President Abraham Lincoln Gay
In 1837, the 28-year-old Abraham Lincoln arrived in Springfield, Illinois, to found a law practice. Almost immediately, he struck up a friendship with a 23-year-old shopkeeper named Joshua Speed. There may have been an element of calculation to this friendship, since Joshua’s father was a prominent judge, but the two clearly hit it off. Lincoln rented an apartment with Speed, where the two slept in the same bed. Sources from the time, including the two men themselves, describe them as inseparable.
Lincoln and Speed were close enough to still raise eyebrows today. Speed’s father died in 1840, and shortly afterwards, Joshua announced plans to return to the family plantation in Kentucky. The news seems to have stricken Lincoln. On January 1, 1841, he broke off his engagement with Mary Todd and made plans to follow Speed to Kentucky.
Speed left without him, but Lincoln followed a few months later, in July. In 1926, writer Carl Sandburg published a biography of Lincoln in which he described the relationship between the two men as having, “a streak of lavender, and spots soft as May violets.” Eventually, Joshua Speed would marry a woman named Fanny Henning. The marriage lasted 40 years, until Joshua’s death in 1882, and produced no children.
From 1862 to 1863, President Lincoln was accompanied by a bodyguard from the Pennsylvania Bucktail Brigade named Captain David Derickson. Unlike Joshua Speed, Derickson was a prodigious father, marrying twice and siring ten children. Like Speed, however, Derickson became a close friend of the president and also shared his bed while Mary Todd was away from Washington. According to an 1895 regimental history written by one of Derickson’s fellow officers:
“Captain Derickson, in particular, advanced so far in the President’s confidence and esteem that, in Mrs. Lincoln’s absence, he frequently spent the night at his cottage, sleeping in the same bed with him, and — it is said — making use of His Excellency’s night-shirt!”
Another source, the well-connected wife of Lincoln’s naval adjundant, wrote in her diary: “Tish says, ‘there is a Bucktail Soldier here devoted to the President, drives with him, & when Mrs L. is not home, sleeps with him.’ What stuff!”
Derickson’s association with Lincoln ended with his promotion and transfer in 1863.