Civil War Events @ the Library
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Abraham Lincoln and William Shakespeare rose to prominence centuries and continents apart. But one of America’s greatest presidents felt a real connection to one of mankind’s greatest writers, beginning with their shared belief in the power of language. Lincoln read Shakespeare and quoted him often in conversation, finding particular resonance in Hamlet, Macbeth, and their reflections on the dangers of excessive ambition, the horrors of civil war, and the corruptions of illegitimate rule.
While perceived as a mostly southern phenomenon, racist violence existed everywhere in the decades following the Civil War – including Kansas and the larger Midwest despite the region’s identification with pastoral virtue and racial harmony.
August Bondi remains a compelling figure in Kansas history, a Jewish immigrant from Austria who fought alongside anti-slavery crusader John Brown and later became one of the first to enlist with the Union in the Civil War. He eventually settled in Salina, serving as postmaster, school board member, and local judge, among other civic endeavors.
Billy Cody lived as a boy on a homestead in Kansas, went to work at age 11 when his father was killed in the Civil War-era border war with Missouri, became a Pony Express rider at 14, and ultimately learned the skills of a scout, Indian fighter, and buffalo hunter. He gained worldwide fame as Buffalo Bill, star of the traveling Wild West shows.
After four of the bloodiest years of warfare in its history, peace finally had come to the United States in May 1865. For two glorious days, Washington, D.C., residents watched as the mighty Union armies that had compelled the surrender of the Confederacy’s main forces marched down Pennsylvania Avenue in triumph. “The rebels,” Ulysses S. Grant proclaimed a few weeks earlier, “are our countrymen again.”
By the time of Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, the land and people of western Missouri had suffered as much as any during the Civil War. The 1863 edict known as “Order No. 11”—forcing the evacuation of all non-rural residents of three western counties including Jackson—and the Federal army that carried it out had depopulated those counties, devastated homes and farms, and left deep scars.
With the end of the Civil War in sight as he delivered his second inaugural address in March 1865, Abraham Lincoln eloquently implored his divided countrymen “to bind up the nation’s wounds” and “do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace.”
But the chaos of war was not yet ended. The South was reeling from Sherman’s destructive March to the Sea. Entire cities, including the Confederate capital of Richmond, were being overrun. Forty-one days after being sworn in for a second term, Lincoln was felled by an assassin’s bullet.
The story of the U.S. Marine Corps is one rich in history – of serving the nation from the Halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli, let alone the ability to survive in the political theater in Washington, D.C.
The Civil War may have reached a turning point in 1864, when Ulysses S. Grant became general-in-chief of the Union armies, Confederate defeats continued to mount, and Northern voters in November sustained the presidency of Abraham Lincoln.
In the shadow of the Civil War, a circle of radicals in a rowdy New York tavern altered American society and helped set Walt Whitman on the path to poetic immortality.