Abraham Lincoln - A Portrait in Grief

Chapter Four
Chapter One
Chapter Two
Chapter Three
Chapter Four



In some very morbid way it is almost fitting that Abraham Lincoln’s sudden death would bring the needed initiation of the unity of a nation grieving in the concluding wake of civil unrest and conflict. His life was a very articulated portrait that was framed in grief and loss. Neither Abraham nor Mary were ever able to find a reasonable amount of resolution to the life long series of losses and devastations that they experienced together and individually.

But the North and the South would begin building the bridge of unity and reconstruction by walking through the quagmire of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination which occurred just days after the unofficial end of the Civil War took place.  Their unity would slowly grow out of their mutual respect for Lincoln’s life that both sides witnessed in conflict through those four horrible blood drenched years. 

The southern sympathizing actor, John Wilkes Booth had no idea when he pulled that trigger in Ford’s Theatre that he would actually do more to cause a more rapid uniting of the North and South than he would to ever reignite the dissident passion of the two opposing sides of our Nation, which he so desired to do.

Many students of American history fall prey to the idea that Booth shot Lincoln that fateful Good Friday in 1865 because Lincoln was the President that championed the cause of anti slavery and inspired the North’s victory over the South. Others still are certain that Abraham Lincoln was murdered because he issued the Emancipation Proclamation.

The reality is that Lincoln made a brief speech at the White House earlier in the week that he was assassinated, to a group of people gathered to get Lincolns reaction and official statements regarding the end of the Civil War. Among the group gathered on the White House lawn was one John Wilkes Booth. In his speech Lincoln made a definitive statement that African Americans should be issued the right to vote. That one statement alone fired the emotions of Booth to change his plans of kidnapping Lincoln to murdering him that coming Friday. Lincoln was martyred because he advocated citizenship the right to vote for all African Americans.         

John Wilkes Booth “church” was the “theatre”. He knew Ford’s Theatre like the back of his hand. When he was made aware that Lincoln would be in attendance that Good Friday evening, it was the best possible scenario that Booth could ever hope for. Shortly after 10 PM  he stepped unnoticed into the private balcony where the President and the First Lady were seated and martyred Mr. Lincoln.    

Even as Lincoln’s casket made the nearly 1700 mile journey back to Springfield, Illinois, the relationship between the Yankees and the Rebels had started to knit a healing process that would salvage Lincoln’s dream of preserving the Union and putting a definitive end to slavery as it had been practiced in America. Since Lincoln’s assassin sought to destroy the nation, the theme of national survival was conspicuous in every eulogy[1]. His many  funerals were a great contribution to the reuniting of a divided collection of States.   

Just a few weeks earlier in March of that year, Lincoln probably very unknowingly and very intensely prophesied at his second Inaugural address about how his own life and death would impact our Nation. That prophecy is found in the concluding words of that address. When we read Lincoln’s writings with some format of spiritual and psychological discernment, we may be able to detect that in some very peculiar way, he might have had an insight of what potentially could have been about to happen to him.                  

“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.”(Abraham Lincoln)[2]


Abraham Lincoln’s martyrdom would indeed help to bind up the nation’s wounds, for it brought them into a common emotional condition of grief over one who personally cared about the well- being of the Union’s relationships, both North and South. Now it was time for the people of the United States of America to “care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan”. This was Lincoln’s very subtle sub conscious unknowing way that he rendered hoping that America would take care of his family.

[1] Schwartz, Barry Abraham Lincoln and the Forge of National Memory (Chicago, Illinois, University of Chicago, 2000 ) p.52

[2] www.bartleby.com

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