On Thursday evening, February 21, 1861, we stayed overnight at the Continental Hotel in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Following Mr. Lincoln’s speech, Governor Curtin of Pennsylvania met me in the lobby and asked if I was up to the task of guarding the president-elect. I showed him my armaments – two Colt 44 pistols, two Bowie knives, a black jack, a set of brass knuckles, and a hickory cane with a sword in the handle. “Yes, Mr. Governor. I am ready.”
Later that evening, railroad detective Allan Pinkerton met with us to inform Mr. Lincoln that his detectives in Baltimore had uncovered a plot to assassinate the newly elected President when his train passed through Baltimore. Pinkerton said the plan was to distract the police at the scene when the train cars were being transferred between stations. Assassins would carry out the dastardly deed when the police left his side. Mr. Lincoln did not believe the reports and insisted that the train proceed on scheduled as listed in the newspapers.
I convinced Mr. Lincoln that we needed to take precautions, even if the information was incorrect. I impressed upon him that his safety was a larger concern than the audience waiting to see him in the very unfriendly city of Baltimore. It was Mrs. Lincoln who finally urged him to allow me to sneak him through the city in the middle of the night. She trusted me. Pinkerton himself had offered to do the job, but none of us trusted Pinkerton.
Mr. Lincoln wanted to fulfill his obligation in speaking to the state legislature of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, but agreed after that to follow my plan. The plan was simple. We would take the train, pass through the town in the middle of the night, and not let anyone know the details including Mrs. Lincoln. Part of the plan was to cut the telegraph wires from Harrisburg so no one could relay the information to the scoundrels who were waiting.
Mr. Lincoln gave his talk in Harrisburg the evening of February 22. While eating dinner, I gave the signal and Mr. Lincoln excused himself, saying he was not feeling well. I escorted him onto the Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore Railroad. We passed through Baltimore, transferring trains in the dead of the night, and made it safely to Washington, D.C.
Newspaper reports and cartoons in the following days showed Mr. Lincoln hidden by a shawl and being secreted through Baltimore. He was always embarrassed by the way he arrived at the nation’s capital. For my money, all that counted was that he arrived safely.W. H. Lamon