Battlefield celebrates Lincoln's birth

February 12, 2009|By ERIN JULIUS

If You Go

Antietam Battlefield hosts more Lincoln discussions Monday, Feb. 16.

o At 11 a.m., John Schildt will present "Four days in October: Lincoln's Antietam Visit."

o At 2 p.m. Ted Alexander, historian at Antietam National Battlefield, will present "Lincoln, Antietam and the Emancipation Proclamation."

SHARPSBURG -- "I'm a big Lincoln fan and Mary Todd Lincoln fan," Linda Gibson, of Charles Town, W.Va., said Thursday on the 200th anniversary of the 16th president's birth.

Gibson was one of many Abraham Lincoln fans who gathered at Antietam National Battlefield for special events held in the former president's honor.

Joseph Garrera, a Lincoln scholar, spoke Thursday morning about Lincoln's legacy and his role in popular culture even today.

About 30 people listened to Garrera's lecture, and many said they learned something new.

Vernell Doyle lives in Hagerstown and has a guest house in Sharpsburg.

Garrera's discussion of Lincoln's elaborate funeral having paved the way for more modern funerals was news to her, Doyle said.


According to Garrera, as many as 1 million people might have viewed Lincoln's body before his burial, and morticians study the elaborate funeral even in modern times, he said. Reportedly, after John F. Kennedy was assassinated, his wife Jacqueline Kennedy said she wanted to model his funeral after Lincoln's, Garrera said.

Garrera often returned to the theme "Lincoln is still with us" during his presentation.

"When he died, an icon of Lincoln emerged," Garrera said.

Now, the Lincoln penny is the most ubiquitous coin on earth, and a foreign exchange student he once hosted had memorized the Gettysburg Address, Garrera said.

"He (Lincoln) does live on in the hearts and minds of people," he said.

Garrera said that schools de-emphasize history.

"By learning history, people gain perspective," Garrera said.

Doyle believes he made a good point, she said.

"Most people commit the problems of the past because they don't know the past," she said.

Mary Renee Milton, of Charles Town, W.Va., whose brother is named for Lincoln found Thursday morning's discussion "enlightening," she said.

Milton planned to return later in the day for a lecture by John Schildt, an author of more than 20 books on American history, about Lincoln's October 1862 visit to Antietam two weeks after the famous battle was fought there.

Garrera is president of the Abraham Lincoln Group of New York and serves on the advisory panel of the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission. He has appeared on the Discovery Channel, C-Span and PBS television.

A traveling Lincoln exhibit pulled into the battlefield Thursday. The exhibit, developed by the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, will travel around the country for two years. It began its journey in April 2008, said Lloyd Bunch of Mobility Resource Associates, who travels with the exhibit. About 130,000 guests have visited the exhibit, and Bunch expected about 500 Thursday.

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