Lincoln’s Midnight Ride

It was from Harrisburg that Lincoln took the famous secret midnight ride, “in long cloak and Scotch cap,” which enabled him to escape attack and possible assassination when going to be inaugurated President in 1861. Lincoln arrived in Philadelphia on his way to Washington February 21st, and had arranged to visit Harrisburg next day, address the Pennsylvania Legislature, and then proceed to Washington by way of Baltimore. In Philadelphia General Scott and Senator Seward informed him that he could not pass through Baltimore at the time announced without great peril, and detectives who had carefully examined the situation declared his life in danger. Lincoln, however, could not believe that anyone would try to assassinate him and made light of the matter. On the morning of February 22d he raised a flag on Independence Hall in Philadelphia, and then went by railway to Harrisburg. There his friends again urged him to abandon his plan and avoid Baltimore. He visited the Legislature, and afterwards, at his hotel, met the Governor, several prominent people being present, among them Colonel Thomas A. Scott, then Vice-President of the Pennsylvania Railroad. Again the subject was discussed, and he was urged to avoid the danger threatening next day, being reminded that the railway passenger coaches were drawn through the Baltimore streets by horses, thus increasing the chances of doing him harm. He heard them patiently and answered, ” What would the nation think of its President stealing into the Capital like a thief in the night V” But they only the more strenuously insisted, and finally he yielded, consenting to do whatever they thought best. Colonel Scott undertook the task, and during the early evening quietly arranged a special train to take Lincoln to Philadelphia, where he would get aboard the regular night express and be in Washing-ton by daylight. Colonel Ward H. Lamon, a personal friend, was selected to attend Lincoln. As the party left the hotel a large crowd cheered them, and the Governor, Andrew G. Curtin, the better to conceal the intention, called out in a loud voice, ” Drive us to the Executive Mansion.” This was done, and when they had got away from the crowd the carriage was taken by a roundabout route to the station.

Lincoln and Lamon were not noticed by the few people there, and quietly entering the car, left for Phila.. delphia. As soon as they had started Scott cut every telegraph wire leading out of Harrisburg, so nothing could be transmitted excepting under his control. Lincoln got to Philadelphia without trouble, was put aboard the express at midnight, and then at dawn Scott reunited his wires and called up Washington, a group of anxious men around him. Soon the mes-sage came back, slowly ticked out from the instrument, “Plums delivered nuts safely.” Scott knew what it meant ; he jumped to his feet, threw up his hat and shouted, “Lincoln’s in Washington.” The Baltimore plotters were thus foiled, as the new President passed quietly through that city before daylight, and several hours earlier than they had expected him.