As Thanksgiving rapidly approaches, one is compelled by the overwhelming blessings so many of us experience on a daily basis to consider things for which we are thankful, but often overlook. One such gratitude-producing individual for me is Abraham Lincoln. Was he a perfect man? No. Have many of his flaws been white-washed from history? Yes (I’m counting on the same treatment). However, this does not negate the truth that in my eyes, he was a man for “such a time” as his was. I’ve always appreciated his writing (whether it be from his own pen or another’s makes no difference to me). One of my favorites is:
“I do the very best I know how – the very best I can; and I mean to keep doing so until the end. If the end brings me out all right, then what is said against me won’t matter. If the end brings me out wrong, then ten Angles swearing I was right would make no difference at all.” Abraham Lincoln
We should all have such strength of conviction in regards to our actions under fire.
A short time ago I came across a letter from him which was printed in a National Intelligencer dated January 27, 1865 that may rival the above. It is his response to a letter received from him from Eliza Gurney, the wife of a recently departed friend. The full text is viewable via the image shown below, with the transcribed text to follow.
Washington, September 4, 1864.
Eliza P. Gurney.
My esteemed friend.
I have not forgotten–probably never shall forget–the very impressive occasion when yourself and friends visited me on a Sabbath forenoon two years ago. Nor has your kind letter, written nearly a year later, ever been forgotten. In all, it has been your purpose to strengthen my reliance on God. I am much indebted to the good Christian people of the country for their constant prayers and consolations; and to no one of them, more than to yourself. The purposes of the Almighty are perfect, and must prevail, though we erring mortals may fail to accurately perceive them in advance. We hoped for a happy termination of this terrible war long before this; but God knows best, and has ruled otherwise. We shall yet acknowledge His wisdom and our own error therein. Meanwhile we must work earnestly in the best light He gives us, trusting that so working still conduces to the great ends He ordains. Surely He intends some great good to follow this mighty convulsion, which no mortal could make, and no mortal could stay.
Your people–the Friends–have had, and are having, a very great trial. On principle, and faith, opposed to both war and oppression, they can only practically oppose oppression by war. In this hard dilemma, some have chosen one horn, and some the other. For those appealing to me on conscientious grounds, I have done, and shall do, the best I could and can, in my own conscience, under my oath to the law. That you believe this I doubt not; and believing it, I shall still receive, for our country and myself, your earnest prayers to our Father in heaven.
Your sincere friend,
So, what are you thankful for?
I traveled today to New York City by way of The New York Times dated February 1, 1864. There I found that President Lincoln had just “Ordered, that a draft for five hundred thousand men, to serve for three years or during the war, be made on the 10th day of March next, for the military service of the Untied States, crediting and deducting therefrom so many as may have been enlisted or drafted into the service prior to the 1st day of March, and not heretofore credited.” This is signed in type: ABRAHAM LINCOLN.
Also in the issue is an article with the heading “The Death Bandage of Gen. Walker”. “…Lieutenant Drennon… brings with him, hermetically inclosed in glass, the bandage which covered the eye of Gen. William Walker, when he was shot at Truxillo, Honduras…. ‘Remnant of the bandage which encircled the brow of Gen. William Walker, who having honorably capitulated to Norvell Salmon, Commander of H.B.M. steamship of war Icarus, was treacherously surrendered to the Honduras authorities, and by the executed on the 12th September, 1860, in the town of Truxillo. Posterity will do justice to their memories. The victim will be deplored while the traitor will be execrated.’ The bandage is thick with gore, full of bullet holes, and is partially burned — the file of executioners standing so close that the discharges set fire to it…” This was to be presented to General Walker’s father who resided in Nashville, Tennessee. What an item to be presented with to remember your son…
“Four score and seven years ago…”
150 years ago this month, President Abraham Lincoln delivered what we now consider to be one of the greatest speeches of all time. Interestingly enough, since 5 different manuscripts exist, there is some disagreement amongst historians concerning what he actually said. Might original newspapers of the day with eye witness accounts provide the answer? If the speech had been long we probably wouldn’t have a high degree of confidence in the newspaper reporters’ accounts, but the brevity of the speech certainly increases the probability of an accurate transcription. Original reports may not have the definitive answer to this question, but they certainly provide reasonable evidence regarding what was actually spoken. Once again, “History is never more fascinating than when it is read from the day it was first reported.“
The photo shows the report in the December 2, 1864 issue of “The Liberator” of Lincoln’s very famous & heart-felt letter to a woman who lost five sons in the Civil War. A very sobering report which gives one a small sense of the horror of war not just on the battlefield, but at home as well. This letter has been praised by many as among Lincoln’s best works of writing, along with the Gettysburg Address and second inaugural address.
The character of Abraham Lincoln, which has made him arguably the best President of the United States, has been the subject of many books. One bit of evidence can be found in the September 5, 1863 issue of the “Army & Navy Journal” which contains a famous letter to General U.S. Grant (see below).
In this remarkable letter, President Abraham Lincoln congratulates General Grant for an important victory — the capture of Vicksburg, Mississippi, on July 4, 1863. Lincoln differed with Grant about how to handle the campaign, but when Grant pursued his own strategy successfully, Lincoln frankly admitted that Grant was right.
The June 5, 1860 issue of the “New York Tribune” has two testimonials as to the character of Abraham Lincoln, to be the Republican nomination for President in the up-coming election. The second report is by the Honorable George Ashmun and offers some interesting comments. Also, “The Daily Delta” from New Orleans, issue of Feb. 27, 1861 has an equally back-handed “compliment” on the appearance of Lincoln (see below), noting he: “…is not handsome by a great many degrees,but he has not that hideous, ugly look which his portraits give him…”:
There is no doubt Abraham Lincoln is one of the most beloved historical figures of all time. Similar to how Robert E. Lee is respected by “Yankees”, as time goes by Abe Lincoln also seems to garner mutual appreciation. Once seen as polarizing, he is now credited with opposite – preserving unity. To what can we credit the change in how he was/is viewed? Perhaps it was his address at Gettysburg or our post-Civil War hindsight which appreciates (or at least acknowledges) the end result – that we remain a united nation. However, one danger in turning a flesh-and-blood human being into an icon is that we lose perspective on the conflicted realities the people of this era were facing. We also tend to eliminate anything about such individuals which may present them in a light which bristles against how we perceive them. Doing so marginalizes the issues they were grappling with and minimizes the complexities surrounding change. It is with this in mind we invite you to explore another side of Abraham Lincoln – as he discusses his views on what to do about the slave issue. The best way to take this journey is to read his thoughts via the images provided through the link to the Liberator of August 22, 1862: Abraham Lincoln on African Colonization
The November 4, 1863 issue of the “Daily National Intelligencer” contains a curious and ironic bit of reporting, page 2 containing a lengthy report on the appearance of the distinguished son of Junius Brutus Booth–John Wilkes–at the new Ford’s Theatre in Washington. The next column contains an innocuous letter signed in type by the President: A. Lincoln.
The facing page includes an advertisement for “Ford’s New Theatre!” noting the appearance for the: “…first and only time…the distinguished tragedian, MR. J. WLKES BOOTH in Schiller’s great master piece, the Robbers…”.
Of course no one could have suspected the tragic connection between these two famous names which appeared on the same page in the same newspaper, some one and one-half years before fate would find their names on the same page once again:
We continue our weekly feature of reflecting upon the appropriate 150 year old issue of “Harper’s Weekly” from the perspective of a subscriber in 1861:
Although there is some frustration in waiting two weeks to see the events of the conflict, the prints definitely help in understanding all that is going on. The front page of today’s issue (April 27, 1861) shows “General Thomas Swearing In the Volunteers Called into the Service of the United States at Washington, D.C.” There is also a front page article on “The Bombardment of Fort Sumter” which provides some detail I did not read in the daily papers of two weeks ago. But the real drama of the skirmish comes to life with the full page print: “The Interior of Fort Sumter During the Bombardment” showing bombs exploding and being hurled through the air by the massive cannons. What a horrendous experience that must have been! The full page “Map of Charleston Harbor” shows how surprisingly small Fort Sumter seems to be, on a small island right in the middle of the harbor. I can not understand what it is a strategic installation for the protection of the city.
Then, golly, I turn to the center fold to see a terrific print showing the “Bombardment of Fort Sumter by the Batteries of the Confederate States”. It’s full of action, showing the soldiers at their positions next to the cannons and the destruction being done to Fort Sumter in the distance. This print certainly brings the event to life!
Further on is a print of Abraham Lincoln taken from a photograph by the famed photographer Matthew Brady. He looks just like the earlier images I recall from his inauguration. And a special treat is a full-figure print of “General P. G. T Beauregard”, the Confederate commander of the forces in Charleston.
The text in this issue is interesting as well, but the prints are what keep me looking forward to next week’s edition.
With the 150th anniversary of the outbreak of the Civil War just days away, we begin today a weekly feature of reflecting upon the appropriate 150 year old issue of “Harper’s Weekly” from the perspective of a subscriber in 1861.
The success of “Harper’s Weekly” was in presenting illustrations of the war, as visual presentations–today commonplace in almost all forms of media–were almost unknown in the mid-19th century. The subscriber in 1861 could now “see” rather than just read about the battles and the famous names who lead the war effort. We hope to share with our blog readers that novel experience and how those in 1861 would have reacted as they opened their issue of “Harper’s Weekly” .
I always look forward to my “Harper’s Weekly‘ issue in the mail as this new type of newspaper provides the graphics of everyday life which my daily newspapers don’t provide. What a treat it is to see what is happening rather than just read about events of the day!
Today I received the April 6, 1861 issue, and as per usual, the prints were outstanding. The front page is a nice illustration of the “Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State” about whom I’ve heard much as a key member of the new Lincoln Administration. He looks much younger than his 60 years the article mentions. Other prints inside provide military scenes concerning the inevitable crisis between the North and South, with a print of Fort Pickens in Florida, another of Pensacola Harbor, a nice doublepage spread of various “Virginia Sketches” one showing the huge Richmond Armory & another the frigate Merrimac–a mammoth ship which would be a formidable foe in any naval conflict. A full page is taken up with the “Coats of Arms of the Several States of the Union” which make a fascinating display with their various themes and mottoes. How many will still be part of our Union if war breaks out?
With rumblings of war noted in the daily newspapers I suspect more war-themed prints will find their way into my future editions of “Harper’s Weekly“. I look forward to the illustrations which will put a “face” on the news reports.
To enjoy the images (and some of the text) from this issue, please go to: Harper’s Weekly, April 6, 1861