Operative Barkley in Washington

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The Pinks:

The First Women Detectives, Operatives, and Spies with the Pinkerton National Detective Agency

President-elect Abraham Lincoln showed no sign of being nervous or apprehensive about the late night ride Pinkerton operatives arranged for him to take on February 23, 1861. Kate Warne noted in her records of the events surrounding Mr. Lincoln leaving Pennsylvania that he was cooperative and congenial.

When the politician arrived at the depot in Baltimore with his colleagues and confidants, Ward Hill Lamon and Allan Pinkerton, he was focused and quiet. He was stooped over and leaning on Pinkerton’s arm. The posture helped disguise his height, and when Kate greeted with a slight hug and called him “brother,” no one outside the small group thought anything of the exchange. For all anyone knew, Kate and Mr. Lincoln were siblings embarking on a trip together. Neither the porter nor the train’s brakeman noticed Mr. Lincoln as the president-elect. Kate made it clear to the limited, railroad staff on board that her brother was not well and in need of solitude.

It took a mere two minutes from the time the distinguished orator reached the depot until he and his companions were comfortably on board the special train. The conductor was instructed to leave the station only after he was handed a package Pinkerton had told him to expect. The conductor was informed the package contained important government documents that needed to be kept secret and delivered to Washington with “great haste.” In truth the documents were a bundle of newspapers wrapped and sealed.

The bell on the engine clanged, and the train lurched forward. The gas lamps in the sleeping berths in Mr. Lincoln’s car were not lit, and the shades were pulled. Kate and Pinkerton agreed it would be best to prevent curious passengers waiting at various stops from seeing in and possibly recognizing the president-elect. No one spoke as the train slowly pulled away from the station. All hoped the journey would be uneventful and were hesitant to make a sound for fear any conversation might jeopardize what had been done to get Mr. Lincoln to this point. It was Mr. Lincoln who broke the silence with an amusing story he had shared with Pennsylvania governor Andrew Curtain the previous evening.

“I used to know an old farmer out in Illinois,” Mr. Lincoln told the three around him. “He took it into his head to venture into raising hogs. So he sent out to Europe and imported the finest breed of hogs that he could buy. The prize hog was put in a pen and the farmer’s two mischievous boys, James and John, were told to be sure not to let it out. But James let the brute out the very next day. The hog went straight for the boys and drove John up a tree. Then it went for the seat of James’ trousers and the only way the boy could save himself was by holding onto the porker’s tail. The hog would not give up his hunt or the boy his hold. After they had made a good many circles around the tree, the boy’s courage began to give out, and he shouted to his brother: ‘I say, John, come down quick and help me let go of this hog.’

Mr. Lincoln’s traveling companions smiled politely and stifled a chuckle. Had the circumstances been different, perhaps they would have laughed aloud. Undaunted by the trio’s subdued response, the president-elect continued to regale them with amusing tales of the people he’d met and experiences they shared. The train gained speed and soon Philadelphia was disappearing behind them.

The Pinks

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To learn more about Kate Warne, the cases she worked, and the other

women Pinkerton agents read

The Pinks:

The First Women Detectives, Operatives, and Spies with the Pinkerton National Detective Agency