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July, Lincoln and Springfield

 

 

Last Friday my family and I made our annual pilgrimage to Springfield to attend the Lincoln Museum and go to the Lincoln Tomb.  As we made our way though the Museum we encountered, for the second year in a row, a large number of Amish touring the Museum, the women wearing long dresses and poke bonnets that made them look as if they stepped from the 1860s.  The Amish were obviously fascinated by what they were seeing and talked among themselves in “Pennsylvania Dutch”.   Illinois has had a large colony of Amish in the Arthur, Illinois area, about 72 miles from Springfield, since the 19th century.  (Although the Amish are as theologically as far from the Church as it is possible for Christians to be, I should note that I have a huge amount of respect for them.  They take care of their own, and ask nothing from the larger society in which they live, except to be left alone, a sentiment which resonates with me.)

After the museum, as usual we had a first rate lunch at the nearby The Feed Store.  (Nothing shouts Midwest more than eating in a restaurant with a name like that.)  (I highly recommend their barley soup, their tuna fish salad sandwich, and any of their many variants of cheesecake.)

We finished our day at Lincoln’s tomb praying for the repose of his soul and the souls of his wife and kids.)  Once again I thought to myself how nice it was that the first or second greatest President in our history, has his tomb in a cemetery open to all, where there are no guards, no charges for admission, not even for parking.  You simply pull up to the small parking area next to the tomb, go in and make your way through the tomb.  We owe Mary Todd Lincoln for that.  After Lincoln’s murder, there was an attempt to have Lincoln buried in Washington with a grand mausoleum being erected thereafter over his remains.  Mary Lincoln would have none of it.  She took her dead husband, and had the remains of her dead son Willie exhumed, and traveled with them both back to Springfield for burial.  She wanted nothing more from Washington except to get out of there as quickly as she could, a city where she had suffered grief that makes her such a poignant figure in American history.  (An exhibit in the Museum shows her framed by a rain stained window, sitting forlornly, mourning the loss of Willie.  My bride and I, sadly, having lost a son know precisely how she feels.)  We made sure to rub the nose of the nose of the huge bust of Lincoln outside of the tomb.  Most noses of Lincoln on metal statues and busts in Illinois are shiny due to the Illinois superstition that rubbing the nose of a bust or a statue of Lincoln brings good luck.  With my son taking the Illinois bar at the end of July, it can’t hurt.

It wouldn’t be a McClarey expedition if we didn’t buy books.  We bought books yesterday at the Museum and the Prairie Archives bookstore in Springfield which boasts a collection of a quarter of a million books. Most of the books were about Lincoln or the Civil War (surprise!) and here are those books:

Lincoln the President:  The Last Full Measure, J. G. Ballard and Richard N. Current (1955).  This is the fourth and final volume in Ballard’s study of Lincoln.  At the time of his death in 1953 he had written only eight chapters.  In his will he suggested either historian Allan Nevins or Richard N. Current to finish his work if he could not.  Current took up the challenge, even though he had never written about Lincoln before, and completed the volume in 1955.  He later became one of the great Lincoln scholars of his day, writing numerous books on Lincoln and dying in 2012 at age 100.  Now I have the complete set.  I think I will read it backwards like witches are said to say their prayers. Continue Reading

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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. Continue Reading

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July, Springfield and Lincoln

 

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. Continue Reading