Ward Hill Lamon was a self-appointment bodyguard and close friend of President Abraham Lincoln. Born in 1828 in Virginia, Lamon studied law at Louisville University and practiced law in Illinois, where he met Abraham Lincoln in 1847. Although different in almost every way, they became close friends and established a firm friendship which lasted a lifetime.
In 1852 Lamon and Lincoln became law partners and opened an office in Danville, Illinois. They worked together until 1857 when Lamon became a prosecuting attorney and moved to Bloomington. Despite this, Lamon and Lincoln remained friends and Lamon took part in Lincoln’s Senate campaign in 1858, and he also played an important role in Lincoln’s presidential campaign in 1860.
Lamon worked behind the scenes to help Lincoln gain more supporters and win the presidential elections in 1860. After the election, Lamon hoped that he would be appointed Minister to Paris. He took his potential diplomatic duties so seriously that he even started preparing for resignation. However, Lincoln had other plans for him. He wanted Lamon to travel with him to Washington and protect him from danger. He was unofficially Lincoln’s personal bodyguard.
Lincoln, soon to be inaugurated President, traveled to Washington by train. The general security of the new President was provided by Allan Pinkerton and his detectives. Lamon, armed with pistols and a Bowie knife, traveled alongside Lincoln too and was determined to protect him in case any trouble arose.
On their midnight train ride to Washington, Pinkerton uncovered a plot whereby Lincoln would be assassinated when he arrived in Baltimore. Pinkerton suggested that Lincoln should sneak into Washington secretly.
Only one man was to accompany Lincoln, and that man was Lamon. He offered pistols and knives to Lincoln, but he refused and assured him that he had no fears. Both of them snuck through Baltimore that night, and the President arrived safely in Washington for his inauguration that was to take place on March 4.
After the inauguration, Lamon was officially appointed U.S. marshal for the District of Columbia. However, he continued to act like Lincoln’s bodyguard and monitored Lincoln’s movements. He could often be found patrolling around the White House.
After Lincoln had been elected President for the second time in 1864, Lamon was more concerned for his safety than ever before, as Lincoln took no precautions as to his own security.
Although the Civil War was over, Lamon thought that the President was still in danger. He continually admonished him for his failure to concern himself with safety and reminded him that he was in constant danger.
Lamon adjured him never to attend any public event without his presence. One night, Lamon was so worried about Lincoln’s safety, that he spent the entire night in front of his bedroom with a trench knife and a pistol.
So where was Lamon on the night when President Lincoln was assassinated at Ford’s Theatre on April 14, 1865? Just three days earlier, Lincoln informed Lamon that he had to go on an errand to Richmond. Lamon protested, but Lincoln insisted that he should go. Before leaving, Lamon urged Lincoln to stay in the White House while he was absent.
Lincoln ignored Lamon’s advice and went to Ford’s Theatre on April 14, 1865. As we all know, he was assassinated the same night by John Wilkes Booth. Lamon was overcome with grief. He returned to Washington and accompanied the funeral procession to Springfield, Illinois.
Following Lincoln’s assassination, Lamon returned to West Virginia and practiced law there. He ran for Congress in 1876 but lost. In 1872, he published Lincoln’s biography (The Life of Abraham Lincoln; From his Birth to his Inauguration as President) that was ghostwritten by Chauncey F. Black. Lamon died on May 7, 1893, at the age of 65.