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Pieces of Lincoln
By Sarah Steele Wilson, Newsroom Editor
Nov 30, 2012, 13:55

photo by Sarah Steele Wilson A traveling writing desk, that belonged to Lincoln and was probably with him during his visit to the area, is on display at the Prince George Regional Heritage Museum, along with other family items.

“It was very exciting,” Carol Bowman, executive director of the Prince George Regional Heritage Center said, describing the moment she opened the package from Springfield Illinois. “It’s really remarkable to hold something that belonged to the President of the United States, especially Lincoln, who is, right now, so much in focus.”

Bowman was referring to the lap top writing desk that belonged to Abraham Lincoln and forms the centerpiece of a new exhibit at the heritage center.

The desk, along with a book on the queens of England that belonged to Mary Todd Lincoln and some marbles that belonged to Lincoln’s sons, Tad and WIllie, are on loan from the Park Service’s Lincoln Home National Historic Site in Illinois.

“This is done in conjunction with the opening of the movie,” Bowman said, referring to the Steven Spielberg film “Lincoln,” much of which was filmed in Petersburg.

Lincoln spent three weeks of the last month of his life in the region, staying at Union headquarters in Hopewell and touring the final battlefields of the Civil War.

“We believe he had it on board the River Queen when he was at City Point,” Bowman said, referring to the desk.

“He also had it when he was riding the judicial circuit in Illinois,” Bowman added. “As you look at it, you can tell it was very much used.”

The exhibit opened on Monday, and Bowman said it has been a thrill to display items that once belonged to Lincoln. Since some of Lincoln’s writings, including the Emancipation Proclamation and the Gettysburg Address, are amongst the most influential and celebrated pieces in history, having the desk he wrote on while traveling is an accomplishment for the local museum.

“It’s pretty awe inspiring, I think, and it’s very special for the county to have these,” Bowman said, describing the feeling of knowing some of Lincoln’s belongings are in the building. “So we’re very pleased to be able to present these to the community.”

The Lincoln items are in the same room as an exhibit on Edmund Ruffin, a Prince George native and fiery secessionist who, legend has it, fired the first shot of the Civil War at Fort Sumter and committed suicide after the South lost.
photo by Sarah Steele Wilson A book on the queens of England that belonged to Mary Todd Lincoln and has her name and the year 1860 inscribed inside. Copies of pages will be put on display.

Bowman said that while many places in the area can claim to have been visited by Lincoln, the items on display in Prince George are some of the only artifacts that actually belonged to him in the that can be seen in the region.

For the desk, Prince George is probably familiar territory.

“He had it with him,” Bowman said. “That was the laptop of 150 years ago.”

The items were initially loaned to the Heritage Center for two months, but the the Lincoln Home National Historic Site has offered to extend the loan, Bowman said. A grand opening for the exhibit is planned for January and the items will likely remain on display until April.

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