Lincoln at the Grove Farm, October 3, 1862. Library of Congress

President Lincoln Visits Maryland

By Nicholas A. Redding

Abraham Lincoln made many visits and stops in Maryland over the course of his presidency and broader political career, but perhaps none are as photographically iconic as his trip to the Maryland countryside in October of 1862.

On October 1, 1862 Mr. Lincoln and a party of his advisers departed Washington for the Antietam Battlefield at Sharpsburg, Maryland — scene of the bloodiest single day fighting of the war just several weeks prior. Lincoln spent the night in Harpers Ferry, reviewed troops nearby on October 2nd and that evening departed for Union General George B. McClellan’s headquarters just outside of Sharpsburg at the Grove Farm.

Abraham Lincoln stares knowingly at Gen. McClellan, October 1862. Library of Congress.

In the shadow of the Grove Farm’s magnificent home, Mount Airy, President Lincoln conferred with General McClellan. General McClellan, who had led the Union Army in the previous fight at Antietam had since stalled his movement along the banks of the Potomac; a delay which confounded and angered Lincoln who was desperate for action.

“Little Mac,” as he was affectionately known by his troops, remembered the visit in a letter to his wife as an obvious attempt by Lincoln to “push me into a premature advance into Virginia.” The visit, which did not succeed in dislodging McClellan, was the beginning of the end for his command of the Army of the Potomac and in just a few short weeks his unwillingness to act would result in his ultimate removal. That momentous turning point in the history of the war began in Maryland’s countryside.

President Lincoln and Gen. McClellan meet in the general’s tent outside of Sharpsburg, Maryland. Library of Congress.

Fortunately, Lincoln’s quick visit is permanently recorded in the images struck by the accomplished photographer Alexander Gardner. These iconic shots are now considered some of the most iconic photos of the entire war and show a Lincoln clearly beleaguered by the delay of his army. Today, the Grove Farm is protected thanks to the work of the Save Historic Antietam Foundation which waged a second battle in the late 1980s to protect the site from commercial development.

Lincoln and members of his party pose for Alexander Gardner at the Grove Farm, Sharpsburg, MD, 1862. Library of Congress.

Nicholas A. Redding · Executive Director

Nicholas A. Redding is Preservation Maryland’s Executive Director and between announcing major organizational updates, he often blogs about Maryland and Civil War history.

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