Lincoln's Watch Yields Hidden Message

By Harry Kimball,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 10, 2009 5:15 PM CDT
Visitors stop at the Lincoln Memorial.   (AP Photo)
camera-icon View 4 more images

(Newser) – A legend about a DC watchmaker who etched a secret message inside Abraham Lincoln’s pocket watch is true, the Washington Post reports. Smithsonian officials opened the watch today and found it amid the tiny gears: "Jonathan Dillon April 13, 1861. Fort Sumter was attacked by the rebels on the above date. Thank God we have a government." Sumter proved to be the opening battle of the Civil War, and Dillon happened to be working on the watch that day.

The great-great-grandson of Dillon alerted the Smithsonian about the story last month after reading an old newspaper article about his ancestor. It's not quite what the watchmaker told the Times in 1906—“The first gun is fired. Slavery is dead. Thank God we have a President who at least will try”—but close. “That's Lincoln's watch,” said Douglas Stiles, the descendant. “And my ancestor wrote graffiti on it!”