Editors Note: With Trump at Gettysburg, I was reminded of this, posted on the 150th Anniversary of Lincoln's Assassination.
In the Bushido code, the samurai were said to have identified with the cherry blossom particularly because it fell at the moment of its greatest beauty, an ideal death.
It is one of the remarkable coincidences of history that the anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination often comes at the very peak of the cherry blossom season. In many respects, he, too, died at the moment of greatest beauty—right after he had delivered his “with malice towards none” Second Inaugural Address, right after he had seen Richmond and was mobbed by grateful freedmen, right after Lee had surrendered to Grant, right after there were no more battles he could win.
The historian Richard Hofstadter once wrote, in his essay Abraham Lincoln And The Self-Made Myth that “The Lincoln legend has come to have a hold on the American imagination that defies comparison with anything else in political mythology.”
That legend, which Hofstadter likens to a Christ-like assumption of the sins of mortals, followed by their redemption through his martyrdom, is one half of the consensus historian’s construct about how we think about the Civil War. The other half is best embodied in Robert E. Lee, graying, aristocratic scion of a famous family, kind as a master, brave and brilliant as a reluctant warrior.