|Birth: ||Nov. 11, 1836|
|Death: ||Feb. 20, 1930|
Emilie Todd Helm was the daughter of Robert S. Todd and Elizabeth Humpreys
Todd of Lexington, Ky. She was born into a wealthy family of exceptional
advantages in both education and culture, which was afforded to few ladies
of her time. She was the half-sister of Mary Todd Lincoln, wife of Abraham
Lincoln. In 1856 she married Benjiman Hardin Helm of Elizabethtown who was a
member of the Kentucky Legislature. While serving as a Confederate General
during the Civil War, at age 32, he was killed in September of 1863 at the
battle of Chickamauga, Ga.
After her husband's death, the Lincoln's extended an invitation to Mrs.
Helm. She arrived at the White House in December of 1863, accompanied by her
daughter Katherine. President Lincoln was very solicitous and defended her
presence at the White House against political attacks. Once when challenged
about the appropriateness of her living there, Lincoln is reported to have
replied, "Mrs. Lincoln and I will allow anyone we choose to visit us in the
White House." Emilie later recalled in her diary: "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."
She visited again in the summer of 1864. Emilie 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 noted
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. 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 feel unheeded as with
choking voices we tried to talk of immaterial things." Although the sisters
shared their sorrows, 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 became known as
"The Rebel" by many Northerners.
After returning to Kentucky, she wrote the President, asking to send
clothing to Confederate prisoners at Camp Douglas outside Chicago. Mr.
Lincoln wrote the Union military commander of Kentucky that his
sister-in-law had no protection against prosecution for disloyal actions: "
Deal with her for current conduct, just as you would any other." Emilie
wrote to Lincoln: "I have been a quiet citizen and request only the right
which humanity and justice always gives to widows and orphans. I also would
remind you that your miniť bullets have made us what we are." After this
incident, Mr.and Mrs. Lincoln would not communicate with her sister, nor
would they ever meet again.
After the war, Mrs. Helm and her children went from Lexington to
Elizabethtown and finally, to support her family moved to Madison (Indiania)
and later to Louisville were she taught piano lessons. In 1881, her nephew,
Robert Todd Lincoln obtained for her an appointment as postmistress of
Elizabethtown. She and her family resided in a house on West Poplar Street,
known today as the McKinney House. Mrs. Helm and her daughters became active
in the local chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, which was
named for her General Helm.
Her son, Ben Hardin Helm Jr. purchased a plantation home for his mother and
sisters in Lexington, which they named "Helm Place", after her husband's
home in Elizabethtown. Mrs. Helm attended many of the Confederate Veteran
reunions and was given the title "Mother of the Brigade" by the former
soldiers of the First Kentucky Brigade. She never remarried and wore
mourning for husband for the remainder of her life. She was 93 years old
when she died and was buried in the Todd plot at the Lexington City
Robert Smith Todd (1791 - 1849)
Elizabeth Humphreys Todd (1800 - ____)
Benjamin Hardin Helm (1831 - 1863)
Elodie Todd Lewis (1859 - 1953)*
Created by: Laurie
Record added: Feb 04, 2003
Find A Grave Memorial# 7146459