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Tag: abraham lincoln

The must-have Christmas gift of 1864

Sherman's telegram to Lincoln, offering him Savannah, Georgia, as a Christmas present (ARC 301637)

Sherman's note to Lincoln (ARC 301637)

Each year in America it seems there is one holiday gift that is heavy on demand and short on supply. In 1996, there was the Tickle-Me-Elmo fiasco. In 1983, it was the Cabbage Patch Doll. In 1864, the gift of the season was Savannah, Georgia, and one Union general was willing to do anything to obtain it.

On November 16, 1864, William T. Sherman set out from Atlanta, Georgia, with his eye set on capturing the southern port of Savannah. In his 300-mile march to the sea, Sherman wreaked havoc, employing total war and destroying a swath of land 40 miles wide in places. His intent? To break the psychological backbone of the Confederacy.

Sherman arrived outside Savannah in mid-December and conveyed the following message to its the man who had set up a defense of the city, Confederate Gen. William Hardee:

I have already received guns that can cast heavy and destructive shot as far as the heart of your city; also, I have for some days held and controlled every avenue by which the people and garrison of Savannah can be supplied, and I am therefore justified in demanding the surrender of the city of Savannah, and its dependent forts, and shall wait a reasonable time for your answer, before opening with heavy ordnance. Should you entertain

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Teddy Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln in the same photo

Lincoln's funeral procession passing the Roosevelt Mansion in New York City (Courtesy New York Public Library)

Lincoln's funeral procession passing the Roosevelt Mansion in New York City (Courtesy New York Public Library)

History is full of strange coincidences, and the Civil War is no exception. In the 1950s, Stefan Lorant was researching a book on Abraham Lincoln when he came across an image of the President’s funeral procession as it moved down Broadway in New York City. The photo was dated April 25, 1865.

At first it appeared like one of any number of photographs of Lincoln’s funeral procession, until he identified the house on the corner as that of Cornelius van Schaack Roosevelt, the grandfather of future President Teddy Roosevelt and his brother Elliot.

The coincidence might have ended there, but Lorant took a closer look. In the second=story window of the Roosevelt mansion he noticed the heads of two boys are peering out onto Lincoln’s funeral procession.

Lorant had the rare chance to ask Teddy Roosevelt’s wife about the image, and when she saw it, she confirmed what he had suspected: the faces in the windows were those of a young future President and his brother. “Yes, I think that is my husband, and next to him his brother,” she exclaimed. “That horrible man! I was a little girl then and my governess took me to Grandfather Roosevelt’s house on Broadway so I could watch the funeral procession. But … [ Read all ]

Is West Virginia Constitutional?

Subpoena of West Virginia (Records of the Supreme Court, ARC 597545)

Subpoena of West Virginia (Records of the Supreme Court, ARC 597545)

On the creation of new states, the Constitution is pretty clear. Article IV, Section 3, reads that “no new States shall be formed or erected within the Jurisdiction of any other State … without the Consent of the Legislatures of the States concerned as well as of the Congress.”

It appears that someone forgot to tell West Virginia about this. In 1863, the Mountain State carved itself out of the northwestern corner of the Commonwealth of Virginia, raising the question: Is West Virginia unconstitutional?

Breaking up is never easy, especially when a Civil War is under way. While the Virginia government in Richmond seceded from the Union in the spring of 1861, up in the town of Wheeling, delegates from the northwestern part of the state got together to counter-secede. These delegates said the government in Richmond had no right to leave the Union, and as such they now constituted the state of Virginia. Thankfully, to keep things from getting too complicated, they agreed to call themselves New Virginia, or more fancifully, “The Restored Government of Virginia” (Kanawha was another name under consideration).

By 1862, through some questionable electoral processes, the “Restored Government of Virginia” had written up a new Constitution and applied for statehood. After a few edits—Lincoln insisted they insert a provision … [ Read all ]

Would you elect these whiskers?

abe-loc

Abraham Lincoln, candidate for U.S. President. (LC-USZ62-7728) Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Abraham Lincoln, ca. 1860-ca. 1865 (ARC  530592). National Archives.

Abraham Lincoln, ca. 1860-ca. 1865 (ARC 530592; 111-BZ-98). National Archives.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Have you looked at your money lately? Among the nickels and quarters and dimes, only the copper penny has a bearded profile.

But although Lincoln’s facial hair eventually became an iconic part of his image, he originally ran for President as a clean-shaven candidate.

Why grow the beard? The answer may lie in a letter written to Lincoln on October 15, 1860, exactly 150 years ago

Eleven-year-old Grace Bedell of Westfield, NY, wrote a letter to Abraham Lincoln, then a Presidential candidate, suggesting he should grow a beard. “You would look a great deal better for your face is so thin,” she wrote, noting that “all the ladies like whiskers.”

Lincoln wrote back, wondering “As to the whiskers, having never worn any, do you not think people would call it a piece of silly affection if I were to begin it now?” But a month later, Lincoln was sporting a full beard as he campaigned.  

What do you think? Does the beard make you want to vote for him?… [ Read all ]

The doodler who defied crooks and democratized donkeys

Thomas Nast (111-B-3036)

Thomas Nast (111-B-3036)

There are few artist in America who so greatly affected the popular landscape as Thomas Nast who was born 170 years ago today. Jolly old St Nick? Not so jolly before the Harper’s Weekly cartoonist plumped him up. The Grand Old Party elephant? Popularized in 1874 by the staunch Republican when talk of a third term by Ulysses S. Grant threatened to sink the Republican Party.  The Democratic donkey? Originally introduced as a jackass kicking over a great lion in 1870 and meant to symbolize the Democrats and their harsh treatment of the “great lion” Edwin M. Stanton.

The son of a German trombonist, Nast may seem an odd character to have a dramatic sway over U.S. politics, but the man had influence in spades. Being the most popular illustrator at a time when 20 percent of American adults were illiterate made Nast’s pen a powerful weapon.

Abraham Lincoln called the cartoonist “our best recruiting sergeant.” The Great Emancipator’s 1864 reelection campaign was significantly boosted by a single drawing done by Nast implying that Lincoln’s loss would mean a lost war for the Union. Ulysses S. Grant attributed his 1868 reelection campaign to Nast. Nast’s cartoons were so influential (and accurate) that when Boss Tweed—the scammer politician of Tammany Hall fame—fled prison, he was picked up in Spain after  a border agent identified … [ Read all ]