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© Abraham Lincoln Online
Robert Todd Lincoln TombArlington National Cemetery
When you visit Arlington National Cemetery, you can see the tomb of Robert Todd Lincoln, eldest son of President Lincoln. It's a short walk up the hill from the main gate. A pink granite marker indicates the gravesite of Robert (1843-1926), his wife Mary Harlan Lincoln (1846-1937), and their son Abraham Lincoln II ("Jack"), who died at age 16. If you look up the hilltop behind the tomb you will notice Arlington House, a national memorial to Robert E. Lee. Directly across the Potomac River to the east is the Lincoln Memorial.
Like his father, Robert once held the military rank of Captain. President Lincoln served in the Illinois Militia during the 1832 Black Hawk War; Robert joined General Grant's staff near the close of the Civil War. On January 19, 1865, President Lincoln wrote to General U.S. Grant, asking him to include Robert: "My son, now in his twenty-second year, having graduated at Harvard, wishes to see something of the war before it ends. I do not wish to put him in the ranks, not yet to give him a commission, to which those who have already served long, are better entitled, and better qualified to hold. Could he, without embarrassment to you, or detriment to the service, go into your Military family with some nominal rank, I, and not the public, furnishing his necessary means?" Robert accompanied General Grant to Appomattox and was introduced to General Lee there. He later became Secretary of War under President Garfield.
Robert was the only Lincoln child to reach adulthood. He survived his father, mother, and three brothers, but despite his wishes was not buried with them in Springfield, Illinois. When he died of a cerebral hemorrhage at his Vermont estate on July 26, 1926, Robert Lincoln was nearly 83. His body remained in a receiving vault at a nearby cemetery until his wife arranged his burial in Arlington's Section 31 on March 14, 1928. She had their son's body moved from the Lincoln tomb in Springfield to Arlington, where it was re-buried on May 27, 1930. Mary joined them in death on March 31, 1937.
The time gap between Robert's death and final burial was due to his widow's strong desire for privacy. She did not even allow her two daughters to attend the burial, but was accompanied only by the cemetery superintendent and Dr. Joseph R. Sizoo, pastor of the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington, the church President Lincoln attended. Dr. Sizoo reported that when Mrs. Lincoln summoned him, he did not even know the purpose. He recalled, "We came to Arlington and the car stopped on a little knoll which the Congress had set aside for the Lincoln family. There on the edge of the hill was a grave with the casket of Robert Lincoln covered with a flag." Following a short ceremony, Dr. Sizoo escorted Mrs. Lincoln to her Georgetown home.
Hours: The cemetery is open daily from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., April through September, and 8 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. the rest of the year. The grounds are open free to the public, but fees are charged for narrated tours. You can reach the cemetery by car or the Metro subway, which operates a station near the cemetery entrance. For more information call 703/692-0931.
Emerson, Jason. Giant in the Shadows: The Life of Robert T. Lincoln. Southern Illinois University Press, 2012.
John S. Goff, Robert Todd Lincoln: A Man in His Own Right. Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press, 1969.
Ruth Painter Randall, Lincoln's Sons. Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1955.
Robert Todd Lincoln at Harvard College (ALO)
The Lincoln Family Home at Hildene
Lincoln Tomb State Historic Site (ALO)
Arlington House (National Park Service)
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