Category Archives: Memory

Eyewitness to the Lincoln Assassination: Brought to You by Winston

Screen shot 2014-03-10 at 10.20.01 AMToday (while recovering from yesterday’s LA Marathon) I have been rewatching this fascinating television appearance by the last living person to witness the assassination of Abraham Lincoln at Ford’s Theater. His name is Samuel Seymour, and he was 96 years old when this show, I’ve Got a Secret, aired in 1956.
This is an interesting look at Civil War era memory in action. Seymour was only five years old at the time of the shooting, and he only recalls a man (John Wilkes Booth) falling from the balcony on to the stage. As he says…”It scared him to death.” Only later did he learn of the significance of the event.

This mid-1950s television show somewhat trivializes Lincoln’s assassination, and really really makes me want to smoke a Winston cigarette, but I have to say I was captivated by the elderly man – a witness to a momentous event in American history. Illustrating that even in the television age (which I am pretty sure is on it’s way out now) we are not so far removed from the war.

I am going to add this vintage Civil War related footage to my list of favorites right up there with the famous clip of Union and Confederate veterans shaking hands at the stone wall on Cemetery Ridge in 1938.

Here is the Seymour clip in full:

With compliments,
Keith

Who are the Caretakers of Modern Civil War Memory?

Screen shot 2014-01-24 at 10.17.59 AMCertainly not historians. We are far too busy with analysis to actually look after the memories we so laboriously scrutinize. But to ask who will shepherd over memories begs the question: what memories are people preserving? Civil War veterans were the first to take on this task – and they did so in fine style. Modern Civil War memory is up for grabs, and the preservation duty seems to have fallen to sons, daughters, and other heritage groups. A likely choice given that these groups have a keen interest in the war. But as they preserve are they in fact writing a new set of memories? Without question. I open the floor for discussion…

With compliments,

Keith