DL Fowler's Blog

Political Theater

A recent news item reminded me of an ominous episode of political theater that took place some 153 years and twelve days ago. Now don’t get me wrong. It’s not my intent in this post to compare or contrast the two occasions, or the people involved. I’ll leave that to you.

By the way, the event I recalled isn’t the one that happened on April 14, 1865. My mind is too complex to travel somewhere that easy.

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Lincoln’s Footsteps Part One

My research assistant and I recently set out to trace some of Lincoln’s footsteps during his years in the White House. This post covers highlights of our visits to Richmond VA and Washington DC.

Here’s a pic of the spot on the James River where Lincoln’s boat landed when he arrived in Richmond (accompanied by his son Tad) for his triumphant visit to the Confederacy’s abandoned capital.
  

Here’s the entrance to the Confederate Whitehouse (Jefferson Davis’ home). When young Tad Lincoln stepped across the threshold, it’s likely he sneered at the relatively compact size of the Davis home compared to the spacious Executive Mansion in the nation’s capital.

  

The picture I really wanted was Davis’ desk where Lincoln’s son Tad sat during Lincoln’s triumphant visit, but “no photography please.”
Speaking of pictures, I noticed a portrait of George Washington hanging over Jeff Davis’ mantel and asked if he would have hung it there. The guide replied that both sides of the war revered Washington.
Next we braved a rain storm to make our way to the American Civil War Center. This museum adds an interesting twist. Not only does it give equal treatment to the Northern and Southern perspectives, it gives the same weight to the African point of view (again photography was not allowed). 
Sunday morning we drove down to City Point at the confluence of the Appomattox and James Rivers. Gen. US Grant set up his headquarters here during the final weeks of the war. 

Here’s a photo of the cabin Grant stayed in out on the grounds of the Epps’ plantation so he could be close to his troops, 
  
Instead of staying in the ‘big house’.

  

This is the spot where Lincoln’s boat, the River Queen, docked when the president stayed at the front for two of the war’s three final weeks. One night while sleeping aboard the boat, he dreamt that he had been fatally shot.

  

The massive Union Army presence at City Point must have greatly bolstered Lincoln’s optimism that the war’s end was at hand. 
   
 
On Monday morning we headed to Washington DC for a visit to Lincoln’s Cottage at the Old Soldiers Home where the Lincoln family stayed during the summer months while he was President.

I’m standing outside the gate.
  
Here we met our tour guide Rob. He’s one on the best guides we’ve encountered, and were treated to a treasure trove of insights into Lincoln’s personality. (We also opened the possibility of selling copies of Lincoln Raw in the bookstore there, and Rob agreed to consult with me on scenes in my sequel to Lincoln Raw).
  

The ‘cottage’ was bigger than the Davis residence in Richmond.

  

Unfortunately, inside photos were not allowed, but here are some outside shots.
   
 

A statue reminds us that during summer months, Lincoln often made daily round trips (3 miles each way) on horseback without military escorts. Sometimes he stopped at camps of runaway slaves and joined them in singing spirituals, he always gave poet Walt Whitman a nod as he rode past his home, often he stopped at a military cemetery and wandered alone among the graves.
  

Here are some pictures of the veranda from which he could gaze out over the grounds and at the Capitol.
   
   
  

The cobblestone drainage ditch along the carriage turnaround in front of the cottage. 
  

I suppose it’s only fitting that we should pay a visit to the home where Lincoln died (across the street from Ford Theater).

  

Book Trailer

Posted in Assassination, Kindle, Lincoln, Lincoln's Diary, Lincoln's Psychology, My Books, Nook, Plots by DLFowler on May 5, 2011

I’ve added video to the blog. Here’s a book trailer I created on my iPhone.  You’ll see more, including interviews with readers while I’m on my book signing tour later this month. I may even read excerpts from the book and post them here. What do you think?

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Lincoln Trivia Question #19

Posted in Assassination, Lincoln Trivia, Lincoln's Diary, Lincoln's Psychology, Plots, PTSD, Research by DLFowler on April 14, 2011

Yes, I know I’m skipping around. If you’re keeping score this is the third trivia question I’ve posted.  The complete list of 20 is on my website.  Okay, here it is:

Q: What deadly act did Lincoln offer to perform for his cabinet?

A: He offered to hang himself.

A pretty fitting question for the 146th anniversary of his assassination, don’t you think?

Well, there are a variety of explanations, but who knows what was actually going on in Lincoln’s head.  It’s true that he suffered from acute bouts of depression during most of his adult life. It’s also possible he was being melodramatic; it wouldn’t have been the first time.

Something else is worth considering. Have you ever dealt with someone suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)? Lincoln probably suffered from that, possibly a variation called Acute Traumatic Stress. He suffered sympthoms common to both disorders, including catalepsy. In those episodes, he would slip into a kind of catatonic state. His law partner William Herndon witnessed more than one such episode.

When PTSD sufferers commit suicide, it’s rarely out of despondency. More often it’s an attempt on their part to take control of a situation that seems out of hand. In that vein, Lincoln might have seriously consided martyring himself to turn public and political opinion in favor of his Reconstruction Plan which was on the cusp of failure. 

Of course that’s something we’ll never know. Not unless he confessed it in a diary that’s not turned up in the last 140+ years.

Just sayin.

Did Lincoln Plan His Own Assassination?

The better question is what would possess him to do so?  

Now this is not my question. Joshua Shenk prompted me to think about this possibility through his book, Lincoln’s Melancholy.  But everything that followed is a product of my fertile (some would call it compost pile) imagination.

In Lincoln’s Diary – a novel, Sarah Sue Morgan wants the truth. But when the truth includes an unpublished Lincoln diary that may prove the sixteenth President arranged his own assassination, the truth could kill.

Lincoln had motivation, opportunity and means.  Means you ask – consider that Booth was his favorite actor (Lincoln loved the theater). Lincoln would have welcomed him into the presidential box – he didn’t have to jimmy the lock. Booth was at the White House days before the assassination.  Lincoln’s bodyguard was in the vicinity of the Surrat boarding house while Booth met with co-conspirators. Conspiracy theorists have long argued that Booth had inside help.  Could Lincoln have been his co-conspirator?

Well, he knew he was losing his battle for a conciliatory plan of Reconstruction.  Would it have crossed his mind that martyrdom might push his plan forward?  I mean, after he threatened to hang himself during a cabinet meeting. Twice he was on suicide watch during his early adult life.

Okay, so at this point you’re still thinking – no way.  But then again, you haven’t seen everything that’s in Lincoln’s Diary – a novel. Oh yes, it’s fiction. But isn’t life supposed to be stranger than fiction?