Monday, November 02, 2009

Lincoln in Springfield

Here are some photos from our weekend trip to Springfield with El Jefe's Civil War Aficianados group.

The wax figures of the Lincoln family greet you at the museum adjacent to the Lincoln Presidential Library. The exhibits there are very well done. I was very impressed with the replica of the White House (its 3/4 scale) and the video presentations that have been created for the 200th anniversary of Lincoln's birth.

We found this bronze statue of Abraham and Mary Lincoln just outside the building where Lincoln had his law offices with his partner, Herndon. The statues are life-size, so the group had El Jefe stand next to it to show that he is a bit taller than Lincoln was.

This is the home the Lincolns lived in while in Springfield. They rented it out while in Washington, DC because they planned to return there after he left office. Most of the furniture in it is their original furniture and the colors of the house are carefully matched to the original. It is a comfortable 4 bedroom home that would have been very luxurious for the day--despite the lack of running water or indoor plumbing. There was a "necessary" out in the back yard.

We also visited New Salem, about 20 miles from Springfield, where the young Abe Lincoln lived for a few years and kept an unsuccessful store. The site is a reproduction based on documents from the original settlers there. El Jefe observed that people living there in the 1830's led lives that resembled their ancestors of the 1530's more than their descendants of today.

Across the street from our hotel was the First Presbyterian Church of Springfield where the Lincolns worshipped. Mary Lincoln was a member but Abe never formally joined. There is a pew in the sanctuary marked as the "Lincoln" pew. We had hoped to attend Sunday service there but had to leave early to drive back to the airport in St. Louis. This is still an active congregation today.

Lincoln and all of his family (except his oldest son Robert who is buried at Arlington Cemetery at the behest of his wife) are buried in this impressive tomb in the Springfield cemetery. The structure evolved over several decades. The interior is covered with marble and decorated with bronze statues. Because there was a ghoulish attempt to kidnap Lincoln's body some years after his death, his grave is many feet below the surface in a steel container.

We were all very moved by our visit. We learned a lot of details about Lincoln's life and times that I have never heard anywhere else. For example, Stephen Douglas who lost the Presidency to Lincoln had a man from Georgia as his running mate. Douglas died 6 weeks after Lincoln was inaugurated, so if he had won his vice president would have been very different from Lincoln in his policy and point of view. Although if Douglas had been elected, the civil war may have been delayed it is doubtful it would have been avoided. What would have happened if his running mate had then been president? Would he have adopted Douglas' views on popular soveriegnty and let the South secede? We'll never know, but it gave us a lot to think about.


Sally said...

Fascinating, with a lot to think about.

Gannet Girl said...

Sounds like a wonderful and provocative trip.

Rev Kim said...

Glad that you had such a wonderful and thought-provoking trip!

Presbyterian Gal said...

Very cool insights.

And that El Jefe is a tall drink 'o water!!

Marlene said...

I have often thought of the Civil War in relation to what is going on in the PCUSA. Do churches have the right to secede or is the union held together at all cost? It challenges me.

Quotidian Grace said...

It challenges me, too, Marlene. Excellent analogy. Thanks for commenting!

St. Inuksuk said...

Glad you enjoyed the Lincoln sights of my home state. Been there a couple times and always discover something new and fascinating about Lincoln.

The Dustinator said...

If in Washington DC try attending the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, There is a Lincoln pew there, and the pastor at the time is said to have helped Lincoln with the Emancipation Proclamation (see the "History" page at the NYAPC web site). Still an active church, I attended a service there in 2007. Beautiful stained glass windows.

God Bless,

Marlene said...

Then I thought, maybe the Civil War is not the right analogy, maybe it is the American Revolution.