William Wallace Lincoln, Mathew B. Brady, 1862

A Tragic Death

Eleven-year-old William Wallace (Willie) Lincoln died at the White House on February 20, 1862, an event that sent both of his parents into deep mourning. While Mary grieved openly, Lincoln shut himself in his room to weep alone. Lincoln sought spiritual comfort from his Washington pastor, the Rev. Phineas D. Gurley, and experienced what he called “a process of crystallization” in his religious beliefs. Following the tragedy, Lincoln increasingly invoked God’s name in his public speeches and writings.