Abraham Lincoln Entering Richmond Virginia

 

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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 this walk.

 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 acknowledge".

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.

 

 

 

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