Saturday, October 31, 2009

Reaction to the Assassination of President Lincoln

Second Lieutenant Warren Goodale (1825-1897) of the 114th U.S. Colored Infantry describes in a letter to his family his reaction and feelings on learning of the death of Abraham Lincoln.
Monday afternoon [April 17, 1865] we were shocked and amazed at a rumor that spread thro’ the camp yesterday that our good President Secretary Seward and son had been assassinated at Washington. I never saw such feeling as was shown by our officers. All tried to believe it untrue and were disposed to treat it as a camp story. And still, all the afternoon & till late in the evening it was almost the only topic.

It aroused all the hate & passion the officers could hold & express. To think that such heads of the nation should be struck down thro’ the rebels, whom they of all others were treating with so much kindness, and were the first for forgiving. To show the feeling, one Colonel swore that if any of his men were ever after guilty of taking and bringing in a rebel prisoner he would shoot them both.

I believe all this kindness to the rebels to be a great mistake and wrong. I did not come away from you to fight the wicked men so gently. Why, as we marched thro’ Petersburg the other day, we saw a great many rebel officers, who have been taken prisoners, and paroled walking about with their side arms swords and pistols on, gentlemen of leisure, while we only a few miles from the city, have had an order today that we cannot get permission to visit it, must not enter any house here, without first telling our name rank & regiment, and the men cannot leave the camp. The next night after we passed thro’ Petersburg, a plot was found out to burn the Danville depot.

Toward night we heard that Genl Grant was missing!! If this be so, I would keep all his promises to Lee & his Officers, but would have the Govt follow Jeff Davis, Breckenridge, Trenholm & Benjamin, Johnson, Dick Taylor Maury and 20 others to the ends of the earth, bring them back and hang every one of them, and let them set on their gallows. All these besides the assassins. Such punishment may seem cruel but in the end it would be kindness for it would deter other bad cruel men from treason, rebellion, and murder.
This excerpt is part of a letter in the collection of the Massachusetts Historical Society. Goodale, of Marlboro, Massachusetts, served as a private in the Eleventh Independent Battery, Massachusetts Light Artillery, before joining the 114th in March 1865.

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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Abraham Lincoln at 200

The marking of President Lincoln's 200th birthday brings to mind the iconic portraits of his uniquely-shaped face, careworn and expressive of the public and private burdens he carried during our country's greatest national crisis and struggle for freedom and equality.

This bicentennial also causes me to recall the faces of the citizen soldiers who went to war in the armies of "Father Abraham," for it was them who set aside their personal pursuits and laid down their lives for an American idea much larger than themselves, their generation, and the founders that envisioned a democratic society.

I have had the pleasure and honor to write about these volunteers for almost a decade; more than two hundred profiles as of today. For all the identified photographs I have researched, there are many, many more unidentified images whose stories are yet to be told as their names are lost to history.

To help put a name to these forgotten faces, I produced Unidentified Veterans, a Flickr photostream. Please take a look. Perhaps you can help bring to life one of the men who built the legacy of "Father Abraham."

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