Friday, November 16, 2012

In Lincoln's Hand

With the sesquicentennial of the Civil War in full swing there are myriad ways to relive and learn more about that tumultuous time for our United States. One such way I am excited about is going to see the recent Spielberg film "Lincoln" which, somewhat surprisingly, covers only the final four months of President Abraham Lincoln's life. Here at The Alice we have an exhibit that highlights collection items related to that tragically bloody chapter in our young nation's history. It includes carte-de-visite photographs of many things from that era including soldiers from the 16th New York Infantry Regiment, ironclad ships, and famous generals of the time. Also on view are engravings of Lincoln and other then-current objects.

The museum collection includes some very unique pieces, such as letters written by three of William Miner's uncles who served in the Union Army during the Civil War, along with other letters included on our website for your perusal. This website letter archive was written by a Plattsburgh soldier named Charles Moore. Read them here, by clicking the button made from a photo of President Lincoln. Or go directly to the letters by following this link,

What may surprise you is that we have two documents in this exhibit that were signed by Lincoln himself! Like the new Spielberg movie, both date from the final months of his life. I will tell you more, but you owe it to yourself to come to the Lincoln Library and view them in person.

On Tuesday, November 8, 1864 President Lincoln was elected for his second term in office. The following Monday he wrote one of the simplest and smallest job recommendations I have ever seen. This little note is in the collection and on display in our Lincoln Library. It is about the same size as a business card. Hand written and signed by the president the card reads, "I shall be glad if any Department or Bureau can give this woman employment. A. Lincoln Nov. 14, 1864". We will likely never know who she was or why Lincoln wrote the recommendation, he apparently wrote many over the years. Hopefully, it was enough to land her a job! 

Two weeks after the recommendation was written a young Union Captain named George E. Gouraud (1841-1912), along with 5,000 troops under the command of Maj. Gen. John P. Hatch, entered into the Battle of Honey Hill, SC. Further details can be found by searching the internet, but I will say that it was not a positive outcome for the Union troops. 89 Union soldiers were killed, 629 were wounded, and 28 men went missing, while the Confederate casualties amounted to 8 killed and 39 wounded during the battle, which took place on November 30, 1864.

Gouraud was awarded the rank of Major, "by brevet... for gallant conduct on the field of battle in the engagement at Honey Hill, South Carolina..." His military rank certificate is in the Civil War exhibit here at The Alice. The document was signed by Secretary of War, E.M. Stanton and by Abraham Lincoln, President, and dated March 22, 1865. Gouraud was later awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions in the Battle of Honey Hill. (Incidentally, George Gouraud became famous in 1888 for introducing the Edison Phonograph Cylinder to England.)

Just days after the Battle of Honey Hill, on December 6, 1865, the 13th Amendment to the Constitution was adopted outlawing slavery and involuntary servitude. On March 4, 1865 Lincoln was inaugurated for his second term as President. A few weeks later, on March 22nd, he and Edwin M. Stanton signed the military rank certificate for George Gouraud. Less than a month later Lincoln lay dead from the assassin's bullet. It was Stanton at the president's bedside who uttered the famous quote, "Now he belongs to the ages."

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