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.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Two Presidents, One Temperament

Lincoln ranting and swearing? That’s hard to believe. And guess who drove him to it? George McClellan.

Lincoln had issued a war order calling for a movement of all land and naval forces on Washington 's Birthday, February 22. What a nice way to celebrate that day.

But instead of a frontal attack at Manassas Junction, McClellan wanted to float his army down the Chesapeake Bay, and march overland to Richmond before the Confederates could block him. Only trouble was, the canal boats carrying the men through a lock on the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal were six inches too wide. When McClellan discovered the error, he did nothing.

According to journalist William O. Stoddard, Lincoln was beside himself. (Read all about it in Daniel Mark Epstein’s Lincoln’s Men). Addressing McClellan’s father-in-law, Lincoln yelled "Why in hell and damnation, General Marcy, couldn’t the General have known whether a boat would go through that lock, before he spent a million of dollars getting them there? I am no engineer but it seems to me that if I wished to know whether a boat would go thru a hole, or a lock, common sense would teach me to go and measure it."

I have this vision of McClellan getting off the boat with a tape measure, stringing it across the Chesapeake and Ohio canal lock and calling out "Six inches too short. Oh well."

But did George Washington ever lose his cool? Oh yes, and right on the battlefield. When Major General Charles Lee lost his nerve in pursuit of British troops at Monmouth Courthouse, Washington gave him a virulent "tongue lashing" right on the spot, questioning his loyalty, character and bravery. According to one soldier at the scene, he swore at him until the "leaves on the trees shook."

So what does all this say? Both men were low on patience when it came to commanders hesitating under pressure, but while Washington questioned Lee’s loyalty, Lincoln never did question McClellan’s. He only asked to borrow his army.

Happy President’s Day to you.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Happy 200th Birthday, Abe

So how does it feel to be 200 years old? Fine, apparently. In 2009, Lincoln is looking more alive than ever. Who could have predicted that on this special birthday, we would have a President in office so devoted to Lincoln’s memory and ideals that the 1861 Bible would be re-used in an inauguration ceremony? In fact, Obama’s dedication to all things Lincoln has inspired new markets for memorabilia, leading right up to Christie’s auction house.

On February 12th, Christie's will put up for sale Lincoln's handwritten 1864 re-election victory speech, at an estimated value of $3 to $4 million. That’s right up there with Van Gogh’s Irises. See Christie’s Sells Lincoln.

In Kentucky, an artist has created a 200-tile mosaic of Lincoln out of his photos, portraits and images. Inspired by seeing a 1909 poster of Lincoln made out of 100 images to celebrate his centennial birthday, Jim Erskine, who lives near Hodgenville, decided to create a 200-tile poster for the bicentennial. Will a 300-tile poster appear in 2109? Check out 200 tiles.

To top it off, the U.S. Postal Service released four commemorative stamps on Feb. 9 to celebrate Lincoln’s 200th birthday. The stamps depict Lincoln as a rail splitter, lawyer, politician and president. See four stamps.

But maybe the best way of all to celebrate Lincoln’s 200th is by keeping alive the values he stood for. And remember, 200th birthdays are fun as long as you don’t have to blow out the candles.

Happy birthday, Abe!