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155 Years Ago: Sunday, February 17, 1861


1855 to 1865 Source: Library of Congress

1855 to 1865
Source: Library of Congress

In Montgomery, Alabama, the Provisional President-elect arrives at the new capital of the Confederacy by train. Jefferson Davis had been appointed into the position by the Confederate Congress, and has an impressive resume: A West Point graduate, a veteran of the Black Hawk and Mexican-American Wars, a former member of the U.S. House of Representatives, former U.S. Secretary of War, and a former U.S. Senator from Mississippi. He will be sworn in tomorrow.

In Baltimore, detective Allan Pinkerton is finally seeing the pieces coming together. The city, with it’s population over more than 200,000, is the country’s fourth largest city and a major port. Maryland has a large amount of anti-Northern sentiment; the Maryland legislature is still debating whether to join the Confederacy.

Pinkerton, a Scottish immigrant who had been the first official detective for the city of Chicago, had started his own detective agency in Chicago. At the request of Samuel Morse Felton, president of the Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore Railroad, Pinkerton had come to Baltimore the first week of February to uncover any potential threats against U.S. President-elect Abraham Lincoln, who is to arrive in the city on February 23. He and his operatives take rooms at a boarding house near the Camden Street train station. Pinkerton creates a cover identify: John H. Hutchinson, a Southern stockbroker who is new to town. He even secures offices in a large building at 44 South Street, where he befriends businessman James Luckett. During a discussion about Lincoln’s journey, Luckett states that “He may pass through quietly, but I doubt it.” Taking advantage of the opportunity, Pinkerton pulls out his wallet and gives him $25 towards the “patriotic cause.” He also warns Luckett to “be cautious in talking with outsiders.”

Pinkerton’s ploy worked, and Luckett soon tells him about a handful of “Southern patriots,” led by Captain Cypriano Ferrandini. Ferrandini is an immigrant from Corsica, and is a barber whose shop is is the basement of Barnum’s Hotel. Luckett informs him that Ferrandini has a plan: That he will see to it that Lincoln never reaches Washington, and never becomes President. “Every Southern Rights man has confidence in Ferrandini,” he told a stunned Pinkerton.

Pinkerton has been working to piece together reports and rumors. So far, he has determined that a vast crowd will meet Lincoln at the Calvert Street depot. Only a small force of police will be stationed, and when the President-elect arrives someone will create a disturbance; while the police are dealing with that, it will be an easy task for someone to shoot the President and even escape. There is a man by the name of Otis Hillard, who is one of Ferrandini’s followers. Pinkerton believes that Hillard knows the key details that he is missing. It is Pinkerton’s good fortune that one of his detectives, Harry Davies, has already become good friends with Hillard during their short time in the city. It is time for Davies to take his friendship even further with Hillard, and attempt to join Ferrandini’s group.

In Buffalo, New York, it is a day of rest for Lincoln. He attends a local Unitarian church with former (13th) President Millard Fillmore. After going back to the American Hotel for Mrs. Lincoln, Fillmore takes them to his home to dine. That afternoon, Lincoln returns and receives friends; he does not give any speeches. After supper with his family, he attends a service by an Indian preacher, Father John Beason.

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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