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Emilie Todd Helm (1836-1930)

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Emilie Todd Helm (1836-1930)

Post  May on Fri Nov 25, 2011 9:42 pm

One of many Confederate in-laws of President Lincoln.

Half-sister of Mary Todd Lincoln, Emilie (Emily) Todd Helm first came to the White House in December 1863, accompanied by her daughter Katherine. In March 1861, President Lincoln had offered her husband, Ben Hardin Helm, the job of army paymaster, which he declined. He instead became a confederate general. (Most of the children of the second marriage of Mary's father sided with the Confederacy.) Emilie arrived at the White House after her husband's death in the Battle of Chickamauga in 1863. Judge David Davis recalled: "I never saw Mr. Lincoln more moved,' said Senator David Davis, 'than when he heard of the death of his young brother-in-law Ben Hardin Helm, only thirty-two years old, at Chickamauga. I called to see him about four o'clock on the 22nd of September; I found him in the greatest grief. 'Davis,' said he, 'I feel as David of old did when he was told of the death of Absalom.' I saw how grief stricken he was so I closed the door and left him alone."1 On December 13, 1863 John Hay recorded that Mrs. Helm “just arrived from Secessia.”2

Emilie visited again in the summer of 1864. She was brought to the White House under the President's direct orders after she declined to attest to her loyalty to the Union when detained at Fort Monroe in Virginia. She recalled in her diary: "Mr. Lincoln and my sister met me with the warmest affection, we were all too grief-stricken at first for speech. I have lost my husband, they have lost their fine little son Willie and Mary and I have lost three brothers in the Confederate service. We could only embrace each other in silence and tears. Sister and I dined intimately, alone. Our tears gathered silently and feel unheeded as with choking voices we tried to talk of immaterial things."3

The Lincolns had long had a special fondness for her. Mary found in her sister someone in whom she could confide her torments. "She and Brother Lincoln pet me as if I were a child, and without words, try to comfort me," Emilie wrote. "Kiss me, Emilie, and tell me that you love me," Mrs. Lincoln told her half-sister one morning. "I seem to be the scape-goat for both North and South."4 At that point, President Lincoln entered the room and said: "I hope you two are planning some mischief.' Mr. Lincoln told Emilie later that day: "Little Sister, I hope you can come up and spend the summer with us at the Soldiers' Home; you and Mary love each other - it is good for her to have you with her - I feel worried about Mary, her nerves have gone to pieces; she cannot hide from me that the strain she had been under has been too much for her mental as well as her physical health." Both Lincolns expressed separate concerns to Emilie about the other's mental and physical health.

President Lincoln was very solicitous of Emilie and defended her presence at the White House against political attacks. Emilie later recalled: "Mr. Lincoln in the intimate talks we had was very much affected over the misfortunes of our family; and of my husband he said, 'You know, Little Sister, I tried to have Ben come with me. I hope you do not feel any bitterness or that I am in any way to blame for all this sorrow.' I answered it was 'the fortune of war' and that while my husband loved him and had been deeply grateful to him for his generous offer to make him an officer in the Federal Army, he had to follow his conscience and that for weal or woe he felt he must side with his own people. Mr. Lincoln put his arms around me and we both wept."5

Although the sisters shared their sorrows, Emilie was very uncomfortable at the White House and the sisters' children quarreled over who was the President of the country—Jefferson Davis or Abraham Lincoln. Emilie's presence drew criticism to herself and the President; she remained an unregenerate rebel...

The rest of the article may be read here:

http://www.mrlincolnswhitehouse.org/inside.asp?ID=23&subjectID=2
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Re: Emilie Todd Helm (1836-1930)

Post  May on Mon Nov 28, 2011 10:35 pm


Emilie Todd-Helm (1836-1930) by Famresearch2009@yahoo.com, on Flickr
Quite the Southern belle. She has very appealing eyes, I can see why the Lincolns had a special affection for her despite all the divisions of the war.

Emilie Todd-Helm (1836-1930) by Famresearch2009@yahoo.com, on Flickr
Apparently, this is the same lady, I guess when she was older. She looks more cheerful here...I've read that, in later years, she was a leader in the United Daughters of the Confederacy, yet also tried to work for reconciliation between North and South.
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Re: Emilie Todd Helm (1836-1930)

Post  Elena on Tue Nov 29, 2011 12:34 am

Utterly fascinating! I have never seen a picture of her! Smile Thank you!

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Re: Emilie Todd Helm (1836-1930)

Post  May on Tue Nov 29, 2011 2:36 am

Well thank you, I am curious to learn more about her. There were so many families divided by the war, including some of my own relatives from Maryland.

Later on I will try to post some pictures of Emilie's husband and her half-sister Mary. The sisters seemed quite similar- both feisty, both capable of being loving and affectionate as well as sharp-tongued and difficult.

I like the spelling 'Emilie'. Very Happy
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Re: Emilie Todd Helm (1836-1930)

Post  May on Wed Nov 30, 2011 3:53 pm

Emilie's account of a painful episode at the White House:

http://www.mrlincolnandnewyork.org/inside.asp?ID=59&subjectID=3

In late 1863, Mary Todd Lincoln's widowed sister, Emilie Helm, was visiting the White House when Mrs. Lincoln requested that she meet some visitors. The Confederate Helm later wrote:

I went most reluctantly. It is painful to see friends and I do not feel like meeting strangers. I cannot bear their inquiring look at my deep crepe. It was General [Daniel] Sickles again, calling with Senator Harris. General Sickles said, "I told Senator Harris that you were at the White House, just from the South and could probably give him some news of his old friend General John C. Breckinridge." I told Senator Harris that as I had not seen General Breckinridge for some time I could give him no news of the general's health. He then asked me several pointed questions about the South and as politely as I could I gave him non-committal answers. Senator Harris said to me in a voice of triumph, "Well, we have whipped the rebels at Chattanooga and I hear, madam, that the scoundrels ran like scared rabbits." "It was the example, senator Harris, that you set then at Bull Run and Manassas," I answered with a choking throat. I was very nervous and I could see that Sister Mary was annoyed. She tactfully tried to change the subject, whereupon Senator Harris turned to her abruptly and with an unsmiling face asked sternly: "Why isn't Robert in the Army? He is old enough to serve his country. He should have gone to the front some time ago."

Sister Mary's face turned white as death and I saw that she was making a desperate effort at self-control. She bit her lip, but answered quietly, 'Robert is making his preparations now to enter the Army, Senator Harris; he is not a shirker as you seem to imply, for he had been anxious to go for a long time. If fault there be, it is mine. I have insisted that he should stay in college a little longer as I think an educated man can serve his country with more intelligent purpose than an ignoramus." General [sic] Harris rose and said harshly and pointedly to Sister, "I have only one son and he is fighting for his country." Turning to me and making a low bow, "and, Madam, if I had twenty sons they should all be fighting the rebels." "And if I had twenty sons, General Harris," I replied, "they should all be opposing yours." I forgot where I was, I forgot that I was a guest of the President and Mrs. Lincoln at the White House. I was cold and trembling. I stumbled out of the room somehow, for I was blinded by tears and my heart was beating to suffocation. Before I reached the privacy of my room where unobserved I could give way to my grief, Sister Mary overtook me and put her arms around me. I felt somehow comforted to weep on her shoulder — her own tears were falling but she said no word of the occurrence and I understood that she was powerless to protect a guest at the White House from cruel rudeness.18
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Re: Emilie Todd Helm (1836-1930)

Post  Elena on Wed Nov 30, 2011 4:06 pm

Thank you for this! VERY moving! Sad

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Re: Emilie Todd Helm (1836-1930)

Post  May on Wed Nov 30, 2011 7:48 pm

Emilie after the war, in later years:

Emilie Todd Helm never remarried and wore mourning clothes for the remainder of her life. After the war, Emilie and her children went from Lexington to Elizabethtown, Kentucky, and finally to support her family, moved to Madison, Indiana, where she gave piano lessons.

Emilie was active in recording Todd Family history, and in the local chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, which was named for General Helm. She also took part in many of the military reunions and was named Mother of the Orphan Brigade by the former soldiers of the First Kentucky Regiment.

She became close with her nephew, Robert Todd Lincoln, son of Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln. In 1881, he helped her obtain an appointment as postmistress of Elizabethtown, Kentucky. She and her family resided in a house on West Poplar Street, while she served in that position from 1883 to 1895.

As a kindness to her nephew, Emilie Todd Helm, along with daughters Katherine and Elodie, unveiled a statue of President Lincoln on the town square in Hodgenville, Kentucky, birthplace of the sixteenth President of the United States.

On September 17, 1884, the body of Brigadier General Ben Harden Helm was exhumed from its grave in Georgia to be reburied in his native Kentucky soil. Soldiers from both the Orphan Brigade and the First Kentucky Cavalry accompanied it on the journey.

Helm was re-interred at Helm Place in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, where he once lived. Both Helm and his father, former Kentucky governor John LaRue Helm, are buried there in the family cemetery.

In 1912, Benjamin Hardin Helm Jr., fulfilling a pledge to bring his mother home to Lexington, bought a farm on land that had once been owned by General Levi Todd, Emilie Todd Helm's great gandfather. There she lived out her life.

Emilie Todd Helm died at Helm Place on February 20, 1930, at the age of 93. She was buried in the Todd plot at the Lexington Cemetery.

http://www.civilwarwomenblog.com/2010/10/emilie-todd-helm.html
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Re: Emilie Todd Helm (1836-1930)

Post  May on Wed Nov 30, 2011 8:04 pm


Mary Todd Lincoln by Piedmont Fossil, on Flickr
Nice picture of Mary. Without a doubt, though, Emilie was prettier. She was considered the most beautiful of the Todd sisters, with lovely black hair.
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Re: Emilie Todd Helm (1836-1930)

Post  Elena on Wed Nov 30, 2011 8:10 pm

Mary is such a tragic figure.

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Re: Emilie Todd Helm (1836-1930)

Post  May on Thu Dec 01, 2011 12:52 am

Indeed! Her modiste Elizabeth Keckley's memoir gives a good insight into Mary, her lights and shadows. Sadly, though, it destroyed the friendship between the two women because Mary considered it a breach of trust.
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Re: Emilie Todd Helm (1836-1930)

Post  Mata Hari on Thu Dec 01, 2011 1:16 am

She was certainly in a painful situation at the White House, being a southern girl and all.

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Re: Emilie Todd Helm (1836-1930)

Post  May on Thu Dec 01, 2011 1:28 am

Yes, Mary was suspected of being a Confederate sympathizer, which was totally untrue. However, since so many of her relatives, including this much-loved sister Emilie, supported the Confederacy, it is perhaps understandable that many Unionists would mistrust Mary, too. It put her in a very painful position, though, to suffer simultaneously from the prejudices of Northerners regarding her Southern background and the prejudices of Southerners regarding her Northern sympathies.
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Re: Emilie Todd Helm (1836-1930)

Post  May on Thu Dec 01, 2011 1:36 am


Another picture of Emilie.
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Re: Emilie Todd Helm (1836-1930)

Post  May on Thu Dec 01, 2011 1:44 am


Her beloved husband Benjamin Hardin Helm.
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Re: Emilie Todd Helm (1836-1930)

Post  May on Thu Dec 01, 2011 1:56 am



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Re: Emilie Todd Helm (1836-1930)

Post  Mata Hari on Thu Dec 01, 2011 8:25 pm

Wonderful! I learn so much from you, Matterhorn! Smile

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Re: Emilie Todd Helm (1836-1930)

Post  May on Thu Dec 01, 2011 9:06 pm

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Re: Emilie Todd Helm (1836-1930)

Post  Elena on Thu Dec 01, 2011 9:13 pm

Thank you. This is extremely interesting! Smile

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Re: Emilie Todd Helm (1836-1930)

Post  May on Fri Dec 02, 2011 1:29 am


A historical reenactment, held just over a month ago in Barrington, Illinois.
http://triblocal.com/barrington/calendar/2011/10/18/mary-todd-lincoln-emilie-todd-helm-divided-sisters/
The Civil War Anniversary series at the Barrington Area Library continues with, "Mary Todd Lincoln & Emilie Todd Helm: Divided Sisters." In this historical reenactment performance, Mary Todd Lincoln and her sister, Emilie Todd Helm, visit the audience from 1863. They share their lives before the war, including happy times and the tragedies that have befallen their families. Will the divisive war tear the sisters apart as well? Valerie Gugala portrays Mary Todd Lincoln and Kari Jones portrays Emilie Todd Helm.
Sounds very touching, I wish I could have seen it.
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Re: Emilie Todd Helm (1836-1930)

Post  May on Fri Dec 02, 2011 1:43 am

I'm glad you are enjoying this topic, Elena and Mata Hari. flower

It's amazing to think that poor Emilie was widowed as such a young woman, only 27, yet spent all the rest of her long life in mourning. It must have been hard, when she was still so young and beautiful, not to marry again, but it shows the depth of her devotion to her late husband.

It's also amazing to think of her living so deep into the twentieth century!
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