October 10, 2012
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – A whaling ship built by a former slave was sunk during 1865 in the Bering Sea by a Confederate raider in what could arguably have been the last engagement of the American Civil War. The ship was carrying its registration papers signed September 1, 1862 by U.S. President Abraham Lincoln. The story gets even better – those original registration papers are in the Australian National Maritime Museum in Sydney, and have recently been added to a global effort to document Lincoln's life and career.
“This is not a new discovery, but it was previously unknown to our project,” said Daniel Stowell, Director of the Papers of Abraham Lincoln, the group conducting a monumental worldwide search for documents written by or to Abraham Lincoln. “We continue to be amazed at the places on this earth where original Lincoln documents surface. We are thrilled that the Australian National Maritime Museum shared with us a scan of the document so it could be included in our ongoing documentary project. This brings to four the total number of documents in Australia that we have identified thus far.”
In July, Stowell presented a paper to the Australian Historical Association about Australian views of Lincoln and was also invited to speak to American Civil War Round Tables in Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane about the Papers of Abraham Lincoln project. Following the presentation in Brisbane, a member of the audience informed Stowell about a Lincoln document at the Australian National Maritime Museum in Sydney that was unknown to the Papers of Abraham Lincoln. The document is a ship’s passport, or registration papers, for the Jireh Swift, designed and built by a former American slave. The Australian connection is a fascinating journey back to 1865.
June 5, 2012
WASHINGTON, DC – When someone in the Ford’s Theatre audience screamed, “Is there a surgeon in the house?!” the night of April 14, 1865, Dr. Charles A. Leale was the first to reach the stricken President. Now, 147 years later, a researcher with the Papers of Abraham Lincoln has discovered a copy of Dr. Leale’s original, clinical report of the night the 16th President of the United States was shot.
“What is remarkable about this newly discovered report is its immediacy and poignancy. You can sense the helplessness Leale and the other doctors felt that night, but it does not have the sentimentality or added layers of later accounts. It is truly a first draft of history,” said Daniel W. Stowell, director of the Papers of Abraham Lincoln, the group conducting a monumental search for documents written by or to Abraham Lincoln.
Papers of Abraham Lincoln researcher Helena Iles Papaioannou came across something unexpected while searching the records of the Surgeon General in the National Archives in Washington, DC. Papaioannou discovered a copy of a twenty-one-page report by Dr. Charles A. Leale, the army surgeon who was the first to reach the presidential box to care for a wounded Abraham Lincoln on the night of April 14, 1865. Leale wrote out his story just hours after the President died the next morning, but the text of that first report had remained undiscovered, until now. The newly discovered report is not in Leale’s hand, but is a “true copy” written in the neat and legible hand of a clerk. For nearly a century and a half, it has been tucked away in one
of hundreds of boxes of incoming correspondence to the Surgeon General, until Papaioannou discovered it.
May 15, 2012
TOKYO, JAPAN – Nestled among the cherry trees of picturesque Meisei University on the outskirts of Tokyo is a nondescript building that is home to something unexpected – the largest collection of original Abraham Lincoln documents outside of the United States. It was here in April that researchers from The Papers of Abraham Lincoln, a project of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, examined the university’s collection and found hidden treasures spanning Lincoln’s life from a young man in New Salem to his Presidency.
“We expected to find about 60 documents there, and we found nearly twice that number, including many we did not know were at Meisei University, and more than a dozen we did not know about at all,” said Daniel W. Stowell, Director and Editor of The Papers of Abraham Lincoln.
Meisei University officials acquired a portion of the collection in 1980 from businessman Masaharu Mochizuki, who created the Tokyo Lincoln Center in 1961. The university continued to add to the collection throughout the 1980s. Recently, Stowell was able to examine the collection to verify the documents’ authenticity and their value to Lincoln scholarship. What he found were original Lincoln documents the Papers of Abraham Lincoln did not know existed.
One early document, dated January 12, 1833, Lincoln wrote for New Salem tavern owner James Rutledge, Ann Rutledge’s father, regarding an overdue account. The document was signed by Rutledge and attested by Bowling Green, a local justice of the peace, who not only encouraged Lincoln’s law studies, but, as several villagers recalled, also helped him endure a period of deep depression following the death of Ann Rutledge. The document illustrates both Lincoln’s legal aspirations and the support he received from his friends in New Salem during this critical period in his early life.
May 2, 2012
SPRINGFIELD – “With malice toward none, with charity for all” apparently did not count when Abraham Lincoln wrote scathing, anonymous articles for newspapers during his days as an Illinois legislator. Now, a grant will help a nationally renowned project use new computer technology to identify those early, anonymous Lincoln writings that so far have been difficult to link to the future president.
The Office of Digital Humanities of the National Endowment for the Humanities has provided a $50,000 grant to the Papers of Abraham Lincoln to apply sophisticated computer techniques to questions about Lincoln’s early political writings. The project will work with Dr. Patrick Juola, professor of computer science at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to use his stylometric computer programs to authenticate early Lincoln writings in the Sangamo Journal during the years he served in the Illinois legislature (1834-1842).
“This project has the potential to expand substantially our knowledge of a previously little-known part of Lincoln’s life—the letters and editorials he wrote for the newspaper either anonymously or under a pseudonym,” said Daniel W. Stowell, Director and Editor of the Papers of Abraham Lincoln.
March 9, 2012
SPRINGFIELD – Researchers with The Papers of Abraham Lincoln have recently published books that shed new light on the Lincoln-era judicial system and the music that inspired the nation during the Civil War.
Stacy Pratt McDermott’s new book, The Jury in Lincoln’s America, demonstrates how central the law was for people who lived in Abraham Lincoln’s America. McDermott draws from a rich collection of legal records, docket books, county histories, and surviving newspapers to reveal the enormous power jurors wielded over the litigants and the character of their communities. According to the 1860 census, Springfield and Sangamon County, Illinois comprised an ethnically and racially diverse population of settlers from northern and southern states, representing both urban and rural mid-nineteenth-century America. It was in these counties that Lincoln developed his law practice, handling more than 5,200 cases in a legal career that spanned nearly 25 years. McDermott is the Assistant Director and Associate Editor of the Papers of Abraham Lincoln and the coeditor of The Papers of Abraham Lincoln: Legal Documents and Cases and The Law Practice of Abraham Lincoln.
Christian McWhirter’s Battle Hymns: The Power and Popularity of Music in the Civil War analyzes the many ways music influenced both blacks and whites, and North and South, during the years surrounding the Civil War. Music was everywhere during the Civil War. Tunes could be heard ringing out from parlor pianos, thundering at political rallies, and setting the rhythms of military and domestic life. With literacy still limited, music was an important vehicle for communicating ideas about the war, and it had a lasting impact in the decades that followed. McWhirter gauges the popularity of the most prominent songs and examines how Americans, including Lincoln, used them, and returns music to its central place in American life during the nation's greatest crisis. McWhirter is an Assistant Editor with The Papers of Abraham Lincoln, working at the National Archives in Washington, DC.