Lincoln’s Election, Southern Secession: 1860 to April 1861

Lincoln’s Journey, Davis’ Speech

Why did Lincoln break from his itinerary and go to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania?

Harrisburg was not on the original itinerary, but Lincoln was advised that there might be an assassination attempt in Baltimore. It made sense, to his chief of security, to reroute the train so that Lincoln would have an extra day to prepare, and so that the presidential train would arrive in Baltimore at a different time.

Baltimore was deeply hostile to the president-elect. In November 1860, Lincoln managed just 1,083 votes, compared to 1,503 for Douglas, 14,958 for Breckinridge, and 12,605 for John Bell. Lincoln knew perfectly well that Baltimore was dangerous terrain. He allowed his security chief—who was assisted by Allan Pinkerton of Chicago—to sneak him off the train and get him onto another while in disguise. For years afterward, political foes would lampoon Lincoln for what they considered his cowardice in 1861. Anyone examining the evidence is more likely to conclude that Lincoln did the smart thing.


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