Ghosts of the Library

Saturday, October 31, AD 2015


One of my favorite stops at the Abraham Lincoln Museum in Springfield.


The Thirty-third Infantry Illinois Volunteers was organized at Camp Butler, Illinois, in the month of September, 1861, by Colonel Chas. E. Hovey, and mustered into the United States service by Captain T. G. Pitcher, U. S. A.

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Lincoln and Summer

Thursday, July 24, AD 2014



Yesterday my family and I made our annual pilgrimage down to Springfield to visit the Lincoln Museum and go to the Lincoln Tomb to say prayers for the repose of the souls of Lincoln and his family.  A few observations:

1.  Weather:  Illinois has been experiencing one of the coolest Julys on record.  Yesterday the high was 80 degrees Fahrenheit, which is about 15 degrees below what we often experience at this time of year.  Very pleasant weather for walking about downtown Springfield.

2. Officiousness-My family and I renewed our membership in the Lincoln Museum Association for $70.00.  That is pricier than if we had to pay for tickets but I like to encourage the Museum with funds, especially as I view the enjoyment of the kids who come there to see the Lincoln exhibits.  Right after we did that a guard stopped us as we were entering the main part of the museum and asked to examine my wife’s purse.  He saw that she had gum and mints and told us she would have to put the gum and mints in a locker before we could enter since no food and drink could be brought in.  We have been coming to the museum since 2006, after it opened in 2005, and this had never happened to us before.  It was obvious to me that the young man was taking a reasonable rule and making it absurd.  We complied, although the lawyer part of me wanted to make an issue of it.  However, I did not want to get the young guard into trouble, which I assume will happen swiftly enough if this is how he is treating all female patrons.   I decided to let it be by someone else’s hand and I was not going to mar our day with a confrontation.

3.  Decisions-The museum was wonderful as always.  The standout for me, as usual, was Lincoln standing behind his desk, looking at the draft of the Emancipation Proclamation, as shadows behind him gave him conflicting advice about whether to emancipate the slaves.  Great decisions are always easy unless you are the one making them.

Lincoln Ponders the Emancipation Proclamation

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One Response to Lincoln and Summer

  • I hate to concentrate on the officiousness part of your post, because all the rest is so uplifting; and, we too have thoroughly enjoyed our time with Lincoln in Springfield. BUT. officiousness is pandemic.

July, Springfield and Lincoln

Friday, July 27, AD 2012

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.

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14 Responses to July, Springfield and Lincoln

  • “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

  • One day I will make this pilgrimage.

  • 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.)

  • I gotta go to this some day, too. Loved the Monument in DC.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Indeed Pete, Springfield on a hot day is not fun!

  • 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.

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

  • 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!

  • “that time does not just fly– it flees like a bandit!”

    Well said Anzlyne!

  • 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.

July, Springfield and Lincoln

Wednesday, July 20, AD 2011


Well, it is time again in the McClarey household for our mini three day July vacation.  (We take a week off in June and August.)  Today we make our annual pilgrimage down to Springfield to the Lincoln sites.  We say a prayer at the tomb of Mr. Lincoln for the repose of his soul and the souls of his wife and children.  All of Lincoln’s immediate family are buried there except Robert Lincoln, a Civil War veteran, who is buried in Arlington.

We also go to the Lincoln Museum, which is first rate.  For those of you with time to kill, go here to watch a CSpan two and a half hour (!) tour from 2005 of the Lincoln Museum.

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12 Responses to July, Springfield and Lincoln

  • Hope you have a great time today, Don — but take it easy. The forecast for today: Sunny and hot, high of 98 with heat indexes as high as 116. Time to hunker down in the A/C as much as possible!

  • How true Elaine! Back in the days of the British Raj in India the Brits went on and on about how terrible the summer was in India. I have had Indians tell me that some days in summer in Illinois, with both temperature and humidity soaring, are worse than summer in India!

  • You can blame all the corn for that. Really. Moisture transpiration from all the corn and bean fields is making the humidity worse, but it’s also holding the actual air temperature down a few degrees. Actual triple digit high temps seem to be relatively rare in downstate Illinois. (The last official 100 degree high in Springfield was about 15 years ago.)

  • Ah Illinois, land of temperature extremes. Highest temperature recorded in the state was 117, and the lowest was -36.

  • We’ll be headed to Manassas this weekend to see the 150th anniversary reenactment of where the war almost all went bad for Mr. Lincoln and his picnicking Yankee cohort.

  • I will have commemorative posts for First Bull Run Jay, a name that I have always found more evocative than First Manassas, up both here and at Almost Chosen People. The battle was fascinating for what it predicted about the fighting in the rest of the Civil War.

  • It’s “First Manassas”. You can give the Yankee names to the battles y’all won.


  • Don,
    It is very nice to reflect on the past and all the good that Abe Lincoln did. It makes me think about our present day cowardice on behalf of our Catholic bishops and political leaders and the 1.3 million unborn humans being murdered every year.

  • It is hard to attack a well-established evil in a society that enjoys the support of powerful forces. The only way to win such a struggle is to fight it out until the struggle is won. Never despair, never stop fighting and never stop focusing on the humanity of the unborn. Like the slaves of yesteryear they are people being treated as property. Ultimately, as in the case of slavery, we will win this struggle, no matter how long it takes or how great the cost.

  • It seems to me that many of the political figures whom we end up revering for their honesty and integrity are NOT necessarily those who enjoy “rock star” status or have cults of personality built up around them. More often than not they seem to be second choice or compromise candidates chosen to split the difference between two wings of the party, or to satisfy a desire for “balance” on the national ticket.

    Lincoln wasn’t the front runner for the 1860 Republican nomination; William Seward was, and the convention more or less “settled” on Lincoln because Seward was seen as too radical on slavery. Abolitionists certainly wouldn’t have seen Lincoln as their political savior in 1860. Yet, it was on his watch that the slaves were finally freed (for the most part).

    Likewise I still believe that if Roe is ever overturned or legalized abortion on demand ever comes to an end, it could very well happen on the “watch” of a president who is NOT necessarily a hard core conservative, or a devout Catholic or evangelical Protestant, or even a Republican (he or she could belong to a political party that doesn’t yet exist, just as the Republican Party didn’t yet exist in 1850).

  • “Except for the politicians who infest it, Springfield is a lovely town. Filled with historical sites, it retains a small town feel. You can park on the street at very little cost, and life tends to move at a sedate Central Illinois pace most of the time.”

    I’d have to agree with that, which is one reason why hubby and I have stayed here longer (6 years and counting) than in any other community we have lived in since we got married almost 17 years ago. Actually, you don’t run into too many politicians on a regular basis unless you 1) work for certain state agencies or 2) frequent particular restaurants, hotels, bars and other hangouts favored by the political crowd during legislative session days.

14 Responses to Summer Vacation and Abraham Lincoln

  • This sounds great, Donald. This might be motivation enough to get out to Illinois one day.

  • If Lincoln won’t get you to Illinois Paul, nothing will! There are a wealth of Lincoln activities around central Illinois during the summer, and they are a true treasure for anyone interested in Lincoln or the Civil War.

  • I will use this thread as an excuse to post this clip from Abraham Lincoln in Illinois (1940).

  • Do you go to New Salem as well? I loved it when we went there when I was young, and I went back in High School and was not let down, which is always a plus. Lincoln’s house, tomb, and law offices, as well as the old and new state capitols, were the other highlights of our visit to Springfield.

    What other Central Illinois highlights do you recommend? Starved Rock and the Wildlife Prairie Park in Peoria are two I remember fondly. Are there any impressive Catholic churches worth going out of one’s way to see?

  • I’ve been to New Salem Zak and it is well worth seeing.

    The Saint John’s Chapel at the U of I in Urbana is a fine example of Church renovation done properly, the cathedral in Peoria is magnificent, and St. Mary’s in Paris, Illinois, my hometown as a boy, is a fine example of late nineteenth century neo-Gothic.

    Here is a link to historic sites across Illinois.

    In addition, most counties in Illinois have Civil War musterings each summer with reenactors performing drills and mock battles. Illinois in the summer is heaven for people interested in the Civil War.

  • Thanks for the link! A number of those bring back fond memories – Bishop Hill (4th grade field trip), the Wild Bill Hickok memorial (I made my parents stop there on a drive to Chicago), Black Hawk (site of countless picnics and scout trips) and quite a few others. I’ve moved away now, and there are some like Fort Kaskaskia that I regret never seeing.

    I meant to go to St. John’s chapel last time I was in Champaign but didn’t make it there.

  • Glad you came Don!

    By next year the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Springfield will be open again, and it should be well worth seeing. (God willing we’ll also have a good, new bishop by then; as some of you probably have heard, our former Bishop George Lucas was just installed in Omaha yesterday.)

    A must-visit for all bibliophiles who come to Springfield is Prairie Archives, a wonderfully rambling used bookshop located on the south side of the Old State Capitol Plaza. For all stuff Catholic check out The Marian Center on Monroe Street, just 3-4 blocks east of the current Capitol. It’s chock full of just about every statue, prayer card, and devotional or other book imaginable. I guarantee any AC bloggers who visit either of these places will find something they like!

    Other neat but sometimes overlooked central Illinois sites include:

    — The Illinois State Museum, located south of the Capitol; admission is free and there’s great exhibits on Illinois natural and cultural history there.

    — The David Davis Mansion in Bloomington, home of one of Lincoln’s best friends, who helped make him president. Great Victorian home.

    — The Wheels O’ Time Museum in Peoria — if you love going through your grandma’s attic or looking at classic/antique vehicles this is the place for you.

    — Lakeview Museum in Peoria, which recently restored and upgraded its planetarium. Nice stop for space/astronomy buffs.

    — The Lincoln Log Cabin State Historic Site near Charleston, where Abe’s father and stepmother settled in the 1830s. Their farm and that of a neighbor are recreated here because they show the contrasting lifestyles of Upland Southerners like the Lincolns versus that of New Englanders like their neighbor.

  • I am looking forward to seeing the catheral next year Elaine. This was the first time that I went to the Prairie Archives and I agree with you that it is a superb bookstore.

  • Springfield, IL is on my list of “must” places to visit! Sounds really worthwhile. I’ve been to Gettysburg and Antietam, and Washington DC a couple of times, and Springfield would be the icing on the cake. Thanks for sharing your wonderful experiences.

  • Thank you Patricia. I envy you seeing Gettysburg and Antietam as I have not yet had the opportunity to do so.

  • I’ve always meant to get down to Springfield, but somehow I never make it past Chicagoland. I would be very interested in seeing the sites connected to Honest Abe.

    Gettysburg is awe-inspiring. Because of Shelby Foote, I would like to see Shiloh also, if I ever get down that way. Foote recommended seeing it in the early spring, at the same time of year the battle occurred, to really get a sense of the place.

  • Interesting historic coinkydink: the Lincoln Museum was dedicated on April 19, 2005, the same day Benedict XVI was elected pope. President Bush spoke at the noontime dedication ceremony, so in all probability, he was right here in Springfield when he was informed of the new pope’s election!

  • Speaking of must-see churches: St. Mark’s Parish in Peoria (adjacent to the Bradley University campus) is adorned with gorgeous Renaissance-style murals inside, many of them copies of works by Blessed Fra Angelico. In fact the church itself was designated by Bishop Jenky as a shrine to Fra Angelico. You can check out the artwork at

    Some of the murals have the faces of actual living or deceased parishioners painted into them — which was a common practice in the Renaissance era as well. For example, the mural of Christ being placed in the tomb by Nicodemus shows Nicodemus with the face of the parish’s first permanent deacon, now deceased.

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