Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Lincoln lore lives on; perhaps we could include it in Cinco de Mayo tribute

It has been quite a weekend for those people who get their kicks out of dressing in period fashions and pretending they are re-enacting our history.

For it was 150 years ago Monday that the funeral services were held at Springfield’s Oak Ridge Cemetery to inter the body of then-recently assassinated President Abraham Lincoln.

WHICH MEANS IT was 150 years ago Saturday that the body of Lincoln arrived in Illinois and was on display in Chicago, before taking the final portion of the Lincoln funeral train route to Springfield – pretty much along the same route of towns that now rely on Interstate 55 for their continued existence.

There actually was a replica of the Lincoln funeral train that made the trip this past weekend, giving the historic re-enactors a chance to fully pretend they were gathering for the president’s funeral services.

I can’t say I’m the type who would feel compelled to do such things, despite my own interest in history. In large part because wearing any type of authentic period garb would result in donning itchy, uncomfortable clothing.

Besides, my own girth would make me so much larger than most people of that era. Somehow, I suspect I couldn’t pull off a convincing U.S. soldier trying to escort the presidential casket to the cemetery.

I HOPE THE people who did do such things enjoyed themselves. And that their actions help some people recall the many events of the past four years that were meant to remind us of the Civil War our nation engaged in to maintain the character that was desired by some.

Even though I’m sure there are those amongst us who could easily have adapted if the concept of secession in the name of “state’s rights” had somehow prevailed. We just wouldn’t have known better how much more we’d have as a single nation if the southern states had somehow managed to become their own nation.

We probably would be a pair of mediocre nations in the world that never would have achieved international status had our Civil War had a different outcome.

I was sort of surprised that more in the way of ceremony wasn’t done this weekend at the Calumet City/Hammond border – also known as the Illinois/Indiana state line.

FOR THAT WAS the place where a few years ago local officials insisted in erecting a plaque designating the spot of State Street and State Line Road as the spot where the Lincoln funeral train re-entered Illinois on its route from Washington, D.C., to Springfield.

Although it should be noted that the area near the Indiana Dunes was largely undeveloped then. It now has cities such as Gary and Hammond, Ind., along with Calumet City, Ill. But none of those municipalities existed back then. All of this Lincoln lore makes me wonder what can be re-enacted next.

Perhaps somebody would like to try to re-enact the events that were supposed to take place on Nov. 7, 1876 – a group of counterfeiters hatched a plot to steal Lincoln’s body from the tomb, hide the body by burying it in the Indiana Dunes and demand a $200,000 ransom AND the release of one of their allies from the Joliet Penitentiary.

Not that Lincoln’s remains ever suffered the remains of being buried under lakeshore property enjoyed by generations of future beachgoers. The counterfeiters had big mouths, talked too much, and the Secret Service wound up putting an undercover agent among the gang when they tried to break into the tomb.

THE GANG ESCAPED, but was caught 10 days later in Chicago and ultimately wound up serving a year each in prison. It’s a sordid story that I’m sure most people were never taught about in grammar school history class.

Although I wonder if the Lincoln-motivated re-enactors ought to be trying to do something on Tuesday – which happens to be the Mexican holiday of Cinco de Mayo.

That being the day when a Mexican resistance to France’s attempt to control Mexico managed to defeat a French military garrison near Puebla – thereby giving positive motivation to Mexican nationals of regaining their nation’s freedom.

A good part of the reason why they were able to do so was that U.S. support in the form of ties between Lincoln and Mexico President-in-exile Benito Juarez existed. Put a Lincoln twist on Tuesday’s celebrations and perhaps we’d have something more substantial than just a day spent drinking third-rate margaritas.


No comments: