William Osborn Stoddard, Lincoln’s “third secretary” who worked alongside John G. Nicolay and John Hay in the White House from 1861 to 1865, completed his autobiography in 1907, one of more than one hundred books he wrote. An abridged version was published by his son in 1955 as “Lincoln’s Third Secretary: The Memoirs of William O. Stoddard.” In this new, edited version, Lincoln’s White House Secretary: The Adventurous Life of William O. Stoddard, Harold Holzer provides an introduction, afterword, and annotations and includes comments by Stoddard’s granddaughter, Eleanor Stoddard. The elegantly written volume gives readers a window into the politics, life, and culture of the mid-nineteenth century.
Stoddard’s bracing writing, eye for detail, and ear for conversation bring a novelistic excitement to a story of childhood observations, young friendships, hardscrabble frontier farming, early hints of the slavery crisis, the workings of the Lincoln administration, and the strange course of war and reunion in the southwest. More than a clerk, Stoddard was an adventurous explorer of American life, a farmer, editor, soldier, and politician.
Enhanced by seventeen illustrations, this narrative sympathetically draws the reader into the life and times of Lincoln’s third secretary, adding to our understanding of the events and the larger-than-life figures that shaped history.