Tuesday, March 26, 1861
In 1861, First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln received a letter from the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association inviting her to visit the home of the first president. The letter read:
The Ladies of the Mt Vernon Association hearing of your wish to visit the Mansion and Grave of Washington, and desirous that you should do so under the most favorable auspices, offer for the exclusive service of yourself and party for Friday the 15th, the steamer Thomas Collyer which will leave the wharf on that day at 10 o’clock a.m. if agreeable to yourself.
The Offices of the Mount Vernon Ladies Association
In response, Ward H. Lamon (a law partner and friend of Abraham Lincoln’s) accepted the invitation on behalf of the first lady, writing:
To the officers of the Mt. Vernon Ladies Association,
Ladies, I am requested by Mrs. Lincoln to present her compliments and say that she accepts your kind invitation for Friday next to visit Mount Vernon.
And so it was that less than three weeks before the Confederacy attacked Fort Sumter, First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln and some of her friends toured Mount Vernon (it is not clear why Mrs. Lincoln ended up visiting on a Tuesday rather than Friday, as agreed upon in the correspondence). President Abraham Lincoln did not accompany his wife on this trip. In April 1862, President Lincoln traveled down the Potomac River past Mount Vernon but was advised not to land.
Following the visit, Sarah Tracy, secretary of the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association, wrote to Regent Ann Pamela Cunningham:
“…Soon after mailing my letter yesterday I heard that Mrs. Lincoln and party went down to Mount Vernon, on Tuesday, like anybody else. The enclosed clipping appeared in the Star.”
Mrs. Lincoln, accompanied by Mr. and Mrs. Kellogg, of Illinois, and a select party of friends, paid a visit to Mount Vernon, per steamer Thos. Collyer, on Tuesday last. The party was escorted over the grounds by Captain Baker, of the Collyer, who contrived to make the trip an agreeable one to his distinguished guests in every respect.
Tracy continues in another letter:
…[Superintendent Upton] Herbert was very polite to them, took them in the Banqueting room, and General Washington’s room, and the gardens. His dinner was just ready, and he gave them a little lunch, of bread, butter, and ‘Ham.’ On the whole they had a very pleasant time.