By Jonathan W. White

Americans have been dreaming about Abraham Lincoln since at least 1861. In May of that year, a woman from Roches-ter, New York, sent a letter to Mary Todd Lincoln describing a dream that she’d had of the president towering over Washington, D.C., amid a tremendous thunderstorm. As the lightning flashed and the thunder boomed, the sun cast “a soft mellow light around about him.” Beneath Lincoln’s feet “rolled dark & heavy clouds which the sun light was fast dispelling.” Lincoln held a book in one hand, walked toward the southern part of the horizon, “crowned with honors & covered with Laurels, and looked very smiling.” This was a premonition, the woman thought, that Lincoln would re-store the Union and free the slaves. In “these perilous times” she hoped that her dream would be “a comfort” to the first lady.

During the war, at least two soldiers dreamed that their commander-in-chief granted them promotions, while a Union POW at Macon Prison, in Georgia, dreamed that he had a conversation with Lincoln about prisoner exchanges. In like manner, a correspondent for Harper’s Weekly “dreamed that Old ‘Abe’ was sitting in our room talking with my mother.” She asked the presi-dent “how soon he thought the war would be over.” Lincoln answered, “not before I’m out.”

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