Fun Fact Friday: Lincoln and Booth

Edwin Booth

Edwin Booth

Did you know that Edwin Booth, brother of John Wilkes Booth, saved President Lincoln’s son’s life, prior to Lincoln’s assassination? It’s true!

Edwin Booth was actually a nationally known Shakespearean actor, and happened to be in New Jersey at the time, coincidentally sharing a train platform with Robert Lincoln. Interestingly, Robert Lincoln knew exactly who Edwin Booth was, due to his fame as an actor, yet Booth did not know or recognize Lincoln.

Lincoln, in his own words, recounted it as such in a 1909 letter to Richard Watson Gilder, editor of The Century Magazine:

“The incident occurred while a group of passengers were late at night purchasing their sleeping car places from the conductor who stood on the station platform at the entrance of the car. The platform was about the height of the car floor, and there was of course a narrow space between the platform and the car body. There was some crowding, and I happened to be pressed by it against the car body while waiting my turn. In this situation the train began to move, and by the motion I was twisted off my feet, and had dropped somewhat, with feet downward, into the open space, and was personally helpless, when my coat collar was vigorously seized and I was quickly pulled up and out to a secure footing on the platform. Upon turning to thank my rescuer I saw it was Edwin Booth, whose face was of course well known to me, and I expressed my gratitude to him, and in doing so, called him by name.”

According to Wikipedia: Booth did not know the identity of the man whose life he had saved until some months later, when he received a letter from a friend, Colonel Adam Badeau, who was an officer on the staff of General Ulysses S. Grant. Badeau had heard the story from Robert Lincoln, who had since joined the Union Army and was also serving on Grant’s staff. In the letter, Badeau gave his compliments to Booth for the heroic deed. The fact that he had saved the life of Abraham Lincoln’s son was said to have been of some comfort to Edwin Booth following his brother’s assassination of the president.

Want to learn more about Edwin Booth? Check out our Encyclopedia Article on Discovery Education Streaming!

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