Military history



Such crowds … blessing Old Abe, swinging hats, banners, handkerchiefs, and every possible variety of festival bunting, and standing with open mouths as the train, relentlessly punctual, moved away. The history of one is the history of all; depots in waves, as if the multitudinous seas had been let loose, and its billows transformed into patriots, clinging along roofs and balconies and pillars, fringing long embankments, swarming upon adjacent trains of motionless cars, shouting, bellowing, shrieking, howling, all were boisterous; all bubbling with patriotism.

—JOHN HAY, in the New York World, February 1861

WARD HILL LAMON, Lincoln’s “particular friend” and self-appointed bodyguard, was known to enjoy the balm of alcohol now and then. “Hill,” as Lincoln called him, could toss back a staggering quantity of rye whiskey without showing any ill effects. After a session of particularly hard drinking, he would draw himself up—resplendent in his swallow-tailed coat and thick ruffled shirt, a heavy gold watch chain cresting his stomach—and demonstrate his sobriety with a tongue twister that left all others sputtering: “She stood at the gate welcoming him in.” Lamon also had a reputation as a lively banjo player. “Sing me a little song,” Lincoln would say during their days on the legal circuit, and Lamon would oblige with a spirited rendition of “Camptown Races” or “Oh! Susanna.” “Abe was fond of music,” Lamon would recall, “but was himself wholly unable to produce three harmonious notes together.”

Both Lamon’s banjo and his capacity for drink were very much in evidence as the Lincoln Special pushed toward the Indiana border on the first leg of its journey. Lamon probably took advantage of the temporary absence of Mrs. Lincoln and her younger sons to trot out a few of the off-color verses for which he was notorious, though journalist Henry Villard recalled only that he “amused us with negro songs,” such as “The Blue Tail Fly.” After the solemnity of the departure from Springfield, Lamon’s spirited playing ushered in a more festive mood, as did the tinkling of whiskey glasses. “Refreshments for the thirsty are on board,” Villard reported. “The cheers are always for Lincoln and the Constitution.” Robert Lincoln, Villard noted, “adheres closely to the refreshment saloon, the gayest of the gay.”

Ward Hill Lamon, Lincoln’s “particular friend.” Courtesy of the Library of Congress

Lincoln himself was otherwise engaged. Even before the train pulled away from the Springfield depot, Villard and the other reporters on board had pressed Lincoln for a transcript of his farewell remarks, even though he had been speaking off the cuff. Lincoln obliged, taking out a pad and pencil to record an “official” version of the speech, with the help of secretary John Nicolay. The resulting document, marked with blotches and slips of the pen caused by the lurching of the cars, was then handed over to the operator of the train’s portable telegraph. Lincoln’s comments would be widely circulated in the press, to a generally enthusiastic reception. “Thousands and tens of thousands read them with tearful eyes,” wrote one admirer.

Having completed this piece of business, Lincoln sat back to enjoy the ride in his private car at the rear of the train, gazing out the window at the crowds of well-wishers gathered for a glimpse of the train as it thundered past. “The enthusiasm all along the line was intense,” recalled Thomas Ross, the train’s brakeman on the first leg of the journey. “As we whirled through the country villages, we caught a cheer from the people and a glimpse of waving handkerchiefs and of hats tossed high into the air.”

“There were many way stations where the train halted for a few moments,” John Nicolay added. “At all these temporary halts there would be lusty cheering and unceasing calls for Mr. Lincoln.” Lincoln answered these calls time and time again—“wherever the iron horse stops to water himself,” as he described it—waving from the rear platform of the passenger car, bowing and doffing his hat to the ladies, and sometimes even stepping down from the train and wading into the throngs to shake hands. Later, when Mary Lincoln had come aboard the train, she would occasionally join her husband on the rear platform, her small stature in marked contrast to his towering height, to provide what he called “the long and the short of it.”

Amid all the cheering and flag-waving, Lincoln hoped to avoid giving speeches. On a few occasions, he was “bullied” into saying a few words, as the new secretary John Hay recalled, but he kept his comments as innocuous as possible. “It would of course be impossible for him to make speeches everywhere,” Hay explained, “and yet no sooner would he make his appearance on the rear platform of the car than calls for a speech would come out of every throat. The people wanted not only to look upon their President-elect, but to hear his voice.” Lincoln soon devised a ploy to extricate himself from these situations. He would wait until the train was already under steam before he made his appearance, “hat in hand,” leaving just enough time to bow in all directions before the train pulled away. Not all calls to speak were so easily turned aside. According to one source, the train was forced to make an unexpected stop outside of Decatur when eager supporters placed a section of rail fence across the track. An unflappable Lincoln stepped out to exchange greetings with the crowd while the train crew cleared away the obstruction.

Later, when concerns for Lincoln’s safety became a matter of public debate, there would be an attempt to recast this episode in a more sinister light. “An attempt was made … to wreck the train bearing the president-elect and suite, about one mile west of the State line,” the New York Times would report on February 26. The article went on to detail an Illinois railroad employee’s account of spotting an obstruction shortly before Lincoln’s train was due to arrive: “A machine for putting cars on the track had been fastened upon the rails in such a manner that if a train ran at full speed and struck it, the engine and cars must have been thrown off, and many persons killed.”

The story of Lincoln’s supposed narrow escape would be repeated and embroidered upon in the days to come. None of these later accounts made mention of the pilot engine that was supposed to be running ahead of the train to scout for irregularities, though it is possible that this extra precaution had not yet been put in place. In any case, no one on board Lincoln’s train made any mention of the episode at the time, and Ward Lamon would later dismiss the reports as nonsense. “It has been asserted that an attempt was made to throw the train off the track between Springfield and Indianapolis,” he would write. “None of the Presidential party ever heard of these murderous doings until they read of them in some of the more imaginative reports of their trip.”

At the time, the passengers and crew did not appear overly troubled by thoughts of danger. “I remember that, after passing Bement, we crossed a trestle, and I was greatly interested to see a man standing there with a shotgun,” recalled Thomas Ross, the brakeman. “As the train passed he presented arms. I have often thought he was there, a volunteer, to see that the President’s train got over it in safety.” In fact, the gunman was likely a member of the Illinois state militia, who had been charged by Republican governor Richard Yates with the task of guarding the vulnerable bridge crossings.

Yates’s forces were able to stand down shortly after noon on February 11 as the Lincoln Special crossed the Indiana state line to a thirty-four-gun salute, one for each state of the Union—including the controversial Kansas Territory, which had been admitted as a free state only two weeks earlier. As the travelers enjoyed a quick lunch, the train cars were hitched to a fresh engine, which was capable of reaching speeds of up to thirty miles per hour—a breakneck pace for the time—on the straight track of the Toledo and Wabash line.

William Wood, settling into his role as superintendent of arrangements, was determined to keep to schedule in spite of the frequent stops, even at the risk of embarrassment to the president-elect. This became evident at a stop in Thorntown, outside of Lafayette, as Lincoln came to the rear platform as usual and apologized for declining to make a speech. By way of explanation, he launched into an anecdote concerning an aspiring politician who owned a sluggish but sure-footed horse. “The horse was so confoundedly slow, however,” he continued, but just at this moment—before Lincoln could deliver his punch line—the train lurched away from the depot, cutting him off in mid-sentence. At the next stop along the line, in Lebanon, Lincoln was informed that some of his supporters from Thorntown had chased after the train and were now literally “panting to hear the conclusion of the story.” Lincoln cheerfully took up where he had left off, explaining that he himself shared the dilemma of the owner of the plodding horse. If he stopped at every station to make a stump speech, he insisted, he would not arrive in Washington until the inauguration was over.

In that spirit, Lincoln would have been pleased to note the train’s on-time arrival in Indianapolis at 5:00 that evening, to another thirty-four-gun salute. It was here, however, that Superintendent Wood’s elaborate plans began to break down. As a large and boisterous crowd converged on the train, it became evident that Wood’s instructions to the Committee of Arrangements in Indianapolis had gone unheeded. No precautions had been taken to protect the president-elect from “insolent and rough curiosity,” reported Henry Villard. Instead, Lincoln “was almost overwhelmed by merciless throngs before he reached his hotel.” Colonel Ellsworth and Ward Lamon managed to bundle him into a waiting carriage, but the rest of the travelers were left to fend for themselves. Most, including Robert Lincoln, were obliged to walk from the station, carrying their own luggage.

Matters were no better at the Bates House, where Lincoln planned to spend the first night of his journey. The four-story brick hotel was besieged by “turbulent congregations of men,” wrote John Hay, “all of whom had too many elbows, too much curiosity, and a perfectly gushing desire to shake hands.” The entrances and stairways were so clogged with “immovable humanity,” said Villard, that Lincoln managed to get inside only by “wedging himself through in a determined manner.”

Once inside, Lincoln steeled himself for the first of the many “handshaking levees” he would endure on his journey, a seemingly endless receiving line of callers and local dignitaries. The process, as Hay described it, seldom varied: “The crowd came up one staircase, crossed the corridor bowing to Mr. Lincoln, and descended by another staircase to the street. Occasionally one of the sovereigns would address the President in an informal manner, eliciting always a prompt, sometimes a felicitous, repartee.” Almost all of the men who passed in front of Lincoln insisted on pumping his hand, with the result that his fingers were soon sore and swollen. According to Hay, he maintained his affable spirits throughout the ordeal: “From what I saw of the President’s coolness under the infliction of several thousand hand-shakings, I should say that he unites to the courage of Andrew Jackson the insensibility to physical suffering which is usually assigned to bronze statues.”

Be that as it may, the scenes at the train station and the hotel had exposed an unsettling truth. Lincoln’s traveling party, with its well-intentioned but disorganized cadre of friends acting as bodyguards, was simply not equipped to handle the sheer crush of people who wished to see, hear, and touch the president-elect as he made his way to Washington. Lamon and Ellsworth might well have been able to stand firm against a crowd of five or six, but not thousands. Even after the rest of the military adjuncts—Colonel Sumner, Major Hunter, and Captain Pope—rejoined the group in Indianapolis, there would be serious concerns about crowd control. Lincoln himself seemed inclined to entrust this matter to the reception committees of each town the train passed through, but his protectors were concerned that any large crowd—even a friendly one—could turn dangerous at any moment. The problem would grow worse in the days to come. “In the push and crush of these dense throngs of people, in this rushing of trains, clanging of bells, booming of guns, shouting and huzzas of individuals and crowds … a false step even might bring danger to life and limb under wheels of locomotives or carriages,” John Nicolay would write. In some instances the very officials who had invited Lincoln to stop would prove to be the most reckless in matters of safety. “These committees generally seemed consumed by a demon of impatience,” Nicolay observed. “They would sometimes tumble pell-mell into a car and almost drag Mr. Lincoln out before the train had even stopped, and habitually, after stoppage, before the proper police or military guards could be stationed around a depot or stopping place to secure necessary space and order for a comfortable open path to the waiting carriages.” In a letter to his fiancée, Nicolay was even more blunt: “It has been a serious task for us of his escort to prevent his being killed with kindness.”

Lincoln himself was not inclined to protest. As the incoming president, he believed he had an obligation to make himself accessible to the public. He had declined invitations to stay in private homes during the journey, where he would have had more privacy and a better chance of rest, and opted instead to stop in public lodgings where open receptions could be held. “The truth is, I suppose I am now public property,” he told Ward Lamon, “and a public inn is the place where people can have access to me.”

Lincoln also knew, after his long silence in Springfield, that he would not be able to limit his public pronouncements to cheery anecdotes about slow-moving horses. The public would expect to hear something of how he intended to address the secession crisis once he took office. Toward that end, he planned to deliver short addresses at most of the major stops along the way to the capital, giving a limited preview of the course his administration would pursue. In this way, the Lincoln Special would become something of a rolling laboratory, testing the themes and sentiments of his inaugural address in advance of March 4. Whenever possible, however, he would emphasize that matters were still in flux, and that he had not yet claimed the right to speak as the chief executive. As he would later tell a crowd in Buffalo, “[I]t is most proper I should wait and see the developments, and get all the light possible, so that when I do speak authoritatively, I may be as near right as possible.”

Accordingly, during a lull in the reception at the Bates House, Lincoln pulled himself away from the receiving line and stepped out onto the hotel’s balcony. A crowd of some twenty thousand people waited on the street below. The speech they heard is thought to have been composed earlier that day on board the train. If so, perhaps Lincoln’s exhaustion and sadness at leaving Springfield cast a shadow over the composition, which struck many listeners as strangely off-key. He began with a hairsplitting discussion of the exact meaning of the words coercion and invasion, with reference to the events at Fort Sumter, and went on to suggest that the secessionists had misunderstood the obligations of statehood: “In their view, the Union, as a family relation, would seem to be no regular marriage, but rather a sort of ‘free-love’ arrangement, to be maintained on what that sect calls passionate attraction.”

Though the crowd laughed heartily at this gibe, the comment would land with a thud in the press. Worse yet, after his earlier efforts to strike a conciliatory posture, Lincoln’s careful parsing of the terms of conflict sounded very much like a man sharpening his saber. Lincoln himself appeared to realize that he had said too much. He made some effort to backpedal, insisting that he simply wished to give the crowd something “to reflect upon.”

John Hay scrambled to cast the episode in a positive light, insisting that Lincoln’s remarks had met with universal approval and that shouts of “That’s the talk” and ‘We’ve got a President now” were heard from the crowd. Even so, the speech drew many denunciations, especially in the Southern press. The Louisville Journal accused the president-elect of “sporting with fire-balls in a powder magazine.” Lincoln would give two more speeches from the hotel balcony before leaving Indianapolis, both of which contained elements designed to soften the message of the first.

Matters went downhill for the rest of the evening. After the long day of travel, Lincoln hoped to enjoy a quiet meal with his inner circle. William Wood’s instructions to the reception committee had called for a private dining room, but, as Lincoln now discovered, the request had been ignored. In the absence of a quieter venue, Lincoln entered the hotel restaurant, where he took in the chaotic scene, with waiters handing out plates of food seemingly at random, without regard to what had been ordered. Lincoln looked on as one man who had asked for tea was given a pickle, and another had a bowl of sugar poured down his back. Hay noted that the spectacle “seemed to amuse the President quite as highly as the gentlemen, whose perception of the fun of the thing was sharpened by getting nothing whatever to eat.”

Afterward, in his hotel room, Lincoln’s amusement turned to horror. In Springfield, he had carefully packed away the working draft of his inaugural address in a black oilcloth carpetbag, along with the text of several of the other speeches he intended to give on the journey to Washington. The bag had been entrusted to the care of Robert Lincoln, who, perhaps as a consequence of his close adherence to the refreshment car earlier in the day, had now lost track of it. Under close questioning, Robert admitted that he had handed the bag to a waiter during the melee in the dining room and that the waiter, in turn, had placed it on a pile of other baggage behind the hotel counter. “A look of stupefaction passed over the countenance of Mr. Lincoln,” recalled John Nicolay, who knew that the president-elect’s head was filling with visions of his inaugural address appearing prematurely in the next day’s newspapers, or perhaps lost forever. Without a word, Lincoln threw open the door of his room and forced his way along the corridor, which was still packed with well-wishers. Making his way to the hotel office, he swung himself over the baggage counter with “a single stride of his long legs” and fell upon a pile of black carpetbags that had accumulated there. Taking a small key from his pocket, he began snatching up bags one by one and testing the locks. A number of them opened to Lincoln’s key, with the result that several pints of whiskey, packs of playing cards, and spare shirt collars were exposed to view before Lincoln at last recovered his own bag. Robert received a “somewhat stern admonition,” and for the rest of the trip the bag remained in the hands of Lincoln himself.

While Robert Lincoln licked his wounds, Ward Lamon received a stern admonition of his own. The first day of the journey had exposed the president-elect to dangers no one had foreseen. As the evening drew to a close, some officials from Illinois, most of whom would return home the following day, took Lamon aside to express their concern. As Lamon recalled, the group pulled him into a hotel room and, locking the door, “proceeded in the most solemn and impressive manner to instruct me as to my duties as the special guardian of Mr. Lincoln’s person during the rest of his journey to Washington.” Jesse Dubois, a longtime friend who had served with Lincoln in the Illinois legislature, finished the remarks with an impressive vow: “We intrust the sacred life of Mr. Lincoln to your keeping; and if you don’t protect it, never return to Illinois, for we will murder you on sight.” Lamon recognized this as “an amiable threat, delivered in a jocular tone,” but he acknowledged that it arose from a “feeling of deep, ill-disguised alarm for the safety of the President-elect.” Only after Lamon had promised to protect Lincoln at all costs was the door unlocked so that the party from Illinois could take their leave. “If I had been remiss in my duty toward Mr. Lincoln during that memorable journey,” Lamon declared, “I have no doubt those sturdy men would have made good some part of their threat.”

*   *   *

IN BALTIMORE, ALLAN PINKERTON was hearing threats that were considerably less amiable. As the Lincoln party made its way east—possibly that same night—Pinkerton was meeting face-to-face with Cypriano Ferrandini, the man who, according to James Luckett, had vowed that the president-elect would not survive his passage through Baltimore.

Pinkerton had a couple of hours to fill before his appointment at Barr’s Saloon. He spent a few moments jotting down notes on his meeting with Luckett, then turned to the reports he had received from his agents in the field. Kate Warne, posing as Mrs. Barley of Alabama, had been able to engage a number of the “prominent ladies of Baltimore” in conversation over the news of the Confederate convention in Montgomery. As a result, she heard many vague rumblings about sympathetic doings in Maryland. Pinkerton felt sure that she would soon uncover something more substantial, if given sufficient time.

Timothy Webster and Hattie Lawton, posing as a married couple among the railroad workers of Perrymansville, had also made promising strides. In a remarkably short time, Webster had managed to gain the “entire confidence” of the members of the tightly knit community, whose suspicions of the stranger in their midst had been lulled to a great extent by the presence of his beautiful young wife. A single man might well be a Northern spy, but Webster, posing as a newly married man in search of work, had been able to mingle freely, and was “generally looked upon as a man who could be trusted.” Soon after his arrival, Webster learned of a local militia unit with anti-Union leanings. “In twenty-four hours thereafter he had enrolled himself as a member of the company,” Pinkerton noted, “and was recognized as a hail fellow among his rebel associates.”

As the evening shadows fell across his desk, Pinkerton locked his files away in a drawer and stepped around the corner to Barr’s Saloon to keep his appointment with Luckett. Entering quietly, he spent several moments studying the scene before moving forward to join his friend. Luckett was standing at the bar, along with several other men, engaged in animated conversation. At the center of the group was the man Pinkerton knew to be Ferrandini. Pinkerton had glimpsed him once or twice in his barbershop, but Ferrandini seemed a different, altogether more commanding presence in this setting. The others turned to him for approval each time they spoke, and hung on his responses with expressions of reverence. “All seemed to regard him as an important personage,” Pinkerton noted, “and one who was eventually to perform giant service in the cause.”

After a moment, Pinkerton stepped toward the bar and called out a greeting to Luckett, who came forward to present him to Ferrandini. “Luckett introduced me as a resident of Georgia, who was an earnest worker in the cause of secession,” Pinkerton recalled, “and whose sympathy and discretion could be implicitly relied upon.” In a lowered voice, Luckett reminded Ferrandini of Mr. Hutchinson’s generous twenty-five-dollar donation. As the two men shook hands, Pinkerton sized Ferrandini up, as he often did in such situations, in terms of his ethnic heritage. “He shows the Italian in I think a very marked degree,” Pinkerton said, “and although excited, yet was cooler than what I had believed was the general characteristic of Italians.”

Pinkerton may have worried that Ferrandini would be cautious about speaking freely in the presence an outsider, but Luckett’s endorsement had the desired effect. Ferrandini seemed to warm to the detective immediately. After ordering drinks and cigars, the group withdrew to a quiet corner of the saloon, where the conversation turned swiftly to politics. Within moments, Pinkerton noted, his new acquaintance was expressing himself in terms of high treason. “The South must rule,” Ferrandini insisted. He and his fellow Southerners had been “outraged in their rights by the election of Lincoln, and freely justified resorting to any means to prevent Lincoln from taking his seat.”

Pinkerton and his team had heard similar sentiments expressed many times since their arrival in Baltimore, but Pinkerton found he could not dismiss Ferrandini as just another crackpot. “As he spoke his eyes fairly glared and glistened,” the detective wrote, “and his whole frame quivered, but he was fully conscious of all he was doing.” Pinkerton noted the steel in his voice, and the easy command of the men clustered about him, and recognized that this potent blend of fiery rhetoric and icy resolve made Ferrandini a dangerous adversary. “He is a man well calculated for controlling and directing the ardent minded,” the detective admitted. “Even I myself felt the influence of this man’s strange power, and wrong though I knew him to be, I felt strangely unable to keep my mind balanced against him.”

As Ferrandini held forth, he kept an appraising eye on Pinkerton, apparently measuring his responses to what was being said. At last, when he appeared satisfied that Pinkerton was in earnest, the conversation edged toward the crucial information that Luckett had hinted at earlier in the day: the possibility of an attempt on Lincoln’s life. Ferrandini and his men, Pinkerton would recall, spoke as if the matter had already been settled.

“Are there no other means of saving the South except by assassination?” Ferrandini was asked. He paused, as if weighing the question. “No,” he replied. “Never, never shall Lincoln be president. He must die—and die he shall. If necessary, we will die together.”

Another man spoke up. “There seems to be no other way, and while bloodshed is to be regretted, it will be done in a noble cause.”

Ferrandini’s eyes filled with approval. “Yes, the cause is a noble one, and on that day every captain will prove himself a hero. With the first shot the chief traitor, Lincoln, will die, then all Maryland will be with us, and the South will be forever free.”

Even as he listened to these incendiary words, Pinkerton realized that he still had no proof of what Ferrandini planned. Gathering himself, he addressed a question to Ferrandini that was intended to draw out the particulars. “But have all the plans been matured, and are there no fears of failure?” he asked. “A misstep in so important a direction would be fatal to the South and ought to be well considered.”

The answer shed no light on the situation: “Our plans are fully arranged and they cannot fail. We shall show the North that we fear them not.”

Before Pinkerton could speak again, a fresh problem arose. As Ferrandini held forth, a pair of strangers appeared in the saloon and took seats close by. Luckett immediately became suspicious and called Ferrandini’s attention to the newcomers, suggesting that they might be eavesdropping. Ferrandini decided to be cautious. He led his followers up to the bar, where a fresh round of drinks was purchased at Pinkerton’s expense, and then settled the group in a different corner of the room, waiting to see if the strangers followed. “Whether by accident or design, they again got near us,” Pinkerton reported. By now, Ferrandini’s suspicions were fully roused. He concluded that the two men must be spying on him, and he refused to say anything more on the subject of Lincoln’s visit to Baltimore. For Pinkerton, this was the very worst piece of luck possible. He tried in vain to guide the conversation back to its original channel, but Ferrandini refused to say anything more.

At length, Ferrandini rose to leave, hinting that he had a secret meeting to attend elsewhere. Glancing at the two strangers, he expressed concern that he might be followed as he left the saloon. Once again, Pinkerton’s luck took a turn for the worse as Luckett volunteered that he and Pinkerton would stay behind to keep an eye on the newcomers. As it was now clear that Pinkerton would learn nothing more that evening, he contented himself with playing his role as convincingly as possible. “I assured Ferrandini that if they did attempt to follow him, that we would whip them,” Pinkerton said. He may well have wished to do so in any case.

Ferrandini and his followers left to attend the meeting, Pinkerton reported dolefully, “and anxious as I was to follow them myself, I was obliged to remain with Mr. Luckett to watch the strangers.” After about fifteen minutes, Luckett also rose to excuse himself, leaving Pinkerton alone at his post. Disappointed that he had not been able to trail Ferrandini to his secret gathering, Pinkerton made his way back to his hotel to compile notes on all that he had heard that night.

There was much to consider. At one stage, as Ferrandini became swept up in his own eloquence, he had insisted that his own life was of no consequence, and that he would gladly trade it for Lincoln’s—just as his hero, Felice Orsini, had given his life for Italy. This mention of the Italian revolutionary carried a particularly dark resonance under the circumstances. Three years earlier, in January 1858, Orsini had attempted to assassinate Napoléon III by means of three fulminate of mercury bombs hurled at the emperor’s imperial carriage. Eight people were killed and dozens injured in the blasts, but the emperor and empress escaped unhurt, thanks in part to the bulletproof construction of their carriage. Orsini soon fell into police hands and was executed two months later, becoming a hero in the eyes of Ferrandini, who now styled himself as a successor to the “much-honored martyr.”

Lincoln would not have use of a bulletproof carriage as he traveled from one train station to the next in Baltimore. If he followed the pattern set at the other stops on his inaugural journey, he would ride in an open conveyance, raising his tall form to a standing position at regular intervals to make himself more visible to the crowd. If Ferrandini intended to emulate Felice Orsini, Lincoln would make a far easier target than had Napoléon III.

“If Italy truly rises, she must conquer,” Orsini wrote in his autobiography, published the year before his death; “but to arrive at this end, men of capacity and decision must be at the head of the revolution; practical men, and notdreamers;men who are not intriguers, ambitious, or afraid of death … Without this there is no hope of redemption.”

Orsini had sought redemption through political assassination. An uncomfortable echo could be heard in the words Ferrandini spoke to Pinkerton that night. “Murder of any kind,” he said, “is justifiable and right to save the rights of the Southern people.”

Later, he stated his conviction with an even more chilling clarity. “If I alone must do it, I shall,” he told Pinkerton. “Lincoln shall die in this city.”

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