Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Elihu, Radical Republicans, and Exploding Flour

Historical research is like a box of assorted chocolates. 
Take your ‘Elihu Washburne’ box. Eli was an anti-slavery politician from Galena, Illinois, advisor to Presidents Lincoln and Grant, and a courageous ambassador to France during some of its darkest days. This is some good quality chocolate and I can’t choose just one piece to consume. 
Instead I nibble here and there, enjoying new flavors, finding old favorites. 
But each nibble is tinged with apprehension. Could this bit of lovely chocolate be covering the dreaded lemon mush?

Elihu Washburne has a delightfully varied box. 
Come sample with me:
-His wife’s father attempted to honor terms of treaties made with the Winnebago tribe, and Elihu honored his father-in-law by publishing his biography.
-Elihu helped hide the whereabouts of then President-elect Lincoln by cutting telegraph lines.
-He was a leader of the Radical Republicans. They opposed slavery with vehemence,
fought for voting and civil rights and the Democrats and most Republicans didn’t like them.
(Anyone want to help me resurrect the Radical Republicans?)
-Famous detective Alan Pinkerton punched Elihu in the gut when he thought Eli was accosting President Lincoln. The President kept him from landing a second blow.
-Elihu had seven brothers. One of them was named Cadwallader, who worked in Wisconsin government. 
Cadwallader founded General Mills. His flour mill blew up when his FLOUR EXPLODED. 
-Elihu was a hero in France, staying in a besieged Paris and caring for foreign nationals whose representatives had fled the city.
Eli's house in Galena
-In Galena they refer to him as ‘Eli’ and talk about him as if he were still one of their favorite neighbors.
-One final note. The prickly and difficult Mary Lincoln turned to Elihu for assistance after her husband’s assassination. He obliged. 
Maybe there are no lemons in the Elihu Washburne box of assorted chocolates.


Sue Vick Finley said...

I want to see Galena, cool house, I am hungry for chocolate, I like Eli, great read, thanks!

Susan said...

Wonderful! I love it when there are no lemons in a great man's history!

bethBA said...

I would like to visit Galena a second time. The first time my visiting mother and I ate breakfast in WI, lunch in Galena, and dinner in IA!