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Following his death by assassination, the body of Abraham Lincoln was brought from Washington, D.C. to its final resting place in Lincoln's hometown of Springfield, Illinois, by funeral train, accompanied by dignitaries. Lincoln's eldest son Robert Todd rode the train to Baltimore and then disembarked and returned to the White House. On the afternoon of May 1, 1865, Robert took a train to Springfield and his father's funeral.
The remains of his son, William Wallace Lincoln, were also placed on the train (see Movements of other Lincoln caskets below), which left Washington, D.C., on April 21, 1865 at 12:30 pm and traveled 1,654 miles (2,662 km) to Springfield, arriving on May 3, 1865. Several stops were made along the way, in which Lincoln's body lay in state. The train retraced the route Lincoln had traveled to Washington as the president-elect on his way to his first inauguration, and millions of Americans viewed the train along the route. Lincoln's wife Mary Todd Lincoln remained at the White House because she was too distraught to make the trip; she returned to Illinois about one month later.
Lincoln was interred at Oak Ridge Cemetery in Springfield. The site of the Lincoln Tomb, now owned and managed as a state historic site, is marked by a 117-foot (36 m)-tall granite obelisk surmounted with several bronze statues of Lincoln, constructed by 1874. Mary Todd Lincoln and three of his four sons are also buried there. (Robert Todd Lincoln is buried in Arlington National Cemetery at Arlington, Virginia). Because of the length of the funeral, historians have called this event "The Greatest Funeral in the History of the United States".
At 7 a.m. on Friday, April 21, the coffin was taken to the depot to the funeral car. Edwin M. Stanton, Gideon Welles, Hugh McCulloch, John Palmer Usher, Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant, and Montgomery C. Meigs left the escort at the depot, and at 8 A.M. the train departed. At least 10,000 people witnessed the train's departure from Washington.
The funeral train consisted of nine cars, including a baggage and hearse car. Eight of the cars were provided by the chief railways over which the remains were transported; the ninth was the President's car, which had been built for use by the president and other officials, contained a parlor, sitting room, and sleeping apartment, and had been draped in mourning and contained the coffins of Lincoln and his son. Different locomotives were used on different stretches of the trip. The train was preceded [10 minutes ahead] by a pilot locomotive and one car to see that the track ahead was unobstructed.
The Department of War designated the route and declared railroads over which the remains passed as military roads under the control of brevet Brigadier General Daniel McCallum, the director and superintendent of United States Military Railroads. No person was allowed to be transported on the cars except those authorized by the War Department, and the train never moved at speeds of more than 20 miles (32 km) an hour to avoid any accidents.
Five relatives and family friends were officially appointed to accompany the funeral train: David Davis, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States; Lincoln's brothers-in-law, Ninian Wirt Edwards and C. M. Smith; Brigadier General John Blair Smith Todd, a cousin of Mary Todd Lincoln; and Charles Alexander Smith, the brother of C. M. Smith. An honor guard accompanied the train; this consisted of Union Army Major General David Hunter; brevet Major General John G. Barnard; Brigadier Generals Edward D. Townsend, Charles Thomas Campbell, Amos Beebe Eaton, John C. Caldwell, Alfred Terry, George D. Ramsey, and Daniel McCallum; Union Navy Rear Admiral Charles Henry Davis and Captain William Rogers Taylor; and Marine Corps Major Thomas H. Field.
Four accompanied the train in an official capacity: Captain Charles Penrose, as quartermaster and commissary of subsistence; Ward Hill Lamon, Lincoln's longtime bodyguard and friend and U.S. Marshal for the District of Columbia; and Dr. Charles B. Brown and Frank T. Sands, embalmer and undertaker, respectively.
Lincoln's funeral train was the first national commemoration of a president's death by rail. Lincoln was observed, mourned, and honored by the citizens of Washington, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois in the following cities:
|city||arrive||lying in state |
|public viewing |
from / until
|Washington, D.C.||Remark #1||East Room, White House||public viewing: April 18, 1865: 9:30 a.m. / 5:30 p.m. & |
private viewing: April 18, 5:30 p.m. / 7:30 p.m.
|Remark #2||United States Capitol rotunda||April 20, 1865: 8 a.m. / all day||April 21, 1865: 8 a.m.|
|Baltimore, Maryland||April 21, 1865: 10 a.m.||Merchant's Exchange Building||April 21, 1865: noon / 2 p.m.||April 21, 1865: 3 p.m.|
|Harrisburg, Pennsylvania||April 21, 1865: 8:30 p.m.||Pennsylvania State Capitol||April 21, 1865: until midnight & |
April 22, 1865: 7 a.m. / 9 a.m.
|April 22, 1865: 11:15 a.m.|
|Philadelphia, Pennsylvania||April 22, 1865: 4:50 p.m.||Independence Hall||private viewing: April 22, 1865: 10 p.m. / April 23, 1865: 1 a.m. & |
public viewing: April 23, 1865: 6 a.m. / April 24, 1865: 1.17 a.m.
|April 24, 1865: 4 a.m.|
|New York City||April 24, 1865: 10:50 a.m.||City Hall||April 24, 1865: 1 p.m. / April 25, 1865: 11.40 a.m||April 25, 1865: 4:15 p.m.|
|Albany, New York||April 25, 1865: 10:55 p.m.||Old Capitol||April 26, 1865: 1:15 a.m. / 2 p.m..||April 26, 1865: 4 p.m.|
|Buffalo, New York||April 27, 1865: 7 a.m.||St. James Hall||April 27, 1865: 10:00 a.m. / 8 p.m.||April 27, 1865: 10 p.m.|
|Cleveland, Ohio||April 28, 1865: 6:50 a.m.||Monument Square||April 28, 1865: 10:30 a.m. / 10 p.m.||April 29, 1865: Midnight|
|Columbus, Ohio||April 29, 1865: 7 a.m.||Ohio Statehouse||April 29, 1865: 9:30 a.m. / 6 p.m.||April 29, 1865: 8 p.m.|
|Indianapolis, Indiana||April 30, 1865: 7 am||Indiana Statehouse||April 30, 1865: 9 a.m. / 10 p.m.||May 1, 1865: Midnight|
|Michigan City, Indiana||May 1, 1865: 8 a.m.||Remark #3||May 1, 1865: 8:35 a.m.|
|Chicago, Illinois||May 1, 1865: 11 a.m.||Old Chicago Court House||May 1, 1865: 5 p.m. / May 2, 1865: 8 p.m.||May 2, 1865: 9:30 a.m.|
|Springfield, Illinois||May 3, 1865: 9 a.m.||Old State House||May 3, 1865: 10 a.m / May 4, 1865: 10 a.m.||Arrival Oak Ridge Cemetery: May 4, 1865: 1 p.m.|
The train passed 444 communities in 7 states (Lincoln was not viewed in state in the state of New Jersey).
Shortly after Lincoln's death, a delegation of Illinois citizens (later forming the National Lincoln Monument Society) asked Mrs. Lincoln to return her husband's remains to Springfield for burial. She agreed, and the group then researched various sites in and around Springfield, selecting a centrally located, hilltop site known as Mather Block, and a temporary receiving vault was built there. However, Mrs. Lincoln selected Oak Ridge Cemetery for her husband's burial. Despite repeated attempts by the Society to change the location of the burial to Mather Block, she remained firm in her decision.
A large number of Illinois politicians were in Washington when Lincoln was assassinated, including the Governor, Richard J. Oglesby, a close friend of Lincoln. A few hours after Lincoln's death they met in Sen. Richard Yates' room at the National Hotel, to arrange a burial in Springfield, Illinois. Governor Oglesby was selected to confer with the Lincoln family on a burial place. Informal conferences were held on April 16. Mary Lincoln was not receiving visitors, but she preferred Chicago or the empty crypt in the U.S. Capitol that had been prepared for George Washington. She finally relented when her son Robert Todd Lincoln was able to persuade her to allow a Springfield burial, by promising to take Willie Lincoln's body along.
Springfield wanted a prominent burial location, a location that would draw visitors into downtown Springfield. A 6-acre (24,000 m2) block, owned by the family of Col. Thomas Mather, was selected, a plot that could be seen from the major railroad line (Chicago and Alton Railroad), a plot in the center of Springfield on a hill. Fifty thousand dollars were donated for the purchase and the work of constructing a temporary vault started immediately. The vault was designed to be a resting place for the remains until a grand monument could be erected. By men working night and day, through sunshine and rain, it was ready for use on May 24 (the day of the burial), although the work was not quite completed on the outside.
Mary Lincoln however recalled that Lincoln once had said that he wanted a quiet place for his burial at Oak Ridge (said to her on May 24, 1860, when Lincoln, then running for president, and Mary attended the dedication of Oak Ridge, a rural quiet cemetery, two miles (3 km) from the heart of Springfield). On April 28 Mary sent a message to Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton, in which she stated that her decision was final and that Lincoln's remains must be placed in the Oak Ridge Cemetery. On April 29 another message followed: "arrangements for using the Mather vault must be changed." And on May 1 the message was: "the remains of the president should be placed in the vault of Oak Ridge and nowhere else." The Oak Ridge vault was readied, but work on the Mather vault continued as a "contingency." 
Even after the burial, the debate was not over. The National Lincoln Monument Society began again to stoke the fires of creating the grand tomb for Lincoln at the Mather Block. Mary Lincoln threatened to have her husband's remains taken to Chicago or Washington for permanent burial (deadline June 15). "My determination is unalterable," she wrote on June 10 and demanded a formal promise that "the immortal Savior and Martyr for Freedom" would be at Oak Ridge. Faced with Mary's June 15 deadline, the association voted, on the evening before the deadline, by the narrowest of margins, 8-7, to accept her demands. Oak Ridge Cemetery became the site of the Lincoln Tomb.
When the tomb was completed in 1874, Lincoln's coffin was placed in a white marble sarcophagus in a burial room behind only a steel gate locked with a padlock, where he remained undisturbed for two years. In November 1876, Irish crime boss James "Big Jim" Kennally, who ran a counterfeiting ring in Chicago, decided on a plan for the release of their engraver, Benjamin Boyd, who'd been arrested and sentenced to ten years at the Illinois State Penitentiary in Joliet. The plan was to steal Lincoln's body from its tomb, bury it in the Indiana Dunes along Lake Michigan to cover their tracks, and hold it for ransom, in exchange for a full pardon for Boyd and $200,000 ($4,255,319 in 2012 dollars) in cash.
To that end, Kennally recruited two members of his gang, Terrence Mullen and Jack Hughes, to carry out the plot. As they discussed their plans at "the Hub", a saloon on Madison Street in Chicago, they realized that neither had any experience with bodysnatching, and so they recruited a third man, Lewis Swegles, to assist them; Swegles brought in a man named Billy Brown as the getaway driver. Their plan was to journey to Springfield on the overnight train on November 6, scout out the tomb on the day of November 7, and take the body that evening, while the people's attention was on the presidential elections. None of them had any experience with lock-picking, so they had to cut through the padlock with a file. They then opened up the sarcophagus, but were unable to move the 500-pound, lead-lined cedar coffin more than a few inches. Mullen and Hughes sent Swegles to retrieve the wagon, but instead Swegles tipped off the waiting law enforcement officials in the vestibule of the tomb; Swegles and Brown were in fact paid informants of the United States Secret Service (at the time intended to stop counterfeiting, not protect the President). Swegles had gone to Patrick D. Tyrrell, the Secret Service chief in Chicago, when he received word of the plot. As the lawmen moved in, one of the Pinkerton detectives present accidentally discharged his pistol, causing Mullen and Hughes to flee back to the Hub in Chicago. They were arrested by Tyrrell and his agents the following evening.
After the foiled theft, tomb custodian John Carroll Power was concerned at how close the amateurs had come to stealing the body, and worried what would happen if professional graverobbers made a similar attempt to steal Lincoln's body. Thus, Power and a select group of trusted confidants elected to hide Lincoln's coffin in the basement of the tomb, the location known only to them. Initially trying to dig a grave in the basement, they found that water seeped in wherever they dug, so they simply set the coffin on the ground and covered it with bits of lumber left over from the tomb's construction, disguising the coffin as a woodpile. Two years later, they managed to find a dry corner in another part of the tomb basement to bury the coffin under a few inches of dirt.
On February 12, 1880, on what would have been Lincoln's 71st birthday, Power and his associates formed the "Lincoln Guard of Honor," to serve as the custodians of Lincoln's body, keeping the President's remains hidden. The only person outside of their inner circle who knew of their efforts was Lincoln's last surviving child, Robert Todd Lincoln. In July 1882, after Mary Todd Lincoln died, Robert instructed the Guard of Honor to bury his mother's coffin wherever they kept his father's. They remained in the basement until 1887, when they were encased in a brick vault. To ensure Lincoln's remains were still there, the coffin was opened by the Guard of Honor, who saw that indeed it was Lincoln in the coffin.
The original tomb was in constant need of repair and deteriorated significantly due to construction on unsuitable soil. In 1900, a complete reconstruction of Lincoln's tomb was undertaken, and the Lincolns' remains were exhumed, before Lincoln was finally placed back in the white marble sarcophagus that Mullen and Hughes had opened so easily in 1876. In April 25, 1901, upon completion of the reconstruction, Robert Todd Lincoln visited the tomb. He was unhappy with the disposition of his father's remains and decided that it was necessary to build a permanent crypt for his father. Lincoln's coffin would be placed in a steel cage 10 feet (3.0 m) deep and encased in concrete in the floor of the tomb. On September 26, 1901, Lincoln's body was exhumed so that it could be re-interred in the newly built crypt. However, those present (a total of 23 people) feared that his body might have been stolen in the intervening years, so they decided to open the coffin and check.
It was said that a harsh choking smell arose when the casket was opened. Lincoln was perfectly recognizable, even more than thirty years after his death. His face was a bronze color as a result of unhealed bruising from the gunshot wound, which shattered the bones in his face and damaged the tissue. His hair, beard and mole were all perfectly preserved although his eyebrows were gone. His suit was covered with a yellow mold and his gloves had rotted on his hands. On his chest, they could see some bits of red fabric — remnants of the American flag with which he was buried, which had by then disintegrated. It was theorized that Lincoln had been embalmed so many times on board his funeral train that he had been practically mummified.
A second, major reconstruction of the tomb was undertaken in 1930-31. Much deterioration had occurred due to poor construction during the 1900–1901 reconstruction. During the second reconstruction, the entrance to the tomb was reconfigured to better accommodate visitors and the original, white marble sarcophagus was replaced with the red granite marker in front of the place where Lincoln is interred. Souvenir hunters destroyed the original sarcophagus, which was placed outside the tomb during reconstruction. The tomb was rededicated with President Herbert Hoover as the main speaker on June 17, 1931.
Lincoln's coffin has been moved 17 times and the coffin opened 6 times.
|Coffin placed||remarks||Coffin moved||Coffin opened|
|May 4, 1865||Coffin placed in Receiving Vault.||December 21, 1865||Yes|
|December 21, 1865||Coffin placed in nearby special built Temporary Vault.||September 19, 1871||Yes|
|September 19, 1871||Coffin placed in Lincoln Tomb (still under construction), in temporary crypt in south wall. The mahogany outer coffin is replaced by a new iron casket.||October 9, 1874||Yes|
|October 9, 1874||Coffin placed in (original white marble) sarcophagus in Lincoln Tomb, Memorial Hall. Lincoln Tomb was dedicated Oct 15, 1874.||November 7, 1876|
|November 7, 1876||Coffin partly lifted from sarcophagus during an attempted theft. The thieves only moved the coffin a few inches when they were interrupted by police.||November 8, 1876|
|November 8, 1876||Coffin replaced in sarcophagus, which was then closed and sealed.||November 13, 1876|
|November 13, 1876||Coffin removed to place near northeast wall, to be transported later that day.||November 13, 1876|
|November 13, 1876||Coffin removed to secret location (eastside Lincoln Tomb).||November 14, 1876|
|November 14, 1876||Coffin placed into wooden case at the secret location (eastside Lincoln Tomb).||November 18, 1878|
|November 18, 1878||Coffin replaced to another secret location (northside Lincoln Tomb).||November 20, 1878||Yes|
|November 20, 1878||Lincoln was exhumed and reburied at same secret location (northside Lincoln Tomb) in response to an anonymous threat, received by the caretaker of the tomb via a postcard. Lincoln was indeed in the grave in which he was placed two days before.||April 14, 1887||Yes|
|April 14, 1887||Coffin removed to Memorial Hall.||April 14, 1887|
|April 14, 1887||Coffin placed in newly built crypt beneath floor of Memorial Hall (Lincoln Tomb).||March 10, 1900|
|March 10, 1900||Coffin removed to secret place a few yards northeast of Lincoln Tomb during tomb reconstruction, which started in 1899 and lasted 15 months.||April 24, 1901|
|April 24, 1901||Coffin removed to reconstructed Lincoln Tomb.||July 10, 1901|
|July 10, 1901||Coffin temporary removed to empty crypt in wall in order to build a permanent crypt under the floor of Memorial Hall.||September 26, 1901|
|September 26, 1901||Coffin brought to and opened in Memorial Hall, Lincoln Tomb.||September 26, 1901||Yes|
|September 26, 1901||Coffin permanently placed in a steel cage, and embedded in concrete, 10 feet (3.0 m) deep under the floor of Memorial Hall. The sarcophagus in front of the place where Lincoln is finally interred is empty. The original white marble sarcophagus was replaced in 1931 by the present red granite marker.|
On May 4, 1865, (Lincoln’s arrival at Oak Ridge Cemetery, nineteen days after his death) another coffin, containing the body of Lincoln’s son William “Willie” Wallace Lincoln (eleven), was placed with Lincoln’s in the Receiving Vault. Willie, born December 21, 1850, died February 20, 1862 in the White House and was first interred (February 24, 1862) in the Carroll family tomb at the Oak Hill Cemetery in Georgetown. The casket bearing his remains was carried to Springfield on the funeral train of the assassinated president.
On December 21, 1865, the two caskets were moved to the temporary vault, half-way up the hillside, where the Lincoln Tomb was in construction at the top of the hill. The body of Lincoln’s son Edward “Eddie” Baker Lincoln (three years, ten months) was already placed there on Dec. 13, 1865. Eddie, born March 10, 1846, died February 1, 1850 and was first buried at the Hutchinson Cemetery, Illinois. The three bodies rested in the temporary vault while the Lincoln tomb was being built. The three bodies were moved to the catacomb of the tomb on September 19, 1871. They were not the first. Two months earlier (on July 17, 1871) it was Lincoln’s son Thomas (“Tad”) Lincoln, born April 4, 1853, who was the first Lincoln placed into a crypt in the Lincoln Tomb. Tad died on July 15, 1871, in Chicago, Illinois, aged eighteen.
Lincoln’s wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, born December 13, 1818, died July 16, 1882. She was buried July 19, 1882, in one of the family crypts in the Lincoln Tomb. In the night of July 21, 1882, Mary Todd’s casket was secretly taken from the crypt and at Robert Todd Lincoln's (her eldest son) request, buried alongside the President. On April 14, 1887, both caskets were moved to Memorial Hall.
Lincoln’s grandson Abraham Lincoln II (“Jack”), born August 14, 1873, died March 5, 1890, in London and was temporarily buried in Kensal Green Cemetery, London, until his father returned to the U.S. with his body and on November 8, 1890, was placed in one of the crypts in the Lincoln Tomb. His body remained in the tomb until May 27, 1930, when he was re-interred at the family plot of his father, Robert Todd Lincoln (August 1, 1843, to July 25, 1926), at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.
During the first Lincoln Tomb reconstruction (1900–1901), the Lincoln family was disinterred and moved to the temporary vault northeast of the tomb. On April 24, 1901, the Lincoln family was removed from the temporary vault and placed back into the Lincoln Tomb.
While President Lincoln was finally at rest, the remainder of the Lincoln family was moved two more times. The coffins containing the bodies of Mary, Eddie, Willie, and Tad Lincoln were removed during the second tomb reconstruction (1930–1931) from their crypts and transported to the Oak Ridge mausoleum, located near the south gate of the cemetery. After the second reconstruction was completed, the bodies were returned to their crypts in June, 1931.