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Chapter 5:

  • The Presidential party arrives in Philadelphia.
  • -- Independence Hall. -- the departure from Harrisburg. -- telegraph wires cut. -- through the lines of treason and safe arrival at Washington.

The twenty-first dawned bright and sunny, and the streets were alive with the eager populace, all anxious to do honor to the new President, and to witness the scenes attendant upon his reception. In due time the train containing the party arrived, and after an informal welcome they took carriages, and, escorted by the troops, the procession took up the line of march for the hotel. Vast crowds lined the sidewalks and the enthusiasm of the people was unbounded. The President graciously acknowledged their courtesies as he passed along. On each side of the carriage in which Mr. Lincoln was seated, accompanied by Mr. Judd, was a file of policemen, whose duty it was to prevent the mass of people from pressing too closely to the vehicle. As the procession reached the corner of Broad and Chestnut streets, a young man approached the file of policemen and endeavored to attract the attention of the occupants of the carriage. Finding this impossible, he boldly plunged through [82] the ranks of the officers, and coming to the side of the carriage, he handed to Mr. Judd a slip of paper, on which was written:

S. Louis Hotel, ask for J. H. Hutchinson.”

This young man was Mr. George H. Burns, an attache of the American Telegraph Company and confidential agent of E. S. Sandford, Esq., who acted as my messenger, and who afterwards distinguished himself for his courage and daring in the rebellion. It is needless to add that J. H. Hutchinson was the name I had assumed in registering at the hotel, in order to avoid any suspicion or curiosity in case any emissary of the conspirators should ascertain my real name and thus be warned of the discovery of their scheme.

Shortly after the arrival of Mr. Lincoln at the Continental, Mr. Judd was announced at the St. Louis Hotel as desiring to see me. Mr. Felton was with me at the time, and in a few minutes Mr. Judd made his appearance. More than an hour was occupied in going over the proofs which I produced of the existence of the conspiracy, at the end of which time Mr. Judd expressed himself fully convinced that the plot was a reality, and that prompt measures were required to secure the safety of the President.

“ My advice is,” said I, after I had succeeded in convincing Mr. Judd that my information was reliable, [83] “that Mr. Lincoln shall proceed to Washington this evening by the eleven o'clock train, and then once safe at the capital, General Scott and his soldiery will afford him ample protection.”

“I fear very much that Mr. Lincoln will not accede to this,” replied Mr. Judd; “but as the President is an old acquaintance and friend of yours and has had occasion before this to test your reliability and prudence, suppose you accompany me to the Continental Hotel, and we can then lay this information before him in person and abide by his decision.”

This idea was at once adopted and we proceeded to the hotel. Here we found the entrances blocked up by a surging multitude which effectually prevented our admission, and we were obliged to enter by the rear of the building through a door used by the servants.

On reaching the room occupied by Mr. Judd that gentleman summoned Mr. Nicolay, the President's private secretary, and dispatched him with a note requesting the presence of Mr. Lincoln upon a matter of urgent importance.

The President at that time was in one of the large parlors surrounded by a number of ladies and gentlemen, all eager to extend to him the hospitalities of the city and to express their good wishes for the success of his administration. Upon receiving the message, however, he at once excused himself, and forcing his way through the crowd came directly to us. [84]

Up to this time Mr. Lincoln had been kept in entire ignorance of any threatened danger, and as he listened to the facts that were now presented to him, a shade of sadness fell upon his face. He seemed loth to credit the statement, and could scarce believe it possible that such a conspiracy could exist. Slowly he went over the points presented, questioning me minutely the while, but at length finding it impossible to discredit the truthfulness of what I stated to him. he yielded a reluctant credence to the facts.

After he had been fully made acquainted with the startling disclosures, Mr. Judd submitted to him the plan proposed by me, that he should leave Philadelphia for Washington that evening.

“But,” added Mr. Judd, “the proofs that have just been laid before you cannot be published, as it will involve the lives of several devoted men now on Mr. Pinkerton's force, especially that of Timothy Webster, who is now serving in a rebel cavalry company under drill at Perrymansville in Maryland.”

Mr. Lincoln at once acknowledged the correctness of this view, but appeared at a loss as to what course to pursue.

“You will therefore perceive” --continued Mr. Judd-“that if you follow the course suggested-that of proceeding to Washington to-night-you will necessarily be subjected to the scoffs and sneers of your enemies, and the disapproval of your friends who cannot [85] be made to believe in the existence of so desperate a plot.”

“I fully appreciate these suggestions,” replied Mr. Lincoln, “and I can stand anything that is necessary, but,” he added rising to his feet, “I cannot go to-night. I have promised to raise the flag over Independence Hall to-morrow morning, and to visit the legislature at Harrisburg in the afternoon-beyond that I have no engagements. Any plan that may be adopted that will enable me to fulfill these promises I will accede to, and you can inform me what is concluded upon to-morrow.”

Saying which Mr. Lincoln left the room and joined the people in the parlor. During the entire interview, he had not evinced the slightest evidence of agitation or fear. Calm and self-possessed, his only sentiments appeared to be those of profound regret, that the Southern sympathizers could be so far led away by the excitement of the hour, as to consider his death a necessity for the furtherance of their cause.

From his manner, it was deemed useless to attempt to induce him to alter his mind, and after a few minutes' further conversation, which was participated in by Mr. Sandford, who had entered the room, I left for the purpose of finding Thomas A. Scott, Esq., the Vice-President of the Pennsylvania Central Railroad, in order to make arrangements for the carrying out of a plan which had occurred to me, and [86] which would enable Mr. Lincoln to fulfill his engagements.

I was unable, however, to find Mr. Scott, but succeeded in reaching Mr. G. C. Franciscus, the general manager of the road, and at twelve o'clock that night, in company with that gentleman and Mr. Sandford, we called again upon Mr. Judd.

At this meeting a full discussion of the entire matter was had between us, and after all possible contingencies had been considered, the following programme was agreed upon.

After the formal reception at Harrisburg had taken place, a special train, consisting of a baggage-car and one passenger-coach, should leave there at six o'clock P. M. to carry Mr. Lincoln and one companion back to Philadelphia; this train was to be under the immediate control of Mr. Franciscus and Mr. Enoch Lewis, the general superintendent. In order to avoid the possibility of accident, the track was to be cleared of everything between Harrisburg and Philadelphia from half-past 5 o'clock until after the passage of the special train. Mr. Felton was to detain the eleven o'clock P. M. Baltimore train until the arrival of the special train from Harrisburg, Mrs. Warne in the meantime engaging berths in the sleeping-car bound for Baltimore.

I was to remain in Philadelphia in order that no accident might occur in conveying the President [87] from one depot to another, and Mr. Judd was to manage the affair — at Harrisburg. Everything that could be suggested in relation to this matter was fully considered, and having at length perfected our plans, the party separated at half-past 4 o'clock in the morning, fully prepared to carry out the programme agreed upon.

At six o'clock on the morning of the 22d, a vast concourse of people assembled in front of Independence Hall on Chestnut street, and at precisely the hour appointed, Mr. Lincoln made his appearance. With his own hands he drew to the top of the staff surmounting the edifice a beautiful new American flag, and as its Stripes and Stars floated out gracefully to the breeze, the air was rent with the shouts of the multitude and the music of the band.

Mr. Lincoln's speech upon this occasion was the most impressive and characteristic of any which he had delivered upon his journey to the capital, while a tinge of sadness pervaded his remarks, never noticed before, and which were occasioned no doubt by the revelations of the preceding night. He gave a most eloquent expression to the emotions and associations which were suggested by the day and by the historic old hall where he then stood. He declared that all his political sentiments were drawn from the inspired utterances of those who had sat within the walls of that ancient edifice. [88] He alluded most feelingly to the dangers and toils and sufferings of those who had adopted and made good the Declaration of Independence--a declaration which gave promise that “in due time the weight would be lifted from the shoulders of all men.” Conscious of the dangers that threatened his country, and feeling also that those dangers originated in opposition to the principles enunciated in the Declaration of Independence, knowing that his own life was even then threatened because of his devotion to liberty, and that his way to the national capital was beset by assassins, he did not hesitate to declare boldly and fearlessly “that he would rather be assassinated on the spot than surrender those principles” so dear to him.

After these proceedings, Mr. Lincoln was driven back to the Continental Hotel, and sending for Mr. Judd, he introduced him to Mr. Frederick H. Seward, a son of the late William H. Seward, who was in the room with the President. Mr. Lincoln then informed Mr. Judd that Mr. Seward had been sent from Washington by his father and General Scott to warn him of the danger of passing through Baltimore, and to urge him to come direct to Washington.

From whom this information was originally obtained did not appear, but the facts were deemed of sufficient moment to be brought to the ears of the President, and hence Mr. Seward's visit to Philadelphia. Mr. Lincoln evinced no further hesitancy in [89] the matter, and signified his readiness to do whatever was required of him. Mr. Judd then directed Mr. Seward to inform his father that all had been arranged, and that, so far as human foresight could predict, Mr. Lincoln would be in Washington before the evening of the following day, and cautioned him to preserve the utmost secrecy in regard to the matter. No particulars were given and none were asked.

At the time appointed Mr. Lincoln started for Harrisburg, and I busied myself with the preparations that were necessary to successfully carry our plans into operation. From reports which I received from Baltimore, the excitement in that city had grown more intense, and the arrival of the President was awaited with the most feverish impatience. The common and accepted belief was that Mr. Lincoln would journey from Harrisburg to Baltimore over the Northern Central Railroad, and the plans of the conspirators were arranged accordingly.

It became a matter of the utmost importance, therefore, that no intimation of our movements should reach that city. I had no doubt but that trusty agents of the conspirators were following the presidential party, and after the absence of Mr. Lincoln had been discovered, the telegraph would be put into active operation to apprise the movers of this scheme of the change that had been made. To effectually prevent this I determined that the telegraph wires which connected Harrisburg with her neighboring [90] cities should be so “fixed” as to render communication impossible.

To arrange this matter Capt. Burns was sent to the office of the American Telegraph Company, and obtaining from Mr. H. E. Thayer, the manager of the company, a competent and trustworthy man for the purpose, departed for Harrisburg, in order to carry out the proposed measures. Mr. Thayer, in the meantime, was to remain in the office during the night, in order to intercept any dispatches that might be sent over the wires from any point between Harrisburg and Baltimore, and to immediately deliver any messages that might be sent to me.

Mr. W. P. Westervelt, the superintendent, and Mr. Andrew Wynne, the line-man of the telegraph company, were delegated to Harrisburg to “fix” the wires leading from that place in such a manner as to prevent any communication from passing over them, and to report to Capt. Burns upon their arrival.

After the train containing Mr. Lincoln and his party had left Philadelphia, Mr. Judd sought the first favorable opportunity of conversing with Mr. Lincoln alone, and fully detailed to him the plan that had been agreed upon, all of which met with the hearty approval of the President, who signified a cheerful willingness to adapt himself to the novel circumstances.

It was evident, from the manner of several of the gentlemen of the party, that they suspected something was transpiring of which they had not been advised, [91] but they all very judiciously refrained from asking any questions. Mr. Judd, however, who felt the responsibility of his position, finally suggested to Mr. Lincoln the propriety and advisability of informing them of what had taken place, and of consulting with them upon the proper carrying out of the contemplated journey. To this Mr. Lincoln yielded a ready assent, adding, with an amused smile:

I suppose they will laugh at us, Judd, but I think you had better get them together.

It was therefore arranged that after the reception at the State House had taken place, and before they sat down to dinner, the matter should be fully laid before the following gentlemen of the party: Judge David Davis, Col. Sumner, Major David Hunter, Capt. John Pope and Ward H. Lamon, Esq.

Mr. Lincoln arrived at Harrisburg at noon, and was introduced to the people from the balcony of the Jones House, where an address was delivered by Gov. Andrew G. Curtin, whose fame became widespread during the dark days of the rebellion that followed, as the “War Governor of Pennsylvania.” From the hotel the party proceeded to the House of Representatives, where he was welcomed by the Speaker, to which he replied in a few well-chosen words.

After a short time spent in congratulations and hand-shaking they returned to the hotel, and the gentlemen who have been previously named were invited

(in company with the Governor) to confer with the [92] President in the parlor. At this meeting the information of the discovery of the plot to assassinate the President was laid before them, and also the details of the proposed journey to Washington. After the matter had been fully explained, a great diversity of opinion manifested itself among the gentlemen present, and some warm discussion was indulged in. Finally, Judge Davis, who had expressed no opinion upon the subject as yet, addressed the President, saying:

Well, Mr. Lincoln, what is your own judgment upon this matter?

“I have thought over this matter considerably since I went over the ground with Mr. Pinkerton last night,” answered Mr. Lincoln, “and the appearance of Mr. Frederick Seward, with warning from another source, confirms my belief in Mr. Pinkerton's statement; therefore, unless there are some other reasons than a fear of ridicule, I am disposed to carry out Mr. Judd's plan.”

Judge Davis turned to the others, and said:

That settles the matter, gentlemen.

“So be it,” exclaimed Col. Sumner. “It is against my judgment, but I have undertaken to go to Washington with Mr. Lincoln, and I shall do it.”

Mr. Judd endeavored in vain to convince the gallant old soldier that every additional person only added to the risk, but the fiery spirit of the veteran was aroused and debate was useless.

Having arranged the matter thus satisfactorily [93] the party, at about four o'clock in the afternoon, repaired to the dining-room for dinner.

All the preliminaries had now been successfully arranged. The special train, ostensibly to take the officers of the railroad company back to Philadelphia, was waiting upon a side track just outside of the town. The telegraph operators had performed their work admirably. Walking out of the city nearly two miles, Mr. Wynne climbed the poles and placing fine copper ground wires upon the regular lines, the city was soon entirely isolated from her neighbors. No message could possibly be sent from Harrisburg, and the capital of Pennsylvania was cut off temporarily from the rest of the world.

The preparations in Philadelphia had also been fully made. Mrs. Warne had succeeded in engaging the rear half of a sleeping-car for the accommodation of her invalid brother, and that portion of the car was to be entirely separated from the rest by a curtain, so arranged that no one in the forward part of the car would be aware of the occupants of the same coach.

In order to detain the Baltimore train until the arrival of Mr. Lincoln, the conductor was directed not to start his train until he received personal instructions to that effect from Mr. H. F. Kinney, the superintendent, who would hand him an important parcel, which President Felton desired should be delivered early on the following morning to Mr. E. J. Allen at Willard's Hotel, in Washington. (E. J. [94] Allen was the nom-de-plume I generally used when on detective operations.)

At a quarter to six o'clock everything was in readiness. A carriage was in waiting at the side entrance of the hotel, and the entire party were still at the table. A message was delivered to the President by Mr. Nicolay, and upon receiving it, he immediately arose, and, accompanied by Mr. Curtin, Mr. Lamon and Mr. Judd, he left the dining-room. Mr. Lincoln exchanged his dinner dress for a traveling suit, and soon returned with a shawl upon his arm and a soft felt hat protruding from his coat pocket.

The halls, stairways and pavement were filled with a mass of people, who, seeing the President in company with the Governor, at once imagined that they were going to the executive mansion, where a reception was to be held in the evening.

Mr. Judd whispered to Mr. Lamon to proceed in advance, adding:

As soon as Mr. Lincoln is in the carriage, drive off.

As the party, consisting of Mr. Lincoln, Governor Curtin, and Mr. Lamon, entered the carriage, Col. Sumner attempted to follow them, but Mr. Judd gently put his hand upon the old gentleman's shoulder, and as he turned quickly around to inquire what was wanted, the carriage was driven rapidly away.

Thus far everything had passed off admirably, and in a short time Mr. Lincoln was upon the special [95] train, accompanied only by Mr. Lamon and the railroad officials, and speeding along toward Philadelphia.

Without accident the party arrived at the Quaker City shortly after ten o'clock, where I was waiting with a carriage, in company with Mr. Kinney. Without a word Mr. Lincoln, Mr. Lamon and myself entered the vehicle, while Mr. Kinney seated himself alongside of the driver, and we proceeded directly to the depot of the Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore Railroad.

Driving up to the sidewalk on Carpenter street, and in the shadow of a tall fence, the carriage was stopped and the party alighted. As we approached the train, Mrs. Warne came forward, and, familiarly greeting the President as her brother, we entered the sleeping-car by the rear door without unnecessary delay, and without any one being aware of the distinguished passenger who had arrived.

A carefully inclosed package, which resembled a formidable official document, but which contained only some neatly folded daily papers, was placed in the hands of the unsuspecting conductor — the whistle sounded, and soon the train was in motion, whirling on towards the capital of the nation.

So carefully had all our movements been conducted, that no one in Philadelphia saw Mr. Lincoln enter the car, and no one on the train, except his own immediate party — not even the conductor, knew of his [96] presence, and the President, feeling fatigued from the labors and the journeys of the day, at once retired to his berth.

In order to prevent the possibility of accident, I had arranged with my men a series of signals along the road. It was barely possible that the work of destroying the railroad might be attempted by some reckless individuals, or that a suspicion of our movements might be entertained by the conspirators, and therefore, the utmost caution must be observed.

As the train approached Havre de Grace, I went to the rear platform of the car, and as the train passed on a bright light flashed suddenly upon my gaze and was as quickly extinguished, and then I knew that thus far all was well.

From this point all the way to Baltimore, at every bridge-crossing these lights flashed, and their rays carried the comforting assurance “All's well!”

We reached Baltimore at about half-past 3 o'clock in the morning, and as the train rumbled into the depot an officer of the road entered the car and whispered in my ear the welcome words “All's well!”

The city was in profound repose as we passed through. Darkness and silence reigned over all. Perhaps, at this moment, however, the reckless conspirators were astir perfecting their plans for a tragedy as infamous as any which has ever disgraced a free country-perhaps even now the holders of the red ballots were nerving themselves for their part in the [97] dreadful work, or were tossing restlessly upon sleepless couches.

Be that as it may, our presence in Baltimore was entirely unsuspected, and as the sleeping-car in which we were, was drawn by horses through the streets from the Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore depot, until we reached the Washington station, no sign of life was apparent in the great slumbering city. At the depot, however, a number of people were gathered, awaiting the arrival and departure of the various trains, and here the usual bustle and activity were manifested.

We were compelled to remain here fully two hours, owing to the detention of the train from the West, and during that time, Mr. Lincoln remained quietly in his berth, joking with rare good humor with those around him.

Ever and anon some snatches of rebel harmony would reach our ears, as they were rather discordantly sung by the waiting passengers in and around the depot. “My Maryland” and “Dixie” appeared to be the favorites, and once, after an intoxicated individual had roared through one stanza of the latter song, Mr. Lincoln turned quietly and rather sadly to me and said:

No doubt there will be a great time in Dixie by and by.

How prophetic his words were, the succeeding years too fully proved. [98]

At length the train arrived and we proceeded on our way, arriving in Washington about six o'clock in the morning. Mr. Lincoln wrapped his traveling shawl about his shoulders, and in company with Mr. Lamon, started to leave the car. I followed close behind, and on the platform found two of my men awaiting our arrival. A great many people were gathered about the depot, but Mr. Lincoln entirely escaped recognition, until as we were about leaving the depot, Mr. Washburne, of Illinois, came up and cordially shook him by the hand.

The surprise of this gentleman was unbounded, and many of those standing around, observing his movements, and the tall form of Mr. Lincoln exciting curiosity, I feared that danger might result in case he was recognized at this time. I accordingly went up to them hurriedly, and pressing between them whispered rather loudly:

No talking here!

Mr. Washburne gazed inquiringly at me, and was about to resent my interference, when Mr. Lincoln interposed:

That is Mr. Pinkerton, and everything is all right.

Thus satisfied, Mr. Washburne quickly led the way to a carriage in waiting outside, where we met Mr. Seward, who warmly greeted the President, and then the party were rapidly driven down Pennsylvania Avenue to Willard's Hotel — I following [99] closely behind them with my men, in another vehicle.

On his arrival at the hotel Mr. Lincoln was warmly greeted by his friends, who were rejoiced at his safe arrival, and leaving him in the hands of those whose fealty was undoubted, I withdrew, and engaged temporary quarters at another hotel.

During the forenoon I received a note from Mr. Lincoln requesting an interview, and received his warm expressions of thankfulness for the part I had performed in securing his safety, after which, finding that my object had been fully accomplished, I took the train and returned to Baltimore.

Here I found the utmost excitement prevailing. The news of the safe arrival of Mr. Lincoln had already reached there, and a general sentiment of rage and disappointment pervaded the entire circle of conspirators and secessionists. I lost no time in securing an interview with Howard, and learned from him the particulars attendant upon the discovery that Mr. Lincoln had outwitted his enemies and was now safely quartered in Washington. Finding that their plans had been discovered, and fearing that the vengeance of the government would overtake them, the leading conspirators had suddenly disappeared. All their courage and bravado was gone, and now, like the miserable cowards that they were, they had sought safety in flight.

A curious episode occurred at Harrisburg immediately [100] after the departure of Mr. Lincoln from that city. Two newspaper correspondents connected with prominent New York journals had accompanied the party from Springfield, and had faithfully noted the incidents which had occurred upon the journey. As soon as the train which carried Mr. Lincoln away from Harrisburg was on its way, a gentlemanly individual, well-known to me, went to the room occupied by these journalists, and found them engaged in preparations to witness the further proceedings of the presidential party

The visitor quickly informed the gentlemen that Mr. Lincoln had left the city and was now flying over the road in the direction of Washington, which he would no doubt reach in the morning. This was the signal for renewed activity, and both gentlemen hastily arose, and, grasping their hats, started for the door. Their visitor however, was too quick for them, and standing before the door with a revolver in each hand, he addressed them: “You cannot leave this room, gentlemen, without my permission!”

“ What does this mean?” inquired one of the surprised gentlemen, blinking through his spectacles.

“It means that you cannot leave this room until the safety of Mr. Lincoln justifies it,” calmly replied the other.

“I want to telegraph to the Herald,” said the second correspondent-“what is the use of obtaining news if we cannot utilize it?” [101]

“You cannot utilize anything at present, gentlemen. The telegraph will not be of any service to you, for the wires are all down, and Harrisburg will be separated from the rest of the world for some hours yet.”

“ When do you propose to let us out?” humbly asked one.

“Well, I'll tell you, gentlemen. If you will sit down calmly, and bide your time and mine, I will make matters interesting for you, by informing you all about this flank movement on the Baltimoreans.”

Their indignation and fright subsided at once, and they quietly sat down. Refreshments were sent for, and soon the nimble pencils of the reporters were rapidly jotting down as much of the information as was deemed advisable to be made public at that time. After they had heard all, they prepared their dispatches for New York, both correspondents writing long and interesting accounts of the affair.

When daylight dawned, and the gladsome tidings had been received that Mr. Lincoln was safe, these knights of the quill were liberated, and, rushing to the telegraph offices, which were now in running order again, the news was transmitted to New York, and in less than an hour the types were being set which would convey to the public the startling news of the discovered conspiracy, and the manner in which the conspirators had been outwitted.

As the later train arrived at Baltimore, I went to [102] the depot and found the remaining members of the President's party, who also brought Mrs. Lincoln with them.

Mr. Judd was jubilant at the success of the adventure, but Col. Sumner had not yet recovered his good humor. I have no doubt, however, that Mr. Lincoln succeeded in placating his irascible friend, and I know that in the bloody scenes which followed Col. Sumner bore an honorable and courageous part.

Thus ends the narration of this important episode in one of the most interesting epochs of the country's history, and a truthful record has been given. Exaggerated stories and unauthorized statements have been freely made with regard to this journey of Mr. Lincoln. The caricaturist has attempted to throw ridicule upon the great man who now sleeps in a martyr's grave. A silly story of his being disguised in a Scotch cap and plaid obtained a temporary currency, but the fact remains that Mr. Lincoln, as a gentleman, and in the company of gentlemen, successfully passed through the camp of the conspirators and reached in safety the capital of the country.

Now the war is ended. Peace reigns throughout the borders of the great Republic. And when, during the last dying throes of the rebellion, this great man was stricken down by the hand of an assassin, North and South alike united in lamenting [103] his death, and in execrating the damnable deed and its reckless perpetrators.

I had informed Mr. Lincoln in Philadelphia that I would answer with my life for his safe arrival in Washington, and I had redeemed my pledge.

A camp song.

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