TwHP Lessons

President Lincoln's Cottage:
A Retreat


(Courtesy of President Lincoln's Cottage, a National Trust Historic Site)

A cool breeze whispers by a picturesque cottage perched on a hill overlooking the city of Washington. A tall man in a dusty black suit gallops up the path and halts his horse in front of the house. He breathes in the country air and exhales a soft sigh of relief. Here, surrounded by open green spaces and a few stately buildings, the man has found a place to relax. It seems difficult to believe that such a place is only three miles from the dust and noise at the center of the nation’s capital. The weary man in the dark suit is none other than President Abraham Lincoln and this is his seasonal home, his refuge from the chaos of Civil War Washington, DC. Yet there are decisions to be made and responsibilities from which he cannot escape.

President Lincoln and his family resided in this cottage from June through November of 1862, 1863 and 1864. Lincoln’s first visit was a few days after his inauguration and his last visit was the day before his assassination. While in many ways it served as a sanctuary for Lincoln, he was still consumed by his presidential responsibilities. Each day on his commute to the cottage, the President passed contraband camps (temporary shelters built to house the thousands of former slaves that escaped to freedom behind Union Army lines), ambulances carrying sick soldiers to and from nearby hospitals, and cemeteries, all sights that served as reminders of the Civil War. While at this retreat, Lincoln met with both friends and political opponents and discussed strategies for winning the war. Most notably, he formulated his thoughts on emancipation and issued the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

About This Lesson

Getting Started: Inquiry Question

Setting the Stage: Historical Context

Locating the Site: Maps
 1. Lincoln's Commute from the White House to      the Soldiers' Home
            a. Map 1a: Northern Portion
            b. Map 1b: Southern Portion

Determining the Facts: Readings
 1. President Lincoln and the Soldiers' Home
 2. Walt Whitman and President Lincoln
 3. The Emancipation Proclamation

Visual Evidence: Images
 1. Soldiers' Home, Washington DC
 2. South Side of the White House
 3. South Side of President Lincoln's Cottage
 4. Abraham Lincoln, Photo 1
 5. Abraham Lincoln, Photo 2

Putting It All Together: Activities
 1. Journal Entry
 2. Emancipation Proclamation and Reparations
 3. Current Issues
     4. Retreats in your Local Community

Supplementary Resources

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The lesson is based on President Lincoln's Cottage, one of the thousands of properties listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

 

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