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Lincoln Arriving at the Train Depot


Eastern Illinois University

Charleston, Illinois


Coles County



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Painted by Diann Fletcher, this mural pays tribute to Charleston's Lincoln connection. Abraham Lincoln, though never a resident of Coles County, visited Charleston for business and pleasure with some regularity. His father and stepmother, Thomas and Sarah Bush Lincoln, lived nearby at the Goosenest Prairie. Abraham Lincoln had many relatives and friends that resided in this region. Before he left for Washington for his March 4, 1861 inauguration, Lincoln made what would be his final visit to Charleston to bid farewell to his friends and family on January 30, 1861. (Within the mural, the train is heading the wrong direction, and likely not an accurate depiction of the train or depot).

The best description of the scene presented in the mural came from a Charleston lawyer, James W. Connolly, who was there at the time. He states, "when the train finally drew in and stopped, the locomotive was about opposite the station and the caboose, or car which carried the passengers, was some distance down the track. Presently, looking in that direction, we saw a tall man wearing a coat or shawl, descend from the steps of the car and patiently make his way first trainthrough the long expanse of slush and ice beside the track as far as the station platform. I think he wore a plug hat. I remember I was surprised that a railroad company, with so distinguished a passenger aboard its train as the President elect of the United States, did not manifest interest enough in his dignity and comfort to deliver him at the station instead of dropping him off in the mud several hundred feet down the track. In addition to myself quite a crowd of natives were gathered on the platform to see him... There were no formalities." A drawing of the first train to pass through Charleston is presented here. Lincoln would have came into town on a similar train.

Lincoln was nominated by the Republican Party for the presidency in 1860. During the presidential election of that year, Lincoln was elected to the presidency with only 40% of the popular vote. The main reason for his success was the fact that the Democratic Party had divided into Northern and Southern factions, each with its own presidential candidate. The results of the election led to the secession of South Carolina, along with 10 other states over time. By the time Lincoln was sworn in (March of 1861), the Confederate States of America had already been formed. Despite Lincoln's efforts in restoring the Union, war broke out on April 12, 1861 when Confederate forces bombarded Fort Sumter. Presented below is a Republican campaign banner from 1861, depicting Lincoln for President and Hannibal Hamlin for Vice President.

campaign banner

Why did the Democratic Party divide during the election? How did it affect Lincoln's campaign? What other issues led to the outbreak of the Civil War? Who did Lincoln visit in Charleston in late January of 1861? What was the significance of his visit to the region?

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