William Wallace Lincoln

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William Wallace Lincoln
William Wallace Lincoln.jpg
Lincoln (c. 1859–1860)
Born(1850-12-21)December 21, 1850
DiedFebruary 20, 1862(1862-02-20) (aged 11)
Cause of deathTyphoid fever
Resting placeOak Ridge Cemetery,
Springfield, Illinois, U.S.
Parent(s)Abraham Lincoln
Mary Todd Lincoln
RelativesSee Lincoln family

William Wallace "Willie" Lincoln (December 21, 1850 – February 20, 1862) was the third son of President Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln. He was named after Mary's brother-in-law, Dr. William Smith Wallace.[1][2] He died of typhoid fever at the White House, during Abraham's presidency.


Willie and Tad with Mary's first cousin, Lockwood Todd, in Mathew Brady's studio in 1861

Willie and his younger brother, Tad, were considered "notorious hellions" when they lived in Springfield. Abraham's law partner William Herndon said they pulled books off their shelves while Abraham appeared oblivious.[3]

When Abraham took office as President of the United States, Willie and Tad moved into the White House. To give them playmates, Mary asked Julia Taft to bring her younger brothers, 14-year-old "Bud" (Horatio Nelson Taft Jr., 1847–1915) and 12-year-old "Holly" (Halsey Cook Taft, 1849–1897) there.[4][5]

Willie and Tad became ill in early 1862, possibly with typhoid fever. Tad was relatively lightly affected but Willie gradually weakened; Abraham and Mary spent much time at his bedside. He died on February 20.

Abraham, Mary, and Tad were deeply affected. Abraham said, "My poor boy. He was too good for this earth. God has called him home. I know that he is much better off in heaven, but then we loved him so much. It is hard, hard to have him die!";[6] after the burial, he shut himself in a room and wept alone. Mary remained in bed for three weeks and was unable to attend Willie's funeral or look after Tad. Abraham took solace in caring for and comforting Tad, who remained very ill and was grieving himself for Willie's death. He also lost the companionship of Bud and Holly, whom Mary refused to allow in the White House anymore, as they reminded her too much of Willie.[7]

Willie was interred at Oak Hill Cemetery in Georgetown. After Abraham's assassination in 1865, he was reinterred at Oak Ridge Cemetery in Springfield, Illinois, first in a temporary tomb and in 1871 in a state tomb alongside Abraham and his brother, Eddie. Tad and Mary were also later placed in the crypt of the Lincoln Tomb.[8][9]

In fiction[edit]

The 2017 novel Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders takes place during and after Willie's death and depicts Abraham's grief.[10][11] It won the 2017 Man Booker Prize and was the New York Times bestseller the week of March 5, 2017.[12]

See also "The Murder of Willie Lincoln" by Burt Solomon (Forge, 2017, ISBN 978-0-7653-8583-3).

A fictional version of Willie's death is also depicted in the novel and its subsequent movie Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Berry, Stephen (2009). House of Abraham: Lincoln and the Todds, a Family Divided by War. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. pp. 146, 184, 211.
  2. ^ Staff. "Wallace, William S." Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library - Papers of Abraham Lincoln Digital Library. In 1839, Wallace married Frances Todd, Mary Lincoln's sister. Abraham and Mary named William Wallace "Willie" Lincoln after Wallace.
  3. ^ Wead (2003), p. 90.
  4. ^ Wead (2003), p. 91.
  5. ^ Bayne (2001), pp. 1–3.
  6. ^ Mr. Lincoln's White House: Prince of Wales Room. Retrieved on 2012-12-16.
  7. ^ Donald, David Herbert (1995). Lincoln. New York: Touchstone. p. 336-7.
  8. ^ Sneller, M.S., Rhoda; Sneller, Ph.D, Lowell. "Lincoln Tomb State Historic Site". Abraham Lincoln Online. Retrieved March 3, 2018.
  9. ^ Sneller, M.S., Rhoda; Sneller, PhD, Lowell. "The Death of Willie Lincoln". Abraham Lincoln Online. Retrieved March 3, 2018.
  10. ^ "Man Booker Prize 2017: shortlist makes room for debuts alongside big names". The Guardian. 13 September 2017. Retrieved 13 September 2017.
  11. ^ "Booker winner took 20 years to write". BBC News. 18 October 2017. Retrieved 18 October 2017.
  12. ^ "Hardcover Fiction - March 5, 2017". The New York Times. 23 February 2017. Retrieved 24 February 2017.

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