Thursday, April 17, 2014

City Lit's press release for CONFEDERATES IN THE ATTIC

CONFEDERATES IN THE ATTIC,WORLD PREMIERE ADAPTATION OF ACCLAIMED BEST-SELLER,
CLOSES CITY LIT’S 34TH SEASON,
FOUR SHOWS IN SERIAL REPERTORY

          Confederates in the Attic by Tony Horwitz, in a world premiere adaptation by City Lit artistic director Terry McCabe, will begin previews at City Lit on Friday, April 25, 2014 and open for the press on Tuesday, April 29. It is the fourth and final production of City Lit Theater’s 34th season, four productions playing in serial repertory, each show’s scheduled run overlapping that of the one opening before and/or after it in daisy-chain fashion through the season.  Confederates in the Atticdirected by McCabe, runs through Saturday, June 7, 2014.
          Confederates in the Attic, called “the best book that has been written on the Civil War in modern culture” by the Richmond Times-Dispatch and “the freshest book about divisiveness in America that I have read in some time” by the New York Times, is a memoir by Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Tony Horwitz.  When he leaves the battlefields of Bosnia and the Middle East for a peaceful corner of the Blue Ridge Mountains, he thinks he's put war zones behind him. But awakened one morning by the crackle of musket fire, Horwitz starts filing front-line dispatches again, this time from the unfinished Civil War.
          Horwitz embarks on a search for places and people still held in thrall by America's greatest conflict. The result is an adventure into the soul of the unvanquished South, where the ghosts of the Lost Cause are resurrected through ritual and remembrance.  In Virginia, Horwitz joins a band of 'hardcore' re-enactors who crash-diet to achieve the hollow-eyed look of starved Confederates; in Kentucky, he witnesses Klan rallies and hears calls for race war sparked by the killing of a white man who brandished a rebel flag; and he takes a marathon trek through the War’s eastern theatre in the company of Robert Lee Hodge, an eccentric pilgrim who dubs their odyssey the 'Civil Wargasm.'
Confederates in the Attic is the fourth show in City Lit’s Civil War Sesquicentennial Projecta series of productions—most of them world premieres—that explore the war’s legacy.  The Project’s shows so far have been 2011’s The Copperhead, 2012’s Opus 1861, and 2013’s Comrades Mine, all Jeff-recommended.  The Project concludes in 2015 with the world premiere of Kristine Thatcher’s The Bloodhound Law.
In City Lit’s world premiere adaptation of Confederates in the Attic, a cast of fourteen plays 106 characters.  When the show begins previews on April 25, it will run in rotating repertory with The Haunting of Hill House, the already-opened third show of City Lit’s season; the two shows will run in rep through Hill House’s closing on May 11.  (A full season schedule is available at www.citylit.org.)
          Tony Horwitz won the 1995 Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting for his stories about working conditions in low-wage America published in the Wall Street Journal. He also wrote for the Journal as a foreign correspondent covering wars in Africa, Europe, and the Middle East.  His most recent book, Midnight Rising: John Brown and the Raid That Sparked the Civil War, won the William Henry Seward Award for Excellence in Civil War Biography.
          Terry McCabe has been City Lit’s artistic director since 2005.  He has directed plays professionally in Chicago since 1981.  His City Lit adaptations of Holmes and Watson, Gidget,  (co-adapted with Marissa McKown),The Hound of the BaskervillesScoundrel Time, and Opus 1861(co-adapted with Elizabeth Margolius) were Jeff-nominated.  He won two Jeff Citations for directing at the old Stormfield Theatre and has been thrice nominated for the Jeff Award for Best Director, for shows at Court Theatre, Wisdom Bridge, and Victory Gardens.  His book Mis-Directing the Play has
been denounced at length in American Theatre magazine and from the podium at the national convention of The Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas, but is nonetheless used in directing courses on three continents and is now in paperback. 
          The cast for Confederates in the Attic is Nick Ferrin, Kevin Gladish, Peter Goldsmith, Varris Holmes, Christian Isely, Elizabeth Krane, Adrienne Matzen, Christopher McMorris, Charles Schoenherr, Megan Skord, La’ren Vernea, Evan Voboril, Johnathan Wallace, and Freddy Lynn Wilson.    
The design team is Devin Carroll (lighting), kClare Kemock (costumes), and Dustin Pettegrew (set).  The dialect coach is Catherine Gillespie.

          Confederates in the Attic will play twenty-one performances from

April 25 through June 7.  The full schedule follows:

Friday, April 25              7:30            First preview
Saturday, April 26         3:00            Second preview
Sunday, April 27            6:30            Final preview

Tuesday, April 29         7:00            Press opening

Friday, May 2                 7:30
Saturday, May 3            3:00
Sunday, May 4               6:30

Friday, May 9                 7:30
Saturday, May 10           3:00
Sunday, May 11             6:30

Friday, May 16               7:30           
Saturday, May 17           7:30           
Sunday, May 18             2:00           

Friday, May 23               7:30
Saturday, May 24           7:30
Sunday, May 25             2:00

Friday, May 30               7:30           
Saturday, May 31          7:30           
Sunday, June 1             2:00

Friday, June 6               7:30           
Saturday, June 7           7:30            Closing performance

          Ticket prices are $22.00 for previews and $29.00 after opening. A limited number of $25.00 general admission tickets ($18.00 for previews) are available for each performance through the City Lit website.
          Discounts are available for telephone orders by seniors, students, members of the military, and groups of ten or more. Tickets can be reserved by going to www.citylit.org or by calling (773) 293-3682.
          City Lit receives funding from the Alphawood Foundation, the Elizabeth F. Cheney Foundation, the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, the MacArthur Fund for Arts and Culture at the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation, the Illinois Arts Council (a state agency), and The Saints. Its outreach program is sponsored in part by A.R.T. League.
          City Lit specializes in literate theatre, including stage adaptations of literary material. It is located in the historic Edgewater Presbyterian Church building at 1020 West Bryn Mawr Avenue, one block west of Sheridan Road and a block and a half east of the Bryn Mawr Red Line L stop. The 84 Peterson bus, the 147 Lake Shore Express bus, and the 151 Sheridan bus all stop near City Lit. Valet parking is available for theatre customers at Francesca’s Bryn Mawr restaurant across the street from City Lit. Discounted parking is available for theatre customers, with validation from the Edgewater Beach Café, in the Edgewater Beach Apartments’ underground parking lot one block east of the theatre.  A limited amount of free parking is available for theatre customers who dine at That Little Mexican Café one block west of the theatre.

                                                    -30-

Note:  Some of'this press release's biographical information on Tony Horwitz and description of the book was taken from tonyhorwitz.com.  The photograph at top is copyright 2012 by John Murden Jr. and used by permission.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

205-year-old man in the news

Lincoln in Bensonhurst
Lincoln in the news on his birthday:

This afternoon at the Old State Capitol Building in Springfield, where Lincoln gave his House Divided speech, the US Postal Service is unveiling a new Lincoln postage stamp.  This one will show an image of the Lincoln Memorial.  The Lincoln Land Community College chorus will perform.  The State Journal-Register has details.


The Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park has birthday events planned for today as well.  One is the official donation to the Park by Hodgenville attorney and Lincoln historian Carl Howell of the marker from the grave of Thomas Lincoln Jr.--the only brother of Abe, who died in infancy in either 1811 or '12.  WKMS, the local NPR station there, reports that Howell purchased the marker from the owner of the small family cemetery when the owner was selling the cemetery, and quotes Howell as saying, "“I think it needs to be displayed in Larue County at the National Park where people can see it on a daily basis because of its extreme importance and significance to the Lincoln heritage."  Um, shouldn't it be put back on the kid's grave?



The Bensonhurst Bean informs us that Bensonhurst police have apprehended 24-year-old Vladimir Bubnov and charged him with being the graffiti artist who has spray-painted Lincoln's image, in the Bean's words "on public and private property along a broad swath of Brooklyn. The images can be seen at almost every Belt Parkway overpass and subway easement, as well as on the sides of many businesses, from Mill Basin to Bay Ridge."  Bubnov was stopped by police because he failed to signal a turn, which seems a tad careless when it's been publicized that the police are looking for you and you are transporting graffiti stencils and spray paint in your back seat.  According to the Bean, Bubnov goes by the street name of AINAC ("Art Is Not A Crime"), and it is speculated that he "may also be the person responsible for the “All you need is love” tag that is nearly as ubiquitous as the Lincoln image."

Kalamazoo, Michigan, civic leaders are organizing efforts to place a statue of Lincoln in a park there, says the Kalamazoo Gazette, to commemorate Lincoln's only public appearance in Michigan.  He spoke at a Republican rally there in 1856 in support of the party's first presidential candidate, John C. Fremont (Campaign slogan:  "Free Soil!  Free Labor!  Fremont!").  The city government and the local press are all in favor of it.  

Speaking of Republican rallies, the GOP in Multnomah County, Oregon, is apparently going ahead with its Lincoln Day raffle this Saturday.  From their website:  ". . .we celebrate the legacy of two great Republicans who demonstrated leadership and courage that all of us still lean on today: Martin Luther King, Jr and Abraham Lincoln. In celebrating these two men, and the denial of the rights they fought so hard against, the Multnomah County Republican Party announces that we have started our third raffle for an AR-15 rifle (or handgun of the winner’s choice)."  It apparently really didn't occur to them that there might be something gauche about raffling off a gun to "celebrate" two assassination victims.  When there was the predictable outcry, they issued a non-apology apology for having "issued a press release that was unfortunately easily misunderstood."  Not for calling King a Republican, though, or for the incoherence of "the denial of the rights they fought so hard against."  As for the raffle, The Oregonian reports that the group expects the publicity to sell out all 500 raffle tickets.

Indiewire.com reports Terrence Malick has produced a Lincoln biopic, directed by A.J. Edwards, that is playing festivals and looking for a distributor.  Called The Better Angels, it seems to be about Abe growing up in Indiana.  Here's a link to watch the trailer on Indiewire.

A fun game that everyone can play is to imagine that Abraham Lincoln would completely agree with you about whatever contemporary issue you want to name.  Derek Hunter at Townhall.com seems convinced that Lincoln would side with him in opposing Obamacare;  Mike Lux blogs at HuffPost that Lincoln would want the federal government to start arresting Wall Street CEOs who deserve it; Alissa Wetzel in the Indianapolis Star just knows that he would agree with her about gay marriage; and Eric Zorn writes in the Chicago Tribune that Lincoln would agree with him that Lincoln's Birthday should not be a school holiday in Illinois anymore.  Nobody seems to care what George Washington would think about any of these issues.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Music for New Year's Eve: Listen to the Mockingbird

I'm posting two different versions of "Listen to the Mockingbird."  The first is a wonderful instrumental recording by Brother Bones and His Shadows.

Brother Bones was a guy named Freeman Davis who whistled and played the bones.  He made about a dozen records, most or all of them during the late 1940s.  Alas, the market for records by guys who whistle and play the bones has never been what you and I might hope it would be, and so Brother Bones never really had any hits.  One recording of his is universally recognized, however, though his name is seldom if ever mentioned in conjunction with it:  a few years after he recorded "Sweet Georgia Brown," the Harlem Globetrotters adopted his version of it as their theme and have played it at every appearance in the 60+ years since.

More recordings by Brother Bones and His Shadows can be streamed or downloaded at The Online Guide to Whistling Records.  (Of course there is such a thing.  Why are you even surprised?)

But the lyrics to "Listen to the Mockingbird" are too good to omit, so here's Burl Ives's version.


1855.  "Alice Hawthorne" was a Winner pen name.

The irrepressibly sprightly tune was written by Richard Milburn, an African American Philadelphia barber who played guitar, sang, and whistled well enough he was known as "Whistling Dick."  The mournful lyrics (the singer is listening to the mockingbird sing on his dead love's grave) were written by Septimus Winner, a white Philadelphia professional songwriter with over 200 published songs, including "Oh Where Oh Where Has My Little Dog Gone?" and "Ten Little Indians."
A year later, no sign of Milburn's credit.
The song was one of the biggest hits of the Civil War era.  Winner credited Milburn as composer on the original 1855 publication, but a year later the sheet music had an 1856 registration date and no sign of Milburn's name.  ("Alice Hawthorne" was a pseudonym Winner used for himself.)

Ted Widmer wrote a nice appreciation of "Listen to the Mockingbird" for the New York Times's "Disunion" Civil War blog a couple months ago.  I am happy to borrow from it Lincoln's opinion of the song:  "as sincere as the laughter of a little girl at play."

Friday, December 27, 2013

Alonzo Cushing and the Medal of Honor

President Obama yesterday signed the defense authorization act that passed Congress last week, which means that, along with all the rest of it, Section 569 becomes law.  Here it is: 
SEC. 569. AUTHORIZATION FOR AWARD OF THE MEDAL OF HONOR TO FIRST LIEUTENANT ALONZO H. CUSHING FOR ACTS OF VALOR DURING THE CIVIL WAR.
  (a) Authorization.--Notwithstanding the time limitations specified in section 3744 of title 10, Unites States Code, or any other time limitation with respect to the awarding of certain medals to persons who served in the Armed Forces, the President may award the Medal of Honor under section 3741 of such title to then First Lieutenant Alonzo H. Cushing for conspicuous acts of gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life and beyond the call of duty in the Civil War, as described in subsection (b).
  (b) Acts of Valor Described.--The acts of valor referred to in subsection (a) are the actions of then First Lieutenant Alonzo H. Cushing while in command of Battery A, 4th United States Artillery, Army of the Potomac, at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, on July 3, 1863, during the Civil War.
Alonzo Cushing, member of the West Point Class of 1861, was only 22 and had already fought at Fredericksburg and Antietam.  The battery he commanded at Gettysburg was stationed at what would become known as the Bloody Angle, an area enclosed by a zigzagging section of the stone wall on Cemetery Ridge and including the copse of trees that was the target destination of Pickett's Charge.  He had already been wounded twice, but not incapacitated, during the hour-long artillery duel that preceded the Charge, and had lost so many men that he had only enough left to operate two of the battery's six guns.  Ordered at first to fall back to where his wounds might be attended to, he instead asked for and received permission to move his two workable guns forward to the stone wall itself.  Cushing's sergeant, Frederick Fuger, wrote later:
The Confederate Infantry . . . now began their advance. They were the best troops in Lee’s army, namely Pickett’s Division, consisting of three brigades, Garnett’s, Kemper’s and Armistead’s in the center supported on the left by General Heth’s Division and on the right by General Anderson’s.

Kemper was on the right, Garnett in the center and Armistead on the left, marching in close order with measured steps, as if on parade. They moved toward us solidly and deliberately, and when they were within 400 yards, Battery “A” began firing at them with single charges of canister, mowing down gaps in their lines which appeared to me the front of a company, this they filled up and still came on.
As Pickett's Charge neared its climax, with the Confederates within 150 yards, Cushing was shot through the mouth and killed instantly.  

The Bloody Angle today
This is heroic enough, certainly, but over the decades Cushing's story has been embellished, mostly due to Sergeant Fuger's campaigning for his own Medal of Honor (it used to be acceptable to do that), which he won in 1897.  Fuger apparently had a few different versions, and details survive in online accounts today:  we are told that one of Cushing's earlier wounds was so grievous that it exposed his intestines and he held them in with one hand while, no longer able to shout orders loud enough to be heard over the shooting, he leaned on Fuger and whispered commands which the sergeant faithfully transmitted to the battery.  Please.  The Gettysburg National Military Park blog surely has it right:
What Cushing did at Gettysburg needed no embellishment. His gallantry was recorded in after-action reports by every officer that served near his battery. . . . Fuger’s embellishments to Cushing’s tragic story gained traction over the years, largely because no one questioned the sergeant’s account, and maybe because we all wanted to believe what he wrote and said about Cushing. After all, Fuger had been awarded the MOH. But this did not mean he was above spinning romances about the battle like others we have discussed on this blog. In this case however, how Cushing led and how he died needed no spin or embellishment [from] Fuger.  As Colonel Norman Hall wrote two weeks after the battle, “Lieutenant Cushing, of Battery A, Fourth U.S. Artillery, challenged the admiration of all who saw him.” [Official Records of the War of the Rebellion, 27, 1:437]
The Medal of Honor had been created in 1861 and as of 1863 was not yet awarded posthumously, so Cushing was not eligible at the time.  Decades later this criterion was changed, but no one proposed Cushing for the Medal until 1987, when Margaret Zerwekh,  from Cushing's birthplace of Delafield, Wisconsin, wrote to her senator, William Proxmire.  Zerwekh, now 93, has campaigned on Cushing's behalf for 26 years and has been through a lot of Wisconsin senators;  a recent one, Russ Feingold, calls Cushing and Zerwekh both heroes and pushed in Congress for Cushing's medal for a decade.   It almost happened in 2010--a lot of online sources actually say that it did happen then--but at the last minute House-Senate negotiators for some reason dropped the provision from the final version of that year's defense bill.  The provision in this year's bill has backing from both current Wisconsin senators, Ron Johnson and Tammy Baldwin.

And now the president has signed the bill with the provision intact, so it seems like a sure thing.  The two steps left should be no problem:  Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel is expected to make the formal recommendation, and President Obama is expected to accept it. Whenever the ceremony is finally held, Alonzo Cushing will have waited longer than any other Medal of Honor recipient.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Music for Christmas: Mary Had a Baby

As far as anyone can tell, "Mary Had a Baby" originated among slaves on St. Helena Island, one of the South Carolina Sea Islands, sometime during the 1830s.  Paul Robeson made this recording of it, with Laurence Brown on piano, in 1931.


Monday, December 16, 2013

Juggling our final two Civil War plays

Confederates in the Attic opens this April.
Photo (c) 2012 John Murden Jr. Used by permission.


When we announced the five shows that make up our Civil War Sesquicentennial Project back in 2011, only one of the scripts actually existed--Augustus Thomas's 1918 play The Copperhead, which as far as we could find out hadn't been produced in maybe 70 years when we opened the Project with it in 2011.  (And which is not related to the recent Ron Maxwell film Copperhead.)  The others were little more than general ideas for shows, but with dates assigned for their world premieres in 2012, '13, '14, and '15.  I suppose it  was inevitable that that there would at some point need to be an adjustment to these plans, and here it is.

We're flipping the final two shows of the Project.  The Bloodhound Law by Kristine Thatcher (original working title:  Fugitive Slave) was scheduled to open in April 2014, but she and I have agreed to delay it until 2015.  So Confederates in the Attic, my adaptation of Tony Horwitz's bestseller, which was scheduled for 2015, is being moved up a year.

The Bloodhound Law will open in April 2015.
The original inspiration for The Bloodhound Law was an 1850 series of meetings of the Chicago Common Council dealing with its repudiation of the Fugitive Slave Act and Senator Stephen Douglas's rebuttal of that repudiation, as a way of examining the effect of the Act on strongly abolitionist Chicago and its thriving community of free black families.  The tale has grown in the telling, as Professor Tolkien said about a different story, and Kristine is now wrestling with it in a broader context, starting with the murder of Elijah Lovejoy in downstate Alton in 1837 leading us to the Council's actions thirteen years later.  As a result, the play is taking longer to write than we imagined it would, so it will go up in 2015 instead.

We're in the midst of auditions for Confederates in the Attic now.  We need fourteen actors to play 106 characters who sweep across the modern-day South:  Civil War re-enactors, Klan recruiters, national park rangers, teachers, students, and dozens of others.  Andrea Dymond is directing.  It begins performances April 25.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Civil War Thanksgiving


"Thanksgiving in Camp," sketched on Thursday, November 28, 1861 by Alfred R. Waud, an illustrator for the New York Illustrated News who was with the Army of the Potomac for the length of the war.
What is called Lincoln's proclamation establishing Thanksgiving Day as an annual national holiday was written by his Secretary of State William Seward and merely signed by Lincoln, does not call for annual celebrations but only designates the last Thursday of November 1863 as a day of Thanksgiving, and was not legally binding.  Nonetheless, Thanksgiving Day has been celebrated in the United States on a shared date every year since 1863, whereas it was only intermittently officially recognized, and the dates of local celebrations had varied from one another, in the years prior to then.   What the proclamation did was serve as an acknowledgment that the country itself had institutionalized the holiday already.

Few Americans had spent extended periods of time away from their homes prior to the armies North and South mobilizing 3 million men (and a few hundred women in disguise), so Thanksgiving was an important holiday in army camps.  The folks at soldierstudies.org collect letters from Civil War soldiers and make them available online; one from Charles Morse provides a striking glimpse into Civil War Thanksgiving.

Charles Fessenden Morse was a lieutenant colonel in the Army of the Potomac's 2nd Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, stationed on Thanksgiving Day 1863 outside Tullahoma, Tennessee. The Bob Shaw he mentions in his letter is Robert Gould Shaw, the heroic commander of the equally heroic all-black 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry.  The two of them had been classmates at Harvard and had fought together in the early days of the war; their steady correspondence since then would go on to provide source material for the film Glory, about Shaw and the 54th.

The three men to whom Shaw asked Morse to give his regards were all killed at Gettysburg the very day Shaw wrote his letter.  Lt. Col. Charles Mudge, the commander of the 2nd Massachusetts, was shot just below the throat while leading his troops into combat; Morse inherited the command when Mudge fell dead. Thomas Robeson and Thomas Fox Jr. were both captains under Mudge; Robeson died of his wounds on July 7, while Fox lingered until July 25.  All told, the 2nd Massachusetts had a casualty rate at Gettysburg of 43%.  Shaw himself was killed at Fort Wagner on July 11 of that year, eight days after writing the letter Morse discusses in this letter, written one hundred fifty years ago today:
We are in the midst of exciting news from the front, yet we have had no particulars.  It is evident, however, that we have taken several thousand prisoners and a large quantity of artillery.
Since the fight at Wauhatchie, there has been no slurring of the Army of the Potomac men.  That little affair was a great thing for us.  By our own and rebel accounts, there is no doubt that our men fought most gallantly there against superior numbers of their old antagonists.
Every train that comes from the South brings a load of prisoners or wounded men, and rumors that fighting is still going on at the front.  It seems to me now, for the first time since the war began, that the rebellion is nearly crushed.  They have not met with any very decisive success for nearly six months, and are now contracted into the smallest territory they have ever occupied.
Atlanta is our important point now; get that, and we have again cut the Confederacy in two, and in a vital place.  What a glorious thing it would be if we could wind up this rebellion before our original three years are out!  It would exceed all my expectations to do this. 
Thanksgiving Day was a very pleasant one, warm and bright as May.  I took an escort of half a dozen cavalry and rode down to the regiment, which is about ten miles from here.  I found them camped very comfortably just outside strong earthworks built to command the railroad bridge over the Elk river.  Colonel Coggswell is in command of the post and has a battery in addition to his regiment.  He has made himself very strong, and could defend the place against a large force.
I took a very quiet dinner with the field and staff.  Of course we could not help thinking of our other Thanksgiving Days in the regiment, and it brought up many sad memories.  At our first dinner at Seneca, Maryland, all our old officers were present; last year there had been many changes, but there were still left a goodly number of the old stock, and we were knit closer together by our losses.  This year I couldn't help a feeling of desolation as I remembered that, of all my friends in the regiment, very few were left.  How little I thought, when we left Camp Andrews, that we should have such a sad experience!
In looking over his trunks for a photograph, Colonel Coggsworth found a letter that had come for me while I was in Massachusetts; he gave it to me, and I found the address was in Bob Shaw's handwriting.  You can imagine how glad I was to get it.  I always thought it a little strange that he had not answered my last letter.  I opened it the first chance I got.  It was mostly a description of his movements to Darien and other places; but at the end he spoke in a very feeling way of our friendship and intimacy, and of his happiness since his marriage.  It was written on the 3rd of July; in it he asked to be remembered to Robeson, Mudge, and Tom Fox; little did he think that, at the moment he wrote, one of them was lying dead on the field of battle, and the other two suffering with mortal wounds.
The men of the regiment had a very pleasant day; they had plenty of geese and turkeys for dinner, and in the evening the brigade band came down from Tullahoma, and gave them some music.  I am glad that our men have each been able to keep this day somewhat as if they had been at home.
I stayed next morning and saw guard mounting done as it is done nowhere else, and then rode back here again. 
Morse went on to serve as provost marshal of Atlanta following the city's Union occupation.  He made it through the war alive, and relocated to Kansas, where he built the Kansas City Stockyards into the nation's second (behind Chicago's) busiest.  Periodically, until his death in 1926 at age 87, he wrote and spoke publicly about his experiences in the war.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Eisenhower's other Gettysburg Address


President Obama has been slightly criticized for not showing up at today's ceremonies in Gettysburg, but Scott Bomboy at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia reports that no sitting president has ever attended any of the Gettysburg Address anniversaries over the years.  Lincoln himself remains the only sitting president ever to give a speech in Gettysburg on a November 19.

The absence most to be regretted is President Kennedy's from the centennial observance in 1963, as he opted instead to make a fence-mending political tour of Texas cities.  As Bomboy points out, former President Eisenhower spoke in his place.  Ike lived in Gettysburg in his retirement, right next to the cemetery, so he may well have walked to his speaking engagement that day.  (Old joke:  What was Eisenhower's Gettysburg Address?  1195 Baltimore Pike.)  Due to the awful news from Dallas three days later, the world little noted nor long remembered what Ike said, but it's quite a nice speech.  Four hundred eighty-two words in tribute to two hundred seventy-two.  Here it is, via the Eisenhower Presidential Library :
We mark today the centennial of an immortal address. We stand where Abraham Lincoln stood as, a century ago, he gave to the world words as moving in their solemn cadence as they are timeless in their meaning. Little wonder it is that, as here we sense his deep dedication to freedom, our own dedication takes added strength. 
Lincoln had faith that the ancient drums of Gettysburg, throbbing mutual defiance from the battle lines of the blue and the gray, would one day beat in unison, to summon a people, happily united in peace, to fulfill, generation by generation, a noble destiny. His faith has been justified - but the unfinished work of which he spoke in 1863 is still unfinished; because of human frailty, it always will be. 
Where we see the serenity with which time has invested this hallowed ground, Lincoln saw the scarred earth and felt the press of personal grief. Yet he lifted his eyes to the future, the future that is our present. He foresaw a new birth of freedom, a freedom and equality for all which, under God, would restore the purpose and meaning of America, defining a goal that challenges each of us to attain his full stature of citizenship. 
We read Lincoln’s sentiments, we ponder his words - the beauty of the sentiments he expressed enthralls us; the majesty of his words holds us spellbound - but we have not paid to his message its just tribute until we - ourselves - live it. For well he knew that to live for country is a duty, as demanding as is the readiness to die for it. So long as this truth remains our guiding light, self-government in this nation will never die. 
True to democracy’s basic principle that all are created equal and endowed by the Creator with priceless human rights, the good citizen now, as always before, is called upon to defend the rights of others as he does his own; to subordinate self to the country’s good; to refuse to take the easy way today that may invite national disaster tomorrow; to accept the truth that the work still to be done awaits his doing. 
On this day of commemoration, Lincoln still asks of each of us, as clearly as he did of those who heard his words a century ago, to give that increased devotion to the cause for which soldiers in all our wars have given the last full measure of devotion. Our answer, the only worthy one we can render to the memory of the great emancipator, is ever to defend, protect and pass on unblemished, to coming generations the heritage - the trust - that Abraham Lincoln, and all the ghostly legions of patriots of the past, with unflinching faith in their God, have bequeathed to us - a nation free, with liberty, dignity, and justice for all. 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Altogether fitting and proper that we should do this


This is the video made by Jim Gifford of Maryland for the Learn the Address website.  I like it a lot.  To see how to submit one of your own, go to http://www.learntheaddress.org/submit-video/