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  • This Month in History - Abraham Lincoln

    2 posts, 2 voices, 546 views, started Feb 8, 2009

    Posted on Sunday, February 8, 2009


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      Dear JSLeon

      This month we celebrate President Abraham Lincoln’s 200th birthday. You may already know that Lincoln was born in a log cabin in Hardin County, Kentucky, on February 12, 1809. However, you may not have known that he was the first president born outside the original thirteen colonies. He was also the tallest president and the only president to be issued a patent; he invented a levy device that lifted boats over shoals in the Mississippi River. All of us here at Footnote wish President Lincoln a happy 200th birthday.

      Abraham Lincoln became the president of the United States during the most divisive period of U.S. history. He gained national attention during the Senate campaign of 1858 when he and Stephen Douglas engaged in several famous debates. By the time he ran for President, Lincoln's platform stood for national unity without slavery. While serving as the 16th President of the United States, Lincoln led the nation through the Civil War and freed millions of slaves. Lincoln was the father of four boys, the tallest President, and the only President to receive a patent. "Honest Abe" saw his country through the darkest hours, but he was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth only days after Lee's surrender and the war's end. Abraham Lincoln continues to be an American legend for his service and sacrifice to keep the United States as one, united country.

      Abraham Lincoln was born in Kentucky, as was his wife Mary Todd Lincoln. Mary's family, however, came from wealth and education, and participated in Kentucky's high social circles. When the Civil War broke out, her brother, half-brothers, and brothers-in-law fought for the Confederacy, despite their relation to President Lincoln.

                  Mary's brother-in-law, Benjamin Hardin Helm, was friends with President Lincoln. Lincoln offered the national post of Paymaster to Helm when the war broke out, but Benjamin sided with the Confederacy and abandoned Lincoln. Benjamin Helm led the "Orphan Brigade," the 1st Kentucky Infantry, until he was killed at the Battle of Chickamauga on September 20, 1863. Despite Helm's betrayal, Lincoln wept at the news of his death.

                  George R.C. Todd was Mary's only full-brother to serve in the Confederate Army. He worked as a doctor prior to the Civil War, and joined the Army as a surgeon. George worked in the field of battle until September 1863, when he was transferred to the General Hospital in Charleston, South Carolina. During his service at the hospital, George was accused of harsh treatment towards Union prisoners. In December 1864, he was placed in charge of the Wayside Hospital in Camden, South Carolina, until General Sherman passed through and burned the town in February 1865. George Todd survived the war and died in 1900.

                  Samuel Briggs Todd and Alexander Todd were Mary Todd's half-brothers from her father's second marriage. Samuel Todd served in Company F, of the Louisiana Crescent Regiment. Samuel died during the Battle of Shiloh on April 7, 1862, from a wound in the abdomen. Alexander Todd, called "Aleck" by Mary, served in Benjamin Helm's 1st Kentucky Calvary regiment. He was killed during the Battle of Baton Rouge on August 5, 1863. It is recorded that when Mary Lincoln heard the news of his death she cried, "Oh, little Aleck, why had you too to die!"  

                  David H. Todd, also Mary's half-brother, was a captain in the 21st Louisiana Infantry and commandant of the Libby Prison in Richmond, Virginia. David was wounded in the Battle of Vicksburg, but survived the war. He later applied for, and was granted a presidential pardon by Andrew Johnson for his actions during the war.

                  The Lincoln family did not escape the pain and division that affected so many families during the Civil War. Along with her brothers, several of Mary Todd's sisters were married to Confederate soldiers. Abraham Lincoln was friends with these men, they were family, and yet they fought on opposite sides and died for opposing causes.


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