Tag Archives: Abraham Lincoln

Writer: Carl Sandburg

Perhaps because of his strong Midwestern, especially Chicago, roots, it's not surprising that Sandburg wrote several biographies of Abraham Lincoln - one of which won a Pulitzer Prize (to go with the two he won for poetry). Uploaded by riverrunfilm.com.

California has its artists and writers, as does New York. Lots of writers are associated with the South and New England. For some reason, those born in the Midwest – the staid, stolid, hard-working Midwest – often move to a coast to practice their art. That’s one reason Carl Sandburg is celebrated, because he made his reputation in Chicago, and only moved to North Carolina to retire.

Here’s how he famously described his adopted hometown:

Hog Butcher for the World,
Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat,
Player with Railroads and the Nation’s Freight Handler;
Stormy, husky, brawling,
City of the Big Shoulders:

Uploaded by pippoetry.blogspot.com.

During his lifetime, Sandburg published 22 books of poetry in addition to a number of biographies and children’s books. It’s probably no surprise, considering his Illinois heritage, that Sandburg wrote several books about Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln, one of which won a Pulitzer Prize. He won two other Pulitzers for his poetry. He said, “Here is the difference between Dante, Milton, and me. They wrote about hell and never saw the place. I wrote about Chicago after looking the town over for years and years.”

Americana: Mount Rushmore

Washington, as the first president, Jefferson for the Louisiana Purchase, Lincoln for unifying the country, and Teddy Roosevelt for leading into the 20th century. Uploaded by surveying.mentablolism.org.

Okay, first the amazing scale of Mount Rushmore. The memorial covers 1,278 acres. The heads of Presidents Washington, Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt, and Lincoln are about 60 feet across. At that rate, the entire bodies would have been 465 feet tall. The carving took fourteen years to complete, and more than 800 million pounds of stone were removed during its creation.

Located near Keystone, South Dakota, Mount Rushmore was called “Six Grandfathers” by the nearby Lakota Indians. A local historian conceived of turning it into a monument to our presidents as a way of increasing tourism in South Dakota. It’s definitely accomplished that goal – more than two million people visit the monument each year.

Mount Rushmore was a giant prop in Hitchcock's North by Northwest. Uploaded by whatsontv.co.uk.

Chosen as the sculptor was Gutzon Borglun, a student of French sculptor Auguste Rodin. Borglun was the natural choice, having just completed the carving of Confederate generals on Stone Mountain, Georgia. Carving began in 1927, supervised alternately by Gutzon and his son, Lincoln. Sadly, Gutzon Borglun didn’t live to see the dedication, dying from an embolism just before the monument’s dedication in March, 1941.

Oh, and if you think Congress only recently started losing its senses, consider this: In 1937, a bill was introduced to add the head of Susan B. Anthony to the mountain. Really. You can’t make this stuff up.

Americana: Gettysburg

About 50,000 Americans died on the Gettysburg battlefields. Uploaded to Flickr by Gregg Obst.

About 50,000 Americans died on the Gettysburg battlefields. Uploaded to Flickr by Gregg Obst.

“The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.” President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address is perhaps the most famous speech in American history, delivered at our most famous battlefield.

I’ll leave it to Civil War historians to dissect the strategies the competing armies employed on July 1-3, 1863. Suffice it to say it was the most lethal battle of the entire conflict, with some 50,000 casualties. Robert E. Lee had taken the fight to the North, and the defeat of his army by Union forces caused him to retreat to Virginia, and is generally considered the turning point of the war.

Ten sentences that will never be forgotten. Uploaded to Flickr by Second Story.

Ten sentences that will never be forgotten. Uploaded to Flickr by Second Story.

Lincoln visited the site four months later to dedicate the Gettysburg National Cemetery, using the opportunity to say ten sentences, no more than three minutes, that would resonate forever among his countrymen. All Americans, not just Northerners, share Lincoln’s dream that “government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

Today, the National Park Services administers Gettysburg National Military Park, 6,000 acres of battlefield and surrounding land. A new Museum and Visitor Center that opened a year ago provides perspective not just on the Battle of Gettysburg, but the entire Civil War. There are also a variety of Ranger-led walks and programs around much of the sacred grounds.

America is one nation, and romantic notions of Southerners notwithstanding, we are fortunate to have a unified country. That ideal was in jeopardy – until three days in 1863 in a little Pennsylvania town called Gettysburg.