This week will see the debut the Edward Dickinson Baker Day in Oregon, a memorial to Oregon's Civil War hero and United States Senator who died over 150 years ago on the battlefield of Ball's Bluff while leading his troops into battle. Oregon is continuing to show its pride in the life, triumphs and tragedies of its pioneer statesman, soldier, and best friend of President Abraham Lincoln by memorializing him with this day, and adding this honor to the panoply of other distinctions conferred upon Oregon United States Senator Edward Dickinson Baker in this state and nationwide.

The Oregon Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission, the Sons of Union Civil War Veterans of Oregon, Edward D. Baker Camp and Lincoln/Baker scholars (following in the footsteps of the late Senator Mark O. Hatfield) are deeply appreciative of the support given by the Oregon State legislature and Governor John Kitzhaber to the passage of Senate Bill 809 in the 2011 Legislative season. which led to the creation of Edward Dickinson Baker Day which is to be celebrated this year going forward.

This timely honor, bestowed upon Union Army Colonel Edward Dickinson Baker came during the first year of the national observance of the American Civil War Sesquicentennial (2011-2015); and has done much to restore the lustre to the name and national and regional reputation of a man who devoted most of his life to public service to his state and the nation. Oregon United States Senator Baker immediately offered his services to his adopted country when the first shots were fired at Fort Sumter on that morning in April 1861. Even at the frontlines of the war, Colonel Baker's thoughts would at times, focus on the welfare and future needs of our fledgling state.

He loved Oregon so much, that during the first months of the Civil War, he turned down two offers of appointments for Major and Brigadier Generalships because he was deeply honored by Oregon's selection of him as their United States Senator. This was plainly evinced in one of the last letters sent by Colonel Baker from his headquarters at the Chain Bridge in Virginia just prior to his untimely death on October 21, 1861 at the Battle of Ball's Bluff near Leesburg, Virginia, that Frank Krone, an  Oregon Civil War Sesquicentennian Commisioner discovered this month while doing research in the Edward Dickinson Baker files at the Oregon Historical Museum's archives:

"...A great battle is hourly anticipated and whatever position I may occupy in the coming contest, you may rest assured that the State of Oregon shall have no cause to be ashamed of my action. You have doubtless learned ere this of my appointment by the President as Brigadier General. My duty to the State of Oregon in my opinion is such that I have felt impelled to decline the honor. Yesterday, I had conferred upon me an additional honor, in the shape of an appointment as Major-General, but actuated by the same motives as decided me in the former instance. I shall decline this position also.

I am very conscious of the necessity of a military force in Oregon, for various reasons, and I am today maturing a plan which I intend to summit to the President and Secretary of War for their approval--by which I hope that a force sufficient for all purposes will be raised in Oregon.

While I am writing this, your letter of August 23rd arrived. In relation to the Senatorship, be pleased to say to everyone once for all that I value the station conferred upon me by the State of Oregon more highly than any other in the world, but I do not intend to vacate or resign. I shall retain command enough in the field to enable me to risk my life with honor, with that I am content. I have strong hopes that my next spring this war will be successfully terminated. The unity of the country maintained and the supremacy of the cnstitution vindicated.

How happy shall I be then to return to your peaceful valleys and give to our people an account of this great contest, but if Providence wills it otherwise and my bones smoulder on a southern soil, be pleased then to say for me that no man can be more grateful ffor the confidence of the people of my State and the warm wishes of so many friends --- E.D. Baker

-excerpt from Colonel Edward Dickinson Baker's

letter of Sept 22, 1861

Headquarters, Baker's Brigade

Chain Bridge, Virginia"

 

Baker would soon meet his destiny on the Virginia battlefield less than a month later. In 1862, a year to the date after this letter was written, the Oregon Legislature commemorated Baker by "carving a second county out of Wasco County and named it Baker." Other honors were to follow across the nation...two Fort Bakers, one located in Nevada and the second one in the District of Columbia. San Francisco's "Baker Street" is named after him. There is a plaster carving of his face at the Illinois State Capitol building in Springfield, Illinois, and a life-size marble statue of Baker was sculpted by Horatio Stone and placed in the rotunda in the Capitol Building.

In Oregon, on the 201st Anniversary of Edward Dickinson Baker's birth; ceremonies marking the inaugural "Edward Dickinson Baker Day" have been planned. There will be a ceremonial "Posting of the Colors" with the uniformed honor brigade of the Sons of Civil War Veterans Reserve, to mark the opening of the Oregon Legislative session on Friday, February 24, 2012 starting at 10:00 AM in the Senate chambers. In the afternoon, beginning at 12:30pm, volunteers from the Oregon Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission will meet at the 14th granite pillar of the Oregon Veterans Medal of Honor Memorial located on the west side of the Oregon State Capitol to talk about the Four Oregonians whose names are inscribed on the memorial, recipients of the Army Medal of Honor during the Civil War. Both events are free and open to the public.

The ceremony marking the inaugural 'Edward Dickinson Baker Day" is a Civil War Sesquicentennial Event, and shows Oregon's active involvement in the national observance of the Civil War's 150th Anniversary. There is a full scale program honoring the 150th Anniversary of the creation of the Army Medal of Honor being planned at the Oregon Veterans Medal of Honor Memorial on July 12, 2012. For more information about this event or other Oregon Civil War Sesquicentennial events, please call (503)303-8426.