Anxiety over Robert Todd Lincoln joining the military

 

 

The war was coming to a close. It was February 1865.  Robert Todd Lincoln had wanted to join the Union ranks before the conflict became history. He was 22 years old.  His mother Mary Lincoln was “dead-set” against it.  There had been so many losses. She had experienced the death of two sons. She had lost several relatives to the war.  The thought of her oldest son getting killed or dying in the war was too much to bear. Can anyone blame her?  Even if he were given a position in the army that served to “protect” him, there was still that chance that somehow he might die.  Yet, young Robert Lincoln wanted to join.  He was well aware of his mother’s concerns.  His father Abraham wasn’t thrilled with the idea either.  He had suffered immensely. He felt responsible on some very real level for the death of those thousands of young boys that had already died or been wounded.  He and Mary struggled with the notion.  The war would soon be over, he was sure-but it wasn’t yet.  So, Lincoln wrote General Grant.  He wasn’t writing as the Commander-In-Chief but as a “father.”  He asked if Grant would “take on” his son-maybe in a staff position with a lower rank. He expressed an understanding that if Grant could not oblige-he was accepting of that. Grant did see fit to help out.  Young Robert was made a Captain serving under Grant. He survived.  But one can imagine that when Robert Lincoln presented himself to his parents dressed in that Union officer’s uniform-there was no small amount of anxiety over the sight. They were father and mother first-then Mr. and Mrs. President afterward.

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