Tag Archives: Baltimore

The New Unionist Maryland

December 3, 1861 – The Maryland legislature assembled with most secessionists removed from office. This ensured that Washington would not be surrounded by Confederate states.

Maryland State Flag | Image Credit: All-Flags-World.com

Maryland State Flag | Image Credit: All-Flags-World.com

In his final message to the legislature, Maryland Governor Thomas H. Hicks noted that legislators in the previous session had considered seceding:

“This continued until the General Government had ample reason to believe it was about to go through the farce of enacting an ordinance of secession, when the treason was summarily stopped by the dispersion of the traitors…”

Hicks stated that in the elections of June 13 and November 6, the people “declared, in the most emphatic tones, what I have never doubted, that Maryland has no sympathy with the rebellion, and desires to do her full share of the duty in suppressing it.” Hicks’s Unionist stance marked a major turnaround considering he had been strongly pro-Confederate before Federal forces entered Maryland.

The Unionist legislators approved a resolution declaring themselves “devoted” to the Federal government and expressing “confidence” in the Lincoln administration. The members repealed prior resolutions absolving Baltimore authorities of blame for the April 19 riot and appropriated $7,000 to compensate the families of those in the 6th Massachusetts who had been killed. They approved a measure to raise troops for the Federal army, to be paid for by a direct tax on the people, and passed a resolution declaring that the war would not interfere with slavery.

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References

Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government (Kindle Edition 2008, 1889), Loc 5899; White, Howard Ray, Bloodstains, An Epic History of the Politics that Produced and Sustained the American Civil War and the Political Reconstruction that Followed (Southernbooks, Kindle Edition, 2012), Q461

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Keeping Maryland in the Union

June 27, 1861 – Major General Nathaniel P. Banks, commanding Federal occupation forces in Baltimore, ordered the arrest of Police Marshal George P. Kane for suspected secessionist activity as part of the ongoing effort to keep Maryland in the Union.

This month, Federal forces continued tightening their grip on Maryland. When Maryland legislators demanded that Governor Thomas Hicks explain why he had ordered the confiscation of arms from the state militia, Hicks responded by distributing the arms to Unionists. This conflicted with the pro-Confederate sentiment of many Marylanders and their elected officials.

Nevertheless, Unionists won all six U.S. House of Representatives seats in a special Federal election. This indicated that Marylanders were not willing to sacrifice their strong economic ties to the northern states by siding with the Confederacy. Meanwhile, four Federal regiments had been organized in Maryland, with staunch Unionist John W. Garrett using his Baltimore & Ohio Railroad to bring troops from the West. Many Marylanders sympathizing with the Confederacy had gone to Virginia.

Federal General Nathaniel Banks | Image Credit: Flickr.com

Federal General Nathaniel Banks | Image Credit: Flickr.com

However, Baltimore remained a hotbed of secessionist activity, despite being under Federal military occupation. On June 27 General Banks carried out orders to arrest Baltimore Police Marshal Kane, who was suspected of working with Confederate agents to resist Federal rule. Federals entered Kane’s home without a warrant, seized him, and imprisoned him without formal charges at Fort McHenry.

The Baltimore mayor and police commissioners met and drafted a protest against Kane’s imprisonment. They asserted that while they would do nothing to “obstruct the execution of such measures as Major-General Banks may deem proper to take, on his own responsibility, for the preservation of the peace of the city and of public order, they can not, consistently with their views of official duty and of the obligations of their oaths of office, recognize the right of any of the officers and men of the police force, as such, to receive orders or directions from any other authority than from this Board; and that, in the opinion of the Board, the forcible suspension of their functions suspends at the same time the active operations of the police law.”

This conflict between the Federal occupiers and city officials continued into July.

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Sources

CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government (Kindle Edition 2008, 1889), Loc 5864-75; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 53; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 40; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 88; McPherson, James M., Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States Book 6, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition, 1988), p. 287; White, Howard Ray, Bloodstains, An Epic History of the Politics that Produced and Sustained the American Civil War and the Political Reconstruction that Followed (Southernbooks, Kindle Edition, 2012), Q261

Maryland Remains in the Union

April 29, 1861 – Maryland legislators voted against secession after President Abraham Lincoln suspended the writ of habeas corpus in the area surrounding the state.

Maryland State Flag | Image Credit: All-Flags-World.com

Maryland State Flag | Image Credit: All-Flags-World.com

Two days after the Baltimore riot, a delegation of influential Baltimoreans including Mayor George Brown met with President Lincoln, his cabinet, and General-in-Chief Winfield Scott. The delegation protested the killing of civilians, calling it “a pollution” of Maryland soil. They declared that order could be restored in Baltimore only if Federal troops stayed away.

Lincoln responded that he must have troops to defend the capital, and the shortest route from the northern states was through Baltimore. Mayor Brown shared the meeting’s results with city residents:

“The protection of Washington, he (Lincoln) asseverated with great earnestness, was the sole object of concentrating troops there, and he protested that none of the troops brought through Maryland were intended for any purposes hostile to the state, or aggressive as against the southern states…The interview terminated with the distinct assurance, on the part of the President, that no more troops would be sent through Baltimore, unless obstructed in their transit in other directions, and with the understanding that the city authorities should do their best to restrain their own people.” 

Meanwhile, unrest continued in Baltimore, as secessionists destroyed railroad lines, cut telegraph wires, and burned bridges. This, combined with Confederate control of Harpers Ferry, cut the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad connection between Washington and the northern states.

Lincoln next met with members of the Baltimore YMCA on the 22nd. The members asked Lincoln to promote peace in their city by keeping Federal troops out. Continuing to play to fears that secessionists planned on attacking Washington, Lincoln told the visitors, “You express great horror of bloodshed, and yet would not lay a straw in the way of those who are organizing in Virginia and elsewhere to capture the city.”

Lincoln then met with another group of Baltimoreans that once again included the mayor, along with Police Marshal George P. Kane. The members urged Lincoln to negotiate a peaceful settlement with the Confederacy that was tantamount to recognizing Confederate independence.

The president responded: “You would have me break my oath and surrender the Government without a blow. There is no Washington in that–no Jackson in that–no manhood nor honor in that.” Saying, “I must have troops for the defense of the capital,” Lincoln explained:

“Our men are not moles, and can’t dig under the earth; they are not birds, and can’t fly through the air. There is no way but to march across, and that they must do. Go home and tell your people that if they will not attack us, we will not attack them; but if they do attack us, we will return it, and that severely.”

Lincoln concluded, “Keep your rowdies in Baltimore and there will be no bloodshed.” Meanwhile, Secretary of State William H. Seward rejected a proposal from Maryland Governor Thomas H. Hicks in which the administration would withdraw Federals from the state and Lord Lyons, British minister to the U.S., would negotiate a settlement between Maryland and the Federal government. Thus, the administration gave up Baltimore to secessionists in a larger effort to keep Federal forces coming into Washington via Annapolis and to keep Maryland in the Union.

On the 26th, Hicks called the state legislature into special session at Frederick, a largely pro-Union town 50 miles west of Baltimore and 18 miles northeast of Harpers Ferry on the vital Baltimore & Ohio Railroad line. Although he had no constitutional authority to interfere with a state government, Lincoln pondered whether to deploy forces to prevent the legislators from meeting out of fear that they might approve secession.

As General-in-Chief Scott stood poised to arrest any lawmaker who expressed secessionist sympathies, Lincoln ordered forces to observe the legislators and, if needed, initiate “the bombardment of their cities–and of course the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus.” The arrest of citizens without due process and the bombardment of U.S. cities came without the consent of Congress, which was not due to assemble until July 4.

The next day, Lincoln issued an order authorizing Scott to “suspend the writ of Habeas Corpus for the public safety” between Philadelphia and Washington. This was a response to the Baltimore unrest, attempts by secessionists to destroy railroad tracks along the new route for Federal troops via Annapolis, and secessionist leanings by the Maryland legislators. This also addressed the many civil and military officials in the Washington area either joining the Confederacy or expressing Confederate sympathies.

Scott was empowered to “arrest, and detain, without resort to the ordinary processes and forms of law, such individuals as he might deem dangerous to the public safety.” The suspension enabled Federal forces to search private homes; seize mail, telegraphic messages, and other correspondence; and indefinitely imprison suspected Confederate sympathizers or war protestors without charges or trial.

U.S. Chief Justice Roger B. Taney argued that the suspension defied the Constitution, and “he could not find a shred of legality for the act.” This order ultimately resulted in the seizure of Baltimore Mayor Brown and Police Marshal Kane, 31 Maryland legislators, and the grandson of Francis Scott Key. Those arrested were ironically detained at Baltimore’s Fort McHenry, where Key had written “The Star Spangled Banner” when under British attack during the War of 1812. Over the next two years, this and other similar orders resulted in the imprisonment of some 13,000 people without their constitutional right to habeas corpus.

The suspension may have swayed the Maryland legislators. On the 29th they approved resolutions protesting the state’s Federal military occupation and expressing sympathy for the Confederacy. However they also passed a measure declaring that “under existing circumstances, it is inexpedient to call a sovereign Convention of the State at this time, or take any measures for the immediate organization or arming of the militia.” The House of Delegates rejected secession by a vote of 53 to 13. Consequently, thousands of pro-Confederate Marylanders began leaving for Virginia.

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Sources

  • Crocker III, H.W., The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Civil War (Washington: Regnery Publishing, 2008), p. 39
  • Davis, William C., First Blood: Fort Sumter to Bull Run (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 26, 29-31
  • Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 37-38, 40
  • Donald, David Herbert, Lincoln (Simon & Schuster, Kindle Edition, 2011), Loc 6237-49, 6260, 6271
  • Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 53
  • Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 25, 27
  • Goodwin, Doris Kearns, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2005), p. 354-55
  • Jackson, Donald Dale, Twenty Million Yankees: The Northern Home Front (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 31
  • Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 63-67
  • McPherson, James M., Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States Book 6, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition, 1988), p. 287
  • Pollard, Edward A., Southern History of the War (New York: The Fairfax Press, 1990), p. 74-75
  • Wert, Jeffry D., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 359-60
  • White, Howard Ray, Bloodstains, An Epic History of the Politics that Produced and Sustained the American Civil War and the Political Reconstruction that Followed (Southernbooks, Kindle Edition, 2012), Q261

The Baltimore Riot

April 19, 1861 – Troops of the 6th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment traveling through Baltimore fired on a jeering mob of citizens, sparking mass unrest.

Federal troops heeding President Abraham Lincoln’s call for volunteers needed to pass through Baltimore, a major railroad hub, to get to Washington, D.C. Some Pennsylvania units had made the trip on April 18 and informed capital officials of the poor reception they received from secessionists and city gangs such as the “plug uglies” in predominately pro-Confederate Baltimore. The Massachusetts men came through the next day.

The train carrying the soldiers arrived at the President Street Station at 10:30 a.m. Baltimore Mayor George W. Brown asserted that neither he nor city police had been notified that Federal troops would be arriving that day. To complete their journey to the capital, the Massachusetts men had to have their 10 rail cars drawn by horses along a connecting line to the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, a mile across town at the Camden Street Station.

Resentful crowds gathered in the streets to curse and jeer the troops as they passed. The first eight cars went through with no incident, but the mob pelted the ninth car with paving stones and bricks, shattering windows and injuring some troops. Debris on the tracks prevented the 10th car from passing. The men had to detrain and march the remaining distance to Camden Street. Officers instructed their men to load their rifles but not to fire unless ordered to do so.

As the mob cursed and pelted the scared, inexperienced soldiers with brickbats and paving stones, shots rang out. When the smoke cleared, Colonel Edward Jones reported that the 6th had lost three killed (later amended to four) and 39 wounded. Mayor Brown reported that 12 civilians had been killed and dozens of others wounded, though the total figure was unknown.

Massachusetts Soldiers Firing into a Baltimore Crowd | Image Credit: CivilWarDailyGazette.com

Massachusetts Soldiers Firing into a Baltimore Crowd | Image Credit: CivilWarDailyGazette.com

These marked the first combat casualties of the war. Prominent journalist George Templeton Strong wrote, “It’s a notable coincidence that the first blood in this great struggle is drawn by Massachusetts men on the anniversary” of the Battles of Lexington and Concord that sparked the War for Independence 86 years before.

Mayor Brown and Police Marshal George Kane tried protecting the soldiers by getting them to the station and hustling them onto rail cars as soon as possible. The train left the Camden Street Station around 12:45 p.m. The soldiers left their dead, some of their wounded, and their regimental band. City police returned baggage and equipment that had been seized by the mob. Some 17 wounded soldiers were carried into the capital on stretchers. Those killed were packed with ice and returned to Massachusetts for honorable interment.

The 6th Massachusetts took up quarters in the Senate chamber of the U.S. Capitol. Baltimore authorities restored order by evening, after rioters had caused thousands of dollars’ worth of property damage.

When a rumor spread that more Federal troops were approaching the city via the northern railroads, Governor Thomas H. Hicks reluctantly approved the recommendation of Mayor Brown and Police Marshal Kane to destroy four railroad bridges leading from Philadelphia and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Secessionists also cut telegraph lines.

Cutting rail and telegraph lines prevented Washington from receiving reinforcements or communications, thus isolating the capital from the North for nearly a week. Many capital visitors quickly fled town, while residents closed their businesses and barricaded their homes. Mayor Brown dispatched three representatives to deliver a letter to President Lincoln warning about Baltimore’s volatility:

“The people are exasperated to the highest degree by the passage of troops, and the citizens are universally decided in the opinion that no more should be ordered to come… It is my solemn duty to inform you that it is not possible for more soldiers to pass through Baltimore unless they fight their way at every step.”

A demonstration took place on the night of the 19th at Baltimore’s Monument Square, where speakers denounced the Lincoln administration and called for Maryland to secede. Governor Hicks, who had straddled both sides of the secession question, now joined the secessionists in declaring to the crowd: “I will suffer my right arm to be torn from my body before I will raise it to strike a sister State.” The next day, Hicks further emboldened the secessionists by informing the Lincoln administration that order could only be maintained by prohibiting the entry of Federal troops.

President Lincoln conferred with General-in-Chief Winfield Scott and then responded by temporarily closing the Baltimore line of transport: “For the future, troops must be brought here (Washington), but I make no point of bringing them through Baltimore.”

The Federals created an alternate route through Maryland via water to Annapolis. Brigadier General Benjamin F. Butler’s 8th Massachusetts paraded his men through that town before they rebuilt damaged railroad tracks on their march to the capital on foot. The Annapolis route, though slower, bypassed the Baltimore problem for now.

Meanwhile, Washington remained in chaos since Federals took more time coming to the city’s defense. Many feared that secessionists would invade at any time. Cut off from reinforcements or communications, wild rumors spreading throughout the capital were taken as fact. 

Northerners were outraged by Maryland’s defiance of Federal authority. Massachusetts soon provided double its quota of troops for the war effort. New York Tribune editor Horace Greeley declared that Baltimore should “be burned with fire and leveled to the earth and made an abode for owls and satyrs and a place for fishermen to dry their nets.”

Marylanders responded differently. School teacher James Randall, a native Marylander reading about the Baltimore riot from New Orleans, composed the poem “My Maryland.” This denounced the Federal invasion of Maryland, and its circulation increased when Baltimore socialite sisters Jennie and Hettie Cary began singing it to audiences to the tune of the Yale song “Lauriger Horatius.” A publisher later changed the song accompaniment to “O Tannenbaum,” a 1799 German song also known as “Oh Christmas Tree.”

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Sources

  • Angle, Paul M., A Pictorial History of the Civil War Years (New York: Doubleday, 1967), p. 42-43
  • Catton, Bruce, The American Heritage Picture History of the Civil War (New York: American Heritage Publishing Co., 1960), p. 63, 85
  • Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government (Kindle Edition 2008, 1889), Loc 5818-29
  • Davis, William C., First Blood: Fort Sumter to Bull Run (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 24-26
  • Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 36
  • Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 24
  • Goodwin, Doris Kearns, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2005), p. 352
  • Hall, James O., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 37
  • Kelly, Dennis P., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 478
  • Klein, Frederic S., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 479
  • Linedecker, Clifford L. (ed.), Civil War A to Z (Ballantine Books, 2002), p. 29
  • Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 61-63
  • McPherson, James M., Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States Book 6, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition, 1988), p. 285
  • Pollard, Edward A., Southern History of the War (New York: The Fairfax Press, 1990), p. 70
  • Time-Life Editors, Spies, Scouts and Raiders: Irregular Operations (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 12-13
  • Ward, Geoffrey C., Burns, Ric, Burns, Ken, The Civil War (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990), p. 62
  • Wert, Jeffry D., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 359-60
  • White, Howard Ray, Bloodstains, An Epic History of the Politics that Produced and Sustained the American Civil War and the Political Reconstruction that Followed (Southernbooks, Kindle Edition, 2012), Q261

Lincoln Sneaks Into Washington

February 22, 1861 – President-elect Abraham Lincoln secretly left for Washington in response to rumors that Confederate sympathizers planned to assassinate him in Baltimore.

Lincoln’s journey through the northern states continued on the morning of the 21st when his train left New York City. The planned route was to go through New Jersey to Philadelphia and Harrisburg. From there, the train would continue to Baltimore where Lincoln would take part in a massive parade, and then travel to its final destination at Washington.

The Lincoln train stopped at nearly every depot between New York City and the capital of New Jersey at Trenton. In a speech before the New Jersey General Assembly, Lincoln said: “I shall do all that may be in my power to promote a peaceful settlement of all our difficulties. The man does not live who is more devoted to peace than I am. None who would do more to preserve it. But it may be necessary to put the foot down firmly. And if I do my duty, and do right, you will sustain me, will you not?” This prompted loud cheering in response.

The train moved on to Philadelphia, where a large reception awaited the Lincoln party as they arrived in late afternoon. Lincoln told the city mayor, “I do not mean to say that this artificial panic has not done harm. That it has done much harm I do not deny,” but he hoped to resolve it peacefully.

Meanwhile Senator William H. Seward, Lincoln’s secretary of state-designate, met with his son Frederick in the Senate lobby in Washington. Frederick handed his father a note from Brevet Lieutenant General Winfield Scott warning that Lincoln may be assassinated if he traveled through Baltimore due to the city’s large pro-secession population. The senator directed his son, “I want you to go by the first train. Find Mr. Lincoln, wherever he is. Let no one else know your errand.”

Allan Pinkerton, heading security for the Lincoln party, also warned Lincoln of a plot against him and urged him to pass through Baltimore in the middle of the night, without detection, and move on straight to Washington. Lincoln refused to alter his travel plans.

After 10 p.m., Frederick Seward arrived at the Continental Hotel in Philadelphia where the Lincolns were staying. Frederick corroborated Pinkerton’s evidence with messages from his father, General Scott, and Colonel Charles Stone (heading military forces in the District of Columbia). Stone urged “a change in the traveling arrangements which would bring Mr. Lincoln through Baltimore by a night train without previous notice.” Lincoln responded that he would go ahead with scheduled appearances at Independence Hall and Harrisburg tomorrow, but if the Baltimore delegation did not greet him by then, he would skip that city’s planned festivities as urged.

On the morning of the 22nd, Lincoln agreed to skip Baltimore and head straight to Washington on a night train after his scheduled appearances at Philadelphia and Harrisburg today. To Mrs. Mary Todd Lincoln’s dismay, Pinkerton insisted that she and her sons stay behind and ride the previously scheduled train into the capital the next afternoon.

Lincoln took part in a celebration of George Washington’s Birthday in Philadelphia by raising a flag at Independence Hall. He told an enthusiastic crowd:

“I have never had a feeling politically that did not spring from the sentiments embodied in the Declaration of Independence… It was not the mere matter of the separation of the colonies from the motherland; but something in that Declaration (provided) hope to the world for all future time. It was that which gave promise that in due time the weights should be lifted from the shoulders of all men, and that all men should have an equal chance.”

He assured his audience there “is no need of bloodshed and war” unless secessionists forced it on them. If the Union could “be saved upon that basis,” he would be among “the happiest men in the world.” But if it “cannot be saved without giving up that principle,” he said he “would rather be assassinated on this spot than to surrender it.” A politician noted, “I don’t think it is Lincoln’s person or character that calls out the enthusiasm. It must be the present state of the country.”

The Lincoln train then moved on to the Pennsylvania capital at Harrisburg, where Lincoln delivered the final speech of his trip. He declared that he sought peace if it could be done “consistently with the maintenance of the institutions of the country.” Southern newspapers criticized most of Lincoln’s speeches, especially when he referred to secession as an “artificial crisis” even after the Confederate States of America had been officially formed.

This evening, the Lincolns went to Harrisburg’s Jones House, where plans were made for the president-elect to secretly pass through Baltimore in the middle of the night. Unlike the other states that Lincoln had visited, Maryland did not have a Republican governor to welcome him and help arrange security. Moreover, Baltimore was a pro-secession city whose gangs had been infiltrated by agents of both Pinkerton and the War Department. Consequently, Lincoln’s advisors were convinced of an assassination plot against him, even though no tangible evidence of such a scheme was produced. When no Baltimore delegation came to greet Lincoln before his scheduled visit there, he finally agreed to the secret plan.

Political cartoon lampooning Lincoln's journey to Washington | Image Credit: SonoftheSouth.net

Political cartoon lampooning Lincoln’s journey to Washington | Image Credit: SonoftheSouth.net

Lincoln left the Jones House dining room at 6 p.m., went upstairs, and put on traveling clothes, an overcoat, and a wool slouch hat. In dark of night, Lincoln and his friend and unofficial bodyguard Ward Hill Lamon took a carriage to the train station, where a single passenger car on the Pennsylvania Railroad and Pinkerton’s detectives awaited them. They cut all telegraph wires out of Harrisburg before leaving for Philadelphia.

Pinkerton joined the party when the train stopped at Philadelphia and transferred to the Philadelphia, Wilmington & Baltimore Railroad. They rode the last car on the night train to Baltimore, taking berths reserved by a female detective for her “invalid brother” and his companion. The train moved toward Baltimore into early next morning.

The party of Lincoln and his detectives and bodyguards reached Baltimore’s President Street Station around 3:30 a.m. Because the Camden Street Station on the other side of town provided the only route to Washington, the train car had to be drawn by horses through the city streets to that depot. The train proceeded unmolested, with only a lone drunk singing “Dixie” in the distance. After waiting an hour for the locomotive to arrive from the west, the group continued to Washington safely.

Critics ridiculed the way the incoming chief executive had “crept into Washington like a thief in the night.” Rumors quickly spread that he had been disguised in Scottish wear, including cap and kilt, enabling cartoonists and opposition newspapers to lampoon him savagely. Some excoriated Lincoln for taking the secret trip while leaving his wife and family to travel the scheduled (and potentially more dangerous) route through Baltimore this afternoon.

The move even embarrassed fellow Republicans and supporters. Lawyer and diarist George Templeton Strong wrote, “It’s to be hoped that the conspiracy can be proved beyond cavil. If it cannot be made manifest and indisputable, this surreptitious nocturnal dodging or sneaking of the President-elect into his capital city, under cloud of night, will be used to damage his moral position and throw ridicule on his Administration.” This marked an inauspicious start to Lincoln’s presidency, as many northerners expected firm leadership to handle the crisis at hand.

The train arrived at 6 a.m., where Republican Congressman Elihu B. Washburne of Lincoln’s home state greeted him. The group proceeded to Willard’s Hotel, where the Lincoln family took up residence in the hotel’s finest room, Parlor 6. Lincoln breakfasted with Secretary of State-designate Seward. Afterward Lincoln met with President James Buchanan and his cabinet at the White House, called on General-in-Chief Winfield Scott, and rode through the capital with Seward.

Lincoln received numerous visitors at his parlor, which quickly teemed with politicians and office seekers. Among those meeting with Lincoln included Montgomery Blair and his father, distinguished statesman Francis P. Blair, Sr. Senator Stephen A. Douglas called on Lincoln with an Illinois delegation; reporters called the meeting between former rivals “peculiarly pleasant.” Lincoln had a private dinner at 7 p.m. with Seward and Vice President-elect Hannibal Hamlin.

After dinner, Lincoln returned to Willard’s at 9 p.m. and welcomed delegates from the Peace Convention, headed by prominent Republicans Salmon P. Chase of Ohio and Lucius E. Chittenden of Vermont. Following these men were various members of Congress, and finally members of Buchanan’s cabinet arrived to pay respects around 10 p.m.

Lincoln spent the remaining days of February attending receptions in both the Senate and House of Representatives, meeting Supreme Court justices, and consulting with various political leaders on executive appointments. Lincoln also conferred with Douglas and border state politicians urging the need for conciliation and compromise with the South.

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Sources

  • Angle, Paul M., A Pictorial History of the Civil War Years (New York: Doubleday, 1967), p. 30-32
  • Davis, William C., Brother Against Brother: The War Begins (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 132
  • Donald, David Herbert, Lincoln (Simon & Schuster, Kindle Edition, 2011), Loc 5853-64
  • Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 37-38
  • Goodwin, Doris Kearns, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2005), p. 306-12
  • Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 40-42
  • McPherson, James M., Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States Book 6, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition, 1988), p. 261-62
  • Pollard, Edward A., Southern History of the War (New York: The Fairfax Press, 1990), p. 48-49
  • Time-Life Editors, Spies, Scouts and Raiders: Irregular Operations (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 8, 21
  • Ward, Geoffrey C., Burns, Ric, Burns, Ken, The Civil War (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990), p. 33
  • White, Howard Ray, Bloodstains, An Epic History of the Politics that Produced and Sustained the American Civil War and the Political Reconstruction that Followed (Southernbooks, Kindle Edition, 2012), Q161