Woodrow Wilson was born in the waning days of 1856 in Staunton, Virginia to a Presbyterian minister father. The actual date of Wilson’s birthday has been clouded in controversy. Click here to read my earlier blog posting on this issue.
From Pierce to Coolidge: When Thomas Woodrow Wilson (for that was his official name) arrived on December 29, 1856, Franklin Pierce was in the final months of his nondescript one-term presidency. James Buchanan had been elected president just weeks earlier on November 4, 1856. By the time Wilson passed away in 1924, he had lived through the administrations of 16 (or more than half) of the nation’s presidents. On the day of his birth, however, the baby Tommy was oblivious to who was president and to the rising tensions that were threatening to split the North and the South.
Family moves to Georgia: But almost four years later, just weeks before his fourth birthday, and after the Wilson family had moved from Virginia to the deep south where his father became a minister at a church in Augusta, Georgia, Wilson’s earliest memory of his life was imprinted on his conscientiousness.
Lincoln’s election: On November 6, 1860, an unlikely former one-term congressman from Illinois, Abraham Lincoln, was elected president. It was probably just days after that historic election that the now almost four-year-old Wilson found himself standing at the gate of the family’s house in Augusta, the church manse provided to the family while Wilson’s father ministered to the congregation.
Wilson’s earliest memory: Wilson later recalled his earliest memory in life. He remembered “hearing some one pass and say that Mr. Lincoln was elected and there was to be war. Catching the intense tones of his excited voice, I remember running in to ask my father what it meant.” We don’t know how his father explained war to Tommy or what further impact that had on him.
Wilson became a war president: Little could anyone have foreseen that the toddler hearing of the beginning rumblings of the Civil War, would grow up to be president and preside over another war as the United States was sucked into The Great War in 1917 – what we now know as World War I.
Mike Purdy’s Presidential History Blog
© 2014 by Michael E. Purdy