|William Wallace "Willie" Lincoln|
Willie Lincoln was 10 years old when the Civil War began; he, along with his father, mother and younger brother, had just moved into the White House in Washington, D.C.
Finally, on Thursday, February 20, 1862, at 5:00 p.m., Willie died. President Lincoln then walked down the hall to his secretary's office. He startled the half-dozing secretary with the news: "Well, Nicolay, my boy is gone -- he is actually gone!" John Nicolay recalled seeing his boss burst into tears before entering his own office.
President Lincoln, his son Robert, and members of the Cabinet sat in a circle, surrounded by a crowd which included representatives from Congress and foreign countries. The writer Nathaniel Parker Willis recalled the service as "very touching." He saw "[General] McClellan, with a moist eye when he bowed in prayer ... and senators, and ambassadors, and soldiers, all struggling with their tears -- great hearts sorrowing with the president as a stricken man and a brother."
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. It is hard, hard to have him die!Both parents were deeply affected. His father did not return to work for three weeks. Willie's younger brother, Tad, cried for nearly a month because he and Willie were very close. Lincoln generated no official correspondence for four days. Mary Lincoln was so distraught that Lincoln feared for her sanity. Tad was sick with the same illness at the same time, though he survived.
John Hay, another White House secretary, wrote that the president "was profoundly moved by his death, though he gave no outward sign of his trouble, but kept about his work the same as ever. His bereaved heart seemed afterwards to pour out its fulness on his youngest child."