Thursday, April 29, 2010

Columbus Ohio Remembers Abraham Lincoln

(Author's Note: For the past 15 days, I have been relating the story of the tragedy of Abraham Lincoln's assassination and his Funeral Train. On April 29, 1865 the city of Columbus, Ohio held the 8th funeral for President Lincoln as his remains lay in state in the rotunda of the Ohio Statehouse. Today is the 145th anniversary of the funeral, the story of which may be found in my previous post.)

Columbus, Ohio was honored to be one of the thirteen cities to host the remains of Abraham Lincoln when he lay in state in the rotunda of the Ohio Statehouse building on April 29, 1865. Roughly 50,000 mourners paid their respects in seven hours that day 145 years ago today.

Beginning in 2001, an annual re-enactment of Lincoln's repose in the Ohio Capitol has been held on April 29th, the anniversary of the funeral. The re-enactment is held to commemorate the historic event as well as to honor the memory of the nation's 16th president.

I travelled today to Columbus, about two hours from my home, so I could attend the re-enactment for the first time. The photos accompanying this post are ones I took myself at the ceremony.

During the actual funeral held in 1865, Union soldiers stood guard at the casket, one at each end of the catafalque. Every 30 minutes that day, a changing of the guard took place. Today's ceremony featured re-enactors from the 1st Ohio Light Artillery, Battery A, who recreated the scene. Like the real soldiers from long ago, the re-enactors stood at attention for 30 minutes, at which time a changing of the guard ceremony occurred for the next shift.

Today's event at the Statehouse also featured a female re-enactor who represented the thousands of mourners. Dressed completely in black, with a veil obscuring her face, the woman carried a sprig of lilacs, the flowers so closely and memorably associated with Lincoln's death. The photo below shows the woman mourner along with the soldiers at attention:


Mr. Gary Kearsey presented an informative lecture today about the Lincoln funeral obsequies in Columbus and about the Lincoln Funeral Train in general. It was heartening to see that close to 100 people attended the lecture, including many children. There were many questions from the young people especially, which shows to me that interest in Abraham Lincoln is not waning.

Lincoln visited the Statehouse a total of three times, including his funeral. In September 1859, a then mostly unknown Lincoln spoke to just fifty people at the Statehouse about the issue of slavery. A beautiful plaque marks the location in the building where Lincoln stood that day. The picture below shows the plaque.


Lincoln's next visit to Columbus and the Statehouse took place during his inaugural trip from Springfield to Washington as President-Elect. He addressed a joint session of the Ohio General Assembly (as the Ohio legislature is called) on February 13, 1861, discussing in generalities the policies he would pursue as president. After speaking to the Assembly, Lincoln later addressed members of the general public. It was there on the steps of the Ohio Statehouse that he found out that he had been officially elected President by the electoral college.

Abraham Lincoln's presence is felt throughout the Ohio Statehouse. Elsewhere in the rotunda is a magnificent sculpture which commemorates Lincoln and the Union victory at Vicksburg, Mississippi on July 4, 1863. When he heard the news that Vicksburg had finally fallen, thus opening the Mississippi River to Union control, Lincoln wrote one of his most beautiful sentences in his announcement to the nation: "The Father Of Waters again goes unvexed to the sea."

Today that sculpture was draped in mourning as can be seen in the photo below:


I found today's commemoration of Abraham Lincoln to be very interesting and quite moving. His funeral on April 29, 1865 is an important part of local, state, and national history. As a native Ohioan, I am proud that my state capital chooses to honor Mr. Lincoln in such a memorable way. I thank everyone involved for a wonderful experience.


1 comment:

Rebecca said...

Geoff,

Thanks for the post and the photographs! Sounds like a fun trip! It amazes me that there's still a lot of interest in Lincoln after 200 years since he was born. I guess it demonstrates what kind of impact he had on this country. It also is encouraging to me as a history buff that many people, especially kids, attended the lecture!

 
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