Saturday, September 3, 2011
Booth and Lincoln: *Beyond* Ironic
One wintry day in 1864, one of America’s foremost actors was trying to get on an evening train in Jersey City, NJ. A short distance away, a young man who was on his way home from his Harvard studies to visit his parents in DC slipped and almost fell into the gap between the station. The actor proved himself capable of quick thought and quicker action, grabbing the man’s shirt collar and bringing him to safety. The young man recognized the actor and thanked him profusely. That actor’s name was Edwin Booth, who was generally recognized to be the most talented member of the family. Sadly for him, after the night of Good Friday 1865, he would never be the most famous.
As a fervent supporter of the Union cause, Edwin was devastated by the news that his brother had murdered President Lincoln. Some days after the assassination, however, he got a letter from a friend of his who was serving on staff of General Ulysses S Grant that gave him some consolation. The friend informed Edwin Booth that one of his fellow staff officers had spoken often of Booth’s good deed, because he was the young man that Booth had saved from death or serious harm. His name was Robert Todd Lincoln, the President’s son.