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Civil War Sesquicentennial
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Edward Dickinson Baker: A Featured Biography

Statue of Edward Dickinson Baker

The only sitting United States senator ever to die in combat, Edward Dickinson Baker of Oregon was killed on October 21, 1861, in the Battle of Ball’s Bluff. He led the regiment he had helped to raise when the Civil War began in the spring of 1861. Baker had practiced law in Springfield, Illinois, before being elected to the House of Representatives in 1845, defeating his friend Abraham Lincoln for the Whig nomination. In 1846, he resigned from the House of Representatives to command a brigade in the Mexican War. Baker moved to Oregon in 1860 and was elected to the Senate that same year. A skilled orator, he made a lasting impression upon the Senate when, dressed in military uniform, he delivered his famous call to arms on August 1, 1861. “We will rally the people, the loyal people, of the whole country,” he exclaimed, “they will pour forth their treasure, their money, their men, without stint, without measure.” Senator Baker’s tragic death prompted the creation of the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War.


Civil War Chronology

December 2, 1863: Thomas Crawford’s Statue of Freedom was installed atop the newly completed cast-iron Capitol dome, a symbolic event signifying the enduring nation in a time of civil war.

December 7, 1863: The 38th Congress convened in Washington.

January 25, 1864:The Senate adopted a rule requiring members to swear the so-called “Ironclad Test Oath,” a pledge of future loyalty as well as an affirmation of past fidelity to the country. Senator James A. Bayard of Delaware resigned in protest four days later.

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Lincoln Catafalque

Lincoln Catafalque

Following Abraham Lincoln's death, his body was placed on a hastily constructed wooden catafalque to lay in state beneath the magnificent Capitol Dome. The catafalque has since been used for most of those who have lain in state in the Capitol Rotunda. This historic catafalque is now on display in the Exhibition Hall of the Capitol Visitor Center.


Featured Images
The Senate issued its first gallery pass for President Andrew Johnson's impeachment trial in 1868. Click here for a history of Senate gallery passes.

Image: President Johnson's Impeachment Trial Ticket

Related Links

Additional war-related features available in the Virtual Reference Desk.