Saturday, May 28, 2016
Memorial Day plan?
Thinkin' Lincoln I am. Lately I have been steeping myself deeply in family history which leads me to the Civil War and Kentucky. Kentucky like Maryland was officially a "neutral" state, but "Dixie" was being hummed rather vigorously under many a man's breath. Not one Yankee is to be found in my family tree including John Shelton who was born in Calloway County, Kentucky in 1846. He wasn't a slave holder, nor was his father. He was just a boy like countless others off to fight for "the cause."
I doubt my ancestors were fans of their sad and determined president, but as time goes on I have learned to admire one who so thoughtfully dreaded war and grieved deeply for blood shed on both sides of the conflict.
"Lincoln's Cottage" was built in 1842, high on a hill, originally as a summer retreat for banker George Riggs. In 1851 the property was sold to the U.S. government to become the Old Soldiers' Home. Once the fellows were relocated to a newer building, the cottage was offered to President Buchanan, and once again became a summer get away. Lincoln was eager to escape the pressures of the White House in the early 1860s although, ironically, he was an eyewitness to both the recovering and the dead buried on the grounds. He would ride there unaccompanied by guards if he could swing it, and survived having his hat shot off by an unknown assailant one evening during a moonlit commute. I was told by a tour guide that travel time then was shorter by horseback than it is today by car.
For years afterwards, the cottage was pressed into service for a variety of uses including as a bar for the inmates, but in 2008, it finally became a part of our National Trust and a non-profit historic site opened to the public. This Monday there will be a free wreath laying ceremony at 10 a.m. and tours of the cemetery a bit later. I am happy to report bringing a picnic is encouraged. Might be my Southern heritage, but lunch in a grave yard has always appealed to me. I also highly recommend getting tickets for the tour of the house where the views of Washington from the original windows let your imagination run wild. Grasp the same railing Lincoln used to walk upstairs and commune with the man who tried his best to keep the Union, our America, together as one country.
No easy task then or now.