(Author's Note: This post is the third in a series of blog articles I began on April 14, 2010, documenting the assassination, death, and final journey to Springfield of Abraham Lincoln, the nation's 16th president. In the first, I described the assassination at Ford's Theater on the night of April 14, 1865. The second documented his death early the following morning. This post describes the funeral and procession held in Washington, D.C. on April 19, 1865.)
In April 1865, approximately 75,000 people inhabited Washington, D.C. Now with the tragic assassination of Abraham Lincoln just days before, at least 25,000 (some estimates had it as much as 100,000) more people poured into the city in order to catch a glimpse of the martyred president. A grand funeral display, the likes of which had never been witnessed in the United States, was to be held on Wednesday, April 19, 1865, 145 years ago today. Hotels overflowed capacity, so much so that it's estimated that 6,000 people slept on the floor in the lobbies. People arrived by train, wagon, carriage, and any other possible means of transportation in order to pay their respects.
The previous day of April 18 saw Lincoln's body lying in state on a huge catafalque in the East Room of The White House. The catafalque towered over the floor to a height of nearly eleven feet. Armed soldiers stood guard at each corner, honoring their fallen commander-in-chief. At 9:30 that morning, the doors to The White House were open for the public to file past the remains. The line quickly grew to one mile in length, with 6 or 7 people abreast. As the visitors would approach, the guards directed them to two single-file lines so they could file past the coffin. Lincoln's body was partially visible, his face fixed in a partial smile, his dark features made a sickening gray by the embalmers make-up. Keeping in the custom of the day, loud sobs were heard as that was the proper way to display grief. The crowd continued filing in until the doors were closed to the public at 5:30 p.m. so special visitors, such as wounded soldiers, could attend.
Lincoln's coffin was transported to the funeral hearse, which I've shown above. It was pulled by six gray horses along the mile and half journey to the Capitol. The hearse was topped by a golden eagle. Behind the hearse was a riderless horse with reversed boots in the stirrups depicting the fallen leader. Following the hearse were carriages, one each for Robert and his brother Tad, while others were for cousins, brothers-in-law, and Lincoln's two private secretaries.