When Washington Crossed the Delaware

Of all the stories from the American Revolutionary War, the Battle of Trenton remains my favorite.  Something about it just gets me every time.  It seems to epitomize the stuff of which that generation was made.  Endurance and sacrifice are two attributes that immediately come to mind.  I never cease to marvel at how they crossed the Delaware River in the dead of winter, in the dead of night.  I love this little chapter in history so very much.

Imagine my delight when Lynne Cheney authored When Washington Crossed the Delaware.  Finally!  A picture book for children focused on such a special event in history.  It did not disappoint.  Yes, it is very broad and not particularly full of specific historical research, but it tells the story very well for its intended audience.  (It’s probably a good overview for many adults as well, especially if the Battle of Trenton doesn’t ring a bell for you.)

when Washington crossed the Delaware book

When I ordered the book, I was even more thrilled to discover this little quote as a preface, one I was not familiar with:

Lincoln quote on battle of Trenton

Sharing a favorite event in history is most definitely something I’m happy to have in common with Abraham Lincoln!

The book tells the story of how the Continental Army crossed the river and surprised the Germans in Trenton.  It also goes on to talk about their advance to Princeton.  What a wonderful little gem.  I also like how there is a historical quote on each two page spread.

The illustrations are wonderful and evocative.  It’s a book my children never tire of reading.  Can you guess what we’ll be reading tonight?

Happy Birthday Mr. Lincoln!

Today marks 201 years [ update 208 years now !] since Abraham Lincoln’s birth.  While we have a national holiday to celebrate the births of our two great presidents, both with February birthdays, we celebrate each one separately in our family.  Valentines Day is sandwiched between two birthday parties in this house!

Lincoln hat

February 12th is Mr. Lincoln’s day.  We get out the flags, read this book , and eat this food .  We talk about his life, his example, and what we can learn from him.

I like to do a little reading on my own, both of Lincoln’s own writing and also the writing of those who are scholars on his life.

I feel like pausing to celebrate him is my way of reaching back through the pages of history to thank him for his life and for his life’s work.  I wonder if any of us can know the terribly high price he paid personally for the unity of our nation.  Some scholars have written that he was depressed.   I think that few people in the history of the world have stood, alone, with such weight on their shoulders.  He and his wife buried a son while he was President.  That’s enough grief to make anyone depressed, even if losing children was a more common experience in his lifetime.  Imagine the terrible weight of the loss of life, destruction to property, and all the ugliness of war.  War on your own soil.  War between citizens of your own country.  A war which had to be won at all costs.  Trying to keep peace with other nations so that none would enter the war on either side.  Having trusted members of your cabinet, even your vice president, prove to be unworthy of your trust.  Oh, how lonely he must have been!  Lincoln himself said, “This war is eating my life out.”

I believe that Abraham Lincoln was born for the time he lived in, raised up by God to guide the United States of America through one of the most difficult chapters of its history,  guided by God in preserving the union which is represented by the Constitution.

I feel like forgetting him, choosing not to study and learn and try to teach my children, would be a betrayal on my part.  Remembering is the debt I owe, the offering I must make in gratitude for what he sacrificed.  He, who lived almost two centuries before me, and yet whose life influenced mine.  How I wish I could somehow reach back in time and ease his burdens, comfort his sadness, be a support.  I feel so grateful for his life.

This year I decided to make a new centerpiece for my table showcasing one of my all-time favorite quotes about Lincoln.  Joseph Auslander said, “Abraham wore a stovepipe hat that brushed the stars where he walked.”

Oh, do I love that quote!  Since one of the distinguishing characteristics of Lincoln’s attire was his hat, I thought it would be fun to make one and incorporate the quote in my creation.

stovepipe hat with stars

So, I created a hat using black paper and modge podge (rather scrappy, but I like it) and used a tea dyed strip of muslin to stamp the quote on.

hat band

I attached the strip of muslin like a hat band and added some glittered stars to the top of  the hat.

I’ve always had lots of patriotic decor and a few pictures of Lincoln, but nothing that represents him like this.

It’s a project I’ve intended to get to for years, to be honest.  Completing it this year has put a spring in my step.

Happy Birthday, Mr. President!

What do you do to celebrate President’s Day?

Lincoln’s Corn Cakes

Our family has a special tradition every February 12.  We eat hoecakes (otherwise known as corn cakes).  Corn cakes is probably a better term, but my children love the name hoecakes.  The name is a result of these cakes being cooked over a fire on the end of a hoe.

This was one of Abraham Lincoln’s favorite foods.  He first ate them as a boy, and they remained his favorite breakfast food throughout his life.  He often bragged that he could eat them faster than anyone could make them.  He also enjoyed them for late Sunday supper.

Essentially, corn cakes are pancakes made with cornmeal instead of flour.  Start with 2 cups cornmeal and mix in 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon baking soda.

Add one lightly beaten egg.

Then add 3 cups (yes, you read that right) buttermilk.

Mix until combined.  The batter will be fairly thin.

Cook in a hot pan sprayed with nonstick spray and serve with butter and maple syrup.  (Lincoln ate them drenched in sorghum syrup and butter.)

They are actually really yummy.  The buttermilk adds a tangy flavor that offsets the sweetness of the syrup.  Some members of our family actually prefer corn cakes over pancakes because the cornmeal makes them a bit heartier and gives them more texture.

corn cakes with syrup

I have actually used many different hoecake recipes over the years.  (I think Martha Stewart even had one on her website sometime!)  The version I’ve just shared with you is our favorite.

This recipe comes from a cookbook that I hunted down after contacting a museum for more information about the foods that Lincoln ate.  It’s not easy to find, but if you’re really interested, you can go on a treasure hunt of your own.  It’s titled “Lincoln’s Table”  by Donna D. McCreary.

Lincoln's table cookbook

Just in case you’re curious, George Washington ate them, too!  They make a perfect breakfast dish for President’s Day:  tasty AND historical!

Lincoln’s Corn Cakes 2 cups cornmeal 1 tsp. salt 1 tsp. baking soda 1 lightly beaten egg 3 cups buttermilk Mix together and cook like pancakes.  Have fun!

1 2 3