President-Elect Lincoln Bids Springfield Farewell
One day before his fifty-second birthday, President-Elect Abraham Lincoln boarded a train in Springfield, Illinois to travel to Washington, DC. There, on March 4, he would become the country’s youngest president to date, but on that drizzly day, Lincoln felt anything but youthful.
The train, which consisted of an engine with tender and just one passenger car, was scheduled to leave at 8:00 am. Lincoln shook hands with well-wishers in the waiting room at the train station and then walked on to the rear platform of the passenger car. When he removed his hat, the rain trickled down his face, which quivered with emotion. Then Lincoln addressed his hometown crowd for what would be the last time:
My friends, no one not in my situation can appreciate my feeling of sadness at this parting. To this place and the kindness of these people I owe everything. Here I have lived for a quarter of a century, and have passed from a young man to an old man. Here my children have been born, and one is buried. I now leave, not knowing when, or whether ever, I may return, with a task before me greater than that which rests upon Washington. Without the assistance of that Divine Being who ever attended him, I cannot succeed: With that assistance I cannot fail. Trusting in Him who can go with me and remain with you and be everywhere for good, let us confidently hope that all will yet be well. To His care commending you, as I hope in your prayers you will commend me, I bid you an affectionate farewell.
Maury Klein, Days of Defiance (1999), p. 261.