Union Ridge Church

October 13, 2020

by Reverend Dan on October 13, 2020

"Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring."

                                                            James 4:14


Robert Todd Lincoln was born in Illinois in 1843, the oldest of four sons (and the only son to live to adulthood) born to Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln. To say he had an interesting life would be an understatement.


In 1859, Robert took the Harvard College entrance exam but failed 15 of the 16 subjects. He attended Phillips Exeter Academy to better prepare himself for college acceptance and it worked  as at his second attempt at the Harvard entrance exam he passed with ease.


In 1863, while home in Washington for the holidays, Robert fell off the platform by the train tracks and was trapped between it and one of the cars as the train started to move.  He felt someone grab his coat collar and pull him up just before the wheels of the train ran over him. He turned to thank whoever did it and recognized the man as one of the premier actors of his day. His name was Edwin Booth, and he was the brother of the man who would later assassinate Robert’s father.


After graduating from Harvard in 1864, Robert decided to follow in his father’s footsteps and practice law. He entered Harvard Law school but quickly dropped out in order to join the Union Army in the waning months of the Civil War. Thanks to his mother’s near-constant worrying, Robert was able to avoid combat service for the vast majority of the war. While this eased Mary Todd Lincoln’s anxiety, it only served to embarrass President Lincoln who felt that his son should receive no special treatment simply because he was the son of the President. Robert was placed under the direction of General Ulysses S. Grant as an assistant adjutant. This role made it nearly impossible for the younger Lincoln to see any combat. Because of this posting, Robert was present with General Grant for General Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox.


Robert was not at Ford’s Theater the night his father was assassinated, but he was at the White House and rushed to the Petersen House where his father had been taken, and he sat with his father until Lincoln died the next morning. In a series of eerie coincidences, Robert was present at the assassination of not one but two other presidents. As James Garfield’s Secretary of War, he was at the Sixth Street Station in Washington, DC when Garfield was assassinated, and he was at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York when William McKinley was assassinated. Recognizing his track record, a later president invited Robert to an official function and Robert replied, “No, I’m not going, and you shouldn’t ask because there is a certain fatality about presidential functions where I am present”.


After his father’s death, Robert moved to Chicago with his mother and brother Tad. He completed his law studies and was licensed to practice law in 1867. His life continued to be full of adventures with tenure as Secretary of War; having to commit his mother to a psychiatric hospital because of her erratic behavior; he became first general counsel for the Pullman Palace Car Company and later President and Chairman of the Board of the company. He was an amateur astronomer with his own observatory, and an avid golfer and president of his country club. Robert Todd Lincoln’s final public appearance was in 1922 when he attended the dedication ceremony for the newly completed Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC.


Sometimes, in the midst of life, we forget to there is an adventure around every corner. Start each new day with joy and anticipation, knowing life is good and so is the God who created it.


"Father, Thank you for the times of our lives.  In Jesus' name, AMEN."