Plot to Kill Lincoln?

Thursday, February 21, 1861

Lincoln’s traveling party left New York City aboard the John P. Jackson for Newark, New Jersey. He gave a short speech on the ship and also twice in Newark to crowds of 75,000. He then left by train for Philadelphia. The usual whistle stops were made, of course. Speeches were delivered from the train’s rear platform in Elizabeth, Rahway, New Brunswick and Trenton. Crowds numbering in the thousands cheered for him in each.

During his speech in Trenton, Lincoln dispensed with the oft repeated lines and declared that he “shall do all that may be in my power to promote a peaceful settlement of all our difficulties,” and that “the man does not live who is more devoted to peace than I am.” He left them hanging for only a moment. “But it may be necessary to put the foot down firmly.” He lifted his foot and pressed it gently to the ground.

This was seen as Lincoln’s response to Jefferson Davis’s Inaugural Address, which had made its rounds through the Northern papers.

The Lincoln train then wound its way into the Kensington station in Philadelphia to the huzzahs of 100,000. He delivered another speech, calling back to the writers of the Constitution and then at night, from the balcony of his hotel room, watched a beautiful fireworks display that lit up the entire city.

But the night was far from over. Illinois congressman, Norman Judd summoned Lincoln to his room to meet detective Allan Pinkerton. Pinkerton had somehow received news of a plot to assassinate the President-Elect. Judd had apparently heard of the plot back in Cincinnati, but needed further confirmation. Finally convinced, he and Pinkerton sat Lincoln down.

As Elmer Ellsworth guarded the door, Pinkerton told Lincoln exactly how the plot would unfold. It was to take place in Baltimore. As soon as the train pulled into the station, a secessionist gang would stage a fight to lure the police away from Lincoln. With Old Abe unprotected, the secessionists would surround him and kill him. It was strongly suggested that Lincoln leave for Washington immediately.

Lincoln left Judd’s room and made his way to his own. There he found Frederick Seward, son of William H. Seward, waiting for him. Frederick was there to deliver an urgent message from his father. The message was that Seward had received word from General Scott that Lincoln was to be assassinated in Baltimore. This report was completely independent of Pinkerton’s own discoveries. Maybe there was something to them.

Lincoln agreed that if these two reports were indeed independent, there might be something to this plot. He told Frederick that he would think on it and give him his answer in the morning.1


Handing Out Cabinet Seats in the South

In more fairly-boring-but-necessary political news from the Provisional Confederate Congress, this date was the date to begin handing out cabin seats. Having just established a State Department, Treasury and War Department, these cabinet seats were available and formally filled.

Robert Toombs of Georgia officially became Secretary of State, Christopher Memminger of South Carolina took the Treasury seat and Alabama’s LeRoy Pope Walker became Secretary of War.

The lack of a Navy didn’t stop the formation of the Naval Department and the suggested appointment of Stephen Mallory of Florida to head it. There would apparently be some discussion upon all of this and he was not yet officially given the position.

It appears that four names for four seats were given by Davis and that Congress agreed to three of them right away with the fourth (the Navy) being held over for further dickering.2

As the South was establishing a formal government, Texas had been doing some housekeeping. Over the past week much of the United States property in Texas had been handed over to or very easily captured by the State militia forces. These actions largely echoed what had happened in other Southern states.

  1. Lincoln President-Elect by Harold Holzer. []
  2. History of Alabama… Vol. 1 by Thomas McAdory Owen. []


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2 thoughts on “Plot to Kill Lincoln?

    1. I believe it was because the rail service at that time would have made him go to (possibly) Scranton to get to Philadelphia. He wanted to go through New Jersey (he wasn’t perfect!), crossing by ferry was probably the only way to do that at the time.



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