President Lincoln: Spending Time with Disabled Veterans

This is the first installment of a two-part blog post. The second part recounts several little known interactions that President Lincoln had with the Veterans and soldiers who surrounded him.

It’s typical for the president to get away from the White House from time to time, but how many presidents relocated to a U.S. Soldier’s Home or lived on the grounds of a military cemetery?

President Abraham Lincoln

Some of our earlier presidents had homes in close proximity to the Capitol, which made trips home practical, even without the means we have today. But what did our early presidents do when they were not from the area?

President Lincoln’s escape from the White House was not a ranch or beach house, but rather a simple cottage located on the grounds of the U.S. Soldier’s Home, three miles north of the Capitol. The house and its accompanying 200 acres were donated to the federal government in 1851, by local bank owner George Washington Riggs Jr., for the purpose of establishing the nation’s first Soldier’s Home, and it remains in service to our Veterans today.

“We think that at Lincoln’s inaugural dinner, President Buchanan tipped him off to the fact that the Soldiers’ Home was a great place to spend the summers in Washington, D.C.,” said Erin Mast, the director at President Lincoln’s Cottage. The pre air-conditioning era presidents often relocated during the hot summer months.

However, due to the outbreak of the Civil War, it wasn’t until 1862 that President Lincoln and his family spent their first summer at the residence.

At first, the cottage may have seemed to be the perfect refuge from the White House and the perils of wartime decision-making.  But, in reality, it was far from relaxing. As Mast puts it: “In coming out to the cottage, Lincoln was actually bringing himself closer to the war and the human cost of war.”

The U.S. Soldier’s Home cared for nearly 200 disabled Veterans from the War of 1812 and the Mexican-American War. Lincoln saw the consequences of his decisions firsthand every time he interacted with the Veterans, who were also his neighbors.

The cottage is also adjacent to the first designated national cemetery. Lincoln could literally watch out his back windows as the soldiers he had put into battle were buried. There were sometimes as many as 40 burials a day.

“There are several stories of Lincoln walking through that cemetery at night, during the day, and people seeing that he was visibly moved by seeing these burials of these young men who fought and died for their country,” Mast said.

Lincoln knew firsthand of the tolls that the Civil War had on the country. He lived right next to the evidence.

Watch the video and read the second part of this blog: Lincoln’s Commute Was As Long As Yours Is Today

Learn more about Lincoln’s Cottage at


Tim Hudak

  joined the VA in December 2013 and is on the Veterans Experience Office team. Tim, a Chicago-land native enlisted in the Marine Corps straight out of high school. As an intelligence analyst he deployed to Al Anbar province, Iraq with Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 363 in 2006 and 2008. After the Marine Corps, Tim used the GI Bill to earn a degree in Intelligence Studies from Mercyhurst University in Erie, Pa., and co-founded the university’s first student Veteran organization. Tim is active in many Veteran organizations.


  1. Dr. Sri S. Sriskanda    

    Good to know that at this stage in life. I am 62. I was in the USA from 1981 to 1995.

  2. Robert L Garnett    

    Brother Abe was a REAL American, and a REAL Commander-in-Chief

  3. Ken McManaman    

    Lets keep politics out of this. You each have points, although this is not the venue for venting them. Abraham Lincoln, though a politician, was much different than the type of men and women we now see serving, as a general statement. Moreover, can you imagine the stress and strain he and his family would endure by spending part or all of his wartime “vacation” at the Soldiers’ Home. WOW. No wonder he is still one of the GREAT MEN of all time. Godbless, Mr. President!

  4. Charlie    


    You people always look for a negative to any story.
    Can you not just appreciate what Lincoln did and leave it at that?
    When you are remembering or commemorating someone, why mention another person. Give Lincoln the recognition and leave it at that !
    P.S. Anthony, he played golf not gold.

  5. Anthony J. DeCarlo    

    Would be nice if Obama would do something like this rather than spending all the money he has spent going to Hawaii and playing gold, and then sending a second plane to bring his wife back!!!!

    1. Jon R White    

      I guess you’ve forgotten the president who got us into a war on two fronts and running the economy into the ditch. Don’t be so disingenuous. I served 12 years active duty and don’t take kindly to Bush’s history in THAT regard either.

      1. Dan F    

        The difference, Mr. White is that Bush honored our military. He still does today by many of his acts and deeds which go unnoticed. The present occupier of the White House has no respect for the military or veterans. I could write dozens of things he has either done, or not done that denigrate the military. But, maybe just one – having a Marine Honor Guard hold an umbrella. You obviously are another one of the “Obama can do no wrong crowd.” There will be no changing your mind, as there will be no changing the minds of the majority of veterans and active duty who have a much different view.

      2. John F Lock    

        You must be talking about President Roosevelt. Remember he wanted to get into WW11 in the worst way, and rumors are he new about Pearl Harbor but didn’t know when.

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