Robert Todd Lincoln's Reluctant Place In History
Robert Todd Lincoln’s Reluctant Place In American History
Robert Todd Lincoln was the first child of Abraham and Mary Lincoln and the only Lincoln child to reach adulthood. However, being President Lincoln’s son is not the reason why Robert Lincoln has an odd and dubious place in American History. Rather, Robert Todd Lincoln has the odd distinction of being associated with three Presidential Assasssinations.
The Assassination Of Abraham Lincoln.
Robert and his father were not very close. Lincoln, while in Illinois, was an attorney that would travel with the circuit judges around the State to try cases. However, Robert was very fond of his father. Robert Todd spent most of the Civil War attending college, his mother not allowing him to enlist.
However, by 1865, Robert Todd served in the Union Army on General Ulysses Grant’s Staff. Robert Todd was present at the surrender ceremony at Appomattox that marked the official end to the Civil War.
On the night of April 14, 1865, Robert Todd had just arrived in Washington after traveling several days. His parents invited him to attend a play at Ford’s Theater. Due to his trip, Robert Todd declined and stayed at the White House to get some sleep. Shortly before falling asleep, Robert Todd learned that his father had been shot.
Robert Todd spent the remainder of that evening at his father’s deathbed and stayed by his side until the President was dead. Later reports from Robert himself show that he felt guilty about declining his parents invitation that night and felt had he been there he would have been able to stop Booth.
The Assassination of James Garfield
After his father’s death, Robert Todd moved the Lincoln family back to Illinois where he finished his legal studies. Robert Todd practiced law and until 1881 when he accepted James Garfield’s invitation to serve as Secretary of War.
On July 2, 1881, Robert Todd was invited to accompany President Garfield to his college reunion in Elberon, New Jersey. Robert Todd was running late and arrived at the train station just as Charles Guiteau shot President Garfield. Most reports state that Lincoln heard the shots and saw the commotion caused by the President being shot.
The Assassination of William McKinley
After the assassination of James Garfield, Robert Todd returned to private life. He eventually became President and Chairman of the Board of the Pullman Palace Car Company, a position he held until his death in 1926.
On September 6, 1901, Robert Todd was invited to attend the Pan-American Exposition In Buffalo, New York. The invitation came directly from President William McKinley. Robert Lincoln arrived at the expo just as the President was shot and killed by Leon Czolgosz. Robert Todd is pictured as one of the many men surround the body of the slain President.
A Reluctant Witness To History
Needless to say, Robert Todd Lincoln was reluctant to accept any more invitations to attend events with Presidents. Lincoln is quoted as saying: “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.” The only other Presidential event Robert Todd Lincoln attended was the dedication of the Lincoln Memorial in 1922 attended by Warren Harding and former President William Howard Taft.
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