This past Wednesday, March 4--the 148th and 144th anniversaries of Lincoln's presidential inaugurations--I, along with Rangers Gentile and Baracz, traveled to DC to attend a symposium on our sixteenth president at the Library of Congress. After listening to a number of excellent lectures delivered by Harold Holzer, James McPherson, and William Lee Miller, we journeyed up to the second floor to see "With Malice Toward None: The Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Exhibition."
To say that this is an incredible exhibit would be an understatement. Indeed, it is quite remarkable. As explained by the Library of Congress, "this exhibition reveals Lincoln the man, whose thoughts, words, and actions were deeply affected by personal experiences and pivotal historic events. Through documents and books, broadsides and newspapers, prints and photographs, artifacts and maps, the exhibition charts Lincoln’s growth from prairie politician to preeminent statesman. It provides a window into the Lincoln presidency, his struggle to keep the Union intact, and his attempts to heal the nation’s wounds. Filmed commentaries from distinguished Americans appear throughout the exhibition, forging a personal connection to the documents Lincoln wrote. Interactive programs trace the president-elect’s celebratory rail trip from Springfield, Illinois, to Washington and the return of his funeral train to Springfield as the nation mourned."
Some of those items on display that I found to be most interesting and profound are Lincoln's First and Second Inaugural Address, the John Hay copy of the Gettysburg Address, the Emancipation Proclamation, and the contents of Lincoln's pockets on the night he was murdered. There, too, one can view the Bible Lincoln used during his first swearing-in; the same one recently used by President Obama. As one fascinated by the politics of the 1850s, I also found a letter written by President Franklin Pierce, in which he expressed his unqualified support for the Kansas-Nebraska Act, and even a life mask of that champion of Popular Sovereignty, Stephen Douglass, to be of great interest. Yet, of all these remarkable pieces of history, I was particularly struck by Lee's Lost Order, Special Orders No. 191. The very one found by Corporal Mitchell and Sergeant Bloss in that field south of Frederick, addressed to Gen. D.H. Hill, and rushed up the chain of command until it fell into George McClellan's hands. Rising from his camp chair, Little Mac exclaimed, "Now I know what to do!"
Well now, I am telling you what you must do: Go see this most remarkable exhibit before it ends on May 9, 2009.
For more on this exhibit, click here.