DOINews: NPS: 150th of Lincoln's Second Inauguration Celebrated

Last edited 09/05/2019

Lincoln reenactor speaking from behind a lectern at the Lincoln Memorial; Secretary Jewell and Chuck Lincoln reenactor speaking from behind a lectern at the Lincoln Memorial; Secretary Jewell and NBC's Chuck Todd seated to the right; NPS' Bob Vogel to the left.
Lincoln portrayer Michael Krebs recreates Lincoln's delivery of his second inaugural address during a celebration the National Park Service cosponsored last weekend at the Lincoln Memorial. Seated to the right of Krebs are Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and NBC "Meet the Press" Commentator Chuck Todd; seated to the left is NPS-National Capital Regional Director Bob Vogel. Photo by Tami Heilemann, DOI. See additional photos here.

Despite sub-freezing temperatures, more than 350 visitors turned out on the National Mall last weekend for a commemoration of the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's second inauguration.

Jointly sponsored by National Mall and Memorial Parks and the Lincoln Group of the District of Columbia, the ceremony held at the Lincoln Memorial featured remarks by a variety of dignitaries and political scientists, a recreation of Lincoln's second inaugural address and swearing-in, and a variety of music.

Chuck Todd, moderator of NBC's Meet the Press and former chief White House correspondent for NBC News, delivered the keynote address, discussing the political climate in the United States at the time of the March 4, 1865, inauguration and providing relevancy to the political disagreements and discord our nation is currently experiencing.

Todd noted that Lincoln's address was “the single most important speech that any American politician has given” and was “simply done to unify and heal the country's wounds” without agenda.

The commemoration also took place on the 50th anniversary of Selma's “Bloody Sunday,”* an occasion noted by all of the program's speakers.

In her welcoming remarks, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell noted that “one of the most critical stories we can tell is the journey from Civil War to Civil Rights.” She noted that a number of national parks tell the evolving story off freedom for all Americans, saying “we preserve these places not only to commemorate our past, but to learn from it, to remember not only what is noble and good in our national story, but also what is unjust and shameful, what we might otherwise choose to ignore or forget.”

Other speakers included invocation from Reverend Roger Gench of New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, the house of worship often attended by the Lincolns during his presidency; Dr. Lucas Morel, associate professor of politics at Washington and Lee University, who spoke on Lincoln's second inaugural address; and Dr. Edna Green Medford, professor and chair of Howard University's Department of History's graduate and undergraduate programs, who reflected on the transition from Civil War to the struggle for Civil Rights for all Americans as the conflict came to an end. National Capital Regional Director Bob Vogel served as master of ceremonies.

The program also included a recreation of Abraham Lincoln delivering his Second Inaugural Address by Lincoln portrayer Michael Krebs and the administration of the oath of office by Chief Justice of the United States Salmon P. Chase, portrayed by John O'Brien. Noted composer, producer, and Civil War music historian Bobby Horton performed "Lincoln and Liberty" and "Dixie," and the Washington Performing Arts' Children of the Gospel Choir closed the program with a medley of spirituals and patriotic songs.

The program was broadcast live on C-SPAN's American History TV and is available online here.

The National Mall and Memorial Parks also had held a variety of family activities highlighting life in Washington, D.C., during the Civil War as part of the commemoration of Lincoln's second inauguration.

There were four activity stations on the grounds of the Washington Monument. Using excerpts from the diary of Mary Henry, a 27-year-old resident of Washington during the war, the activities examined different aspects of life in the capital city during the war, exploring technology, service to country, fun and games, and the legacy of the war. Young visitors completing all four activities received a blank journal similar to the one used by Mary Henry.

On Nov. 4, 1864, Abraham Lincoln became the sixth U.S. president to be re-elected to the White House, defeating Democratic challenger George B. McClellan. Lincoln won the electoral vote 221-12 and carried 55 percent of the popular vote. The election was notable in that the electoral process continued unimpaired despite the ongoing Civil War, a testimony to the democratic system of government and the United States Constitution.

His inauguration on March 4, 1865, took place on the East Portico of the Capitol under clearing skies following more than a quarter inch of rain that fell around daybreak. The ceremony began with Lincoln delivering the inaugural address, one of the most famous speeches in American history in which he outlined his vision for the reunification of the country following the imminent end of the war: “With malice toward none; with charity for all. ...”

After the address, Lincoln was administered the oath of office by Chief Justice of the United States Salmon P. Chase.

By: Mike Litterst, NPS

March 10, 2015

Related Links:

NPS-Lincoln Memorial

NPS-The Morning Report

*NPS-Selma's Bloody Sunday Commemorated

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