The Civil War community lost a Lincoln scholar with the death Feb. 21 of Ford's Theatre historian Michael Maione.

His death at age 57 came only a week before that of Ford's director, Frankie Hewitt, who helped the National Park Service re-create a theater at the historic site in the late 1960s.

Mike always seemed to be a shy guy unless he was talking about President Abraham Lincoln. When on his favorite subject, he captivated audiences -- adults and children -- with his enthusiasm. If he wasn't giving a tour, he'd stand around in the museum hoping that someone would ask him a question.

If he was stumped by a question, off he'd go to his office, which doubled as a library. He'd return with a book in hand and search for an answer for the person who had asked. If the questioner had disappeared, he would be crushed that he couldn't share information.

Sometimes, if he knew the research would take more than a few minutes, he'd take down a name and address, promising to send the answer by mail.

As knowledgeable as Maione was, the National Park Service would never have put his picture on a recruiting poster. His uniform was always rumpled, he often forgot his Smokey Bear hat and many days he needed a shave and haircut. But he knew so much and was so eager to share it that I doubt anyone visiting Ford's ever complained.

Last year, when a renovation of the theater began, he was very concerned that he'd be forced out of his office, away from his precious library. Somehow, he never did have to make that move. As the work was ending last month, he called to gleefully share his triumph over the Park Service bureaucracy.

I will carry with me a mental image of the New Yorker-style cartoon I wish I could have drawn -- of Mike at work, with carpenters and the painters walking by his office, looking in with surprise at the only guy left in the building. There is Mike, surrounded by his books, reading intently and never noticing the stares of the hard-hat crowd.

Prestige and Profit

Imagine winning first place in a prestigious literary competition and receiving $20,000.

That is what happened to University of Alabama history professor George C. Rable, who was notified on Lincoln's birthday, the traditional announcement day, that his book "Fredericksburg! Fredericksburg!" had been chosen for the annual Lincoln Prize. He will collect a bronze bust of Lincoln and the cash at a banquet on April 15 at Gettysburg College.

"When you're an academic, $500 in prize money looks good," he said in a telephone interview. "When the word got out about the $20,000, my friends started hitting me up for loans."

Also placing in the competition was John Stauffer, second for "Black Hearts of Men: Radical Abolitionists and the Transformation of Race," and Michael W. Fitzgerald, honorable mention for "Urban Emancipation: Popular Politics in Reconstruction Mobile, 1860-1890."

An E-Lincoln Prize went to Harpweek.com for "Lincoln and the Civil War.com."

The Lincoln Prize, established in 1990, was founded and endowed by New York business leaders Richard Gilder and Lewis Lehrman, who also established an institute that bears their names.

Published by University of North Carolina Press last year, the 435-page "Fredericksburg! Fredericksburg!" -- with an additional 200 pages of notes -- is a surprisingly easy read because Rable never assumes that the reader already knows about army life.

"I didn't know anything about technical military stuff," he said. "I had to study it until I understood it."

On the subject of military orders, he writes, "There are written orders and verbal orders, orders followed and orders ignored, orders drafted, orders contemplated and orders never considered. December 12 [the day before the battle] would be a day remembered for orders issued and orders not issued and much second-guessing about both."

He also does a great job of explaining how a pontoon bridge is built.

Calendar of Events

Leesburg: 6-8 p.m. tomorrow. At the Medlin Gallery, artist Mort Kunstler will autograph his new book, "Gods and Generals: The Paintings of Mort Kunstler," and discuss his 30 new paintings. Free. 703-771-8696.

Sterling: 3 p.m. Saturday. At Claude Moore Park, unveiling of a new interpretive sign, "Guilford Signal Station -- Tracking the Confederates," marking location of a signal station that played a significant role in the Gettysburg campaign. Free. 703-444-1275.

Lovettsville: 7 p.m. Tuesday. At Lovettsville Town Hall, James Morgan speaks on the Battle of Ball's Bluff, sponsored by Lovettsville Historical Society. Free. 703-777-9207.

Washington: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. March 22. At the Library of Congress, Thomas Jefferson Building, the sixth annual Abraham Lincoln Institute of the Mid-Atlantic seminar with five Lincoln experts. Free; advance registration encouraged. 202-707-2017.

Washington: 10 a.m. or 1 p.m. March 22. Smithsonian Associates sponsors a walking tour of sites associated with the Lincoln assassination. Fee charged. 202-357-3030.

Glen Echo: 1 p.m. March 30. At Clara Barton National Historical Site, a discussion on "Clara Barton, Professional Angel," by Elizabeth Brown Pryor, who will attend. Free. 301-492-6245.

Baltimore: 7 p.m. March 26. At President Street Station, Goucher College history professor Jean Baker speaks on Mary Todd Lincoln at the White House. Fee charged. 410-347-4467.

Frederick: 11 a.m.-3 p.m. April 5. At the National Museum of Civil War Medicine, historians Glenn and Gloria Baugher discuss Confederate medicine and civilian contributions during the war. Fee charged. 301-695-1864.

Richmond: 1 p.m. April 6. Confederate Heritage Parade on Monument Avenue, followed by a service at Hollywood Cemetery. Free. 804-744-1218.

Leesburg: 7:30 p.m. April 8. At Thomas Balch Library, a meeting of the Loudoun County Civil War Roundtable, with Pat Walenista speaking on the Confederate Soldiers' Home in Richmond. Free. 540-822-480.

Washington: Noon April 9. At the National Archives, Matthew Pinsker speaks on his forthcoming book, "Lincoln's Sanctuary: Abraham Lincoln and the Soldiers' Home." Free,; reservations suggested. 202-208-7345.

To contact Linda Wheeler, call 703-443-6846 or e-mail wheelerl@washpost.com.

Ford's Theatre historian Michael Maione died Feb. 21 at age 57. He was passionate about his favorite subject, Abraham Lincoln. If he wasn't giving a tour, he'd stand around in the museum hoping that someone would ask him a question.