted passes to Mary's half sister, who was subsequently accused of smuggling medicines to the Confederacy. However Mary's loyalty was beyond question. She called the enemy "rebels" and "traitors" and by some reports she became a more ardent abolitionist than her husband. The influence of the abolitionist Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts, and that of her mulatto seamstress, Elizabeth Keckley, who became a confidante of hers, probably helped change the attitude of a woman who was raised on a slave plantation.
Did You Know?
In 1860, eleven-year-old Grace Bedell wrote to Lincoln suggesting he grow a beard to “look a great deal better.” Lincoln met Bedell on his way to Washington, giving her a hearty kiss to thank her for her idea. Lincoln Home National Historic Site, Illinois