Thursday, November 29, 2007

Twisting Lincoln Facts For Political Opinion


Bombardment of Fort Sumter by Currier and Ives

From the November 29th, 2007 issue of The Buchtelite, the college newspaper for the University of Akron (Ohio), comes a somewhat amazing political opinion piece. The author, one Branden Szabo, twists historical facts about Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War era to make a point about the low approval ratings for George W. Bush.

Mr. Szabo "explains" to his readers how Lincoln "started his own unpopular war" in an attempt to equate Bush and Lincoln. As any fifth-grader can tell us, Lincoln did not start the Civil War. Young Mr. Szabo seems to forget a little something called "Fort Sumter," whose bombardment by Confederate forces was the first military action of the war. To claim that Lincoln began that war is historically inaccurate, no matter one's particular opinion of Lincoln himself.

Next, the writer of the piece goes on to quote Clement Vallandigham, the Ohio congressman who was deported to the Confederacy. Mr. Szabo states that Vallandigham was a "governor of Ohio." Well, no. Vallandigham was a Democrat candidate for governor of Ohio, but was defeated in a landslide in 1863 by War Democrat John Brough . He did indeed oppose the war and Lincoln in very strong speeches, which is why he was deported to the South, but he was not governor.

Mr. Szabo's opinion is that history will judge President Bush kindly for his actions regarding Iraq , just as it has Abraham Lincoln, who was hated by many during his life. That may or may not be true and only time will tell. Szabo has a right to his opinion, but he also has a responsibility to present historical facts accurately in stating that opinion.

As a graduate of the University of Akron, I am disappointed in The Buchtelite and its editorial staff for not insisting on stricter standards for what is usually a fine collegiate newspaper.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Modern Dance Commissioned For Lincoln Bicentennial


Abe Sits This One Out

According to the Dubuque Telegraph-Herald, one of the latest projects planned for the celebration of the bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln's birth is a specially commissioned modern dance. The dance will be debuted at the famous Ravinia Festival north of Chicago, but there is no scheduled date. The man who will create the work, Bill T. Jones, is a Tony Award-winning choreographer. The work is to be a full-length dance which will encompass an entire evening.

Lincoln of course appreciated poetry, Shakespeare, and other fine writing. He attended the theater often and also took in traveling troupes of performers. Still, the creation of a dance is a bit ironic when the story about Lincoln asking Mary Todd to dance is recalled. He said something along the lines of "Miss Todd, I would like to dance with you in the worst way." Later on, Mary quipped "And he certainly did!".


Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Lincoln Quilt To Be Raffled For Lincoln Statue



From a small paper in Illinois comes this article about a local woman, Brenda Alward, who has been busy making an Abraham Lincoln quilt. This quilt will be raffled in order to raise money for a statue of Abraham Lincoln which will be erected in Shelby County, Illinois at the county courthouse. Lincoln used to stay in Shelbyville, the county seat of Shelby County, when he rode the law circuit. The statue will depict a beardless Lincoln and one of his fellow lawyers, Anthony Thornton. In 1856, Lincoln and Thornton held a slavery debate at the courthouse.

You have to admire this woman. She worked on the quilt since early July of this year and finally finished it in October. It obviously required a lot of work and dedication to make this quilt, which will help her community to honor its connection to Lincoln. She included Lincoln silhouettes, a depiction of the tavern Lincoln stayed at, and even a Great Seal of The United States in her quilt.

The quilt looks beautiful. Somehow, I can't imagine that any of our more recent presidents will ever be honored in such a manner 150 years from now. All in all, this isn't a particularly important Lincoln-related story, but it's the kind of story which shows the general fascination people still have for our 16th president.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Did Lincoln Have Cancer?

UPDATE: Eighteen months after this original posting, the cardiologist I discuss below is back in the news. John Sotos is now seeking to borrow a piece of fabric from a pillowcase which supported Lincoln's head as Lincoln lay dying on April 14, 1865. The material contains dried blood and brain matter from Lincoln. Sotos would like to perform testing on the DNA in order to prove his theory that Lincoln suffered from a rare cancer. Click here for the latest in this saga.

Was Abraham Lincoln suffering from a rare form of cancer at the time of his death? According to an article from the November 25, 2007 edition of The Washington Post, a cardiologist is claiming that Lincoln had a very rare genetic syndrome which inevitably leads to thyroid or adrenal cancer. This syndrome, called MEN 2B, is inherited and causes nearly every person it affects to develop cancer. Some symptoms of the syndrome are above-average height, stomach problems, and tumors. Obviously Lincoln was quite tall, especially for the era, and it is known that he suffered from chronic constipation his entire life. On the other hand, another symptom is weakness. However, numerous sources document that Lincoln was quite strong throughout his life, even towards the end of his being able to hold an ax at arm's length without his arm shaking.

It's an interesting read, but much like the claims that Lincoln had Marfan syndrome, this claim of cancer in Lincoln will probably be debated for many years. And in the end, it doesn't really matter. It was John Wilkes Booth who killed Lincoln, not cancer or Marfan.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Lincoln's Thanksgiving Proclamation 1863


1863 was one of the most dramatic years in American history. On January 1 of that year, Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation was issued, declaring that persons held in any territory or state in armed insurrection against the United States would be forever free. July 1-3, 1863 saw the bloodiest battle in America's history, Gettysburg, with deaths ranging upwards of 46,000 to as much as 51,000 troops from the two sides. November 19, 1863 was the scene of the dedication of the national cemetery at Gettysburg, including Lincolns' famous Gettysburg Address.

Sometimes lost in the historic events of that year is another of Lincoln's proclamations, this one being his Thanksgiving Proclamation. It is of course true that days of Thanksgiving had long been celebrated in America, beginning with the "first Thanksgiving" celebrated by the Pilgrims in 1621. George Washington issued his own Thanksgiving Proclamation in 1789 at the end of the long and difficult Revolutionary War.

Since 1861, of course, there had been a terrifying and brutal Civil War fought between the United States and the Confederacy with thousands upon thousands of deaths and a horrifying number of soldiers injured or lost to disease. 1863 at long last saw the tide begin to turn in favor of the Union, climaxing with the Battle of Gettysburg and the Union victory at Vicksburg. There were dark days ahead to be sure, but it was looking more and more like the Union would see final victory.

At the suggestion of a national magazine editor, Lincoln on October 3, 1863 issued his Thanksgiving Proclamation, for the first time setting aside the last Thursday in November as a National Day for giving thanks. The final page of the original text may be found in the image accompanying this post. It is in the hand of William H. Seward, Lincoln's Secretary of State. The text of this Proclamation is below.

The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added which are of so extraordinary a nature that they can not fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever-watchful providence of Almighty God.In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign states to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere, except in the theater of military conflict, while that theater has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defense have not arrested the plow, the shuttle, or the ship; the ax has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well as the iron and coal as of our precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege, and the battlefield, and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners, or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the imposition of the Almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it, as soon as may be consistent with the divine purpose, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity, and union. In testimony whereof I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed. Done at the city of Washington, this 3d day of October, A.D. 1863, and of the Independence of the United States the eighty-eighth.


Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Gettysburg Address Anniversary


Lincoln At Gettysburg
November 19, 2007 marks the 144th anniversary of one of history's finest speeches, Abraham Lincoln's immortal Gettysburg Address. His 271 words continue to resonate in our collective consciousness even today. Yet no speech is shrouded as much in myth and legend as this one, the first prepared speech that Lincoln had given in nearly 2 1/2 years. The true story behind it is almost as fascinating as the words themselves.

My posting titled "Gettysburg Letter To Lincoln" from November 9th, 2007 describes how the president was invited almost as an afterthought to the dedication of the cemetery at Gettysburg. One of the myths that people believe is that Lincoln was the featured speaker at Gettysburg that day. In truth, the main address was presented by Edward Everett of Massachusetts, the leading orator of the day. His oration lasted for nearly 2 1/2 hours, while Lincoln's brief address took a little more than two minutes to deliver. Yet Lincoln's words remain immortal while Everett's have been forgotten by most.

Lincoln departed for Gettysburg the previous day on November 18, 1863. The trip was a long and arduous one in those days, taking some 16 hours by rail from Washington, D.C., a journey which is little more than two hours today. Probably the most popular legend holds that Lincoln wrote his Address on the back of an envelope while on the train trip to Gettysburg, a story that is almost certainly not true. Lincoln was not a good extemporaneous speaker, as recorded by numerous witnesses to the various times he gave "off the cuff" remarks. Indeed, he politely refused to give an impromptu speech on July 7, 1863 at the celebration of the Union victory at Gettysburg. He addressed the crowd which had gathered outside the White House, and he admitted that "this is the....occasion for a speech. But I am not prepared to make one worthy of the occasion. ..Having said this much, I will now take the music." Other instances show us that Lincoln was awkward with public speeches when he was not fully prepared to do so. For this reason, it is very doubtful that Lincoln wrote the Address in its entirety during the ride to Gettysburg, in spite of some witnesses who later swore that he wrote the speech on the train.

However, it is true that as late as November 17, Lincoln admitted to James Speed, his Attorney General, that he was only half-finished with his speech for Gettysburg. He even confessed that he was laboring to find the proper words to convey what he wanted to at the ceremony. Lincoln showed a "rough draft" to Speed and apparently to other witnesses as well. This further disproves the legend of the writing on an envelope while on the train.

Lincoln Arrives At Gettysburg

After a long day of travel which included a few stops along the way, the presidential train arrived at Gettysburg at 5:00 p.m. on November 18th. Lincoln was escorted by various dignitaries to the David Wills home, where he was to spend the night. David Wills was the primary organizer of the dedication ceremonies and it was he who originally invited Lincoln. There are no known records of anything Lincoln might have said upon his first tour of the village. It can be imagined that he was exhausted from the long journey and perhaps a bit overwhelmed by the crowds as well. No doubt he was moved to be at the scene of the horrendous battle which had taken place just a few months previous.

Various witnesses give us some certainty that Lincoln was still not finished with his speech. It's known, for example, that as late as 11:00 p.m. that evening, Lincoln went to the house where his Secretary of State, William H. Seward, was staying. Lincoln read him the speech, but it is not known if the Secretary offered suggestions or even comments.

Dedication Day November 19, 1863

Lincoln departed for the ceremonies at 10:00 a.m. on the morning of November 19th. The crowd was huge, some estimates placing it at nearly 100,000 people. We'll of course never know for certain. Lincoln was on horseback and wearing a dress suit, complete with a mourning ribbon or band on his famous stovepipe hat. Although he was at first upbeat, as he approached the stand erected for the ceremonies, he became obviously more sad and lost in thought.

The ceremony itself began with the perfunctory introductions, a prayer or two, and some letters read from people who could not attend. At this point, Edward Everett launched into the main oration, a speech which must have seemed to its listeners as having lasted for an eternity, take just under two hours to deliver. Reactions to this "other Gettysburg Address" were decidedly mixed and were considered by some to have been disappointing considering that the nation's leading orator had presented it.

At long last, it was Abraham Lincoln's turn in the ceremonies and as he arose, he was greeted with great applause and enthusiasm. Then he began his speech with the immortal words that every school child must know: "Four score and seven years ago....." (the full text is here)

Lincoln's address was stunningly brief at only two minutes and 271 words in length. We know from eyewitness reports and newspaper stories that the reaction to his speech ranged from utter amazement at the brevity of his address to near "rapture" over it. For example, the Associated Press reporter was so enthralled that he ended up forgetting to take notes. Other newspapers were so far off on what was said they were almost comical. For this reason, Lincoln scholars and researchers to this day are not entirely sure what Lincoln's exact words were that day. While five copies of the Gettysburg Address in Lincoln's own handwriting are known to exist, they each differ slightly in certain areas, such as the use of "under God" in the closing.

Lincoln was supposedly quite upset with the speech, claiming that it "won't scour" (a Midwestern term of the day meaning it wasn't good) to his friend Ward Lamon. However, it was Lamon who claimed that Lincoln said it, and most historians don't believe Lincoln's friend. When Edward Everett offered his own congratulations, Lincoln halted him, and suggested they not speak further of it.

In the weeks and months which followed, the reputation of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address grew until upon further reflection by the public and newspapers, it became known as the true masterpiece it is. Lincoln provided some copies to people who requested them in order to sell as fundraisers for wounded Union soldiers. National papers of the day, such as "Harper's Weekly" the address was "the most perfect piece of American eloquence."

The Gettysburg Address Today

So what does (or should) Lincoln's Gettysburg Address mean for us today? Obviously, it's been required reading for generations of schoolchildren, in some cases being required for memorization. Entire books have been written about this speech, analyzing its meaning, dissecting its points, and claiming that through this speech, Lincoln actually gave force to a Second American Revolution.
For this blogger, at least, Lincoln's Gettysburg Address is the embodiment of what America stands for (or SHOULD stand for): the rights and freedoms of all people in our great country, and that government must represent the collective will of "We, the People" In today's America, far too many politicians at the national, state, and local levels are beholden to the rich and powerful and have lost sight of the ordinary and powerless. Politicians at all levels of government should be required, in my opinion, to read, understand, and take to heart the finest speech in American history.

Sources

This posting used two primary sources. The first was Garry Wills' masterpiece, "Lincoln At Gettysburg: The Words That Remade America." Deservedly this book won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award.

The other source was Lincoln author and scholar Harold Holzer's article titled "A Few Appropriate Remarks" from the November 1988 issue of "American History Illustrated" magazine. His article is a highly detailed and informative re-telling of the story behind the Gettysburg Address. This article may be available only through back issue sites such as eBay or directly from the publisher.

Friday, November 16, 2007

A Lincoln Re-Enactor Who Looks Like Lincoln



This man resembles Lincoln better than most impersonators I've seen. The photo was taken at a re-enactment of Shiloh, but it was held in Ventura County, California. Here is a link to the article about the re-enactment held recently.

New Photo Of Lincoln At Gettysburg Found?

(NOTE: For the "new" photo of Lincoln at The White House announced on March 10, 2009, click here )


From the November 16, 2007 issue of USA Today comes the exciting news that an amateur historian may have made the find of his life: a "new" photo of Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg! Mr. John Richter of Hanover, Pennsylvania had been researching the online database of Gettysburg photos on the Library of Congress website and thought he noticed Lincoln in a crowd scene in two different stereoviews.

After seeking a file enlargement, Richter continues to believe that the scene does indeed show Lincoln in the crowd. Eminent Lincoln authority Harold Holzer is also of the opinion that the figure in the stereoviews is Lincoln. If proven, these would be only the second and third photos known to exist of Lincoln at Gettysburg. The only other known photo was discovered in 1952.

You may see more of the information, including additional photos at the link to USA Today I provided. The photo I show in this posting is widely available on the Internet now, so I believe I'm not violating any copyright.

Other posts of mine deal further with The Gettysburg Address. This link tells the story of how and why Lincoln was invited to speak at Gettysburg during the dedication ceremony. And this link details the Address and the dedication ceremony itself. If I could choose one event from history to witness, it would be of Lincoln giving his immortal speech.

UPDATE: Please see my post for a followup to this story. That post describes the conference held in Gettysburg to discuss this new find. The story also contains another view of this photo.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Ohio Village Had Major Ties To Lincoln



The small village of Cadiz in the rural Appalachian foothills of southeastern Ohio has never been a very exciting place. Founded in 1804, its peak population was in the 1940's, when it had just under 5,000 residents. Thanks to a decline in the coal industry which has lasted for decades, the town has seen its population dwindle to barely 3,300. Today it struggles to survive, depending largely on farming and recreational tourism for its income. Unfortunately, its better days are far behind it.

Yet somehow, by some quirk of fate which makes history so fascinating to so many, this nondescript Ohio village was either the birthplace or home to three men who played major roles in Abraham Lincoln's life. When these men lived in Cadiz, Ohio, the village population was no more than 500. How one small crossroads gave us three important influences on Abraham Lincoln's life is one of history's mysteries. These men continued their national political influences after Lincoln's death as well. These are their stories.






Bishop Matthew Simpson


Matthew Simpson was born in Cadiz, Ohio on June 20, 1811 to parents who dedicated him at birth for the ministry. Simpson received the standard academic education of the day in Cadiz, and at the age of 18, he entered Madison College in Pennsylvania. He entered the Methodist Ministry in the middle 1830's, his first church being in Pittsburgh. From there, he ascended quickly in the church hierarchy and was eventually appointed Elder in 1837.

Simpson also served in academia, first as a Professor of Natural Science and then Vice-President of Allegheny College in Pennsylvania. In 1839 he was appointed president of the forerunner to DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana. He served in that capacity until 1848, when he became editor of the Western Christian Advocate, a leading abolition newspaper. Reverend Simpson was then elected to the Episcopacy (i.e. Bishop) of the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1852. He oversaw conferences of the M.E. Church throughout the United States and in most of its territories.

Rev. Simpson's national stature grew as he became a powerful orator against the evils of slavery. He was a strong supporter of Lincoln, the Union, and Emancipation during the Civil War. He became a close advisor to President Lincoln, who eagerly sought his non-religious views about the state of the country as well. Bishop Simpson traveled extensively throughout the country and Lincoln strongly believed that Simpson had his finger on the pulse of public opinion. Lincoln also occasionally attended Methodist churches and was present when Simpson gave the sermon at the Foundry Church in Washington, D.C. in 1863.

Eventually, Lincoln and Cadiz native Matthew Simpson became close friends. Legend grew after Simpson's death that he had a major influence on Lincoln and through this influence, convinced Lincoln to issue the Emancipation Proclamation in 1862.. However, Simpson was on an extended trip of the American west during the months leading up to the issuance of the Proclamation and did not return to Washington, D.C. until October 1862, after the draft had been issued.

Bishop Simpson was given the honor of presenting the main sermon at President Lincoln's funeral in Springfield, Illinois on May 4, 1865. The text of the sermon is here in its entirety. Simpson remained close to the Lincoln family and officiated at the wedding of Lincoln's son Robert in 1868.

Simpson eventually became Bishop of Philadelphia, where he served until his death on June 18, 1884. He was buried in Philadelphia in West Laurel Hill cemetery. His birthplace of Cadiz honors him with a plaque at the county courthouse.

For more resources about Bishop Matthew Simpson, see here and here.






John A. Bingham


John A. Bingham was born on January 21, 1815 in Mercer, Pennsylvania but his family eventually relocated to Cadiz, Ohio. After two years as an apprentice printer, Bingham enrolled at Franklin College in New Athens, Ohio where he studied law. Bingham then opened his first law practice in Cadiz in 1840, although some sources claim that his first practice was actually in New Philadelphia, Ohio, a town about 20 miles from Cadiz.

Bingham first came to notoriety as an orator during the Whig campaign of William Henry Harrison in 1840. After continuing to serve as a respected lawyer, Bingham eventually ran for Congress in 1854 and was elected as first an Opposition Party candidate (i.e. anti-Democrat) and then as a Republican in 1856. He served until 1862, when he was defeated for re-election.

President Lincoln appointed Bingham to serve as Judge Advocate to the Union Army with the rank of Major in 1864. Bingham was re-elected to Congress in 1864. Upon Lincoln's assassination on April 14, 1865, John A. Bingham served as Judge Advocate on the military tribunal which oversaw the trials of the Lincoln co-conspirators. Bingham was one of only two civilians on the tribunal. Here is a great link to the trial, including a photo of the tribunal. Bingham gave the summation of the government's position in the closing arguments. This link contains Bingham's summation.

John Bingham continued to serve as a distinguished member of Congress and became the main Framer of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. This amendment contains the "due process" and "equal protection" clauses which have become a critical part of guaranteeing civil rights in the United States.

In 1868, Congressman Bingham became one of the judges involved in the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson. Essentially, President Andrew Johnson was impeached as a result of long-running disputes with the Radical Republicans in Congress. They were upset with Johnson's conciliatory approach to the former Confederate states and his vetoes of civil rights bills. The final straw came when President Johnson fired Secretary of War Edwin Stanton (also a former resident of Cadiz, Ohio) for disregarding orders. This violated the Tenure Of Office Act which had been passed earlier by Congress. Johnson was acquitted by one vote and served the remainder of his term.

Bingham was defeated for re-election to Congress in 1872, but was appointed as Minister to Japan by President Grant. He served in that capacity until 1885.

He returned to his beloved Cadiz, Ohio in 1885. Upon his return, he would tell his visitors:

"The hills and primeval forest which girdle this village make a picture of quiet beauty which, I think, is scarcely surpassed in any part of our country which I have seen, or in Japan, the Land of The Morning."

John A. Bingham died on March 19, 1900 and is buried in the Union Cemetery in Cadiz, Ohio. If I might be permitted a personal aside, this cemetery is also the final resting place of many of my relatives, including my grandparents and great-grandparents. I'm proud that my ancestors share this cemetery with one of the leading political figures of American history. Today, Cadiz proudly claims John A. Bingham as a native son. The village commemorates his service to the country with an imposing statue in front of the county courthouse.


Edwin McMasters Stanton

Of the "sons of Cadiz" who were so interconnected with Abraham Lincoln, Edwin M. Stanton had by far the most influence with Lincoln. Stanton was born December 19, 1814 in the town of Steubenville, Ohio, a town located 20 miles southeast of Cadiz, on the Ohio River.

Stanton spent his formative years in Steubenville and later enrolled in Kenyon College in Ohio. After leaving Kenyon in order to support his family, Stanton was admitted to the Ohio bar in 1836. At this time, he relocated to the village of Cadiz, where he built a house and practiced law until 1847. Stanton became the Harrison County prosecutor while in Cadiz and soon developed a reputation for being a brilliant lawyer. Stanton met and became good friends with John A. Bingham during his years in Cadiz and also became acquainted with Bishop Simpson. Like Simpson, Stanton was a Methodist.

In 1847, driven by the desire to earn more money for his immediate and extended family, Stanton moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where he soon established a lucrative law practice. After nine years in Pittsburgh, Stanton then relocated to Washington, D.C. in order to work to further establish his reputation and increase his income.

Stanton soon attracted the attention of the Federal Government and in 1860, President James Buchanan appointed him Attorney General. While Stanton was grateful for the appointment, it meant leaving his financially rewarding private practice for the salary of a civil servant. Stanton strongly opposed secession and is often credited with providing the backbone to President Buchanan to finally oppose it as well.

It was in 1857 that Edwin M. Stanton and Abraham Lincoln first became acquainted. Both served on the same legal team in the McCormick-Manny reaper patent case. Stanton was one of the most famous attorneys in the country at this time, with a brilliant reputation. Lincoln was an able attorney in his own right, but did not have the experience or renown of Stanton. Stanton considered Lincoln a country bumpkin and asked "where did that long-armed creature come from?" Lincoln was treated with contempt during the entire case, but with his typical magnanimity, he believed that he learned how to be a much better lawyer merely by observing Stanton at work. Lincoln realized he had much more to learn about what it took to be a good lawyer.

Stanton's contempt for Lincoln continued even after the Civil War began. He frequently criticized Lincoln in letters to his friends and associates, referring often to Lincoln as an imbecile. Stanton firmly believed, as did many others, that the Rebel troops would take Washington, D.C. by as early as July 1861.

The early war effort had gone terribly for the Union. Disaster occurred for the Union troops from one battlefield to the other and the War Department was in a state of chaos. Simon Cameron of Pennsylvania had permitted corruption and graft to permeate the Department and was soon forced to resign in 1862.

Ignoring the past insults and contempt Stanton had shown him, President Lincoln turned to Stanton to take over the running of the War Department. It was a fortuitous decision. Stanton immediately reorganized the Department, weeded out corrupt officials, and cracked down on government contractors which had been providing poor equipment and food to the Union soldiers. He often worked for 14 or more hours a day, often standing the entire time, barking out orders and sending flurries of telegrams to generals and other officials. All of this was done to the ruin of his own health, for he had suffered from asthma his entire life.

Although Stanton held his contempt for Lincoln at the beginning of his service in the War Department, he gradually came to deeply respect and even admire Lincoln. The two worked in efficient harmony with one another throughout the final three years of the war and they in time developed a friendship. Both men shared the loss of children, both suffered from health issues, and both deeply felt the tragedy of the war. But both also held a deep commitment to winning the war no matter the terrible cost.

This relationship between Stanton and Lincoln is fully described in Doris Kearn Goodwin's excellent "Team Of Rivals: The Political Genius Of Abraham Lincoln." It is an outstanding source for learning much more about Stanton and Lincoln's early animosity and their profound mutual respect developed during the war.

The relationship of course took a tragic turn with the assassination of Lincoln on April 14, 1865. Upon Lincoln's death at 7:22 a.m. on Saturday April 15, 1865, Stanton reportedly said: "Now he belongs to the ages."

While Lincoln lay dying, and in the days and weeks after Lincoln's death, Stanton took over and almost single-handedly ran the Federal Government. He directed the manhunt for John Wilkes Booth, ordered the arrests of numerous suspects, appointed the Military Tribunal (appointing old Cadiz friend John A. Bingham to it) which tried the co-conspirators, and continued to oversee the War Department at the conclusion of the Civil War. It was almost a super-human effort.

Stanton continued on as Secretary of War under Lincoln's successor Andrew Johnson, but their relationship was strained at best. Finally in 1868, Johnson tried to fire Stanton, but Stanton refused to leave his post and literally barricaded himself in his office. At this point, the Radical Republicans in Congress impeached Johnson (see description under John A. Bingham), but failed to remove Johnson by a single vote. Stanton then left office and returned to his private practice.

Edwin Stanton's ultimate goal in life was to achieve appointment to the United States Supreme Court. Indeed, his old Cadiz friends Bishop Matthew Simpson and John Bingham lobbied for him in 1864 when a vacancy became available, but Lincoln felt that Stanton was too valuable at the War Department. Stanton finally achieved his goal when President Ulysses Grant nominated him on December 20, 1868. The U.S. Senate confirmed him the same day.

Sadly, Stanton never got to be seated at the Court. He died in Washington, D.C. just four days after his confirmation, on December 24, 1868. He was buried in Washington.

Today the village of Cadiz, Ohio does not have any commemorative statue or even a plaque remembering its most famous citizen. Stanton's hometown of Steubenville, Ohio does remember its native son with an impressive statue.


Monday, November 12, 2007

Lincoln Riding The Law Circuit


Abraham Lincoln spent much of his time as a lawyer riding the law circuit in rural Illinois. In those days in the late 1840's and early 1850's, lawyers and judges would travel the "circuit" from small town to small town, trying local cases. These small towns were too lightly populated to support full-time legal officials, thus the circuit riders. It was from this circuit riding that many of the traditional stories about Lincoln have come down to us.

Lincoln was able to develop and refine his keen political sense while on the circuit. Every evening after the daily court sessions were over, he would swap stories with his companions, discuss the momentous issues facing the country at the time, and began friendships which lasted until his death.

One of his circuit companions was David Davis, a Maryland-born lawyer and judge. They traveled together very often and developed a deep friendship. During the 1860 Presidential campaign, Davis served as Lincoln's campaign manager. Lincoln appointed judge Davis to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The above information is derived from a 1955 issue of American Heritage magazine, which can be read here.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Lincoln's Dog Fido


Many people don't know that Abraham Lincoln and his family owned a pet dog while they lived in Springfield, Illinois. Fido was born in circa 1855 and lived with the Lincoln family for five happy years. The dog was of uncertain ancestry, but closely resembled a retriever/shepherd mix and was roughly the color of mustard.

Fido often followed Lincoln around the streets of Springfield, happily carrying the daily paper or some other object for his master. The dog would wait calmly outside the barbershop while Lincoln would get a trim. Fido was apparently a full-fledged member of the family and was an inside dog with the run of the house. He loved a horsehair sofa in the home and often claimed it for his own.

His time with the Lincoln family ended upon Lincoln's election to the presidency. Lincoln noticed how terrified Fido was of the cannon blasts marking Lincoln's election and never enjoyed being around trains. Lincoln loved animals with a passion (he abhorred hunting and fishing, for example) and strongly believed that Fido would not survive the trip to Washington. So with great sorrow, the Lincolns gave Fido to a local family with the stipulation that he be an indoor dog, given special treats, allowed the run of the home, etc. In fact, the Lincolns even gave Fido's favorite horsehair sofa to the family who took over the raising of Fido.

Fido was still living at the time of Lincoln's assassination and his new owners brought the dog to greet mourners at the Lincoln family home in Springfield. Sadly, Fido himself was killed by a drunken man within a year of Lincoln's death.

Today, original photos or cartes-de-visite (CDV's) of Fido are highly sought after by collectors of Lincoln memorabilia. An original CDV of Fido can fetch upwards of hundreds or even thousands of dollars. They were sold as souvenirs in the months after Lincoln's death.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Gettysburg Letter To Lincoln


On November 2, 1863 a relatively obscure official in Pennsylvania, Mr. David Wills, sent a letter to President Abraham Lincoln. Contained in the letter was an invitation to Lincoln to attend the dedication of a new cemetery for soldiers killed in the Battle of Gettysburg. Mr. Wills made it quite clear that Lincoln was to include simply "A Few Appropriate Marks" during the ceremonies and that the main oration was to be given by Edward Everett, a renowned orator of the era.

Amazingly enough, this request, sent almost as an afterthought, came to Lincoln just 17 days prior to the dedication to be held on November 19. In little more than two weeks' time, Abraham Lincoln crafted what is perhaps the finest speech ever written in the English language.

The image on the right is the original letter. The text is as follows:

Gettysburg Nov. 2nd, 1863
To His Excellency A. Lincoln,
President of The United States,

Sir, The Several States having Soldiers In the Army of the Potomac, who were killed at the battle of Gettysburg, or have since died at the various hospitals which were established in the vicinity, have procured grounds on a prominent part of the Battle Field for a Cemetery, and are having the dead removed to there and properly buried.

These Grounds will be Consecrated and set apart to this sacred purpose, by appropriate Ceremonies on Thursday the 19th instant, - Hon Edward Everett will deliver the Oration.

I am authorized by the Governors of the different States to invite you to be present, and participate in these ceremonies, which will doubtless be very imposing and solemnly impressive.

It is the desire that, after the Oration, You, as Chief Executive of the Nation, formally set apart these grounds to their Sacred use by a few appropriate remarks.

It will be a source of great gratification to the many widows and orphans that have been made almost friendless by the Great Battle here, to have you personally! and it will kindle anew in the breast of the comrades of these brave dead, who are now in the tented field or nobly meeting the foe in the front, a confidence that they who sleep in death on the Battle Field are not forgotten by those highest in authority; and they will feel that, should their fate be the same, their remains will not be uncared for.

We hope you will be able to be present to perform this last solemn act to the Soldiers dead on the Battle Field.

I am with great Respect, Your Excellency's Obedient Servant,
David Wills
Agent for A.G. Curtin, Gov. of Penna. and acting for all the States.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

1864 Presidential Election


On November 8, 1864, Abraham Lincoln was re-elected to a second term as President of the United States. His running mate was Andrew Johnson, U.S. Senator from Tennessee. Johnson bitterly and bravely opposed secession and refused to have anything to do with the Confederacy. Johnson belonged to the "War Democrats" who remained loyal to the Union. Although Lincoln was still a member of the Republican party, Johnson was selected to run with Lincoln on the "Union Party" ticket.

The Democratic party nominee was George B. McClellan, the Union general whom Lincoln fired twice during the Civil War for poor results, inaction, and disobeying of orders. McClellan and his fellow "Peace Democrats" wanted to end the war at any cost, even if it meant that the Union would remain dissolved.

Going into the 1864 campaign, it wasn't at all clear that Lincoln would win re-election. The war effort was going poorly for the North, with one general after another failing to win victories. People were horrified by the endless slaughter of soldiers from both sides. Eventually, the tide shifted in favor of the Union thanks to Generals Grant and Sherman.

In the end, Lincoln and Johnson won the election with a comfortable 55%-45% victory in the popular vote and a landslide in the Electoral College. It must be remembered that the states which were in the Confederacy did not vote in this election.

The Wit and Wisdom Of George W. Bush?

Abraham Lincoln is considered by many to be the greatest humorist who has ever occupied the White House. Numerous books have been written about his keen wit and humorous stories he loved to tell, at the same time conveying wisdom to those around him.

So how does the wit of George W. Bush compare to Lincoln's? According to this article, Bob Dole, former senator from Kansas, ranks Bush about 20th out of the presidents. Bush frequently joshes about his own shortcomings, such as when he "bragged" about earning only "C's" at Harvard, for example. Other times he tries to make jokes at other people's expense, such as the time he teased a guy about wearing sunglasses at a news conference, only to find out later the man was wearing them due to a vision problem. Bush later had to apologize to the man. The article contains other instances of Bush's humor attempts.

As for his wisdom, well, some things are better left unsaid.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Mary Todd Lincoln at The National First Ladies' Library and Museum


Abraham Lincoln scholars and researchers have long been almost as fascinated by his troubled relationship and marriage with Mary Todd Lincoln as much as by Lincoln himself. Innumerable books have been written about their marriage and a PBS documentary further investigated their relationship. And certainly, a large number of biographies have been written just about Mary Todd Lincoln as well.

An excellent resource for further understanding this complicated woman is the National First Ladies' Library and Museum located in my home city of Canton, Ohio. This National Historic Site was the home of Ida Saxton McKinley, the wife of the nation's 25th President, William McKinley. This Library/Museum is the only such site dedicated to research of every First Lady in our country's history from Martha Washington to Laura Bush. Each First Lady's basic biography is located on the website as well.

The Museum portion of the complex houses special exhibits, including gowns worn by the various First Ladies, photos, various letters and documents, etc. The Museum also hosts book signings by nationally recognized authors such as Cokie Roberts of ABC and NPR who appeared in 2005 to sign her book "Founding Mothers: The Women Who Raised Our Nation."

Researchers should take advantage of the Mary Todd Lincoln bibliography compiled by the Library. The bibliography is an extremely comprehensive list of books, magazines, articles and other publications about her, and her marriage to Lincoln.

The complex was the brainchild of Mary Regula, the wife of Ralph Regula, who is the 16th Congressional District Representative to Washington, D.C. Some people, myself included, have commented that this Library and Museum is a shining example of congressional pork-barrel spending and a vanity project for Mrs. Regula. On the other hand, the complex does serve an important role for providing a greater understanding of the women who helped to shape the lives and presidencies of our nation's Chief Executives. It is well worth the visit.

Should Hillary Clinton win election to the presidency in 2008, I imagine the name will have to be changed to the National First Spouses' Library.

Canton, Ohio is located about 60 miles south of Cleveland. The city is also the home of the Professional Football Hall Of Fame. Drop by and visit both!

Unusual Lincoln Exhibit To Open


The Smithsonian American Art Museum will open a new Abraham Lincoln exhibition on March 6, 2008. The exhibition will feature artifacts and displays about Lincoln's second inaugural ball, which was held in the building which now houses the museum on March 6, 1865.

The exhibition will relate the ball to the building and its history. Items to be on exhibit will include invitations to the ball and a menu from it as well.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Anniversary Of Lincoln's 1860 Election


Abraham Lincoln was elected to his first term as President of the United States on November 6, 1860. His running mate was Hannibal Hamlin of Maine.

Lincoln faced three other major candidates in this election. Stephen A. Douglas represented the northern Democratic party. John C. Breckenridge represented the southern Democrats. John Bell was the candidate for the Constitutional Union party. Lincoln won with a plurality of only 39.8% of the popular vote, but was the clear winner in the electoral college with a total of 180 votes, more than the other three candidates combined.

In less than 15 years, Lincoln had risen from serving as an obscure single-term U.S. Congressman to achieving the highest office in the land. He of course rocketed to national prominence during the famous Lincoln-Douglas debates held during his run for the U.S. Senate against Douglas only two years before the presidential election.

How unfortunate for our country that today's leading candidates for the presidency pale in comparison to both Lincoln and Douglas. Why can't, or won't, our political parties give us better candidates from which to choose?

Monday, November 5, 2007

How Lincoln Saved The World?

There is an intriguing new book soon to be published by Michael Knox Beran, titled "Forge Of Empires 1861-1871: Three Revolutionary Statesmen and The World They Made" in which he proposes that Abraham Lincoln saved the world.

In an article from City Journal, the author gives a brief introduction to his belief that Lincoln did indeed save the world, not just the United States, from the evils of slavery. That in the end, if there had been a slave republic in North America (i.e. the Confederacy), that slavery may have spread throughout the Caribbean, and Central and South America. He claims that without a free America leading the fight for freedom throughout the world, our country would never have been able to morally fight the oppression within the former Soviet Union and Nazi Germany.

As much as I love Abraham Lincoln, I'm not sure I'd agree that Lincoln "saved the world." On the surface, at least, it seems jingoistic at the least to claim this of Lincoln, and therefore America. This concept of "save the world" strikes me as a neo-conservative belief which leads us into unnecessary conflicts throughout the world.

Of course, it is impossible to judge the hypothesis of the author without a thorough reading and study of his forthcoming book.

Emancipation Proclamation House To Reopen

The sprawling 34-room mansion which served as President Lincoln's "Camp David" is going to reopen in February following a multi-million dollar renovation.

Located on the grounds of the Soldier's Home, the house will be called "President Lincoln's Cottage." Lincoln used the house as a frequent respite from the horrendous heat, humidity, and malaria during Washington's long summers. He also used the 3-mile commute from the White House as a time to think and try to relax from the relentless pressures of the Civil War.

Lincoln wrote an early draft of his Emancipation Proclamation in the mansion. Also used by other presidents (James Buchanan, Rutherford B. Hayes, and Chester A. Arthur), the home was designated a National Monument by President Bill Clinton in 2000.

Pervez Musharraf Is No Abraham Lincoln

In a speech given on November 3, 2007, Pakistan's president/dictator Pervez Musharraf compared himself to Abraham Lincoln. Musharraf dared to compare his actions of suspending his country's constitution, removing judges, and suspending basic rights to those which Lincoln took during the U.S. Civil War.

Mr. Musharraf fails to understand one basic point: President Lincoln was a democratically elected leader who was trying, at the end, to eliminate slavery and stop armed insurrection in the United States. Musharraf is a dictator who seized power in a military coup, arrests those who oppose him, and does everything in his power to prevent democracy in Pakistan. Lincoln, on the other hand, was trying to preserve government "of the people, by the people, for the people."

President Musharraf is no Abraham Lincoln.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Second Letter To Lincoln Found From Girl Who Suggested His Beard

Seems that Grace Beddell, the little 11 year old girl who wrote to Lincoln and suggested he grow a beard, wrote to him again in 1864. The second letter was found in March by an archivist in Washington, D.C. The detailed story may be found here.

Ms. Beddell's second letter asked Lincoln for help in finding an entry level job in the government. It is most likely that President Lincoln never saw the letter, because Ms. Beddell ended up relocating to Kansas.

Her original letter ended up in the Detroit Public Library. The original second letter will remain in the National Archives in Washington. A copy of the second letter will be unveiled tomorrow at Pittsburg State University in Pittsburg, Kansas.

The Lincoln Funeral Train Carving By An American Master




At the Warther Museum in the small northeastern Ohio town of Dover, visitors can view masterpiece scale-replica carvings of famous trains from American history.

Ernest "Mooney" Warther was both an artistic and mechanical genius. One of his most magnificent creations is this exquisitely detailed model of the Abraham Lincoln funeral train. Carved in just one year from ebony wood and ivory, this model train has been called a priceless piece of art by the Smithsonian Institution. The wheels and other parts are movable as well. The carving is an exact scale replica of the original train which carried Lincoln's body back to Springfield, Illinois.

To me, the most astonishing thing about this and the other carvings in the museum is the fact that Mr. Warther had only a second grade education. His models are not only beautifully detailed, but they required an outstanding knowledge of mechanical engineering as well.

Dover, Ohio is located approximately 30 miles south of Canton or about 100 miles from Columbus. The museum is well worth the visit.

Little Known Story About Lincoln's In-laws Fighting For The Confederacy

The casual student of Lincoln probably doesn't realize that many of his wife's family members fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War. This article describes in brief detail some of Lincoln's in-laws who fought for the South.

A new book just released, titled "House of Abraham: Lincoln and the Todds, a Family Divided by War" by Stephen Berry describes in detail how Mary Todd Lincoln's sister and her children were accepted into the White House after the sister's husband was killed in battle.

Throughout the Civil War, it was rumored in Washington that Mary Todd Lincoln was actually a sympathizer and spy for the Confederacy. A congressional committee was established to investigate these rumors, in turn leading to an extraordinary unannounced appearance by Lincoln at the committee hearings. He denied the rumors with such force, but tinged with sadness, that the committee quietly suspended its investigations of Mrs. Lincoln.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Ford's Theater To Undergo Renovation And Expansion

Ford's Theater in Washington, D.C., the site of Abraham Lincoln's assassination on April 14, 1865 is going under renovation and expansion. An article from the Associated Press details that the theater will become part of a 6-building complex. The complex will include a new museum across the street from the working theater and will help to provide visitors with more insight into the events leading to the assassination.

The weapon John Wilkes Booth used to kill Lincoln will remain on display.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Abe and Che - Brothers In Arms?

Apparently, Cuban dictator Fidel Castro thinks that Abraham Lincoln and Che Guevara are brothers in arms. Castro wrote an article this past weekend in a Havana newspaper equating Lincoln and Guevara as freedom fighters.

Castro must be an admirer of Lincoln's. During a visit to Washington, D.C. after the Cuban revolution, he visited the Lincoln Memorial. He also supposedly keeps a bust of Lincoln on his desk in his office.

Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Site - A Symbolic Cabin




Abraham Lincoln was born on February 12, 1809 on his parents' Sinking Spring Farm near Hodgenville, Kentucky. Today the farm is the location of the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Site. The site features a neo-classical Memorial Shrine which houses a log cabin. For many years, the National Park Service, which operates the site, claimed that this cabin was the actual cabin in which Lincoln was born. Visitors to the site believed that this was the true birth cabin. I know I did when I visited as a young boy.

Of course, historians knew this to be incorrect. Indeed, it appears that this enshrined cabin wasn't even built until AFTER Lincoln was assassinated! People who visited the farm even prior to Lincoln's death reported that there was no trace of any cabin at the location, so how could this be his birth cabin?

For more information about the history of the "Lincoln cabin," a good source is the book "Lies Across America" by James W. Loewen. Chapter 33 goes into great detail about this cabin.

To its credit, today the National Park Service labels this a "symbolic cabin," representing the actual cabin. Still, the casual visitor to the National Historic Site must be made to understand clearly that the true cabin vanished long ago.

Here's a link to the official National Park Service website for the Lincoln Birthplace Historic Site:

And a link to the book "Lies Across America":


Thursday, November 1, 2007

Welcome To The Abraham Lincoln Blog!

Welcome to the newest Abraham Lincoln blog. As the heading states, the purpose of this blog is to provide a repository of facts, anecdotes, and even trivia about the 16th president of the United States of America. If the reader of this blog comes away with a greater understanding or appreciation of Lincoln, then this blog has achieved its goal.

While I'm new to the world of blogging, I'm not new to the web. In "real life," I work as an information technology professional for a Fortune 500 company. That's my job. But my true passion in life is the study of Abraham Lincoln. Other kids asked for Dr. Seuss books. I asked for books about Lincoln. I've always been fascinated by his life, his political career, and even his assassination. I've devoted more than 40 years of my life to reading about Lincoln, traveling to the various Lincoln sites, and collecting what small amount of original Lincoln artifacts I can afford.

As I wrote in the "About Me" section of this blog, I am not a historian, professor, or author. I'm simply one of the thousands of people who continue to seek a better understanding of the life and times of Abraham Lincoln. Thanks for dropping by!

 
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