The duties of the Secret Service in 1865 did not include being guardians of the president, as the organization’s primary function was to combat the widespread counterfeiting of U.S. currency.
During most of Lincoln’s time in office, the doors to the White House were unguarded, open all day and often into the night. Office seekers, friends and those with any type of business simply walked into the foyer of the mansion and waited to be beckoned to meet with the president. With the concluding battles of the Civil War, coupled with the fact that Washington was a Southern city, home to many Southern sympathizers, it was often suggested to Lincoln that a guard be stationed at the entrance to the White House for his own protection. After months of protestations, the president finally acquiesced. Thus, in November 1864, four around-the-clock bodyguards were assigned to monitor the White House environs.
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