Description

    President Lincoln humors Tad

    Abraham Lincoln Autograph Note Signed. One page, 3.25" x 2", [Washington, D.C.], June 22, 1863. President Lincoln, known for being a compulsive worker, takes time to humor his youngest son with a playful note concerning their upcoming stay at the Soldiers' Home. In full, "Tad wants the Company here to go to the Soldiers Home with him; but he insists they must have order. June 22, 1863, A. Lincoln".

    Ten-year-old Tad was known for being fun and impulsive. He resembled his mother, Mary Lincoln, in many ways, including his tendency towards huge swings of emotions. Tad, whose real name was Thomas (Mr. Lincoln thought that as a baby, his son resembled a tadpole), was also considered undisciplined and unschooled. John Hay, who penned the youngster's obituary in 1871, wrote that the boy had "a very bad opinion of books and no opinion of discipline" (Michael Burlingame, At Lincoln's Side: John Hay's Civil War Correspondence and Selected Writings [SIU Press, 2006], 111). After the death of Tad's older brother Willie in February 1862, Mr. Lincoln became especially indulgent of the impetuous youth, putting few restrictions on him and allowing him to burst into cabinet meetings and run through the White House halls. Tad was also allowed to let his pet turkey and goat roam the White House grounds, to the chagrin of the gardener.

    After losing Willie, Tad developed a special friendship with the soldiers of Company K of the 150th Pennsylvania Infantry (the "Bucktails"). The company was assigned as security for the White House, as well as serving as bodyguards for President Lincoln. They also occasionally substituted as Tad's playmates, once playfully promoting the boy to "3rd Lieutenant". On the day this letter was written - two weeks before the rest of the 150th fought at Gettysburg - Company K travelled with the first family to the Soldiers' Home with, according to this note, Tad's approval, though with the caveat that they "must have order." While at the presidential retreat, Tad often rode on his pony to their drills and arrived almost daily at their camp to eat with them. President Lincoln was favorable to the Pennsylvania company, even requesting in a November 1, 1862, letter that the company continue "keeping guard at my residence, now at Soldier's Retreat." In that letter, the president went on to praise the company as "very agreeable to me; and while it is deemed proper for any guard to remain, none would be more satisfactory." The company continued to guard the White House, the Soldiers' Home, and the president until it was mustered out in June 1865. (Roy P. Basler, ed., The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, vol. 5 [New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 1953], 484-485).

    The first family began their 1863 summer residence at the Soldiers' Home on the very day Lincoln wrote this note. Located just three miles north of the capital on 250 acres owned by the federal government, the Soldiers' Home was a retirement home for disabled soldiers. It included several buildings, such as a main building and dining hall, plus several cottages. The Lincolns stayed in a two-story cottage and enjoyed the cool breezes and peacefulness. Mary Lincoln appreciated the retreat as a place where she was in more control than at the White House; she also dutifully visited wounded soldiers at the hospital, where Walt Whitman worked as a nurse. From the retreat, Lincoln daily rode his horse back to the capital.

    On the verso, "Joseph Dickson" is written in pencil, but has been traced in blue ink. Also written in pencil, though not traced, is "No. 41". Below, written in blue ink, "This is Harry's grandfather lived on North St. [...] he was Abraham Lincoln body gard [sic]." As a member of Company K, First Lieutenant Joseph H. Dickson helped serve as one of President Lincoln's bodyguards. He was discharged from the military on May 10, 1865. The top right corner of the note has been cut away, though with no effect to the text. Light soiling and minor stains.




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    Auction Dates
    June, 2010
    8th-9th Tuesday-Wednesday
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