Retracing Abraham Lincoln’s Footsteps

A month or so, ago, Bernie Kempkinski, made a post in the Yahoo, Civil War Railroad’s and Modeling group. This post had links to images of actual train reports from the City Point and Army Line Railroad during March and early April, 1865. Train reports list the times that trains passed the various stations on the line. Presumably the stations telegraphed trains movements back to City Point as they occurred. Bernie had found these reports in the National Archives.

The dates of the reports that Bernie found, coincide with the final days of the siege of Petersburg and include March 25th, 1865, the day of the battle of Fort Steadman, and Abraham Lincoln’s visit to the front lines at Petersburg. Having a great interest in what was going during those days at City Point and Petersburg, I had previously purchased a book by Donald Pfanz, “Abraham Lincoln at City Point”. This books details Lincoln’s day by day activities during his time at City Point and vicinity during March and early April, 1865.

Of course the first thing I had to do, was to see if the train Lincoln took to see the front on March 25th, was listed in the train report for that day. Pfanz’s book reports that the Lincoln party took a train at around noon. Sure enough, in the report there is a special train arriving at Pitkin Station, the next station up the line from City Point at 12:30 – that must have been Lincoln’s train.

However this is where things get interesting. Pfanz writes that the Lincoln party went to Patrick Station, and then mounted horses and ambulances to visit Meade’s HQ. Pfanz writes that they arrived at Meades HQ around 1:00PM. He goes on to write that the party viewed a number of Confederate prisoners from the battle, then went to Fort Wadsworth to see the Sixth Corp take some advanced works in front of Boydon Plank Road.

This story hardly could be the truth. Patrick Station is a mile beyond Warren Station, and Fort Wadsworth is between these two, and all are several miles down the track from Fort Stedman and Meade Station, which I presume was close to Meade’s HQ. The special train arrived at Warren Station at 2:00PM, long after Lincoln is said to have visited Meade’s HQ.

I think it is more likely that the Lincoln party changed to ambulance and horse at Meade’s station, viewing the killed, wounded and prisoners from the battle of Fort Stedman near that location. Then they road down the line to Fort Wadsworth, from which they viewed the attack of the Sixth Corps. Afterward, they could have reboarded the train at Patrick Station for the return trip to City Point.

regards,
Mike Willegal

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