A Journey to Greatness By Edgar “Jed” C. Morrison, Jr.

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Originall published in San Antonio Lawyer 6 March-April 2011.

Early on the cold, drizzly Monday morning of February 11, 1861, Springfield, Illinois trial lawyer Abraham Lincoln left the practice of law behind him for the last time. After breakfasting at the Chenery House Hotel, where he spent his last night in Springfield, Lincoln and eldest son Robert rode a carriage though the muddy streets to the Great Western Railroad Depot. Mary Todd Lincoln met him at the station to bid him goodbye. She and the two younger Lincoln sons would take another train later that day and meet the party in Indianapolis.

Taking what would be his last look at his home town, the President-elect boarded a special New York Central inaugural train early that morning. The “victory train” would take him on a meandering 13-day journey from America’s heartland to the heartbeat of the government, a triumphal trip that ended in a most unexpected fashion.

Neither the early hour, nor the cold temperatures — with average lows of 22 degrees in February — chilled the enthusiasm of the estimated 1,000 Springfield citizens gathered at the Depot to say goodbye and “Godspeed” to their favorite son. All was enthusiasm and exuberance, mixed with a tinge of sadness. But who in the crowd could have anticipated the tragic homecoming only four years later, when a black-draped funeral cortege slowly and sadly returned Lincoln home for a final rest from his labors?

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