Greetings all – I’ve recently been asked to write a review essay on Brian J. Snee’s new book, Lincoln before Lincoln, for the Journal of the Abraham Lincoln Association. Of course, I happily agreed to take on the project – Snee’s book concerns the cinematic adaptations of the life of Honest Abe. I mean…how could I pass, especially since I am working on a project about depicting historical actors and events in a motion picture.
To get in the right frame of mind (I have a little time on my hands this summer) I thought I would watch a number of Lincoln films – or films at least featuring the sixteenth president as a character. Asking around through the usual social media channels for recommendations has yielded a fine harvest of Lincoln movies. So far, the most frequently recommended film is John Ford’s Young Mr. Lincoln, starring Henry Fonda. I’m on it…and prepared to watch it this weekend…so expect a follow up. In addition, folks have suggested I check out Lincoln in a more pop-culture setting, such as Lincoln, the time traveler (Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure) or vampire killing super hero (Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter).
But in all seriousness, there are any number of ways one can interpret the life and presidency of Abraham Lincoln: great emancipator, commander in chief, astute and practical politician, husband, father, country bumpkin, rail-splitter, and I suppose, vampire hunter. Please leave your recommendations in the comments below – before I start writing, I want to see as many Lincolns as I can.
Greetings all! I have been posting updates on Twitter of late chronicling the progress of my next web-course: The American Civil War. I am very pleased to announce that the launch date is May 14, 2016. The course includes nearly forty video lectures and other projects covering military, social, political, and economic aspects of the conflict.
I am most excited to offer this course to my founding web-students for a 50% discount off the already reasonable price. You won’t find this deal anywhere but through this site – and the offer goes away on launch day. So you had better get on the stick. Here’s what you need to do:
ONE – be a current student or enroll now in either my Gettysburg or Reconstruction Era web-course for the regular discounted price available only from Keith Harris History.
TWO – sign up to be part of the Keith Harris History CREW so I can be sure to get you the info you need.
Get that all squared away and on launch day you will receive your discount code via email. And that’s it. Easy right?
I got an email recently from a Battle of Gettysburg student (Mike B.) asking me to clarify something I said about the battle on the Interwebs.
I mentioned something along the lines of “Gettysburg is not as important as you might think it is.” Thanks for the note, Mike – lets see if I can clear things up a bit.
When analyzing history from the vantage point of the present (as I have warned people not to do), one could surmise that the battle was indeed the turning point. The Confederates never again could claim a decisive victory along the lines of Chancellorsville or Fredericksburg. But the Union victory here was not by any means the stepping off point towards guaranteed victory.
The participants and citizens of their respective countries certainly didn’t think so. Just read a newspaper from the period. The Confederates, with Lee at the helm the Army of Northern Virginia, still firmly believed that victory was within their grasp – Gettysburg or not. The Union Army was bogged down in Virginia, the northern civilian population was growing increasingly weary of the war, and even Abraham Lincoln thought he was going to lose the election of 1864 and perhaps the war along with it.
Sure as shit – the letters home from the Confederate Army indicated that morale was up. I have read them myself…tons of these letters are housed at the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond. Go there yourself and check them out if you don’t believe me.
So all this “High Tide of the Confederacy” stuff is a postwar creation. Sure, the citizens of the North and South thought the battle was important to be sure, but perhaps for different reasons than many Americans believe today.
And…if you read all the way to the end of this post I have a got a surprise for you – you can get the super-uber-deep- discount on my Gettysburg web-course HERE. You’re welcome 🙂
It doesn’t appear that the folks at Harper’s Weekly were in any mood for reconciliation during the election of 1872. Here is a not-so-subtle image that makes that point crystal clear: Democratic presidential candidate Horace Greely shaking hands with the ghost of John Wilkes Booth over Abraham Lincoln’s grave.
Who has the unfortunate distinction of being the first officer killed in the Civil war – none other than Elmer E. Ellsworth.
Ellsworth was a New Yorker and an attorney in civilian life, he raised and commanded the 11th New York Volunteer Infantry (the Fire Zouaves) at the beginning of the war, and he was a personal friend of Abraham Lincoln.
Here’s how it all went down. On May 24th 1861 – the day after Virginia’s voters ratified their state’s secession, President Lincoln noticed a huge Rebel flag flying over the Marshall House Inn in Alexandria Virginia…just across the Potomac from Washington City.
Ellsworth, who had worked at Lincoln’s law firm, helped in his presidential campaign, and who had accompanied the new president to Washington, offered to go over and take care of business – which he then proceeded to do.
He led the 11th into Alexandria, deployed his men in various places around town, and took four soldiers to the inn to remove the heinous banner. Things went south (so to speak) rather quickly from this point. When he came down the inn’s stairs with flag in hand, innkeeper and vehement Rebel James W. Jackson unloaded a shotgun into Elsworth’s chest – killing him on the spot. A Union corporal – Francis Brownell – in turn killed Jackson. (For this act, he was later awarded the Medal of Honor).
Lincoln, extremely saddened by the death of his friend, ordered an honor guard to carry him to the White House – where he lay in state in the East Room before returning to New York – where thousands came to visit his body at New York City’ s City Hall. He is buried in Mechanicville, New York.