Skip to content

Edward Baker Lincoln – Son of President Abraham Lincoln

Edward Baker Lincoln was Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln's second son. Eddie died a month before he turned four.

Edward Baker Lincoln (March 10, 1846 – February 1, 1850) was Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln‘s second son. Edward Dickinson Baker, a friend of Abraham Lincoln’s, was his name. The nickname “Eddie” is used by the National Park Service, and his gravestone has the same name.

Early Life

The second son of Abraham and Mary Lincoln is a mystery. According to a surviving narrative, Eddie’s older brother, Robert Todd Lincoln, discovered a kitten while visiting Mary’s family and brought it to the house. Eddie cried and resisted despite Mary’s stepmother’s detest of cats and her order to throw it out. He cared for and nourished the defenceless kitten he adored. Eddie’s parents characterised him as a sensitive, caring, and loving child.

Death

Eddie died a month before he turned four. Although census records list “chronic consumption” (tuberculosis) as the cause of death, cardiologist John Sotos believes Eddie died of medullary thyroid cancer because: 

  • “consumption” was a term used for many wasting diseases at the time 
  • cancer is a wasting disease
  • his father and two of his brothers had several features compatible with the genetic cancer syndrome multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2b (MEN2B)
  • Eddie’s thick, asymmetric lower lip is a sign of MEN2B
  • 100% of persons with MEN2B develop medullary thyroid cancer, sometimes as early as the neonatal period.

Eddie’s burial was held at the Lincoln house by the pastor of the First Presbyterian Church, and his remains was interred nearby in Springfield’s Hutchinson’s Cemetery. Both of their parents were distraught. The Illinois Daily Journal published an unsigned poem titled “Little Eddie” a week after Eddie’s death.

Those midnight stars are sadly dimmed,
  That late so brilliantly shone,
And the crimson tinge from cheek and lip,
  With the heart's warm life has flown—
    The angel death was hovering nigh,
    And the lovely boy was called to die.

The silken waves of his glossy hair
  Lie still over his marble brow,
And the pallid lip and pearly cheek
  The presence of Death avow.
    Pure little bud in kindness given,
    In mercy taken to bloom in heaven.

Happier far is the angel child
  With the harp and the crown of gold,
Who warbles now at the Saviour's feet
  The glories to us untold.
    Eddie, meet blossom of heavenly love,
    Dwells in the spirit-world above.

Angel boy—fare thee well, farewell
  Sweet Eddie, we bid thee adieu!
Affection's wail cannot reach thee now
  Deep though it be, and true.
    Bright is the home to him now given,
    For "of such is the Kingdom of Heaven."

The poem’s authorship was long a mystery, with some supposing that it was written by Abraham and Mary Lincoln. The Abraham Lincoln Association released an essay in their journal in 2012 concluding that neither parent composed the poem, but that it was an early draught written by a young poet from St. Louis. On the boy’s tombstone is the final line.

Willie Lincoln, Abraham and Mary’s next child, was born ten months after Eddie died. Eddie’s remains were moved to the Lincoln Tomb at Oak Ridge Cemetery in Springfield after President Lincoln’s death.

Leave a Reply