The Lincoln Family consisted of Abraham Lincoln and his wife, Mary Todd, and their four sons in order of birth; Robert Todd (1843-1926), Edward Baker (1846-1850), William Wallace (1850-1862) and Thomas, “Tad,” III (1853-1871).
Robert Todd Lincoln was Abraham and Mary’s oldest son and the only one to survive into adulthood. After completing his undergrad degree, he received a commission as a captain in the U.S. army, serving in U.S. Grant’s personal staff. He didn’t see much combat, although he did get a view of history, Robert was present as part of Grant’s junior staff at Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Court House.
The most incredible series of events in Robert’s life were difficult for him to understand. He questioned: why was I connected to all three events? He was connected to the assassination of three U.S. Presidents. In 1881, he became Secretary of War to newly inaugurated James A. Garfield. He stood and witnessed the shooting of President Garfield by one Charles Guiteau. Twenty years later in 1901, Lincoln traveled to Buffalo at the invitation of President William McKinley to attend the Pan Am Exposition. Robert was on his way to meet the President McKinley when anarchist Leon Czolgosz shot the president twice at close range.
Finally, and most traumatic, Robert was invited in April of 1865 to Ford’s Theater to see “Our American Cousin,” of which he declined. Robert Todd did not witnessed the shooting of his father, although he was at his father’s bedside until he passed away the next morning.
On the brighter side, he was appointed as Secretary of War under Garfield and Chester A. Arthur, and had a four year term as minister to Great Britain under President Benjamin Harrison. He made his fortune as general counsel to the Pullman Palace Car Company, and later became its president. He lived out his life living in Manchester, Vermont.
Little is known about the Lincoln’s second son, Edward “Eddie” Baker who died a month before his fourth birthday. Using modern medical knowledge, it is suggested that he died from thyroid cancer. Eddie’s thick, asymmetric lower lip is a sign of the cancer. Eddie was buried at Hutchinson’s Cemetery in Springfield, Illinois.
William Wallace, “Willie” Lincoln was the third son of the Lincoln’s. He was named after Mary’s brother-in-law, Dr. William Wallace. Willie and Tad became ill in early 1862 while in the White House. Willie’s condition worsened, he had contracted typhoid fever from drinking contaminated water from the Potomac River. Willie gradually weakened, as his parents spent endless hours at his bedside. On Thursday, February 20, 1862, at 5:00 p.m. Willie died. Abraham said, “My poor boy. He was too good for this earth. God has called him home. I know that he is much better off in heaven, but then we loved him so much. It is hard, hard to have him die!”
Thomas “Tad” Lincoln III was the fourth and youngest son of the Lincoln’s. Tad was born with a form of cleft lip and palate, causing him speech problems throughout his life. He had a lisp and delivered his words rapidly and unintelligibly. For example, he called his father “Papa Day” instead of “Papa Dear.” During the time his father was alive, Tad was impulsive, unrestrained, and did not attend school, numerous tutors for Tad quit in frustration.
After the death of his father, Tad said, “…Pa is dead. I can hardly believe that I will never see him again….I must learn to take care of myself now. … I am not a president’s son now… ”
On Saturday morning, July 15, 1871, Tad Lincoln died at the age of 18. The cause of death has been variously referred to as tuberculosis, a pleuristic attack, pneumonia, or congestive heart failure. Lincoln’s death occurred at the Clifton House hotel in Chicago.
The Lincoln’s made an unforgettable impression on the American people by being a living example of a kind, loving, and considerate family.