When Booth Saved Lincoln

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John, Edwin, and Junius (Jr) in Julius Caesar

It is a well know fact that John Wilkes Booth assassinated President Abraham Lincoln. What is less know is that John had two brothers  Edwin and Junius. Edwin was a highly acclaimed actor, although his career suffered for a time after his brother’s crime.  This is a story about Edwin Booth and the president’s son Robert. The precise date of the incident is unsure, but it is believed to have taken place in late 1864 or early 1865 and took place on a train station platform in Jersey City, New Jersey.  Here is the story in Robert’s own words in a letter he wrote in  1909  to the editor of The Century Magazine, a Mr. Richard Watson Gilder.

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.

Edwin didn’t know until a few months later who it was that he saved. 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.

Robert later went on to have a long government career including Ambassador to the UK, and Secretary of War.

Robert Todd Lincoln