Whitman In Washington

Another article discussing Walt Whitman on his bicentennial, this one from the perspective of his years in the capital. There is also a list of commemorative events happening in the city to browse for anyone who’ll be in the area.

Like many Washingtonians with creative passions, Whitman held down three government jobs to pay the bills. He was first a clerk with the army paymaster’s office, then the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

When the Secretary of the Interior realized that it was that Walt Whitman who worked for him, Whitman was unceremoniously let go. “He was a bit of a prude,” said Murray of Whitman’s boss, who didn’t approve of the emphasis on love between men that permeated Leaves of Grass.

Whitman’s friends rallied around him and soon found him a new clerking job in the Attorney General’s office.

Source: How Walt Whitman’s Decade In Washington Changed His Life — And His Poetry | WAMU

Re-enacting the ‘walk home’

A young reenactor is recreating a moment in the war that always fascinated me: The defeated southern soldier’s long walk home from the battlefields. Neat idea. Here’s wishing him good roads and fair weather.

A 24-year-old Charlotte native, Brown has had an interest in Civil War history since he was a child. It’s something that came from his father, who was also a re-enactor, and from his great grandfather’s and great uncle’s service in World War II.

“I looked at this as a way to better understand their lives,” he said. “It also sounded like fun at the time.”

Brown and Berg mapped out a route that roughly followed the North Carolina Railroad, which they think many soldiers would have used as a guide home. Berg said she then contacted churches, tourism agencies and historic sites along the route, where Brown could eat and sleep.

Read more here: http://www.newsobserver.com/news/local/counties/johnston-county/article21332118.html#storylink=cpy

Civil War re-enactor continues ‘walk home’ from New Bern to Duke Homestead | News & Observer News & Observer.

Civil War 150th Anniversary Parade in Washington DC

I’m assuaging myself with the fact that I’ll be in Paris on May 17th, but I can’t pretend seeing this one-time-only, sesquicentennial Grand Review Parade wouldn’t have competed with Paris for my affections.  If you’re within a day’s drive of Washington, please go!  And take lots of pictures for me!

Civil War 150th Anniversary Parade in Washington DC.

The Dangerous Myth of Appomattox

Another interesting piece from the always-interesting Disunion, the New York Times’ commemoration of the sesquicentennial. This one is a reminder that the “Appomattox Peace” was the end of the beginning, as far as Southern resistance went. Reconstruction gets airbrushed away in tales of Grant and Lee and nobility and surrender.

Grant himself recognized that he had celebrated the war’s end far too soon. Even as he met Lee, Grant rejected the rebel general’s plea for “peace” and insisted that only politicians, not officers, could end the war. Then Grant skipped the fabled laying-down-of-arms ceremony to plan the Army’s occupation of the South.

To enforce its might over a largely rural population, the Army marched across the South after Appomattox, occupying more than 750 towns and proclaiming emancipation by military order. This little-known occupation by tens of thousands of federal troops remade the South in ways that Washington proclamations alone could not.

And yet as late as 1869, President Grant’s attorney general argued that some rebel states remained in the “grasp of war.” When white Georgia politicians expelled every black member of the State Legislature and began a murderous campaign of intimidation, Congress and Grant extended military rule there until 1871.

Meanwhile, Southern soldiers continued to fight as insurgents, terrorizing blacks across the region. One congressman estimated that 50,000 African-Americans were murdered by white Southerners in the first quarter-century after emancipation. “It is a fatal mistake, nay a wicked misery to talk of peace or the institutions of peace,” a federal attorney wrote almost two years after Appomattox. “We are in the very vortex of war.”

The Dangerous Myth of Appomattox – NYTimes.com.

April 10th Newspaper Clipping

Another of the historical events I wish I could have seen was the celebration in Washington in the days after the surrender. Grand illuminations and joy in the streets after four crescendoing years of hard war. What a shame it was all unravelled – on the day and for a century to come – by the assassins on April 14th.

April 10 1865

Wonder how many businesses today would do this? – Imgur.


I’ve been busy with an art project lately, so haven’t been updating, which is bad timing given we’re into the home stretch of the sesquicentennial. I’ve taken a few minutes to put my art aside and post someone else’s: Here’s a copy of my favourite Appomattox painting, by Tom Lovell. While still not 100% authentic, it’s beautifully painted and shows the two heroes at their separate tables. Lee looking solemn as Taylor dispassionately supervises the paperwork, and Grant leaning over intently. It’s a great scene, and wonderfully emotive. The closest we’ll get to time travel is through the brushstrokes of artists like this.

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.

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.