On Friday, November 4, 1842, Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd married. Sometime around the beginning of 1841, they had broken up, for reasons that still elude historians today.
Having resumed their courtship (and what brought the pair back together is equally debatable), the couple made no one aware of their impending nuptials until the morning of the wedding, when they informed Mary’s sister and her brother-in-law, Elizabeth and Ninian Edwards, of their plans. The Edwardses insisted that the couple marry in their house, where Mary had been living as a guest since 1839. The lovers agreed, and Elizabeth Edwards and another sister, Frances Wallace, frenziedly began to do the cooking necessary to host a respectable wedding feast. Reportedly, when Elizabeth, bewailing the short notice she had been given, told Mary, “I guess I will have to send to old Dickey’s for some of his gingerbread and beer,” Mary, presumably recalling disparaging remarks about Lincoln’s humble origins, snapped, “Well, that will be good enough for plebeians, I suppose.”
James H. Matheny and Beverly Powell served as Lincoln’s groomsmen. While contemporaries agreed that Julia Jayne (later Trumbull) was one of Mary’s bridesmaids, they had difficulty remembering the name of the second bridesmaid. Both Anna Rodney (Cushman) and Mary’s cousin Elizabeth Todd (Grimsley) are identified in some of their obituaries as a bridesmaid at the Lincoln wedding, and Mary’s niece Katherine Helm, who wrote a biography of her aunt, settled the matter by naming all three women as bridesmaids. Equally murky is the all-important question of what the bride wore. Frances Wallace, recalling the wedding for a reporter in 1895, was certain that Mary had not borrowed Frances’s white satin wedding dress for the occasion, but beyond that could not say for sure whether Mary was married in a white Swiss muslin, or not a white dress at all, or “delaine, or something of that kind.” (You can see why historical novelists are a cranky bunch at times, with all this to sort out.)
The groom, Frances recalled, “was cheerful as he ever had been.” Matheny, however, told Lincoln’s law partner and biographer, William Herndon, that “Lincoln looked and acted as if he was going to the Slaughter.”
Whatever Lincoln’s demeanor, it surely must have helped matters when, as the Reverend Charles Dresser intoned, “With this ring I thee endow with all my goods and chattles, lands and tenements,” Judge Thomas Browne exclaimed, “Lord Jesus Christ, God Almighty, Lincoln, the Statute fixes all that!”
The newlywed Lincolns started their married life at Springfield’s Globe Tavern. There, a brisk nine months after the wedding, Mary gave birth to their first son, Robert, on August 1, 1843.