• 27 May 2023 9:36 AM | Wendy S. Allen (Administrator)

    This article originally appeared in the pages of the Gettysburg Times, May of 2023. It was penned by Therese Orr of the Lincoln Fellowship of Pennsylvania, in the hopes of sharing the work the Fellowship does.

    Of all the military bugle calls, none is so easily recognized or more apt to evoke emotion than the call Taps. A melody both eloquent and haunting, Taps is unique to the United States military, since the call is sounded at funerals, wreath-laying and memorial services.
        Taps began as a revision for the signal of Extinguish Lights (Lights Out) at the end of the day. Prior to the Civil War, the infantry call for Extinguish Lights was music borrowed from the French. The music for Taps was adapted by Union General Daniel Butterfield for his brigade in July 1862.
        As the story goes, General Butterfield was not pleased with the call for Extinguish Lights, feeling that the call was too formal to signal the day's end. With the help of the brigade bugler, Oliver Willcox Norton, Butterfield wrote Taps to honor his men while in camp at Harrison’s Landing, Virginia, following the Seven Days battles in the summer of 1862. The General could not read or write music, but as was required of all regimental officers, he had learned the Army bugle calls.  It is believed that he took the existing Tattoo call and shortened and lengthened notes with the help of Norton until he liked it.  The new call, sounded that night in July 1862, soon spread to other units of the Union Army and was reportedly also used by the Confederates. Taps became an official bugle call after the war.
        Why the name Taps? The call of Tattoo was used in order to assemble soldiers for the last roll call of the day. The word tattoo in this usage is derived from the Dutch tap (faucet) and toe (to cut off). When it was time to cease drinking for the evening and return to the post, the provost or Officer of the Day, accompanied by a sergeant and drummer, would go through the town beating out the signal for all the troops to return to their billets. It is possible that the word Tattoo became Taps. Tattoo was also called Tap-toe and as is true with slang terms in the military, it was shortened to Taps.
        Since 2016 the Lincoln Fellowship of Pennsylvania has sponsored 100 Nights of Taps, from Memorial Day to Labor Day. The evening begins at 5:30 with a free cemetery tour by a Licensed Battlefield Guide, each Guide providing a history of the cemetery and their own selection of soldiers to highlight. The tour ends in time for the 7:00 Taps program, which includes a brief historical vignette and the playing of Taps by a volunteer guest bugler. The buglers come from far and wide, this year including guest buglers from Belgium. We begin this year on May 29 with an extended program.
        We invite you to join us and our co-sponsor, the Gettysburg National Military Park, and our partners, Taps for Veterans and Gettysburg’s Licensed Battlefield Guides, for a beautiful end to the day as we honor those who gave the “last full measure of devotion” to our country.

  • 24 Apr 2023 9:35 AM | Wendy S. Allen (Administrator)

    This article originally appeared in the pages of the Gettysburg Times, April of 2023. It was penned by Wendy Allen of the Lincoln Fellowship of Pennsylvania, in the hopes of sharing the work the Fellowship does. 

    This summer, the Lincoln Fellowship of Pennsylvania and Gettysburg National Military Park will co-sponsor the seventh year of One Hundred Nights of Taps, Gettysburg. Along with our wonderful partners, Taps for Veterans and the Gettysburg Licensed Battlefield Guides, we look forward to hosting thousands of visitors to Gettysburg National Cemetery and continuing to inform, inspire, and involve them.

    According to Drew Gilpin Faust in her award-winning book, “This Republic of Suffering,” over 40 percent of deceased Civil War Union soldiers perished without names--identified only, as Walt Whitman put it, “by the significant word UNKNOWN.” Faust continues, “to a twenty-first-century American, this seems unimaginable.”

    This summer, the Lincoln Fellowship of Pennsylvania will be presenting our annual commemorative coin to the buglers and guest participants in thanks for their volunteer time. In years past, we honored individual, known Union soldiers who were killed here in 1863. This year we will be honoring the UNKNOWN United States soldiers buried in Gettysburg National Cemetery. Of the 3,354 soldiers buried there, 979 are unknown.

    Seasonal GNMP Ranger Elizabeth Smith, notes, "When it comes to the unknown residing in this cemetery, we tend to know either very little or nothing at all about them. But there are outliers, men we know who died here at Gettysburg and whose bodies were never claimed and most likely now reside here in this National Cemetery. One of these men is Albert Mattice.”

    Albert Mattice was born on October 6, 1844, in Ontario, Canada. The first of twelve children, Albert grew up on his father’s 400-acre farm in Stormont County. We know nothing of what his childhood was like, but we do know that in 1862, at 17 years old, Albert left Canada and traveled south. On July 5, 1862, he enlisted with the 11th US Regulars.  

    Upon enlisting, Albert and the 11th quickly became combat veterans, seeing action at places such as Antietam, Fredericksburg, and Chancellorsville. July 2, 1863, found them here at Gettysburg’s infamous Wheatfield. While advancing into the Wheatfield, the 11th suddenly found themselves flanked by Confederate forces, who unleashed a volley. “In a few minutes,” the 11th’s major remembered, “we lost nearly half of the regiment, and that too, without inflecting the slightest damage upon the enemy.”

    One of those lost was 18-year-old Albert Mattice. We don’t know exactly when or where Albert fell, but we know that he died there, at the Wheatfield, only three days short of a full year in the army. With no identification on his person, Albert’s body was never identified and so what exactly happened to him remains uncertain; however, more than likely, he now resides in one of the numbered graves in the unknown section of Gettysburg National Cemetery.

    Drew Gilpin Faust states, “The cemetery at Gettysburg was arranged so that every grave was of equal importance; William Saunders’s design, like Lincoln’s speech, affirmed that every dead soldier mattered equally regardless of rank or station. The work of locating the missing and naming the tens of thousands of men designated as ‘unknown’ would prove one of the war’s most difficult tasks.”

  • 25 Mar 2023 9:30 AM | Wendy S. Allen (Administrator)

    This article originally appeared in the pages of the Gettysburg Times, March of 2023. It was penned by John Tuskan, Historian/Archivist, of the Lincoln Fellowship of Pennsylvania, in the hopes of sharing the work the Fellowship does. 

    In 1855, Abraham Lincoln came within five votes of becoming a U.S. senator from Illinois, and Walt Whitman (1819-1892) published the first edition of his masterwork, Leaves of Grass. At that time, few people would have predicted that Lincoln and Whitman would go on to become two iconic figures united in American history, whose powerful democratic voices echo to this day.
    Early on, Whitman sensed Lincoln’s uniqueness. On February 19, 1861, he saw Lincoln for the first time as the president-elect traveled through New York City. As his respect and warm approval for President Lincoln grew, he noted Lincoln's "striking appearance" and "unpretentious dignity,” and trusted his "supernatural tact" and "idiomatic Western genius.”

    Whitman believed that he and Lincoln were “afloat in the same stream” and “rooted in the same ground.” He reflected, “After my dear, dear mother, I guess Lincoln gets almost nearer me than anybody else.” Lincoln and Whitman were certainly kindred spirits in their commitment to democratic principles and ideals, preservation of the Union, and a belief in and celebration of the greatness of the people – the common folk.
    Lincoln knew of Whitman and his works. Lincoln’s law partner, William Herndon bought a copy of Leaves of Grass when it first appeared and took it to their Springfield office, where law clerk Henry Rankin later wrote that Lincoln often read passages aloud.

    Whitman and Lincoln shared many similarities in literary styles and inspirations. There was a poetry to many of Lincoln’s public speeches, especially the Gettysburg Address. Prominent Lincoln scholar, Harold Holzer brilliantly proffered that, “The Gettysburg Address was the poetry to the Emancipation Proclamation’s prose” and Professor Gabor Boritt insightfully proposed that, “The beauty of the language of the Gettysburg Address helps explain its glory over the years.”

    The Gettysburg Address and many poems in Leaves of Grass invoke an American democratic ethos and egalitarian principles. In his poem “Song of myself”, Whitman says “I am large,/I contain multitudes,” and in “America,” he declares the nation as “Centre of equal daughters, equal sons, /All, all alike endear’d, grown, ungrown, young or old,”– conveying the complex American identity and great democratic voice.

    Whitman never met Lincoln in person but estimated that he saw Lincoln about twenty to thirty times between 1861 and 1865. Whitman wrote that Lincoln nodded to him as he passed by in his carriage, but some historians have argued that Lincoln nodded to many passersby as he traveled and may not have actually recognized Whitman. Whitman and Lincoln were in the same room twice: At a reception in the White House in 1861, and later when Whitman visited John Hay, Lincoln's private secretary, at the White House.

    Deeply moved by Lincoln’s death on April 15, 1865, Whitman eventually added four poems in tribute to Lincoln in his volume about the war, Drum Taps: “Oh, Captain! My Captain!, “Hush’d be the Camps To-day,” “This Dust was Once the Man,” and arguably his greatest and most enduring poem,” When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d.“ On April 16, 1865, Whitman said of Lincoln: “He leaves, in my opinion, the greatest, best, most characteristic, moral personality.” 

  • 25 Feb 2023 4:28 PM | Wendy S. Allen (Administrator)

    This article originally appeared in the pages of the Gettysburg Times, February of 2023. It was penned by Ken Kime, Vice President of the Lincoln Fellowship of Pennsylvania, in the hopes of sharing the work the Fellowship does. 

    Abraham Lincoln had four sons but only his oldest, Robert, reached adulthood. Robert was born on August 1, 1843, in Springfield, Illinois. His younger brothers had a warm relationship with their father, but Robert did not. Later in his life he would write that during his childhood his father was almost constantly away attending court or making political speeches.
    When Robert was sixteen, he went to New Hampshire to attend a private school, and afterward to Harvard College. While Robert was attending Harvard, his father became President. Robert would reflect that he had scarcely any quiet time with his father during his Presidency because of his constant devotion to work. After completing undergraduate studies in 1864, Robert entered Harvard Law School, but after one year he left to briefly serve as a captain in the Union Army.
    After his father’s death he moved with his mother and brother Tad to Chicago, where he finished law school at the U. of Chicago. He gained clients in the railroad and corporate sectors and became an established, successful lawyer. President James Garfield appointed him Secretary of War from 1881 until 1885 and President Benjamin Harrison assigned Robert to be Minister to Great Britain, which he accepted and served until 1893. He became the President of the Pullman Palace Car Co. of Chicago.
    Like his father, Robert was well acquainted with death. His brother Eddie was born in 1846 but died at the age of three of tuberculosis. His second sibling Willie was born in 1850, but died in the White House of typhoid fever. His third brother, Tad, was born in 1853. Tad had a cleft lip and palate which caused him speech problems throughout his life. After the assassination, Mary, Robert and Tad moved to Chicago. Mary and Tad moved to Germany in 1868 and later to England. After three years abroad, they moved back to Chicago. In July of 1871, Tad died at the age of 18 from tuberculosis.                                       During his life Robert also witnessed political violence. He was not only present when his father died, but also saw the assassination of James Garfield, and was nearby when William McKinley was shot. He said, “My God, how many hours of sorrow I have passed in this town.”
    Robert Lincoln was married and had three children, two girls and one boy. The only grandson of Abraham Lincoln passed away at the age of sixteen due to a blood infection from surgery. Robert Lincoln died on July 26, 1926, at his summer retreat in Manchester Vermont, at the age of 82.
    Despite his many successes, Robert Lincoln would remark to his friend Nicholas Murray Butler, “No one wanted me for Secretary of War, or Minister to England; they wanted Abraham Lincoln’s son.”
    Robert was not interred in Springfield in the family tomb but, at his wife’s request, interred in Arlington National Cemetery to reflect a career independent of his famous father.

    Ken Kime is the Vice President of the Lincoln Fellowship of Pennsylvania. 

  • 25 Feb 2023 4:22 PM | Wendy S. Allen (Administrator)

    This article originally appeared in the pages of the Gettysburg Times, January of 2023. It was penned by Wendy Allen of the Lincoln Fellowship of Pennsylvania, in the hopes of sharing the work the Fellowship does. 

    One has to wonder what might be different today if President Kennedy had accepted the invitation to speak at the Centennial Commemoration of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address on November 19th, 1963.

    That same year, President Kennedy had visited Gettysburg in March to tour the battlefield and was again invited to be in Gettysburg on July 4th for the Centennial Commemoration of the Battle of Gettysburg but declined. According to the official record of the Centennial Commission, “informal soundings” coming from the White House indicated that President Kennedy would come to Gettysburg in November to use the occasion for a major address to the nation. Accordingly, Governor Scranton extended an official invitation to the President to rededicate the Cemetery. The President and his advisors declined the invitation and went instead on his fateful trip to Texas.
The next most prominent figure from American politics happened to live in Gettysburg already: JFK’s predecessor in the White House, Dwight D. Eisenhower. Eisenhower and his wife, Mamie, had purchased a farm on the outskirts of the battlefield in 1950 and, following his presidency, they had moved to the farm permanently. He even surrendered the honorific title “Mr. President” in favor of “General” when upon his request, Congress restored his military rank after completion of his second presidential term. “The General” gladly accepted the invitation to offer the keynote at the commemoration ceremony. Mamie Eisenhower was there, too, “dressed in brilliant red and displaying her famous smile.”

    In 1963, the Lincoln Fellowship observed its 25th anniversary. Those involved with the Fellowship that year knew this was a significant milestone. The President of the Fellowship, Chester S. Shriver wrote, “The accomplishment of the purposes of the Lincoln Fellowship have been rewarding to those who have embraced the ideals of Abraham Lincoln and who annually commemorate November 19 as Dedication Day.”

  • 01 Sep 2020 8:09 PM | Christopher Gwinn

    We read and hear the word “frontline” a lot lately. Doctors, nurses, medical staff, and all first responders are on the frontline. They are heroes. They are heroes, quite simply, because they have put themselves between us and profound danger. We are extremely grateful for these people who are selflessly protecting us from a new and unknown enemy—Covid-19.

    But this isn’t the first, nor the last, danger we’ll face as a nation. And isn’t new either. There are many moments in our history in which we have expressed profound gratitude for brave frontliners. The following is a notable example. In what has been described as one of the most emotionally intense moments of his presidency, Abraham Lincoln honored the wounded near City Point, Virginia, on April 8, 1865, just days before General Lee’s surrender. At the hospital he visited--one of the largest in the United States--he personally greeted as many as 6,000 men, many of them severely wounded.

    In his book, Lincoln’s Greatest Journey: Sixteen Days That Changed a Presidency, March 24 – April 8, 1865, author Noah Andre Trudeau recounts a remarkable story from that day, involving a sharpshooter from Vermont. As Lincoln approached him, the soldier threw off his blankets to show the president that his right leg was missing. Lincoln remarked gently, “What, a leg gone?” The soldier replied: ‘Yes.’ Lincoln stood at the head of the bed and read the soldier’s identification card. “And a Vermonter,” he said. “Yes, sir,” replied the soldier. “I pride myself on being a Green Mountain boy.” Lincoln clasped the soldier’s hand between both of his. The soldier then asked, ‘Well, Father Abraham, have we done our work well?” “Very well, indeed, and I thank you,” came the reply. The soldier never forgot the pressure of Lincoln’s hands on his, nor did he forget Lincoln’s face. Fifty years later, he recalled, “I often see that sad and worn face in memory, and I can hardly keep back the tears.”

    Just as Lincoln honored those wounded soldiers, the members of the Lincoln Fellowship of Pennsylvania have been privileged to honor the fallen heroes at Gettysburg National Cemetery, in the very place they were buried so long ago. Unfortunately, this year, due to the current Covid-19 pandemic, the ceremony cannot be held in public at the cemetery. Nevertheless, One Hundred Nights of Taps, Gettysburg, 2020, will continue its mission online and will be streamed every night at 7 p.m. on Facebook and YouTube.

    This year, too, the Lincoln Fellowship’s annual commemorative coin honors one representative soldier, buried in Row D, #82, in Gettysburg National Cemetery. His name was Sergeant Isaac S. Osborne and he served with the 62nd Pennsylvania Infantry, Company 1. He lost his life fighting on the frontline at the Wheatfield, on July 2. He died defending the colors. By remembering Sgt. Osborne every night this summer, we can honor not only his particular sacrifice but the bravery and nobility of every heroic frontliner, both past and present. It is the very least we can do.

    Wendy Allen
    Vice President
    Lincoln Fellowship of Pennsylvania

  • 01 Sep 2020 8:05 PM | Christopher Gwinn

    On July 4th, we celebrate the birth of our great nation.  We also celebrate the recurring rebirth of our common ideals.  As Dwight D. Eisenhower observed: “The winning of freedom is not to be compared with the winning of a game—with the victory recorded forever in history.  Freedom has its life in the hearts, the actions, the spirit of men and so it must be daily earned and refreshed—else like a flower cut from its life-giving roots, it will wither and die.”

    Here in Gettysburg, we especially remember all who have fought to preserve and protect our nation.  Abraham Lincoln thought it his sacred duty to maintain that government which, although imperfect, was “the last best hope of earth.”  Lincoln described the war as “a struggle for maintaining in the world, that form, and substance of government, whose leading object is, to elevate the condition of men . . ..”  Lincoln sought to carry the torch of the founding fathers’ vision while recognizing it must evolve.  Thus, he exhorted Americans to continue the “unfinished work” of those who sacrificed at Gettysburg so that our nation “shall have a new birth of freedom” and our government “shall not perish from the earth.”

    While looking to the future, Lincoln also emphasized the need to honor and remember those who fought for our nation.  He frequently spoke, at Gettysburg and elsewhere, of the brave soldiers who sacrificed for the country’s cause: “To you who render the hardest work in its support should be given the greatest credit.”

    Today, as we enjoy July 4th festivities, we also pause to pay tribute to our veterans.  The Lincoln Fellowship of Pennsylvania, in coordination with Taps for Veterans and the Gettysburg National Military Park, sponsors 100 Nights of Taps, so that each summer evening Taps is played to honor those who served our nation.  With great effort from the program organizers, 100 Nights of Taps continued virtually while the Soldier’s National Cemetery was closed for events.  The Taps program recently returned to the beautiful and sacred Cemetery and will continue there as feasible.  Visitors must follow all CDC and DOH guidelines including social distancing and the wearing of face masks.  Please join us at the Cemetery any evening at 7:00 pm through Labor Day for this brief but powerful ceremony.  Any updates will appear on the 100 Nights of Taps Facebook page.

    And, as we observe July 4th, even if socially distanced, let us bear in mind all we have to celebrate as well as Lincoln’s call to continue the “unfinished work.”  Reflecting on our nation’s history, Lincoln stated: “Of our political revolution of '76, we all are justly proud. It has given us a degree of political freedom, far exceeding that of any other nation of the earth. . . . In it was the germ which has vegetated, and still is to grow and expand into the universal liberty of mankind.” 

    Susan Iuliano is a Board Member of the Lincoln Fellowship of PA, which is committed to commemorating the Gettysburg Address during the annual Dedication Day ceremonies, supporting “100 Nights of Taps” at the Soldiers' National Cemetery, and other educational activities.  To learn more and support these efforts, go to www.lincolnfellowship.org.

  • 27 Apr 2020 7:42 PM | Christopher Gwinn

    On April 9, 1865, Abraham Lincoln received a telegram from Ulysses S. Grant reporting Robert E. Lee’s surrender, formally ending the Civil War. Six days later, on Good Friday, April 14, Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes Booth during a performance at Ford’s Theatre.  Lincoln died the next morning.  This tragedy, 155 years ago this month, terminated Lincoln’s critical leadership just as he had turned to mending a broken nation.  Focusing on forgiveness and justice, Lincoln sought to accelerate Reconstruction and establish voting rights for former slaves.

    The assassination plan devised by Booth and other Confederate sympathizers epitomized the formidable obstacles Lincoln faced. A few days prior to the assassination, Booth had listened to Lincoln advocating for black suffrage.  Booth declared: “That is the last speech he will ever make.”  Booth and his conspirators plotted to kill Lincoln, Vice President Andrew Johnson, and the Secretary of State at three locations on the evening of April 14.  Johnson’s assigned attacker abandoned the plan, while the Secretary was injured before his assailant fled.  Only Booth succeeded.  As an actor known at the theater, Booth gained access to Lincoln’s private viewing balcony, barred the door, and shot Lincoln in the back of the head.  Booth then leapt from the balcony to the stage and escaped, but was later captured.

    Lincoln was carried across the street to a boarding house and was laid diagonally to fit his tall frame on the bed.  Throughout the night, doctors, government officials, and his wife Mary attended to him.  When he died early the next morning, War Secretary Edwin Stanton declared: “Now he belongs to the ages.”

    After public viewing in Washington, Lincoln’s body traveled by train to his Springfield home, viewed by multitudes of mourners along the way.  Noted Russian author Leo Tolstoy declared that Lincoln was “worshipped throughout the world” because “his supremacy expresses itself altogether in his peculiar moral power and in the greatness of his character.” 

    What legacy was lost when Lincoln was prevented from bringing his moral power to bear in leading a national reunion and rebirth?  Could Lincoln have persuaded a recalcitrant Congress to implement his Reconstruction plans?  Mitigated the calls for revenge?  Moved us closer to that “just and lasting peace?”

    Early in his career, Lincoln described his ambition as “that of being truly esteemed of my fellow men, by rendering myself worthy of their esteem.”  He became increasingly reflective concerning his mortality and his legacy.  He reportedly experienced a prescient dream of wandering the White House and learning of the President’s assassination.  Prior to his Second Inauguration, Lincoln stated: “Die when I may, I want it said of me by those who knew me best, that I always plucked a thistle and planted a flower where I thought a flower would grow.”  Certainly, Lincoln rooted out a thorny thistle that had taken root.  But we will never know what may have bloomed had he been allowed to cultivate and nurture all that he planted in our soil.

    Susan Iuliano is a Board Member of the Lincoln Fellowship of PA, which is committed to commemorating the Gettysburg Address during the annual Dedication Day ceremonies, supporting “100 Nights of Taps” at the Soldiers' National Cemetery, and other educational activities.  To learn more and support these efforts, go to www.lincolnfellowship.org.

  • 22 Mar 2020 7:46 PM | Christopher Gwinn

    On a muddy March 4, 1865, Abraham Lincoln was sworn in for his second term as President.

    His Second Inaugural Address was an attempt to explain how the evils of the war reconcile with the idea of God’s will. President Lincoln quotes or alludes to Bible verses six times throughout the speech.

    Lincoln reminded the audience that only four years before, “all thoughts were anxiously directed to an impending civil war. All dreaded it, all sought to avert it. While the inaugural address was being delivered from this place, devoted altogether to saving the Union without war, insurgent agents were in the city seeking to destroy it without war--seeking to dissolve the Union and divide effects by negotiation. Both parties deprecated war, but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive, and the other would accept war rather than let it perish, and the war came.”

    He states that views on slavery caused the war, whether to extend it into the territories or to restrict its expansion.

    Lincoln noted that “Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes.”

    Then he says that if God is offended by slavery, He might bring “both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came…”

    “Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said "the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”

    In other words, slavery was an offense God wanted removed, and perhaps it was God’s will that war continue until “all the wealth” resulting from slavery is gone. Lincoln believed that we can’t know God’s will, but whatever that will is, Lincoln asserts that it is righteous.

    Lincoln ends by calling us to a higher morality: "With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.

    Susan Paddock is Secretary of The Lincoln Fellowship of PA (lincolnfellowship.org)

  • 19 May 2019 7:13 PM | Christopher Gwinn

    This article originally appeared in the pages of the Gettysburg Times, January of 2019. It is one of a recurring series penned by members of the Lincoln Fellowship of Pennsylvania, in the hopes of sharing the work the Fellowship does. We are delighted to re-share this as the first entry in our new Fellowship blog!

    I am the Vice President of the Lincoln Fellowship of Pennsylvania, but during the day, I am an artist who specializes in painting Abraham Lincoln. My studio and gallery are here in Gettysburg. There isn’t a day that passes that I don’t contemplate what it would be like if President Abraham Lincoln could return to Gettysburg to witness the profound impact his Gettysburg Address has made, not only on our thriving community but also the world.

    If you visit Gettysburg’s town square, you will notice a statue in front of the David Wills House that captures what it might look like if the sixteenth president visited today. John Seward Johnson II (born 16 April 1930) is the American artist who created this iconic sculpture, titled, “Return Visit.”

    “Return Visit” was commissioned by the Lincoln Fellowship of Pennsylvania and dedicated in 1991. The statue represents a “common man” (a present-day tourist) with Abraham Lincoln. While gazing at the Wills House, the tourist holds a copy of the Gettysburg Address. Lincoln stares down at his Address, and with his hat outstretched in his left hand, he seems to be inviting the “tourist” to notice the Wills House—to show him where he made finishing touches to his “few appropriate remarks.”

    This amazing sculpture should make residents of Gettysburg very proud. Seward Johnson is a profound and renowned American artist. Heir to the Johnson and Johnson empire, he began his artistic career as a painter. In 1968, he began sculpting, choosing bronze as his new medium. He remarked that he liked to work in bronze because "it is strong and endures nature's harshness over long periods of time.”

    Each bronze sculpture takes two years to complete. Johnson says he first observes his subjects by "walking through life, retaining the way people relate to each other, gestures they make, telltale habits, expressions." He has created more than 450 life-sized sculptures. They are in museums in the United States, Canada, Europe, and Asia. Many appear in busy public venues such Times Square and Rockefeller Center in New York City, Pacific Place of Hong Kong, Les Halles in Paris, and Via Condotti in Rome.  One of his most famous works is his twenty-six foot tall “Forever Marilyn.” This sculpture debuted in 2011 along Chicago’s Michigan Avenue. His most renowned sculpture, “Embracing Peace,” depicts the moment in Times Square when the sailor and nurse spontaneously rejoiced in celebration on V-E Day at the conclusion of World War ll in Europe.

    The Lincoln Fellowship of Pennsylvania is honored to maintain the “Return Visit.” The bronze Lincoln statue weighs 700 pounds and stands 6’ 4” inches tall (Lincoln’s actual height). The bronze “tourist” statue weighs 400 pounds. Most of the time, the statue only requires on-site cleanings and modest repairs. But in 2011, the Fellowship sent the statue to the sculptor’s studio for a major, meticulous four-month restoration. 

    There are approximately 1,300 monuments, markers, and memorials in and around the Gettysburg area. I would bet that the “Return Visit” statue in downtown Gettysburg is the most touched, hugged, and, certainly, the most photographed of all.

    - Wendy Allen
    January 2019

Lincoln Fellowship of Pennsylvania is a 501(c)3 Organization
P. O. Box 3372, Gettysburg, PA  17325

Email:  lincolnfellowshipofpa@gmail.com

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