Tuesday, February 22, 2011

A Plot on Lincoln's Life in Baltimore

Allan Pinkerton, Lincoln's Detective

In February, 1861 Lincoln traveled from Illinois to Washington, DC in preparation for his inauguration. Along the way there were celebrations and speeches at every stop. Allan Pinkerton, a detective and founder of the Pinkerton Agency, was hired to investigate the security of the railway. He believed that he discovered a plot to assassinate Lincoln in Baltimore. Baltimore was in Maryland, a slave holding state, and had voted strongly against Lincoln. Pinkerton believed that several assassins would be scattered through the crowd to kill Lincoln as he switched trains. Lincoln agreed to pass through the town before the appointed time.

Immediately after speaking in Harrisburg, PA, Lincoln left for Baltimore immediately instead of spending the night. He passed through Baltimore in the middle of the night, and no trouble was encountered. After they passed through safely, Pinkerton telegraphed the President of the railroad, “Plums delivered nuts safely.”

Newspaper Cartoon of Lincoln
When the word spread of Lincoln's trip, the press made fun of his “flight.” The story continued to be retold throughout his life by his enemies. The New York Tribune said, “It is the only instance recorded in our history in which the recognized head of a nation ... has been compelled, for fear of his life, to enter the capital in disguise." Most people at the time, and historians today, believe that the plot was non-existent. This would not be suprising, as Pinkerton frequently greatly over-estimated the Confederate troops when working with the Union government.

Left to Right: Allan Pinkerton, Abraham Lincoln and Gen. George B. McClellan


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