Thursday, September 8, 2011

yes, i only made a 2 on my AP u.s. history exam

i was an english major. and it's been said that english lovers gravitate toward history, while math and science go together. however, that was not the case for me, and i'm ashamed to say i don't know as much history as i could, or should.

my pastor told this story in church on sunday, and it just about blew me away. i'm probably the only person in the entire world who didn't know this.

john wilkes booth, the man who shot lincoln, had a brother, edwin booth. both were stage actors.

very shortly before lincoln's assassination, edwin was waiting for a train. he saw a man slip down between the station platform and the train car. edwin reached down and pulled the man out and up, into safety. edwin didn't know who the man was, only that he needed help.

The man who edwin saved wrote about the incident in a 1909 letter:

The incident occurred while a group of passengers were late at night purchasing their sleeping car places from the conductor who stood on the station platform at the entrance of the car. The platform was about the height of the car floor, and there was of course a narrow space between the platform and the car body. There was some crowding, and I happened to be pressed by it against the car body while waiting my turn. In this situation the train began to move, and by the motion I was twisted off my feet, and had dropped somewhat, with feet downward, into the open space, and was personally helpless, when my coat collar was vigorously seized and I was quickly pulled up and out to a secure footing on the platform. Upon turning to thank my rescuer I saw it was Edwin Booth, whose face was of course well known to me, and I expressed my gratitude to him, and in doing so, called him by name.

and here's the kicker:

months later, edwin received a letter from ulysses s. grant.

thanking him for saving robert lincon, abraham's son. 

crazy, crazy, crazy. such a beautiful coincidence. that one brother can chose death, while the other life.

it blew my mind sitting in the pew and the irony of it all still hangs with me. this was probably a story we learned in middle school american history class, but at that point in my life i was highly, highly engrossed in accumulating as many accelerated reader points as i could, and spent my days nose deep in novels.

so now i'm playing catch-up on my history, and  falling in love with the little touches of humanity woven into this great, big american quilt.

17 comments:

jeanette from everton terrace said...

I had no idea! The funny thing is, we've just returned from a trip to Washington D.C. and saw Ford's Theater where Lincoln was shot. I can't wait to tell my husband this story :)

Suz and Allan said...

This is such a neat story. I have never heard it before!

Anonymous said...

Wow, I had never heard this story before either! I love your line about how one brother chose death, while the other chose life. Beautiful!

~Tiffany
http://tiffanyd22.blogspot.com

Holli said...

I did NOT know that!! Wow.... amazing......

Cara-Mia said...

I am not well-versed in history, sadly, even though I am an English major as well. Thank you SO much for sharing this story, I've never heard it before but I love it! Going to share it with others as well.

Victory Garden Yarn said...

Wow, what an amazing tale! Thank you for enlightening us all. I love learning actual human tidbits about our big ol' American quilt-it certainly connects us to our past in ways we could never imagine until we hear a story or visit a new part of our country and explore!

And don't worry, I think I only got a 2 on my A.P. French exam! The only silly one I didn't pass, harumph. ;)

Valerie said...

i had not heard this one either, although i do love history. makes me wonder what other little connections like this exist out there in our country's past!

chambanachik said...

How beautiful. I'm a huge Lincoln fan and have read several books on him, but had never heard this.

DaisyGirl said...

Wow. Thanks for sharing that story. I had never heard it either...or I should say don't remember hearing it. I was never good at remembering facts that I learned in History. But I think I'll remember this one now!

Have a great week!

Mo Pie, Please said...

What?! This really IS mind blowing! Holy crap!

And on a side note...my husband is going to be Abe LIncoln for Halloween and jokingly, I suggested I'd be John Wilkes Booth (poor taste, I know).

Amber Blue Bird said...

my goodness, thats one crazy story. I didnt know about this so thanks for the history lesson :)

Blondie's Journal said...

Very interesting. My husband is a big Lincoln fan and I wonder if he knows of this...I have to tell him. Thanks for this bit of history!

XO,
Jane

Christi said...

I'd never heard that either -- very cool!

The Many Colours of Happiness said...

I had never heard the story before, that is amazing!!!!

Stephanie said...

Wow. I aced AP History and I had never heard this. Very interesting!

Crazy Shenanigans-JMO said...

How did I not know this!?!? Wow!

kate said...

wow, this story gave me chills. what a beautiful ironic story. thanks for sharing this. its so funny that you mention english lovers graviating towards history and how you would read as fast as you could to get through it. i am definitely going through the same thing and finally enjoying the history that made this country so great. it also highlights the worst AND the best of humanity. there are so many beautiful little things in life we missed out on trying to get to the finish line.

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