Following our trip to Harper’s Ferry and Charles Town, we went to Antietam – site of the bloodiest one day battle in American history. The site offered Matthew Pinsker the opportunity to discuss George McClellan, Robert E. Lee, and Civil War military strategies in general. Looking at a map of the broader theater, though, brought up a key question: Given that the United States’ mandate was to put down the southern rebellion, should we be focusing our instruction on battles that occurred in the North?
- Antietam – McClellan, Lee, and Lincoln (Audio)
- Antietam – Bloody Lane (Audio)
- Antietam – Burnside Bridge (Audio)
Valuable Antietam links here!
Friday was split between Lincoln’s Cottage and Ford’s Theatre. Lincoln spent much of his presidency at the place now called “President Lincoln’s Cottage at the Soldiers Home.” Because we had read Matt Pinsker’s Lincoln’s Sanctuary prior to the visit, we knew how much Lincoln’s experiences at the site had impacted his thinking and how much insight into Lincoln the person can be rewarded through a visit. Being there on the site on a bucolic spring day, it was easy to see how this beautiful place was a haven to the family. The site is striking: the home’s interior offers a striking counterpoint to the old school “this is the president’s china” approach; the vista overlooking the Capitol building, unfinished in Lincoln’s day, drives home the metaphor of a nation being constructed; the site still shared with a veterans’ home and a national cemetery makes you realize that Lincoln bravely engaged in the kind of daily interactions to which few wartime presidents have exposed themselves. After touring the site, Pinsker introduced us to a historical mystery he has been investigating: Where did Lincoln write the Emancipation Proclamation? And what made it radical? Finishing off the day at Ford’s Theatre made me realize how odd it is that we have traditionally given so much more attention to a site where Lincoln happened to die than the place where he chose to live.