New Yorkers stopped what they were doing in mid-April 1918 to remember the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. It is important to remember that Lincoln’s death was still within living memory for many Americans; it had only occurred fifty-three years previously. With so many young men now in training camps and soon to be on their way to France, the Lincoln commemoration was muted. As the headline here shows, the Brooklyn Riding and Driving Club remembered both Washington and Lincoln at its 27th annual dinner on Saturday 13 April. Present for that event at the Montauk Club were officers from the British and French Armies. During a toast to men for the BRDC who had joined the AEF, one poilu reflected “The German [1918 spring] offensive is to be taken seriously but the real days of anxiety were the days of 1914. Now we know that you are rushing troops to our aid. Then it was a question of ‘to be; or not to be.”
Lincoln was being remembered throughout the city that weekend. In its April 14 edition the New York Times published recently discovered letters by Lincoln and Robert E. Lee. Maybe I am reading too much into it, but it could be that in presenting letters from both Lincoln and Lee the Times sought to balance regional sympathies. That day the Calvary M.E. Church in Harlem hosted Laura D. Prisk, who for the past several years was pushing to officially designate June 14 as Flag Day. (That came to pass in 1949.) There were many veterans from the Grand Army of the Republic on hand to see Mrs. Prisk and others talk about the ongoing war in Europe. Prisk proclaimed that “Much attention is being payed to the long-range gun of the Hun but the real long-range gun is that of America, reaching 3,000 miles to the battle line.” Prisk was in attendance again the next day when she laid a wreath and spoke at the Lincoln statue in Union Square. On hand were sailors from the USS Recruit, the depot established in Union Square the previous May to sell liberty bonds and spur enlistment.