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Holmes’s Obsession

November 2023
1min read

Miller B. Zobel’s “Enlisted for Life” (June/July) recounts the famous anecdote of Oliver Wendell Holmes shouting at Abraham Lincoln on the parapet of Fort Stevens in 1864. Although Holmes himself was the source of this tale, having related it to several close friends in his declining years, its accuracy has always been questionable. Apparently the Justice said different things to different people: to Felix Frankfurter he implied that he had not recognized Lincoln, while to Harold Laski he evidently stated that he was the President’s escort. The dozen or so other eyewitness accounts of Lincoln under fire do not mention Holmes at all.

Whether accurate or not, this story further illustrates the remarkable affinity between Holmes and the Civil War that Judge Zobel has documented in his article.

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