Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Springfield, Illinois

Since we had traveled about 500 miles to get to the wedding, we decided to play tourist for a day before we headed home. Sunday, we drove down to Springfield, Illinois and visited some of the Abraham Lincoln historical sites. Since it was Sunday, several of them were closed, but we got to take a tour of his home and we spent the afternoon going through the Presidential Museum. It took almost 3 hours to get through it all, but what a great experience that was! They’ve done a beautiful job with setting up life-size figures of the president and his wife, Mary and their three boys and posing them in dioramas that represent pivotal moments in their lives and his Presidency. They used a great variety of other media: videos, murals, newspaper clippings, posters, etc. to tell the stories of his life and political career. One video that stands out is of the Civil War in four minutes. It is shown on a map of the US and traces the sequence of the battles, beginning with Bull Run and ending at Appomattox. A daily casualty count – both Confederate and Union – is running in the lower right hand corner. I wish I had written down the count, but I think it was over 1.3 million total by the end. The casualty count was something that President Lincoln looked at several times each day during the duration of the war via a ticker tape readout in the War Room. He kept himself informed of the high cost of preserving the Union.
One of the most touching dioramas is of the President and Mrs. Lincoln at the deathbed of their son, Tad, who died of TB during Lincoln’s first term as President. As you stand and view the scene, you can hear music floating in through the door, coming from a ballroom down the “hall” in the White House and a clock ticking on the mantle. Abe & Mary are both dressed to the nines for whatever official event was taking place, but they stole away several times during the evening to sit with Tad. He died a few days later.
The other diorama I’ll never forget is situated in Ford’s theater: The figure of John Wilkes Booth is peeking in through the curtain behind the President’s box and he is reaching into the front of his jacket. The vicious look of hatred on his face sent chills down my spine. President Lincoln and Mary are watching the play (“Our American Cousin”) and she is holding onto his arm and leaning against him, smiling affectionately. Dialogue from the play, audience laughter and applause is playing in the background. As I walked through that portion, I wanted to yell, “GET DOWN, MR. PRESIDENT!” (Well, the figures are VERY lifelike and I do have a vivid imagination!)
One of the last rooms of the tour is an exact replica of the Illinois State House as it looked while President Lincoln was lying in state, although the casket, surrounded by white mums and sitting on a stage beneath a black velvet canopy, is closed. It’s very quiet in this room, very somber.
We took so long in the museum, we didn’t have time to visit the Presidential Library. We found Oak Ridge Cemetery on the edge of town and President Lincoln’s tomb, but the tomb was closed by the time we got there and it was being worked on so it was cordoned off so that we couldn’t walk all the way around it. Apparently, visitors can go inside it, but like I said, we were too late. We thought maybe we might like to go back there and see the sites we missed by having the misfortune of being there on a Sunday.
Sadly, there are no descendants of President Lincoln alive today. Three of their sons died in childhood (Eddie, Willie and Tad). Robert grew up, married and became a successful lawyer, but had only one daughter. She had one son who never had any children of his own. He died in 1986.

13 comments:

barabas said...

Nice story Janelle, sorry for my absence. I've been swamped at work and am moving back to Chicago.

By the way, if you ever get the chance I'd also stop by Dixon Illinois. You can visit the birth place of Ronaldus Magnus, the great commuicator, Ronald Reagan.

Gives me chills just typing that...probably gives LA shrills just reading this.. he he he he

barabas said...

Sue, sorry to correct you regarding your 9/11 post, but that quote was not from Churchill. That was an excerpt from FDR's speech congress in his declaration of war against Japan.

barabas said...

Below is FDR's Day of Infamy speech from 12/8/41...chilling...

Yesterday, December 7, 1941 - a date which will live in infamy - the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.

The United States was at peace with that nation and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with the government and its emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific.
Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in Oahu, the Japanese ambassador to the United States and his colleagues delivered to the Secretary of State a formal reply to a recent American message. While this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or armed attack.

It will be recorded that the distance of Hawaii from Japan makes it obvious that the attack was deliberately planned many days or even weeks ago. During the intervening time, the Japanese government has deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of hope for continued peace.

The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian islands has caused severe damage to American naval and military forces. Very many American lives have been lost. In addition, American ships have been reported torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu.

Yesterday, the Japanese government also launched an attack against Malaya.

Last night, Japanese forces attacked Hong Kong.
Last night, Japanese forces attacked Guam.

Last night, Japanese forces attacked the Philippine Islands.

Last night, the Japanese attacked Wake Island.

This morning, the Japanese attacked Midway Island.


Japan has, therefore, undertaken a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area. The facts of yesterday speak for themselves. The people of the United States have already formed their opinions and well understand the implications to the very life and safety of our nation.

As commander in chief of the Army and Navy, I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense.

Always will we remember the character of the onslaught against us.

No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory.

I believe I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost, but will make very certain that this form of treachery shall never endanger us again.

Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory and our interests are in grave danger.

With confidence in our armed forces - with the unbending determination of our people - we will gain the inevitable triumph - so help us God.

I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, December 7, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese empire.

barabas said...

I can get any of the following speeches if you want them (I pay for them).
Reagan's Farewell Address -01.20.1989
-Reagan Demands "Tear Down This Wall" -06.12.1987
-Reagan's Second Inaugural Address -01.21.1985
-Reagan's First State of the Union -01.26.1982
-Reagan's First Inaugural Address -01.20.1981
-JFK's Speech on Economics & Tax Cuts -12.14.1962 (One of my favorites, Kennedy would be GOP today)
-Winston Churchill's "We Never Surrender" -06.04.1940
-The Emancipation Proclamation -01.01.1863
-The Gettysburg Address -11.16.1863
-George Washington's First Inaugural -04.30.1789

barabas said...

Sorry for all the posts... I am baaaaaaaaack.....

Sue said...

Barabas, I'm getting old and forgetful. At least I got the quote right.
Sue

Mary Connealy said...

I loved hearing about that visit, Janell. So interesting. I'd love to go do tourist-y things again. I haven't really been on a vacation -- well, like one maybe, in 29 years. We went to the lake in Minnesota all the years the kids were growing up. And I'm just back from a writer's conference but I only stepped outside the hotel ONCE. Very strange, just something going on inside all the time and no sightseeing time left at all.
James Scott Bell, if you've heard of him, was the keynote speaker... excellent, funny and smart. Man, I wish I could talk like that.
So NOT my gift.

Janell said...

Joe, I think we will visit Dixon at some point. We also are looking into some other Presidential libraries & museum: Eisenhower's in Kansas and Hoover's in Iowa to begin with and we'll see from there.

Janell said...

Thanks for putting FDR's speech here. It's beena long time since I read it clear through.

barabas said...

Yeah, its a great speech. When I went back and read Reagan's first state of the union and farewell address I remember listening to them live. At the time, I didn't understand everything he said. I was born in 1973 to give you context...

I used to vote democrat (clinton twice, and I even voted for gore). But I changed in my thirties. I used to think I was a liberal until I really understood what it meant, then I realized I was a conservative.

LaDawn said...

I love the fact that you found a museum that you could get lost in. I spent way too much time in the Ellis Island immigrant museum.

The Reagan election was the first I could vote in and I voted for him. He was an eloquent speaker, but then again he was an actor so he would be. I had a journey opposite to you and voted Republican until my thirties and realised what it meant and now I vote Democrat.

LaDawn said...

PS How was the wedding?

Janell said...

LDCP & Joe - you might both enjoy reading Harry Stein's "How I Accidently Joined the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy and Found Inner Peace."
And Joe, to give you context, I graduated from High School in 1974, when you were only 1! And I'll bet Max is the youngest evangelist EVER! (With the exception of the baby Jesus.)
LDCP: Wedding details on the family blog.