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U.S. Marshals Service

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Lincoln and his Marshal

They snuck into the city. Abraham Lincoln, soon to be inaugurated President of the collapsing Union, arrived unannounced in Washington, D.C., early on the morning of February 23. 186 1 , nine days before his March 4 inauguration. Ward Hill Lamon, soon to be commissioned the United States Marshal for the District of Columbia, accompanied the President-elect. He acted as Lincoln's personal bodyguard while Allan Pinkerton and his detectives provided general security. Armed with a brace of pistols and a Bowie knife, Lamon was determined to prevent any trouble from his fellow Southerners. A Virginian by birth, the future marshal was Lincoln's friend and business associate. They had known each other for 20 years. While Lamon devoted himself to serving and protecting the Yankee president, his mother and brothers transferred their loyalty to the south.Picture of U.S. Marshal Ward Hill Lamon

Shown on left, U.S. Marshal Ward Hill Lamon, District of Columbia, 1861-1865

Lamon watched with dismay as the federal experiment soured over the election of his friend. He urged the new president to distribute "circulars of appeal" to the Southern people "to stand by the flag, to stand by the Union." Desperate for some way to stop the Southern states from seceding. Lamon also recommended that the new president complete the construction of the Treasury Building. Such an action, Lamon felt, would prove to the South and most foreign nations "the confidence of the U.S. sustaining herself and will give at the same time many idlers employment, thereby identifying them to some extent with the government." Yet, rebuilding the Treasury building was hardly enough to keep the Union  together. The suggestion reflected Lamon's desperation as state legislatures throughout the South passed resolutions of secession.

Federalism failed.

South Carolina withdrew from the Union first. The state legislature passed its declaration of secession

on December 20, 1860, less than two months after Lincoln's election. Having announced its separation from the other states, it demanded that Union forces  withdraw from its territory. In the middle of Charleston harbor, Major Robert Anderson and his command refused to evacuate Fort Sumter. A stalemate ensued when South Carolinian troops besieged the island fort. At the end of March 1861, Marshal Lamon hurried from Washington to South Carolina. Although he assured  Governor Thomas Pickens that he was acting  privately, without charter from Lincoln, that is doubtful. The President at least knew of Lamon's intentions and probably gave his blessing to the mission.

Lamon obtained a pass from Governor Pickens allowing him to cross through the besieging forces and talk with Major Anderson. The governor sent his aide, Colonel Duryea, with Lamon to ensure
"that every propriety is observed."

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