The Civil War Connections Blog

A Substantial Loss

The year 1862 laid witness not only to the Battle of Hampton Roads, Antietam, and other infamous battles of the Civil War, but a tragedy in President Lincoln’s own household.  On February 20, 1862, Lincoln’s third son, Willie, passed away from Typhoid fever.  As a young boy, he was committed to his studies and enjoyed spending time with, and learning from, his father.  Below is a photograph taken by Matthew Brady, a close friend of the Lincoln family, shortly before the child passed.

Willie’s death reminds historians to never forget the daily trials of life in the mid to late nineteenth century.  When focusing on the major events that occurred in 1862, it is easy to neglect the role of powerful forces such as poverty, famine, and disease.  Typhoid fever was one of many diseases to plague troops during the Civil War.  The disease continued to affect the nation throughout the 19th century, eventually leading to the creation of a Typhoid board by the War Department at the onset of the Spanish-American War.  The hardships that civilians and soldiers faced during the 1860s did not conclude with the treaty at Appomattox; diseases and social ailments continued on, often worsening, as the nation entered the period of Reconstruction and beyond.

Willie Lincoln, third son of President Lincoln. Died February 20, 1862, at the age of 12

Willie Lincoln, taken by Matthew Brady. LC-DIG-ppmsca-19390. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA



If you would like to read more about Typhoid in the Spanish-American War, please visit:

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