I’ve begun reading Shelby Foote’s incredible three volume series on the Civil War. I’m about 200 pages into the first volume Fort Sumter to Perryville. Foote, as you may know, is one of the preeminent historians of that age, and became famous for his commentary on Ken Burn’s Civil War series on PBS.
Of Abraham Lincoln’s departure from Illinois on the eve of his assuming the Presidency, Lincoln says – and is quoted by Foote:
“My friends, no one not in my situation can appreciate any feeling of sadness at this parting. To this place and the kidness of these people I owe everything. Here I have lived for a quarter of a century, and have passed from a young to an old man. Here my children have been born, and one is buried. I now leave, not knowing when, or whether ever, I may return, with a task before me greater than that which rested upon Washington. Without the assistance of the Divine Being who ever attended him, I cannot succeed. With that assistance I cannot fail. Trusting in Him who can go with me and remain with you and be everywhere for good, let us confidently hope that all will yet be well. To His care commending you, as I hope in your prayers you will commend me, I bid you an affectionate farewell.”
The train pulled out and the people stood and watched it go, some with tears on their faces. Four years and two months later, still down in Coles County, Sally Bush Lincoln was to say: “I knowed when he went away he wasn’t ever coming back alive.”