Raising Animals at the Soldiers' Home

by Matt Ringelstetter

In a telegraph dated September 8, 1864, President Lincoln wrote to his wife Mary, reporting that “all is well, including Tad’s pony and the goats.” The pony and goats the President referred to were pets of his son Tad, who had spent the majority of his summer in Manchester, Vermont with his mother.

Another account reveals that Tad Lincoln and Lewis Stanton, son of Lincoln’s Secretary of War, attempted to raise peacocks together at the Soldiers’ Home one summer. Raising the flock was no easy task, as the birds tried to fly away from the young herdsmen. The Bucktail soldiers of Company K, Lincoln’s Presidential Guard devised a solution. They tied lightweight blocks of wood to the bird’s legs, making it impossible for them to fly away, yet still allowing them to roost in the trees surrounding the cottages. Lewis Stanton later recalled an evening when the birds and their new wooden anchors became entangled in a tree. The President and Secretary Stanton arrived shortly after and began to untangle the birds, allowing them to safely return to the ground.

The Lincolns’ pets were not alone at the Soldiers’ Home, which had an active farm throughout much of its history. As these images show, an active dairy and chicken farm existed well into the 20th century.

Mr. Matt Ringelstetter is a summer 2007 intern at President Lincoln’s Cottage.
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