Lincoln Scholar Helps Today Connect With The Past
Oskaloosa, Iowa – Professor Ronald Rietweld has a unique ability to bring the past to life today, and help bring a new depth of understanding to his favorite subject, Abraham Lincoln.
Rietweld entertained and informed over 30 listeners on Saturday at The Book Vault. His unique connections to Lincoln are all but lost in most historians today.
According to The Book Vault, “Ronald Rietveld, retired professor of history at California State University-Fullerton, has been a student of Lincoln since the age of fourteen, when he discovered the last photograph of Lincoln in 1952 in the Nicolay papers of the Illinois State Historical Library.
From 1981 to 1984, he served as an academic advisor to the White House speech-writing staff under President Ronald Reagan and has lectured and written extensively on Lincoln and the Civil War.”
“Ron served as a member of the Historical Advisory and Content Team for the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Illinois.
Ron and his wife, Ruth, divide their time between homes in Fullerton, CA and Pella.”
This was the professors second visit to The Book Vault, and this time he talked about the book, Tried by War: Abraham Lincoln as Commander in Chief’ by James M. McPherson.
Rietweld also shared some of the past from during that time, on a local level, touching on some of the activism that was taking place in southeast Iowa at the time.
The ‘Copperhead’ movement had a strong following in the area, normally associated with anti-war Democrats. They opposed the Civil War, and wanted an immediate peace settlement with the South.
Rietweld talked about how Union soldiers would return home to the area, and would see the ‘Copperhead’ demonstrations. “They were very unhappy. They were fighting for the cause and you come home and you have all this anti-war stuff here.”
Rietweld said that during his time of living in California during the Vietnam War and the anti-war demonstrations that took place then, he compared that time to when the ‘Copperheads’ were active during the Civil War. “There’s nothing new under the sun.”
War rallies during the Vietnam War were common, and those same types of activities happened here during the Civil War. “Soldiers were very upset coming home, and then they would have to go back after their furlough.”
It wasn’t uncommon for people to come from as far as Montezuma, Knoxville, Pella and all around us to come to the rally’s. “This whole area had a large number of Democrats who opposed the war. We forget we had a lot of southern people settle in the southern part of Iowa from southern states.”
As Rietweld points out, Iowa was a young state when the Civil War broke out, and had a strong underground that helped to shuttle slaves to freedom. The Quakers who were big supporters of John Brown and the underground railroad also set up William Penn College. “Brown, I can locate where he was in Knoxville, in incognito.”
“The underground railroad would go up to Grinnell and then from Grinnell over to West Branch area to Clinton,” said Rietweld. “Then they go over the Mississippi into Illinois from there. That’s one of the major underground routes.”
If you would like to learn more about Lincoln, you can visit The Book Vault for the book, Tried by War: Abraham Lincoln as Commander in Chief by James M. McPherson.