The question of how the nation would mourn President Lincoln arose immediately after his assassination. Federal government officials decided that a public funeral would allow the nation to grieve.
First Lady Mary Lincoln hoped to keep her husband’s remains out of the national spotlight, but Secretary of War Edwin Stanton overruled her. On April 21, 1865, a train car carrying Lincoln’s body left Washington, D.C. The train stopped in major cities en route to its final destination, Springfield, Ill. Mary Lincoln remained in Washington.
Large crowds came out to pay respects in the cities along the train’s route. The casket was removed from the train for official ceremonies in certain cities. People lined areas near train tracks to see the funeral train pass through farms and villages.
On May 4th, the train arrived in Springfield. Lincoln’s body was displayed in the former Illinois Capitol, and then buried in a local cemetery.
Collecting Evidence: Testimony
Learn from Witnesses
As you look at each account, consider:
How does this response align with—or differ from—other responses?
Who gave the testimony? What might be the person’s reasons for saying what they did?
When did this person give the testimony? Was it soon after the event? Much later? How might that affect what was said?
Lincoln’s Funeral Train
Mourning a President
Follow Lincoln’s funeral train as it wound from Washington, D.C., to Springfield, Ill.
In less than two hours, 10,000 people came to honor President Lincoln at Baltimore’s Camden Station. Just four years before, President-Elect Lincoln sneaked into Baltimore avoiding an alleged assassination plot.
In 1861, fewer than 1,000 people greeted Lincoln’s inaugural train. In 1865, the line to see his casket stretched three miles. Lincoln was placed in the same room in which the Declaration of Independence was signed and the Constitution debated.
At Jersey City, the funeral car was ferried across the Hudson River. Crowds, including African Americans (initially barred from the city’s official procession), lined Broadway as the casket proceeded to City Hall.
The funeral train arrived late at night on April 24. Each hour, 4,000 people viewed the casket at the State Capitol. The next day, tens of thousands line the route from the Capitol to the train station.
Mourners streamed into Columbus from the city and surrounding countryside, many traveling from as far as Kentucky. Mourners slowed the funeral procession so much that mountedcavalry needed to clear intersections.
The procession from the train depot to the Cook County Courthouse included Confederate prisoners who swore loyalty to the Union. Following the viewing in the Courthouse, a torchlight procession led the casket to the train depot.
Lincoln’s casket was displayed inside Representative Hall, where 75,000 mourners visited. On May 4, the final funeral procession to Oak Ridge Cemetery passed the Lincolns’ home at Jackson and Eighth Streets. The president was buried there alongside his son, Willie.
“The struggle of today, is not altogether for today -- it is for a vast future also.”
President Abraham Lincoln, December 3, 1861 Message to Congress
Photo of Abraham Lincoln Courtesy of Ford's Theatre Historic Site.