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Lot 226

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Description:

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.



Provenance:


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.

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