Oh, that we could say today what Harold Holzer said of Lincoln's first election to the presidency ("Election Day 1860"): that it was a "bitter, raucous, six-month-long campaign." Only six months? For that short a campaign, we might even welcome a cannon salvo at sunrise, like the one that rang out in Springfield, Illinois, in 1860.
Lincoln's Second Victory
"Election Day 1860" provides excellent insight into the mood and circumstances surrounding Abraham Lincoln as the returns came in and he finally realized that he had been elected. But the election of 1864 is of equal fascination and gravity, for Lincoln could have been defeated, leaving the fate of the nation in peril. All the confidence of those opening days of war vanished as weeks turned to months and months turned to years and still the fighting raged. The famous editor of the New York Tribune, Horace Greeley, a fiery hawk as the war began, was now crying for peace with the South along with a growing number of advocates of reconciliation. Recall that in the months before the 1864 election, Grant's army suffered ghastly losses; at Cold Harbor in Virginia alone, 7,000 Union soldiers were shot down in under 30 minutes. In that light, it seems miraculous that Lincoln managed to win (re-election and the war) and change the course of history.
Louis C. Kleber
Las Vegas, Nevada
On reaching the end of your informative article about John Rich's color photographs ["One Man's Korean War"], I was disappointed that you didn't include the picture of a "South Korean soldier with pink flowers lashed to his helmet," as author Abigail Tucker described in her last paragraph. "The young man must have wanted to be seen. And now, finally, he is." Although Tucker did a lovely job of communicating the image in words, you left us readers in the lurch.
John L. Aurbakken
We're happy to help you (and other readers) out of the lurch. Here's the photograph in question.—Ed.
What a Country
When I visited the National Museum of American History a few years ago, what stopped me dead in my tracks was the Greensboro, North Carolina, Lunch Counter ["From the Castle: History Ahead"], site of the 1960 desegregation sit-in. What kind of country, I asked myself, anchors an exhibit in its national museum with a lunch counter? A special kind of nation, I decided. Thanks to the Smithsonian for all it does to help us remember who we were, and are.
Perhaps in the 1950s, motorcycling meant defiance ["Curious Perspective"], but for America's early black aviators of the 1920s and '30s motorcycles were an affordable means of transportation and even a source of airplane engine parts. My great-uncle, James Herman Banning, rode motorcycles and used automobile and motorcycle engine parts to build and repair airplane engines. On the last leg of his pioneering voyage in 1932—he was the first African-American to fly cross-country—he dropped campaign fliers for the Roosevelt presidential ticket in exchange for funding to get back home.
Philip S. Hart
Los Angeles, California