by Local History Librarian David Distelhorst
The inauguration of the forty-sixth President of the United States, marked by a deadly pandemic, severe racial divide, and a contested election, is reminiscent of that of the sixteenth President. One hundred and sixty years ago, faced with southern succession, division over slavery, and inevitable deadly civil war, Abraham Lincoln called on “the better angels of our nature” in his first inaugural address.
En route to Washington by special train from Springfield Illinois, then President-elect Lincoln rode by open carriage, in a “triumphal march,” from the depot to the Ohio Statehouse. Thousands gathered along High Street, waving handkerchiefs and miniature American flags, to greet the future President, while in Washington D.C., the counting of electoral votes, sent to Congress by the states to elect the next President, confirmed Lincoln’s election.
Thirty Presidents later, the process of confirming the election, was on January 6, 2021 interrupted by mob insurrection at the urging of the sitting President. Though a similar effort in 1861 was blocked by soldiers before it could breach the Capitol, Lincoln faced another attempt to prevent the democratically elected candidate from taking the oath of office.
Ten days after his visit to Columbus, Lincoln reached the nation’s capital, early and in secret, without the fanfare of the public receptions received all along his route from Illinois. Having changed trains, disguised himself, and travelled by night, an attempted assassination plot, a conspiracy hatched by southerners aimed at preventing the antislavery leader from taking office, was thwarted in Baltimore.
Four years later, elected to a second term, the rebellion quelled and union restored, Lincoln returned to Columbus once more, aboard his funeral train. Again thousands gathered along High Street, witnesses to the slain President’s body, in a “dead march” from the depot to the Statehouse. There he lay in state beneath the words, from his second inaugural address, “with malice to none; with charity for all.”
To learn more about the peaceful transfer of power, the inauguration of Abraham Lincoln as the sixteenth President of the United States and his visits to Columbus, Ohio, explore these titles recommended by Local History Librarian David Distelhorst:
- Lincoln Memorial: The Journeys of Abraham Lincoln: From Springfield to Washington, 1861, As President Elect and From Washington to Springfield, 1865, As President Martyred, by William T. Coggeshall Available as a digital download from HathiTrust Digital Library at https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=miun.ack8354.0001.001&view=1up&seq=3
- The Lincoln Conspiracy: The Secret Plot to Kill America’s 16th President-and Why it Failed by Brad Meltzer and Josh Mensch
- Every Drop of Blood: The Momentous Second Inauguration of Abraham Lincoln by Edward Achorn
- Lincoln on the Verge: Thirteen Days to Washington by Edward L. Widmer