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Springfield, IL – People of all ages are invited to help set a new Guinness World Recordâ„¢ as part of the national kickoff of  the Civil War Sesquicentennial.                                                                                                                                                       . The 150th anniversary observance of the Civil War will begin on February 11, 2011, exactly 150 years after Abraham Lincoln left Springfield, Illinois on his Inaugural journey as President-elect to Washington, D.C.  Lincoln made an impromptu speech that day from the Great Western Depot before departing Springfield for the last time.  The speech will be re-enacted at that same depot at 11 a.m. Central Standard Time on February 11, 2011 and organizers are inviting people from around the world to join in and simultaneously read Lincoln’s Farewell Address through a variety of live media links that will be set up for that purpose.
The Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, GateHouse Media, the National Park Service, the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, Abraham Lincoln National Heritage Area, and the Looking for Lincoln Heritage Coalition encourage everyone to join in this simultaneous reading.  Many sites associated with these sponsors will allow the public to participate on-site in the live Guinness World Record™ attempt.
The Great Western Depot, the site of the original Farewell Speech as well as the February 11, 2011 re-enactment, is owned and operated by The State Journal-Register, the GateHouse Media newspaper for Springfield, Illinois.
“This is a rare opportunity to relive our nation’s history and honor Springfield’s finest citizen as he boarded the train bound for Washington, DC to be inaugurated the 16th President of the United States,” said Walt Lafferty, publisher of The State Journal-Register.
According to Guinness World Records™, the record for the most people reading aloud from the same document simultaneously is 223,363 participants at 909 venues across the United States for an event organized by Walden Media on December 13, 2006.  Organizers of the February 11 event are confident they can break the existing world record while officially opening the nation’s Civil War Sesquicentennial observance.
Guinness World Records™ requires specific documentation for this attempt.  Those documents and world record attempt instructions may be downloaded at:
A similar world record attempt by the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum to simultaneously read the Gettysburg Address on Lincoln’s 200th birthday, February 12, 2009, garnered 180,000 documented participants.  Although short of the world record, the lessons learned from that attempt have been put to use in planning the February 11, 2011 reading.
The text of the speech to be used by readers on February 11 follows:
Abraham Lincoln’s February 11, 1861 Farewell Address
Great Western Depot, Springfield, Illinois
“My friends – No one, not in my situation, can appreciate my feeling of sadness at this parting.  To this place, and the kindness of these people, I owe every thing.  Here I have lived a quarter of a century, and have passed from a young to an old man.  Here my children have been born, and one is buried.  I now leave, not knowing when, or whether ever, I may return, with a task before me greater than that which rested upon Washington.  Without the assistance of that Divine Being, who ever attended him, I cannot succeed.  With that assistance I cannot fail.  Trusting in Him, who can go with me, and remain with you and be every where for good, let us confidently hope that all will yet be well.  To His care commending you, as I hope in your prayers you will commend me, I bid you an affectionate farewell.”
Since Guinness World Recordsâ„¢ requires the record-breaking reading to last at least five minutes, participants will read the Farewell Address several times until the five-minute threshold is met.
The following have been confirmed as Illinois locations where the public may participate in the simultaneous reading.  For the most up-to-date listing, visit http://extras.sj-r.com/r/depot.   In addition, any group of people with access to live media coverage of the event may participate wherever they may be.

  • Beardstown:  Beardstown Courthouse
  • Bement:  Bryant Cottage State Historic Site (reading to take place at local school gym)
  • Bishop Hill:  Bishop Hill State Historic Site
  • Bloomington:  David Davis Mansion State Historic Site
  • Danville:  Vermilion County Museum
  • Decatur:  Macon County Museum
  • Elizabeth:  Apple River Fort State Historic Site
  • Galena:  Ulysses S. Grant Home State Historic Site
  • Hartford:  Lewis and Clark State Historic Site
  • Lincoln:  Lincoln College Museum
  • Mahomet:  Early American Museum
  • Metamora:  Metamora Courthouse State Historic Site
  • Mt. Pulaski:  Mt. Pulaski Courthouse State Historic Site
  • Rock Island:  Black Hawk State Historic Site
  • Springfield:  Lincoln Home National Historic Site, Old State Capitol State Historic Site
  • Taylorville:  Christian County Historical Society
  • History – The morning of departure, February 11, 1861

February 11, 1861, the day before Abraham Lincoln’s fifty-second birthday, dawned cloudy and drizzly, but was an improvement over the cold, snowy weather that had preceded it.  “Hard King Frost and soft Queen Thaw” had come “to a tussle,” as Harper’s Weekly put it.

    Abraham Lincoln had breakfast at the Chenery House hotel where the family had been staying.  At about 7:30 a.m. he asked the proprietor about his wife’s health, then walked into the hotel office to get his luggage ready for the impending train trip. Lincoln used a rope to tie shut his family’s packed suitcases, and then used a handful of Chenery House note cards to label each bag with the simple, “A. Lincoln, White House, Washington D.C.”  An African American porter and family friend, Jameson Jenkins, placed the bags in a cart and took them to the train station.
    Lincoln climbed aboard a carriage and traveled the muddy streets to the newly remodeled Great Western depot on the east end of town, just a few blocks from the family’s former home.  A group of well-wishers followed the carriage, but Lincoln said little.  His secretary John Nicolay said the “stormy morning” made the mood one of “subdued anxiety, almost of solemnity.”
    The first thing Lincoln saw at the depot, besides the “vast concourse” of about one thousand friends and neighbors who had gathered to see him off, was the train.  It consisted of a modern Rogers locomotive with a towering funnel stack, a baggage car, and a bright yellow passenger car adorned with patriotic bunting.
    The crowd cheered and shouted words of encouragement as Lincoln proceeded into the depot and shook dozens of hands. Although the crowd was large, Lincoln would later recount it was full of people “almost all of whom I could recognize.”
    Abraham Lincoln bid farewell to his wife about 8 a.m. – she was going to shop in St. Louis and then join her husband’s train in Indianapolis. Then the crowd parted as Lincoln and his entourage moved to board the train.
    The entourage consisted of:  Lincoln’s son Robert and Robert’s school friend George Latham; Lincoln’s young secretaries John Nicolay and John Hay; his brother-in-law, Dr. William S. Wallace; political supporters Norman Judd, David Davis, Orville Browning, Ozias Hatch, and Jesse Dubois; William H. Johnson, an African American friend who performed odd jobs for the Lincolns in Springfield and served as a valet on the train trip; Elmer Ellsworth, a militiaman and law student Lincoln had befriended; Ward Hill Lamon, a former law associate now serving as Lincoln’s bodyguard; educator Newton Bateman; former Belleville legal colleague William H. Underwood; Quincy attorney Joseph Jackson Grimshaw; Democratic politician William Morrison; longtime friend William Butler; John J.S. Wilson, who had manned the telegraph office on Election Night and would now assume responsibility, using a portable telegraphy machine he planned to carry on board, for receiving messages confirming safe passage en route; railroad superintendent F.W. Bowen, who personally oversaw the journey while it proceeded along his Great Western tracks; banker Robert Irwin; Governor Richard Yates of Illinois, who had called out state militia to guard trestle bridges along the route; and Governor Oliver P. Morton of Indiana.
    John Hay joked that the guest list for the voyage had ballooned to such an extent it now embraced “members of all the political parties, with the exception of the secessionists…In common with other politicians, [Lincoln] never overlooked a newspaper man who had it in his power to say a good or bad thing of him.”  The journalists leaving on the Inaugural train included:  Henry Villard, New York Herald; Joseph Howard, Jr., New York Times; T.C. Evans, New York World; O.H. Dutton, New York Tribune; Henry M. Smith, Chicago Tribune; Henri Lovie, Frank Leslie’s; W.G. Terrell, Cincinnati Gazette; Uriah Hunt Painter, Philadelphia Inquirer; no fewer than five correspondents from the Associated Press J.R. Drake, S.D. Page, J.H.A. Boone, A.W. Griswold, and Theodore Stager; and John Hay, travelling principally as an aide to Lincoln, who doubled as a correspondent for the Missouri Democrat and the Illinois Daily State Journal.
    The train bells clanged at 8 a.m.  Lincoln climbed the steps of the rear passenger car and turned to face the crowd.  He removed his signature stove pipe hat; the men in the crowd followed suit by removing their hats in the cold drizzle.  Then, even though he had prepared no written remarks, Lincoln began a brief, poignant and emotional speech.
    “My friends – No one, not in my situation, can appreciate my feeling of sadness at this parting.  To this place, and the kindness of these people, I owe every thing.  Here I have lived a quarter of a century, and have passed from a young to an old man.  Here my children have been born, and one is buried.  I now leave, not knowing when, or whether ever, I may return, with a task before me greater than that which rested upon Washington.  Without the assistance of that Divine Being, who ever attended him, I cannot succeed.  With that assistance I cannot fail.  Trusting in Him, who can go with me, and remain with you and be every where for good, let us confidently hope that all will yet be well.  To His care commending you, as I hope in your prayers you will commend me, I bid you an affectionate farewell.”
    The Inaugural train trip that began February 11, 1861 in Springfield arrived in Washington on February 23.  It made stops in the Illinois communities of Decatur, Tolono, and Danville; the Indiana communities of Lafayette, Thornton, Lebanon, Indianapolis, Morris, Shelbyville, Greensburg, and Lawrenceburg; the Ohio communities of Cincinnati, Milford, Loveland, Miamiville, Morrow, Corwin, Xenia, London, Columbus, Newark, Frazeysburg, Dresden, Coshocton, Newcomerstown, Uhrichsville, Cadiz,       Junction, Steubenville, Wellsville, Salineville, Bayard, Alliance, Hudson, Ravenna, Cleveland, Willoughby, Painesville, Geneva, Madison, Ashtabula, and Conneaut; Pennsylvania communities Rochester, Allegheny City, Pittsburgh, Girard, Erie, Northeast, Philadelphia, Leaman Place, Lancaster, and Harrisburg; New York communities Westfield, Dunkirk, Silver Creek, Buffalo, Batavia, Rochester, Clyde, Syracuse, Utica, Little Falls, Fonda, Amsterdam, Schenectady, Albany, Troy, Rhinebeck, Hudson, Poughkeepsie, Fishkill, Peekskill, and New York City; New Jersey communities Jersey City, Newark, Elizabeth, Rahway, and Trenton;  Baltimore, Maryland; and Washington, D.C.
    Abraham Lincoln was inaugurated as the 16th President of the United States on March 4, 1861.  He had been President for just over a month when the April 12, 1861 bombardment of Fort Sumter heralded the beginning of the worst crisis to ever face the nation or its chief executive.

In addition, the communities of Alton, Clinton, Jacksonville, Pittsfield, and Quincy have indicated they will participate, with a specific location to be determined.  As additional reading venues are made available to those who would like to take part in the world record attempt, those venues will be listed at http://extras.sj-r.com/r/depot.

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