Will you be lighting a spark for the love of Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War?

Marx Toy Company Civl War Playset items

During this season of the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War, my memory goes back to the little boy that was me when I was but five years old. My mother had given me for Christmas a Civil War Playset by the Marx Toy Company. For those who are old enough to remember, the set contained plastic soldiers of blue and gray, as well as figures of Jefferson Davis and Abraham Lincoln. It also contained a variety of “set pieces” to make the recreated battles more realistic. Little did my mother know that her gift would create the spark that led to a life-long love of the Civil War and Abraham Lincoln. That playset remains in my possession even today.

As an adult, I have shared my passion for the Civil War and Lincoln with countless others. Really, on a daily basis I find myself, at the least, mentioning them to folks in conversation. I wonder, at times, if my influence could be the spark that might start a similar passion as mine. I have tried to do so with my sons and my older grandson. So far, the spark has not ignited. But the seed has been planted-and time will tell what fruit may be brought forth in the future. At any rate, the passion has been very fulfilling for me-and for that I am grateful.

            James C. Humes, in his book The Wit & Wisdom of Abraham Lincoln, talks about the sparks that led to his “flame.” When he was a boy, his family hosted none other than Carl Sandburg. Sandburg was on a lecture tour in Pennsylvania in 1938. The Humes family home accommodated Sandburg for two overnights. Humes relates that he sat on Sandburg’s lap listening to the stories of Abraham Lincoln. No small early influence, indeed! But that was not all. Humes also cites two other remarkable events that molded his devotion: 1) a trip to Gettysburg in which he actually saw blue and gray Civil War veterans; and 2) a chance meeting with a man who, as a young lad, had viewed the corpse of Abraham Lincoln during one of the casket openings. Those events were more than enough to induce, it seems, a flame that would not ebb.

So during a time in our history when the focus has veered back to that era 150 years ago, keep in mind that something shared about Mr. Lincoln or the Civil War just might influence a youngster in a way that could be life changing. Someday a scholar may relate a story about how a certain someone- perhaps a friend, acquaintance, or family member shared the enthusiasm that was afterward passed on to him or her. That someone might be you or me.   

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