Shortly after Lincoln’s death his law partner, William H. Herndon, started interviewing people who knew Lincoln. He amassed a vast archive of letters and interview notes full of reminiscences of Lincoln with the intention of writing a biography of his dearly departed friend and mentor. As Herndon described it: “I have spent…more than a thousand doll’s in getting the facts…I had advantages that no other man had or ever can have…Knew where to go – to whom to – what strings to pull, &c…the manuscripts are of incalculable value to any man who may wish to write a biography of Mr. Lincoln – no true biography can be written without them.”
The biography was slow in coming, however. Herndon’s fortunes took a turn for the worse after the Civil War and he found himself in dire financial straits. Desperately in need of cash, he sold his precious manuscripts to another of Lincoln’s fellow lawyers, Ward Hill Lamon, for $2000. Lamon also intended to publish a biography of Lincoln, and hired a man named Chauncey F. Black as his ghostwriter.
Black knew that David Davis was in possession of Lincoln’s personal papers, which had been packed up at the White House and shipped to Davis’s residence in Bloomington. (These papers now comprise the Robert Todd Lincoln collection at the Library of Congress). Chauncey, no doubt relying on information provided to him by Lamon, wrote Davis asking for access to the papers. In particular, he wanted access “to the Journal which Mr. Lincoln kept in sundry blank books during the whole, or at least the most critical part, of his administration. Lamon thoroughly understands its character and value. It is this which he most desires and which you have it in your power to furnish.”
Needless to say, the implications of this letter to Lincoln scholarship are astounding. Did Lincoln actually keep a journal during the Civil War? Although he was an intensely private man and not known to keep a journal at any other point in his life, he did occasionally jot notes and lists down in blank books such as the one mentioned by Black. It is entirely possible that he used such a journal as an outlet for the immense pressure placed on him by the Civil War. Also, as historian Willard King pointed out, “Lamon’s assertion of its existence is entitled to weight – during Lincoln’s presidency no one but his family lived closer to the President than Lamon.”
Davis, while unfamiliar with the journals in question, did not deny their existence. He wrote to Black’s father: “the journal he speaks of is, doubtless, in the boxes, but I have no knowledge on the subject, for I did not superintend the packing of the boxes.”
Lamon never put his hands on the journals, and neither has anyone else. Their existence and location remains a mystery. Did Lincoln actually keep such journals? If so, what happened to them? Were they lost in Washington D.C. during packing? Where they lost somewhere in Bloomington while the papers were in the care of David Davis? Did Robert Todd Lincoln remove and destroy them before giving his father’s papers to the Library of Congress? The world may never know…but on the other hand, the world just might wake up one day to an exciting headline: “Lincoln’s Lost Journals Found.”
 William H. Herndon to David Davis, 20 February 1869, Davis Family Papers, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library.
 Jeremiah S. Black to Davis Davis, 10 August 1870, Davis Papers, ALPL. In Chauncey Black’s handwriting.
 Willard King, Lincoln’s Manager, David Davis (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1960), 275.
 David Davis to Jeremiah Black, 19 August 1870. Black papers.