Monday, September 13, 2010

Robert Todd Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln did not have a lot of time to get to know his 1st-born son Robert Todd (1843-1926), but the young man (1st image), a 21-year-old captain in the Union Army at the time, was at the White house when the president was shot and by his father's deathbed - and weeping openly - when he died of his assassin's bullet. Sixteen years later, he was on the platform at the train station in Washington, D.C., and witnessed the fatal shot that felled President James A. Garfield (3rd image) in 1881. Two decades after that, Robert was present at (but not eyewitness to) the assassination of President William McKinley (4th image) at the Pan American Exposition in Buffalo, New York, in 1901. At that point, he commented about invitations to presidential events, "No, I'm not going, and they'd better not ask me, because there is a certain fatality about presidential functions when I am present." He did, however, attend the dedication of the Lincoln Memorial in 1922, which was survived by Presidents Warren G. Harding and William Howard Taft. Even stranger still is a coincidence that occurred prior to President Lincoln's assassination. In 1864 or 1865, Robert almost fell onto a train track in Jersey City, New Jersey, but was held back by none other than Edwin Booth (2nd image), the brother of the man who would soon kill his father. Robert later recalled, "The platform was about the height of the car floor, and there was of course a narrow space between the platform and the car body. There was some crowding, and I happened to be pressed by it against the car body while waiting my turn. In this situation the train began to move, and by the motion I was twisted off my feet, and had dropped somewhat, with feet downward, into the open space, and was personally helpless, when my coat collar was vigorously seized and I was quickly pulled up and out to a secure footing on the platform." Robert recognized Edwin, a well-known actor like his father and older brother, and thanked him by name, but it was months before Edwin knew it was Robert's life he had saved.

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