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 tag “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.

abraham_lincoln_november_1863

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.

abe_with_tad

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.

img_3943-1

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…

DSC_7783

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

Advertisements

“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…”

img_0009-1

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

Four Words: What Abraham Lincoln Means to Me…

Since I was six years old, I have had an immense love for Abraham Lincoln. He has been a constant in my life and knowing who he is and all that he accomplished has had an incredibly positive impact on my own life. On this, the 151st anniversary of his assassination, I decided to write a post about what Lincoln personally means to me.

Four words…

Hope. Perseverance. Kindness.Laughter.

These are words that come to mind when I think of what Abraham Lincoln means to me.

Why those four words?

HOPE…

Abraham Lincoln is someone who suffered from depression. He was a melancholy person. As someone who personally battles depression and anxiety, knowing he suffered and managed to get through and do all the amazing things he did, gives me hope. Hope that I can get through the days that are rough, that I can push through and come out maybe a bit stronger than I was before. It gives me hope that we all can push through.

PERSEVERANCE…

Abraham Lincoln’s humble origins show us that where we are from matters not. We can, just like he did, rise above that which holds us back, be it people, a place or, in the case of depression, ourselves. He shows us that we can always push forward and persevere. Always. And hey, this gives us hope, too.

KINDNESS…

Lincoln teaches us to find “the better angels of our nature” and “to have malice toward none”, no matter the situation. While he applied these words to a country that was at war, they can apply to any situation, big or small. These words remind me to be a good person and treat others well.

LAUGHTER…

image

You can see a slight smile in this photo of Lincoln. Thanks to one of my Twitter friends for sending this to me the other day. It brought a smile to my face on a day in which I needed to remember to smile 

I can’t remember Lincoln without remembering his sense of humour. It is so very much apart of who he was. He has taught me to always remember to laugh, even in the face of depression. That laughter is good.

Hope. Perseverance. Kindness. Laughter.

It is these four words that are what Abraham Lincoln means to me. For me personally, this is his legacy. He has been a part of my life since I was six. That is 27 years now. Besides these four words, knowing who he is has brought me so much. Through him, I developed a lifelong love and passion for history. In developing a passion and love of history, I decided to pursue an education in the museum field and become an artifact conservator. It is also because of him I have met many wonderful, amazing, and caring people, especially in the past year. I’m so happy that I can call many of these people friends. I’m so grateful to have them in my life. I’ve learned so much from them.

As we remember Abraham Lincoln on the 151st anniversary of his assassination, it will be in different ways; it all depends on what he personally means to us. That is truly one of the things that is amazing about him. What he means to each of us, and what we believe his legacy to be, may be different from person to person. I am sure, however, that one thing we can all agree on is what an amazing, inspiring person he was and really, what he continues to be. It is because of this, he will never be forgotten and that his spirit lives on in us.

So, Lincoln, where ever you, thank you for all you did and continue to do. Thank you for giving us hope, for inspiring us, for helping us persevere and for making us remember to smile and laugh.

We will continue to remember you. Always.

 

 

Post Navigation