John Wilkes Booth’s Brother Saved Abe Lincoln’s Son

By Jeff Kelly on Saturday, November 2, 2013
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“Heroes make us smile because they not only rescue us outwardly, but inwardly too.” —Richelle E. Goodrich

In A Nutshell

One of the most notorious assassins in history is John Wilkes Booth, who took the life of beloved American president Abraham Lincoln in Ford’s Theater. Booth was an actor, but as it turns out he was kind of the Stephen Baldwin to his brother, Edwin’s, Alec. Edwin was one of the most respected actors in the world, and it turns out that he wasn’t just a great supporter of Abe Lincoln, but he had unknowingly saved his son’s (Robert Todd Lincoln’s) life months before John killed Abe.

The Whole Bushel

John Wilkes Booth is one of the most notorious assassins in history, having slain Abraham Lincoln on April 15, 1865 while the president was attending the theater. What you may not have realized about Booth is that he had a brother who, at the time, was one of the most famous actors in the world, and who, less than a year before John killed Lincoln, saved Lincoln’s son’s life.

John Wilkes Booth and his brother Edwin were apparently both bitten by the acting bug, but Edwin found far more success. He was recognizable everywhere he went, so basically think of him as his era’s Daniel Day-Lewis. He was incredibly well-respected, so naturally the day he pulled a young man to safety at a railroad station in New Jersey his deed did not go unnoticed, in particular by the guy whose life was nearly lost.

It just so happened that the young man was Honest Abe’s son, Robert Todd Lincoln. Of course, while Edwin had no clue whom he had just saved, Lincoln’s son immediately knew it had been Edwin Booth that saved him, and later wrote about the incident. Robert, on a crowded train platform, had begun to lose his footing as the train began to move and would have surely fallen to his death, when Edwin quickly grabbed him just as he began to fall and pulled him to safety.

Edwin Booth was also a huge supporter of Abe Lincoln, making his brother’s assassination all the more devastating. Edwin found out later on from a friend who was serving as a Colonel under Ulysses Grant, via a letter commending him on his heroic, life-saving deed, that it was actually Abe Lincoln’s son he’d rescued on that train platform. The silver lining to this incredibly ironic twist of fate is that according to his friends, one of the only things that gave Booth comfort in what his brother had done was when he discovered that the young man whose life he had saved was Robert Todd Lincoln.

Show Me The Proof

Edwin Booth
History.com: Things You May Not Know About President Lincoln