Abraham Lincoln’s place in history is well-defined. He’s the great emancipator, the man who preserved the Union.
Jefferson Davis’ legacy, however, is a little more complicated.
The two men were born within 120 miles of each other in rural parts of Kentucky. Today, the Lincoln birthplace in Hodgenville is a National Park, featuring a granite memorial rising above rolling green hills.
“There’s four flights of the steps as you head up to the memorial, said park superintendent Bill Justice. “They are, in their own way, an invitation to go up and go into the memorial itself."
A replica of the austere log cabin in which Lincoln was born sits inside the ornate structure.
“There’s also a beautiful skylight up above there that provides an opportunity for natural light to flow into the building,” said Justice. “It has a very ‘memorial’ feel to it; the beautiful pink granite around the edge, the plaster-finished fixtures on the wall, the florets in the ceiling. [It’s a] really, really beautiful interior for this memorial.”
A week from Saturday, the National Park Service will break ground on a restoration project at Knob Creek, the piece of parkland where Abraham Lincoln spent some of his boyhood days.
During a tour of the Lincoln Birthplace Memorial last month, park superintendent Bill Justice spoke about the serene nature of the Knob Creek site, which is about 10 miles from the Birthplace Memorial.
“It’s a great place to be,” said Justice. “It’s a great place to step back in to time. As you do that and as you walk away from the road and from some of the more developed areas and so forth, you’re walking back into early 19th century Kentucky.”
Justice calls the Knob Creek site a special place and says it’s worth the drive to see it.
“At first glance, there doesn’t seem to be a lot there. There’s a field and there’s woods up in the knobs. But there’s an incredible plant and animal diversity there. Some of the most diverse plant and animal communities of any that you find amongst the parks here in Kentucky.”
Wednesday marks the 205th anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln. Several activities are planned at the Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park in Hodgenville. As a part of the commemoration, Lincoln historian Carl Howell will donate an artifact to the park – the grave marker for Abraham Lincoln’s only brother – Thomas Jr. – who died in infancy.
“I think it needs to be displayed in Larue County at the National Park where people can see it on a daily basis because of its extreme importance and significance to the Lincoln heritage,” said Howell.
Howell, a Hodgenville attorney, says he purchased the limestone grave marker in the 1970s from the owner of the small Redmon family cemetery as he was preparing to sell the property.
Five historic sites across Kentucky have been added to the sprawling Lincoln Heritage Trail. Director Warren Greer says the new sites include the Lincoln National Scenic Byway, the Joseph Holt Home in Breckenridge County and a Lincoln memorial in Louisville.
The Heritage Trail was re-instated in 2008 and Greer says Hodgenville continues to draw more visitors than others.
“By far the birthplace is the most-visited site. They have well over 100,000 visitors a year. That’s the real draw to Kentucky,” said Greer. “The other sites get quite a bit of visitation too. In Lexington you have the Mary Todd Lincoln House and Ashland you have the Henry Clay Estate.”
Greer says 300,000 visitors check out Lincoln historic sites every year in Kentucky. There are now a total of 19 sites on the Lincoln Heritage Trail.
Organizers of an Abraham Lincoln celebration near his central Kentucky birthplace say the government shutdown won't deter the weekend festivities.
The festival in Hodgenville begins Saturday. Coordinator Philip Setters told The News-Enterprise the two-day event would go on despite the closure of the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park.
A post on the event's website Thursday said the shutdown "does not affect Lincoln Days."
The annual event includes food, crafts and a children's scavenger hunt.
Setters said the possible rainy weather would be a more important factor for the event than a continuing shutdown in Washington.
The park, along with all other national parks, closed on Tuesday.
The head of WKU's Special Collections, Timothy Mullin talks about the Abraham Lincoln note
A new piece of American history is now on display at the Kentucky Museum, but if you don’t look closely, you might miss it.
The handwritten note from 1864 measures only three inches by three inches, but comes with enormous historical significance. It was written by Abraham Lincoln.
“If it were in anyone else’s hand, it would be insignificant,” said Timothy Mullin, head of the Department of Library Special Collections at WKU. “But because it is Lincoln, and because it refers to the oath and it really is the essence of how he wanted the war to end.”
The note is dated March 31, 1864 and is written on behalf of a Confederate prisoner of war. It indicates that he’s taken an oath of allegiance to the Union and is to be set free.
The Kentucky Museum has several Lincoln artifacts, but Mullin notes, this one is special.
Although Abraham Lincoln encountered a number of disappointments with his Army commanders, a noted historian says the nation's 16th president was generally effective in dealing with Naval commanders. Dr. Craig L. Symonds of the U-S Naval Academy says high-ranking officers in the Navy weren't selected as political appointments like some Army officers were.