Day 3. December 31, 2014
The last day of 2014 began with a trip to Ford’s Theater. My sister and her BF failed to wake me up in time to go with them. Well. . . actually they woke me up when they were ready to leave.”Hey, wake up, we’re ready to go.” I’m not sure if they thought I was napping, but I was still in my pajamas with sleep face so we agreed to catch up later. I was running about an hour behind them, and made it to Ford’s Theater in time for the last lecture of the day. (I made a stop at the FBI along the way. The X-Files fan in me couldn’t help it.)
The tour of Ford’s Theater was a bit of a letdown for me. They didn’t really give any instructions, so it was unclear if you were just supposed to walk in and walk out, or stay for a talk. They also only allowed you to take one brochure per family, which I thought was kind of stingy. Luckily I was on my own and didn’t have to share.
I walked around it for about 15 minutes before a ranger came out to tell us a little about the events that led to the faithful night that Lincoln was assassinated. I was a bit disappointed by his story-telling abilities. He was monotone and it felt like someone was feeding him lines as he spoke, but this is what I learned:
John Wilks Booth was a famous actor who saw himself as “Brutus” to Lincoln’s “Caesar.” He felt that Lincoln was ruining the Union and that the people would rally behind him (Booth) in blind support after he assassinated Lincoln. Boy, was he wrong. After many months of conspiring to kill President Lincoln, Vice President Jackson, and Secretary of State Seward, Booth died in vain with a broken leg after a few days of being on the run. Lincoln died, and his death probably did more to bring the Union together than to tear it apart (although President Jackson was not much of an abolitionist).
So how did it happen?
Will, since this guy, Booth, was a famous actor, he had easy access to Ford’s Theater, and no one really thought twice when he walked in without a ticket. (Mind you, he’d been hanging out at the bar next door and staking out the theater for the President’s arrival all day.
How did Booth know the president would be there?
Well, the local newspaper had announced it. It had also mention that General Grant would be there too, but General Grant took a train home earlier that day and President Lincoln felt like he owed it to the people to show up, even if he really wasn’t feeling the theater that night. So anyway, there the president was, sitting in the rocking chair in his presidential balcony seat (This is a replica of what was actually there, the only original part of the theater is the facade–according to the ranger), when this Booth guy, walks in through the big yellow door. President’s didn’t have security back then. All Booth had to do was give the servant a calling card to gain entry.
So Booth had set things up earlier. He looks through a peep hole, waits for the loudest moment possible, and pulls the trigger. He shoots the President in the head, jumps out the balcony and onto the stage and yells, “Sic simper tyrannies!” Then ran off to escape.
Meanwhile, the president was dying. There was no hope of his survival, and the goal was too keep him alive long enough for his family to say their good-byes. Military men, who just happened to be in the audience, drew their swords and used them to keep the chaotic crowd away from the president and carried him out into the streets. It was there that a man staying across the street yelled, “bring him here,” and offered his room up to the President.
The House Where Lincoln Died
By the time the ranger finished his talk, the museum was closed, so I meandered across the street to the house where Lincoln died. That’s when I ran into these mugs. They’d just finished the tour, so we decided to meet up after they grabbed lunch.
These two were freezing and ready for a hot meal when we finally caught up.
I was more impressed with the house where Lincoln died than with Ford’s Theater. It really does a good job of commemorating the president, his life, his death, and the results thereafter. The tour begins with the viewing of the sitting room and the bedroom where the president died.
After this, the rest of the museum is dedicated to not just the night that Lincoln died, but to the series of events that came afterward– from the funeral procession to the political aftermath of his assassination. I was most fascinated with how Jackson and Lincoln’s plans to reunite the Union were not in line with each other. After leaving, I couldn’t help but wonder how things would have played out differently if he hadn’t been killed.
As I was leaving the museum, I received a message from my sister and her BF. They’d decided to hit the Madame Tussaud’s wax museum. “Perfect!” I thought. After having toured the House Where Lincoln died, all I wanted to do was go back to the Newseum to see if I could find some old newspapers about the day he died. I was pleasantly surprised to find a nook dedicated to the Civil War, the preservation of the Union, and Abraham Lincoln. My favorite part of this exhibit were the newspaper account of his death (note how the reports seem almost hour by hour on the same page,” and the Civil War “tweets.”
After exhausting all the information I could take in in one day, I left thinking, “all this time, in school they focused on how Lincoln equated to the abolition of slavery. Although, that was important, his larger legacy was in the preservation of the Union.”
(I enjoyed the Newseum so much that I ended up getting a one-year membership to it!)
My sister and her BF were still at the wax museum when I left the Newseum, so I decided to make my way to the Botanical Gardens. I stopped to take a couple of pictures along the way.
The Botanical gardens had a pretty cool holiday train exhibit that featured Thomas theTrain and Blackbeard’s Pirate Ship!
I snapped these gorgeous sunset shots on the way back to the Metro.
New Years Eve! It had been a long day and it was cold out, so we all weren’t full of energy to go out. While my sister’s BF slept, she and I got ready for a night in Old Town. A few hours later, we were all dressed up and he was sleeping. So we rallied my roommate and met up with some friends in Old Town Virginia around 11. At midnight, the crowds walked out of the bar to watch a beautiful firework show.
We got there just in time to warm up