The First Battles: April 1861 to February 1862

One Special Young Man

Was Lincoln gay? Bisexual?

The short and simple answer is that he was not. Lincoln was a heterosexual who, for whatever reason, found it easier to express affection toward men than women. His often-remarked-upon friendship with his law partner was nothing out of the ordinary, and his extraordinary affection for Elmer Ellsworth was thoroughly conventional by the standards of the time. What was not so normal was Lincoln’s ease at expressing affection toward men in public.

Both during his election campaign and then his presidency, Lincoln thought nothing of linking arms with other men and parading, usually to celebrate. On the day of his inauguration, Lincoln linked arms with James C. Buchanan, and the two—who had taken plenty of pot shots at one another earlier—walked into the Capitol arm in arm. In the fine movie Lincoln, released in 2012, one such moment occurs when Lincoln takes the arm of Secretary of War Edwin Stanton and folds it in his own as they await the news of the Siege of Fort Fisher.


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