Post Reply 
Willie Lincoln plaque
09-24-2021, 09:53 AM (This post was last modified: 09-24-2021 10:06 AM by Gene C.)
Post: #31
RE: Willie Lincoln plaque

(09-24-2021 09:28 AM)terryw Wrote:  There is a passage in the memoir, quoting from a letter the Rev. Miner wrote his daughter Katie while visiting Washington in June 1862 and visiting the Lincolns, that states that he visited the vault in Oak Hill and the sexton opened the lid of the coffin for him to peer at Willie underneath a glass covering. He was perfectly preserved and dressed as if he were alive.
Nothing about Lincoln visiting the vault in that manuscript. I am still searching for verification of his visits from contemporary sources.

That seems like a strange thing to do, for Rev. Miner to have the lid of a coffin opened for him to peer at the remalns of a dead child, and for a sextant to do that for him, without mentioning the President.

No offense, but that seems unlikely to me. And yet, why write about it in a letter to your children if it wasn't true?
Was there anything in the letter regarding his visit to the President?

This Rev. Hill sounds like a strange person. Please let us know if you are able to verify his visit to President Lincoln.
Do you know the nature of his relationship to Lincoln?
Is it possible to post a portion of the diary where this visit and letter are mentioned?

So when is this "Old Enough To Know Better" supposed to kick in?
Find all posts by this user
Quote this message in a reply
09-24-2021, 10:32 AM
Post: #32
RE: Willie Lincoln plaque
In Twenty Days it says, "Word soon got about that Mr. Lincoln had been back to the tomb twice to have Willie's coffin opened so that he could look at him again." In the past, when I have wondered about the Kunhardts' sources, the answer has been contemporary newspapers. So, generally speaking, although it is not footnoted, I see Twenty Days as being pretty accurate when it comes to stories like this. The authors seem to have used a lot of 1860s newspapers. I believe those are likely the best place to look for a contemporary source on this. We have folks on this forum who are outstanding at searching old newspapers. I will be curious if an 1865 newspaper source can be found.
Find all posts by this user
Quote this message in a reply
09-26-2021, 11:24 AM
Post: #33
RE: Willie Lincoln plaque
At Roger's request, I did a search of newspapers from Feb. 1862 to April 1865 and I cannot find any news stories of Lincoln visiting Willie's body at the vault at Oak Hill cemetery and opening the coffin.

It's possible that such an article still exists and that I haven't thought of the right keywords to do the search. I guess it could also have been mentioned in a magazine like Harper's which wouldn't be in my newspaper databases.
Find all posts by this user
Quote this message in a reply
09-26-2021, 12:50 PM
Post: #34
RE: Willie Lincoln plaque
I poked about and found nothing to confirm the story of Lincoln's visits. Alan Manning's "Father Lincoln" states that Lincoln visited the tomb. He cites the Miner Hill memoir, which I haven't seen but which I assume is the same one Terry mentioned, as well as the Diary of Edward Bates and Francis Carpenter's "The Inner Life of Abraham Lincoln: Six Months at the White House." Neither of the latter mentions tomb visits, although Carpenter tells the story of Lincoln shutting himself up on the two Thursdays following Willie's death.
Visit this user's website Find all posts by this user
Quote this message in a reply
09-26-2021, 01:08 PM
Post: #35
RE: Willie Lincoln plaque
Here's a link to the WorldCat entry the Lincoln museum put up for the Miner Hill memoir:

https://www.worldcat.org/title/papers-19.../686747683

The 1923 date and the wording "Memoir of N.W. Miner's connection to Lincoln as recollected by Hill from stories her father told" should give one pause if this is the origin of the Lincoln opening Willie's casket at the vault story.
Find all posts by this user
Quote this message in a reply
09-27-2021, 10:22 PM
Post: #36
RE: Willie Lincoln plaque
This has been a topic of interest for me for a while. Like others here, I have done some searching (Newspapers, etc.) but have been unable to find any primary sources to support the story of Lincoln visiting Willie in the Carroll tomb. As Steve mentioned, trying to choose the correct keyword to search online newspaper databases is a challenge along with the sheer volume of possible newspapers (that aren't in online databases as well as those that are) make it hard to narrow down. Although, it seems to me it should be easier to find a primary source than it has proven to be if this story is true. I also did a quick check in Michael Burlingame's extensively referenced biography of Lincoln. As far as I could find, he made no mention of Lincoln having visited Willie in the Carroll tomb. I will have a chance to speak with Burlingame in a couple of weeks and if I remember, I will ask him about the topic.

Twenty Days seems to be what most be people who repeat this story use as a source. As much as I like the book Twenty Days, there has been more than one thing that appears in there that I have not been able to find a primary source for (and in at least one case where I have found primary sources that in fact contradict what they wrote). I wish they would have cited sources. It would even be great if there was some sort of access to their papers or notes – the material they wrote the book from. That may lead to more clues as to primary sourcing. Maybe someday the family will donate that material to one library or another. But until then…

Regarding the Mary Miner Hill papers. I have seen them at the library in Springfield, IL. As Terry noted in post #30, with a close read, they clearly state that it was Rev. Noyes Miner himself that visited Willie in the Carroll tomb. Any manuscript that uses those papers as a supporting source for the story that Lincoln or Mary visited the tomb is flat out wrong. Ms. Hill describes two letters that her father (Rev. Noyes Miner) sent home while visiting the Lincolns in 1862 after Willie’s death. One of the letters was to Ms. Hill’s mother and one was to Ms. Hill’s sister. She seemed to have had both of the letters in her possession at the time she was writing her “memoir.” In the “memoir,” it seems she, for all intents and purposes, transcribed her father’s letters (it’s unfortunate she did include a photostatic copy or a photograph of the original letters – that would have certainly heightened the credibility of the account).

I have a couple of research leads to follow up on with regards to this topic, but they require me to travel to Washington, DC. Due to the pandemic they have been on hold for quite a while. I haven’t been to DC in probably two years and don’t know when I’ll get down that way again. I hope maybe this winter, but we’ll see.
Find all posts by this user
Quote this message in a reply
Post Reply 


Forum Jump:


User(s) browsing this thread: 1 Guest(s)