Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Abraham Lincoln and the Freed Slaves

Original Thomas Nast Drawing of Freed Slaves Greeting Abraham Lincoln in Richmond, Virginia

On April 4, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln entered the city of Richmond Virginia, the capitol of the Confederate States of America. This was one day after the fall of Richmond to the Union army. This, one of the most historic events of Lincoln's presidency, was captured by renowned artist Thomas Nast in this now famous sketch. This messianic scene showing Lincoln being praised and almost worshipped by freed slaves and liberated Southerners. The famous Nast sketch was published in Harper's Weekly shortly thereafter and this is an original Harper's Weekly leaf of the Nast sketch. This leaf is 137 years old.

In presenting this illustration, Harper's Weekly correctly predicted the enduring legacy of Lincoln as the Great Emancipator. Harper's succinctly stated that "Posterity will see in him a greater man than his contemporaries can acknowledge" and "Among all the incidents of Lincoln's life, none will be more fondly prized and remembered than that which Thomas Nast Captured in this Illustration."

The Assassination of President Lincoln at Ford's Theatre on the Night of April 14, 1865.
A short ten days after this historic event, President Lincoln lay dying, a victim of the assassin John Wilkes Booth.

April 4, 1865 started early for Mr. Lincoln. He began the day with quiet resolve to personally walk the streets of the fallen rebel capitol. He left Washington on the Ship the "River Queen", and stayed with the ship as far as Varina. He disembarked the River Queen, and was taken by Army Ambulance to the outskirts of Richmond Virginia, where he met Union Admiral Porter. At about 11:00, Mr. Lincoln entered the city of Richmond on foot, accompanied by Admiral Porter, Captain Bell, and a protective force of about a half dozen marines. Crowds thronged the streets, and chief and eager among them were the emancipated, wishing to pay homage, and give thanks to their Great Emancipator.

The small white boy clutching the President's hand . . . that is Tad Lincoln, the President's son, whom the President had taken with him to the fallen Rebel capital. This day, April 4, 1865 was Tad Lincoln's 12th Birthday. As Mr. Lincoln and his son walked the streets of Richmond, one group of Newly freed slaves cried "Glory, Hallelujah!" and fell to their knees before Mr. Lincoln. The President motioned for them to rise. "Don't kneel to me." he told them. "You must kneel to God only and thank Him for your freedom." "Liberty is your birthright. God gave it to you as he gave it to others, and it is a sin that you have been deprived of it for so many years."

We often think of the last years of Lincoln's life as filled with the heartache and pain of his heroic efforts to preserve the union and free the slaves. This illustration is an encouraging reminder that Lincoln did, in fact, have a brief glimpse before his death of his enduring legacy, a United Nation, with Freedom and Justice for all.

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