Sunday, October 21, 2007

October 21, 1861:

Edward Baker Dies at Ball's Bluff

Edward Dickinson Baker was an Illinois lawyer, politician and friend of Abraham Lincoln. On the day he died, October 21, 1861, he was also a US Senator from Oregon, having moved west some years before. He was also leading Union soldiers in battle at Ball's Bluff, Virginia. In taking bullets for the Union cause that day (illustrated below), he became the only sitting Senator to die in action in the conflict.

"When Baker was defeated for the United States Senate in California he moved to Oregon, where he was at once elected to fill an unexpired term," notes San Francisco Geneaolgy's web site (Baker is buried in that city). "In route to Washington he stopped over in San Francisco and delivered a political speech on October 26, 1860. 'We are running a man now by the name of Lincoln,' he said. 'He is an honest, good, simple-minded, true man, who is a hero without knowing it. If he recommends a railroad -- and he will --he won't twaddle about it.'

This pleased the people of California, for the Western States at that time were becoming more and more eager to obtain an appropriation from Congress for the completion of the proposed Pacific Railroad, from the Atlantic to the Pacific Coast. It was on the occasion of this political speech that Baker won aloud and long applause when he uttered his oft-quoted words: 'Long years ago, I took my stand by Freedom, and where in youth my feet were planted, there my manhood and my age shall march.'

"The Civil War came on. Baker... raised a regiment in Illinois, and went again to the front. In his first fight, and Bull's Bluff, Virginia, October 21, 1861, he fell. In 1861 the transcontinental telegraph had just been completed, and the melancholy news of Baker's death in Virginia was sent by telegraph to San Francisco. The message was read by Junius Brutus Booth, from the stage of the American Theater, and was received by the audience with a demonstration of genuine grief.

"On a day of President Lincoln's inauguration in Washington, in the east portico of the unfinished Capitol, it was Colonel E. D. Baker, then Senator from Oregon, who introduced Lincoln to the audience. A warm friendship existed between President Lincoln and Colonel Baker, and President Lincoln's second son, born in 1846, was named Edward Baker Lincoln. "

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