Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Why Such a Low Profile, Mr. Lincoln?

President Lincoln's passage through Annapolis en route to and from the Hampton Roads Conference in February of 1865 is a little known event. It is sometimes mentioned briefly in books on Lincoln or the Civil War. There are also sketchy details in contemporary newspaper accounts (though there are no surviving newspapers from Annapolis for the dates Lincoln was here).

There are probably a number of reasons so little is known about Lincoln's time in Annapolis. First, as noted, there are no Annapolis newspapers for that period. We do have "The Crutch," which was the weekly sheet published at U.S. General Hospital Division 1 on the grounds of the Naval Academy. This little paper gives a couple of sentences noting Lincoln's appearance at the wharf and that the hospital band serenaded him as he boarded the Thomas Collyer.

Second, Lincoln was not here very long. The contemporary newspaper accounts we do have generally agree that he arrived here at about 1:00PM on Thursday, February 2, and that he had departed on the steamer Thomas Collyer by about 1:45PM. When Lincoln returned on the 4th there was a special train waiting at the Naval Academy wharf to return the presidential party to Washington. So Lincoln's total time in Annapolis was probably less than an hour over two separate days.

Third, Lincoln had only decided to make the trip at 9:00AM that morning after reading Grant's telegram. Within 2 hours he was on the train for Annapolis with almost no one in his own cabinet--let alone the capital--even knowing he was gone. One of Lincoln's secretaries, Edward Duffield Neill, had this recollection: "On the morning of the 2d of February, 1865, between nine and ten o'clock, as I was ascending the stairs to the second story, to reach my room, I met Forbes, an intelligent servant, descending with a small valise in his hand, and I asked, 'Where are you going?' Looking up to see no one was near, he whispered, 'Fortress Monroe,' and hurried on. When I reached the upper hall I met the President with his overcoat, and going to my room, looked out of the window, and saw him quietly walking around the curved pavement which leads to Pennsylvania Avenue, while Forbes was following, at a distance of two or three hundred feet, as his valet. Waiting for some time, I then crossed the hall to the room of the principal secretary, Mr. John G. Nicolay, and quietly said: 'The President has left the city.' 'What do you mean?' he asked; and I replied: 'Just what I have said.' Rising quickly, he opened the door which communicated with the President's room, and was astonished to find the chair of Mr. Lincoln vacant." (Wilson, Ruffus Rockwell, "Intimate Memories of Lincoln," p. 601).

Fourth, Lincoln may have been trying to avoid distracting the Maryland Legislature from its consideration of the 13th Amendment to the U. S. Consitution. Secretary of State William Seward, also on his way to the peace conference in Virginia, had passed through Annapolis on February 1st--the day before Lincoln--and had brought with him and hand-delivered to Maryland Governor Augustus Bradford the amendment abolishing slavery which Congress had finally passed on January 31st. Seward had urged Bradford to convene the legislature and have them ratify the amendment, apparently hoping to have it done before he continued on to Virginia. The House of Delegates did promptly ratify it but the Senate referred the amendment to its committee on Federal Relations. Thus it was still under consideration on February 2nd when Lincoln walked within sight of the State House dome. He certainly would have known that Seward had carried the amendment to Annapolis the day before and, assuming he believed it to be then under discussion, Lincoln would not have wanted to disrupt those proceedings.

Fifth, Lincoln was never one to draw attention to himself anyway, and in passing through Annapolis he was intent on getting to Ft. Monroe as quickly as possible. Still, it must have been hard for him to literally walk through a military hospital and not stop to say something to the soldiers recovering there.

It has been suggested by some that probably Lincoln hurried through Annapolis because it was filled with Southern sentiment and in walking through town he was exposing himself to great danger. This is simply not something I can believe. Annapolis, by 1865, was a major Union hospital, supply depot, and transportation hub. The army was everywhere. This theory is further refuted by Lincoln's own well known disregard for his personal safety (a trait which would finally catch up to him 10 weeks later). When President-elect Lincoln was on his way to Washington in 1861, advisers convinced him to sneak through Baltimore because of threats of assassination. The threats were credible but Lincoln was criticized and mocked quite severely in the press. It probably saved his life but he regretted ever after this stealthy passage through Baltimore. There is no way he would have repeated that, at least for safety reasons, in Annapolis in 1865.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Mrs. Hayden's Wharf

It is apparent from reading any previous posts here that I have become obsessed with finding the route through Annapolis of what I've come to call Butler's rail extension. It was the mile or two of railroad track laid down after Gen. Benjamin Butler's arrival here in April 1861, to extend the Annapolis & Elkridge Railroad line to the Severn River. Though it provided a vital link between Washington and the North in the tense weeks after the Baltimore riots--some even claiming that it prevented the fall of that capital--its route through Annapolis has been forgotten. This became readily apparent earlier this year when members of the Annapolis Lincoln Bicentennial Commission tried to locate the route on the theory that Lincoln may have walked that way in 1865.

Anyway, Mary Hayden was one of the people mentioned in the 1868 report (see previous blog post) of Allen and Salter to Bvt. Brig. General McFerran. That report concerned claims by Annapolis citizens against the U.S. Government for damages to their property from Butler's rail extension. Most of the claimants in the report were recommended to receive specific amounts of compensation for rent of their land and the replacement of destroyed fences and outhouses.

Mrs. Hayden's situation was a little different, however. Her claim was for "wharfage"--fees collected for freight loaded, unloaded, or stored on a wharf she owned. Mrs. Hayden claimed that the U.S. Government had used her wharf but not paid her these fees for two years, from May of 1861 to May of 1863 when the wharf "passed out of her possession."

The interesting thing here is that while the report to Gen. McFerran doesn't say that Mrs. Hayden's claim is specifically related to the railroad extension, all the other claims in this report do arise from operation of Butler's rail extension, and it is therefore tempting to connect Mrs. Hayden's wharf with the rail extension as well. It would then seem that if we locate Mary Hayden's wharf we will have located the end of the railroad extension.

Locating Mary Hayden's wharf is easily done thanks to the excellent land records at the Maryland State Archives. It fronted on the NW side of Tabernacle Street (now College Avenue) with 203 feet of frontage on Severn River according to an 1863 survey of the lands of George Hayden (deceased). This parcel bears the label "wharf."

So was this the location at which Gen. Butler chose to connect the Annapolis & Elkridge Railroad to waterfront? Was the water too shallow here to accommodate large steamers? Maybe, yet Mrs. Hayden claimed the U.S. Government used it for landing military supplies for two years. Mrs. Hayden's wharf can be seen in the Magnus print (a portion of this print decorates the top of this page), but so can the two other wharves on the grounds of the Naval Academy and, on close inspection, railroad tracks running between them.

I'm not sure whether Butler's rail extension ended at Mrs. Hayden's wharf or not but I suspect that it did. The extension was put down in haste and probably took the most direct route to navigable water. It is doubtful that Butler laid the railroad tracks seen connecting the two wharves on the Magnus print of 1864. More likely they became necessary later as the site evolved into a major supply depot and hospital. It was neither of these things in April of 1861.

There is further evidence that this wharf was of interest as a rail connection to the water. When Mrs. Hayden was compelled to sell this lot in 1863 to settle a legal claim the land records reveal that the buyer was Joshua Brown. Mr. Brown was superintendent of the Annapolis & Elkridge Railroad and the records show that he immediately assigned his "right title and interest" in the land to the railroad. The A&E Railroad had always been intended to connect with tidewater but had never quite made it beyond the depot at Calvert and West Streets. I believe Brown saw an opportunity when Mrs. Hayden had to sell the wharf. Did he plan to somehow get control of Butler's rail extension on behalf of the A&E once the war was over?