Today was the second day of my “Teachers as Scholars” seminar: “Abraham Lincoln and American Nationalism.” We spent most of the morning talking about Lincoln’s understanding of the Union as it related to the Emancipation Proclamation, his belief in “total war,” and the Gettysburg Address. I lectured for an hour or so on the way in which the Emancipation Proclamation allowed Lincoln to accomplish his goals of preserving the Union and freeing the slaves. I then showed the teachers the section on Sherman’s March and the Battle of Franklin in Ken Burns’s PBS series, “The Civil War.” After watching this, I gave them a host of quotes about nineteenth-century warfare. We discussed McClellan’s “civil” approach to war, Sherman and Grant’s “total war” approach, and a few paragraphs from Charles Royster’s excellent The Destructive War. The goal was to portray Lincoln as a president who was absolutely committed to total war as a means of preserving the Union.
After lunch in Messiah College’s Lottie Nelson Dining Hall we did some exegesis of Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address with help from Ronald White’s Lincoln’s Greatest Speech. We talked a great deal about Lincoln as a “theologian” and we examined the 2nd Inaugural alongside the comments on the war made by some of the period’s leading Christian clergymen.
I always learn something from the teachers I am supposed to be teaching. Today was no exception. Thanks to Steve, M.J. Chrissy, Kristi, and Ann for spending ten hours with me exploring the ideas of Abraham Lincoln.