“An old woman who once had been a slave left her home on a pilgrimage last week to pay humble tribute….” So begins a December 1936 piece in the Washington Post. The “old woman” in question was Mrs. Anna Harrison Chase, a 92-year-old who had arrived in Washington, DC in the spring of 1862 as a “contraband” – or a formerly enslaved refugee – from Confederate-controlled Caroline County, Virginia. Mrs. Chase was highlighted in the newspaper that day because she had traveled by foot to President Lincoln’s Cottage, to see once more in person the place where the Emancipation Proclamation was written. More than six decades before this “simple, rambling cottage” was named a National Monument and more than seven decades before we first opened to the public, the Cottage was then used as a dormitory for veterans with only a small plaque on the exterior noting its historical significance. Still, Mrs. Chase, a woman who had seized her freedom, felt the need to make that pilgrimage here and to be within the walls of Lincoln’s home.
Mrs. Chase’s story has long inspired our team, and has been shared with the public on major anniversaries and special occasions. But we have long wondered if there was more to it and if we could tell her story more fully. Many of our visitors tell us they are making their own pilgrimage here, and Chase’s story is in many ways the mother of all pilgrimage stories to the Cottage. Thanks to a grant from the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund, we launched a research project to learn more about Anna Harrison Chase and her family — including her descendants. I’m pleased to share our first article based on that research project, “Chasing History” by Curtis Harris.
Chase not only provides us with an invaluable eye-witness account to crucial events in our history, her life story illuminates the power of place, memory, and pilgrimage both here and beyond.
On a late December day in 1936, Anna Harrison Chase walked from her home near Logan Circle to the Soldiers’ Home. The longtime Washington resident was intent on visiting the place where President Abraham Lincoln had deliberated and constructed the Emancipation Proclamation. Her pilgrimage that winter day was one of many arduous journeys in Chase’s life. Born on a plantation in Caroline County, Virginia, she seized her freedom during the Civil War with the aid of the United States Army. Traveling by train from the nearby town of Fredericksburg, she arrived in the District of Columbia in 1862. In the nation’s capital Anna Harrison endured life at a contraband camp, married Thomas W. Chase – himself a recently freed man from Maryland – and began a family that accomplished much from their enslaved beginnings becoming professionals, government employees, and servicemen in the U.S. military.
The Chase family’s journey – literal and symbolic – leads to many important questions on the Civil War experience and its aftermath for African Americans in D.C. and across the United States. How did black Americans, particularly those freed from slavery, remember their wartime experience? What meaning did they ascribe to the war and their resulting freedom?
Join us as former Peter Carmichael, along with Adam Goodheart, discuss Carmichael’s recent book, The War for the Common Soldier: How Men Thought, Fought, and Survived in Civil War Armies. Digging deeply into his soldiers’ writing, Carmichael resists the idea that there was “a common soldier” but looks into their own words to find common threads in soldiers’ experiences and ways of understanding what was happening around them.
WHEN: Thursday, December 6
TIME: 6 PM reception, 6:30 PM lecture
COST: $10 for reception, $10 for lecture
Join us in welcoming new Director of Development, Jason Molihan, to the President Lincoln’s Cottage team! Jason comes to us with a wide range of development experience, starting in political fundraising, and foraying into the museum world with roles at the Newseum, and most recently the National Archives Foundation.
External Communications Coordinator Jenny Phillips sat down with him in his new office at the top of the stairs — pop in and say ‘hi!’– to chat about his new role, Lincoln, and geek out about architecture. Oh, he could talk about Frank Lloyd Wright for days. Read on to get to know Jason.
Treat your loved ones this holiday season with thoughtful, fair-trade gifts from President Lincoln’s Cottage. Adorn your tree with our unique Cottage ornaments, sold exclusively at President Lincoln’s Cottage.
This year we’re excited to announce a new limited-edition ornament by Chemart, the same makers as the White House ornaments.
President Lincoln is well known for wearing a black stovepipe hat. He often stored little slips of paper inside it, on which he had written his ideas. While here at the Cottage, Lincoln worked on one of his most challenging ideas: The Emancipation Proclamation. Many segments of the Proclamation were first scrawled on the scraps of paper that Lincoln kept in his hat.
This image of Lincoln’s hat has come to represent the Cottage as a “Home for Brave Ideas,” and we’re proud to unveil this custom ornament. It features passages from the Emancipation Proclamation and quotes from President Lincoln, peeking out of a recreation of the iconic silk hat.
Shop our online store, pop into our Museum Store any time 9:30am-4:30pm each day, or call 202-829-0436 ext. 0 to purchase.
It is with a heavy heart that we share the passing of long-time partner and friend of the Cottage, Greg Blair. Read on for Callie Hawkins’ reflections, and how he worked with the Cottage for ten years with Blair Dubilier & Associates, providing technology for award-winning exhibits and interpretation. He will be missed.
Support our educational programs, preservation efforts and public events by making a contribution to President Lincoln’s Cottage. Donate online today.