This month marks the 150th anniversary of the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. The 16th president was shot by John Wilkes Booth the evening of April 14 and died nine hours later on April 15.
Several days later, Lincoln’s body would begin its long train-trek home to Springfield, Ill., where he would be buried on May 4. Departing April 21, 1865, from Washington, D.C., his funeral procession would travel 1,654 miles through 180 cities and seven states. Nicknamed “The Lincoln Special,” the nine-car funeral train would essentially travel the same tracks that carried the then President-elect east in 1861. Follow the journey with this special presentation in the Library’s Lincoln Bicentennial exhibition.
Lincoln’s coffin was taken off the train at each stop and placed on a horse-drawn hearse that rode through the city to a place the public could pay their respects. Throngs of people lined the streets to watch the funeral procession. Millions more lined the train tracks as the slain president made his final journey home.
The sorrow of the nation was palpable in reports from newspapers across the country.
“Oh! how the bosom swells with grief unutterable! How the tears are choked in their channel, and how unforgiving is the indignation, the wrath that steeps in every beast and burns in every eye!” – The Philadelphia Inquirer, April 20, 1865.
Also included in the article are detailed descriptions of the presidents coffin, the funeral car that transported the coffin in Washington D.C., and the catafalque that was constructed in 1865 to hold the casket while on view in the Capitol rotunda.
The Evening Star in Washington, D.C., also reported on Lincoln’s funeral, including details of special guests in attendance and transcripts of the opening prayer and sermon.
The Cleveland Morning Leader reported that “roofs, doors, porches, windows and all elevated points were occupied by spectators” as the funeral procession traveled down Pennsylvania Avenue. “As the procession started, minute guns were fired near St. John’s Church, City Hall and the Capitol, and all the bells were tolled.”
The Library of Congress recently acquired 540 rare and historic Civil War stereographs from the Robin G. Stanford Collection. The first 77 images are now online, including 12 stereographs of President Lincoln’s funeral procession through cities, including Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York City and Springfield, Ill. The images show the president’s casket in elaborate open-air hearses that passed through the main streets of the cities; buildings draped in mourning bunting; and crowds lined up to see the procession.
The Library is also home to Lincoln’s papers and a vast collection of Lincolniana donated to the Library in 1953 b Aflred Whital Stern. A number of items in the collection relate to Lincoln’s funeral, including music, newspaper articles, mourning cards, funeral programs and more.