Portrayed as somber and taciturn in his portraits on coins, the President had a soft spot for children and pets. He enjoyed their antics and spending time with them.
Elizabeth Keckley, a former slave, served as the dressmaker for Mrs. Lincoln and was frequently at the White House.
In her 1868 book titled Behind the Scenes, she described one instance just days before the assassination:
“Mr. Lincoln was fond of pets. He had two goats that knew the sound of his voice, and when he called them they would come bounding to his side. In the warm bright days, he and Tad would sometimes play in the yard with these goats, for an hour at a time.
One Saturday afternoon I went to the White House to dress Mrs. Lincoln. I had nearly completed my task when the President came in. It was a bright day, and walking to the window, he looked down into the yard, smiled, and, turning to me, asked: ‘Madam Elizabeth, you are fond of pets, are you not?’
‘O yes, sir,’ I answered.
‘Well, come here and look at my two goats. I believe they are the kindest and best goats in the world. See how they sniff the clear air, and skip and play in the sunshine. Whew! What a jump,’ he exclaimed as one of the goats made a lofty spring. ‘Madam Elizabeth, did you ever before see such an active goat?’
Just then both goats looked up at the window and shook their heads as if they would say, ‘How d’ye do, old friend?’
‘See, Madam Elizabeth,’ exclaimed the President in a tone of enthusiasm, ‘My pets recognize me. How earnestly they look! They go again; what jolly fun!’ and he laughed outright as the goats bounded swiftly to the other side of the yard.”
A man with the weight of a Civil War on his shoulders still had the heart to enjoy his young son and his pets.