This article originally appeared in the pages of the Gettysburg Times, November of 2023. It was penned by Rev. Stephen Herr of the Lincoln Fellowship of Pennsylvania, in the hopes of sharing the work the Fellowship does.
A little over six weeks before traveling to Gettysburg to make a “few appropriate remarks” at the dedication of a cemetery for Union soldiers who died during the battle, President Lincoln issued a Proclamation of Thanksgiving. Lincoln called all Americans to set aside Nov. 26 “as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.” Though the country was experiencing the most devasting year in the Civil War yet, Lincoln’s proclamation commenced with words of hopeful reflection. He focused on the abundance of industriousness throughout the Union that included maintaining peace with other nations, growth in its population and borders, and providing resources to sustain both civilian and military populations. Lincoln understood a forgiving and merciful Most High God provided the nation with these gifts.
Lincoln’s call for a national day of thanks came three score and 14 years to the exact date President George Washington signed a Thanksgiving Proclamation. Lincoln’s Proclamation echoed Washington’s, who gave thanks for the divine hand in caring for the colonies prior to the American Revolution, protecting them during that war, and assisting the creation of a constitutional government. Both presidents recognized a holy intervention in providing for our nation’s well-being and prosperity.
Where Lincoln significantly differed from Washington was his call for penitence. Here, Lincoln demonstrates an honest, humble understanding that the “nations’ perseverance and disobedience” has led to great suffering and death. Lincoln proclaimed, “And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they also do, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.“ His words were harbingers of his Second Inaugural in 1865, where he longed for the nations’ wounds to be healed. Unfortunately, when Nov. 26, 1863, arrived, Lincoln was ill and unable to work or enjoy the day of thanks he had proclaimed. Nevertheless, his proclamation of Thanksgiving echoes through the years, reminding us again of the ways Lincoln continues to inspire.
At this time of Thanksgiving, the Lincoln Fellowship of Pennsylvania gives thanks to Abraham Lincoln and his remarkable legacy. We are grateful for our membership across this nation and the support of wonderful partners who help us host the annual Nov. 19 Dedication Day program and offer One Hundred Nights of Taps Gettysburg each night at the Gettysburg National Cemetery from Memorial Day to Labor Day. This holiday season, we invite you to stop by the “Return Visit” statue maintained by the fellowship on Lincoln Square and contemplate the ever-pertinent Gettysburg Address.
This article originally appeared in the pages of the Gettysburg Times, October of 2023. It was penned by Wendy Allen of the Lincoln Fellowship of Pennsylvania, in the hopes of sharing the work the Fellowship does.
This past spring, Destination Gettysburg hosted a guest speaker at its annual members' dinner who had a very interesting message: He urged those of us in the tourist industry to provide visitors with a "transcendent experience"—one that connects people with the world beyond their typical existence and helps them discover a greater meaning and purpose in life. It is a challenging goal, but one that the Lincoln Fellowship of Pennsylvania has long sought to achieve with every program and event that it sponsors, notably the Dedication Day celebration held every November 19 and One Hundred Nights of Taps, Gettysburg, held every evening throughout the summer.
Today I received an email with an audition tape from a teacher in Maryland who was advocating for one of their high school students to sound Taps for the 2024 season of One Hundred Nights of Taps, Gettysburg. The bugler is more than qualified, and it will be an honor to host her next summer. The idea that this student, as well as many other young musicians around the country, are eager to sound Taps in the Gettysburg National Cemetery is a quintessential example of how One Hundred Nights of Taps, Gettysburg, fulfills the mission to provide a memorable and transcendent experience, not only for this young student but for all the visitors who will be present that evening.
Another way in which the Lincoln Fellowship achieves this goal is through our annual Dedication Day ceremony, which celebrates the anniversary of Lincoln's immortal Gettysburg Address. This year, with the invaluable help of our partners, Gettysburg College, Gettysburg National Military Park, and Gettysburg Foundation, we are proud to present a tribute in honor of the 60th anniversary of the historic 1963 Centennial ceremony, which featured two of our nation's icons, former President Dwight D. Eisenhower and singer Marian Anderson. We are confident that our guests will be deeply moved by the special program we have planned.
On November 9, 2023, the Adams County Community Foundation (ACCF) is holding its annual “Giving Spree” to raise funds for non-profit organizations in the county. We are one of the participating non-profits.
A large percentage of our annual operating funds come from the contributions donated during the Giving Spree. These donations provide us with the funds we need to sponsor One Hundred Nights of Taps, Gettysburg, the annual Dedication Day ceremony, and our other educational programs honoring the life and legacy of President Abraham Lincoln. To help us achieve our goals, the ACCF will be establishing an endowment to provide income for future events as well as to maintain of the “Return Visit” statue in the town square. As you consider making a Giving Spree donation to the Lincoln Fellowship of Pennsylvania, please also consider splitting that donation between the Today fund and the Forever fund.
Please join us on November 19th for the annual Dedication Day ceremony and have a wonderful Thanksgiving.
This article originally appeared in the pages of the Gettysburg Times, September of 2023. It was penned by Therese Orr of the Lincoln Fellowship of Pennsylvania, in the hopes of sharing the work the Fellowship does.
“Lincoln and others did indeed give us ‘a new birth of freedom,’ but the goals of liberty and freedom, the obligations of keeping ours a government of and by the people are never-ending.” These are the words of President John Kennedy, sent via telegram to this newspaper and printed on the front page on November 19, 1963, the centennial anniversary of Dedication Day and the Gettysburg Address.
Ten thousand people are estimated to have attended the ceremonies on a warm, brilliantly sunny November afternoon. As in 1863, a procession from the town square to the cemetery followed Lincoln’s original route, with military units, bands, a president and a governor. The U.S. Marine Band and the colors of the 28th Division, PA National Guard led this procession. Notably, the headquarters unit of the U.S. 3rd Infantry, which was formed at the birth of our nation, participated in all of our wars, and was present at the battle of Gettysburg, also joined in. The Gettysburg High School band greeted the procession at the cemetery entrance, and a 21-gun salute echoed through the air as Eisenhower’s car entered the cemetery.
Former President Dwight D. Eisenhower was the keynote speaker that day. He said Lincoln “foresaw a new birth of freedom, a freedom and equality for all, which … would restore the purpose and meaning of America, defining a goal that challenges each of us to attain his full stature of citizenship. The beauty of the sentiments Lincoln expressed enthralls us; the majesty of his words holds us spellbound; but we have not paid to them their just tribute until we, ourselves, live them.”
President Eisenhower invited opera singer, Marian Anderson, to sing at the ceremony. She arrived in Gettysburg planning to sing one particular hymn, only to find that the program listed another hymn. She expressed concern over the change and board members suggested announcing the change in hymns at the podium. She insisted that she only needed a hymnal, if one could be produced. Fellowship members procured a Christian Youth Hymnal from St. James Lutheran Church for Miss Anderson. She sang two selections that day, to the great delight of the crowd.
Justice Michael Musmanno of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court delivered the Gettysburg Address. Interestingly, Musmanno had become a friend of Abraham Lincoln’s son, Robert, frequent visitor to Georgetown University, which Musmanno had also attended. Musmanno first presented Lincoln’s address at a meeting of the Lincoln Fellowship in 1939, and had presented it “hundreds of times” since.
The crowd that day was much larger than the Park Service had anticipated and reinforcements were needed. Thirty members of the Gettysburg College ROTC were dispatched to assist the rangers. Among the cadets was Thomas Gideon Welles, Jr., whose great-grandfather, Gideon Welles, had served as Lincoln’s Secretary of the Navy. Welles was present on the platform with Lincoln in 1863.
As the 1963 commemoration emulated the 1863, our 2023 commemoration will emulate the 1963 event in many ways. Please join us on November 19th to hear Susan Eisenhower and opera star, renowned American mezzo-soprano, J’Nai Bridges.
This article originally appeared in the pages of the Gettysburg Times, August of 2023. It was penned by Wendy Allen of the Lincoln Fellowship of Pennsylvania, in the hopes of sharing the work the Fellowship does.
According to Garry Wills in his Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Lincoln at Gettysburg, The Words That Remade America, President Lincoln did not dash off his Gettysburg Address at the last minute for the November 19th Dedication of Soldiers’ National Cemetery. Instead, he thoroughly prepared for, and carefully wrote and rewrote, his 272-word remarks to honor the newly reinterred United States soldiers. The closing line in Wills’ prologue states, “Without Lincoln’s knowing it himself, all his prior literary, intellectual, and political labors had prepared him for the intellectual revolution contained in those fateful 272 words.”
This year’s talented musicians who volunteered to sound Taps in Gettysburg National Cemetery for One Hundred Nights of Taps, Gettysburg, 2023, always came fully prepared. Their devotion to their craft is exceptional. Without their knowing it themselves, all of their musical and intellectual labors prepared them for their magnificent sounding of Taps on this hallowed ground. Representing 17 states, the District of Columbia, and Belgium, we extend our sincere thanks to these many fine musicians:
Kaitlynn Gaff, MD; Jesse Mixson, MD; Gene Russell, Washington D.C.; Louis DiLeo, NY; Ron Ciasullo, PA; Ralph Brodt III, PA; Ian Monaghan, MD; Michael Harper; Steven Snyder, NY; Last Post Association Buglers, Raf Decombel and Jan Callemein, from Ypres, Belgium, Jari Villanueva, MD; David Bufalini, PA; John Montgomery, Ohio; Bill Seaman; Ryan Welch; Kevin Paul; Max Osborn and and Lucas Fleming, MD; Wes Snyder, PA; Shirley Ann Walker, OH; Kevin Czarnik, MI; Amy Gabriele, PA; Christopher Rice, AL; Zachary J. Gilbert, PA; Greg Murphy, NJ; Jamie Cope, PA; Air National Guard Band of the North East Trumpets; Peter Sharrock, NY; Andrew Bisnett, NY; Thomas Herman, MD; Jim McDevitt, PA; Kevin McCarty, PA; Cameron Sands, PA; Nathaniel Bauder, PA; Randall McGuire, TX; Vince Pettinelli, NJ; Albert Lilly, IN; Ken Bair II, PA; Dave Burkhart, PA; Tom Rudolph, PA; Damon Morris, PA; Mitchell Mummert, PA; Brian Poffenberger, PA; Benjamin McClelland, PA; Graham Bentley, OH; Ivan Frantz, PA; Judy Shelleberger, PA; Ryan Bowden, PA; Landon Rosekrans, MD; Neil King, WV; Ross Mitchell, Washington D.C.; Robert Bauerle, MD; Warren Prender, MD; Chris Therit, PA; Michael Krauss, New York; Jonathan Gifford, SC; Matthew Cruice; Robert Beaver, PA; David Apple, MD; Brooks Brady, PA; Erin Bannon, PA; Joshua Cooper, MD; Debra Skripkunis, PA; Stephen White, MA; Thomas Sneeringer, Washington D.C.; John Baker, PA; John Lupp, PA; Michael Wood, IN; Jeffrey Miller, NY; Nicholas Brown, MD; Albert Trapani, PA; Robert Hawke; George Boyd, PA; Doug Rudisill, PA, standing in for Jim Rogers, MD; Jim Shufelt, PA; Keith DeFontes, MD; Scott Clark, PA; USAF Colonel John R. Thomas,ME; David Beier, Alabama; Harold Collins; Harry Dillon; Russ Ebersole; Mark Young, PA, for Stephen Goshorn, SC; Rick Barnes, MD; Brenda Kehl, MO; Chris Myers, MD; Donald Roeder, PA; Matthew Mills, TN; Robert Roll, NY; Robert Slamp, AL; P. C. King, PA; Mike Kinkade, TX; Galen Gish, PA; Maryellen Dodd, OK; Robert Balmer, MI; Hank Hartman, AK.
The One Hundred Nights of Taps, Gettysburg, 2023 is sponsored by the Lincoln Fellowship of Pennsylvania and Gettysburg National Military Park in partnership with Taps for Veterans, the Gettysburg Licensed Battlefield Guides, and Eisenhower National Historic Site.
This article originally appeared in the pages of the Gettysburg Times, July of 2023. It was penned by Wendy Allen of the Lincoln Fellowship of Pennsylvania, in the hopes of sharing the work the Fellowship does.
The Lincoln Fellowship of Pennsylvania is a small, energetic, all-volunteer, non-partisan, non-profit organization, located here in Gettysburg. We honor the legacy and memory of President Abraham Lincoln, as well as commemorate his Gettysburg Address and the dedication of Gettysburg National Cemetery. We strive to educate the public about this history and we have forged an list of enviable partners to help us achieve our goal to proficiently educate and enlighten.
Gettysburg National Military Park and Eisenhower National Historic Site co-sponsor our One Hundred Nights of Taps, Gettysburg program and the Dedication Day ceremony. We work side-by-side with brilliant interpretive rangers who guide and teach our guests, and with law enforcement rangers who help to ensure the safety of our programs. Gettysburg NMP also assists with our Lincoln’s Birthday educational event for local preschoolers each February, and we are proud to help sponsor the park’s Traveling Trunk program, which brings enriching, hands-on learning about Lincoln and the Civil War to schoolchildren across the country.
We also partner with Taps For Veterans, an organization that provides essential support for our Taps program by coordinating bugler signup every Spring. Under the direction of Jari Villanueva, this organization provides buglers to sound Taps for military veterans’ funerals and ceremonies. Jari is also our extraordinary music director. He composed the beautiful Fanfare for One Hundred Nights of Taps, Gettysburg for our program. He also creates memorable arrangements for special ceremonial dates.
Additionally, we partner with the Association of Gettysburg Licensed Battlefield Guides for the Taps program. Their popular, free tours of Gettysburg National Cemetery, organized by guide Fran Feyock, begin at 5:30 PM each evening. This highly informative educational program by licensed battlefield experts concludes with the opening of our program at 7:00 PM and the sounding of Taps.
As the One Hundred Nights of Taps program begins to wind down, our focus shifts towards November 19th and Dedication Day. Again, we call upon additional trusted co-sponsors for assistance.
Gettysburg College is co-sponsor for the Dedication Day ceremony. The college generously supports the Fellowship. College staff contribute their time and talents, as well as student volunteers who help with crowd management. The college also provides a backup venue in the event of inclement weather.
The Gettysburg Foundation assists us most notably with the joyful Naturalization and Citizenship ceremony, through which we all have the privilege to witness, celebrate, and welcome together a group of new American citizens from around the world.
The Lincoln Forum, held annually here in Gettysburg under the gracious direction of its Chairman, Harold Holzer, partners with the Fellowship by lending a hand with procuring speakers for the Dedication Day ceremony. The Forum brings leading scholars, speakers, performers, and panelists to our community every November.
The Lincoln Fellowship of Pennsylvania takes great pride in our programs. We strive for the programs not just to be successful—we want for them to be transcendent experiences, highlighting for the visitor the significance of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and its relevance as a beacon of freedom and democracy through the ages.
This article originally appeared in the pages of the Gettysburg Times, June of 2023. It was penned by Wendy Allen of the Lincoln Fellowship of Pennsylvania, in the hopes of sharing the work the Fellowship does.
One of the chief features of our One Hundred Nights of Taps, Gettysburg program is to educate.
One Hundred Nights of Taps, Gettysburg strives to provide a profound educational experience for the visitors. On our Taps logo, we feature the words “Inform, Inspire, and Involve.” Yet we cannot inform, we cannot inspire, we cannot involve without educating the visitor about how it was that the Gettysburg National Cemetery came to exist in the first place--about who it is that rests eternally under it’s stones--and about why the national cemetery and the actions of those individuals still matter so deeply, nearly 160 years after its creation.
This year, the educational portion of the program, Enduring Pathways, are presented by Lincoln Fellowship volunteers, the Gettysburg National Park rangers and the Eisenhower National Historic Site rangers.
On June 6, Ranger Dan Vermilya from the Eisenhower National Historic Site spoke about the brave soldiers, killed in action on D-Day, buried in Gettysburg National Cemetery. His meticulous research brought these brave Americans to light for the visitors that evening. Bugler, Steven E. Snyder from Rosendale, NY, sounded Taps.
One June 7th, the Fellowship hosted Last Post Association Buglers, Raf Decombel and Jan Callemein, from Ypres, Belgium, and Delegation of Flanders members, on a goodwill tour, Mathieu Mottrie and Elien Werbrouk. Once again, Ranger Dan Vermilya told the story of Adams County native, Pvt. Charles Albert Shuyler. Shuyler was killed in action in Ypres, Belgium on Nov. 5, 1918, and ultimately reinterred in Gettysburg National Cemetery. Renowned bugler, Jari Villanueva sounded Taps for the program. Jari was key to leading the delegation to Gettysburg. This visit was very meaningful to me because in 2001, I visited Ypres, Belgium. After touring the battlefield, I witnessed the nightly sounding of Last Post, at the Ypres’s Menin Gate. This experience was the inspiration for the current One Hundred Nights of Taps, Gettysburg program.
On June 10th, we honored visiting Lincoln scholar, Harold Holzer. He is one of the country's leading authorities on Abraham Lincoln and the political culture of the Civil War era. President Bush awarded Holzer the National Humanities Medal in 2008. Today he serves as The Jonathan F. Fanton Director of Hunter College's Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute. He has been the keynote speaker here in Gettysburg twice, in 2005 and again in 2017. His depth of knowledge about Abraham Lincoln is unequaled. We use his scholarship for our Enduring Pathway educational segments.
June has been an educationally robust start to the One Hundred Nights of Taps,Gettysburg, program season. Join us in July for more compelling educational stories. As Fellowship board member, Dr. Ashley Luskey stated for the opening ceremony, “by educating, we inform; by informing, we inspire; by involving, we honor, and by honoring, we remember. And when we unite around that remembrance, our nation reveals itself at its best”.
One Hundred Nights of Taps, Gettysburg, 2023 is sponsored by the Lincoln Fellowship of Pennsylvania and the Gettysburg National Military Park in partnership with Taps for Veterans, the Gettysburg Licensed Battlefield Guides, and the Eisenhower National Historic Site.
This article originally appeared in the pages of the Gettysburg Times, May of 2023. It was penned by Therese Orr of the Lincoln Fellowship of Pennsylvania, in the hopes of sharing the work the Fellowship does.
Of all the military bugle calls, none is so easily recognized or more apt to evoke emotion than the call Taps. A melody both eloquent and haunting, Taps is unique to the United States military, since the call is sounded at funerals, wreath-laying and memorial services.
Taps began as a revision for the signal of Extinguish Lights (Lights Out) at the end of the day. Prior to the Civil War, the infantry call for Extinguish Lights was music borrowed from the French. The music for Taps was adapted by Union General Daniel Butterfield for his brigade in July 1862.
As the story goes, General Butterfield was not pleased with the call for Extinguish Lights, feeling that the call was too formal to signal the day's end. With the help of the brigade bugler, Oliver Willcox Norton, Butterfield wrote Taps to honor his men while in camp at Harrison’s Landing, Virginia, following the Seven Days battles in the summer of 1862. The General could not read or write music, but as was required of all regimental officers, he had learned the Army bugle calls. It is believed that he took the existing Tattoo call and shortened and lengthened notes with the help of Norton until he liked it. The new call, sounded that night in July 1862, soon spread to other units of the Union Army and was reportedly also used by the Confederates. Taps became an official bugle call after the war.
Why the name Taps? The call of Tattoo was used in order to assemble soldiers for the last roll call of the day. The word tattoo in this usage is derived from the Dutch tap (faucet) and toe (to cut off). When it was time to cease drinking for the evening and return to the post, the provost or Officer of the Day, accompanied by a sergeant and drummer, would go through the town beating out the signal for all the troops to return to their billets. It is possible that the word Tattoo became Taps. Tattoo was also called Tap-toe and as is true with slang terms in the military, it was shortened to Taps.
Since 2016 the Lincoln Fellowship of Pennsylvania has sponsored 100 Nights of Taps, from Memorial Day to Labor Day. The evening begins at 5:30 with a free cemetery tour by a Licensed Battlefield Guide, each Guide providing a history of the cemetery and their own selection of soldiers to highlight. The tour ends in time for the 7:00 Taps program, which includes a brief historical vignette and the playing of Taps by a volunteer guest bugler. The buglers come from far and wide, this year including guest buglers from Belgium. We begin this year on May 29 with an extended program.
We invite you to join us and our co-sponsor, the Gettysburg National Military Park, and our partners, Taps for Veterans and Gettysburg’s Licensed Battlefield Guides, for a beautiful end to the day as we honor those who gave the “last full measure of devotion” to our country.
This article originally appeared in the pages of the Gettysburg Times, April of 2023. It was penned by Wendy Allen of the Lincoln Fellowship of Pennsylvania, in the hopes of sharing the work the Fellowship does.
This summer, the Lincoln Fellowship of Pennsylvania and Gettysburg National Military Park will co-sponsor the seventh year of One Hundred Nights of Taps, Gettysburg. Along with our wonderful partners, Taps for Veterans and the Gettysburg Licensed Battlefield Guides, we look forward to hosting thousands of visitors to Gettysburg National Cemetery and continuing to inform, inspire, and involve them.
According to Drew Gilpin Faust in her award-winning book, “This Republic of Suffering,” over 40 percent of deceased Civil War Union soldiers perished without names--identified only, as Walt Whitman put it, “by the significant word UNKNOWN.” Faust continues, “to a twenty-first-century American, this seems unimaginable.”
This summer, the Lincoln Fellowship of Pennsylvania will be presenting our annual commemorative coin to the buglers and guest participants in thanks for their volunteer time. In years past, we honored individual, known Union soldiers who were killed here in 1863. This year we will be honoring the UNKNOWN United States soldiers buried in Gettysburg National Cemetery. Of the 3,354 soldiers buried there, 979 are unknown.
Seasonal GNMP Ranger Elizabeth Smith, notes, "When it comes to the unknown residing in this cemetery, we tend to know either very little or nothing at all about them. But there are outliers, men we know who died here at Gettysburg and whose bodies were never claimed and most likely now reside here in this National Cemetery. One of these men is Albert Mattice.”
Albert Mattice was born on October 6, 1844, in Ontario, Canada. The first of twelve children, Albert grew up on his father’s 400-acre farm in Stormont County. We know nothing of what his childhood was like, but we do know that in 1862, at 17 years old, Albert left Canada and traveled south. On July 5, 1862, he enlisted with the 11th US Regulars.
Upon enlisting, Albert and the 11th quickly became combat veterans, seeing action at places such as Antietam, Fredericksburg, and Chancellorsville. July 2, 1863, found them here at Gettysburg’s infamous Wheatfield. While advancing into the Wheatfield, the 11th suddenly found themselves flanked by Confederate forces, who unleashed a volley. “In a few minutes,” the 11th’s major remembered, “we lost nearly half of the regiment, and that too, without inflecting the slightest damage upon the enemy.”
One of those lost was 18-year-old Albert Mattice. We don’t know exactly when or where Albert fell, but we know that he died there, at the Wheatfield, only three days short of a full year in the army. With no identification on his person, Albert’s body was never identified and so what exactly happened to him remains uncertain; however, more than likely, he now resides in one of the numbered graves in the unknown section of Gettysburg National Cemetery.
Drew Gilpin Faust states, “The cemetery at Gettysburg was arranged so that every grave was of equal importance; William Saunders’s design, like Lincoln’s speech, affirmed that every dead soldier mattered equally regardless of rank or station. The work of locating the missing and naming the tens of thousands of men designated as ‘unknown’ would prove one of the war’s most difficult tasks.”
This article originally appeared in the pages of the Gettysburg Times, March of 2023. It was penned by John Tuskan, Historian/Archivist, of the Lincoln Fellowship of Pennsylvania, in the hopes of sharing the work the Fellowship does.
In 1855, Abraham Lincoln came within five votes of becoming a U.S. senator from Illinois, and Walt Whitman (1819-1892) published the first edition of his masterwork, Leaves of Grass. At that time, few people would have predicted that Lincoln and Whitman would go on to become two iconic figures united in American history, whose powerful democratic voices echo to this day.
Early on, Whitman sensed Lincoln’s uniqueness. On February 19, 1861, he saw Lincoln for the first time as the president-elect traveled through New York City. As his respect and warm approval for President Lincoln grew, he noted Lincoln's "striking appearance" and "unpretentious dignity,” and trusted his "supernatural tact" and "idiomatic Western genius.”
Whitman believed that he and Lincoln were “afloat in the same stream” and “rooted in the same ground.” He reflected, “After my dear, dear mother, I guess Lincoln gets almost nearer me than anybody else.” Lincoln and Whitman were certainly kindred spirits in their commitment to democratic principles and ideals, preservation of the Union, and a belief in and celebration of the greatness of the people – the common folk.
Lincoln knew of Whitman and his works. Lincoln’s law partner, William Herndon bought a copy of Leaves of Grass when it first appeared and took it to their Springfield office, where law clerk Henry Rankin later wrote that Lincoln often read passages aloud.
Whitman and Lincoln shared many similarities in literary styles and inspirations. There was a poetry to many of Lincoln’s public speeches, especially the Gettysburg Address. Prominent Lincoln scholar, Harold Holzer brilliantly proffered that, “The Gettysburg Address was the poetry to the Emancipation Proclamation’s prose” and Professor Gabor Boritt insightfully proposed that, “The beauty of the language of the Gettysburg Address helps explain its glory over the years.”
The Gettysburg Address and many poems in Leaves of Grass invoke an American democratic ethos and egalitarian principles. In his poem “Song of myself”, Whitman says “I am large,/I contain multitudes,” and in “America,” he declares the nation as “Centre of equal daughters, equal sons, /All, all alike endear’d, grown, ungrown, young or old,”– conveying the complex American identity and great democratic voice.
Whitman never met Lincoln in person but estimated that he saw Lincoln about twenty to thirty times between 1861 and 1865. Whitman wrote that Lincoln nodded to him as he passed by in his carriage, but some historians have argued that Lincoln nodded to many passersby as he traveled and may not have actually recognized Whitman. Whitman and Lincoln were in the same room twice: At a reception in the White House in 1861, and later when Whitman visited John Hay, Lincoln's private secretary, at the White House.
Deeply moved by Lincoln’s death on April 15, 1865, Whitman eventually added four poems in tribute to Lincoln in his volume about the war, Drum Taps: “Oh, Captain! My Captain!, “Hush’d be the Camps To-day,” “This Dust was Once the Man,” and arguably his greatest and most enduring poem,” When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d.“ On April 16, 1865, Whitman said of Lincoln: “He leaves, in my opinion, the greatest, best, most characteristic, moral personality.”
This article originally appeared in the pages of the Gettysburg Times, February of 2023. It was penned by Ken Kime, Vice President of the Lincoln Fellowship of Pennsylvania, in the hopes of sharing the work the Fellowship does.
Abraham Lincoln had four sons but only his oldest, Robert, reached adulthood. Robert was born on August 1, 1843, in Springfield, Illinois. His younger brothers had a warm relationship with their father, but Robert did not. Later in his life he would write that during his childhood his father was almost constantly away attending court or making political speeches.
When Robert was sixteen, he went to New Hampshire to attend a private school, and afterward to Harvard College. While Robert was attending Harvard, his father became President. Robert would reflect that he had scarcely any quiet time with his father during his Presidency because of his constant devotion to work. After completing undergraduate studies in 1864, Robert entered Harvard Law School, but after one year he left to briefly serve as a captain in the Union Army.
After his father’s death he moved with his mother and brother Tad to Chicago, where he finished law school at the U. of Chicago. He gained clients in the railroad and corporate sectors and became an established, successful lawyer. President James Garfield appointed him Secretary of War from 1881 until 1885 and President Benjamin Harrison assigned Robert to be Minister to Great Britain, which he accepted and served until 1893. He became the President of the Pullman Palace Car Co. of Chicago.
Like his father, Robert was well acquainted with death. His brother Eddie was born in 1846 but died at the age of three of tuberculosis. His second sibling Willie was born in 1850, but died in the White House of typhoid fever. His third brother, Tad, was born in 1853. Tad had a cleft lip and palate which caused him speech problems throughout his life. After the assassination, Mary, Robert and Tad moved to Chicago. Mary and Tad moved to Germany in 1868 and later to England. After three years abroad, they moved back to Chicago. In July of 1871, Tad died at the age of 18 from tuberculosis. During his life Robert also witnessed political violence. He was not only present when his father died, but also saw the assassination of James Garfield, and was nearby when William McKinley was shot. He said, “My God, how many hours of sorrow I have passed in this town.”
Robert Lincoln was married and had three children, two girls and one boy. The only grandson of Abraham Lincoln passed away at the age of sixteen due to a blood infection from surgery. Robert Lincoln died on July 26, 1926, at his summer retreat in Manchester Vermont, at the age of 82.
Despite his many successes, Robert Lincoln would remark to his friend Nicholas Murray Butler, “No one wanted me for Secretary of War, or Minister to England; they wanted Abraham Lincoln’s son.”
Robert was not interred in Springfield in the family tomb but, at his wife’s request, interred in Arlington National Cemetery to reflect a career independent of his famous father.
Ken Kime is the Vice President of the Lincoln Fellowship of Pennsylvania.
Lincoln Fellowship of Pennsylvania is a 501(c)3 OrganizationP. O. Box 3372, Gettysburg, PA 17325Email: email@example.com