Uncovered Photos Offer View of Lincoln Ceremony

President Lincoln delivers his inaugural address on March 4, 1865. i i

hide captionIn this previously known photograph of the inauguration, President Abraham Lincoln delivers his second inaugural address on the east portico of the U.S. Capitol on March 4, 1865.

Courtesy Library of Congress
President Lincoln delivers his inaugural address on March 4, 1865.

In this previously known photograph of the inauguration, President Abraham Lincoln delivers his second inaugural address on the east portico of the U.S. Capitol on March 4, 1865.

Courtesy Library of Congress
The crowd gathered for Lincoln's second inauguration. i i

hide captionThis recently discovered photo shows the crowd gathered for Lincoln's second inauguration. The image, originally misidentified as being from the Grand Review of the Army in May 1865, comes from the negative of the left half a stereograph pair.

Courtesy Library of Congress
The crowd gathered for Lincoln's second inauguration.

This recently discovered photo shows the crowd gathered for Lincoln's second inauguration. The image, originally misidentified as being from the Grand Review of the Army in May 1865, comes from the negative of the left half a stereograph pair.

Courtesy Library of Congress
African-American troops marched in an inauguration for the first time in 1865. i i

hide captionAfrican-American troops marched in an inauguration for the first time in 1865. The caption from the negative sleeve misidentified this image as being from the inauguration of President Ulysses Grant.

Courtesy Library of Congress
African-American troops marched in an inauguration for the first time in 1865.

African-American troops marched in an inauguration for the first time in 1865. The caption from the negative sleeve misidentified this image as being from the inauguration of President Ulysses Grant.

Courtesy Library of Congress
The crowd at Lincoln's second inauguration in 1865. i i

hide captionThis photo of the crowd from Lincoln's second inauguration was also misidentified as being from Grant's inauguration.

Courtesy Library of Congress
The crowd at Lincoln's second inauguration in 1865.

This photo of the crowd from Lincoln's second inauguration was also misidentified as being from Grant's inauguration.

Courtesy Library of Congress

Lincoln's Cottage

The cottage where President Lincoln and his family lived for part of his presidency — and where Lincoln drafted the Emancipation Proclamation — has been newly restored. The cottage in Washington, D.C., will open to the public on Tuesday.

To find out more, visit the cottage's Web site.

A news item caught my eye a few months ago that made me smile in wonder.

The Library of Congress had discovered unseen photos of President Abraham Lincoln's second inauguration. They'd been housed at the library for years, hidden by an error in labeling.

As one of the producers of The Civil War series with Ken Burns, I have a personal interest in these photos.

It would not be an exaggeration to say that our crew spent literally months in the Library of Congress, some two decades ago, poring over and filming the photos of the Civil War. I spent a lot of that time wearing white cotton gloves, pulling dusty photos out of filing cabinets and making notes, while Ken and the cameraman filmed. Then I'd return to the library as we edited the series to order prints of pictures we needed for more footage.

At one point, I probably could have told you not only what photos of Lincoln existed, but cited all the negative numbers they were filed under. It was the first war to be widely photographed, and Lincoln the first president to understand the power of photography.

So learning there were new, unseen photos of Lincoln's last great speech was a little like being a detective who comes across key evidence in a case that's long been closed.

I had to take a look.

At the library's Prints and Photographs Division, Carol Johnson, the curator of 19th century photography, pulled out a familiar file, filled with photos of the March 4, 1865, inaugural ceremony.

It turns out there were some pictures that weren't housed in this folder when we were filming. They were glass-plate negatives, and they'd been filed under President Grant.

Johnson explained. The library had received a large collection of Civil War photographs in the 1940s, with handwritten logs. Some of the writing was hard to make out.

"Over time, the caption for these photos had been misplaced, and it just never made it into our records," Johnson said.

The library recently put its photographic images online, and a researcher in Colorado spotted the error. Johnson says it was an amazing discovery.

"One of the photos was labeled as Grant's inauguration; the other one was labeled as the Grand Army of the Republic parade," she said. Johnson showed me the log book, and, indeed, there was a question mark beside the photo — "1869?" it read. "1865?"

The pictures do show the Union Army parading, and they do indeed look grand. They stand at attention, awaiting the president's speech in parade dress — rows of soldiers in buttoned uniforms with hats, horses, rifles and caissons, and regimental flags. They had marched from the White House to the Capitol and cleared a path for Lincoln's carriage to pass.

You can see how wet the ground looks, because it had rained for days before the inauguration.

Johnson said that's one way she knew this was from Lincoln's era: "When you read accounts of the inauguration, people talked about how muddy they got."

And yet this is a buoyant crowd. You can sense their exuberance, amid the military bands and large marching drums. Lincoln has even taken his hat off!

And there was another surprise, which Johnson pointed out to me: This was the first time that African-American troops had marched in an inauguration.

And you can see them, if you look closely, in the front row.

This is the speech in which Lincoln becomes, to my ears, most resonant and most heartbreaking. He knows the war is almost over, and he's preparing the country for what comes next: Binding the nation's wounds, caring for the veteran, his widow and his orphan. With charity. Without malice.

And, ultimately, without this president. The war would be over within a month, and the president dead just days after.

But on this day, after years of war and days of rain, the sun really does come out during Lincoln's speech — the photos are proof.

And I'm glad to be reminded of a moment that meant so much such a long time ago, and still plays out in my own life.

And I'll spend this Presidents Day thinking about what it means to govern during war, and what the duty of the living is to the dead.

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