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Cranford Resident Saves the Life of Abraham Lincoln

When Abraham Lincoln won the election, many people were unhappy. Plots were hatched by secessionists to assassinate the President-elect before he could reach the Capital for his inauguration on March 4th.

The US Army Commander-in-chief Lieutenant General Winfield Scott heard the rumors from Charles Pomeroy Stone and named him the Inspector General of the DC Militia. Back in the 1860s, there wasn’t an official military intelligence agency, so Stone relied upon private detectives to provide him with information on any assassination plans. One of the detectives, Allan Pinkerton, was a Chicago police detective and was famous for solving caess of railroad robberies in the Midwest. He learned that a group of men were going to attempt to assassinate the President-elect on the road from Harrisburg to Baltimore  so Pinkerton convinced Lincoln to change his schedule to foil the plot.


From February 11th, 1861, until March 4th, Abe Lincoln rode a train from Springfield, Illinois, to Washington for his inauguration. He was accompanied on this trip by Pinkerton and Kate Warne, the Country’s first female detective. Pinkerton and Warne heard rumors that crowds of secessionists would storm the President while he was addressing the crowds in Baltimore and then they planned to kill him, escaping to the South.

On the night of February 22, 1861, the telgraph to Baltimore was cut off to prevent communication from passing between any potential conspirators. Agents were placed in telegraph offices to intercept any messages about Lincoln’s travels.

Pinkerton arranged for Lincoln’s train to arrive in Baltimore very early in the morning of February 23rd and then Lincoln was switched to another train which arrived in Washington at 6am. When crowds gathered in Baltimore that afternoon, they were surprised to learn that Lincoln had already left. Later, Lincoln expressed regret that he had had to sneak into Washington.Image

No one was ever arrested for an assassination attempt, and some theories say that John Wilkes Booth was active in the plot. Other theories say that Pinkerton’s theories were incorrect and there were no assassination plans at all. Even if there were no plots, others say, the people of Baltimore were bitter toward Lincoln and violence might have eruptied anyway.

Harper’s New Monthly Magazine covered the story. Hour of Peril is a book written by Daniel Stashower last year and tells the story of the Baltimore Plot in detal. The 1951 MGM movie The Tall Target is a fictional account of the story. Smithsonian.com tells the story here.

How is this related to Union County? The man who cut the telegraph lines was William P. Westervelt, resident of Cranford.


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