Wednesday, April 30, 2008
On April 29, 2008, the city of Columbus, Ohio held a recreation of its funeral for Abraham Lincoln. An exact replica of Lincoln's coffin was placed in the Ohio Statehouse, just as the original was on the same date in 1865. Civil War re-enactors stood guard over the replica to make the scene authentic to the original.
According to the article in today's Columbus Dispatch newspaper, more than 50,000 people filed through the Statehouse rotunda on April 29, 1865 to pay their respects to the fallen nation's leader. This was in just 6 1/2 hours of viewing, so the turnout was roughly 8,000 viewers per hour. Impressive, to be sure.
Columbus was just one location of many other cities which held public funerals and viewing for Abraham Lincoln. Massive displays were held in New York, Buffalo, Albany, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Indianapolis, and of course, Springfield, Illinois. A second Ohio city, Cleveland, was the only one which thought to hold the viewing outdoors, thus permitting an amazing 100,000 people there to pay their respects and gratitude. All told, it is estimated that 1 million people braved the elements to see Lincoln's body, attend funeral processions in the various cities, or silently watch his funeral train roll through the countryside. The nation hasn't had such massive turnouts for a fallen leader since. The customs established at these various funerals for Lincoln have since been used in services for John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, and others.
An excellent resource for learning more about the Lincoln assassination and the numerous funerals held for him is the classic book "Twenty Days" originally published in 1965 for the centennial of the assassination. The book, written by Dorothy Meserve Kunhardt and Philip B. Kunhardt, Jr., is a step-by-step account of the assassination, the killing of John Wilkes Booth, and fascinating photos of the funerals in the different cities. It's a must-have book for any Lincoln buff.
Another outstanding source of information about the Lincoln funeral train and it's stops along the way may be found at this webpage, part of the wonderful Abraham Lincoln Research Site. This particular page contains detailed route information of Lincoln's funeral train, the dates in each city the funerals were held, and so on. It also contains a copy of an original photo of the actual funeral procession held on April 29, 1865 in Columbus, Ohio.
Posted by Geoff Elliott at 9:46 AM