Last Saturday, nearly 155 years to the day, people from Peekskill and beyond joined local dignitaries to celebrate President-elect Abraham Lincoln’s Feb. 19, 1861 visit to the city on his way to being inaugurated in Washington, DC. The festivities included a wreath laying, parade, re-enactment, historical lecture and of course, a pub crawl through the city!
After the ceremony at the Lincoln Exedra on South Street got things started, the party paraded down to the Lincoln Depot Museum at 10 South Water Street, where President- elect Abraham Lincoln addressed the crowd.
“Ladies and gentleman, I have but a moment to stand before you and thank you for this cordial reception tendered by your authorities,” said Lincoln, played by resident Michael Macedonia. “In regard to the difficulties that lie before me, and to which your president has alluded, let me say that if I shall only be as generously and unanimously sustained as this meeting would seem to indicate I shall be in my management of public affairs, I shall probably not fail. But without that sustaining arm, I’m quite sure that the difficulties that lie before me, will not only be too great for my humble self, but too great, for any individual man. I thank you then, as I have thanked the assembled thousands upon various occasions as I have passed along my route for such demonstrations which, if they mean anything, means that I shall be supported not only by the people who gave me election, but by the free, intelligent and earnest support of all of the parties in the country.”
In order to prepare for the speech, Macedonia, a member of The Lincoln Society‘s board, researched news accounts from 1861 to find the words Lincoln spoke during his stop in Peekskill.
“I think there are two or three variations from different newspapers of what he really said, and the one I picked is from the Highland Democrat newspaper,” Macedonia said.
According to re-enactor Paul Martin, who sits on the boards of both The Lincoln Society and the Lincoln Depot Museum, some 1,500 people came to see Lincoln’s brief statement at the Peekskill train depot around 2 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 19, 1861. Many of the onlookers sat on the hill overlooking the depot, which is now the location of Route 9.
Following the reassuring words from the president, Assemblywoman Sandy Galef, County Legislator and Lincoln Depot Museum President John Testa and Peekskill Mayor Frank Catalina each said a few words to commemorate the historic occasion, before the crowd headed inside the museum to hear from Dr. Charles Strozier, author of “Lincoln’s Quest for Union: A Psychological Portrait.”
Strozier discussed the president’s mental health as well as his love life, a topic that has garnered much controversy in recent years. The Lincoln Depot museum was filled to capacity during Strozier’s presentation.
“I was very pleasantly surprised with the number of people who chose to come today and I think they came because of the museum and the collaboration with The Lincoln Society,” County Legislator John Testa, who is also president of the Lincoln Depot Museum, said after the event. “It shows that what we are doing is the right thing and it will continue to keep growing as we suspected it would. It was a full house and people were interested in all aspects of the day. What was particularly nice about today was that a significant number of people were here at the museum for the first time.”