Abraham Lincoln, 1863

"Passage Through Baltimore"
Adalbert John Volck

National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

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“The flight of Abraham”


Transportation was still difficult in the nineteenth century, so although the presidential election was held in November, the inauguration was not until the following March. The South responded with a fury to Lincoln’s election, and seven states, beginning with South Carolina, seceded from the Union in the winter of 1860–61. Tensions were high, and armed conflict seemed imminent.


It was in this atmosphere that Lincoln made his way from Springfield, Illinois, to Washington. As he traveled south from Philadelphia, credible rumors of a possible assassination attempt circulated. So Lincoln was hurried on to Washington, arriving early in the morning, with no fanfare.


This surreptitious entry caused much mirth among southerners, who sniggered and intensified their vilification of Lincoln. This etching mocks the president’s timidity, showing Lincoln arriving in Washington in the boxcar in which he had been hidden, an apparition that scares the railyard cat.

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