Stitching: A. Lincoln


All my life I’ve loved handwriting.  As a child I practiced mine constantly and have always loved studying penmanship and lettering styles.  Combine this with a tremendous regard for Abraham Lincoln and I suppose it’s no surprise that I would love his signature.  Some time ago I decided to enlarge it and see how it would look embroidered.  I began this months ago but finished it up on the 4th of July and am so happy with the results!


I’ve never stitched something like this before, all in a satin stitch.  I love the raised effect of the stitching.


The piece is approximately 10 inches long and 3 inches tall.  I think it will become part of a pillow…

What have you finished lately?

The Almost Chosen People

Now for a quick review of the third book I’ve finished recently about Abraham Lincoln.  Written by William J. Wolf in the 1950’s, this book is now out of print but was worth finding.  The subject is the religion of Abraham Lincoln and I felt Wolf did a good job of turning to the words and writing of Lincoln himself to shed light on the observations of others or to demonstrate the differences between what Lincoln felt and what others said he felt.

I was impressed with the scholarship of this little volume and with the author’s commitment to rely first on primary sources to piece together Lincoln’s religious views.  This book is a wonderful compilation of statements, writings, and speeches made by Abraham Lincoln which referenced God and Lincoln’s views/feelings toward religion.  There were also references to conversations Lincoln had with friends and others which I had never before read.  I found these stories highly interesting.

For instance, when the Battle of Gettysburg was underway most of the inhabitants of Washington D.C. left town, certain that the Rebels would soon march on the capital.  Yet Lincoln remained at the White House.  Later, in a conversation recorded by General James Rusling, who stood with President Lincoln in a Washington hospital at the bedside of General Sickles, the wounded man asked Lincoln if he was anxious about the battle at Gettysburg.

Here is Lincoln’s reply:

“No, I was not; some of my Cabinet and many others in Washington were, but I had no fears.”

When asked why this was, Lincoln hesitated but said, “Well, I will tell you how it was.  In the pinch of the campaign up there, when everybody seemed panic-stricken, and nobody could tell what was going to happen, oppressed by the gravity of our affairs, I went to my room one day, and I locked the door, and got down on my knees before Almighty God, and prayed to Him mightily for victory at Gettysburg.  I told Him that this was His war, and our cause His cause, but we couldn’t stand another Fredericksburg or Chancellorsville.  And I then and there made a solemn vow to Almighty God, that if He would stand by our boys at Gettuysburg, I would stand by Him.  And He did stand by your boys, and I will stand by Him.  And after that (I don’t know how it was, and I can’t explain it), soon a sweet comfort crept into my soul that God Almighty had taken the whole business into his own hands and that things would go all right at Gettysburg.  And that is why I had no fears about you.”  (The Almost Chosen People, p. 124-125.)

This passage makes my heart sing.  It makes me happy that Lincoln could go to God in a dark hour and feel that peace that passes understanding as he poured out his heart concerning the overwhelming task that had fallen to him of leading the country through the war.  And I wonder, why haven’t we been taught this?  Why is this experience not celebrated?

Lincoln never joined a church.  He was undoubtedly a God-fearing man and a better Christian than most of us who openly profess to be religious.  There is much evidence that he was a man of prayer.

The reading I’ve done has left me with deep respect for Lincoln’s religious views.  I am inspired by him to be a better Christian.  I am impressed with his ability to earnestly treat all men with the first 2 great commandments in mind.  Lincoln was a singular man who lived his religion with integrity.  I respect that and want to be like him.  Here I am, once again drawing strength to live a better life from those who have lived long before me.  The power of history continues to shape my heart.

The Almost Chosen People is highly recommended.

Lincoln at Gettysburg by Garry Wills

After finishing Team of Rivals I still wanted to read more about Abraham Lincoln.  Lincoln at Gettysburg was next on my list.  This book was tiny in comparison, around 200 pages.

I learned some really interesting things from this book.  First Wills traces the Greek Revival going on in the U.S. during Lincoln’s day and evaluates how well the Gettysburg Address follows patterns of funeral oratory used by the ancient Greeks.  The cemetery at Gettysburg also was representative of an affinity for Greek style at that time.  For the first time in my life I read the other speech given at Gettysburg, the two hour one given by Edward Everett.  He was the star of the show that day; Lincoln’s comments were meant only as a “few appropriate remarks.”

Yet those remarks have changed forever the way Americans view the founding and mission of our nation.  272 words.

Lincoln’s writing and speaking style have interested me for a long time.  Indeed, I agree with those who say that his are the only writings of all the U.S. Presidents that can rightly be called literature.  My reading in recent months has given me an appreciation for the way Lincoln’s ideas crystallized as he wrote and spoke over the course of 15 years, each time refining his ideas until he reached those crowning moments such as the Gettysburg Address and his second Inaugural Address.  It is thrilling to watch the development of such brilliance.

Hugh Blair wrote, “The first rule which I shall give for promoting the strength of a sentence is to prune it of all redundant words…. The exact import of precision may be drawn from the etymology of the words.  It comes from precidere , to cut off.  It imports retrenching all superfluities and turning the expression so as to exhibit neither more nor less than an exact copy of his ideas who uses it.”

I am painfully aware of my tendency to use too many words both in writing and speech.  It is a habit I am always working on.  Perhaps this weakness makes Lincoln’s mastery of “pruning” a sentence of all redundant words more amazing to me.   His ability to take suggestions, read the speeches and writings of others, then condense all of it in a compact and powerful sentence was amazing.

Quoting the author, “Lincoln’s speech at Gettysburg worked several revolutions, beginning with one in literary style.  Everett’s talk was given at the last point in history when such a performance could be appreciated without reservation.  It was made obsolete within a half-hour of the time when it was spoken.  Lincoln’s remarks anticipated the shift to vernacular rhythms that Mark Twain would complete twenty years later.  Hemingway claimed that all modern American novels are the offspring of Huckleberry Finn .  It is no greater exaggeration to say that all modern prose descends from the Gettysburg Address.” (Lincoln at Gettysburg, p. 148.)

It was also Abraham Lincoln who shifted America’s view of the Declaration of Independence to include the lofty ideal of holding out a promise of equality to all mankind.  It was Lincoln who shifted America’s view to make the Declaration of Independence our founding document (instead of the Constitution).  Even today, we perceive nation differently because of the way Lincoln traced the majority of his political thought to the Declaration of Independence.

In sum, my heart thrills at the writings of Lincoln and my appreciation for them has been enhanced by the scholarship of Garry Wills in writing this book.   I highly recommend it.

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