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Lincoln's Train

Lincoln’s Inaugural Train Journey

The railroad journey of the President–elect on New York Central trains from Springfield, Illinois to Washington D.C. in the winter of 1861 was considered a trip full of potential dangers.

Several Southern States had already withdrawn from the Union, and assassination attempts were a possibility. For these reasons, the train schedule was tightly controlled and the stops made for as short time as possible.

Abraham Lincoln stopped and made a brief statement at the Peekskill train depot at 2 p.m. on Tuesday, February 19, 1861. This dramatic event is fairly well documented.
Towards noon, quite a number came to the village from the country surrounding, and wended their way to the Depot.” Highland Democrat, Peekskill, Feb. 23rd, 1861. Section: Domestic Record, Headline: “Mr. Lincoln at Peekskill.”

Abraham Lincoln was elected President of the United States in November of 1860. He made a grand one week railway tour from his hometown in Springfield, Illinois to his inauguration in Washington D.C., which then took place in March. The trip was scheduled according to a precise timetable agreed upon along the route. The stops would be brief, and these stops would coincide with service requirements of fuel and water for the steam locomotive.

Indianapolis, IN When Lincoln left Springfield to start his inaugural journey on February 11, 1861, he paid an unforgettable tribute to his friends and neighbors known today as the Farewell Address. Lincoln spoke these famous words as he boarded a special Presidential train at the Great Western Railroad station, now a restored Lincoln visitor site. Robert Todd Lincoln would be the only family member to depart with the president-elect.  He stopped, and spoke at several big cities along the way. The inaugural train left Springfield on February 11th. It then stopped at Indianapolis, Ohio the same day. Lincoln arrived at Cincinnati on the 12th, and Columbus, Ohio the 13th.

 Columbus, OH February 12-–his birthday--Lincoln has several other events in Indianapolis before resuming the journey. Mary and their two little boys, Willy and Tad, who had not been with them on the first leg to Indianapolis, join him here. Just outside of Indianapolis is Connor Prairie a living history museum that captures the life of 19th century settlers. We’ll stop here for a visit before continuing to Cincinnati where we’ll visit the famous Lincoln Statue, the William Howard Taft National Historic Site, the Harriet Beecher Stowe Memorial, the U.S. Grant birthplace and home, and William Henry Harrison’s tomb. Our last stop today, before Columbus is Zenia, OH the birthplace of the great Indian leader, Tecumseh.

 Pittsburgh, PA While in Columbus Lincoln spoke at the State House where we will also visit . Our next stop is the home of James Thurber, American humorist and cartoonist most famous for his contributions to the New Yorker magazine. Just outside of Columbus are historic Indian Mounds and the Cy Young Memorial where we will briefly stop before continuing on to Pittsburgh where we will visit the site of the Monongahela House where Lincoln stayed and delivered a half-hour speech from the Smithfield Street balcony of his second floor room, prematurely reassuring the crowd that concerns for a looming civil war were unfounded: "There is no crisis but an artificial one."  The train arrived at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on February 14th.

Lincoln proceeded to Buffalo

On February 18 several hundred well-wishers and military escort see Lincoln off on the train from Buffalo to Albany at 5:45 in the morning. The train stops in the New York towns of Batavia, Rochester, Clyde, Syracuse, Utica, Little Falls, Fonda, Amsterdam, and Schenectady on its way to Albany. In Albany, not a favorite stop for the Lincolns, the president elect consults with Thurlow Weed, speaks to a joint session of the legislature, dines in the Governor’s mansion, and stays the night at the Delavan House

"Lincoln kept up his activities for most of the evening before retiring to his room for a much needed sleep. Buffalo had "Lincoln Fever" and the fact that the great man was in the city kept the atmosphere lively throughout the night. The following morning, Lincoln and his party left the American Hotel in waiting carriages and drove without incident back to the Exchange Street Station. After arriving at the depot, Mr. Lincoln passed unattended through the files of the escort to the train, which left immediately. As the train pulled away, those in attendance saw Lincoln standing on the rear platform, bowing to the cheers of the crowd."

Thus ending the visit of Abraham Lincoln to the City of Buffalo. He would return four years later, however, in a completely different set of circumstances and the mood of the city would be nothing like it was in February of 1861. Four years is a long time for a country on the brink of a Civil War. 

Lincoln then proceeded to New York on the 16th. The New York State cities of Rochester, Syracuse, and Utica were visited on the 18th. Mr. Lincoln arrived at the Albany State Capitol on the 19th. That same day there were stops along the Hudson River line at Poughkeepsie, Fishkill and Peekskill. The train traveled to New York City the same day.

Washington, DC In Philadelphia Lincoln for first time the evening of February 21 learns of a plot on his life when his train is scheduled to pass through Baltimore. What follows is a cloak and dagger train of events. The famous detective, Allan Pinkerton, has uncovered the plot down the line and is cooperating with Lincoln’s top aides in a plan to smuggle the president-elect through Baltimore alone and safely into Washington, separate from the train and the rest of his party. Lincoln is advised of the plan in Philadelphia and agrees to go along with it, but only after he has fulfilled his commitment to participate in the planned ceremony in historic Independence Hall in Philadelphia the next day (the 22nd) and move on schedule to Harrisburg, the state capital to speak to the legislature and fulfill his commitments there later that same day. That done, he is indeed smuggled back into Philadelphia, accompanied by a body guard and Pinkerton, on through Baltimore, and safely delivered disguised in Washington in the early morning February 23.

Breif Outline of some of the stops. The Last Train Ride also traveled the same basic track.

Illinois (Champaign County), Tolono — Lincoln 1861 Inaugural Train Stop
Abraham Lincoln made his farewell address to the people of Illinois at the Tolono Station February 11, 1861. "I am leaving you on an errand of national importance, attended as you are aware with considerable difficulties. Let us believe as some poet has expressed it 'behind the cloud the sun is still shining.' I bid you an affectionate farewell."
Illinois (Sangamon County), Springfield — Lincoln’s Farewell to Springfield
February 11, 1861 My friends, no one not in my situation can appreciate my feelings of sadness at this parting, to this place, and the kindness of this people, I owe everything. Here I have lived a quarter of a century, and have passed from a young to an old man. Here my children have been born, and one is buried. Now I leave, not knowing when or whether ever I may return; with a task before me greater than that which rested upon Washington. Without the assistance of that divine being who ever .
Illinois (Sangamon County), Springfield — The Lincoln Depot
From this building on February 11, 1861 Abraham Lincoln departed Springfield, Illinois to assume the Presidency of the United States. After bidding farewell to a number of friends, he delivered a brief, spontaneous and moving farewell address to the crowd, estimated at 1,000, from the rear platform of the train.
Illinois (Vermilion County), Danville — Abraham Lincoln
At noon on February 11, 1861, President Abraham Lincoln’s inaugural train stopped at the Great Western Depot located here. It was the day before his 52nd birthday. He had been coming to Vermilion County for twenty years to attend Circuit Court in Danville. He spoke briefly to his friends and supporters, an audience estimated at about one thousand. The final words of his speech were: “If I find I have blessings at my disposal, Old Vermilion will come in for a bountiful .
Indiana (Boone County), Lebanon — Abraham Lincoln
Enroute to Washington, D.C., to become 16th President of the U.S., addressed citizens of Lebanon and Boone County from rear of railroad passenger car at this place on the evening of February 11, 1861.
Indiana (Boone County), Zionsville — Lincoln's Stop in Zionsville, Indiana
Abraham Lincoln enroute to Washington as President Elect on February 11 1861 addressed the Citizens of Zionsville at the Railroad Depot which stood on this site.
Indiana (Marion County), Indianapolis — Here, Abraham Lincoln Said
Here, Feb 11, 1861, Abraham Lincoln, on his way to Washington to assume the Presidency, in an address said “I appeal to you to constantly bear in mind that not with politicians, not with presidents, not with office-seekers, but with you is the question: Shall the Union and shall the liberties of this country be preserved to the latest generations?”
Indiana (Marion County), Indianapolis — Lincoln to the Citizens of Indiana
“. . . it is your business . . . if the Union of these States, and the liberties of this people, shall be lost. . . . It is your business to rise up and preserve the Union. . . .” From speech by President-elect Abraham Lincoln at intersection of Washington and Missouri Streets, Indianapolis, February 11, 1861
Indiana (Warren County), State Line City — Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln made his only speech in Warren County, Indiana near this spot Feb. 11, 1861. “Gentlemen of Indiana: I am happy to meet you on this occasion, and enter again the state of my early life, and almost of maturity. I am under many obligations to you for your kind reception, and to Indiana for the aid she rendered our cause which, I think, a just one. Gentlemen, I shall address you at greater length at Indianapolis, but not much greater. Again gentlemen, I thank you for your warm hearted reception.”
New Jersey (Mercer County), Trenton — State House
The State House is the heart of New Jersey’s State government, the second oldest State House in continuous use in the United States. First built in 1792 and expanded in every generation, the State House is a witness to two centuries of American history and a mosaic of architectural styles. President-elect Abraham Lincoln, on his way to take office, addressed the Legislature here. Governor Woodrow Wilson began here the political career that would take him to the White House.
New York (Albany County), Albany — Lincoln in Albany
"I hold myself without mock modesty, the humblest of all individuals that have ever been elevated to the Presidency....You have generously tendered me the united support of the great Empire State." - Abraham Lincoln speaking to the New York Legislature on February 18, 1861. President-elect Abraham Lincoln was greeted by a large, boisterous crowd on February 18, 1861, as he stopped in Albany on his way to his inauguration in Washington, D.C. In his speech at the old State House.
Ohio (Franklin County), Columbus — The Ohio Statehouse / Lincoln at the Statehouse
In 1812, the Ohio legislature designated Columbus as the state capital, with local landowners contributing land and resources for a capitol building and penitentiary. The first Columbus statehouse, a Federal-style structure completed in 1816, stood on the northeast corner of State and High streets. By the 1830s, the need for a more substantial structure was apparent. Cincinnati architect Thomas Walter won the 1838 capitol design contest, though the final design incorporated several .
Pennsylvania (Dauphin County), Harrisburg — Abraham Lincoln
On February 22, 1861, while journeying to Washington for his Inauguration, Lincoln stopped at the Jones House, on this site. From the portico of the hotel, he addressed a large crowd gathered in Market Square.
Pennsylvania (Dauphin County), Harrisburg — The Jones House
On this site, the southeast corner of Second and Market Streets on Market Square, stood the Jones House, a mid-Nineteenth Century Hotel, which later evolved into the larger Commonwealth Hotel and later, the Dauphin Building. It was here that Abraham Lincoln stopped on February 22, 1861, en-route to his inauguration in Washington DC. The President-Elect greeted and spoke to city residents in the Square and went by carriage to the State Capitol Building to address the Pennsylvania Legislature as
Pennsylvania (Philadelphia County), Philadelphia — Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln stood here when he raised the flag on Independence Hall February 22nd 1861. This tablet placed by Post 2 Department of Pennsylvania Grand Army of the Republic.