Seriously, if you are a Lincoln fan, if your child is studying Abraham Lincoln in school, or if you want a nice intimate tour where you can learn tidbits that you’ll not find in history books, then this is the tour for you! Lincoln’s Soldier’s Cottage came highly recommended from this forum. Several of you helped me with directions, and thank you very much as I made it there safe and sound without getting lost. The best way, for me, to get to the Cottage was by driving. I was staying in Alexandria and the combination of Metro, Bus and Walking was just too daunting for me. Actually, driving through DC wasn’t as bad as I expected as I have driven L.A. traffic all my adult life (for those wanting a comparison).
While looking for the gift shop, where instructed to meet, I saw a pink tree losing pink blossoms, and ran straight to it thinking it was a cherry blossom tree and IT WAS! It was so beautiful and such a gift to find the only one left in DC still with blossoms! How perfect to find it while on this tour.
Inside the visitor building, a copy of the Emancipation Proclamation with Abraham Lincoln’s authentic signature was on display for a few days. We were asked not to take pictures and my hands were itching for my camera, but I respected their request and the image exists only in my memory. Apparently 40 copies, plus the original, were made of the Emancipation Proclamation and Lincoln signed all 41 copies. Today, only 23 still exist.
The Soldier’s Cottage is where Lincoln focused on the Emancipation Proclamation. It is also where Mary Lincoln wrote letters home for the wounded soldiers. It helped her with her grief over the death of their son, Willie. Tad spent a lot of time with the soldiers. It took Lincoln 35 minutes to ride back down to the White House on horseback, and it takes approximately 35 minutes to drive to the Soldier’s Cottage from downtown DC.
There were about 20 of us on the tour. We took the brief walk over to the cottage and our tour guide really knew his topic. I think his name was Scott. He gave the tour, then asked if anyone had questions, and then answered them. The cottage has a second story and for those needing an elevator, one is available. The stairway was the very same stairway and handrail the Lincolns used. I asked Scott if he thought President Lincoln ever tripped down those stairs as the stairs were very narrow. He said that he didn’t know for sure but being a “big fellow, he must have a time or two.” I can’t say enough about this tour. This was the one thing I thought I would kick myself over not visiting so I am very happy that I made the time to take the tour. I paid $17 for the tour (on-line convenience fee). The tour is $15, and a reservation is requested. Can’t guarantee a spot without a ticket.
I dropped a bundle in the gift shop buying books, toys, etc. The store keeper recommended I visit Fort Stevens which is only 1.5 miles away. He said President Lincoln went there to watch the only assault on Washington City and he actually almost got shot. The man standing next to him DID get shot. He survived. Lincoln is the only President to be under enemy fire in any battle or war the U.S. has been involved in.
I headed back to my side of the Potomac and stopped at the Arlington Cemetery. The weather was a little warm with the bright sun which was such a contrast from the rain the day before. I took the tram because the hour was getting late and I really wanted to see Robert E Lee’s home. The day before my visit, JFK’s eternal flame was moved so it seemed kind of silly to me where they put it. At the tomb of the unknown soldier, which was very impressive, one of the Jr Hi groups was pretty rowdy and the soldier stopped right in front of them and yelled, “YOU WILL RESPECT THE UNKNOWN SOLDIER OR YOU WILL BE ASKED TO LEAVE.” Silence. The chaperones got up and escorted their students out of the arena. I almost gave a “whoo-hoo” but didn’t want the soldier to shout, “YOU TOO MA’AM.”
The Arlington House Tour was another tour I’m glad I took, especially for its history. They owned all the land all the way down to the Potomac and it is beautiful. Today, directly across the Potomac stands the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, and the Capitol beyond.
After my tour of the Arlington house, I had to search it out but I found the little museum with the Custis family history and where George Washington and Robert E Lee come into play. The house was passed down through Martha Custis Washington, and her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren lived there. Robert E Lee’s father, Henry “Light Horse Harry” Lee, fought with General Washington in the Revolutionary War. Mary Anna Custis was George Washington’s step great granddaughter and Lee’s wife. As I was the only person to have located the museum, I spent a pleasant 30 minutes reading all the plaques and viewing the paintings and photos. If you visit Arlington House, be sure to look for the Museum.
One sad note, for me anyway, the family never returned to the house to live after the Civil War.
Photos from the Cottage and Arlington