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18 Nov 2012

Abraham Lincoln walks at midnight

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November 18, 2012 Category: Travel Posted by:

ABOVE PHOTO: Replica of Abraham lincoln’s Grocery store in New Salem Village.


By Renée S. Gordon


“Don’t you find, judging from his picture, that his eyes are full of tears and that his lips are sad with a secret sorrow?”

-“Lincoln’s Melancholy” by Joshua Shenk


Years ago, on my first trip to Graceland, I had occasion to visit the ladies room. As I entered a stall I noticed writing scrawled on the interior of the door. A message, in lipstick read,” Dear Elvis, I love you and miss you.” The message seemed heartfelt but I was amused by the idea that if Elvis returned he would visit the ladies room.


With the premiere of Spielberg’s movie Lincoln, detailing the final months of his life, I have begun to wonder which places would he visit if he were to return. Which places, events and individuals did he hold so dear that he would want one more look to remind him of what happened there? Would they be places of triumph or tragedy? Poet Vache Lindsay, author of “Abraham Lincoln Walks at Midnight” and Springfield, Illinois native, felt he would have paced the streets of Springfield, Illinois in contemplation of a world that had not sufficiently learned the universal lessons to be taught by the Civil War.


I am far less certain of the paths he would tread but I am sure it would be among the places I have listed. All of the sites mentioned are also open to the less “spectral” traveler and make an ideal mini-vacation or cross country trip.


The sites are chronological, when possible and by location. Bear in mind that you will be traveling by mundane means, car, foot, etc., so you will need more time than Lincoln would to adequately visit the locations. Check online for days of operation, opening and closings times and admission costs.


Abraham Lincoln was born to Thomas Lincoln and Nancy Hanks Lincoln in 1809 on the Sinking Springs Farm in Hodgenville, Kentucky. Thomas had recently purchased the 348-acre plot of land for $200.00 and erected a one-room log cabin approximately 16 X 18-ft. The Lincoln’s moved from the farm in 1811.


In 1909, a cornerstone was laid for a monument to be designed by John Russell Pope. A neoclassical structure was completed in 1911 and five years later was designated a National Park. Fifty-six steps, one for each year of his life, lead to a marble Greek temple that houses a replica of the birth home on the site of the original.


Lincoln said that his earliest memories were of his second home, 30-acre Knob Creek Farm, a few miles from Sinking Spring.


Indiana’s Pigeon Creek Farm lays claim to being the place where Lincoln’s values were shaped and where he grew into manhood. The Lincoln Memorial National Monument offers a 15-minute orientation film, museum exhibits, cabin site, five panels interpreting Lincoln’s life, a living history farm and the gravesite of his mother Nancy Hanks Lincoln. Nancy died in 1818 and in 1819 Thomas married Sarah Bush. She brought to the home a number of books and a love of learning that she shared with Abraham,


At the age of 22, Lincoln moved to New Salem Village in Illinois, now a state historic site, and lived there for six years. The years from 1831-37 seem to have served as a test period. He tried out a number of occupations including clerk, postmaster (1835) surveyor (1833), soldier (1833), and lawyer (1836). The fully furnished reconstructions interpret the Lincoln years through use of authentically clad docents and special programs.


On April 15, 1837, Lincoln moved 20-miles to Springfield, Illinois and established a law partnership with John Stuart. He was elected to the Illinois General Assembly and practiced law as a Circuit Court Judge. In 1839 he met Mary Todd and the next year they become engaged. In 1841 Lincoln broke the engagement but in 1842 they continued the engagement and on November 4, 1842 Mary became Mrs. Lincoln. Nine months later Robert Todd Lincoln was born.


From 1847-49 Lincoln served in the US House of Representatives and lived in DC but it is his second stay in Washington that is most remembered. On November 6, 1860 Lincoln was elected President of the US and on December 20th South Carolina seceded from the Union. Lincoln departed for Washington on February 11, 1861, never to return alive. The Springfield years are a turning point in Lincoln’s life.


The only extant building in which Lincoln practiced law is the restored Lincoln Herndon Law Offices located on the 3rd-floor of Tinsley’s Store across from the State Capitol. Stephen Logan was his partner from 43-44 and Herndon was his partner until 1852. A small visitor center on the ground floor presents an orientation program and contains exhibits. Some architectural elements survive including the banister.


The only home that Lincoln ever owned was purchased for $1,200 in 1844. The house, originally quite small, was expanded in 1856. When they moved to Washington they rented the house, fully expecting to return and resume their lives there. Arrive early for the tour so you can walk through the neighborhood and view the outdoor exhibits.


The Greek revival Old State Capitol State Historic Site is an exact replica of the state capitol building that Lincoln would have known. In my opinion this is an extremely significant location in his story. At this site he honed his legal skills, appeared before the State Supreme Court, established his campaign headquarters and it is here that his body was returned to lie in state on May 3rd and 4th in 1865 prior to his internment. Most importantly, in Representatives Hall he rose and delivered his eloquent “House Divided’ speech in Representatives Hall.


The Great Western or Lincoln Depot is the station from which Lincoln bid farewell to his friends and neighbors as he left for Washington in February of 1861. The speech is hauntingly beautiful and almost elegiac. Visitors can hear an audio version in the depot.


“Trusting in Him, who can go with me, and remain with you and be everywhere for good, let us confidently hope that all will yet be well. To His care commending you, as I hope in your prayers you will commend me, I bid you an affectionate farewell.”


The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum opened in 2004 but its history dates from the 19th-century. The facility holds the world’s largest collection of Lincoln related materials. This superb, state-of-the-art, interactive museum provides visitors of all ages with a complete Lincoln experience from his childhood to the grave. Life-sized models of the Lincoln family greet visitors and provide a great photo op. This is an outstanding venue and you should set aside a minimum of two hours for a visit.


Lincoln Douglas Square in Alton, Illinois was the scene in October 1858 of the last of seven debates between Stephen Douglas and Abraham Lincoln on the campaign trail for the Illinois’ US Senate seat. Debates lasted three hours and drew large crowds. Many believe that it was this series of debates that brought Lincoln to the attention of the masses. Lincoln did not win the seat but two years later became the 16th President. The site is now denoted with life-sized bronze sculptures of the two men in debate poses.


Initially the White House was referred to as the President’s House and it is not until it was painted white to cover the signs of British attempts to burn it in 1814 that it received the name though it was not official until 1901. Every president with the exception of Washington, though he selected the site, has lived there. Of all the former residents legend has it that Lincoln’s ghost is observed the most often. He is said to appear on the second floor.


It should be noted that the Green Room was the scene of several séances held by Mary Lincoln to communicate with her deceased son Willie. Tours of the first floor are offered but tours of the Lincoln Bedroom are not. From the exterior it is seen as the second and third windows on the east end of the second floor It should be noted that during Lincoln’s tenure the area that is now the Lincoln Bedroom was his office.


The 1842 President Lincoln’s Cottage at the Soldier’s Home is located atop a hill a few miles from the White House. The cottage served as a summer retreat from the oppressive conditions of DC and the family first visited in 1862 and returned for the summers of 1862 and 63. Here Lincoln wrote the largest portion of the Emancipation Proclamation.


Lincoln loved the theater and on April 14, 1865, with Lee’s surrender, it was a lighthearted Mary and Abraham who ascended the stairs to the Presidential Box in the balcony. John Wilkes Booth entered the box and shot Lincoln in the head with a .44 Derringer. Tours of the interior of Ford Theater and self-guided tours of the museum on the lower level are available.


The President was carried across the street to Peterson House where he expired at 7:22 AM the next morning. Self-guided tours of the boarding house include the parlor in which Mary Lincoln kept a vigil and the bedroom where Lincoln died.


Lincoln’s Tomb in Springfield’s Oak Ridge Cemetery is the burial site of Abraham, Mary, Todd, Tad and Eddie Lincoln. This magnificent tomb was designed by Larkin Mead and received Lincoln’s body in 1871. The granite edifice is 72-ft. wide and 117-ft. tall. The interior is stunning with statues depicting pivotal points in Lincoln’s life. Lincoln is interred in a vault beneath the floor while the family rests in crypts placed in the south wall. This is the second most visited cemetery in the country.


Congress sanctioned the Lincoln Monument Association in 1867 but it took 47-years for construction to begin and an additional eight, May 30, 1922, for it to be dedicated. The Greek Parthenon-style white marble monument faces The Capitol. The 36 Doric columns represent the 36 states in April of 1865 while a frieze above enumerates the 48 states in 1922. The sculpture of a seated Lincoln was carved by Daniel Chester French and is 19-ft by 19-ft and his hands form the sign language symbols for A and L. His two most famous speeches are carved into the walls, “The Gettysburg Address” and the “Second Inaugural Address” along with two Jules Guerin murals.


Etched above Lincoln’s head are the words, “In this temple, as in the hearts of the people for whom he saved the Union, the memory of Abraham Lincoln is enshrined forever.”


If Abraham Lincoln does indeed walk at midnight where would he walk? I think, well, it does not really matter what I think. Travel his path and decide for yourself.


I wish you smooth travels!



Brandywine Valley Treasure Trail Passports, valid May 25th to September 2, 2013, make giving the gift of travel easy this holiday season. Passports are good for a single admission to Brandywine River Museum, Delaware Art Museum, Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts, Delaware Historical Society & Read House, Delaware Museum of Natural History, Hagley Museum and Library, Longwood Gardens, Mt. Cuba Center, Nemours Mansion & Gardens, Rockwood Park & Museum, and Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library. They will be on sale after November 22, 2012 at

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