Friday, April 30, 2010

Lincoln's Indianapolis Farewell

(Author's Note: This post continues the series I've been writing since April 14, 2010, marking the 145th anniversary of the Lincoln assassination and Funeral Train journey from Washington to Springfield. In all, thirteen cities held funerals for President Lincoln, including the capital of Indiana, Indianapolis. Indianapolis got its chance to pay former Indiana farm-boy Lincoln a final farewell 145 years ago today, April 30, 1865.)

The journey from Columbus, Ohio to Indianapolis, Indiana took the Lincoln Funeral Train almost eleven hours to complete, from 8:00 p.m. April 29, 1865 until 7:00 a.m. the following day. As Abraham Lincoln's remains drew closer to home, the train slowed to just 5 m.p.h. as it passed stations, thus giving mourners a better opportunity to see the train for a longer period of time. Even in the middle of the night, thousands of people crowded into the small towns in western Ohio. Three thousand waited in Urbana, Ohio. Five thousand welcomed Lincoln back to Indiana in Richmond, at 2:00 a.m. on April 30. Temporary arches were built over the tracks on the way to Indianapolis, bearing portraits of Lincoln, Grant, and other great Union generals.

It had been raining all night and it was no different when the Funeral Train arrived in Indianapolis. Indeed, it was raining so heavily that the majestic funeral procession which had been planned by the city had to be canceled. Instead the coffin was placed on a magnificent hearse, trimmed in the now-typical silver and black ornate decorations, and pulled by eight white horses directly to the State Capitol. Six of these same horses, and the hearse driver, had transported Lincoln four years earlier to the capitol building on his inaugural trip to Washington.

The photo at the beginning of this post shows the capitol in the background, wrapped in black mourning cloth and ribbons. A strange structure at the entrance to the ground is visible in the photo, and no one really knows why it was constructed. It was neither arch, nor tunnel. Inside it had numerous displays of Lincoln's life, yet it struck mourners as unnecessary and even distracting from the majesty of the capitol.

The president's casket was placed on yet another catafalque and the lid opened once again to display the remains. By now, people in the Southern states criticized the northern cities heavily for the "morbid and morose" display of a dead body. which they interpreted as punishment for the Civil War. Northerners, on the other hand, simply couldn't get enough as had been seen in the previous eight cities to hold funerals for Lincoln.

Indianapolis was no different. The first group of mourners to file past Lincoln that day were 5,000 children, all members of various Sunday schools. Bringing up the rear were hundreds of African-Americans, clutching copies of the Emancipation Proclamation. By the time those final mourners had paid their respects, an estimated 100,000 people had visited Lincoln's repose in the state capitol. As in Columbus, Ohio most of the mourning displays were left inside for an additional few days or weeks so people who had missed the laying-in-state could still view the general appearance of what it had been like.

It was in Indiana, of course, where Abraham Lincoln spent his formative years. He and his family moved to Spencer County in 1816, when he was only seven years old. He grew into a man while living there until 1830, when his family moved further west to Illinois. Lincoln himself fondly remembered his years in Indiana, stating in his autobiographical sketch that "there I grew up."

The first photo below shows a close-up of the hearse used to transport Lincoln's remains in Indianapolis. The second photo might be a "re-creation" of the funeral procession which never happened. Photographers who had been disappointed on April 30, 1865 arranged for the same hearse and horses for this photo, but the coffin on the hearse is a replica. The photo was apparently taken on May 1, 1865 in downtown Indianapolis.




Now close to midnight of April 30, 1865, the Indiana capital bid former Hoosier Abraham Lincoln a final farewell, as the Funeral Train sounded its whistle, slowly pulling away from the station. It's next scheduled destination was Chicago, as Illinois prepared to welcome its most famous citizen back home. But first, an unexpected delay occurred in a small Indiana city, which then held an unscheduled funeral. That will be the subject of my next post.

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.


Columbus Ohio Bids Lincoln Farewell

(Author's Note: This post is the latest in a series I began on April 14, 2010 documenting the assassination and death of Abraham Lincoln. Thirteen cities held massive funerals for the fallen president, 145 years ago this year. Today's post describes the events in the state capital of Ohio, the city of Columbus, on April 29, 1865.)

It was still raining in Ohio as The Lincoln Funeral Train made its way from the shores of Lake Erie in Cleveland to the center of the state in Columbus. Determined mourners still lined the tracks along the way, bearing torches in spite of the sometimes heavy showers. Some had travelled many miles simply to catch a quick glimpse of the train carrying the dead president.

The train arrived in Columbus at 7:30 a.m. on April 29, 1865, 145 years ago today. Pulling into the depot which was on that city's High Street, people swarmed around the Funeral Car and other cars so much that authorities finally had to clear the people away for their own protection in case the train would lurch.

Lincoln's coffin was removed and yet another funeral procession began. By then the rain had stopped and the sun shone beautifully for the ceremonies. It wound from High Street to Broad and through the business district as it made its way to the Ohio State House, where Lincoln would lay in state. The image above is a print of how the procession appeared that morning.

Columbus, like Cleveland, had chosen a pagoda-like structure for Lincoln's remains. The seventeen-foot long structure carrying the president's coffin was draped in black, and had a somewhat redundant "LINCOLN" along the sides in silver, as if the people wouldn't know who was being honored. The hearse was pulled by white horses and followed by soldiers, bands, and the ordinary people as in the other cities. Below is a real photo image of the the hearse being pulled by the matched horses.



People who attended the services and viewing of Lincoln that day remembered it as a funeral of flowers. They were everywhere. People threw roses in the street. Injured soldiers threw hundreds of lilac blooms on the streets so the hearse's wheels would crush them, causing the strong smell to waft along the route. The official mourners who had accompanied the train since it departed Washington were sickeningly reminded of the scent of lilacs in Washington. Through the remainder of their lives, they would relive the horrors of the assassination and funerals whenever they smelled that sweet fragrance. The memories of lilacs and Lincoln's various funerals were so powerful that the poet Walt Whitman wrote "When Lilacs Last In The Dooryard Bloom'd" to commemorate the assassination.

Unlike the other cities, Columbus chose a simple catafalque for placing the coffin upon. It had no columns and didn't tower over the setting at the rotunda. It was covered with still more flowers and moss in order to cushion the remains. The photo below is of the catafalque as it appeared that day.



People filed past, as many as possible, until the official funeral was held late in the afternoon. By the start of the official services, approximately 50,000 people had walked past the casket.

The funeral ended late in the afternoon that day and Lincoln's casket was returned to the Funeral Train by 6:00 p.m. The next stop was Indianapolis as Indiana prepared to sadly say goodbye to the man who spent his formative years living in the southern part of that state.

The flowers which adorned the platform on which Lincoln's casket rested were auctioned to the public at the request of the organization which had donated them, the Cincinnati Horticultural Society, The proceeds were given to the Ladies Aid Society of Columbus, who used the money for relief for families of soldiers and sailors. Some good had come out of the tragedy at last.

That's not the end of the story in Columbus. So many thousands of visitors had not had a chance to pay their respects that the catafalque was replenished with flowers, so people could still see how things appeared in those brief hours the president lay in state. The Ohio capitol rotunda remained thus for visitors until May 4, 1865, when Springfield, Illinois held the final funeral for Abraham Lincoln.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Cleveland's Unique Funeral For Lincoln

(Author's Note: This year marks the 145th anniversary of the death of Abraham Lincoln at the hands of John Wilkes Booth, on April 15, 1865. Thirteen American cities staged funerals for Mr. Lincoln on his way from Washington to his final destination of Springfield. Cleveland, Ohio got its chance to honor the remains of the martyred president 145 years ago today, April 28, 1865. Here is the story of that day)

The Lincoln Funeral Train and its precious cargo left Buffalo at approximately 10:00 p.m. on April 27, 1865 and arrived in Cleveland, Ohio at 7:00 a.m. on Friday April 28., where the next funeral for the late president was to be held. A thirty-six gun salute (one for every state in the Union at that time, including the "Confederate" states) fired as the train arrived. It had been just one week since the train had departed Washington, D.C. Funerals had since then been held in Baltimore, Harrisburg, Philadelphia, New York, Albany, and Buffalo.

Along the way that night, the train passed through towns bordering Lake Erie. The town of Erie, Pennsylvania had been reached at 3:00 a.m. April 28, where city leaders had been mislead by the train officials into believing that no stops would be made between Buffalo and Cleveland. Erie officials hurriedly arranged a few dignitaries and a small torchlight gathering was held in honor of Lincoln, but it was far less special than they would have preferred.

Lincoln's Funeral Train arrived at the Euclid Avenue Station at 79th Street, the same station Lincoln as president-elect had come to on his triumphal inaugural trip barely four years earlier. In that visit to Cleveland, Lincoln had spoken to people huddled in a steady rain on that February 1860 day, telling them that the disaffected people of the South were creating an "artificial" crisis, that slavery was still protected. In essence, Lincoln said that day, the government had done nothing to interfere with their rights to hold slaves there those rights already existed.

Now Abraham Lincoln had returned in death. His coffin was slowly removed from the Funeral Car as a crowd gathered in silence to witness history being made, albeit tragic history. A woman dressed in horizontal stripes of red, white, and blue held an American flag trimmed in black. Bells rang as in the other cities, bands played mournful hymns, and tears flowed freely.

After a short time at the station, the funeral procession got under way. It was raining that late April day in Cleveland, which is no surprise to those of us who live in northern Ohio. The rain matched the mood of the mourners, for it seemed that Heaven itself was crying. A positive about the rain was that it held down the dust in the streets during the procession, and the crowds could see the hearse, soldiers, and other marchers quite clearly. In the previous cities, the processions had been greatly obscured by huge clouds of dust.

The remains of Abraham Lincoln were taken to Cleveland's Public Square (still in existence) where placed under a structure which strangely resembled a Chinese pagoda. It was an odd choice for a man who had never left the United States, but somehow, it worked. The image I've provided at the beginning of the post shows the pagoda and the team of horses still hitched to the hearse, containing the coffin. Below is another image of the pagoda-like funeral structure.



Cleveland had thought of something no other city along the funeral route had considered. By holding Lincoln's viewing outdoors, there was essentially no limit to the number of people who could file past the coffin. All the other cities had selected the largest possible building to hold Lincoln, which restricted the mourners in those locations, leaving thousands disappointed. Cleveland , on the other hand, saw 180 people a minute file past in double lines on each side of the coffin, or 10,000 per hour. In the fifteen hours Cleveland was allotted, an incredible 150,000 people were able to pay their last respects. By contrast, New York City could achieve only 80 persons a minute.

The steady rain turned into torrential downpours as the massive crowds waited in line. As in Buffalo, and unlike Philadelphia, the crowds were orderly and mannerly, and no major incidents were reported. Viewing continued until 11:00 p.m. that night, when the remains of Abraham Lincoln were once again place on the waiting Funeral Train.

There was still another night run ahead, with the next destination Columbus, the state capital of Ohio. The funeral in that city will be the subject of my next post.

Robert Redford's Film "The Conspirator"

I'm briefly interrupting the series about the Lincoln assassination and ensuing Funeral Train journey to inform my readers about a story in the April 28, 2010 edition of USA Today. The "Life" section of the paper features a "first look" at Robert Redford's upcoming film about Mary Surratt, convicted of conspiring with John Wilkes Booth to assassinate Abraham Lincoln. Surratt was the first woman ever executed by the U.S. Government, hanged for her crime nearly 145 years ago on July 7, 1865.

Surratt ran a boarding house in Washington, D.C. in which her son John lived along with her daughter Anna, as well as various boarders. The home was the scene of numerous meetings of Lincoln conspirators, including Booth, David Herold, Lewis Payne, and her son. It was to her house where Payne returned and was captured after he nearly killed Secretary of State William H. Seward on the same night that Lincoln was shot. Mrs. Surratt was arrested primarily due to her home being the site of the conspirator meetings, but also because she had guns waiting for Booth at a tavern she owned in Surrattsville, Maryland.

The film, The Conspirator, tells the story of Mrs. Surratt's arrest, trial by a military tribunal (all the conspirators were tried by it and not by a civilian court), and eventual execution. The assassination itself serves only as a "setup" to the main subject of the film. Redford directs, but does not star in the movie. Robin Wright stars as Surratt, while her lawyer is portrayed by James McAvoy.

Redford is briefly interviewed in the article (which features an additional five photos at the link which I provided) and quite accurately states that there are still questions surrounding Surratt's involvement in the conspiracy. To this day, some claim she was not as entwined in the conspiracy as the government claimed, while others claim she was far more involved than investigators realized at the time. Many people in 1865 felt that she should not have been executed, no matter her guilt.

The Conspirator is at this point an independent film which has not yet found backing from a studio. There is no release date. Let's hope that changes, because the story of Mary Surratt is compelling even today.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Lincoln's Funeral In Buffalo, New York

(Author's Note: This posting continues my series about the assassination, death, and ensuing funerals for Abraham Lincoln in thirteen American cities. This year marks the 145th anniversary of one of the most tragic episodes in our nation's history.)

The Lincoln Funeral Train slowly pulled out of the station at Albany, New York late in the afternoon of April 26, 1865. It would take the train fifteen hours to reach the next funeral city, Buffalo, New York. Along the train route, as along all the others, mourners lined the tracks, holding banners and signs, singing hymns, knelt in prayer. Twenty-five thousand people waited in Utica in pouring rain. In Syracuse, not reached until around midnight, at least thirty-five thousand stood to pay their respects as the train passed through. Former President Millard Fillmore (the 13th president) boarded the train in Batavia at 5:00 a.m. on April 27 and rode the rest of the way on the train to Buffalo.

The funeral which was held for Abraham Lincoln on April 27, 1865 was actually the second one the city staged. On the very day of the state funeral in Washington, D.C. (April 19), Buffalo held a mock funeral, it's citizens feeling that attending church services was simply not enough to express their grief. They built a catafalque, held a large procession, gave prayers. All that was missing that day in Buffalo were the remains of Lincoln. The citizenry were stunned, then, to find out that their city on Lake Erie had been selected to hold an actual funeral!

Somehow, though, there seemed to be a bit of a letdown when the real ceremonies began once the Funeral Train arrived at 7:00 a.m. that day of the 27th. The same catafalque and hearse were used, the same order of the procession was staged, even the same hymns and music played. Massive crowds still swarmed the streets. (In the image above, you can see the crowd surrounding the hearse which is visible toward the left side, it's canopy high above the people.)

At the same time, however, the crowds were so well-behaved and so silent, that many observers who had attended the previous funerals felt that the grief was not as palpable as in Philadelphia, where a near riot broke out. Looking back, though, perhaps it simply means that Buffalo citizens were better behaved than those in Philadelphia.

Lincoln's casket was placed in St. Jame's Hall, tilted at an angle so people could better view his face. Nearly 100,000 mourners filed past the coffin until 8:00 p.m. until the doors were closed. Through it all, not one disturbance was recorded by the police.

Among the mourners paying their respects 145 years ago today in Buffalo was a young man of 28 who would go on to achieve some measure of fame later in his life. His name was Stephen Grover Cleveland, better known by his middle name. He would go on to become county sheriff, Mayor of Buffalo, Governor of New York, and most importantly, the 22nd and 24th President Of The United States. He is still the only president who served two non-consecutive terms.

The Lincoln Funeral Train departed Buffalo at approximately 10:00 p.m. for another night run to the next city to be selected to hold an official funeral for Lincoln. That city was Cleveland, Ohio, the subject of my next post.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Lincoln's Funeral At Albany

(Author's Note: By April 26, 1865 five cities had already held funerals for the assassinated Abraham Lincoln. Washington, Baltimore, Harrisburg, Philadelphia, and New York had honored the late president with prayers, hymns, and processions. Between the cities, tens of thousands of mourners lined the tracks, simply to doff their hats or kneel in prayer as the Funeral Train passed by. Albany, New York was the next city to hold services for the martyred president, 145 years ago today.)

The Funeral Train of Abraham Lincoln arrived in Albany, New York (that state's capital) at around 11:00 p.m. on the night of April 25, 1865. It had traveled that day from New York City, where a stunning procession which took almost four hours to complete had taken place just nine hours earlier. Upon arrival in Albany (actually East Albany), the coffin was transported across the Hudson to Albany proper where it was taken to the capitol.

Like New York City, Albany had hosted Abraham Lincoln four years before on his inaugural trip to Washington. He had spoken on February 18, 1861 to a joint session of the New York legislature in the capitol building, thanking the politicians for their support, expressing hope that the sectional crisis would be solved by "cooler heads." Now but a few feet where he had spoken that day full of hope, the remains of Abraham Lincoln lay in state.

The Funeral Train had taken longer than expected to bring the fallen president from New York to Albany. In small towns and big, mourners lined the tracks by the thousands in order to see the train and to pay their respects. Towns such as Peekskill fired cannons while the train halted there. Men lined up and simultaneously raised their hats in respect in other towns as the train passed. Near West Point, uniformed Army cadets, many with tears in their eyes, boarded the Funeral Car and filed silently past to honor their late commander-in-chief. As daylight gave way to darkness, bonfires, torches, and other illuminations lit the way for the train. The engineers were so moved that the train slowed or stopped far more often than planned, so that the people could say goodbye to Mr. Lincoln.

Once the coffin was placed in the state capitol rotunda, the doors were opened to the public at the early hour of 1:15 a.m. on April 26. Mourners filed past at a rate of about 60 per minute. They continued through the entire night, past dawn, and until the capitol doors were closed at 1:30 p.m. Even then, the line of mourners hoping to see Lincoln's remains was at least one mile long, disappointing many thousands.

The procession was not as majestic as that in New York or Washington, of course, because Albany was a far smaller city than those. But it was still special. In this procession, the specially built hearse was pulled by six white horses. Every other participant, the requisite officials, governor, bands, and so on walked behind the hearse. There were no carriages, banners, or portraits of Lincoln present. The 250-300 mourners who had been riding The Funeral Train chose not to participate in this procession as by then they were exhausted emotionally and physically, and had stayed in a hotel for the night, paid for by the city. They re-boarded the Funeral Train at the depot for the 4:00 p.m. departure to the next funeral city, Buffalo, New York.

The image above shows one of two American flags which flew from the engine which pulled The Funeral Train from Albany to Utica, New York the day of the Albany services. It is housed in the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History in Washington. I couldn't find any photos of the procession in Albany.

April 26, 1865 also brought some joyful news when for twelve long dark days only grief and horror had filled the papers. Secretary of War Edwin Stanton announced that day that Abraham Lincoln's assassin, John Wilkes Booth, had been cornered and shot to death in Virginia early that morning. The hunt for the most notorious murderer in U.S. history was, at long last, over.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Lincoln's Funeral In New York

(Author's Note: For the past twelve days, I've been publishing a series of posts marking the 145th anniversary of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. His death on April 15, 1865 plunged the nation, already stricken by the horrors of a war which had cost 600,000 lives, into a new spasm of grief as it mourned the president. The national spectacle which followed as thirteen cities hosted funerals for Lincoln has never been repeated. New York City had its chance to pay its respects to Abraham Lincoln 145 years ago today, on April 25, 1865.)

Abraham Lincoln was no stranger to the city of New York. It was the scene of his dramatic "right makes might" speech at Cooper Union on February 27, 1860, a speech which Lincoln himself later said made him president. On his inaugural trip to Washington, D.C. as president-elect, Lincoln spent two more days in New York on February 19-20, 1861 as he addressed crowds about the developing secession crisis. New York newspaper editors, such as Horace Greeley ("Go West young man") exerted their powerful influence on Lincoln during his presidency, especially when an editorial demanding the end of slavery resulted in a personal letter from the president. Now New York City would play host to the president's remains on April 24 and 25, 1865 as it put on a display of mourning rivaled only by that of Washington, D.C.

The Lincoln Funeral Train had departed in the early morning hours on April 24 from Philadelphia on its way to the nation's largest city, New York. The train entered New Jersey and pulled into the station at Trenton, the state capital, at dawn. City leaders and residents were a bit hurt because Trenton was the only state capital which was not honored with the opportunity to host a grand funeral service for the president. They had to make do with a brief 30 minute stop as people got as close as they could to get a glimpse of the coffin in the Funeral Car. There was a schedule to keep and New York was waiting.

The train arrived in Jersey City, New Jersey at around 10:00 a.m. where it was greeted by a large crowd. The depot's large clock did not read the current time, but instead had been fixed to 7:22 a.m., the moment of Lincoln's death nine days earlier. There on the shore of the Hudson River, Lincoln's casket was placed onto a small hearse and transported across to New York. Following in a second ferry was the Funeral Car itself, still containing the coffin of Willie. Ships in the river at the time tolled their bells as their crews lined at attention.

The ferry arrived on the New York shore to be met by that state's famed Seventh Regiment, which had been among the first troops to arrive in the nation's capital for the defense of Washington. Now they were to escort their fallen commander-in-chief's remains to City Hall, where he would lay in state.

New York's City Hall was covered in black mourning while flags flew at half-mast. Over the entrance to the building, the words "THE NATION MOURNS" appeared in giant white letters placed on a backdrop of black. The image below shows how the building appeared that day, April 24, 1865, just after Lincoln's body had been taken inside to be placed in the rotunda.



It was in the rotunda of New York City Hall where the only known photo of Abraham Lincoln in death was taken. The photo, which is shown at the beginning of this post, shows Lincoln in the casket, while an admiral and general pose at opposite ends. It was taken by a New York photographer, who stood in a high section of the balcony at the opposite end of the rotunda. When Secretary of War Edwin Stanton heard that such a photo had been taken, he was furious and ordered all the plates of it destroyed. Pleas from New York to preserve the scene for posterity went unheeded and eventually the plates were destroyed. However, a single print was sent to the Secretary to show him how dignified the photo was. Stanton fortunately kept the print in his papers, where it was discovered by his son twenty-two years later. Ultimately, the print found its way to the Illinois State Historical Library, where a young Lincoln enthusiast discovered the photo in 1952.

Lincoln's remains were displayed at New York City Hall for the remainder of the day and night on April 24. The coffin was placed at an angle, so people approaching on the staircase leading to the rotunda could see his face all the way up. However, the approach to the staircase was so narrow and dark that just 80 people per minute could file past the remains while a crowd of at least 500,000 waited outside under brilliantly sunny skies. It was a poorly conceived decision by the city fathers to host the president's remains in such cramped quarters. Countless thousands of mourners never got their chance to enter the building by the time it closed for the night.


New York's Funeral Procession April 25, 1865

The morning of April 25 dawned with mourners still lined up in desperate, if unrealistic, hope of passing by Lincoln's remains at City Hall before the removal of his casket for the grand funeral procession scheduled to get under way at 2:00 p.m. later that afternoon.

The funeral hearse for the procession was in a word, magnificent. People who saw it were awestruck at its beauty and size. It towered over the city streets and crowds below, measuring 14 feet long by 7 feet wide. It was topped by a "Temple of Liberty" while national flags rose in groups of three out of the four columns. From the roof of the canopy, a gilt eagle hung freely so it would be directly over the coffin. The hearse was so massive and heavy that sixteen matching gray horses would pull it along the procession route. The two images below are a real photo of the hearse as it appeared that day in 1865, and a print of how the horses and hearse appeared during the procession itself. You may click the images to see larger versions.




The funeral procession began on schedule at 2:00 p.m. It was led by mounted police, who were followed by high ranking generals and their staffs. The hearse was next, followed by approximately 11,000(!) soldiers marching to the sounds of muffled drumbeats. More representatives of foreign nations rode in the procession, their bright colors offering a marked contrast to the sea of black throughout the city. Union and trade groups, Masons, singing societies, various ethnic organizations and groups of children marched along. In addition to the 11,000 soldiers taking part, it's estimated that at least 75,000 other people marched in the procession. Indeed, it was so massive that the parade of mourners took nearly four hours to cross a particular point from beginning to end. There were 100 bands playing, cannons fired, and church bells throughout the city tolled while the procession seemingly lasted an eternity.

Among the throngs of people watching the funeral procession that April day in 1865 was a young boy only six years of age. He watched from his grandparents' home located close to Union Square. That child was Theodore Roosevelt, who in 1901 would become the 26th President of the United States upon the assassination of another president, William McKinley.

Perhaps the most pathetic group of marchers in the procession were 300 African-Americans who had to practically fight to be included in the wave of white faces. At first orders had come down from the mayor and city council that NO black people were to be permitted to take part in the procession, which would be almost unbelievable were it not sadly true. Originally, a contingent of 5,000 African-Americans had plan to take part until the orders from city hall came down. There was outrage among the population, for if Lincoln had worked so hard to achieve their freedom, they should surely be permitted to honor the man who freed them. Finally, a telegraph from Secretary of War Stanton arrived, ordering New York to allow the black mourners to march. But by then it was too late to organize such large numbers. In the end, there were only those 300 African-American people, and they had thoughtlessly been placed at the very tail of the procession.

Finally at around 4:00 p.m. that day of April 25, 1865, Abraham Lincoln left New York for the final time, even though his funeral procession would take nearly two more hours to complete. The next destination was the state capital of Albany, which waited to hold its own funeral for the 16th president. That will be the subject of my next post.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Lincoln Mourning Turns Violent In Philadelphia

(Author's Note: For more than one week, I've been commemorating the 145th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's assassination, one of the most tragic events in our history. For twenty long days, U.S. citizens poured into cities throughout the northern states to pay their final respects to the nation's martyred president. I've been writing posts to coincide with the particular anniversary of the assassination, death, and funerals along the long trip back to Springfield. Today's post discusses the funeral and ensuing bedlam in Philadelphia from April 22 to 23, 1865.)

Abraham Lincoln's Funeral Train entered Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on April 22, 1865 about two hours ahead of schedule. The journey from Harrisburg, the state capital, had occurred without incident. As in the previous cities paying their respects, cannon fire greeted the arrival of the train. Shops were closed that Saturday afternoon as huge crowds lined the tracks. Once the train pulled into Broad Street Station, things began to go terribly wrong.

For starters, it took nearly two hours before Lincoln's coffin was removed from the Funeral Car and placed onto the hearse for transport to the historic Independence Hall, where Lincoln would lay in state until the next day. Massive crowds of up to 500,000 people, nearly the entire population of Philadelphia, swarmed the streets in hopes of glimpsing the hearse carrying its precious cargo. The sun shone brilliantly in a cloudless sky, making the temperature rise along with those of the tempers in the crowds. The tempers would soon boil over.

The hearse was fabulous. Covered with black fringe, ornate silver work, draped in black mourning, and topped by black and white feathers, the hearse was quite striking in appearance. It was pulled by eight black horses, the most number of the animals to yet pull any of the Lincoln hearses. The funeral procession was equally magnificent, but did not get under way until after darkness had fallen. It was accompanied by eleven divisions of soldiers, to the sounds of yet more cannon fire, church bells tolling, and muffled drum beats. See the image above of an old stereoview card depicting the hearse and the huge crowds surrounding it.

Crowds thronged the streets, making it almost impossible for the procession to continue. Everyone in Philadelphia, it seemed, wanted to see the president and pay their respects. The procession didn't begin to approach Independence Square until nearly 8:00 p.m. As it passed the Old State House, a huge transparency (like a sign) was uncovered, revealing a picture of Lincoln and the words "He Lives" lit from behind. Finally the procession arrived at Independence Hall and Lincoln's coffin was placed in the room in which the Declaration of Independence had been signed.

Barely four years earlier in February 1861, Lincoln had spoken at the Hall while on his journey to Washington as president-elect. He told the crowd that day how the Declaration meant everything to him as an American, that its guarantee of an equal chance for all was the principle that held the nation together. But with words that now haunted everyone who remembered his speech that day, he had said: "...But if this country cannot be saved without giving up that principle....I would rather be assassinated on the spot than surrender it."

Unfortunately in Philadelphia that night of April 22, 1865, some elite and privileged citizens had more than an equal chance to see the president's remains first. Given special admittance cards by the mayor's office, the powerful citizens of Philadelphia were permitted to pay their respects to Lincoln from 10:00 p.m. until 1:00 a.m. the next morning. Philadelphia papers were harshly critical of this decision by the mayor, stating that the "Champion Of The People" would not have approved of admitting the privileged those first hours.

By the time the doors were opened to the general public at 5:00 a.m. on Sunday, April 23rd, the crowds were lined up for miles. Most of the people had been awake since the previous morning and emotions were on edge thanks to fatigue, grief, and impatience. Never missing on a chance to take advantage, common thieves began to work the crowd, picking pockets and causing panic throughout.

At that point, the crowd in some sections turned into a mob with people pushing beyond the guiding ropes which had been herding them into orderly lines. Then the ropes were cut and chaos took place as the police lost control of the situation. People who were at the front of the lines, which stretched for nearly three miles(!), were sent to the rear by officers, inflaming the situation. In the crush, ladies' hoop skirts were demolished, dresses literally torn off from other women, bonnets flew off of heads. Injuries reported included broken limbs, and countless people fainted from the commotion. Shrieks, screams, and yells were heard as police desperately tried to regain control of the crowds.

Finally, some semblance of order was restored and the Philadelphia mourners were given the opportunity to pay their respects until 1:00 a.m. Monday April 24. Police estimates ranged from 120,000 to as much as 300,000 citizens who filed past Lincoln's remains that day. Even at that early hour of the 24th of April, many thousands of people were still in line waiting to see the deceased president. Once Lincoln's remains were removed from Independence Hall at 2:30 a.m., the doors were once more re-opened and the remaining mourners were granted access to at least see the room where Lincoln had laid in state.

The procession back to the train station was subdued, but still accompanied by hundreds of mourners holding candles in the night air while funeral dirges were played by a band. The Lincoln Funeral Train departed Philadelphia the morning of April 24, 1865 at approximately 4:00 a.m.

The next stop was New York, which planned funeral ceremonies so grand that they would require a full two days. Even in those days, New York had to do every thing more grandly than the rest of the country. Those two days of solemn majesty will be the subject of my next posts.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Harrisburg Says Farewell To Lincoln

(Author's Note: This year marks the 145th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's assassination, death, and funerals held in various cities on the journey from Washington to Springfield. To remember this tragic event of American history, I'm writing a series of posts which marks each 145th anniversary of a particular event. I've already written about the assassination, Lincoln's death, Washington's majestic farewell, and Baltimore's rushed services. Today is the 145th anniversary of the funeral services held in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania on April 22, 1865.)

Horrible thunderstorms awaited the arrival of Abraham Lincoln's Funeral Train in Harrisburg, PA on the night of April 21, 1865. Wicked lightning and torrential downpours ruined plans for a solemn funeral procession for Lincoln's remains, but people still packed the station for the train, scheduled to arrive at 8:00 p.m. So many people waited that some later said they felt they would suffocate in the crowd.

Earlier that morning, Baltimore, Maryland had been given a scant four hours to bid goodbye to Lincoln, but Harrisburg was scheduled to host Lincoln's remains overnight at the state Capitol House of Representatives. The Funeral Train arrived in Harrisburg on schedule after an unscheduled stop in York (PA) after people in that town begged to be able to pay brief respects.

The thunder and lightning gave a surreal backdrop in Harrisburg to the bells tolling and cannons being fired throughout the city. As the coffin was placed on the hearse, the crowd from the station gathered in the pouring rain and walked behind Lincoln's remains as they were transported to the Capitol.

Harrisburg assured itself more time to allow its citizens to mourn than as the city leaders didn't want to face an angry crowd like those of Baltimore. At 9:30 p.m., the doors to the state House of Representatives were open and mourners were given access until midnight of April 21. An estimated 10,000 mourners filed past Lincoln's coffin, seated high on another catafalque.

The doors were re-opened again the next morning, April 22, at precisely 8:00 a.m. to give people yet one more chance to see Lincoln. The waiting Funeral Train, shown above at the Harrisburg station, had a schedule to keep and needed to depart at 11:00 a.m. for the next destination, Philadelphia. Bells tolled throughout Harrisburg again as guns fired salutes. At 9:30 a.m. Lincoln's remains were removed from the state Capitol and transported in a grand funeral procession back to the Funeral Train. Taking part in the procession were the Governor of Pennsylvania, drummers beating on their muffled drums, soldiers, and other dignitaries.

The train slowly departed Harrisburg slightly behind schedule at 11:30 a.m. that day as it began it's trip to Philadelphia. As it approached the city of Lancaster, the train slowed dramatically and nearly crawled past the depot. Waiting in the crowd was Lincoln's immediate predecessor, former President James Buchanan who had come to pay his respects. However, the train did not stop in Lancaster as it continued it's journey to Philadelphia.

The Philadelphia observances are the subject of the next post.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Mournful Journey To Springfield Begins

(Author's note: This year marks the 145th anniversary of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. To help commemorate this occasion, I have begun writing a series of posts which will mark the anniversary of the assassination, his death, and the journey of his remains from Washington to Springfield. Today is the 145th anniversary of the start of the long trip home to Springfield.)

The persons chosen to escort the body of Abraham Lincoln to the funeral train in Washington gathered early in the Capitol rotunda on the morning of April 21, 1865. In the crowd were new President Johnson; Lt. General Ulysses S. Grant and his staff; other high-ranking generals and admirals; the pall-bearers; and clergy members. After a brief prayer was said, twelve sergeants carried the casket to the waiting hearse for the short drive to the main depot of the Baltimore and Ohio railroad. There was no accompanying music or drum beats as the mourners quietly traveled to the depot.

The train depot was heavily guarded by a ring of soldiers and all approaches were blocked, with only authorized personnel permitted to enter. The waiting funeral train consisted of nine cars, all to be pulled buy a brand-new locomotive (steam-powered, of course). Also new were all the cars, each draped in heavy black mourning. The most elaborate car was of course reserved for Lincoln's remains. Pictured above, the car had been built a short time before in Alexandria, Virginia at the U.S. Military Railroad car shops. Designed for Lincoln's use while president, there is no indication that he had ever seen it, let alone use it. The car would forever be known from this point forward as The Lincoln Funeral Car as it transported the fallen leader to Springfield. (Unfortunately, the Lincoln Funeral Car no longer exists. It was lost in a fire in 1911 and only fragments of it remain.)

The Funeral Car had three main sections: a state room; dining room; and parlor. An aisle connected the dining room and parlor, but the state room (bedroom) was completely private. The outside of the car was brown with a carved eagle on each side (visible in the photo). By the standards of the day, the Funeral Car was extraordinary in its luxury. The woodwork was black walnut, tea sets were silver; and chandeliers dazzled. Now, the furniture was draped in black, the windows framed in mourning. Waiting Mr. Lincoln's arrival was a small coffin, carrying the body of his son Willie, who died in 1862. He had been removed from the cemetery in Washington to accompany his father back home. Lincoln's coffin was placed in the front of the car, with Willie's at the opposite end.

Lincoln's son Robert rode in the final car of the train, accompanied by Lincoln's personal secretaries, John Hay and John Nicolay. Other dignitaries such as governors, pall-bearers, mayors, the Honor Guard, and friends road in other cars, some riding as far as Springfield, others departing along the way. In all, about 250 people were on the train that morning.

At 8:00 a.m., the funeral train sounded its muffled bell and pulled away from the depot as the long and mournful journey back to Springfield began. Soldiers stood at attention and saluted as the train slowly departed.

The Arrival In Baltimore

Lincoln's Funeral Train arrived in Baltimore, Md. a short while later. The city which was so hostile to Abraham Lincoln barely four years earlier that he had to sneak through it on his way to his inaugural now welcomed the president's remains with open arms. Schools and businesses were closed as huge crowds swarmed the funeral route. A huge and impressive catafalque pulled by four matched horses awaited the coffin. As in Washington, soldiers were everywhere at attention. Gun salutes sounded throughout the city. When the train arrived, Lincoln's coffin was removed from the Funeral Car and placed on the catafalque. A solemn procession snaked through the city, ending at the Mercantile Exchange, where Lincoln's remains would be on display for a short time. Hymns were sung, bands played dirges, and prayers were offered.

The tight schedule for the Funeral Train allocated just four hours for Baltimore to pay its respects to Abraham Lincoln. After only 90 minutes, the doors were closed at the Exchange and Lincoln's coffin was removed and transported back to the train in order to meet the departure schedule. Thousands of mournful people lined the tracks while the train left for the next destination of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

In Baltimore, the many people who had not had a chance to file into the Mercantile Exchange to pay their respects to Lincoln asked for the building to be re-open. City leaders finally agreed, and mourners continued to file into the building to view the black funeral decorations, the flowers, and soldiers. Lincoln, though, was missing, which did not seem to bother the many who at least got to view the setting where he had been honored.

The description of the Funeral Train's arrival in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and associated funeral will be the subject of the next post as the series to commemorate Abraham Lincoln continues.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Washington Bids President Lincoln Farewell

(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.


The State Funeral April 19, 1865

Wednesday April 19, the day of the State Funeral, dawned with the sound of cannons firing from the forts ringing Washington. Church bells tolled continuously, along with firehouse bells. Enormous crowds began lining the funeral procession route along Pennsylvania Avenue.

The funeral was to be held in the East Room, with the official mourners limited to about 600 people. All the major branches of Christianity were represented by at least 60 clergy members, including the four officiants. The new President, Andrew Johnson stood close to the coffin along with members of the cabinet. Robert Todd Lincoln, the oldest son, sat at the foot of the coffin, flanked by his uncles. Lincoln's widow Mary and his youngest son, Tad, did not attend and remained in seclusion in the family quarters. At the head of the coffin, General Ulysses S. Grant sat quietly, with tears in his eyes. He later said of Lincoln, that he was "Incontestably the greatest man I ever knew."

Other dignitaries attending included governors from various Northern states; U.S. senators and congressmen; members of the foreign diplomatic corps; heads of government departments; and members of the press.

The funeral began at 12:10 p.m. that gloriously beautiful afternoon with the first of the four ministers intoning an Episcopal burial service. He was followed by the famous Methodist Bishop, Matthew Simpson, who compared Lincoln to Moses. According to all reports, everyone was in tears when Simpson had finished. Lincoln's pastor, Dr. Phineas Gurley of the Presbyterian Church on New York Avenue (where Lincoln occasionally attended services) gave the main funeral sermon. The services closed with the Chaplain Of The Senate reciting prayers.

Church services were held simultaneously across the United States and even some in Canada. It's estimated that around 25 million people were honoring Lincoln's life and memory while the State Funeral was taking place.

The Funeral Procession





Once the services in the East Room concluded, the mourners filed out while Lincoln's remains were prepared for the procession to the U.S. Capitol, where he would lay in state until April 21st.

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.

Following the carriages were approximately 40,000 people, including soldiers, former slaves, military bands playing dirges, and various members of trade unions.

The funeral procession was led, quite by accident, by the 22nd U.S. Colored Infantry. It had been trying to reach the procession when its way was blocked. When it finally found entrance to Pennsylvania Avenue, it somehow ended up at the front of the procession. Somehow, it seemed fitting.

The image at the beginning of this post is from the May 6, 1865 issue of Harper's Weekly, a leading paper of the time. It shows the hearse and the huge cortege in front of the procession, leading from The White House to the Capitol.

The funeral car didn't arrive at the Capitol until 3:30 p.m. After a few minutes struggle, eight soldiers carried the heavy coffin up the portico steps to the rotunda, where Lincoln would lay in state until the morning of April 21. The family, four clergymen, President Johnson, and General Grant were among the few who paid respects to Lincoln inside the Capitol that day.

The next day at 8:00 a.m., the doors were opened to the public, who once again streamed past to pay their last respects to Abraham Lincoln. Approximately 25, 000 more people viewed Lincoln's remains until the doors closed on April 20, 1865. The next day, April 21, would be the day Abraham Lincoln would forever leave Washington, beginning his long journey back to Springfield.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Death Of Abraham Lincoln

(Author's Note: Beginning on April 14, 2010 and continuing over the next several weeks, I'll be running a series of posts documenting the assassination, death, and ensuing funerals of Abraham Lincoln. This year marks the 145th anniversary of this tragic event. Please follow along as I recount one of the darkest times in U.S. history.)

Abraham Lincoln lay dying on a bed too small for his 6'4" frame in a boarding house he had never before visited. Just a few short hours before, on April 14, 1865, he had been watching Our American Cousin at Ford's Theater, accompanied by his wife Mary, and their young guests. At the very moment of the funniest line in the play, John Wilkes Booth entered the presidential box, aimed a .44 caliber Derringer at the back of Lincoln's head and fired.

The unconscious president had been carried across the street to the Petersen boarding house, because his attending doctors felt that he would not survive Washington's rough streets for the ride back to the Executive Mansion, as the White House was called in those days.

Now in the early morning hours of April 15, the doctors did what they could to comfort the dying president, who had been stripped of his clothing. They warmed Lincoln with hot water bottles and mustard plasters, and placed extra blankets on his body. They kept the head wound open from clots, for they had noticed that his breathing would be strained if the wound clotted.

Government officials entered the room throughout the night to pay their respects. Vice-President Andrew Johnson visited, but did not stay more than a few minutes. Senator Charles Sumner, a close friend of the Lincoln's, stayed much longer through the night. When he first arrived he sat beside Lincoln, and held his hand as he spoke softly to the president. Robert Todd Lincoln stood next to Sumner through the long night, weeping at times on Sumner's shoulder.

Mary Lincoln had arrived at the boarding house along with her husband and alternated between sitting by her husband and waiting in another room for the end. She plead with Lincoln to awaken, with the doctors to shoot her too, and expressed her wish that her younger son, Tad, might see his father before he died. Tad was never sent for as everyone else present agreed that it was not a good idea. At one point during her vigil, Lincoln's breathing became loud and labored, she screamed and fainted. With that, Secretary of War Edwin Stanton came back into the room and ordered Mrs. Lincoln removed and not be permitted to return. With that, she was removed and never again saw Lincoln while he was alive (nor when he was dead).

Stanton had been busy since the shooting essentially running the country. He interviewed witnesses, ordered a manhunt for the assassin to begin, telegraphed the horrible news to New York and Chicago police, asking them to send detectives. Through the night, he worked ceaselessly, occasionally breaking away from his efforts to stand by the president he had grown to almost love after detesting him in earlier years when they were both lawyers.

By 6:30 on the morning of April 15, 1865 the end was drawing near for Lincoln. His breathing was more labored and shallow, his pulse grew fainter. A prayer was offered by the Lincoln family pastor (Lincoln attended, but never officially joined any church).

Abraham Lincoln died at 7:22 a.m. as a gentle rain fell in Washington. When the end came, Stanton buried his face and wept for his president and friend. He then said the famous words "Now he belongs to the ages."

Upon Lincoln's death, Andrew Johnson was almost immediately sworn in as the 17th President of The United States. While Lincoln's body was prepared for transporting back to the White House, Mary and Robert Lincoln rode in a carriage back to there as well. As Mary saw Ford's Theater once more, she exclaimed "That dreadful house, oh that dreadful house!"

Lincoln's body left the Petersen house in a temporary coffin and was taken to the main guest room at the White House. There an autopsy was performed, and the bullet which changed the course of U.S. history was found. It had been flattened during its travel through Lincoln's brain and had come to a rest just behind his eye. Once the autopsy was complete, Lincoln's body was embalmed in preparation for what turned out to be not one, but twelve funerals to be held in cities from Washington to Springfield over the next few weeks. For those who are interested, you may find the autopsy report at this site of the National Library of Medicine.

The image I've included in this post is a reproduction of the only known photo taken of the Lincoln deathbed scene. It was taken just minutes after Lincoln's body had been removed. Yes, that is one of the blood-soaked pillows still present on the bed. The original photo, torn and fragmentary, was not discovered until 1961. It's striking how it shows the room and bed just as they were. A boarder at the Petersen house took the photo in order to record for posterity the horrors of the night.

Lincoln's remains would stay in Washington for nearly one more week while the capital prepared to say a huge farewell to the martyred leader. In my next post, I'll tell the story about the massive state funeral for Abraham Lincoln in Washington, and how the rest of the nation mourned. It's a fascinating story. I hope you'll join me.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Lincoln Assassination 145th Anniversary


(Author's note: This year marks the 145th anniversary of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Beginning today and continuing over the next few weeks, I'll be writing a series of blog posts which will commemorate Lincoln's assassination, his death, and his various funerals. Each post will be published on the 145th anniversary of that particular event. Please join me as together we remember Mr. Lincoln)

Abraham Lincoln, the nation's 16th President of The United States, was assassinated 145 years ago today, on April 14, 1865 at Ford's Theater in Washington, D.C. The assassination triggered an outpouring of grief and sorrow the likes of which the United States had never before seen and has rarely experienced since.

Lincoln's assassin was of course the young and famous American stage actor John Wilkes Booth. Booth hailed from Maryland, but considered himself to be a Southern man at heart, and supported the Confederacy. He had already plotted a somewhat outlandish plan to kidnap Lincoln, hustle him off to Richmond, Virginia, and hold him for ransom in exchange for Confederate troops held prisoner.

On April 11, 1865 Abraham Lincoln gave his final speech. As he stood on the White House balcony, Lincoln presented his plan to "reconstruct" or re-admit the rebellious states back to the Union. During that speech, Lincoln called for the right to vote for at least some of the former slaves, especially those who had fought for the Union cause.

John Wilkes Booth was in the crowd as Lincoln spoke that night. When he heard Lincoln mention voting rights for the former slaves, Booth decided at that point that he was going to murder the president of the United States.

On the morning of April 14, John Wilkes Booth went to Ford's Theater to collect his mail and chat with the owner. He learned at that point that the President and Mrs. Lincoln plus General and Mrs. Grant were attending a performance of Our American Cousin at Ford's that very evening. The perfect chance to kill Abraham Lincoln presented itself to Booth.

Booth essentially had complete access to Ford's Theater thanks to his fame. He went up to the presidential box through a small hallway, and quietly gouged a hole in the wall on the inside of the door which opened into the hall. He left a wooden bar in the hall, so he could prevent the door from opening while he approached Lincoln. After he was finished with his preparations, he convened his main co-conspirators to make final plans.

To Lewis Powell (also known as Lewis Payne), Booth assigned the duty of killing the Secretary of State, William H. Seward. George Atzerodt was given the assignment to kill the Vice-President. David Herold was to wait for Powell in order to escape as Herold knew Washington quite well. Booth, of course, gave himself the starring role in order to kill Lincoln.

The Lincolns and their young guests, Major Henry Rathbone and his fiancee, Clara Harris, arrived late at the theater that night, after the play had begun. (the Grants had cancelled their plans and instead left for a visit with their son). The play was interrupted and the song Hail To The Chief was played while the presidential party took their seats in the theater box.

John Wilkes Booth knew Our American Cousin quite well and planned his shooting of Lincoln for one of the funniest moments of the play, when the crowd was sure to be laughing loudly. At approximately 10:15 p.m., Booth quietly entered the hallway, barred the door into the hallway, and quietly waited for the line.

Abraham Lincoln was unguarded that night. He had always been lax about his own security and that evening was no different. One policeman, John Parker, had been assigned to guard Lincoln. For reasons which remain unclear to this day, Parker left his post outside the presidential box, leaving Lincoln without protection.

At precisely the moment of the line he had been waiting for ("You sockdologizing old man-trap"), Booth fired a single shot from his .44 caliber Derringer. Lincoln immediately slumped forward in the rocking chair, never to regain consciousness. Major Rathbone leaped to his feet to grab Booth, but the latter took out a dagger and cut the major deeply on the forearm.

Booth then vaulted from the box to the stage, approximately 12 feet below. He caught a spur on the Treasury flag draped on the box, and landed awkwardly, breaking a bone in his leg. Although the audience had erupted in mass confusion amid blood-curdling screams coming from Mrs. Lincoln, most people recalled Booth shouting "Sic Semper Tyrannis" (Thus Always To Tyrants), then as now the state motto of Virginia. Before anyone in the crowd could react, Booth escaped through the back door of the theater, and began a 12-day dash from his pursuers.

The first doctor to reach the unconscious Lincoln was Charles Leale, a young Army officer who had just been awarded his medical license two months previously. He was quickly joined by another doctor, Charles S. Taft. They quickly examined Lincoln, who was not breathing at the time. The doctors finally found the head wound, and immediately pronounced the wound mortal, with recovery impossible.

At this point, it was determined that the president needed to be removed from the theater, but to where? It was decided that Lincoln would not survive the several block journey back to the White House. As his unconscious form was taken down the theater stairs, it was still unclear just what was to be done with the president.

Just then a young man opened a window from the Petersen Boarding House and shouted "Bring him in here!" The house, directly across the street from Ford's Theater, became the place to where Abraham Lincoln was taken. When the group of people finally brought Lincoln to the small bedroom in the boarding house, it was discovered that Lincoln was too tall (or long) for the bed. So he was placed diagonally on his deathbed.

While all of this was going on, Lewis Powell stormed into the Secretary of State's home, and nearly succeeded in stabbing William H. Seward to death with vicious slashes. It was due only to Seward wearing a neck brace from a serious carriage accident days before that he lived, the brace deflecting the knife. Powell also seriously wounded Seward's son and stabbed and punched others in the Secretary's home. Powell escaped into the Washington darkness.

Chaos reigned throughout Washington. Secretary of War Edwin Stanton assumed the authority of the government. Throughout the long night, he interviewed witnesses, telegraphed police officials in New York, ordered possible escape routes and bridges closed in Washington, and controlled the visitors to the president. It was almost a super-human effort on Stanton's part, for he had a pathological fear of death. The planned attack on Vice-President Johnson never materialized and he appeared at Lincoln's bedside, but it was Stanton who ran the government that night, and for many days after.

Thus began one of the most calamitous periods in American history. At long last, the nation's bloodiest war (and it remains thus) was drawing to a close. Celebrations which had been taking place in Washington and throughout the Northern states gave way to the horror of the assassination of the nation's leader at the moment of the long-awaited triumph.

The death watch for Abraham Lincoln began late on the night of April 14, 1865, 145 years ago tonight.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Exhibition Review: "With Malice Toward None: The Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Exhibition

Although the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial era is now drawing to a close, there are still major exhibitions about him going on throughout the country for at least another year. At the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. , one can visit Abraham Lincoln: An Extraordinary Life into 2011. I went to see it last year. You may read a review I wrote last winter about it here. It is definitely worth seeing.

As superb as that exhibit is, though, it is exceeded by the official national Lincoln bicentennial exhibition put together by the Library Of Congress. This nationally touring exhibition, With Malice Toward None: The Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Exhibition, features unique and priceless artifacts representing Lincoln's life, including his childhood, family life as an adult, his career including the presidency, the Civil War, and his assassination. Some of the artifacts on display in this exhibition are:

  • Lincoln's original grammar book he used as a student

  • The Lincoln family Bible

  • Lincoln's original notes he used for his debates with Stephen A. Douglas in 1858

  • The Bible used by Lincoln during his first inauguration (and which President Obama used in his own inauguration last year)

  • Original notes for Lincoln's First Inaugural Address

  • The contents of Lincoln's pockets when he was assassinated (pictured above, including a Confederate $5 note)

  • An original "Wanted" poster offering rewards for the capture of Booth and accomplices

  • An original rocking chair from Lincoln and Herndon's Law Office in Springfield.

  • Numerous rare photos of Lincoln and his family

As the Library Of Congress website for this exhibit states: "The exhibit will reveal Lincoln the man, whose thoughts, words, and actions were deeply affected by personal experiences and pivotal historic events. By placing Lincoln’s words in a historical context, the exhibition will give visitors a deeper understanding of how remarkable Lincoln’s decisions were for their time and why his words continue to resonate today."

The exhibition curator(s) have succeeded brilliantly in achieving the goals for this exhibit. With Malice Toward None is informative and fascinating. For me personally, the highlight was seeing the small, worn Bible which Lincoln used during his first inauguration. I also was deeply moved to see the items which Lincoln had in his pockets at the time of his murder. I've seen many Lincoln exhibits over the years. This one is simply the best.

This exhibition is currently at the Indiana State Museum in downtown Indianapolis, but only through the end of this weekend, April 11. However, the exhibit will next travel to Atlanta, at the Atlanta History Center from September 4 through November 6, 2010. The final stop on the tour will be next year in Nebraska.

If you cannot visit the exhibition in either of the two remaining cities, the Library Of Congress has published an official companion book titled In Lincoln's Hand: His Original Manuscripts With Commentary by Distinguished Americans. The book contains photos of many of the objects featured in the exhibition, along with analysis by Lincoln scholars, famous authors, and former U.S. presidents.

Finally, I would be remiss if I neglected to mention that this exhibition has been made possible through the support of Union Pacific Corporation, the nation's largest railroad company. UP is the sole underwriter for the exhibit, and provided objects (the law office rocking chair and assassination artifacts) from its own collection of Lincoln items. In case you didn't know, Abraham Lincoln signed the legislation which called for a transcontinental railroad, which in turn led to the creation of Union Pacific. While Lincoln didn't live to see the completion of the railroad, it was his knowledge and understanding which spurred its beginnings. One could argue that Abraham Lincoln is the "father" of Union Pacific, a fact the company notes on the link I provided.

 
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