We spent several days in Springfield, IL exploring the city and in particular the sites concerning Abraham Lincoln. He spent many years in this city working as a lawyer and becoming involved with state and national political issues before leaving for Washington DC after being elected President.
We started with a tour of his home and recreated neighborhood that has been made a national historical site and involves some four square blocks of the center of Springfield. This was the only home that Lincoln actually owned. Many of the furnishings have been preserved and a guided tour explains the life of Lincoln and his family during his residence here. The site is very well done and has the feel of a small Williamsburg.
Just a few blocks from the National home site is the Lincoln Museum and Library. It is one of the best presidential museums that we have visited and is very well done with interactive displays/ videos and historical displays that are easy to grasp quickly. The only down side is the prohibition on the use of photography except in very limited areas. The museum focuses on both his early life and the events leading up to and including the difficult period of the Civil War as viewed from his perspective. The final section addresses the assassination and the lengthy funeral process. The last room is a full mock up of his final funeral settings at the house chamber in the Old Capital Building, where the last viewing took place. As you walk thru this exhibit, it certainly feels as if you are attending a real funeral.
Nearby is the last office that Lincoln and his partner occupied before he went to DC. They are working on a major renovation to restore it to exactly how it was at 1861. The docent provides an excellent history not only of Lincolns work, but also the legal system in IL at the time.
Finally, we visited Oak Lawn Cemetery, where Lincoln, wife, and three of his sons are buried. It is a somber and impressive place. It is also the most visited of all the presidential burial sites. Lincoln’s many funeral services around the country and his many burial sites are a truly bizarre story. He finally came to rest within this massive monument and is hopefully resting in peace.
If you were not aware of his very important role in making our country what it is today, a visit to these historic sites will help you understand why his thinking and determination shaped much of who we are today. A visit to Springfield will also make you realize a number of things that are not in the school lesson plans. In many ways he was a tragic figure. Misunderstood by many and hated by many more, he carried on because of what he believed this country should become. He lost three of his four children before they reached 19 and was plagued by grief and doubt by the lost of his children, thousands of soldiers on the battlefield, and by the great destruction that was necessary to preserve the Union.