Lincoln and Davis Travel to their Capitols

Tuesday, February 12, 1861

Lincoln turned 52 on this date. No celebrations were scheduled; it was hardly noticed at all as he spent most of the day on the rails. His train pulled away from the Indianapolis station around 11am. Already that day, Lincoln had addressed the Indiana legislature, breakfasted in the Governor’s mansion, given a speech from the balcony of his hotel room and was finally reunited with his family, who made an overnight trek by rail to catch up with him.

The President-Elect gave short (but planned) speeches at stops on his way through Indiana. Morris, Shelbyville, Greenburg and Lawrenceburg were entertained by Lincoln’s few words.

The train passed into Ohio and Lincoln was found to be in a great mood, but it was Willie and Tad, the Lincolns’ sons, who entertained the crowds, asking “Do you want to see Old Abe?” and then pointing to someone else.

A little after 3pm, Lincoln was in Cincinnati, just across the river from Kentucky. As he addressed the southern Ohioans, he spoke to the Kentuckians.

“We mean to leave you alone, and in no way to interfere with your institution; to abide by all and every compromise of the constitution. We mean to remember that you are as good as we are; that there is no difference between us, other than the difference of circumstances.”

Lincoln was escorted through the packed crowds to his hotel, where he was met by even larger crowds, all wanting to shake his hand.1

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Jefferson Davis, en route to head the Confederate Government in Montgomery, Alabama traveled from Vicksburg to Jackson, Mississippi. There, he resigned his commission of Major General in charge of all military forces in the state. Crowds, every bit as enthusiastic as those greeting Lincoln, surrounded Davis, who gave a few speeches here and there.2

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The Confederate government was coming together in Montgomery. Executive departments for Foreign Affairs, Navy, Military, Patents, Postal, Printing, Public Lands, Indian Affairs, etc were being created and filled with the deputies in the hall.

They planned to send ambassadors to England and France, and Peace Commissioners to Washington in hopes of gaining recognition from both Europe and the United States.

In a consolidation of power that would seem to take control away from the states, Congress gave themselves (and only themselves) the responsibility of answering “the questions and difficulties now existing” between the North and the South. Any military action would have to go through the central government, rather than through individual states acting on their own.3

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In Washington, Horatio King had been the acting Postmaster General ever since former Postmaster General John Dix slid to the Secretary of the Treasury seat. On this date, the Senate made King’s position official. It would only be for less than a month. That was all the time that was left in the Buchanan administration.

This would be Buchanan’s final cabinet change.4



  1. Lincoln President-Elect by Harold Holzer. []
  2. While nearly every minute of Lincoln’s trip from Springfield to Washington is well documented, Jefferson Davis’s trip from Vicksburg to Montgomery is sketchy at best. The information given here is from Long’s The Civil War Day By Day, which I sometimes use as a guiding reference, but never as a source – except, unfortunately, in this case. []
  3. Journal of the Congress of the Confederate States of America, 1861-1865, Volume 1 []
  4. Turning on the Light by Horatio Collins King, J.B. Lippincott Co., 1895. []
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