Why would a Washington-Lincoln Day be significant to Virginia?

Posted on January 22, 2012 by

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Of course, my interests are a bit narrow in scope… being a native (and resident) of the Shenandoah Valley, I’m incredibly happy to see Virginia’s state legislature taking initiative in recognizing yet another Valley-connected Civil War personality in the proposed Washington-Lincoln Day. Think of it… first we have Jackson who lived here and made a name for himself here, due to his military genius. Then we have Lee, who had connections with the Valley at various points throughout the war, and made the southern end of the Valley his home in his final years. And now… Lincoln, who had roots in the Valley that are often overlooked/forgotten. In all, it makes for some well-rounded discussion, on several levels… and not just tilting, continuously, and in an unbalanced way, to the Lost Cause narrative.

Now to some, this might be taken as “offensive”, but really, come on now

First, the Lincoln-Virginia connection is not something new, really, and therefore… let’s set the record straight… this isn’t necessarily some “modern PC-driven initiative” as some might suggest. No… rather, this is catching up to something that’s been around for a while. The history goes much deeper, and, more significantly, the positive, localized (Shenandoah Valley) reaction to a connection to President Lincoln goes deeper…

A marker noting that President Lincoln’s father, Thomas, was born in Rockingham County has been in place since the 1940s…

The Lincoln’s Virginia Ancestors marker dates to 1997…

Not to mention, one of the most beloved Valley historians, John Walter Wayland (1872-1962), wrote of the Valley-Lincoln connection in 1946, in The Lincolns in Virginia (and, yes, Wayland also wrote Stonewall Jackson’s Way).

… and that aforementioned “Lincoln’s Virginia Ancestors” marker… it stands in front of the old Jacob Lincoln homestead…

… and just up from the homestead, we find the Lincoln family cemetery…

… and, among the graves in this cemetery, are those of “Virginia John” Lincoln… although, “Virginia John” was actually born in New Jersey…

… but that New Jersey thing can be more of a distraction from bigger meaning. Of course, “Virginia John” was the great grandfather of President Abraham Lincoln, BUT/AND one might say… the progenitor of the Virginia Lincoln line… at least the first to “land in Virginia” from whence other area Lincoln Virginians descended… among those being, yes… Confederates.

As some might know, one such descendant (Albert C. Lincoln) of “Virginia John” was said to have remarked something to the tune of … “As long as Cousin Abe keeps sending them down, Cousin Al will keep killing them.”

… and, of course, we have other examples, such as Jacob Broaddus Lincoln, who, like President Lincoln, was a great grandson of “Virginia John”, but was also a member of the 1st Virginia Cavalry and 27th Virginia Infantry (part of the Stonewall Brigade), and who happens to be buried in the Stonewall Jackson Memorial Cemetery, in Lexington, Virginia.

If you don’t want to take my word for it, regarding a localized interest in making a connection to President Lincoln… and don’t want to take the demonstrated interests in the marker system of Virginia’s Department of Historic Resources, well… take that of the local heritage groups who have found it a worthy connection to make… such as with the local organizations of the S.A.R., D.A.R., and Harrisonburg-Rockingham Historical Society…

Note the marker noting Revolutionary War service of Jacob Lincoln, son of "Virginia John"

No, President Lincoln isn’t as big a boogeyman as some make him out to be. It’s really interesting, especially here in the Valley… and makes for some good discussion regarding “Civil War memory”. Think if it… a place that tasted the truly bitter season known as “the Burning“. Sure, there are pockets of animosity, as strange as they might seem, some four generations removed from the war, for the likes of Sheridan, and on a smaller scale, David Hunter, but despite the impact of those generals who fell under the commander-in-chief, who was President Lincoln, over the generations, he’s continued to be a subject of interests and admiration. So, yes, add President Lincoln’s Virginia connections to our Commonwealth’s recognized holidays, especially in the midst of the Sesquicentennial. He’ll be a fine addition to understanding our more complex past as Virginians.

*Another Lincoln-connected family in Virginia, which still has descendants in the Shenandoah Valley, is the Herring family. Of course, President Lincoln’s father was Thomas Herring Lincoln, son of Abraham and Bathsheba Herring Lincoln. I know of descendants of at least two of Bethsheba’s siblings (Bethuel and William Herring), here in the Valley. Incidentally, one of William Herring’s descendants was John Alexander Herring, Jr., Captain, in Co. I, 1st Virginia Cavalry, C.S.A. 

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