1925 Article sheds light on President Lincoln photograph at Hanover Junction
Installments of my historical novel, Railcar Gold, are posted every Thursday. I usually do in-depth research on the historical aspects a few weeks in advance and occasionally post about my research.
Tomorrow the characters in Railcar Gold are present at Hanover Junction on Wednesday November 18th 1863 as President Abraham Lincoln changes trains during his journey to deliver the Gettysburg Address the following day. This post contains a 1925 article that sheds light on the purported President Lincoln photograph at Hanover Junction.
Related Gettysburg & Lincoln posts include:
- Witness to Gettysburg Address
- Lincoln’s Engineer: Gardner Cobb
- Lincoln’s Engineer: Baltimore Bottleneck
- President Lincoln was Interrupted Five times with Applause during his Gettysburg Address
- Find Lincoln on the Gettysburg Speakers Platform
- Read The Actual Article: Next-day Newspaper Coverage of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address
- Dallastown Soldier buried in Gettysburg National Cemetery
- Letters to LINCOLN during the Invasion; “Burning bridges on the Northern Central”
- Looking Back on the 100th Anniversary Commemoration of The Battle of Gettysburg; Part 1
- Subsequent to the Gettysburg Address; Civil War Election of 1864
- Locomotives that pulled Abraham Lincoln through York County; Lincoln Funeral Train
- Timeline for Lincoln Funeral Train
- In The Sights of Civil War Purists and Going Down
- A Retrospective of the Confederate Invasion of 1863
I used this center section of a Mathew Brady photo at Hanover Junction as my Chapter 9 header within Railcar Gold. The Mathew Brady photograph purportedly shows President Abraham Lincoln standing on the platform in front of the Hanover Junction Station.
For many years this photograph was incorrectly identified. The photo was included in the 1946 definitive book “Mr. Lincoln’s Camera Man, Mathew B. Brady” by Roy Meredith. Page 93 contains this photo, identified as “Burke’s Station on the Orange and Alexandria Railroad.” In the 1974 reprint edition, a note has been added under the photo, “The Library of Congress now identifies this as Hanover Junction, Pennsylvania.”
The misidentification discovery and the realization Lincoln changed trains at Hanover Junction started two groups of thought by scholars; either contending the photo did or did not contain President Lincoln. One of the major arguments for the “not Lincoln” group, was the absence of a crowd. The following 1925 article sheds light on the purported President Lincoln photograph at Hanover Junction; note this 1925 article was printed long before the photograph was correctly identified as Hanover Junction in the early 1950s.
Quotes from the 1925 article appeared in the following piece appearing in the October 28, 1952 issue of The York Dispatch:
ARTICLE ADDS FACT TO LINCOLN THEORY
1925 Prowell Piece Tells of Incident on County Depot Platform
PICTURE WAS POSSIBLE
An article by a man now dead, the late George R. Prowell, noted authority on York County history, lends more weight to the argument by Russell Bowman of Seven Valleys, that Abraham Lincoln was photographed when he left his train at Hanover Junction on his way to make his famed Gettysburg speech in 1863.
Old time residents of the area have said that the Civil War president spent some time on the station platform. Bowman insists that a picture, taken there by Mathew Brady, Civil War photographer, is one of Lincoln.
While Bowman has been supported by a noted Lincoln authority, Helen Nicolay, daughter of Lincoln’s secretary, many other Lincoln scholars insist that the picture could not be one of the Great Emancipator.
The late Mr. Prowell, who wrote a history of York County and was curator of the Historical Society of York County, wrote that: “At Hanover Junction, Mr. Lincoln stepped from the car and engaged in conversation with Captain A. W. Eichelberger, president of the railroad from Hanover Junction to Gettysburg.”
The article containing this information was published in the Nov.-Dec., 1925 issue of the Sigma Chi quarterly, under the title “That Address at Gettysburg.” Prowell had interviewed Joseph Holt, judge advocate general of the War Department in 1892 in his Washington home to get the facts for the article.
The York County historian writes that Holt, “as judge advocate of the army, had become a confidential friend of the great man in the White House, whom he had learned to know, honor and revere.”
Prowell wrote that Lincoln’s son Tad was ill and that on Nov. 17, two days before the speech, Lincoln nearly decided to remain at the bedside of his son. However, Tad’s condition grew more favorable and on Nov. 18 President Lincoln and a delegation of prominent men left Washington for Gettysburg.
This is what Prowell writes of the journey:
“When the train crossed the boundary line of Maryland and Pennsylvania, his attention was called to one of the milestones erected in 1767 to mark what became known to history as Mason and Dixon’s Line. As this was the boundary between the slave and free states, the great man looked with intense interest at the milestone without saying a word. Continuing onward, he sat absorbed in thought until the engine whistled for the stop and change at Hanover Junction, 12 miles south of York.
“At the junction, Mr. Lincoln stepped from the car and engaged in conversation with Captain A. W. Eichelberger, president of the railroad from Hanover Junction to Gettysburg. Hanover Junction recalled to his mind memories of the Confederate invasion of 1863, and Captain Eichelberger was able to supply the details.”
Further on Prowell wrote: “When he (Lincoln) boarded the Gettysburg train, the president took his seat near the center of the rear car.”
The doubters among Lincoln enthusiasts point out that the picture, published recently in the Dispatch, shows no crowd. Prowell makes no mention of any crowd, therefore it may be supposed that there was no crowd. Lincoln had decided to come to Gettysburg only two days before and, feeling being what it was, his arrangements were not broadcast.
Hanover Junction was a hamlet, a few houses along a railroad isolated by mud roads from populated areas like York and Hanover. The residents of the junction and surrounding farms were not numerous enough to make up “the crowd” that might ordinarily have been expected when the president changed trains, even if his plans were known.
Nobody thus far has come forward with proof that the president’s stop at Hanover Junction was announced in advance.
Although the stop was not announced, any savvy individual about York County Railroads, at the time, would have known the President had to go through Hanover Junction to reach Gettysburg by rail. However as for the time of day when Lincoln would switch trains, I have found no announcement.
An inside article in The York Gazette on the day before Lincoln switched trains at Hanover Junction, about the Consecration of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery, had one line about Lincoln; the ceremonies “to consist of a prayer by Rev. Dr. Stockton, the address by Mr. Everett, Consecration ceremony by President Lincoln, …” That whole November 17th 1863 article appears in last week’s edition of Railcar Gold.
An interpretative plaque at Hanover Junction describes switching hurdles in the 1863 rail-yard of the Branch Railroad to Hanover; which continued on into Gettysburg. Much of these hurdles were because the Hanover Branch Railroad was separate from the Northern Central Railroad; locomotives had to be switched and turned so they were pointed in the proper direction.
All the time the switching was being done it is logical that President Lincoln would be standing on the platform in conversation with Captain A. W. Eichelberger, president of the railroad from Hanover Junction to Gettysburg.
The Northern Central Railroad tracks, highlighted in yellow, are the only tracks remaining today. As can be seen in the following photograph of the original Hanover Junction Railroad Station, which has been restored, as it appeared in 1863.Reading the Headlines: A Quick Index to All YorksPast Posts