Gen. Edward Dickinson Baker (USA), US Senator

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Gen. Edward Dickinson Baker (USA), US Senator's Geni Profile

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Edward Dickinson Baker

Birthplace: London, England
Death: October 21, 1861 (50) (killed in the Battle of Ball's Bluff)
Place of Burial: Balls Bluff National Cemetery Leesburg Loudoun County Virginia
Immediate Family:

Son of Edward Baker and Lucy Baker
Husband of Mary Ann Lee-Baker
Father of Lucy Hopkins; Caroline Stevens and Edward Dickenson Baker, Jr.

Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Gen. Edward Dickinson Baker (USA), US Senator

Edward Dickinson Baker (February 24, 1811 – October 21, 1861) was an English-born American politician, lawyer, military leader. In his political career, Baker served in the U.S. House of Representatives from Illinois and later as a U.S. Senator from Oregon. A long-time close friend of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln, Baker served as U.S. Army colonel during both the Mexican-American War and the American Civil War. Baker was killed in the Battle of Ball's Bluff while leading a Union Army regiment, becoming the only sitting senator to be killed in the Civil War.

Early life

Born in London in 1811 to schoolteacher Edward Baker and Lucy Dickinson Baker, poor but educated Quakers, the boy Edward Baker and his family left England and immigrated to the United States in 1816, arriving in Philadelphia, where Baker's father established a school. In 1825, the family left Philadelphia and traveled to New Harmony, Indiana, a utopian community on the Ohio River led by Robert Owen and sought to follow communitarian ideals.

About five years later (when New Harmony became defunct), the family moved to Belleville in Illinois Territory, a town near St. Louis. There, Baker met Governor Ninian Edwards, who allowed Baker access to his private law library. Later he moved to Carrollton, Illinois, where he was admitted to the bar in 1830. On April 27, 1831, he married Mary Ann Lee; they would have five children together.

Illinois lawyer

A year after his marriage, Baker participated actively in the Black Hawk War. Around 1835, he became acquainted with Abraham Lincoln and soon became involved in local politics, being elected to the Illinois House of Representatives on July 1, 1837, and serving on the Illinois Senate from 1840 to 1844. In 1844, while living in Springfield, he defeated Lincoln for the nomination for the 29th U.S. congressional seat and was elected as a Whig. He served from March 4, 1845, until his resignation on December 24, 1846, to take effect on January 15, 1847. The two remained close friends, however, with Lincoln naming one of his sons Edward Baker Lincoln, affectionately called "Eddie".

During the Mexican-American War, Baker briefly dropped out of politics and was commissioned as a Colonel of the Fourth Regiment of the Illinois Volunteer Infantry, on July 4, 1846. He participated in the siege of Vera Cruz and commanded a brigade at Cerro Gordo. Baker was honorably mustered out on May 29, 1847. He returned to Springfield in 1848, but, rather than run against Lincoln again for nomination to Congress, Baker moved to Galena, where he was nominated and elected as a Whig to the 31st Congress (March 4, 1849 - March 4, 1851). He was not a candidate for renomination in 1850.

Pacific coast politician

In 1851, after failing to receive a cabinet appointment under President Franklin Pierce, Baker moved to San Francisco, California, where he was admitted to the state bar and resumed the practice of law. It was there that he became known for his charm of speech and abilities as a lawyer. One of his most famous speeches was given on the completion of the transatlantic telegraph cable, September 27, 1858. "Thought has bridged the Atlantic," he said, "and cleaves its unfettered path across the sea." In 1860 he moved again, this time to Oregon, where he was elected as a Republican to the U.S. Senate to fill the vacancy in the term beginning March 4, 1859. His service began on October 2, 1860.

Death in battle

In May 1861, Baker was authorized by the Secretary of War to organize an infantry regiment to be taken as part of the quota from California. Recruiting mostly in Philadelphia, Baker raised the California Brigade and served as its colonel. A few months later he was assigned command of a brigade in General Charles Pomeroy Stone's division, guarding fords along the Potomac River north of Washington. On October 21, 1861, Baker was killed at the Battle of Ball's Bluff. His death shocked official Washington and led to the formation of the Congressional Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War.

At Baker′s funeral, Mary Todd Lincoln scandalized Washington, D.C., by appearing in a lilac ensemble, including matching gloves and hat, rather than the traditional black. Despite Baker′s close friendship with her husband, she retorted, “I wonder if the women of Washington expect me to muffle myself in mourning for every soldier killed in this great war?”

Baker is buried in Section OSD, Site 488, San Francisco National Cemetery. Of himself, Baker once said, "my real forte is my power to command, to rule and lead men. I feel that I could lead men anywhere." Baker's friends, however, thought his true talent lay in his gift of oratory.

Almost three years after his death, Baker's widow, Mary Ann, was placed on the government pension roll, receiving $55 per month. The Congressional bill which provided this relief is also viewable at the Library of Congress website. (S. 122)


Baker City, Oregon and Baker County, Oregon, were created and named for him. The county was created on September 22, 1862.

Fort Baker (Nevada), located in the Las Vegas Valley, was established in 1864 and named in his honor.

On April 29, 1897, the Lime Point Military Reservation, located near Sausalito, California, was renamed Fort Baker in his honor.

There is also a Fort Baker in the District of Columbia named for him. It is located between Forts Meigs and Stanton, one mile east of Uniontown at Fort Baker Drive and 30th Street.

A life-size marble statue of Baker was sculpted by Horatio Stone and placed in the Capitol Building. The Congressional bills that provided $10,000 in funds for its creation are viewable at the Library of Congress website. (H.R. 2762 and H.R. 2586)

On December 12, 1861, after the announcement of Baker's death, a resolution was submitted, by James W. Nesmith of Oregon, and passed which stated that Senate members would go into mourning by wearing crape on their left arms for thirty days. (Library of Congress Journal of the Senate)

There is a plaster carving of his face at the Illinois State Capitol building in Springfield, Illinois. It is located in the Legislative Reference Bureau legal library, carved into the wall. <>

San Francisco's Baker Street, extending from Haight Street at Buena Vista Park, past the Palace of Fine Arts to the marina within the Golden Gate National Recreation Area at Marina Boulevard, is named after Baker.

On May 19th, 2011, Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber signed SB809 into law, designating each February 24th as Edward D. Baker Day in Oregon at the urging of local members of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War.

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Gen. Edward Dickinson Baker (USA), US Senator's Timeline

February 24, 1811
London, England
Illinois, United States
Springfield, Illinois
October 21, 1861
Age 50
Balls Bluff National Cemetery Leesburg Loudoun County Virginia