Born in Bavaria, John G. Nicolay (1832-1901) immigrated as a young boy to the United States, and his family ultimately settled in Illinois. Nicolay’s work as a newspaper editor and a state government official brought him to the attention of Abraham Lincoln. The trust and esteem Lincoln held for Nicolay was manifested in the appointment of the young German-American as his private secretary immediately after Lincoln’s inauguration as U.S. president on March 4, 1861. This White House assignment provided Nicolay with an eyewitness seat to most of the key political events of the Civil War, a vantage point additionally shared by John Hay (1838-1905), who was selected as the assistant private secretary to President Lincoln soon thereafter. Chief among John G. Nicolay’s postwar contributions was his collaboration with Hay on two works that have proved indispensable to historians of the Civil War era: the ten-volume Abraham Lincoln: A History (1890) and the two-volume Complete Works of Abraham Lincoln (1894).
- "Our worst fears are confirmed"July 21, 1861John G. Nicolay (1832 - 1901) to Theresa Bates, July 21 - 22, 1861. Manuscript. John G. Nicolay Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress