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True, or False?

Samuel Gebert

The last months of President Abraham Lincoln's life were lived with passion and determination to see our country heal from the war and wounds which had split it in two; and to free the nation from the dark and heavy veil of slavery that had held our freedom bondage for far too long. The opening scene of Steven Spielberg's "Lincoln", the dedication of newly freed blacks was demonstrated as we, the viewer, tour the site of a bloody battle field and witness the horror of the dead and dying and the pain of wounded soldiers, black and white, all wearing the Union blue uniform. The importance of the Gettysburg address was likely not appreciated as much at the time of the Civil War. At the beginning of the movie, there is a seen which includes President Abraham Lincoln having an informal chat with some troops. Initially, he is conversing with

two thoughtful and well-spoken black soldiers. Soon, they are joined by two white soldiers who proceed to begin reciting the Gettysburg Address. Eventually, three of the soldiers would contribute, from their memories, to the recitation of Abraham Lincoln's now famous speech. It seems that it is probably unlikely that many people actually witnessed the original speech or that they would appreciate the importance of the President's words enough to memorize them. Even in our current modern times, when we have ready access to search engines on the internet, YouTube videos, and C-SPAN, it is unlikely that a majority of people, including soldiers and newly freed slaves would take the effort to memorize, word for word, the President's words, no matter how poignant.

With regard to the earlier mentioned battle field and the soldiers visiting with President Lincoln, it is not an accurate portrayal of the Army Regiments. In reality, the races were segregated into their own all-black or all-white units. When the movie first takes us to the White House, we get our first glimpse at the Lincoln family dynamic. So much of what we read in our text books does not include a portrayal of the many personal characteristics of our 16th president. We know that he was a very tall man and that he was "Honest Abe", but we do not often hear about his personal life and his quirky and unique characteristics behind the black suit and stove pipe hat. After watching the movie, it seems that the viewer will know the President and his family a little bit better. We see him and his wife, Mary, discussing plans for the upcoming and very important Inauguration Party. We get to know Abraham Lincoln as an every-day man: a patient husband and a loving and caring father. When we are first introduced to the Lincoln's youngest son, we find him asleep on the floor in front of a fireplace where he had been playing "Army". It is heartwarming to see the president taking off his ratty old slippers and tending to his much-loved, young son. Soon, in a later scene, a staffer admonishes President Lincoln for having let his young son play with (and burn a corner of) an official military document. Throughout the movie, we grown to appreciate and fondly anticipate the stories from our wisecracking, storytelling President. Abraham Lincoln is shown to be supremely determined and exhibits an extreme sense of urgency to get the 13th Amendment passed. In particular, he was determined to get the Amendment passed through Congress BEFORE peace could be brokered between the Union and the Confederacy. Abraham Lincoln notes that spring is coming and the roads will soon be passable and that would mean that there would be more access amongst the fighting forces. He said that they had already had four bloody springs with countless sons dead and he did not want

to have yet another spring of fighting. In fact there had been 4 years of war and over 600,000 lives taken at the hands of fellow American soldiers. In the move, Lincoln is portrayed as a thoughtful and compassionate man who very much wanted to wage peace immediately, by convincing or driving the South to surrender. At one point, Abraham Lincoln says to General Ulysses S. Grant, "Each of us has made it possible for the other to do terrible things". He had a burning desire for both actions to be achieved: the passage of the 13th Amendment and to finally see an end to a long and bloody war. The movie portrayed the President and his staff using all means to achieve their goals of ending the war AND getting the 13th Amendment passed in Congress. Unbeknownst to his Secretary of State, William Seward, Abraham Lincoln invited Jefferson to Washington to discuss peace plans. It was agreed that Peace Commissioners would soon be arriving in Washington to discuss a peace deal. When Seward found out about the plan, he was extremely upset and incredulous. He emotionally asked the president, "Why on Earth would you?" He continued to admonish the president's proposed dealings by telling Lincoln that he must choose either peace or the 13th Amendment. He emphatically told the president that he could not have both. Still, President Lincoln was not persuaded to lessen his zeal for achieving the seemingly impossible. He was passionate about both causes and he drove a deliberate and determined race to pass the 13th Amendment and to broker peace. Did that zeal and passion include Bribery? It did in the movie. In the movie, Thaddeus Stevenss states, "The greatest measure of the 19th century was passed by corruption, aided and abetted by the purest man in America. It seems that the movie's portray of Mary Lincoln is somewhat accurate to the real-life woman who was powerful and strong-willed, yet who is grief-stricken over the death of a son as well as hysterically fearful of the possibility of losing another son to War. In the movie, Mary

Todd Lincoln shows a keen interest in the Congressional goings-on. At one point, she even threatened her husband, as she is terrified that their eldest son, Robbie, may be killed in battle. She emotionally exclaims "Seward can't do it; you must. Because if you fail to acquire the necessary votes, woe unto you, sir. You will answer to me." Yikes. In yet another threatening tirade directed at her husband, Abraham Lincoln, Mary Lincoln exclaims, "You think I'm ignorant of what you're up to because you haven't discussed this scheme with me as you ought to have done? When have I ever been so easily bamboozled? I believe you when you insist that amending the Constitution and abolishing slavery will end this war. And since you're sending my son into the war, woe to you if you fail to pass the amendment." Again, yikes. Abraham Lincoln: With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations. The final days of Abraham Lincoln were lived during one of our Nation's darkest hours. It is our Nation's good fortune that Abraham Lincoln was a man of vision and a man of determination and principle. He fought for what he knew was right and as a result, he left us an everlasting gift of freedom. He ended slavery and gave us the United States and the principles of liberty that we enjoy today. During an extremely difficult time for our Nation, Lincoln managed to make extremely important changes to better our country and establish the ideals and freedoms which we enjoy today.

Civil war trust
Abraham Lincoln and the politics of the Civil War Abraham Lincoln