Mary's Loyalty to the Union

Mary was occasionally accused of having greater loyalty to the Confederacy than to the Union. These accusations were based on the actions of her slaveholding Kentucky relatives. Lincoln offered a commission to the husband of one of Mary's half sisters, Ben Hardin Helm, only to have him reject it and then join the Confederate Army. He was one of six of Mary's relatives who served the Confederacy. When Helm died in battle, Lincoln provided a pass for his widow to cross the lines. He also granted passes to Mary's half sister, who was subsequently accused of smuggling medicines to the Confederacy. However Mary's loyalty was beyond question. She called the enemy "rebels" and "traitors". The influence of the abolitionist Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts, and that of her mulatto seamstress, Elizabeth Keckley, who became a confidante of hers, probably helped change the attitude of a woman who was raised on a slave plantation.

Source:The Lincoln Encyclopedia by Mark E. Neely, Jr., 1982.

l Back to History and Culture l

Last updated: April 10, 2015

Park footer

Contact Info

Mailing Address:

413 S. 8th Street
Springfield, IL 62701


217 492-4241

Contact Us