Updated:
Original:
Year
1861
Month Day
March 20

Willie and Tad Lincoln get the measles

On this day in 1861, President Abraham Lincoln’s sons, Willie and Tad, are diagnosed with the measles, adding to the president’s many troubles.

Few U.S. presidents worked as hard in office as Abraham Lincoln did during the Civil War. Besides managing his generals and the war effort, Lincoln had to deal with prospective office-seekers, foreign affairs, and the basic functions of government. The president’s third and fourth sons, Willie, born in 1850, and Tad, born in 1853, offeredLincoln a welcome respite from the rigors of the executive office. The playful boys caroused in the White House, invaded cabinet meetings, and accompanied their father when he inspected troops in the camps around Washington, D.C. They enjoyed playing with the soldiers that guarded the White House, members of the Pennsylvania Bucktail regiment who entertained Willie and Tad with stories and races. The boys set up a fort on the roof of the executive mansion and armed it with small logs painted to look like cannon. The boys often played with pets given to them by friends, including a pony and two goats that roamed the White House lawn.

The boys recovered from the measles; however, in 1862, Willie contracted typhoid fever. He lay sick for weeks before dying on February 20. His death crushed Lincoln, who cried to his secretary, John Nicolay, “…my boy is gone–he is actually gone.” Lincoln and his wife Mary grieved for months and the president never fully recovered from the loss.

Tad Lincoln died from illness at age 18 in 1871. The Lincoln’s second son, Eddie, died shortly before his fourth birthday, in 1850. Only the Lincoln’s first child, Robert, lived to an advanced age; he passed away at age 82 in 1926.

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us!

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Tokyo subways are attacked with sarin gas

Several packages of deadly sarin gas are set off in the Tokyo subway system killing twelve people and injuring over 5,000. Sarin gas was invented by the Nazis and is one of the most lethal nerve gases known to man. Tokyo police quickly learned who had planted the chemical weapons ...read more

Republican Party founded

In Ripon, Wisconsin, former members of the Whig Party meet to establish a new party to oppose the spread of slavery into the western territories. The Whig Party, which was formed in 1834 to oppose the “tyranny” of President Andrew Jackson, had shown itself incapable of coping ...read more

Henry V ascends upon father’s death

King Henry IV, the first English monarch of the Lancastrian dynasty, dies after years of illness, and his eldest son, Henry, ascends to the English throne. In 1399, Henry Bolingbroke was crowned King Henry IV of England following the forced abdication of King Richard II, who was ...read more

Black Death is created, allegedly

According to scholars at the University of Paris, the Black Death is created on this day in 1345, from what they call “a triple conjunction of Saturn, Jupiter and Mars in the 40th degree of Aquarius, occurring on the 20th of March 1345″. The Black Death, also known as the ...read more

Khrushchev begins his rise to power

The Soviet government announces that Nikita Khrushchev has been selected as one of five men named to the new office of Secretariat of the Communist Party. Khrushchev’s selection was a crucial first step in his rise to power in the Soviet Union—an advance that culminated in ...read more