The Confederate Half-Brothers, And Brothers-In-Law, Of Mary Todd Lincoln


President Lincoln reportedly once said of his wife’s family, “God Almighty is perfectly content having one “d” at the end of his name. The Todds insist on having two”. The strained relationship with his in-laws, surely wasn’t improved by the Civil War. The Todd family of Kentucky were slave-owners and committed Confederates. A truth the northern press and Union politicians opposed to Mr.Lincoln’s war efforts, never let the Country forget.

Mary Todd Lincoln’s father was Robert Smith Todd (1791 - 1849), he was a slave owner. Her mother was Elizabeth Ann Parker Todd (1794 - 1825). When her mother died, her father married Elizabeth L Humphreys Todd (1800 - 1874). Mary Todd Lincoln’s half brothers served with the Confederacy, as did her brothers-in-law.


BENJAMIN HARDIN HELM : Probably Mrs. Lincoln’s best known Confederate relative and brother-in-law. Married Emilie Pariet Todd. He was a 30 year-old Lawyer when he became Colonel of the Confederate 1st Kentucky Cavalry on 9/15/1861, after refusing President Lincoln’s offer of a commission in the Union Army. He and Emilie were probably the President’s favorites among his Todd in-laws. He was promoted to Brig-Gen, commanding the famed Kentucky “Orphan Brigade” on 3/14/1862. He was Killed on 9/20/1863 at Chickamauga, GA. A grieving Emilie arrived at the White House December of 1863, accompanied by her daughter Katherine. President Lincoln defended her presence against political attacks by stating “Mrs. Lincoln and I will allow anyone we choose to visit the White House”. The President would refer to her as “little sister”. She visited again in the summer of 1864. She later wrote of her final visit :

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. Mary and I have lost three
brothers in the Confederate service. We could only embrace each other in silence and tears. Our tears gathered silently and felt unheeded as with
choking voices we tried to talk of immaterial things.




SAMUEL BROWN TODD : Half brother of Mary. He enlisted in the Confederate Army shortly after the war began. He served in the “Crescent Regiment” (24th Louisiana Infantry). He was killed in action at the Battle of Shiloh, April, 1862. He was the first of Mary’s Confederate relatives to die in the war.


ALEXANDER HUMPHREYS TODD : Alex was the youngest of Mary’s half-brothers, and a family favorite. He enlisted in the spring of 1861, and became a Aide-De-Camp to the husband of his sister, Emilie, Brigadier-General Benjamin Hardin Helm. He also fought at Shiloh. He was killed in a “friendly-fire” incident, Baton Rouge, LA. in 1862.


DAVID HUMPHREYS TODD : The “black sheep” of the Todd family. He ran away from home at age 14, and fought in the Mexican War. Enlisted in the 21st Louisianan and fought at Shiloh. He was seriously wounded serving with the Artillery at Vicksburg. He was briefly Commandant of Libby Prison in Richmond, Virginia, but was removed by Jefferson Davis, for his extreme cruelty directed toward Union prisoners.


GEORGE ROGERS CLARK TODD : Once referred to his sister, Mary Lincoln as a “poor weak-minded woman”. Although serving as a surgeon in the Confederate Army, and being one who would normally want to heal an relieve suffering, he was better known for his cruelty to Union prisoners, his verbal abuse directed toward the bodies of dead Union soldiers, often referring to them as “dammed abolitionists”, and even cruelty directed towards wounded Confederates. He reportedly once bought an expensive keg of brandy and then refused to share with Confederate wounded in his care.



WILLIAM WALLACE HERR : Married Catherine Bodley Todd. Enlisted as a Private early in the war into Company E 1st Kentucky Cavalry, rising to the rank of Sergeant-Major. On 3/14/1862 he was commissioned into Confederate States Army as a Captain and Aide-De-Camp to General Benjamin Hardin Helm. he survived the war, living till 1912. The above article is a tribute to him printed in Confederate Veteran Magazine.


NATHANIEL HENRY RHODES DAWSON : Married Elodie Breck Todd. At the beginning of the Civil War he entered the Confederate Army as Captain of both the Independent Blues of Selma and the Magnolia Cadets. The Magnolia Cadets later became Company C of the Fourth Alabama Infantry Regiment. During the last two years of the war he commanded a battalion of Cavalry. Dawson was elected to the Alabama legislature during the Civil War and sat in the sessions of 1863-64. After the legislature’s adjournment, he returned to his military command. Following the war, he was politically active and ran for governor of Alabama in 1882.

So... what do you think? Please leave me a comment.


  • Taylor: EastTennessee - another great blog and photos. It was interesting to read about Mary Todd Lincoln’s Confederate relatives, especially Captain William Wallace Herr, who sounded to be both an outstanding soldier and citizen, post war. And Emilie Pariet Todd was quite a lovely woman!
    I had been thinking about writing a blog on Mary Todd Lincoln, as she has certainly been portrayed as a "poor weak-minded woman" by many, and new medical evidence suggests that Mrs. Lincoln could have been suffering from a rare disorder, the name of which escapes me at the moment.
  • EastTennessee1948: Thank you Taylor, Mary is certainly an interesting figure from the Civil War, or any part of American History. Hope you’ll decide to do that blog. Here’s a link about Mary’s illness.
  • Taylor: That’s it! I think Mary is worth writing about as she has been so misunderstood and her position as "First Lady" must have been conflicting enough, but especially if she were living with several health issues that went undiagnosed and not understood at the time.
  • Vale: Like Taylor said, another great post! It must have been difficult for her to be married to Lincoln and have Confederate relatives. I never heard that she was suffering from an illness. I will have to read more about that!
  • Taylor: Vale:
    I’m working on my "Mary Todd Lincoln blog" and hopefully it will save you some research, as much of it is about the mental and physical illnesses that the President’s wife suffered from, and were never diagnosed, understood, or treated.
  • Vale: I look forward to reading it, Taylor!
  • Paul Vaughn: Subscribe

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