Lincoln Likely Infected His Valet With Smallpox

Former President Abraham Lincoln may have infected his valet, a Black man, with smallpox after the Gettysburg Address in 1863, according to a historical review published Sunday in The Washington Post.

The report comes amid a COVID-19 outbreak in the White House where President Donald Trump’s body man, Nicolas Luna, contracted the novel coronavirus. It is not known whether Trump gave Luna the virus. The president tested positive for COVID-19 nearly two weeks ago and on Saturday was told he could resume campaign activities this week.

The Post noted William H. Johnson, 30, helped take care of Lincoln after he fell ill with a headache, fever, and fatigue following the address. This account was taken from the historical journal entry by Lincoln historian Roy Basler in “Did President Lincoln Give the Smallpox to William H. Johnson?”

Lincoln needed assistance with a cold towel for his fever, Basler wrote.

“That William provided the towel and waited on Lincoln’s needs is most certain,” according to Basler.

“To put it plainly,” he wrote, “Abraham Lincoln treated William Johnson as a man rather than as a servant, and besides such personal duties as barbering and caring for the president’s wardrobe, Johnson undertook missions of trust, carrying private messages and on occasion considerable sums of money.”

The book “The Greatest Killer: Smallpox in History” also detailed Lincoln’s care at the hands of Johnson, according to infectious disease expert Donald R. Hopkins, who concluded Lincoln likely infected Johnson with smallpox.

Lincoln recovered but Johnson died just two months later.

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