Excerpt from Why President Lincoln Spared Three Lives
Within the fortress whose defiant flag inspired the lines of Key's immortal national anthem three Confederate spies, awaiting execution in the closing year of the Civil War, were snatched from the gallows by a stroke of President Lincoln's pen. This act of Executive clemency was the sequence to an interesting incident during Mr. Lincoln's journey to Washington to assume the presidency in 1861, when the rampant spirit of secession prevailing in Maryland forbade all preparations for official welcome in that State.
Thus it came that the President-elect and his family arranged for a short stop in Baltimore as the guests of a private citizen, John S. Gittings, banker and President of the Northern Central Railroad, by which line he was scheduled to reach that city. As is well known, information of an assassination plot induced Mr. Lincoln to leave his fellow-travelers at Harrisburg, secretly return to Philadelphia by special train, accompanied by a sole companion, Ward H. Lamon, and there board the regular midnight train for Washington, where he arrived unrecognized in the early morning of February 23.
Adhering to the original program, the presidential party, including Mrs. Lincoln and her sons, Robert, Willie, and "Tad," went from Harrisburg to Baltimore, where their train was greeted by an immense crowd which rolled in about it like a vast tidal wave. Some of the more unruly element were bold enough to invade Mrs. Lincoln's private car until driven out by John Hay, who locked the door amidst an outburst of oaths and obscenity which swelled in intensity and volume when it became known that Mr. Lincoln was not with the party, but had stolen a march and was already in Washington.
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