Abe Lincoln and Civil War history buffs, head here

One aspect I love about going someplace I haven’t been before is coming upon a treasure I wasn’t expecting. This was the case when I headed to Harrogate, Tennessee to the Mountain Heritage Literary Festival. My purpose was to hang out with writers who have an Appalachian bent.

What I didn’t expect was the Abraham Lincoln Museum and Library. My word! In the gorgeous bowl created by the mountains, right across the border from Kentucky, right through the Cumberland Gap, is a museum filled with Abraham Lincoln and Civil War history, including artifacts not found elsewhere.

Evidently, because the people of this area were pro Union Army, Abraham Lincoln envisioned a university here. Eventually, that happened. The Lincoln Memorial University was founded in honor of Lincoln and it is where the museum is located.

The museum’s collection began about the time the university began and has grown to include the cane that Lincoln was using the night he was shot at the Ford Theatre and his life mask. A life mask is when a plaster cast is made of a person’s face while he or she is alive and then used as a mold to create a replica of the person’s face.

You probably know that John Wilkes Booth shot Lincoln, but did you know who else might have been involved? Details of the events that led up to Lincoln’s assassination and what happened afterwards are presented in one of the displays. Mary Surratt, at age 42 and one of the alleged conspirators, was the first woman executed by the U.S. government. If I knew this, I had forgotten it, but relearned it when I visited the museum.

Along with the permanent displays, the museum also has exhibits that change. For anyone who is doing Civil War history, the museum’s archives would be an important place to include. Another reason to head here is that the Appalachian mountains are a feast for the eyes.