Historical Markers
Hanover Junction Historical Marker
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Hanover Junction

Hershey/Gettysburg/Dutch Country Region


Marker Location:
PA 616, 4 miles S of New Salem at Hanover Junction

Dedication Date:
May 31, 1953

Behind the Marker

Lincoln funeral Train.
Lincoln funeral Train.
American history is filled with tales of memorable railroad trips; of fatal crashes, the great whistle-stop tours of presidential candidates, and the final journeys of deceased presidents being carried back to their homes. As the primary form of overland transportation for close to a century, trains became powerful symbols of American movement and modernization, and the subject of countless songs, stories, and images.

On November 18, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln journeyed by train from Washington, D.C., to Gettysburg, Pa., where he delivered one of the most important and memorable Presidential addresses of all times.

Lincoln delivered his famous Gettysburg Address at the public dedication of the new National Cemetery, founded to honor the fallen soldiers of that July's three-day Battle of Gettysburg. The story of this history-making journey reflects not only a special moment in railroading history but Abraham Lincoln's long association with American railroading.

As a young lawyer, Lincoln gained much of his early legal experience from serving as a railroad lobbyist and attorney in Illinois. Among his clients were the Illinois Central Railroad, which Lincoln successfully defended in tax litigation; the Rock Island Railroad, which he successfully defended in a landmark case that affirmed railroads' right to build bridges over navigable rivers; and the Chicago and Alton and the Ohio and Mississippi railroads.
Arrival of official train at Hanover Junction. Man in top hat believed to be President Lincoln.
Arrival of official train at Hanover Junction.

On the eve of his presidential election, the New York Central Railroad tried to hire Lincoln at a then-astounding salary of $10,000. He declined. When Lincoln was elected president, he made a long and winding public journey from his home in Illinois to Washington. When Lincoln's train arrived in Harrisburg, however, an assassination rumor surfaced, and he slipped out of town on an alternate route to complete the journey to Washington.

As president, Lincoln signed into law the Pacific Railroad Act on July 1, 1862. The new law authorized and subsidized the Union Pacific and Central Pacific railroads. Together, they formed the first transcontinental railroad, completed on May 10, 1869. This achievement brought California closer to the rest of the Union. And its powerful symbolism helped mend a woefully fractured nation and promote settlement of the vast West, actions that helped shape and define the national character.

The story of Lincoln's historic Washington-to-Gettysburg journey began at 12:10 p.m. on November 18, 1863, when the president and his party boarded a gaily decorated four-car Baltimore and Ohio Railroad special train.

The train proceeded north to Baltimore's Camden Station, arriving at 1:20 p.m. A team of horses then pulled the train through city streets to reach the Bolton Station, the depot of the Northern Central Railway. The Northern Central was affiliated with the Pennsylvania Railroad, whose vice president, named Thomas A. Scott, had gone to Washington to run the Union's military railroads during the conflict as assistant secretary of war.

After a baggage car was added (in which lunch was being prepared), the train departed at 2 p.m., steaming north. The train soon arrived at Hanover Junction, forty-six miles north of Baltimore, where it was supposed to meet a special from Harrisburg carrying markerGov. Andrew Curtin. But the governor's train was delayed. So Lincoln's train switched tracks to the Hanover Branch and Gettysburg lines, turning west to run the final twenty-nine miles to Gettysburg.
Hanover Junction as it appeared in 1863
Hanover Junction as it appeared in 1863

After thirteen miles, the train reached Hanover about 5 p.m. When the train paused for a few minutes to await the passage of an eastbound train, Lincoln stepped out onto the open platform. A crowd of curious citizens had gathered. "Well, you had the rebels here last summer," the president observed to the crowd. "Did you fight them any?"

Confederate soldiers had skirmished with Union troops in the minor markerBattle of Hanover on June 30, 1863, a prelude to the Battle of Gettysburg that began the next day. "I trust when the enemy was here, the citizens of Hanover were loyal to our country and the stars and stripes. If you are not all true patriots in support of the union, you should be," he told the citizens of this town, located just north of the Mason-Dixon Line in York County. As he turned to board the train, Lincoln showed a flash of his dry humor. "Well, you have seen me," he said, "and, according to general experience, you have seen less than you expected to see."

When the train arrived in Gettysburg about 6:30 p.m., coffins were still stacked on the platform of the Italianate-style brick station. The three-day Battle of Gettysburg had resulted in more than 51,000 casualties between the two armies, and the job of finally reburying the last of thousands of Union and Confederate soldiers was still under way.
Image of passengers standing on the porch of Hanover Station
Hanover Junction, Pennsylvania

Lincoln stayed overnight at the house of markerDavid Wills, a prominent attorney and judge who was in charge of organizing the cemetery and its dedication on November 19, 1863. The main dedication speaker, former Senator Edward Everett, spoke for two hours, but few remembered his words. Rather, history forever recalls President Lincoln's ten-sentence speech, the now famous Gettysburg Address that was delivered by the president in less than five minutes.

After his speech, the weary president lingered in town until evening, departing about 6:30 p.m. and retracing his route to Hanover, Hanover Junction, Baltimore, and Washington, arriving in the capital after midnight.

The next time Lincoln passed this way, he lay in state, the victim of an assassin's bullet. In April of 1865, Lincoln's funeral train made the sad journey along these same tracks on its way to his Midwestern home. Today the historic 1859 Western Maryland Railway, depot where Lincoln alighted from the train in Gettysburg, survives and is undergoing restoration by a local preservation group.
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