December 1, 1861: Memo to McClellan


One hundred and fifty-eight years ago Abraham Lincoln sent a memo to General McClellan.  McClellan had been in command of the Army of the Potomac since shortly after Bull Run.  Although he had demonstrated great talent in organizing, equipping and training his army, it was becoming increasingly clear to Lincoln that McClellan was reluctant to risk his force in battle.  This memorandum, which McClellan ignored, was Lincoln’s first attempt to prod the “young Napoleon” into action.  McClellan ignored the memo, an attitude which would lead Lincoln to dismiss McClellan twice from his command in the next year.  Here is the text of the memo: (more…)

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Gettysburg Address: November 19, 1863

Johnny Cash in the above video does a superb job of reading the Gettysburg Address.  Go here to read my analysis of the Gettysburg Address.  Winston Churchill, certainly the greatest orator of the English language in the last century, deemed the Address, “The ultimate expression of the majesty of Shakespeare’s language.”  Lincoln’s masterpiece of concision packed with thought will endure as long as our American republic does, and the truths it contains will endure far beyond that time period. (more…)

Published in: on November 19, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments (1)  
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November 8, 1864: Lincoln Re-elected

Ohio claims they are due a president as they haven’t had one since Taft. Look at the United States, they have not had one since Lincoln.

Will Rogers



Mr. Lincoln was re-elected 155 years ago.  The 1864 campaign songs have been long forgotten, while Lincoln and Liberty Too from the 1860 campaign is probably the most famous campaign song in American political history.

With the re-election the last faint hope for the Confederacy vanished.  The War would be fought to a finish and slavery was as dead as the hundreds of thousands of men who had fallen in the bloodiest conflict in American history.

Lincoln garnered 55% of the vote to 45% for McClellan.  The electoral vote was a landslide of epic proportions:  221-21.  Even if all the Confederate states had been able to cast unanimous votes against Lincoln, he still would have won a solid majority in the electoral college.  The margins in some of the Northern States were close, but as the saying goes, that only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. (more…)

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Journal of the Abraham Lincoln Association

Fellow citizens, we cannot escape history. We, of this Congress and this administration, will be remembered in spite of ourselves. No personal significance, or insignificance, can spare one or another of us. The fiery trial through which we pass will light us down in honor or dishonor, to the latest generation.

Abraham Lincoln, Annual Address to Congress, December 1, 1862


Some of the best writing about Abraham Lincoln appear in the pages of the Journal of the Abraham Lincoln Association.  I have never been disappointed when I have read a copy.  Go here to read about it.  The volumes are available to read online.  Go here to look at them.  A small sample of the quality of writing you can expect to encounter.  The late Don Fehrenbacher on the anti-Lincoln tradition in American history:

Soon, however, a more aggressive challenge to that image did come from another quarter—that is, from what amounted to a revival of the radical wing of the anti-Lincoln tradition. The Old Left, including Socialists and Communists, had assimilated Lincoln to its ideals and aspirations. But the New Left and the black power militants of the 1960s found little in him to admire. Compared with a Wendell Phillips or a Charles Sumner, he seemed unheroic, opportunistic, and uninspired by deep moral commitment. Instead of the “Great Emancipator,” suggested I. F. Stone, he might better be called the “Great Equivocator.” [40] This “tragically flawed figure,” said Lerone Bennett, Jr., a senior editor of Ebony magazine, “shared the racial prejudices of most of his white contemporaries.” On every issue related to blacks, he was “the very essence of the white supremacist with good intentions.”[41] He came to emancipation reluctantly, under radical pressure, and, indeed, according to some cynics, may have “is sued the Proclamation to forestall more forcible action by Congress.” [42] That is, his real intention may have been to prevent effective emancipation.

Go here to read the rest.  For anyone with a passion for History, and good writing on History, the Internet is an endless treasure trove if one knows where to look.

Published in: on November 7, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Journal of the Abraham Lincoln Association  
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Toward a Dark and Indefinite Shore

Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy, made this notation in his diary regarding the cabinet meeting that occurred at noon on the day of  the assassination of Lincoln:
 “Congratulations were interchanged, and earnest inquiry was made whether any information had been received from General Sherman. General Grant, who was invited to remain, said he was expecting hourly to hear from Sherman, and had a good deal of anxiety on the subject. The President remarked that the news would come soon and come favorably, he had no doubt, for he had last night his usual dream which had preceded nearly every important event of the war. I inquired the particulars of this remarkable dream. He said it was in my department — it related to the water; that he seemed to be in a singular and indescribable vessel, but always the same, and that he was moving with great rapidity toward a dark and indefinite shore; that he had had this singular dream preceding the firing on Sumter, the battles of Bull Run, Antietam, Gettysburg, Stone River, Vicksburg, Wilmington, etc. General Grant remarked, with some emphasis and asperity, that Stone River was no victory — that a few such victories would have ruined the country, and he knew of no important results from it. The President said that perhaps he should not altogether agree with him, but whatever might be the facts, his singular dream preceded that fight. Victory did not always follow his dream, but the event and results were important. He had no doubt that a battle had taken place or was about being fought, ‘and Johnston will be beaten, for I had this strange dream again last night. It must relate to Sherman; my thoughts are in that direction, and I know of no other very important event which is likely just now to occur.
Published in: on October 31, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Toward a Dark and Indefinite Shore  
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The Day the World Wept

The things you find on Youtube! First broadcast on February 9, 1960, the above is an episode of One Step Beyond entitled The Day the World Wept.  The Twilight Zone before the Twilight Zone, One Step Beoynd ran on ABC from 1959 to 1961, for a total of 96 episodes, focusing on stories of the paranormal.  Directed and narrated by John Newland, the show always ranked high in ratings but ended when Newland decided they were running out of fresh story lines.

The Lincoln episode was typical of the series, a mixture of a little fact and a lot of fiction.  Yes, Lincoln had a dream, actually two, predicting his death.  No, the soldier in whose room Lincoln died, did not hear mysterious weeping and sobbing prior to Lincoln being carried over from Ford’s Theater after he was shot.  The actor portraying Lincoln, Barry Atwater, would go on to portray Surak, the founder of Vulcan civilization, on the Star Trek episode The Savage Curtain, first broadcast on March 7, 1969, one of the better episodes of the generally dismal final third season of the original series.  In that episode Lee Bergere portrayed Abraham Lincoln.


Atwater’s biggest claim to fame while he lived, he passed away at age 60 in 1978, was his portrayal of vampire Janos Skorzeny  in the movie The Night Stalker (1972) which led to the cult classic Kolchack: the Night Stalker series 1974-1975, tales of a reporter investigating weird occurrences in Chicago where strange events, in fiction and in fact, tend to be plentiful.

Published in: on September 24, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on The Day the World Wept  
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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.



Published in: on September 3, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on September 3, 1864: Proclamation of Day of Prayer and Thanksgiving  
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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



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…)

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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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