Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Land of Lincoln: Springfield, Illinois

State capitals and famous historical sights are always on my travel "radar". I was happy that we could combine the two in one stop with our visit to Springfield, Illinois. Time to explore the Land of Lincoln!

Young Abe Lincoln, the Railsplitter, greeted us as we entered our campground at the Illinois State Fairgrounds. The campground was very large and quiet, and I enjoyed walking around the scenic fairgrounds. Its location was also very convenient for getting to area attractions.

Lincoln's tomb, located in Oak Ridge Cemetery, was an easy mile walk from the fairgrounds. As we approached the granite obelisk, I have to admit, I was drawn in by the elegant peacefulness of his final resting place.

As we entered the tomb we were struck by the sacred beauty of the surroundings. Bronze statues of Lincoln at various times in his life lined the marble halls.

Bronze plaques with some of Lincoln's most famous speeches hung on the walls. The words of his second inaugural address spoken just a month before he died made me pause to think. How would it have been different if he had been able to lead our country during the years immediately following the Civil War?

"With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations."

His wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, along with three of his four sons are also buried there.

My interest was piqued. What were the forces that shaped a young self-educated lawyer and politician to beat incredible odds to be elected 16th president of the United States and lead our country through one of the most pivotal events in our history?

I would get a glimpse at some answers to my question with a visit to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in downtown Springfield.

The museum and library was located two miles from our campground ... an easy walk, and extra steps are always good! Admission was very reasonable at $12 each. As we stepped in, I was personally "greeted" by the Lincoln family.

The museum is divided into two main sections. The first area tells the story of Lincoln's early life leading up to his presidential election.

The museum's displays show how he rose from impoverished and uneducated beginnings to become a successful lawyer and politician is the new state of Illinois. It was his influence as a member of the Illinois House of Representatives that helped establish Springfield as the state's capital in 1839.

Following his surprise election in 1860, the museum's flow lead us into the White House. 

Controversial decisions such as the Emancipation Proclamation were presented through displays that make visitors feel like they are right in the middle of a heated discussion.

Stepping into Mary Lincoln's dressing room, we were also drawn into the controversies that she faced with her elaborate spending. But we were also presented with the emotional struggles that she and Abraham went through with the death of their son and the stress of the war. The museum, through powerful movies and displays, gave us a deeper appreciation for the man who would succeed in keeping our country united but who would also pay the ultimate price for this victory.

After lunch at Obed & Isaac's Microbrewery (always important to entice my "not always loving all this history" sidekick), we visited the Lincoln Home National Historic Site. The restored 19th century neighborhood gives a glimpse into Lincoln's family life when they were homeowners in Springfield from 1844-1861. The guided tours of the twelve room house are free, but you have to request tickets ahead of time at the Visitor's Center. Our tour guide brought the home to life as he shared stories of Abe and his family.

A number of items in the house are originals,
but most of the house's furniture, wall and floor coverings
are replicas reflecting that era.
This is Abe's original desk minus six inches.
The neighbor who bought it from them was shorter
than Abe's 6'4" stature so he cut down the legs.
The Lincoln's sons were notorious for misbehaving.
Our guide imagined that Abe bought the "picture machine"
on the table in hopes of encouraging more "quiet" activities.

After our tour of the house, I could tell that Doug was being a trouper, but had had his fill of history for the day. One last stop remained.

Very appropriate that I get my 16th state capitol photo in the hometown of our 16th president! Our trip to Springfield, Illinois certainly made the "Land of Lincoln" come alive for us.

To quote Abe Lincoln:

Until next time ... "Whatever you are, be a good one" ... and enjoy the adventures in your life!

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