This excerpt is from a delightful website, Mr. Lincoln and Friends (by The Lincoln Institute), which is filled with primary sources, narratives by people who knew Lincoln, and loads of info.
The jealousy of Mary Todd Lincoln certainly limited the potential of Mr. Lincoln to develop female friendships. There may have been some cause for jealousy as indicated by an incident early in the Civil War. President Lincoln visited the Army of the Potomac on in early April, 1863. On April 7, he visited General Daniel Sickles and the Third Corps. Sickles was apparently struck by the sadness of the Chief Executive and sought a way to lift his gloom. Sickles claimed he asked some women if to “make him more cheerful” they perhaps could “form a line of ladies and each of you give him a kiss.”
The only woman willing to plant the first kiss was Princess Salm-Salm, who worried that she was too short to reach the President’s face. According to General Sickles, “After I had formed the ladies in line, she went up to him, and sure enough he leaned down a little, and the other ladies followed her example with broad smiles and laughter. After that Lincoln was cheerful.” The wife of another General said that the idea for the kiss-attack came from the women themselves: “A glance from the Princess toward the ladies following in her train was all that was necessary. They quickly surrounded Mr. Lincoln, embracing and kissing him with eagerness and fervor, although it was not easy for them to reach up.”
“As soon as he could collect himself and recover from his astonishment, the President thanked the lady, but with evident discompsoure; whereupon some of the party made haste to explain that the Princess Salm-Salm had laid a wager with one of the officers that she would kiss the President,” reported journalist Noah Brooks. Princess Salm-Salm had married up – having graduated from farm girl to actress to circus-rider to the wife of a European noble. She accompanied her Austrian husband, who served as a Union staff officer.
Mrs. Lincoln was not happy when she was told about the kissathon by her tattle-tale son Tad. She blamed General Sickles, and was very cold when Sickles accompanied the family on a steamer back to Washington. President Lincoln, however, broke the ice by saying he had heard that Sickles, a notorious philander and admitted murderer, was very ‘pious” and “a great Psalmist. In response to Sickles’ denials, President Lincoln said: “Sickles, I have not only heard while in your camp that you are a Psalmist, but I have heard from the best authority that you are a Salm-Salmist.”
In the amusement that followed Mrs. Lincoln forgave Sickles. The general subsequently recouped his status with Mrs. Lincoln and became a frequent visitor to the White House while recuperating from the amputation of his leg at the Battle of Gettysburg. Although Mrs. Lincoln strongly objected to any woman giving her attentions to Mr. Lincoln, she herself enjoyed and encouraged the attentions of many men who attended her salon in the White House Red Room.