Irredeemable Loss & Grief…Assassination of President Lincoln

Today in History, April 14, 1865:

Within a week of the surrender at Appomattox, a coward assassinated President Abraham Lincoln.

If you were old enough on 9/11, you experienced the indescribable loss, grief, and helplessness we all experienced.

I use this in an attempt to fathom the emotions Americans must have felt at the loss of Lincoln. He had led them through the most traumatic time in our nation’s history…the times ahead were still uncertain. How would the North and South reunite? Was the war really over? They needed his steady hand on the rudder stearing the ship of state more than ever.

And suddenly Abraham was gone.

I post “O Captain! My Captain!” By Walt Whitman almost every year on this date, because I believe he came closest to capturing the grief the nation must have felt.

O Captain! My Captain!

O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done,
The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won,
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring;
                         But O heart! heart! heart!
                            O the bleeding drops of red,
                               Where on the deck my Captain lies,
                                  Fallen cold and dead.
O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up—for you the flag is flung—for you the bugle trills,
For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths—for you the shores a-crowding,
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;
                         Here Captain! dear father!
                            This arm beneath your head!
                               It is some dream that on the deck,
                                 You’ve fallen cold and dead.
My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still,
My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will,
The ship is anchor’d safe and sound, its voyage closed and done,
From fearful trip the victor ship comes in with object won;
                         Exult O shores, and ring O bells!
                            But I with mournful tread,
                               Walk the deck my Captain lies,
                                  Fallen cold and dead.

“So. You’re the little woman who wrote the book that made this big war?” – A. Lincoln

Today in History, March 20, 1852:

“So…you’re the little woman who wrote the book that made this great war!”

President Abraham Lincoln greets Harriett Beecher Stowe at the Presidential Mansion in 1862, ten years after her novel “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” was first published.

I am amazed at the foresight and courage displayed by this woman, a school teacher turned author.

By her own admission, in the epilogue of the book, for the first part of her life, she knew of slavery, disapproved of it, but being a Northerner, it was distant and she felt that the problem would be resolved eventually on it’s own.

How many of today’s injustices do we see the same way? Between meeting some runaway slaves, becoming familiar with the Underground Railroad, and stories from her family and friends, and finally the Compromise of 1850 (in which the government promised to return runaway slaves in exchange for new limitations on slavery expansion), she became an avid abolitionist.

She wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin to illustrate the aspects of slavery that most did not understand at that time.

As slaves, a mother’s children were often sold off, never to be seen again.

Women were sold into prostitution, to be used until their value had diminished.

If a good and kindly “master” came on hard times, he might sell a good man “down the river” to cruel and harsh masters, as “Uncle Tom” was.

With her novel, Mrs. Stowe humanized the slavery issue, brought it home to people and chastised them for not living up to their Christian values.

The novel would become the best selling novel of the 19th century and would inspire abolitionist views amongst Americans. It was certainly far from the only cause of the Civil War…but the novel played it’s part in American History.

One has to wonder if this “little woman” had any idea of the importance her words would have. If you haven’t read (or listened to) this novel, you should.ance her words would have. If you haven’t read (or listened to) this novel, you should.

Connections The Nation Grows Honest Men Secure Their Future For Us An Amazing Day

Today in History, March 10:

I was researching for today and found amazing connections – I love connections in History! This will be a long post, but in summary:

In 1804 a ceremony was held in St. Louis commemorating the Louisiana Purchase, which doubled the size of our young nation overnight.

In 1848 the US Senate ratifies the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, officially ending the Mexican-American War and again doubling the size of our nation.

Many believed the Mexican-American War was an unjust, fabricated conflict, much as many of us argue today about the Iraq War and its costs (not saying what my beliefs are…but I always stand with my beloved country).

Two of the men who felt the Mexican-American War was unjust spoke out vocally about their beliefs. One was a Congressman who disagreed with men he respected on the issue. The other who spoke out was a young Army officer who, in spite of his beliefs, fought courageously during the war.

In 1864 the Congressman, now President, signed documents promoting the young officer to Lt. General of the US Army (a rank only George Washington had previously held as permanent) so no other officer would be his equal. Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses S. Grant believed wholeheartedly in their cause during the Civil War.

Today in History, March 10, 1804:

In St. Louis (not yet Missouri), an official ceremony is conducted, transferring possession of the “Louisiana Purchase” from Spain to the United States, virtually doubling the size of the American landscape overnight.

Today in History, March 10, 1848:

Treaty of Peace, Friendship, Limits and Settlement between the United States of America and the Mexican Republic, or the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ending the Mexican-American War is ratified by the US Senate after several amendments were made by that Congressional body.

The treaty had been negotiated in Mexico, documenting monies to be paid by the United States to Mexico and territories including modern day California, New Mexico, Arizona, and parts of Nevada, Colorado, Wyoming and Utah to be ceded to the US.

Senators to include Thomas Hart Benton, Jefferson Davis, Sam Houston, Stephen A. Douglas, and John C. Calhoun fought over the final draft.

Today in History, March 10, 1864:

President Lincoln signs documents promoting Ulysses S. Grant to the rank of Lieutenant General.

Grant was only the second person to hold the rank, the first having been George Washington. Winfield Scott had held the rank in the interim, but only as a “brevet” or temporary rank.

Lincoln wanted his commanding general to have a rank above his other generals for leadership purposes. Grant would answer only to the President. I didn’t find anything to document it, but have to wonder if this was partially because Grant had been promoted over several more senior officers to command the army due to his runaway successes in the west.

The End of an Era – The Age of Sail was Over

Today in History, March 9, 1862:

The Battle of Hampton Roads.

Few are able to be part of a truly history changing event.

When the Civil War began, the Union abandoned the Naval Base at Norfolk, Virginia, burning everything they could in retreat.

The Confederacy took the base, and raised the sunken Union USS Merrimack. They then rebuilt her into the ironclad CSS Virginia.

The Union Navy placed an embargo on all Southern ports, including the entrance to the Southern capitol of Richmond. The South attempted to break this embargo with their new ironclad ship, sinking two Union wooden “ships of the line” in the process.

The Virginia returned to base for the night, then returned to finish off the last major embargo ship on 9 March, 1862.

She was confronted by the Union version of the ironclad…the USS Monitor. The two new iron ships battered away at each other for over three hours without seriously damaging each other, and then withdrew.

The Virginia would be scuttled at her base as the Union advanced…the Monitor would be lost at sea.

But more importantly….navies worldwide…Britain, France, Spain, the Far East, watched and realized that their wooden navies had suddenly become obsolete.

Dred Scott & The Supreme Court

Today in History, March 6, 1857:

The Dredd Scott Decision.

Dredd Scott was a slave whose owner had traveled and lived in “free states” and had promised him his freedom. When his owner died, Scott sued for his freedom, because he had lived in “free” states.

The case worked it’s way up the chain to the Supreme Court, which at that time was loaded with Southerners.

Chief Justice Roger Taney wrote the majority opinion that declared that no slave could possibly be a citizen, therefore they had no standing to sue. Also that the Federal Government had no right to regulate slavery in the states and territories.

Obviously a biased, politically motivated opinion, the decision, in part, led to the horrific, devastating American Civil War.

So our lesson is complex. The Supreme Court, while our highest court, is not infallible. It’s bad decisions lead to horrific consequences for the nation. It DOES make political decisions. And this theory does not end with Dredd Scott.

Cooper Union – The Speech that Propelled Lincoln to the Presidency and Proves He Was an Abolitionist

Today in History, February 27, 1860:

“One of the most happiest and most convincing political arguments ever made in this City … No man ever made such an impression on his first appeal to a New-York audience.” — Horace Greeley in his paper regarding “The Cooper Union Speech” by Abraham Lincoln.

A former Congressman and Illinois lawyer, Lincoln had been launched to the national stage by his debates with Stephen Douglas over the slavery question 2 years before, but he was still mostly unknown in the east.

A young Republicans group in New York invited him to speech at Cooper Union’s Great Hall. The hall was not filled for the speech, but the text of it was given to Greeley’s and other’s papers; from there it was broadly published across the nation in pamphlet form.

Lincoln made convincing arguments that the Founding Fathers were against the expansion of slavery and desired it’s eventual end. At the same time he tried to convince Southerners that the Republican party did not wish to interfere in their affairs.

While in New York he had his photo taken by Matthew Brady, and the photo was used along with the pamphlet to broaden his recognition. It is widely believed that the speech is what launched him into the Presidency.

He closed with a message to his colleagues:

“Neither let us be slandered from our duty by false accusations against us, nor frightened from it by menaces of destruction to the Government nor of dungeons to ourselves. Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith, let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it.”

Trailblazer!

Today in History, February 24, 1864:

Rebecca Lee, later Rebecca Lee Crumpler, graduates from the New England Female Medical College in Massachusetts, becoming the first black female Medical Doctor in America, doing so in the midst of the Civil War.

After the war ended, she voluntarily moved to the heart of the south, Richmond, Virginia and worked for the Freedman’s Bureau treating freed slaves.

She later wrote a book about her experiences working as a doctor amongst people that hated her for the color of her skin and for her chosen profession.