Civil War Fangirl

The thoughts of a (slighty eccentric & crazy) Canadian who happens to be obsessed with Abraham Lincoln, General William Tecumseh Sherman & the Civil War

“There was a cheerless cold and everything seemed gloomy”

“The respiration of the President became suspended at intervals, and at last entirely ceased at twenty-two minutes past seven”. This sentence was written 153 years ago today by Abraham Lincoln’s Secretary of Navy, Gideon Welles. Lincoln often referred to him as his “Neptune”. He is writing, of course, of the passing of President Abraham Lincoln, who died at Peterson House in Washington DC on April 15th, 1865. The diary entry of Gideon Welles from this day is really resonating with me today and I felt I should write a post about it.

As he lay dying, Lincoln was surrounded by doctors, politicians, members of his cabinet and his son, Robert. Of Robert, Welles writes that “he bore himself well, but on two occasions gave way to overpowering grief and sobbed aloud, turning his head and leaning on the shoulder of Senator Sumner”. This passage captures some of what everyone in that room must have been feeling as they watched Abraham Lincoln’s life slip away. The sadness and grief that was present in the room must have been profound from the moment he was brought to Peterson House to the minutes following his death.

Upon his death, the room is said to have fallen silent for a few minutes.

Welles tells us that eventually “a prayer followed from Dr. Gurley”. The words of this prayer are not known. All of us who study and read about Lincoln know that Edwin M. Stanton, Lincoln’s Secretary of War spoke next. There is some debate as to what he said and it was either “Now he belongs to the angels” or “Now he belongs to the ages”. Either way, those words have become immortalized and will forever be associated with the passing of Abraham Lincoln.

Eventually, Welles made his way home. His wife, Mary Jane, was very good friends with Mary Lincoln. While Mary Jane had not been well “and confined to the house from indisposition for a week”, after a second messenger arrived at the house and she learned the details of what happened, she went to the White House (which Welles also refers to as the Executive Mansion) to be with Mary Lincoln.

Welles, by the time he arrived home, had been up all night. He described himself as being “wearied, shocked, exhausted, but not inclined to sleep, the day, when not actually and officially engaged, passed strangely”. I felt upon reading this passage that everything must have felt very surreal to him at that time.

He makes his way over to the Executive Mansion. The weather that day captured the mood and grief of the entire city, a grief that would eventually flow through the country:

“There was a cheerless cold rain and everything seemed gloomy”. 

The gloomy, inclement weather had not stopped a crowd from gathering:

“On the Avenue in front of the White House were several hundred coloured people, mostly women and children, weeping and wailing their loss. This crowd did not appear to diminish through the whole of that cold, wet day; they seemed not to know what was to be their fate since their great benefactor was dead, and their hopeless grief affected me more than almost anything else, though strong and brave men wept when I met them”.

He describes the White House as being silent. When he went to leave with Attorney General James Speed (brother of Lincoln’s very good friend, Joshua Speed), Welles writes about Tad and captures not only Tad’s grief but his own:

“As we were descending the stairs, “Tad”, who was looking from the window at the foot, turned and seeing us, cried aloud in his tears, “Oh, Mr. Welles, who killed my father?”. Neither Speed nor myself could restrain our tears, nor give the poor boy any satisfactory answer”.

It was quite profound to read about the day of April 15th, 1865 as Gideon Welles experienced it. While the entry is short, I believe it captures some of the grief that was being felt and how surreal all the events must have been for those involved. All of this happened 153 years ago today. 153 years.And here I am writing about it. Here I am feeling sadness. A friend and fellow Lincoln fan and I were talking earlier today about how amazing it is that 153 years later, the assassination and death of Abraham Lincoln still resonates with people and moves them. We still feel grief 153 years later. It truly is remarkable and a testament to what an amazing person Lincoln truly was and that he still means so very much to us.

Source: Diary of Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy under Lincoln and Johnson

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Lincoln is ours…

April 14th & 15th are indeed somber days for those of us who love Lincoln, me included. I don’t need to go into details about it because we all, by now, know the story perhaps all too well. I’m sitting here now early on Saturday, April 14th with “Lincoln” soundtrack playing not really knowing what to write this year.

I know that somehow this beautiful music and the spirit of the man I have studied and loved my entire life will somehow inspire me.

And that’s just it. He inspires us. Even after 153 years, he is still among us and inspiring us. Indeed proof that, as Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton put it in the minutes following Lincoln’s death, “…he belongs to the ages”.

abraham_lincoln_november_1863

I won’t get through this day, nor tomorrow, without some tears. But there are other emotions that emerge through the sadness in remembering this amazing gentleman known as Abraham Lincoln.

Inspiration…

Hope….

Perseverance…

Love…

Kindness…

These words that so describe what Lincoln means to me wind their way through my mind as they always do, but especially on this sorrowful day. It becomes a day to reflect on who he was, all that he did, and, who he still is today.

Because he is still here among us. Those of us who study him, follow him, and most of all, love him, keep him alive. Because we do love him. He’s ours and we keep his spirit alive.

I see this happen each and everyday…

I see it on Twitter with accounts like those of my very awesome friends Geoff (@mr_lincoln), Laura (@lr4kids), Helon (@helonoftroy17), Stacy (@stacyPhD), Ryan (@ThatLincolnGuy and also the creator of the very awesome @DatLincolnSite) & countless others that not only tweet about Lincoln but foster a sense of community where everyone is welcome.

I see it on the Facebook page  & Twitter account (@RailsplitterPod) for “The Railsplitter: The Abraham Lincoln Podcast“. This is a podcast I’m very happy to be a co-host of along with two other fellow Lincoln nerds that have become great friends of mine, Jeremy & Nick. The Railsplitter Community  is a collective of very awesome & like-minded Lincoln geeks. We share Lincoln news, share photos of Lincoln sites we visit, and talk, of course, about Lincoln. Like Twitter, it’s a community where everyone is welcome & if you’re a Lincoln nerd, I think you’ll find home here.

Lincoln touches our lives in various ways each & every day. He also brings us together to not just discuss his life & who he was as a person, but also to celebrate it. It is through this amazing Lincoln community that many of us do find home. We make and form friendships that will last for a lifetime. We find solace, we find peace, we find inspiration, we find love, we find hope but most of all, we find & feel Lincoln’s spirit move among us. Each of us, in our own way, are keeping him alive.

And that truly shows that not only is he ours, and he always will be, but that he does belong to the ages.

So, on these two days of sorrow, take the time to mourn in your own way, as we all do. But also, take the time to reflect, to remember and let Lincoln’s spirit be alive. Know that in many ways, he is still here.

Bringing us hope.

Bringing us inspiration.

Bringing us love.

Thank you for reading,

Mary

 

“War is a terrible thing!”: Cump in Louisiana, Part 3

We last left Cump in Louisiana with South Carolina having seceded from the Union on December 20, 1860. Admitting to keeping “aloof of politics”, Sherman was trying to weather through the brewing “political storm” and he was hoping peace would fall upon the country again.

Basically, this was Sherman pre-December 20, 1860…

After that time is a completely different story with Cump. The man who had chosen to lay low, not vote in the 1860 election and hope things would just pass by, let’s the (to use the title of my favorite Sherman bio) “fierce” patriot roar forth….

At least to his friend David French Boyd, a colleague of Sherman’s at the Military Academy in Louisiana.

david_french_boyd

David French Boyd. Friend & colleague of Cump while he was in Louisiana. Also a strong secessionist.

It was Boyd who was with Sherman when they both learned that South Carolina had seceded. Boyd recounted Sherman’s reaction, stating that Sherman “burst out crying like a child, and pacing his room in that nervous way of his…”.

Next, Sherman launched forth into what Robert L. O’Connell refers to in “Fierce Patriot” as being “clairvoyant words”…

“You people of the South don’t know what you are doing. This country will be drenched in blood, and God only knows how it will end. It is all folly, madness, a crime against civilization! You people speak so lightly of war; you don’t know what you’re talking about. War is a terrible thing! .You mistake, too, the people of the North. They are a peaceable people but an earnest people, and they will fight, too. They are not going to let this country be destroyed without a mighty effort to save it… Besides, where are your men and appliances of war to contend against them? The North can make a steam engine, locomotive, or railway car; hardly a yard of cloth or pair of shoes can you make. You are rushing into war with one of the most powerful, ingeniously mechanical, and determined people on Earth—right at your doors. You are bound to fail. Only in your spirit and determination are you prepared for war. In all else you are totally unprepared, with a bad cause to start with. At first you will make headway, but as your limited resources begin to fail, shut out from the markets of Europe as you will be, your cause will begin to wane. If your people will but stop and think, they must see in the end that you will surely fail.”

It is eerie how accurate Sherman was in this passionate speech to his friend.  A friend who happened to be a secessionist. With statements like “the country will be drenched in blood” and “…at first you will make headway”, his words are eerily prophetic. And Sherman will be one of the men, four years later, that sees that the South’s “limited resources” not just begin to fail them, but that they do ultimately fail them.

Despite trying to keep his head down, do his job and hope the political “storm” would pass, it is clear in the back of his mind that Cump knew what would happen. The letters I mentioned in Part 1 and Part 2 of Sherman’s time in Louisiana show that he knows where things are most likely headed…

To war.

He said as much to Ellen on November 10, 1860…

“Secession must result in Civil War, anarchy and ruin to our present form of Government”.

What Cump had dreaded had come true and I think there was definitely a part of him that wished it truly would just pass. I mean, who wouldn’t? O’Connell states that “Sherman’s agony was real. Secession cut him to the depths of his nationalistic soul”.

And what cut him even more? Louisiana Governor Moore seizing all the forts in Louisiana. Sherman tells his brother John in a letter dated January 18, 1861 that “I regarded the seizure by Govr. Moore of the U.S. arsenal as the worst act yet committed in the present Revolution”. Robert L. O’Connell in “Fierce Patriot” tells us that Cump was also “particularly galled” when some muskets showed up at the military academy to be stored and that the “U.S.” that had been printed on their packing crates had been scratched off. Not cool…

Cump was worried before December 20 but now? He is a northerner in the south. He holds a prominent position at a military academy. He’s also deeply loyal to the Union. In his heart, he knows he cannot stay in Louisiana, even though they have not seceded by this point but he feels that it will happen eventually. He tells Ellen as such on December 23, 1860:

“I take it for granted that South Carolina has seceded and that other Southern States will follow and that Louisiana will be precipitated along…”

He goes on to say that if Louisiana should secede, and “assumes a hostile attitude towards the other states, I will resign here…”.

He writes as such to Governor Moore on January 18, 1861:

“Recent events foreshadow a great change and it becomes all men to choose. If Louisiana withdraw from the Federal Union I prefer to maintain my allegiance to the Old Constitution as long as a fragment of it survives; and my longer stay here would be wrong in every sense of the word”.

In other words, Cump knew he needed to GTFO out of Louisiana IF they seceded. Also, was anyone else somewhat cheering for Sherman with what he wrote?

Back to it…

On January 26th, 1861 that “if” about Louisiana seceding , turned into a “when”…

louisiana_secession

This meant Cump would now be resigned as Superintendent of the Louisiana State Seminary of Learning & Military Academy. He had written Governor Moore and told him this would be the case on January 18, 1861:

“…I beg you to take immediate steps to relieve me as superintendent, the moment the state determines to secede, for on no earthly account will I do any act or any thought hostile to or in defiance of the old government of the United States”.

Governor Moore responded on January 23, three days before Louisiana would officially secede and it is evident he deeply regrets losing Sherman…

“You cannot regret more than I do the necessity which deprives us of your services, and you will bear with you the respect, confidence and admiration, of all who have been associated with you”.

And with that, Cump was no longer Superintendent of the military academy. It was on February 25th, 1861, just one day shy of a month when the secession of Louisiana happened, that he began making his way back to Lancaster, Ohio. I can only imagine how heartbroken he must have been. After finally landing a steady source of income with something he was happy about, he is again having to “make a new start in life, but it does seem to be my luck”. He wrote this to Ellen on January 27, 1861. In this same letter he also writes….

“I feel no temptation to take part in a civil war…”

Wow.

Clearly he put that crazy thought out of his mind at some point because we all know Sherman will go on to become one badass Union rock star general. And yes, my favorite…

img_2298

And what of the Louisiana State Seminary of Learning & Military Academy? They’re still around today, except now known as Louisiana State University. And following the Civil War? Sherman donated two cannons, which are said to be from Fort Sumter, which still stand there today:

cannons

Thank you for following along on this journey of Cump in Louisiana. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading it as much as I’ve enjoyed researching and writing it.

Until next time,

Mary

“No matter which way we turn there arises difficulties which seem insurmountable.”: Sherman in Louisiana, Part 2

“No matter which way we turn there arises difficulties which seem insurmountable – In case Lincoln is elected, they say S. Carolina will secede and that the Southern States will not see her forced back – Secession must result in Civil War, anarchy and ruin to our present form of Government – but if it is attempted it would be unwise for us to be here. But I still hope for quiet”

This is Sherman, writing to his wife Ellen, in a letter dated November 10, 1860. While his fears from his letter to her dated November 3, 1860 are still evident (which I mentioned in Part 1 of Sherman in Louisiana), he still is hoping things will pass.

I think in Cump’s heart though he knew they wouldn’t. He states in his memoirs that there was “a storm that was lowering heavy on the political horizon”. He knew by this point he could not have his family in Louisiana because…

“Political excitement was at its very height, and it was constantly asserted that Mr. Lincoln’s election would imperil the Union. “

Despite the turmoil, Sherman admits to basically ignoring it though

“I purposely kept aloof from politics, would take no part”.

This is classic Sherman, especially since we know that years later he a) never endorsed his friend General Ulysses S. Grant for President and b) made it abundantly clear when people wanted him to run for President, that he most definitely would NOT being doing such a thing.

“IF NOMINATED I WILL NOT RUN. IF ELECTED I WILL NOT SERVE”

And he said this while (most likely) giving what I love to call the “Sherman stare”…

sherman_1

I beg to present you the famous “Sherman stare”…

To further add to the fact Cump was clearly just keeping to himself, and wanted nothing to do with politics, he did NOT vote in the 1860 election. At all.  In the same letter to Ellen, he writes:

“I received a note from a friend advising me to vote – Technically I was entitled to vote, as I entered Louisiana just a year ago, but I thought I ought not to vote in this election, and did not…”

WAIT?! WHA..???

He goes onto state he would have preferred Bell but he knew Bell didn’t have a chance.

bell

John Bell. Sherman’s preferred candidate had he voted in the 1860 election. Bell was leader of Constitutional Union party. His running mate was Edward Everett (yes, the dude that gave the long speech that no one remembers at Gettysburg right before Lincoln gave the Gettysburg Address).

That’s right. Cump did not want to vote for this dude:

abraham_lincoln_november_1863

Hey, girl…

He was worried, however, about not voting and how it would be seen by those close to him in Louisiana:

“If I am to hold my place by a political Tenure I prefer to again to turn vagabond – I would not be surprised to learn that my not voting was construed into a friendly regard for Lincoln, and that might result in my being declared a Public Enemy”

Sherman simply hoped that since the election was over, “all this hard feeling will subside and peace once more settle on the country”.

When Sherman wrote this letter to Ellen on November 10, the election was over but he had not yet had word of the results. When he found out a few days later, he stated “the election of Mr. Lincoln fell upon us all like a clap of thunder”. Despite his inner fears, Sherman still describes himself as “keeping aloof from all cliques and parties” and hoping “that the threatened storm would blow over”.

We know it didn’t.

secession

On December 20, 1860, South Carolina became the first state to secede from the Union.

And Cump was not happy.  The man who had chosen to remain aloof, keep his head down and do his job, was about to let the fierce patriot shine through.

BUT…

That is for another post.

I honestly don’t know if those stuff is suspenseful for you but hey…I’m trying!

Until next time…

Mary 🙂

 

“I say but little, try & mind my own business, and await the issue of events”: Cump in Louisiana, Part 1

Today’s post begins in 1859 where we find my favourite red-headed, bad ass, rock star general living in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas helping his foster brothers Hugh & Tom Ewing with their law practice.  Yup, Sherman was in the Prairies “managing property” (whatever that means) for them. His other option  had been staying in Ohio and managing a salt mine for his foster father, Tom Ewing. Since Sherman, at times, seems to equate Ohio as being the equilvalent of the seventh level of Hell (particularly Lancaster), he decided to GTFO and go to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas…because somehow that is better. (Sidenote: I don’t get his issue with Ohio. The coolest people, including one of my BFF’s, are from Ohio. Besides Cump, it also where Grant and Sheridan hail from *fans self*. Cedar Point is there too. So are the Cleveland Indians #GOTRIBE and the Buckeyes. Like come on…coolest place ever! ). Honestly though, I wouldn’t want to manage a salt mine either.

However, when I think of the Prairies, I think of Oregon trail…

oregon_trail

F%$&. No thanks.

And I wouldn’t have wanted to go there either. Cump, however, needed money for his ever growing family (Yes, Ellen was pregnant again when he left for Kansas).

Anywho…

Whilst in the middle of nowhere, Cump got bored. Quickly. He wanted back in the Army because he was always “perfectly at home with sound of bugle and drum”. He craved the order of military life. He craved the commradary that came with it. Having not been in the Army for a few years at this point, Cump was given a taste of what he loved so much when he visited his friend from his West Point days, Stewart Van Vliet. Van Vliet was stationed at Fort Riley. The visit certainly paid off, since Sherman was granted a contract to oversee the maintenance of the road back to Leavenworth. As O’Connell states:

It was exactly what Sherman needed. It brought some money into Hugh and Tom’s firm, but mostly it was a tonic for his [Sherman’s] spirits.

A tonic he perhaps didn’t realize he needed. One night, he met up with a column of cavalry who were returning from scouting. He ended up trading stories with them. Between this and being at Fort Riley  (and probably just being f%^*ing bored), O’Connell argues that it made Sherman realize how much he missed the army. Sherman stated “it makes me regret my being out of service thus to meet my old comrades, in the open field, just where I most like to be”.

Al Pacino GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

He wanted back in. On June 11, 1859, Sherman wrote to Major D.C. Buell, who was assistant adjutant-general in the War Department in Washington, D.C. He was looking for a vacancy in said department. The reply was such that there was no openings in D.C. but…GUESS WHAT? There’s this military academy that’s being established in Louisiana AND they need a Superintendent. YOU SHOULD APPLY TO THIS NEW MILITARY SCHOOL IN THE SOUTH (sidenote: anyone else raising their eyebrows? Military Academy. South. There is talk of secession. There is political turmoil between north and south. Hmmmm…why are they building a military academy down there? Sherman does not really seem to question this either.).

And so he applied. Sherman wrote a few letters and in July of 1859, he received a reply from Governor Wickliffe in Louisiana that they would, indeed, like to have Cump as the Superintendent. I’ve found in a few sources that General Bragg and General Beauregard (yes, very soon to be Generals in the Confederate Army) had a hand in him getting this position. For example, O’Connell states that Sherman used Bragg as a reference. As a history enthusiast, conflicting info is both the bane of my existence as well as something that can be highly entertaining.

Sherman states in his memoirs that neither of these men had a hand in getting him the position:

During the Civil War, it was reported and charged that I owed my position to the personal friendship of General Braggs and Beauregard, and that, in taking up arms against the South, I had been guilty of a breach of hospitality and friendship. I was not indebted to General Bragg, because he himself told me that he was not even aware that I was an applicant, and had favored the selection of Major Jenkins, another West Point graduate. General Beauregard had nothing whatever to do with the matter.

He could also be throwing a bit of shade their way too for the their parts in the Civil War but hey, they threw shade at him. Especially Beauregard. At Shiloh. It involved Cump’s tent and a certain southern General using it. Cump was, literally, not a happy camper after Day 1 of Shiloh. You can read about it here.

On a side note (would anything less be expected from me) Sherman has snubbed more than a few people in his time- a notable one being Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton after the Civil War by NOT shaking his hand during the Grand Review held in Washington in May 1865. I believe “no-handshake-gate” is blog post worthy too. Whatever the case and whoever the hell his references were and what strings were pulled or not pulled, Sherman got the job. It paid $3,500.00 a year, a considerable sum in those days.

He found himself in Louisiana in Autumn of 1859, overseeing the building of this soon-to-be military academy near Alexandria, Louisiana. The Academy was to open in January of 1860. Sherman describes it is in his memoirs:

It was located on an old country place of 400 acres of pineland, with numerous springs, and the building was very large, and handsome.

la_state_seminary

Louisiana State Seminary & Military Academy as it would have looked when Sherman was Superintendent.

It was a nice place visually to be and from what I garnered in Sherman’s memoir’s, he genuinely enjoyed it there.

Sherman had to work quickly when he got there, since the Academy was slated to open on January 1, 1860. We all know when it comes to being quick, Cump is the master (especially at marching to places like the sea through states called Georgia). He immediately found carpenters that could finish the inside of the school (mess-tables, benches, blackboards, etc) while he worked on corresponding with the professors of the Academy and the Board of Directors. There was also other administrative things Cump had to take care with his fellow professors and the Board of Directors – bylaws, making the opening date official, how much tuition would be, what the exact name of the school would be, etc.

The Seminary opened, as planned, on January 1, 1860. Tuition was $60.00 for the year. There were 60 Cadets that first day, with 16 of them having their tuition covered by the State of Louisiana. By mid-winter, that number had went to 73. Sherman describes the school as  being very much like West Point or the Virginia Military Institute “but without uniforms or muskets”. There were, however, roll-calls, sections and recitations. It wasn’t exactly like completely being back in the Army, but Cump, nonetheless, seems to have been back in his element and, dare I say, happy. Sherman states in his memoirs that he was always treated with “the greatest courtesy and kindness”.

Flash foward to November of 1860 now. The election for the President of the United States is looming.

Cump writes a letter to wife Ellen on November 3, 1860. He talks of life at the Academy, and his horse Clay whom he feeds “oats at about a dollar a bushel & hay $60 a ton but he don’t appear to appreciate”. He also mentions the turmoil that is slowly bubbling towards the surface. Turmoil that he hopes will pass:

“People here not as though Disunion was a fixed thing – men of property say that as this constant feeling of danger of abolitionism exists they would rather try a Southern Confederacy – Louisiana would not secede but should South Carolina secede, I fear other Southern states will follow and soon General Anarchy will prevail – I say but little, try & mind my own business, and await the issue of Events”

He carries on in his letter, speaking of the beautiful weather, that when Ellen moves down there (yes, his plan was to move his family to Louisiana to be with him), and she “may count on as much Euchre as you please” in the evenings, especially as he has a friend, Dr. Clark, that enjoys playing Euchre. He says the house for them will be ready by Christmas but he says he wants to wait until after November to start the process of moving. One can surmise he is doing this because he is waiting to see how things go with the election.

And that is where we will leave Cump. Things are unstable politically, and it clear he knows this. As was always his way with politics, Sherman is steering clear, minding his own business as he himself stated in his letter to Ellen. And I’m sure, hoping, that he fears he relayed to Ellen would not be realized.

Thank you, as always, reading.

Until next time (just a few days away),

Mary

And my absolute favorite book of 2017 is…

…”A.Lincoln” by Ronald C. White, Jr.

ALincolnWhite

Anyone surprised by that? Didn’t think so. Last year my favorite book was also about my favorite guy too.

Sadly, the pool of books I had to choose from this year was pretty shallow. Compared to 2016, 2017 was definitely not the year of the book for me. Yes, I read and I had several books on the go. But nothing was getting finished.

Thanks to my best friend and the genius idea of each of us reading the same book at the same, I managed to finish a few books in the latter part of the year. Having someone kick your ass back into reading is awesome and that’s basically what we did for each other. We both are book geeks and reading is a huge passion for both of us. Hence the proverbial ass kicking, which, so far, has worked splendidly.

So, onto “A. Lincoln”…

This a phenomenal biography of Lincoln. White is a brilliant author with a clear and elegant way of writing. His writing flows beautifully. As the reader, I was very engaged throughout the whole book and I absolutely loved being taken into the world of Lincoln. Be warned though – it is one of those books where I found myself thinking “Okay, just five more pages…”.

We all know how that goes with a good book…

100 pages later and you’re still saying the same thing about “just five more pages…”.

There are many things to love about this biography, besides the obvious that it is about one of the greatest men to ever live – Abraham Lincoln.

At the very beginning, White has listed all the major people who are mentioned in the book. He calls it the “Cast of Characters”. This is a great reference to check back on because believe me, there are MANY people mentioned in the book that play key roles in Lincoln’s life.

The other thing I loved? White’s analysis of Lincoln’s speeches. They are some of the best I’ve ever read. I have come away with a better understanding of them. And his chapter on the Lincoln-Douglas debates? WOW!! Sheer brilliance!

My only criticism of the book is a I felt there were, at times, that White almost seemed to gloss over certain events in Lincoln’s life. The one that sticks out the most for me is the removal of Simon Cameron as Secretary of War early in Lincoln’s presidency. Without going into too much detail, Cameron was a corrupt individual and things happened that made Lincoln decide “hey, dude, enough is enough. You’re not Secretary of War anymore and I’ve found it more fitting to make you ambassador to Russia. Have fun!”. I felt in the book it was as though Cameron was Secretary of War, than he was off to Russia and boom…Edwin Stanton is now Secretary of War. There was not much of an explanation as to why this happened and Cameron was a man where it was once remarked that ” he was so corrupt, the only thing he wouldn’t steal was a red-hot stove”. So clearly, there was more going on that White, for whatever reason, chooses not to go into detail about.

BUT…

I feel as though this does not detract from the brilliance that this biography is. No biography is perfect and not every detail can be covered (see Michael Burlingame if you want detail). White has given us a brilliant, down-to-earth story of Abraham Lincoln. While the biography is detailed, it is most certainly not dense. I never felt like I was overwhelmed with information and thinking “damn it, this is too much!”. It is the perfect amount of detail, especially if this is your first Lincoln bio (for me, it was not. I started reading David Herbert Donald’s bio before this and I’ve read a couple others too). Speaking of which, if you are new to the world of Lincoln, this is the perfect bio to start with! It’s the one I’ve started recommending as a way for Lincoln newbies to start off their journey in learning about this amazing gentleman.

To me, the central theme of the book is to show how much Lincoln grew as a person. Not just from a political standpoint but also from a spiritual one too. This is why it is such a human portrayal of Lincoln. One comes away with a better understanding of the things Lincoln wrestled with his mind, most notably slavery. We see how much he grew as a person, how his beliefs changed, especially throughout his time as President. To me, seeing his growth as a person make him even more relatable and it truly shows how he can still inspire many of us today.

And that is why “A.Lincoln” by Ronald C. White, Jr. is my book of 2017. It is one of the best biographies I’ve ever read and one I know I can pick up to read again and enjoy it just as much the second time through.

Here’s what I’ve also come to believe about Lincoln and the many bios there are of him – I don’t believe there is one definitive one. With Lincoln, there is always something new to learn or a different interpretation of an event in his life or in his beliefs. It is always good to keep learning and reading about him. I don’t think you can read just one bio about him and say “that is it”. He’s a complex man and really, if you’re like me, once you start reading about him, you can’t get enough.

So, please, give “A. Lincoln” a try, especially if it is your first biography about him. But after that – there are countless others to read too.

What other Lincoln biographies have you read? Which are your favorites? Please tell me on Twitter or leave a comment below.

And also…

What books did you enjoy reading in 2017? What is your favourite book of 2017? Tell me on Twitter or leave a comment below. I’d love to know!

One more thing…

I’m now part of an Abraham Lincoln podcast! It’s called “The Railsplitter: The Abraham Lincoln Podcast”. Jeremy and Nick, my fellow railsplitters and co-hosts, were incredibly kind and asked me to join back in August. It is awesome to be part of a podcast with two other Lincoln geeks! It’s been both fun and rewarding! Our listeners are a really awesome group too and we have a great Facebook group for the podcast. You can check it out here. There’s always great discussion going on there that is , of course, Lincoln related. Also, please give us a listen.

So, a very Happy New Year to my readers! And also to my followers on Twitter. All of you are awesome and I love all the discussions that happen on Twitter.

And again, please let me know what you favourite book was of 2017! I’d love to know since I’m always looking for more books to add to ever-growing to-read list.

Until next time,

Mary

He “belongs to the ages” & he belongs to us…

April 14th and 15th are days that are usually sad for me. The anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination stirs up an array of emotions in me – sadness, sorrow mostly but also hope. The hope seems to wind its way through me as I remember the man that Lincoln was and not the tragedy that took him before he could help his country heal from almost being torn apart. Hope comes through as I remember the amazing man that Lincoln was and that he still, in so many ways, continues to be as his spirit seems to live on in his timeless words and through those of us that love him so much.

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I remember all he did for his country as a terrible Civil War was waged and threatened to rip it apart. I try to remember a man that has been part of my life for nearly as long as I’ve been alive. I remember how Lincoln, through his actions and timeless words, continues to inspire not just me but millions of others. That we can look to Lincoln in times of sorrow and find comfort in his words. We are reminded that our origins do not matter and we should not let others tell us differently. That we should always aspire to be better people through every facet of our lives. That we should always find “the better angels of our nature” and have “malice toward none”. Lincoln also reminds us to laugh and to find joy in life, even in the darkest of times.

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Lincoln with his son Tad. One of my favourite photos of both of them. This one always brings a smile to my face. 

For me, Lincoln has become a sort of coping mechanism for dealing with my own anxiety and depression – escaping into a book about him always makes me feel better. I alway manage to read something that inspires me or reminds me that I can persevere through tough times, as he did. Whether this was facing the demons of his own depression or going against political opponents or, and this was perhaps his most difficult challenge, watching his country wage a terrible Civil War. He persevered through each and every challenge. That inspires me and it reminds me that, no matter what, I can get through whatever curve ball life decides to pitch my way.

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Warm summer days are best spent reading books about Lincoln. This is one of my favorite bios about him. 

As sad as these two days are for me, I try and remember Abraham Lincoln and all he stood for. I think of all the happiness he has brought to my life and many others, even though he has been gone for 152 years. The fact we still talk about him, that he inspires us still with his beautiful words, shows that, as his Secretary of War and good friend Edwin Stanton said after Lincoln passed away, that he truly does “belong to the ages”. In a way, he also belongs to all of us that love him. He is ours and he always will be. He has touched all of our lives in a positive way. He lives in our hearts. When I think of it that way, it seems like he’s not gone. That his spirit still moves among us, bringing us joy, helping us to persevere through life’s challenges and most of all, remembering and being inspired by the amazing human that Abraham Lincoln was, and still continues to be…

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My favourite spot in the whole entire world is the Lincoln Memorial

I beg to present you a birthday post about Sherman…

February is a special month for me. Why? It ain’t cause of Valentine’s Day (I’m so over it). My two favourite men both have birthdays this month! If y’all didn’t know, that would be Abraham Lincoln and General William Tecumseh Sherman.

My two favourite men. *Swoon*. One with a crooked bow-tie, the other with messy hair. This is why they’re awesome.

Today just so happens to be Sherman’s birthday! As such, I wanted to have a post about him. But what to write about? I was perplexed but than I thought, why not let Cump speak for himself? I mean, look at the man’s memoirs….

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Leave it to me to take a photo of Cump’s memoirs AND my Lincoln mug.

Yes, Cump was a chatterbox.

Robert L. O’Connell (author of an amazing biography about Sherman called “Fierce Patriot) has quite a priceless description of what a wordy guy Cump was and it makes me laugh out loud every time I read it:

Calling him a motormouth understates the case: he was a veritable volcano of verbiage, as borne by a mountain of letters, memoranda, and other official papers, not to mention the uniformly gabby impression he left among his contemporaries. If there was a contest for who spoke the most words in a lifetime, Sherman would have been a finalist – he lived a long time and slept very little; otherwise he was talking. [I’d like to add to this – or marching/burning things. But he probably talked while he did that too]

O’Connell goes on to say that Cump always “said what was on his mind at that instant”. He also would switch from subject to subject but eventually get back to the first. (Side note: I do this. All the time. One of my best friends does too. When we talk, our conversations our interesting, to put it lightly. Nothing like starting with talking about what we each had for dinner and somehow we end up talking about how we haven’t read certain classic novels like “War and Peace” and that we’ve been judged for it.  But I digress…).

And this is why for my post about Cump on his birthday, I want him to speak for himself. I found some of my favourite quotes from him – some funny, some serious, some sad. Now, I beg to present, to you my awesome readers and friends, a birthday post about my favourite General with quotes from the man himself (haha! See what I did there?)..

That time he partied a little too hard when he was in California but then the ship arrived with the mail…

“The ball was a really handsome affair, and we kept it up nearly all night. The next morning we were at breakfast…We were dull and stupid enough until a gun from the fort aroused us, then another and another. ‘The steamer!’ exclaimed all, and, without waiting for hats or anything, off we dashed…”

Schitt'S Creek GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

That time he ate a hot pepper in California but thought it was a tomato (and we see a hint of drama queen coming out in Sherman)…

“…I was helped to a dish of rabbit, with what I thought to be an abundant sauce of tomato. Taking a good mouthful, I felt as though I had taken liquid fire; the tomato was chile colarado, or red pepper, of the purest kind. It nearly killed me…”

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That maybe, sometimes, Cump wasn’t very patient,  he exaggerated and could have been a drama queen…

“By the time the ship was fairly at anchor, we had answered a million questions about gold and the state of the country…”

Like, oh my god, enough questions already…

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On his friendship with Grant…

Grant stood by me when I was crazy, and I stood by him when he was drunk, and now we stand by each other.

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On war…

War is cruelty. There is no use trying to reform it. The crueler it is, the sooner it will be over.

War is the remedy our enemies have chosen, and I say let us give them all they want. 

On reporters…

I hate newspapermen. They come into camp and pick up their camp rumors and print them as facts. I regard them as spies, which, in truth, they are. 

I think I understand what military fame is: to be killed on the field of battle and have your name misspelled in the newspapers. 

I wasn’t really convinced he hated reporters until I found this gem…

If I had my choice I will kill every reporter in the world, but I am sure we would be getting reports from Hell before breakfast. 

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Well, okay.

Perhaps the most epic telegram of all time was sent by General Sherman to President Lincoln on December 22, 1864…

I beg to present you, as a Christmas gift, the city of Savannah, with 150 heavy guns and plenty of ammunition, and also about 25,000 bales of cotton

There you have it! Some of my favourite quotes from one of my favourite Civil War Generals, William Tecumseh Sherman. Do you have any favourite quotes from him?

Thank you, as always, for reading.

Until next time,

Mary 🙂

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Sources

“Fierce Patriot” by Robert L. O’Connell.

“Memoirs” by William T. Sherman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When you need a good laugh…

Sometimes I write really serious blog posts.

This is not one of those posts.

Cause I think we need to laugh right now. 

I’ll just leave this here. 

Y’all can clearly see that Sherman is clearly the influence behind Darkwing Duck…

Abraham Lincoln holding a big gulp made my day (this is a behind the scenes shot from the awesome documentary “Killing Lincoln”. Billy Campbell played Lincoln and he was amazing!)

I find the most amazing shit on Reddit. Someone is a freaking genius.

9 out of 10 Union Army Generals would agree with this sentiment. 

Again, Reddit is epic

How Lincoln looked when McClellen said the horses were tired

Of course I have this meme on my phone…
The most epic telegram ever. Let’s discuss possible senders and recipients during the Civil War.
That’s all for now. I hope this post made you laugh, giggle or whatever. 

Until next time,

Love,

Mary 💖💖💖

The Horses of General Lee’s “Old War Horse” (and some digressions…)

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“God Be With You” beautifully painted by Mort Kunstler. Honestly, Lee looks like he’s about to give Longstreet shit for something.  Or they’re having some kind of stare down.

General Lee’s “Old War Horse” refers to General James Longstreet. He was also known as “Old Pete”. It was today, January 8th, in 1821 that General James “Pete” Longstreet was born in South Carolina. His parents were James and Mary Ann Dent Longstreet. His family, on both sides, dates back to the colonial period of America.

Digression time (y’all know by now I do this kind of thing…): Who picked up on the maiden name of Longstreet’s mother? Dent. I’m sure it’s ringing a bell and you’re thinking “Where have I heard that name before?”. It’s Civil War connection time! Dent is the maiden name of General Grant’s wife, Julia. That’s right – James Longstreet and Union Rock Star General Ulysses S. Grant are related through marriage. James served as Best Man at Ulysses and Julia’s wedding. How’s that for a digression?

General Grant and General Longstreet. Related through marriage, fought against each other during the Civil War, most notably at the Wilderness where Longstreet ended up being wounded. I was just reading in Jeff Shaara’s “The Last Full Measure” about their connection. It was from Longstreet’s perspective. He refers to Grant as being a friend. I can’t imagine what it would have been fighting against someone who I considered a friend, let along was related to me and had stood up at my marriage. Such was the case too many times during the Civil War. 

Okay, enough for that digression.  Since it is Longstreet’s birthday today, I did want to have a post written to do with him so I decided to write about his horses. Again, are y’all surprised by that? Probably not, given the fact I’ve written a few posts where the General’s horses are mentioned, most notable Baldy and Little Sorrel.

So, I start my journey researching. Here I am thinking “this is going to be like researching Baldy and Little Sorrel. Longstreet was a famous General. There will be stories about his horses! I’ve got this!”

Sometimes, the best laid plans that you think will chug along just fine don’t because you discover the research equivalent to finding that Sherman’s Army has ripped up the railway tracks you were travelling on…

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I got derailed, y’all…

Unfortunately, there is not nearly as much information about Longstreet’s horses as there is for Traveller (General Lee), Cincinnati (General Grant), Rienzi (General Sheridan), Baldy (General Meade) and Little Sorrel (General “Stonewall” Jackson). But hey, that happens when you’re doing historical research. Sometimes the sources are just not readily available OR they just didn’t write about them. I’m sure his horses were just as cool the other ones out there – there just wasn’t much written about them.

But I still managed to find some snippets of info…

We know General Longstreet had two horses: Hero and Fly-By-Night. Hero, according to Longstreet in his memoirs “From Manasses to Appomattox”, was given this name by Longstreet’s Irish groom. Longstreet also remarks  in his memoirs that this was indeed his favourite horse. Back to Hero in a second.

As for Fly-By-Night, all I could find out about him was that he given to General Longstreet by General Lee sometime in 1864 while Longstreet was in Georgia or Tennessee (sources differ) for Old  Pete’s services in the West.

Back to Hero.

We can presume that General Longstreet would have ridden Hero at many notable Civil War battles. Wert remarks in his biography “General James Longstreet: The Confederacy’s Most Controversial Soldier” that in the morning hours of December 13th, Longstreet was astride Hero at Fredericksburg.  I found a beautiful Mort Kunstler painting illustrating just that…

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“War Is So Terrible” by Mort Kunstler. This painting depicts General Longstreet and General Lee on the morning of December 13, 1862 amid the melting snow at Fredericksburg. It was at this battle that Lee said to Longstreet “It is well that war is so terrible – we should grow too fond of it”.

He also rode Hero throughout the three days of the Battle of Gettysburg on July 1st-3rd, 1863.  Below, the two paintings by Mort Kunstler depict him on a horse that we can presume is Hero.

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“Lee’s Old Warhorse” by  Mort Kunstler. This painting depicts the morning of July 3, 1863, the final day of the Battle of Gettysburg.

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“Storm Over Gettysburg” by Mort Kunstler. General Lee is riding his horse Traveller and General Longstreet is on his horse Hero. This painting depicts the night of July 3rd, 1863.

If Mort Kunstler’s paintings are correct, we know that Hero was a chestnut coloured horse with a white mark on his face (sounds quite similar to Meade’s horse, Baldy). Considering Longstreet would have ridden him into battle, Hero would have had to have been a strong and powerful horse,too, much like any of the other Civil War horses. In this discussion on Civil War Talk, I did find reference that Hero was an Irish Thoroughbred. Hero most likely looked very much like one of these beautiful horses:

I can imagine what a commanding presence Longstreet would have had on the battlefield as he was astride Hero.

Despite the way he was treated after the Civil War, Longstreet has not been forgotten. Nor has Hero. The two have a statue together at Gettysburg and it is one of my favourite ones in the park. I remember the first time I saw it, I was amazed with the level of the detail. This was one of my favourite photos that I took on the day I spent at Gettysburg in May of 2012.

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Monument to Confederate General James Longstreet at Gettysburg. Longstreet has very few monuments, as a result of the negative opinion of him by many southerners after the Civil War. This monument was installed at Gettysburg in 1998 and was sculpted by Gary Casteel. Compared to many of the other monuments in the park, Longstreet’s is relatively young.

In researching this post, I discovered that there were mixed feelings about this monument. There are a few people who simply don’t like it. Me? I love it. It’s one of my favourites in the park, mainly because it is an equestrian statue. Sure, I don’t love it as much as I love the equestrian monument to John Reynolds but  Longstreet’s is still a favourite. In discovering the mixed feelings as well as how different this monument is from others, I’ve decided to write a separate post about the monument itself at some point soon.

Just briefly: this monument, unlike many of the other equestrian monuments in Gettysburg (and elsewhere at Civil War battlefields) is not on a pedestal. Longstreet and Hero are at ground level. It allows one to see the great level of detail that encompasses the entire statue. Of course I was most drawn to Hero. That’s what attracted me to the statue in the first place.

Despite Hero & Fly-By-Night not having the same level of fame as Traveller or Rienzi, I still felt they were worthy of a post. Horses played a huge role in the Civil War, and I feel they deserve to be remembered too.

Living up to his name, Fly-By-Night is clearly the more mysterious of two horses, with next to nothing for information about him (or her?). For us to know this horse’s name must mean he (or she), meant something to Longstreet.

As for Hero, he’ll go down in history as Old Pete’s favourite horse, having been mentioned in his memoirs. He’s also been somewhat immortalized in the paintings by Mort Kunstler as well as in the  monument at Gettysburg.

Do y’all know any stories about the lesser known horses of the Civil War? Also, if you’ve seen the Longstreet monument at Gettysburg, please let me know what you thought of it!

Thanks, as always, for reading. Y’all are awesome.

Mary

P.S. If you want to see more of Mort Kunstler’s beautiful painting, check out his website here.

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Sources

Casteel, Gary. “It’s About Time: The Sculpting of the James Longstreet Memorial”. http://www.garycasteel.com/longstreet.htm.

Longstreet, James. “From Manassas To Appomattox”

Statue/Monument to General Longstreet. http://civilwartalk.com/threads/statue-monument-of-general-longstreet.10198/

Wert, Jeffry D. “General James Longstreet: The Confederacy’s Most Controversial Soldier”. Simon & Schuster: New York, 1993.

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