How Abraham Lincoln Narrowly Avoided Death Before His Assassination

Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States, died early in the morning of April 15, 1865, according to the Library of Congress, having been shot by an assassin's bullet the previous night. The Illinois politician might have escaped death that night had any number of things gone differently. For example, Lincoln was fond of highbrow forms of entertainment, particularly Shakespeare, according to Folger Shakespeare Library, so it was a bit off-brand for him to sit in the audience for a goofy comic farce like "Our American Cousin." Had he simply said "no thank you" to the invitation, our history books would be completely different.

In fact, Lincoln had another brush with death a couple of years before he was assassinated, a Confederate sniper's bullet having missed him by a short distance, according to History. It's another case of our history books being completely altered, had things gone ever-so-slightly differently. 

The Battle of Fort Stevens

These days, presidents tend to call the shots (so to speak) when it comes to war far removed from the actual battle. Back during the Iraq War, whatever decisions George W. Bush made were made in Washington, thousands of miles from the action, and the same was true for Roosevelt, Wilson, etc. Lincoln, however, was considerably more old school when it came to commanding troops. For example, as History reports, he was even known to personally inspect weapons on the grounds of the White House.

In July of 1864, the Confederate army was closing in on Washington, and the city was in danger of falling to an enemy force for only the second time in its history. Lincoln himself went out to nearby Fort Stevens to look things over. Unfortunately, the Confederates employed snipers, hidden in nearby treetops, and at least one bullet came near the head of the president. It's unclear exactly how near, but nevertheless, when the shots started ringing out, legend has it that a nearby officer told his commander, "Get down, you damn fool!"

Of course, Lincoln lived to tell about it, and it became the first and only time a sitting U.S. president has come under direct enemy fire in war.

Did Lincoln have any other brushes with death?

Was Abraham Lincoln's close proximity to a Confederate bullet aimed at his head his only brush with death? It seems that way, although it's hard to say for certain.

Lincoln most certainly grew up in a poor family, at a time when malnutrition and poor medical care were a part of daily life, particularly for the poor. However, by the time he was a teenager, tall and lanky though he was, Lincoln was almost preternaturally strong, as Yahoo Entertainment reports. Long story short, he made it through his childhood unscathed. It does bear noting, however, that his mother died of milk sickness — a form of poisoning from drinking milk from a cow that had eaten a certain poisonous plant — according to Cape Gazette, so perhaps passing up on a cup of milk at one time or another may have saved his life.

He also served in a war long before he was elected president. According to the Illinois Secretary of State, Lincoln signed up to fight in the Black Hawk War, a brief conflict between American settlers and Native Americans. However, he never saw combat in that war, and soon enough, he was back to working odd jobs.