Wednesday, February 23, 2011

President in Baltimore Today


"Passage Through Baltimore" Adalbert J. Volck, 1863
 No, President Obama is not in Baltimore today, you can stop panicking about closed off streets and traffic tie-ups. The 16th President, Abraham Lincoln is in Baltimore today, or rather, someone who looks a lot like him.

Fritz Klein, looks a lot like President Lincoln, and that's the point, he's been playing the role for decades. As a commemoration of the 150% anniversary of his inauguration, Klein (I mean Lincoln) with the help of the National Park Service is retracing the route the Lincoln took from Springfield, Illinois to Washington, DC. Historically, Lincoln took most of the journey by train visiting 16 cities along the way. Today, some of the train routes he took no longer exist, so most of the trip was done by car with the last leg, Baltimore to Washington to be done via Amtrak.

Klein, like Lincoln, left Springfield on February 11th, and this morning he arrived in Baltimore at Camden Station to much fanfare. However, this is where reenactment deviates from history. On February 23, 1861, President-elect Lincoln was to pass through a divided state. At that time, seven states had already succeeded from the Union, civil war was a potential reality, and lastly Lincoln had not carried Maryland in the 1860 election, and the state especially Baltimore had sympathies with the Southern cause. While sessession had not been addressed in Maryland, it was a still hot topic.

More alarmingly, an assassination plot that was to have coincided Lincoln's arrival in Baltimore had been uncovered. Instead of coming in on his scheduled afternoon train, Lincoln, along with his Pinkerton detectives arrived early. Secretly, Lincoln's train arrived at President Street Station, his car was pushed along Pratt Street to Camden Station, and continued down to Washington. When his scheduled train arrived at Baltimore that afternoon, Lincoln was already in Washington. In the aftermath, the reality of an assassination plot was never proven.

Today, in 2011, Lincoln's arrival is the kickoff of the city's 150th anniversary of the start of the American Civil War. A new exhibit on Lincoln, the railroads, and the civil war is now open at the Sports Legends Museum in what used to be Camden Station. Other events will be highlighted through out the rest of the year. The weekend of April 15-17th marks the anniversary of the Pratt Street Riots, the first blood-shed of the Civil War. More events will occur at the harbor and Fort McHenry. More information about these can be found at http://www.civilwarbaltimore.com/

*cross-posted at FortMcHenryGuard

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