Story of Col. Edward Baker

Col. Baker

Col. Edward Baker
Edward Dickinson Baker "The Old Grey Eagle"

Soldier, Senator, Orator, Patriot and Statesman

Born in London, England, February 24, 1811, Edward Dickinson Baker was the son of Mary Dickinson Baker And her husband, a school teacher, Edward Baker. The family emigrated to the United States in 1816, initially settling in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, then moving to New Harmony, Indiana in 1825. A year later the family moved again, settling in Belleville, St. Clair County, Illinois.

With some formal education and military training in England at his father's school and exhibiting much native intelligence, young Baker later embarked on a course of self-education through varied, extensive reading, much as the young Abraham Lincoln. No doubt, his father encouraged him in this effort, and suggested readings which would and did produce the best mind possible, as borne out in later years.

Edward tried a brief, unsuccessful apprenticeship in weaving, and later drove dray in St. Louis. The Baker family, again seeking new territory, once more resettled, this time in Carrollton, Greene County, Illinois.

Young "Ned", as he was called by his father, at 16 years of age entered the study of law at the urging of Moses C. Bledsoe, an attorney and mentor, and the most influential man in Carrollton. He provided Baker with books for his studies and persuaded him to read law in the office of Judge A. W. Caverly, the leading attorney of the town. He passed his law examination in 1830, but didn't immediately enter practice. At the age of 19, he was too young to qualify for the state bar in Illinois.

On the 27th of April the following year, Baker married Mary Ann Lee, the widow of a former employer, who was left with two children, Frank and Maria. They had four children of their own: Edward, Jr., Alfred, Caroline and Lucy. Edward Dickinson Baker, Jr. served in the U.S. Army and was discharged with the rank of Major, and Alfred served as an Army surgeon in the Medical Corps. Mary survived Edward's untimely death by ten years, passing away in 1871.

In 1832, Baker enlisted as a private soldier during the Blackhawk Indian War, and due to military training in his early schooling, rapidly rose in the ranks and was discharged as a Major at the end of the conflict.

After the war, Baker settled his family in Springfield, Sangamon County, Illinois where he finally began his practice of law. During this period he was associated with such notables as Abraham Lincoln, Lyman A. Trumbell, Stephen A. Douglas and other rising young jurists.

Baker and his associates participated in many spirited debates and discussions at Joshua Speed's Shop in Springfield developing their oratorical styles, rhetorical prowess and the abilities which would serve them well in future legal and political endeavors.

It was during this time when Lincoln and Baker became close personal friends, a relationship which would continue until Baker's death. At times political rivals, Baker defeated Lincoln in a race for the 29th Congress in 1844. Ned and Abe maintained a friendship which transcended a usual lack of trusted confidants of great men. This was perhaps due to both of these men, with their common educational background, recognizing that "quality of greatness" in each other, and, although occasionally rivals as well as associates, saw no conflict in holding differing views. Lincoln named one of his sons, Edward Baker Lincoln, after his close friend.

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See Also: General Information, Census