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A fly on the wall at Lincoln’s Inaugural Ball


The Civil War was winding down when Lincoln won his second term in office, and no one could have anticipated that tragedy would strike a mere six weeks after the Inaugural Ball for which the above invitation welcomed a gent and two ladies for ten dollars.

Amy Henderson, curator at the National Portrait Gallery, the top floor of which hosted Lincoln’s event, described what the scene must have been like at the blog Around the Mall including an observation by another famous American, Walt Whitman:

Earlier, the space had served a very different purpose as a hospital for Civil War soldiers wounded at Manassas, Antietam, and Fredericksburg. Poet Walt Whitman, who worked as a clerk at the Bureau of Indian Affairs in the Patent Office Building, had been an orderly who treated these soldiers. The night of the inaugural ball, he wrote in his diary, “I have been up to look at the dance and supper rooms. . . and I could not help thinking, what a different scene they presented to my view since fill’d with a crowded mass of the worst wounded of the war. . .” Now, for the ball, he recorded that the building was filling up with “beautiful women, perfumes, the violins’ sweetness, the polka and the waltz.”

May this year’s festivities be only the beginning of better times to come.

Full story at Around the Mall and Newswise.

Glimpses of history.

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