Wreath Laying for President Lincoln

Vol. XX No. 2 - SUMMER 2009

By: Lee McQueen

The birth (February 12, 1809) and death (April 15, 1865) of Abraham Lincoln, 16th president of the United States, are historically significant events. While the date of his birth is part of President’s Day celebrations nationwide, in the Land of Lincoln, the Edgewater Historical Society chose to also remember Lincoln’s death with a Wreath Laying Memorial Ceremony co-sponsored by Alderman Mary Ann Smith.

On a cold, overcast and breezy April 15, 2009, various organizations and individuals gathered together at Senn Park, at the base of Lincoln’s statue, to respect the man that Edward McMasters Stanton (Secretary of War, April 15, 1865) said not only belonged to the ages but even further, “There lies the most perfect ruler of men the world has ever seen.”

Organizers Robert Remer and Betty Mayian of the Edgewater Historical Society put together a program schedule that allowed many in the community to express their admiration for Lincoln’s contributions to the building and binding of America.

The Senn ROTC Color Guard Presented Colors and the Rickover Naval Academy Band performed the Star Spangled Banner. Ara Mayian of the Edgewater Historical Society delivered the invocation, followed by Robert Remer, who acknowledged those present.

Mary Ann Smith, 48th Ward Alderman, delivered the City Proclamation while Kate Perreca, Chief of Staff to Harry Osterman, (State Representative, 14th District) did a presentation of the Proclamation. U.S. Representative Mike Quigley (5th District of Illinois) spoke. Also in attendance was State Senator Heather Steans (7th District).

Remer presented books on Lincoln to the ROTC and Naval Academy, preparing the way for Thomas Murphy of the Edgewater Historical Society, who performed a reading of President Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address of March 4, 1865. Murphy enhanced his performance with a full Lincoln costume.

While considered short, taking only six minutes to deliver, Murphy considered Lincoln’s address as historically significant. Lincoln delivered it mere days before the North’s victory over the secessionist South concluded the war.

This address included instantly-recognizable phrases such as “malice toward none… charity for all” as well as “The Almighty has his own purposes.” Noted for its spirit of humility rather than triumph, Lincoln’s address observed that both sides of the Civil War “read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes his aid against the other.”

Lincoln went further to suggest that divine justice gave “to both the North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came.” In this way, he addressed slavery as a source of the war between North and South. At approximately 700 words, Lincoln’s address ended with a sincere request to both sides “to bind up the nation’s wounds.”

Unknown to Lincoln at the time, John Wilkes Booth and his co-conspirators were part of the audience that day. Today, Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address is inscribed in the Lincoln Memorial along with the Gettysburg

Address. Murphy reprised his Lincoln role for the Memorial Day event at Rosehill Cemetery, reading the Gettysburg Address.

The actual wreath laying and playing of Taps by Cadet Ian Etchingham concluded the program, which also included Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts, veteran’s groups and motorcyclists. School children from Lake Shore School were part of the audience. Overall, 10 to 12 members of the Edgewater Historical Society attended. Ravenswood Pub hosted a pig roast for the event attendees.

Special thanks for their participation were given to: Sunburst Flowers and Gifts, Principal Michael Biela (Rickover Naval Academy), Commander Michael Tooker (Rickover Naval Academy), Band Director William Henry (Rickover Naval Academy), Principal Richard Norman (Senn High School), Colonel Scott Johnson (Senn ROTC and Color Guard), the Engineering staff of Senn Campus, Betty and Ara Mayian, Thomas Murphy, James Pletz and Nancy Meyerson, 48th Ward Service Office.