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Old 25 April 2007, 08:49 PM
Hyper Squirrel Hyper Squirrel is offline
 
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Default President Lincoln's son and John Wilkes Booth's Brother

I've heard that President Lincoln's son was once pulled out of the way of a train by the brother of John Wilkes Booth. I don't know much about it, but it seems a bit ULish to me. Anyone know the real deal?
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Old 25 April 2007, 08:54 PM
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The incident occurred while a group of passengers were late at night purchasing their sleeping car places from the conductor who stood on the station platform at the entrance of the car. The platform was about the height of the car floor, and there was of course a narrow space between the platform and the car body. There was some crowding, and I happened to be pressed by it against the car body while waiting my turn. In this situation the train began to move, and by the motion I was twisted off my feet, and had dropped somewhat, with feet downward, into the open space, and was personally helpless, when my coat collar was vigorously seized and I was quickly pulled up and out to a secure footing on the platform. Upon turning to thank my rescuer I saw it was Edwin Booth, whose face was of course well known to me, and I expressed my gratitude to him, and in doing so, called him by name."

p. 70-71 of "Robert Todd Lincoln: A Man In His Own Right" by John S. Goff.
http://members.aol.com/RVSNorton1/Lincoln59.html
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Old 25 April 2007, 08:58 PM
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Thank you!
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Old 25 April 2007, 09:02 PM
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Speaking of Robert Lincoln, he was closely associated with the death of three presidents: he was at his father's deathbed, he was an eyewitness to Garfield's assassination in 1881, and he was present, although not an eyewitness, when McKinley was shot in 1901.

Here's the Wikpedia cite, but I've read the same information in other sources, too.
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Old 26 April 2007, 06:41 AM
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I've heard that President Lincoln's son was once pulled out of the way of a train by the brother of John Wilkes Booth.
In other words, the families are more or less even now?
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Old 26 April 2007, 03:33 PM
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Originally Posted by Troberg View Post
In other words, the families are more or less even now?
The rescue happened before the assassination. From what I've heard, the Booth brothers didn't get along too well anyway (Edwin was the better actor and John was jealous).

Seaboe
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  #7  
Old 26 April 2007, 03:42 PM
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Originally Posted by Seaboe Muffinchucker View Post
From what I've heard, the Booth brothers didn't get along too well anyway (Edwin was the better actor and John was jealous).
Edwin may have been the better actor, but John had more popular success; he was a bit of a sex symbol. Having read some books on John and on the family, I'd say that their relationship was complicated.

Toward the end of John's life, his anti-Lincoln rants became so extreme that Edwin barred John from his (Edwin's) house. Then, of course, John murdered the president, broke their mother's and sister's hearts, and nearly got several members of his immediate family into very serious trouble by association. And Edwin's fiancee's parents called off the engagement, plunging him into depression.

Edwin did do some mess-cleaning-up afterward; he paid for the barn that was burned when John was caught, and he worked for years to get John's body released and properly buried for their mother's sake. But for the rest of his life, John and Lincoln were both very delicate subjects that his friends tried to avoid.
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Old 27 April 2007, 02:27 PM
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Not to be skeptical or anything, but is there any better reference for this? I'm curious because I heard the anecdote years ago and it struck me as a little far-fetched. In reading the two cites the only evidence we have that it happened seems to be from Lincoln himself recounted in 1909, or over 45 years after the incident. It seems odd that such a remarkable coincidence wouldn't pop up before such a time had passed...to put it in modern perspective, it would be like someone suddenly revealing today a remarkable coincidence regarding the Kennedy assassination, like maybe Oswald's brother having saved a Kennedy's life. You'd think that would have come out by now
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Old 27 April 2007, 02:55 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Majorsam View Post
Not to be skeptical or anything, but is there any better reference for this? I'm curious because I heard the anecdote years ago and it struck me as a little far-fetched. In reading the two cites the only evidence we have that it happened seems to be from Lincoln himself recounted in 1909, or over 45 years after the incident. It seems odd that such a remarkable coincidence wouldn't pop up before such a time had passed...to put it in modern perspective, it would be like someone suddenly revealing today a remarkable coincidence regarding the Kennedy assassination, like maybe Oswald's brother having saved a Kennedy's life. You'd think that would have come out by now
Its possible that Lincoln probably didn't talk about it till much later in life being that it was concerning the Booth Family, it could have been a touchy subject for him for a long time.
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Old 27 April 2007, 03:25 PM
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Its possible that Lincoln probably didn't talk about it till much later in life being that it was concerning the Booth Family, it could have been a touchy subject for him for a long time.
Especially since it happened only a year or two before the assassination. For that year or two, it wasn't a coincidence at all; and for years after that, it was probably a painful topic.
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Old 27 April 2007, 04:36 PM
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You both have good points, but I'd still feel more comfortable if we had other evidence. Actually, wouldn't the saving of Lincoln would have been noteworthy in 1862/3...the saving of the President's son by a noted actor? Admittadly, Booth may not have recognized Lincoln, but Lincoln says in the anecdote he recognized Booth and addressed him by name. Had I been saved by, say, Sean Penn...I'd have probably mentioned it to a few people. I would be curious if Lincoln had a diary & if it survived.
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Old 27 April 2007, 04:58 PM
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Originally Posted by Majorsam View Post
Had I been saved by, say, Sean Penn...I'd have probably mentioned it to a few people. I would be curious if Lincoln had a diary & if it survived.
You may have, but It is very likely that Lincoln may not have told others about it being that he himself was a celebrity. He could of possibly told a friend but it was during the Civil War (r the end of it) and the death of his Father only happened a year later.

Since Lincoln himself spoke of it, we can only assume its the truth. Why would he lie and say something good about the Booth family after what John did to his father? Why lie about something when it would be more likely not to.

I still think that it was a event that Robert might have shared with a couple of people, but has little interest due to the War and he just never talked about it with his fathers murder.
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Old 27 April 2007, 05:20 PM
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A few contemporaneous and near-contemporaneous accounts . . .

Quote:
Edwin Booth and Robert Lincoln.
[From the New York Times]

The Chicago Tribune, Pg. 2
25 April 1865

And here it is only thoughtful and honest to say that the Union cause has had no stronger and more generous supporter than Mr. Edwin Booth. From the commencement he has been earnestly and actively solicitous for the the triumph of our arms and the welfare of our soldiers. An indicident -- a trifle in itself -- may be recalled at this moment when the profound monotony of grief overwhelms us. Not a month since, Mr. Edwin Booth was proceeding to Washington. At Trenton there was a general scramble to reach the cars, which had started leaving many behind in the refreshment saloon. Mr. Edwin Booth was preceded by a gentleman whose foot slipped as he was stepping upon the platform, and who would have fallen at once beneath the wheels had not Mr. Edwin Booth's arm sustained him. The gentleman remarked that he had a narrow escape of his life, and was thankful to his preserver. It was Robert Lincoln, the son of that great, good man who now lies dead before our blistered eyes, and whos name we cannot mention without choking.

In some way the incident came to the knowledge of Lieutenant General Grant, who at once wrote a letter to Mr. Edwin Booth, and said that if he could serve him at any time he would be glad to do so. Mr. Booth replied, playfully, that when he (Grant) was in Richmond, he would like to play for him there. It is a trifle, but it is just to remember trifles when a man so stricken and overburned with woe as is Mr. Edwin Booth is spoken of.
Quote:
[From "Gen. Badeau's Letter," The Washington Post, 28 November, 1886, p. 7. (A special correspondence from Adam Badeau to the Post.)]

[Edwin] Booth and I were intimate friends 25 years ago, and Robert Lincoln in the late winter or spring 1865 joined Grant's headquarters as a captain of volunteers. He left college for the army, and on his way from Harvard to the front to assume his new duties the youth passed through New York. It was late on a Sunday night when he reached the station at Jersey City to take the Philadelphia train. Edwin Booth was also there, but had never met young Lincoln. He noticed, however, a man in front of him who stepped on a car that proved to be the wrong one; as the stranger was getting off the train moved on and he slipped and fell between the cars and the platform. Another moment and he must have been crushed and doubtless killed. No one else seemed to notice his danger, and Booth, who held his valise and ticket in his hand, dropped the valise, put the ticket between his teeth and then rushed up and snatched the stranger by the collar, dragging him out of the interstice and out of peril. The man turned to thank his preserve and recognized the tragedian whom he had often seen on the stage. "That was a narrow escape, Mr. Booth," he exlaimed, as he uttered his gratitude; but even then the actor was ignorant that he had saved the son of the President. Young Lincoln went out to City Point, and knowing my intimacy with Booth, he told me that his life had been saved by my friend, and I wrote to Booth to let him know whom he had served. For the great actor was staunchly loyal to the Union; the only vote he ever cast was for Abraham Lincoln at his re-election three months before.

In less than three months afterward the father of him who was rescued fell by the hands of the brother of his savior. But life is full of these contrasts and contingencies.
Quote:
[From William Bispham's "Memories and Letters of Edwin Booth," Century Illustrated Magazine, November 1893, Vol. 47, No. 1, p. 132. (Bispham was apparently another friend of Booth.)]

It is a singular comment on this that the only vote ever cast by Edwin Booth for president of the United States was for Abraham Lincoln in 1864, and that he save the life of one of Abraham Lincoln's sons. Booth himself told me of this occurrence. He had started for Philadelphia from New York, and while he was standing on the platform of a car, still in the Pennsylvania railroad station at Jersey City, and just as the train was above to move, a young lad, going from one car to another, stumbled, and would have fallen between them, had not Edwin caught him by the collar of the coat and landed him in safety by his side. The boy, whom Edwin had never seen before, evidently recognized him, and holdibng out his hand said to him, "That was a narrow escape, Mr. Booth," and thanked him warmly. Two weeks later Edwin received a letter from General Adam Badeau in which the latter mentioned that Robert Lincoln had told him that it was his life that had thus been saved.




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Old 27 April 2007, 05:23 PM
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Great work Bonnie. Not only does Lincoln claim it happened, Edwin also claims it did as well.
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Old 27 April 2007, 05:24 PM
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Originally Posted by Majorsam View Post
You both have good points, but I'd still feel more comfortable if we had other evidence. Actually, wouldn't the saving of Lincoln would have been noteworthy in 1862/3...the saving of the President's son by a noted actor?
There were far more noteworthy things going on in 1862 and 1863. The bloodiest day in American history, for example, was in September 1862.

The US was in the middle of a war which ultimately killed, IIRC, 650,000 people out of a population of 30 million. Why would any man make a big deal out of a near-miss on a train platform when so many other men were fighting and dying a few hundred miles away?

Last edited by Lainie; 27 April 2007 at 05:34 PM. Reason: Remove an extraneous word
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Old 27 April 2007, 05:59 PM
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Especially since it happened only a year or two before the assassination. For that year or two, it wasn't a coincidence at all; and for years after that, it was probably a painful topic.
Actually, the incident took place only a month or two before the President's assassination.

An interesting piece, originally printed in Civil War Times, on how the anecdote has been told -- by participants and non-participants -- and changed over the past century can be found here,

http://www.historynet.com/magazines/civil_war_times/3033971.html?page=1&c=y

-- Bonnie
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Old 27 April 2007, 06:05 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bonnie View Post
Actually, the incident took place only a month or two before the President's assassination.
According to your link (which is excellent, BTW, thank you!):

Quote:
The exact date of the encounter is unknown, although Robert consistently recalled it as having occurred in 1863 or 1864.
If the incident happened sometime between January 1, 1863 and December 31, 1864, that puts it at least 3-1/2 months, and possibly more than 15 months, before the assassination in April 1865.

I haven't read the entire article yet. Is another date suggested later in the piece?
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Old 27 April 2007, 06:06 PM
Majorsam Majorsam is offline
 
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Originally Posted by diddy View Post
Since Lincoln himself spoke of it, we can only assume its the truth. Why would he lie and say something good about the Booth family after what John did to his father?
The point is moot since we have Bonnie's excellent cites the settles the issue in my mind, but I felt obliged to answer this.

If Lincon said it himself, we shouldn't assume it is the truth automatically. Lots of people say things that are found not to be true. I'm not saying that Lincoln would have knowingly lied about it, but after 45 years a minor encounter might have changed in his mind to a more significant event. People's memories dim & become muddled. That's how we often get urban legends, no? And while Lincoln had a distinguished & honorable career, it is possible that he might have exaggerated unknowingly, given both the importance of the event to US history and to himself. That's why when I see these things, I'd like some independent verification, preferably close to the actual event, rather than decades and decades after the fact.

As for why he would lie about Booth's family after what happened...Abe Lincoln is remembered, among other things, for one of the most remarkable speeches in American history at his second innaugural. "With malice toward none; with charity for all". Lincoln, even after his death, was a profound force for reconciliation when many in the north sought retribution & revenge. The story fits in nicely with the elder Lincoln's stated philosophy.

Bonnie...many thanks, that was the sort of independent verification I was looking for. I'll move this out of the "possibly apocryphal" spot in my mind. Excellent!
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Old 27 April 2007, 06:09 PM
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Originally Posted by Majorsam View Post
Lincoln, even after his death, was a profound force for reconciliation when many in the north sought retribution & revenge. The story fits in nicely with the elder Lincoln's stated philosophy.
Ah, but did the younger Lincoln believe in that philosophy?
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Old 27 April 2007, 06:11 PM
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Oh, sorry, Lainie -- I seem to be the one to have gotten my dates muddled up.

-- Bonnie
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