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155 Years Ago: Saturday, February 16, 1861


The Surrender, Source: Library of Congress

U.S. Brigadier General David E. Twiggs wakes up to the screams of slaves who are coming home from market. “We’re all going to be killed!”, they scream. It is 4am in San Antonio, Texas. Texas Rangers appear, two by two, on muleback and horseback, mounted and on foot, carrying the Lone Star flag. By daylight, more than a 1,000 Rangers move into San Antonio. There is much enthusiasm from fellow Texans; even two women dressed in male attire, with pistols in their belts, mount their horses to meet up with their friends.

Twiggs eventually rides down to the main plaza, where he is instantly surrounded by secessionists demanding U.S. government property. He refuses their requests.

While many in the town are surprised by this development, Twiggs is not. While Twiggs wears a U.S. military uniform, his loyalties are not with the Union. As he wrote U.S. General Winfield Scott in December of last year, his home is Georgia. If Georgia seceded, he would follow her. Georgia had seceded on January 19. He had met with the Confederate commissioners on February 7, and had told them he would surrender. But first, there was a “show” to put on for the U.S. federal troops.

Twiggs pretends he is surprised. He meets with the leader of the Rangers, Ben McCulloch, and is given six hours to “reconsider” his public declaration that he would not hand over U.S. government property. By noon, Twiggs surrenders all of the U.S. posts and stores in Texas to the Confederacy. This includes 20 military installations, 44 cannons, 400 pistols, 1,900 muskets, 500 wagons, and 950 horses, valued at a total of $1.6 million. He insists that all U.S. troops retain personal arms and sidearms, along with all artillery, flags, etc.

Orders are sent to all of the Texas outposts to turn over the military property to the State. The officers and men are widely scattered, and many of them are taken completely by surprise. The Federal troops in town give their parole “not to take up arms” against the Confederacy, and are ordered to leave the post in the afternoon. Twiggs will leave for New Orleans, where he will be received with Confederate public honors. The Federal troops are filled with indignation.

Around 2pm, U.S. Colonel Robert E. Lee arrived from Fort Mason, Texas, on his way to Washington City. He approaches a woman, Caroline Baldwin Darrow, who is the wife of a clerk with the U.S. forces. Lee looks at the Rangers and asks “Who are those men?” Caroline answers that “They are McCulloch’s. General Twiggs surrendered everything to the State this morning, and we are all prisoners of war.”

Caroline would write in her diary about Lee’s response:

I shall never forget his look of astonishment, as with his lips trembling and his eyes full of tears, he exclaimed, “Has it come so soon as this?” In a short time I saw him crossing the plaza on his way to headquarters, and noticed particularly that he was in citizen’s dress. He returned at night and shut himself in his room, which was over mine, and I heard his footsteps through the night, and sometimes the murmur of his voice, as if he were praying.

In Ohio, U.S. President-elect Abraham Lincoln makes his way by train from Cleveland, Ohio to Buffalo, New York. He is still hoarse and fatigued, and keeps his remarks to the crowds very brief. In Ashtabula, Ohio, the crowd calls for Mrs. Lincoln. Her husband remarks that “I should hardly hope to induce her to appear, as I had always found it very difficult to make her do what she did not want to.” In the village of Conneaut, someone shouts to Lincoln “Don’t give up the ship!”. Lincoln replies “With your aid I never will as long as life lasts.”

Source: Library of Congress

Source: Library of Congress

In Westfield, New York, Lincoln asks the crowd if Grace Bedell might be present. The 12-year old girl had written him a letter in October 1860, suggesting that he grow a beard because his face was so thin. Also, because “All the ladies like whiskers and they would tease their husband’s to vote for you and then you would be President.” Lincoln had written her back at the time, stating:

I regret the necessity of saying I have no daughters. I have three sons — one seventeen, one nine, and one seven, years of age. They, with their mother, constitute my whole family.

As to the whiskers, having never worn any, do you not think people would call it a piece of silly affection if I were to begin it now? Your very sincere well-wisher, A. Lincoln

Now with a full beard, Lincoln leaves the train car and makes his way through the crowd, who is pointing out a young girl with black hair and black eyes. When he reaches her, he gives her several kisses on her cheek. The young girl blushes.

Upon his arrival in Buffalo, Lincoln is heartily greeted by former (13th) President Millard Fillmore. The crowds are once again very large, but they are more forceful than the previous stops. At one point the crowd makes a rush, overpowering Lincoln’s guard. There is wild confusion and cries of distress from all sides of the crowd. Lincoln, due to the desperate efforts of those immediately around him, gets out of the chaos, while his family & the rest of their party fights to get to the awaiting carriages to take them to the hotel.

The scene at The American Hotel is no better. The party of men accompanying Lincoln insist that he decline all further public receptions, as they can’t guarantee his protection. He does eventually make a few remarks outside of his hotel once the crowds calm down, once again giving similar remarks to those given in previous cities. In the crowd is a 23-year old lawyer, Stephen Grover Cleveland. This young man will eventually become the 22nd and 24th President of the United States.

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.



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