Now scrolling: The Gettysburg Address

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Whatever Happened to John?

Back to the Surratts. And why not? Few families are shrouded in more mystery.

Perhaps the most mysterious member of that family was John. Where was John while Lincoln was being assassinated? In Elmira, New York, shopping apparently. He was such a sharp dresser, that clothing stores in Elmira competed for the honor of being his alibi – a sort of "John Surratt shopped here" advertising opportunity.

After Elmira, he was protected by a network of Catholic priests in – where else – Canada, until he could be hustled off to Europe. It is fair to say that there was more anti-Lincoln intrigue going on in Toronto and Montreal than in all the Southern States put together. In fact, if the St. Lawrence Hotel alone had closed its doors, the entire assassination conspiracy might have folded on the spot – to say nothing of the Confederate Secret Service Bureau going homeless.

In Rome, John became one of the Zouaves at the Vatican, until Pope Pius IX summarily kicked him back to America for trial – a wise decision considering the anti-Catholic feeling of the times.

Two trials followed, with John Surratt acquitted at both of them. Because he was in Elmira at the time of Lincoln’s assassination, he could not be linked to the scene of the crime. Now Vincent Bugliosi would have gotten around this nicely. Remember, Charles Manson wasn’t at the scene of the crime either and accurately claimed he "never killed anybody."

Where did John go with his new-found freedom? To South America, and ultimately to Baltimore, where he found a comfortable job at the Baltimore Steam Packet Company until his retirement at seventy-one.

Where did I get all this stuff? From Andrew Jampoler’s book, The Last Lincoln Conspirator. If you’ve got Surratts on the brain, as I obviously do, check out this book for some surprising facts about John’s life after Lincoln.

Jampoler, just as troubled as most historians by the fact that John did not stand by his mother during her trial and execution, grimly reminds his readers that if he had, there surely would have been a 5th body on the scaffold, and a mother-and-son execution even more disturbing than Mary’s alone. Some things are best left the way they stand.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Let's Do Lincoln's Lunch

As Inauguration Day approaches, more and more of Obama’s choices surface, and they are all about Lincoln. Not only has the president-elect chosen the same Bible Lincoln used for the swearing in, but he is selecting a luncheon of Lincoln’s favorite foods. This includes an impressive array of seafood appetizers such as shrimp, lobster and stewed oysters, followed by a main course of duck breast with sour-cherry chutney -- all served on replicas of Mary’s best china. See The full course and more full course.

Thank goodness he didn’t choose Lincoln’s favorite breakfast while in the White House – an egg with a biscuit and sometimes a glass of milk. Amazing what a war can do to your appetite.

The original burgundy velvet Bible he will be using was purchased and inscribed by William Thomas Carroll, clerk of the Supreme Court. It will be on display at the Library of Congress February 12 to May 9 as part of an exhibition titled "With Malice Toward None: The Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Exhibition." That exhibit will then travel to five other American cities in commemoration of the bicentennial of Lincoln's birth on Feb. 12, 1809. More on Lincoln’s Bible.

Other good stuff – Obama is also tracing the train route that Lincoln took and holding a welcome event at the Lincoln Memorial the Sunday before his inauguration.

Anything else? Oh yes! It's rumored that Obama intends to wear a top hat and grow a beard, but only time will tell if this is true.
Until then, enjoy the "new birth of freedom," complete with calories and recipes from the caterer.