Sunday, February 16, 2014

Library of America Story of the Week Read-Along 214: Lois Bryan Adams, Meeting “Father Abraham” (#214)

Lois Bryan Adams, "Meeting 'Father Abraham'" (1864) from The Civil War: The Third Year Told by Those Who Lived It:

Lois Bryan Adams was a Michigander journalist who went to D.C. to work as a clerk during the Civil War and who wrote dispatches (signed "L.") back home to tell about D.C. life. Today's reading is two letters from her, both involving cameos by President Lincoln.

In the first, Adams leads the reader like a tour guide through the crowds--
Look a moment; does it seem possible that we can ever work our way through that thronging, crowding mass, pouring down the broad pavement in one incessant stream?
--till she reaches the president, since he's holding an open reception day. Adams is firmly pro-union, anti-slavery, and pro-Lincoln--so much so that she ends up tongue-tied when she greets him. Which is where the tour guide frame sort of breaks down, though she resumes it later, saying that we'll make better use of the next open reception.

The next piece is about a fair being held at the Patent Office building, and it's radically different from a lot of the other Civil War reportage I've read in this series. There's no mention of the war (or of Adams's service in soldiers' relief organizations). Only a description of the opening speeches, including a cameo of Lincoln being dragooned into making a speech, which he pulls off admirably by talking about how unprepared he is.

Adams also discusses the decorations and displays at the fair, including a diorama of U.S. Grant's camp (the closest we get to the war) and a display of authentic New England pioneer life. My favorite part of this is when Adams notes that the "authentic" New England accent keeps turning into black dialect.

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