Abraham Lincoln was shot on Good Friday 1865, and died the following morning.  For three days, the fallen leader’s remains lay in state in the White House as a vast host of mourners filed past.  His funeral was held shortly after noon on April 19, 1865, with 600 guests, including General Grant, the President’s Cabinet, and Vice President Andrew Johnson seated in the candle-lit East Room. Sons Robert and Tad sat beside the casket, but the widowed Mary was too stricken to attend.


Engine that pulled Abraham Lincoln funeral train

After the funeral, a hearse drawn by six white horses brought the coffin to the U.S. Capitol.  Over 100,000 Americans lined the streets.  According to one account:  Every window, housetop, balcony and every inch of the sidewalks on either side was densely crowded with a mournful throng to pay homage to departed worth. Despite the enormous crowd the silence was profound. It seemed akin to death it commemorated. A solemn sadness reigned everywhere.

lincoln Indy funeral recreation

A controversial image sometimes identified as a rehearsal for the Indianapolis funeral or possibly staged the day after – once the weather had cleared – for photographers and others who’d been disappointed by the rain. Purported to be in the vicinity of Washington and West.

On April 21st, a train bearing the slain president and the remains of his beloved son, Willie, who had been felled by typhoid fever three years earlier, departed Washington on a circuitous journey back to Springfield, Illinois. Grand funerals were held in the major cities of the seven states through which the train passed, and up to 12 million people are estimated to have lined the tracks throughout the 13-day, 1,700-mile trip.  More than one million people viewed the open casket at 12 stops along the way.

Train at the impromptu funeral at Michigan City

Train at the impromptu funeral at Michigan City

Indiana Governor Oliver Morton was a powerful and effective, though controversial, governor of the Civil War era, and one of President Lincoln’s staunchest allies.  At 2:00 a.m. on Sunday, April 30, the governor and 5,000 fellow Hoosiers welcomed Lincoln back to his Indiana boyhood home when Morton and his entourage boarded the funeral train in Richmond.  To the tumultuous ringing of the city’s church bells, the company soon departed on the 73-mile journey to Indianapolis.

Camp Morton – Rebel POW Camp in Indy. Many of the soldiers who lined the Indy streets for the funeral came from Camp Morton

Camp Morton – Rebel POW Camp in Indy. Many of the soldiers who lined the Indy streets for the funeral came from Camp Morton

President Lincoln’s funeral train reached the Hoosier capital at 7:00 a.m., and the coffin was carried from Union Depot to the State House in a hearse drawn by four white horses and topped by a silver-gilt eagle.  A procession led by Governor Morton and General Joseph Hooker accompanied the hearse along crowded streets lined with soldiers from Indianapolis’ army camps.  The city’s horse-drawn streetcars bore slogans of mourning such as “Sorrow for the Dead; Justice for the Living; Punishment for Traitors” and “Fear Not, Abraham; I Am Thy Shield; Thy Reward Shall Be Exceedingly Great.”

At the capitol, the coffin was placed on an elaborate bier in the rotunda.  Governor Morton was to deliver a eulogy on the state house grounds, but torrential downpours throughout the day canceled all outdoor ceremonies, save for the procession to and from the depot.  The cancellation of the Governor’s oration, and other formal ceremonies, did enable more than 50,000 citizens (nearly twice the city’s total population) to view the casket, the upper third of which was opened to allow mourners to see the face of the deceased president.

Old Indiana Statehouse

Old Indiana Statehouse, circa 1865

After nightfall, through silent streets lit by bonfires and torches, the coffin was returned to Union Depot and the train departed for Chicago at midnight.  After passing through Lebanon, Lafayette, and other communities, the train stopped at Michigan City, where an impromptu funeral was held, before proceeding on to Chicago where it arrived at  11:00 a.m..

Lincoln's funeral

Lincoln’s funeral at Indiana State Capitol

So Costly a Sacrifice: Lincoln and Loss is currently exhibiting at the Indiana State Museum through July 5, 2015. 

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