Last Saturday, Abraham Lincoln confided in me. “Good generals are few and far between. I have to keep telling them ‘Pursue the enemy when they retreat.’ Most of these generals get the enemy to retreat, but then think the job is done and they can rest. If we want to win this war, we have to pursue and capture the Confederate army.”
“Have you visited your generals on the front? I’ve seen photographs of you with them there.”
“Ah, yes. You’re probably thinking of my meeting with General George McClellan afer the battle of Antietam.
For the record, I think it safe to say McClellan and Lincoln did not get along. McClellan was often insubordinate and called Lincoln “nothing more than a well-meaning baboon” and Lincoln famously said, “If he can’t fight himself, he excels in making others ready to fight.”
Although Antietam was a tactical draw because McClellan refused to finish off Robert E. Lee’s troops, it gave Lincoln the appearance of victory he needed to issue the Emancipation Proclamation and repelled the Confederates from the North.
But enough history; let’s return to the present. Who is portraying Lincoln on this hot summer afternoon on Lynn Common?
Phillip Chetwynd has been interested in Lincoln since grade school. According to Saturday’s Sesquicentennial program, “He brings to his presentation a strong, convincing sense of Lincoln in the first person, especially in the press conference, where he fields questions from the audience on any aspect of Lincoln: his White House Administration during the Civil War, foreign policy, Reconstruction, the place of the Negro in American society, his law practice, his growing up on the nation’s frontier, including Lincoln as a devoted family man, shrewd politician and troubled individual burdened by personal loss and national tragedy.”
I’ll vouch for that. Chetwynd even conveyed Lincoln’s sense of humor in telling me the story of his wife’s aversion to the Ulysses S. Grant’s smoking habit. Wherever Grant showed up, the room was filled with smoke, and Mary Todd Lincoln could not bear to be in his presence. Chetwynd playing Lincoln roguishly tells me that he asked Grant “if perhaps he would teach me how to smoke.”
The week leading up to Saturday’s event was filled with presentations at Lynn’s Middle and High schools featuring the aforementioned press conferences with Lincoln, Grant and a General Chamberlain and retellings of the story Lincoln’s Boots by Bob Marcott. The boots Lincoln wore on the night of his assassination were kept in Lynn on 338 Summer and then 15 Franklin St. for 82 years before being donated to the Ford’s Theatre Museum. One could also have dinner with Lincoln at Lynn’s Masonic Temple on Friday for $12.00.