July, Springfield and Lincoln

On Wednesday my family and I made our annual trip to Springfield to see the Lincoln sites and pray at Lincoln’s tomb for the repose of the souls of Lincoln and his family.  A few observations:

1.  Heat:  The phrase hotter than blazes is trite but it was very descriptive for the triple digit day.  Walking outside was a trying experience with the heat and humidity.  Illinois is usually green and lush this time of year, the towns and cities of Central Illinois being isolated islands in an endless green sea of corn and soybeans.  Due to the drought, much of Illinois looks yellow and dead, with most crops under severe stress.  Not good.

2. Time is a River:   One of the reasons why I enjoy annual rituals like the drive to Springfield to see the Lincoln sites, is that they are a good way to mark the passage of time.  My wife and I began our trips when  we were mid-twenties newly weds.  This year our sons will be 21 in September, and our son Donald will be starting his junior year at the University of Illinois.  Our “baby-girl” will be a senior in high school this year, and we are in the midst of the college search with her.  Fortunately, my bride and I are not getting any older, or such reflections might take a turn to the melancholic!  🙂

3.  Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation: This year is the 150th year of the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation.   As in past years what moved me most at the Lincoln Museum was an exhibit showing Lincoln standing at his desk staring at a draft of the Proclamation, as shadows behind him representing historical figures give him contradictory advice:  predicting doom or salvation for the Union if the Emancipation Proclamation is issued.  I have never seen anything which so neatly encapsulates the loneliness of someone making a huge decision for his nation.

4.  Assassination:  Each year I spot something new at the museum.  In the room which represents the laying in state of Lincoln’s coffin, I spotted this inscription on the top of the ceiling of this room, a quotation from a Lincoln speech at Independence Hall in Philadelphia on February 22, 1861:   But if this country cannot be saved without giving up that principle, I was about to say I would rather be assassinated on this spot than surrender it.

5.  The Feed Store:  As in years past we had an excellent lunch at The Feed Store, yes, you can tell  from that name that we are in the Midwest, which prepares tasty sandwiches quickly.  It is off the Old State Capitol plaza which is something to see, and usually has bands performing during the noon hour and various activities.

6.  Prairie Archives:  This is a few doors down from The Feed Store and is a wonderful huge used book store.  As one might guess it has a large selection of books on Lincoln and the Civil War, so I was in heaven.  So many books, so little time.

7.  Lincoln’s Tomb:  Lincoln’s tomb is in Oak Ridge Cemetery.  It has a simplicity about it like the man who rests there.  No guards, no police, no admission fee.  You park your car at the small parking lot and walk into the tomb.  Silence is requested since, after all, it is a tomb.  Lincoln is buried there along with three of his sons and his wife.  Robert Lincoln, as befits a Union Army veteran of the Civil War, is buried in Arlington.  We said our usual prayer for the repose of the souls of the Lincolns and made certain to rub the nose of the Lincoln metal sculpture outside of the tomb.  It is impossible to see a metal sculpture of Lincoln in Illinois that does not have a shiny nose.  Illinoisans have been rubbing the noses of Lincoln statues for luck for generations.  The Lincoln bust in Lincoln Hall on the U of I campus in Urbana had a nose that gleamed as hordes of U of I students would rub the nose for luck before finals.  One of my favorite statues of Lincoln is in front of the State Capitol in Springfield.  Fittingly, he has his back turned to the public thieves who mostly inhabit it today.

We then headed back home.  A day of family and History, and for me those are very good days indeed.


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Donald R. McClarey

Cradle Catholic. Active in the pro-life movement since 1973. Father of three and happily married for 35 years. Small town lawyer and amateur historian. Former president of the board of directors of the local crisis pregnancy center for a decade.


  1. “But if this country cannot be saved without giving up that principle, I was about to say I would rather be assassinated on this spot than surrender it. ” Lincoln knew

  2. My wife and I began our trips when we were mid-twenties newly weds. This year our sons will be 21 in September, and our son Donald will be starting his junior year at the University of Illinois.

    Oh, gads, and I thought realizing our Fluffy was about five years old was bad! (husband and I got him shortly after he got back from Japan, but before we were married– first time we went to visit my folks post-proposal, and the little fuzzball bit TrueBlue to bleeding) He needed a rabies shot, and the nice doctor asked how old he is… his brother died after the second rabies vaccination (rare side effect) and this was the first one after that….. (found this, trying to find the place where I mentioned Slick/Baal dying. Fluffy is now closer to twenty pounds than two, and BOTH of my hands can’t circle his chest, rather than TrueBlue/Elf’s being able to fully circle them.)

  3. The statue of Abraham Lincoln in Parliament Square, London, is a copy of the Saint-Gaudens statue in Chicago. It was intended to commemorate the centenary of the Treaty of Ghent, but the war intervened and it was not unveiled until 1920. Another bronze of Lincoln (Barnard) was considered for London and finally accepted by Manchester; it now stands in the recently-named Lincoln Square. Lincoln paid tribute to the cotton workers of Lancashire for supporting the anti-slavery cause despite the cotton famine caused by the Civil War. It was one of the factors which led to the granting of the vote to working-class men in 1867, so indirectly Abe helped democracy in England.

    As a small boy I learned the Gettysburg address by heart. It is amazing how literate 19th century politicians were compared with their modern counterparts. It shows the benefits of a classical education.

  4. With Lincoln it was especially a marvel, since his formal education consisted of less than a year, and he was otherwise largely self-taught with some assistance as a young adult by friends.

  5. Missed seeing this hallowed place when I visited Springfield and SIU in the early 90s. Thanks for the vicarious tour. Hope to make it in person someday but not on a scorcher.

  6. We go thru Springfield several time a year traversing to MO. We always manage Panera’s but haven’t stopped to do “Lincoln” viewing in many a year. If we are granted possession of the grandboys from CA next summer for a few weeks, perhaps we will be able to show them this era of history. Their 4 times removed cousin is Dr. Samuel Mudd. Lincoln stories always make my heart beat stronger.

  7. Might we have enough Lincoln buffs on this blog to consider a TAC blogger bash/pilgrimage next year?

  8. funny, Himself and I are not getting any older either, though our
    ‘baby girl” just got married. We are more and more aware that time does not just fly– it flees like a bandit!

  9. not original with me- the Latin “tempus fugit” actually says “flees” and – reminds us of the English word “fugitive”.
    I was touched by this post just for that reason– nd the realization that this country is not so old after all… plus whenever I hear Battle Hymn of the Republic, I tear up.

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