Lincoln grand review: Civil War Soldiers remembered
November 18, 2011
Fort McNair's parade field hosted a sesquicentennial commemoration of President Abraham Lincoln's Grand Review of the Army of the Potomac Nov. 12. Along with marching units and the trooping of the line, Civil War Soldiers who fought to preserve the Union were remembered during Veterans Day weekend.
The Grand Review of the Army of the Potomac at Bailey's Crossroads took place on Nov. 20, 1861 and was a military exhibition of pageantry and a show of reformed Union firepower. Speakers at the reenactment, including Joint Force Headquarters - National Capital Region and the U.S. Army Military District of Washington Commander Maj. Gen. Michael S. Linnington and Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall Commander Col. Carl R. Coffman, helped a crowd of 350 spectators visualize the tremendous congregation of Union troops that day.
"In all, some 70,000 Soldiers organized into seven divisions and 100 regiments took part in the review," Linnington told the audience, which included a portrayal of Lincoln by Jim Getty. "By holding the grand review, the Army wanted to see how far it had come since [a defeat at] Bull Run. President Lincoln wanted to let [spectators] know that the Union government was serious in developing a modern Army for victory.
"And our Army continues to be victorious today," Linnington continued. "Today's Army is as it was during the grand review -- proud, committed, trained and ready to do the nation's bidding." Coffman echoed Linnington's observation that the modern United States Army was born that day in 1861 and that its strength has endured through parts of three centuries.
"As it has always been and it always shall be, the strength of our nation is our Army," Coffman said. "The strength of our Army is our Soldiers, and the strength of our Soldiers is our Families." Lincoln historian and former Rhode Island Supreme Court Chief Justice Frank J. Williams aptly recognized the Army of the Potomac troops a day after Veterans Day.
"We remember those Soldiers who marched at Bailey's Crossroads on that November day in 1861. On that day, there was hope that all would yet be well," said Williams. "By the time of [the] Appomattox [surrender], in April 1865, many of these men of the Army of the Potomac will have gone to fiddler's green -- as we old cavalry men call a Soldier's final resting place."
Participating units on line for review included The Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps, The Joint Forces Color Guard and the Civil War Living History team. Inspection of the line was performed by Linnington, Lincoln and Grand Marshal and Chief Historian Emeritus of the National Park Service Ed Bearss.