Oct 132018
 

Today is Rwagasore Day in Burundi, commemorating the day in 1961 when crown prince Louis Rwagasore, prime minister of Burundi, was assassinated shortly before Burundian independence. The investigation into his murder was clearly mismanaged by the Belgian authorities, in charge at the time. Many believe that the mismanagement was deliberate because the Belgian government was involved in the assassination.

Louis Rwagasore was the son of Mwami (king) Mwambutsa IV and his first wife, Thérèse Kayonga. He attended Groupe Scolaire d’Astrida (now Groupe Scolaire Officiel de Butare) in Rwanda. He briefly attended university in Belgium, but left to spearhead his country’s anti-colonial movement. He founded a series of African cooperatives to encourage economic independence, but these were quickly banned by Belgium in 1958. That same year he established a nationalist political movement, Union for National Progress (UPRONA). Believing that the royal family should transcend partisan politics, his father promoted him to Chief of Butanyerera, but Rwagasore turned down the appointment so that he could devote himself fully to the nationalist cause. Rwagasore, a Ganwa (a royal kinship group identified with Tutsi), married a woman who most people thought was a Hutu. It is believed that Rwagasore did so in a bid to play down the ethnic divisions between ethnic groups, especially between Tutsi and Hutu, which he believed the Belgian colonial rule had pitched against one another. At the first UPRONA Congress in March 1960, Rwagasore demanded complete independence for Burundi and called on the local population to boycott Belgian stores and refuse to pay taxes. Because of these calls for civil disobedience, he was placed under house arrest.

Despite setbacks, UPRONA won a clear victory in elections for the colony’s legislative assembly on 8th September 1961, winning 80 percent of the vote. The next day, Rwagasore was declared prime minister, with a mandate to prepare the country for independence

Just two weeks later, on 13th October 1961, Rwagasore was assassinated while dining at the Hotel Tanganyika in Usumbura (modern-day Bujumbura). The assassin, a Greek national named Jean Kageorgis, was accompanied by three Burundians, all members of the pro-Belgian Christian Democratic Party (PDC). Within three days, all four suspects were arrested and they quickly implicated two high-ranking members of the PDC (Jean-Baptiste Ntidendereza and Joseph Biroli), with one initially admitting his guilt but later retracting his confession. Following the assassination inter-ethnic rivalries between the Hutu and Tutsi within UPRONA flared.

Historians have suggested that the Belgian colonial authorities may have played a significant role in the assassination although no official inquiry has ever been carried out. As early as the 1970s, René Lemarchand, an expert on Burundian history, claimed that the PDC’s European secretary, Ms. Belva, was told by the Belgian regent Roberto Régnier that “Rwagasore must be killed.” In addition, several days before his assassination, Rwagasore filed a complaint against seven Belgian officials including the Belgian Governor-General, Jean-Paul Harroy and Régnier. Before being executed for the murder, Kageorgis explicitly accused Harroy and Régnier of responsibility.

In 2011 the Belgian journalist, Guy Poppe, published De moord op Rwagasore, de Burundese Lumumba (The Death of Rwagasore, the Burundian Lumumba) which claimed that irregularities in the investigation of the prince’s murder included, among other details, a lack of questioning of witnesses including Harroy, Régnier, Kageorgis’ Belgian fiancée, and Ms. Belva. Poppe discovered that files from the Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs’s archives, including a transcript from an interview that was conducted with Régnier following his return to Belgium from Burundi, had been lost. Poppe also claimed that the Foreign Ministry had threatened to fire three former colonial officers if they traveled to Burundi in order to testify during Kageorgis’ trial. Poppe noted the investigation’s failure to follow up links between the Burundian PDC party and the Belgian Christian Social Party (PSC-CVP).

Red kidney beans are the dominant staple in Burundian cooking. Also used commonly are corn, bananas, plantains, sweet potatoes, cassava, peas, and manioc.  Some lamb and mutton is used, but it is not common, nor are cooked desserts. On the whole, the recipes are relatively plain and simple. Here is a recipe for Burundi beans and bananas.

Beans and Bananas

Ingredients:

500 ml dried red kidney beans
4 green bananas or plantains, peeled and sliced
2 tbsp palm oil
1 small onion, peeled and sliced thin
salt
red pepper

Instructions:

Soak the beans in cold water for at least 3 hours, or overnight.

Drain the beans, place them in a saucepan, cover with water, bring to a boil, and then simmer for 45 minutes. Drain.

Heat the palm oil in a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and fry until uniformly golden-brown, stirring often. Add the beans and bananas, season with salt and red pepper to taste and continue frying for 2 minutes. Cover with water and let the beans and bananas simmer until the water has reduced and thickened considerably. Serve hot.

Apr 142015
 

 

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United States President Abraham Lincoln was mortally shot on Good Friday, April 14, 1865, while attending the play Our American Cousin at Ford’s Theatre as the American Civil War was drawing to a close. The assassination occurred five days after the commander of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, General Robert E. Lee, surrendered to Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant and the Union Army of the Potomac.

Lincoln was the first American president to be assassinated. An unsuccessful attempt had been made on Andrew Jackson 30 years before in 1835, and Lincoln had himself been the subject of an earlier assassination attempt by an unknown assailant in August 1864. The assassination of Lincoln was planned and carried out by the well-known stage actor John Wilkes Booth, as part of a larger conspiracy in a bid to revive the Confederate cause.

Booth

Booth

Booth’s three co-conspirators were Lewis Powell and David Herold, who were assigned to kill Secretary of State William H. Seward, and George Atzerodt who was asked to kill Vice President Andrew Johnson. By simultaneously eliminating the top three people in the administration, Booth and his co-conspirators hoped to sever the continuity of the United States government. Lincoln was shot and died early the next morning. The rest of the conspirators’ plot failed; Powell only managed to wound Seward, while Atzerodt, Johnson’s would-be assassin, lost his nerve and fled. The funeral and burial of Lincoln was a period of national mourning.

In late 1860, Booth had been initiated in the pro-Confederate Knights of the Golden Circle in Baltimore. In March 1864, Ulysses S. Grant, the commanding general of all the Union’s armies, decided to suspend the exchange of prisoners-of-war. As harsh as it may have been on the prisoners of both sides, Grant realized the exchange was prolonging the war by returning soldiers to the outnumbered and manpower-starved South. John Wilkes Booth, a Southerner and outspoken Confederate sympathizer, conceived a plan to kidnap President Lincoln and deliver him to the Confederate Army, to be held hostage until the North agreed to resume exchanging prisoners. Booth recruited Samuel Arnold, George Atzerodt, David Herold, Michael O’Laughlen, Lewis Powell (also known as “Lewis Paine”), and John Surratt to help him. Surratt’s mother, Mary Surratt, left her tavern in Surrattsville, Maryland, and moved to a house in Washington, D.C., where Booth became a frequent visitor.

While Booth and Lincoln did not know each other, Lincoln did know about Booth and enjoyed watching him perform at Ford’s Theatre. Lincoln watched Booth perform in numerous plays, including one called The Marble Heart at Ford’s on November 9, 1863. The Washington Chronicle called it a “beautiful emotional play” and Booth earned rave reviews for his role in the production. According to  Lincoln’s Sanctuary: Abraham Lincoln and the Soldiers’ Home, Lincoln enjoyed Booth’s performance so much he sent a note backstage inviting him to the White House so they could meet. Booth, a rebel sympathizer and Confederate spy, evaded the president’s invitation. Booth didn’t give Lincoln a specific reason why he couldn’t visit but he later told his friends “I would rather have the applause of a Negro to that of the president!” According to  Inside Lincoln’s White House, the actor Frank Mordaunt later corroborated this story:

Lincoln was an admirer of the man who assassinated him. I know that, for he said to me one day that there was a young actor over in Ford’s Theater whom he desired to meet, but that the actor had on one pretext or another avoided any invitations to visit the White House. That actor was John Wilkes Booth.

On March 17, 1865, Booth informed his conspirators that Lincoln would be attending a play, Still Waters Run Deep, at Campbell Military Hospital. He assembled his men in a restaurant at the edge of town, intending that they should soon join him on a nearby stretch of road in order to capture the President on his way back from the hospital. But Booth found out that Lincoln had not gone to the play after all. Instead, he had attended a ceremony at the National Hotel in which officers of the 142nd Indiana Infantry presented Governor Oliver Morton with a captured Confederate battle flag.

Meanwhile, the Confederacy was falling apart. On April 3, Richmond, Virginia, the Confederate capital, fell to the Union army. On April 9, 1865, the Army of Northern Virginia, the main army of the Confederacy, surrendered to the Army of the Potomac at Appomattox Court House. Confederate President Jefferson Davis and the rest of his government were in full flight. Despite many Southerners giving up hope, Booth continued to believe in his cause.

It is widely believed that Lincoln anticipated his assassination. According to Ward Hill Lamon, Lincoln’s friend and biographer, three days before his assassination Lincoln discussed with Lamon and others a dream he had, saying:

About ten days ago, I retired very late. I had been up waiting for important dispatches from the front. I could not have been long in bed when I fell into a slumber, for I was weary. I soon began to dream. There seemed to be a death-like stillness about me. Then I heard subdued sobs, as if a number of people were weeping. I thought I left my bed and wandered downstairs. There the silence was broken by the same pitiful sobbing, but the mourners were invisible. I went from room to room; no living person was in sight, but the same mournful sounds of distress met me as I passed along. I saw light in all the rooms; every object was familiar to me; but where were all the people who were grieving as if their hearts would break? I was puzzled and alarmed. What could be the meaning of all this? Determined to find the cause of a state of things so mysterious and so shocking, I kept on until I arrived at the East Room, which I entered. There I met with a sickening surprise. Before me was a catafalque, on which rested a corpse wrapped in funeral vestments. Around it were stationed soldiers who were acting as guards; and there was a throng of people, gazing mournfully upon the corpse, whose face was covered, others weeping pitifully. ‘Who is dead in the White House?’ I demanded of one of the soldiers, ‘The President,’ was his answer; ‘he was killed by an assassin.’ Then came a loud burst of grief from the crowd, which woke me from my dream. I slept no more that night; and although it was only a dream, I have been strangely annoyed by it ever since.

On the day of the assassination, Lincoln had told his bodyguard, William H. Crook, that he had been having dreams of himself being assassinated for three straight nights. Crook advised Lincoln not to go that night to Ford’s Theatre, but Lincoln said he had promised his wife they would go. As Lincoln left for the theater, he turned to Crook and said, “Goodbye, Crook.” According to Crook, this was the first time he said that. Before, Lincoln had always said, “Good night, Crook.” Crook later recalled: “It was the first time that he neglected to say ‘Good Night’ to me and it was the only time that he ever said ‘Good-bye’. I thought of it at that moment and, a few hours later, when the news flashed over Washington that he had been shot, his last words were so burned into my being that they can never be forgotten.”

On April 14, 1865, Booth’s morning started at the stroke of midnight. Lying wide awake in his bed at the National Hotel, he wrote his mother that all was well, but that he was “in haste”. In his diary, he wrote that “Our cause being almost lost, something decisive and great must be done”.

Lincoln’s day started well for the first time in a long time; he woke up cheerful. Senator James Harlan remembered taking a drive with the Lincolns only days before the president’s assassination, and found him transformed. “His whole appearance, poise and bearing had marvelously changed. He was, in fact, transfigured. That indescribable sadness which had previously seemed to be an adamantean element in his very being, had been suddenly exchanged for an equally indescribable expression of serene joy as if conscious that the great purpose of his life had been achieved.” Hugh McCulloch, the new Secretary of the Treasury, remarked that on that morning, “I never saw Mr. Lincoln so cheerful and happy”. Edwin M. Stanton said: “At the earliest moment yesterday, the President called a cabinet meeting, at which Gen. Grant was present. He was more cheerful and happy than I had ever seen him. He rejoiced at the near prospect of a firm and durable peace at home and abroad, which manifested in a marked degree the soundness and honesty of his disposition, and the tender and forgiving spirit that so eminently distinguished him.” No one could miss the difference. For months, the President had looked pale and haggard. Lincoln himself told people how happy he was. This caused First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln some concern, as she believed that saying such things out loud was bad luck. Lincoln paid her no heed. Lincoln told members of his cabinet that he had dreamed that he was on a “singular and indescribable vessel that was moving with great rapidity toward a dark and indefinite shore.” He also revealed that he’d had the same dream repeatedly on previous occasions, before “nearly every great and important event of the War” such as the victories at Antietam, Murfreesboro, Gettysburg and Vicksburg.

At around noon while visiting Ford’s Theatre to pick up his mail (Booth had a permanent mailbox there), Booth learned from the brother of John Ford, the owner, that the President and General Grant would be attending the theatre to see Our American Cousin that night. Booth determined that this was the perfect opportunity for him to do something “decisive”.He knew the theater’s layout, having performed there several times, as recently as the previous month.

That same afternoon, Booth went to Mary Surratt’s boarding house in Washington, D.C. and asked her to deliver a package to her tavern in Surrattsville, Maryland. He also requested Surratt to tell her tenant who resided there to have the guns and ammunition that Booth had previously stored at the tavern ready to be picked up later that evening. She complied with Booth’s requests and made the trip, along with Louis J. Weichmann, her boarder and son’s friend. This exchange, and her compliance in it, would lead directly to Surratt’s execution three months later.

At seven o’clock that evening, John Wilkes Booth met for a final time with all his fellow conspirators. Booth assigned Lewis Powell to kill Secretary of State William H. Seward at his home, George Atzerodt to kill Vice President Andrew Johnson at his residence, the Kirkwood Hotel, and David E. Herold to guide Powell to the Seward house and then out of Washington to rendezvous with Booth in Maryland. Booth planned to shoot Lincoln with his single-shot Deringer and then stab Grant with a knife at Ford’s Theatre. They were all to strike simultaneously shortly after ten o’clock that night. Atzerodt wanted nothing to do with it, saying he had only signed up for a kidnapping, not a killing. Booth told him he was in too far to back out.

Contrary to the information Booth had overheard, General and Mrs. Grant had declined the invitation to see the play with the Lincolns, as Mrs. Lincoln and Mrs. Grant were not on good terms. Several other people were invited to join them, until finally Major Henry Rathbone and his fiancée Clara Harris (daughter of New York Senator Ira Harris) accepted. Lincoln told Speaker Schuyler Colfax, “I suppose it’s time to go though I would rather stay.” He assisted Mary into the carriage and they took off.

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The Lincoln party arrived late and settled into the Presidential Box, which was actually two corner box seats with the dividing wall between them removed. The play was stopped briefly and the orchestra played “Hail to the Chief” as the audience gave the president a rousing standing ovation. Ford’s Theatre was full with 1,700 in attendance. Mary Lincoln whispered to her husband, who was holding her hand, “What will Miss Harris think of my hanging on to you so?” The president smiled and replied, “She won’t think anything about it”. Those were the last words ever spoken by Abraham Lincoln, although it was claimed he later told his wife he desired to visit the Holy Land, finishing by saying, “There is no place I so much desire to see as Jerusalem.”

The box was supposed to be guarded by a policeman named John Frederick Parker who, by all accounts, was a curious choice for a bodyguard. During the intermission, Parker went to a nearby tavern with Lincoln’s footman and coachman. It is unclear whether he ever returned to the theatre, but he was certainly not at his post when Booth entered the box. Nevertheless, even if a policeman had been present it is questionable at best as to whether he would have denied entry to the Presidential Box to a premier actor such as John Wilkes Booth – Booth’s celebrity status meant that his approach did not warrant any questioning from audience members, who assumed he was coming to call on the President. Dr. George Brainerd Todd, a Navy Surgeon who had been aboard when the Lincolns visited his ship the monitor Montauk on April 14, was also present at Ford’s Theatre that evening and wrote in an eyewitness account.

About 10:25 pm, a man came in and walked slowly along the side on which the “Pres” box was and I heard a man say, “There’s Booth” and I turned my head to look at him. He was still walking very slow and was near the box door when he stopped, took a card from his pocket, wrote something on it, and gave it to the usher who took it to the box. In a minute the door was opened and he walked in.

Upon gaining access through the first door of the entry to the Presidential Box, Booth barricaded the inward-swinging door behind him with a wooden stick that he wedged between the wall and the door. He then turned around, and looked through the tiny peep-hole he had carved in the second door (which granted entry to the Presidential Box) earlier that day. Although he had never starred in the play itself, Booth knew the play by heart, and thus waited for the precise moment when actor Harry Hawk (playing the lead role of the “cousin”, Asa Trenchard), would be on stage alone to speak what was considered the funniest line of the play. Booth hoped to employ the enthusiastic response of the audience to muffle the sound of his gunshot. With the stage to himself, Asa (Hawk) responded to the recently departed Mrs. Mountchessington, “Don’t know the manners of good society, eh? Well, I guess I know enough to turn you inside out, old gal; you sockdologizing old man-trap!” Hysterical laughter began permeating the theatre. Lincoln was laughing at this line when he was shot.

Booth opened the door, crept forward and shot the President at point-blank range, mortally wounding him. The bullet struck the back of Lincoln’s head behind his left ear, entered his skull, fractured part of it badly and went through the left side of his brain before lodging just above his right eye almost exiting the other side of his head. Lincoln immediately lost consciousness. Lincoln slumped over in his rocking chair, and then backward. Mary reached out, caught him, and then screamed when she realized what had happened.

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Upon hearing the gunshot, Rathbone thought Booth shouted a word that sounded like “Freedom!” He quickly jumped from his seat and tried to prevent Booth from escaping, grabbing and struggling with him. Booth dropped the pistol on the floor and drew a knife, stabbing the major violently in the left forearm and reaching the bone. Rathbone quickly recovered and again tried to grab Booth as he was preparing to jump from the sill of the box. He grabbed onto Booth’s coat causing Booth to vault over the rail of the box down to the stage below (about a twelve-foot drop). In the process, Booth’s right boot struck the framed engraving of Washington, turning it completely over and his riding spur became entangled on the Treasury flag decorating the box, and he landed awkwardly on his left foot. He raised himself up despite the injury and began crossing the stage, making the audience believe that he was part of the play. Booth held his bloody knife over his head, and yelled something to the audience.

While it is widely believed that Booth shouted “Sic semper tyrannis!” (the Virginia state motto, meaning “Thus always to tyrants” in Latin) in the box, or when he landed on the stage, it’s not actually clear whether the traditionally-cited quote by Booth is accurate. There are different “earwitness” accounts of what he said. While most witnesses recalled hearing Booth shout “Sic semper tyrannis!”, others — including Booth himself — claimed that he only yelled “Sic semper!” Some didn’t recall hearing Booth shout anything in Latin. What Booth shouted in English is also muddied by varying recollections. Some witnesses said he shouted “The South is avenged!” Others thought they heard him say “Revenge for the South!” or “The South shall be free!” Two said Booth yelled “I have done it!”

While the audience was yet to realize what had happened, Maj. Joseph B. Stewart, a lawyer, rose instantly upon seeing Booth land on the stage and he climbed over the orchestra pit and footlights, and started pursuing Booth across the stage. Mary Lincoln’s and Clara Harris’ screams and Rathbone’s cries of “Stop that man!” caused the rest of the audience to realize that Booth’s actions were not part of the show, and pandemonium immediately broke out.

Some of the men in the audience chased after him when they noticed what was going on, but failed to catch him. Booth ran across the stage just when Rathbone shouted and exited out the side door. On his way, he bumped into William Withers, Jr., the orchestra leader, and Booth stabbed at Withers with a knife.

Upon leaving the building, Booth approached the horse he had waiting outside. Booth struck Joseph “Peanuts” (also called “Peanut Johnny”) Burroughs, who was holding Booth’s horse in the forehead with the handle of his knife, leaped on to the horse, apparently also kicking Burroughs in the chest with his good leg,[30] and rode away.

Katherine M. Evans, a young actress in the play, who was offstage in Ford’s green room when Lincoln was shot, rushed on the stage after Booth’s exit, and said in subsequent interviews in the 1900s “I looked and saw President Lincoln unconscious, his head dropping on his breast, his eyes closed, but with a smile still on his face”.

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Charles Leale, a young Army surgeon doctor on liberty for the night, and attending the play, made his way through the crowd to the door at the rear of the Presidential box when he saw Booth finish his performance to the audience and saw the blood on Booth’s knife. The door would not open. Finally, Rathbone saw a notch carved in the door and a wooden brace jammed there to hold the door shut. Rathbone shouted to Leale, who stepped back from the door, allowing Rathbone to remove the brace and open the door.

Leale entered the box to find Rathbone bleeding profusely from a deep gash in his chest that ran the length of his upper left arm as well as a long slash in his arm. Nonetheless, he passed Rathbone by and stepped forward to find Lincoln slumped in his chair, held up by Mary, who was sobbing and could not control herself. The President was paralyzed, and barely breathing. Leale lowered the President to the floor believing that Lincoln had been stabbed in the shoulder with the knife. A second doctor in the audience, Charles Sabin Taft, was lifted bodily from the stage over the railing and into the box.

Dr. Todd, also seated in the audience, stated: “I attempted to get to the box, but I could not, and in an instant, the cry was raised ‘The President is assassinated’. Such a scene I never saw before.” Taft and Leale cut away Lincoln’s blood-stained collar and opened his shirt, and Leale, feeling around by hand, discovered the bullet hole in the back of his head right next to his left ear. Leale attempted to remove the bullet, but the bullet was too deep in his head and instead Leale dislodged a clot of blood in the wound. Consequently, Lincoln’s breathing improved. Leale learned that if he continued to release more blood clots at a specific time, Lincoln would breathe more naturally. Then Leale saw that the bullet was lodged in Lincoln’s skull. He allowed actress Laura Keene to cradle the President’s head in her lap. Leale finally announced that it made no difference: “His wound is mortal. It is impossible for him to recover.”

Dr. Todd reported that as news of the assassination spread to the street, “Soldiers, sailors, police, all started in every direction but the assassin had gone. Some General handed me a note and bid me go to the nearest Telegraph office and arouse the nation. I ran with all my speed, and in ten minutes the sad news was all over the country.”

Leale, Taft, and another doctor from the audience, Albert King, quickly consulted and decided that while the President must be moved, a bumpy carriage ride across town to the White House was out of the question. After briefly considering Peter Taltavull’s Star Saloon next door, they chose to carry Lincoln across the street and find a house. The three doctors and some soldiers who had been in the audience carried the President out the front entrance of Ford’s Theatre. One of the soldiers who carried the President, was William Hall, a grocer, who originated from North East England, who, during the civil war originally signed up for the 12th Illinois Cavalry. Rain fell down upon the crowd that carried Lincoln outside the theater.

Across the street, a man was holding a lantern and calling “Bring him in here! Bring him in here!” The man was Henry Safford, a boarder at William Petersen’s boarding house known today at the Petersen House. The men carried Lincoln into the boarding house and into the first-floor bedroom where they laid him diagonally across the bed because his tall frame would not fit normally on the smaller bed. A vigil began at the Petersen House. The three physicians were joined by Surgeon General of the United States Army Joseph K. Barnes, Charles Henry Crane, Anderson Ruffin Abbott, and Robert K. Stone. Using a probe, Barnes located some fragments of Lincoln’s skull and discovered the bullet was still in his skull. Crane was a major and Barnes’ assistant. Stone was Lincoln’s personal physician. Robert Lincoln, home at the White House that evening, arrived at the Petersen House after being told of the shooting at about midnight. Tad Lincoln, who had attended Grover’s Theatre to see Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp, was not allowed to go to the Petersen House, although he was at Grover’s Theatre when the play was interrupted to report the news of the President’s assassination.

Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles and United States Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton came and took charge of the scene. Mary Lincoln was so distrait that Stanton ordered her out of the room, then set up shop in the rear parlor, effectively running the United States government for several hours, sending and receiving telegrams, taking reports from witnesses, and issuing orders for the pursuit of Booth. For most of the night, Leale held the president’s hand, and afterwards said that “sometimes, recognition and reason return just before departure. I held his hand firmly to let him know, in his blindness, that he had a friend.”

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Lincoln died at 7:22:10 a.m. on April 15, 1865. He was 56 years old. According to Lincoln’s secretary John Hay, at the moment of Lincoln’s death, “a look of unspeakable peace came upon his worn features”.

Mary Lincoln was not present at the time of his death and neither were his children.The crowd around the bed knelt for a prayer. When they were finished, Stanton made a statement, though there is some disagreement among historians as to what exactly the statement was. All agree that he began “Now he belongs to the …” with some stating he finished with ages while others believe he finished with angels. Hermann Faber, an Army medical illustrator, was brought into the room immediately after Lincoln’s body was removed so that Faber could visually document the scene.

Though some experts have disagreed, Dr. Leale’s treatment of Lincoln has been considered good for its time. He was honored for his efforts to save the President by participating in various capacities during the funeral ceremonies.

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Although both Abe and Mary were from Kentucky their food tastes were very different. He was from a rural area and preferred simple country food like corn cakes, whereas she was from the bluegrass and enjoyed much finer dishes. Here is her recipe for Vanilla Almond Cake and her frosting taken from The Presidents’ Cookbook, Poppy Cannon and Patricia Brooks [Funk & Wagnalls:New York] 1968 (pp. 256-258)

Photographer NOTES!!! more the better!

Mary Todd’s Vanilla Almond Cake

There are reports attributable to President Lincoln that this cake of his wife’s was the best he ever ate…This delicious cake was the invention of Monsieur Giron, a Lexington [KY] caterer, who created it in honor of the visit to that city in 1825 of his fellow Frenchman, Lafayette. The Todd family acquired the recipe and cherished it ever after. The baking powder must have been added at a later date.

Sugar

Butter

Flour

Baking powder

Milk

Blanched almonds

Egg whites

Vanilla (or almond extract)

Cream together 2 cups sugar with 1 cup butter. Sift 3 cups flour and 3 teaspoons baking powder three times and add to the butter-sugar mixture alternately with 1 cup milk. Chop 1 cup blanched almonds until very fine and add them to the mixture. Beat vigorously, then fold in 6 stiffly beaten egg whites carefully. Add 1 teaspoon vanilla, then fold in 6 stiffly beaten egg whites carefully. Add 1 teaspoon vanilla (almond extract if you prefer) and pour the mixture into a greased and floured angel-cake pan. Bake in a a preheated moderate (350 degree F.) oven for approximately 1 hour, or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the cake’s center. Turn the cake out on a wire rack and allow to cool before frosting it. This makes a very large cake. If you prefer, you can bake it in 2 9-inch layer-cake pans. The cake may be made without the almonds and is a splendid plain white cake, very light and good.

Mary Todd’s Candied Fruit Frosting

Egg whites

Sugar

Water

Vanilla (or almond extract)

Salt

Candied pineapple

Crystallized cherries

Beat 2 egg whites until very stiff. Set aside for a moment. Beat together 2 cups sugar and 1 cup water until the syrup spins a thread about five inches long. Then slowly fold into the egg whites, a spoonful at a time, very slowly, beating well with an electric beater as you add. Beat at top speed (very hard if you use a hand beater) until all the syrup is used and the mixture forms peaks when dropped from a spoon. When stiff, slowly add 1 teaspoon vanilla or 1/2 teaspoon vanilla and 1/2 teaspoon almond extract. Fold into the mixture 1/2 cup diced candied pineapple and 1/2 cup crystallized cherries cut in half. Spread between the layers and over the top and sides of the vanilla almond cake. If desired, the candied fruit may be eliminated. The frosting is delicious without them.”

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Abraham Lincoln’s second inauguration supper was evidently a riotous affair with dishes that obviously reflects Mary’s tastes. It was recounted in several magazines and newspapers by a variety of reporters. This is excerpted from the New York Times reporter’s account. He was not named, just noted as “Special Correspondence.”

The ornamentation of the table, though limited in extent, was in excellent taste, and perhaps quite as profuse os the unfortunately small space devoted to the supper would permit. There were three leading and conspicuous pieces form the confectioner’s hands, placed at approprote points in the centre and at each end of the table; in the centre, our imposing Capitol–perfect in minature; at one end an exquisite representation of the heroic deeds of the gallant army; at the other, a similar device of the proud achievements of the navy. The representation of the Capitol was admirably executed; no detail seemed to be too minute for imitation. Even the lamps at the entrance seemed to give forth light. The columns, pedestals, cornices, frieses, entablatures, windows, situary, and the majestic dome, and towering above all else, the Goddess of Liberty, were all there as perfect as mould and model could make them. In addition, there were several allegorical representations of the progress of civilization, the genius, the arts, the sciences and literature of the day. The piece on the right was in honor of the army; and the glory and fame of the defenders of our liberty were illustrated by a pyramid, around which were clustered in tasteful profusion all the insignia of war, the paraphernalia of battle and the emblem of victory. The navy was honored in the same manner, the representation being surmounted with Admiral Farragut’s old flagship Hartford, gallantly riding the withe crested waves, while aloft might be seen the Admiral himself lashed to the rigging, emblematical of the old hero’s achievements in the Bay of Mobile; then battered Fort Sumter, the sad epitome of secession; then Neptune with chariot and trident, and the Goddess of Liberty, inspiring the brave sailor to greater glory and higher fame. There were other ornamentations, principally pyramids of which the detail is unimportant, for nougats, croquant, and chocolate are the same here as elsewhere. The bill of fare provided a select and tasteful variety, and no better idea of it can be obtained than by inserting it right here verbatim.

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Oyster stews, terrapin stews, oysters pickled; beef–roast beef, filet of beef, beef à la mode, beef à l’anglais; veal–leg of veal, fricandeau, veal Malakoff; poultry–roast turkey, boned turkey, roast chicken; grouse–boned and roast; game–pheasant, quail, venison, patetes, patetes of duck en gelée, paté de fois gras; smoked ham, tongue en gelée, tongue plain; salades, chicken, lobster; ornamental pyramids–nougate, orange, caramel with cream candy, coconut, macaroon, croquant, chocolate; three cakes–cakes and tarts, almond sponge, belle alliance, dame blanche, macaroon tart, tart à la Nelson, tarte à l’Orleans, tarte à la Portuguese, tarte à la Vienne, pound cake, sponge cake, lady cake, fancy small cakes; jellies and creams–calf’s foot and wine jelly, Charlotte é la Russe, Charlotte à la vanilla blanc mange, creme Neapolitiane, creme à la Nelson, creme Chateaubrand, crème à la Smyrna, crème à la Nesslefored, bombe à la vanilla, ice cream, vanilla, lemon, white coffee, chocolate, burnt almonds, maraschino, fruit ices, cranberry, orange, lemon; dessert–grapes, almonds, raisins &c., coffee and chocolate.

Most of it is fairly standard stuff. I’ve never had it, but terrapin stew caught my eye – very Southern. This is an old plantation recipe, published in Mrs. Fishers Cookbook. Mrs. Fisher was an illiterate slave from Mobile, Alabama. She started cooking for San Francisco society around 1870.

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Terrapin Stew

Ingredients

2 female terrapins

1 cup water

6 eggs

½ lb butter, unsalted

2 cups sherry wine

1 teaspoon mustard

1 tablespoon wine

1 lemon

½ cup sweet cream (optional)

1 teaspoon allspice

salt and pepper

Directions

Put the terrapins alive in boiling water.

Let them remain for fifteen minutes and then take the shells from them, being careful not to break the galls.

Clean the entrails from the meat, and scrape the black skin from the feet with a knife.

After thoroughly cleaning the terrapins, lay then in a clear water for ten minutes, and then put then in a kettle to stew with 1 cup of water, and stew very slowly for about three hours.

Boil the eggs hard, and rub the yelks (sic) to a powder.

Then add the butter to the eggs and beat together until it becomes cream.

To this cream add the sherry wine and mix it well.

Then add this preparation to the stew very gradually, stirring well, so as to thoroughly mix it in.

While the stew is cooking, mix the mustard and the tbsp of wine and put in.

Slice one lemon add to stew just before dishing it up for table.

Three hours is sufficient time to cook it.

You had better put the wine in the stew and not mix it with the eggs, for fear you may not mix it in right and that there may be no mistake.

With the above directions you have a perfect stew.

½ cup of sweet cream is an improvement, if you like it: also the allspice.

 

 

 

Mar 152014
 

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The Ides of March (Latin: Idus Martii or Idus Martiae) is a day on the Roman calendar that corresponds to 15 March. It was marked by several religious observances, and became notorious as the date of the assassination of Julius Caesar in 44 BCE. The death of Caesar made the Ides of March a turning point in Roman history, as one of the events that marked the transition from the historical period known as the Roman Republic to the Roman Empire.

Although March (Martius) was the third month of the Julian calendar, in the oldest Roman calendar it was the first month of the year. The holidays observed by the Romans from the first through the Ides often reflect their origin as new year celebrations. The Romans did not number days of a month sequentially from the first through the last day. Instead, they counted back from three fixed points of the month: the Nones (5th or 7th, depending on the length of the month), the Ides (13th or 15th), and the Kalends (1st) of the following month. The Ides occurred near the midpoint, on the 13th for most months, but on the 15th for March, May, July, and October. Thus for example, the Romans would not say “11th of May” but, rather, “4 days before the Ides of May.”

Flamen Dialis

Flamen Dialis

The Ides of each month were sacred to Jupiter, the supreme deity of the Romans. The Flamen Dialis, Jupiter’s high priest, led the “Ides sheep” (ovis Idulius) in procession along the Via Sacra to the arx, where it was sacrificed. In addition to the monthly sacrifice, the Ides of March was also the occasion of the Feast of Anna Perenna, a goddess of the year whose festival originally concluded the ceremonies of the new year. The day was enthusiastically celebrated among the plebeians (common people) with picnics, drinking, and revelry.

Anna Perenna

Anna Perenna

One source from late antiquity also places the Mamuralia on the Ides of March. This observance, which has aspects of scapegoat or ancient Greek pharmakos ritual, involved beating an old man dressed in animal skins and perhaps driving him from the city. The ritual may have been a new year festival representing the expulsion of the old year.

In the later Imperial period, the Ides of March began a “holy week” of festivals for Cybele and Attis. The Ides was the day of Canna intrat (“The Reed enters”), when Attis was born and exposed as an infant among the reeds of a Phrygian river. He was discovered—depending on the version of the narrative—by either shepherds or the goddess Cybele, who was also known as the Magna Mater, “Great Mother.” A week later, on 22 March, the day of Arbor intrat (“The Tree enters”) commemorated the death of Attis under a pine tree. A college of priests called “tree bearers” cut down a tree, suspended from it an image of Attis, and carried it to the temple of the Magna Mater with lamentations. The day was formalized as part of the official Roman calendar under Claudius. A three-day period of mourning followed, culminating with the rebirth of Attis on 25 March, the date of the vernal equinox on the Julian calendar.

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Nowadays people remember the Ides of March as the day Julius Caesar was assassinated in 44 BCE.  Tensions had been mounting in the senate for some time because Caesar seemed to be intent on dismantling the democratic foundations of the Roman Republic which had been in place for hundreds of years. It began with the overthrow of the Roman monarchy with a revolt against the last king Tarquin the Proud, traditionally dated around 509 BCE, and its replacement by a government headed by two consuls, elected annually by the citizens and advised by a senate. A complex constitution gradually developed, centered on the principles of a separation of powers and checks and balances. Except in times of dire national emergency, public offices were limited to one year, so that, in theory at least, no single individual wielded absolute power over his fellow citizens. When consuls left the senate after a year they were required to leave Rome and take up a governorship in one of the provinces.

During his early career, Caesar had seen how chaotic and dysfunctional the Roman Republic had become. The republican machinery had broken down under the weight of imperialism, the central government had become powerless, the provinces had been transformed into independent principalities under the absolute control of their governors, and the army had replaced the constitution as the means of accomplishing political goals. With a weak central government, political corruption had spiraled out of control, and the status quo had been maintained by a corrupt aristocracy, which saw no need to change a system that had made its members rich.

In the 50’s BCE Caesar had built up a strong army in the provinces and had vastly expanded Roman territories in the Western parts of Europe – notable Gaul. He had even invaded Britain although he could not sustain a Roman province there. By 49 BCE he was determined to return to Rome with his army and seize power.  The momentous occasion occurred in 49 BCE when he crossed the Rubicon river, the traditional boundary separating Rome from the provinces.  Once he was in Roman territory with an army it was clear that he was going to take power and could not turn back.  Hence “crossing the Rubicon” now means making a decisive and irreversible move. Between his crossing of the Rubicon  and his assassination in 44 BCE, Caesar established a new constitution, which was intended to accomplish three separate goals. First, he wanted to suppress all armed resistance out in the provinces so that what he did could not be repeated, and thus bring order back to the empire. Second, he wanted to create a strong central government in Rome. Finally, he wanted to knit together the entire empire into a single cohesive unit.

Biographers describe tension between Caesar and the Senate, and his possible claims to the title of king. These events were the principal motive for Caesar’s assassination. The Senate named Caesar dictator perpetuo (“dictator in perpetuity”). Roman mints produced a denarius coin with this title and his likeness on one side, and with an image of the goddess Ceres and Caesar’s title of Augur Pontifex Maximus on the reverse. While minting the title of dictator was not controversial, Caesar’s image was, as it was unusual to feature living consuls and other public officials on coins during the Republic.

According to Cassius Dio, a senatorial delegation went to inform Caesar of new honors they had bestowed upon him in 44 BC. Caesar received them while sitting in the Temple of Venus Genetrix, rather than rising to meet them (sitting being symbolic of kingship). Suetonius wrote (almost 150 years later) that Caesar failed to rise in the temple, either because he was restrained by Cornelius Balbus or that he balked at the suggestion he should rise. Suetonius also gave the account of a crowd assembled to greet Caesar upon his return to Rome. A member of the crowd placed a laurel wreath on the statue of Caesar on the Rostra. The tribunes Gaius Epidius Marcellus and Lucius Caesetius Flavus ordered that the wreath be removed as it was a symbol of Jupiter and royalty. Caesar had the tribunes removed from office through his official powers.According to Suetonius, he was unable to dissociate himself from the royal title from this point forward. Suetonius also gives the story that a crowd shouted to him rex (“king”), to which Caesar replied, “I am Caesar, not Rex”. Also, at the festival of the Lupercalia, while he gave a speech from the Rostra, Mark Antony, who had been elected co-consul with Caesar, attempted to place a crown on his head several times. Caesar put it aside to use as a sacrifice to Jupiter Optimus Maximus.

Plutarch and Suetonius are similar in their depiction of these events, but Dio combines the stories writing that the tribunes arrested the citizens who placed diadems or wreaths on statues of Caesar. He then places the crowd shouting “rex” on the Alban Hill with the tribunes arresting a member of this crowd as well. The plebeian protested that he was unable to speak his mind freely. Caesar then brought the tribunes before the senate and put the matter to a vote, thereafter removing them from office and erasing their names from the records.

Suetonius adds that Lucius Cotta proposed to the Senate that Caesar should be granted the title of “king” for it was prophesied that only a king would conquer Parthia. Caesar intended to invade Parthia, a task that later gave considerable trouble to Mark Antony during the second triumvirate.

His many titles and honors from the Senate were ultimately merely that, honorary. Caesar continually strove for more power to govern, with as little dependence as possible on honorary titles or Senate. The placating ennobling of Caesar did not allay ultimate confrontation, as the Senate was still the authority, granting to Caesar his titles. Formal power resided in them, in tension with Caesar.

Brutus

Brutus

Cassius

Cassius

Brutus began to conspire against Caesar with his friend and brother-in-law Gaius Cassius Longinus and other men, calling themselves the Liberatores (“Liberators”). Many plans were discussed by the group, as documented by Nicolaus of Damascus:

The conspirators never met exactly openly, but they assembled a few at a time in each other’s homes. There were many discussions and proposals, as might be expected, while they investigated how and where to execute their design. Some suggested that they should make the attempt along the Sacred Way, which was one of his favorite walks. Another idea was to do it at the elections, during which he had to cross a bridge to appoint the magistrates in the Campus Martius. Someone proposed that they draw lots for some to push him from the bridge and others to run up and kill him. A third plan was to wait for a coming gladiatorial show. The advantage of that was, because of the show, no suspicion would be aroused if arms were seen. The majority opinion, however, favored killing him while he sat in the Senate. He would be there by himself, since only Senators were admitted, and the conspirators could hide their daggers beneath their togas. This plan won the day.

Nicolaus writes that in the days leading up to the assassination, Caesar was told by doctors, friends, and even his wife, Calpurnia, not to attend the Senate on the Ides for various reasons, including medical concerns and troubling dreams Calpurnia had had:

…his friends were alarmed at certain rumors and tried to stop him going to the Senate-house, as did his doctors, for he was suffering from one of his occasional dizzy spells. His wife, Calpurnia, especially, who was frightened by some visions in her dreams, clung to him and said that she would not let him go out that day. But Brutus, one of the conspirators who was then thought of as a firm friend, came up and said, ‘What is this, Caesar? Are you a man to pay attention to a woman’s dreams and the idle gossip of stupid men, and to insult the Senate by not going out, although it has honored you and has been specially summoned by you? But listen to me, cast aside the forebodings of all these people, and come. The Senate has been in session waiting for you since early this morning.’ This swayed Caesar and he left.

Caesar had been preparing to invade the Parthian Empire (a campaign later taken up by his successor, Mark Antony) and planned to leave for the East in the latter half of March. This forced a timetable on to the conspirators. Two days before the actual assassination, Cassius met with the conspirators and told them that, should anyone discover the plan, they were to turn their knives on themselves. His successors did attempt the conquests of Parthia and Germania, but without lasting results.

On the Ides of March of 44 BCE, the conspirators staged a gladiatorial games at Pompey’s theatre. The gladiators were provided by Decimus Brutus in case their services were needed. They waited in the great hall of the theatre’s quadriportico. Mark Antony, having vaguely learned of the plot the night before from a terrified Liberator named Servilius Casca, and fearing the worst, went to head Caesar off at the steps of the forum. However, the group of senators intercepted Caesar just as he was passing the Theatre of Pompey, located in the Campus Martius (now adjacent to the Largo di Torre Argentina), and directed him to a room adjoining the east portico.

Casca

Casca

According to Plutarch, as Caesar arrived at the Senate, Lucius Tillius Cimber presented him with a petition to recall his exiled brother. The other conspirators crowded round to offer their support. Both Plutarch and Suetonius say that Caesar waved him away, but Cimber grabbed Caesar’s shoulders and pulled down Caesar’s tunic. Caesar then cried to Cimber, “This is violence!” (“Ista quidem vis est!”). At the same time, Casca produced his dagger and made a glancing thrust at the dictator’s neck. Caesar turned around quickly and caught Casca by the arm. According to Plutarch, he said in Latin, “Casca, you villain, what are you doing?” Casca, frightened, shouted “Help, brother!” in Greek (“adelphe, boethei”). Within moments, the entire group, including Brutus, was striking out at the dictator. Caesar attempted to get away, but, blinded by blood, he tripped and fell; the men continued stabbing him as he lay defenseless on the lower steps of the portico. According to Eutropius, around 60 or more men participated in the assassination. Caesar was stabbed 23 times. Suetonius relates that a physician who performed an autopsy on Caesar established that only one wound (the second one to his chest) had been fatal. This autopsy report (the earliest known post-mortem report in history) describes that Caesar’s death was mostly attributable to blood loss from the multiple stab wounds.

The dictator’s last words are a contested subject among scholars and historians and people alike. Suetonius reports that others have said Caesar’s last words were the Greek phrase “καὶ σύ, τέκνον” (transliterated as “Kai su, teknon?”: “You too, my son?” in English). However, Suetonius himself says Caesar said nothing. But Suetonius was writing in 122 AD about events on March 15, 44 BCE. Plutarch also reports that Caesar said nothing, pulling his toga over his head when he saw Brutus among the conspirators. The version best known in the English-speaking world is the Latin phrase “Et tu, Brute?” (“You too, Brutus?”); this derives from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar (1599), where it actually forms the first half of a macaronic line: “Et tu, Brute? Then fall, Caesar.” It has no basis in historical fact, and Shakespeare’s use of Latin here is not from any assumption that Caesar would have been using the language, but because the phrase was already popular at the time the play was written.

According to Plutarch, after the assassination, Brutus stepped forward as if to say something to his fellow senators not involved in the plot; they, however, fled the building. Brutus and his companions then marched to the Capitol while crying out to the city: “People of Rome, we are once again free!” They were met with silence, as the citizens of Rome had locked themselves inside their houses as soon as the rumor of what had taken place had begun to spread. Caesar’s dead body lay where it fell on the Senate floor for nearly three hours before other officials arrived to remove it.

A wax statue of Caesar was erected in the Forum displaying the 23 stab wounds. A crowd who had amassed there started a fire, which badly damaged neighboring buildings. In the ensuing years a series of civil wars resulted with the end of the Republic and the rise of imperial Rome under Caesar’s adopted son Octavian, who took the imperial name, Augustus.  The supreme irony, therefore, is that the conspirators, while trying to maintain the republic, ended up causing its demise.

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This is a recipe for saffron chickpeas that is alluded to several times in ancient literature, and Apicius provides a recipe in De Re Coquinaria. (See here too)  It originated in ancient Greece but was apparently quite popular in Rome for several centuries.  This is my adaptation of Apicius.  I decided to mash the end product because I am currently in a phase of serving fried fish on something mashed.  This dish would be at home in ancient Rome because fried fish was very popular.

© Saffron Chickpeas

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Combine in a large saucepan 14 ozs/400g of dried chickpeas, ½ cup olive oil, ½ tbsp ground cumin, and ½ tbsp ground coriander. Cover with light stock and add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Bring to a simmer and cook the chickpeas until they are very tender (about 3 hours).  Top up the stock as necessary.

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Towards the end of the cooking process let the liquid reduce and add ¼ tsp of powdered saffron.

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Mash with a fork or use a food processor. I use a fork because I like the mash to retain some texture.

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Use as a base for meat or fish, or serve as a side dish.