Tag Archives: Civil War Sesquicentennial

The First Reading of The Emancipation Proclamation: July 22nd, 1862

By Scott Ackerman

As we move through the sesquicentennial of the Civil War, 2012 has already seen the anniversary of the bloodbath at Shiloh, and of the meat-grinder known as the Seven Days Battles. This fall, Antietam and Fredericksburg will effect commemorations worthy of the soldiers who fought and died there 150 years ago. Inextricably linked to the events at Antietam and Fredericksburg will be the commemoration of Emancipation, as Antietam provided the victory Lincoln needed to announce his proclamation to the public, while the disaster at Fredericksburg led many to wonder if Lincoln would follow through with his redefinition of the war. Amid all the celebration and thoughtful reflection, the anniversary of Lincoln’s first reading of the Emancipation Proclamation to his cabinet on July 22nd should not be overlooked. Although it marked neither the beginning, nor the end, of a profound revolution in American society, it was nonetheless a critical moment in the translation of slave agency into federal emancipation policy.

As we pause to remember what this mid-summer moment meant for the slaves still toiling on Southern fields, for the soldiers who would provide much of the Emancipations Proclamation enforcement, and for generations who struggled with the meaning of freedom in the war of the Civil War, let us also reflect on why Soldier’s Home proved so critical to the Emancipation saga. Gaining a respite from the crush of office seekers and social obligations of the White House, while enjoying the cool hillside breezes gave Lincoln the opportunity during those critical summer months of 1862 to fully consider the breadth, scope, and ultimately, the entire meaning of the Union war effort. Consequently, as you (hopefully) visit our site this weekend, this summer, or even this year, take a moment to picture Lincoln wandering these same rooms and grounds exactly 150 years ago, contemplating and crafting a document that would change the nature of the Union war effort, and ultimately, the nation as a whole.

Mr. Ackerman is a Historical Interpreter at President Lincoln’s Cottage.

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The Lincolns’ First Move to the Cottage

Detail of Mary Lincoln’s letter to a friend in May 1862.

President Lincoln and his family moved to the cottage at the Soldiers’ Home for the first time 150 years ago this week. The family decided to move for a number of reasons – to mourn the loss of their second son, Willie, to escape the unhealthy conditions of downtown Washington, DC , and to try to find some solitude from the chaos of the city.

Mary Lincoln wrote a letter to a friend, Julia Ann Sprigg, on May 29, 1862 about their expected move in the coming weeks – “The 1st of July, we go out to the ‘Soldiers’ Home,’ a very charming place 2 ½ miles from the city, several hundred feet, above, our present situation, to pass the summer.” The family would move before July, however, based on two separate accounts that indicate the family moved at some point between June 8 and 13, 1862.

The article, “A Very Charming Place,” written by Cottage staff member Zachary Klitzman for our latest edition of the Cottage Courier, discusses the Lincolns’ move to the Cottage. You can read the entire article here – http://lincolncottage.org/news/Newsletter-Spring2012-article.pdf

To learn more about President Lincoln’s Cottage, visit our website: www.lincolncottage.org

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Latest Happenings and Upcoming Events

spring newsletter 2012The latest edition of the Cottage Courier is now available on our website! Stay up-to-date with all that is happening at President Lincoln’s Cottage by subscribing to receive our quarterly e-newsletter.

The next Cottage Conversation will take place Monday, May 21, with Harold Holzer at 6:30pm and you don’t want to miss the Memorial Day festivities on May 28. Find out more here. The 1863/2013 Sesquicentennial Ornament is now available for purchase. Click here to buy and be sure to collect the entire series!

Readers also do not want to miss the article A Very Charming Place by Zachary Klitzman, which discusses a letter Mary Lincoln wrote referencing her family’s planned move to the Soldiers’ Home.

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“Can You Walk Away?” Opens Today!

A visitor reads Lincoln’s words of wisdom in “Can You Walk Away?”

The long-awaited exhibit on modern slavery in America opens to the public today at President Lincoln’s Cottage. Can You Walk Away? challenges people’s perceptions on this growing humanitarian issue at the very place President Lincoln developed his ideas on freedom in America 150 years ago.

Over 12 million men, women, and children are held in slavery across the globe today, more than at the height of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. “Plenty of Americans see slavery as an issue that was resolved during the Civil War or by the 13th Amendment in the war’s aftermath, not as a growing humanitarian crisis in our own country,” said Erin Carlson Mast, Director of President Lincoln’s Cottage. “But fundamentally, the same issue is at stake: People’s right to freedom.”

To create this exhibit, President Lincoln’s Cottage partnered with Polaris Project, a non-profit organization in Washington, DC that focuses on eliminating modern slavery and human trafficking in the United States and around the world. Polaris Project operates the National Trafficking Hotline (1-888-373-7888) that has received about 45,000 calls since 2007. Worldwide Documentaries, Inc., and The mtvU Against Our Will Campaign contributed also content for the exhibit.

Visitors hear testimonies from survivors of human trafficking, learn about the state of slavery today, and have a chance to become a modern abolitionist and join in movement to stop this crisis. The exhibit is open through August 2013 in the Robert H. Smith Visitor Education Center at President Lincoln’s Cottage. Mon-Sat 9:30am – 4:30pm, Sun 10:30am-4:30pm. The exhibit is free of charge but visitor discretion is advised as the exhibit contains graphic content that may be too sensitive for some guests.

To read the AP article on the exhibit click here.

Visit the exhibit site: www.lincolncottage.org/canyouwalkaway.html

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New Exhibit Opens at the Cottage

capitol dome

President Lincoln’s Cottage opened Seat of War: A Panoramic View of Civil War Washington Through Historic Prints early this month in the Robert H. Smith Visitor Education Center at the Cottage. This exhibit illuminates President Lincoln’s Civil War Washington through historic prints from our collection. It will run through the holidays and close on January 15, 2012.

Civil War had arguably the greatest impact on Washington, DC of any single event in American history.  Almost overnight, the seat of our nation’s government was transformed from a sleepy, southern town to the hub of the northern war effort, and was often referred to as the “Seat of War.” From views of the half finished Capitol dome to Lincoln’s intimate Soldiers’ Home retreat, this exhibit features our beautiful collection of prints, some of which are rarely displayed.The Cottage is a great place to visit with out of town family and guests! We will maintain our normal hours during the holidays (Mon-Sat: 9:30am-4:30pm; Sun: 10:30am-4:30pm) but we will be closed on Christmas Day and New Years Day. As always, be sure to check our website for updates, hours of operation, and other visitor information.


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Upcoming Program with the U.S. State Department

Lincoln and Seward

President Abraham Lincoln and Secretary of State William Seward

President Lincoln’s Cottage and the Office of the Historian of the U.S. Department of State are hosting a public program to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS), the flagship publication of the Department’s Office of the Historian. Join Burrus Carnahan, noted Civil War and Lincoln author and scholar as he interviews Dr. Aaron Marrs, Civil War Researcher with the Office of the Historian, on Marrs’ new research that sheds light on foreign relations in the context of the Civil War.

Join us December 1, 2011 at 6:30pm – 7:30pm

Location: President Lincoln’s Cottage

Admission: FREE

Reservations are required – call (202) 829-0436 x31232 or email Sahand_Miraminy@nthp.org

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Cataloging Cemeteries

View of the Soldiers' Home National Cemetary in 1864.

By Zachary Klitzman

One reason President Lincoln moved to the Cottage was to escape the constant reminders that he encountered at the White House of the ongoing Civil War.  But even here at the bucolic Soldiers’ Home, Lincoln could not completely escape the war.  Looking just a few hundred yards to the northeast of the Cottage, the President could see the first national cemetery, with dozens of weekly burials.

Opened in August of 1861 in response to the bloodshed of the Battle of Manassas, this cemetery, now officially called the United States Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Home National Cemetery, lies adjacent to its namesake retirement home.  Although the cemetery is not part of the standard tour at President Lincoln’s Cottage, visitors are welcome to explore the graves on their own.

Such visitors now have a key resource to aid their experience of the cemetery.  As part of its Civil War Sesquicentennial celebration, the National Park Service has created a database of the 116 Civil War era national cemeteries scattered throughout the country, and the USSAH National Cemetery is one of the entries. Each selection includes historical context, visitor information, and photos.

In addition to the listings broken down by state, the site has an exhaustive list of additional resources and links, as well as an interactive map showing the location of the burial grounds. Though the majority of the cemeteries are located in states that saw the bulk of the fighting of the Civil War (Virginia has the most with 18 entries), South Dakota, New Mexico, California and Texas are represented. 

There are also three short essays: one by Harvard President and historian Drew Gilpin Faust on death in the Civil War (Faust’s 2008 award-winning book This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War directly dealt with the unprecedented bloodshed of the war); one by Kelly Merrifield, a contractor with the National Preservation Institute who also wrote some of the site entries, on the evolution of the national cemeteries; and finally an essay by National Cemetery Administration Senior Historian Sara Amy Leach on the erection of the first national cemeteries.

In addition to the Soldiers’ Home cemetery, the database includes two other cemeteries in the District.  Battleground National Cemetery, located just a couple of miles from the Cottage off of Georgia Avenue, is one of the smallest national cemeteries in the nation.  It serves as the final resting place of 41 Union soldiers who died at the nearby Battle of Fort Stevens.  (The Lincolns were forced to evacuate the Cottage in advance of the battle — the only one to take place in the District’s borders — though Abraham Lincoln famously visited the fort during the action.)  The other cemetery in the nation’s capital is Congressional Cemetery, which is located in Southeast D.C.

For those interested in the USSAH National Cemetery, President Lincoln’s Cottage has a complete breakdown of the number of burials in the cemetery while Lincoln was living at the Soldiers’ Home.  Thanks to the research of a high school American history class in Ohio, the data illustrates that the President could witness an average of eight burials a day from his front door step.  The students from Ohio also created a list of the names of the servicemen buried in the cemetery, as well as an analysis of the burials by state and regiment.  We also have a guide for how one can find a relative’s grave.

Mr. Klitzman is the Executive Assistant at President Lincoln’s Cottage.

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