I was a dog at Gettysburg

(Title) Sky banner - Crowd along Baltimore Street, Gettysburg

Many of Abraham Lincoln’s writings, others’ memories of him, and accounts of the stories he told display his humility and identification with the common man. His common humanity with people of all stations in life contributed to a view of the 16th president so widely held that it continues to be reflected in much of the art and writing that is produced about Lincoln even today.

 

 One unique expression appears in the poem “Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg” by MacKinlay Kantor, whose Pulitzer-Prize-winning book “Andersonville” is probably his best-known work. Kantor’s poem, published in 1933, memorializes Lincoln’s November 1863 visit to the ceremonies dedicating the new Soldiers’ National Cemetery at Gettysburg, where he gave “a few appropriate remarks” that live on in history as the Gettysburg Address. Kantor’s poem ends with a few lines that portray Lincoln’s humanity as perceived by a dog:

 

“I was a dog of Gettysburg.
I trotted near the train
And nosed among the officers, who kicked me to my pain.
A man came by. . . . I could not see. I howled.
The light was dim,
But when I brushed against his legs, I liked the smell of him.”

 

Was Kantor perhaps familiar with this photograph of the crowd watching the parade to the cemetery dedication on Nov. 19, 1863? In the scene, a small dog stands

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in the center, behind the crowd. Did he accompany his owner to Gettysburg for the solemn occasion? Or was he a local dog attracted by the activity? We’ll never know, just as he could never know that he was witness to an historic occasion. I would like to think that MacKinlay Kantor, gazing deeply into this picture, discovered the little dog standing there and was inspired by his presence with the people on Baltimore Street that day.

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