University Archives

Lot 226

Previous image preload Next image preload


Tad Lincoln’s Navy Sword, Requested Just Days Before His Father’s Assassination, Ex Forbes 

ABRAHAM LINCOLN. Small Navy sword and leather scabbard, perhaps given to Thomas “Tad” Lincoln, April 1865. 5.5? x 29.5?. From the Forbes Collection and will be accompanied by several Forbes tags.

Historical Background:

When Confederates bombarded Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina, the Civil War officially began. In Washington, ten-year-old Willie and eight-year-old Tad Lincoln took up positions on the White House roof, complete with a log to mimic a cannon and old rifles. They were prepared to defend Washington. Over the next ten months, Willie and Tad incorporated the war into their play. They formed a company called “Mrs. Lincoln’s Zouaves,” enlisted other boys, held war tribunals, mock battles, and other aspects of wartime life. In one escapade, they captured a neighbor’s cat and another neighbor’s dog and held them as prisoners of war in an attic until an adult ordered their release.

After Willie’s death from Typhoid Fever in February 1862 and Tad’s recovery from a similar illness, Tad continued the war play alone or with other playmates. When the New York Sanitary Commission sent Tad a Zouave doll, he named it Jack. Soon, Jack was tried by court martial, found guilty of several crimes, sentenced to death by firing squad, and buried with full military honors. Later, a Major Watt suggested that Tad request a presidential pardon for Jack. Tad interrupted one of his father’s meetings, stated Jack’s case, and Lincoln granted Jack a presidential pardon.

On April 10, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln wrote two notes on small cards to two of his Cabinet secretaries in aid of his son’s war play. To Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton he wrote, “Tad wants some flags. Can he be accommodated[?]” Perhaps on the same day, he wrote another short note, probably to Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles, “Let Master Tad have a Navy sword. A. Lincoln.”

This sword is likely the one Tad received just days before his father was assassinated at Ford’s Theater by actor John Wilkes Booth.


Thomas (Tad) Lincoln (1853-1871)

Robert Todd Lincoln (1843-1926), Hildene, Manchester Center, Vermont

Robert Todd Lincoln Beckwith (1904-1986), Washington, D.C.

James T. Hickey (1923-1996), Elkhart, Illinois, Lincoln collector and curator of the Henry Horner Lincoln Collection at the Illinois State Historical Society.

Ralph Geoffrey Newman (1911-1998), Inc., Chicago, Illinois, owner of the Abraham Lincoln Book Shop and one of the organizers of the first Civil War Round Table.

Thomas “Tad” Lincoln (1853 -1871) was born in Springfield, Illinois, the fourth son of Abraham and Mary Lincoln. At the time of his birth, the Lincolns had already lost their second-born son, Edward (1846 -1850) to Thyroid cancer. The family lost their third son, Willie, in 1862. “Tad,” nicknamed by his father because he had a large head on a small body and wriggled like a tadpole, largely had free rein of the White House. He did not attend school and was the bane of many tutors. After Lincoln’s assassination, he, eldest son Robert T. Lincoln (1843-1926), and Mary Lincoln (1818-1882) lived in Chicago, until 1868. Mary and Tad lived in Europe for the next three years. Tad, known for his devotion to his mother, died of heart failure in Chicago at the age of 18.

This item comes with a Certificate from John Reznikoff, a premier authenticator for both major 3rd party authentication services, PSA and JSA (James Spence Authentications), as well as numerous auction houses.


Accepted Forms of Payment

American Express, Discover, MasterCard, Money Order / Cashiers Check, Paypal, Personal Check, Visa, Wire Transfer


We do our own in-house worldwide shipping!

Applicable shipping and handling charges will be added to the invoice. We offer several shipping options, and remain one of the few auction houses who proudly provides professional in-house shipping as an option to our clients. All items will ship with signature required, and full insurance. Most items are sent via Federal Express, with P. O. Box addresses being sent through USPS. We insure through Berkley Asset Protection with rates of $.70 per $100 of value, among the lowest insurance rates in the industry. Our shipping department cameras document every package, both outgoing and incoming, for maximum security. In addition, we compare our shipping and handling rates against those of other auction houses, to ensure that our charges are among the lowest in the trade.

Upon winning your item(s), you will receive an invoice with our in-house shipping and handling fees included. ***We will ship to the address as it appears on your invoice, unless you inform us otherwise, immediately upon your receipt of invoice***

International shipments: In order to comply with our insurance provider, all international shipments will be sent via Fed Ex and customs paperwork will show a value of $1.00. International buyers should contact our office directly with any questions regarding this policy.

Third Party Shipping Option: If a third party shipper is preferred, the buyer is responsible for contacting them directly to make shipping arrangements. For your convenience, we have provided some recommended shippers. For your protection, we will require a signed release from you, confirming your authorization for us to release your lots to your specified third party Please copy and paste this following link into your browser: http://universityarchives.com/UserFiles/ShippingInfo.pdf. At that point, our responsibility and insurance coverage for your item(s) ceases. Items picked up by third party shippers are required to pay Connecticut sales tax. Items requiring third party shipping due to being oversized, fragile or bulky will be denoted in the item description.

Please see our full terms and conditions for names of suggested third party shippers.

After payment has been made in full, University Archives will ship your purchase within 5 business days following receipt of full payment for item.

Please remember that the buyer is responsible for all shipping costs from University Archives' offices in Westport, CT to the buyer's door. Please see full Terms and Conditions of Sale.

August 19, 2020 10:30 AM EDT

Westport, CT, US

You agree to pay a buyer's premium of up to 25.0% and any applicable taxes and shipping

View full terms and conditions

From: To: Increments:
$0 $99 $10
$100 $299 $20
$300 $499 $25
$500 $999 $50
$1,000 $1,999 $100
$2,000 $2,999 $200
$3,000 $4,999 $250
$5,000 $9,999 $500
$10,000 $19,999 $1,000
$20,000 $49,999 $2,500
$50,000 + $5,000