Thursday, May 22, 2014
ABRAHAM LINCOLN'S SON
ROBERT TODD LINCOLN
Robert Todd Lincoln was the only child of Abraham and Mary Lincoln to survive into adulthood. His three brothers died from illnesses at young ages. Robert lived until 1926, dying at the age of 83. Robert begged his father for a commission to serve in the Civil War, but President Lincoln refused and commented that the loss of two sons made risking the loss of a third out of the question. Robert's mother used every tactic to try to dissuade the President from appointing his son in the war.
But Robert insisted, saying that if his father wouldn't help him, he would join on his own and fight with the front line troops; the President relented.
The President arranged for Robert's commission, but wired General Grant to assign "Captain Lincoln" to his staff, and to keep him well away from danger.
The assignment did, however, result in Robert's being present at Appomattox Court House, during the historic moment of Lee's surrender.
Then, the following week, while Robert was at the White House, he was awakened at midnight to be told of his father's having been shot, and was present at The Peterson House when his father died.
Robert's three brothers were Eddie, Willie, and Tad. Eddie died at age 4 in 1850, probably from thyroid cancer. Willie was the most beloved of all the boys. He died in the White House at age 11 in 1862, from what was most likely typhoid fever.
President Lincoln grieved greatly over Willie's death. Lincoln had a temporary tomb built for Willie, until they could return home with his body to Springfield, IL, and Lincoln often spent long periods of time at the tomb.
The Lincolns were known to be very permissive parents and Tad was known to be a real hellion. None of his tutors could control him; he grew up unable to read or write well. He was a "mama's boy", had a lisp, and was probably mildly retarded. He died at age 18 in 1871, most likely from the same thyroid cancer Eddie had died from, suggesting a genetic flaw.
Robert, at age 22, following his father's assassination, moved to Chicago with his mother, and brother Tad, who was 12 at the time. Robert finished law school and practiced law for a time.
As she had done as First Lady, Mary went on shopping binges that far exceeded common sense, driving what was left of the family assets into bankruptcy, and leading to numerous disputes between Robert and her.
Robert also had battles with Mary to keep her from destroying Lincoln's private papers, despite their financial worth, but for their historic value also, with Mary trying to tear them apart and burn them in fireplaces.
In fact, her irrational behavior grew so destructive that Robert had to have her put away, with his signature, signing her into a mental hospital, where she stayed locked up for three months. Mary never forgave him for it, and they remained estranged from then on, until Mary died at age 63 in 1882.
As an adult, Robert wrote there was a lot of distance between his father and him, caused mainly by his father's being absent so much of the time during Robert's formative years, as his father was gone a great deal of time on state-wide judicial circuits, campaigning for office, or serving in the state legislature. Robert wrote that his most vivid memories of his father were seeing him pack his saddle bags to be off again.
In 1868, Robert married a senator's daughter and they had three children--two girls and a boy--Abraham Lincoln's only grandchildren. Their son, whom they named Abraham Lincoln II (but whom they called "Jack") died in 1890, at the age of 15, from an infection arising from having a boil pierced under his arm.
The two daughters, however, lived fairly long lives, one living until 1938 to die at age 69, and the other until 1948, dying at age 72.
The last direct descendant of Abraham Lincoln was the child of one of Robert's daughters--Abraham Lincoln's great grandson--named Bud Beckwith, who died, married but childless, in 1985.
Robert went into politics and was highly regarded in those circles. In fact, he served as Secretary of War under President Garfield, and, incredibly, was with him when Garfield was shot at the Washington train station!
And then, some years later, Robert would also be present when President McKinley was gunned down in Buffalo!
In later years, Robert would grow a beard. He would serve in other political appointments and ambassadorships, and later became president of the Pullman Train Car Company, a booming enterprise at that time, and he would hold that position for the remainder of his life.
Robert was an avid amateur astronomer, and had an observatory built into his Vermont home; the telescope was so well built and powerful that's it's still used by a local astronomy club today!
Several times, Robert was offered the chance to run as President or Vice-President, and refused the offers.
In his 20's, Robert was standing on a train platform in Jersey City, crowded among a crowd of passengers attempting to buy sleeping berths from a haggard conductor, when the train moved. Robert was standing so close to the train that it spun him around and sent him dropping into the space between the train and the platform against a moving train threatening to crush him!
Suddenly, a hand grabbed Robert by the neck of his coat and pulled him up onto the platform, a quick action by a solidly strong man that may well have saved Robert's life.
And you know who that man was? It was Edwin Booth, the acclaimed stage actor--the brother of John Wilkes Booth--who had murdered Robert's father.
Below is Robert's sarcophagus at Arlington National Cemetery, where he's buried with his wife and son Jack.