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October 14, 2013

Sharing the life of Lincoln

OSKALOOSA —

Dr. Ronald Rietveld knows a thing or two about the 16th president of the United States.

On Saturday, Rietveld spoke about the life of President Abraham Lincoln to a packed house of intrigued listeners at The Book Vault. Part of Rietveld's focus on that day was the book, “Tried by War: Abraham Lincoln as Commander in Chief” by James M. McPhearson.

Rietveld, a professor of history emeritus at California State University, Fullerton, has had a nearly life-long fascination with President Lincoln, having studied the man since he was a child.

As a child, Rietveld had a heart murmur, which prevented him from playing sports, he said. This led him to an interest in reading that soon had him engrossed in learning about American presidents including George Washington and Lincoln.

By the age of 14, Rietveld's interest in Lincoln led him to discover something extraordinary — a photo of Lincoln at his funeral.

“My first reaction was that, 'yeah, this is a photograph of the president at the funeral in New York, but there are no photographs of Lincoln in death,'” said Rietveld, recalling the Lincoln photo discovery. “But, here was a real picture.”

For more about Rietveld's discovery of the photo, visit http://www.abrahamlincolnonline.org/lincoln/news/rietveld.htm.

So, why continue to research Lincoln so extensively?

“I like the hunt,” said Rietveld, later noting that he's enjoyed getting to know Lincoln through research, as well as gaining friendships among Lincoln scholars and others interested in the president over the years.

Rietveld explained why he believes McPhearson's “Tried by War...” is an important read by saying it truly develops Lincoln's role as commander in chief, something that hadn't previously been done.

“For the first time, Jim McPhearson picked up Lincoln's major role as commander in chief of the army and navy and develops it in one book,” said Rietveld.

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