September 3, 1864: Proclamation of Day of Prayer and Thanksgiving

Lincoln Quote
Abraham Lincoln understood that with the capture of Atlanta, victory in the War was almost assured, and he reminded the American people who to thank for it.
Executive Mansion,
Washington City September 3d. 1864

The signal success that Divine Providence has recently vouchsafed to the operations of the United States fleet and army in the harbor of Mobile and the reduction of Fort-Powell, Fort-Gaines, and Fort-Morgan, and the glorious achievements of the Army under Major General Sherman in the State of Georgia, resulting in the capture of the City of Atlanta, call for devout acknowledgement to the Supreme Being in whose hands are the destinies of nations. It is therefore requested that on next Sunday, in all places of public worship in the United-States, thanksgiving be offered to Him for His mercy in preserving our national existence against the insurgent rebels who so long have been waging a cruel war against the Government of the United-States, for its overthrow; and also that prayer be made for the Divine protection to our brave soldiers and their leaders in the field, who have so ofen and so gallantly perilled their lives in battling with the enemy; and for blessing and comfort from the Father of Mercies to the sick, wounded, and prisoners, and to the orphans and widows of those who have fallen in the service of their country, and that he will continue to uphold the Government of the United-States against all the efforts of public enemies and secret foes.

ABRAHAM LINCOLN

 

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August 22, 1864: Lincoln Addresses the 166th Ohio

Lincoln, six feet one in his stocking feet,

The lank man, knotty and tough as a hickory rail,

Whose hands were always too big for white-kid gloves,

Whose wit was a coonskin sack of dry, tall tales,

Whose weathered face was homely as a plowed field–

Abraham Lincoln, who padded up and down

The sacred White House in nightshirt and carpet-slippers,

And yet could strike young hero-worshipping Hay

As dignified past any neat, balanced, fine

Plutarchan sentences carved in a Latin bronze;

The low clown out of the prairies, the ape-buffoon,

The small-town lawyer, the crude small-time politician,

State-character but comparative failure at forty

In spite of ambition enough for twenty Caesars,

Honesty rare as a man without self-pity,

Kindness as large and plain as a prairie wind,

And a self-confidence like an iron bar:

This Lincoln, President now by the grace of luck,

Disunion, politics, Douglas and a few speeches

Which make the monumental booming of Webster

Sound empty as the belly of a burst drum.

Stephen Vincent Benet

(I originally posted this on February 9, 2012.  The comments it contains regarding my late son Larry reminds me that in this Vale of Tears we can never know the ending of our personal history, but we can do our best to make it a tale worth reading when we come to our end, something that I think both Mr. Lincoln and my son accomplished on vastly different scales.)

Today is the 203rd birthday of the Sixteenth President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln.  The above video is an interesting and imaginative interview of Lincoln, if the film technology of the Thirties of the last century had been available in 1860.

Lately I have been reading a book on Lincoln with my autistic son.  I point at the words and he reads them, an early morning ritual we have carried out for the last 14 years.  Young Lincoln’s struggles against the poverty of his early years, and his lack of more than one year in total of formal education, strikes a chord with me in regard to my son’s struggles against his autism.  One of the many reasons why I find Mr. Lincoln’s life endlessly fascinating is the theme throughout it of the most extraordinary possibilities in all of us, no matter the cards that Fate dealt to us initially. (more…)

Published in: on August 22, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on August 22, 1864: Lincoln Addresses the 166th Ohio  
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July 10, 1864: Lincoln Telegraphs Grant for Help

AHOL-EHCvW-JubalEarly

 

On July 10, 1864 Jubal Early’s men were approaching the outer suburbs of Washington and panic was seizing the city.  Lincoln’s telegram to Grant does not indicate any panic on the part of Lincoln, but worry about whether Early would take the city: (more…)

Published in: on July 10, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on July 10, 1864: Lincoln Telegraphs Grant for Help  
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Springfield Book Haul

I took advantage of the Fourth of July falling on a Thursday this year and closed the law mines down on Friday.  My family and I on the 5th took our annual pilgrimage to the Lincoln sites in Springfield.  The most striking new feature at the Lincoln Museum is a 31 foot statue of the Great Emancipator at the entrance to the museum.  It has become a favorite spot for taking photographs and videos.  Lincoln is shown standing next to a modern man holding a copy of the Gettysburg Address.  This is a temporary addition until September 20 of next year.  The statue has already appeared in Chicago and Peoria.  (Yeah, the love that Illinois has for its favorite son cannot be overstated.)

After the Museum we went to eat at The Feed Store, our normal place for lunch when we are in Springfield.  We were dismayed when we found that they were closed until Monday, they also taking advantage of having a long Fourth of July weekend.  We ate at a local pizza joint, whose name I shall mercifully omit.  The decor was tacky, the air conditioning was malfunctioning, the service was snail-like and the food was barely adequate.  Ah well, trips are for experimentation and most experiments fail.  On to the Lincoln Tomb and our usual prayers for Lincoln and his family.  The coolness of the Tomb was appreciated, as the weather was hot and humid, and the mildness of our Spring this year has left us unacclimated to typical Central Illinois early July weather.

It would not be a Lincoln pilgrimage without a book haul:

  1. Lincoln:  A Very Short Introduction, Allen C. Guelzo (2009)-I love this series.  The volumes are on one topic and enlist a top scholar to write about 140 pages.  I have dozens of books in this inexpensive way to build a library on varied subjects.  Guelzo is a noted Civil War scholar who has written extensively on Lincoln.
  2. Prairie Defender:  The Murder Trials of Abraham Lincoln, George R. Deckle, Sr. (2017)-Lincoln did not have a long career at the Bar, only 24 years, with substantial interruptions when he served in Congress for two years, his Senate race against Douglas in 1858 and his race for the Presidency against Douglas in 1860, but during that time he handled almost 5,000 cases, including fourteen murder trials.  Lincoln earned a reputation as a skilled trial attorney, making use of his good memory for the facts of a case, his quick wits and his eloquence.  No wonder that Lincoln perhaps had the most enjoyable times in his life when he was practicing law.
  3. Lincoln’s Pathfinder: John C. Fremont and the Violent Election of 1856, John Bicknell (2017)-One may have pardoned the glee of Democrats in the early 1850’s as they viewed the immolation of the Whig Party.  However, their glee turned into dismay as the Republican Party was born, filled with Whigs and disgruntled Democrats, united in opposition to slavery.  In its first presidential election in 1856, the new party gained a third of the votes and 114 electoral votes.  Thoughtful Democrats noted that if the Republicans were able to gain the votes cast in the North in 1856 for former President Millard Fillmore running on the Know-Nothing Party, they could sweep the North and win the next Presidential election contest without gaining a single electoral vote from the Border States or the South and that is just what happened in 1860.
  4. The Election of 1860 Reconsidered, A. James Fuller editor, (1860)-A series of essays looking at the Presidential election of 1860.  A momentous election, the Republicans would hold the White House until 1912, with the exception of the non-consecutive terms of Grover Cleveland, and Andrew Johnson serving out Lincoln’s second term.  It was a reversal of the Democrat dominance of the White House for three decades with two Whig interruptions.  For such a momentous election it didn’t have much drama.  Once the Democrats split, Mary Lincoln could begin planning her shopping lists for the White House.  When political power shifts in this country, the results tend not to be a surprise, which is why the 2016 election results were such a stunner.
  5. Yankee Blitzkrieg:  Wilson’s Raid Through Alabama and Georgia, James Pickett Jones (1976)-This was the first book length study of Wilson’s cavalry raid, more than a century after the raid, which culminated in the capture of Selma, Alabama.  The lack of scholarly attention is understandable since by the ending months of the War the Confederacy was completely used up, and Wilson’s raid merely demonstrated that 13,000 Union troopers armed with repeaters could go where they wanted to, and that even the raw military genius of General Nathan Bedford Forrest could not make this a contest.
  6. Lincoln and the Preachers, Edgar Dewitt Jones, (1948)-A pioneering work when it came out, looking at Lincoln’s contacts with Protestant ministers, Catholic priests and Jewish rabbis.  Lincoln and religion is an absorbing topic as Lincoln, surprisingly, or perhaps not so surprisingly, for a man who began his adult life as a sceptic of religion, had a lifelong fascination with religion, and thought more deeply about God than any other American president.
  7. Vicksburg:  The Campaign That Opened the Mississippi, Michael B. Ballard (2004)-Since the Sixties of the last century there has been a lot of good studies on the Vicksburg campaign which had been largely ignored by Civil War scholars up to that point.  That is fortunate.  I rate the Vicksburg campaign as the most fascinating of the War.  A combined operation, involving both land and river fleets, Vicksburg presented Grant with a military problem that appeared insoluble.  That Grant solved it, at the critical portion of the campaign with forces numerically not much larger than the total Confederate forces he was confronting, would cause me to rank him among the top commanders of the Civil War, even if he had accomplished nothing other than winning this campaign.
  8. Abraham Lincoln Association Papers, 1932 and 1835.  One of the treasures of the Prairie Archives bookstore in Springfield is the many volumes of the Abraham Lincoln Association Papers, consisting usually of two papers on Lincoln delivered at their annual meetings.  These volumes look at Lincoln as a constitutional lawyer, his youthful environs, Lincoln and the campaign of 1864 and an analysis of Lincoln’s humor.  These volumes are true treasure troves for students of Lincoln.  I am pleased to say the Association is still in operation.  Go here to look at their website.
  9. Jefferson Davis:  Private Letters 1823-1889, Hudson Strode, (1966)-One of the weaknesses of Civil War scholarship are the gaps in it.  One of the most glaring gaps is Jefferson Davis who has received shockingly little serious study.  The late Hudson Strode was one of the first to attempt to remedy this with his three volume biography.  Biased in favor of Davis, and superseded by subsequent biographies, see William C. Davis’ Jefferson Davis:  The Man and His Hour, the work still stands as a pioneering effort.
  10. Soldiers of the Cross, David Power Conyngham, (2019)-Conyngham was a veteran of the Irish Brigade and an Irish Catholic journalist.  He wrote this manuscript but died in 1883 before it was published.  The manuscript found its way into the archives of Notre Dame.  Editors David J. Endres and William B. Kurtz prepared it for publication, and Notre Dame Press has just published it.  A study of the heroism of Catholic clergy on both sides in the Civil War, a long delayed tribute to those men and women who chipped away at much anti-Catholic prejudice by their valor and mercy.
Published in: on July 8, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Springfield Book Haul  
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July 4, 1861: Lincoln Message to Congress

 

I doubt if there has been a gloomier Fourth of July for the nation than the one in 1861 with the nation divided and a civil war underway.  Lincoln in his message to Congress on that day, explained his actions while Congress was not in session, and announced the policy of the government to suppress the rebellion:

Fellow-Citizens of the Senate and House of Representatives:

Having been convened on an extraordinary occasion, as authorized by the Constitution, your attention is not called to any ordinary subject of legislation.

At the beginning of the present Presidential term, four months ago, the functions of the Federal Government were found to be generally suspended within the several States of South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Florida, excepting only those of the Post-Office Department.

Within these States all the forts, arsenals, dockyards, custom-houses, and the like, including the movable and stationary property in and about them, had been seized and were held in open hostility to this Government, excepting only Forts Pickens, Taylor, and Jefferson, on and near the Florida coast, and Fort Sumter, in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina. The forts thus seized had been put in improved condition, new ones had been built, and armed forces had been organized and were organizing, all avowedly with the same hostile purpose.

The forts remaining in the possession of the Federal Government in and near these States were either besieged or menaced by warlike preparations, and especially Fort Sumter was nearly surrounded by well-protected hostile batteries, with guns equal in quality to the best of its own and outnumbering the latter as perhaps ten to one. A disproportionate share of the Federal muskets and rifles had somehow found their way into these States, and had been seized to be used against the Government. Accumulations of the public revenue lying within them had been seized for the same object. The Navy was scattered in distant seas, leaving but a very small part of it within the immediate reach of the Government. Officers of the Federal Army and Navy had resigned in great numbers, and of those resigning a large proportion had taken up arms against the Government. Simultaneously and in connection with all this the purpose to sever the Federal Union was openly avowed. In accordance with this purpose, an ordinance had been adopted in each of these States declaring the States respectively to be separated from the National Union. A formula for instituting a combined government of these States had been promulgated, and this illegal organization, in the character of Confederate States, was already invoking recognition, aid, and intervention from foreign powers.

Finding this condition of things and believing it to be an imperative duty upon the incoming Executive to prevent, if possible, the consummation of such attempt to destroy the Federal Union, a choice of means to that end became indispensable. This choice was made, and was declared in the inaugural address. The policy chosen looked to the exhaustion of all peaceful measures before a resort to any stronger ones. It sought only to hold the public places and property not already wrested from the Government and to collect the revenue, relying for the rest on time, discussion, and the ballot box. It promised a continuance of the mails at Government expense to the very people who were resisting the Government, and it gave repeated pledges against any disturbance to any of the people or any of their rights. Of all that which a President might constitutionally and justifiably do in such a case, everything was forborne without which it was believed possible to keep the Government on foot.

On the 5th of March, the present incumbent’s first full day in office, a letter of Major Anderson, commanding at Fort Sumter, written on the 28th of February and received at the War Department on the 4th of March, was by that Department placed in his hands. This letter expressed the professional opinion of the writer that reenforcements could not be thrown into that fort within the time for his relief rendered necessary by the limited supply of provisions, and with a view of holding possession of the same, with a force of less than 20,000 good and well-disciplined men. This opinion was concurred in by all the officers of his command, and their memoranda on the subject were made inclosures of Major Anderson’s letter. The whole was immediately laid before Lieutenant-General Scott, who at once concurred with Major Anderson in opinion. On reflection, however, he took full time, consulting with other officers, both of the Army and the Navy, and at the end of four days came reluctantly, but decidedly, to the same conclusion as before. He also stated at the same time that no such sufficient force was then at the control of the Government or could be raised and brought to the ground within the time when the provisions in the fort would be exhausted. In a purely military point of view this reduced the duty of the Administration in the case to the mere matter of getting the garrison safely out of the fort.

It was believed, however, that to so abandon that position under the circumstances would be utterly ruinous; that the necessity under which it was to be done would not be fully understood; that by many it would be construed as a part of a voluntary policy; that at home it would discourage the friends of the Union, embolden its adversaries, and go far to insure to the latter a recognition abroad; that, in fact, it would be our national destruction consummated. This could not be allowed. Starvation was not yet upon the garrison, and ere it would be reached Fort Pickens might be reenforced. This last would be a clear indication of policy, and would better enable the country to accept the evacuation of Fort Sumter as a military necessity . An order was at once directed to be sent for the landing of the troops from the steamship Brooklyn into Fort Pickens. This order could not go by land but must take the longer and slower route by sea. The first return news from the order was received just one week before the fall of Fort Sumter. The news itself was that the officer commanding the Sabine , to which vessel the troops had been transferred from the Brooklyn , acting upon some quasi armistice of the late Administration (and of the existence of which the present Administration, up to the time the order was dispatched, had only too vague and uncertain rumors to fix attention), had refused to land the troops. To now reenforce Fort Pickens before a crisis would be reached at Fort Sumter was impossible, rendered so by the near exhaustion of provisions in the latter-named fort. In precaution against such a conjuncture the Government had a few days before commenced preparing an expedition, as well adapted as might be, to relieve Fort Sumter, which expedition was intended to be ultimately used or not, according to circumstances. The strongest anticipated case for using it was now presented, and it was resolved to send it forward. As had been intended in this contingency, it was also resolved to notify the governor of South Carolina that he might expect an attempt would be made to provision the fort, and that if the attempt should not be resisted there would be no effort to throw in men, arms, or ammunition without further notice, or in case of an attack upon the fort. This notice was accordingly given, whereupon the fort was attacked and bombarded to its fall, without even awaiting the arrival of the provisioning expedition.

It is thus seen that the assault upon and reduction of Fort Sumter was in no sense a matter of self-defense on the part of the assailants. They well knew that the garrison in the fort could by no possibility commit aggression upon them. They knew–they were expressly notified–that the giving of bread to the few brave and hungry men of the garrison was all which would on that occasion be attempted, unless themselves, by resisting so much, should provoke more. They knew that this Government desired to keep the garrison in the fort, not to assail them, but merely to maintain visible possession, and thus to preserve the Union from actual and immediate dissolution, trusting, as hereinbefore stated, to time, discussion, and the ballot box for final adjustment; and they assailed and reduced the fort for precisely the reverse object–to drive out the visible authority of the Federal Union, and thus force it to immediate dissolution. That this was their object the Executive well understood; and having said to them in the inaugural address, “You can have no conflict without being yourselves the aggressors,” he took pains not only to keep this declaration good, but also to keep the case so free from the power of ingenious sophistry as that the world should not be able to misunderstand it. By the affair at Fort Sumter, with its surrounding circumstances, that point was reached. Then and thereby the assailants of the Government began the conflict of arms, without a gun in sight or in expectancy to return their fire, save only the few in the fort, sent to that harbor years before for their own protection, and still ready to give that protection in whatever was lawful. In this act, discarding all else, they have forced upon the country the distinct issue, “Immediate dissolution or blood.”

And this issue embraces more than the fate of these United States. It presents to the whole family of man the question whether a constitutional republic, or democracy–a government of the people by the same people–can or can not maintain its territorial integrity against its own domestic foes. It presents the question whether discontented individuals, too few in numbers to control administration according to organic law in any case, can always, upon the pretenses made in this case, or on any other pretenses, or arbitrarily without any pretense, break up their government, and thus practically put an end to free government upon the earth. It forces us to ask, Is there in all republics this inherent and fatal weakness? Must a government of necessity be too strong for the liberties of its own people, or too weak to maintain its own existence?

So viewing the issue, no choice was left but to call out the war power of the Government and so to resist force employed for its destruction by force for its preservation.

The call was made, and the response of the country was most gratifying, surpassing in unanimity and spirit the most sanguine expectation. Yet none of the States commonly called slave States, except Delaware gave a regiment through regular State organization. A few regiments have been organized within some others of those States by individual enterprise and received into the Government service. Of course the seceded States, so called (and to which Texas had been joined about the time of the inauguration), gave no troops to the cause of the Union. The border States, so called, were not uniform in their action, some of them being almost for the Union, while in others, as Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Arkansas, the Union sentiment was nearly repressed and silenced. The course taken in Virginia was the most remarkable, perhaps the most important. A convention elected by the people of that State to consider this very question of disrupting the Federal Union was in session at the capital of Virginia when Fort Sumter fell. To this body the people had chosen a large majority of professed Union men. Almost immediately after the fall of Sumter many members of that majority went over to the original disunion minority, and with them adopted an ordinance for withdrawing the State from the Union. Whether this change was wrought by their great approval of the assault upon Sumter or their great resentment at the Government’s resistance to that assault is not definitely known. Although they submitted the ordinance for ratification to a vote of the people, to be taken on a day then somewhat more than a month distant, the convention and the legislature (which was also in session at the same time and place), with leading men of the State not members of either, immediately commenced acting as if the State were already out of the Union. They pushed military preparations vigorously forward all over the State. They seized the United States armory at Harpers Ferry and the navy-yard at Gosport, near Norfolk. They received–perhaps invited–into their State large bodies of troops, with their warlike appointments, from the so-called seceded States. They formally entered into a treaty of temporary alliance and cooperation with the so-called “Confederate States,” and sent members to their congress at Montgomery; and, finally, they permitted the insurrectionary government to be transferred to their capital at Richmond.

The people of Virginia have thus allowed this giant insurrection to make its nest within her borders, and this Government has no choice left but to deal with it where it finds it; and it has the less regret, as the loyal citizens have in due form claimed its protection. Those loyal citizens this Government is bound to recognize and protect, as being Virginia.

In the border States, so called–in fact, the Middle States–there are those who favor a policy which they call “armed neutrality;” that is, an arming of those States to prevent the Union forces passing one way or the disunion the other over their soil. This would be disunion completed. Figuratively speaking, it would be the building of an impassable wall along the line of separation, and yet not quite an impassable one, for, under the guise of neutrality, it would tie the hands of the Union men and freely pass supplies from among them to the insurrectionists, which it could not do as an open enemy. At a stroke it would take all the trouble off the hands of secession, except only what proceeds from the external blockade. It would do for the disunionists that which of all things they most desire–feed them well and give them disunion without a struggle of their own. It recognizes no fidelity to the Constitution, no obligation to maintain the Union; and while very many who have favored it are doubtless loyal citizens, it is, nevertheless, very injurious in effect.

Recurring to the action of the Government, it may be stated that at first a call was made for 75,000 militia, and rapidly following this a proclamation was issued for closing the ports of the insurrectionary districts by proceedings in the nature of blockade. So far all was believed to be strictly legal. At this point the insurrectionists announced their purpose to enter upon the practice of privateering.

Other calls were made for volunteers to serve three years unless sooner discharged, and also for large additions to the Regular Army and Navy. These measures, whether strictly legal or not, were ventured upon under what appeared to be a popular demand and a public necessity, trusting then, as now, that Congress would readily ratify them. It is believed that nothing has been done beyond the constitutional competency of Congress.

Soon after the first call for militia it was considered a duty to authorize the Commanding General in proper cases, according to his discretion, to suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, or, in other words, to arrest and detain without resort to the ordinary processes and forms of law such individuals as he might deem dangerous to the public safety. This authority has purposely been exercised but very sparingly. Nevertheless, the legality and propriety of what has been done under it are questioned, and the attention of the country has been called to the proposition that one who is sworn to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed” should not himself violate them. Of course some consideration was given to the questions of power and propriety before this matter was acted upon. The whole of the laws which were required to be faithfully executed were being resisted and failing of execution in nearly one-third of the States. Must they be allowed to finally fail of execution, even had it been perfectly clear that by the use of the means necessary to their execution some single law, made in such extreme tenderness of the citizen’s liberty that practically it relieves more of the guilty than of the innocent, should to a very limited extent be violated? To state the question more directly, Are all the laws but one to go unexecuted, and the Government itself go to pieces lest that one be violated? Even in such a case, would not the official oath be broken if the Government should be overthrown when it was believed that disregarding the single law would tend to preserve it? But it was not believed that this question was presented. It was not believed that any law was violated. The provision of the Constitution that “the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended unless when, in cases of rebellion or invasion, the public safety may require it” is equivalent to a provision–is a provision-that such privilege may be suspended when, in cases of rebellion or invasion, the public safety does require it. It was decided that we have a case of rebellion and that the public safety does require the qualified suspension of the privilege of the writ which was authorized to be made. Now it is insisted that Congress, and not the Executive, is vested with this power; but the Constitution itself is silent as to which or who is to exercise the power; and as the provision was plainly made for a dangerous emergency, it can not be believed the framers of the instrument intended that in every case the danger should run its course until Congress could be called together, the very assembling of which might be prevented, as was intended in this case, by the rebellion.

No more extended argument is now offered, as an opinion at some length will probably be presented by the Attorney-General. Whether there shall be any legislation upon the subject, and, if any, what, is submitted entirely to the better judgment of Congress.

The forbearance of this Government had been so extraordinary and so long continued as to lead some foreign nations to shape their action as if they supposed the early destruction of our National Union was probable. While this on discovery gave the Executive some concern, he is now happy to say that the sovereignty and rights of the United States are now everywhere practically respected by foreign powers, and a general sympathy with the country is manifested throughout the world.

The reports of the Secretaries of the Treasury, War, and the Navy will give the information in detail deemed necessary and convenient for your deliberation and action, while the Executive and all the Departments will stand ready to supply omissions or to communicate new facts considered important for you to know.

It is now recommended that you give the legal means for making this contest a short and a decisive one; that you place at the control of the Government for the work at least 400,000 men and $400,000,000. That number of men is about one-tenth of those of proper ages within the regions where apparently all are willing to engage, and the sum is less than a twenty-third part of the money value owned by the men who seem ready to devote the whole. A debt of $600,000,000 now is a less sum per head than was the debt of our Revolution when we came out of that struggle, and the money value in the country now bears even a greater proportion to what it was then than does the population. Surely each man has as strong a motive now to preserve our liberties as each had then to establish them.

A right result at this time will be worth more to the world than ten times the men and ten times the money. The evidence reaching us from the country leaves no doubt that the material for the work is abundant, and that it needs only the hand of legislation to give it legal sanction and the hand of the Executive to give it practical shape and efficiency. One of the greatest perplexities of the Government is to avoid receiving troops faster than it can provide for them. In a word, the people will save their Government if the Government itself will do its part only indifferently well.

It might seem at first thought to be of little difference whether the present movement at the South be called “secession” or “rebellion.” The movers, however, well understand the difference. At the beginning they knew they could never raise their treason to any respectable magnitude by any name which implies violation of law. They knew their people possessed as much of moral sense, as much of devotion to law and order, and as much pride in and reverence for the history and Government of their common country as any other civilized and patriotic people. They knew they could make no advancement directly in the teeth of these strong and noble sentiments. Accordingly, they commenced by an insidious debauching of the public mind. They invented an ingenious sophism, which, if conceded, was followed by perfectly logical steps through all the incidents to the complete destruction of the Union. The sophism itself is that any State of the Union may consistently with the National Constitution, and therefore lawfully and peacefully , withdraw from the Union without the consent of the Union or of any other State. The little disguise that the supposed right is to be exercised only for just cause, themselves to be the sole judge of its justice, is too thin to merit any notice.

With rebellion thus sugar coated they have been drugging the public mind of their section for more than thirty years, and until at length they have brought many good men to a willingness to take up arms against the Government the day after some assemblage of men have enacted the farcical pretense of taking their State out of the Union who could have been brought to no such thing the day before .

This sophism derives much, perhaps the whole, of its currency from the assumption that there is some omnipotent and sacred supremacy pertaining to a State–to each State of our Federal Union. Our States have neither more nor less power than that reserved to them in the Union by the Constitution, no one of them ever having been a State out of the Union. The original ones passed into the Union even before they cast off their British colonial dependence, and the new ones each came into the Union directly from a condition of dependence, excepting Texas; and even Texas, in its temporary independence, was never designated a State. The new ones only took the designation of States on coming into the Union, while that name was first adopted for the old ones in and by the Declaration of Independence. Therein the “United Colonies” were declared to be “free and independent States;” but even then the object plainly was not to declare their independence of one another or of the Union, but directly the contrary, as their mutual pledge and their mutual action before, at the time, and afterwards abundantly show. The express plighting of faith by each and all of the original thirteen in the Articles of Confederation, two years later, that the Union shall be perpetual is most conclusive. Having never been States, either in substance or in name, outside of the Union, whence this magical omnipotence of “State rights,” asserting a claim of power to lawfully destroy the Union itself? Much is said about the “sovereignty” of the States, but the word even is not in the National Constitution, nor, as is believed, in any of the State constitutions. What is a “sovereignty” in the political sense of the term? Would it be far wrong to define it “a political community without a political superior”? Tested by this, no one of our States, except Texas, ever was a sovereignty; and even Texas gave up the character on coming into the Union, by which act she acknowledged the Constitution of the United States and the laws and treaties of the United States made in pursuance of the Constitution to be for her the supreme law of the land. The States have their status in the Union, and they have no other legal status. If they break from this, they can only do so against law and by revolution. The Union, and not themselves separately, procured their independence and their liberty. By conquest or purchase the Union gave each of them whatever of independence and liberty it has. The Union is older than any of the States, and, in fact, it created them as States. Originally some dependent colonies made the Union, and in turn the Union threw off their old dependence for them and made them States, such as they are. Not one of them ever had a State constitution independent of the Union. Of course it is not forgotten that all the new States framed their constitutions before they entered the Union, nevertheless dependent upon and preparatory to coming into the Union.

Unquestionably the States have the powers and rights reserved to them in and by the National Constitution; but among these surely are not included all conceivable powers, however mischievous or destructive, but at most such only as were known in the world at the time as governmental powers; and certainly a power to destroy the Government itself had never been known as a governmental–as a merely administrative power. This relative matter of national power and State rights, as a principle, is no other than the principle of generality and locality . Whatever concerns the whole should be confided to the whole–to the General Government–while whatever concerns only the State should be left exclusively to the State. This is all there is of original principle about it. Whether the National Constitution in defining boundaries between the two has applied the principle with exact accuracy is not to be questioned. We are all bound by that defining without question.

What is now combated is the position that secession is consistent with the Constitution–is lawful and peaceful . It is not contended that there is any express law for it, and nothing should ever be implied as law which leads to unjust or absurd consequences. The nation purchased with money the countries out of which several of these States were formed. Is it just that they shall go off without leave and without refunding? The nation paid very large sums (in the aggregate, I believe, nearly a hundred millions) to relieve Florida of the aboriginal tribes. Is it just that she shall now be off without consent or without making any return? The nation is now in debt for money applied to the benefit of these so-called seceding States in common with the rest. Is it just either that creditors shall go unpaid or the remaining States pay the whole? A part of the present national debt was contracted to pay the old debts of Texas. Is it just that she shall leave and pay no part of this herself?

Again: If one State may secede, so may another; and when all shall have seceded none is left to pay the debts. Is this quite just to creditors? Did we notify them of this sage view of ours when we borrowed their money? If we now recognize this doctrine by allowing the seceders to go in peace, it is difficult to see what we can do if others choose to go or to extort terms upon which they will promise to remain.

The seceders insist that our Constitution admits of secession. They have assumed to make a national constitution of their own, in which of necessity they have either discarded or retained the right of secession, as they insist it exists in ours. If they have discarded it, they thereby admit that on principle it ought not to be in ours. If they have retained it, by their own construction of ours they show that to be consistent they must secede from one another whenever they shall find it the easiest way of settling their debts or effecting any other selfish or unjust object. The principle itself is one of disintegration, and upon which no government can possibly endure.

If all the States save one should assert the power to drive that one out of the Union, it is presumed the whole class of seceder politicians would at once deny the power and denounce the act as the greatest outrage upon State rights. But suppose that precisely the same act, instead of being called “driving the one out,” should be called “the seceding of the others from that one,” it would be exactly what the seceders claim to do, unless, indeed, they make the point that the one, because it is a minority, may rightfully do what the others, because they are a majority, may not rightfully do. These politicians are subtle and profound on the rights of minorities. They are not partial to that power which made the Constitution and speaks from the preamble, calling itself “we, the people.”

It may well be questioned whether there is to-day a majority of the legally qualified voters of any State, except, perhaps, South Carolina, in favor of disunion. There is much reason to believe that the Union men are the majority in many, if not in every other one, of the so-called seceded States. The contrary has not been demonstrated in any one of them. It is ventured to affirm this even of Virginia and Tennessee; for the result of an election held in military camps, where the bayonets are all on one side of the question voted upon, can scarcely be considered as demonstrating popular sentiment. At such an election all that large class who are at once for the Union and against coercion would be coerced to vote against the Union.

It may be affirmed without extravagance that the free institutions we enjoy have developed the powers and improved the condition of our whole people beyond any example in the world. Of this we now have a striking and an impressive illustration. So large an army as the Government has now on foot was never before known without a soldier in it but who had taken his place there of his own free choice. But more than this, there are many single regiments whose members, one and another, possess full practical knowledge of all the arts, sciences, professions, and whatever else, whether useful or elegant, is known in the world; and there is scarcely one from which there could not be selected a President, a Cabinet, a Congress, and perhaps a court, abundantly competent to administer the Government itself. Nor do I say this is not true also in the army of our late friends, now adversaries in this contest; but if it is, so much better the reason why the Government which has conferred such benefits on both them and us should not be broken up. Whoever in any section proposes to abandon such a government would do well to consider in deference to what principle it is that he does it; what better he is likely to get in its stead; whether the substitute will give, or be intended to give, so much of good to the people. There are some foreshadowings on this subject. Our adversaries have adopted some declarations of independence in which, unlike the good old one penned by Jefferson, they omit the words “all men are created equal.” Why? They have adopted a temporary national constitution, in the preamble of which, unlike our good old one signed by Washington, they omit “We, the people,” and substitute “We, the deputies of the sovereign and independent States.” Why? Why this deliberate pressing out of view the rights of men and the authority of the people?

This is essentially a people’s contest. On the side of the Union it is a struggle for maintaining in the world that form and substance of government whose leading object is to elevate the condition of men; to lift artificial weights from all shoulders; to clear the paths of laudable pursuit for all; to afford all an unfettered start and a fair chance in the race of life. Yielding to partial and temporary departures, from necessity, this is the leading object of the Government for whose existence we contend.

I am most happy to believe that the plain people understand and appreciate this. It is worthy of note that while in this the Government’s hour of trial large numbers of those in the Army and Navy who have been favored with the offices have resigned and proved false to the hand which had pampered them, not one common soldier or common sailor is known to have deserted his flag.

Great honor is due to those officers who remained true despite the example of their treacherous associates; but the greatest honor and most important fact of all is the unanimous firmness of the common soldiers and common sailors. To the last man, so far as known, they have successfully resisted the traitorous efforts of those whose commands but an hour before they obeyed as absolute law. This is the patriotic instinct of plain people. They understand without an argument that the destroying the Government which was made by Washington means no good to them.

Our popular Government has often been called an experiment. Two points in it our people have already settled–the successful establishing and the successful administering of it. One still remains–its successful maintenance against a formidable internal attempt to overthrow it. It is now for them to demonstrate to the world that those who can fairly carry an election can also suppress a rebellion; that ballots are the rightful and peaceful successors of bullets, and that when ballots have fairly and constitutionally decided there can be no successful appeal back to bullets; that there can be no successful appeal except to ballots themselves at succeeding elections. Such will be a great lesson of peace, teaching men that what they can not take by an election neither can they take it by a war; teaching all the folly of being the beginners of a war.

Lest there be some uneasiness in the minds of candid men as to what is to be the course of the Government toward the Southern States after the rebellion shall have been suppressed, the Executive deems it proper to say it will be his purpose then, as ever, to be guided by the Constitution and the laws, and that he probably will have no different understanding of the powers and duties of the Federal Government relatively to the rights of the States and the people under the Constitution than that expressed in the inaugural address.

He desires to preserve the Government, that it may be administered for all as it was administered by the men who made it. Loyal citizens everywhere have the right to claim this of their government, and the government has no right to withhold or neglect it. It is not perceived that in giving it there is any coercion, any conquest, or any subjugation in any just sense of those terms.

The Constitution provides, and all the States have accepted the provision, that “the United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a republican form of government.” But if a State may lawfully go out of the Union, having done so it may also discard the republican form of government; so that to prevent its going out is an indispensable means to the end of maintaining the guaranty mentioned; and when an end is lawful and obligatory the indispensable means to it are also lawful and obligatory.

It was with the deepest regret that the Executive found the duty of employing the war power in defense of the Government forced upon him. He could but perform this duty or surrender the existence of the Government. No compromise by public servants could in this case be a cure; not that compromises are not often proper, but that no popular government can long survive a marked precedent that those who carry an election can only save the government from immediate destruction by giving up the main point upon which the people gave the election. The people themselves, and not their servants, can safely reverse their own deliberate decisions.

As a private citizen the Executive could not have consented that these institutions shall perish; much less could he in betrayal of so vast and so sacred a trust as these free people had confided to him. He felt that he had no moral right to shrink, nor even to count the chances of his own life in what might follow. In full view of his great responsibility he has so far done what he has deemed his duty. You will now, according to your own judgment, perform yours. He sincerely hopes that your views and your action may so accord with his as to assure all faithful citizens who have been disturbed in their rights of a certain and speedy restoration to them under the Constitution and the laws.

And having thus chosen our course, without guile and with pure purpose, let us renew our trust in God and go forward without fear and with manly hearts.

Published in: on July 5, 2019 at 8:53 pm  Comments Off on July 4, 1861: Lincoln Message to Congress  
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Thomas Lincoln and His Son

Thomas Lincoln and Abraham Lincoln did not have an idyllic father and son relationship.  They were vastly different men, and most historians have focused on those differences, and the estrangement that grew between them after Abraham Lincoln reached adulthood.  What has always struck me however is the impact that Thomas had on the life of his son.

  1.  Anti-Slavery-Thomas was a member of a church, Little Mount Separate Baptist Church, that separated from the regular Baptist Church over the owning of slaves.  He brought his family from Kentucky to the Free state of Indiana mainly because he realized that a poor white man could not compete against slave labor.  Abraham Lincoln was reared in a household in which slavery was viewed negatively.
  2. God-Thomas Lincoln was a complete Calvinist.  His God was completely inscrutable and controlled each man’s destiny for His own purposes.  Lincoln rebelled against this heritage, became in his young manhood something of a scoffer and a free-thinker.  As he aged however, he returned to what he had learned about God in his father’s house:  Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes. “Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh.” If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”  Before every meal Thomas Lincoln would say:  Fit and prepare us for humble service. We beg for Christ’s sake, Amen.  His prayer was granted for his sole surviving son.
  3. Sarah Bush Lincoln-Thomas could not have chosen a better stepmother for his son.  As opposed to his sometime tense relationship with his father, Abraham Lincoln had nothing but praise for his stepmother, a sentiment she returned.  He visited her at her home in Coles County just before he went to Washington to be sworn in as President.  He referred to her as mother in his letters to her and after his father died acquired a 40 acre tract, giving her the use of it during her lifetime.  She had a big impact on her stepson’s life, and all because of her marriage to Thomas.
  4. Education-Although he was a man of no education who could barely sign his name, Thomas encouraged his son to read and better himself, although like most fathers he was vexed when his son was found reading instead of doing the chore he had been assigned.  Sarah Bush Lincoln was literate, and she helped bring the world of literature into the life of her bright stepson.   She noted that Thomas took pride in how smart his son was and how well read. For a poor boy on the frontier, Lincoln grew up in a household more hospitable to “book-learning” than did most of his peers in similar circumstances.
  5. Story Teller-Abraham Lincoln was famed for his ability to tell a story to illustrate a point.  He took after his father in that.  His father was well known in his circle for having a keen sense of humor, demonstrated by his telling of humorous stories and jokes.  He would sometimes get irritated at his son, because Abraham liked chiming in with the punch line.
  6. Public service-Lincoln grew up in a household where his father was active in public affairs and the activities of his church.  Over the years Thomas served as a member of the militia, a local constable, a guard of prisoners, a jury member and a road commissioner.  When his son entered public life, he had a father, who, in his modest way, set an example of public service for him.
  7. Self Improvement-One of the main themes of the life of Abraham Lincoln was self-improvement.  In his own way that was also true of Thomas Lincoln.  His purchases of several farms illustrated his ongoing desire to make a better life for his family.  A self-taught carpenter, he became respected for his craftsmanship.  His son far exceeded his success in his attempts at self-betterment, but the desire to do so was an inheritance from father to son.
  8. Illinois-Illinois and Abraham Lincoln are linked forever, and it was Thomas Lincoln’s decision to move his family to Illinois that brought Lincoln to the Sucker State.

It is sometimes said that we do not truly appreciate our parents until they are gone.  Perhaps that was the case with Abraham Lincoln.  Two years after his father’s death, Lincoln named his youngest son Thomas.

Published in: on June 20, 2019 at 3:45 am  Comments Off on Thomas Lincoln and His Son  
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May 20, 1862: Lincoln Signs The Homestead Act

When it comes to the Lincoln Administration, our attention is naturally focused on the Civil War.  It is easy as a result to lose sight of the numerous other government actions and initiatives of that administration that were not directly related to fighting that conflict.  The Homestead Act was not a war measure, but it would have had difficulty getting through Congress except for the Civil War.  Since the Mexican War there had been a strong movement in the North for Congress to pass legislation granting federal land in the West to settlers who would occupy and improve it.  Southern slaveholders, seeing that such legislation would quickly lead to many new free states in the West, blocked such legislation from 1848 to the onset of the War.  This conflict over public lands in the West dramatically increased the furor over slavery.  The Free Soil Party, one of the ancestor parties of the Republican Party, was founded in 1848 in the North precisely over this issue.

Plank 13 in the Republican Party platform of 1860 called for a Homestead act:

13. That we protest against any sale or alienation to others of the Public Lands held by actual settlers, and against any view of the Free Homestead policy which regards the settlers as paupers or suppliants for public bounty; and we demand the passage by Congress of the complete and satisfactory Homestead Measure which has already passed the House.

With the absence of almost all members of Congress from the slaveholding South due to the War, the Homestead Act, authored by Representative Galusha Grow of Pennsylvania, rapidly made its way through Congress in 1862, passing by overwhelming margins in both the Republican dominated House and Senate.

The act was straight-forward:  anyone who was the head of a family, or above twenty-one years of age, and who had not borne arms against the United States, or given aid and comfort to the enemies of the United States, and who was an American citizen or intended to become an American citizen, could file an application for appropriated public lands, up to  160 acres, west of the Mississippi.  The applicant then had to live on the land for five years and give evidence of improvements made on the land during this period.  Assuming this was done, an application for title could then be made for the land.

By 1900 approximately 80 million acres of land had been granted to settlers in the West under the terms of the act.  Few campaign promises have been kept more resoundingly than the Republican promise for a Homestead act in 1860.  Here is the text of the Act:  (more…)

Published in: on May 20, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on May 20, 1862: Lincoln Signs The Homestead Act  
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We Are All Americans

 

(I originally posted this at The American Catholic, and I thought the history mavens of Almost Chosen People might enjoy it.)

I feel that we are on the eve of a new era, when there is to be great harmony between the Federal and Confederate. I cannot stay to be a living witness to the correctness of this prophecy; but I feel it within me that it is to be so. The universally kind feeling expressed for me at a time when it was supposed that each day would prove my last, seemed to me the beginning of the answer to “Let us have peace.”

 

The expression of these kindly feelings were not restricted to a section of the country, nor to a division of the people. They came from individual citizens of all nationalities; from all denominations—the Protestant, the Catholic, and the Jew; and from the various societies of the land—scientific, educational, religious or otherwise. Politics did not enter into the matter at all.

I am not egotist enough to suppose all this significance should be given because I was the object of it. But the war between the States was a very bloody and a very costly war. One side or the other had to yield principles they deemed dearer than life before it could be brought to an end. I commanded the whole of the mighty host engaged on the victorious side. I was, no matter whether deservedly so or not, a representative of that side of the controversy. It is a significant and gratifying fact that Confederates should have joined heartily in this spontaneous move. I hope the good feeling inaugurated may continue to the end.

Ulysses S. Grant, ending of his Personal Memoirs

 

 

I have long held that the great lesson of the Civil War is that we are all Americans:  North and South, white and black.  That some Leftist ideologues seem now, as part of their ceaseless use of identity politics to divide us, determined to argue the contrary is to be deplored.  Dale Price on his Facebook page has a brilliant post on the reconciliation that ocurred after the bloodiest war in our history, that could so easily have been a prelude to endless civil wars:

 

My friend Joe Long tells the story of his great-great grandfather, William Berrien Long, the sole survivor of five sons of William Long, who himself had fought in our War of Independence.

Yes, they fought for the Confederacy. Yes, the Union was in the right.

But every last man on each side was an *American.* And here’s the amazing thing: virtually every Southerner–every American–who bore arms for the Confederacy reconciled himself to the verdict of the battlefield and became an American again. Some faster than others, but in the end even Jefferson Davis told his fellow Southerners to be productive and loyal Americans.

Yes, the reconciliation after the War was the equivalent to a great white group hug which excluded the freedmen and women, and to a lesser extent Southern Unionists. The unfinished revolution on behalf of former slaves was abandoned and the people of color were left in the hands of ex-Confederates. Who, in turn, began to spin a “Lost Cause” narrative which was a bad blend of fact, fancy and sometimes even fabrication.

However, the fate of freedmen and women is the much more the fault of the Union, which lost interest in the matter when Grant left office and would not remember its duties and responsibilities until the Cold War.

But. While it may have been a “white thing,” the reconciliation between Unionists and Confederates was real, enduring and *essential.* America escaped the fates of Europe and Latin America, where defeat bred resentment which led to subjugation which bred more resentment which led to repression which bred even more resentment….

If you want the dream world of Mr. Idiot, Ph.D., take a look at Harry Turtledove’s short story, “Must and Shall.” Set in 1942, it features a garrison-state America which imposed a Carthaginian peace on the South in 1865. Freedmen were given the vote…and the franchise was stripped away from anyone who had taken up arms against the United States, as well as their descendants. The Federal Bureau of Suppression works frantically to keep the lid on the South whilst the Nazis ship in weapons to white Southerners via U-Boats…

 

Go here to read the rest.  Lincoln in his immortal Second Inaugural set us on the path of peace and reconciliation:

Published in: on May 14, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on We Are All Americans  
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Lincoln and Race

Modern detractors of Lincoln often attempt to depict him as a racist.  This of course is certainly at odds with the view of Lincoln’s detractors during his life on the question of race, who usually attacked him as a promoter of negro equality.  This was the tactic used by Stephen A. Douglas during the 1858 Senate campaign.  Douglas constantly played the race card, realizing that most Illinois voters, all white of course, were repulsed at the idea of racial equality between whites and blacks.  While remaining staunch in his opposition to slavery, Lincoln did make defensive statements that have served as ammunition for those today who accuse him of racism.  This is probably the strongest quote in the arsenal of the critics:

I will say, then, that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races—that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of making voters or jurors of Negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this, that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I, as much as any other man, am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race.” (more…)

Published in: on May 9, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Lincoln and Race  
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April 15, 1865: Death of Lincoln

Death of Lincoln

Due to an assassin’s bullet, the story of Abraham Lincoln came to an end one hundred and fifty-four years ago.  Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy, noted in his diary the last few hours of our sixteenth president:

 

 

“The President had been carried across the street from the theater to the house of a Mr. Peterson. We entered by ascending a flight of steps above the basement and passing through a long hall to the rear, where the President lay extended on a bed, breathing heavily. Several surgeons were present, at least six, I should think more. Among them I was glad to observe Doctor Hall, who, however, soon left. I inquired of Doctor Hall, as I entered, the true condition of the President. He replied the President was dead to all intents, although he might live three hours or perhaps longer.

The giant sufferer lay extended diagonally across the bed, which was not long enough for him. He had been stripped of his clothes. His large arms, which were occasionally exposed, were of a size which one would scarce have expected from his spare appearance. His slow, full respiration lifted the clothes with each breath that he took. His features were calm and striking. I had never seen them appear to better advantage than for the first hour, perhaps, that I was there. After that his right eye began to swell and that part of his face became discolored.

Senator Sumner was there, I think, when I entered. If not he came in soon after, as did Speaker Colfax, Mr. Secretary McCulloch, and the other members of the cabinet, with the exception of Mr. Seward. A double guard was stationed at the door and on the sidewalk to repress the crowd, which was of course highly excited and anxious. The room was small and overcrowded. The surgeons and members of the cabinet were as many as should have been in the room, but there were many more, and the hall and other rooms in the front or main house were full. One of these rooms was occupied by Mrs. Lincoln and her attendants, with Miss Harris. Mrs. Dixon and Mrs. Kinney came to her about twelve o’clock. About once an hour Mrs. Lincoln would repair to the bedside of her dying husband and with lamentation and tears remain until overcome by emotion. (more…)

Published in: on April 15, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on April 15, 1865: Death of Lincoln  
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