Abraham Lincoln and Smallpox

Presidential History Blog


Abraham Lincoln suffered from variola (smallpox) when he was in the White House.

November, 1863

Almost as an afterthought, President Lincoln had been invited to make “a few appropriate remarks” at an event in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

In July, a massive three-day battle had been fought at the tiny town of Gettysburg. Thousands of soldiers, North and South had died. Thousands more had been injured.

The only known photo of Lincoln at Gettysburg.

 Pennsylvania Governor Andrew Curtin, a Republican, mounted a vigorous campaign to make part of that battlefield into a national cemetery. The effort was enthusiastically supported, and on November 19, the dedication ceremony for the sobering memorial was scheduled. Former Congressman Edward Everett, considered the country’s premier orator, had accepted Curtin’s invitation to be the keynote speaker. As a courtesy, an invitation for the President to be on the program was issued – nothing more.

Abraham Lincoln: Health…

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