Lincoln’s Farewell to Springfield

Monday, February 11, 1861

“Here I have lived a quarter of a century, and have passed from a young man to an old man. Here my children have been born, and one is buried. I now 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 the Divine Being, who ever attended him, I cannot succeed. With that assistance I cannot fail. Trusting in Him, who can go with me, and remain with you and be every where for good, let us confidently hope that all will yet be well. To His care commending you, as I hope in your prayers you will commend me, I bid you an affectionate farewell.”1

Lincoln spoke these words as a last address to his friends in Springfield, Illinois as he stood on the landing of the last passenger car before the train pulled away.

He was accompanied by colleagues and politicians, two governors and several friends. Mary and the children would catch up with them on another train.

Traveling on Lincoln’s train was Colonel Ephraim Elmer Ellsworth, commander of the now-famous Chicago National Guard Cadets who dressed in the bright colors and baggy pants of the French Zouave units. Ellsworth, only 23 years of age, had been studying law in Lincoln’s office, where he and the President-Elect had become close friends.

The train, consisting of a baggage car and a yellow passenger car being pulled by a new Rogers locomotive, chuffed out of the station as everyone on board relaxed after a hectic week of preparation. Well-wishers lined the tracks and stations along the route to cheer for Lincoln and hope that he would say a few words if the train would stop for water or fuel.

Lincoln spoke in Decatur as the train refueled and again in Tolono where he was greeted with celebratory cannon fire. Again in Danville, the last stop in Illinois, he gave a few informal words to the crowds that had gathered. By noon, he was in Indiana, stopping at Lafayette, Thorntown (where the train started up again before Lincoln could deliver a punchline to what was probably a really good joke), Lebanon (some folks from Thorntown had raced here to catch that missed punchline) and finally to Indianapolis where he arrived to deafening cheers and more cannons fired in his honor.

He stayed that night in the Bates House, delivering a reckless speech challenging the secessionists. The crowd ate it up, though it would prove to be somewhat troublesome in the days ahead.2


Jefferson Davis was also setting out for his capitol, though to much less fanfare. He bid farewell to his wife and gave a short speech to his slaves before taking a boat alone to Vicksburg. There, he made a short speech, hoping “that our separation may be peaceful.”

In Montgomery, Alexander Stephens was sworn in as Vice-President in an impromptu ceremony. They had decided not to wait for Davis.3

  1. Farewell Address, Springfield – Lincoln/Nicolay Version. There were other versions as recorded by several newspapers. This was the version from Lincoln’s own manuscript in his and his secretary John Nicolay’s handwriting. []
  2. Lincoln President-Elect by Harold Holzer. []
  3. Journal of the Congress of the Confederate States of America, 1861-1865, Volume 1 []
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Lincoln’s Farewell to Springfield by CW DG is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 4.0 International


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