155 Years Ago: Friday, February 15, 1861

Source: Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh

Lincoln’s Hotel Room Preserved, Source: Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh

It is the fifth day of the President-elect’s inaugural train trip to from Springfield, Illinois to Washington City. President-elect Abraham Lincoln starts his morning in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania at the Monongahela House, the most luxurious hotel in the city, with it’s carpeting, fine paneling, and gold mirrors. He spends the night in their best room: The Prince of Wales room, named after the future King Edward VII who had stayed here a year earlier. From his room, Lincoln can view the iron and steel mills, as well as The Point, where where the Monongahela met the Allegheny and formed the Ohio River.

From the balcony in his room, he addresses the people of Pittsburgh, giving much of the same speech he did two days ago in Columbus. “There is no crisis, excepting such a one as may be gotten up at anytime by turbulent men, aided by designing politicians.” He also spends a considerable amount of time talking about the issue of a protective tariff, which many thought would help U.S. manufacturers and workers. The press will later express disappointment that such a long speech didn’t offer more substance when it comes to the most pressing issues of secession.

After his speech, Lincoln passes through crowds that are “almost impenetrable,” which displays enthusiasm that “exceeded anything ever before witnessed,” the local papers would report. He boards the train with the rest of his party, and they travel back west into Ohio.

In Montgomery, Alabama, the provisional Confederate government, has assumed responsibility for questions concerning forts, arsenals, and other federal property within the states of the Confederacy. Today they resolve that “Immediate steps should be taken to obtain possession of forts Sumter (South Carolina) and Pickens (Florida), either by negotiations or force.” They authorize Confederate President-elect Jefferson Davis to carry the resolution into effect.

Throughout northeast Ohio, Lincoln’s train makes a few stops in smaller cities along their route. Lincoln keeps his words to the waiting crowds very brief, explaining that he is hoarse. As they stop for a meal in Alliance, Ohio, an energetic gun salute goes off near where the Lincoln family is eating. The explosion shatters windows, and even covers Mary Lincoln’s face in pieces of glass. Mary, not always known to be calm, handles the situation gracefully. The party continues on, and reaches Cleveland, Ohio in the late afternoon, where they arrive in the midst of a rain and snow storm.

The local paper (and anti-Lincoln, Democrat newspaper), the Cleveland Plain Dealer, gives their readers a small glimpse into the scene, including some comments made by an unnamed prominent Republican politician:

Mr. Lincoln in Cleveland.

The trains yesterday brought multitudes of people to the city, and in addition the country round about poured in its crowds in wagons, on horseback and on foot, drawn by curiosity to see the “Rail Splitter.” By three o’clock in the afternoon, Euclid street was alive with teams and people, moving toward the Euclid street depot. The mud was terrible, and during a portion of the afternoon it alternately rained and snowed. A great many residences on Euclid street were handsomely decorated with flags and various devices. While riding to the depot we were generally amused by the comments of a prominent Republican politician, as his eye caught sight of the various flags. A number of aspirants for offices in the gift of the President reside on Euclid street. The comments of the Republican ran about as follows: “That big flag means something. It must be a bid for U. S. Attorneyship. Pretty well for you, old fellow. Such a long pole as that ought to knock the persimons [sic]. Just see the flags on Mr. —‘s house. That means nothing less than a Marshalship. Don’t you wish you may get it.—That’s right. Hang your banners on the outer walls. If LINCOLN can’t read ‘post-office’ there he must b [sic] eblind [sic] as a bat. There is a modest little flag. Guess that man doesn’t want anything, or perhaps he would be satisfied with a small Consulship. Band of music! A whole string of flags ! Wonder what he is after,” etc.

Source: Library of Congress

Lincoln Addresses the crowd from his balcony at The Widdell House, Source: Library of Congress

The trip from the train depot to the hotel is two miles, mostly along Euclid street (now Avenue). Thousands of people line the path to see a glimpse of the President-elect. When Lincoln arrives at his hotel, The Weddell House, he delivers a speech to approximately 10,000 people. This time, he focuses his words on the national crisis: “I think that there is no occasion for any excitement. The crisis, as it is called, is altogether an artificial crisis.”

Abraham and his wife Mary are thrown separate, grand receptions that evening, and return to their rooms at 10pm.



About The Civil War Project

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. This site is not a source of revenue for me, nor is it tied in with a company or other 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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