Death in the White House - Abraham Lincoln

memoral badge and photo ridlenAbraham Lincoln
16th President 1861 – 1865

On April 14, 1865, President and Mrs. Lincoln attended Ford's Theater to see a performance of "Our American Cousin." At 10:15 p.m. John Wilkes Booth, a deranged actor who was sympathetic to the South, shot President Lincoln in the back of the head with a .44 single shot Derringer. The bullet split in two upon impact. The President was carried across the street to the Peterson boarding house where he died the next morning at 7:22 a.m. never regaining consciousness.

Funeral Procession
The funeral procession back to Springfield, Illinois, was long. Lincoln's body lay in state in fourteen different cities over twelve days. On Tuesday, April 18, 1865, the public was allowed to view the body in the East Room of the White House where a catafalque was constructed. The following day the first of many services was held at the White House. Then a procession carried the body to the Capital Rotunda where it lay in state the following day. The funeral train left Washington on Friday, April 21st, at 8:00 a.m. The funeral train made a 1666 mile journey back to Springfield, Illinois, going north out of Washington and then winding west. At Baltimore, Harrisburg, Philadelphia, New York City, Albany, Buffalo, Cleveland, Columbus, Indianapolis, Chicago, and then finally at Springfield the train stopped and the coffin was removed. Huge formal processions would take the coffin to a designated spot, usually a city hall or state capitol building. There for hours crowds of mourning citizens would pass by the open coffin.

Along the way, people would line the tracks in small towns or crossroads to pay their respects to the fallen hero. People would travel many miles for a glimpse of the train. The train traveled at about 25 mph and would slow to 5 mph when passing a depot or area where a crowd had gathered. Early in the morning hours on Sunday, April 30th, the train arrived in Indiana passing through Richmond at 3:15 a.m. Officials estimated that 15,000 mourners came out to view the train's passing. This was many more than the population of Richmond as the nearby rural citizens came to town for the viewing. The train traveled under an arch with red, white, and blue lights and a "Lady Liberty" mourning over a coffin was illuminated to the side. Governor Morton boarded the funeral train in Richmond. The train traveled between 5 and 20 mph. It arrived at Indianapolis at 7:00 a.m. where the coffin was carried to the Indiana State House in a hearse topped by a silver-gilt eagle.
The funeral train had made most of its trip in the rain, but the rain at Indianapolis was so heavy that the large procession was cancelled. Governor Morton did not deliver his address and the entire day was devoted to viewing. A large canopy was constructed at the entrance to the State House. Reporters said that too many ideas were incorporated into the structure that was a cross between an arch and an art gallery. Inside the State House were many more portraits, busts, and a pair of gold-gilt eagles. The train departed late in the evening for Chicago.

Lincoln's body lay in state at Springfield in the State House in the Hall of Representatives, and the funeral was held on Thursday, May 4th. The train also carried the remains of Lincoln's son, Willie, who had died in Washington in 1862. The Lincoln tomb now holds the remains of Abraham, Mary, Willie, Eddie, and Tad Lincoln. Twenty days had passed from the time of his assassination to his burial.

Many letters of the day describe Lincoln's assassination, funeral, and funeral train. The following are excerpts from some of the letters:

April 21, 1865

... I believe that I have not written you since the murder of the President. On Monday last, the 17th, I received orders from the Secretary [of the Navy] to report myself in Washington early the next morning... as one of the guards of honor, on part of the Navy, to the remains of our late President, which were lying in state in the East Room of the White House... We were in the East Room with the corpse all day Tuesday, while the people were permitted to pass in and out... I was enabled to be present for the funeral ceremonies in the East Room. It was a very solemn and impressive occasion, one that I will never forget. The assemblage was composed of the greatest men in our country and a few from others. After these... ceremonies were over, the grand boothprocession was formed to escort the body to the Capitol, where it was laid in state until this morning, when it started for the West...

April 22, 1865

...every building in the city both private and public are draped in mourning. I wish they would take it off for it makes a person always feel so sad... Your Mother says that the right [sic] of Booth as he jumped from the box his foot caught in the flag... Your mother said she could hear a crack, but he was no sooner down than he was up and out... Your Mother and I went to see the President on Tuesday he looked very nice very much like himself. We saw the funeral it was the longest procession I think I ever saw... here is a picture of Booth the Assassin of President Lincoln...

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