President Abraham Lincoln, Entering
Richmond Virginia, April 4, 1865
Richmond Virginia, the capitol of the
Confederate States of America fell to Union Forces on April 3, 1865.
The following day, April 4, 1865 started early for Abraham Lincoln.
He began the day with quiet resolve to personally walk the streets of
the fallen rebel capitol. He left Washington that morning on the
Ship the "River Queen", and stayed with her as far as Varina.
He disembarked, and was taken by Army escort to the outskirts of
Richmond, where he met the Union Naval Officer
David Porter. At
about 11:00 AM, Mr. Lincoln entered the city of Richmond on foot,
accompanied by Admiral Porter, Captain Bell, and a small protective
force of about a half dozen soldiers. Crowds thronged the streets,
and chief and eager among them were the emancipated, wishing to pay
homage, and give thanks to their Great Emancipator.
As Lincoln walked the streets of Richmond
that day, a small boy clutched his hand, and walked by his side.
The small boy was Tad Lincoln, the President's own son, whom the
President had taken with him to the fallen rebel city. This day, April
4, 1865 was Tad's 12th Birthday. This day was one of Mr. Lincoln's last.
He fell victim to the Assassin John Wilkes Booth a short 10 days after
As Mr. Lincoln and his son walked
the streets of Richmond, one group of newly freed slaves cried out,
"Glory Hallelujah!", and fell to their knees before Mr. Lincoln.
It was here the President paused, and motioned for them to rise. "Don't
kneel to me," he told them, "You must kneel only to God, and thank him
for your freedom. Liberty is your birthright. God gave it to you
as he gave it to others, and it is a sin that you have been deprived of
it for so many years."
We often think of the last years of
Lincoln's life as filled with the heartache and pain of his heroic
efforts to preserve the union and free the slaves. We think of the
burden he carried of the ghosts of countless men who had fallen during
his war, fighting for his cause. Bull Run, Antietam, Cold Harbor, Shiloh
. . . and the names of countless other fields strewn with the nation's
finest, the nation's bravest. We wonder if he died thinking it was all in vain. We
wonder if he got a glimpse of what he had really accomplished. The
illustration above is an encouraging reminder that Lincoln did, in fact,
have a brief glimpse, before his death, of his enduring legacy, a United
Nation, with Freedom and Justice for all.
Abraham Lincoln was one of the few men in
history that stood on principal and not popular opinion. He purposed in
his heart to end slavery, and preserve the union of the United States of
America. He dedicated himself to this noble endeavor without
consideration of the personal cost, his political future, or the cost to
the country as a whole. Harper's Weekly perhaps summed it up best, when
shortly after his death they published the illustration above, and in
the issue paid tribute to Mr. Lincoln with these prophetic words,
"Posterity will see in him a greater man than his contemporaries can
While the passage of time has proven his
wisdom, and few today question his cause, at the time he was a man
standing alone. Standing alone, standing against popular opinion, and
standing on principle. His courage and integrity led our country out of
the bankrupt institution of slavery and onto a path of opportunity and
equity for all men. It is a long path, and a journey which we have not
yet completed. Abraham Lincoln, however, firmly established the
objective, and clearly set our course.
Mr. Lincoln, we thank you for your
courage, and your bravery. You came upon the National scene in a
day and time that slavery was an accepted practice in this land.
There were those in the South who owned Slaves, and those in the North
who Traded in Slaves, and there were all those who looked the other way.
Upon this backdrop, you stood bravely, and you stood alone, and you said
"enough". You raised the righteous indignation of a Nation, and
you led us to a better place. May you rest in peace.