The name of Col. Edward Dickinson Baker is not a household name unless, perhaps, you live in Oregon. Or, if you are a student of Abraham Lincoln or the Civil War. But, as I find myself just as fascinated by the people of the Civil War as I am by the battles, I wanted to learn a little bit more about the man who introduced Abraham Lincoln at his inauguration. Lincoln named a son (Willie) after his dear friend "Ned" Baker. Now, that is friendship. And that friendship, in an indirect way, lead to Baker's death.
Edward Baker was the only United States Senator to die in battle. And, at that, he died in a battle that should never have been fought - the battle whose commemoration will be next week - the battle of Ball's Bluff (Leesburg), VA on October 21, 1861. Over 1,000. men, mainly Federals, died because of a blunder. There are those who can tell the story better than I and I will let them. The manner of many Federal deaths was gruesome (although there was worse to come in future battles) as the Federals were backed up against a steep drop off a bluff. They had no place to go but down. Many tumbled (or leaped) to their deaths. A Confederate victory resulted.
Here, on October 21, 1861, we find the Civil War some six months old. The troops, both Federal and Confederate, so "green together" back in July at First Manassas (First Bull Run), are more seasoned now. But there is always a room for a blunder, and this battle wouldn't be the first or the last blunder made in this war. Some were funny. This one was not.
For Edward Baker, the Civil War was far from his first war, and he had seen action before. Loyal to the Union cause, he could have been commissioned as a general, but would have had to resign from the Senate. He chose to become a colonel and stay a Senator. He would make speeches in the U.S. Senate dressed in his uniform. I could not envision anything like that happening in our day.
October 21-23, this battle will be commemorated with a reenactment on the original battle site. This is not a usual situation. Many Civil War battlefields are National Park Service parks and the NPS will not allow actual battle reenactments. However, Balls Bluff is not a NPS site. It would seem to be a success story of the movement to preserve as many Civil War sites as possible, a movement that I will be blogging about sometime in the future. (I was hoping to go to this reenactment, but that will not be possible. Ah well.)
As for the Senator? This interview contains an excellent description of why he was there to begin with.
"Willie" Lincoln wrote a poem commemorating the death of the man he was named after. Sadly, Willie himself would die months later in February of 1862, at the age of 11.
They don't make politicians like they used to.