Mary Todd Lincoln
Mary Todd was born December 13, 1818 to Robert Smith Todd and Elizabeth Todd. Her father was a banker and the family, including seven children, lived a wealthy lifestyle in Lexington, Kentucky. At the age of twenty-one, Mary moved to Springfield, Illinois to live with her sister Elizabeth Porter Edwards. It was in Springfield that Mary met Abraham Lincoln, and after a two year courtship, the couple was married on November 4, 1842. Lincoln continued his law career and they had four sons: Robert Todd, Edward, William Wallace (Willie), and Thomas Lincoln (Tad). Edward died one month before turning four years old, in 1850.
After Abraham Lincoln was elected President and the family arrived in Washington, Mary Todd Lincoln quickly made a name for herself in town due to her outspoken nature and boisterous temperament. Much of this was due to her insecurities and the talk of her being from the South or her husband being a rail-splitter from the frontier. Many in Washington's upper society thought they were unfit the Presidency.
Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant (Julia Dent Grant)
January 26, 1826 – December 14, 1902
Source: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division
To combat this perception, Mary Todd Lincoln went deep into debt, redecorating the White House and purchasing dresses. As President Lincoln campaigned for a second term in 1864, Mary commented to her friend and dressmaker Elizabeth Keckley, that she worried her husband or his opponents would find out about the debt. When Mrs. Keckley asked how much debt she accrued, Mary Todd responded the amount was "twenty-seven thousand dollars" (Elizabeth Keckly, Behind the Scenes)
President Lincoln was elected for a second term and the Civil War began coming to a close. On April 14, 1865, Washington was in a celebratory mood because of this, and Mary made a request at breakfast to attend the Ford's Theatre production of Our American Cousin. Mary also expected the company of General Grant and his wife Julia. Lincoln agreed and a note was sent to the theatre announcing their presence. The Grant's however, ultimately would not attend. While their official excuse was a trip to visit their children in New Jersey, it's also known that Julia was not fond of Mary Todd.
By afternoon, Mary learned that the Grant's would not accompany them to the theatre. In response, she set out to find alternative guests. Later in the day, Lincoln was ready to take a break from his work and accompanied Mary on a carriage ride around the city. As the couple headed towards the Navy Yard they spoke intimately about the future and their lives.
Lincoln considered that "the war, has come to a close.", and because of that he wanted them both to "be more cheerful in the future - between the war and the loss of our darling Willie," they'd both "been very miserable." Mary was happy to see her husband "cheerful" and "almost joyous." It was in such a stark contrast to his recent mood that she noted to him, "Dear Husband, you almost startle me by your great cheerfulness".
After the carriage ride, the Lincolns returned the White House where the President met with a few more visitors and Mary finalized the guests for Ford's Theatre. As it turned out, everyone that Abraham and Mary Todd invited turned them down, except a young engaged couple, Henry Rathbone and Clara Harris. The couple was from Albany, N.Y.. Rathbone was a major in the Union Army and Clara was daughter of U.S. Senator Ira Harris. They were also step-siblings.
Mary Todd and the President left the White House at approximately eight o'clock and picked up their guests a few blocks away at the home of Senator Harris. Upon their arrival to Ford's Theatre, the party was escorted to the Presidential State box on the second floor, as the entire audience rose to their feet and applauded Lincoln's entrance. Inside the box, Abraham Lincoln sat closest to the door in a rocking chair, Mary Todd sat to his right in a stationary chair. Their guests, Clara and Henry, rested further to the right on a chair and sofa.
As the play progressed the first couple enjoyed the presentation and each other's company. They sat close to each other, Mary Todd leaning on Abraham's lap. At one point she questioned him, "What will Miss Harris think of my hanging on to you so?" The President responded, "She won't think anything about it." (A.Lincoln, His Last 24 Hours, Emerson Reck). It wasn't much later that John Wilkes Booth barged into the box, aimed his derringer pistol, and shot Abraham Lincoln. After a quick scuffle with Major Henry Rathbone, Booth leapt to the stage and escaped out the back alley.
Mary screamed when she realized what took place and she grabbed tight to Abraham. A few minutes later Dr. Charles Leale arrived on the scene and separate Mary Todd from her husband, he needed to ascertain the injuries. With the help of a soldiers entering the box, the President's body as laid on the floor. After examination, what Leale thought first to be a knife attack, was discovered to be a gunshot wound to the back of the head.
Two more doctors arrived and they all agreed the President needed to be moved to another location. His body was carried across the street to the Petersen boarding house, accompanied by Mary Todd, crying and wailing in agony along the way. She was inconsolable as they laid the President's body diagonally along a bed in the back bedroom. Mary called out to her husband, hovering over his body, kissing him constantly on the face. The doctors asked her to move to the front parlor of the Petersen house. Her son, Robert Todd, would soon accompany her, and from there she would periodically make visits to see her husband, causing new cries of grief.
At 7:22 a.m., on April 15, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln died. Mary accompanied the body back to the White House where it was laid in the Prince of Wales room on the second floor. It was the same room that Willie Lincoln's body was placed before his funeral. Mary Todd was brokenhearted and couldn't bear to leave her room. She didn't attend the local funeral proceedings in Washington and didn't accompany Lincoln's body on the funeral train back to Springfield, Illinois.
Mary finally left the White House in May 1865 and moved to Chicago, Illinois with her sons Tad and Robert. She remained for three years, living on a modest income. In an effort to raise some money, she attempted to sell many of her old dresses and clothes in New York City. However, it was a futile effort and only brought her more embarrassment. The details of the idea and the sale is recorded in Elizabeth Keckley's memoir, Behind the Scenes in the Lincoln White House.
After three years in Chicago, Mary and Tad moved to Europe. They visited many countries during this time, mostly Germany, France, and Scotland. Tad attended Dr. Johann Heinrich Hohagen's Institute for schooling during his stay in Germany. They returned back to the United States in May 1865, with Tad falling ill on their arrival in Chicago. Two months later, July 15, 1871, Tad Lincoln died. He was eighteen years old and the cause is thought to have been tuberculosis. Mary had lost three sons and her husband.
Mary Todd's behavior became more eccentric and her son Robert was both worried and tired of watching over her. In In May 1875, he had his mother tried for insanity, stating "I have no doubt my mother is insane. She has long been a source of great anxiety to me." (Mary Todd Lincoln, A Biography, Jean Harvey Baker). Mary Todd Lincoln was officially declared insane on May 20, 1875 and sent to Bellevue Place. It was an upscale hospital for the mentally ill in Batavia, Illinois. Mary didn't take her confinement well and start writing letters to lawyers and her sister. Within four months she was released from Bellevue into the custody of her sister Elizabeth.
After leaving the asylum, Mary lived with her sister in Springfield for a short time, then traveled to Europe. Her physical health was declining, as she suffered more and more from migraine headaches and arthritis. During her time in Europe she traveled to different health spas to look for a cure. By 1880 she was back in Springfield, where she lived for two more years. Then Mary Todd Lincoln died on July 16, 1882, from what is thought to have been a stroke. She was buried next to Abraham Lincoln at Oak Ridge Cemetery.
Abraham Lincoln's Carriage. Taken to Ford's Theatre