Our Mission and Upcoming Events
The purpose of this project is to build a better understanding of those locations in Washington, DC, that were made notable by their association with President Abraham Lincoln. I go after the best primary evidence to determine where our 16th President would venture went he left the Executive Mansion. What we can be certain of is that Lincoln did walk the city, and he do so often. It seems that no president before or since Lincoln had done so much in the neighborhoods surrounding the White House.
It soon became apparent to me that there were a lot more destination sites for Lincoln than I realized. There is a local bias in Washington that wants to shoehorn nearly all Lincoln activities into a few buildings which happen to remain standing after 150 years. But as I got into this subject, I realized that the truth is much more complex. Lincoln really got around! I have documented nearly 100 Lincoln visit sites between Washington Circle and Judiciary Square alone. Many of these come with interesting stories that capture his humanity, his folksiness and his absolute mastery of leadership dynamics.
References to Lincoln sites tend to vary from one biography to another. I have not yet discovered any work that goes to the range of primary sources necessary to ascertain even the key locations let alone the secondary sites. Many locations seem to be derived from local lore and tradition as opposed to research. If a location is worth citing, then it should be worth verifying. Upcoming posts will lay out the research I have begun on the rich assortment of Lincoln sites in Washington, as described by the people who were with him and other contemporaneous sources.
I am going to create an authoritative and robust inventory of Lincoln sites in the National Capital. Having the facts for determining where in the city he actually was for specific events could lead scholars to other clues that might contribute to a better understanding of Lincoln’s extraordinary qualities, and life in Civil War era Washington.
I am fortunate to have ready access to the astounding range of local resources in Washington. Among these are the Library of Congress and the National Archives, and the Washingtoniana Collection of the DC Public Library. I do not assert that I have the only truth, but I know that I am making the effort to find it in an organized way. Admittedly, the evidence is often derived from a patchwork of sources in the context of local culture and the mid-Nineteenth Century era. It is your feedback, criticism and contributions that will get us to a far better understanding of Civil War Washington, D.C. as it was seen and experienced by Abraham Lincoln.
Thanks for your participation. John O’Brien
My Speaking Engagements:
Lincoln’s Washington in 1865 I will be the speaker at the Lincoln Birthday Banquet of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the US (MOLLUS). This formal dinner event occurs every year on the night before the celebration of our 16th president’s birthday. The talk will trace the progress of the major issues Lincoln confronted during the election year of 1864, recounting the people and places he visited while managing their resolution into 1865. Wednesday, February 11, 2015, Sheraton Suites Old Town Alexandria. The dinner is sold out. Plan to attend the public wreath-laying ceremony on Thursday, February 12, at the Lincoln Memorial.
Death of Slavery: 150th Anniversary Commemoration of the 13th Amendment. The program at Lincoln’s church, New York Avenue Presbyterian, will feature a presentation by award-winning Lincoln scholar, Dr. Edna Greene Medford of Howard University. I will speak on a panel with pastors of historic Washington churches who will describe the role played by their African-American congregations in pressing for emancipation and civil rights. Finally, Frederick Douglass (portrayed by professional actor Kevin McIlvaine) will deliver some of his most famous orations for freedom and black suffrage. Saturday, January 31, 2015, 3:00 pm – 4:30. LincolnGroup.org
What Lincoln Was Doing Before the Movie Walking Tour of Lincoln sites near the White House related to the campaign for the 13th Amendment. This is available to registrants at the 41st Annual Conference on DC Historical Studies, Saturday, November 22, 2014. The conference runs from Thursday November 20 through Sunday November 23, 2014. Check the DC Historical Society website for information and registration: DCHistory.org
Lincoln’s War on Slavery in 1865 Dr. John Elliff and I team up once again; this time to explore the extraordinary effort President Lincoln mounted to eliminate slavery forever before the Civil War would end. Huge barriers developed against his re-election based largely on the perceived stalemate on the battlefield and concerns over the social status of newly freed slaves. Lincoln himself doubted he would be re-elected, yet he persisted in his great aim of total emancipation. New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, 1313 New York Avenue, Washington, D.C. on August 2, 2014 from 10 a.m. until noon.
Gettysburg: the Battle and the Speech Joint sponsorship by the Lincoln Group of the District of Columbia and the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church to commemorate the 150th Anniversary. Co-presenter with John Elliff, Ph.D., on July 20, 2013 from 10 a.m. until noon, at the church, 1313 New York Avenue, Washington, D.C.
A Declaration of Freedom: Lincoln, the Emancipation Proclamation and its Legacy of Liberty National Archives, Pennsylvania Avenue at 7th St., Washington, D.C. Wednesday, January 30, 2012, at noon, in the William G. McGowen Theatre
A panel discussion on Lincoln, the Emancipation Proclamation, its meaning to newly freed slaves, and the Proclamation’s legacy in American history features speakers Greg Carr, chair of the Afro-American Studies Department at Howard University; Kenvi Phillips, historian for the Black History Program of the Maryland–National Capital Park and Planning Commission, and Abraham Lincoln scholar John O’Brien. Presented by the National Archives Afro-American History Society.
Book Discussion: January 12, 2012 at the MLK Jr., Main DC Library, G St. at 9th. The Fiery Trial, Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery by Eric Foner For the Lincoln Group of the District of Columbia; Covering Chapter Five; “The Only Substantial Difference”: Secession and the Civil War, 10 a.m. to noon, auditorium
Abraham Lincoln and the Emancipation Campaign of 1862 October 20, 2012 at the Historical Society of the District of Columbia 39th Annual Conference on D.C. Historical Studies Panel with Ida E. Jones, Ph.D, Howard University, and John T. Elliff, Ph.D. (Harvard)
President Lincoln’s 1862 Emancipation Decisions July 14, 2012 at New York Avenue Presbyterian Church Sponsored by the Lincoln Group of DC, and the Church History Committee Panel with Burrus “Buzz” Carnahan, JD, and John T. Elliff, Ph.D. (Harvard)
Lincoln and the Path to DC Emancipation April 14, 2012 at the Historical Society of the District of Columbia Panel with Ida E. Jones, Ph.D., Howard University and W. Wilson Golden, JD, New York Avenue Presbyterian Church History Chair
Washington D.C., City of Lincoln, Civil War Sites and Events November 17, 2011 at Lincoln Group of DC meeting, Pier 7 Restaurant Presentation of original research into Lincoln sites with slides and maps