Lincoln 1860

Lincoln 1860

Friday, December 28, 2007

Lincoln's Ford's Theater Clothing Moved To Storage

After my recent political comments about Ron Paul, Rudy Giuliani, and Barack Obama and how they are commenting on or comparing themselves to Lincoln, I want to step back and talk about just Abe himself.

My post from November 3, 2007 talks about the current renovation of Ford's Theater in Washington, D.C. The theater is undergoing restoration plus expansion which will permit a larger permanent exhibit about Lincoln's assassination and life.

Part of the preparations for the renovation included moving the clothing and boots he wore on that fateful night to the theater into a National Park Service storage unit. This article from the September 7, 2007 edition of The Washington Post details how the items were moved from Ford's Theater to the storage facility under armed police protection. A curator showed the article writer Lincoln's size boots, which are equivalent to modern-day size 14. They are of excellent quality, but were worn at the heels.

Lincoln's overcoat he wore that night was actually made and worn for his second inauguration, held just 6 weeks before the assassination. The lining contains embroidery which reads: "One Country, One Destiny." Prophetic words indeed.

The curator also pointed out bloodstains on the knees of the pants and of course on the frock coat (suit coat) Lincoln wore that night. Museum officials didn't realize that there were bloodstains on the knees, but it would make sense considering that Lincoln probably pitched forward after being shot.

Finally, the article quotes a couple of the movers, who were quite awestruck at the items they were responsible for transporting.

Once the renovations to Ford's Theater are complete in 18 months or so, the clothing and boots will be moved back to the new larger museum.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

How Lincoln Dealt With His Rivals

Today's assassination of former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto at an opposition rally in Rawalpindi, Pakistan brings to mind, President Pervez Musharraf's recent claims that his crackdowns on freedom and on opposition parties were just what Lincoln did., President Musharraf should read Doris Kearns Goodwin's excellent "Team Of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln" to see exactly how Lincoln handled his rivals. He incorporated them into his cabinet in order to prevent their active opposition as well as to have the best political minds available in order to help the country.

There's a novel approach: let your rivals live so they can assist you in running your country instead of letting your supporters kill them., President Musharraf, you are still no Abraham Lincoln. Click here to see Musharraf's laughable claims to be just like Abe.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Ron Paul's Bizarre Opinion On Lincoln And Civil War

Presidential candidate and Republican Congressman Ron Paul appeared on yesterday's "Meet The Press" for an interview held by Tim Russert. Congressman Paul has been running a somewhat dark horse campaign for president, but has recently been the recipient of millions of dollars from Internet contributions from his fans. Paul is running on "freedom," and back-to-basics tenets which appeal to some among the populace.

However, Congressman Paul uttered some shocking, if not downright bizarre, comments yesterday during his interview. He claimed that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 had everything to do with government taking over property rights and nothing to do with race relations. He claimed that Ronald Reagan was a "failure" because he didn't bring down the federal government to "constitutional levels," whatever that means.

Even more surprising and dismaying to me is Congressman Paul's complete lack of understanding about Abraham Lincoln and the reasons for the Civil War. Paul stated in the interview "Six hundred thousand Americans died in a senseless civil war…. [President Abraham Lincoln] did this just to enhance and get rid of the original intent of the republic," Paul said. "Every other major country in the world got rid of slavery without a civil war. I mean, that doesn't sound too radical to me. That sounds like a pretty reasonable approach."

Let's dissect this. Paul claims that Lincoln started the Civil War. In a matter of weeks after Lincoln was elected president, southern states began seceding from the Union. In his first inaugural address, Lincoln told the south that in their hands, not his, lay the "momentous decision of Civil War." The South responded by attacking federal government property, culminating with the bombardment of Fort Sumter. Dr. Paul either buys into neo-Confederate beliefs about the war or shows a complete lack of knowledge about it.

Additionally, anyone with even a basic knowledge of Lincoln and the Civil War understands that Lincoln's goal was to preserve the Union, not to end slavery, at least in the beginning of the war. Lincoln himself stated that if he could preserve the union by freeing all the slaves he would do so. Or if he could leave slavery intact and preserve the union, he would do that as well. And if he could save the union by freeing some slaves while leaving others alone, he would do that.

Paul also apparently buys into the commonly misheld belief that all the U.S. government had to do at the time was to buy all the slaves held in the south and that would've solved the problem. Again, he doesn't comprehend the issue. First of all, the southern states were such fervent believers in "states' rights" that they wanted NO interference from the federal government of any kind with their "peculiar institution." The southern states wanted the right to maintain, and even expand, slavery wherever they wished. Secondly, slavery was a critical part of the southern economy, which was after all mostly agricultural. Plantation owners and smaller-scale farmers strongly believed they could not afford to pay free labor for their operations.

Abraham Lincoln did not start the Civil War. Buying slaves and then freeing them wasn't possible in the charged political atmosphere of the times.

Congressman Paul displays a shocking lack of knowledge about the history of his own country and espouses extreme and inaccurate views about other events in our history as well. It's disturbing to me that such a candidate would be considered for the highest office in our land.

Paul isn't the only current candidate for president to either compare himself to Lincoln or be compared to Lincoln by others. Here's my post about Obama and here is one on Giuliani.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The History Channel To Depict Hunt For John Wilkes Booth

According to today's Denver Post, The History Channel is presenting a two-hour documentary about the hunt for John Wilkes Booth. The film is based on Michael W. Kauffman's 2004 biography of Booth, titled "American Brutus: John Wilkes Booth And The Lincoln Conspiracies."

The general public may not know that originally Booth and his fellow conspirators intended on simply kidnapping Lincoln in order to obtain leverage for the Confederacy. It was only after Booth listened to Lincoln give his last public speech in which he advocated citizenship for former slaves that Booth changed the plot to include murdering Lincoln, Secretary of State Seward, and Vice President Johnson. Seward narrowly escaped death at the hands of Lewis Payne (or Powell) in a savage stabbing, and the attack on Johnson was never carried out.

Kauffman's book is an excellent resource into the mind of John Wilkes Booth and what possessed him to commit perhaps the most cowardly act in American history. Instead of avenging the South as he hoped, Booth, by murdering Lincoln, actually ended up giving free rein to the Radical Republicans in Congress to have a far harsher period of Reconstruction than Lincoln would have permitted.

Another major source for reading about the hunt and eventual killing of John Wilkes Booth is "Manhunt: The 12 Day Chase For Lincoln's Killer" by James Swanson. It reads more like a thrilling novel as opposed to a sterile history book.

The History Channel's presentation of "The Hunt For John Wilkes Booth" premieres on Sunday December 23, 2007 at 8:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Montage of Lincoln Pushed To Represent Indiana Lincoln Celebration

A montage depicting Abraham Lincoln's life and accomplishments has been issued by Indiana artist Thomas Kennedy. The montage is officially being unveiled in Indianapolis today by Sueellen Reed, the state superintendent of schools. This is part of her push for a literacy campaign in Indiana featuring books about the nation's 16th president. My post of December 11, 2007 discusses the annual recommended book list from Ms. Reed and how it includes numerous books about Lincoln.

Ms. Reed would like to see this montage be released in cheaper editions and placed in every public school in Indiana in order to remember the Hoosier heritage of Lincoln, who lived there for 14 years.

Additionally, the Land of Lincoln Indiana organization is going to push for this montage to be the official painting of the Indiana and national bicentennial celebrations of Lincoln's birth, coming up in 2009.

The montage depicts Lincoln's childhood in Kentucky, his residency in Indiana, his adulthood in Illinois, his ascendency to the presidency, the Civil War, and the ending of slavery. The painting is impressive.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Is Obama The New Abraham Lincoln?

The latest modern-day politician to be compared to Abraham Lincoln is presidential candidate Barack Obama. And the person comparing him to Lincoln is none other than master film maker Ken Burns, of "Civil War" fame.

In "The Trail" blog from the Washington Post, Burns is quoted as endorsing Obama, praising him for his "moral courage" and "unironic posture." He goes on to compare him to Lincoln, restating how Lincoln was basically unknown and had limited experience in national politics, just as Lincoln did prior to winning the presidency.

The point that most people miss when comparing modern-day politicians to Abraham Lincoln is that Lincoln was a brilliant politician with exceedingly rare leadership skills. Comparing Obama or any other of the major candidates to Abraham Lincoln is pointless, because we don't really know how a person can or cannot lead if elected to the highest office in the land. And it especially makes no sense to say that someone is equal to Lincoln because that person has limited experience just as Lincoln did.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Abraham Lincoln A Psychic?

Was Abraham Lincoln a psychic? Yes, claims a recent book titled "The Psychic Life Of Abraham Lincoln", written by Susan Martinez, who is a self-professed "spiritualist." Today's Chicago Sun-Times contains a brief article about this book and the author's claims. It appears that she makes the claim simply because Lincoln attended a handful of seances with his wife Mary after the death of their son, Willie. Most historians claim that he attended them simply to pacify Mary, who was desperately trying to reach her dead son in any way possible.

I'd think a better claim for any latent psychic ability Lincoln may have had would be based on his dreams, which are well-documented in numerous sources. For example, Lincoln had a very vivid dream just a couple of weeks before he died that he found himself amongst mourners in the White House. When he asked "Who died?" in his dream, he was told that the president had been killed by an assassin. He also had the same recurring dream of being on a ship or boat, rapidly nearing a shore, before momentous occasions in his life. He had this dream before major Civil War battles, and had it again shortly before his death.

The book might be a fun read, but it doesn't strike me as being essential for one's Lincoln library. Seems like it's another one of these books which are speculative at best, along those which claim Lincoln was gay, or that he had some terrible disease of some kind or another.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Upcoming Books About Lincoln

There has never been a shortage of books about Abraham Lincoln. There are one-volume and multi-volume biographies, books on his marriage, books about his physical and mental health, books questioning his sexuality, and books about his humor. More books have been written about Lincoln than any other U.S. President, with the possible exception of Washington.

And still the books come. From the Library Journal comes a list of new and upcoming books about Lincoln. The more intriguing ones to me, at least, will be "Lincoln and Douglas: The Debates That Defined America" by Allen Guelzo (April 2008) and "Lincoln and the Court" by Brian McGinty (February 2008).

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Abe In Living Color

The five dollar bill is the latest U.S. currency note to undergo a makeover. According to this article from the Associated Press, the new 5$ bill will feature a larger portrait of Lincoln, some color (check out the snazzy purple 5 on the reverse), and some other high tech changes.

The goal, of course, by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing is to help thwart counterfeiting. That's all well and good, but I can' t help but think of "Monopoly" money when I see this and the other new bills. Somehow, our currency no longer looks dignified. Maybe I'm just getting old.

Next up for a redesign is Ben Franklin and the $100 bill.

Followup: New Lincoln Photo At Gettysburg

Today's Washington Post contains a followup article about the recent discovery of a potentially "new" photo of Abraham Lincoln taken at Gettysburg on November 19, 1863. As I posted in this blog on November 16 of this year, John Richter, a longtime collector of Civil War photos, was examining various photos on the Library of Congress website when he thought he noticed something "suspicious" in the background of a crowd scene taken at Gettysburg on the day of the dedication of the cemetery. After enlarging the photo 60 times, the new image of "Lincoln" popped out.

The new photograph (actually a series of two or three of them) was presented at last month's Lincoln Forum in Gettysburg, an annual gathering of Lincoln historians. The prominent Lincoln scholar Harold Holzer firmly believes that this new image is indeed that of Lincoln, but states that he would love to shout "turn around!" to be sure. However, not everyone in the audience was as convinced. The only other known photo of Lincoln taken that day at Gettysburg shows another man wearing a full beard and stovepipe hat standing next to Lincoln on the presenters' stand. Some people have suggested the figure in that photo is the same gentleman in the "new" photo. My personal opinion (and hope) is that this new photo does indeed show Lincoln. To my eyes, at least, the man's slender build is proof enough for me. The gentleman in the known photo appears to be much bulkier than the one in the "new" one.

We will probably never know for sure. If this photo is indeed a new one of Lincoln, it would be one of only about 125 known photos of the 16th president.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Rudy Giuliani's Own "Team Of Rivals"?

At a recent town hall meeting in Chicago, Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani was asked if he'd consider adding Republican rivals to his cabinet, as did Abraham Lincoln. Giuliani thought it would be a "great idea," because after all, he's read Doris Kearns Goodwin's book "Team Of Rivals: The Political Genius Of Abraham Lincoln."

Yet another modern candidate is apparently trying to emulate Lincoln. The operative words in Goodwin's book in my opinion are "Political" and "Genius." Are any of the current crop of Republican (or Democrat) candidates "political geniuses"? That remains to be seen, of course, and only time will tell. But if past performance is any indication, I would have to think not.

Then, of course, if Giuliani wins election to the presidency, he would have to be wise enough to select his "team of rivals" for their intelligence and abilities. Do any of those other candidates measure up to a Secretary of State like William Seward? Would any of the potential Department of Defense chiefs match up well to Edwin M. Stanton, Lincoln's Secretary of War? Any folks with the ability of Salmon B. Chase to head up Treasury?

Finally, the President has to be a strong enough leader to be able to hold a cabinet of strong-willed and ambitious people together. Our nation desperately needs a leader, a true leader, who can show the courage to assemble a cabinet of high ability with the propensity for action when necessary, and restraint when warranted. A leader who can unite this country and begin solving the many problems which face us now and in the future. I fear that none of this current crop of candidates have this ability.

Indiana State Superintendent Recommends Lincoln Books

From today's Indianapolis Star comes the annual list of recommended books from the Indiana Superintendent of Public Education which people might want to consider when purchasing gifts. Dr. Suellen Reed this year has included a separate list of books about Abraham Lincoln since she wants Indiana students to learn as much as possible about him prior to the Lincoln Bicentennial in 2009.

Her list of recommended books may be found here. You'll need Adobe Acrobat to read the pdf file. The list seems to be fairly inclusive and is broken down by grades. I'd suggest that she add David Donald's superb "Lincoln" biography. Another book would be "Twenty Days," the wonderful book by Philip Kundhart and Dorothy Meserve Kundhart which details the Lincoln assassination and each of the funerals. This would seem to be especially important for Indiana students since one of Lincoln's funerals was held in Indianapolis.

Indiana is planning major activities and ceremonies for the Lincoln Bicentennial. Here is a link for the website.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Abe Lincoln Missing!

A life-sized bronze statue of Abraham Lincoln is missing from Riverside Park in Hartford, Connecticut. The statue shows Lincoln reading and inviting people to sit with him. Lincoln would often "hold forth" with friends and associates during "down time" and read aloud important topics of the day.

I hope the statue is recovered. I'm sure it was expensive and it's obviously a good one. Hopefully, it's not been melted down for scrap.

Illinois County To Highlight Lincoln's Law Circuit

I came across an article from the Lincoln Courier in Lincoln, Illinois (Logan County) detailing how several people in that county are trying to obtain grant money in order to commemorate Abraham Lincoln's law circuit days. The Lincoln Legacy Trail Committee has been formed and is currently trying to determine the best ways to mark various sites throughout the county which were associated with Lincoln. This group is part of the larger Eighth Judicial Circuit Project, which is trying to thoroughly research, commemorate, and memorialize the circuit which Lincoln rode for many years.

As of now, the group is planning various signs in the different communities in the county. It's also actively seeking volunteers, stories, and ideas from members in the communities. It will be interesting to see what the group decides upon. I hope this paper will show the final signs, etc.

Lincoln rode the old 8th Judicial Circuit twice annually for anywhere from two to three months. He and fellow lawyers and judges would try and hear cases in small communities along the route which could not support full-time lawyers or judges. It was while he was on these extended trips that he developed his keen insight into people and the political subjects of the time.

My post of November 12, 2007 describes a little more about this subject.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Man Finds Old Newspapers About Lincoln Assassination

Here's a cool little story about a guy from the Boston, Massachusetts area who discovered a bunch of old newspapers stuck in the walls of his old house he's been renovating. At first, no one realized what the papers were, until someone noticed the date and headline. Dated April 15, 1865, the one paper contained the shocking headline that Abraham Lincoln had been shot and was not expected to survive. The other papers were from the days following the assassination.

A leading national dealer in antique and historic newspapers estimates that the paper from April 15 would be valued at approximately $700.00. Newsprint from that era was far more durable than that of today thanks to high rag print content. It's not uncommon for newspapers from the mid-1800's or even much earlier to appear nearly pristine. The papers in the photo appear to mostly intact, meaning that the finder might be able to sell them for a tidy amount of money in order to continue his home improvements.

Not only do I love American History, but I also love antiques. These stories are what motivates me to continue hunting for my treasures. I own a broadside (poster) from my hometown of Canton, Ohio, which announced the tragic news of the death of Lincoln. It's one of my more prized possessions.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Abraham Lincoln's Own Religion Litmus Test

The Founding Fathers of the United States valued the freedom of one's religious beliefs so highly that they listed it first among all the freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, even ahead of freedom of the press.

Yesterday's speech by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in which he vowed to "serve no one religion" brought to mind that Abraham Lincoln faced his own religion litmus test while running for Congress in 1846.

Abraham Lincoln's faith, or lack thereof, has been debated by historians since his death and was a point of contention during his life. Countless books have been written about his religious beliefs, some stating that he was deeply spiritual, while others claim he was a non-believer, nearly an atheist. At the very least, it is true that he never became an official member of any church. However, he did attend services both prior to and after becoming president.

During the Congressional campaign of 1846, Lincoln's opponent was a popular evangelical Methodist preacher of the day, Peter Cartwright. Lincoln decided to attend one of Cartwright's revival meetings after having been accused as being an atheist or "infidel." The following text is taken from Carl Sandberg's "Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years":

In due time Cartwright said, "All who desire to lead a new life, to give their hearts to God, and go to heaven, will stand," and a sprinkling of men, women, and children stood up. Then the preacher exhorted, "All who do not wish to go to hell will stand." All stood up—except Lincoln. Then said Cartwright in his gravest voice, "I observe that many responded to the first invitation to give their hearts to God and go to heaven. And I further observe that all of you save one indicated that you did not desire to go to hell. The sole exception is Mr. Lincoln, who did not respond to either invitation. May I inquire of you, Mr. Lincoln, where are you going?"

And Lincoln slowly rose and slowly spoke. "I came here as a respectful listener. I did not know that I was to be singled out by Brother Cartwright. I believe in treating religious matters with due solemnity. I admit that the questions propounded by Brother Cartwright are of great importance. I did not feel called upon to answer as the rest did. Brother Cartwright asks me directly where I am going. I desire to reply with equal directness: I am going to Congress."

The point Lincoln was trying to make to Cartwright was that one's personal beliefs or non-beliefs are just that: personal.

It is disturbing that in the 21st Century, in a country founded on the guiding principle of freedom of religion, that a major presidential candidate has to give a speech defending his religious beliefs in order to cater to a group of people who are intolerant of beliefs which differ from theirs. It is time that candidates for the presidential office remind those citizens that Freedom of Religion means that we Americans are free to choose how we worship, when we worship, or even whether we worship at all.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

George Armstrong Custer Anniversary

Today marks the 168th anniversary of the birth of George Armstrong Custer, the legendary army officer best known for his final battle and death at Little Bighorn.

I realize, of course, that the ties between Custer and Abraham Lincoln are tenuous at best. It is known that Lincoln met Custer's wife, Elizabeth (or Libby), at a reception and exclaimed "So this is the young woman whose husband goes into a charge with a whoop and a shout!" Therefore, Lincoln was obviously aware of the meteoric rise in rank (a temporary Major General at only 23) that Custer experienced in the Civil War. The only other link to Lincoln I can find is that Custer was stationed at Fort Abraham Lincoln as his last post prior to his death. I have my reasons for writing today about Custer, if you will indulge me.

Custer was born on December 5, 1839 in the small village of New Rumley, Ohio. The village is in Harrison County, which was also the home of three men who were highly influential in Lincoln's life. My post of November 13, 2007 tells the story of Matthew Simpson, Edwin Stanton, and John Bingham. What's amazing to me is how four important Civil War era figures could hail from the same rural county.

Custer spent his entire youth living in Harrison County and attended college in the nearby village of Hopedale, Ohio. After a stint as a teacher, he enrolled at West Point, where he finished last in his class.

His career is well-known and his final battle and death are legendary. This link is a good place to read much more about the man. He remains a highly controversial figure of American history to this day.

I mentioned earlier why I wanted to write about Custer today. My departed father was born exactly 100 years later to the day on December 5, 1939 just four miles away from where Custer was born. And he is buried just a couple of miles from the Custer birthplace. My dad was forever fascinated by George Armstrong Custer and was proud to have shared a birthday with him, especially having been born in the same area.

Happy Birthday, Colonel Custer. Happy Birthday, dad. I miss you.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Abraham Lincoln's Father's and Stepmother's Gravesite

From a small town Illinois newspaper website comes this interesting story about the cemetery where Abraham Lincoln's father, Thomas, and his stepmother, Sarah Bush Lincoln, lie in eternal rest. The Thomas Lincoln Cemetery is located in Coles County, Illinois in the village of Janesville.

The article quotes a gentleman who claims that his ancestor showed President-elect Lincoln the location of his father's grave just before Lincoln departed for Washington, D.C. to take the oath of office. While this story is probably a family legend with no basis in fact, it is indeed known that Lincoln did not attend the funeral of his father Thomas.

Although Abraham Lincoln absolutely treasured his step-mother Sarah, his relationship with his father was never good to begin with and the two grew far apart as Abraham attained adulthood. David Herbert Donald in his masterpiece biography "Lincoln" details the estrangement between father and son, which seemed primarily to stem from the younger Lincoln's ambition and drive for learning, concepts which were alien to Thomas. Additionally, Thomas was a member of a Baptist church and seemed to fault Abe for never joining. It's also known that Lincoln did visit his father and stepmother from time to time while riding the law circuit, but he had very little contact with Thomas most of the time.

The article in question is of interest but it does contain some inaccuracies. It claims that Sarah Bush Lincoln was deceased by the time Lincoln left for Washington, but she of course outlived him, stating "I know'd they'd kill him" when she received news of his assassination. The article also quotes a gentleman who claims that Lincoln and Thomas got on a lot better than historians claim. This contradicts what the facts seem to support.

Nonetheless, I found the article to be informative and it further added to my Lincoln knowledge. I hope it added to yours as well.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

New Book Debunks Lincoln Myths and Legends

With the possible exception of George Washington, no other American president has so many popular legends and myths associated with him than Abraham Lincoln. In his latest book on Lincoln, Edward Steers Jr. aims to debunk some of the most lingering Lincoln legends. Titled "Lincoln Legends: Myths, Hoaxes, and Confabulations Associated With Our Greatest President," Steers addresses fourteen stubborn myths about Lincoln and sets out to prove them incorrect once and for all. Beginning with the so-called Lincoln Birth Cabin , the book continues investigating myths about Lincoln throughout his life, including whether or not he had a love affair with Ann Rutledge, if Mary Todd Lincoln was a confederate spy, if Dr. Mudd was or was not guilty, etc.

The noted Lincoln scholar, Harold Holzer, wrote the introduction for this book and touches briefly on how the myth of "Lincoln The Railsplitter" first started.

Steers, of course, is the author of the best-selling "Blood On The Moon: The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln". Here is a book review describing his latest book more fully. Looks like Steers might have another winner on his hands.

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

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.


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.

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