WASHINGTON, September 11, 2012 – When President Abraham Lincoln issued his historic Emancipation Proclamation on September 22, 1862, he had the fervent backing of Quakers on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line.
Events during the September 21-23 weekend will be held in both Gettysburg and DC to commemorate the proclamation’s 150th anniversary and explore the roles both Lincoln and the Quakers played in the abolition of slavery.
Although Quakers have always been known for their opposition to taking up arms, some in the Civil War era were more fervent in their opposition to slavery than they were to war. There were Quakers who actually went to battle and others who were active in the Underground Railroad movement.
A tour near the historic Quaker Valley battlefield shows where freedom seekers got safe harbor. The Adams County Historical Society and Debra McCauslin of For the Cause Productions will conduct Freedom Lies Just North: The Underground Railroad Tour of Adams County at 10 a. m. on Saturday.
“Quakers lived north and south of the Mason-Dixon Line,” said McCauslin, “and wherever they lived, the Underground Railroad seemed to operate. On the tour, we will tell stories of slave kidnappings like that of Kitty Payne and her three children. There were Quakers in both Adams County and Virginia who worked to get her freedom and that of others. We’ll also see a springhouse where runaway slaves hid,” said McCauslin. Additional sites on the Underground Railroad are also on the tour.
Gettysburg National Military Park Museum & Visitor Center will open exhibits on the anniversary weekend about Lincoln and slavery; one of the Lincoln-signed copies of the Emancipation Proclamation and a signed copy of the 13th Amendment will be the main features.
Lincoln signed several copies of the Emancipation Proclamation. In addition to the one on display in Gettysburg, another can be found in northwest DC at President Lincoln’s Cottage. This house is where the president drafted his proclamation to end slavery in the summer of 1862.
Located just three miles north of The Capitol on the leafy grounds of the Armed Forces Retirement Home, the cottage was first opened for public tours in 2008 following a $15 million restoration by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. An exhibit and education center is adjacent to the cottage which explores Life in Civil War Washington and Lincoln’s role as Commander-in-Chief.
The house built was in 1842 by George W. Riggs, a prominent local banker. Riggs sold the house and surrounding farm to the Federal Government in 1851 and it became a home for disabled veterans. The Lincoln Family lived in the house to escape the din, disease, and war heat of downtown DC in the summers of 1862, 1863, and 1864. The president commuted on horseback daily from the cottage to the White House, and along the way, he engaged soldiers about current issues – discussion that may have influenced his own beliefs about slavery.
The house was used by other 19th century U.S. presidents including Hayes and Arthur. In those days, there was less development and vegetation to hide the capitol view. You can still see the familiar dome today, if you stand in the right place.
On a tour of the cottage interior, visitors hear recorded voices reading private letters and other historic writings that make the Civil War era come alive. Tour narratives also encourage contemplation about all the war carnage that surrounded the Lincolns as they tried to gain some solace at the retreat, even as they observed burials taking place all around them.
As the Civil War Sesquicentennial marches on, these latest commemorative events enlarge our understanding of the country’s greatest struggle and the role people of faith played to end the suffering and eradicate abuse.
The Emancipation Proclamation freed slaves in states that were in rebellion against the Union (border and northern states excepted) and became effective January 1, 1863.
Read more of Ruth Hill’s columns at Contemporary Christian Travel in the Washington Times Communities.
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