Lincoln at Gettysburg

“The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here,” worded Lincoln, ironically enough at the dedication ceremony for the Fallen at the Gettysburg. The line and the entire Gettysburg Address, indeed passed unnoticed on that November day 1863.

The main speaker of the day was not Lincoln but the orator Edward Everett, who droned on for two hours in a 1,500-sentence speech full of what Bill Bryson called, “literary allusions, Ciceronian pomp and obscure historical references that bore only the scantest significance to the occasion”.  Abraham Lincoln was the second speaker and his speech contained only 268 words, two thirds of them of only one syllable, in ten short sentences. He barely took his eyes of his written speech–which didn’t mentioned Gettysburg or slavery or the Union. His talk of a little over 2 minutes was too short for the official photographer to take the president delivering the iconic speech.

Abraham Lincoln photos are rare — from the day of the Gettysburg Address, only one verified photo exist the one above. One is currently being verified here.

The photos were even rarer than the manuscript copies of the Gettysburg Address. Of five known copies, the Library of Congress has two (those of Lincoln’s private secretaries), and other three copies of the Address were written by Lincoln for charitable purposes. (Everett, to whom Lincoln confided that he thought the speech was a failure, got a copy).

Lincoln at Antietam


Three cigars changed the course of American history at Antietam, the site of the bloodiest one-day battle in American history.  On September 17, 1862 some 24,000 soldiers perished at Antietam Creek, where the decisive victory on the Union side was achieved by Union General McClellan’s ability to predict the Confederate Army’s movements. McClellan was able to do so with the help of three lost cigars being discovered in a field. A Union solider discovered Confederate Special Order 191–which noted Lee’s army’s movements–wrapped around three cigars and passed on to their commander.

Antietam became the first battle in which Lee’s army had been denied its main objective. Yet, McClellan waited long enough to lose the opportunity to crush Lee decisively; in the days immediately after the battle, Lincoln became distressed at McClellan’s failure to pursue Lee’s retreating army. In early October, Lincoln visited McClellan at his headquarters at Antietam to urge him personally to attack, when the above picture by Alexander Gardner was taken. From left to right, Lincoln’s intelligence service chief Allan Pinkerton, Lincoln, and General McClellan.

Lincoln was deeply disappointed in McClellan, on whom he rested his high hopes at the beginning of the Civil war. McClellan was removed from command immediately after; he ran against Lincoln in 1864 election. Lincoln won the election handily, with 212-12 Electoral College votes, and he won 70% of troops’ votes.

On September 22, 1862, Lincoln decided to release the Emancipation Proclamation because of the Union victory at Antietam. A string of disastrous Union defeats before had prevented Lincoln from issuing the proclamation for fear of appearing desperate. In the proclamation’s wake, the war not only gained a higher moral purpose, but also record numbers of now-emancipated slaves joined the Union Army, thereby increasing its military strength. Indeed, the outcome of the American Civil War was decided on the fields on Antietam, not by the marching armies but by a carelessly lost parcel of three cigars.

civil-war-021.jpgLincoln with military officers at Antietam.

Lincoln-McClellan.jpgLincoln and McClellan in the latter’s tents at Antietam.

Ford Theatre after Lincoln Assassination


Good Friday, April 14, 1865. President Abraham Lincoln was shot while attending a performance of Our American Cousin at Ford’s Theatre with his wife and two guests. Lincoln’s assassin was actor and Confederate sympathizer John Wilkes Booth. This is a Matthew Brady photograph of the presidential box at Ford’s Theater, made two days after the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln on April 14, 1865. At center of the box is the picture of George Washington which caught one of the spurs of John Wilkes Booth as he jumped to the stage after shooting Lincoln in the back of the head.

Lincoln Assassination is part of a larger plot to to create chaos and overthrow the Federal government by killing the Secretary of State William H. Seward and Vice President Andrew Johnson. Although Booth succeeded in killing Lincoln, the larger plot failed. Seward was attacked, but recovered from his wounds, and Johnson’s would-be assassin fled Washington, D.C. upon losing his nerve.

In Lincoln Memorial


This 1922 National Archives photo show the Georgian marble statue inside the Lincoln Memorial being assembled. It was made by Daniel Chester French, who incorporated the American Sign Language symbols, ‘A’ and ‘L’ to the President’s hands out of gratitude for the late president’s founding of Gallaudet University for the Deaf–something French’s hearing impaired daughter greatly benefited from.

Although a monument to honor the nation’s murdered (and martyred) president was granted by the United States Congress in 1867, a site was not chosen until 1902 in a campaign spearheaded by Teddy Roosevelt. The site, directly facing the Washington Monument, was originally a swampland. Surprisingly, it was an extremely divisive project–too many Confederate soldiers, and their families opposed the idea of a tribute to emancipation. 

The dedication ceremony on May 30th 1922, led by Former President and Chief Justice William Howard Taft and attended by Lincoln’s only surviving child, Robert Todd Lincoln, proved to be equally divisive. Although the blacks were emancipated, Washington D.C. was still officially segregated. Black attendees were shoved to the back and to add insult to injury, their cause was demeaned on the podium where President Harding noted emancipation was sought only as a means to “union and nationality.”