President Lincoln's 2nd Inaugural Address

         FOR TOO LONG, SAYS RONALD C. WHITE, JR., LINCOLN’S SECOND INAUGURAL ADDRESS has lived under the shadow of the Gettysburg Address. And yet Lincoln thought this was his best effort.” White does too. In his new book, Lincoln’s Greatest Speech: The Second Inaugural, excerpted here, the professor of American religious history at San Francisco Theological Seminary sees the speech as key to understanding Lincoln’s greatness.

White’s fascination with the 16th President was sparked at a 1993 seminar. “He was the average American, with only one year of education, a man who was really quite ugly in a certain sense-—could he ever have campaigned today?-—tall, awkward, gawky, clothes very ill-fitting, with a tenor voice, almost a falsetto, and yet he was a huge man for his day, at 6 feet 4 inches tall. Everything about him was so against his being a powerful speaker. But once he began to speak, what people sensed was his integrity. He was not playing a role. And the audience of that day picked it up.” More than 130 years after Lincoln’s assassination, that quality still moves people powerfully. “He had the knack of asking these simple but very pro-found questions. In every crisis, whether it’s September 11 or World War II, it is amazing how people return to Lincoln.”

By March 1865 (until 1937, Presidents were generally inaugurated in March), America had been flayed by four years of a war that had lasted longer than anyone thought it would, but whose end, at last, seemed in sight. Not since Andrew Jackson, 32 years before, had any President been elected for a second term, and, says White, “there had been no expectation of it. There had been a series of one-term Presidents with not much to commend them.” Nor did those gathered to hear Lincoln that rainy day—fans and detractors, newspaper reporters, Confederate deserters, black troops, plainclothes detectives fearful that Lincoln was going to be abducted—expect the 703-word speech the President delivered. What they heard was neither a recitation of achievement nor a statement of policy, but a sermon in which, White says, “Lincoln would ask his audience to think with him about the cause and meaning of the war.”

In the six-minute address, Lincoln used repetition and alliteration to give his sentences a cadence White likens to poetry. Five hundred of the words are of a single syllable, “but that doesn’t mean it’s simple.” An understated sentence such as “And the war came,” says White, lifts the conflict from human event to some-thing with a life of its own “ independent of Presidents, generals and soldiers.”

Now inscribed on the limestone walls of the Lincoln Memorial, the Second Inaugural Address can be understood, White believes, as a “culmination of Lincoln’s own struggle over the meaning of America, the meaning of the war, and his own struggle with slavery.” And, he adds, as a blueprint for tolerance. “Lincoln hoped that this speech was laying the groundwork for a reconstruction of compassion and reconciliation.”

PRESIDENT ABRAHAM LINCOLN HAD EVERY REASON TO BE HOPE-FUL as inauguration day, March 4, 1865, approached. The Confederacy was splintered, if not shattered. On February 1, Union General William Tecumseh Sherman led sixty thousand troops out of Savannah. Slashing through South Carolina, they wreaked havoc in the state that had been the seedbed of secession. To celebrate victories in Columbia and Charleston, South Carolina, and Wilmington, North Carolina, Lincoln ordered a nighttime illumination in Washington. Crowds celebrated these achievements in song as the harbinger of the end of the hostilities.

At the same time, Union General Ulysses S. Grant was besieging Petersburg, Virginia, twenty miles south of Richmond. Despite Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s previous record for forestalling defeat, it was clear that the badly outnumbered Confederates could not hold out much longer. Everything now pointed toward victory.

Apprehension intruded upon this hopeful spirit. Rumors were flying about the cap-ital that desperate Confederates, now realizing that defeat was imminent, would attempt to abduct or assassinate the president. Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton took extraordinary precautions. All roads leading to Washington had been heavily picketed for some days and the bridges patrolled with “extra vigilance.” The 8th Illinois Cavalry was sent out from Fairfax Court House with orders to look for “suspicious characters.” The problem was greatly complicated by the presence of large numbers of Confederate deserters who now roamed the capital. Stanton post-ed sharpshooters on the buildings that would ring the inaugural ceremonies. Plain-clothes detectives roved the city keeping track of questionable persons.

After four years as a war president, Lincoln could look ahead to four years as a peace president. With no Congress in session until December to hamper him, he would have free rein to do some peacemaking on his own . Gamblers were even betting that the sixteenth president would be inaugurated for a third term in 1869. The president, who had been battered by critics in Congress and the press for much of the war, was finally beginning to receive credit for his leadership. Many were suggesting that the stakes were about to get higher. Would Lincoln, the resourceful commander-in-chief, guide a reunited nation during what was beginning to be called “Reconstruction”?

As the day for his second inauguration drew near, everyone wondered what the president would say. No one seemed to know anything about the content of Lin-coln’s speech . A dispatch from the Associated Press reported that the address would be “brief—not exceeding, probably, a column in length.” It was recalled that he took thirty-five minutes to deliver his First Inaugural Address. The New York Herald reported that “the address will probably be the briefest one ever delivered.” Another report said the address would take only five to eight minutes.

If reports about the length of the address were correct, how would Lincoln deal with questions that were multiplying? Would he use his rhetorical skills to take the hide off his opponents in the South and North? Was the Confederate States of America to be treated as a conquered nation? How did one demarcate between the innocent and the guilty, between citizens and soldiers? What would Lincoln say about the slaves? They had been emancipated but what about suffrage?

All OF THESE QUESTIONS involved complex constitutional issues. Lincoln had used a good portion of his First Inaugural to argue carefully and logically his own understanding of the indissoluble Union in light of the Constitution... The New York World, a New York City newspaper that had been a thorn in his side all through the war, contended that the Second Inaugural Address “ought to be the most significant and reassuring of all his public utterances.

Just beneath the outward merrymaking lay a different emotion. A weariness of spirit pervaded the nation. Government officials were fatigued from four long years of war. The agony of battle took its toll on families everywhere. Many citizens were filled with as much anger as hope. Even the anticipation of victory could not compensate for the loss of so many young men, cut down in death or disabled by horrible wounds just as they were preparing to harvest the fruits of their young lives. And death and despair reached into nearly every home. An estimated 623,000 men died in the Civil War. One out of eleven men of service age was killed between 1861 and 1865. Comparisons with Americans killed in other wars bring the horror home. In World War I, the number killed was 117,000. In World War II, 405,000 died. In the Korean War, the death toll was 54,000. In the war in Vietnam, the number of Americans killed was 58,000. Deaths in the Civil War almost equal the number killed in all subsequent wars.

For example, New Braintree, Massachusetts, with a population of 805 shopkeepers, laborers, farmers, and their families, sent 78 young men to fight; who did not even return. Phillipston, Massachusetts, population 764, dispatched 76 of its young citizens to fight; 9 died on battlefields. The people of Auburn, Massachusetts watched 97 soldiers go off to war; they would mourn the 15 who never returned. The people of the United States in the early 186os felt the impact of war in their small communities. Had World War II produced the same proportion of deaths as did the Civil War, more than two and a half million men would have died.

Washington had never seen so many people as those who converged on the capital for Lincoln’s second inauguration. Trains roared and smoked over the double tracks of the Baltimore and Ohio. The Washington Daily National Intelligencer reported, “Every train was crowded to repletion.” Visitors were greeted by a band playing “The Battle Cry of Freedom.” Each day the Washington newspapers listed the notables who were arriving. All knew they were coming to witness a very unique event.

Hotels were overflowing . Willard’s, the grand five-story hotel at Pennsylvania Avenue and Fourteenth Street, set up cots in its halls and parlors. The Metro-politan and the National were filled. “The hotels are literally shelving their guests,” reported the correspondent for the New York Times. Lincoln-Johnson Clubs lodged more than a thousand visitors. Firehouses offered sleeping spaces.

Friends and supporters of the president, who was beleaguered during much of his first term, now declared that the recent events vindicated his leadership. In an editorial published inauguration morning, the Illinois Daily State Journal , a friend of Lincoln’s from his earliest campaigns as a legislator, declared, “All honor to Abraham Lincoln through whose honesty, fidelity, and patriotism, those glorious results [of the war] have been achieved.” The Chicago Tribune, also a staunch supporter, proclaimed that “Mr. Lincoln..... has slowly and steadily risen in the respect, confidence, and admiration of the people.” This second inauguration, so some of his supporters argued, ought to be a time for Lincoln to crow a bit. The Daily Morning Chronicle agreed. “We shall not be surprised if the President does not, in the words he will utter this morning, point to the pledges he gave us in his inaugural of 1861, and claim that he has not departed from them in a single substantial instance.”

In spite of the inclement weather, Friday morning, March 3, visitors crowded the streets of the capital, where spring rains had just begun to turn the grass from winter brown to green. Chestnuts and elms, planted at the turn of the century, were not quite in bloom. Cherry blossoms would not be known in the capital until early in

the next century. Nothing could hide the disorder and dirt that were everywhere. The national capital, scarcely six decades old, remained an almost-city. Charles Dickens, on his first visit to the United States, in 1842, had called Washington “the City of Magnificent Intentions.” He described it as “spacious avenues, that begin in nothing, and lead nowhere; streets, mile-long, that only want houses, roads, and inhabitants; public buildings that need but a public to be complete.”

When Lincoln had first come to the city as an Illinois congressman in December 1847, Washington had barely thirty-five thousand residents. The 1860 census counted 61,000 inhabitants. Thirteen cities ranked ahead of the capital in their population... Most people would add that these cities also surpassed the capital in civility and culture.. “If you want to be disgusted with the place chosen for the Capital of your country,” wrote a visitor from Philadelphia, “visit it in the spring time, near the close of four days’ rain, when the frost is beginning to come out of the ground. Whatever other objects of interest may attract your notice, the muddy streets and pavements will scarcely escape you.”

The leading objects of interest were the Capitol building with its new iron dome, the Executive Mansion, the Post Office, the Patent Office, and the Treasury. European visitors dismissed the White House as an ordinary country house. A great problem with the White House was its location near the Potomac Flats. This dismal body of water was held responsible for the outbreaks of malaria that occurred in summer and autumn. The Smithsonian Institution stood alone as a museum. A tour of all the important buildings in Washington could be completed in an after-noon.

The staggering number of war wounded and dying could not be confined to the city’s hospitals. They could be found in hotels, warehouses, also schools, and lodges of fraternal orders. Georgetown College was turned into a hospital. Many private homes, and most churches, took in wounded. On Independence Day, 1862, some church bells could not be rung because the wounded lay beneath the bells. The Patent Office held injured Union soldiers. Visitors to the Smithsonian could hardly miss the huge Armory Square Hospital nearby, which was in fact a series of parallel sheds . Even the Capitol building had been transformed into a hospital, two thousand cots placed in corridors and even in the Rotunda.

As Friday evening wore on, a dense fog descended over the capital followed by more rain, yet even the dismal weather could not dampen the spirits of the visitors. Among the arrivals were three fire companies from Philadelphia, nearly three hundred men dressed smartly in black fire hats, coats, and pants, and eye-catching red shirts. The capital became musical with military bands and serenaders. High in the fog, the lights of the now completed Capitol building created the eflèct of a halo over the festivities.

 Within the government, there was no time yet for celebration. Lincoln met Friday night with his cabinet until a late hour, working to finish business related to the last acts of the outgoing 38th Congress. The Senate had been meeting all day and continued its session into the evening. As tempers flared and energy sagged, this legis-lative all-nighter became a strange prelude to the inaugural ceremonies on the mor-row.

March 4 dawned with incessant rain as more visitors poured into the city, a many arriving aboard special trains the railroad companies had prepared to accommodate them. The streets oozed with soft mud, described by locals as “black plaster.” The Corps of Engineers surveyed the scene to determine the practicality of laying pontoons on Pennsylvania Avenue from the Capitol to the White House . They found the bottom too unstable to hold the anchors of the needed boats. The project was abandoned. During the early-morning hours, gale winds whipped through the city,

uprooting trees.

The Senate and House worked on until seven o’clock in the morning. On one occasion a sudden burst of rain suggested “an explosion inside the building,” causing many “to run towards the doors.” The leaders of the House and the Senate convinced the members to come back to their seats.

Fog continued to hang over the city as the crowd began arriving at the east entrance of the Capitol, with its radiant iron dome topped by its statue, Armed Liberty. (Despite the war, Lincoln had insisted that the work on the dome proceed; its completion represented his hope that one day all the states and their representatives would meet again to do the nation’s business.) Carriages were in great demand. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that the arriving throng was present “in force sufficient to have struck terror into the heart of Lee’s army (had the umbrellas been muskets).” As visitors and residents walked toward the Capitol, they encountered military patrols on horseback at every major intersection.

Some in the crowd remembered quite a different scene four years earlier. Trepid-ation and gloom had clouded March 4, i1861. Everything seemed in disarray. Sections of the dome lay jumbled near the inauguration stand, waiting for fitting. On his way from Illinois to assume the presidency two weeks before, Lincoln had to be spirited through Baltimore in disguise to avoid abduction. This episode, of which Lincoln was not proud, humiliated his supporters. Cartoonists ridiculed him, thus adding to the venom that was already spewing out in some of the press reports on the president-elect.

On the Saturday of the second inaugural, the rain stopped at nine-thirty. By ten- thirty, the skies were clearing. Then, at ten-forty, torrential rains came again. Open windows, crammed with sightseers, had to be slammed shut. Women tied their white hand-kerchiefs to their bonnets. Noah Brooks, correspondent for the Sacramento Daily Union, wrote that “Flocks of women streamed around the Capitol, in most wretched plight; crinoline was smashed, skirts bedaubed, and moire antique, velvet, laces and such dry goods were streaked with mud from end to end.” What should have been a brightly dressed gathering appeared instead thoroughly bedrag-gled by the elements of mud and wind . But as the reporter for the New York Herald observed, “The crowd was good-natured.” They were there to participate

in these grand events.

The ceremonial procedures would not differ substantially from Lincoln’s first inauguration. Yet there were differences. Instead of the small clusters of soldiers in 1861, large numbers of military could be observed throughout the city. In certain sections of the capital, multiplying numbers of Confederate deserters could be seen. Twelve hundred and thirty-nine disheartened Confederate soldiers had arrived in February. All the soldiers were marked by their wounds. Amputation had become the trademark of Civil War surgery. According to federal records, three out of four operations were amputations. Too often the surgery had to be repeated. Many visitors professed shock at the sight of so many young men with amputated legs or arms.

Black soldiers had changed the composition of the army from 1861 to 1865. For the first two years of the war, the Union Army was all white. Lincoln had initiated the North’s employment of African-American troops when he issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January I, 1863. The use of black troops prompted protests both in the North and in the South, but 179,000 black soldiers and ten thousand sailors would serve in the Union forces before the end of the war. By inauguration day, black soldiers had become a common sight in Washington. The presence of so many blacks in the inaugural crowds particularly struck the correspondent for the Times of London. He estimated that “at least half the mult-itude were colored people. It was remarked by everybody, stranger as well as natives, that there never had been such crowds of Negroes in the capital.” Whereas many in the crowds, because of the mud, were dressed in “old clothes,” African Americans, despite the dismal weather, were noticeable also because of their dress “in festive reds, blues, and yellows, and very gaudy colors.”

By midmorning, the inaugural parade, which preceded the swearing in ceremonies in Lincoln’s time, was forming. Grand Marshal Ward Lamon, an old friend from Illinois, went to the White House to escort the president to the Capitol. Lamon had arranged to have thirteen brightly clothed United States marshals and thirteen citi-zen marshals accompany Lincoln’s carriage. Lamon did not know that Lincoln had driven off to the Capitol earlier in the morning to sign some bills, abandoning the usual protocol. As one observer noted, the parade was “the play of Hamlet with Hamlet left out.”

The procession began to move at 11 am, from the corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and Tenth Street. At the front marched 119 metropolitan policemen. Union soldiers, many in shabby blue uniforms, followed . The three companies of volunteer firemen from Philadelphia were a hit with their smart uniforms. Chicago firemen drew their engine while they marched, as did companies from other cities . Local pride soared when the Fire Department of the City of Washington followed with

its horse-drawn steam engines.

Far down the parade line was something never before witnessed at a presidential inauguration . Four companies of black soldiers, members of the 45th Regiment United States Colored Troops, marched smartly . Immediately following was a lodge of African-American Odd Fellows, a fraternal organization. The crowd cheered.

Next in line came a series of floats, patriotic but a bit dowdy. First was the Temple of Liberty, a tent made out of muslin, now soggy. The original intention had been to surround the tent with young “maidens” from each state of the Union. The rain prompted the float’s organizers to replace the young girls with boys. The boys entertained the crowd by singing patriotic songs such as “Rally Round the Flag” and “The Battle Cry of Freedom.” The next float—drawn by four white horses, soon spattered with mud—presented by members of the Lincoln-Johnson Club of East Washington, bore a replica of the iron warship Monitor.

The crowd buzzed as the third float, carrying an operational printing press, came into view. Staff members of the Daily Morning Chronicle busily printed a four- page inaugural newspaper that contained a program for the day, copies of which were tossed to the spectators on both sides of the avenue.

The special marshals and the President’s Union Light Guard escorted Mrs. Lincoln. The crowd cheered the presidential coach along the route from the White House to the Capitol, not knowing that the president was not present.

After a festive beginning, the parade suddenly came to a halt in a snarled confusion of horses, troops, and fire engines. Following twenty minutes without movement, an impatient Mary Lincoln commanded her driver to pull out and proceed by a back way to the Capitol. The parade finally resumed, now without either the presi-dent or the president’s wife.

Posters, ribbons, ferrotypes, medals, and tokens prepared for the 1864 presidential campaign were visible everywhere. One medal was inscribed “A Foe to Traitors,” while another read “No Compromise with Armed Rebels.” An 1864 campaign ribbon captured the now clearly understood twin goals of the war: “Union and Liberty.” Another medal was inscribed “Freedom to All Men / War for the Union.” The theme of human rights was captured in tokens. One side read “Lincoln,” and on the other side was “Proclaim Liberty Throughout the Land.” Another read“Lincoln and Liberty” on one side and, on the other, “Freedom/Justice/Truth.”

The committee on arrangements was taking measures to move the inaugural ceremonies into the Senate chamber, in case the weather didn’t improve. A decisi on to do so would be a great disappointment to the tens of thousands massing outside. At ten o’clock, the Senate galleries had opened and spectators rushed to secure seats. The press gallery of the Senate was crowded with reporters from across the nation. Undaunted by the mud on their grand skirts, women were settled above the assemb-lage in the ladies’ gallery.

On the Senate floor, senators conversed with government officials and celebrity guests. Many eyes were riveted on the military heroes Admiral David G. Farragut and General Joseph Hooker. The diplomatic corps was resplendent in uniforms replete with gold lace and decorations. The air grew muggy. The ventilating system of the Capitol was insufficient to deal with the moisture and humidity. As more and more people crowded the Senate floor and galleries in their rain-soaked clothes, the temperature rose.

At eleven-forty-five, the official procession began to file into the chamber. The retiring vice-president, Hannibal Hamlin, and the vice-president-elect, Andrew Johnson, walked in together. The reporter for the New York Herald observed that Johnson, leaning on Hamlin’s arm, was unsteady, but concluded that the likely reason was excitement. Lincoln was still signing bills in the president’s room just off the Senate chamber.

At twelve o’clock, Hamlin, who had complained that the vice-presidency was a powerless job, began his farewell speech. Secretary of State William Seward and members of the Cabinet interrupted Hamlin’s short speech as they arrived to take their seats. Next came the chief justice, Salmon P. Chase, leading in eight black- gowned elderly men, who took their places before the presiding officer’s desk. Senators asked the vice-president to ask the women in the galleries to stop their “disrespectful giggling and chatter,” but the request had no effect. Hamlin resumed his speech, only to be interrupted yet again when Mary Lincoln took her seat in the diplomatic gallery. Guests continued to arrive as he concluded.

Andrew Johnson was introduced and rose to give his inaugural speech. Lincoln had left the choice of a vice-president to the convention. Johnson, a war Democrat from Tennessee, had been chosen as Lincoln’s running mate to symbolize the trans-formation of the Republican Party in 1864 into a National Union party. Lincoln had admired Johnson’s courage in adhering to the Union after his state seceded. In the nineteenth century, the vice-president commanded less stature and visibility than today. Although two presidents, William Henry Harrison and Zachary Taylor, had died in office, accession to the presidency had not been a consideration in Johnson’s nomination.    Lincoln arrived and took his seat in the Senate chamber as Johnson began to speak. No one in the chamber was aware of how Johnson had spent the hour before his speech. He had not been well for several weeks, and the trip from Nashville to Washington had only made things worse. The morning of the inauguration, he went to the vice-president’s office in the Capitol to await the official ceremony. Feeling unwell, he asked for some whisky. He filled his glass and drank it straight. On the way to the Senate chamber he had another. And then a third.

At the new vice-president’s first utterance, it became obvious to all that Andy Johnson was drunk. The traditional brief inaugural speech of the vice-president became a rambling affair. Trumpeting that he had risen to this high office from the masses, he instructed all present that they owed their positions to the people. He did not even address the Cabinet members by their titles. The assembled dignitaries and guests were shocked. Attorney General James Speed whispered to Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles, “The man is certainly deranged.” He then sat with his eyes closed. Welles in turn whispered to Stanton, “Johnson is either drunk or crazy.”

The New York Herald later reported that Johnson delivered “a speech remarkable for its incoherence which brought a blush to the cheek of every senator and official of the government. Johnson, scheduled to speak for seven minutes, spoke for seven - teen. Finally, Hamlin pulled at Johnson’s coat tail and the tribulation ended. But not quite . After Johnson took the oath of office, he put his hand on the Bible and said in a blaring voice, “I kiss this Book in the face of my nation of the United States.” He followed his words with a drunken kiss. Lincoln bent over to Senator John B. Henderson of Missouri, a marshal for the inauguration, and whispered, “Do

not let Johnson speak outside.”

At eleven-forty the rain had suddenly ceased, and arrangements were completed to hold the ceremonies outside. President Lincoln was escorted through a corridor to the temporary wood platform that extended from the east front of the Capitol. Noah Brooks, who was Lincoln’s friend as well as correspondent for the Sacramento Daily Union, described the immense crowd as a “sea of heads. As far as the eye could see, the throng looked like waves breaking at its outer edges.”

Soldiers were dispersed throughout the crowd. Some had come in uniform from the camps. Many more came from area hospitals. Lincoln was always the soldiers’ president. He liked to mingle with enlisted men and often visited wounded soldiers. The military personnel had returned a 75 percent vote for him in his re-election the previous November. Now thousands of them were present to witness the inauguration of their president.

In the crowd, Lincoln recognized Frederick Douglass, the articulate African- American abolitionist leader, reformer. and newspaper editor. Lincoln’s First In-augural Address had dismayed Douglass. He had found Lincoln’s words much too conciliatory toward the South. Douglass visited Lincoln in the White House in 1863 and again in 1864 to speak with the president about a variety of issues con-cerning African-Americans . Douglass’s attitudes about the president during the Civil War had whipsawed back and forth from disgust to respect, and from despair to hope.

Up behind the right buttress stood the actor John Wilkes Booth. Lincoln had seen Booth perform at Ford’s Theatre the previous November. Booth, twenty-six years old, had been an actor since he was seventeen. Seething with hatred, Booth had been working on a plan to abduct Lincoln and take him to Richmond. Now that the South’s military fortunes had taken a turn for the worse, Booth resolved that stronger measures were needed. He was in touch with the Southern Secret Service as he sought an opportunity to do something “heroic” for the South. He came to hear the Second Inaugural for his own dark motives. He must have wondered, what would this false president say?

When Lincoln was introduced, the crowd exploded. Brooks reported, “A roar of applause shook the air, and again, and again repeated.” The military band played “Hail to the Chief,” helping to build the enthusiasm of the gathering. The applause and cheers rolled toward those in the farthest reaches of the crowd. Finally, George T. Browne, sergeant-at-arms of the Senate, arose and bowed with black hat in hand, a signal for the crowd to become still.

Abraham Lincoln rose from his chair. He stepped from underneath the shelter of the Capitol building and out past the magnificent Corinthian columns. At fifty-six, he looked older than his years. He advanced to a small, white iron table, the single piece of furniture on the portico. We do not know how it got there. It well may be that its maker, Major Benjamin Brown French, a Lincoln admirer, simply placed it there. The table, made out of pieces from the dome’s construction, symbolized for French the reuniting of the fragments of the Union. A lone tumbler of water stood on the little table.

As Lincoln rose, he put on and adjusted his steel-rimmed eyeglasses. He held in his left hand his Second Inaugural Address, printed in two columns. The hand-written draft had been set in type. The galley proof was clipped and pasted in an order to indicate pauses for emphasis and breathing.

Precisely as Lincoln began to speak, the sun broke through the clouds. Many persons, at the time and for years after, commented on this celestial phenomenon. Michael Shiner, an African-American mechanic in the naval shipyard in Washing-ton, recorded his awe in his diary entry for March 4, “As soon as Mr. Lincoln came out the wind ceased blowing and the rain ceased raining and the Sun came out and it became clear as it could be and calm” Shiner continued: “A star made its appearance . . . over the Capitol and it shined just as bright as it could be.” Brooks reported the same phenomenon. “Just at that moment the sun, which had been obscured all day, burst forth in its unclouded meridian splendor, and flooded the spectacle with glory and with light.”

Lincoln prepared to speak...


                                                               SMITHSONIAN Magazine

April, 2002. (Pgs. 109-118)

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