February 12, 1809: Peggy Walters Midwives a Baby near Hodgenville, Kentucky

“I was twenty years old, then, and helping to bring a baby into the world was more of an event to me than it became afterward. But I was married young, and had a baby of my own, and I had helped mother, who, as you know, was quite famous as a granny-woman, and I had gone several times to help when I was sent for. It was Saturday afternoon, I remember, when Tom Lincoln sent over and asked me to come, and I got up behind the boy that rode across to fetch Lincoln's Cabinme, and I rode across to the cabin that then stood here. It was a short ride, less than a mile. It was winter, but it was mild weather, and I don’t think there was any snow. If there was any then, it wasn’t much, and no snow fell that night. They sent for me quite as soon as there was any need, for when I got there nothing much was happening. They sent for her two aunts, Mis’ Betsy Sparrow and Mis’ Polly Friend, and these both came, but they lived about two miles away, so I was there before them, and we all had quite a spell to wait, and we got everything ready that we could.

They were poor folks, but so were most of their neighbors, and they didn’t lack anything they needed. Nancy had a good feather-bed under her; it wasn’t a goose-feather bed, hardly anyone had that kind then, but good hen feathers. And she had blankets enough. There was a little girl there, two years old. Her name was Sarah. She went to sleep before much of anything happened.

Well, there isn’t much that a body can tell about things of that kind. Nancy had about as hard a time as most women, I reckon, easier than some and maybe harder than a few. It all came along kind of slow, but everything was regular and all right. The baby was born just about sunup, on Sunday morning. Nancy’s two aunts took the baby and washed him and dressed him, and I looked after Nancy. That’s about all there is to tell. I remember it better than I do some cases that came later, because I was young, and hadn’t had so much experience as I had afterward. But I remember it all right well.

Oh, yes, and I remember one other thing. After the baby was born, Tom came and stood there beside the bed and looked down at Nancy, lying there, so pale and so tired, and he stood there with that sort of a hang-dog look that a man has, sort of guilty like, but mighty proud, and he says to me, ‘Are you sure she’s all right, Mis’ Walters’? And Nancy kind of stuck out her hand and reached for his, and said, ‘Yes, Tom, I am all right.’ And then she said, ‘You’re glad it’s a boy, Tom, aren’t you? So am I.’

No, there isn’t much you can tell anybody about things of that sort. But Tom Lincoln was mighty anxious about his wife, while she was suffering, and mighty good to her, too. And they were both proud and happy that it was a boy. You can’t tell much about the birth of a baby, except that you were there, and that the baby was born. But you can tell whether folks wants the baby or not, and whether they love or hate each other on account of it. I was young then, and I noticed and remembered everything. I remember it a heap better than I remember much that happened afterward. I tell you I never saw a prouder father than Tom Lincoln; and I never saw a mother more glad than Nancy was to know that her baby was a boy.

And they sort of explained to me how they named the little girl Sarah because the name Abraham didn’t fit, and Sarah was the next best. For Tom’s father, that was killed by Indians when Tom was a little boy, his name was the one they wanted the first baby to have. And so Nancy says to Tom, ‘Now we can use the name we couldn’t use before.’

And Tom says, says he, ‘Yes, Nancy, and it’s a right good name. This here baby boy,’ says he, ‘is named Abraham Lincoln.’ “

February 11, 1861: Abraham Lincoln bids Farewell to Springfield, Illinois

When Abraham Lincoln left Illinois, to start his inaugural journey for Washington, D.C., he boarded a special presidential train at the Great Western Railroad station in Springfield.Lincoln Farewell

A huge crowd gathered. These were his people – he knew nearly every face in the crowd – and everyone in the assembled throng recognized the immense challenges he would soon face. These were his farewell words:

“My friends, no one, not in my situation, can appreciate my feeling of sadness at this parting. To this place, and the kindness of these people, I owe everything. Here I have lived a quarter of a century, and have passed from a young to an old man. Here my children have been born, and one is buried. I now leave, not knowing when, or whether ever, I may return, with a task before me greater than that which rested upon Washington. Without the assistance of the Divine Being who ever attended him, I cannot succeed. With that assistance I cannot fail. Trusting in Him who can go with me, and remain with you, and be everywhere for good, let us confidently hope that all will yet be well. To His care commending you, as I hope in your prayers you will commend me, I bid you an affectionate farewell.”

November 19, 1863: Gettysburg National Cemetery is Dedicated

After the Battle of Gettysburg had ended in early July of 1863, the dead had to be buried quickly, without the respect that they had earned in the bloodiest battle of the War. It quickly became clear that a National Cemetery which would forever honor the men who sacrificed their lives for the cause of the Union should be dedicated near the battlefield. On October 17, the task of reburying the Union Soldiers began.Gettysburg Cemetery The dedication date was set for November 19th. Edward Everett would be the orator of the day, and President Lincoln was invited to formally dedicate the grounds with a few appropriate remarks. During the train trip from Washington, D.C., to Gettysburg Lincoln remarked to John Hay that he felt weak. On the morning of November 19, Lincoln mentioned to John Nicolay that he was dizzy. Hay noted that during the speech Lincoln’s face had ‘a ghastly color’ and that he was ‘sad, mournful, almost haggard.’ The ceremony was simple: Birgfeld’s Band played “Homage d’uns Heros” as an introit, the invocation was given by Reverend T. H. Stockton, the Marine Band played the “Old Hundred”, and then the Hon. Edward Everett began his oration: “Standing beneath this serene sky, overlooking these broad fields now reposing from the labors of the waning year, the mighty Alleghenies dimly towering before us, the graves of our brethren beneath our feet, it is with hesitation that I raise my poor voice to break the eloquent silence of God and Nature. But the duty to which you have called me must be performed; — grant me, I pray you, your indulgence and your sympathy.” Two hours later he ended: “But they, I am sure, will join us in saying, as we bid farewell to the dust of these martyr-heroes, that wheresoever throughout the civilized world the accounts of this great warfare are read, and down to the latest period of recorded time, in the glorious annals of our common country, there will be no brighter page than that which relates the Battles of Gettysburg.” The Baltimore Glee Club sang a Hymn (“Consecration Chant”) and then the President of the United States rose to give his brief Dedicatory Remarks: “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” A choir selected for the occasion sang a dirge (“Oh! It is Great for Our Country to Die”) and then the Reverend H. L. Baugher gave the Benediction. The crowds scattered after the speech.  Lincoln boarded the 6:30 pm train for Washington, D.C.; he was feverish and weak, with a severe headache. A protracted illness followed, which was diagnosed as a mild case of smallpox. And the War went on.gettysburg dead

November 4, 1842: Abraham Lincoln Marries Mary Todd

Mary Todd was not quite 21 in the fall of 1839 when she moved to live with her older sister, Elizabeth in Springfield, Illinois. Shortly after her arrival, Mary had the pleasure of going to a cotillion where a tall young man came up and said to her, “Miss Todd, I want to dance with you the worst way.” Smitten, she asked her sister, “Who is that man?”lincoln & Mary 2

The following evening Abraham Lincoln came calling at Mary’s home. Over the next few years the couple would see each other, become engaged, break up, start to see each other again, separate and quarrel, and then see each other again. In the fall of 1842, the couple agreed to be married.

They thought they might have a small, quiet ceremony performed at the home of Reverend Charles N. Dresser, an Episcopal minister. On the morning of Thursday, November 3, 1842, Abraham dropped by the rectory. The Dresser family was still at breakfast when Abraham announced, “I want to get hitched tonight.” Reverend Dresser agreed that might be accomplished.

A little later that morning Abraham happened to meet Mary’s brother-in-law, Ninian Edwards, in the street. He told Mr. Edwards of the marriage plans he had just arranged. Mr. Edwards replied, “No, I am Mary’s guardian and if she is married at all it must be from my house.” He then informed his wife Elizabeth of the wedding plans and discovered that the Episcopal sewing society was scheduled to meet at their home that night and the supper had already been ordered. The marriage would have to be delayed by one day.

Abraham visited Chatterton’s jewelry shop located on the west side of the square in Springfield, and ordered a gold wedding ring. He had the ring inscribed “A.L. to Mary, Nov. 4, 1842. Love is Eternal.” About 30 relatives and friends were hastily invited. On the morning of the wedding, Abraham asked James Harvey Matheny, who worked at the circuit court office, to be his best man. Mary wore a lovely white muslin dress, but didn’t bother with a veil nor flowers in her hair. Her bridesmaids were Julia M. Jayne, Anna Caesaria Rodney, and Miss Elizabeth Todd.

Reverend Dresser solemnized the marriage using the marriage rite from The Book of Common Prayer. Judge Thomas C. Browne of the Illinois Supreme Court stood behind Abraham during the ceremony. As the tall young lawyer was putting the wedding ring on his young bride’s hand and repeating the words, “With this ring I thee endow with all my goods, chattels, lands, and tenements,” Judge Browne impatiently blurted out, “God Almighty, Lincoln, the statute fixes all that.”

After a brief delay following Browne’s interruption, the ceremony was completed as rain poured outside. Supper was served on a long table covered with a linen table cloth embroidered with a turtledove design. The wedding cake was cut and merriment continued into the evening. Finally, it was time for the newlyweds to depart. They headed off into the dark rainy night, to the Globe Tavern where they would live through the following winter. On August 1st, 1843, just under nine months later, the couple’s first son, Robert, would be born.

A week after the marriage, Abraham wrote a letter to a friend, Samuel D. Marshall. Most of the letter dealt with legal matters, but Abraham closed the letter: “Nothing new here, except my marrying, which to me, is a matter of profound wonder.”

October 15, 1860: Grace Bedell suggests Lincoln Grow a Beard

Hon A B Lincoln…
Dear Sir

My father has just home from the fair and brought home your picture and Mr. Hamlin’s. I am a little girl only 11 years old, but want you should be President of the United States very much so. I hope you wont think me very bold to write to such a great man as you arLincoln bearde. Have you any little girls about as large as I am if so give them my love and tell her to write to me if you cannot answer this letter. I have yet got four brothers and part of them will vote for you any way and if you let your whiskers grow I will try and get the rest of them to vote for you, you would look a great deal better for your face is so thin. All the ladies like whiskers and they would tease their husbands to vote for you and then you would be President. My father is going to vote for you and if I was a man I would vote for you to but I will try to get every one to vote for you that I can. I think that rail fence around your picture makes it look very pretty. I have got a little baby sister she is nine weeks old and is just as cunning as can be. When you direct your letter direct to Grace Bedell Westfield Chautauqua County New York.

I must not write any more answer this letter right off Good bye
Grace Bedell

Four days later, Lincoln replied to Grace’s letter:

Springfield, Ill Oct 19, 1860
Miss Grace Bedell

My dear little Miss
Your very agreeable letter of the 15th is received. I regret the necessity of saying I have no daughters. I have three sons – one seventeen, one nine, and one seven, years of age. They, with their mother, constitute my whole family. As to the whiskers, having never worn any, do you not think people would call it a silly affection if I were to begin it now?
Your very sincere well wisher
A. Lincoln

Shortly after this, Lincoln allowed his beard to grow. By the time he began his inaugural journey from Illinois to Washington, D.C. by train, he had a full beard. The trip took him through New York State, and included a stop in Chautauqua County where thousands gathered to greet the president-elect.

The February 19, 1861 edition of the New York World recounted the events of the day:

“At Westfield an interesting incident occurred. Shortly after his nomination Mr. Lincoln had received from that place a letter from a little girl, who urged him, as a means of improving his personal appearance, to wear whiskers. Mr. Lincoln at the time replied, stating that although he was obliged by the suggestion, he feared his habits of life were too fixed to admit of even so slight a change as that which letting his beard grow involved. To-day, on reaching the place, he related the incident, and said that if that young lady was in the crowd he should be glad to see her. There was a momentary commotion, in the midst of which an old man, struggling through the crowd, approached, leading his daughter, a girl of apparently twelve or thirteen years of age, whom he introduced to Mr. Lincoln as his Westfield correspondent. Mr. Lincoln stooped down and kissed the child, and talked with her for some minutes. Her advice had not been thrown away upon the rugged chieftain. A beard of several months’ growth covers (perhaps adorns) the lower part of his face. The young girl’s peachy cheek must have been tickled with a stiff whisker, for the growth of which she was herself responsible.”

Bedell recalled the event years later:

“He climbed down and sat down with me on the edge of the station platform,” she recalled. “‘Gracie,’ he said, ‘look at my whiskers. I have been growing them for you.’ Then he kissed me. I never saw him again.”

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