The Baltimore Plot

Brass knuckles, knife and goggles carried by Lincoln’s bodyguards during his train ride through Baltimore. Photo of knife by Split Rock Studios.

On February 11, 1861, President-elect Abraham Lincoln departed his hometown of Springfield, Illinois, for a 12-day rail journey to Washington. As he reached Philadelphia, Lincoln heard rumors of a plot to murder him when his train arrived in Baltimore. His advisers told him to take a night train to Washington immediately. But he asked: “What would the nation think of its President stealing into its capital like a thief in the night?” Lincoln reluctantly cut his journey short and arrived safely in Washington at six in the morning of February 23. He’d foiled the plot, but the new president was mocked in political cartoons and newspapers for sneaking into the nation’s capital like a coward.