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155 Years Ago: Tuesday, February 12, 1861


Feb 12 1861 Map

Source: Library of Congress

It is only the second day of President-elect Abraham Lincoln’s inaugural journey. After spending the night in Indianapolis, Indiana, Lincoln starts the day by addressing the Indiana State Legislature. He then boards the train with his wife Mary and three children (Robert, Willie & Tad). Their final destination for the day is Cincinnati, Ohio.

Lincoln had multiple stops the day before, and spoke at each one. He now finds himself to be a little hoarse, but that doesn’t stop him from greeting the crowds and providing brief remarks at each stop along the route. Hundreds of people line the tracks, shouting and waving flags and handkerchiefs as the train sweeps by.

In Cincinnati, the train route is blocked by people at the foot of Fifth Street. Military and police forces are brought in to clear the way. Cincinnati Mayor Richard M. Bishop introduces himself and welcomes Mr. Lincoln to the city. Amid the deafening cheers, Lincoln takes a seat in a barouche (a four-wheeled horse-drawn carriage with a collapsible hood over the rear half) drawn by six white horses. The procession makes its way through the main streets, and arrives at the Burnet House on the corner of Third and Vine Streets around 5:30pm. Lincoln had stayed here before, back in September 1859 when he was campaigning for the Ohio Republican Party. Now the band is playing “Hail Columbia” and “Star-Spangled Banner,” with a crowd of approximately 10,000 surrounding the hotel.

Lincoln takes a few moments to rest inside. He then appears on a balcony, after a brief introduction by Mayor Bishop.

Addressing a crowd, Lincoln jokes that people had not come to see him; that they had come to see the President-elect of the United States. This is met with great cheers and applause. He continues to say that this is as it should be, even if his other opponents had been elected instead of him. He points out that no other country on Earth would have seen so many people gather to welcome its new leader, and that the country owed this to the free institutions which had guaranteed freedom of assembly.

With the slave-holding state of Kentucky just across the Ohio River from where he was standing, Lincoln gives assurance that he has no intention to interfere with the institution (slavery) where it already existed. He states that other than their different opinions on the expansion of slavery, there is no difference between them. He reminds them that he was once a fellow Kentuckian, and plans to treat them as the Founding Fathers had treated them.

Lincoln closes by addressing Ohioans, asking them to harbor no ill will towards their friends and brethren south of the Ohio River. He expresses his hope that the country will yet again come together as one nation.

As Lincoln heads back towards his room, he is rushed by people, throwing their arms around him, patting him on the back, and pulling on his arms.

Lincoln heads to a nearby location, where he addresses a large population of German immigrants. He declines to announce what course of action he might take towards the South when he becomes President. However, he does tell them that he will treat the Germans – who have been facing heavy discrimination – no better and no worse than Americans. He states his support for passing a Homestead Law, which would provide free Federal land to anyone who would want it; they would just need to work the land for five years before it would be theirs.

Mr. Lincoln returns to the Burnet House, where the grand hall has been decorated for the occasion. The papers state that he looks well and is in good spirits. Today he turns 52 years old.

About thecivilwarproject

Like many others, I have a passion for the Civil War era, and for decades have chosen to spend my much of free time researching this topic - particularly the people, as the human component is what I find most fascinating. The site is not a source of revenue for me, nor is it tied in with a company or individual behind the scenes. It is my own personal venture. It is because of this genuine bond of respect and affection I feel towards this period in our history that I created "The Civil War Project." If this is your first time visiting the site, I welcome you and thank you for your interest. If you have any feedback or questions, please feel free to contact me at thecivilwarproject@yahoo.com.

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