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© Abraham Lincoln Online
The Lincoln Depot10th & Monroe Streets
When Lincoln left his hometown as president-elect on February 11, 1861, he paid an unforgettable tribute to his friends and neighbors known today as the Farewell Address. Lincoln gave these remarks as he boarded a special inaugural train at the Great Western Railroad station, now a private office with some public exhibit space.
The old brick depot, often overlooked by visitors, is worth investigating. Located just two blocks from the Lincoln home, it was well used by Lincoln and his family, as it offered convenient passenger service. The original building offered separate waiting rooms on the first floor for men and women.
Thomas Jones, a sculptor who had worked on a Lincoln bust for several weeks, remembered the day Lincoln left town: "It was a dark, gloomy, misty morning, boding rain. The people assembled early to say their last good-bye to the man they loved so much. The railroad office was used as the reception room. Lincoln took a position where his friends and neighbors could file by him in a line. As they came up each one took his hand in silence. The tearful eye, the tremulous lips and inaudible words was a scene never to be forgotten. When the crowd has passed him, I stepped up to say good-bye. He gave me both his hands -- no words after that."
"The train thundered in that was to bear him away, and Lincoln mounted the rear platform of one of the cars. Just at that moment Mrs. Lincoln's carriage drove up -- it was raining. I proffered my umbrella and arm, and we approached Lincoln as near as we could for the crowd, and heard the last and best speech ever delivered in Springfield." Robert Lincoln, the eldest son, stood by his father's side. Mrs. Lincoln and their two younger sons would join the presidential entourage in Indianapolis the next day.
"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 a quarter of a century, and have passed from a young 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 rested upon Washington. Without the assistance of the 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."
A Springfield teenager named for the president-elect listened intently to the speech. According to his brother Fred, Lincoln Dubois "stood in the middle of the track, close against the bumper of the car on the platform of which Mr. Lincoln was standing. My brother said that he never forgot Lincoln's sorrowful face as he bade all of them farewell."
Also a few feet away stood James Conkling, a long-time legal and political colleague of the president-elect. He found the speech "quite affecting. Many eyes were filled to overflowing as Mr. Lincoln uttered those few and simple words of farewell. His own breast heaved with emotion and he could scarcely command his feelings sufficiently to commence. There was scarcely a dry eye in all that vast crowd."
After President Lincoln's assassination, his Washington pastor recalled the Farewell Address in his East Room funeral sermon on April 19, 1865: "I speak what I know, and testify what I have often heard him say, when I affirm that that guidance and mercy were the props on which he humbly and habitually leaned; they were the best hope he had for himself and for his country. Hence, when he was leaving his home in Illinois, and coming to this city to take his seat in the executive chair of a disturbed and troubled nation, he said to the old and tried friends who gathered tearfully around him and bade him farewell, "I leave you with this request: pray for me." They did pray for him; and millions of other people prayed for him; nor did they pray in vain. Their prayer was heard, and the answer appears in all his subsequent history; it shines forth with a heavenly radiance in the whole course and tenor of his administration, from commencement to its close. God raised him up for a great and glorious mission, furnished him for his work, and aided him in its accomplishment."
Senator Charles Sumner mentioned the Farewell Address in his 1865 eulogy on President Lincoln. He reminded his Boston audience that Lincoln had asked for prayer on leaving Springfield and observed, "Others have gone forth to power and fame with gladness and with song. He went forth prayerfully as to a sacrifice."
Hours: The Lincoln Depot is privately owned by a law firm, but the lower level is open for tours from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. or on weekends and holidays by calling 217/544-8441.
Historic Depot Images (National Park Service)
Lincoln Meets Grace Bedell (ALO)
Looking for Lincoln
Original Manuscript of Farewell Address (Library of Congress)
Three Versions of the Farewell Address (ALO)
Baringer, William E. A House Dividing: Lincoln as President Elect. Springfield: The Abraham Lincoln Association, 1945.
Davenport, Don. In Lincoln's Footsteps: A Historical Guide to the Lincoln Sites in Illinois, Indiana, and Kentucky. Revised edition, Trails Books, 2002.
Searcher, Victor. Lincoln's Journey to Greatness. Philadelphia: The John C. Winston Company, 1960.
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