10 Things to Know about Tad Lincoln’s Summers at Soldiers’ Home

By Leslie Bouterie
This is the 7th installment of “100 Things to Know about President Lincoln’s Cottage.”  Today’s list looks at 10 things about Tad Lincoln’s summers at the Soldiers’ Home. Previous posts in this series may be viewed under the category “100 Things to Know.”   Upcoming lists will focus on Mary Lincoln and historical uses of the Cottage. -E. Mast
  1. When 9-year-old Tad Lincoln first came with his family to live on the grounds of the Soldiers’ Home in the summer of 1862, he was lonely. He was in mourning for his older brother Willie, his best friend and playmate, who had died earlier that year.  
  2. The Presidential security guard, Co. K of the 150 Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry also known as the “Bucktail” Soldiers, who resided in tents on the grounds, helped to lift Tad’s spirits by welcoming him into their midst. One sergeant recalled that Tad became “a great favorite of the company.”
  3. As an “honorary” Bucktail soldier, Tad was issued a small military uniform and was given the unofficial title of “Third Lieutenant.” Tad drilled and shared meals with the soldiers. At the end of the day, he often came home quite dirty from these activities and from the soot of the campfires, much to his mother Mary’s dismay.

    Thomas Tad Lincoln and his horse, Courtesy Library of Congress

    Thomas "Tad" Lincoln and his horse, Courtesy Library of Congress

  4. In the course of time, Tad presented the gifts of two American flags and a brass eagle flagpole ornament to Company K for the flagpole of their encampment at the Soldiers’ Home.
  5. Tad and Abraham Lincoln enjoyed playing checkers while sitting on the verandah of the Cottage. Occasionally, they would invite one of the soldiers of the Presidential Guard to join them in a game.
  6. During the summer and early autumn of 1862, 1863, and 1864, Tad and his mother, Mary Lincoln, often traveled to New England to vacation and visit his older brother Robert who was a student at Harvard.
  7. Tad befriended the children of Edwin Stanton, Lincoln’s Secretary of War, who also resided in a cottage on the grounds of the Soldiers’ Home during the summer months. Lewis Stanton was close in age to Tad, and the two boys enjoyed many boyish adventures.
  8. Tad kept quite a menagerie of pets including a few peacocks that he and the Stanton children raised on the grounds of the Soldiers’ Home.
  9. During the summer of 1863, Tad brought his pet goat, Nanny, to the Cottage at the Soldiers’ Home. However, when Nanny angered the gardener by destroying the plantings around the Cottage, she was banished to the White House. Nanny went missing shortly thereafter and Abraham Lincoln had to break this sad news to Tad in a letter, as he and Mary were away in Kentucky.
  10. Tad occasionally accompanied his father on his daily commute to and from his White House office so that he could go into the city to play with the Emma Browning, the daughter of Senator Orville Browning, Lincoln’s friend and colleague from Illinois.
Ms. Bouterie is a Lead Interpreter and manages Private and Corporate Events at President Lincoln’s Cottage.

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