President Lincoln Prepares for Trip to Gettysburg

November 17, 1863

President Lincoln reviews the train schedule for the trip to Gettysburg.   The first one calls for an all-Friday schedule, leaving early in the morning.  President Lincoln writes Secretary of War Stanton: “I do not like this arrangement. I do not wish to so go that by the slightest accident we fail entirely, and, at the best, the whole to be a mere breathless running of the gauntlet.”  The schedule is changed for the Lincoln Party to leave on Thursday, the day before the event.  President Lincoln writes Secretary of State William H. Seward: “I expected to see you here at Cabinet meeting, and to say something about going to Gettysburg. There will be a train to take and return us. The time for starting is not yet fixed; but when it shall be.”    Meanwhile, President Lincoln reviews 2,500 soldiers  from Invalid Corps on Pennsylvania Avenue.

At night, President reviews layout of Gettysburg National Cemetery at Gettysburg with its designer,  William Saunders.  By then, Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address is Half-Prepared.   President Lincoln invites Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase to go on the trip: “I expected to see you here at Cabinet meeting, and to say something about going to Gettysburg. There will be a train to take and return us. The time for starting is not yet fixed; but when it shall be, I will notify you.”

In other railroad news, President Lincoln sets the eastern terminus of the transcontinental railroad.  He decrees: “In pursuance of the fourteenth Section of the act of congress, entitled “An act to aid in the construction of a Railroad and Telegraph Line from the Missouri river to the Pacific ocean, and to secure to the Government the use of the same for postal, military, and other purposes” Approved July 1, 1862, I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, do hereby fix so much of the Western boundary of the State of Iowa as lies between the North and South boundaries of the United States Township, within which the City of Omaha is situated, as the point from which the line of railroad and telegraph in that section mentioned, shall be constructed.”

The choice was controversial.  Historian Elmo Richardson, biographer of John Palmer Usher, wrote: “In November, Usher “was called to the White House to witness the selection of the official eastern terminus of the Union Pacific.  Also present was Thomas C. Durant, vice president of the Nebraska branch, who favored the choice of the mouth of the Platte River, just south of Omaha.  The Harlan faction, which still had Lincoln’s confidence in railroad matters, urged the adoption of this point as the terminus.  Usher, however, did not agree.  Convinced by the argument of Fremont and others, he believed that the best point would be the unction of the Kansas and Missouri rivers.  Because the law of 1862 would have to be modified to permit choosing this, and because such modification would be subject to the opposition of Harlan’s partisans, Usher did not urge the adoption of the alternate point during this meeting.  After jokingly hesitating over the fact that he owned lots in Omaha, Lincoln fixed the terminus at the Nebraska site.”

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Published in: on November 17, 2013 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

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