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160 Years Ago: Monday, February 11, 1861

Updated: Feb 13

Early this morning, President-elect Abraham Lincoln makes his way to the Great Western Railroad Station in Springfield, Illinois, not far from his home on the corner of 8th and Jackson Street. It was time for he and his family to start their journey to Washington City. The rain fell fast and steady, but that did not deter the well-wishers that crowded around to see once last glimpse of Mr. Lincoln. As he stood in the depot, he saw the faces of his friends and neighbors. He had not written down any specific remarks, but he did have a general idea of what he wished to convey. As he spoke in his high-pitched voice, a reporter for the Illinois State Journal, a Springfield newspaper, captured every word for its readers:

"Friends, No one who has never been placed in a like position, can understand my feelings at this hour, nor the oppressive sadness I feel at this parting. For more than a quarter of a century I have lived among you, and during all that time I have received nothing but kindness at your hands. Here I have lived from my youth until now I am an old man. Here the most sacred ties of earth were assumed; here all my children were born; and here one of them lies buried. To you, dear friends, I owe all that I have, all that I am. All the strange, chequered past seems to crowd now upon my mind. Today I leave you; I go to assume a task more difficult than that which devolved upon General Washington. Unless the great God who assisted him, shall be with and aid me, I shall not fail, I shall succeed. Let us all pray that the God of our fathers may not forsake us now. To him I commend you all -- permit me to ask that with equal security and faith, you all will invoke His wisdom and guidance for me. With these few words I must leave you -- for how long I know not. Friends, one and all, I must now bid you an affectionate farewell."


By the end of the speech, the men had removed their hats, and every head was straining forward to catch his last words. As Lincoln mentioned that with God's help he would not fail, their was an uncontrollable burst of applause. He then boarded the train, and at precisely 8am the train moved off, heading East The train will make stops in Decatur (IL), Tolono (IL), Vermilion (IL), State Line City (IN), Thorntown (IN), Lebanon (IN), Zionsville (IN), before arriving for the evening at Indianapolis Union Depot, where a large crowd of 45,000 people are waiting to get a glimpse of the elected US President.


At this point, seven states - South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas - have seceded from the United States. Three days ago (February 8, 1861), representatives from these states joined together to officially form the Confederate States of America. With the country quickly splitting in two, no other President has ever faced such a monumental uncertainty.

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