Fake news almost destroyed Abraham Lincoln

From the “What goes around, comes around” files, this reminder that the morass of fake news in which we currently swim is not a new phenomenon.

Abraham Lincoln was more than just a foe of slavery. He was also a mixed-race eugenicist, believing that the intermarriage of blacks and whites would yield an American super-race.

Or at least, that’s what newspapers in 1864 would have had you believe. The charge isn’t true. But this miscegenation hoax still “damn near sank Lincoln that year,” says Heather Cox Richardson, history professor at Boston College.

Source: Fake news almost destroyed Abraham Lincoln — Quartz

The Peacemakers

It’s the 150th anniversary of the River Queen conference, which – of all the great events and happenings from 1860-1865, is the one I most wish I could witness. Sherman in all his glory reunites with his elevated friend Grant. Sherman also meets Lincoln the reelected for the first time in 4 years, after getting off on the wrong foot back at the war’s outset, and finds himself captivated. The men lay out amongst themselves a tentative plan for a humane and thoughtful Reconstruction. That rainbow in the background of the famous painting belied what actually happened, but to me, this was the brief shining moment of the Civil War.

The Peacemakers - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Peacemakers – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural address

“At this second appearing to take the oath of the Presidential office there is less occasion for an extended address than there was at the first. Then a statement somewhat in detail of a course to be pursued seemed fitting and proper. Now, at the expiration of four years, during which public declarations have been constantly called forth on every point and phase of the great contest which still absorbs the attention and engrosses the energies of the nation, little that is new could be presented. The progress of our arms, upon which all else chiefly depends, is as well known to the public as to myself, and it is, I trust, reasonably satisfactory and encouraging to all. With high hope for the future, no prediction in regard to it is ventured.

On the occasion corresponding to this four years ago all thoughts were anxiously directed to an impending civil war. All dreaded it, all sought to avert it. While the inaugural address was being delivered from this place, devoted altogether to saving the Union without war, insurgent agents were in the city seeking to destroy it without war—seeking to dissolve the Union and divide effects by negotiation. Both parties deprecated war, but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive, and the other would accept war rather than let it perish, and the war came.

One-eighth of the whole population were colored slaves, not distributed generally over the Union, but localized in the southern part of it. These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that this interest was somehow the cause of the war. To strengthen, perpetuate, and extend this interest was the object for which the insurgents would rend the Union even by war, while the Government claimed no right to do more than to restrict the territorial enlargement of it. Neither party expected for the war the magnitude or the duration which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with or even before the conflict itself should cease. Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding. 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 judgements of the Lord are true and righteous altogether."

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”

via Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural address – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Finer words were rarely spoken

The approaching sesquicentennial of the Second Inaugural, well, inaugurates a month and a half of momentous and bittersweet events, and closes out the 150th celebrations.  March 4th, April 3rd, April 9th, April 14th, May 9th.  We can relive the dates and realise how quickly the war drew to a close, after decades of its gathering storm.  Sadly, from here on ’til 2027 the Reconstruction150 milestones will be far more bitter and far less sweet.

Observers looked forward (whether with pleasure or apprehension) to a Second Inaugural Address in which the unyielding war president would celebrate his vindication and promise just deserts for the vanquished traitors in the South who had brought so much misery upon the country.

But that isn’t at all what the country got. Instead, Lincoln delivered a brief, sorrowful sermon on the ultimate meaning of America’s terrible ordeal.

via Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address: Finer words were rarely spoken | Star Tribune.

The girl who grew Lincoln’s beard

The story of Grace Bedell’s letter to Lincoln is famous, of course, but I think this is the first time I’ve ever seen the contents. It’s delightful to think of Lincoln growing his iconic beard after laughing himself silly at the advice of this little spin doctor.

I have got 4 brothers and part of them will vote for you any way and if you let your whiskers grow I will try and get the rest of them to vote for you you would look a great deal better for your face is so thin. All the ladies like whiskers and they would tease their husbands to vote for you and then you would be President.

via The girl who grew Lincoln’s beard.

Civil War Commemorations

Some special events to consider, for those in the area or willing to travel to partake!

In Dearborn, MI, the Henry Ford Museum is having an assassination commemoration, with Doris Kearns Goodwin speaking.  I got a laugh out of the pricing tiers, which include balcony seats and general floor admission, but no options for participants travelling from the balcony to the floor. Bit of an oversight given the topic on hand 😉

On April 13, as we mark the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, we will host Lincoln’s Legacy: An Evening with Doris Kearns Goodwin…

More than a commemoration of Lincoln’s death, her talk will show how the experiences faced by Lincoln, one of our most unlikely presidents, carry so much relevance to Americans in 2015.



And New Jersey locals, take note! There is a Thomas Nast exhibition on this year at Macculloch Hall Historical Museum, with a special presentation on the 22nd of February.  From this sounds of it, this venue is the premier collection of Nast’s work, so I’m sure they have some excellent art (and history) on display.

Mounted to commemorate the final year of the Civil War Sesquicentennial (2011-2015), this second floor exhibit at Macculloch includes a number of these images. “The Civil War through the Eyes of Thomas Nast” is on exhibit through December 2015.

On Sunday Feb. 22 Macculloch Hall Historical Museum (MHHM) F.M Kirby Curator of Collections Ryan Hyman presents “The Work of Thomas Nast.” During this presentation Hyman will highlight Nast’s most popular political cartoons and a few interesting but lesser known images. During the program Ryan will also discuss some of Nast’s political cartoon work about the Civil War, some of which is currently on display.

via Thomas Nast’s Civil War at Macculloch Hall in Morristown – New Jersey Hills: Morris NewsBee News.

Leo Tolstoy’s Love Letter to Lincoln

Following up on that ripples-in-the-pond thought, I’ve always found this one of the weirdest stories in the Lincoln realm: Tolstoy’s encounter with the chieftain of a remote Caucasus tribe who was obsessed with the Great Emancipator.

Of all the great national heroes and statesmen of history Lincoln is the only real giant. Alexander, Frederick the Great, Caesar, Napoleon, Gladstone and even Washington stand in greatness of character, in depth of feeling and in a certain moral power far behind Lincoln. Lincoln was a man of whom a nation has a right to be proud; he was a Christ in miniature, a saint of humanity, whose name will live thousands of years in the legends of future generations. We are still too near to his greatness, and so can hardly appreciate his divine power; but after a few centuries more our posterity will find him considerably bigger than we do. His genius is still too strong and too powerful for the common understanding, just as the sun is too hot when its light beams directly on us. 

via Leo Tolstoy’s Love Letter to Lincoln – The Daily Beast.

‘The Widow Lincoln’ at Ford’s Theatre

How is Ford’s Theatre marking the sesquicentennial of Lincoln’s assassination?  It’s staging a play about Mary Lincoln.  Hope the Secret Service are keeping the Obamas far, far away from this one.

The moment is just one of many pathos-crammed sequences in “The Widow Lincoln,” the doleful historical monument of a play at Ford’s Theatre. Written by James Still (“The Heavens Are Hung in Black”) and directed by Stephen Rayne, this world premiere broods knowledgeably over the plight of Mary Todd Lincoln after the assassination of her husband, President Abraham Lincoln, at Ford’s Theatre in 1865. While fever-dream design and dramaturgy evoke the first lady’s mental health problems, there’s an aching universality to the production’s portrait of grief and bewilderment in the face of loss.

via ‘The Widow Lincoln’ at Ford’s Theatre shows a first lady in mourning – The Washington Post.

Lincolniana Auction

There was an important auction this week of Lincoln and assassination memorabilia. I was surprised by this discrepancy:

The lock of hair, taken by Surgeon General Joseph K. Barnes shortly after Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes Booth, sold for $25,000.

An 1861 letter written by Booth to a friend boasting about his career and value as an actor sold for $30,000.

You’d have thought anything of Lincoln’s, much less his actual hair clipped by the doctor on site for his autopsy would be worth more than a simple letter by JWB. Thankfully, the article followed up with a handy explanation:

"The public was so disgusted by Booth’s atrocity that most all letters, signatures and documents mentioning him were destroyed after Lincoln’s death, making any that survive 150 years later exceedingly rare and valuable," said Don Ackerman, Consignment Director for Historical Americana at Heritage Auctions.

via Lock of Lincoln’s hair among items auctioned in Dallas – Yahoo News.

Replica of Lincoln’s Coffin on Tour

I’m posting this too late for it to be of use to Indiana buffs, but there are enough interesting facts to merit mentioning it anyway.  If you ever wanted to know the difference between a coffin and a casket, for instance – I’d never given it much thought before.  I’d also not given much thought to the size of a coffin needed to bury a 6’4″ President.  It says here that Lincoln’s coffin was only 2″ taller that the big man himself, which is a surprise.  Was he buried shoeless and after a haircut?

April 14, 2015 marks the 150th anniversary of the death of Abraham Lincoln. In remembrance of this historic date, a replica of the well-loved president’s coffin will be on display for public viewing at Farley Funeral Homes and Crematory in January. 

This replica, known as the Lincoln Replica, was made by the Batesville Casket Company in Batesville, Indiana. According to a Batesville representative, it is one of four replicas touring the country. A fifth coffin is on permanent display in Springfield, Missouri, Lincoln’s birthplace. The coffin, authentic down to the smallest details, measures 6 feet 6 inches long and is constructed of solid walnut. It is completely covered in black broadcloth and has a white satin interior.

via Replica of Lincoln’s coffin to visit the Suncoast – Sarasota News | Mysuncoast.com and ABC 7: Featured.