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Charles Town resident edited story of Lincoln bodyguard

Author Bob O'Connor published 520-page autobiography of Ward Hill Lamon

December 22, 2010|By RICHARD F. BELISLE | richardb@herald-mail.com
  • "The Life of Abraham Lincoln as President," a 520-page autobiography, was written in the 1880s by Ward Hill Lamon, Lincoln's friend, law partner in Illinois, and later his presidential bodyguard.
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CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. — Author Bob O'Connor has written four books with Civil War themes and one on the history of Ranson, W.Va., but the Charles Town resident is editor instead of writer for his sixth and newest book that comes out this week.

"The Life of Abraham Lincoln as President," a 520-page autobiography, was written in the 1880s by Ward Hill Lamon, Lincoln's friend, law partner in Illinois, and later his presidential bodyguard.

Lamon, who was born in Summit Point, W.Va., died in 1893 and is buried in Gerrardstown, W.Va.

He is the protagonist in O'Connor's 2007 historical fiction, "The Virginian Who Might have Saved Lincoln."

Two years ago O'Connor learned that Lamon's papers were stored in the Huntington Library in San Marino, Calif. Included in the stash was his unpublished book on Lincoln.

Finding the book had such an effect on O'Connor that he decided to get it published.

He spent six days at the Huntington Library going through Lamon's papers. The library agreed to put the book on microfilm so O'Connor could bring it home.

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"It was type-written. I could not imagine trying to get through it if it was in longhand," he said. "It took me about 300 hours to transcribe it onto my computer," he said.

That was the easy part. Doing the research to define the characters, events and legal terms in Lamon's book was a different matter. O'Connor had to pore through personal letters, historical documents, works of authors and other sources to come up with accurate footnotes.

A quick glance at the book shows that O'Connor's footnotes take up as much or more space on some pages than Lamon's text.

"I didn't change a word. It's all there as Lamon wrote it, even the parts written in 19th century style," O'Connor said.

According to the book, Lamon was only one of three men Lincoln took to Washington when he became president. He protected the president-elect from an assassination plot in Baltimore when Lincoln was on his way to Washington for his inauguration and was constantly at the president's side during the administration.

Lamon, according to the book, orchestrated the events at Gettysburg on the day Lincoln gave his most famous speech.

Lincoln sent Lamon to Richmond on a special assignment when the Civil War ended, but the president failed to heed his bodyguard's urgings not to go to Ford's Theater.

The book sells for $23.95 and is available at boboconnorbooks.com, at the Jefferson County Visitors Center in Harpers Ferry, W.Va., the Charles Town Visitors Center and at Four Seasons Books in Shepherdstown, W.Va.

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