A week in Lincoln’s telegraph office – Part 5

In September of 1863, Union General William Rosecrans and his Army of the Cumberland lost the Battle of Chickamauga in northwest Georgia to Confederate General Braxton Bragg and his Army of Tennessee. Rosecrans retreated to Chattanooga and there feared Bragg, taking the high ground around the city, would starve his army out. He sent a [...]

A week in Lincoln’s telegraph office – Part 4

It’s amazing the things we learn when we read a book. For example, I’m reading David Bates’s account of the years he was a telegrapher in the War Department during the Civil War, the book “Lincoln in the Telegraph Office.” Getting to Washington in the early days of the war was a harrowing experience. Bates [...]

A week in Lincoln’s telegraph office – Part 3

When David Bates got to Washington in April of 1861, he was ordered to the Navy Yard, to be the telegrapher for a Captain Dahlgren. Dahlgren didn’t want anyone tampering with his telegrapher, so he told his sergeant of the guard to post a sentry at the door to the telegraphy room with orders to [...]

A week in Lincoln’s telegraph office – Part 2

David Bates, born in Stuebenville, Ohio, was 17 and a telegrapher working for the Pennsylvania Railroad when the Civil War began. His superintendent ordered him to Washington in April of 1861, to work in the War Department’s telegraph office. A civilian ordering another civilian into the war effort? Here’s how it happened. Lincoln’s Secretary of [...]

A week in Lincoln’s telegraph office – Part 1

I liked Steven Spielberg’s movie, “Lincoln,” particularly the scenes in the telegraph office where Lincoln is reading dispatches and dictating telegrams. Those scenes reminded me that I had a book on my shelf that I had never gotten around to reading, David Bates’s “Lincoln in the Telegraph Office.” I had picked up my copy back [...]

A week of Hal Holbrook – Part 4

It’s hard to believe that the actor who became famous for his “Mark Twain Tonight” one-man show got his first break in television playing Abraham Lincoln. Hal Holbrook didn’t actually play Lincoln. He voiced Lincoln. It was 1953. The producers of a Lincoln television play for ABC’s “Hollywood Screen Test” needed a voice for Lincoln [...]

What we wouldn’t know if we didn’t read – Part 5

What do you read? A newspaper, news summaries on your computer screen or your e-reader, certain magazines, mysteries written by me? The dictionary? Ellen Williamson and her husband, George, were wealthy people who moved in the top social circles for much of their lives. They entertained, and others entertained them at cocktail parties. A guest [...]

What we wouldn’t know if we didn’t read – Part 4

Summertime BAC . . . Before Air Conditioning . . . was hot unless you lived in the north woods, on a lake, near the seashore, or in the mountains. You opened the windows, all of them. And you used fans, electric or hand-powered, to keep cool. Night, though, was a problem. If you were [...]

What we wouldn’t know if we didn’t read – Part 3

If you watch “Antique Roadshow,” you know there are people who collect paperweights . . . and there are lots of beautiful paperweights around, made by glassmakers. You can get new ones for five or ten dollars, but the rare collectibles, you may have to take out a second mortgage on your house to buy [...]

What we wouldn’t know if we didn’t read – Part 2

Ellen Williamson and her friends drank their way through Prohibition (1919-1933). Booze was readily available at the corner speakeasy or from your neighborhood bootlegger. Or, said Williamson in her 1977 memoir, When We Went First Class, there were three other ways to get liquor: “first and second, from your friendly family physician and your equally [...]