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December 2012 - GO Educational Tours

Part I: Lincoln and the Civil War

Abraham Lincoln and his army commander: what were they talking about?

Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln”, starring Daniel Day Lewis as Abraham Lincoln and Sally Field as Mary Todd Lincoln, was a long time coming. Period movies bring history and historical figures back to life, just as we of GO Educational Tours achieve when educating our student group tours. I may be biased as a Civil War historian, but the 150th anniversary of each battle fought during the war is ongoing, and we are currently organizing student tour groups for trips to several Civil War sites, including viewing some live battle reenactments. To learn more about Lincoln and the Civil War, please click below for a program of student group tours.

Gettysburg

 

 

What were they discussing?

Lincoln is still on record as the tallest president in US history, and when he visited camps, his eyes were instantly drawn to any soldier who was remotely his height. Hoping to finally meet his match, Lincoln would call the fellow over, and the President of the US and the common soldier would stand back to back to see who was taller. Lincoln enjoyed being photographed with his soldiers, but was none too pleased during this meeting.

This photo is of Abraham Lincoln and his commander in chief, Gen. George McClellan, a month after the brutal battle of Antietam fought on September 17, 1862 a mile from Sharpsburg, Maryland. There were 22,000 casualties, nearly 28% of those engaged, the most casualties in a single day in US history.

Although Gettysburg has received more attention, particularly because of the Gettysburg address, Antietam was equidistant with D.C., and its carnage was alarming to the president. Lincoln’s disappointment in McClellan is palpable in this photo, as he dressed down McClellan for failing to pursue Lee’s army and crush it. McClellan was beloved by his soldiers, and he followed a strategy of loss prevention, however at the expense of inflicting maximum damage on the enemy. A month after this photo, after the important mid-term elections and the Emancipation Proclamation to free the slaves, Lincoln relieved McClellan of command for failing to pursue Lee across the Potomac and finish him.

Maryland’s allegiance was split, half were pro slavery, half were abolitionist. In Sharpsburg, the postmaster would change the flag outside the post office according to who was riding into town that day. A proper analysis of the Battle of Antietam begins with the terrain. The Antietam Battlefield, now a national military park, is a beautiful patch of rolling hills, corn fields, and a nearby river. It was this rolling landscape that obscured troop movement. Only fifty yards from your position, the enemy could be approaching, or entrenched, and you would not know it. Lee himself had to ride on his white horse “Traveler” up and down the field between the Piper House and the sunken road to gain a holistic view.

To illustrate the impact of topography, when the battle commenced at 5:30 AM, only the glistening bayonets reflecting the low horizon sun and state battle flags of advancing Confederates could be seen above the corn stalks. At “bloody lane”, still today a sunken road immortalized in the annals of history, wave after wave of Union troops advanced against Confederates entrenched in the sunken road, and Confederates would first see only the battle flags rising above the hill, as the brigade chaplain rode back and forth on his horse, giving last rites with a sweeping motion of his hand, oblivious to bullets zinging past his ears like mad hornets.

Antietam was tactically a draw, but a moral victory for the Union which inspired the timing for the Emancipation Proclamation. Lincoln had mixed feelings, however, because McClellan failed to capitalize on the opportunity to finish off Lee. Lincoln’s relationship with McClellan was strained from the outset. McClellan was contemptuous of Lincoln, but Lincoln had no choice early in the war but to choose a general who was most respected by his men. One time, Lincoln went to visit McClellan at a house where he was staying, and arriving early, Lincoln waited for McClellan in the living room. When McClellan arrived, he glanced at Lincoln in silence and walked right past Lincoln, up the stairs to his bedroom. After fifteen minutes, Lincoln sent a staff member to check on McClellan. The staffer returned two minutes later to inform Lincoln that the general had gone to sleep.

The game of poker involves game theory, having the foresight to intuit your opponent’s response. Even the history of warfare can be relevant to modern day realms of business and politics, as game theory can apply to just about any endeavor involving human interaction. We impress upon this during our student group tours of Atlanta, Charleston, and Chattanooga, and student group tours of Civil War battlefields such as Gettysburg, Antietam, Chickamauga, and others. We also impress on our student group tours of Atlanta, Charleston, and Civil War battlefield student group tours that logistics, such as rail lines, were as important to the war’s outcome as were bullets and cannonballs. The Navy blockade off the east coast, Grant’s successful seizure of key points along the Tennessee River, and Sherman’s severing of railroad routes were crucial to choking off Southern supplies.

To be continued…the reason why Grant dressed so simply

Interested in joining us during the 150th reunion of the Civil War to celebrate Lincoln’s service to our country? Some of our Civil War related destinations for middle and high school student group tours are Gettysburg, PA  and Antietam, MD (combined with a Washington, DC trip), Atlanta, GA (combined with Chattanooga, TN), and Charleston, SC. If there is another Civil War destination of interest, we also customize tours as requested. Our tours are steeped in education, each trip is devoted to one or more academic disciplines, not just history, but also science, zoology, architecture, and others. We are not just a Civil War tour organization for students, although it is one of our specialties.

Start here with a free quote on a travel program.

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Part II: Lincoln and the Civil War

Abraham Lincoln and Civil War Battles

Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln”, starring Daniel Day Lewis as Abraham Lincoln and Sally Field as Mary Todd Lincoln, was a long time coming. Period movies bring history and historical figures back to life, just as we of GO Educational Tours achieve when educating our student group tours. I may be biased as a Civil War historian, but the 150th anniversary of each battle fought during the war is ongoing, and we are currently organizing student tour groups for trips to several Civil War sites, including viewing some live battle reenactments. To learn more about Lincoln and the Civil War, please click below for a program of student group tours.

Gettysburg

Ulysses S. Grant’s Personality: The Unlikely Commander

Lincoln hired and fired five commanders of the Army of the Potomac, which was the name of the federal force that fought in the Eastern Theater, before finally selecting the hero of the Western Theater, U.S. Grant, as head of the entire army.

Grant was humble, apolitical, and at the war’s onset, had washed up after a series of failed business ventures. Throughout the war, even after being named commander of the entire federal army, Grant dressed modestly and wore the pants of a private, his self-consciousness inflicted by an embarrassing experience when he was a young soldier serving at an outpost in the west. One morning, while walking into town neatly groomed and in uniform, a depot worker who had seen him pass into town every day mocked him by pinning a strip of cloth on each pant leg. In combat during the Civil War, not only as a grizzled veteran but also as a man who had already been brought to the brink of failure in civilian life, Grant offered a rare trait in a soldier- clarity of thought during utter chaos in the heat of battle, as if all the tribulations in his life had served in some twisted way to fatalistically prepare him for destiny.

 

The style of Grant’s autobiography reflects his modesty, it is somewhat stilted, written nearly in third person, and devoid of personal feelings. He wrote the book while dying of throat cancer, brought on by his taking to cigars sent as gifts by admirers during the war, which he smoked to soothe his nerves after a day of carnage. Grant did cry, he wept in his tent after the Battle of Shiloh, he was not unemotional and he loved his troops. Rather, he was very emotional yet contained his feelings because of his modest personality. When Grant was dying of throat cancer and began writing his book, he was dying broke after losing his savings in an ill-fated brokerage firm where his son worked, and whose partner embezzled. He wanted to ensure his family would be provided for after his death. The book became a best seller and raised several hundred thousand dollars for his family, equivalent to ten million dollars today.

Personalities played a pivotal role in how the war unfolded, and much can be learned about combat leadership during the Civil War that can be relevant to leadership in private and public sector organizations in modern times. During our student group tours of Civil War battlefields, or sites embroiled in the conflict such as Atlanta and Charleston, we present both Northern and Southern perspectives on the war, and delve into how leaders’ personalities played an important role in the war’s outcome. Offering detailed anecdotes during student tours of Civil War Battlefields or Atlanta, Charleston, or Chattanooga can enliven the discussion and put a human face on history, making the learning experience more indelible.

By the end of the war, Lincoln’s appearance had aged considerably, and the emotional toll was etched on his forlorn face. One officer who saw him while addressing troops said he had the look of a clown, a sad clown’s face.

A few months before Lincoln’s assassination, an interesting twist of fate occurred. Lincoln’s oldest son, Robert Todd Lincoln, was at a New Jersey railroad station waiting on a train platform so crowded that he was wedged against the side of the stationary train. The train began to move, and Lincoln’s son began to fall in between two cars passing by. A hand grabbed his coat and pulled him to safety. The president’s son recognized the Good Samaritan’s face and thanked the famous actor for saving his life. That actor was Edwin Booth, the more famous brother of John Wilkes Booth.

When Lincoln died, Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton said, “Now he belongs to the ages.” Lincoln died, but the nation was re-born.

 

Interested in joining us during the 150th reunion of the Civil War to celebrate Lincoln’s service to our country? Some of our Civil War related destinations for middle and high school student group tours are Gettysburg, PA  and Antietam, MD (combined with a Washington, DC trip), Atlanta, GA (combined with Chattanooga, TN), and Charleston, SC. If there is another Civil War destination of interest, we also customize tours as requested. Our tours are steeped in education, each trip is devoted to one or more academic disciplines, not just history, but also science, zoology, architecture, and others. We are not just a Civil War tour organization for students, although it is one of our specialties.

Start here with a free quote on a travel program.

GO