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The Lincoln Movie and Its Times

This recent 2012 Stephen Spielberg movie on President Abraham Lincoln opened on Nov. 16th  to world-wide audiences. Many who have already viewed the earlier limited showings have all raved about the performances of Daniel Day-Lewis’ portray of Lincoln along with Sally Field as Mary Todd Lincoln. The film is not about his entire life, but rather the final four months as the American Civil War comes to a close. The release of the film, which was made in Virginia, on Lincoln coincides with the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. It will show Lincoln as a working president with a great deal of responsibility, at home and for the nation.

Viewing this film can offer a wonderful opportunity for the family historian to have a better understanding of the times in 1865. how people dealt with war and keeping the country together. When you check your family tree, there could well be one or more individuals who were children or adults during this time period. The assassination of the president was just as unforgettable to those who lived in the mid-1800s as the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963 to those now-a-days.

Also use this time to further investigate any ancestors who lived in 1865, learning if they were soldiers in the war, lost family members, had to evacuate their homes, etc. Find out birth-marriage and death dates, where they lived, their occupations, etc. By going through local newspapers, especially in many small towns, you would be surprised at some of the interesting tidbits of information you can learn by focusing in one certain individuals.

The following is a true example of real events surrounding the Baer Family of Frederick Co., Maryland


Brother against brother, father vs. his sons; the divisions within families were numerous during the American Civil War. Even in the bounds of the Lincoln household on Pennsylvania Avenue, Abraham was from pro-Union Illinois and his wife, Mary, was from Kentucky, born into a family of slaveholders. She even had several relatives fight and died for the Southern Confederate cause.

So was the case in Frederick County, Maryland in 1861. The patriarch of the Baer family was staunchly pro-Union, while his son had married a Southerner and had taken up her cause. Tensions built up so much between the two factions that the elder Mr. Baer devised a plan. His son’s family would live on the first floor and the Northern sympathizers on the second; the dining room and foyer would be neutral territory, with no political talk allowed.

A measure of ‘peace’ was established and remained so throughout the war’s duration. So illustrating that different views could be tolerated, even within the same house.

Photo: President Abraham Lincoln – photographed by Alexander Gardner

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