The Journey begins...

My photo
The National Park Service is sponsoring programming that will commemorate the 150 anniversary of President-elect Abraham Lincoln's trip from Springfield, Illinois to Washington, DC, on February 11-23, 2011.

Friday, April 8, 2011

End of the Road....Lincoln in D.C.

Day Thirteen - February 23, 2011
Baltimore, MD to Washington, DC

This morning we started early. It was a big day . . . our last day together as the Lincoln Inaugural Journey team.

Last night we had dinner at the Baltimore Hilton Hotel with a large table of dinner companions. Our dinner company included Sam Rogers, the Executive Vice President & Chief Marketing Officer with “Visit My Baltimore,” and Vince Vaise, the Chief of Interpretation at Fort McHenry National Monument. Both men are engaging and entertaining. At our end of the table I got into quite a conversation with Vince and Jim Bailey, one of the NPS park rangers that Vince supervises. Vince and Jim are historians with high levels of passion and knowledge for the subjects they study. Not only do they know the War of 1812 history, but they know Baltimore’s Civil War history.

Our day started at 5:30 am when we gathered in the hotel lobby. The plan called for Fritz to board a carriage in front of the hotel at 5:45 am and ride for a block to Camden Station for a program at 6:00 am. The event was titled, “Under the Cover of Darkness: Mr. Lincoln’s Journey, February 22 – 23, 2011.”

Although the temperature was bone-chilling cold, everything went according to plan. I shot some video and took some photographs. President-elect Lincoln rode in carriage pulled by two magnificent white horses and escorted by two soldiers armed with bayonet-tipped rifled muskets. Fritz disembarked at Camden Station. He spoke to the local media in what had been the “Gentleman’s Waiting Room.”

Several local television stations broadcast from “Sports Legends at Camden Yards.” So we got some great media coverage. There should also be something posted on

Oriole Park at Camden Yards, the baseball stadium for the Baltimore Orioles, is next door to our hotel and the “Sports Legends at Camden Yards.”

It was here that Lincoln traveled under great secrecy 150 years ago. Lincoln took very seriously the assassination threat. The president-elect had secretly caught a train at 11:00 pm on February 22 in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. He arrived at the President Street station in Baltimore, Maryland, at about 3:30 am. A horse drawn car transferred him to Camden Station, where Lincoln boarded a train for the final leg of his journey to Washington, D.C.

While we were in Sports Legends at Camden Yards we toured a new exhibit. In fact, the exhibit opened today. It features information on Baltimore during the Civil War, with a wonderful collection of artifacts, photographs, and written descriptions of the city’s Civil War history. I thought it was well done. The exhibit gallery, of course, included a section devoted to Lincoln’s travels through Baltimore.

Due to the action-packed day, it will be difficult to provide a detailed blow-by-blow recital of events. But here, in a nutshell, is what happened.

After the fantastic event at Camden Yards, we drove to Digital Harbor High School in Baltimore. Spirit, for the last time on the trip, introduced President-elect Abraham Lincoln. About 110 high school students and teachers listened to the presentation. The group asked a number of questions.

Lincoln gets ready to board train to D.C.
Then, six students and a teacher from the high school boarded a van to the train station. Like Lincoln 150 years ago, all of us were to board a train bound for the nation’s capital.

At the station we entered a waiting room. National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis met the delegation. The students and Director Jarvis, along with Fritz Klein, engaged in a conversation about the Civil War and what it means today. The conversation continued on the train as we rattled along to the station in Washington, D.C.

Ken Salazar, the Secretary of the Interior, met our delegation at the station. We boarded a bus, along with the students, and rode to Ford’s Theater. At the theater, the students had a meeting with Secretary Salazar and Director Jarvis, among others. The students toured the museum.

Spirit Trickey then kicked off a press conference that featured remarks by Secretary Salazar and Director Jarvis. They spoke about the 150th anniversary of the Civil War the country is commemorating from 2011 to 2015.

I saw quite a number of NPS employees that I’ve known for years, which was a real treat (including my first boss, Don Wollenhaupt—he is now Chief of Interpretation for the Southeast Region).

Our final event of the trip occurred late in the day. We assembled one last time, appropriately, at the African American Civil War Memorial & Museum. Dr. Frank Smith, the man who was the driving force behind the memorial’s creation, spoke eloquently about the memorial and the people it honors. Fritz then spoke to the audience. He recited the Gettysburg Address. The words resonated with the audience, especially when we considered the setting. The sculpture looming behind Fritz as he spoke those immortal words features black soldiers and a sailor in U.S. military uniforms of the Civil War era. The words “Civil War to Civil Rights and Beyond” are engraved on the memorial.

The aluminum panels on the memorial feature engraved names of nearly 200,000 men who served in black units during the war, including the often-forgotten African American sailors. I found the names of men that served in the 79th and 83rd United States Colored Troops (USCT). These two regiments were mustered in as the 1st and 2nd Kansas Colored Volunteer Infantry Regiments in 1863. Later, most black regiments were consolidated into the USCT and given different designations. The two black regiments that became the 79th and 83rd USCT were mustered into service in Fort Scott, Kansas. Fort Scott National Historic Site is my home park, where I began my NPS career in 1987. I also looked for the 34th USCT, because it was led by James Montgomery, a fellow Kansan. Montgomery left Kansas in late 1862 to recruit and lead the 2nd South Carolina Colored Infantry Regiment, which eventually became the 34 USCT. I found James Montgomery’s name on the memorial, which was of great interest to me. Among other actions, in June of 1863 Colonel Montgomery co-led raid with Harriet Tubman up the Combahee River in South Carolina. The raid freed more than 700 enslaved men, women, and children. I posed for a photograph with a woman who was portraying Harriet Tubman.

As we were driving away from the memorial, after many handshakes and wishes of farewell, we spoke with Fritz about his final talk. We all agreed that his recitation of the Gettysburg Address was powerful and fitting conclusion to the trip. The words resonated with the small crowd assembled for the event, which included several African American women in replica 1860s clothing and a young African American man wearing the Union blue.

I suddenly recalled the words Lincoln used to describe the contributions of the black men who donned blue uniforms to strike a blow against slavery. “And then, there will be some black men,” wrote Lincoln, “who can remember that, with silent tongue, and clenched teeth, and steady eye, and well-poised bayonet, they have helped mankind on to this great consummation; while, I fear, there will be some white ones, unable to forget that, with malignant heart, and deceitful speech, they have strove to hinder it.”

Fritz and I both thought that it would have been fitting to include those words in his talk at the African American Civil War Memorial & Museum. We didn’t think about it in time for the program. But I can certainly include it in this blog!

Our journey had wound down. Tim and Spirit dropped off Fritz and me at our hotel in Alexandria, Virginia. Tim and Spirit will be staying over for meetings the following day.

I want to say this: Tim, Fritz, and Spirit were wonderful traveling companions. They are fun, dedicated, professional, and passionate about what they do—and they do it well.

This was a remarkable journey. From Springfield, Illinois, to Washington, D.C., we followed Abraham Lincoln’s inaugural route. I asked Tim to check the odometer as I departed the van for the last time. We had traveled 2,105 miles in 13 days. We presented 24 programs to about 5,300 people. Media coverage was abundant along the way. (In fact, the February 24 issue of USA Today included a photograph of Fritz stepping off the train in Washington, D.C. to shake hands with students under the observation of NPS Director Jon Jarvis.) Tim Townsend, the historian at Lincoln Home National Historic Site, deserves special recognition. He played a key role in making the event possible. He supported the trip at every turn. He also penned the NPS booklet, Abraham Lincoln’s Journey to Greatness, that we handed out at every event. Tim had the books shipped ahead of time to each host site so that we wouldn’t have the van loaded down too much.

One of the things that made the trip worthwhile was watching the audiences reacting to Fritz’s portrayal of Abraham Lincoln. It was amazing. They really connected to the presentations. Lincoln fascinates Americans (as well as people all over the world).

At stops along the way, people of all ages listened in rapt attention to words spoken 150 years ago. Some even donned stovepipe hats and fake beards. They paused to consider the challenges facing Lincoln, and the nation, 150 years ago. They paused to remember a man and an event in history that changed the country forever; a time that created a “new birth of freedom” in our nation. They paused to remember this very human and imperfect man whom the country has turned into a folk hero. The Rail Splitter. The Great Emancipator. The folksy president who turned out to be political genius; a compassionate man who possessed an iron will. Abraham Lincoln: the prairie lawyer who led the nation through the fiery trial of civil war, who oversaw the movement to free four million enslaved human beings, and who was slain just as he had directed the ship of state safely back to port.

The ship is anchored safe and sound, its voyage closed and done;
From fearful trip, the victor ship, comes in with object won;
Exult, O shores, and ring, O bells!
But I, with mournful tread,
Walk the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.

--Walt Whitman

Philly Awaits!

Day Twelve - February 22, 2011
Philadelphia, PA to Baltimore, MD

We loaded up the van and drove to a parking garage near Independence Hall.

Today was a special day, beginning with our program at Independence Hall. Several inches of snow covered the ground. Unfortunately, the storm caused many schools in the area to cancel classes. So the school group that we were to speak with was not available.

Nevertheless, we had a great event at Independence Hall. Park Ranger Adam Duncan was our point of contact for the event. Many other NPS staff members were present, as well as members of the media—both print and television. And once again, I took photos and videotaped the program.

When Lincoln was in Philadelphia 150 years ago, he learned of an assassination plot. Railroad detective Allan Pinkerton had uncovered the plot.

On the morning of February 22, 1861, Lincoln spoke in the Independence Hall, where the founding generation had declared its independence from Great Britain and, eleven years later, hammered out the U.S. Constitution. Lincoln was moved to be in the same place where our democracy was born:

“I am filled with deep emotion at finding myself standing here in the place where were collected the wisdom, the patriotism, the devotion to principle, from which sprang the institutions under which we live. I have never had a feeling politically that did not spring from the sentiments embodied in the Declaration of Independence. . . . I have often inquired of myself, what great principle or idea it was that kept this Confederacy so long together. It was not the mere matter of the separation of the colonies from the mother land; but something in that Declaration giving liberty, not alone to the people of this country, but hope to the world for all future time. It was that which gave promise that in due time the weights should be lifted from the shoulders of all men, and that all should have an equal chance. This is the sentiment embodied in that Declaration of Independence.

“Now, my friends, can this country be saved upon that basis? If it can, I will consider myself one of the happiest men in the world if I can help to save it. If it can’t be saved upon that principle, it will be truly awful. But, if this country cannot be saved without giving up that principle—I was about to say I would rather be assassinated on this spot than to surrender it.

“Now, in my view of the present aspect of affairs, there is no need of bloodshed and war. There is no necessity for it. I am not in favor of such a course, and I may say in advance, there will be no blood shed unless it be forced upon the Government. The Government will not use force unless force is used against it.”
President-elect Lincoln then stepped out onto a platform outside of Independence Hall. He gave a short talk and then raised a 34 star flag, which included a new star for the state of Kansas. As a native Kansan, it was a great occasion for me to be at Independence Hall this morning. Kansas was admitted to the Union on January 29, 1861. Southern secession made it possible because southerners in the U.S. Senate could no longer block the entrance of Kansas as a free state.

Fritz Klein raised a 34 star flag amid much fanfare and cameras. Perhaps 50 feet from the current flagpole is a plaque on the ground marking the spot where Lincoln raised a 34 star flag 150 years ago today. Very cool.
The Lincoln Inaugural Journey team then drove to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. In 1861, Lincoln spoke to a joint meeting of the general assembly in Harrisburg. We gave an afternoon program at the National Civil War Museum. About 120 people heard the program. Fritz was interviewed by an area television station. We arrived early enough to be able to do a quick walk-through of the museum exhibits, which was a wonderful opportunity for us. Too often, we arrive, set up, do the program, and quickly depart to our next program. Our thanks go out to the staff at the museum for welcoming us so kindly.
We then loaded the van and proceeded on to Baltimore, Maryland.

I should briefly comment on our routine for getting from stop to stop. I have a large expandable file folder with tabs for each stop we’re making along the route. Under each tab I have emails from Tim Good and the coordinators of the various events, as well as other pertinent information about each stop. I also printed maps with directions off the internet. In addition, we have a GPS navigation device along with us. It’s my job to plug in the next address as quickly as possible. Tim drives. Fritz rides shotgun. Spirit sits behind Fritz. I sit behind Tim. Tim usually asks me if I have the address plugged into the GPS. Generally, I have it ready to go pretty quickly. Fritz has a smart phone. He often has the route pulled up on his phone and he’s been of great help with navigation. I had always heard that Lincoln loved fiddling with new gadgets……

Winter in NY

Day Eleven - February 21, 2011
New York, NY to Philadelphia, PA

We clambored aboard the gray van at 7:45 this morning. Large white flakes of snow were spiraling out of the sky. Winter in New York City. . . .

I’m still ill, but “the show must go on.” Fortunately, Fritz remains healthy. He’s the one who really counts, says Tim. I try not to breathe in Fritz’s direction.

Today is president’s day. I can’t think of a better way to spend it than to be with this crew tracing Lincoln’s inaugural journey.

We drove into Trenton, New Jersey. We had a program at 1:00 pm at the New Jersey Statehouse. Lincoln spoke to both the state’s senate and general assembly 150 years ago today.

I haven’t spoken much of the 100th anniversary of the Civil War. In the 1960s our country commemorated the centennial of the war with various events and reenactments. On February 21, 1961, Anthony Quinn, the famous actor, spoke at the New Jersey Statehouse. He was hired to address a joint session of New Jersey’s legislature. Herbert H. Tate, a prominent black Republican assemblyman, helped organize the event. Tate wanted to highlight the progress on race that had been made up to that point in New Jersey—but that much more work needed to be done. Symbolically, in the audience to hear the movie star read Lincoln’s address was an African American named John Harris. Harris was a 103-year-old man who had been born into slavery in North Carolina. [Source: p. 91 of Robert J. Cook, Troubled Commemoration: The American Civil War Centennial, 1961 – 1965; Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2007.] 

To quote from Lincoln’s address to the senate:

“May I be pardoned if, upon this occasion, I mention that away back in my childhood, the earliest days of my being able to read, I got hold of a small book, such a one as few of the younger members have ever seen, “Weem’s Life of Washington.” I remember all the accounts there given of the battle fields and struggles for the liberties of the country, and none fixed themselves upon my imagination so deeply as the struggle here in Trenton, New Jersey. The crossing of the river; the contest with the Hessians; the great hardships endured at that time, all fixed themselves on my memory more than any single revolutionary event; and you all know, for you have all been boys, how those early impressions last longer than any others. I recollect thinking then, boy even though I was, that there must have been something more than common that those men struggled for. I am exceedingly anxious that that thing which they struggled for; that something even more than National Independence; that something that held out great promise to all the people of the world to all time to come; I am exceedingly anxious that this Union, the Constitution, and the liberties of the people shall be perpetuated in accordance with the original idea for which that struggle was made, and I shall be happy indeed if I shall be a humble instrument in the hands of the Almighty, and of this, his almost chosen people, for perpetuating the object of that great struggle. . . .”

Spirit, unfortunately, is developing the cough that I’ve been battling for several days. We’ve been going through a fair number of cough drops.

Spirit and Fritz did another wonderful presentation at the New Jersey State House. A crowd of about 250 people heard the program. Once again, many audience members swarmed Fritz after the program. But this time, Spirit, also drew a nice little crowd, which included several children. Spirit gave them a short interpretive talk about the Little Rock Nine and the integration of Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Our thanks go out to Sarah Schmidt for her help, as well as the rest of the staff at the New Jersey State House. Sarah is the State House Tour Program Educator. Her bubbly personality and enthusiasm for the Lincoln event made our visit here a very special one.

The New Jersey State House is a wonderful building. They also created a superb temporary exhibit about Lincoln’s visit to the site 150 years ago. One of the artifacts on display was a letter that Lincoln had signed accepting the invitation to visit Trenton.

We then drove on to Philadelphia. We stayed at the Union League of Philadelphia, a wonderful old hotel.

New York, New York

Day Ten - February 20, 2011
New York, NY

The only program today was at General Grant National Memorial (Grant’s Tomb). Again today, I was feeling under the weather and didn’t leave the hotel. Fritz, Tim, and Spirit went to the site from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm. They did informal interpretation for about 200 people during the three hours.

Fritz, Tim, and Spirit ate two meals at the South Houston Restaurant in New York City. While looking for the restaurant, a man ran out from a building along the way and he wanted a photograph with “Abraham Lincoln” (this happens a lot). The first time they went to the restaurant, Tim and Spirit wore NPS uniforms and Fritz wore his living history outfit as Lincoln. Someone asked Tim if he was a real park ranger. Before the lunch was over, several people wanted to get photos with Lincoln. The other restaurant guests were very warm and friendly. Tim, Spirit, and Fritz returned to the same restaurant for supper. This time, our team was in regular street clothes—and they were recognized by some of the same restaurant staff. In New York City, as elsewhere, our team has been greeted and treated very kindly.

While in New York City in 1861, Lincoln spoke to supporters at the Astor House in New York. He also met with a variety of Republican supporters during his visit to the city. And in a tangible link to the nation’s founding, Lincoln talked with 94-year-old Joshua Dewey. Mr. Dewey had cast a ballot for president every four years—beginning with George Washington, who first took office in 1789.

During Lincoln’s visit to New York City, he was greeted by large, but more subdued crowds. Even though Lincoln carried New York State, he didn’t win a majority of votes in New York City. The city financially profited from the cotton trade and had maintained a close relationship with wealthy Southern planters. In fact, Mayor Fernando Wood had even suggested to the New York City Council that city should secede from the Union and become a “free” city to maintain its economic relationship with the South.

Mr. Lincoln met Mayor Wood during a reception at City Hall. The mayor greeted Lincoln from behind a writing desk that had been used by George Washington. With the symbolic desk between them, the mayor asked Lincoln to pursue peace and reconciliation because New York’s economic health was at stake. Lincoln responded, “There is nothing that can ever bring me willingly to consent to the destruction of this Union, under which not only the commercial city of New York, but the whole country has acquired his greatness.”

President-elect Lincoln then used a “ship” metaphor that Fritz Klein has repeated several times during our trip. I got goose bumps each time he does it, as I’ll explain in a moment. Lincoln then pointed out to Mayor Wood, “I understand a ship to be made for carrying and preservation of the cargo, and so long as the ship can be saved, with the cargo, it should never be abandoned.”

Every time I heard Fritz use this Lincoln “ship” metaphor I immediately thought of Walt Whitman’s poem, “O Captain! My Captain!” After Lincoln’s death in 1865, Whitman wrote, among other things, this remarkable poem that compares Lincoln to a ship’s captain.

O Captain! My captain! Our fearful trip is done;
The ship has weathered every rack, the prize we sought is won. . . .

Later in the poem Whitman concludes:

My Captain does not hear my voice, his lips are pale and still;
My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will:
The ship is anchored safe and sound, its voyage closed and done;
From fearful trip, the victor ship, has come in with object won.
Exalt O shores, ring O bells!
But I, with mournful tread, walk the deck my captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.

As we look back at history and consider the challenges facing Lincoln, we also, in the back of our minds, know how it turns out. We know John Wilkes Booth will pull that fateful trigger and take Lincoln’s life.

But we should try and always remember that when we study the past, we are actually studying people who were living in a different “present.” We inserted that idea into Spirit’s introduction. “And please remember,” Spirit says before introducing Fritz Klein as Abraham Lincoln, “as our nation teetered on the brink of civil war 150 years ago, Americans did not know how it would turn out—just as we cannot predict what tomorrow will bring. Our ancestors a century-and-a-half ago did know one thing, however, that the crisis would lead to change. But no one knew for sure what that change would be. . . .”

Abraham Lincoln didn’t know what fate had in store for him as president. He knew, however, that he would need to summon every ounce of courage, fortitude, and wisdom that he could muster for the task. And he knew the nation would need to do the same.

Onward to the Big Apple

Albany, NY to Peekskill, NY to New York, NY

We loaded the van and drove from Albany to Peekskill, New York, for a late morning event. Peekskill wasn’t on the original itinerary. But Tim Good had received a call from a gentleman in Peekskill asking if we could squeeze in a program there. He said sure. Then there was a long pause on the other end of the phone. “Do I have to fill out a form?” No, Tim replied, you don’t have to fill out a form!

The Peekskill event was a great stop for several reasons. (The weather, however, wasn’t one of them. A frigid wind blew through town the whole time. On top of that, I seem to coming down with a chest cold.)

A good-sized crowd was waiting for Mr. Lincoln at the modern train station. Many citizens were gathered, with people milling around members of color guards. A train whistle announced the arrival of Mr. Lincoln. He made his way down to the crowd. Then a parade of people began striding briskly to the old train depot. It was wonderful to see a color guard from the U.S. Military Academy from West Point, NY (which is in the area). Several Civil War living history groups were represented: the 150th New York Regiment, 79th NY, 11th Connecticut, and a Yorktown (I believe) student re-enactment group. Sons of Union Veterans members and some Boy Scouts were present.

At the old train station there is a statue of the president-elect standing at the rail, complete with his top hat on his head. It’s one of the tangible reminders of Lincoln’s inaugural journey that we have found along the way. There is also an active Lincoln Society in Peekskill that has kept the memory of Lincoln alive and well in the area.

The program at the depot lasted about 35 minutes. The blistering cold temperatures had us shivering. Snow was piled on the ground. Several dignitaries spoke. The president-elect made a few brief comments.

They are working on a Lincoln Depot Museum renovation. I think it’s a great idea. It will provide a permanent place where visitors can make a connection to Lincoln’s inaugural journey and the Civil War era. One of the men in line said they have a lot of Civil War related artifacts they can put in the museum, including items from the Grand Army of the Republic (a post-Civil War veterans’ organization) members. Currently, the interior of the depot is vacant—except on this day, because everyone sought shelter inside to escape the biting winter wind. The hot chocolate was a huge hit!

Then we drove on to the “Big Apple,” New York, NY.

Fritz and Spirit presented their standard program at Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace National Historic Site tonight. They reported that it went well and there were about 100 people in attendance.

But I have become ill. So I didn’t venture out to the program. My main concern is not to get everyone else sick.

Highlights from New York

Buffalo, NY to Albany, NY

I have yet to mention the rest of the Lincoln family in my blogs. Mary Lincoln and the boys, Robert, Willie, and Tad were all on the train, too.

In Buffalo, Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln dined at Millard Fillmore’s house on Niagara Street after church. Then the Lincoln family returned to the American Hotel, which was mainly vacant at the time. In their boisterous fashion, Willie and Tad took advantage of the large spaces in the hotel to play leap frog with a son of the hotel owner.

At our hotel in Buffalo yesterday morning, I picked up a copy of USA Today. “Across the South, An Enduring Conflict,” proclaimed the headline on the issue’s first page. Rick Hampson, the author of the feature article, described how the country is commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, which has included some controversies. For instance, on December 20, 2010, a secession ball was held in Charleston, South Carolina. Some African American protestors picketed outside. One protestor said the secession ball was “a celebration of slavery.”

Hampson pointed out that Americans are still divided—and even polarized—in many ways. Some Americans are promoting the importance of states’ rights, for example, especially with regard to the federal government’s revamping of the health care system.    

To gain an on-the-ground perspective for his article in USA Today, Hampson traveled to Montgomery, Alabama. As Hampson pointed out, Montgomery was at the epicenter of many key moments of both the Civil War and the civil rights movement. Jefferson Davis was inaugurated as the first Confederate president there 150 years ago today, on February 18, 1861. Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus in 1955, sparking a successful boycott of city buses led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. And in 1965, marchers streamed in from Selma in a show of support for voting rights. Clearly, it seems to me, there is a link between the struggles for freedom in the 1860s with the struggles for equality in the 1960s. 

Regarding the relevance of the Civil War today, I refer to what I recently read in a National Park Service document. “The issues at the heart of the war 150 years ago remain relevant: legal and social equality, the role of the federal government, how divergent views are reconciled in a democracy . . . and the failure of the Civil War to fully achieve equal rights for African Americans and all other citizens.”

Back to the road trip…..

We drove to Albany where we did a program at the New York State Museum. Another great turnout. Nearly 300 people were in attendance. We received a lot of accolades. The National Park Service staff at Martin Van Buren National Historic Site was a great help. They coordinated with the staff at the New York State Museum to make the event possible.

On this day in 1861, Mr. Lincoln spoke to a joint session of the New York legislature. Gov. Edwin D. Morgan introduced Lincoln. The president-elect said, “It is true that while I hold myself without mock modesty, the humblest of all individuals that have ever been elevated to the Presidency, I have a more difficult task to perform than any of them . . . . but when the time comes I shall speak as well as I am for the good of the present and future of this country—for the good both of the North and South of this country . . . . In the meantime, if we have patience; if we restrain ourselves; if we allow ourselves not to run off in a passion, I still have confidence that the Almighty, the Maker of the Universe will, through the instrumentality of this great and intelligent people, bring us through this as He has through all the other difficulties of our country.”

Spirit received a nice round of applause during her remarks while introducing Fritz. The applause came after she said her mother was one of the Little Rock Nine. This was the first time I had wired Spirit for sound. The wireless microphone was connected to my video camera.

One of the nice touches at the New York State Museum was the display of a historic bible. A citizen of the area gave Lincoln the bible during the president-elect’s trip through New York. The bible remained in the hands of the Lincoln family for many years before it was donated to the museum. After the program many people filed by to see the bible in a glass case.

We are spending the night in Albany tonight.

Buffalo, New York!

This morning we drove to School #81, a middle school, for a program. The 130 students and teachers were very receptive to our presentation. Spirit gave a rousing introduction. She really got the students wound up in anticipation. And the students truly seemed excited to meet Mr. Lincoln. On his way to the front of the theater he shook hands with several students. After one young girl greeted Mr. Lincoln, I noticed her turn to a classmate and giggle with delight.

On Saturday, February 16, 1861, the citizens of Buffalo welcomed the president-elect with enthusiasm like we experienced—but on a much larger scale than we encountered. An estimated 10,000 people thronged to the Exchange Street station when Mr. Lincoln, his family, and entourage rolled into Buffalo at about 4:30 pm. Chief among the greeters was Millard Fillmore, the thirteenth president of the United States. The crowd became so boisterous that Lincoln barely made it out of the depot, and then only because a handful of men encircled Lincoln and ran interference for him.

Reading the accounts of Lincoln’s struggle to get through the crowd at the depot reminds me of watching footage of “Beatlemania” in the 1960s. Wild-eyed fans of The Beatles would swarm them, making a simple stroll from a limousine to a hotel a perilous adventure. Surging crowds can get a bit scary. In fact, Maj. David Hunter (who would later become a general during the war) was so roughed up in the effort to get through the crowd at the Buffalo train station that he dislocated a shoulder.

After reaching the American Hotel, Lincoln spoke from a balcony to a large crowd. He thanked Buffalo for its reception. Then, for the first time on the trip, he referenced his upcoming inaugural address. Lincoln was still crafting it, to hone it “so that when I do speak authoritatively I may be as near as right as possible . . . to say nothing inconsistent with the Constitution, the Union, the rights of all the States, of each State, and of each section of the country, and not to disappoint the reasonable expectations of those who have confided to me their votes.”

On Sunday, February 17, Lincoln rested. The Lincoln Inaugural Journey team was thankful he did, too. Because for us, it means that we can spend two nights in Buffalo. So far on the trip, it’s been “another day, another hotel.” Only twice during our two-week trip do we get to spend two nights in the same hotel (the other will be New York, NY).

Lincoln attended Sunday morning services at the First Unitarian Church as the guest of Millard Fillmore. Appropriately, for our evening program, we drove to Unitarian Universalist Church. The church isn’t the same building where Lincoln worshipped in 1861. But the church is home to the same congregation!

The Unitarian Universalist Church is beautiful. Ornate woodwork surrounds the podium. Civil War re-enactors were on hand once again. The 155th New York Regiment formed an honor guard that included a fife and drum, which was a wonderful touch.

The program went very well. About 300 people filled the pews.

The Hutchinson Family Revival (three men and two women) sang several songs. They were fantastic! Just the sort of upstate New York/New England abolitionist type of singing you would imagine. They sang “Come Join the Abolitionists” (which included the refrain “when slavery is no more), “Lincoln and Liberty” (which was a tune the original Hutchinson Family Singers sang in support of Lincoln’s candidacy in 1860 and it’s sung to the tune of “Old Rosin the Beau”), a third song I didn’t recognize, and “We Are Coming Father Abraham.”   

Peter Wolfe portrayed former president Millard Fillmore and introduced Fritz. The setting in the church was terrific. The re-enactors stood guard while Mr. Lincoln spoke at the ornate pulpit. Once again Fritz rose to the occasion and delivered a wonderful address. The crowd loved it. I heard many compliments afterward.

We wish to thank Mark Lozo and Molly Quackenbush for their work on behalf of Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site. Mark is the chief of interpretation at the park and he is our primary contact on this and he did a great job organizing the evening event. Molly is the park superintendent and I enjoyed meeting and talking with her.

One of the great things about having the program at the Unitarian Universalist Church is that members have a sense of history. In the church fellowship hall, there is even an exhibit on Lincoln’s visit to Buffalo in 1861. The connection was wonderful. Our Mr. Lincoln spoke to the same congregation that the real Mr. Lincoln spoke to 150 years ago.

After the program, I videotaped a short interview with a member of the congregation. She said, “I really enjoyed the program. I thought it was really neat to have a women who is the daughter of [one of] the Little Rock Nine in our pulpit today. It was just wonderful. It shows how far we’ve come, yet we still have things to do. . . . I was very grateful to be here.” When I asked if she learned anything new, she replied: “I really learned today that Lincoln really did not want to go to war. He really wanted to solve this issue of secession . . . to stop the spread of slavery and not go to war over it. It will be interesting to read the history a little bit further and see why he got forced into it, because I don’t remember.”

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Lincoln meets little Grace Bedell

This morning we went to Garfield Heights Middle School in Garfield Heights, Ohio (a suburb of Cleveland) for a program. Vicki Tomasheski is a teacher there. She is a participant in the teacher-ranger-teacher program with Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Karen Kopchak recommended her.

Statue of Lincoln and Grace Bedell, Westfield, NY
The 57 middle school students and teachers really enjoyed the program. Fritz does a different presentation for students. His Lincoln for kids is folksier and he tells stories of Lincoln’s childhood. Some of the phrases get a laugh, too, such as, “I was happy as a pig in a pea patch.” Fritz also includes messages that emphasize that anybody can grow up to be successful like Lincoln, if you work hard, do your best, stay honest, and never give up. In addition, Fritz has a great knack for getting across the unpleasant topic of slavery in a way that students understand and can relate to.

After the program, the students swarmed around Fritz. He shook hands and spoke to them in small groups. On the way to the van, I snapped some photos of Mr. Lincoln doffing is top hat in front of the “Garfield Heights” school sign. We then proceeded on to one of our most anticipated stops: Westfield, New York. Westfield was a very special stop for Mr. Lincoln. Grace Bedell, a young girl, had written a letter to Mr. Lincoln suggesting that he grow a beard.

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer:

Some three months ago, I received a letter from a young lady here; it was a very pretty letter, and she advised me to let my whiskers grow, as it would improve my personal appearance; acting partly upon her suggestion, I have done so; and now, if she is here, I would like to see her; . . . a small boy, mounted on a post, with his mouth and eyes wide open, cried out, “there she is, Mr. LINCOLN,” pointing to a beautiful girl, with black eyes, who was blushing all over her fair face. The President left the car, and the crowd making way for him, he reached for her, and gave her several hearty kisses, and amid the yells of delight from the excited crowd, he bade her good-bye.

Our program was set up in the auditorium for approximately 600 people. The audience included the student body—from elementary to high school—of the Westfield Academy and Central School as well as a fair number of townspeople. About a dozen people were attired in 1860s era reproduction clothing. They sat on stage behind Mr. Lincoln. One gentleman was portraying railroad detective Allan Pinkerton. Mr. Pinkerton stood behind the president-elect and relentlessly scanned the student body in case one of the kids decided to rush the stage and inflict bodily harm to Mr. Lincoln. The student band, which numbered about 15 or so, serenaded the audience with Civil War era songs. It was a nice touch. The upright bass player even sported an Abe Lincoln beard and stovepipe top hat. “Madison,” a young girl from Westfield, portrayed Grace Bedell. We staged several photographic sessions of her presenting yellow roses to Mr. Lincoln. She was a good sport about the whole thing.

During the set-up for the Westfield school program, I was asked by Martha Bills, our primary point of contact for our stop there, to get in touch with a Buffalo television station. I called the WGRZ studio. They couldn’t send a crew down to the event to film it. Could we send some still photographs? Sure, I said. So after the program, a secretary in the school superintendent’s office let me use her computer. I downloaded four photos that I took at the school event and emailed them. The images subsequently appeared on the six o’clock news. I also asked that they plug our public program in Buffalo the next night. Once we had squared away getting the photos to the Buffalo TV station, Tim steered our van to a reception. We stepped carefully over ice and snow and walked into to a wonderful historic home, which houses the Chautauqua County Historical Society. Everyone was so friendly.

On the second floor, we were shown through an exhibit room that featured several Lincoln images and artifacts, including two lanterns that had been on the carriage that delivered President and Mrs. Lincoln to Ford’s Theatre on the tragic night of the assassination, and a Lincoln Funeral Train adornment. Lincoln’s funeral train traveled through Westfield four years after the inaugural train. At 1:00 am on April 28, 1865, the funeral train stopped briefly in Westfield “where large bonfires had been built, lights hung about, and a signal gun was fired.” Several women from Westfield were permitted on the train and they placed a wreath on the president’s casket.

Through conversations with several people and exhibits at the museum, we learned about an all but forgotten advocate for civil rights. Albion Winegar Tourgee served as an officer in the Union army. He devoted his career to making equal rights a reality for everyone. Mr. Tourgee wrote, “Justice is pictured blind and her daughter, the Law, ought at least to be color-blind.” Tourgee even argued for the plaintiff in the landmark case Plessy v. Ferguson before the U.S. Supreme Court. He lost. The court decided that in a case involving segregated railroad cars in Louisiana that “separate but equal” facilities for people of color was constitutional.

At my park we interpret Brown v. Board of Education, the U.S. Supreme Court case that overturned Plessy v. Ferguson. At Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site, we provide visitors with opportunities to learn how the 1954 decision became a turning point in the nation’s long struggle to provide freedom and equality for everyone.

Both Plessy and Brown impacted American history in many ways. Plessy led to the nadir of race relations in American history as states were allowed to create racially segregated public institutions—including public schools. Brown, conversely, opened the door to the modern civil rights movement; it inaugurated an opening into the light of equality and justice after a long, dark night of oppression and injustice.

Tourgee’s efforts and the history of Plessy and Brown relates to the “Civil War to Civil Rights” sub-theme that the National Park Service is interpreting during the Civil War Sesquicentennial from 2011 to 2015. The freedom that African Americans achieved as a result of the Civil War did not become equality. Equality would have to wait another 100 years.

By the way, we also learned that Robert H. Jackson grew up in Frewsburg, NY, about 30 miles from Westfield. Jackson was one of the nine U.S. Supreme Court justices who voted unanimously in the Brown v. Board of Education decision. Jackson also served as a prosecutor in the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials of former Nazi officials in post-World War II Germany.

As Lincoln’s train pulled into Westfield 150 years ago, a banner proclaimed prominently, “Welcome Abraham Lincoln to the Empire State.” We were also welcomed to the Empire State.
The people at Westfield were very hospitable. We had a delightful time.

Before leaving Westfield, a group of us walked over to the sight of the statues of Abraham Lincoln and Grace Bedell. These statues are two of the primary tangible reminders of Lincoln’s inaugural journey. They’re wonderful depictions of two Americans whose lives intersected briefly, but meaningfully. We took quite a number of photographs.

I hate to leave out anyone, because I know many people made the Westfield event a memorable one. But I do wish to thank Marth Bills; John Paul Wolfe, the curator at the Chautauqua County Historical Society; and David and Sandra Brown for dressing in period clothes and being such wonderful hosts for us.

Then we proceeded on to Buffalo, NY, where we spent the night.

Remarks from Cleveland!

Today, we drove from Pittsburgh up to Hudson, Ohio. Our evening program is at the Happy Days Lodge at Cuyahoga Valley National Park. About 250 attended the program. National Park Service staff at Cuyahoga Valley National Park organized the event. Karen Kopchak did a great job of setting up the event and serving as the emcee for the night. Civilian Conservation Corps workers built the Happy Days Lodge in the 1930s. It’s a great old building, with a vaulted ceiling in the main hall.

Today we arrived in time to eat lunch at the “Winking Lizard.” Tim Good used to work at Cuyahoga Valley National Park, so he knows the area quite well. We had a great lunch, talking about the upcoming programs and about the park here. Tim says that they park has many fascinating features to it—a railroad, historic buildings, agriculture, etc. A century-and-a-half ago, the president-elect arrived in Cleveland, Ohio, at about 4:30 pm. At the train depot Lincoln boarded a carriage in a snow storm to ride in a procession to the Weddell House. From a balcony looking out to “a sea of faces,” Lincoln decided to speak about his pledge to leave slavery alone—in the south, where it already existed:

We have been marching about two miles through snow, rain and deep mud. The large numbers that have turned out under these circumstances testify that you are in earnest about something or other. What is happening now will not hurt those who are farther away from here. Have they not all their rights now as they ever have had? Do they not have their fugitive slaves returned now as ever? Have they not the same constitution that they have lived under for seventy odd years? Have they not a position as citizens of this common country, and have we any power to change that position? What then is the matter with them? Why all this excitement? Why all these complaints? As I said before, this crisis is all artificial. It has no foundation in facts. If all do not join now to save the good old ship of the Union this voyage, nobody will have a chance to pilot her on another voyage.

Invariably, at each of our stops, we seem to run into “Local Lincolns.” These are men who portray our 16th president. They seem to be sincere, good men, who want people to better understand who Mr. Lincoln was and what he did to preserve the Union. There were two “Local Lincolns” at the event this evening at the Happy Days Lodge.

One of the interesting people we met at the Happy Days Lodge was a woman who first met Fritz Klein ten years ago. He inspired her to do living history and she became a reenactor. They posed for a photograph tonight—and they were holding a photograph of them together taken ten years ago, which she had brought with her. I guess you could say that we’ve discovered that Abraham Lincoln has groupies—and so does Fritz Klein!

The other night a humorous incident occurred. We were checking into a hotel when Fritz gave the hotel clerk at the front desk his credit card. But the clerk said, “I need to see a photo ID.” Fritz, unfortunately, had left his driver’s license in the vehicle. Thinking quickly, Fritz asked Spirit for a five-dollar bill. Fritz then got the attention of the hotel clerk and held up the bill by his face. The clerk looked up and laughed. The clerk then waived the need for Fritz to produce photo ID.

As an aside for the things we deal with while we’re on the road, my eye glasses are about to fall apart at the bridge (nosepiece). A hotel worker back in Columbus placed some clear packing tape on the glasses. But I fear that it may not hold out. In Macedonia, Ohio, I went to Wal-Mart vision center to get fitted for contact lenses. I have worn contacts in the past, but it has been awhile. The optometrist was very nice and helpful. So now I’m set up with contact lenses for the rest of the trip (and my eye glasses are still holding up, too).

For our standard program, Spirit speaks for about five minutes while introducing Fritz as President-elect Abraham Lincoln. Then Fritz will usually start with the words Lincoln actually spoke at that city 150 years ago. But Lincoln’s remarks were often so short that they wouldn’t make much of a program. So Fritz has about a 30-minute speech that is a patchwork of all of Lincoln’s speeches during his inaugural journey. It’s very dramatic. The audience is often quite still when Mr. Lincoln is speaking.

There are some lines, though, that seem to get smiles and chuckles each time. For instance, in Pittsburgh in 1861, Lincoln said, “Notwithstanding the troubles across the river, there really is no crisis, springing from anything in the government itself. My advice, then, under such circumstances, is to keep cool.” (This is the line that brings a reaction from the audience. I guess they think the phrase “keep cool” sounds more like a modern term.) After the “keep cool” line, Lincoln continued, “If the great American people will only keep their temper, on both sides of the line, the troubles will come to an end, and the question which now distracts the country will be settled just as surely as all other difficulties of like character which have originated in this government have been adjusted.”

by Dave Schafer, Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site (NHS)

Day Five - February 15, 2011
Pittsburgh, PA to Cleveland, OH

Supt. Tim Good, Ulysses S. Grant NHS, St. Louis, MO
Park Ranger Spirit Trickey, Central High School NHS, Little Rock, Ark.
Richard F. “Fritz” Klein, nationally renowned Lincoln presenter, Springfield, IL.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Lincoln's in the Big Apple!

After several days on the road and many programs presented, Lincoln and NPS staff pulled into New York City. Special programs at Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace National Historical Site and the General Grant National Memorial are scheduled for the weekend. Check back for more updates!

The journey in 1861 saw Lincoln speak from the
balcony of New York's Astor House.

Friday, February 18, 2011

From Buffalo to Albany!

Lincoln and the National Park Service continue the journey east. After 8 days on the road, the team has delivered 15 programs in 11 cities to over 4300 people! Check out the event from Albany!

Columbus crowds support Lincoln!

Abraham Lincoln and NPS staff speaking at the
Ohio Statehouse in Columbus

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Day Four - February 14, 2011

Columbus, OH to Pittsburgh, PA

While thinking about the media and getting the word out about our programs, I began to think about how we communicate. What methods do we use to spread our messages? How do political leaders communicate their messages? What happens when the tools of mass communication are turned around toward politicians and celebrities?

Fame changes lives. In our world today, celebrities and politicians try to guard their privacy. Cameras, though, record nearly everything. Technology can send images around the world in an instant. Mass communication via television, the internet, twitter, facebook, cell phones, etc., has changed the way we keep up-to-date with one another.

Lincoln speaks at the Ohio Statehouse,
But the world of 1861 was quite different. To be sure, the telegraph had transformed communications in the country. Messages could be quickly transmitted with this new technology. Most Americans, however, got their in-depth news through the newspapers.

And if you wanted to see a President of the United States (or president-elect) you had to seek him out. Photographs were reproduced as lithographs for newspapers. So people knew what the president looked like. There was no other way to hear his voice, however, other than seeing him in person.

In Cincinnati 150 years ago, for instance, the Lincoln family stayed in a fine hotel, the Burnet House. But even in the hotel the president-elect could not escape the curious and adoring crowds. Mr. Lincoln must have already felt like public property. Waves of admirers pressed around him. According to one account at the time, people were “throwing their arms around him, patting him on the back, and almost wrenching his arm off.” Another wrote that each man who greeted Lincoln believed it was “his duty to shake ‘Old Abe’s’ hand, as if it were a pump-handle.”

This morning, we drove to Indian Trail Elementary School in Canal Winchester, Ohio. The program was at 9:30 am. Beverly Downing is the wonderful principal there. She greeted us warmly at the front door. Beth Moore, a second grade teacher, was our contact. She had emailed Tim Good about setting up the program.

About 500 students, from grades one through four, gathered on the floor of the lunchroom/auditorium. Spirit Trickey spoke first. She’s wonderful with children. She asked them about her uniform. What was she? One child said a police officer another said something about “jungle” (I didn’t catch the words exactly—but I think the student was equating the uniform to some sort of wilderness ranger/game warden). The third student said, “park ranger.” Spirit got the students excited about meeting President Abraham Lincoln. So they cheered wildly when Fritz came through the curtains on the stage. Fritz’s program for the younger audience was quite different from our other programs. He told stories of Lincoln’s boyhood. In one, Lincoln returned a water-damaged book to a neighbor. To pay for the damage, Lincoln went to the farmer for several visits to do chores and other labor. The man who had loaned the book was at first upset, but seeing the effort of young Abraham, decided he would still loan books to Lincoln.

Fritz talked with the students about the importance of getting a good education, of never giving up, of achieving your dream, of treating people the way you want to be treated. Fritz is so animated and engaging as a speaker. The students kept their attention on him.Toward the end of the program, Fritz didn’t shy away from the serious topics of secession and slavery. He described these topics in words that children can understand. Like Lincoln 150 years ago, we proceeded from Columbus, OH, to Pittsburgh, PA. Lincoln’s train was pelted with rain most of the way between the two cities. Keeping in mind our journey in Lincoln’s footsteps, a cold drizzle fell on us part of the time in Pittsburgh.

Our evening event was held in the marvelous Soldiers and Sailors Museum. Built in honor of the areas Civil War veterans, the building has wonderful exhibits with fascinating artifacts that document the military service of area veterans throughout history.In the main hall, the complete Gettysburg Address is engraved on a large wall behind the stage. A balcony encircles three sides of the hall, which has a high ceiling. It’s a great venue!

Spirit and Fritz delivered excellent presentations once again. When Spirit said in her introduction that she was the daughter of one of the Little Rock Nine, you could see the audience react with nods and smiles. Fritz again quoted what Lincoln said 150 years ago. In Pittsburgh, Lincoln tried to reassure his listeners that the crisis of secession was an artificial one and that everyone should just calm down. “Notwithstanding the troubles across the river, there really is no crisis, springing from anything in the government itself. My advice, then, under such circumstances, is to keep cool. If the great American people will only keep their temper, on both sides of the line, the troubles will come to an end, and the question which now distracts the country will be settled just as surely as all other difficulties of like character which have originated in this government have been adjusted.”

About 120 people attended the program. The presentation included a spirited question and answer session with Mr. Lincoln (and Mr. Klein). Because it was Valentine’s Day, we wondered what the turn-out would be. After the program, I talked with a father and his four sons. It turns out, his wife was also there (she had stepped away for the moment). He convinced her that going to a program about Abraham Lincoln would be a great thing to do on Valentine’s Day! She agreed. The father said that they go to Lincoln sites when they can. In fact, one of the boys was wearing a Lincoln hat and beard that he got on a family vacation to Springfield, Illinois.

By Dave Schafer

Day Three - February 13, 2011

Cincinnati, OH to Columbus, OH

Before I talk about the events of today, I want to return to last night’s amazing program. You could sense the energy and enthusiasm in the crowd. The audience was moved. For a brief time, Cincinnati’s Civil War era past came back to life.

Last night, Bob Limoseth, the program’s moderator, opened the presentation with some powerful and relevant words. I’m going to share them now.

Mr. Limoseth:

“Good evening. Welcome to the Museum Center and the Cincinnati History Museum’s kick-off event in observance of the upcoming Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War. From April 12th of 2011 to April 9th of 2015, cities and towns across the country will be commemorating events and activities associated with America’s Great Civil War.

Lincoln "Fritz Klein" and the NPS team at the Indiana State Museum
“Now, I see a number of young people in our audience tonight and we are pleased you have come to see Mr. Lincoln. I want you to note, however, that I just used the word commemorate (which means remembrance or to mark by some ceremony) --- not celebration. We do not celebrate war and we do not celebrate an event in which 620,000 Americans, both north and south, lost their lives. In order to understand the magnitude of this tragedy, I’d like to put it in perspective for you. If 2% of today’s population was to be lost in war or some other great tragedy, as it was 150 years ago, it would amount to over 6,000,000 lost American lives.”

On this trip retracing Lincoln’s inaugural route, I have to admit that Tim, Fritz, Spirit, and I are having a lot of fun. It’s been tiring, but rewarding. We’ve had some long days and we check into a different hotel every night. But this is such a great opportunity for us. We get to share a window into the past with our audiences.

And we know we’re interpreting a dramatic time in history, a turning point that helped define us as a people, as a nation. A century-and-a-half ago Americans were on the brink of taking up arms against each other. Very few Americans could have imagined the destructive forces that were about to be unleashed.

When Fritz is quoting the words Lincoln used 150 years ago, there is often a hush that drapes over the audience. It is caused, I think, by the seriousness of the material. Secession, slavery, and possible civil war are weighty topics. Sometimes we can get caught up in the color, the personalities, the pageantry—the romanticism—of the Civil War era. But we should not forget the bitter divisiveness that led to the war and how the iron heel of war left its imprint on this nation ever since.

We drove to Columbus this morning so that Fritz Klein could speak on a morning talk show. Marshall McPeek of  WCMH-TV, Channel 4, interviewed Fritz. Marshall wanted to know what it is like for Fritz to portray Lincoln all these years and the research that Fritz has done. Fritz often points out, as he did on television today, that he has learned a great deal about how to be a better person by studying Lincoln.   

This afternoon’s event in the beautiful Ohio Statehouse was one of the most memorable I’ve ever seen. The audience, which included a fair number of kids, was spell-bound. They had over 600 in the immediate audience. Gregg Dodd, the Deputy Director of Communications, Marketing, and Events at the Ohio Statehouse, played a key in organizing the event. He said another 75 people were watching via closed circuit television system. They streamed the event live. There should be a video of it on this site tomorrow: . Being in the House chamber where Lincoln spoke 150 years before made it even more special.

As a prelude to the program at the Ohio Statehouse, Steve Ball sang Civil War songs while strumming a guitar. His stories and beautiful singing voice was a great way to set the mood for the event. Men and women in period clothing helped create ambiance, too. The 70th Ohio Volunteer Infantry Honor Guard brought in the colors. After the program, audience members could go the rotunda and pose for photographs with Fritz as the president-elect.

In February 1861, critics of Lincoln faulted him for his silence. Southerners were voting to secede from the Union and create a new country, the Confederate States of America. With this crisis dominating the news, why didn’t he speak out more? Mr. Lincoln addressed this topic in his speech to the joint meeting of the Ohio legislature. “Allusion has been made to the interest felt in relation to the policy of the new administration. In this I have received from some a degree of credit for having kept silence, and from others some deprecation. I still think that I was right. In the varying and repeatedly shifting scenes of the present, and without a precedent which could enable me to judge by the past, it has seemed fitting that before speaking upon the difficulties of the country, I should have gained a view of the whole field, to be sure, after all, being at liberty to modify and change the course of policy, as future events may make a change necessary.”

All in all, the event at the Ohio Statehouse was well planned and executed. I wish I could thank each person individually. But that isn’t possible. So thanks to everyone who made it possible!

By Dave Schafer

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The National Park Service is recreating Abraham Lincoln's 1861 inaugural journey from Springfield, Illinois, to Washington, D.C., and the Indiana State Museum will be the first stop. .Nationally-renowned Lincoln re-enactor Fritz Klein returns as Lincoln and begins Saturday activities by addressing visitors at 10 a.m. in the museum's Great Hall. . Friday Feb. 12, 2010. Alan Petersime/The Star

Onward to Ohio!

Abraham Lincoln (Fritz Klein) speaks at the Ohio Statehouse in Coulmbus, Feb. 13, 2011

Day Two - February 12, 2011

 By Dave Schafer, National Park Service

Today marks the anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s 202nd birthday. And yes, in honor of Lincoln we sang “Happy Birthday” in Indianapolis and ate birthday cake in Cincinnati.
We drove to the Indiana State Museum for the morning program. Spirit introduced Richard F. “Fritz” Klein as Abraham Lincoln. A group of re-enactors portrayed a color guard of the 19th U.S. Infantry, a unit which had been stationed in Indiana.

People love seeking out Abraham Lincoln. There’s something almost magical (mystical?) about it. In the museum cafeteria after the program, visitors swarmed Fritz Klein. Older couples, mothers with small children, young couples—they want to talk to Fritz and pose for photos. Fritz takes it all in good humor, much like Mr. Lincoln himself would have done.

In fact, Spirit talked with a mother who drove from her home in Michigan—five hours away—to be at the program. Her seven-year-old son is a big “Lincoln buff,” according to the mother. Another couple drove an hour-and-a-half to be at the event.

Photo by Alan Petersime/The Star
Everyone at our event locations has been great to work with along the route. Susannah Koerber, Vice President of Arts and Culture at the Indiana State Museum, organized the activities, which included a display of Civil War medicine. They had children’s activities, such as building things with Lincoln Logs and playing with Civil War soldiers. 

Fritz gave an outstanding program as Mr. Lincoln in the lobby of the Indiana State Museum. The audience numbered just over 100 people.

After his formal remarks, Mr. Lincoln took questions from the audience. He was asked, for instance, about how he would deal with the secession of several southern states. One little boy, perhaps three years old, said to Fritz that “I’m not very good at making pictures.” Then boy said slowly that he took one of him (Fritz) but that it turned out weird. Everyone laughed. Mr. Lincoln laughed the loudest.

We then drove from Indianapolis to Cincinnati.

Due to a very heavy turn-out, the Cincinnati program Friday night had to be given twice. The 300-seat theater filled up quickly—and nearly filled up for the second program nearly 90 minutes later. Plus, they had cake for Lincoln’s birthday.

Photo by Alan Petersime/The Star
Bob Limoseth, of the Cincinnati Civil War Round Table, played a key role in organizing the event ( The Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal housed the event in a wonderful theater. Approximately 590 people watched the programs. The program featured people in living history clothing portraying the mayor in 1860, a historical narrator, and music by a German choir (in 1861, a German choir serenaded the president). The program closely followed the script of what was said 150 years ago—with lots of huzzahs from the audience. In fact, the audience gave President-elect Lincoln a standing ovation!

During Lincoln’s stop in Cincinnati 150 years ago, he was the center of attention. The city welcomed the president-elect with a parade. Mr. Lincoln rode in a carriage pulled by a team of six white horses.

At the Burnet Hotel on February 12, 1861, Mayor Richard M. Bishop introduced the president-elect to a large crowd. Speaking from a podium, Mr. Bishop said, “In the name of the people of all classes of my fellow citizens I extend you a cordial welcome . . . . it is the earnest and united desire of our citizens, that your administration of the General Government may be marked by wisdom, patriotism, and justice to all sections of the country . . . .”

Mr. Lincoln then spoke. “Mr. Mayor, ladies and gentlemen: Twenty-four hours ago, at the Capital of Indiana, I said to myself I have never seen so many people assembled in winter weather. I am no longer able to say that.” Lincoln referred to the current national crisis, but also looked to the future regarding the transfer of power to each newly elected president. “I hope that, although we have some threatening National difficulties now—I hope that while these free institutions shall continue to be in the enjoyment of millions of free people of the United States, we will see repeated every four years what we now witness. . . . I hope we shall see in the streets of Cincinnati—good old Cincinnati—for centuries to come, once every four years her people give such a reception as this to the constitutionally elected President of the United States.”

I interviewed an audience member afterward and asked him what he thought of the program. He said, “I really enjoyed it. It was really well done. Everything about it . . . the introductions and the people in character. . . . It almost felt like you were back in time.” I asked him if he learned something new. He replied, “I didn’t know they had such an involved train route [for Lincoln’s inaugural journey].”

People flock to Lincoln—hotel lobbies, parking garages, elevators, etc. It’s amazing. Today we got in an elevator in the Cincinnati hotel and a woman asked Mr. Lincoln, “Isn’t your birthday tomorrow?” “No,” he replied, “It’s today.” She then exclaimed: “happy birthday!”

Day One - February 11, 2011

First, let’s start with National Park Service (NPS) team who will be re-tracing Abraham Lincoln’s inaugural route 150 years later. The team is led by Tim Good, superintendent at Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site (NHS).

Richard F. “Fritz” Klein is portraying President-elect Lincoln along the route. Klein will depict Lincoln in 16 cities between February 11 and February 23, ending in Washington, D.C., as Lincoln did 150 years ago.

Other team members include Spirit Trickey, acting chief of interpretation at Central High School NHS in Little Rock, Arkansas, and Dave Schafer, chief of interpretation, education, and cultural resources at Brown v. Board of Education NHS in Topeka, KS.

Special recognition also goes to Tim Townsend, the historian at Lincoln Home NHS. Tim envisioned the idea of following Lincoln’s inaugural route on the 150th anniversary of his journey. Tim also wrote a booklet, Abraham Lincoln’s Journey to Greatness. The booklets will be given out to audience members at the programs along the way.

The journey for the NPS team began, as Lincoln did, on Feb. 11 in Springfield, Illinois. We did our first program to 54 people in the Grace Lutheran Church at 9:00 am. Spirit introduced the president-elect. Mr. Lincoln spoke eloquently and emotionally. The program was about 30 minutes long.

The next event was at the Lincoln home. In a re-staging of their travel to Washington, D.C., Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln stepped out of the house with various bags and a trunk. They boarded a horse-drawn carriage for the ride to the train station. Mr. Lincoln made a comment about the weight of one of the bags. Mrs. Lincoln said that, well, he had packed it.

Lincoln speaks to crowd in Springfield, Illinois
The Lincolns rode in the carriage to the train station. An entourage followed them, stepping carefully on the frozen ice and snow for much of the route. About 600 people were gathered at the station. At 11:00 am, the crowd read Lincoln’s farewell address in unison three times in an attempt to set a world record for the simultaneous reading of the same thing at the same time.

A century-and-a-half ago, the country teetered on the brink of civil war. Seven southern states had seceded from the Union, fearing that the new Republican president from Illinois, a free state, would interfere with the institution of slavery in the south. Southerners were forming the Confederate States of America. War clouds hung ominously in the air. What would Lincoln do in response to this national emergency?

Spirit Trickey, Park Ranger from Central High School
National Historic Site, speaks to crowd.
As the president-elect reflected on his rendezvous with destiny that awaited him in the nation’s capital, he reflected, “I now leave, not knowing when or whether ever I may return, with a task before me greater than that which rested upon Washington.”

In 1861, a freezing drizzle caused many people to use umbrellas when they watched Lincoln say his words of farewell. During the re-enactment of Lincoln’s farewell address I (Dave Schafer) was videotaping the farewell address, as well as taking photographs. In keeping with the re-staging of the farewell address, a student standing between the president-elect and me popped open his umbrella part way through the address, which blocked my view of Mr. Lincoln.

We then walked back toward the Lincoln Home NHS visitor center. We boarded the van to start our journey.

Riding in a van with Abraham Lincoln as one of the passengers is an interesting experience. At our first stop at a convenience store to get a Subway sandwich, a man in line said he had passed us on the road. He did a double-take when he saw Mr. Lincoln riding in a van and talking on a cell phone!

In 1861, the president-elect boarded a train at about 8:00 in the morning and reached Indianapolis, Indiana, at about 5:00 pm. Our team left Springfield, Illinois, just after noon and arrived in Indianapolis about 4:30 pm.

The next event was at the Indiana State Museum at 5:00 pm. Fritz Klein rode as the president-elect in an open carriage up to the museum’s entrance. To serenade the arrival of Mr. Lincoln, the Columbia Brass Quintet performed Civil War era brass band music. Audience members were treated to a number of period tunes, including “Hail, Columbia,” “Hard Times,” “Beautiful Dreamer,” and a medley of “Dixie/Bonnie Blue Flag.”

For the evening program on Friday, Feb. 11, Mr. Lincoln made some appropriate remarks. When he finished, the band played a couple of more tunes. Mr. Lincoln took some questions. Then Fritz Klein stepped out of character and mingled with the audience. About 42 people attended the program.

Several children were present, including a little girl named “Daisy.” We took a number of photos of her speaking to Mr. Lincoln.

In 1861, when Mr. Lincoln arrived in Indianapolis, he was given a 34-gun artillery salute, one for each state in the Union (which, beginning on January 29, now included my home state of Kansas). Speaking to a crowd at the train station, Lincoln said, “. . . the salvation of the Union . . . needs but one single thing—the hearts of a people like yours. When the people rise in masses on behalf of the Union and the liberties of their country, truly may it be said, ‘The gates of hell shall not prevail against them.’”