February 11, 1861 – Abraham Lincoln Says Farewell to Springfield, Illinois

On this day in history, at 8 a.m. in the morning, the new President-Elect of the United States gave his farewell address to the people of Springfield, a day before his 52nd birthday.

Lincoln bidding farewell at Springfield; artist unknown;  published in 1886

Lincoln bidding farewell at Springfield; artist unknown; published in 1886

Reporters at the scene published variations of what he said; the official version reprinted below was written after the train departed, in part in Lincoln’s hand and in part written by Lincoln’s secretary John Nicolay, to whom Lincoln dictated. It is the version Lincoln wanted remembered, and is the one kept by the Library of Congress. It is considered one of Lincoln’s greatest speeches.

My friends — No one, not in my situation, can appreciate my feeling of sadness at this parting. To this place, and the kindness of these people, I owe every thing. Here I have lived a quarter of a century, and have passed from a young to an old man. Here my children have been born, and one is buried. I now leave, not knowing when, or whether ever, I may return, with a task before me greater than that which rested upon Washington. Without the assistance of the Divine Being who ever attended him, I cannot succeed. With that assistance I cannot fail. Trusting in Him who can go with me, and remain with you and be every where for good, let us confidently hope that all will yet be well. To His care commending you, as I hope in your prayers you will commend me, I bid you an affectionate farewell.”

Hay recalled afterward that as Lincoln turned to enter the rail car three cheers were given, and a few seconds later the train moved slowly out of sight. Lincoln never saw Springfield again.

Lincoln had his picture taken on February 9, 1861

Lincoln had his picture taken on February 9, 1861

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