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

Archive for the category “assassination”

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

The Whirlwind Journey To Here…

I’ve been interested in Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War for as long as I can remember. Well, since at least six years of age. That’s a long time, considering I turn 34 in a couple of weeks. I’ve been asked a few times, especially since I’m a Canadian, how I came to be OBSESSED with American’s 16th President and the Civil War.

So, I decided to make a video about it. It’s about 18 minutes long. I totally get if you just skim through it or don’t watch it. I also made it for myself because I wanted to start posting videos on here and I’m trying to become more comfortable with doing that. I have social anxiety…this is a HUGE thing for me to be able to do this.

So, a couple things…

  1. The video is very amateur. I didn’t edit it or anything. It’s the raw footage as I shot it yesterday in my basement with my iPad.
  2. I swear a little bit. Okay, sometimes more than a little bit. Just a warning. I start talking and my filter doesn’t always kick in.
  3. I ramble.
  4. I don’t look at the camera.
  5. I’m learning as I go. And it’s been a good experience so far.

So, here’s the video…how I became a history geek…

Oh, there’s a few things I mention in the video and I’ve posted the photos below, just so y’all have reference to them…

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This is it. The book that started it all for me. I still have it, along with all the other books in the series, in the black hole that is my parent’s place.

The above photos are from my first visit to Gettysburg with my highschool when I was 16. It was an amazing experience.

Oh, and here’s the blog post I mention about when my husband and I went to DC. We got lost in Arlington National Cemetery. If you EVER go on a trip with me, DO NOT let me navigate UNLESS you want to get lost. If that’s the case, by all means, let me navigate. I was born with a broken GPS and I will get us lost.

Oh, and I give a shout out to a few people in my video. I’m taking it down to nerves (and really, I should have sat and made a list), but there are a few other people to mention that follow me on Twitter (and I follow them and immensely enjoy their tweets): Old News Co, Kimi, Roxi, Bob, Ethan, Mike, Abbie. And anyone else…I love y’all just as much! I hate leaving people out…

Oh, and I’d love to hear how y’all became interested into history, Abraham Lincoln, the Civil War, etc. I always love to hear how people become passionate about the things they love! Feel free to leave your story in the comments!

As always, thank you for reading (and if you watched the video, awesome!). I love and appreciate all of you.

Until next time…

Mary a.k.a Civil War Fangirl a.k.a Miss_Bellatrix

“All felt the solemnity and sorrowed as if they lost one of their own household…”

The title of this blog comes from Gideon Welles’ diary entry from Wednesday, April 19th, 1865. He is writing of the funeral of Abraham Lincoln. It was on this day that Washington D.C. said goodbye and a nation began to mourn the loss of their beloved president. Welles’ diary gives us a glimpse into how the city mourned and just how much sorrow their was everywhere. It is quite touching to be able to read his words and see the funeral through his thoughts.

In writing of the days following the assassination, Welles describes the city as having fallen into mourning as “every house, almost, has some drapery, especially the homes of the poor”. While he describes more elaborate displays on public buildings and wealthy homes, it was “the little black ribbon or strip of black cloth from the hovel of the poor negro or the impoverished white [that] is more touching”.

In his entry from the 18th, we do get some sense of what Welles’ himself was going through, and it is evident he was feeling the loss of Lincoln immensely. He writes “I have tried to writing something consecutively since the horrid transactions of Friday night, but I have no heart for it, and the jottings down are mere mementos of a period, which I will try to fill up when more composed, and I have leisure or time for the task”. The passage that struck me the most from this entry was this: “Sad and painful, wearied and irksome, the few preceding incoherent pages have been written for future use, for the incidents are fresh in my mind and may pass away with me but cannot ever be by me forgotten”. In reading that, I felt he was probably capturing what many at the time felt. No doubt many were still feeling shock and disbelief at what had happened to President Lincoln and their was an air of sorrow that the people of the Washington D.C. and the country had never felt before.

On the day of the funeral, Welles remarks that business was suspended for the day. His words again capture the deep sorrow that was felt by most, if not all, who attended Lincoln’s funeral & the feelings of many people…

“…imposing, sad and sorrowful. All felt solemnity, and sorrowed as if they had lost one of their own household…”

Those words stick with me so much right now as I write this and try to imagine the grief that was flowing through everyone at that time.

The funeral was held in the East Room of the White House. Chandeliers were taken down or draped in black. Huge mirrors were covered in white cloth. The day before, mourners had come through to pay their respects to the slain President, with a line stretching from the White House more than a mile long.

The funeral was attended by 600 people. Robert Todd Lincoln was the representative for the immediate family at the funeral. Mary, too overcome with grief, stayed up in her room. I cannot even imagine the grief and sorrow she must have been feeling at the loss of her husband. Tad was present at first but had to be taken away because, as one person remarked, he was crying “as if his heart would break”.

Afterwards, a funeral procession was led down Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House to the Capital, where again President Lincoln would lie in state, giving the people of Washington one final time to say goodbye to him. It was here, just six weeks prior on March 4th, that Lincoln had been sworn in for his second term as president and gave his second inaugural address. This is when he spoke the words that have resonated ever since the first time I read them when I was younger: “…with malice toward none…”

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The funeral procession of Abraham Lincoln

In the procession, Welles rode with Edwin M. Stanton, Secretary of War. His entry of the procession captures the mood again of the entire city:

“There were no truer mourners, when all were sad, than the poor colored people who crowded the streets, joined the procession, and exhibited their woe, bewailing the loss of him whom they regarded as a benefactor and father. Women as well as men, with their little children, thronged the streets, sorrow, trouble, and distress depicted on their countenances and in their bearing”

Everything had “given way to real grief”.

Welles even writes of Seward, who was unable to attend the funeral due to not only injuries from a carriage accident a few weeks prior but a brutal assassination attempt upon him the same night of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination:

“Seward, I am told, sat up in bed and viewed the procession and hearse of the President, and I know his emotion”.

Once at the Capitol, Welles writes that Reverend Gurley said a brief prayer in the Rotunda. The statues were all covered with black except for that of George Washington. Upon leaving, Welles’ writes an emotional sentiment: “we left the remains of the good and great man we loved so well”.

Here at the Capitol, Lincoln would lie in state for 36 hours before beginning his journey on a train to his final resting place: his home of Springfield, Illinois. The train would make many stops on its way there, the entire journey taking three weeks, giving the people of his beloved country a chance to say one final goodbye.

 

“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 151 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 151 years ago today. 151 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 151 years later, the assassination and death of Abraham Lincoln still resonates with people and moves them. We still feel grief 151 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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